By Daniel Zarchy
It took the Million Man March to establish the black demographic as a force in national politics. Twelve years later, a similar march might end a war.
United for Peace and Justice (UFPJ), a coalition that formed in 2002 to “protest the immoral and disastrous Iraq War and oppose our government’s policy of permanent warfare and empire-building,” estimates that upwards of half a million people gathered in Washington D.C. on Saturday in protest of the Iraq War, according to their website.
Hany Khalil, organizing coordinator for UFPJ, which organized the protest, is confident that public opinion of the war has changed dramatically.
“The reason people marched with us last Saturday is they know that the voters in November voted out the war party and voted in the Democrats with the mandate to end the Iraq war,” Khalil said. “Millions of people were astonished to see the Bush administration reject the will of the people and call for an escalation.”
In his annual State of the Union Address given last Tuesday, President Bush announced his plan for a troop surge into Iraq to reinforce the battered American army and seemingly prolong the war.
Amaya Smith, spokesperson for the Democratic National Committee, agrees that the weekend protests signal public rejection of the proposed troop surge.
“I think aside from his approval ratings, the numbers are pretty clear—70 percent of people are not in favor of Bush’s troop surge,” Smith said. “The rallies over the weekend have been an indication of that.”
In the Democratic response to the State of the Union, Senator Jim Webb (D-VA) strongly criticized the course of the war.
“The majority of the nation no longer supports the way this war is being fought; nor does the majority of our military,” Webb said in his speech. “We need a new direction.”
According to Khalil, the protests Saturday had more tangible effects, as anti-war lobbyists gained audience with hundreds of members of Congress to discuss new legislation, including Senators Clinton and Schumer from New York, “who had refused to engage us in a serious way.”
“Ending the Iraq war is not hard,” Khalil said. “All it takes is an order from the civilian leadership saying it’s time to end this war, and than it’s a job for the military leaders to withdraw troops as quickly and safely as possible.”
Janine Carmona, third-year UC Santa Cruz student and a member of Students Against War, believes that an immediate withdrawal is the best solution for Americans and Iraqis, and that this goal is the general desire behind the protests.
“They’re saying â€˜No more, we want them home right now, and we don’t want any more [troops] to go in.’ It’s ridiculous to have this idea that if the United States isn’t there, it’ll plunge into civil war,” Carmona said. “Who are we to say that they aren’t free, and that we should bomb them into democracy? We haven’t given the Iraqi government and the Iraqi people the chance to run their