On February 15, 2003, the world protested a long-announced pending war of aggression by the United States against Iraq. The protest was the largest in world history, and we haven’t topped it since. It persuaded many nations of the world and the United Nations to oppose the war. It built an international movement that went on to limit, reduce, and prevent wars, including thus far a fullscale war on Iran, as well as to educate a new generation about the evils of war. This movement helped to delegitimize warmaking, a process still not complete.
But why were we not in the streets again the next day or week or month or year in the same or greater numbers? Why had we not been in the streets when the sanctions and missile strikes laid the groundwork for the war? Why were we not in the streets when the U.S. government was supporting the government of Saddam Hussein and its war on Iran? Why are we not in the streets right now for the people of Bahrain whose dictator the U.S. and Western governments prop up?
Mike Ferner posted the following which I quote in full:
Where were you on 2.15.03?
By Mike Ferner
On that day, for the first time in human history, people of every nation on earth said “NO” to a war before it began.
By the 10’s of millions, starting in New Zealand and Australia and sweeping westward over the globe for 24 hours, people poured into streets and public places to shout with one voice, “NO WAR ON IRAQ!”
In the face of this overwhelming, universal cry for peace, the US and UK repeatedly lied and invaded Iraq, which says all that needs saying about the supposed “democracies” we live in. Even the staid New York Times was moved to admit that “there may still be two superpowers on the planet: the United States and world public opinion.”
If you were part of that earth-shaking cry for peace, you can remember the exquisite, breathtaking feeling of being part of something our species had never done before.
As long as we remember the power we exercised on that day it will be ours to use whenever we call it forward, as the Occupy movement did most recently.
Here are some images to remind us of what we accomplished when we united on February 15, 2003.
Mario Tama / Getty Images
Thousands of protesters gathered for an antiwar demonstration Feb. 15, 2003, in New York City. The rally coincided with peace demonstrations around the world.
VANCOUVER, BRITISH COLUMBIA
The February 15, 2003 anti-war protest in London.
protesters in front of Complexe Guy-Favreau in Montreal
The Stop the War protest in London, February 2003. Photograph: Dan Chung
Barcelona: credit – www.punchdown.org
Lahore, Pakistan: credit – www.punchdown.org
Rome AP Photo/Plinio Lepri
Protesters fill St. John Lateran square during an antiwar rally in Rome on Feb. 15, 2003. An estimated 3 million participants turned out for the event.
Melbourne. Photo: Shannon Morriss
Johannesburg, South Africa.
BBC Monday, 17 February, 2003
Auckland, New Zealand
Baghdad photo by Mike Ferner
On February 15, millions of people protested, in approximately 800 cities around the world. Listed by the 2004 Guinness Book of Records as the largest protest in human history, protests occurred among others in the United Kingdom, Italy, Spain, Germany, Switzerland, Republic of Ireland, the United States, Canada, Australia, South Africa, Syria, India, Russia, South Korea, Japan, and even McMurdo Station in Antarctica. Perhaps the largest demonstration this day occurred in London, with up to one million protestors gathering in Hyde Park; speakers included the Reverend Jesse Jackson, London mayor Ken Livingstone, and Liberal Democrat leader Charles Kennedy. A large demonstration, also attended by perhaps around a million, took place in Barcelona.
Beginning in 2002, and continuing after the 2003 invasion of Iraq, large-scale protests against the Iraq War were held in many cities worldwide, often coordinated to occur simultaneously around the world. After the biggest series of demonstrations, on February 15, 2003, New York Times writer Patrick Tyler claimed that they showed that there were two superpowers on the planet, the United States and worldwide public opinion.
These demonstrations against the war were mainly organized by anti-war organizations, many of whom had been formed in opposition to the invasion of Afghanistan. In some Arab countries demonstrations were organized by the state. Europe saw the biggest mobilization of protesters, including a rally of three million people in Rome, which is listed in the Guinness Book of Records as the largest ever anti-war rally.
According to the French academic Dominique Reynié, between January 3 and April 12, 2003, 36 million people across the globe took part in almost 3,000 protests against the Iraq war.
Mike Ferner (firstname.lastname@example.org) was in Baghdad on 2.15.03 with the Iraq Peace Team, a project of Voices in the Wilderness. About 200 people from over 10 nations marched in a peace rally through Baghdad that day.
So, where were you? I was here:
That’s my wife, me, my dad and my mom in New York City on 2-15-03. I was not then a peace activist. I wasn’t working or volunteering for any peace organizations. I wasn’t writing about peace. I wasn’t reading about peace. But very soon I would be working as press secretary for Kucinich for President, and in May 2005 I would begin blogging at AfterDowningStreet.org. I highly recommend to you, if you haven’t yet, giving peace activism a try for this next decade or so.
Among the infinite changes and developments of the past decade for me: a neice, a nephew, and then a son. My neice is a 10-year-old activist. Here’s a note from her:
My name is Hallie, I am 10 years old, and I live in Raleigh, North Carolina. I first became interested in climate change when I was in fourth grade. I read the adapted kids version of Al Gore’s “An Inconvenient Truth”. What I read really angered, scared, and surprised me. I thought “Here I am, reading about this HUGE problem that will drastically change the world by the next century, and nothing is being done about it.” The book really opened my eyes to how serious climate change is, and I immediately wanted to get involved somehow.
My mom told me about a plan for an oil pipeline called the Keystone XL. It will run from Alberta, Canada, through the middle of the US, and finally end in Texas. Its purpose would be to carry oil from Alberta’s tar sands down to Texas. It is to President Obama to approve it or disapprove it. Last year, my grandparents had gotten arrested for the civil-disobedience protest against the pipeline, and they had invited me to come watch the last day of it. This was a really amazing experience, how there were these people that were calmly and peacefully LETTING themselves be arrested, just to show how they felt about climate change and the Keystone XL oil pipeline.
From that point on, I realized how powerful civil disobedience and speaking up for your future can be. There are things I can do to help in my lifestyle and community, but there is more we can do together. I conserve energy, turn off lights when I leave a room, recycle, and ride my bike to school every day. Now I am also part of the iMatter Youth Council with Kids vs Global Warming to pressure the President and our leaders to stand up for my generation and take action on climate change.
Climate change is the most important issue for my generation because it is a scary idea to grow up in a world where extreme droughts and hurricanes are normal; polar bears, harp seals, and penguins are extinct; and North Carolina’s coastline looks totally different because the West Antarctic ice shelf has melted. The USA emits 30.3% of all greenhouse gas pollution in the world. That’s more greenhouse gas pollution than South America (3.8 %), Africa (2.5%), the Middle East (2.6%), Australia (1.1%), and Asia (12.2%) COMBINED! Therefore, as Americans, it is our obligation to work as hard as we can to fix that problem by fighting global warming. If we destroy this Earth, we won’t get a second chance.
Together with other youth across the nation, I am asking my President to say NO to the Keystone XL pipeline. On February 18th there will be a huge Keystone XL action in D.C. We encourage everyone who can to come participate and stand up for our right to inherit a sustainable planet!
For more information about the Rally, visit forwardonclimate.org
Hallie and the iMatter Team
So, where were YOU? Where are you now? Please report in at