'YES, BUT what do you think it achieves?' If you took part in the marches and demonstrations against the Vietnam War in the 1960s, this was a question that you would be asked over and over again. It didn't come from people in favour of the US bombing peasant farmers but from people who were, let's say, uneasy.
They were uneasy about what the US was doing, but they were also uneasy about doing anything about it. Now, over 30 years later, some of the people I remember as uneasily inactive (or were they inactively uneasy?) will tell you how they opposed the Vietnam War. It's as if they think of their minds as film projectors and they project their thoughts onto a screen that the whole world notices.
They think they were the opposition to the war because they sat at home sympathising. Well, here we are again. Once again the US seems desperate to carry out a war for reasons beyond the logic of the war itself. In Vietnam it was because of what they called the 'domino effect'. They argued that if they let Vietnam go Communist, the whole of South East Asia would go Communist too.
This would put the resources and markets of that part of the world beyond the control of the multinational companies. What's more, the power of the US to organise the world's markets to suit its own economy would be threatened.
Something similar is going on this time. Is there anyone left in the world who thinks that a war in Iraq would be simply and only about its weapons?
Once again, we all know that what's really at stake are resources and US power. And don't we know that whenever any country wants to own and control the resources of another country that it has to do it through blackmail, bribery, war-or all three?
This means that when we oppose the war, we end up opposing something much more than the violence, bloodshed, terror and devastation that is war. We become part of opposing the kind of politics that says that Western capitalism rules OK.
The funny thing is that even though some people who are against the war don't know this, you can bet your life that our governments do. This government, tied as it is into US power, militarism and wealth, desperately needs support for this war. And if it can't have support it'll settle for non-opposition.
This is what they mean by Western democracy. It's becoming clearer by the day that they'll wage war even if the opinion polls are against them. What's not so clear is that it'll be able to cope if the streets of all our cities are full of hundreds of thousands marching to oppose the war. When we were asked by the inactively uneasy about what the marching was achieving in the 1960s, I'll admit, there were times when it wasn't immediately obvious.
The war dragged on. American presidents and generals often sounded so triumphant. But the truth is the US lost, and Britain didn't send troops. Of course it was the incredible resistance of the Vietnamese that is a major part of the story.
But alongside that was the persistence of street demonstrations all over the world-what governments call 'the threat of disorder'-and the decline in morale of the US troops.
That's our job now-to turn unease into action, and action into a threat to the way military power is being used to prop up economic exploitation.