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Rebuilding Iraq

ANTIWAR PROTEST

US activists join anti-American boycott

By Tatsha Robertson , Globe Staff, 4/9/2003

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Patrick Baggott stopped buying grocery at mainstream markets and decided to buy a Japanese car instead of the American-made sport utility vehicle he had been eyeing. He will not buy his clothes at the local mall, either. Goodwill will have to do.

Why spend his money on US products, said Baggott, when the country is spending so much on a war he is passionately against.

Baggott, a 55-year-old resident of Hampton, Va., counts himself among a number of American activists boycotting American goods and corporations as a new form of war protest.

Antiwar protesters pushing a national boycott say that US corporations hurt by boycotts will put pressure on the Bush administration.

But with the slow economy, and a boycott of American products in other countries spreading, a domestic boycott appears to be questionable, even to other American antiwar protesters.

Some wonder whether Americans boycotting American products is likely to have any long-term impact on corporations, and others worry that a boycott could hurt the country's workers.

"That is an argument that we occasionally hear, and those of us calling for a boycott have done so with a certain amount of reluctance," said Baggott, chairman of Global Boycott for Peace, an international coalition behind the campaign. "But the reason we feel there should be a boycott is the enormity of the problem."

The problem, said other protesters, is that President Bush has not paid attention to public opinion or the United Nations, which did not endorse a US-led war in Iraq.

Sukh Chugh, executive director of bethecause.org, said the Los Angeles-based organization is targeting such corporations as Kraft, Pepsi, Exxon Mobil, and United Parcel Service.

"The reason we are boycotting these companies is because they made significantly large financial contributions to" Bush, he said. "What we are doing is holding these corporations accountable for these policies and for electing this administration that is waging an unjust war."

Chugh added, "We have to take responsibility. Everyday consumer purchasing habits play a role in the decision companies make and how much suffering that goes on this planet.

"We have to take ownership of that. Yes, these corporations have to be held accountable for who they are supporting, and we as individuals have to be held accountable for who we are supporting. "

While Michael Letwin,

cochairman of New York Labor Against the War, said he did not see anything wrong with Americans boycotting American corporations or products, he also said such tactics must be targeted to be effective.

"... I can understand their emphasis, given this terrible war. The problem is a more practical one," said Letwin.

He said protesters must target specific companies with ties to the war or the president.

He said the targets must be chosen for practical reasons, explaining that boycotting a company that makes weapons might not be effective because the company does not thrive on consumer spending.

Bob Wing, a member of United for Peace and Justice, an antiwar group based in New York, said another problem is that it is difficult to know the national identity of a global corporation.

While protesters from Toronto to Paris have been boycotting US companies, the campaign led by Americans is small by comparison, and some sympathizers predict it will have minimal impact.

But, others worry that American workers will ultimately be hurt.

"You don't want to hurt workers, but you need to look at ways to put economic pressure on groups," Letwin said. "The problem is in my view you need to make it effective. It can't be some kind of general statement on your principals or you won't have an effect."

This story ran on page A27 of the Boston Globe on 4/9/2003.
© Copyright 2003 Globe Newspaper Company.





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