What#039;s wrong with the antiwar movement?

by Beacon Staff • February 7, 2007

On Jan. 27, Americans gathered in public spaces and demonstrated against the War in Iraq. While the focus of the national mobilization was a tremendous antiwar march in Washington D.C., smaller events occurred across the country.

Here, people braved the cold and took to Boston Common to show their frustration with the confusing trajectory of the war and to make explicit their distaste for its shady motivation and admittedly tragic handling.,On Jan. 27, Americans gathered in public spaces and demonstrated against the War in Iraq. While the focus of the national mobilization was a tremendous antiwar march in Washington D.C., smaller events occurred across the country.

Here, people braved the cold and took to Boston Common to show their frustration with the confusing trajectory of the war and to make explicit their distaste for its shady motivation and admittedly tragic handling.

The event here was a shameful and inane spectacle that should have made every rational person shake a sad fist at the First Amendment. Little more than a circus, it provided a revealing cross section of the "protest movement," while at the same time underscoring the juvenile sentiments and half-baked logic of those who would seek to end our involvement in Iraq with all due haste.

The demonstrators were a motley, though unsurprising, bunch. There were burnt-out hippies hoping to relive the good old days of the 1960s, as well as a gaggle of anarchists costumed as pirates.

Characteristically timid card-carrying Democrats passed around polite petitions while lunatics spewed the newest 9/11 conspiracy theories to anyone who would listen. A contingent of antiwar veterans made a meager showing and some college students looked uncomfortable and talked mostly amongst themselves.

More of a weekend social for the leftist fringe than a legitimate political demonstration, the small crowd was lively and friendly in a clownish sort of way. People consoled one another over the myriad horrors of "empire."

All the while, the anarchist-pirates used an accordion and a leather drum to produce what they must have intended to be music while 60-somethings with gray ponytails danced in circles.

The signs and banners alone were sights to see. The slogans were hokey and worn, the images crude and predictable. Banners made reference to oil, empire and corporations. Opponents of the war prove again and again that they are unable to escape the temptation of attributing all that is wrong to that evil trinity.

Meaningless to them are the plain facts that oil is acquired more easily and cheaply from allies during peacetime, that temporary military maneuvers are hardly the foundations of empire and that correlation between corporate and national agendas does not imply causation.

The tunnel vision that so restricts the reasoning of militant pacifists means not just misplaced blame, but also blindness toward the true nature of the conflict.

Surely, those demonstrators do not realize that Iraq is merely one front in a broader war against the forces of radical religious fundamentalism that seek to destroy the West and its noble tradition of social liberalism and political pluralism.

Certainly, they were not aware of the innumerable disasters that would unfold if the United States was to withdraw anytime soon: the slaughter of Iraqi democrats, the rollback of liberty in the Middle East, the confidence and vindication that would comfort terrorists, the demoralization of our armed forces when they must be at their prime and so on.

None of those things were even in the mental periphery of the Jan. 27 protesters.

Before again parading about with much self-righteous fanfare, those who are unconditionally opposed to this war should consider the price of failure in Iraq. It is high time that knee-jerk protest be shelved for more thoughtful consideration of the dangerous and critical historical junction at which the world now stands.

Many years ago, the philosopher Soren Kierkegaard wrote, "People demand freedom of speech as a compensation for the freedom of thought which they seldom use."

Those words ring true today, and should be considered by all those who demonstrated under the fittingly cloudy sky last Saturday.