Saturday, January 27, 2007

Antiwar Demonstration to Focus on Congress

Antiwar groups will mount a massive rally against the Bush administration's troop surge plan today in Washington. According to this New York Times report, protesters will vent their anger at the Congress, arguing that Democratic legislators are ignoring the will of the people with their lackluster response to the adminstration's Iraq escalation:

Tens of thousands of demonstrators are set to arrive in the capital this weekend for a major antiwar march, staging the first of several protests intended to persuade the new Democratic-controlled Congress to do more than simply speak against President Bush’s Iraq policy.

But do not look for senators to be standing among the protesters on the Mall on Saturday. Despite a consensus building around a Senate resolution to oppose sending more troops to Iraq, even the most liberal Democratic senators do not appear eager to align themselves with a traditional antiwar protest.

So the groups that are organizing the demonstrations against the president’s strategy are also carrying out a sophisticated, well-financed lobbying campaign on Capitol Hill. Their behind-the-scenes efforts are intensifying, relying on tactics deployed in a cutthroat political race.

Americans Against Escalation in Iraq, a coalition of labor unions, and other groups that have traditionally rallied against wars, has raised $1.5 million since it was formed two weeks ago. The group is singling out Republicans and Democrats who have spoken out against the war, but who have so far declined to pledge support for a resolution denouncing Mr. Bush’s plan to increase the number of troops.

Next week, the group intends to fly Iraq veterans to the home states of Republican senators who serve on the Foreign Relations Committee and voted Wednesday against the resolution condemning the administration plan, including Senators Norm Coleman of Minnesota and John E. Sununu of New Hampshire. Television advertisements are scheduled to be shown in some of the same states in an effort to apply pressure before the Senate vote on the resolution in early February.
The organizational efforts of the antiwar camp represent a different kind of politics than 1960s-era antiwar activism. This is quite a sophisticated network of left-leaning interest groups using modern, technology-driven methods to bring pressure on congressional leaders to thwart the Bush troop push. The proposed demonstrations seem to be more in line with the anti-globalization protests we've had in recent years, like Seattle's violent WTO demonstration in 1999. I'm amazed, though, how little the left-wing movement nowadays resembles the antiwar activism of the Vietnam generation. There's no military draft in this war, and protest rallies have been sporadic, seemingly much less of a mass movement for social change than was true in earlier generations. Indeed, last year's massive pro-immigration rallies in Los Angeles appeared much more like a movement, reflecting a diversity push toward illegal immigrant rights that captures a generational culture shift (not to mention an anti-American demographic reconquista agenda).

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