Leaders of major U.S. peace organizations say Americans want a fundamental change in U.S. foreign and domestic policy.

“Iraq is on people’s minds across the country,” said Hany Khalil, organizing coordinator for United for Peace and Justice. UFPJ, a coalition of more than 800 local and national groups, is bringing thousands to New York to protest at the Republican National Convention this week. For many Americans, Khalil said, “Iraq symbolizes Bush’s policies of strengthened empire, violation of international law, and disregard of the United Nations.” People want our country to move in an alternative direction, he told the World.

Scott Lynch, Peace Action communications director, said, “It’s very, very clear that Bush and his administration represent a danger not only to our democracy but to the world.” Instead of adding stability to Iraq, they are destabilizing it, he said.

Peace Action got its start as the Committee for a Sane Nuclear Policy in the 1960s, pushing for nuclear disarmament. Today it describes itself as the nation’s largest grassroots peace group. Like the other peace organizations interviewed, it is non-partisan. But clearly Bush is “far to the right of Kerry,” Lynch told the World. “George Bush could send us all tumbling into the abyss.”

Right now, “we’re so far off in la-la land,” that “priority #1 is getting George Bush out of office,” Lynch said. However people have to understand that our nation’s foreign policy is “not going to turn in one election,” he noted. Even if Kerry is elected, the peace movement and all progressives will need to start working hard on the 2006 “mid-term” elections to elect a Congress that can turn the country in a positive direction. “We need to change how this country interacts with the world,” Lynch said.

Ibrahim Ramey, Fellowship of Reconciliation (FOR) peace and disarmament coordinator, said, “A radical shift in domestic and foreign policy is needed, away from corporate control, a war system that consumes our young people, and racial and economic violence.” FOR was founded 85 years ago to oppose “the war system,” Ramey told the World. Today, our country is being “gutted by war and corporate globalization that has taken away jobs,” he said. Noting the “frightening growth of inequality in our country,” Ramey urged the peace movement to take up Martin Luther King’s call to oppose the three evils of racism, militarism and economic injustice.

Janice Shields, media relations director for the American Friends Service Committee (AFSC), told the World, “As a non-partisan organization that abhors violence and values the sanctity of human life, we believe the peace movement must unite in a call to end the policy of preemptive war.”

“We have a big concern about a unilateral, go-it-alone policy, about not listening to the world community,” Shields said.

The AFSC calls for multinational involvement, working through the UN, to bring peace to Iraq. The U.S. occupation has caused chaos and violence, with thousands of civilians and U.S. soldiers killed and wounded, she noted.

UFPJ’s Khalil called the U.S. occupation “the greatest obstacle” to resolving the crisis in Iraq. UFPJ is calling for an immediate end to the occupation and for the UN and other international organizations to assist the Iraqi people if they request such help.

Peace Action calls for “the immediate phased withdrawal of U.S. troops.” Instead of U.S. occupation, a better way to move forward is to increase the role of the UN, and possibly other Middle Eastern countries, Lynch said.

Ramey, of the FOR, said a resolution to the Iraq crisis “can’t be done under the label of U.S. hegemony and U.S. corporate policy.

“The Iraqi people have a right not only to govern their society but also to own it,” he emphasized. “Iraq cannot be a subsidiary of Chevron or Halliburton.”

In addition to bringing the troops home from Iraq, Ramey said the U.S. should pay reparations for the destruction it has caused there.

Shields expressed particular concern about recent FBI intimidation of protesters. An AFSC intern in Denver was one of a number of people questioned by the FBI because they planned to participate in the RNC protests.

Assailing the Bush administration’s post-9/11 “war on dissent,” Shield emphasized the importance of the constitutional right to peaceably assemble. “The First Amendment should not be infringed on,” she said.

The author can be reached at suewebb@pww.org.click here for Spanish text


Susan Webb
Susan Webb

Susan Webb is a retired co-editor of People's World. She has written on a range of topics both international - the Iraq war, World Social Forums in Brazil and India, the Israel-Palestinian conflict and controversy over the U.S. role in Okinawa - and domestic - including the meaning of socialism for Americans, attacks on Planned Parenthood, the U.S. as top weapons merchant, and more.