Protesters light fire to an upside-down U.S. flag in front of the security checkpoints set up to screen demonstrators entering the area in front of Fort Benning, near Columbus, Ga., on Saturday. Protesters say the military school fosters human rights abuses in Latin America.
Protesters Prep for Rights Rally
Sunday, November 17, 2002
THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
COLUMBUS, Ga. -- Thousands of people attended workshops and religious ceremonies Saturday in preparation for a demonstration against a military school they say abuses human rights in Latin America.
The demonstration set for today will be the 13th annual protest outside Fort Benning by the School of the Americas Watch.
The protests were started because of the Nov. 16, 1989, killings in El Salvador of six Jesuit priests. Some involved in the killings had attended the Army's former School of the Americas, which moved to Fort Benning from Panama in 1984.
As many as 7,000 protesters took part last year, including 31 who entered the post illegally, carrying crosses and mock coffins to honor the victims of Latin American violence. Twenty-eight pleaded guilty or were found guilty of trespassing and some of those are still serving 6-month sentences.
The Army's School of the Americas was replaced last year by a new institution operated by the Department of Defense and supervised by an independent 13-member board that includes lawmakers, scholars, diplomats and religious leaders.
Officials say the new school, known as the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation, still trains Latin American soldiers, but also focuses on civilian and diplomatic affairs. Human rights courses are mandatory.
Protest leaders say the change was only cosmetic, and they have promised to continue the demonstrations.
Nov 17th, 2002, 11:49 PM
I can see more protest inevitable as the war against Iraq approaches.
Nov 17th, 2002, 11:52 PM
Antiwar movement finds few US followers
By FT reporters
Published: November 17 2002 22:22 | Last Updated: November 17 2002 22:22
The car, California's favoured means of self-expression, is playing a particular role in the debate on the rights and wrongs of using force against Iraq.
Out in the boondocks, where support for all things Republican is strongest, one of today's more popular bumper stickers instructs President George W. Bush: "Kick their Ass: Steal their Gas."
At the other end of the political spectrum in San Francisco, a recent weekend antiwar rally drew a crowd of 40,000. Drivers honked their horns in support and waved peace signs from rolled-down windows.
A more listless crowd of a few hundred gathered last week outside the Federal Building on one of Los Angeles' most heavily travelled surface streets. About 50 high school students in upmarket Pacific Palisades criss-crossed Sunset Boulevard - obeying the "Walk" and "Stop" signs of the traffic lights - waving placards announcing their preference for pencils and school books over guns.
One of the organisers, Sergio Azucena, was decorated with a board asking: "Should I be willing to die so you can drive your SUV?" At 7.50am, when school officially started, he trooped off to class with the others.
The lukewarm protests point to the relative absence of an antiwar movement in the US - at least, by comparison with the mass demonstrations across European capitals.
Although the US public is widely perceived as having played a crucial role in shaping Mr Bush's decision to engage the international community in pursuing his agenda against Iraq, when it comes to the use of force, Americans have seemed much more willing to defer to their commander-in-chief.
To some observers, this acquiescence comes as no surprise. The US has a history of muffled protest in the run-up to military action. Nostalgic activists remember the anti-Vietnam demonstrations, but they gathered momentum only after the war started to go awry.
Richard Murray, director for the University of Houston's Centre for Public Policy, says much of the focus in the 1960s protest movement was initially on civil rights and women's issues. "Until Americans started dying in large numbers, you didn't have a large and energised war movement," he says. "Anti-war movements are reactive." He notes that the Gulf war failed to generate much protest in the US.
The legacy of the terrorist attacks of September 11 2001 may also help explain the lack of a mass antiwar movement. As Mr Murray says, "Because of the horrifying provocation of the 9/11 attacks, there is generally more support for the government taking an aggressive posture."
Young people do not seem to be fired by antiwar enthusiasm. Recent surveys have shown greater opposition to military action among older Americans than younger ones. Richard Stoll, professor of political science at Rice University in Houston, says this is consistent with the experience of the Vietnam war. In spite of the memorable protests by young people about Vietnam, he says, in general the young were more supportive of the war.
"Young people tend to be much more supportive of military action," says Prof Stoll. "Older people have seen conflict and understand it is not as glorious as it seems and that the after- effects can be severe." And he suggests another explanation for the lack of protests: because the war is not imminent - or, as he puts it, "We're in a bit of a lull."
Mike Zmolek, an organiser for National Network to End the War Against Iraq, says: "Students haven't really jumped on this. They did have a bunch of demonstrations on April 20, but the media picked that up as pro-Palestine."
Polling in California has found that opinion among adults is equally divided between those who believe Mr Bush has (49 per cent) or has not (47 per cent) done enough to explain why the US might attack Iraq, according to the Public Policy Institute of California.
Protest organisers are hoping to tap into the sense of disquiet and have planned mass demonstrations across the country on Wednesday and again in early January.
"We're regrouping," says Mr Zmolek. "Europe's definitely ahead of us on this. Americans feel they need to support the president and be patriotic. The other thing is that the US stands to benefit economically from war. There's a certain level at which people understand that."
Reporting by Christopher Parkes in Los Angeles, Sheila McNulty in Houston, Victoria Griffith in Boston and James Harding in Washington
~ The Leopard ~
Nov 18th, 2002, 12:51 PM
Really, why would anyone see any parallels at all between the current situation and the later years of the Vietnam war?
If Bush had barged into Iraq unilaterally in the last few months I might have protested too, but that hasn't happened so far.
US involvment in various places such as Vietnam, El Salvador, Nicaragua etc was unnecessary, destructive, and dreadfully callous. I would take a hell of a lot of convincing before anyone could justify it to me. The situation in the Middle East is totally different, as has been its handling.... at least so far.
Moreover, at the height of the Vietnam war protests young men by the thousands were being forced into the army to serve in that disgusting war. I haven't noticed anything like that lately, have you?
Nov 18th, 2002, 09:36 PM
Well, the Vietnam war started so innocently with "technical advisers" to South Vietnam. Then it escalated with the Gulf of Tonkin resolution with led to a full out war with thousands of lives lost on both sides.
IMO, the Iraq situation also could escalate with other countries involved in the region. And let's not forget the war on terrorism.