[I saw this in a restaurant window when I was in Santa Cruz -- anyone know what this is about (i.e. what's the group, or is it a joke)?]
Dear Friend of United for Peace and Justice,
As the Bush administration declares "victory" in Iraq and begins the saber-rattling against other possible targets (like Syria), our movement for peace and justice faces serious challenges. During this new phase of our work, we must not forget all that we've achieved, despite our inability to prevent the war on Iraq. In a few short months, a massive and multifaceted grassroots movement for peace and justice has taken root in every corner of this country. Our movement is well positioned to continue challenging the disastrous direction of our government's foreign policy and the misguided and discriminatory domestic priorities of the Bush administration.
We have much work ahead of us. For instance, we must demand an honest accounting of what happened in Iraq during this war: how many innocent Iraqis have been killed? what devastation is yet to unfold for millions more as a direct result of the descruction and damage of this war?
United for Peace and Justice opposes the U.S. military occupation and colonization of Iraq. We urge action that will shed light on the corporations with close ties to the Bush Administration that will reap profits from the post-war, post-sanctions reconstruction. And there are other issues that need to be addressed. As we move forward, our work should include educational campaigns; for example, focusing on the federal budget (why is there always money for military spending but never enough for domestic social programs?) and on U.S. global foreign policy. At the same time we will continue to organize public protests ranging from marches and rallies to nonviolent direct actions targeting military contractors and federal sites. Our web site is a vital tool for sharing resources and information and we hope your local group will continue to post the activities you plan at http://www.unitedforpeace.org
Following are some articles that might provide food for thought on the question of where the peace and justice movement should go from here. We hope you will share with them with others, use them as the basis for discussions within your peace groups and among your friends and family, and let us know about other articles you think should be shared.
Talking Points: After the Fall of Saddam
By Phyllis Bennis, Institute for Policy Studies http://www.ips-dc.org/iraq/talkingpoints.htm
Why the Anti-War Movement Was Right
By Arianna Huffington, April 16, 2003 http://www.ariannaonline.com/columns/files/041603.html
What We Do Now; A Peace Agenda
By David Cortright in The Nation, April 21, 2003 http://www.thenation.com/doc.mhtml?i=20030421&s=cortright&c=1
Response to the above article
by Phyllis Bennis and John Cavanagh of the Institute for Policy Studies http://www.thenation.com/doc.mhtml?i=20030421&s=bennis
Response to the above article
by Bill Fletcher Jr. of United for Peace and Justice and TransAfrica Forum http://www.thenation.com/doc.mhtml?i=20030421&s=fletcher
Response to the above article
by Medea Benjamin of Global Exchange and CodePink http://www.thenation.com/doc.mhtml?i=20030421&s=benjamin
In peace and solidarity,
Bill Fletcher Jr.
for United for Peace and Justice
TO SUBSCRIBE OR UNSUBSCRIBE:
UNITED FOR PEACE AND JUSTICE (212) 603-3700
Pictures and links to Quicktime movies
from the SUNY at Buffalo Poetics Against the War reading
held on Wednesday, March 5th, 2003:
Charles Bernstein ("War Stories"), Sarah Campbell, Barbara Cole, David Landrey
(and others not represented here)
Well worth the clicks.
Thanks to the outpouring of support from founding supporters of the VoteToImpeach movement, the first full page ad of the impeachment campaign was placed in the New York Times on March 19 - Bush's ultimatum day - in the front section of the paper, page A23.
The political impact of the New York Times was far-reaching. The circulation of the New York Times extends all over the country and all over the world. In turn, the response of people across the country to the ad was magnificent. The office was flooded with thousands of letters from people who filled out a VoteToImpeach ballot. Tens of thousands more immediately went on line and voted to impeach Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld and Ashcroft for their criminal conduct in waging a war of aggression against the people of Iraq, wantonly sacrificing the lives of U.S. servicemen and women, and for the assault on our civil rights and civil liberties at home.
The VoteToImpeach newspaper ad campaign is expanding.
With your help, we are now seeking to place the full page ad in the San Francisco Chronicle in the next week.
The ad campaign is letting millions of Americans know about the constitutional mechanism of impeachment to remove from office elected officials who commit high crimes and misdemeanors, who violate the trust of the people and engage in abuse of power. The campaign for an impeachment process is building at the grassroots level. Let's do everything within our power to make it grow, in our neighborhoods, in our communities, and in Congress.
You can also help spread the word about the impeachment campaign by encouraging your favorite websites to place the VoteToImpeach graphic link. This is easily done, click here for instructions.
People around the country are also making efforts to place the ad in their local newspapers. The pdf of the ad is available at the www.VoteToImpeach.org website, and we can also assist if your paper needs any additional camera-ready files. Please let us know if the ad has been placed in a local newspaper in your area.
On Sunday, March 23 the full page ad appeared in the Madison Capitol Times (Wisconsin). We are interested in placing the ad in newspapers read by different communities around the country in large and smaller cities and towns.
We have had many requests for VoteToImpeach materials and are happy to announce that signs and stickers for the VoteToImpeach campaign will be available at the peace demonstrations taking place on Saturday April 12 in Washington, DC (12 noon at the Washington Monument) and in San Francisco (12 noon at the Civic Center - Polk & Grove). Many VoteToImpeach members are coming as contingents to these April 12 national demonstrations calling for an end to the war in Iraq, which will be part of a world-wide day of rallies for peace across the globe. The VoteToImpeach contingents will be saying that a significant step towards peace is the impeachment of George W. Bush and Co.
Congratulations on such a successful campaign launch -- lets keep the pressure building!
- All of us at VoteToImpeach.org
Before yesterday my worst worry was a Germany 1939-type scenario, but the protests of March 27 have reduced my worry to something like Pinochet’s Chile or present day China. Yesterday marked, for me, the return of street activism to New York City and to the evolving and now very real, anti-war (or as Betsy insists anti-Imperial Invasion) movement. All over people are organizing in trust-worthy cells and yesterday, ( in addition to the massive die-in and subsequent arrest of 215 activists) in several places along Broadway and other places, we shut down Business-As-Usual by shutting down traffic with banners, garbage, tape, chants (No More War) and cyclists circling preventing cars--at one point at the busy intersection of Broadway and Prince for at least 10-12 minutes. Cops were everywhere and paranoia can be debilitating. But the success of an action, the solidarity of the group, and the kindnesses we show each other, move us forward. -- Rachel Levitsky
The following is a message from Amy Partridge, who was arrested in Chicago under the Patriot Act while exercising her constitutional rights. Press accounts of these arrests last Thursday are inaccurate: please help us get this message out. -- Matthias Regan
I want to warn you all about what happened to hundreds of peaceful protesters, myself included, at the rally and march on Thursday night in downtown Chicago. Both the rally and march were entirely peaceful. I saw not one instance of civil disobedience or aggro behavior. Police escorted us on the March and onto Lake Shore Drive. We were never asked to disperse or threatened with arrest. When police prevented us from marching on Michigan Ave marchers moved on. We were, however, surrounded by hundreds of police a few block later and prevented from leaving. No one around me intended to or wanted to be arrested. Everyone asked to be allowed to leave and disperse. I have since heard this was not how the media reported it but more than once the crowd chanted “let us go” and “we will disperse.” The police told individuals who asked that they could leave from some other side of the crowd but in EVERY instance I witnessed this was not the case and no one was allowed to leave, including a 17 year old boy and his 14 year old sister. At first police rushed the crowd and pulled out 10 people at a time. I and everyone around me was arrested despite the fact that we were standing on the sidewalk (not in the street) and that we asked again and again to be allowed to leave since we had done nothing illegal. A cop grabbed me, put me in cuffs, and told me I was being charged with mob action and that I should be glad I was not in Iraq. I have since heard that people were allowed to leave much later but we were told that everyone would be arrested sooner or later.
Close to 300 (at least) women were held in custody for hours. I was in custody for over 20 hours. Despite the fact that we were told that we be released as soon as we were processed, I was held in a jail cell from midnight until 4:00 pm the next day. During this time I was not allowed a phone call, not read my rights, and my charge was not explained to me. We were all told numerous times that we would be released on I-Bonds, meaning once we were processed (mug shots taken and finger prints sent to the federal registry) we could sign ourselves out. A friend of mine came to get me at 8:00 am and was told I would be released by noon. By 2:00 she was told I had been “lost” and might not be “found” or released until Monday. When she offered $100 cash at 4:00 (despite the fact that we had been told explicitly numerous times that we did not require bail money) I was “found” and released. Only because a cell phone had been smuggled into my cell block was I able to contact this friend or to hear the news that they were suddenly and inexplicably requiring $100 bail to release us. The police allowed no one to call friends and family to arrange this payment. We were all told that if we got arrested again within 24 hours of signing our bond we would be charged with a FELONY. Waiting parents and friends were told that if we SO MUCH AS SHOWED UP AGAIN AT ANOTHER RALLY we would be charged with a felony. This, of course, cannot be right. But this is the mood of Ashcroft’s America.
The average age of the arrestees as far as I could tell was between 17-25. No one I met had ever been arrested before or had had any intention of being arrested for civil disobedience Thursday night. At least 3 women that I met were tourist that had gotten trapped in the crowd. This fact was explained both by the women themselves and many of the protesters but they were treated no differently and as far as I know held for the same amount of time as the rest of us. While some the cops were fine, a number threatened us and many ridiculed us. They treated us with disdain and disgust and booked us as though we were terrorists under the new Patriot Act and not peaceful protesters. It was a miserable and shocking experience. This may have been the most egregious response and it may be that no other peaceful protesters will be trapped and arrested as we were. But I recommend if you intend to go to any future protests that you make sure you have a number of a lawyer or the ACLU memorized. I would also suggest that you let someone know you are going and that if you do not call them upon your return that they should check to see if you have been arrested. Those of us that had it worst and were held the longest did not have anyone waiting for us and demanding our release.
All the best,
PhD Candidate Performance Studies
Scores of Readings Held Around the World
Poets Vow to Continue Working for Peace
March 22, 2003
Even as bombs destroy Baghdad and other Iraqi towns, lovers of poetry have continued to gather to read poems and cry out for peace over the past 72 hours. In Karachi, Pakistan, poets, writers and intellectuals of the Arts Council gathered at the Indus Valley School of Art & Architecture in a reading titled "SPEAK OUT! Poetry for Peace," sponsored by Tehrik Khidmatunnas Secretariate, a charity organization. In Temuco, Chile, poets gathered in a Wednesday reading called "Words Against War." In Tucson, Arizona, poets held a reading and non-violent public protest against the attack on Iraq, called "Poets' Brains Chained to the Ground," at the Federal Courthouse. And in Seattle, poets gathered at the Richard Hugo House for a 4-hour poetry vigil Friday, declared World Poetry Day by UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization).
Poets Against the War converged, read poetry, and lifted their voices in protest at Acqui Terme, Italy; Austin, Texas; and London, Ontario, Canada. In the remote little town of Gustavus-Glacier Bay, Alaska, the Gustavus Peace Poets met at their local library to read their own poems and selections from poetsagainstthewar.org, and to deliver a copy of the anthology of 13,000 poems to the Superintendent of the Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve.
The beat goes on. From Paris to Pisa to Philadelphia, poets are speaking out for a world in which compassion and non-violence will ultimately prevail over the Bush administration's philosophy that horrendous crimes are justifiable in the service of its unilateralist agenda. Our call for peace is more critical than ever before. Please join us. Organize a reading. Join a protest. Lift your voice.
Create a reading of Poetry Against the War.
Create a presentation to a government or organization of 13,000 antiwar poems, a roster of 12,000 poets and a showcase of 35 chapbook poems.
While it is important to record and acknowledge the deep sadness and sense of devastation so many of us feel, we must continue to channel and broaden our efforts for peace and justice. Remember that history is made by millions. Together we have created a presence on the world stage that can serve as a limit and counterweight to future wars, and the seed of a healthier world created by the conscience of the true majority.
We encourage you to read a thoughtful, eloquent article at Common Dreams by Archbishop Desmond Tutu and Ian Urbina titled Antiwar Thinking: Acknowledge Despair, Highlight Progress on Moral Preemption.
-- Your friends at poetsagainstthewar.org.
Shutting Down San Francisco's Downtown
By SCOTT HANDLEMAN
Thursday, the day after start of bombing, was the long-anticipated day of direct-action protest in San Francisco. For weeks, the flyers were circulating from Direct Action to Stop the War, and weekly spokescouncil meetings were held, alternating between San Francisco and Oakland. The de-centralized planning paid off: Thursday morning seemed like Sunday morning in large parts of San Francisco's financial district.
The most noteworthy thing about this day of protest, I think, was the effectiveness of the new strategy of protest by small, autonomous clusters. A little after midnight yesterday, I got a call to report at 7am to 9th and Bryant for legal observation. Arriving a few minutes late, I saw a freeway off-ramp blocked by debris and large objects (old sofas, etc). CHP officers were pushing back protesters and hauling the obstacles aside, while rush-hour traffic honked in irritation. I understand why some might question the nobility of blocking drivers from getting to work, far from the seats of power that are the true targets, but what was surprising was that, here in Police State America, a group of 20-30 openly created a fairly serious (though brief) disruption, and not a single one got arrested. As the cops cleared the ramp and things started looking hot, the crowd started shambling up 9th Street toward Market, taking the wide street and chanting. This bunch, incidentally, was Queers Against Capitalism, marching under a giant pink flag.
Upon reaching Market, the militant queers took over the intersection, still unbothered by cops. Meanwhile, a block away in the intersection of Van Ness and Fell, a small group had occupied the intersection, linking arms in lock boxes. Van Ness was silent as Market. A block further on, a similar group had the intersection of Franklin and Fell occupied. I fed a banana to a supine young woman in a lock box, and felt a stirring in my subconscious. Upon returning to Market, the perambulating homosexuals had somehow taken over the major intersection of Van Ness and Market, and the cops had still made no move to arrest. "Move aimlessly," a woman on bullhorn directed, and the group moved on.
Bear in mind that there were small numbers at each of these sites. The Queers had perhaps grown to 50 by this point, and the lock-down sites, counting the surrounding supporters, probably had less. Dispersal, and the simultaneity of many happenings, meant the cops' resources were spread thin; they were too busy clearing the sit-down intersections to deal with the troublemakers on foot.
Riding my bike down Market Street, empty of cars, I encountered similar scenes. A sparse crowd, around 20 people, had taken over 6th and Market. This was a guerilla-theater group in costume, called Dead Against War. Scary horse cops approached, and the group walked off.
At Montgomery and Sutter, in front of the Schwab building, another tiny cluster had taken the intersection, including a core group locked down. A couple of fellows sat in lawn chairs in the middle of the street. This group included a hippyish contingent, joined in a soothing hum. But argument broke out between protesters and an angry driver, a scene that I saw repeated several times today.
At Montgomery and Pine, a group of only seven persons in lockboxes closed Pine on one side; on the other side, protesters sat on overturned newspaper bins. At Montgomery and California, another tiny group held the intersection. I waited while 2 busloads of cops arrived. The cop's leader came and said, "You are in violation of the traffic law. I am ordering you to move to the sidewalk," etc etc. The mystery is why this group did not take advantage of their warning and walk around awhile to another intersection, in conformity with the emerging principles of fourth-generation protest. This group sat there and let themselves get arrested.
Montgomery and Clay, the corner of the Transamerica Pyramid, saw another blockading group; some in lock-boxes. Hay was mysteriously scattered in the street, a warm pastoral touch. A firetruck showed up and menacingly took out its hose, but only used it to fill plastic trench plates with water. They drove away, protesters dry. I talked to two white-collar onlookers, mildly sympathetic.
Back to Market, where a group was locked down in boxes, surrounded by a fairly large crowd of protester-onlookers (maybe 100). Sparks flew copiously as the firemen cut through a lockbox. It was here that I first saw ugliness on both sides. Someone threw a glass bottle which hit a cop square in the helmet. (He didn't even flinch.) Protesters booed. A line of cops marched briskly into the crowd, and looked around. From my perch high in a tree, I saw the cops' body language. They walked around for a while acting unconvincingly like they in pursuit of somebody, then the victim-cop pointed at a fellow standing on a bench, and the cops went and grabbed him. I did not see who threw the bottle, but a legal observer later told me it was not the young man who got arrested. It stands to reason that the fellow who threw the thing would try to blend away and not stand in high view. I think the cops just decided they had to punish and deter, so better to arrest an innocent person and show eye-for-an-eye retribution.
(As they were pulling away their unfortunate victim, one of these cops backed into the misplaced bicycle of yrs truly and fell over; another cop somehow fell with him. This severely warped my back tire and broke three spokes. Safe in my tree, I declined to request compensation.)
Meanwhile, the lockbox extractions had been continuing-but the firemen did not break open the box linking the last two protesters. The cops dragged them off, still linked together. This was a piggish move on their part, for it was causing those arrested visibly to shout out in pain, and looked like the sort of thing that might do them lasting physical damage.
I continued down Market, where Christmas trees in big cement planters had been dragged to the middle of the street, and many newspaper vending boxes were overturned. At this point, I stopped taking regular notes. It was probably around 10 in the morning, and anarchy reigned downtown. Unwarping my tire, I rode to the Federal Building; protesters had shut it down. Red, white and blue vomit puddles all over the sidewalks.
Back downtown, Market remained in chaos; I hooked up with a large and rowdy bunch on Mission St., around a thousand or so rejoicing in their numbers, Spearhead blasting from bike-ferried speakers. We went back to Market for more intersection facedowns with riot-ready cops. It was 11:45 and I noticed, strangely, that Old Navy was open for business. I went to Civic Center for the noon rally; there was plenty of room and no one listened to the speaker. Ready for home, I headed back down Market. At around 5th Street was a confrontation noteworthy because the cluster of perhaps 100 protesters consisted almost entirely of youth of color (many of high school age).
From my observations today, I think that small, mobile clusters are a good way to go to make numbers have their maximum effect. The linger-then-escape method of blocking intersections seems ideal in that it frustrates cops and minimizes risk of arrest. It creates thrills and a sense of defiance that a permit-obeying march does not. On the other hand, the cat-and-mouse confrontations of the fourth generation lack a certain dignity and moral high ground associated with the sit-downs. Hard to picture Rosa Parks pull a sofa onto an off-ramp and scram.
I saw a lot of graffiti and overturned newspaper racks, but no smashed windows; I had a feeling the hard-core vandals were planning to let loose at another time, perhaps after the 5 p.m. convergence at Powell and Market.
By 1:00 I had had enough of the noise and chaos. Our government is still bombing Baghdad, and reflecting on that, I wonder what it all means. None of this is going to Stop the War. Of course, but what will? The day of protest didn't have to stop the war to be a good in itself. Not freedom, but defiance was in the air. People were starring in their own movies, circumstances were revealing the blend of human nature: people honorable and craven, among cops and protesters alike. People got a chance to get together and blow off steam. Last but not least, they sent a strong signal that business will not be tolerated, not if that business is war.
Scott Handleman is a law student at Berkeley. He can be reached at: email@example.com
[Good links at the end of this article.]
Dear MoveOn member,
Our Virtual March has been an enormous success -- by some estimates, the Senate and White House received over a million phone calls, faxes, and emails today. Offices on Capitol Hill were busy with the sounds of ringing phones and conversations about the war. And media outlets from the Washington Post to the BBC covered this broad and unprecedented action.
A comment we received from a MoveOn member in Connecticut is representative:
"I called Lieberman's office, and made my statement, and then I said to the man who answered the phone, 'this must be nuts for you today' and he said, 'My day will be hell, but it is so much better than apathy. This is what democracy is all about. I think it is terrific.'
I asked him if he thought it might change the Senator's position, and he said he wasn't authorized to speak on that, but that they were overwhelmed with the number of people speaking out from Connecticut."
Members of the House of Representatives (who were not targeted) took notice: Representative Anna Eshoo from California even took the time sent us all a letter thanking us for marching. You can read it at:
For everyone in the 32 organizations that make up the Win Without War coalition, thanks for joining in something huge.
THE NEXT STEP: LOCAL ADS
Our next big push will be to highlight opposition to war in small towns across America -- neighbors talking to neighbors. We'd like to run local ads in over 100 communities all over the country. Can you help? Check out the ad and help us run it near you by going to:
Here's why we've taken this approach: A recent New York Times poll revealed that 42% of Americans believe that Saddam Hussein was behind what happened September 11th. It's a shockingly high number, given that even the Bush Administration has never asserted a connection. The false linkage of Saddam Hussein and 9/11 or al Qaeda is at the base of why many people support this war, even though they're worried about its consequences.
Our advertising campaign will counter this message in over 100 small cities and towns, and explain in the words of America's top military and policy experts why war on Iraq is a bad idea. As a person who grew up in a small town, I can testify that for many folks, an ad in the local paper is much more powerful than an ad in the New York Times. With your help, we can get over a hundred of these ads running by mid-next week.
We'll need to finalize our buy by this Friday, so anything you can give TODAY would be appreciated. You can take look at the ad and where it's running, and contribute securely online at:
It's rare to see local ads on national issues like this, and even rarer to see them run in coordination across the country. At least two ads will be running in every state.
Your gift now can make it happen.
These local ads are a exciting part of our grassroots PR campaign, which just keeps building. We've now posted posters in the tens of thousands and handed out an enormous number of flyers at over 1,000 locations in the US. Billboards and bus ads are running in major cities. And of course the Virtual March has been immensely successful.
Help to keep the momentum going by supporting local ads today. In small cities and towns across America, we can make the case for tough inspections, not war.
Sincerely, --Carrie, Eli, Joan, Peter, Wes, and Zack The MoveOn Team February 27th, 2003
P.S. Here are a few of the great articles written about the Virtual March. Enjoy.
WASHINGTON POST: ANTIWAR PROTESTERS FLOOD SENATE PHONE LINES by Juliet Eilperin
Thousands of antiwar protesters flooded Senate phone lines today as part of a "Virtual March" on Washington.
The phone-in campaign was sponsored by the "Win Without War" coalition, which told Web site readers they could "join a massive march on Washington without leaving your living room."
BBC: US 'VIRTUAL MARCH' OVER IRAQ
Thousands of anti-war activists have been bombarding the White House and senators with phone calls and e-mails in a virtual protest over the Iraq crisis. Backed by a number of celebrities, volunteers jammed switchboards in Washington DC in an effort to force US politicians to think again over the prospect of war in the Gulf.
NEW YORK TIMES: AN ANTIWAR DEMONSTRATION THAT DOES NOT TAKE TO THE STREETS
by John Tierney
WASHINGTON, Feb. 26 — The Mall was quiet, but the switchboard on Capitol Hill was swamped today as anti-war protesters conducted what they called the first "virtual march" on Washington. The organizers, a coalition called Win Without War, said that hundreds of thousands of people were sending messages by email, fax and telephone to the Senate and the White House.
ROLL CALL: WAR PROTESTORS VIRTUALLY OVERWHELM SENATE OFFICES
by Nicole Duran The group, led by former Rep. Tom Andrews (D-Maine), arranged to have at least 140,000 constituents call their Senators, as well as the White House, all day with the same message: "Don’t attack Iraq." "I’m sorry, sir, but we’re just taking a tally because our phones are ringing off the hook," a patient but clearly tiring staffer in Sen. John McCain’s office told a war protestor back in the Arizona Republican’s home state. In most offices, front-desk aides had ticked off hundreds of calls on scratch sheets by midday, intending to just give the Senators a final number when the protest ends at 6 p.m.
The group, led by former Rep. Tom Andrews (D-Maine), arranged to have at least 140,000 constituents call their Senators, as well as the White House, all day with the same message: "Don’t attack Iraq."
"I’m sorry, sir, but we’re just taking a tally because our phones are ringing off the hook," a patient but clearly tiring staffer in Sen. John McCain’s office told a war protestor back in the Arizona Republican’s home state.
In most offices, front-desk aides had ticked off hundreds of calls on scratch sheets by midday, intending to just give the Senators a final number when the protest ends at 6 p.m.
[There is active, if sporadically informative, reporting of arrests due to direct actions all over the country on indymedia.org. Below is just the first paragraph of an action in Chicago against an advertising agency hired by the Army. A longer story about a Direct Action in Montreal can be found here.
Two Arrests at Leo Burnett "People's Inspection"
by Chris Geovanis/Chicago Indymedia
5:33pm Fri Feb 21 '03 (Modified on 9:31am Sat Feb 22 '03)
UPDATE: Two student activists, Tanuja Jagernauth and Alison Kennis, were arrested late Friday afternoon at advertising company Leo Burnett's downtown headquarters, after the women entered the building to conduct a "people's inspection" of Burnett for war profiteering related to its role in creating the U.S. militarys "Army of One" advertising campaign.
Some 15 human shields - including Britons, Turks, and Russians - arrived at their battle stations at the Baghdad South power station yesterday, throwing down their rucksacks on rows of cots overlooked by a gilded image of Saddam Hussein.
They listened to a passage from Kipling, sang along to a guitar, unrolled their posters, and talked about painting a sign on the roof for the US bomber pilots. "This is the easy time. If the bombing starts then it is going to get hairy," said the group's unofficial guitarist and songwriter, Karl Dallas, 72, from Bradford.
The managing director of Baghdad South, Rihab Mehtem Yahya, and other women employees of the plant made up the beds, and began fussing over lunch. One worker smoothed the banner at the door hailing the "Mother of All Battles", or the last Gulf war. The human shields called a meeting.
Can the human shields protect the plant if the bombing starts? Ms Yahya looks startled at the idea. "God willing," she says. "Of course, I have a human feeling for them, but we will have our staff here too."
The activists' arrival at the wood-panelled conference room of the power station marks the first deployment of some 130 anti-war protesters who have reached Baghdad to offer their services as human shields.
When the protesters arrived in Baghdad, crossing a continent aboard two London double decker buses, some had imagined they would fan out to schools, orphanages and hospitals, facing the bombs together with the Iraqi people. No pilot would dare bomb sizeable contingents of western protesters, the argument ran, and the military's bland statements on collateral damage would be exposed as murder.
Others were driven by more personal concerns. "The reason I want to stay is to feel within me what it is like to be under siege," an Australian woman who was not part of the first deployment yesterday told the television cameras. "I really want to see what it feels like to feel fear."
One week, and endless meetings on, the human shields appear at least to have coalesced around a proposed course of action. The majority of them have seized on the suggestion of Iraqi officials that they would be more usefully deployed at water treatment centres, bridges and telecommunication towers, and power plants like Baghdad South.
The activists bridle at the notion that that decision has made them hostage to the Iraqi government - although Baghdad South power plant is surrounded by palaces for Saddam Hussein and his officials, and near the belching chimneys of an oil refinery.
"That is just laying a guilt trip on us," said Leo Warren, who is waiting to be sent to a water treatment centre near Babylon. "We are not trying to support the government in any way."
In the calculus of war, protecting hospitals from American bombers was just dangerously naive, argued the organiser of the shields' trip to Iraq, Ken O'Keefe, because larger numbers of Iraqis would be affected by power cuts: "It's the difference between a noble gesture and truly intending to stop casualties."
He had high expectations for the 15 activists dispatched to Baghdad South, and the others awaiting their missions. "It is the best hope the Iraqi people have from being bombed and dying en masse," he told the protesters.
Baghdad South was hit by six US missiles during the Kuwait war. Ten employees were injured, and 80% of the plant destroyed. It continues to operate at less than half of its capacity, supplying 20,000 homes.
Iraqi officials fully expect the US to target the plant once more if there is an attack. But while they were happy to greet the activists, putting up streamers in the conference room, it was not certain how long they would be prepared to host them, if they were intent on being bombed.
"We will do many things to protect people if there is aggression," said Dr Ihsan al-Obeidi, director of the regional electricity authority. The power plant had a bomb shelter, he said. "When the time comes we will make arrangements."
John Barlow in Toronto
Saturday February 15, 2003
Writers Against War had an incredibly fine day down at the city rounds today.
Assembling in frigid air which glittered with inhuman aspiration, the dauntless heroes, beloved for their thoughtful styles and inspiring talents, added a supplement of peace and friendliness to the event, which drew 50,000 overall, smiling with love and intermutual discovery.
In London England, the peace march was the largest of any kind ever, and one million hit the streets of Italy, while franticly enthusiastic groups shone in Australia, and in Tel Aviv, Israelis and Palestians marched together against war in Iraq ... but our little group with its one banner probably carried the most jam, for saying NO ~ NO to a no-hope war in Iraq, or anywhere else.
Simply bombing complex situations is the thinking of the dangerous. The problems faced by humanity and other life forms, worldwide, are only made worse by bombs. What global postmodernism means is that nations are not intact, not homogenous, not identities which can be made to represent; rather, it is individuals, of all ages and thinkings, whom live everywhere. And it is never a good idea to blow them up.
Even as I note this latter point, I point out that these too are my individuated thoughts. Bollocks to collective identity. This world could well learn from the differentiations and diversity of the writing world. If there were any down notes to the occassion (besides the fact that the militarists disregard all but militarists' opinion, likewise the jingoists) it is that our group did lose one another quite a bit toward the end, once we were in the city hall courtyard's windtunnels, barely able to hear the speeches.
But I was awfully pleased to hear what I think was Cathy Crowe speaking passionately on behalf of John Clarke, Gaeten Heroux and Stefan Pilipa, having their time wasted in a courtroom, over the June 15 2000 anti-Harris demonstration. Having done so much to help liberate Ontario from Mike Harris, and having done so much to help victims of Harris's ilk, and being such productive individuals, it is heartbreaking that a Law & Order system so bitterly classistly failing people must eat up their time during these troubling months.
Also: that peace marches were banned in New York because of the hoax-engendered terror-alert this week; and that no media coverage I saw mentioned if any resistance to the ban had been attempted. Shame!
Indy Media DC is now featuring audio / video / reportage of the recent anti-war poetry reading in the nation's capitol. You will find many practical examples of the multiplicity of potential aesthetic responses to U.S. foreign "policy" here: