Congress votes for war, but peace movement grows

Anti-war leaders expressed anger that lawmakers ignored a flood of anti-war mail in voting last week for a resolution that grants George W. Bush authority to launch a unilateral, preemptive attack on Iraq.

Even so, the 133 House members and 23 Senators who voted against the war resolution signalled far stronger opposition than had been expected. It dashed Bush-Cheney hopes of gaining overwhelming congressional support so they could claim a popular mandate for war. Instead, Bush faces strong, and growing, opposition. He is taking a divided nation into a war for oil and world domination. More immediately, these deep divisions may encourage the UN to slow down Bush’s war juggernaut.

“Sen. Dianne Feinstein reported she had received 5,614 phone calls over six weeks with only 136 supporting Bush’s war plan,” said Scott Lynch, spokesperson for Peace Action. “Yet she voted for the war resolution. If politicians can ignore the will of their constituents then we have a structural failure of American democracy.”

Karen Talbot, leader of the San Francisco-based International Center for Peace and Justice, said she participated in the mobilization that bombarded California lawmakers with thousands of messages calling for peace. Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.), Rep. Barbara Lee (D-Calif.) and many others got the message and voted no. “There is so much anger that Feinstein not only voted for war but also called on Bush to invoke Taft-Hartley against the Longshore and Warehouse Union,” Talbot said. “There are calls to run someone against her next time she’s up for re-election.”

Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-Ohio), a leader of the peace bloc, had predicted that about 100 House members would vote against the dangerous resolution. The fact that 133 voted against Bush “is a credit to the efforts of so many millions of people who called Capitol Hill to say, ‘No war on Iraq!’” said Lynch. “The effort paid off in convincing a number of lawmakers to vote no who otherwise might have voted yes.”

Over half the House Democratic Caucus voted no, a rebuff to House Minority Leader Richard Gephardt (D-Mo.), who helped draft the war resolution. Lynch urged people to get back in touch with lawmakers who voted no to thank them for taking a stand for peace and urge continued resistance to Bush’s drive toward war.

“We have to take our movement up a notch,” Lynch said. “We have to take to the streets in non-violent protests like the Oct. 26 march on Washington, the Pledge of Resistance, and any local street protests.”

With the Nov. 5 elections looming, “voters can interact with the candidates and make it clear they are opposed to a war against Iraq,” Lynch said. “All the polls show that a majority of the people are opposed to a unilateral, preemptive U.S. war on Iraq.”

Just before the House and Senate voted, a letter from CIA Director George Tenet was leaked, in which he wrote, “Baghdad for now appears to be drawing the line short of conducting terrorist attacks with conventional or C.B.W. [chemical and biological weapons] against the United States.” This contradicted Bush’s claims that Iraq is preparing to attack the U.S. at any minute. Congress ignored this, and other signs of deep splits within the administration, to approve a blank check for Bush.

Yet the anti-war tide continues to rise. The Institute for Policy Studies reported that in the past month, 400 rallies, marches, teach-ins and other anti-war protests have been staged across the country. Abroad, the French government continues to resist Bush’s drive for a UN Security Council resolution permitting the U.S. to invade Iraq. France and Germany are adamantly opposed to Bush’s real agenda, “regime change” in Iraq.

France is stiffening its resistance to Bush’s call for a Security Council resolution pre-authorizing a U.S. invasion if UN inspectors find proof that Iraq is producing, or seeking to produce, weapons of mass destruction. France is demanding a separate vote on a second resolution to permit use of force only if such facilities are discovered and Iraq refuses to dismantle them.

In granting the Nobel Peace Prize to former President Jimmy Carter, Oct. 11, the Nobel Committee’s formal citation declared, “In a situation currently marked by threats of the use of power, Carter has stood by the principles that conflicts must as far as possible be resolved through mediation and international cooperation based on international law, respect for human rights and economic development.”

Asked by a reporter if the Nobel Committee was delivering a “kick in the leg” to Bush, committee chairman Gunnar Berge replied, “Yes, the answer is an unconditional yes … the award can and must be seen as criticism of the line the current administration has taken on Iraq.”

The author can be reached at greenerpastures21212@yahoo.com