- The Washington Times - Tuesday, October 9, 2001

While most Americans were applauding President Bush's decision to strike at terrorists in Afghanistan yesterday, clusters of peace activists were doing their best to shift public opinion in favor of peace.
Bands of demonstrators held noisy but peaceful protests yesterday in a dozen U.S. cities, including Boston, New York, Washington, Los Angeles and Berkeley, Calif., calling on the Bush administration to stop fighting and start listening to the grievances of anti-American factions in the Middle East.
"Killing Afghan people and bombing Afghanistan that doesn't change things," said Barbara Lubin, executive director of the Middle East Children's Alliance, who participated in an anti-war rally in Berkeley yesterday.
"The real hope for us as Americans is to say we really have to start behaving justly in the world," she said. "That means not spending $6 billion every year on Israel. You cannot expect Arab and Muslim people not to be enraged."
At the forefront of the anti-war rallies was the International Action Coalition, an anti-capitalism group founded by former Attorney General Ramsey Clark. The coalition, which has started a protest movement called ANSWER, or Act Now to Stop War and End Racism, yesterday called for a national student walkout and an "emergency response against war" in eight U.S. cities and in Australia.
The group argued that war would only lead to more casualties. "If President Bush gets his way, instead of thousands of people being killed, the number of victims at home and abroad could grow to the tens of thousands and maybe more," the organization said on its Web site. "A new war against the people of the Middle East will only lead to an escalating of violence."
At the coalition's protest in San Francisco, about 1,000 demonstrators chanted, "Hey, hey, ho, ho, we don't want your racist war," while speakers blamed the war on capitalism and the influence of corporations, according to the San Francisco Examiner.
"This war is another war to extend the domination of corporate America," Richard Becker of the International Action Center told the crowd. "And to that, we say no."
By comparison, the Green Party was downright moderate. Although the Greens echoed the coalition's opposition to the military strikes, national spokesman Scott McLarty said the pro-environment political party had no plans to organize protests, and even praised Mr. Bush for saying he would try to avoid civilian casualties.
"We maintain the position that the U.S. should deal with this as an international crime against humanity, instead of a war," Mr. McLarty said. "There was the possibility of further attacks against the U.S. anyway, but this ups the ante quite a bit."
Most elected officials threw their support behind the military strikes, but Berkeley's were the exception. A majority of the nine-member City Council has come out against the bombing, and Vice Mayor Maudelle Shirek was the featured speaker at yesterday's protest rally.
"It's just machoism," said Berkeley City Council member Dona Spring. "Bush has got to prove he'll do something militarily, regardless of where Osama bin Laden is."
The Daily Californian, the University of California at Berkeley's student newspaper, quoted activists at Sunday's anti-war rally in San Francisco, who called for a U.S. defeat in Afghanistan. "It's one of the most disgraceful days in American history. I wish the people of Afghanistan victory against the forces of U.S. imperialism," said Russell Bates of Berkeley.
Rep. Barbara Lee, California Democrat and the only member of Congress to vote against the Sept. 14 resolution giving the president the authority to wage war against international terrorism, was more diplomatic. She issued a statement that stopped short of condemning the attack, but warned that the military strikes could result in the deaths of civilians.
"I pray for the safety and the well-being of the brave men and women in our armed forces who find themselves in harm's way," the Oakland Democrat said in a statement. "We can only hope that the loss of life of innocent men, women and children in Afghanistan is minimized as much as possible."
So far, those protesting the war are far outnumbered by those supporting it. Even peace activists agreed the anti-war rallies number no more than a few thousand.

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