I went to an anti-war rally, organized by MoveOn.org, in downtown Boston this afternoon. Maybe 100 people stood around, some with signs, some with pots and pans to make noise, a few handing out leaflets. There was a screechy portable sound system.
Were the demonstrators supporting Congress against the President? No, not really. Their attitude was more "a plague on both your houses." The calls were for bringing the troops home, "now." One speaker suggested that the American and Iraqi peoples both wish an end to the war.
Would that it were so. True, a large majority of Iraqis devoutly wish to see the backs of the Americans, but let's be honest: a large number of them want us gone so that they can have a freer hand in killing their fellow countrymen. And we should remember that--despite what you hear--there ARE Iraqis who believed that the Americans could make their country a better place, that at least some of those who joined the Iraqi army and police force did so for patriotic reasons, and others did so, not to advance the cause of a sectarian militia, but to feed their families. There are also millions of Iraqis who simply want to live lives free of politics, war and sectarianism. Those people are unlikely to coalesce into a force strong enough to suppress the killers but, having encouraged them, we owe them at least a semblance of transition before we leave them to their fates.
The people that I saw at today's demonstration help to explain why the anti-war movement has not generated mass protests, even with the war's unpopularity. Instead of building bridges to mainstream politicians and voters, speakers castigated congressional Democrats for providing money for the war and failing to establish hard-and-fast deadlines to bring the troops home.
True enough, but even the largely-symbolic bill that Bush vetoed yesterday had only a 10-vote margin in the House. If the anti-War movement want stronger legislation, it has to appeal to those who now hesitate; criticizing them as near-allies of Bush and his cronies is a poor way to do that.