Tens of thousands converged on the Mall in Washington, D.C. this weekend to protest the prospect of a U.S.-led war on Iraq.
News reports of the event described the participants as a cross-section of America. A CNN report on the eve of the protest maintained, “throughout the ranks, today’s peace activists are growing grayer and more moderate.” In case you didn’t get the message, an on-screen headline reading “not the usual suspects” accompanied a later CNN report on the demonstrators on Aaron Brown’s NewsNight. After noting the radical presence at the demonstration, the Boston Globe reported, “a wide array of first-time protesters suggested that the antiwar movement is drawing from a broader base.” Thanassis Cambanis, the writer of the piece, observed “quiet knots of families and older people” at the protest.
While a small number of families, political moderates, and senior citizens salted the ranks of Saturday’s march, a much-larger contingent escaped the notice of most journalists. Waving inflammatory signs, wearing scary costumes, and partaking in street theatre, the anti-American extremists who dominated the event were hard to miss. Yet, they were somehow overlooked in most of the press accounts of the protest.
Reesa Rosenberg, a Muslim from New Jersey, came to the nation’s capital bearing a sign that read “Bush Is the Real Terrorist.” “When it comes down to it, it’s all for oil and global domination,” she believes. “It’s almost like Hitler.” Rosenberg contends that people in the U.S. government had advance knowledge of the 9/11 attacks. “Another thing about 9/11 — the United States is like a stuck-up little bitch. They just do and take all of what they please. I mean, 9/11 was terrible, but it was the first terrorist attack on this country. It’s like, ‘oh, no!’ Somebody broke the United States’ nail, now the whole earth is going to blow up.”
Rosenberg was hardly a lone nut in comparing George Bush to Hitler or by conjuring up visions of an administration welcoming the 9/11 attacks. It didn’t take too long to find marchers enthusiastically peddling stories of the Bush family financing the Third Reich, seeing the American government standing behind the terrorists, or contending that a cabal of oil barons runs U.S. foreign policy.
Bush “definitely knew in advance,” remarked John Bostrom, who traveled to the march from Staten Island. “It was like when Hitler burned down the Reichstag.” Why would the Bush administration refuse to act on its prior knowledge of the terrorist attacks? “What they want to do, basically, is build a worldwide planetary death machine that’s technology driven, computer run, and hooked up to satellites that cover every square inch of the globe, and allows them to target and eliminate anything they want to wherever they want to,” maintained Bostrom. “This is their plan. It’s black and white. That’s what they’ve been calling for. That’s their strategy and they’re obsessed by it.”
“I saw 9/11 as the Reichstag,” maintained Chris King. “I’ll compare it to what Cassius did to Spartacus back in Rome. I’ll compare it to the Lusitania, to the Maine. I’ll do it, every single time.” The bearded Vermonter suspects 9/11 “was allowed to happen.”
While protesters labeled 9/11 “a drop in the bucket” and compared it to breaking a nail, what did they see as a serious terrorist threat? A glance at the thousands of signs on the Mall revealed the answer. Placards read: “USA Is #1 Terrorist,” “Bush Is a Terrorist,” “The NYPD Are Terrorists Too,” and “Get the Terrorists Out of the White House.”
A table display exhorting passersby to defend North Korea’s right to nuclear weapons or an activist who cheered in vain for a policeman to fall off a fire-escape ladder 30-feet above a Pennsylvania Avenue restaurant were typical of the happenings at this weekend’s rally cast aside by too many reporters covering the demonstration. Instead, the media treated viewers and readers to a sanitized version of the action, which depicted protesters as patriots acting in the American tradition of dissent. Harmless old ladies, middle-American Republicans, and well-dressed students, and not someone like Reesa Rosenberg, were the folks shown on television or quoted in the newspaper.
And as for Ms. Rosenberg, the Garden State Muslim who believes the U.S. government let 9/11 occur, she summed up the real theme of the “antiwar” protest by proclaiming that America should be viewed as “very scary and threatening” by the rest of the world.
Whether America scares the rest of the world is open to debate. A truthful look at this weekend’s protest confirms that the demonstrators should frighten people — even other opponents of a war in Iraq — here in America.
— Daniel J. Flynn is the author of Why the Left Hates America: Exposing the Lies That -Have Obscured Our Nation’s Greatness.