On March 29, some 35,000 to 45,000 people from across New England came
together on the Boston Common for a march and rally to speak out for peace
and justice in Iraq. As an African-American who has been involved in the
peace movement since I was a teenager in the early 1980's -- and as one of
the moderators at Saturday's rally -- I was incredibly moved by the breadth
and vitality of our movement -- even in the midst of this war.
Clearly, however, marching is not enough. If the peace movement wants to
keep building on the momentum generated by this historic event -- and
dozens like it across the country and around the globe -- I see three main
challenges that we will have to face in the weeks and months ahead. How we
respond to these challenges will determine whether we can turn our growing
numbers into a sustained effort to stop this war -- and to make our
government's policies reflect the values our society should be based on.
First, we must put forward a clear and achievable plan for ending the war
in Iraq and preventing similar future conflicts. We believe in the rule of
international law over the rule of force -- and that international
conflicts must be resolved by the international community. The peace
movement must demand an immediate cease-fire and withdrawal of US and
British troops from Iraq, supervised by UN peacekeeping forces. This should
be part of a broader UN directed effort, both to provide humanitarian
relief efforts and return weapons inspectors to finish the job that they
had begun before the Bush Administration launched this war. All sanctions
against Iraq -- other than arms-related sanctions -- should be immediately
lifted and the Iraqi people allowed to rebuild their economy through an
UN-administered program along the lines of the Oil for Food program.
Second, we need to make sure that our movement looks like our country.
Although there are unprecedented numbers of people of color, working-class
people, and youth currently involved in peace activities, we still have a
long way to go. We must bridge old divides of race and class, of young and
old, and between the cities and suburbs. We must work to ensure that the
issues and concerns of all of these constituencies become central to our
movement -- and that activists move from working, not only against the war
in Iraq, but to transform a range of US domestic and foreign policies.
Third, we have to create a diverse array of local, city, and regional peace
and justice groups, networks and institutions rooted in communities and
accessible to everyone who wants to work for grassroots social change. That
work has already started in neighborhoods across the Boston area, but there
is much more that we need to do.
We should recognize that not everyone who agrees with us will come to
rallies and marches, so we must provide a broad range of opportunities,
activities, and ways for people to participate. And we have to make sure
that our movement reflects the values of the type of society we want to
build -- we have to insist upon democracy, transparency, justice, fairness,
and effectiveness inside our movement as strongly as we insist on it in our
Finally, after this war ends, the peace movement needs to begin working on
its own project of regime change -- not in Iran, or North Korea, but in
Washington. And our "regime change" won't come through an invasion or
bombing, but through sustained, grassroots, democratic activism.
Brian Corr (BCorr@NEAction.org) started working as a progressive activist while at the
University of Michigan in Ann Arbor in 1982, and has been in Boston since
1987. He is co-chair of the national board of Peace Action, and is co-chair
of the American Friends Service Committee in New England.