Last Friday, there was a piece in the Washington Post about plans for anti-war protests on March 19, the 2nd anniversary of the Iraq war. The lead pointed to an important and growing constituency in the anti-war movement:
"On Feb. 15, 2003, as millions of people worldwide took to the streets to protest the imminent U.S. invasion of Iraq, Marine Lance Cpl. Michael Hoffman was in Kuwait, awaiting deployment to Baghdad.

"Two years later, Hoffman, 25, is a civilian on the lecture circuit, introducing himself as an Iraq Veteran Against the War. On March 19, when war opponents plan to converge near Fort Bragg in Fayetteville, N.C., to mark the date of the invasion, Hoffman, who co-founded the Iraq veterans group, will be one of the lead speakers.

"'I disagreed with the war before I went over,' said Hoffman, the son of a steelworker from Allentown, Pa. 'But now, I can talk about the reality of war -- what it's really like, the lack of support the troops have, the civilians being killed. The biggest problem with Iraq right now is the occupation.'"
Ending the occupation is the main theme of the national March 19 protests, including the South-wide protest in Fayetteville. This makes sense not only as a way to reach out to military families, but to draw attention to the South's unique role in the military-industrial complex.

As the Institute for Southern Studies has documented, the South is the region most impacted by war -- politically, economically and culturally. Over 40% of the nation's troops come from the South, and 56% are based in Southern states. In 2001, 43% of military contracts went to Southern states.

The protests also come at the right time. As a Harris Poll revealed last week, the public is opening up to withdrawal from Iraq:
[A]lmost six in 10 (59%) adults now favor bringing most troops home in the next year and 39 percent favor keeping a large number of troops in Iraq until there is a stable government there. In November, less than half (47%) favored bringing troops home and half (50%) favored keeping troops in Iraq.
As for Iraq itself, the current elections (which Southerners also had a hand in) may seem to have led to an impasse, but my friend Rahul Mahajan (formerly at the University of Texas, now at NYU, who has travelled to Iraq) sees opportunity for progressives, as he writes in his excellent Empire Notes blog:
Although not perfectly democratic, these elections were a vast improvement not only on the naked U.S. military occupation but on the Allawi dictatorship ... The government now being put into place has the legal authority to expel coalition troops, to conduct its own foreign policy, and to overturn all existing laws, including Paul Bremer's decrees.

It over-represents Kurds, doesn't represent Sunni Arabs much at all, and has only a handful of anti-occupation politicians, even though the vast mass of Sunni and Shi'a Arabs oppose the occupation. By the same token, it includes a mass of figures, from SCIRI, Dawa, and other groups that have serious problems with American rule, with Sistani in the background as a figure who has neither sold out to the occupation nor repudiated it forcefully. ...

Some on the left have seemed to take the elections as a defeat and to think that the phase ahead for the U.S. antiwar movement is going to be much more difficult than it was before. The opposite should be true. The situation right now is this: legally, de jure, the Iraqi government is sovereign and responsive to its people. Practically, de facto, the U.S. military is sovereign and is virtually unresponsive and unaccountable. It is precisely in this disjunction between the de jure and the de facto that some of our most fruitful activism in this country has come ...

The challenges are many, but they start with us overturning the dominant media framework, that classifies all anti-occupation forces as anti-democracy. That is not true. We want the Iraqis' de jure sovereignty and democracy to become de facto as well.
Ensuring our rhetoric matches reality -- that sounds like a good message for March 19 and beyond.