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Rebuilding Iraq


Demonstrators say peace movement will continue

By Louise Kennedy, Globe Staff, 4/10/2003

    Rebuilding Iraq


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Alice Copeland Brown, 65, of Canton has been protesting the war in Iraq since before it began - even as she sends chocolate-chip cookies to her son, Army Major David E. Floyd, who's serving at Camp Doha in Kuwait. The news from Baghdad yesterday, she said, gave her no reason to stop.

In fact, Brown sees no end to her protests, just as she sees no end to war. "This is perpetual war ... for world domination," she said yesterday. "We're not going to stop."

Like Brown, other peace activists emphasized yesterday that they saw the apparent collapse of Saddam Hussein's regime as just one step in a long and complex chain of events -- a history that didn't begin with the arrival of US troops on Iraqi soil, and one that won't end when the troops come home.

"No one can be sad to see Saddam Hussein no longer in power," said Joseph Gerson, director of programs for the American Friends Service Committee in New England. "But what's going to follow from this I don't think is going to be a very pretty picture. And I think people need to understand that this is only the first phase of a long and very problematic process."

The first order of business, many activists said, was to urge international involvement in rebuilding Iraq and creating some kind of transitional government. Gerson noted the urgent need for water, food, and medical supplies. "People are dying for lack of water and medicine," he said. "Just because the US won the first phase of this war doesn't mean that it's good for anybody" -- particularly, he said, if the United States attempts to install a leader who isn't trusted in the Arab world.

"I would think that we begin now to focus on urging that we be very responsible on rebuilding this country," said Linda Nathanson of Newton Dialogues on Peace and War, which has held regular peace vigils in Newton Centre since July. Nathanson said she considers the US particularly responsible for helping Iraq because, "We've wrecked it, in a war that millions of people don't think was right or necessary."

Rana Abdul-Aziz, 22, knows more than she'd like to about the wreckage. A student of international relations and Middle Eastern studies at Tufts University, Abdul-Aziz has spoken at several local peace rallies. Yesterday, though, she was most concerned about her family in Iraq. She hasn't heard from them in three weeks.

"Maybe they survived the bombings, but are they going to survive the lawlessness?" Abdul-Aziz asked.

Sorrow over death and destruction in Iraq was a primary theme in many reactions yesterday. "It's pretty premature to say the war has ended," said Molly Lanzarotta, 39, of Brookline, who helped organize candlelight vigils through the Internet. "The suffering is going to continue for a very long time -- the suffering of our soldiers, the suffering of the Iraqi people."

But several also said their efforts may have helped to delay the start of war and to focus international attention on it. "We've built an incredible movement over the last six months," said Brian Corr, who co-chairs the national board of Peace Action, and the New England chapter of the American Friends Service Committee. "It has made a difference both in terms of building the movement and in forcing the administration to seek international approval."

Several activists voiced fears that the nation's attention will turn too quickly from such long-term concerns. And they also noted worrying signs that another war may already be looming on the horizon. "There is a sense of triumphalism, which you can already see in some of the adminstration's hard-liners and the right-wing think tanks, with the question of whether Syria or Iran or North Korea is next on the list," Gerson said. "This is a recipe for absolute disaster."

The antidote, several argued, is to continue to broaden the focus of the peace movement. "We need to continue building the movement so that this war in Iraq doesn't turn into a chain of war -- in Iran, Syria, North Korea," said Corr. And, like several others, Corr voiced a hope that peace activists will continue to point out connections between military spending and other economic issues, and between the larger issues of peace and justice.

"It's all connected," Nathanson said. But it's also more complex than just protesting a war, and that raises the question of what activists will do next. Rallies are still planned for the next few days, including one tomorrow at 4 p.m. in Copley Square and, Saturday at noon, a march from the IRS headquarters in Andover past a Raytheon facility. Nathanson's group plans to meet Sunday, she said, and will probably discuss whether to continue holding its vigils. "It's possible that you won't see us out there causing a traffic jam," she said, "but we'll be very busy all the same."

This story ran on page A35 of the Boston Globe on 4/10/2003.
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