Indefatigable peace leader readies for big teleconference

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CHICAGO - Judith LeBlanc has been working non-stop over the last 10 years to end U.S.wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

LeBlanc is motivated by a bigger vision to completely change "national spending priorities from wars and weapons to funding jobs, human services, and diplomacy."

LeBlanc, a veteran of decades of organizing for workers rights, equality and peace, is national field director for U.S. Peace Action which, with a membership of 90,000, is the largest peace organization in the country.

People's World readers will have a unique opportunity to hear LeBlanc first hand via teleconference Tuesday, April 16, 8:00 p.m. Eastern, 7:00 p.m. Central, 6:00 p.m. Mountain, 5:00 p.m. Pacific.

Call (605) 475-4850

Dial 1053538# when prompted

Despite great difficulties, LeBlanc sees tremendous opportunities to change the debate in the country and demilitarize the economy and U.S. foreign policy.

Prioritizing cuts to the Pentagon budget has taken on a new urgency since President Obama announced a federal budget proposals that include cuts to Social Security even though it has nothing to do with the federal budget deficit.

Although somewhat split, the public prefers cutting Pentagon spending to cutting social benefits and programs.

LeBlanc acknowledges redirecting funding from the Pentagon budget is a tough battle and pits the public against the powerful military industrial complex, Wall Street and the political ultra-right.

But LeBlanc remains optimistic and believes "changing U.S. spending priorities entails building political pressure on Congress through common efforts of community, labor, and peace groups."

Among the Peace Action campaigns LeBlanc is coordinating is the "Move the Money" Campaign, a grassroots coalition effort to change national spending priorities by moving the money from the Pentagon to fund jobs, human needs and diplomacy.

"The campaign relies on organizing labor- community coalition building nationally and locally, public education and mobilizing political pressure on Congress," says LeBlanc.

There is no other way to create millions of jobs than through government investment in public infrastructure and social programs, she says.

"More jobs can be created by converting to a sustainable, demilitarized economy, through funding energy conservation, building a sustainable manufacturing and energy sector and hiring millions of teachers and health care workers," she says.

Although U.S. combat involvement in Iraq and Afghanistan is winding down, LeBlanc says the challenge remains to bring all troops home as rapidly as possible.

"We'll be dealing for many decades to come with the human and economic costs of the war for the Afghan people and U.S. veterans" she says. "The main obstacle to peace in the region is U.S. drone warfare. It's a failure, generates more hostility and heightens the danger of acts of terrorism." 

LeBlanc says growing tensions on the Korean peninsula are directly related to the Administration's so-called "Asia Pivot" involving more troops, aircraft carriers, and military alliances as a challenge to China.

The recent U.S. war games in the region and failure to make a sustained effort of multilateral regional negotiations has inflamed the difficult relations between South Korea and the DPRK.

But the peace movement, in alliance with the Asian community and immigrant groups, is vigorously countering this with educational materials and plans for Congressional pressure to debunk the rational for the so called "Asia Pivot" as yet another failed policy and waste of resources.

"There's no end to our work," says LeBlanc. "But we're more confident each day that we can bring about real and lasting change."

Photo: PW

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