Unortunately this article neglected to mention the National Campaign for Nonviolent Resistance’s action at the White House on October 5. Both Cindy Sheehan and Kathy Kelly will be there. Kagiso, Max
US braced for surge of protest over war in Afghanistan
The conflict in
• Paul Harris
• The Observer, Sunday 27 September 2009
At his home in
"I worry every day that I might hear someone come to the door unexpected. Just last week two of his best friends were killed over there," he said.
That's why Syverson, 60, an environmental engineer, is trying to organise a protest in
He is a member of Military Families Speak Out, an anti-war group made up of relatives of military personnel that is preparing to turn its attentions from the conflict in
"I am extremely proud that they have chosen a military career. I just don't like the way that they are being used to fight these unnecessary wars," said Syverson.
That is a growing sentiment in
The conflict used to be called
They hope to emulate the anti-Vietnam war protests, using highly visible public campaigns to force the hand of the White House to pull out of the country, not escalate the conflict.
The first major protest will happen next weekend, when anti-war protesters plan to arrange more than 500 empty pairs of boots on a grassy lawn right outside the White House. Each pair will represent an American soldier killed in the war.
Syverson knows that such a move is symbolic but he hopes its position so close to the centre of power will be effective, just like the old Vietnam war protesters who regularly thronged Washington's Mall in the 1960s.
"If Obama looks out of his window, he is going to see a symbol of over 500 soldiers who died in
One person who will be in Washington for the boots protest is Cindy Sheehan, perhaps the most famous single protester to emerge from the demonstrations against the Iraq war. Since her son, Casey, was killed in
Now she too is concentrating on opposing the war in
Sheehan said that she and her fellow organisers would be gearing up for next year, which will feature midterm elections to Congress. She sees this autumn's events as being a preview of mass actions to come all the way through 2010.
"It is year of the midterm elections. I can't tell you what we are planning but it is going to be brilliant. There will be a lot of protests, a lot of civil disobedience," she said.
A broad coalition of anti-war groups is also already co-ordinating protests and demonstrations for the coming weeks, hoping to emulate the successes of the
Groups involved include Military Families Speak Out, Win Without War, Code Pink, United For Peace and Justice and
"There will be hundreds of events all across the
The movement is certainly tapping into a growing public mood of anger and discontent. For years,
But now, there are more
On American television screens, reports from
Now public sentiment has shifted firmly towards wanting American troops to pull out, a reversal of the once common opinion that
It has hit Obama's personal ratings too. When it comes to Afghan policy, his approval score has dropped 18 points from 67% to 49%. A handful of soldiers are also refusing to serve in
But sustaining a meaningful opposition movement to the war in
Even Sheehan admits that taking the anti-war fight to the White House under Obama is not going to be a walk in the park, despite the fact that he is presiding over a massive escalation of the war. "It was super-easy to hate George Bush. It was also easy to embrace Obama. But both emotions are irrational when the policies remain the same. We have to make it about the policy, not the person," Sheehan said.
Yet so far, the Obama administration does not appear to have much fear of the doveish wing of the broad liberal coalition that put Obama into the White House. In
"This is not the time for Hamlet in the White House," said Mitt Romney, one of the likely candidates for the Republican presidential nomination in 2012.
Yet that criticism seems unfair. Though Obama is reportedly striving to reshape Afghan policy in the face of the worsening violence there and the fallout from an Afghan election widely regarded as deeply fraudulent, no one seriously expects
It might work. After only a year in office, Obama's approval ratings have dipped across the board and the war in
"If Obama's decisions are seen as a continuation of Bush's, then Obama will lose the effect of his honeymoon period. You can already see that happening," said Mitch Hall, a history professor at
The irony of left wing, anti-war protesters campaigning against Obama is not lost on many of them, including Syverson, who voted for Obama, went to his rallies and campaigned for him.
"I feel really let down," he said. He is unlikely to be alone. But American history has shown repeatedly, especially with
For Syverson, though, Obama's policy on
• guardian.co.uk © Guardian News and Media Limited 2009
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"The master class has always declared the wars; the subject class has always fought the battles. The master class has had all to gain and nothing to lose, while the subject class has had nothing to gain and everything to lose--especially their lives." Eugene Victor Debs