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IRAQ: Anti-war protests

Phyllis Gardner asks me to comment on the demonstrations around the world yesterday (1/18/03) against a war in Iraq. The US media have given ample coverage of the demonstrations in Washington, DC, San Francisco and some 20 other cities. The protesters came largely from minority and low-income groups. They wanted money to be spent on their needs, not war, and they complained that the absence of a draft exempted the affluent from service. There is much truth in these arguments. Army volunteers come largely from low income groups and non-citizens who can thereby gain citizenship. The troops departing obviously had mixed feelings, saying they had a job to do. There were naturally sad scenes as married troops bad farewell to wives and children.

There were anti-US demonstrations in virtually all the capitals of the world, probably on an unprecedented scale. They were different from the US protests, and generally represented a broader spectrum of the population. While most countries would not be directly involved in hostilities, the war would be closer to them, rather as if European armies were planning an attack in the Caribbean. Turkey planned to host an Arab summit, hoping to avoid war and to persuade Saddam Hussein to depart peacefully. There was a strong anti-Israel element in the protests, the result of its preventing Arafat's attending a London conference and of Sharon's demand that Arafat must quit. The US policy is viewed as being grossly tilted in favor of Israel and against the Palestinians. Even Colin Powell said that the second UN resolution, which other countries demanded, was not necessary. This was interpreted as meaning that the US was interested in the UN only when it suited its purposes. There was the usual talk about oil, which cannot be dismissed as false. There was a general feeling that Bush simply wanted an excuse to attack Iraq and emerge victorious, without realizing that he might trigger World War III.

In all of this I heard not a single word in favor of Saddam Hussein. He is despised, Bush is feared. It was viewed as inconceivable that he would declare himself satisfied and withdraw US troops, unless Saddam Hussein quit. The world waits for the other shoe to drop--a military boot.

Ronald Hilton - 1/19/03