3/20: International Reactions/Protests

Translation to Arabic | Translation to most European Languages

(From Independent Media Center)

While the Pentagon threatens reporters, orders body bags, and prepares for pre-emptive war against Iraq, activists around the world are preparing for massive anti-war mobilizations.

In the few nations that have climbed aboard the Bush regime's war machine, such as the UK, Spain, and Australia, major demonstrations and direct actions are already in place. In addition, other anti-war actions such as vigils, boycotts, impeachment,and legislative work are ongoing.

Meanwhile,in the belly of the beast where history may be repeating itself and mainstream media reports on polls misrepresent popular opinion, the chilling prospects for the Bush regime declaring martial law are apparently real. If planned actions in Washington, DC, Chicago, New York,San Francisco,[1],[2] and elsewhere are met with government repression what will be the toll in the "Land of Democracy"?

An Australian uses his surfboard as a placard as thousands march towards the U.S. Consulate and the Prime Minister's office in Sydney, March 20, 2003. Defying public outrage about war in Iraq, Prime Minister John Howard has sent a 2,000-strong force of troops into a U.S.-led war against Iraq. REUTERS/James Morgan   A demonstrator shouts as he holds up a huge papier-mache President Bush mock-up during protests against a U.S.-led war on Iraq in Tokyo, March 20, 2003. Some 80 percent of Japanese voters oppose a U.S.-led attack on Iraq, but officials have said they must give priority to an alliance which has been the pillar of Japan's diplomacy, especially given worries about North Korea (news - web sites)'s nuclear ambitions. REUTERS/Eriko Sugita

1) Russia, China Denounce Strike on Iraq (March 20: AP)
2) France: Only U.N. Should Determine War (March 20: AP)
3) Thousands Protest War at U.S. Embassies
(March 20: AP)
4) Antiwar protests intensify in Japan as Iraq war begins (March 20:
Kyodo News Service)

5) In Iraq Crisis, Networks Are Megaphones for Official Views (March 18: FAIR)

1) Russia, China Denounce Strike on Iraq
.c The Associated Press

BEIJING (AP) - Condemnation and regret rippled across the world Thursday, from the governments of the world's most powerful nations to the streets of the smallest, as people awakened to a U.S.-led war against Iraq and said it wasn't necessary. American allies struggled to offset the dismay.

Russia and China denounced the U.S. actions, and France and Germany lamented the strikes and warned of the potential for catastrophe. Dozens of other countries avoided direct denouncements but expressed regret that the problem could not be solved peacefully through the United Nations.

Outrage simmered in Islamic countries. And even on the streets of U.S.-allied nations, there were harsh words against Washington.

Russian President Vladimir Putin demanded a quick end to the attack, calling it a ``big political mistake.'' In China, long opposed to any military action, the Foreign Ministry said the strike was ``violating the norms of international behavior.''

``This military action cannot be justified,'' Putin said in Moscow.

The governments of Britain and Japan, staunch U.S. allies, expressed immediate solidarity, with Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi saying Iraq ``has not acted sincerely.'' Leaders in Italy, Denmark, Poland and Albania also said they supported the United States.

``The war in Iraq is a reality that we expected,'' said Philippine President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, a U.S. ally. ``The Philippines is part of the coalition of the willing.''

Germany expressed ``great concern and consternation'' that its anti-war diplomacy with France and Russia had failed; it immediately turned attention to the aftermath - and offered help dealing with the humanitarian consequences.

``France regrets this action taken without approval of the United Nations,'' President Jacques Chirac said in a brief televised speech. ``We hope these operations will be as rapid and least deadly as possible, and that they don't lead to a humanitarian catastrophe.''

France, Germany and Russia lined up in recent weeks to oppose war in Iraq and threaten to veto any U.N. resolution that automatically authorized the use of force.

From the streets of Pakistan to the beaches of Barbados to the halls of Finland's government, the initial salvo of an American war against Iraq rippled across the planet in minutes, shaking up lives and setting legions on edge.

``There's nothing good about war,'' said Ngai Sik-wai, a restaurateur in Hong Kong, watching with some customers as President Bush announced the attacks. ``What is America thinking?'' said Hong Ji, a Muslim shopkeeper in Beijing. And from Alexei Barenov, 24, an interior designer in Moscow: ``The Americans don't listen to anyone.''

As citizens fueled by instantaneous information debated and questioned, governments lined up much as they have for months. Iran, Iraq's neighbor and longtime enemy, issued immediate condemnation, calling the U.S. action ``unjustifiable and illegitimate.'' Neutral Finland weighed in, too, with President Tarja Halonen calling military force outside the U.N. Security Council ``not acceptable.''

``The ongoing war must not result in the marginalization of the United Nations,'' she said.

Across Muslim nations, outrage brewed. In Pakistan, already brimming with anger against America, one religious-political coalition called the attack ``barbaric,'' and others demanded immediate intervention.

``It is open tyranny,'' said Mohammed Asghar, his hand trembling with anger as he prepared tea in his ramshackle stall. ``Every Pakistani Muslim should go to help the Iraqi people.''

In Afghanistan, so recently the subject of American military action, street talk ran squarely against Washington. ``Today is a dark day for Muslims,'' said Sher Aga, 50, who teaches aviation at Kabul's Air Force Academy. ``The United Nations is nothing anymore.''

The legislature in Jammu-Kashmir, India's only Muslim majority state, adjourned Thursday in protest. ``This is a war of self interest launched by the sole superpower,'' said the state's law and parliamentary affairs minister, Muzaffar Beig.

In the Palestinian areas, a group of 700, mostly schoolchildren, waved Iraqi flags and posters of Saddam Hussein and burned American flags. Demonstrators in the Gaza town of Beit Hanoun shouted: ``We will sacrifice our soul and our blood for Saddam.''

``American soldiers, whenever they step on Iraqi soil, they will be defeated,'' said Kamal Abou Ayta, an Egyptian political activist.

Security was tightened around the world, especially in embassy districts.

In Beijing, paramilitary officers checked the IDs of Chinese passing the Iraqi Embassy, and already-stringent procedures outside the American Embassy were tightened. In the Pakistani capital, soldiers with assault rifles hunkered down in sandbag bunkers outside embassies.

In Manila, where anti-war protesters clanged pots near the U.S. Embassy, Arroyo said the military and police were on a high state of alert and urged local communities to prevent ``terrorist incursions.''

Far from the chaos, in the sun-drenched islands of the Caribbean, leaders worried war would keep tourists away and crush economies. But on a white-sand beach in Barbados, Guthier Gilbert, 50, of Montreal wasn't concerned.

``If they declare war,'' he said, ``I don't think it will affect my vacation.''

03/20/03 07:38 EST

2) France: Only U.N. Should Determine War
.c The Associated Press

PARIS (AP) - French President Jacques Chirac urged U.S.-led forces attacking Iraq to avoid a ``humanitarian catastrophe'' and insisted Thursday that only the United Nations, not individual countries, should make the determination to go to war.

The French government has been a strident opponent of military action in Iraq, and had threatened to veto a U.S.-backed resolution in the United Nations that would have authorized war.

``France regrets this action taken without approval of the United Nations,'' Chirac said in a brief televised speech. ``We hope these operations will be as rapid and least deadly as possible, and that they don't lead to a humanitarian catastrophe.''

The U.S. Ambassador to France, Howard Leach, appeared on LCI all-news television to argue the U.S.-led attack was ``totally legitimate.'' He said tensions over Iraq would damage long-term U.S.-French ties.

The French Foreign Ministry urged fighters in Iraq to spare civilians.

Chirac asked the government to convene a special meeting to consider the economic and security ramifications of the war. He also mentioned the importance of ``national cohesion.''

Leaders of the French Socialist and Communist parties took tougher tones. The Communist Party said the war was part of American plans to dominate the region, and the socialist party leader condemned the attack.

France is home to one of the largest Muslim populations in Europe. Islam is the second religion of France, which has about 5 million Muslims.

Chirac said Paris would continue to support the United Nations as the forum to solve world crises, calling it ``the only legitimate framework to build peace in Iraq and elsewhere.''

03/20/03 07:14 EST

3) Thousands Protest War at U.S. Embassies
c The Associated Press

ATHENS, Greece (AP) - Tens of thousands of protesters marched on American embassies in world capitals Thursday to protest U.S.-led attacks on Iraq. Demonstrators and police clashed in Egypt and the Philippines.

In Cairo, the Egyptian capital, riot police used water cannons to keep about 1,000 stone-throwing demonstrators, mainly students from the American University in Cairo, from reaching the U.S. Embassy.

The protesters began throwing metal barricades when riot squads tried to block them from joining about 500 Muslim Brotherhood and communist anti-war demonstrators about 50 yards from the downtown embassy. Police took swings at demonstrators' heads with batons, but some also were heard to shout: ``Don't hit them! Don't hit them!''

Soon, demonstrators broke through and more than 2,000 people were surrounded by riot police. Demonstrators shouted ``Down with Arab leaders!'' and ``Leave, leave Mubarak!'' in reference to Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak - an indication of the anger many Arabs feel toward their own governments for failing, in their view, to act strongly enough to avoid war.

Essam el-Eryan, a prominent Muslim Brotherhood member among the protesters, said, ``American interests shouldn't feel safe in the Arab region. Iraq should be supported to transform the swift war that the U.S. wants to gang and city fights, to make Iraq a graveyard to the Americans.

``This way, American people will revolt against this war.''

More than 100,000 people, many of them high-school and university students, marched to the U.S. Embassy in Athens as mass demonstrations were held throughout the country to protest the war against Iraq.

Chanting ``No to the war'' and ``Americans, killers of people,'' the Athens protesters gathered for the first of two mass demonstrations organized in the early-morning hours by labor activists, students and teachers' unions. More demonstrations are planned for Friday and the weekend.

In Rome, police blocked anti-war demonstrators marching up Via Veneto toward the U.S. Embassy, while tens of thousands of students, workers and other Italians blocked highways and train tracks elsewhere.

On Rome's Via Veneto, police parked patrol cars across the boulevard to keep several hundred students about 200 yards from the embassy.

In the northern industrial city of Turin, as many as 20,000 demonstrators marched through main streets to the train station, where some protesters occupied tracks, police spokeswoman Cecilia Sartone said. Trains continued traveling on other tracks, she said.

Riot police in Manila, Philippines, used shields and truncheons to disperse about 300 anti-war activists trying to approach the U.S. Embassy, injuring at least 12 demonstrators, protest leaders said.

Although small in number, anti-war protests at the tightly guarded seaside embassy have become more aggressive and boisterous, and police have responded this week with dispersals and arrests.

Throughout the day, a phalanx of police kept protesters on a road several yards away from the embassy, where they burned a U.S. flag and portraits of President Bush and Philippine leader Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, one of the staunchest Asian allies of the U.S.-led global war on terrorism.

In other Greek demonstrations, more than 11,000 people marched to the U.S. Consulate in the northern port city of Thessaloniki, while about 10,000 rallied outside the British consulate in the western port of Patras.

Thousands of people earlier held candlelight vigils in Athens and Thessaloniki.

``We are protesting the attack against Iraq because we cannot accept the cowboy stance of the supposed planet lord. The end result will be the disappearance of the planet lord,'' Athens teacher Christos Gotzias said of Bush.

Greeks overwhelmingly oppose the war and many newspapers and television stations have been highly critical of the U.S.-led action, with many urging Greeks to demonstrate.

``Desert nightmare has begun,'' wrote the Athens daily Ethnos, while the headline in the daily Ta Nea read ``Millions are defenseless at the mercy of super weapons.''

The Greek government, which holds the European Union presidency, also opposes the war but has cited international and bilateral agreements allowing the United States to use its airspace and a U.S. Navy base in Souda Bay, Crete. The base hosts refueling and spy planes.

``Greece is against the war and Greece is not participating in the war,'' government spokesman Tilemahos Hitiris said. ``The Greek government expresses its disappointment because a war that could have been averted has been underway since the early morning hours.''

03/20/03 09:09 EST

4) Antiwar protests intensify in Japan as Iraq war begins

.c Kyodo News Service

TOKYO, March 20 (Kyodo)

Hunger strikes, ''die-ins'' and other forms of protest intensified Thursday in front of American and British diplomatic facilities in Japan as U.S.-led forces launched attacks on Iraq.

Near the U.S. Embassy in Tokyo's Minato Ward, police went on high alert as they were confronted by demonstrators who tried to join a growing rally in front of the embassy.

A group of students who attempted to approach the embassy with a big cardboard effigy of U.S. President George W. Bush jostled with police for more than 30 minutes as they were stopped some 100 meters away.

''Why can't we come through. This is an infringement of freedom of expression,'' one student shouted.

As 80 people gathered in front of the U.S. Embassy by 10 a.m., chanting ''No war'' and holding up banners with antiwar messages, police began expelling them from the area after 11:30 a.m. saying they were obstructing traffic.

Around that time, U.S. warplanes began attacking Iraq, less than two hours after U.S. President George W. Bush's deadline for Iraqi President Saddam Hussein and his sons to leave the country or face war expired.

''Stop it (the war) immediately. What the U.S. does is wrong. What is the United Nations there for?'' shouted Atsushi Kawakami, a 49-year-old teacher at a Tokyo metropolitan government-run high school.

Daisuke Ikeda, 19, who has been staging an antiwar hunger strike in front of the embassy this week, said as he was driven away from the embassy area, ''I demand that the Japanese government not provide economic support to the U.S.''

Nevertheless, the gathering swelled to about 300 people by the evening, including some 40 Peace Boat members and volunteers who staged a five-minute die-in demonstration around 5:30 p.m.

Police initially rejected a request by 15 opposition lawmakers to meet with embassy officials for an unscheduled visit, until the embassy officials came to invite them in.

After the short visit, House of Representative member Tomoko Nakagawa of the Social Democratic Party said, ''I'm gripped by a sense of powerlessness, as we could not stop the war. Prime Minister (Junichiro) Koizumi supported the war without any Diet approval.''

Several men and women, meanwhile, laid flowers by the gates of the Iraqi Embassy in Minato Ward. One woman said in tears, ''Ordinary people and children will die'' unless the war is stopped.

Qasim Shakir, interim charge d'affaires at the Iraqi Embassy, was quoted by a rightist man who managed to visit him as slamming the U.S. for the attack, saying it has to be the Iraqi people who choose their president, not Washington.

At the British Embassy in Chiyoda Ward, a group of labor union members handed embassy personnel a written protest urging Prime Minister Tony Blair not to collaborate with the U.S.

At the U.S. Consulate General in Osaka, some 100 people gathered and raised their fists chanting, ''Bush, stop war!'' and ''We won't tolerate Japan taking part in war!''

''This is not something that human beings can do to other human beings,'' Takako Asada, a 25-year-old company employee in Osaka, said of the attack. ''We have been voicing opposition for many months, but the war has begun. I don't know what to do.''

In Hiroshima, victims of the 1945 U.S. atomic bombing of the city got together with university students who began a hunger strike Wednesday to go on a sit-in protest at the Peace Memorial Park, holding banners saying they do not want Iraq to follow in the footsteps of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

''I truly cannot forgive this. I want to think about some way to stop the war,'' said Makoto Nakajima, a 21-year-old student at Hiroshima University.

03/20/03 09:00 EST

5) In Iraq Crisis, Networks Are Megaphones for Official Views
Fairness & Accuracy In Reporting
Media analysis, critiques and activism


March 18, 2003

Network newscasts, dominated by current and former U.S. officials, largely
exclude Americans who are skeptical of or opposed to an invasion of Iraq,
a new study by FAIR has found.

Looking at two weeks of coverage (1/30/03-2/12/03), FAIR examined the 393
on-camera sources who appeared in nightly news stories about Iraq on ABC
World News Tonight, CBS Evening News, NBC Nightly News and PBS's NewsHour
with Jim Lehrer. The study began one week before and ended one week after
Secretary of State Colin Powell's February 5 presentation at the U.N., a
time that saw particularly intense debate about the idea of a war against
Iraq on the national and international level.

More than two-thirds (267 out of 393) of the guests featured were from the
United States. Of the U.S. guests, a striking 75 percent (199) were
either current or former government or military officials. Only one of
the official U.S. sources-- Sen. Edward Kennedy (D.-Mass.)-- expressed
skepticism or opposition to the war. Even this was couched in vague
terms: "Once we get in there how are we going to get out, what's the loss
for American troops are going to be, how long we're going to be stationed
there, what's the cost is going to be," said Kennedy on NBC Nightly News

Similarly, when both U.S. and non-U.S. guests were included, 76 percent
(297 of 393) were either current or retired officials. Such a
predominance of official sources virtually assures that independent and
grassroots perspectives will be underrepresented. Of all official
sources, 75 percent (222 of 297) were associated with either the U.S. or
with governments that support the Bush administration's position on Iraq;
only four out of those 222, or 2 percent, of these sources were skeptics
or opponents of war.

Twenty of the 297 official sources (7 percent) represented the government
of Iraq, while a further 19 (6 percent) represented other governments--
mostly friendly to the U.S.-- who have expressed doubts or opposition to
the U.S.'s war effort. (Another 34 sources, representing 11 percent of
officials, were current or former U.N. employees. Although members of the
U.N. inspection teams made statements that were both critical of Iraq's
cooperation and supportive of further inspections, because of their
official position of neutrality on the question of war they were not
counted as skeptics.) Of all official sources, 14 percent (43 of 297)
represented a position skeptical or opposed to the U.S. war policy.
(Sources were coded as skeptics/critics if either their statements or
their affiliations put them in that category; for example, all French
government officials were counted as skeptics, regardless of the content
of their quote.)

The remaining 96 sources-- those without a current or former government
connection-- had slightly more balanced views; 26 percent of these
non-official sources took a skeptical or critical position on the war.
Yet, at a time when 61 percent of respondents in a CBS poll (2/5-6/03)
were saying that they felt the U.S. should "wait and give the United
Nations and weapons inspectors more time," only sixteen of the 68 U.S.
guests (24 percent) who were not officials represented such views.

Half of the non-official U.S. skeptics were "persons in the street"; five
of them were not even identified by name. Only one U.S. source, Catherine
Thomason of Physicians for Social Responsibility, represented an anti-war
organization. Of all 393 sources, only three (less than 1 percent) were
identified with organized protests or anti-war groups.

Overall, 68 sources, or 17 percent of the total on-camera sources,
represented skeptical or critical positions on the U.S.'s war policy--
ranging from Baghdad officials to people who had concerns about the timing
of the Bush administration's war plans. The percentage of skeptical
sources ranged from 21 percent at PBS (22 of 106) to 14 percent at NBC (18
of 125). ABC (16 of 92) and CBS (12 of 70) each had 17 percent skeptics.

Please urge ABC, CBS, NBC and PBS to broaden the sources they rely on in
coverage of the Iraq crisis.

ABC World News Tonight
Phone: 212-456-4040

CBS Evening News
Phone: 212-975-3691

NBC Nightly News
Phone: 212-664-4971

PBS NewsHour with Jim Lehrer
Phone: 703-998-2150

As always, please remember that your comments are taken more seriously if
you maintain a polite tone. Please cc fair@fair.org with your

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