THE WHITE HOUSE (FinalCall.com)–Armed with congressional approval for an invasion of Iraq, President George W. Bush immediately set his sights on winning a tough new weapons inspections resolution from the United Nations Security Council.
But opponents of military action insist that war hawks in the administration may have overlooked one, still small, but growing obstacle–the peace movement.
“The gathering threat of Iraq must be confronted fully and finally,” Mr. Bush said Oct. 10 after the House vote. “The days of Iraq acting as an outlaw state are coming to an end.”
With the official debate now concluded, the president has turned his focus once again back to the UN. He is pushing for a strongly worded resolution demanding that Iraq immediately dismantle all weapons of mass destruction or face possible military action by any nation belonging to the world body.
The UN appears unlikely to go along with the authorization of war which Congress approved, according to published reports. A majority of the Security Council, including three of the five permanent members with veto power–China, France, and Russia–have already rejected the key U.S. demands, and appear to favor a so-called “two resolution” plan which would go along with U.S. demands for tough new guidelines for weapons inspectors, while requiring a second resolution authorizing the use of force.
But even as Mr. Bush claimed to have won a mandate from Congress, which voted by substantial margins–296-133 in the House and 77-23 in the Senate–opposition in official circles to what peace activists describe as a “blank check” for Mr. Bush has swollen dramatically.
Just last year, Congressional Black Caucus member Barbara Lee (D-Calif.) was the only dissenting vote against the war in Afghanistan. The public reaction to her stand required around-the-clock security to protect her from numerous death threats. This time, 31 other CBC members voted against the Iraq war resolution, while only four voted in favor.
Another 100 House Democrats, six House Republicans, and one independent voted against war this time. In the Senate last year, there were no dissenting votes against war, this time 21 Democrats, one Republican and one independent voted against.
Meanwhile, CIA Director George Tenet is joined by Brent Scowcroft and James Baker–still-influential former advisers to the current president’s father when he was in the White House–retired Marine Gen. Anthony Zinni, the former U.S. military commander in the Middle East, and a coalition of 60 influential church leaders in this country and in Europe who have publicly stated opposition to the spiral toward war. War talk uttered by Mr. Bush has British Prime Minister Tony Blair his only vocal ally on the Security Council.
More importantly, since September more and more protest demonstrations have been carried out against the war each week, both in this country and in Europe.
“From our point of view, these protests and marches are a very large manifestation of what is a well known sentiment that exists across the country in opposition to the war,” Sarah Sloan, spokesperson for the International Action Center, organizers of a planned national demonstration in Washington on Oct. 26, said in an interview.
“Because if you look at history, especially the Vietnam War, the civil rights movement, unions, anything progressive that’s happened in history has been won through the struggle of the people and the struggle manifests itself in protests in the streets.”
Before one military reserve unit has been called to duty for the fight in Iraq, Black activists are busy organizing protest rallies around the country. “We advertised it as 100 witnesses for peace, and there were about 800 people out there,” Damu Smith, founder of Black Voices for Peace told The Final Call of his group’s Oct. 12 vigil in front of the White House.
“The peace movement, by continuing these efforts early is doing the right thing, but is going to have to stay very focused and very organized, because this is going to be a very tough, long and complex battle. But in the end, I think we will prevail just like we did in Vietnam,” Mr. Smith continued.
“(Mr.) Bush has very cleverly manipulated public emotions by connecting his desire to go to war with Iraq to the horrendous attacks of Sept. 11. For many Americans that has been a very successful strategy. Many members of Congress were scared to death to vote against the president, even though there were overwhelming numbers of phone calls into their offices saying, ‘don’t do that,’ ” he said.
Sen. Robert Byrd, the Dean of Senate Democrats, confirmed the overwhelming public outcry against the war. “I have heard from thousands of Americans who have urged me to keep up the fight–almost 50,000 e-mail letters within the last five days, and more than 18,000 telephone calls to my office in the last five days–urging me to keep up the fight,” Mr. Byrd told his Senate colleagues Oct. 10 during the debate.
“The Senate has made clear its intentions on the Iraq resolution. There is no doubt, there is no question. The outcome is certain. The ending has been scripted,” he said. “I continue to believe that the Senate, in following this preordained course of action, will be doing a grave disservice to the Nation and to the Constitution on which it was founded.”
The role of the peace movement now is to take it to the streets and make people aware of the contradictions coming out of the Bush administration, activists insist. “For example: one of his statements is that he’s going after Iraq because they violated 17 UN resolutions. Israel violated 28. He never mentions that,” said Bernie Noven, a spokesman for Not In Our Names.
“It is not only peace groups, it’s other groups that are opposed to his starting a war, their role is to bring out these inconsistencies,” said Mr. Noven. He told The Final Call that he is proud to be both Jewish and an American, and that his organization is made up of “American Jews who feel that the things that some of the Jewish lobbies are saying in (this country) are not representative of all American Jews.
“We have 42 million people without healthcare in this country. I suspect that a lot more people died from lack of health services than died from terrorism in the United States. We have 30 percent of our nation living under the poverty level. People are suffering here. The economy is going in a downward spiral very rapidly. None of this is dealt with.
“It’s a piece-by-piece thing. The value is really in the struggle. Ultimately, if we’re on the right side, that struggle will pay off,” said Mr. Noven.