President Bush received the votes from Congress authorizing him to wage war against Iraq. The world is a much less secure place as a result. While the administration threatened and arm-twisted to get the resolution it wanted, it is important to recognize the mass sentiment that has developed against the war drive.

In the House, 133 members voted against the war resolution. That is 132 more votes against going to war than existed a year ago when one sole voice voted no on the war resolution that led us into Afghanistan. In the Senate, 23 voted against the Bush resolution. That is 23 more than voted against war a year ago. This has to be seen as a direct result of the burgeoning peace movement, whose tremendous effort, with vigils, teach-ins, demonstrations, phone calls, postcards, petitions and visits to elected leaders, is what produced the votes opposing war. No elected official, not even the most right-wing Republican, can deny that public opinion in their district was majority anti-war.

What comes next? The demonstrations, vigils and pressure on elected officials must continue. The momentum developed in the last month to oppose war with Iraq must continue and refocus on the upcoming elections. Do we feel betrayed by those Democratic Party representatives and senators who capitulated to pressure and voted for war? Yes. Do we feel frustrated by those who mistakenly believed they could vote for war in hopes of returning the national debate to fighting Bush on domestic issues? Yes. Are we angry that many Republicans and Democrats ignored the mass sentiment for peace in their districts? Yes.

But we cannot sit out the Nov. 5 election. We have no choice but to make this election a nationwide referendum on the Bush agenda. Translating the thousands of calls, postcards and signatures against war with Iraq into votes to defeat the right-wing Bush agenda and its proponents will deliver a powerful statement.

The peace movement should support those who have stood in opposition to the war. It should challenge the inconsistency of those who oppose Bush’s right-wing agenda at home but support it abroad. And those who promote Bush’s agenda must be defeated. The election provides an opportunity to throw a spoke in the wheel of the war machine. While that will not end this administration’s empire-building and drive for world domination, it can impede it and create space for further development of the peace sentiment in the nation.

Remember, Bush started this campaign with the idea that he need not get permission from Congress to go to war. Yet, he was forced to do so. He asked for unanimous support of his war resolution but did not get it. He claimed the right to unilateral action yet was forced to address the UN and still attempts to buy UN cover for his campaign. Every delay he has encountered has created opportunities for furthering the peace movement.

The peace movement has rightly decried the devastation that a war would cause both for Iraqis and Americans. It has exposed the hypocrisy of Bush’s call for bringing democracy to the region, when the U.S. supports the repressive, racist policies of the Israeli government against the Palestinian people. It has exposed this war as a grab for oil spurred by corporate greed. It has exposed the high price of going to war with our economy in a tailspin. However, building a mass peace movement requires linking the struggles on Social Security, health care, education, immigrants’ rights and labor rights with the drive to stop war.

The war planned by the Bush administration is not only against Iraq, but also against the rights and living standards of working people across this nation. Our basic democratic liberties have already been attacked with the Patriot Act. Tax giveaways to the rich are robbing funds from human needs. Bush and the corporate giants he represents are waging all-out war against the right of workers to organize and fight for decent working conditions, living wages and health care. Make no mistake, if this nation goes to war, neither the longshore workers nor any other union will be allowed to strike for their rights – it will be called a breach of national security and unpatriotic.

When we were building the movement to end the war in Vietnam it took years to develop a majority peace sentiment. Today, the pace and destructiveness of war demand that a peace majority develop quickly. And the struggle will not end with stopping this war. A mass peace movement will help develop an independent political movement that can challenge the power of those who side with corporate greed over the needs of working people.

In the words of the great American labor hero Joe Hill: “Don’t Mourn – Organize!”

Organize to defeat Bush’s right-wing agenda on Nov. 5.

Organize to stop war against Iraq.

Organize the peace movement to stop Bush’s war at home and abroad.

Sarah Staggs is chairperson of the Peace and Solidarity Commission of the Communist Party USA. She can be reached at pww@pww.org.

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