A Look Back at the Peace Movement’s Response to the Gulf War

It is safe to say that the peace movement’s largest cam­paign in the past decade took place around oppo­si­tion to the mil­i­tary build-up and con­flict in the Per­sian Gulf in 1990 – 1. New peo­ple became involved, old peaceniks became reac­ti­vat­ed and every peace group in the coun­try went into over­drive to orga­nize and edu­cate about the issues.

Recent­ly I have heard sev­er­al peo­ple bemoan the fail­ure of the peace move­ment dur­ing that peri­od, a fail­ure because the war wasn’t stopped. But there were suc­cess­es beyond anyone’s wildest dreams. The week the war start­ed saw two mas­sive protests in Wash­ing­ton. It took almost a decade of involve­ment in Viet­nam before protests that large were ever seen. The peace move­ment mobi­lized incred­i­bly quick­ly and (in ret­ro­spect) effi­cient­ly, and we sure­ly defined the options avail­able to U.S. Pres­i­dent Bush.

The after­math of the war brought a cri­sis to many orga­ni­za­tions. Their fundrais­ing efforts dried up and bud­get deficits led to cut­backs in staff and pro­gram out­reach. It was as if a sort of pub­lic amne­sia set in and no one want­ed to think about peace. This is a nat­ur­al human response per­haps, but it’s rever­ber­a­tions on the infra­struc­ture of the peace move­ment con­tin­ue to this day.

Let’s start a dia­logue about the peace move­ments response to the Gulf War. What were it’s effects on your lives and the orga­ni­za­tions you were a part of? Was the peace move­ment a suc­cess, a fail­ure, or some­thing in between?