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Anti-war protests go over the line

By Scott Tibbs, March 26, 2003

With the beginning of hostile military action against Iraq, it is appropriate to consider the actions of anti-war protesters. The majority of anti-war protesters have behaved in a civil and appropriate manner, but some have acted in a disturbing and frightening fashion.

CNN reports that some American anti-war activists have gone to Iraq to serve as "human shields" against a prospective U.S. bombing campaign against Iraq. On March 7, syndicated columnist Michelle Malkin wrote that these Americans "betrayed their country and effectively renounced their citizenship." Malkin is right, and these people should be arrested and charged with treason immediately upon re-entry into the United States.

Ralph R. Reiland reports on NewsMax.com that the Iraqi Republican Guard moved the protesters to "more militaristic targets" as opposed to the humanitarian targets that they had originally proposed shielding. In other words, some American citizens were directly collaborating with the enemy's military to obstruct a future American military action. Why did these "human shields" think they would be protecting humanitarian and not military targets? As syndicated columnist Rich Lowry wrote on March 7, "even the Iraqi government isn't stupid or anti-American enough to think that the United States will deliberately target hospitals, mosques and schools."

Article III, Section 3 of the Constitution states that "Treason against the United States, shall consist only in levying War against them, or in adhering to their Enemies, giving them Aid and Comfort." The "human shields" that went to Iraq with the intention of blocking military action against Saddam's regime have crossed the line where civil disobedience ends and treason begins. By placing themselves in between an American bombing campaign and Iraqi targets, and collaborating with the Iraqi military, these "human shields" are clearly offering "aid and comfort" to Saddam's regime.

The actions of some domestic protesters also deserve condemnation. Fox News reports that some anti-war protesters plan disruptive actions once war begins. San Francisco protest organizer Patrick Reinsborough told Fox News: "The bare bones of the plan is to basically shut down the financial district of San Francisco." The anarchist Black Bloc, which caused major disruption and damage in anti-globalization riots in Seattle, plans to lead many anti-war protests. The San Francisco Chronicle and the Michigan Daily also reported that protests are likely to get more intense.

Craig Rosebraugh, a spokesman for the Earth Liberation Front and the Animal Liberation Front, decried the tactics of peaceful protest as ineffective in a recent column. Rosebraugh wrote of large protests that garner significant media attention, "Yet, from a strategical standpoint there is absolutely no realistic foundation to the belief that this form of public education can and will have any effect on the government's decision to use military force in Iraq."

Rosebraugh then calls for, among others, the following actions:
  • "Attack the financial centers of the country. Using covert or black block techniques, depending on the situation, physically shut down financial centers which regulate and assist the functioning of U.S. economy. This can be done in a variety of ways from massive property destruction, to online sabotage, to physical occupation of buildings."

  • "Large scale urban rioting,"

  • "Actively target U.S. military establishments within the United States. Again, following the above stated goal of NOT getting caught, use any means necessary to slow down the functioning of the murdering body."
Rosebraugh then claims, amazingly, "These suggestions are not radical". Terrorism and treason are "not radical"? Aiding the Butcher of Baghdad is "not radical"?

It is not surprising that someone who has served as a spokesman for eco-terrorist groups would endorse such activity. Rosebraugh is a dangerous thug and should be universally denounced. Unfortunately, some people take him seriously. The Bloomington Pro-Active Committee invited him to a forum three years ago at the Unitarian Universalist "Church" in Bloomington.

Loud, visible protests are an American tradition and are lawfully used by groups on both sides of the political spectrum. Even peaceful civil disobedience sometimes breeds respect for protesters. But violence and destruction of property are not acceptable. In Monroe County, we have had significant problems with uncivil protest tactics, and those tactics generally damage the credibility of whatever group using them. Opponents of war would do well to avoid the kind of tactics used in Seattle and at other anti-globalization "protests".

However, even as the actions of more extreme anti-war protesters are legitimately condemned, supporters of President Bush must be careful not to question the patriotism of all war opponents, as disagreement with government policy does not equate to a lack of love for one's country. House Speaker Dennis Hastert even went so far as to suggest that Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle came close to offering "aid and comfort" to the enemy when he said we are at war because President Bush "failed so miserably at diplomacy that we're now forced to war." When conservatives opposed disgraced former President Clinton's military actions in Kosovo, Bosnia, Haiti and Somalia, they were not subjected to the "unpatriotic" label that current peace activists are. Labeling all opponents of war as "unpatriotic" or "anti-American" is a dangerous attempt to stifle free speech and dissent vital to our system of government.

Anti-war protesters deserve the full support of every American citizen in exercising their First Amendment rights, no matter how much some may disagree with them. The United States was founded on dissent against the British monarchy and the right to dissent against government policy must always be respected. But the right to dissent does not include the right to be violent or to commit treason, and such despicable acts must be punished to the fullest extent of the law.