Organizing Notes

Bruce Gagnon is coordinator of the Global Network Against Weapons & Nuclear Power in Space. He offers his own reflections on organizing and the state of America's declining empire....

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Location: Brunswick, Maine, United States

I'll be taking an 'unpaid leave of absence' from my job at the Global Network from December 15-March 15, 2020 in order to help my friend Lisa Savage on her campaign for the US Senate in Maine. She's running as a Maine Green Independent Party member and needs to gather 2,000 petition signatures of registered Greens during that period. I'll be back to GN after March 15.

Thursday, March 29, 2007

WHAT IS IRAQ STRATEGY FOR PEACE MOVEMENT NOW?

So the question on people's minds is "what do we do now to stop the occupation of Iraq?"

After the House Democrats passed their very weak bill last Friday, and the Senate just passed an even weaker one, should the peace movement continue to press the Democrats? What is the alternative strategy? Give up and move onto some other issue?

Phyllis Bennis from the Institute for Policy Studies has just done an analysis of the House bill. Here are some key points she makes:

  • Congress is not the peace movement. So the peace movement must stay unified on our principles and our demands, in the face of congressional waffling and "realistic" pragmatism, unfortunately promoted by one influential part of our movement [MoveOn]. Whatever they do, we must stay consistent on demanding an end to the U.S. occupation: de-funding (not re-funding) the war, and bringing home (not redeploying) all (not just some) of the troops (including the mercenaries). The longstanding AFSC slogan has it right: "Not one more death, not one more dollar." That means STOP funding the war. STOP allowing Bush to send more U.S. troops to kill more Iraqis and be killed in the process. Just stop.

  • The Democratic leadership in the House claims the $125 billion supplemental is the way to end the war. Something passed in the Senate may include some of the same claims. Aside from setting a date for bringing home troops, the House version included a number of items many in the peace movement would ordinarily support -- veterans' health benefits, Katrina survivors' assistance, children's health insurance ...So if there's a time line, what's the problem with the supplemental? Why shouldn't peace activists support it? Because it gives President Bush another $100 billion to continue the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. And it doesn't end the occupation or prevent expansion of the war to Iran.

  • WHAT IT DOES: It calls for pulling out some troops from Iraq by August 2008.

BUT: It exempts whole categories of troops from the withdrawal ...Troops "training the Iraqi military" can stay -- currently 6,000, perhaps as many as 20,000 (no limit in the supplemental). Troops engaged in "special operations" can stay -- the Marines say they want 20,000 for Anbar Province alone, perhaps as many as 40,000 for the whole country (no limit in the supplemental). Troops "protecting diplomatic enclaves" like the huge Green Zone and the US Embassy, the largest in the world, and maybe including the numerous US bases established in Iraq, can stay -- 20,000 is a conservative number (no limit in the supplemental). That means Bush could keep unlimited numbers, perhaps 60,000-80,000 troops, permanently in Iraq -- and still be in compliance with the bill. And the bill does not require that the troops withdrawn from Iraq be sent home; they can be immediately deployed to Afghanistan, or to bases in surrounding Arab countries, or to ships in the Persian Gulf -- or be used to attack Iran.

  • WHAT IT DOES: It imposes restrictions on Pentagon deployments, prohibiting the deployment of troops not fully trained, not adequately equipped, and not adequately rested between deployments.

BUT: It includes a waiver for President Bush to simply state his intention to override those restrictions, allowing him to send in as many untrained, badly equipped and exhausted troops as he wishes.

  • WHAT IT DOES: Prohibit construction of new permanent bases in Iraq.

BUT: It does nothing to close the existing permanent bases the U.S. has built across Iraq and includes billions for "military construction" presumably for those existing bases.

  • WHAT IT DOES: Require Iraq's government to pass a new oil law.

BUT: The law being debated in the parliament abandons Iraq's long history of maintaining control of its oil resources in favor of allowing international (especially U.S.) oil companies to take control of large sectors of the vital oil industry.

  • WHAT IT DOES: Cut 10% of the funding for private military contractors.

BUT: It allows 90% of the 100,000 or so mercenaries who fight alongside the U.S. military to remain in Iraq.

  • WHAT IT DOESN'T DO: The supplemental does not prohibit an unprovoked attack on Iran. The supplemental does not end the occupation of Iraq.

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So I can only come to the conclusion that the job of the peace movement in Maine and beyond remains the following:

  • Continue to escalate non-violent public protests calling on Bush and the Congress to bring the troops home now and to cut all funding for the occupation.
  • Continue to organize Congressional office occupations of Republicans and Democrats who keep voting to fund the war.
  • Keep writing letters to the newspapers and name those politicians (from both parties) that keep funding the occupation.
  • Understand that creating positive non-violent conflict in our communities over this issue is just what we need to do. When "liberals" start publicly complaining that the peace movement needs to stop "picking on" our local Democratic congressman, who says he is against the war but keeps voting for the funding, that means we are driving the necessary debate in our community. That is a good thing and should be continued.

I am preparing to reenter my congressman's office in coming weeks to once again do a sit-in. His vote last week to fund another $100 billion for the Iraq occupation is unacceptable. And now we learn that the Democrats in Congress are preparing legislation to fund the occupation by $150 billion for 2008 and another $50 billion in 2009. So I have no doubt that the Democrats are planning to continue the occupation even after George W. Bush is out of office!

I maintain that it is wrong for peace activists to be loyal first to a political party - and thus do the bidding of the Democrats. Real peace activists are loyal to the grassroots struggle to end the war, cut the funding, and utilize the $8.5 billion a month that is now wasted in Iraq for social spending and job creation back here at home.

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