Kelly Sans Culotte


US POLITICS

Tugs of War
With sneers and threats, Bush bolsters the antiwar effort.
By Kelly Cogswell


International Women's Day antiwar march, Washington, D.C., March 8, 2003. More photos. Amy Parker

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MARCH 14, 2003. While protesters worldwide are increasingly effective in pulling their countries away from a US-led coalition against Iraq, Bush and Co. continue to bolster the antiwar cause, driving away allies with sneers, threats, bribes, and bullyboy tactics.

Daily Protests
In Britain, where the almost daily protests opposing unilateral action are reportedly larger than the ones that drove Maggie Thatcher from Downing Street, Prime Minister Tony Blair, a hawk, and sure "yes" vote on the Security Council, is desperately seeking a way to survive politically if bombs fall on Baghdad without UN approval. His latest ploy: blame the French, a British politician's classic schtick.

The hardnosed Spanish Prime Minister José María Aznar, also besieged by protests and criticism from an overwhelmingly antiwar population, is definitely in damage control mode, sending Spanish Foreign Minister Ana Palacio to meet her French counterpart Dominique de Villepin. She cancelled the meeting citing problems with her plane. Aznar's real willingness to soften his pro-US stance has yet to be tested.

U.S. officials told the BBC on Wednesday they were confident Bush had the support of Pakistan as well as the three African members of the Security Council — Cameroon, Guinea and Angola — but Pakistan declined to confirm any support.

Pakistan's leader, General Pervez Musharraf, faces a serious challenge from growing Islamic parties who drew hundreds of thousands Pakistanis to an anti-war march last Sunday, the biggest demonstration seen there for a decade.

The "Latins"
Also on Wednesday, another unnamed official said that Mexico and Chile, other swing votes, are almost in the bag. "Bush and Blair are attempting to do whatever it takes to get the Latins to commit," said the U.S. official.

In fact, Chilean President Ricardo Lagos has repeatedly said that compromise, including an extended deadline and spelled-out steps for Iraqi disarmament, will be the only thing that will get antiwar Chile to support a U.S. resolution.

Former Foreign Minister Juan Gabriel Valdés, currently president of the Chilean Senate's Foreign Relations Commission, has said Chile is willing to be "a partner, but not a lackey," even if it means the U.S. makes good on threats to nix an important U.S.-Chile trade deal awaiting approval in Congress.

The Mexican vote is also less than certain. Almost 85 percent of the population overwhelmingly opposes a war. And President Fox himself loses credibility with every passing day. He hasn't been able to implement his domestic policies, and the immigration concessions he was promised from the pre-9/11 U.S. never emerged.

Mexicans, like Chileans, are further alienated by the U.S.'s not so thinly veiled threats. The U.S. ambassador to Mexico, Tony Garza, announced, "Will American attitudes be placated by half-steps or three-quarter-steps?" he said. "I kind of doubt it."

Bush himself, in an interview with the Copley News service earlier this month, promised "discipline" to dissenting countries, and a backlash, if not from Congress, ominously from "the people." Fox's spinal surgery Wednesday must have felt like a relief to him after days of closed door meetings.

At Home
Though polls show a hardening of support in the United States for unilateral action, and pro-war people are beginning to stage their own rallies, antiwar protesters continue to take to the streets by the hundreds and thousands even if their own position may not be adequately reflected until the next election.

In New York, where federal funding is critical to patch up a wounded post-9/11 economy, but antiwar protesters demonstrate by the hundreds of thousands, the City Council just passed a carefully worded resolution denouncing preemptive action against Iraq "unless it is demonstrated that Iraq poses a real and imminent threat to the security and safety of the United States or its allies, or unless all other options for achieving compliance with the United Nations resolutions ... have failed."

This resolution, along with the huge antiwar demonstration February 15, may have contributed to a softening of the Bloomberg administration's anti-demo policy. Another large protest is planned for March 22, and organizers claim the Mayor and the NYPD will "respect our right to march."

Authors Alice Walker and Maxine Hong Kingston, part of a group of 23 women arrested in front of the White House at a large demonstration on International Women's Day, are among the first to be arrested in civil disobedience that antiwar organizers promise will kick into action when the first bombs drop on Baghdad.



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