In January 2003, during the run-up to George W. Bush’s U.S. invasion of Iraq, the Answer Coalition organized antiwar marches in several American cities. Noisy, rowdy street protests in Washington, D.C. and New York City each generated turnouts of an estimated 500,000 participants and spectators. Mainstream news organizations scrambled to cover the events.
Where are those protesters — and where is the press — now that President Barack Obama is preparing an ill-defined military onslaught amid the ongoing civil war in Syria?
The Answer Coalition (which you may remember as International A.N.S.W.E.R.) has organized a protest for this Saturday. The group is calling the event a “March on Washington,” subtitled “Vote NO to war against Syria!”
Then, on Monday, when Congress officially reconvenes, the Answer Coalition’s Syrian American Forum will hold a morning demonstration followed by a march to the Capitol Building.
Sarah Sloan, the Answer Coalition’s national staff coordinator, told The Daily Caller that there have been protests in the dozens — perhaps the hundreds — the last few weeks. The two upcoming marches may be slightly bigger.
“Here in Washington, we might see in the thousands,” she said.
That’s nowhere near the estimated 500,000 people who showed up for the 2003 Iraq War protests.
When pressed for a reason for the difference, Sloan suggested that the outpouring of opposition to the Second Gulf War was greater because Americans had been able to digest the dangers presented by Iraq and Saddam Hussein for a decade or so.
She also noted that Obama’s signal that he won’t use troops makes it harder to generate a broad protest vibe. She compared the proposed bombing of Syria to President Bill Clinton’s air campaign in Yugoslavia in the 1990s.
“Obama knows that it’s critical to say that all the bleeding will occur on the Syrian side,” she charged.
Sloan also told TheDC that the Answer Coalition can be counted on to protest American intervention abroad pretty much no matter what.
“We oppose U.S. intervention in all its forms,” she said. “We support self-determination for the Syrian people. Civil wars tend to go on and on when an outside force intervenes. Other countries intervene with their own objectives.”
Code Pink spokeswoman Joan Stallard agreed that there is an obvious disconnect between the “thousands of people in the street in the run-up to Iraq” and the empty streets now.