American Federation of Teachers Passes Antiwar Resolutions

[by Andy Griggs]

At the American Federation of Teachers’ Convention, which ended on July 14, two major anti-war resolutions were passed by the body.

The AFT Peace and Justice Caucus, and members of the U.S. Labor Against War steering committee were instrumental in getting the two resolutions (both initially written by the Professional Staff Congress, City University of New York, and with amendments and additions from similar resolutions passed by United Teachers Los Angeles, and the CA Federation of Teachers) passed the International Relations Committee and onto the floor after some stiff resistance from opposition and AFT leadership. It should be noted also, that the resolutions that had come from other places were precluded and had such things as the continuing war in Afghanistan, affiliation with USLAW, and the removal of all military options from the table in Iran removed!

To think that in 2002, when the AFT was gung-ho about the attacks in Afghanistan, and pushing for more involvement in Iraq, that there has been enough change in the organization to come to these very strong resolutions is amazing.

However, now we must be sure that AFT leadership fulfills the calls made by these resolutions. Let’s keep up the pressure and make certain other locals and state organizations get involved as well!

For more information on how educators can get involved in the anti-war movement, especially during this election year campaign, when we must keep politicians’ feet to the fire, here are a few websites:

Below is the text of the two anti-war resolutions that were passed:

Whereas, the Bush administration, too often with bipartisan support, has used the idea of a “war on terror” to justify permanent and preemptive war and to provide political cover for:

-attacking and occupying other nations (Iraq 2003) and for possible future “preemptive” attacks (including against Iran);

-massively increasing US investment in war and disinvesting in education, health care, environmental safety and other human needs;

-dismantling civil liberties, compromising constitutional rights and violating international law in the name of fighting terrorism;

-transferring billions of dollars from public treasuries to private corporations as unprecedented war profiteering; and

Whereas, the “war on terror” is an ideological construct that obscures the reasons for the real war-which include control over wealth and resources; and

Whereas, the Bush administration announced a “National Security Strategy” of “preemptive war” in September 2002 that arrogated to the United States the unilateral right of the “use of force before attacks occur” at any time against any country that it deems hostile, even if that country has not taken any aggressive action against the U.S; and

Whereas, in line with its “National Security Strategy” of “preemptive war,” the U.S. invaded and occupied Iraq in March 2003; and

Whereas, the war in Iraq has so far cost the lives of thousands of US and Iraqi soldiers, and tens of thousands of Iraqi civilians; has displaced more than 4 million Iraqis, only a few of whom have returned in recent months, and has had a financial cost of more than $2 trillion; and

Whereas, the $720 million a day that the war costs could pay for 84 new elementary schools or 12,478 elementary school teachers or 95,364 Head Start places for children or a year of free school lunches for 1,153,846 children or a year of healthcare for 423,529 children or homes for 6,482 families or 34,904 four-year scholarships for students at state universities (source:; and

Whereas, the 911 Commission found no “collaborative relationship” between Iraq and al Qaeda;” and

Whereas, since the war in Iraq began, Iraq has become a new breeding ground for terrorists, prompting a September 2006 U.S. National Intelligence Estimate to state that “the Iraq conflict has become the ’cause celebre’ for jihadists, breeding a deep resentment of U.S. involvement in the Muslim world and cultivating supporters for the global jihadist movement;” and

Whereas, the Bush administration, in the name of fighting a “war on terror,” has tarnished our constitution, debased our civil liberties, and brazenly ignored international law by:

-denying the right of Habeas Corpus to both non-citizens and citizens under the Military Commissions Act;

-anctioning rendition, the practice of seizing unindicted individuals and shipping them to nations where torture is used as a method of interrogation;

-detaining almost 400 individuals at Guantanamo Bay without charges and without access to U.S. courts;

-allowing the CIA, in violation of the Geneva Conventions, to use water boarding, a method of interrogation that simulates drowning;

-authorizing surveillance of U.S. citizens without a warrant in violation of the Fourth Amendment;

-exercising the theory of a “unitary executive” to aggrandize presidential power and limit congressional oversight; and

Whereas the longer the war in Iraq continues, the more privatized both destruction and reconstruction become, with many of the functions of the military contracted to private firms with Halliburton getting more than $20 billion in Iraq contracts and Blackwater and the mercenary industry more than $4 billion:

Resolved, that the American Federation of Teachers go on record in opposition to the Bush administration’s theory and practice of permanent and “preemptive war;” and

Be it further resolved that the American Federation of Teachers demand that the United States immediately begin a complete withdrawal of armed forces from Iraq, and

Resolved, that the American Federation of Teachers call for an end to private war profiteering and that contractors be held responsible for their crimes while engaged in contracted activities; and

Resolved, that the 2008 American Federation of Teachers national convention expresses its solidarity with all Iraqi unions in their efforts to organize and establish free and independent unions, and

Resolved, that the American Federation of Teachers supports Iraqi labor efforts to protect the national sovereignty of its oil, other natural resources and public assets; and

Resolved, that the American Federation of Teachers’ president will communicate our concerns and support for independent trade unions in Iraq to the Iraqi unions, the Iraqi government through its ambassador in Washington, DC and the United States government, including the president, the Congress, and the Department of State, and

Resolved, that the American Federation of Teachers call for a reversal of the current federal funding priorities that create austerity for labor by investing in unending war while at the same time taking funds from education, health care, environmental safety and other human needs; and

Resolved, that the American Federation of Teachers call for full restoration of the fundamental constitutional, civil and human rights that have been suspended in order to pursue the “war on terror” and that the AFT advocate for (1) the elimination of the practices of rendition, torture and warrantless surveillance, (2) the closing of the prison at Guantanamo Bay and (3) the repeal of the Military Commission Act and the Patriot Act; and

Resolved, that the American Federation of Teachers consider the principles enunciated in this resolution when making endorsements in the 2008 presidential and congressional elections; and,

Resolved, that American Federation of Teachers establish relationships with organizations of veterans and military families and build a network of union members who are vets or in military families, and

Resolved, that the American Federation of Teachers communicate to its affiliate locals and state and regional bodies, and the AFL-CIO, the existence and significance of these issues and encourage those bodies to undertake appropriate education and solidarity actions in line with these resolutions.

Whereas, the American Federation of Teachers passed a resolution calling for an end to the war in Iraq at its 2006 convention, and

Whereas, preventing U.S. expansion of the war into Iran is in the spirit of AFT, NEA and AFL-CIO union resolutions calling for rapid withdrawal from Iraq; and

Whereas, the Bush administration’s pretexts for expanding the war into Iran
Bear a striking resemblance to its false pretext for the invasion and occupation of Iraq (including selectively demonizing Iran while not demonizing the equally repressive Saudi Arabia); and

Whereas, expansion of the disastrous U. S. war in Iraq into its more powerful neighbor Iran seems increasingly possible to informed observers of differing political views and would lead to devastating loss of life in Iran, a further drain on the education and health budgets in the U.S., and catastrophic consequences for the region and the world; and

Whereas, the U. S. government National Intelligence Estimate report, released in December 2007, makes it clear that Iran halted its nuclear weapons program in 2003 and that Iran is unlikely-“because of foreseeable technical and programmatic problems”-to achieve the capability to use nuclear weapons until after 2015; and

Whereas, the continuing concerns about Iran’s use of nuclear technology should be addressed through negotiation and diplomacy; and

Whereas, instead, the Bush administration and most of Congress have supported keeping on the table all military options against Iran, including nuclear strikes, and have sent carrier battle groups into the Persian Gulf in classic colonial-style gunboat diplomacy; and

Whereas, AFT stands in solidarity with our sister and brother workers in Iran oppressed by the right wing, anti-labor Ahmadinejad regime, which would only be strengthened by Iranian national outrage at a U. S. military attack:

RESOLVED, that the American Federation of Teachers unequivocally condemn the reactionary regime of Ahmadinejad, his anti-Semitic denial of the Holocaust and his denial of the right of Israel to exist and his oppressive policies against workers, women, ethnic minorities, gays and lesbians; and

RESOLVED, that the American Federation of Teachers also oppose any U. S. intervention in Iran, and demand that the Bush administration and Congress begin immediately negotiations in concert with other nations and international bodies to peacefully resolve the crisis caused by Iran’s program to develop nuclear weapons; and

RESOLVED, that the American Federation of Teachers communicate this resolution to the NEA, the AAUP and the AFL-CIO and urge them to educate and organize teachers, students, and union members to oppose U. S. military intervention in Iran.

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