by Jeff Mackler / September 2005 issue Socialist Action
The Sept. 24 nationally coordinated and united anti-Iraq War demonstrations set for Washington, D.C., San Francisco, and Los Angeles promise to be the
largest mobilizations in the United States since the war began more than two years ago. Other sizable demonstrations are scheduled to take place on the same date in Toronto, London, and many other cities worldwide.
In the U.S., millions of people have come to understand that the Iraq War has been a fraud from the beginning. National polls put support for President
Bush’s war policies at an all-time low. An Associated Press/Ipsos poll (Aug. 22-24) reported that only 37 percent of Americans support Bush on the war, while Newsweek in early August put the figure at 34 percent.
From the “reddest” of the states, like Utah—where 2500 mobilized on Aug. 22 in Salt Lake City to protest Bush’s speech to an assembly organized by Veterans of Foreign Wars—to the more than 100,000 who mobilized in
over 1600 U.S. cities in 50 states in mid-August in solidarity with Cindy Sheehan, the fight against the Iraq War has taken a major leap forward.
While the most visible promoters of the August vigils were internet-based groups like Moveon.org, TrueMajority, and Democracy for America, which promote various “phased-withdrawal” solutions associated with an assortment of “lesser-evil” Democratic Party politicians, Sheehan’s message has been loud and clear.
“I want George Bush to honor my son by bringing the troops home immediately,” she states. “I don’t want him to use my son’s name or my name to justify and more killing.”
“Cindy,” as she is endearingly referred to by millions today, began an Aug. 6 vigil on the road leading to President Bush’s vacation ranch in Crawford, Texas. When government pressure was applied to remove Sheehan
and her growing number of supporters, an amiable Bush neighbor donated a portion of his property for what became a month-long protest site, visited by antiwar activists from across the country.
Sheehan vowed to continue her vigil in Washington, D.C., until the president agreed to meet with her to explain why her son died for nothing in Iraq. Army
Specialist Casey Sheehan, whose name has been widely adopted at newly established Camp Casey sites across the country, was killed in Sadr City, Iraq, on April 4, 2004. Since then his mother has become an ardent antiwar activist.
Undoubtedly, Sheehan’s vigil and incisive commentaries have helped to unleash and give visible expression to the deep and growing antiwar sentiment felt by millions.
“I want him [President Bush] to tell me just what was the noble cause Casey died for.” she declared. “Was it freedom and democracy? Bullshit! He died for oil. He died to make your friends richer. He died to expand American imperialism in the Middle East.”
Sheehan continued: “We’re not freer here, thanks to your Patriot Act. Iraq is not free. You get America out of Iraq and Israel out of Palestine and you’ll stop the terrorism. There. I used the “I” word, ‘imperialism,’ and now I’m going to use another ‘I’ word, ‘impeachment,’ because we cannot have these people pardoned.”
Bush’s supporters and their corporate media pundits, despite great efforts, have proved incapable of blunting the impact of Sheehan’s assault. Fox News
“reporter” Fred Barnes called Sheehan a “crackpot,” while super-rightist radio commentator Rush Limbaugh denied reality by insisting that Sheehan’s “story is nothing more than forged documents.” “There’s nothing about it that’s real,” he railed.
But real it is. The lies pressed forward by both Republicans and Democrats to justify the plunder and looting of Iraq and the associated murder of over
100,000 Iraqi people have been stripped away in the face of a truth that cannot be denied.
Sacrificing lives for corporate profits
The American people are learning fast and hard that their sons and daughters are being sacrificed on the altar of corporate profit and greed. Nearly 1900 GIs
are dead and tens of thousands more wounded with no end in sight, while the Iraqi resistance grows in strength and popular support despite the overwhelming U.S. military superiority and daily slaughter.
In the United States, unprecedented trillions of dollars are allocated to the war machine to further enhance the profits of the military-industrial complex and bolster the imperialist project in Iraq and worldwide. Simultaneously, vital social services and entitlements won decades ago are being cut to pieces.
A million industrial jobs are lost yearly, along with pensions and health-care benefits, all in the name of keeping a crisis-ridden U.S. capitalism competitive in already glutted world markets.
The direct relationship between imperialist war (Cindy Sheehan’s ‘I’ word), and the massive attack on working people at home is better known today than ever and a central explanation for the growing antiwar sentiment. This sentiment was reflected in the AFL-CIO’s muted but critical resolution on the Iraq War, approved at its July 2005 split Chicago convention (see Socialist
Action, August 2005). Subsequently, the Los Angeles County Federation of Labor, AFL-CIO, interpreting the resolution as an “Out Now!” position, voted to
“support the national mobilization against the war” set for Sept. 24.
The July meeting of some 500 delegates to the Teamster union’s National Black Caucus demanded the immediate withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq and urged the national Teamsters union to follow suit. The International Executive Board of the Steelworkers union passed a resolution on Iraq demanding, “Bring the Troops Home Rapidly,” which repeated the wording
of the demand in the antiwar resolution approved at the AFL-CIO convention.
Leaders of US Labor Against the War, a national trade-union coalition that initiated the passage of some 18 antiwar resolutions for submission to the
AFL-CIO convention, has obtained permission from the AFL-CIO to use the steps of its Washington headquarters for a pre-march labor rally against the
war on Sept. 24. This is an unprecedented step for the national labor federation, which has historically distinguished itself for its subservience to U.S. imperialism’s foreign policy.
Coalitions unite for Sept. 24
Following a series of mid-August negotiations, mediated by leading antiwar and labor activists, the nation’s two largest antiwar coalitions, United for
Peace and Justice and ANSWER (Act Now to Stop War and End Racism), now co-sponsors of the Sept. 24 actions, reached agreement on all disputed issues.
The agreement ends months of needless posturing on both sides, wherein each group had embarked on organizing separate and competing D.C. demonstrations in different locations on the same date. The unity agreement specifies that the central themes of the mass protest will be “End the War in Iraq!” and “Bring the Troops Home Now!”
Within this framework and in the best tradition of united-front mass-action politics, each coalition will be free to produce its own literature and banners and organize its own contingents as it chooses. The planned 90-minute rally will begin at 11:30 a.m. at the Ellipse in front of the White House, and a march
will then proceed down Pennsylvania Ave. It will include an equal number of speakers to be selected by each group as well as agreed upon “celebrities.”
The center-stage banner will feature the above demands while separate on-stage and march banners indicative of critical issues advanced by each coalition will also be prominently displayed.
The ANSWER coalition’s demand, “End All Occupations from Haiti to Iraq to Palestine,” will likely be featured via its literature, speakers, and banners on
the stage and in the march.
The agreement was achieved due to the pressure exerted by several concerned groups—especially the Emergency Ad Hoc Committee for a United Demonstration in Washington, D.C., which organized 350 organizations
and prominent individuals to demand a united Sept. 24 action.
Socialist Action actively supported and campaigned for this critical unity initiative. Its success was based on each coalition’s subordinating longstanding organizational frictions and rivalries to a principled compromise that resolved an important dispute over the issue of Palestine.
ANSWER dropped its original insistence that opposition to the U.S.-backed Palestine occupation be a common demand of both coalitions. UFPJ dropped its original view that the Palestine issue be excluded altogether. In this framework, both coalitions agreed that each could use their own on-stage and march banners to highlight their own critical issues, including Palestine, an agreement that Socialist Action had advocated and fully supported.
But the impasse highlighted the fact the new antiwar movement has yet to find a mechanism to avoid such disputes in the future. Such a mechanism must
eventually allow for the full and democratic decision-making of the movement’s rank-and-file activists.
During the Vietnam War era, this was achieved by the periodic organization of mass national decision-making conferences, open to all and based on one-person-one-vote. At the height of the movement, some conferences attracted more than 5000 activists. The movement’s differences were openly and
democratically debated and resolved.
Today, relatively small and narrow groups of individuals most often decide the national antiwar movement’s politics and major activities. When this severe limitation gives way to the direct involvement of the ranks, the movement will be primed to take the next major step forward. The fact that both coalitions
responded positively to the pressure exerted by 350 leading organizations and individuals was an important step in this direction.
The united Sept. 24 mobilizations afford antiwar fighters a new opportunity to reach additional millions with the truth about the Iraq War and to qualitatively advance the struggle to Bring the Troops Home Now!
All Out for Washington, D.C., San Francisco, and Los Angeles! End All U.S.-Supported Wars and Occupations from Haiti to Palestine!