Counter-protestors won't be the only ones holding 'Support the Troops' signs at this Saturday's international day of protest against the war in Iraq. The second anniversary of the invasion has the peace movement handing the bullhorn to voices within the military to bring home the effects of war.
Over President's Day weekend 500 delegates to the United for Peace and Justice (UFPJ) conference converged in St. Louis to hash out a strategy for the peace movement in the US. Top among the movement's priorities is broadening its base by appealing to the mainstream public and politicians who are against the war, but want to support the troops.
'We must support and amplify the pressure coming from within the ranks of the military,' Amy Quinn, founding steering committee member of UFPJ, wrote on TomPaine.com. 'Military families and veterans hold the moral authority to successfully communicate with the U.S. public the reality on the ground in Iraq and the disillusion soldiers are facing.'
Pro-war factions have long monopolized the notion that only they truly support the troops. Now, peace activists are spinning their own nuance of 'support the troops' by defining it as stopping the war and caring for the troops when they return.
Having military lead the march convolutes the 1960s images of protestors spitting on veterans, but as Karen Houppert writes this week in The Nation, it could have its drawbacks. 'It risks reinforcing the notion that civilian opposition to war is somehow less legitimate.'
Combat deaths and the families that remain are bringing the war zone to the home front in new forms of community activism. In Vermont, 49 towns passed resolutions at annual March town meetings asking the state legislature to investigate the use of the Vermont National Guard in Iraq, as well as resolutions asking the president and Congress to withdraw troops. The initiatives are not only a push to change policy, but a way of engaging the public in dialogue.
While individuals within the military are embraced, work is being done to strike at weaknesses within in the institution, like the decline in recruitment. A tenacious counter-recruitment agenda has campus organizers protesting military recruiters at their schools and soccer moms keeping their kids off recruitment lists made accessible by a clause in the No Child Left Behind Act.
At a time when public opinion of the war is withering and the
synergy of campaigns is building, MoveOn.org, the online
organization that cut its teeth on the first wave of anti-Iraq war
organizing, is not taking a stance on the current state of the war.
'We're seeing a broad difference of opinion among our members on
how quickly the US should get out of Iraq,' executive director Eli
Pariser told Znet. 'As a grassroots-directed organization,
we won't be taking any position which a large portion of our
members disagree with.'
-- Grace Hanson
Go there >> The New Face of Protest?
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