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