Activists call for heightened anti-war effort
Certain that the newly elected Democratic Congress will not end American involvement in the Iraq War, Rhode Island peace movement leaders are calling for additional demonstrations to bring US troops home.
“Don’t focus on the escalation,” Mark Stahl of East Providence urged the 30 people gathered Sunday afternoon at Providence’s Beneficent Church. President Bush’s plan to send an additional 21,500 troop to Iraq is merely “a smokescreen,” warned Stahl, the events coordinator for the Rhode Island Community Coalition for Peace. Instead, peace activists should worry about the war being expanded into Syria and Iran, Stahl says, and “the long-term colonial occupation” suggested by the construction of US military bases and a giant embassy in Iraq.
Steven Kelly of North Kingstown, a lobbyist for Military Families Speak Out, says that citizen protests, not the US Congress, will end the war. More people need to publicly call for withdrawal from Iraq, adds Kelly, to stop the killing. He bemoaned how many Americans are far more interested in the contestants on the television program American Idol than in the violence in Iraq.
Despite voters’ repudiation of Bush’s policies in the November elections, Kelly says, American citizens have a “moral responsibility” to do more, including demonstrating at congressional offices. “They don’t listen to you unless they see there is a mob,” says Kelly, whose son served 24 months in Iraq, adding that politicians pay more attention to their campaign contributors.
Based upon conversations with Rhode Island’s congressional delegation, Kelly expects little anti-war leadership from the four. “I don’t think we can count on any of them to lead the progressive wing of the Democratic Party forward,” he says. “We’re looking to ordinary politicians for greatness, and they can’t deliver.”
The forum’s third speaker, Chris Murphy of Barrington, a member of the International Socialist Organization, called for an end to US military involvement in Afghanistan and Somalia. “We must be against all wars, “ he says, criticizing US Senator Jack Reed for supporting a larger US Army. Murphy also lauded four soldiers who resisted serving in Iraq and decried restrictions on civil liberties.
Forum speakers urged people to attend a large anti-war march this Saturday, January 27 in Washington, DC, organized by the New York-based United for Peace and Justice. The group has filled almost two buses from Providence, and the advocacy group DARE will send a third. For those staying in Rhode Island, Providence peace activist Jean Ito is organizing a January 27 anti-war vigil with signs, at 2 pm, on the State House lawn (across from the mall). Also, East Bay Citizens for Peace will show The Ground Truth, an anti-war movie told from the soldiers’ perspective, at St. Michael’s Parish House in Bristol on February 11.
Stahl recommends that peace activists consider a major demonstration in Providence on March 19, the fourth anniversary of the start of the war. He suggests that non-violent occupations of military bases, like those organized by the War Resisters League and Ploughshares during the Vietnam War, may be necessary.
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