WASHINGTON (FinalCall.com)–Even as Bush administration officials lament their lack of success in approving legislation to enact their domestic agenda intended to help working-class Americans, peace activists are planning a week of major rallies in Washington and in other cities, aimed at opposing President George W. Bush’s major distraction from his promise of “compassionate conservatism”–his plans to launch another war against Iraq.
In his 2000 election campaign, Mr. Bush promised a “faith-based initiative” to help religious-based charities obtain government money for social programs. But two years later, the White House acknowledged that it was unlikely soon to gain legislative approval for that measure.
In addition, action on major welfare reform, as well as prescription drug and disabilities legislation, have all been postponed, and a plan for health-care tax credits was not pursued. Proposals to liberalize immigration were dropped after Sept. 11, 2001, and efforts to expand low-income housing have also been bogged down by legislative gridlock.
The president’s conservative allies–citing the education bill, the administrations lone domestic legislative victory–even admit that Mr. Bush’s stingy budget proposals for such items show little hint of the “compassionate” side of his conservatism.
While he has repeatedly claimed that a military attack on Iraq is this country’s last resort, Mr. Bush has been beating the drums of war. More than 60,000 troops are now deployed in the Persian Gulf region. At the same time, tens of thousands of military reserves have been called up to bolster forces already on duty.
“We are ready. We are prepared,” Mr. Bush told thousands of cheering troops at Fort Hood in Texas Jan. 4. “The use of military force is this nation’s last option, its last choice. Should Saddam Hussein seal his fate by refusing to disarm, by ignoring the opinion of the world, you will be fighting not to conquer anybody, but to liberate people.”
Peace activists are not sitting idly by, however. The week preceding the Martin Luther King Holiday–to be observed this year on Jan. 20–will be filled with protests, rallies, and mass demonstrations, both in Washington and around the country.
The International Coalition to Act Now to Stop War & End Racism (A.N.S.W.E.R.) is planning to convene a grassroots Peace Congress Jan. 18-19, comprised of delegations of students and civil rights activists coming together to forge opposition to the war drive.
On the day the King Holiday will be observed, Black Voices for Peace is planning an all-day national workshop and rally “to lift up the total legacy of Dr. King, and to rally the Black community and other people of good will against this racist war against Iraq and against U.S. support for Israeli occupation and aggression,” according to Damu Smith, Black Voices for Peace founder.
“No Black person in their sane mind should be fighting on behalf of the United States against the people of Iraq,” Mr. Smith told The Final Call. “It’s an evil war, and it’s a war we should not fight, so we’re mobilizing our community for that reason. We must uplift the total legacy, the militant legacy of Dr. King, that focuses on his work against militarism, for racial justice, and against economic injustice.”
Dr. King was militantly non-violent, anti-U.S. imperialism, condemned the Vietnam War and how that war hurt America’s poor and dispossessed, he noted.
“There are two or three (issues) that are going to stimulate protests against the Bush agenda,” predicted Dr. Ronald Walters, professor of political science at the University of Maryland. “One, obviously, is the war. Another is taxes and the way in which (Mr. Bush) plans to deal with the budget. And another one is the environmental consideration.
“The only way that agenda is going to be prevented from success is that people of conscience begin to raise their voices and make clear that they are not going to tolerate it,” he said.
The NAACP joined the anti-war chorus, reaffirming its opposition to a U.S. war in a declaration issued by its Religious Affairs Department. “Our resolution reflects serious discontent among African Americans, and all Americans, about the risks and perils of war,” NAACP Board Chairman Julian Bond said in a Jan. 3 statement. The resolution notes that Blacks and other non-Whites are enrolled at disproportionate rates in the U.S. military services. The declaration, prepared by a blue-ribbon task force of national multi-faith leaders, was first introduced during the NAACP 7th Annual National Religious Leadership Summit last October.
“As we begin the New Year, it is vitally important that we seek solutions that offer peace over resolutions that end in war,” said the Rev. Julius C. Hope, NAACP religious affairs director. “The faith community is the moral conscience of this nation, and this declaration demonstrates that we cannot sit idly by without calling for the U.S. to seek more godly and holy solutions of peace,” the Rev. Hope said.
Earlier in the King Holiday week, activists will rally under the labor union banner at a national conference and observance in Jackson, Miss. “Union activists are committed to working with other civil and human rights activists in protecting the basic rights of every American and creating opportunities for workers to achieve their dream,” said Linda Chavez-Thompson, AFL-CIO executive vice president and chair of the AFL-CIO Executive Council’s Committee on Civil and Human Rights.
As the opposition forces gain momentum, one of the most important forces promises to be the Congressional Black Caucus under the leadership of its newly elected chairman, Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.). The CBC’s role will be “extremely important because they’re going to be the most progressive voice in the Congress,” said Dr. Walters. “In the context where Republicans control the whole (government) apparatus, people are going to be looking to (the CBC) for leadership on a whole range of issues.”