Don’t mourn, organize

Much more is needed than a lamentation about the fact that we don’t have enough votes to bring the war to an immediate end (“Tactics to end this war” PWW 4/14-20). I can remember many a time when Cesar Chavez was in the gallery of the California Legislature personally counting the votes of each member. That was a saying of his: “Count the votes.” One of my first assignments while working for the United Farm Workers was to participate in a mobilization in the district of Howard Berman, now a prominent member of Congress. In the 1970s Mr. Berman didn’t want to do the right thing for the union, so Cesar “mobilized” an army of volunteers. One afternoon, we walked his entire district! On Monday, Mr. Berman voted, and Cesar counted his vote for the union.

In 2008, there are three states where Republican senators vote with Bush. These right-wing senators can be replaced with senators that will vote to end the war and a lot more. In New Hampshire, John Sununu can be beaten. He is very unpopular. The same is true in Minnesota where Norm Coleman is the senator. He is being challenged by Al Franken. In Colorado, Sen. Allard is retiring. This means that there is no candidate of record there. It’s up for grabs! Why not start now? That is what Cesar would do.

Joe Hancock
Los Angeles CA

Health care road

Although paved with good intentions, promoting the California state health care bill (“Calif. Legislature puts health care on agenda” PWW 4/7-13) or any other state program heads toward where that road leads. Yes, if we could translate California state Sen. Sheila Kuehl’s plan into a national program, sure. But there is no place for incrementalism in our fight to get a national health care plan. Health care is a national problem and demands a national solution.

No state, even California, can provide health care for its people. No state has the finances, the personnel or the machinery for such a vital and needed right. Americans need health care wherever they travel, a program that is comprehensive to include all pathologies, universal to have everyone enrolled, portable to count wherever Americans travel, accessibility to every health care provider and single payer, federally financed and administered.

An enlargement of the Kuehl bill is available to us in Rep. John Conyers’ (D-Mich.) HR 676, now hopefully working its way up to the floor of Congress.

Don Sloan
New York NY

When labor smiles

In “Roger and Me” the head of the UAW says something like “You want us to sit down again?” But they don’t and Flint is shut down without a fight. In 1999 when I was in Detroit for 2 weeks, you could still feel the good vibrations from those heroic sit-downs that galvanized the whole of labor across the country 60 years before! Your story that the UAW isn’t going to make nice in these negotiations with the Big 3 and Delphi is heartening. If the UAW stands up, the whole labor movement will stand up with them. Labor will smile again, a grin of courage from ear to ear! Every working class household in the U.S. will get behind the autoworkers!

Pete Gourfain
Brooklyn NY

Victims and heroes

I apologize. My response to Ken Germanson’s article, “Fervent wishes for the New Year” (PWW 1/27 – 2/7), should have been sooner. He declares most of the fallen troops in Iraq are “heroes” and justifies this by asserting that they are surrounded by hostilities.

True, young women and men are led, deceived by educational promises, and coerced by poverty, into joining the army — they are victims. Once in the Army, the reality is that they are trained to kill efficiently and proficiently — ask the Iraqis whose loved ones, tens of thousands, were killed by American planes, tanks and guns. Even the sadistic conduct by some doesn’t divert the rest from their training to kill. This is the reality of imperialist armies.

Our troops are cannon fodder and victims, not heroes. Our troops need rehabilitation not praise for survival skills. Rehabilitation starts with bringing them home, and then giving them the physical, mental and financial help they deserve. We cannot hope to build an anti-imperialist consciousness by labeling these hapless soldiers as heroes. Germanson’s genuine soldier heroes should be 1st Lt. Ehren Watada and Army Spc. Agustin Aguayo who refused to partake in the slaughter.

David Reid
Daytona Beach FL

The only escalation is troop deaths

Recent press reports reveal that the Pentagon has essentially despaired of ever standing up a reliable Iraqi army by year’s end, as Bush had proclaimed, and that U.S. occupying troops would therefore not be standing down anytime soon. We know that Iraqi soldiers often flee when faced with hostile forces. The unity and initiative within their ranks are undermined by sectarian and political tensions. Since the so-called surge has been in effect, U.S. casualty rates have doubled in Baghdad. It’s now evident that U.S. forces will somehow have to quell the insurgency absent any prospect of significant Iraqi help. Until the Democratic majority in Congress is able to muster enough votes to cut off funding, the terrible price paid by U.S. troops in Iraq’s cynical maelstrom will continue to escalate.

Cord MacGuire
Boulder CO