Kelly Sans Culotte


US Occupation of Iraq Draws Global Protests
From D.C. to Seoul, demonstrators demand hands off.
By Juan Pérez Cabral

Two pro-war placards (l.) denounce antiwar demonstrators in Washington, DC, Oct. 25.

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OCTOBER 30, 2003. Tens of thousands of antiwar protesters took to the streets in Washington D.C. this past weekend to demand American troops be withdrawn from Iraq. Several thousand more marched in San Francisco, and other cities across the United States. Around the world, antiwar marches have increased in intensity as the Bush administration seeks help from international allies.

In the USA
Military families were significant participants in the DC protests. Charley Richardson, a founder of Military Families Speak Out, said, "We feel compelled to take part in this because we think this war is wrong. It never should have been fought in the first place."

Fernando de Solar Suárez, whose Marine son was killed in action in Iraq, told the crowd "we don't need any more deaths. President Bush — wrongly called president — has lied to the entire world about this war."

More than a hundred US troops have died since George W. Bush declared an end to major combat. There have also been at least thirteen suicides, and 478 service members removed from Iraq for mental health reasons. According to London's The Guardian,75 percent of those were reservists, who are reportedly given the worst assignments, inadequate equipment, and are most prey to bureaucratic vagaries.

Democratic presidential hopeful Al Sharpton told the D.C. rally, "We were right when we were saying Bush was misleading the population." Another speaker, former US attorney general Ramsey Clark, demanded Bush be impeached, saying the president "has made us international outlaws... The American people are viewed around the world as supporting George Bush's policies and they will be until he is removed from office." Bush's policies are "the greatest threat to peace and security," he continued

Fading European Allies
Despite ongoing support for US actions in Iraq from embattled Prime Minister Tony Blair, Britain's antiwar movement continues to grow. On September 29, tens of thousands of protesters filled Trafalgar Square, bolstered by politicians like former Labour MP Tony Benn, the mayor of London, Ken Livingstone, and Labour MP George Galloway, who has since been expelled from the party in what The Guardian's Seumas Milne has called a "ritual purge" of antiwar politicians.

The Stop the War Coalition, the main organizer of the rally, promised protests to bring Britain to a standstill if Bush visits as planned on November 19. Mayor Livingstone said Bush would not be welcome at London's City Hall, where a reception would be held for the peace movement instead.

In Madrid, last week's demonstration targeted the October 23 conference of international donors to fund Iraqi reconstruction. Several thousand demonstrators like student David Llorente turned out to charge the 70 countries and organizations that participated with wanting "to make the maximum profit from a country destroyed by a war that could have been avoided."

More than three-quarters of Spaniards opposed the U.S.-led invasion, though Spanish Prime Minister Jose María Aznar was one of its staunchest supporters. Aznar faded from the hawkish scene about the same time it was evident the promised weapons of mass destruction would not be forthcoming.

Aussies and Kiwis Protest
Also on October 23, four protesters were arrested outside the U.S. embassy in Canberra, Australia as thousands demonstrated against visiting George W. Bush.

One of the issues was Australian detainees held in Guantanamo. Green Party Senator Bob Brown, wearing images of Australian detainees David Hicks and Mamdouh Habib, told protesters, "The message to George Bush, because our Prime Minister is too obsequious to raise it, is to repatriate our Australians to our soil for justice as you have repatriated your Americans from the torture center in Guantanamo Bay."

Labor MP Carmen Lawrence said Australia was not anti-American. "Our argument is not with the US nor with its people. This is personal. Our argument is with President George Bush and his administration."

On October 8, protesters in New Zealand drowned out the United States ambassador with antiwar chants. He was attempting to make a speech lauding U.S.-New Zealand relations.

Invisible Critics
South Korea has passed unnoticed in United States media as one of the largest critics of US actions in Iraq. In several demonstrations from October 6 to 11, thousands of protesters daily opposed a controversial plan to dispatch more South Korean troops to Iraq.

When the government agreed to Bush's request, thousands more antiwar protesters marched on the U.S. Embassy in Seoul, October 25 calling on the government to reverse their decision. Protests turned violent, Wednesday, October 28, when one thousand workers protesting the decision clashed with riot police.

Korean President Roh Moo-hyun is feeling the pressure. Roh ran on a left-leaning antimilitary platform. His supporters now feel betrayed by what they see as his toadying to Bush, not just with regards to Iraq, but also towards North Korea. In the last several months, his popularity in opinion polls has dropped from 80 percent to 25 percent.

Talking Turkey
Turkey has also been the site of several antiwar protests, many held since the Turkish parliament voted on October 7 to comply with NATO requests and send peacekeeping troops to neighboring Iraq, where they're not wanted by Kurds and other Iraqis. On October 8, some five hundred protesters running the gamut from Islamists to leftist students condemned the motion with a sit-in in central Istanbul.

Another antiwar rally was held October 15 in Ankara, a day after a car explosion near the Turkish Embassy in Baghdad killed at least one person and injured more than a dozen others. Protesters chanted: We will not be US soldiers!

As of October 30, the issue is moot. Though the Turkish government officially remains willing to send troops, opposition from Baghdad's interim government has persuaded the U.S. to rule out the mission for the time being. President Ahmet Necdet Sezer announced Wednesday he considered the question "closed".

From the Web

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