When protesters barricaded the national headquarters of the Internal Revenue Service in Washington and 32 were arrested on Wednesday, it was a sure sign that the anti-war movement has taken a turn, an expert told RTTNews. Organized to mark the fifth anniversary of the invasion and occupation of Iraq, the blockade showed that at least one flank of the anti-war movement is not afraid to be arrested for drawing attention to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, said University of Florida political science Professor Michael Heaney.
“In the last six months there has been a real shift in the movement toward civil disobedience as a tactic,” Heaney told RTTNews. “This comes from a frustration within the movement that the Democratic Party has control of Congress but yet has been unable to force President Bush to end the war.”
The U.S. anti-war movement, he said, has moved beyond just holding peaceful mass demonstrations and trying to affect institutional politics by lobbying Congress and working in political campaigns.
“They are now demonstrating that there is a willingness to be arrested for the cause,” Heaney said, noting that the anti-war group United for Peace and Justice is holding 15 “small actions designed to disrupt” Washington, including targeting military contractors, between 7:30 a.m. and 5 p.m. today.
On Wednesday, protesters also converged on the American Petroleum Institute in Washington, where demonstrators chanted “No blood for Oil,” among other things.
“Right now we’re at the peak of that civil disobedience phase of the movement,” he said.As protesters gathered in the nation’s capital, President Bush said in a speech that the United States has made “hard fought” progress in Iraq, where at least 3,988 U.S. personnel have died in Iraq, and 29,395 more have been wounded, according to Department of Defense figures.
“The answers are clear to me,” Bush said. “Removing Saddam Hussein from power was the right decision, and this is a fight we can and must win.”
Speaking to Defense and State Department officials, Bush said the “successes we are seeing in Iraq are undeniable,” noting the recent downturn in violence.
“Yet some in Washington still call for retreat,” Bush said. “War critics can no longer credibly argue that we’re losing.”
That is not what anti-war activists say, according to Heaney.
With his colleague, sociology Professor Fabio Rojas from Indiana University, Heaney has surveyed nearly 6,000 participants at anti-war actions, including protests and stand-ins.
“What we’re studying is the political evolution of the movement,” Heaney said in a lengthy interview.
Heaney said they have made some significant findings. Among their conclusions, people who protested the Vietnam War are a “very important” part of the Iraq war opposition.
He said 27 percent of people at Iraq war protests participated in the anti-Vietnam War movement. “A significant percentage of these are reliving the 1960s and 1970s,” he said.
Heaney said the high percentage partially explains some of the similarities between the anti-Vietnam War movement and the opposition to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
For instance, he said, veterans are beginning to play a significant role in the anti-war movement now just as they did toward the end of the Vietnam War.
He noted the Winter Soldier hearings, where Iraq Veterans Against the War held hearings earlier this month to draw attention to what the group said are atrocities by U.S. forces, similar to how Vietnam vets testified in 1971.
“The two movements have followed similar tracks,” Heaney said. “We are also observing deliberately copying of tactics from the Vietnam War, and trying to learn lessons from that movement.” [Link that did go to the article is now dead]