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Published: Sunday, 2/23/2003

It seems the world's peaceniks don't stand a chance

What's with these peaceniks? Must be a bunch of yesterday's flower children. Maybe they're aging hippies or rebels without a cause until pre-emptive war with Iraq came along. The east and west coasts presented impressive anti-war demonstrations drawing tens of thousands of protesters - because they can. California booked Joan Baez and New York snagged Desmond Tutu. The Washington protest came right out of the anti-Vietnam War play book.

Somebody oughta tell these troublemakers to wrap up their retro peace marches, go home, and thank God George W. is calling the shots. Yes sir, that's what even some educated folks in middle America might be inclined to think if all the rallies, resolutions, and letter-writing campaigns against the Bush family war were isolated to the predictable reactionaries on either coast. People are different in New York City, D.C., and Los Angeles. We all know that.

But hold on. Objections to war in Iraq are being raised in scores of American cities from Cleveland to Tacoma, Wash. Municipal and state lawmakers have echoed the concerns of constituents who (surprise!) would prefer the President focus on the economy, health care, housing, education, and other domestic responsibilities in dire need of attention. Newsweek says, “The reasons for protesting action in Iraq are all over the map - literally.”

From Chicago to Sacramento, in big-city council meetings and small-town debates, citizens from all walks of life are expressing deep reservations about the any-day-now war the Bush Administration plans to wage in Iraq. Interestingly, people who never once weighed in on political issues let alone attended a political event to protest government policy are now doing so. Take a look at the “radicals” who showed up for peace demonstrations near a public square near you.

See the young families with kids in strollers, the white-haired senior citizens with walking canes, the idealistic college students, the wise war veterans, the rich, poor, black, and white Americans sufficiently unsettled by the Bush Administration's brinkmanship to join the anti-war movement. People aren't sympathetic to Saddam Hussein; they just don't see the connection between him and 9/11.

If the protests were only limited to those crazy east or west coasters, or if it was only old Europe in a snit about a new world order, the millions marching against U.S. plans to attack Iraq would be easier to brush off. But glance again at the global sea of faces carrying signs that simply say “NO” or “NOT IN MY NAME” and study the massive outpouring of dissent closer to home. Try to ignore the fear that has motivated so many of your fellow Americans to protest the action planned by the Bush Administration - and you can't.

But the President can. In a remarkable display of indifference, Mr. Bush cavalierly dismissed the tens of thousands of protesting Americans as irrelevant to his pre-emptive war policy. Incredibly, the President likened the wave of anti-war demonstrations sweeping the country to a “focus group,” useful in crafting business decisions but of little value crafting “policy based upon the security of the people.”

The man has painted himself into a corner on Iraq. Now it's about saving face. Nothing, not the growing discomfort of his countrymen nor the marches from Rome to Berlin, will convince him to part ways with his chicken hawks obsessed with finishing business in Baghdad.

George W. isn't beholden to a majority of Americans. He lost the popular vote and still won the prize, so his arrogance and that of his indispensable advisers knows no bounds.

“Democracy is a beautiful thing, and that people are allowed to express their opinion,” said the linguistically challenged chief executive.



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