Today, some organizers are too young to remember the outbreak of the Iraq War, representing an entirely new generation of the anti-war movement. (Photo: Vincent Tsai)
A group of intergenerational, diverse organizers are preparing for a mobilization in Washington DC that seeks to unite various sectors of the nation’s anti-war movement. Under the slogans “Peace in Ukraine—Negotiations not escalation,” “Fund People’s needs, not the war machine,” and “Say no to endless US wars and sanctions—Abolish NATO,” over 200 organizations are rallying and marching from the White House on March 18. Endorsers and organizers include the ANSWER Coalition, CODEPINK, the People’s Forum, Veterans for Peace, Black Alliance for Peace, Roger Waters, the Palestinian Youth Movement, DSA International Committee, Leonard Peltier, and Samidoun Palestinian Prisoner Solidarity Network.
The war in Ukraine has already taken hundreds of thousands of lives, plunged the world into crisis, and will cost the people of the US at least $113 billion in public money. Many in the anti-war movement argue that the war wasn’t caused by Russia alone, despite what US politicians and media say, and furthermore, it was completely avoidable.
Instead, they argue, it is a product of decades of NATO provocation by moving eastward, despite promises from the US to the Soviet Union at the time that “not an inch of NATO’s present military jurisdiction will spread in an eastern direction.” The US and other NATO countries have been sending weapons to Ukraine since 2014, which some argue makes Ukraine a de-facto NATO member. Russia has been clear that it will not accept Ukraine, which was a part of the Soviet Union, being a NATO member for security reasons. Weapons support by the West to Ukraine has resulted in the further arming of extremist right-wing groups in the Eastern European nation, such as the Azov Battalion.
Those joining the march have plenty of reasons to participate. Some have been active in the anti-war movement since even before the Iraq War twenty years ago, which broke out on March 20, 2003 in the “shock and awe” US invasion.
Brian Becker, the executive director of the ANSWER Coalition who will be speaking at Saturday’s rally, argues that, “The US government believes that if they can succeed in weakening Russia, if they can defeat Russia in the Ukraine war, that it will accelerate their plans for military confrontation with China.” Becker has been active in the US anti-war movement protesting conflicts as far back as the US war against Vietnam.
“We are rebuilding a new anti-war movement today because the threat of major power conflict looms large,” Becker said. “It’s not an exaggeration. It’s not hyperbole.”
Jacquie Luqman, who will speak at the March 18 rally on behalf of the Black Alliance for Peace, can’t pinpoint when she became an anti-imperialist, but can pinpoint why. “I learned that Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. said more than ‘I Have A Dream,’” she said. “I learned of his ‘Beyond Vietnam’ speech, and began to read more about his views on militarism, racism, and poverty—the triple evils he identified in American society.”
“This bloody imperialist regime and evil capitalist ideology have caused untold suffering and the deaths of millions around the world, mostly working class, poor, Black, Brown, Indigenous peoples, and it must come to an end,” Luqman said.
Truth is the first casualty of war
The US war against Iraq was based on a foundation of lies. Leading up to the war, top US officials and journalists came together to tell one of the biggest lies ever told to the US public: that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction. Through lies, and through fearmongering regarding the 2001 September 11 attacks, the US built popular support for the war.
The subsequent brutal war virtually destroyed Iraqi society and paved the way for the rise of extremist right-wing groups such as ISIS. While Iraq War death tolls are disputed and often underreported, British polling agency Opinion Research Business estimated over one million people died as a result of the war. To this day, Doctors in Fallujah report a steady stream of birth defects resulting from chemical weapons deployed by US forces, which included depleted uranium and white phosphorus.
Becker of the ANSWER Coalition has been protesting against war since the US war in Vietnam, and notices many parallels between the Iraq War and the drive for war today. “It’s an old cliche that the first casualty in war is the truth,” he said. In both cases, the people of the US were told that they must hate workers who happen to live in another country, thousands of miles away. People from Russia or China are now the enemy, not Iraqis, as the US inches towards major power conflict. The cover story for the current war drive is not based on the lies of WMDs. Instead US officials condemn alleged Chinese “aggression” or blame Russia for a war which could have been entirely avoided.
Although US troops are not fighting on the ground in Ukraine, US weapons and funding are perpetuating the war, and it is the US and NATO that have sabotaged all possibilities of negotiations for a peaceful resolution. But a new proxy war also demands a new generation of activists to take up the mantle of the anti-war movement.
Today, some organizers are too young to remember the outbreak of the Iraq War, representing an entirely new generation of the anti-war movement. Delaney Leonard, a 19-year-old in her first year of college and a member of the Howard University Dissenters, an anti-war group at a historically Black university, cannot recall a time in her life when the US wasn’t at war. She will be part of the demonstration Saturday because “the effects of billions of dollars being taken away from crucial sectors of our country such as education, healthcare, or housing has been intrinsic to my youth.”
Kate Gonzales, 24, who is part of organizing a contingent traveling to the protest from New York City on behalf of the People’s Forum, has no memory of the Iraq War starting. But as she grew older, “it became so disturbing to me that such a huge human rights violation, a huge tragedy of humanity, could go on for so long.” Even more disturbing, said Gonzales, was that the war could be so “normalized, and made so invisible.” That’s why it’s important for young people to take a public stand against escalation in Ukraine, Gonzales affirmed.
“The March 18th mobilization is incredibly important for young people,” Leonard, of Howard University Dissenters, said. “Even though we may have been children when previous mass anti war movements occurred, we are now in the position to take up the mantle of demanding a better future liberated from the parasite that is militarism.”