The lady from Dubuque who rode 23 hours on a bus to get to the antiwar demonstration in Washington, D. C. Saturday may have been a little dazed by it all. She had come to protest the government’s likely prosecution of a war in which her sons and those of her neighbors might be hurt or killed along with those of another people virtually unrepresented in Dubuque. But she was met by something else hardly native to Iowa.
In addition to the known speakers, Jesse Jackson, Sharpton, the actress Jessica Lange, Congressman Conyers, the speaker’s stage was occupied for a large part of two hours by those with other agendas. One organizer brought greetings from Mumia Abu-Jamal, the black Philadelphian convicted of killing a white policeman in 1981, whose cause is celebrated throughout the leftist world and who supplies taped messages from his cell. An Imam somebody brought more greetings from Jamil Abdullah Al-Amin, known in another day as H. Rap Brown, onetime head of the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee now doing time for shooting a deputy sheriff in Georgia.
The Rev. Sharpton made note of the Martin Luther King anniversary, saying in addition to fighting for fair distribution of wealth, Dr. King wouldn’t be “inside [the White House planning for war], he’d be on the outside saying, ‘Give Peace a chance.'” Displayed prominently was a quotation from Dr. King from the late 1960s in which he said “the greatest purveyor of violence… is my government.”
The attorney general from the Johnson era got the crowd going by calling for the impeachment of President Bush. Ramsey Clark recited the Constitution’s causes for impeachment — treason, bribery, and other high crimes and misdemeanors — then ticking off questions about Bush’s actions based on each, Clark asked, “Is that an impeachable offense?” To each, the crowd chorused, “yes!” Clark and other organizers said they are setting up a website to further the cause of Bush’s impeachment.
The rally was organized by the outfit called the International ANSWER (Act Now to Stop War and End Racism). It came into being with lightning speed, three days after 9/11, to oppose whatever it might turn out that President Bush and the U. S. Government decided to do about the slaughter. Though it is obvious from the Woodward account, Bush At War, that Iraq wasn’t even on the radar scope in those early days.
The visitor from Dubuque may have been disappointed to hear calls from the podium for the dissolution of the U.S. form of government. The heavy emphasis on the evils of the status quo and the need for radical change — the elision of foreign policy and racial oppression. To assuage her disappointment, she needed only to spend $1.50 for the Sunday edition of the Washington Post.
Now, there was the antiwar protest she had expected to find. A scrubbed, anti-septic version characterized by the headline: “Thousands Oppose a Rush to War.” The Washington Post lead was reminiscent of those old broadsides from Mao’s press: “Tens of thousands …making a thunderous presence in the bitter cold.”
But where were the speeches? The words from the podium? From one end of the newspaper piece to the other there was but a single quote, that of Jesse Jackson saying, “The world is cold, but our hearts are warm.” Fuzzy, non-confrontational. Not a mention of Mumia, not a scintilla of H. Rap Brown. Not even a hint that Ramsey Clark was in the country. Lots of anecdotals from visitors. “We want peace,” said Mari Anderson of Titusville, Florida. The Post found Nancy Patton who rode a bus from Westland, Michigan, who allowed the war seems “more about oil than terrorism.”
Others said suffering in the cold was nothing to “the suffering inflicted by U.S. policies in the world,” reflecting the Dr. King sentiments from the podium. No one was asked for the article what he thought of the event, of the program, was it what was expected? In addition to the double byline at the top of the story, at the end of it there were six Post reporters credited with contributing their talents in addition to the Associated Press. Was there a reason why the podium program went unreported?
Before the bus leaves for the return to Dubuque, time to search for the antiwar story in the Washington Final of the New York Times. There it is, inside, on page 12. And, yes, there is one speaker quoted. Actor Martin Sheen said in San Francisco, “If the people lead, the leaders will follow.”
Confession: the lady from Dubuque is an invention, but she is representative of an America that exists. People with heartfelt opinions who are in disagreement with the policy that leads inevitably to war with Iraq but who have no desire to add their bodies to the numbers calling for freedom for Mumia Abu-Jamal or for the destruction of the current form of American government. They resist having their honest sentiments subsumed by purveyors of other agendas. They want to change minds, not governments. And they wonder of events such as the antiwar demonstration of Saturday, January 18 — “were it not for C-Span, how would we ever know?”