Measuring the Success of the Anti-War Movement

Protest

About 2,000 people gathered on Hollywood Bloulevard in Los Angeles to protest the war in Iraq on Saturday. The group was not nearly as big as one that gathered for the same cause five years earlier. Jolie Myers, NPR hide caption

itoggle caption Jolie Myers, NPR
Protest 2 i i

Kathleen Schwartz of North Hollywood says that every time another 100 soldiers die, she adds a new number to her umbrella. Jolie Myers, NPR hide caption

itoggle caption Jolie Myers, NPR
Protest 2

Kathleen Schwartz of North Hollywood says that every time another 100 soldiers die, she adds a new number to her umbrella.

Jolie Myers, NPR

To mark the fifth anniversary of the Iraq war, protestors held an anti-war rally on Hollywood Boulevard in Los Angeles on Saturday.

The street was filled with young and old, carrying signs demanding the troops be brought home immediately. Though the chants were loud, the protest was not nearly as big as one in the same spot five years earlier.

"The anti-war movement has had its ebbs and flows as do all vital social movements," said Brian Becker, the national coordinator of the Act Now to Stop War and End Racism Coalition (ANSWER), which sponsored the rally.

Attendance at demonstrations has been strong lately, he said, citing an ANSWER-sponsored march last fall that he says drew 100,000 people.

"Evaluating the success or failure of the anti-war movement is tricky because you have to say what would be happening if the anti-war movement was not here," said Scott Sigmund Gartner, a political science professor at the University of California at Davis. "If you say, 'Has the anti-war movement been able to get the U.S. out of Iraq?' Clearly the anti-war movement has not been successful. If you're saying … the anti-war movement has been facilitating the movement against the conflict, there it's more complex."

Without a modern-day equivalent of Abbie Hoffman or Jane Fonda, there's a lack of leadership in today's peace movement, Gartner said. Part of the challenge may simply be the paradox of perception. During the Vietnam War era, many anti-war Americans were also anti-soldier. Today, most people make a point of expressing support for the troops, even if they oppose the war, he said.

"You have to have a set of credentials that lets you be pro-soldier and anti-war. Cindy Sheehan, whose son Casey died in Iraq, clearly has those credentials. John Murtha who has a Purple Heart and has been going to Walter Reed also clearly has that credential. But a lot of Americans don't have those credentials and, as a result, feel hemmed in and unable to speak the subtle message of being against the war and supportive of the troops," he said.

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