Anti-war movement gets stronger at home in US

CITIES don’t make foreign policy. But that hasn’t stopped dozens of towns from Berkeley, California, to Chicago to Cambridge, Massachusetts, from passing resolutions calling for withdrawal of US troops from Iraq.

By John Yaukey

  • Follow us on
  • google-news
  • whatsapp
  • telegram

Published: Tue 6 Dec 2005, 10:06 AM

Last updated: Thu 2 Apr 2015, 6:49 PM

The resolutions typically note the growing US military death toll, now more than 2,100, as well as the financial burden, approaching a quarter trillion dollars. The Chicago City Council calculated it could pay more than 31,000 teachers for a year with its annual share of the war cost.

It’s part of what polls indicate and social observers say is a growing anti-war sentiment among Americans now exhausted from the war, if not philosophically against it.

"I follow the news, and it’s painful," said Michigan resident Deborah Regal, a member of the anti-war group Military Families Speak Out and the mother of a Marine in Iraq. "It just grinds you down to the point where you’re very conscious of every day that passes because you know what the troops are going through."

Keenly aware of this, President Bush this week sought to shore up support for the war by outlining a 35-page plan for stabilising Iraq and eventually withdrawing U.S. troops. "This will take time and patience," he said. But the war is straining the endurance of even stalwart supporters of the invasion three years ago. The anti-war movement got a major boost recently when Rep. John Murtha, a hawkish Democrat from Pennsylvania and a former Marine, called for a rapid US troop pullout, claiming Iraq cannot be won militarily.

Former Marine Ken Rogers considers himself a patriot, and his views on the war now align with Murtha’s.

"Our guys are going over there and getting their butts shot off, for what?" the 40-year-old Tennessean said. "We have overstayed our welcome in Iraq." Iraq is approaching critically important Dec. 15 parliamentary elections. If the elections fail to unite Iraqis and it appears the country is slipping into civil war, the call for a withdrawal could further intensify. It’s difficult to know how large the anti-war movement is because much of it is only loosely connected through umbrella organisations. One of them, United for Justice with Peace, lists hundreds of affiliate groups on its Web site (

The American Friends Service Committee, which is affiliated with the Quaker Church, has organised people in 611 communities across the country as part of its "Not one more death. Not one more dollar" campaign.

This fall, the anti-war groups and True Majority helped organise more than 1,300 anti-war vigils in all 50 states.

The peace movement is also active in Iraq, as evidenced by the recent capture of four Western activists, including one American. Tom Andrews, national director of Win Without War and a former congressman, said with congressional elections looming next year, the resonance of the anti-war message is more important than the size of the movement.

"There’s a lot of nervousness in those congressional hills," Andrews said. "So what matters for us now is what the American public thinks and what the people on (Capitol Hill) think."

Sensing growing unrest over the war, more than 70 House members have formed an "Out of Iraq" caucus calling for troop withdrawals but establishing no timeline. Senators overwhelmingly passed a resolution recently calling for 2006 to be a year of "significant transition to full Iraqi sovereignty."

Polls show lawmakers have plenty to be concerned about. More than half of respondents in a recent USA TODAY-CNN-Gallup Poll want US troops out of Iraq in the next 12 months. In 1970, roughly half of those surveyed wanted to withdraw US troops from Vietnam within 12 months.

Comparisons of the anti-war movement now and its Vietnam-era ancestry are inevitable, but there are plenty of differences.

The vast majority of demonstrations against the Iraq war have been nonviolent and typically not very large. Some Vietnam protesters died. What’s more, there’s more sympathy for US troops now than there was during the Vietnam War.

Cindy Sheehan, who has been leading war protests near Bush’s Texas ranch following the death of her Marine son in Iraq, has portrayed US troops as victims of a failed presidency and an illegitimate war. Some troops returning from Vietnam were called baby killers.

Also, sympathy for the enemy in Iraq is virtually nonexistent. No high-profile American is conspicuously backing Iraq’s insurgents. Some Vietnam War protesters, most notably Jane Fonda, advocated for the North Vietnamese. Observers say a reasoned, civil approach is what makes Iraq war opponents so potentially worrisome to the White House.

"This is being driven by people watching their television sets and going sour on the war," said Thomas Mann, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, a Washington-based, liberal-leaning think tank. "This is all very genuine."

More news from