Modern protesting for modern wars

By Eric Naing

Last year I went to Washington D.C. to participate in a massive anti-war protest in which hundreds of thousands of people from all over the country were present. But as I stood within view of the White House surrounded by a man promoting his radio show, a group of old women singing show tunes and a bulldog wearing a tutu with fairy wings, I could not help but think that the entire protest was dangerously counterproductive at worst and utterly pointless at best.

It is ironic that at a time when the nation’s opposition to the war in Iraq is at an all-time high the actual anti-war movement is seen as little more than a joke.

News media consistently underreports the numbers of protestors attending anti-war marches and politicians and pundits dismiss all people associated with the anti-war movement as ideologues and extremists.

But when it comes to Iraq, it turns out that the political and media elite were wrong across the board and the so-called hippies were right all along. Further complicating the situation is the fact that technically, more than 60 percent of all Americans can be considered “anti-war.”

In spite of the disastrous turn our occupation of Iraq has taken, the anti-war movement seems more irrelevant than ever. People supporting this war with their car magnets and op-ed pieces seem to wield more clout and get far more respect than anti-war groups such as A.N.S.W.E.R., Not In Our Name and Veterans For Peace.

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Much of the problem has to do with unfair and dismissive media coverage, but the anti-war movement itself should be blamed for a lack of organization and a clear message.

As someone who has a deep respect for many of those who actively opposed this war and who has participated in numerous war protests myself, I have three suggestions to make the anti-war movement more relevant.

First of all, many in the anti-war movement need to realize that it is not 1968.

There is no draft, counterculture died in the 1980s and marching, no matter how many participate, no longer holds the power it once did. Too many war protestors seem to be more interested in recreating the 60s than trying to effectively convey their message. Hippy drum circles and signs with Hitler moustaches drawn on President Bush draw ridicule and accomplish nothing.

Secondly, the anti-war movement needs to have more defined goals and a singular message. When I was in D.C. last year, among the various war protestors were groups supporting animal rights, condemning Israel, advocating environmentalism, organized labor and more. The supposed “anti-war” protest I was attending ended up being more a parade of liberal interests.

The only way that the anti-war movement can truly make a difference is if it attracts more than just people on the left. Someone who identifies as an independent or even a conservative who may oppose the war will be scared off by the militant anti-Israel crowd.

Finally, the anti-war movement needs the organization and institutional support the pro-war movement currently enjoys.

As I and the countless people who have tirelessly opposed this war know, the anti-war movement is about more than just marching. It also involves knocking on doors, making calls, holding politicians accountable, running for office, voting and much more. We just need to let the media know this.

Through a network of think-tanks and politicians, war supporters spend millions creating talking-points and propaganda to get their message out. The anti-war movement needs to be just as organized.

Because of this war, thousands of American troops are dead, many thousands more innocent Iraqis are dead, hundreds of billions of dollars are being lost, the Middle East is increasingly being thrown into chaos, our military has been stretched thin, the United States has lost the respect of our allies, Iran has become emboldened and incidents of terrorism have actually increased.

Opposing the war should be a no-brainer, and it is up to the anti-war movement to help everyone realize that.