DETROIT — Peace Action, the nation’s largest grassroots peace organization, held its National Congress here July 14-15 and November’s elections were a topic throughout.
In her keynote to the meeting, Rep. Lynn Woolsey (D-Calif.) said the Bush administration has turned Iraq into a killing field. “The insurgency derives its strength from the post-Saddam U.S. invasion; the war cannot be won,” said Woolsey. She outlined an approach to bringing the troops home using diplomacy, multinational forces under the jurisdiction of the United Nations, giving up our design for both Iraqi oil and using Iraq land for permanent military bases, and an international peace commission to oversee reconciliation.
She noted the awful irony that the CIA recently closed the office in charge of searching for Osama Bin Laden while our presence in a country that had no weapons of mass destruction continues.
Receiving a Lifetime Achievement Award for his work on peace and justice was Rep. John Conyers (D-Mich.). In accepting his award, Conyers noted that if you achieve peace, you also have the opportunity to improve race relations, realize a full employment economy and social justice. He said the peace movement must put everything it has into the upcoming November elections because our nation is at a “crossroads.”
We have to work in a way that brings people along who were not with us before but who are now realizing how dangerous this president is, said Conyers.
In the plenary panel on “Empowering the Peace Majority in the 2006 Elections,” Michigan Peace Action leader Al Fishman said the most important task facing the peace movement is the election of a Democratic majority in Congress. While noting that the Democratic Party, except for the 60-plus members of the Progressive Caucus, is definitely not a peace party, Fishman said the Republican Party has been captured by “the most reactionary cabal to take power in our nation’s history.”
A Democratic majority in the House would, among other things, he said, make John Conyers chair of the House Judiciary Committee, and it would create a national dialogue on both what led us into war and the need to curtail presidential authority.
Fishman raised critical questions regarding Peace Action’s “Peace Voter” pledge (which asks voters to only vote for candidates that have spoken out against the war) and was concerned it could result in continued Republican domination.
Rep. Conyers returned to the conference for the elections panel and seconded Fishman’s remarks. Conyers said one’s political view needs to be expansive, all-inclusive, and “we shouldn’t separate domestic policy from foreign policy.” Republicans are running a political-criminal conspiracy and we must do all we can to change Congress, he urged. If we were to lose this November and not pick up the 15 seats needed for a Democratic majority, Conyers said, a lot of people would “give up the ghost.” He indicated even so-called moderate Republicans, with whom he can have a “civil discussion,” end up marching lockstep with their far-right colleagues on almost all issues.
Conyers voiced doubts about the notion of beginning impeachment proceedings should Democrats win the majority. “Do we really want to tie-up the first six months when the critical task will be to grow the majority and begin to deal with the crisis affecting people’s lives?” he asked.
Discussion on the Peace Voter pledge focused on using it in a broad way to both mobilize peace voters and pressure candidates to take better positions. Paul Kawika Martin, Peace Action’s PAC director, said the voter pledge is “an organizing tool, not a blood oath.” As one participant said, when Election Day comes and you are faced with two choices, not voting becomes an endorsement of the status quo.
Affiliates of Peace Action are already active in 42 races throughout the country.