In the streets and in Congress, Americans stand up for peace
Activists gather in Pershing Square to protest the Trump administration's Iran war drive in downtown Los Angeles, Saturday, Jan. 4, 2020. A top Iranian general and Iraqi militiamen were killed in a U.S. airstrike on Trump's orders. Nationwide mobilizations against the war danger are scheduled for tonight. | Damian Dovarganes / AP

WASHINGTON—Insisting that the nation will not be forced into yet another war, progressive lawmakers here yesterday and today—and the American people demonstrating from coast to coast today—are bringing into the open an anti-war majority in the U.S.

Declaring Congress needs to take its constitutional responsibility for war and peace back from “an irrational administration,” the Congressional Progressive Caucus prepared a set of measures yesterday to prevent President Trump from going to war against Iran.

The measures aim to produce “significant de-escalation” of U.S. saber-rattling against Iran, said caucus co-chair Rep. Pramila Jayapal, D-Wash., “We cannot go to war against Iran and we must do everything we can to prevent it.”

“And there should not be one dime for offensive action against Iran,” declared Rep. Ro Khanna, D-Calif.

Meanwhile, MoveOn.Org organized a national phone call joined by tens of thousands across the country last night mapping plans for nationwide demonstrations to break out coast to coast tonight at 5 p.m. local time.

“The devastation that a war with Iran could bring upon the earth and humanity cannot be overstated—millions of lives hang in the balance,” the organization said in a statement issued after the call. “We’ve learned our lessons from Iraq, Afghanistan, Yemen, and global endless war. We will not be driven by lies into another war.”

MoveOn, in light of Trump’s penchant for finding every possible way to divide people, also took on the issue of unity. “We will not allow our Iranian-American and Muslim neighbors to be targeted by law enforcement. We will not be divided,” the group said in its call for demonstrations tonight.

Donald Trump Jr. has already started his own campaign to use the crisis to smear people along lines of nationality and religion. Just days after his father threw a stick of dynamite into the Middle East crisis and almost set fire to the world, the son posted to Instagram a picture in which he posed with an assault rifle, safety catch off, bearing a heraldic Jerusalem “five-fold” cross, the symbol carried by medieval knights on crusades in the Holy Land.

“Nice day at the range,” Trump Junior wrote, showing him with his finger on the trigger. The gun’s magazine featured an image of Hillary Clinton behind bars.

Progressive lawmakers were not the only ones in Congress expressing outrage over administration behavior regarding Iran. After an administration briefing of Congressional lawmakers yesterday, two top Republican senators tore into the Trump administration.

“It was probably the worst briefing I’ve seen on a military issue in the nine years I’ve served in the United States Senate,” Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, declared. “I find this insulting and demeaning,” he said, declaring that he intends to vote in favor of a new war powers resolution introduced by Democratic Sen. Tim Kaine of Virginia. “That briefing changed my mind,” Lee said.

Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., agreed, declaring. “Today, this is Sen. Lee and I saying we are not abdicating our duty.”

The administration officials who gave the briefing included Defense Secretary Mark Esper, Secretary of State and tea party favorite Mike Pompeo, CIA Director Gina Haspel, and Mike Milley, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. They insulted members of Congress by warning them to engage in no debates about whether to go to war with Iran, essentially telling the congressional leaders that by carrying out their constitutional duty to discuss and decide upon issues of war and peace they would be “aiding the enemy.”

“They had to leave after the 75-minute briefing while they’re in the process of telling us that we need to be good little boys and girls and run along and not debate this in public,” Sen. Lee said. “I find that absolutely insane. I think it’s unacceptable.”

Khanna in the House and Bernie Sanders in the Senate have introduced a new war powers resolution that replaces the old one that was used to justify the invasion of Afghanistan in 2001 and Iraq in 2002. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced yesterday that the House will vote today on a war powers resolution saying, “The House will honor our duty to keep the American peoples safe and will move forward with a War Powers resolution to limit the president’s military actions regarding Iran.”

Rep. Barbara Lee, D, Calif., said after the briefing yesterday, “We have to make sure Congress reasserts its role in exercising responsibility to, if in fact, any president wants to use force in or against Iran without prior congressional authorization.” Lee has been the earliest and longest advocate of the need for a new war powers resolution.

The determination of high administration officials to trivialize the issue of constitutional separation of powers continued all day yesterday at the highest levels. Vice President Pence said the administration could not provide Congress with some of the “most compelling evidence” of the need to kill a top Iranian leader because doing so would “compromise sources and methods.”

“Those of us who had the information,” he said, “know the president made the right decision.”

Trump’s address to the nation yesterday has been described in some quarters as less bellicose than his usual pronouncements on Iran. Essentially, however, it was, at best, a signal for a short pause in the ongoing hostilities he has been waging against that country since he first cancelled the nuclear arms reduction deal.

He said he was imposing another round of crippling sanctions against Iran, a move that signals the opposite of any intention to put forward a longer-term peace plan.

Rep. Pramila Jayapal, D-Wash., and other members of the Congressional Progressive Caucus are among those leading the fight in Congress against Trump’s drive toward war. Her, Jayapal, center, addresses a news conference as she stands with Masih Fouladi, left, Negah Hekmati, Diane Narasaki, and Jorge Baron and talks about reports that dozens of Iranian-Americans were held up and questioned at the border as they returned to the United States from Canada over the weekend. | Elaine Thompson / AP

Rep. Mark Pocan, D-Wisc., said yesterday that in stopping Trump’s march to war with Iran, Congress would be “taking back its jurisdiction” over war and peace.

“Sending teenagers to die, or to return with lifelong wounds is not what it means to carry out our oath of office to protect the American people,” declared Rep. Ilhan Omar, DFL-Minn., at the Progressive Caucus meeting yesterday.

The Progressive Caucus is working closely with House Democratic leaders to bring their measures up and with Sen. Kaine who has tried for years to force a Senate debate on war. His and other attempts to bring this up have been blocked by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who has always done the bidding of the military by preventing any such measures from coming to the floor.

Members of the Progressive Caucus noted yesterday that Trump is increasing the number of troops in the Mideast despite his promises to end the endless wars there.

“We owe it to the American people to prevent, not prepare for more war,” Omar said. “But since he got into office, the president of the United States has been goading Iran into war,” added Jayapal, who first came to prominence as an anti-Iraq war activist in Seattle.

“War does not save lives. War destroys lives,” said Omar.


Mark Gruenberg
Mark Gruenberg

Award-winning journalist Mark Gruenberg is head of the Washington, D.C., bureau of People's World. He is also the editor of the union news service Press Associates Inc. (PAI). Known for his reporting skills, sharp wit, and voluminous knowledge of history, Mark is a compassionate interviewer but tough when going after big corporations and their billionaire owners.

John Wojcik
John Wojcik

John Wojcik is Editor-in-Chief of People's World. He joined the staff as Labor Editor in May 2007 after working as a union meat cutter in northern New Jersey. There, he served as a shop steward and a member of a UFCW contract negotiating committee. In the 1970s and '80s, he was a political action reporter for the Daily World, this newspaper's predecessor, and was active in electoral politics in Brooklyn, New York.