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Chicago Sun-Times, Tribune Columnists React to Monday's Anti-War Protest

While pointedly declining to provide actual news coverage of the large anti-war demonstration held in Chicago on Monday, both the Chicago Sun-Times and the Chicago Tribune sallied forth today with columns roundly attacking the Chicago Ad Hoc Coalition Against War and Racism. Note that columnists Mark Brown of the Sun Times, and Eric Zorn of the Tribune have thoughtfully provided email addresses for your response. markbrown (at) and EricZorn (at)
Chicago Tribune column by Eric Zorn

Chicago Sun-Times column by Mark Brown

Text of both columns follows.

"Peace too vital to be an issue of left or right"

- Eric Zorn

Published September 25, 2001

Thank goodness the Chicago Ad Hoc Coalition Against War and Racism did not use the word "peace" in its name.

According to minutes of the coalition's meeting Saturday, as posted on the Internet at, members considered "Chicago Peace Coalition" and "Chicago Peace and Togetherness Coalition" before making their final decision.

See, I'm big into peace. I think it's one of the best ideas going--settling our differences as nations and individuals without killing each other; learning to share the bounties of the earth fairly, ethically and without violence.

I seek peace in my home and neighborhood, and I hope for peace in my city and nation. I've been singing songs of peace to the twins at bedtime--"Peace Will Come," "Last Night I Had the Strangest Dream," "We Shall Overcome"--and fantasize about the lyrics coming true.

Yet I am not against war. War may not be healthy for children and other living things, but history shows it's sometimes the best and only way to a meaningful peace. The Civil War comes to mind. The World Wars.

A movement that reflexively and categorically dismisses military force as a response to a national crisis--a coalition against war--is not necessarily equivalent to a coalition for peace. In fact, such a coalition may be supporting an approach that will ultimately lead to more bloodshed, more destruction, more suffering and less peace.

So don't confuse anti-war sentiment with calls and prayers for peace. Don't yield the language and symbols of peace to activists with broad, left-wing agendas, or else we'll find ourselves again back in the 1960s when those opposed to an unwise war were so at odds with the flag wavers that peace and patriotism were both marginalized as ideological fetishes.

Already we're seeing signs. The name of the local coalition gratuitously includes "and racism," which only hints at the grab bag of political ideas leaders apparently hope to shove into an umbrella movement: Other causes that get their props in the minutes include "rights of workers, women, indigenous people, and health-care rights ... anti-military recruitment ... the anti-globalization movement ... the anti-capitalist movement."

At the Saturday meeting, the members could not even agree to a simple, unequivocal condemnation of the Sept. 11 attacks.

The first link under "latest news" Monday morning at local anti-war Web site was an essay blaming George W. Bush and "the handful of people who control the globe, called by many the Illuminati," for orchestrating the murder of nearly 7,000 in order to achieve "total control of the masses."

And here I'd been thinking Jerry Falwell had cornered the market on loony, opportunistic interpretations of the tragedy. Feh.

We must save peace from the peacemongers. We've got to narrow our sights and keep peace in the crosshairs, if you will forgive the firearms imagery. Let's tell our leaders that the goal of the international anti-terrorist coalition must above all else be a more peaceful world--a world with more freedom and less fear.

What should that coalition do? It's interesting to me how many people have strong, sure opinions about how to battle terrorism and terrorist states: Bomb them. Feed them. Starve them. Dialogue with them. Insult them. Apologize to them for our misdeeds. Kick their butts. Mend our ways.

Here we have this elusive, hate-drunk, fanatical, decentralized enemy standing on the Bouncing Betty of Middle Eastern strife, and America is filled with armchair strategists and self-styled intelligence experts who know just what to do next.

I regret to say I'm not one of them. The geopolitical, military and religious nuances are beyond me. I'm glad the Bush administration has lately given many signs that it recognizes how volatile the situation is and how easy it would to be to play into the hands of those now hoping for a holy war.

I'd just add my me-too to the National Council of Churches forceful yet vague entreaty that our nation "make the right choices in this crisis" and that we focus on "global peace, human dignity and the eradication of injustice that breeds rage and vengeance."

Peace is too important to be a left or right issue. It is the most mainstream idea of all, and the last, best hope we've got.

E-mail: EricZorn (at)

"Dissenters' antiwar slogans just don't fit"


September 25, 2001

So here's the first protest chant of Chicago's first antiwar protest of the pending new war:

''Don't turn tragedy into war; we won't take it any more. Don't turn tragedy into war; we won't take it any more.''

That's what some 300 demonstrators were shouting as they marched across the Loop on Monday.

They came from Chicago Direct Action Network and the International Socialist Organization, Green Party, Eighth Day Center for Justice, Youths for Social Action, Chicago Cuban Coalition, the Palestinian Aid Society, Workers World, Zen Buddhist Temple, Committee for a Democratic Palestine, League for the Revolutionary Party, DePaul University and Iranians Against War.

In other words, the usual suspects.

Which is not to say that I consider them suspect at all. I'm glad that there's already a fledgling peace movement, even though military action makes more sense to me right now. Maybe the peace demonstrators will help keep everybody honest as we move forward into uncertain territory in the coming months.

They call themselves the Chicago Ad Hoc Committee Against War and Racism, and they have three basic tenets. Actually, they called them ''demands'': that there be no war, no racist attacks on Arabs or Muslims in the United States, and no abridgement of our civil liberties in the name of national security. They've got it at least part right.

They began with some speeches outside Pioneer Court next to Tribune Tower, and marched over to the Daley Center for a few more speeches under the Picasso. They were loud enough to catch the attention of passersby, but everybody they encountered seemed too busy getting to where they were going to pay any real notice. There was no heckling that I saw, neither were there any spontaneous signs of support.

The participants were young and old and in between, many of them veterans of past antiwar efforts or other social justice protests. For the most part, though, these were the people you expect to be against any war, not this war in particular.

The most striking thing to me was how the protesters paid scant attention to the 6,500 deaths that put us in this position. There was no moment of silence for the victims, hardly a mention of sympathy. One speaker said that while we are all appalled by the events of Sept. 11, ''We have to remember that human rights are more important than property rights,'' as if the attack on the World Trade Center was directed at real estate.

Some of the strongest applause was for Ahmed Shawki, editor of the International Socialist Review, when he said, ''We don't believe what our government is telling us about this war,'' and ''This war has nothing to do with the interests of regular working-class people in America.''

And that brings me back to that slogan about not turning a tragedy into a war.

I don't think it fits.

If a plane accidentally crashes into the World Trade Center, that's a tragedy. Or if two jetliners accidentally collide in flight, that's a tragedy.

But when four teams of armed terrorists murder 6,500 innocent people by hijacking airplanes and using them as kamikaze bombers, then that's something more than a mere tragedy. (And by the way, many of them were regular working-class people.)

You can argue whether it's an act of war, but you can't deny it's a barbaric crime. You can hardly just sit back and wait to see where the terrorists will strike next just because those who finance and inspire these criminal acts are safely hidden outside our borders. You can't ignore the stated aim of their purported leader to kill as many of us as possible.

That's my opinion anyway, but I learned at Monday's protest that I'm just one of the ''corporate reporters'' who is supporting our government's move toward military action while glossing over the root causes in misguided American foreign policy, which is a pretty strong insult to a child of the '60s with sympathies in the antiwar movement of the Vietnam era.

Don Smith, 69, a retired teacher who joined in Monday's demonstration, was a Vietnam War protester and a Gulf War protester, too.

I asked him if he didn't see a need to go after Osama bin Laden before we are attacked again.

''I think this is a one-shot attack,'' Smith said. ''I don't think he has the resources to do it again right away.''

What are people basing that belief on, wishful thinking? Even if they're right, do we wait until he does have the resources again? This confuses me.

Several of the speakers adopted the Taliban's position that there is no proof linking bin Laden to the Sept. 11 attacks.

I want the same information, but in the interim, I would direct their attention to the indictment previously filed in New York accusing bin Laden of involvement in the bombing of our African embassies. He should have been brought to justice for those attacks long ago.

I'll keep listening to the protesters. After all, peace has to be the end goal, and a tit-for-tat bloodletting won't get us there.

But how can we sit back and wait for another ''tragedy?''

E-mail: markbrown (at)




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