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24 June 2004 Edition

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We're not anti-American, just pro-humanity

BY Justin Moran

This weekend, tens of thousands of people will take to the streets in a demonstration that some commentators will describe as anti-American. There will be Americans on the march and there are Americans supporting the march from the United States but the media will ignore all this and describe it as simple anti-Americanism.

The truth is somewhat different. George W Bush represents what Hunter S Thompson once described in reference to Richard Nixon as the dark, venal and incurably violent side of the American character.

To protest against George W Bush is not to protest against America or its people, but against the kind of America he is creating and the implications it has for the world at large. Thousands of Americans have been arrested for protesting against the kind of world he wants to build, for fighting for the very freedom, equality and democracy he hypocritically claims to embrace.

The motivations for protesting against Bush, both here and in the Unites States, are incredibly varied. The marches in Ireland at the weekend will be a coming together of as disparate an array of groups and individuals as has ever assembled.

Gay rights activists will march against his attempts to insert a ban on gay marriages in the US Constitution.

Environmentalists will oppose his withdrawal from the Kyoto Protocol and policies that drew the lowest possible grade from the American League of Conservation Voters, who claim that 'Under the Bush administration corporate polluters have been allowed to write the laws'.

Supporters of the Palestinian people will march against his decision to recognise Israel's claim to parts of the West Bank brutally annexed by the Israeli Government, described as one of the greatest diplomatic triumphs for Israel in a generation, and his continued funding for the occupation of Palestine.

Civil rights activists will march against his treatment of internees in Guantanamo, the torture of Iraqi prisoners in Abu Ghraib prison and the roll-back of civil liberties in the US under the misnamed Patriot Act.

Anti-capitalists, drop the debt campaigners, Christians, Irish, Americans, Europeans, students, trade unionists, Muslims, anarchists, republicans, democrats, socialists and a range of other people will come together to say that another world is possible.

But perhaps no one issue will galvanise as many people as his criminal and brutal programme of military expansionism in the Middle East. The civilian death toll alone in Afghanistan is almost 4,000. In Iraq, the lowest estimates are in and around 10,000 dead.

837 US servicemen and women have also lost their lives in what many of them no doubt genuinely believed was a noble struggle for liberty rather than a naked grasp for bigger corporate profit margins. The estimated cost of the war in Iraq so far is a staggering $119 billion, enough to hire over 2 million teachers or built 1.7 million homes in the US.

Protesting against a war that has cost thousands of American, Iraqi and Afghani lives and which was based on falsified evidence is supposed to be anti-American. It is the kind of simplistic knee-jerk thinking that is a regrettable feature of Irish media commentators.

Those who supported the war on Iraq never attempt to explain what this means for the millions of Americans opposed to the war. Are they unpatriotic anti-Americans?

The councils of more than 100 US cities, including Los Angeles, Chicago, Philadelphia, and New York, passed motions opposing the war in Iraq, along with various American universities and trade unions. The families of some US troops have set up Military Families Speak Out to oppose the war on Iraq. Are the families of September 11th victims who campaign against the war in Iraq, anti-American?

Opposing the war in Iraq, or George W Bush's politics is not anti-Americanism. It is opposition to a government whose policies, beliefs and actions hundreds of millions of people across the world, not least in the United States itself, find morally, utterly repugnant.

Attempts by the establishment media to misrepresent protestors will no doubt continue, but the protests this weekend should be an act of solidarity not just with the people in Palestine, Iraq and Afghanistan, suffering as a result from the actions of the US Government, but with the millions of Americans opposed to Bush. It is for them too that we march.

In 1917, the US Senator Robert La Follette said of his own Government: "Every nation has its war party. It is not the party of democracy. It is the party of autocracy. It seeks to dominate absolutely. It is commercial, imperialistic, ruthless. It tolerates no opposition... If there is no sufficient reason for war, the war party will make war on one pretext, then invent another."

The description fits George Bush and his band of neo-conservative, draft dodging armchair generals perfectly. Standing up to them this weekend is not anti-American. It is simple humanity.

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