MANY OF US will never forget when the people of the world welcomed the
dawn of the new millennium. As the Earth turned, we watched televised pictures
of people celebrating and cheering as the sky lit up with fireworks -- from
Asia to Europe, from Africa to North America. And, for the first time in human
history, we understood, in a deeply visceral way, that we really do inhabit
the same planet and that we are, in fact, members of a global society.
That is what's going to happen again on Saturday. In 316 cities in 60
countries -- Cairo, Bangkok, Beirut, Jakarta, Prague, Budapest, Tokyo, Moscow,
London, Cape Town, Kigali in Rwanda, Madrid, Warsaw, Kiev, Lisbon, Mexico City,
Sao Paulo, New York, Sydney, Barcelona, to name but a few -- more than a
million people are expected to march and rally against an American invasion of
Iraq. Even McMurdo Station in Antarctica will hold a protest against the war.
Such a global outpouring against the threat of war is unprecedented.
Without the Internet, of course, such a global protest would be
unimaginable. But the Internet is only the messenger. Clearly, there is strong
opposition here and abroad to an American invasion of Iraq.
What's truly surprising are the concise slogans posted on the Web sites of
the coalitions that have helped organize this protest. No America bashing. No
defense of Saddam Hussein. No solidarity with al Qaeda terrorists. In dozens
of languages, the message is simple and direct: "No war in Iraq." "Stop the
war in Iraq."
People around the world now feel a right to express their opposition to war.
They clearly believe Hussein is a ruthless dictator. But they also understand
that the greatest threat is terrorist attacks from elusive networks that
cannot be stopped by American bombs or U.N. weapons inspections.
The Bush administration, of course, will try to discredit this global
uprising against an American war with Iraq. But it won't be so easy. The
coalitions assembled in these cities include business, labor and religious
groups; veterans of former wars, environmentalists, human rights activists and
mothers against war; and thousands of ordinary people who are asking the U.N.
Security Council to pursue further weapons inspections in Iraq, not war.
The next day will be our turn to march. In deference to the celebration of
the Chinese New Year, San Francisco will hold its anti-war march on Sunday,
Feb. 16. Once again, as thousands did last month, people will assemble at 11 a.
m. at Justin Herman Plaza at the Embarcadero. They will then march up Market
Street for a 2 p.m. closing rally in Civic Center. Once again, ordinary people
will give up a precious weekend day to make their voice heard -- peacefully.
Expect a tiny band of adolescent anarchists, who would rather spray
graffiti and smash windows than join others in a peaceful march. We should
condemn such antics. There is nothing less persuasive than using violence in
the name of preventing war.
Why, you may ask, should you participate in this demonstration? Because you
are a citizen of a great nation that is violating its own democratic ideals,
treating the rest of the world with dismissive contempt and refusing to be
restrained by international law.
Because you are a citizen of a new global society. Globalization is about
more than free trade. What we are witnessing is the birth of a grassroots
global democracy. To emphasize our membership in this new global society, many
protesters around the world will be carrying the U.N. flag, a fitting symbol
for a new era.
When people ask, as they eventually will, who stood up for human rights,
let your name be among those who opposed an unjust and unnecessary war.
For information on anti-war protests in San Francisco and around the world,
©2003 San Francisco Chronicle