The Peace Movement to Congress on Eve of Mobilization

by Medea Benjamin
January 26th, 2007

By Medea Benjamin*

The January 27 anti-war rally in Washington DC could have become yet another symbolic peace march in the freezing cold through a city where no one was listening. But then two things happened: On November 7, the voters gave Congress an unmistakable mandate to end the war. And George Bush, ignoring the will of the voters, the recommendations of the Iraq Study Group, and the advice of his own generals, announced an escalation of the war.

People who had planned to watch this protest on C-Span from the comfort of their homes are now cramming onto buses, planes and trains to converge on the nation's capitol. Thanks to George Bush's latest blunder, we're now expecting the biggest march in Washington DC since the war began.

It was easy for politicians to ignore us when we represented a small, but all-too-prescient minority trying to stop this war before it started. Now that we represent the majority of Americans, politicians of all stripes best take heed. Here's our message to Congress:

To the Democrats, remember who put you into office on November 7. It's thanks to growing anti-war sentiment among voters that you now control the House and the Senate. We're delighted you're introducing resolutions to oppose President BBush's call to send more troops to Iraq. Certainly this repudiation of the Bush administration's “surge” will send a strong message to the administration. But those resolutions are mostly symbolic and would still leave us back at square one with 132,000 of our sons and daughters fighting a senseless war.

Opposing Bush's escalation of the war is a good first step, but it's not enough. We want you to bring our troops home.

We know—and you know--that the only real power Congress has to end war is the power of the purse. George Bush will soon be requesting another $100 billion of our tax dollars for this disastrous war. Democratic Party leaders Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi have said that ending the war is a priority, but cutting money for the war is “off the table” because they don't want to endanger the troops. But what could endanger the troops more than keeping them in Iraq? The money that has already been appropriated is more than enough to provide for the safe and orderly withdrawal of our troops. More money will be funding the continuing occupation and carnage.

If you want to support the troops, listen to them. Last year a Zogby poll showed that 72% of the troops thought the U.S. should exit Iraq within a year. Just this month 1,000 active duty military personnel filed an Appeal for Redress, a petition asking Congress to “support the prompt withdrawal of all American military forces and bases from Iraq.” The majority of our soldiers want to come home not because they fear for their safety but because they no longer believe in the mission. The best way to support them is to follow the lead of courageous Democrats such as Lynn Woolsey, Barbara Lee, Dennis Kucinich, Jim McGovern, and Maxine Waters in saying NO to more money for George Bush's war.

We also have a message for Republicans. This war is tearing your party apart. It cost you the House and Senate in the last election, and if you continue to support this quagmire, it will cost you the presidential election in 2008. All polls show that the overwhelming majority of Americans oppose sending more troops to Iraq. While most Republicans are reluctant to join us peaceniks demonstrating in the streets, they have lost faith in this mission.

Senator McCain, your call for escalating this war shows you to be out of touch with the American people. Not a good move for someone aspiring to lead this nation.

For Republicans who have been speaking out against the war, you may not want the praise from us, but we can't help ourselves. Walter Jones, we were appalled when you called for French fries to be rechristened “freedom fries.” But when you joined hands across the aisle to cosponsor legislation to bring the troops home, our hearts went out to you. When you said there should be no military attacks on Iran without Congressional authorization, we had to applaud. We are also grateful for the growing list of Republican senators, such as Chuck Hagel and Olympia Snowe, who recognize the need for a political rather than a military solution to the Iraq war and are posing alternatives to the Bush administration's escalation.

The people who will surge onto the streets of the nation's capitol this weekend will be speaking loud and clear, and reflecting the sentiments of the general public: Bring our troops home and don't drag us into more unprovoked wars. It's too bad that most of our elected officials refused to listen to us before invading Iraq. Let's hope they're listening now.

*Medea Benjamin is cofounder of the anti-war group CODEPINK and Global Exchange, and is on the steering committee of United for Peace and Justice, the coalition organizing the January 27 march.