NEW YORK: The week following US President George W. Bush s State of the Union saw a large anti-war demonstration in Washington DC and the publishing of a condemning magazine poll after a speech that was supposed to inflate the President’s shrinking popularity.
Two days after thousands of protesters circled the Capitol Building in opposition to the White House’s so-called “surge strategy to send an additional 21,500 troops to Iraq, Newsweek released a poll on Jan. 29 measuring Bush’s approval rating at 30 percent – his lowest in that poll’s history.
More telling was that 58 percent of the Newsweek poll respondents said they wish the Bush presidency was simply over.
The New York Times reported “tens of thousands of protesters on the National Mall, while United for Peace & Justice, a coalition of some 1,300 local and national anti-war groups that organized the “March for Peace, said 500,000 people were present.
Protesters who spoke to The Daily Star Egypt agreed that it was hard to gauge the size of the crowd during the march.
Beccah Watson, 24, from Washington DC, was surprised by the high estimates of United for Peace & Justice, while New Yorker Madeleine Elfenbein, 23, thought that “the crowd was at least as big as it was in 2003, maybe even bigger, referring to the outpouring of people in mass protest on Feb. 15, 2003 in the month before the US-led invasion of Iraq.
“I was disappointed that the newspapers underreported the numbers, Elfenbein said “although I m getting used to it by now.
Watson stressed the public sentiments surrounding the march, no matter how hard it was “to get a sense of the number of people there.
“Because we now know that the majority of Americans agree with us, there’s less of a feeling that the position we’re taking – that of an anti-war march – “is very radical, she said.
Elfenbein said, “I’m hoping for a withdrawal [from Iraq], although it s painful for me to think that we d leave the region in the mess we ve made.
“The US needs a dose of humility, and if the past three years in Iraq haven t done that, I don t know what will.
In New York City, Bashir Abu-Manneh, an Associate Professor of English at Barnard College, said he supported “immediate and complete withdrawal from Iraq followed by compensation.
“The occupation has fueled a sectarian civil war and the continued US presence in the region will only make the situation worse. Abu-Manneh excoriated US policy in the region, which he described as the “denial of Arab democracy and self-determination.
“The US elite should give up on the idea that it can either dominate or interfere in the affairs of other sovereign nations by continuing to support anti-democratic governments in the region, he said, citing Saudi Arabia, Jordan, and Egypt, the US s so called moderate allies.
Despite the increased domestic opposition to Bush, the war and US strategy in the Middle East, the diversity of American public opinion was still apparent as Iraq descends farther into chaos.
A former Foreign Service officer in the State Department during the Cuban missile crisis explained his support for the war and heated opposition to current anti-war movements around the idea that the American role as global policeman is absolutely mandatory to any kind of civil life in the world whatsoever.
Peter Pettus, now a New York-area writer and artist, framed the removal of Saddam Hussein and the current war again “Islamo-fascism in the historic fight against Nazism during World War II.
“Maybe we applied that template incorrectly, but it’s hard to see on a moral basis why the removal of one of the top three or four oppressive dictators in history and the effort to create a viable, democratic Iraq is wrong, he said.
“It was a gamble worth taking, and there is a glimmer of hope that it might still succeed.
Cutting across political lines and differing world views among Americans is the reality of military personnel stationed in Iraq or awaiting deployment there.
A naval officer in Texas said he supported the surge strategy on the basis that in order to get the troops out of Iraq, we need to send more in. As someone who could be over there, you want to make sure the people there have the right resources.
The officer, who asked that his name not be printed so as to not give the impression that he was speaking for the US Navy or armed forces, said that a new war strategy should not come from Senators and newscasters [who] stay in the Green Zone, the heavily fortified American stronghold in central Baghdad.
You have to talk to the kids on the ground: that see live fire on a daily basis, he said.
They have the answers more than 99% of people who think they do.