On Friday, Nov. 16, antiwar activists will take the “Anti-Torture Train” to San Jose, Calif., where more than 20 groups are sponsoring a march, picket, and news conference in front of a corporation that organizers say profits from illegal kidnappings and torture by handling the logistics for the CIA’s so-called “extraordinary rendition” flights — torture flights.
On the way, they will leaflet Caltrain passengers to educate them about U.S. torture policy, the CIA’s “extraordinary rendition” of suspects to other countries for abusive interrogation, and efforts in Congress to end the practice.
In New York City, a morning rush hour action at Union Square will feature hand-painted Pietas and black-clad leafleters.
Protesters in a number of cities will bang pots and pans in front of Congressional offices, as part of the Raise Hell for Molly Ivins campaign, inspired by the late progressive columnist and activist.
In Minneapolis and St. Paul, a student walkout is planned at a number of schools and campuses at noon, with an all-day teach-in and workshops, reminiscent of the 1969 Vietnam War Moratorium, at Macalester College.
It’s the third Iraq Moratorium Day.
Students from 15 colleges and universities in the Boston area, dressed in black, will walk in a silent procession to call for an end to the war in Iraq.
In Conway, Ark., boots representing fallen Alabama service members will be displayed during a rally that includes an open microphone for people who want to speak, sing a song, or read a poem.
In hundreds of other communities across the country, groups will hold vigils or rallies, while tens of thousands of individuals take some personal action to call for an end to the war.
That action can be as simple a gesture as wearing a black armband or button for the day, as big as participating in a large-scale protest, or a lot of things in between. The group’s Web site has a list of suggestions, tools for organizers, a list of upcoming actions, and reports on previous month’s events.
The Moratorium, inspired by the Vietnam War Moratorium in 1969, is designed to grow, expand, and escalate over time, recognizing that the struggle to end the Iraq war will be a long-term one. Organizers say interest and participation are steadily growing.
“Clearly, a solid majority of the American people oppose the war, think it is a mistake, and want our troops home,” Eric See, a Moratorium organizer in California, said. “Every opinion poll tells us that. The Moratorium offers people a chance to translate those feelings and opinions into action, and to take some personal responsibility for ending the war.”
The Moratorium does not try to dictate what anyone should do, but encourages coordinated actions on the same day and serves as a clearinghouse to collect and share information about what is happening nationally on Moratorium Day.
The idea has not attracted much media attention yet, and probably won’t — until it becomes too big a story to ignore. The effort has the endorsement of dozens of organizations, including veterans, labor, and peace groups, and the usual sprinkling of celebrities. But its focus is on getting individuals involved, especially those new to the peace movement, and getting the new Silent Majority — which opposes the war but is largely silent — to speak up.
They spoke in great numbers before the war began, with a huge, loud outpouring of protest against the Bush Administration’s plan to invade Iraq. But, more than four and a half years later, their voices have become quiet. It is easy to become dispirited, after 55 months, with President Bush and the Congress seemingly deaf.
Bush is not persuadable on the issue; he will not be moved. He’s now looking for ways to commit our troops there beyond his term of office.
Depending upon which poll you read, and how the question is phrased, a solid majority, and perhaps as many as two-thirds, of the American people want to end the war and start bringing our troops home. Unfortunately, most of them say nothing about it unless asked by a pollster. On a day to day basis, they are silent. Life goes on, and so does the war.
The Silent Majority elected a new Democratic Congress last year with a clear mandate to end the war. But the new Congress is as chicken-hearted as the President is bull-headed. Next year’s presidential election offers precious little hope, as the three leading Democratic candidates refuse to commit to having our troops out by 2013.
Against that backdrop, United for Peace and Justice, the nation’s largest antiwar coalition, sought advice from activists in a recent online poll about what to do next, with a range of options including electoral action, a national march, lobbying Congress, civil disobedience, challenging war profiteers, targeted boycotts, and more. The obvious answer seems to be “all of the above.”
Cynics say nothing will work. But doing something is infinitely more likely to have an impact than doing nothing. By encouraging individual action of all kinds, the Iraq Moratorium is one way to keep the flame burning and keep people engaged for what clearly will be a long haul.