Cash Costs of War: Antiwar Meeting Ready to Link Foreign Wars with US Economy Woes

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The Albany Times Union

Cash Costs of War: Antiwar Meeting Ready to Link Foreign Wars with US Economy Woes

by
Rick Karlin

ALBANY -- The Revolution will be televised -- or, rather, streaming live online.

Antiwar demonstrations in the Vietnam era were a regular feature of the nightly network news on NBC, CBS and ABC.

Today,
protests against the war in Afghanistan are just as likely to be online
as on TV, and in the form of damning documents or videos shown on
WikiLeaks.

And lacking a Sarah Palin or Glenn Beck -- figures that
have rallied the nation's Tea Party movement -- peace activists are
taking a different tack. They are connecting the wars in Iraq and
Afghanistan and our sagging economy and poor jobs outlook.

"The
message here is the war and jobs and the economy is the same issue,"
said Joe Seeman, a local MoveOn member and one of an estimated 600
people attending the United National Peace Conference finishing up today
at the Crowne Plaza hotel.

Drawing a mix of peace and civil
rights activists, socialists, and progressive union members, the
conference aimed at developing a broad consensus on how to get the U.S.
military out of the Middle East and other locations.

Attendees
were also anxious to counter what they said was the media-driven
perception that Americans are more Tea Partier than Peace Seeker.

In
addition to debating, massaging and fine-tuning a roster of statements,
manifestos and declarations, participants were looking toward next
month. They plan to put on their own demonstrations to rebut a Glenn
Beck rally planned for the Lincoln Memorial in Washington D.C. on Aug.
28 (the same date that Martin Luther King Jr. gave his "I have a dream"
speech in 1963).

Pointing to polls showing the unpopularity of the
Iraq and Afghan wars, these activists believe there is a vast untapped
store of public sentiment against overseas military action.

What
they need to do, participants said, was figure out how to best
demonstrate that the money spent on military actions could be put to use
in creating jobs at home.

"We have to make that connection," said Joe Lombardo, a Delmar activist who helped organize the convention.

"The
Tea Party movement for all its complaints has no solution," contended
Phil Wilayto, editor of the Virginia Defender, a Richmond based
publication that focuses on civil rights, poverty and the anti-war
movement. "We have a solution. Money for jobs not for wars."

While
the bulk of participants seemed to be from the Northeast, some came
from across the nation, including California and the Midwest as well as
Virginia.

One of the speakers was Mike Alewitz, a muralist and
associate art professor in Connecticut who was at Kent State when Ohio
National Guard troops opened fired and killed four students 40 years
ago.

Indeed, parts of the convention had what might be called an updated counter-culture feel with its roots in the '60s.

There
were activists protesting U.S. involvement in Latin America and the
Caribbean, including in Colombia and Haiti. There were booths for
socialist/feminists, anti-imperialists, and communists.

There were Palestinian supporters calling for Israel to leave Gaza and
the West Bank alone, and civil libertarians upset at what they termed
government harassment of Muslims in the U.S.

The keynote address was delivered via videolink from M.I.T. by linguist and longtime foreign policy critic Noam Chonsky.

Cindy
Sheehan, an anti-Iraq war activist came to the conference but had to
leave as her daughter had just gone into labor, said Lombardo. U.S. Rep.
Paul Tonko also addressed the group and labor activists from the
SEIU-1199 health care workers also participated.

As for the
televising, a Troy group, The Sanctuary for Independent Media was
providing a live streamed video of the conference at
http://mediasanctuary.tv/crows/.

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