This weekend marks the second anniversary of the US invasion of Iraq. Over 1,500 US soldiers have been killed, more than 100,000 Iraqis have lost their lives, violence continues unabated, and we—the US taxpayers—have sunk over $200 billion into invading and occupying the oil-rich nation. Many Americans feel this war has been a monumental disaster; others feel the US has brought democracy to the Iraqi people. But despite these opposite perceptions, according to the latest Harris poll, a larger majority than ever before—59%--believe the US troops should come home in the next year. The anti-war movement, which now represents the sentiment of the majority of the American people, is poised to mark this second anniversary by launching a new peace offensive. Here are several ways you can help.
Join in a march this weekend! On March 19 and 20, there will be anti-war rallies in over 700 US cities and 30 countries from Australia to the Philippines to South Africa. In Fayetteville, North Carolina, the home of the 82nd Airborne Division, some 10,000 military families, veterans' groups and peace activists will support the troops by calling for them to come home. In San Diego, peace activists will gather at Camp Pendleton for a 3-day, 40-mile hike. For a listing of local protests in your community, see www.unitedforpeace.org.
No more money for war: Shamefully, this week Congress voted to approve another $81 billion for war. Only 43 Congresspeople voted against sinking more money into this immoral war. The peace movement did not do a good job of pressuring Congress to vote no, but there is still time to pressure the Senate. Call your Senators right away and insist on a NO vote. It’s also worthwhile to check to see how your congressperson voted, and call his/her office with either a thanks or a protest. With a Republican-controlled Congress we certainly won’t win a cut-off in the war funding this time around, but it’s important to move the national debate and lay the groundwork for cutting the purse strings in the future.
Bring the Cost of War Home: A related effort is the Lost Cost of War campaign, designed to connect the dots between billions spent on war and cuts in vital social services. The website www.nationalpriorities.org gives national, state and city breakdowns of what taxpayers are spending on this war, and what COULD BE purchased with that money. California taxpayers, for example, have paid $26 billion for the Iraq war—money that could have paid for 400,000 art and music teachers or built 150,000 affordable housing units or furnished 76 million homes with renewable energy to lessen our addiction to oil.
To show our outrage at these trade-offs, we are hooking up with communities most affected by the cuts. In the farmworker community of Salinas, CA, for example, a budget shortfall is threatening to close In the entire public library system. We’re launching an Emergency 24-Hour Read-In on April 2-3, encouraging people from all over California to come show their love of libraries and their determination that our taxdollars be spent on BOOKS NOT BOMBS. To get involved in the Local Cost of War Campaign, go to www.codepinkalert.org or contact email@example.com.
Bring the National Guard Home! With one-third of the troops in Iraq coming from the National Guard, there has been more and more questioning of the misuse of a state militia was created to protect Americans at home, not to fight in overseas wars. In Vermont this month, 49 towns passed resolutions asking their state legislators to investigate the use of the Vermont National Guard in Iraq, and calling on the president and Congress to "take steps to withdraw American troops from Iraq." In Montana, the governor has asked that the Montana Guard come home. It’s time to get this campaign going in all state. Contact www.mfso.org .
Join the Counter-recruitment movement. Perhaps the most exciting anti-war work going on today is the efforts to get military recruiters off high schools and campuses, or to counter the recruiters false advertising with the truth and with non-military career/school options for young people. There are also campaigns to support conscientious objectors in the military who are refusing to fight in Iraq. To find out more, visit www.afsc.org or www.objector.org .
While the Bush administration is digging in its heels for a long stay in Iraq and setting the scene for military intervention in neighboring Iran, it’s up to us build a strong peace movement capable of getting our soldiers back home, halting the building of permanent bases in Iraq, opposing any new military adventures, and giving Iraqis the chance to rebuild their own country.
Medea Benjamin (firstname.lastname@example.org) is the cofounder of Global Exchange (www.globalexchange.org ) and Code Pink (www.codepinkalert.org ).