The First Stone

Joel Bleifuss

Anti-war protesters rally in Times Square on January 29. After more than an hour of sign-waving and slogan-chanting, protesters marched to U.N. headquarters.

Sectarian Reality

Opposition to President Bush’s plans for a war against Iraq has burgeoned over the past weeks. But one would never know the extent of that opposition from reading national newspapers or listening to network newscasts.

What little discussion there is about the anti-war movement has tended to focus on dissent within the movement, specifically criticism of International ANSWER (Act Now to Stop War and End Racism), the coalition that helped organize the national demonstrations on January 18.

ANSWER was founded in part by the Workers World Party, a Trotskyist group that grew out of a 1959 split with the Socialist Workers Party over the Chinese Revolution. In 1989, Workers World supported the Chinese government in its Tiananmen Square crackdown, aimed at stopping the counter-revolutionary movement,” as one party member put it.

But spending too much time contemplating the fringes (other than for their entertainment value) detracts from what is in fact becoming popular opposition to the looming war. The hundreds of thousands of people who took to the streets on January 18 did so to stop the war, not so they could sign up for a Maoist revolution.

Progressive pundits like Todd Gitlin fretfully fulminate about the tainting of the anti-war cause. But one only has to look back 35 years to the anti-Vietnam War movement, and the lunacy of the Weatherman faction of SDS, to see the damage caused by granting undue attention and credence to fringe political groups.

These days, the political extremism that warrants the most concern is coming from the Bush White House.

Notable Quote

I only hope to God [that] President Bush has something else up his sleeve, something that he’s not telling us, because the option of a war is a disaster,” says an anonymous Pentagon analyst who is in touch with the Project on Government Oversight, the federal watchdog group.

Forbidden Words

Though you won’t see it on the big networks, Hidden Wars of Desert Storm, a documentary by Gerard Ungerman and Audrey Brohy examines the unstated agendas of the first Bush White House during the Gulf War. This fine example of investigative journalism was broadcast by WorldLink as part of its new Spotlight series. The film, which details the hypocrisy of U.S. policy toward Iraq, includes formerly unseen footage of Gen. Norman Schwarzkopf, among others.

What the film does not include is the answer former Secretary of State Madeline Albright gave when asked about the hundreds of thousands of Iraqi deaths caused by sanctions. We think the price is worth it,” Albright told 60 Minutes. CBS News refused to release the tape of that 1996 broadcast.

And the Oscar goes to …

Plans are underway in Tinsel Town to mobilize star power and bring the peace movement into the homes of millions of TV viewers during the March 23 Academy Awards ceremony. Hollywood Uniting for Peace will be asking all Oscar nominees and presenters to wear a specially designed Peace Pin,” based on Pablo Picasso’s Dove of Peace.”

Peace Cities

Chicago is not the only city to go on record against the United States making a unilateral declaration of war against Iraq. More than 60 other communities are considering similar resolutions. See www​.cities​for​peace​.org, a Web site sponsored by the Institute for Policy Studies, and add your city’s name to that list. A mass movement against the war is forming, regardless of whether the Beltway establishment approves.

Not Amused

Burson-Marsteller, one of the world’s top PR firms, has sicced its legal team on Hampshire College freshman Paul Hardwin. His crime? Hardwin allegedly violated the firm’s trademark by creating a fake Burson-Marsteller site. Hardin, unable to afford a lawyer, is mounting his own defense.

In his 57-page rebuttal of the charges, Hardin observes that Burson-Marsteller’s stated mission is to ensure that the perceptions which surround our clients and influence their stakeholders are consistent with reality.” That is exactly what his site is doing, writes Hardin, since he is providing the public with academic and journalistic materials about Burson-Marsteller’s involvement with and relationship to, for example, Philip Morris and the National Smoker’s Alliance, a consumer front group designed to create the appearance of public support for big-tobacco policies; Union Carbide and the deaths of 20,000 people following the 1984 disaster in Bhopal; and political regimes such as that of Romanian dictator Nicolae Ceausescu and, more recently, Saudi Arabia, following the events of September 11; and to properly associate them with the relevant Trademark so that they may be understood accordingly by Internet users.”

Military Merchants

In November, the government of Colombia cancelled a $234 million deal with Brazil to buy a squadron of Brazil-made Embraer fighter planes. Gen. James Hill, commander of U.S. military forces in Latin America, had warned President Alvaro Uribe that such a purchase could hurt Bogata’s chances of receiving future U.S. aid. Instead, Hill suggested that Colombia consider sending those millions to Texas-based Lockheed-Martin and have the company refurbish American aircraft Colombia already owns.

However, new Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva is not likely to be swayed by a mercenary general. Two days after Lula’s inauguration, Defense Minister Jose Viegas announced that Brazil would not be spending $765 million buying 12 new fighter jets. Funding social projects is more important in Brazil right now,” he said.

Remedial Readers

Chicago’s two newspapers, the Tribune and the Sun-Times, have spun off junior dailies in a battle to attract younger viewers — I mean — readers. How low can they go? The Sun Times’ Red Streak has yet to match the Tribune’s Red Eye, which put Saddam on its cover under the headline, Nuke Him?”

Who says nuclear war is not an option?

Incendiary Speech

Last December, Richard Humphreys of Portland, Oregon, was sentenced to 37 months in prison for threatening to harm or kill President Bush. A bartender in Watertown, South Dakota reported Humphreys to the police after he overheard him talking to a truck driver about a burning Bush” and the possibility that someone might douse the president with flammable liquid and light it. In his defense, Humphreys testified: I said, God might speak to the world through a burning Bush.’ I had said that before, and I thought it was funny.” 

Joel Bleifuss, a former director of the Peace Studies Program at the University of Missouri-Columbia, is the editor & publisher of In These Times, where he has worked since October 1986.

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