Peace and social justice groups have formed a new Mandate for Peace coalition to pressure incoming Democratic majorities in the House and Senate to use the power they will assume in January to promote the rapid withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq.
The coalition is a muscular one, compromised of more than three dozen national and regional organizations with strong track records on an array of issues. It takes in anti-war activist groups such as After Downing Street, CODEPINK and Peace Action; internationalist groups such as Foreign Policy in Focus and Global Exchange; veterans groups such as Iraq Veterans Against the War and Veterans for Peace; religious groups such as American Muslim Voice, Jewish Voice for Peace, the Network of Spriritual Progressives and Pax Christi USA; civil rights groups such as the Rainbow/PUSH Coalition and the Women of Color Resource Center and political groups such as True Majority, the Bankbone Project and Progressive Democrats of America.
The coalition is supporting legislation proposed by U.S. Representative Jim McGovern, D-Massachusetts, to cut off funding for the war. The McGovern bill, H.R.4232, seeks to prohibit the further use of Defense Department funds to deploy United States Armed Forces to Iraq. Funds could be used to pay for the safe and orderly withdrawal of all troops; consultations with other governments, NATO and the UN regarding international forces; and financial assistance and equipment to either Iraqi security forces and/or international forces.
Support for the McDermott measure is growing rapidly. Almost all its 18 cosponsors (Arizona's Raul Grijalva; California's Sam Farr, Barnara Lee, Pete Stark, Maxine Waters and Lynn Woolsey; Illinois' Jan Schakowsky; Massachusetts' Barney Frank; Michigan's John Conyers and Carolyn Kilpatrick; New Jersey's Donald Payne; New York's Jose Serrano and Edolphus Towns and Nydia Velazquez; Ohio's Dennis Kucinich; Pennsylvania's Chaka Fattah and Washington's Jim McDermott) have added their support in recent weeks.
As such, H.R. 4232 now represents the closest thing to an exit strategy currently being entertained by members of Congress.
Unfortunately, H.R. 4232 is off radar for most members -- even those elected on anti-war platforms. To put this serios alternative to the Bush administration's stay-the-course position and the expected alter-the-course position of the Baker-Hamilton commission on the radar, supporters of the Mandate for Peace coalition will be flooding Congress with calls on Monday, December 4, as part of a grassroots intervention on the eve of a planned December 5 meeting of House Democrats to discuss Iraq policy and the December 6 release of the much-anticipated report of the Baker-Hamilton Iraq Study Group.
There will be more than enough inside-the-beltway pressure on House Democrats to embrace the tepid proposals of the Baker-Hamilton commission as the only alternative to White House intransigence. The Mandate for Peace coalition wants to counter that pressure with a grassroots message that says: "The Constitution gives Congress the power to end this war by cutting off the funding, as well as the power to investigate the war's justifications and to impeach its architects. Let Congress know that forgetting the message of the November 7th elections is an option that we're taking off the table!"
The coalition is urging Americans to call the Capitol Switchboard at 202-224-3121 on Monday to deliver an anti-war message to members of the House and Senate. (To get direct phone and fax numbers for your representatives, visit www.usalone.com.)
The November 7 elections sent an anti-war signal, as confirmed not merely by Democratic victories but by exit polling and post-election surveys. It was a mandate for peace. Every new member of the House and Senate who was elected -- from Ohio Senator-elect Sherrod Brown to Minnesota Representative-elect Keith Ellison to Montana Senator-elect Jon Tester to Wisconsin Representative-elect Steve Kagen -- ran and won by taking more clearly anti-war positions than their Republican foes. Predictably, the mandate of the people is under assault by the Washington establishment. It's time for the American people to repeat their message -- loudly -- at the start of a week when members of Congress are going to need to be reminded that they were sent to Washington not to better manage an illegal and immoral war but to end it.
© 2006 The Nation