Peace Movement Pushes for End to War on Iraq 

By David Swanson

As news stories are leading those still aware of the
war on Iraq to believe it's over, it was encouraging to
see Busboys and Poets restaurant in Washington, D.C.,
packed Sunday evening for a four-hour forum on actions
needed to actually end that war, make reparations, and
deter future wars of aggression.  The event was
advertised with the following description:

"Is the U.S. military really leaving Iraq or just
rebranding? What is the toll of seven years of
occupation on Iraqis, U.S. soldiers and our economies?
What is the status of Iraqi refugees around the world?
Is it still possible to hold accountable those who
dragged us into the war or committed crimes such as
torture? What role did Congress and the media play in
facilitating the invasion/occupation? We'll also look
at the role of the peace movement -- its strengths and
weaknesses -- and draw key lessons to make our work for
peace, including in Afghanistan, more effective."

Serving as moderators for the event were Andy Shallal,
an Iraqi artist and the owner of Busboys and Poets, and
Felicia Eaves, a peace activist.  The event began with
playwright and performer Kymone Tecumseh Freeman
reading from "Letters from Iraq," which set the tone
for the event with the view of the crime scene from one
of its participants, a U.S. soldier.

The first of two panels included: Phyllis Bennis,
Institute for Policy Studies Raed Jarrar, Peace Action
Manal Omar, author Gene Bruskin, US Labor Against the

This first panel focused on the perspective of Iraqis
and the state of the disaster in Iraq.  Bennis gave her
usual excellent overview.  I say usual because of
course we've been holding these events for a decade
now, but Bennis provided new reason for energetic
engagement by describing plans for a major march on
Washington on October 2nd that will bring the peace
movement together with those focused on jobs and
economic justice, something that's been badly needed
since before the current wars began, as the funding of
global militarism has been hollowing our country out
from the inside.  See:

Raed Jarrar rebutted the idea that Iraqis are in any
way grateful for what the United States has done to
their country.  Iraqis, he said, see this invasion as
the 21st foreign invasion of their country and as evil
as any of the other 20.  As all the panel's speakers
made clear, Iraq is now in worse shape than in 2003. 
There's no safety, no electricity, no water, and
millions of Iraqis are unwelcome in the nations they've
fled to but unable to return home.  The Iraq of the
1980s with its advances in education and women's rights
is long gone.  Manal Omar described grandmothers with
college education and foreign travel whose
granddaughters are illiterate and have never been far
from their homes.  Gene Bruskin described the heroic
efforts of Iraqi workers to organize, claim their
rights, and block the privatization of resources -- the
efforts to privatize being a key reason why Iraqis
still lack electricity.  Jarrar stressed that Iraqis
want a fully sovereign national government to provide
their nation's services.  They want electricity, but do
not want it in the way the government overseen by the
United States wants to provide it.

Jarrar was very hopeful about the new Iraqi Parliament,
expecting strong resistance to the occupation, but he
also argued that there are no grounds to complain that
the occupation isn't ending now, that it is supposed to
end by December 31, 2011.  Jarrar seemed fully
confident that, in some sense, the occupation would end
by that date, although leaving behind a major presence
in the form of the world's largest embassy, additional
consulates, and soldiers and mercenaries whose presence
would be justified as guarding those locations. 
However, Bennis pointed out that Congress played no
role in the creation of the unconstitutional treaty
through which Bush and Maliki set the deadline for
complete withdrawal, giving reason to question our
ability to properly enforce compliance with it,
assuming -- as I do -- that such enforcement will in
fact be needed.

Congresswoman Donna Edwards spoke next.  She raised a
fear I share that between now and the end of next year
President Obama will attempt to put in place a new
treaty to extend the occupation.  She also spoke of the
upcoming elections.  I wish she'd advocated electing
congress members who would defund the wars, or even
Democratic congress members who would defund the wars. 
Instead she advocated electing Democrats because a
Democratic majority would make all the difference.  My
concern is that we have had that majority in the House
for the past five years.  We have 115 congress members
who will oppose war funding, 103 of them Democrats.  We
need to build those numbers, I think, more than any
others.  And we need to establish our ability to follow
through on commitments to unelect those who vote for
the war funding.

Head-Roc, a hip-hop artist, performed next, his subject
matter dealing with the attacks on public school
funding, affordable housing, and child care in
Washington, D.C., and the rest of this country -- the
areas defunded by the funding of wars, tax cuts for the
wealthy, and the rest of the corporate agenda driving
our government.

The second and last panel included: Josh Stieber, Iraq
Veterans Against the War David Swanson, author Bill
Fletcher, labor leader, scholar Medea Benjamin,
CODEPINK and Global Exchange

Stieber discussed, from the point of view of a soldier
who believed the war lies and came to reject them, the
incoherence of the bundle of excuses for this war that
we've all been offered.  On the one hand this is a war
to kill evil Muslims.  On the other hand it's a war to
spread human rights.  We help people out by bombing
them, something Stieber said many U.S. soldiers end up
joking about, most of them quickly losing any belief in
the morality of their cause.

I argued for voting out of office those who fund the
wars, and for holding the war makers criminally and
constitutionally responsible, including through
launching an effort to impeach Jay Bybee and open up a
congressional review of war lies and the crime of

Bill Fletcher picked up where Head-Roc had left off,
arguing for the need to make peace not just a
preference people have when a pollster asks them, but
something that resonates with them as central to the
betterment of their daily lives.  He pointed to the
Chicano Moratorium exactly 40 years earlier as a
movement to learn from.

Medea Benjamin inspired, as always, with tales of
recent activism by CODE PINK to oppose the war funding,
to build alliances, and to hold accountable war
criminals including Karl Rove and Erik Prince.  And she
pushed for participation on a massive scale in the
march on October 2nd:

Sunday's event, which benefitted from lots of questions
and participation from everyone in the room, was
sponsored by the wonderful organizations CODEPINK,
Peace Action, Institute for Policy Studies, Fellowship
of Reconciliation, Global Exchange, Just Foreign
Policy, Veterans for Peace, Iraq Veterans Against the
War, Military Families Speak Out, Progressive Democrats
of America (PDA), U.S. Labor Against the War, ANSWER,
World Can't Wait, Voices for Creative Nonviolence, War
is a Crime, Rivera Project, and the Washington Peace


David Swanson is the author of "Daybreak: Undoing the
Imperial Presidency and Forming a More Perfect Union" 


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