Anti-war movement struggles with conflict and the notion of patriotism

Monday, September 17th 2001, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

WASHINGTON (AP) _ Chuck Yancey has never liked America. At age 24, he has been arrested six times in the rioting and calamity of protests from Philadelphia to Seattle. He thinks his fellow Americans are arrogant, the government underhanded.

Nothing that happened Tuesday changed any of that.

Now he is cutting wood, buying posterboard and scribbling angry words on new signs that will denounce whatever military action the United States might take to combat terrorists.

``We have to acknowledge that the anger that we saw Tuesday didn't come from nowhere,'' said Yancey, a recent graduate of George Washington University. ``There are things that we have done in the past that have yielded this evil. Nothing excuses the horrible act, but it makes a peaceful response more important.''

While recent polls suggest Americans seem to overwhelmingly support military action, some of those who have made a lifestyle of protesting against the nation and its institutions are willing to do so again.

Others are finding they just can't criticize the United States now.

Said Justin White, 28, who took to the streets to protest at President Bush's inauguration: ``I don't like Bush or his policies, but I feel the need to support him now. We are all Americans and we all have to support each other.''

Still others are finding it difficult to determine where they will stand.

Jeffrey Sommers, a professor at North Georgia College and State University, said he walks the fine line. He feels obligated to point out why people in some Middle East nations hate the United States so passionately. He accepts that some students will see it as unpatriotic _ he received threats when he spoke against the Persian Gulf War in 1991.

``I think in part it comes out of my deep sorrow,'' Sommers said. ``There is no way to justify what happened. The people who did it should be punished. At the same time, we've created and engendered such hostilities with our policies over five decades. You can't just turn the spigot off with violence.''

Those who agree with Sommers point to evidence that the United States sent money and arms to Islamic fundamentalists in Afghanistan when they fought against Soviet control in the 1980s. Osama bin Laden was among them.

America has always been a dichotomy of patriotism _ some who feel they are doing their duty when they support, other when they condemn. The symbols struck Tuesday have been the target of protest by the anti-globalization movement for years.

Some believe the twin attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon change things.

``I can't stand against the country on this one,'' said John Thomas, who protested at the Democratic National Convention and Bush's inauguration. ``This is a threat to the very existence of our country and I stand with every Republican here ... maybe for the first time.''

Others have already condemned what they believe America will do next.

Historian and author Howard Zinn said, ``It is in the nature of bombing to be indiscriminate.''

``Will we then be committing terrorism in order to 'send a message' to terrorists? Yes, it is an old way of thinking, and we need new ways.''

The International Action Center, a group of thousands who have protested at political conventions and push for human rights, issued a statement against any violence.

``The IAC urges all anti-war activists to remain on highest alert in opposing the Bush administration and the Pentagon's plan to use this crisis as the springboard for a new round of aggression in the Third World,'' the statement said.

Those sentiments are already angering some Americans who feel words of protest are unpatriotic.

``How dare people who live here and benefit from being here talk against this great nation,'' said Michael Banefield, a 57-year-old mechanic in Washington. ``They are hurting this nation and taking for granting all the things they have here.''

No anti-war protests have been reported. And the International Monetary Fund and World Bank, which were expected to be the target of protests at a Washington meeting late this month, have postponed that gathering, according to officals.