On a balmy Saturday, April 10, 2004, a few hundred, feisty protesters gathered at noon, in front of Lafayette Park, near the White House, in Washington, DC. They demanded that U.S. troops be brought home immediately from Iraq. As they demonstrated, the embattled Coalition Forces in Iraq continued to suffer serious military reversals as the result of the insane Neocon-inspired scheme to export democracy, via an unjustified preemptive invasion, to a country, which rightly prides itself as having one of the oldest civilizations in the world.
One of the speakers at the rally, sponsored by the ANSWER Coalition, was the Civil Rights lawyer, Mara Verheyden-Hilliard, a cofounder of the Partnership for Civil Justice and a member of ANSWER’s steering committee. She said, “For everyone that is here today, it is because you have made a decision. You made it today, yesterday, years ago or months ago, to act on your conscience. And, for the people, who haven’t been involved, if this is your first demonstration, or if you have been coming to other demonstrations, but think: What can I do? This is the time to do it. Don’t wait to be an organizer. You are an organizer!”
As Verheyden-Hilliard spoke, the Coalition Forces were meeting fierce armed opposition from emerging resistance groups situated around the besieged city of Fallujah, and in other parts of Iraq as well, like Basra. As of April 10th, 667 U.S. service members had died since the beginning of military operations on March 20, 2003. Following President George W. Bush’s hawkish boast of, “Bring Them On,” on July 2, 2003, 461 of our bravest sons and daughters have perished (lunaville.org). The war has also cost American taxpayers, to date, over $110 billion (costofwar.com).
The U.S. invasion of Iraq, instead of being the “cakewalk” promised by the likes of: Richard Perle, Paul Wolfowitz, Dick Cheney, Sen. Joseph I. Lieberman (D-CT), Rep. Tom Lantos (D-CA) and Rep. Tom DeLay (R-TX), has become a Vietnam Warlike quagmire. It is also starting to united the disparate Iraqi political factions, such as the Shiite and Sunnis Muslims, into a dedicated national resistance movement (James Risen, “NYT,” 04/09/04). If Bush, and his cronies, had paid just a little bit of more attention to our own history, they would have knew that the decision of the British to crush the the American colonialists ended up uniting them into a magnificent national force that resulted in the creation of the American Republic, an institution now under attack by Bush’s lawless warmongering.
Verheyden-Hilliard continued her remarks in a spirited vein, “There is a mass movement that is being built across the United States. We urge you to join, to stand with us, shoulder to shoulder, and with people from all walks of life, who are saying ‘no’ to the criminal occupations and ambitions of George Bush and who are demanding a better and just society. Join with us. And, congratulations to you and to the thousands and hundreds of thousands of people of the United States and from around the world, who at a moment’s notice have come into the streets because we will not stand by. We will not be complicit. We will not be silent as George Bush tries to wage this vicious attack – this war of aggression. They are on the run and we are bringing them to an end,” she concluded to a rousing round of applause from her fellow-protesters.
Another speaker at the rally was Brian Becker. He is the Co-Director of the International Action Center (why-war. com), and a member of ANSWER’s steering committee (internationalanswer.org). Becker gave the crowd a historical perspective on social change in our society over the years. He reminded them that their protest actions, and the protest actions of others around the globe, are creating a power capable of “challenging the Bush administration.” He referred to a NYT’s editorial of a year ago, which labeled that phenomenon as, “The New Global Anti-War Movement.”
Becker underscored how, “History isn’t made by great individuals, great leaders. In fact, the history of social change (in this country) is made by people just like ourselves – people who get organized, who become educated about what is going on and who communicate and reach out…to others, just like us.
“And, when those people get involved – people like us – ordinary people, who are committed to social change, we can build the kind of mass movement that can cause change. The Civil Rights Movement, the Anti-War Movement, the Workers’ Movement, everything (like those mentioned) has come about because of people like us – organizing. It is not about great individuals, individual leaders do come forward, but it is about the people,” Becker said in concluding his thoughtful remarks.
As the flagrant lies of the Bush-Cheney Gang with respect to its launching of the Iraq War become better known, the American people are beginning, at long last, to stir from their deep sleep. The Lafayette Park Peace Rally, and the work of activists, like Mara Verheyden-Hilliard and Brian Becker, can’t help but to accelerate that needed awakening process.