Groups who traditionally form the bedrock of conscience at difficult and dangerous times are organizing to stop the Bush administration’s drive for war. In fact, most say the polls do not reflect what is becoming a rising tide of questions about the use of military force in Iraq.
The growing peace sentiments are reflected in resolutions, congressional lobbing, demonstrations and vigils by churches, peace groups and unions who say no to war in Iraq.
The 70,000-member California Federation of Teachers (CFT) unanimously passed a resolution, Sept. 21, saying, “Whereas, a war with Iraq would require the re-direction of vital resources and funds to a destructive, senseless, and illegal goal while further strengthening an administration that has restricted the civil liberties of its citizens.”
CFT President Mary Bergan told the World in a phone interview, “We’re facing problems all over and going to war isn’t going to make it any better.” The resolution will be shared with the California congressional delegation and the state AFL-CIO at its next meeting.
Other labor councils and union locals passed similar resolutions. The International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU) Local 10 passed a resolution citing its opposition to the 1991 war in Iraq and highlighting that “under the guise of national security Bush will attempt to recruit unions to his war drive for big oil companies,” and that the issue of national security is also being used by the Bush administration and the local’s employers to undermine their ongoing contract negotiations.
Washington State Labor Council urged the AFL-CIO to oppose the U.S. government’s open-ended war on terrorism with participation in demonstrations and lobbying “to pressure President Bush and Congress to stop the war and redirect money from corporate handouts and the military budget to assist laid-off workers, restore and expand public services and promote global justice by providing humanitarian and economic aid, administered by unions, to our brothers and sisters in other countries.”
The labor statements highlight the shift in public opinion.
Dramatizing the need for more visibility of the anti-war feelings, Scott Lynch, communication director for Peace Action, told the World, “The grassroots has to keep hammering on their senators. From the VFW to the traditional left community, people have very strong doubts about the wisdom of starting a war in the Middle East. They understand it’s unstable there and war inherently makes things less stable.”
U.S. history is proving to be a big factor in today’s public opinion avalanche. Wilson “Woody” Powell, national administrator for Veterans for Peace (VFP), told the World, “Viet Nam vets are saying deja vu all over again.”
Powell, who educates groups on war, said people are looking at the long term impact of a war. “A lot [of people] are getting a feeling of fear, that there is something looming in their midst, not just coming from overseas, that is very dangerous and critical to the survival of this country.”
Many in the religious community are mobilizing against the pre-emptive strike philosophy guiding the Bush strategy. National Council of Churches General Secretary Rev. Bob Edgar, a former 11-term congressman, and the Churches for a Middle East Peace sent a letter to Bush signed by 48 Christian church denominations.
Detroit Auxiliary Bishop Thomas Gumbleton made one of the most dramatic calls to action at the National Assembly of Pax Christi. He called on the 600 assembled to sign a pledge of resistance and commit to civil disobedience to stop the war.
“The war in the Persian Gulf in 1991 was an unjust war, condemned by Pope John Paul II. Any new war against Iraq will be an unjust war. … when you sign that pledge you really are saying, ‘I am ready to get out in the streets and do civil disobedience if they attack,’” he said.
The call for civil disobedience has spurred on other religious and peace groups to join Pax Christi and many other groups to organize civil disobedience in cities across the country Oct. 3-7.
But the question remains, can we prevent this war?
“The answer is yes, but …,” said Joe Volk, executive secretary of the Friends Committee on National Legislation, “it won’t happen unless tens of thousands of U.S. citizens work in concert in the next two weeks to deter or defeat vote for war. The opposition span the political spectrum. … Our solution is to mobilize voters to give voice to their opposition now.”
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