Protesters rally in Washington against U.S. support for war
Members of the Communist Party USA and Young Communist League push for peace at the rally in D.C. on Saturday. | Photo via D.C. CPUSA

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Thousands of protesters hit the streets of Washington this weekend to demand that the United States abandon militarism and the use of sanctions against its perceived enemies.

The demonstration took place as the country marked the 20th anniversary of the Iraq invasion in 2003. By some estimates, that war went on to kill as many as three million or more Iraqis, a war for which then-President George W. Bush was never brought up on charges of being a war criminal.

A dossier used by the U.S. and its allies to justify the war alleged that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction. This claim was later debunked in congressional hearings.

Saturday’s protest here included demands for an end to massive U.S. spending on what demonstrators called the “proxy war” with Russia in Ukraine, the abandonment of “militarism and sanctions” directed at countries such as Syria, Cuba, and Venezuela, and massive U.S. aid to Israel to be discontinued.

Demonstrators also denounced the new Cold War with China.

Organizers of the protest said that it aimed to give a warning about the threat of “global war” and the impact that the continued U.S. militarism was having at home as well as around the world.

One demonstrator said: “We commemorated people who have lost their lives in U.S. wars from Afghanistan to Iraq, Somalia, Palestine, and Yemen and called on U.S. officials to stop funding the endless wars.”

Protesters also called out the role of the media in promoting what they called the “U.S. war machine.” They said that since the Iraq War, there has also been a “bipartisan consensus” in support of U.S. militarism, with people ranging from the Biden administration on the one hand and Republican senators like Lindsey Graham, Mitch McConnell, and Marco Rubio, on the other hand, backing the unlimited pouring of weapons into and fanning the flames of war in Ukraine.

Ukraine is also an issue

Regarding the war in Ukraine, demonstrators called for an immediate ceasefire and negotiations.

A CodePink contingent at Washington’s peace rally on Saturday. | Photo via CodePink

The demonstrations came just before China’s leader, Xi Jinping, arrived in Moscow for talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin. China has said it hopes to facilitate peace talks between Russia and Ukraine.

The Biden administration came out Monday openly opposing a ceasefire, claiming that it would freeze in place a Russian victory in the war. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky himself has, unlike the U.S., been unwilling to publicly condemn Chinese peace efforts.

The demonstration in D.C., first publicized by CodePink, followed a similar protest they launched in Chicago on International Women’s Day. The Washington D.C. Club of the Communist Party participated in the Washington march, which ended with a series of speeches to a crowd gathered at New York Avenue Presbyterian Church.

Despite the crowd and its fervor, there may be little impact on Capitol Hill or on the Biden administration, even though the march started in front of the White House while the president was there. Biden has cast the war as a U.S.-led effort to win a victory for world freedom and democracy led by the U.S., NATO, the Pentagon, and Ukraine against the forces of autocracy led by Putin of Russia.

Marchers, through bullhorn chants and with signs, blasted U.S. imperialism, past and current, including U.S. harassment of Cuba, Venezuela, the nations of the Andes, Libya, Syria, Eritrea, Haiti, Mexico, South Yemen, Korea, Palestine, and the Philippines, among others. They also included demands that the U.S., as a major participant in the Ukraine war, engage in talks with Russia. U.S.-backed NATO expansion right up to the borders of Russia was seen by many demonstrators as a major cause of the war in Ukraine.

Marchers reiterated themes that Russia and China were not natural enemies of the U.S. and that the countries should be working together to solve the problems of the world. At least one sign urged Biden to discuss China’s peace plan for Ukraine with Xi Jinping. Marchers also demanded NATO, having outlived its usefulness after the end of the Cold War, be disbanded.

There was support for demands for shifting federal dollars away from the military to human needs and occasional signs demanding reparations for African-Americans in compensation for the centuries of slavery and Jim Crow.

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Mark Gruenberg
Mark Gruenberg

Award-winning journalist Mark Gruenberg is head of the Washington, D.C., bureau of People's World. He is also the editor of the union news service Press Associates Inc. (PAI). Known for his reporting skills, sharp wit, and voluminous knowledge of history, Mark is a compassionate interviewer but tough when going after big corporations and their billionaire owners.

John Wojcik
John Wojcik

John Wojcik is Editor-in-Chief of People's World. He joined the staff as Labor Editor in May 2007 after working as a union meat cutter in northern New Jersey. There, he served as a shop steward and a member of a UFCW contract negotiating committee. In the 1970s and '80s, he was a political action reporter for the Daily World, this newspaper's predecessor, and was active in electoral politics in Brooklyn, New York.