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Millions of people took to the streets around the world on February 15 to demonstrate their opposition to an unnecessary and inhumane war against Iraq.

The strength of anti-war sentiment, and the feelings of solidarity with the ordinary people of Iraq, expressed by more than 100,000 marchers in Dublin and throughout the country was truly impressive. The overwhelming success of this international day of protest shows the extent of popular opposition to this war worldwide.

Afri, as part of the NGO Peace Alliance, was one of the organisers of the Dublin march. The Peace Alliance has maintained a vigil in front of the Department of Foreign Affairs in Dublin since autumn 2001 and helped organise "From the River to the Planes", a march from Bunratty to Shannon airport opposing its use for U.S. war preparations. This year's Féile Bride conference in Kildare also focused on stories of resistance to a war against Iraq.

Gerry O'Donaghue of KAWM at the Dublin Protest on the 15th of February

The success of February 15 illustrates the importance of what is sometimes referred to as "normative power" or "soft power" in influencing the so-called "coercive power" or "hard power" of the state, represented in its most extreme form by the military, armaments and weapons of war. Here we have the examples of Gandhi, Martin Luther King and so many others who have employed the methods of nonviolent political action against apparently invincible opponents with such effectiveness.

Such normative power, in the form of appeals to shared values like human rights and basic human well-being and survival, can mobilise public opinion and ultimately challenge and undermine the legitimacy of any resort to armed force as threats to these values. Millions of people worldwide demonstrated their opposition to a U.S. led war against Iraq because of their profound concern about its negative humanitarian impact and its threat to the integrity of the UN and to international law.

This is the significance of apparently symbolic actions such as the vigils, marches and demonstrations organised by the Irish peace movement. As Milan Rai reminds us in the current issue of Peace News:

"The world has been changed by popular struggle, and the world will continue to be changed by popular struggle."

The peace movement in Ireland, and worldwide, has demonstrated its unprecedented ability to mobilise millions against a war that has huge implications for the world in which we live. Afri will continue to promote an alternative vision based on the values of peace, justice and human rights, in response to the interconnected problems of militarisation, inequality and poverty epitomised by this war.

Iain Atack (Afri Chairperson)


134 Phibsborough Road,
Dublin 7,

Tel. 01 8827581 / 8827563
Fax. 01 8827576 Email: afri@iol.ie


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