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Editorial
Last Updated: 04/14/2003
Keep your knitting needles handy - just in case
Simon Stander, Editor-

Of all the outcomes of the current war, one surprising series of events has been the scale of peace protests: from London and Rome to Moscow and Paris. From China and Indonesia to USA and Bangla-Desh. Thousands have been reported here and hundreds of thousands there. Special protests by school children and even (why even?) grannies.

Reuters reported the following on 31 March:

    Grannies, carrying knitting needles and anti-war banners, protested against the Iraq war outside the United States embassy in London on Monday. They called the U.S.-led attacks on Iraq "immoral" and said innocent children were being killed. "My grandchildren are special: so too are Iraqi children," read one poster. The Grannies Against War made themselves at home on their folding chairs, with some happy to do a spot of knitting.

    Jean Kaye, 76, who has seven grandchildren, said she wanted to make her voice heard for their sakes. "I am very disappointed they don't have a better world. I hope in the future they do not have to do what I am doing now," she said. For some, Monday's demo brought back fond memories: "I opposed the Vietnam war outside this very same embassy," reminisced Ruth Hall, 53.

Here in peaceful Costa Rica, where the armed services were outlawed in the constitution in 1948-9, and the country boasts one former president as a Nobel Peace Laureate, the protests became heated when the current President unexpectedly came out in support of the US and Britain.

However, the Monitor has to ask honestly: are these protests making a difference?

Clearly they have not stopped the war, and as the war moves well into its second week, they appear to be having no obvious impact on the conduct of the war. Once the military machine has been put into motion and is pointed in a particular direction, it is not easily diverted. The simple answer is that the protests were never likely to stop the war, did not stop the war, delay the beginning or, so far, impact on its progress. Nevertheless, the protests are salutary, and governments may well have to beware in the future. The protests have been of an unexpectedly large scale, many have been mobilised by the instruments of globalised communications, and they are considerably greater than the anti-global movements aimed at such institutions as the WTO or IMF. Demonstrations on this kind of scale have always had valuable outcomes.

Such protests

  • Politicise huge segments and strata of the population
  • Teach leaders how to organise and make alliances
  • Sharpen up existing methods of communication and generate new ones
  • Challenge the weaknesses inherent in representative democracy
The success that the peace movements have had recently, in terms of the scale of their turnout, coupled with the realisation of the importance of making the United Nations work, holds out sound prospects for the future. Let's not delude ourselves, however. There is a long way to go. Getting millions on to the streets over a long period of time obviously can be done, but it is no easy matter.

So, best keep your knitting needles and folding chairs handy, just in case it takes another generation or two before the superpower and its allies can be pegged back.

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