A Stirring in the Nation
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A largely missing ingredient in the nascent debate about invading Iraq showed up
on the streets of major cities over the weekend as crowds of peaceable
protesters marched in a demand to be heard. They represented what appears to be
a large segment of the American public that remains unconvinced that the Iraqi
threat warrants the use of military force at this juncture.
Denouncing the war plan as an administration idée fixe that will undermine
America's standing in the world, stir unrest in the Mideast and damage the
American economy, the protesters in Washington massed
on Saturday for what police described as the largest antiwar rally at the
Capitol since the Vietnam era. It was impressive for the obvious mainstream
roots of the marchers — from young college students to grayheads with vivid
protest memories of the 60's. They gathered from near and far by the tens of
thousands, galvanized by the possibility that President Bush will soon order
American forces to attack Iraq
even without the approval of the United Nations Security Council.
Mr. Bush and his war cabinet would be wise to see the demonstrators as a clear
sign that noticeable
numbers of Americans no longer feel obliged to salute the
administration's plans because of the shock of
Sept. 11 and that many harbor serious doubts about his march toward war. The
protesters are raising some nuanced questions in the name of patriotism about
the premises, cost and aftermath of the war the president is contemplating.
Millions of Americans who did not march share the concerns and have yet to hear
Mr. Bush make a persuasive case that combat operations are the only way to
respond to Saddam Hussein.
Other protests will be emphasizing civil disobedience in the name of Martin
Luther King Jr. But any graphic moments to come of confrontation and arrest
should be seen in the far broader context of the Capitol scene: peaceable
throngs of mainstream Americans came forward demanding more of a dialogue from
political leaders. Mr. Bush and his aides, to their credit, welcomed the
demonstrations as a healthy manifestation of American democracy at work. We hope
that spirit will endure in the weeks ahead if differences deepen and a noisier
antiwar movement develops. These protests are the tip of a far broader sense of
concern and lack of confidence in the path to war that seems to lie ahead.
Copyright 2003 The New York Times Company
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