Ten years ago, on Feb. 15, 2003, sometimes called “the day the world said ‘no’ to war,” millions marched around the world against the then-impending invasion of Iraq in what is widely regarded as the largest protest in history. Two days later The New York Times referred to “two superpowers on the planet: the United States and world public opinion.”
A “Feb. 15” statement, below, is being released tomorrow — signatories include Noam Chomsky, Daniel Ellsberg and Nobel Peace Prize winner Mairead Maguire. It reads: “We don’t just say ‘no’ to war — we say ‘yes’ to peace, we say yes to building economic and social systems that are not dominated by central banks and huge financial institutions. We don’t just say ‘no’ to war — we demand an end to massive resources being squandered on the military while billions are made poorer and poorer as a few reap huge wealth totally disproportionate to any labor or ingenuity of their own.” It raises the possibility of more such protests on a global level in coming months.
The following are among the signers of the new Feb. 15 statement:
DAVID MARTY, [email]
Marty is with the International Organization for a Participatory Society in Spain and is co-author of the new book Occupy Strategy.
BILL FLETCHER, [email]
Fletcher is co-founder of United for Peace & Justice as well as the Center for Labor Renewal. He will be speaking at an event commemorating the Feb. 15, 2003 protests on Friday.
SAM HUSSEINI, [email]
Husseini is communications director for the Institute for Public Accuracy.
The Feb. 15 Call for Global Protests for Democracy, Solidarity and Justice:
Ten years ago, millions of people around the world said “no” to war on February 15, 2003. Now, we say “yes” to peace; “yes” to demilitarizing, to having decent lives, including economic lives, determined by democratic principles.
The invasion of Iraq still began after the 2003 protests, but the violence wreaked by Bush was more limited than the U.S. government inflicted on Vietnam a generation earlier. Our vigilance was part of the reason for that. Had we acted sooner, we might have been able to avert the disastrous invasion. The lesson is we need more global protest and solidarity, not less. Indeed, had we continued vigorously protesting, we might not have seen the years since 2003 show a lack of accountability for the war makers, even as conscientious whilstleblowers are prosecuted.
This isn’t a reunion party. The same impulses that drove us to the streets in 2003 are still with us; the same war mindset prevails in world affairs. Politicians who backed the Iraq war dominate the U.S., UK and other foreign policy establishments. The dominant media’s demonization of Iran now is similar to what it did to Iraq. The U.S. escalated its war in Afghanistan and launched a series of smaller “dirty wars” in Yemen, Pakistan and elsewhere with illegal drone killings and now, with AFRICOM and other mechanisms, threatens perpetual war in Africa as well as the Mideast. The Obama administration’s “pivot East” threatens a Cold War or worse with China.
The Arab uprisings displaced some dictators — most successfully when done peacefully by the people in spite of violence by the regimes, as in Tunisia and Egypt. But the oppressive regimes of the Gulf have not only escaped real scrutiny, they are actually molding much of the rest of the region in conjunction with the U.S. and other outside powers — even as the U.S. proclaims its support for “democracy.” Much of the wealth from the Gulf states flows to Western banks, as well as the dictators and their cliques, rather than to benefit the people of that region. The Palestinian people continue to suffer not only neo-liberal dominance, as much of the world does, but also the settler colonialism of Israeli forces.
These issues are not unique to the Mideast — the U.S. has over 1000 bases around the world, some with explicitly colonial frameworks, as with “territories” like Puerto Rico. The U.S. and Russia have tens of thousands of nuclear warheads threatening life on earth. A fundamental transformation is needed. The United Nations has failed in its paramount duty to shield future generations from the scourge of war.
We don’t just say “no” to war — we say “yes” to peace, we say yes to building economic and social systems that are not dominated by central banks and huge financial institutions. We don’t just say “no” to war — we demand an end to massive resources being squandered on the military while billions are made poorer and poorer as a few reap huge wealth totally disproportionate to any labor or ingenuity of their own.
We don’t just say “no” to war — we reject an economic system that in the name of “economic competitiveness” pits workers against each other in regions and nations so they accept work for less and less pay in worse and worse conditions. From the seeds of antiwar that were planted ten years ago, we want a flowering of global democracy. So we can honestly say “We the People” without the hierarchies based on ethnicity, gender, class or nationality.
The rise of the “occupy” movement, the Indignados, Idle No More movement and others has been critical, but we must set up more durable structures, to go beyond merely occupying to liberating and to being connected across national borders. The quest for profit and perpetual financial growth has enriched a tiny minority while causing hardships to the vast majority. The quest for perpetual financial growth and profit has ravaged the earth so that we today face unprecedented threats to the possibility of sustaining a livable habitat for future generations. The quest for profit and perpetual financial growth has corrupted virtually every system in the society, from government to housing to transportation to education to the legal system. The dominance of finance and the military must end; the targeting of the social safety net must end. We, the people, must not pay for a crisis we did not cause, and for wars that are fought in the name of our security — but which ensure perpetual global insecurity and hardship.
Part of the needed building of durable structures that liberate is to globalize and coordinate protests. These could be done regularly, even monthly beginning March 15 and going onward.
Solidarity demands much greater communication between the people of the world, not elites planning for their continued dominance. The response to the decline of U.S. power is not a smarter use of power, or a balance of power with other elites with their own hierarchies. Instead, we issue “This call for a worldwide fellowship that lifts neighborly concern beyond one’s tribe, race, class, and nation” to establish meaningful solidarity with people worldwide.