Nov 3, 2003
On Saturday October 25, there were demonstrations against the U.S. occupation of Iraq in several U.S. cities, the largest in Washington D.C. and San Francisco. The main slogans of the demonstration were to demand an immediate end to the occupation of Iraq and withdrawal of U.S. troops. The demonstrators insisted that the best way to support U.S. troops is to bring them home now! The protests were organized by two anti-war organizations: ANSWER (Act Now to Stop War and End Racism) and United for Peace and Justice.
Included in the march was a contingent from Military Families Speak Out, an organization of people who have family members who are soldiers, sailors and marines currently in Iraq or recently brought home. A spokeswoman from this group said, referring to the troops: "Don't extend them. Don't redeploy them. Don't replace them. Bring them home now." She also addressed the suffering of the Iraqi people from the war and occupation. Families in this situation sought each other out at the demo, sharing the situations of their son or daughter or husband, drawing strength and courage in their outspoken opposition to the war. And they often repeated the idea that they were speaking out for their loved ones in Iraq who couldn't express their opposition to the war.
In Washington, police estimated between 40,000 and 50,000 participants, while organizers said 100,000. Whatever the actual number, the demonstration was certainly smaller than the more massive demonstrations in the months leading up to the war. Smaller, but with an important difference. In earlier demos, participants included not only people 100% opposed to war on Iraq and many who had opposed earlier U.S. led wars: Vietnam, Panama, the 1st Gulf War. There were also many people – often from the left wing of the Democratic Party or from churches – who called on the U.S. not to go to war unless it first had U.N. approval. The very large February 15 protest in New York City, for example, was focused on the U.N.
To hope that the U.N. would hold back U.S. imperialism's desire to get its hands on Iraqi oil was, at best, foolish, when it wasn't deceitful. The U.N. had all along given its backing to the U.S. push for war on Iraq. In November 2002, the U.N. Security Council unanimously demanded that Iraq disclose details of its "weapons of mass destruction" programs – weapons which U.N. inspectors knew did not exist – or face the "consequences", i.e. a war. In May 2003, while the war was in full swing, the council passed a resolution lifting economic sanctions against Iraq, recognizing American military occupation forces as the only authority in the country. And just days before this October 25 demonstration, the Security Council unanimously voted for a resolution which had no concrete application, but de facto gave the U.S. the right to claim it had U.N. support for the war that continues to this day against the people of Iraq.
It is an illusion to believe that the U.N. is willing to stand up to the war policies of its most powerful member, the U.S.
In this regard, the October 25 demo was an important step. In speeches, signs, banners and chants, it was clearly an unqualified protest of the U.S. war and occupation.