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What ever happened to the Iraq war protesters?

The anti-war movement has not gone underground, it has gone online.

Since George W. Bush’s illegal war on Iraq in 2003, the US has invaded further Arab states using a pattern that is eerily similar to that employed by the Bush White House in 2002/2003.

Whether lies about Libyan revolutionary leader “killing is own people” or more oddly yet, giving sexual stimulant drugs to soldiers, to the fallacy of Syrian ‘chemical weapons’–the US often employs the most crude and unsubstantiated mythology to attempt and justify brazen acts of aggression against sovereign states.

Just yesterday, US Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley made some of the most outrageous claims yet, this time against Iran, saying that missiles had been sent by Iran, to Houthi fighters in Yemen, in the aftermath of the JCPOA (Iran nuclear deal) coming into effect in the summer of 2015.

While protests continue to fill the streets of the Arab and Muslim worlds, following on from Donald Trump’s Jerusalem/Al-Quds declaration, western streets remain largely free of demonstrations over this issue, Syria, Iran, North Korea and other areas where western countries continue to lead or threaten to lead wars on sovereign states.

As I wrote yesterday,

“Haley’s position is that since the outbreak of the current crisis in Yemen, beginning in March of 2015, Iran has been supplying Yemen’s Ansar Allah Movement, more commonly known as the Houthis, with the missiles they have sporadically used to target Saudi Arabia and allegedly the UAE.

There is a fatal flaw in this line of thinking however. Saudi Arabia has, since the beginning of the conflict, controlled all air and sea traffic coming into Yemen, while monitoring the region with the latest US made technology.

 Yemen has subsequently been surrounded by a Saudi Naval blockade, Saudi borders through which nothing can pass and Omani borders through which there is no evidence of anything passing and which in any case, border areas which do not belong to Houthi fighters, but instead have fluctuated between the Hadi government based in Aden, al-Qaeda terrorists and ISIS terrorists.

Not only has the Saudi blockade caused a man made famine which itself has resulted in a mass outbreak of the disease Cholera, but even the UN has found it difficult to convince the Saudis to allow basic medicine, bottled water and dried foods into the always poor and now starving nation.

But for Nikki Haley, who gave her press conference standing in front of what appeared to be a rusty missile casing–it all makes perfect sense. In Haley’s parallel universe, an aid ship with UN flags cannot bring bottles of water and jars of medical pills to Yemenis, but somehow Iranian ships bearing humongous missiles have easily passed through the Saudi blockade undetected.

 There is simply no logic to the argument, no matter how it is interpreted”.
http://theduran.com/food-medicine-cant-get-passed-saudi-blockade-yemen-nikki-haley-thinks-missiles-can/

While many in the west are experiencing “war fatigue”, it would appear that they are also experiencing “protest fatigue” when it comes to the all important issue of peace.

February the 15th, 2003, is generally considered to be the biggest day of global protests in history. Anti-war marches and rallies took place on every populated continent, as millions came together to oppose George W. Bush’s war on Iraq, which ultimately broke out the following month.

In New York, upwards of 400,000 people gathered to try and stop the war while estimates of upwards of 1 million gathered in London, with two million marching in Madrid.

On that day, the streets of most major capital cities in the world staged events to reject war, with the most substantial demonstrations held in the large cities of Europe, North America, the Middle East and diverse parts of Asia ranging from Malaysia to India.

The protests did not stop the war, but they did help to set the stage for the failure of the war hawks to explain themselves out of the disaster that was and to an extent remains, the illegal 2003 war on Iraq.

Since that time, the US and its allies have successfully destroyed Libya while they continue to meddle in Syria after using proxy forces to instigate the present conflict in Syria starting in 2011.

Now, Iran is subject to much of the same defamatory statements that have been hurled at Iraq, Libya and Syria.

While many people are deeply opposed to the actions the US has taken to destroy sovereign states since 2003, there have been no repeats of the mass protests of that year.

In looking for an answer as to why this might be, there are some negative but also some positive answers.

Social Media 

Social media has come a long way since 2003. In fact, the first major western social media network, Myspace, only launched after the Iraq war. In 2003, the internet was powerful, but nowhere near as powerful as it had become by 2011.

Today, people “protest” and “demonstrate” on a daily basis across a wide variety of platforms including, Facebook, VK, Twitter, Telegram, Instagram, Youtube and many others. Crucially, many popular social media networks are owned by companies based outside of the US, helping to make the corporate governance of major websites and apps far more pluralistic than was the case in 2003.

The power of social media to galvanise public opinion against war should not be underestimated. The fact that so many western corporations and governments try and often succeed in silencing online protest, is clear sign that the powers that be in war hungry western governments, believe that such mechanisms are turning public opinion against mainstream pro-war political groups.

Protest Fatigue 

On the other side of the spectrum, seeing how the anti-Iraq War protests ultimately did not change the policies of the US and its war partners, it would appear that many have decided that the peaceful mobilisation of street protesters is not effective.

Since 2003, organic, big tent anti-war protests have largely been subsumed in the west by a combination of genuine protests over national or local matters and paid “protests” by sectarian foundations. When looking for an example of a genuine local protest, one can point to the frequent anti-economic austerity protests in countries like Greece. Examples of paid “protests” by sectarian foundations are typified by those organised by various bodies funded by and/or coordinated by George Soros. These protests never deal with broad unifying issues such as that of world peace.

Republican versus Democrat

While I believe that there is truth to a great deal of the previous two theories, the idea that anti-war activists are more likely to protest a Republican President in the White House going to war, rather than a Democratic one. seems to be an argument which has passed its use-by-date.

Donald Trump is a Republican US President who won an election based largely on an anti-war platform. The fact that in less than a year, he is creating as much global instability as his two war-mongering predecessors has not resulted in mass protests of the kind seen against Bush and his international partners in 2003.

While members of the political elite will always use party politics as a means of point-scoring against an opponent, the idea of a left-right divide in 21st century anti-war politics, is no longer apt.

Broken Promises 

While it seems to be largely forgotten now, George W. Bush first ran for President on a platform of opposition to “nation building”, as he called it in 1999 and 2000. He even once said that he wanted to avoid being known as the “ugly American” for trying to impose American style governance on sovereign states.

Watching Bush’s campaign clips makes for a surreal experience, as Bush continues to epitomise the arch pro-war neo-con in most people’s eyes. During his campaign though, he expressed a degree of scepticism about Bill Clinton’s illegal war on Yugoslavia which his opponent, then Vice President Al Gore continued to extol as a “success”.

In 2008, Barack Obama’s anti-war message was vocal and visible. The now infamous “change” and “hope” posters were as much about opposition to the Iraq War and the Guantanamo Bay concentration camp, as they were about domestic issues.

Long before his campaign, Obama frequently spoke out against Bush’s war, as a rising star in the Democratic party.

Obama ended up going to war with more sovereign states than George W. Bush, while also antagonising Russia and China far more than Bush ever did. Hope soon turned into “nope”.

Donald Trump Tweeted endlessly through Barack Obama’s Presidency about the disastrous Middle Eastern wars pursued by Obama.

These online statements led Trump to eventually run for US President on a similar platform. Once in power, he escalated the war against Syria, threatened to destroy North Korea and is once again making threats against Iran.

In this sense, it seems apparent that people have grown numb from multiple US Presidents campaigning for peace and ruling through war. As such, few protesters seek to mobilise in order to hold lying leaders to account.

The peace is not meant to be won–it is meant to be continuous 

George Orwell once wrote that “the war is not meant to be won–it is meant to be continuous”.

Decades of US wars from the invasion of Philippines in 1899 to the wars of 2017, have proved that for modern America, peace is the exception and war is the rule.

As such, many peace activists and those with a conscience have concluded that a single day of protests is not enough to rally support against a cycle of wars that is a perennial phenomenon.

Because of this, the social media model of constant global, digital mobilisation may well prove to be more effective in the long-term than putting millions of anti-war demonstrators in the streets on a single day. It is also less time consuming and more cost effective.

As it is with all opposition groups, the use of platforms from foreign countries may prove to be invaluable as US owned social media networks continue to crack down on those who oppose war, occupation and inhumane conditions.

There is no guarantee that this will work, but it is certainly the most clear option that those opposed to war in the 21st century must utilise as much as possible.

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