Vox Populi
A Letter to the Editor

How Many Angels can Dance on the Head of the Skeptics?
Monday, March 3, 2003

by Aram Attarian

About the spat over how many people showed up in San Francisco [to protest potential war against Iraq] on the weekend of 2/16:

I concur with and appreciate Mr. Berg-Andersson's response to Fred Onderdonk, who apparently wasnít there, but seems to believe anything the Chronicle (known hereabouts as the ďComicalĒ) prints. Isnít it time to put this urinary olympiad to rest? The numbers argument is a straw man fostered by the politicos and perpetuated by the media. Itís really not an issue important enough to be p***ing all over each other!

Letís look at some facts (pesky critters that they are!) But we never want them to get in the way of a good screed, do we?

1. The most important fact is that a whole s***load of people showed up spontaneously to protest the war. There was no major organizing, advertising, or door to door precinct work done. A whole lot of people were there (me included) A lot is a lot, whether itís 50 thousand or 150 thousand. How many people showed up for the pro-war demos? 300 in Denver. Whoopee!

2. The weather report was for a heavy rainstorm, and we showed up anyway.

3. You want real numbers? BART (our alleged mass transit system) stated, with some degree of accuracy I assure you, that ridership that day was 150,000 more than normal.

4. Who paid for the count? The SF Chronicle. Why? You can bet yer bippie this was not a ďpang of conscienceĒ. You think they were interested in facts? I have some property in Iraq Iíd like to sell you.

OBTW, Pittsburg is about as close to SF as Appalachia is to DC. (physically and culturally).

Look at a map if you think Iím blowing smoke.

Aram Attarian,

Oakland, CA

[Note: expletives asterisked - Ed.]

Mr. Berg-Andersson responds:

Well, as I've already said, the anti-war people here in America are not something to sneeze at: President Bush's public dismissal of them with what has amounted to a mere wave of the hand is, at worst, foolhardy; even at best, it's unnecessarily insulting (there are much more tactful ways for any President to comment on those who might disagree with his policies). Having said that, I still think, as I've also already written, that Bush has his (albeit somewhat reluctant, thus "soft") supermajority of Americans if he wants to go to war against Saddam in the next few weeks: nevertheless, I think it is quite clear that the anti-war movement of moment here in the United States has a rather firm foundation from which it could conceivably begin to well pry away support for the war, especially if Bush waits more than that "next few weeks" before giving the order.

Whatever the public posturing by the White House, it is apparent that the Bush Administration takes the American anti-war movement a lot more seriously than the President himself has let on and that the demonstrations of 15-16 February in this country are certainly among the political factors White House wonks advising Bush have added into the overall 'Go/No Go' equation re: a possible war in Iraq (especially given the 'nasty slap on the ass' rejection by the Turkish parliament, over this past weekend [two weeks after the demonstrations of which Aram Attarian has written, mind you!] of U.S. forces using the territory of our NATO ally Turkey as a base of operations in such a war). Unfortunately for those who oppose this war, I think the Administration's having privately factored in these American demonstrations of disapproval has actually served to more or less speed up the timetable re: the United States going in (which then brings up that of which I wrote toward the end of my 26 February response to Henri-Paul Bolineau where I expressed concern that this kind of "speed-up" might actually increase the chances of making military mistakes once war might be underway).

If George W. Bush is convinced he cannot get a second resolution out of the UN (whether one to his liking-- or even a second resolution to begin with! [recent polls I've seen show that some 7 out of 10 Frenchmen want France to veto any second UN resolution]) and, in addition, he also sees the impending risk of hemorrhaging the even "soft" supermajority of Americans who would show however reluctant support for the war- at least during its earlier phases, he'll be that much more likely to 'Go'-- sooner and, perhaps, even at a double-time pace!


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