In South Lake Union, colorful but ominous World War II-style vintage posters are wheat-pasted to the side of the old, empty Richmond Laundry building. One depicts an atom bomb, while another shows the hands of Uncle Sam, a businessman, and a soldier linked together. At first glance, the posters are simply nostalgic glimpses of America 60 years ago. But upon closer inspection--noting phrases like "Let's roll!" and "Korea, you're next!" integrated into the designs--you'll find that the fliers are actually homegrown agitprop against the Iraq War.

Why are faux World War II propaganda posters cropping up in Seattle to protest a modern-day war? "In World War II, Americans were asked to sacrifice: to give up gasoline, food, rubber, steel, and copper for the war effort," says the poster project's mastermind. In today's war on terrorism, he says, Americans are similarly asked to sacrifice things. Only this time, he says, people are giving up civil liberties, security, and free speech.

The posters--250 in seven designs springing from actual WWII-era government propaganda posters, including one with an atom-bomb mushroom cloud urging "Stay prepared!"--were pasted up January 15 in South Lake Union, Belltown, downtown, and Pioneer Square by eight anonymous activists. "The U.S.'s involvement in the Middle East doesn't have the same visibility that it did at the beginning of the war," says the posterers' spokesperson, a twentysomething grad student. Protests have died down, and once-raucous antiwar groups are eerily quiet. So his group--folks in their 20s and 30s whose political leanings are "somewhere between anarchist and the liberal Democratic ideal"--tried to grab attention via subtly co-opted art instead of a run-of-the-mill march. "It's meant to be more evocative than just stating a political message. We hope that contemplation [of the posters] will lead people towards a critique of the war."

Though the group is informal--it doesn't have an official name--its spokesperson says members hope to perform other political actions. "We're thinking about that right now. We're interested in more public art," he says. "I don't like the term 'guerrilla art,' though; it sounds more radical than it is."

amy@thestranger.com

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