Where are the mass demonstrations? Contrary to the constant worries of so many bloggers, there seem to be good indications that the war will be in full swing by February. So where are the mass demonstrations that we saw several times a week during the Summer and early in the Fall? Where are the colorful signs and whimsical costumes of people who show how serious they are about stopping war by dressing up like street performers at Mardi Gras? You’d think that all of these concrete indications that actually point to a recognizble starting point for hostilities would have dumped millions of the not-so-silent anti-war majority into the streets to reiterate the notion that they don’t want to trade any blood for oil.

True, there are quieter, less flashy movements like this, one among several groups of people proclaiming to offer themselves up as human shields for Iraq, but these are the actions of a very die-hards (actually, if they truly commit themselves to being human shields for US targets – which in effect means places like Saddam’s precious palaces – they’ll be more like “die-easies” than die-hards), not even touching the base of the larger pool of anti-war types (who are themselves not very mainstream, and actually serve to often undermine their position among the broad middle that is required for any anti-war movement to succeed).

Does this mean the steam has gone out of the anti-war movement? Are they just not paying enough attention?

This article details plans for “mass civil disobedience” when the war starts.


While the Pentagon has spent the past year training troops, building facilities and stockpiling weapons to launch a war against Iraq, the peace movement has been using the buildup time to coordinate “emergency response plans” to disrupt domestic military activity, tie up commerce and get out their antiwar message .


Fine. That will go over very well, I’m sure.

The real point of civili disobedience is not so much actual pragmatic effectiveness as it is public relations. Especially when you’re talking about “[disrupting] domestic military activity.” When there is such a huge preponderence of power on one side to the other (as in say, several thousand committed anti-war activists versus the every police force and the whole of the national guard), the leveling advantage of civil disobedience is to show yourself as noble, suffering and nonviolent and the other side as brutish, arrogant, aggressive . There is always a fine line to be walked in such a situation by the parties on both sides of the picket line, but in this specific case of America in 2002, the larger questions of how such a campaign would play out lie with the “protestees,” who, for their own maximum benefit, have to balance effectively dealing with the practical costs of people chaining themselves to airstrip runways or the front gates of Fort Benning and, in doing so, not incur the psychological public relations costs that forcibly removing and arresting possibly thousands of people can bring.

Now, of course, this entire question is contingent on there actually being many thousands of people who are willing to repeatedly put themselves in such intimidating and difficult situations and accept the costs and penalties of doing so, which is a scenario I frankly find highly doubtful. Marching in the street shouting specious slogans isn’t the same thing as willing to go to jail (and to actually accept those legal penalties, which is what civil disobedience is all about; nowadays you more often find people who think that they should be able to break the law in favor of a cause they consider just, go through the glamorous and romantic passion play of being carted away by the police, but then be released and incur no actual legal ramification for their actions).

The way I think such an effort will play out is that there will be so few people actually engaging in this kind of civil disobedience that their effect won’t gain any kind of mass attention. You can’t get the true golden pathos of being beaten down by the Man without sufficient numbers to get beat down . Otherwise you’re just a few wackos who couldn’t find anything better to do on a Saturday.

“Tie up commerce,” eh? Yeah, hindering simple, everyday hardworking people in their pursuits to earn a decent living will go a long way towards mainstreaming your cause. Good luck. I find it more likely that you’ll get your head beaten in not by the fascist pig cops but by folks at AFL-CIO who don’t take kindly to your guff.

last update : 23-5-2018

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