Hey, hey Uncle Sam,
We remember Vietnam.

We know what we're marching for.
It's time to end your Iraq war.

Our veterans contingent, near the front of Saturday's march in Chicago, chanted and called some candence, although the military would never call what we did marching.

Veterans of Iraq, Vietnam, Korea, and the Gulf War walked together, behind a Veterans for Peace banner, to call for an end to Bush's bloody and senseless war in Iraq.

Unsurprisingly, Saturday's 11 major rallies and countless smaller ones across the country, didn't stop the war.

So, do we stop trying? Of course not.

But where do we go from here?

I don't pretend to have the answer. No one died and made me King of the Peace Movement. I'm just an enlisted man in the People's Army.  But it's a question worth asking and exploring.

United for Peace and Justice, which organized Saturday's 11 events, says 100,000 or more people participated. As usual, it is hard to pin down a solid number.

For example, Chicago police said 5,000 people marched there.  Organizers put the number at 30,000.  The real number is probably somewhere near the middle, perhaps 15,000. There were at least twice as many people as the downtown Federal Plaza could hold for the rally at the end of the march.  

Saturday's participation pales in comparison to the turnout for the march in Washington last January, organized by the same group, which drew perhaps 200,000 people or more to DC.  Again, no accurate assessment is available, but people marched 10 or more abreast up Constitution Avenue, and from the time the first people stepped off the march from the Mall until the last people crossed the starting line, two hours elapsed. It was the biggest demonstration I've seen firsthand, and it was impressive although seriously underplayed by the media.

Clearly, the numbers were smaller this time.  

Does that make it less valuable?  

Does it mean support for ending the war is eroding?

Does that suggest it's time to turn to other tactics?  

I'd say the answers to the first two questions are clearly no. The third one is the current topic of debate among activists.

Every action we take, collectively or individually, to end this war is absolutely worth it. One moving diary from a first-time marcher in San Francisco reminds us of some of the reasons that mass marches and rallies matter and play a role in the movement.

Take your pick of the polls on Iraq. The American people want the war to end and our troops to come home.  Depending on how you ask the question, a clear majority, and perhaps as much as a two-thirds majority, opposes US policy there.

One of the speakers in Chicago put it well:  We have the support of a solid majority, probably 60% or more of the people in this country.

Our job is not to persuade them to oppose the war.  They already do.

Our challenge is to find a way to reach them, mobilize them, and get them to become active advocates to end the war. The first step is just to try to make them comfortable talking about the issue and get them to take the first step, even if it's only wearing a button. We can build on that.

The Silent Majority is now our silent majority.  If you ask them, they tell pollsters they oppose the war.  Last November, they voted for Democrats, hoping that would change out course in Iraq.

But on a day to day basis they are silent.  Life goes on, and so does the war.        
So, how do we reach them?

United for Peace and Justice put up an online poll after Saturday's events, asking for advice, with a disclaimer:  "Readers should not assume that United for Peace and Justice or any other group will make decisions based on this poll.

The options:

Mass civil disobedience in one or more large cities

A national march in Washington, DC, such as the one UFPJ organized on January 27, 2007

Counter-recruitment (or "truth in recruiting") and support for military resisters

Challenging war profiteers, such as Blackwater and Chevron

Connecting ending the Iraq war to other issues, including Iran, global warming, etc.

Local monthly actions, such as the Iraq Moratorium

Congressional pressure, including bird-dogging, sit-ins, visits and call-in days.

Pressure presidential and congressional candidates leading up to the 2008 elections

Targetted boycott (e.g., gasoline)

You can certainly think of other options and alternative actions. That list is far from exhaustive.

For example, how about finding a mechanism to elect a sizable number of Democratic convention delegates who are more committed to ending the war than they are to any individual candidate?

The best answer, it seems to me, is "all of the above."

A two-track approach seems needed -- one track for the hard core and the organizers who might march, conduct civil disobedience, and take other more vocal and extreme actions.  The other, gentler track would be designed to reach out to that Silent Majority, perhaps even with some events in which they can be the "audience" instead of seeing themselves as participants -- films, speeches, panels, debates, teach-ins, etc. that both increase their knowledge on the issue and expose them to more ideas about what they can do. That's one way to produce more activists.

The key is for all of us who want to end this war to recognize that no one has the only answer. If we did, the war would be over.

So let a thousand ideas bloom.

No group or individual can do them all.

But each person can do something.

Ultimately, that's what it will take to end this nightmare.

(Cross posted on Daily Kos)

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