Home > Censorship, Government, Middle East, Protest, The Politics of War > Why Was the Biggest Protest in World History Ignored?

Why Was the Biggest Protest in World History Ignored?

By   February 15th, 2013.    Find Full Article Here:-

Ten years ago today, the world saw what was by some accounts the largest single coordinated protest in history. Roughly ten to fifteen million people (estimates vary widely) assembled and marched in more than six hundred cities: as many as three million flooded the streets of Rome; more than a million massed in London and Barcelona; an estimated 200,000 rallied in San Francisco and New York. From Auckland to Vancouver—and everywhere in between—tens of thousands came out, joining their voices in one simple, global message: No to the Iraq War.

Anti-war protesters march in front of Rome's ancient Colosseum during a demonstration against war in Iraq.
Alessia Pierdomenico / ReutersAnti-war protesters march in front of Rome’s ancient Colosseum during a demonstration against war in Iraq, Feb. 15, 2003.

I was among the anti-war contingent that swarmed Manhattan’s midtown on Feb. 15, 2003, a wintry Saturday. We spread across miles of city blocks, trundling past abandoned police barricades as we tried to inch toward the United Nations, where ten days earlier then Secretary of State Colin Powell had presented what we now know was illusory intelligence about Iraq’s supposed weapons of mass destruction. The multitudes in New York were diverse and legion. There were anarchists and military veterans, vociferous students (I was then a freshman in college) and a motley cast of greying peaceniks—many, including one grandmother memorably puttering along in a wheelchair, had opposed American involvement in Vietnam. And there were myriad others: a band of preppy suburbanites with banners announcing themselves—”Soccer Moms Against the War”—musicians, street artists, and workaday New Yorkers. My uncle, a doctor with medical practices in both the U.K. and India, had flown in for the demonstration and was just another face in a vast crowd.

The overwhelming feeling on New York’s streets, despite the grimness of the NYPD and the bite of that February afternoon, was one of unity and hope. Word was seeping in about the scale of the demonstrations elsewhere and it was hard not to bask in our sense of collective purpose. An article in the New York Times would soon trumpet, “There are two superpowers: the United States and world public opinion.” Here’s Sofia Fenner, then a high school senior in Seattle (now a doctoral candidate at the University of Chicago, currently doing dissertation work in Cairo): “I was just proud to stand with all those people, proud that we as dissenting Americans were not staying home while what seemed like the whole world took up our cause.” In Los Angeles, a pregnant Laila Lalami walked a mile with fellow protesters down Hollywood Boulevard. “I thought—hundreds of thousands of people across the U.S. are making their voices heard. Surely they can’t be ignored,” the Moroccan-American novelist told TIME this week. “But they were.”

And there it was. We failed. Slightly more than a month later, the U.S. was shocking and awing its way through Iraqi cities and Saddam Hussein’s defenses and bedding in—though it didn’t know it yet—for a near decade-long occupation. The protests, which by any measure were a world historic event, were brushed aside with blithe nonchalance by the Bush Administration and a rubber-stamp Congress that approved the war. The U.N.’s Security Council was bypassed, and the largely feckless, acquiescent American mainstream media did little to muffle Washington’s drumbeats of war.

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  1. February 17, 2013 at 9:18 pm

    Actually, more people marched to oppose the overthrow of Mussolini than they did to oppose the overthrow of Saddam. Bear also in mind that – at least in the UK and the US – more people supported the war than opposed.

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