Ten Years After Feb. 15 Global Protests Against War, A New Call

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.

I, along with my then five year old daughter participated in one of the larger of these marches, in New York City. My daughter, now a teen and her younger sister have grown up thinking the United States occupying nations from Afghanistan to Iraq is “normal”. That doesn’t mean that they are growing up thinking it is just.

On the anniversary of those protests, I wanted to share a statement I am proud to be a signer of, along with such critical thinkers as Noam Chomsky. I signed the statement because my family comes from a country that is currently a colony of the United States, Puerto Rico. My children have family who survived the aftermath of the U.S. backed coup of Chilean president Salvador Allende. The impact of imperial wars are not abstract ideas. They have roots here in the continued resistance of Indigenous peoples.

Please read the statement below (in English and in Spanish) and consider signing on or at the very least having a conversation about what resistance and survival beyond that looks like.

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.

Signers so far:

As’ad AbuKhalil, California State University, angryarab.net, author The Battle for Saudi Arabia
Junaid Ahmad, Lahore University of Management Sciences
Christine Ahn, Korea Policy Institute
Michael Albert, International Organization for a Participatory Society and ZCommunications
Noam Chomsky, MIT, author of Hegemony or Survival and Power Systems
Daniel Ellsberg, author of Secrets: A Memoir of Vietnam and the Pentagon Papers
Pepe Escobar, Asia Times
Bill Fletcher, former with TransAfrica and AFL-CIO, co-founder of the Center for Labor Renewal and author of Solidarity Divided
Margaret Flowers, co-director, ItsOurEconomy.US
Arun Gupta, co-founder of the Occupied Wall Street Journal and The Indypendent
Sam Husseini, Institute for Public Accuracy
Preeti Kaur, International Organization for a Participatory Society in Spain and blogger at Znet
Kathy Kelly, Voices for Creative Nonviolence
Mairead Maguire, Peace People, recipient of Nobel Peace Prize
David Marty, International Organization for a Participatory Society in Spain and co-author of Occupy Strategy
Maegan Ortiz, publisher of VivirLatino
Costas Panayotakis, New York City College of Technology (CUNY) and author of Remaking Scarcity: From Capitalist inefficiency to Economic Democracy
John Pilger, films include “War on Democracy” and “The War You Don’t See”
Norman Solomon, author War Made Easy
David Swanson, RootsAction.org, author of War is a Lie
Deborah Toler, Africa specialist, formerly of Institute for Food and Development Policy and Oxfam America
Kevin Zeese, organizer, October2011/OccupyWashingtonDC
(Organizations listed for identification purposes only.)
You can add your name to the statement at RootsAction.org.

And now in Spanish

Hace diez años, millones de personas en el mundo entero dijeron “no a la guerra” el 15 de febrero de 2003. Ahora, decimos sí a la paz, sí a la desmilitarización, a llevar vidas decentes incluso a nivel económico, vidas determinadas por principios democráticos.

La invasión de Iraq todavía tuvo lugar tras las protestas de 2003, pero la violencia provocada por Bush quedaba aún más limitada que la infligida por el gobierno estadounidense en Vietnam una generación atrás. Nuestra vigilancia fue en parte el motivo de ello. De haber actuado antes, tal vez habríamos sido capaces de evitar la desastrosa invasión. Lo que hemos aprendido es que necesitamos más protestas a nivel global y solidaridad, nada menos. De hecho, de haber seguido energéticamente con las protestas, tal vez en los años que siguieron 2003 no habríamos sido testigos de la irresponsabilidad de los que crean las guerras, incluso de cómo se procesaban a los que, sabiéndolo, denunciaron los hechos desde dentro.

Esto no es una reunión festiva. Todavía tenemos con nosotros los mismos impulsos que nos llevaron a las calles en 2003; la misma mentalidad de guerra prevalece en el mundo de los negocios. Los políticos que apoyaron la guerra en Iraq controlan los sistemas de política exterior de los Estados Unidos, Gran Bretaña y de otros países. La demonización de Irán por los medios de comunicación dominantes es similar a la que se hizo con Iraq. Estados Unidos intensificó su guerra en Afganistán y lanzó una serie de “guerras sucias” más pequeñas en Yemen, Pakistán asesinando con aviones teledirigidos (los “drones”) y ahora con AFRICOM y otros mecanismos amenazan con una guerra perpetua tanto en África cómo en Oriente Medio. El “giro hacia el este” (“pivot east”) de la administración Obama amenaza con una guerra fría o peor con China.

Algunos dictadores fueron sustituidos con las revueltas árabes, que alcanzaron un mayor éxito cuando se llevaron a cabo de manera pacífica por los ciudadanos, como en Túnez y Egipto, a pesar de la violencia impulsada por lo regímenes. Sin embargo, los regímenes del Golfo no solo se libraron de una vigilancia auténtica, sino que en realidad están moldeando gran parte del resto de la región en conjunto con EE UU y otras potencias de fuera. Incluso tienen a los EE UU proclamando su apoyo a la “democracia”. Gran parte de la riqueza procedente de los países del Golfo, al igual que los dictadores y sus camarillas, fluye en bancos de Occidente, en lugar de beneficiar a la población local. El pueblo palestino sigue sometido a no solamente la dominación neoliberal, como ocurre en muchas zonas del mundo, sino también al colonialismo de asentamientos de las fuerzas israelíes.

Estos problemas no son algo exclusivo de Oriente Medio. Estados Unidos tiene más de 1000 bases militares en todo el mundo. EE UU y Rusia poseen decenas de miles de misiles nucleares que están amenazando la vida en el planeta. Hace falta una transformación fundamental. Las Naciones Unidas han fracasado en su tarea esencial de proteger a las futuras generaciones frente a la lacra de la guerra.

No solo decimos “no” a la guerra, decimos además “sí” a la paz, decimos sí a la creación de un sistema social y económico que no esté dominado por bancos centrales y grandes instituciones financieras. No solo decimos “no” a la guerra, exigimos que se acabe con el despilfarro masivo de dinero en los ejércitos, mientras miles de millones de personas se están quedando cada vez más pobres, ya que unos cuantos obtienen enormes fortunas totalmente desproporcionadas con respecto a cualquier trabajo o ingenio suyos.

No solo decimos “no” a la guerra. Rechazamos un sistema económico que, en el nombre de la “competitividad económica”, enfrenta a los trabajadores en regiones y estados para que acepten trabajar por cada vez menos y en condiciones cada vez peores. A partir de las semillas anti-guerra plantadas hace diez años, queremos que la democracia global florezca, de tal manera que podamos decir en serio “Nosotros, el Pueblo”, sin las jerarquías basadas en origen étnico, sexo, clase social o nacionalidad.

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