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Behind the Placards 

The odd and troubling origins of today’s anti-war movement

Wednesday, Oct 30 2002
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Let‘s be real: A Washington demonstration involving tens of thousands of people will not yield much political impact -- especially when held while Congress is out of town and the relevant legislation has already been rubber-stamped. (The organizers claimed 200,000 showed, but that seemed a pumped-up guesstimate, perhaps three or four times the real number.) The anti-war movement won’t have a chance of applying pressure on the political system unless it becomes much larger and able to squeeze elected officials at home and in Washington.

To reach that stage, the new peace movement will need the involvement of labor unions and churches. That‘s where the troops are -- in the pews, in the union halls. How probable is it, though, that mainstream churches and unions will join a coalition led by the we-love-North-Korea set? Moreover, is it appropriate for groups and churches that care about human rights and worker rights abroad and at home to make common cause with those who champion socialist tyrants?

At the rally, speaker after speaker declared, ”We are the real Americans.“ But most ”real Americans“ do not see a direct connection between Mumia, the Cuban Five and the war against Iraq. Jackson, for one, exclaimed, ”This time the silent majority is on our side.“ If the goal is to bring the silent majority into the anti-war movement, it’s not going to be achieved by people carrying pictures of Kim Jong-Il -- even if they keep them hidden in their wallets.

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As yet another WWP-in-disguise speaker addressed the crowd, Steve Cobble, a progressive political consultant, gazed out at the swarm of protesters and observed, ”People are looking for something to do.“ Good for them. But they ought to also look at the leaders they are following and wonder if those individuals will guide them toward a broader, more effective movement or toward the fringe irrelevance the WWPers know so well.

Jonathan H. Miller contributed to this report.

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