NEWSLETTER SUPPLEMENT ON PEACE ACTIONS
[Editor's Note: Our regular newsletter will be emailed next week.]
1. WILL IT BE TWO PEACE BUSES OR ONE? Hudson Valley buses are filling up for big peace action March 20 in Washington.
2. CONGRESS VOTES TO CONTINUE WARS. Bipartisan at last, House Democrats and Republicans unite to beat a back antiwar motion.
3. MARCH 20 PEACE ORGANIZERS HARASSED. Authorities in Washington, San Francisco and Los Angeles are imposing big fines and high bail on "felons" putting up posters.
4. STAYING THE COURSE IN AFGHANISTAN. The Nation's John Nichols notes that, legally, Congress never declared war on Afghanistan.
1. WILL IT BE TWO PEACE BUSES OR ONE?
With one bus almost filled and paid for to bring Hudson Valley residents to the big peace march in Washington Saturday, March 20, the Activist Newsletter has started a waiting list for a second bus.
We need at least 30 more people for Bus #2, in addition to those who already signed up, in order to pay the bus company. Failing that we will have to cancel this second bus and return the checks already received for reservations. We'll do everything we can to avoid this.
A final decision must be made in a week, by March 18. It is entirely possible that we can fill this second bus and bring 110 people, instead of 55, to Washington and back. Success depends on those of you who are reading these lines. Will you step forward for peace and join the rally across from the White House and a march throughout the nation's capital?
As you know, our peace movement has been weakened in the last two years, even as, in the last several months, Washington has greatly escalated the wars. As you also know, over 50% of the American people do not support the Afghan war but only a much smaller percentage in Congress share that view, judging by the defeat of a motion to stop the war. (see below). The only force capable of ending the Afghan war is the people — and thousands of peace people will be in Washington March 20.
The two buses are scheduled to pick up activists in Kingston, New Paltz, Poughkeepsie, and Spring Valley in the early hours, returning at night. The roundtrip cost for the bus is $60 per person. Half price discounts are available to students and low-income people upon request, thanks to contributions from our readers. If you wish to reserve seats send us an email including your name, town, email address and telephone number. Then make out your check to Activist Newsletter and mail immediately to Activist Newsletter, PO Box 662, New Paltz, NY 12561. We won't cash the checks until the bus is confirmed. Questions? Email or (845) 255-5779.
2. CONGRESS VOTES TO CONTINUE WARS
By Jack A. Smith
(Activist Newsletter editor)
Finally there is some bipartisanship in Congress after over a year of bitter bickering between the two ruling parties led by totally intransigent Republican politicians.
It took support for former President George W. Bush's misadventure in Afghanistan to bring it all about on March 10 when 167 Republicans joined 189 Democrats to defeat a bill introduced by Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-OH) to end the war.
A total of 65 members of the House voted in favor of the measure, which was based on the Vietnam era War Powers Resolution, to withdraw from the Afghan war no later than the end of the year. Of the affirmative votes 60 were from progressive or liberal Democrats. The five Republicans were mostly libertarians.
Seven New York House members voted against war. They were Reps. Crowley, Maloney, Nadler, Rangel, Serrano, Towns and Velazquez. All Hudson Valley votes favored war. A roll call listing for the entire House vote is at http://clerk.house.gov/cgi-bin/vote.asp?year=2010&rollnumber=98.
Kucinich introduced his bill to force a debate in Congress on the Obama Administration's war policies because "unless this Congress acts to claim its constitutional responsibility, we will stay in Afghanistan for a very, very long time at great cost to our troops and to our national priorities."
The progressive Democrat also declared that the debate will provide Congress with "a chance, for the first time, to reflect on our responsibility for troop casualties that are now reaching a thousand; to look at our responsibilities for the costs of the war, which approaches $250 billion; at our responsibility for the civilian casualties and the human costs of the war; at our responsibility for challenging the corruption that takes place in Afghanistan; at our responsibility for having a real understanding of the role of the pipeline in this war; at our responsibility for debating the role of counterinsurgency strategies, as opposed to counterterrorism; and at our responsibility for being able to make a case for the logistics of withdrawal. After eight-and-a-half years, it is time that we have this debate."
Noting that al-Qaeda has virtually no presence in Afghanistan, antiwar Rep. Donna Edwards (D- MD) argued that "Congress has an obligation to send a strong message to the White House that the war must come to an end. Who are we fighting? Over the course of time, this war and its mission and its goals have morphed and morphed and morphed."
Libertarian Rep. Ron Paul (R-TX) stated that "the country is totally bankrupt and we are spending trillions of dollars on these useless wars. History shows all empires end because they expand too far and bankrupt the country."
Conservative Republicans were thrilled by the outcome. Said rightist Rep. Lincoln Diaz-Balart (R-FL): "In the case of Afghanistan, President Obama has demonstrated great responsibility and a sense of the national security interests of the United States. He deserves our support."
George W. Bush must be chuckling as his successor and the Democratic Congress have validated his misguided, expensive, deadly and endless wars.
The 9/11 terror attack was plotted in Europe and the 19 participants, without an Afghani among them, mainly trained in the United States. But Bush decided that bombing and invading Afghanistan, one of the poorest and least developed countries in the world, was a more appropriate response than intense international police work and other actions short of war.
Bush justified doing so because Osama bin-Laden, the Saudi Arabian leader of al-Qaeda, and some of his followers were in Afghanistan. But his real reason was to launch a "War on Terrorism" to conquer oil rich Iraq and — had U.S. forces not become bogged down in both the Afghan and Iraqi battlefields — Iran, thus dominating the world's largest petroleum reserves as well as the strategic Persian Gulf.
Now it is eight and a half years later. Bin-Laden and his crew pulled out of Afghanistan soon after the invasion. They remain at large, part of perhaps 1,000 al-Qaeda members scattered in small decentralized groups in various countries, mostly in Europe, Africa and the Middle East. Fewer than 100 al-Qaeda operatives are in Afghanistan today. In the last year, Bush's successor doubled the number of U.S. troops in the country, spread the war to western Pakistan and Yemen, and is spending more on war and the Pentagon budget than Bush did.
How different it would be had Bush relied on police work against a terror organization instead of wars against countries. How different it would be had the neoconservatives not used the 9/11 tragedy to extend U.S. hegemony throughout the Middle East as a means of cornering the oil market. How different it would be had President Obama ended instead of continued and widened Bush's wars.
And as Bush is chuckling and undoubtedly thinking of how to use Obama's wars to justify his own in the blockbuster memoirs he eventually will publish, the neocons and the far right are dancing in delight now that they finally found themselves a president who's going to win them their war at last.
We shall see about that. Our peace movement isn't as strong today with Obama in power as it was when the Democrats had Bush to target. But it's alive, active, getting stronger, and it will never give up, no matter who is in the White House or how many war enablers populate Congress.
3. MARCH 20 PEACE ORGANIZERS HARASSED
By Brian Becker
(National Coordinator, ANSWER Coalition)
I am writing to let you know about a serious assault on free speech rights that we believe is intended to hamper and obstruct the mobilization for the March 20 antiwar demonstrations in Washington, D.C., and in Los Angeles and San Francisco.
On Sunday night, March 6, volunteers in Los Angeles were arrested for allegedly putting up three posters announcing the March 20th action. They were charged with felony vandalism and kept in jail on a $20,000 bail for each of them. Thanks to volunteers coming together, we were able to raise bail money and they are now out of jail.
The heavy felony charge and huge $20,000 bail in Los Angeles comes shortly after a nearly identical situation in San Francisco. Two ANSWER organizers were arrested on felony vandalism charges for allegedly putting up a political poster and also each given a $20,000 bail.
In Washington, D.C., the ANSWER Coalition has been hit with another wave of fines for March 20th political posters. These thousands of dollars of new fines are on top of an unprecedented $70,000 in fines from the two most recent mobilizations. We are challenging the old and new fines. The posters conformed to lawful regulations — as they always have. No organization, corporate entity or politician has ever been hit with such massive fines.
Just today, we received another $1,300 in fines on top of earlier fines. Antiwar organizations and volunteers are also being hit with heavy fines in Chicago, New York City and elsewhere.
The stakes here are high. The massive fines and felony arrests with extraordinarily high bail come just before what we believe will be the largest outpouring to date against the war in Afghanistan.
The large corporations, including the biggest war contractors and banks, have billions of dollars to advertise their message of war and profit. Grassroots organizations have always relied on leaflets and posters to build progressive movements for change.
The government and national and local law enforcement agencies are now engaged in a nationally coordinated effort to stamp out the exercise of classic grassroots organizing.
We will never surrender to this campaign that aims to intimidate and bankrupt the progressive movement. We are fighting back. Most importantly, we are continuing to mobilize. We ask you to show your support by coming to the March 20 demonstrations and by bringing your friends, families, co-workers and fellow students. We will not be silenced.
You can also support this movement by sending an urgently needed donation today to http://www.march20.org. Click on Donate To The March.
We want to thank the Partnership for Civil Justice Fund (PCJF), the public interest legal organization, which has filed a lawsuit on behalf of the ANSWER Coalition and the Muslim American Society Freedom that challenges the constitutionality of the D.C. postering regulations. Their tireless pro bono legal effort has resulted in an important victory at the U.S. Court of Appeals, which allows the lawsuit to proceed. The government had tried to stop us from even having our day in court. In California, constitutional rights attorney Carol Sobel has waged a major legal battle against the government’s efforts to target free speech postering activities.
In order to win this fight, we have to both defend our rights in the courts and show solidarity with activists who are facing repression. And each and every one of us can do our part to help support the mobilization of the people against war and occupation. Basic rights were never a gift from politicians. Important change, including basic free speech rights were the result of the struggle by generation after generation.
[Editor's Note: The ANSWER coalition has been the principal organizer of the major antiwar protests in the nation's capital during the Bush and now Obama era, including the half-million strong March on Washington in January 2003, months before Bush launched his unjust, illegal war against Iraq. ANSWER held its first Washington protest against the Afghan war less than two weeks after 9/11 and a week before Bush ordered the attack. The protest drew 25,000 demonstrators. The name ANSWER is an acronym that stands for Act Now to Stop War and End Racism. Its national office is in Washington, and may be reached by these means: (202) 265-1948,
4. STAYING THE COURSE IN AFGHANISTAN
(The Nation website, March 10)
The U.S. Congress never declared war on Afghanistan, a country where more than 1,000 U.S. troops — and thousands of Afghan civilians — have died since President Bush ordered the invasion and occupation of that country in 2001.
The vague authorization that Bush received to pursue the perpetrators of the September 11, 2001, which was treated by Democrats and Republicans alike as justification for the incursion into Afghanistan is now more than eight years old — and during that time all of the facts on the ground in Afghanistan and most of the facts internationally have changed.
Yet, the occupation continues. Indeed, the U.S. troop presence is escalating toward 100,000, even as other countries — including, most recently, the Netherlands — prepare to exit Afghanistan.
By any reasonable reading of the Constitution — which rests the warmaking power with the Congress, along with the sole power to appropriate money to that use so long as expenditure does not last "for a longer term than two years" — it is high time for members of the House and Senate to debate whether this undeclared, yet seemingly endless, war should continue.
After all, the founders established a system of separated powers with the precise purpose of empowering the House and Senate to check and balance adventurous executives.
Unfortunately, only a brave minority of House members take the Constitution seriously.
Their numbers were counted on Wednesday, when Ohio Congressman Dennis Kucinich forced a House debate on a resolution that would have required President Obama to withdraw U.S. armed forces from Afghanistan by December 31, 2010.
"In 2001, I joined the House in voting for the Authorization for the Use of Military Force. In nearly nine years it has become clear that the Authorization for the Use of Military Force is being misinterpreted as carte blanche to circumvent Congress' role as a coequal branch of government.
"Both the Bush and the Obama administrations have cited the 2001 Authorization for the Use of Military Force as the justification for the military escalation in Afghanistan, for holding prisoners indefinitely at Guantánamo and Bagram Air Force Base, and even for mass domestic spying of U.S. citizens in violation of our most basic constitutional principles....
"As U.S. armed forces and their allies begin the first in a series of large military operations in Afghanistan, this House must be heard from. We must reclaim our Constitutional responsibility and our responsibility to the American people."
Kucinich's view drew bipartisan support from Democrats and Republicans, liberals and conservatives, progressives and libertarians.
But it did not draw sufficient support from a House where most members refuse, especially in matters of war and peace, to abide by the oath they swore "to support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign or domestic."
On March 10 House voted 356-65 to stay the course Bush set in Afghanistan....