Local actions set for Dec. 10

NEW YORK – In a full-page ad in The New York Times Dec. 4, Jewish, Muslim and Christian leaders urged President Bush to stop the rush to war against Iraq. “Your church leaders have sought private hearings with you to express their passionate objections: they’ve been denied,” said the text of the ad. “A strong faith-based revolt against war on Iraq is coming together in the first weeks of December.” They were referring to local actions set for Tuesday, Dec. 10 across the nation.

Signed by hundreds of rabbis, Roman Catholic and protestant clergy and Muslim clergy, the ad warned Bush, “Your war would violate the teachings of Jesus Christ … We acknowledge that Saddam Hussein is a cruel tyrant, but a war on the country he rules is not a just war. It will be an unprovoked, preemptive attack on a nation which is not threatening the United States. It will violate the United Nations charter and set a dangerous precedent. … It will bring death and destruction to Baghdad, a huge city filled with innocent civilians.”

The signers warned that American soldiers will die “and its huge cost will be gouged out of the already unmet needs of the poor, the underfed and the under-educated in our own country.”

The ad was sponsored by Religious Leaders for Sensible Priorities led by National Council of Churches (NCC) General Secretary Robert Edgar. The group is rallying faith-based opposition to the war (www.TrueMajority.com). Hundreds of community groups are working on local actions in over 40 cities on Dec. 10, International Human Rights Day.

Scott Lynch, communications director for Peace Action, a participant in the mobilization, told the World, these actions fit with building a movement at the grassroots. “It’s a good consciousness-raising tool in small towns as well as in the urban areas because people can gather to make a statement,” Lynch said. “Many people in the heartland of the country are clued in.”

Peace Action is getting calls from places like Arkansas, Oklahoma and Alabama where the peace movement has not had a visible presence recently. The Dec. 10 local peace events are sponsored by a coalition of 70 peace and religious groups that have formed a new national network, United for Peace (unitedforpeace.org).

Gordon Clark, national coordinator of the Iraq Pledge of Resistance, cited a Dec. 2 front-page article in The Washington Post on the growing peace movement. “Something is clearly happening,” he told the World. “I’ve been involved for a couple of decades. I have never seen such an outpouring of public sentiment across the political spectrum on any issue.”

The labor movement is part of the peace upsurge. The Sacramento Central Labor Council (CLC) passed a resolution Nov. 19 demanding that the Bush administration “reinforce international law and use all diplomatic and economic pressure for enforcement of the United Nations resolutions on Iraq.” Like the over 20 local, state and national resolutions or statements by labor it called the Bush administration’s drive for war with Iraq “a distraction and cover-up for an economy in deep trouble, a weakened social safety net, workers’ rights being undermined, and corporate executives cheating millions of working people out of billions ofdollars of hard-earned savings and retirement funds.”

Sacramento CLC President John Borsos told the World, “Passage of resolutions like this and in local unions creates the opportunity to discuss international events throughout the labor movement in a way that wasn’t happening six months ago.”

David Dixon, an organizer for the Charlotte, N.C. Fellowship of Reconciliation, told the World, “We do a weekly demonstration outside a mall. People who drive by give us the thumbs up and waves … the majority of people are with us. The feeling you get is that people are more concerned about the economy, having jobs healthcare and childcare rather then spending money on a war in Iraq.”

Veterans for Peace leafleted against the war in Iraq at the St. Louis Rams football game on Nov. 16. “The response was overwhelmingly positive,” said Vets for Peace National Administrator Wilson “Woody” Powell. “The response ranged from being unaware of the consequences of war in Iraq to ‘right on.’ People think we can speak with some authority about the costs of war. The outcomes in terms of the countries where war is conducted and what happens to the soldiers.”

Johnny Zokovitch, communications director of Pax Christi, a Catholic peace group, told the World, “The mood among the people is the feeling of something is wrong, a sense of emergency. People are beginning to see the cracks in the Bush administrations policy.” Pax Christi, like the National Conference of Catholic Bishops, representing 65 million Roman Catholics, are a part of the growing number of religious organizations speaking out against the war drive.

Zokovitch continued, “On Dec 10, we are sounding the alarm. Violence begets violence. Violence never can be a solution for real security or peace. Since Sept 11, even with military actions in Afghnaistan and the Israeli approach towards the Palestinian people The world is less secure now.”

The author can be reached at jleblanc@pww.org

Click here to find out more about United for Peace, one of the national coalitions active in the Dec. 10 mobalization.

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