Bring em home: Veterans, lawmakers, unionists, women tell Bush to listen up

WASHINGTON — Determined to stand with the American people, Rep. Lynn Woolsey (D-Calif.) and leaders of the antiwar movement blasted President Bush for refusing in his State of the Union speech Jan. 23 to heed the people’s will and bring the troops home from Iraq.

Woolsey told a crowded National Press Club news conference that she and other lawmakers would join hundreds of thousands in the Jan. 27 march on Washington to demand that Congress act to end the war.

Bush “continues to ignore the voices of the American public who voted on Nov. 7 not just for a new majority party but for a change in our Iraq policy,” the congresswoman said.

Just one day after Bush’s speech to a joint session of the House and Senate, Congress was moving toward condemning his decision to deploy 21,500 more troops to Iraq, through a bipartisan nonbinding resolution. As many as eight Republicans are expected to support the resolution.

Woolsey and fellow California Democratic Reps. Barbara Lee and Maxine Waters introduced HR 508, the “Bring the Troops Home and Sovereignty of Iraq Restoration Act,” last week. The binding legislation would remove U.S. troops over six months while insuring full health and educational benefits for U.S. soldiers when they get home. It also provides for a massive program to rebuild Iraq from the devastation inflicted in four years of war.

United for Peace and Justice Coordinator Leslie Cagan denounced Bush’s plea for patience to allow his escalation plan “time to work.” The speech “was really ‘stay the course’ … more war, occupation, death, destruction and spending of our tax dollars,” she said.

Some 150 local unions in Baltimore, Philadelphia, New York and Pittsburgh have chartered buses to attend the march, announced Fred Mason, president of the Maryland-D.C. AFL-CIO and co-convener of U.S. Labor Against the War.

He praised recent statements by AFL-CIO President John Sweeney, AFSCME President Gerald McEntee and Service Employees International Union President Andy Stern “condemning President Bush’s call for a troop surge in Iraq.”

Many unionists, veterans themselves, are determined to end this war, he said. Labor is also taking the war issue “into workplaces to talk directly with workers.”

Mason called on the Congress “to resist the bullying tactics of President Bush.” An overwhelming majority of the people, he said, “do not want a surge in the death and violence in Iraq.”

Mason also blasted Bush’s State of the Union speech for not mentioning devastated New Orleans and the Gulf Coast even as he is preparing to ask for $150 billion more for the Iraq war.

“It exposes how our top leaders really feel about people of color,” Mason said. “Black people are denied resources. Suicide rates have soared,” and instead of jobs rebuilding New Orleans “youth are recruited into the military or fill our prisons. Katrina and New Orleans is pretty much the tip of the iceberg,” he said.

Women’s organizations like the National Organization for Women will be marching with their sisters and brothers in the labor and antiwar movements. Olga Vives, NOW vice president, said women also voted for change, “not more of the same.”

“We are confronted with the president’s clear defiance of the voters, of a majority in Congress,” she said, despite the enormous human cost of the war. “It seems that only Halliburton, Bechtel and other military contractors have benefited.”

Former Maine Congressman Tom Andrews, executive director of Win Without War, said Congress “cannot dodge and weave around its responsibility by passing nonbinding legislation.”

He vowed that the movement “will not rest until they pass binding legislation to end this war.” He debunked Bush’s talk of “supporting the troops.”

“The idea that to bring our troops out of harm’s way is not supporting the troops is just outrageous. Sending them into the quagmire — that is not supporting the troops.”

He added, “The president likes to talk about his support for democracy and spreading it around the world. He is going to see what democracy looks like this Saturday.”

greenerpastures21212 @ yahoo.com

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