Three years ago, on February 15, 2003, shortly before the invasion of Iraq, there were quasi-global peace protests.
The streets of New York City, London, Rome, Madrid, Johannesburg, Hong Kong and many other places were filled with people protesting against the then-impending invasion of Iraq.
It's a shame that those protests didn't happen earlier -- imagine if they happened before Congress gave its dubious "authorization" for war in October 2002, for example. It's conceivable at least that Bush would have had a harder time launching the invasion.
But it is more regretful that these protests have not grown; have not continued to include more of the globe and have not become deeper in nature. Quite the contrary, they have atrophied. Over a month ago I was on a program on Pacifica station WBAI's appropriately-named program "Wake Up Call" in New York with leaders from various groups: United for Peace and Justice, International Answer and International Action Center. I challenged them on their non-follow-up on global protests. They all ignored the point. [Listen at the Wake Up Call archive blog.]
In the last few weeks we have seen very different quasi-global protests in various Arab and Muslim countries sparked by the insulting depictions of Muhammad.
I don't think the two events are un-related. The "peace movement" in the U.S. has not meaningfully reached out to the rest of the world, most notably people in Arab and Muslim countries -- even as it criticizes Bush for his "unilateralism". Where are the regular global protests? Where are the global sister cities projects? Where are the internet chat rooms where people can cross cultures and learn about others' perspectives and organize for a more just world?
Why has the peace movement not built these structures? I suspect that it is because building a new just world from the ground up would first, require alot of work that goes beyond rhetorical denunciations of Bush; but it would also open the door to what I said: a new just world. That is, the global inequalities which currently exist would have to be addressed and ultimately eliminated. However much they are opposed to Bush, many in the U.S. I think must feel threatened by such a possibility. Working with others requires working with people raised in other cultures; that can be enrolling, it can also be uncomfortable and threatening.
So there are no global protests every month expressing solidarity and demanding justice. Instead, there are protests of the sort we are now seeing: a wounded and insulted people lashing out in an unproductive fashion.
So, we need to pick our protests. If people in places of privilege who say they want change really want to establish methods by which we can all interact with mutual respect and justice; then we need to have the courage to change and build a global peace and justice movement from the ground up. If we don't really want that, we'll do nothing substantial; gripe at Bush (and pro-war Dems for that matter) and then watch as other protests develop and gradually engulf the world.
Pick your protests. Pick your world.
[originally published at husseini.org on Feb. 15, 2006]