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Gary Younge
Marching into the mainstream

So is there anyone left who seriously still thinks invading Iraq was a good idea? A CNN/USA Today poll yesterday showed 57% of Americans believe going to Iraq was a mistake. Given that psephologists say Americans' attitude to wars is guided primarily by whether they think the US will win, these figures tell us more about how they think events in Iraq will pan out in the future than the morality of what has happened so far.

So we approach the third anniversary of the invasion with public support in the US haemorrhaging just as the Bush Administration needs it most. Iraq is already embroiled in a bloody civil war. Since the Americans precipitated it they cannot solve it. Indeed, the only thing Sunnis and Shias agree on is that they want the Americans out.

"We are all capable of believing things which we know to be untrue," wrote George Orwell in his essay In Front of Your Nose. "And then, when we are finally proved wrong, impudently twisting the facts so as to show that we were right. Intellectually, it is possible to carry on this process for an indefinite time: the only check on it is that sooner or later a false belief bumps up against solid reality, usually on a battlefield."

And so it is that Bush's only response to this escalating crisis is to keep up the rhetoric and deny the reality - the very flaws that got us into this mess in the first place. "The enemies of a free Iraq are determined, yet so are the Iraqi people, and so are America and coalition partners," he said yesterday, as though the polls were conducted in another country entirely. "We will not lose our nerve."

Such detachment from the facts on the ground, both in Iraq and at home, exposes the political weakness of those who continue to back the war (their moral frailty was laid bare long ago). Yet the anti-war movement has yet to display the full potential of its own consequent strength.

The anti-war demonstrations in London this weekend and elsewhere over coming weeks are particularly important at this time and should be welcomed. But if the last three years have proved anything it is that our ability to mobilise huge numbers against the war on both sides of the Atlantic is not in doubt. What we have yet to do is find an effective political expression that goes beyond articulating their discontent to making it matter. We have had our moments, in Spain and isolated constituencies in the UK. But given our numbers and momentum our presence has remained marginal even as our arguments have become mainstream.

As the situation in Iraq moves to the next level so should we. The marches are important; but what we need now is a movement.

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