Does peace have a chance?

The anti-war movement faces its biggest challenge yet — politics
By SARA DONNELLY  |  December 27, 2006

THE FEW, THE CHILLY: Congress Square protesters.

Four weeks after Democrats rode a wave of anti-war discontent to gain control of the US House and Senate, only four protestors show up to the weekly “Bridges for Peace” demonstration on the Casco Bay Bridge. Bundled in heavy coats, knit caps, and thick gloves, they stand in a line on the South Portland side holding signs to “End the Occupation” and “Stop Funding the Oil Wars.” Cars and trucks serenade them with honks. One twenty-something beefcake leans out of his passenger window and screams “Scum!” So goes another Sunday afternoon at the vigil, which has gone on every week since the fall of 2002. But despite the four years these activists have had to hone their vision for peace, none of them agree on exactly how the country should get out of Iraq, what “immediate withdrawal” means temporally, or how to contain what we’ll leave behind. It’s never been their job to confront the devil in those details.

“The only hope we have now is the Democrats will actually chair committees,” says Andy, a 49-year-old activist from South Portland who declines to give his last name because he works for the government. He’s wearing a navy blue visor and “Impeach Bush” and “Kucinich Means Courage” buttons. The freezing noontime air has turned his nose pink. “What they do with that, who knows? My hope is that they’ll come out with a clear message. You’ve got a lot of big, intelligent people — former generals, former CIA people, folks that are clearly much more informed as to what’s needed, more than people like me.”

A station wagon honks as it passes him.

“I don’t have a clue what’s needed.”

Everybody’s talking about
But the time has come for activists like Andy to find a clue. November 7, election day, couldn’t have been more important for any other anti-Bushie group than the anti-war movement, which earned a nationwide pat on the back when American voters turned en masse to Democrats who had successfully linked the Bush administration with the bloody nightmare that is the war in Iraq. Democrats gained 31 seats to snag the majority in the US House of Representatives and six seats for control over the US Senate. It is the first time since 1994 that the Dems have had control of both branches of Congress. The dissing of the Republicans reveals, as Boston Globe columnist Scott Lehigh wrote on November 8, that “the country has concluded [Bush] made a huge mistake in going to war.” (It also led to the resignation of defense secretary Donald Rumsfeld the day after the election. Rumsfeld’s replacement, Robert Gates, was confirmed by the Senate on December 6; so far, he seems like less of a war hawk than Rumsfeld.)

But everything sweet comes at a price. The anti-war movement must now sharpen its goals to a point if it plans to play any significant role in what happens to American soldiers in Iraq. As Congress takes its holiday break, what to do with Iraq is the topic of every major news debate on television, some politician’s new withdrawal plan is on the front page of national newspapers almost every day, and the president has finally admitted publicly that we are losing the war.

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  Topics: News Features , United Nations, U.S. House of Representatives, Donald H. Rumsfeld,  More more >
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