by Joan Hinton
Here I sit at my computer on a farm outside Beijing, China. The invasion of Iraq coincided with the SARS crisis, which left me physically more isolated from the outside world than ever before. Yet through email I had a glimpse of the millions upon millions of people throughout the world who opposed that illegal war.
There are two opposing superpowers in the world today: the U.S. on one side, and world public opinion on the other. The first thrives on war. The second demands peace and social justice.
One of the first indications of this growing global superpower burst into the open in Seattle in December 1999. There, world opposition to the unfair trade policies of the World Trade Organization brought on the most internationally minded, spontaneous movement the world had ever seen. With no top down hierarchy, no universally recognized leaders, tens of thousands of people from all over the US and other countries—including the Philippines, Korea, Japan, Thailand, France and India—descended on Seattle, with one demand: “Down with the WTO!”
Despite the police, and later even interference by the national guards, this new power of the people disrupted the WTO conference, leaving it lame and defeated. For the first time in history a conference of this scope, directly confronted by spontaneous masses of people, was unable to accomplish its goal.
Opposition to the Illegal War on Iraq
Four years later, opposition to the war on Iraq grew to hundreds of millions of people the world over, all shouting with one voice: “Stop the illegal war on Iraq!”
Long before September 11th 2001, the hawks in the White House had been planning to get rid of Saddam. The terrorist attacks in the USA gave them a ready excuse. But the people of the world were not that easily convinced. Iraq posed no direct threat to the U.S., The U.N. inspectors so far had found no weapons of mass destruction, and Saddam Hussein was a secular leader, who had nothing to do with religious fanatics like bin Laden.
As to Iraq’s weakness, the first Gulf War and 12 years of sanctions imposed on it after the war had devastated Iraq’s economy. By 2003, half of Iraq’s population were children. Malnutrition caused high mortality rates, and even worse, the long term after effects of depleted uranium shells used during that war left a high percentage of children deformed.
There was never any doubt that the U.S. would win this war. What surprised people however, was the resistance of the Iraqi people, and the support they got from countries like Turkey, in particular, where mass opposition backed by huge continuous demonstrations (98% of the Turkish population opposed the war) left the new Turkish Prime Minister, backed by an offer of $26bn from Colin Powell, not daring to grant permission for the establishment of U.S. bases in Turkey.
After Afghanistan, Iraq was next in the chain of countries to be subdued as the U.S. tightens its grip on the whole Middle East and beyond. Implacably the US continues to pursue its goal, building up the American Century—US military control of the whole world.
At present there is a worldwide struggle going on between the information superhighway—the Internet, and the world’s media, subdued as it is by US transnationals. The Internet, circumscribing the media, brings the truth behind distorted or blocked news to the public in a flash.
On February 20th, 2003, I received email from Robin Alexander, UE Director of International Labor Affairs, proclaiming that unions representing 130 million workers say No to War! Other trade unions around the world, representing millions of workers, joined with U.S. Labor Against War in opposing the invasion.
Alexander’s email said this was the first time in history that… representatives of major labor federations and unions throughout the world—the U.S., Mexico, Canada, France, Britain, Tunisia, Pakistan, Brazil, Australia and Italy – had expressed such solidarity in building a global labor front against a war. They reported plans for national teach-ins at every school level in France, a call for a worldwide meeting of teachers’ unions to oppose the war, the refusal of unions to transport war goods, work stoppages and other forms of workplace protests, and massive demonstrations at U.S. embassies around the world if war broke out.
On March 10th, 2003, a friend forwarded a report from Italy, telling of the massive resistance of the Italian people to the war. Starting with just a few people disrupting trains carrying war equipment destined to be used in Iraq, the protests spread like wildfire into spontaneous national resistance involving blockades, rallies, occupations and sit-ins. When police repression escalated, protesters changed their tactics. They applied “creative disobedience.” They boarded civil trains, putting on the emergency brakes (cheered by the passengers!) creating delays to the “trains of death” following in the same tracks. An early report showed that only 8 of 26 “trains of death” reached their destination.
On April 17th, 2003, I received an email from Halifax Canada, giving news of antiwar demonstrations of all different kinds involving an estimated 20,000 people—mostly not reported, or if reported at all only in local media. How many towns the size of Halifax must there be across Canada? Across the USA? How many demonstrations went unreported?
Through the Internet we are connected. We can see the world through the eyes of its people. Like the little boy in the fairy tail who cried: “The emperor has no clothes!” we can penetrate through the camouflage of the media. The U.S. is a military superpower, but economically, diplomatically, politically and morally it is weakening and becoming more and more isolated.
As the African proverb goes, “If you think you are too small to make a difference, try sleeping in a small room with a mosquito.”
So it is up to each and every one of us to be the mosquito, to bite where it hurts, and to keep up the pressure! With persistence, patience, and courage, we, the people of the whole world, can win and we certainly will win! We are the emerging new superpower!
Joan Hinton is an American citizen who has lived in China for more than 50 years. Born in 1921, she spent the first 26 years of her life in the USA. She studied nuclear physics and took part in the creation of the first atomic bomb at Los Alamos. She went to China in 1948 and has been working on dairy farms there ever since. She now lives and works on a state-owned farm on the outskirts of Beijing.