Opposition to Iraq war surges

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Progressive Caucus introduces comprehensive bill to exit Iraq

President Bush’s announcement that he is sending over 21,000 more troops to Iraq has fueled increasing bipartisan opposition in Congress, among the U.S. public, in the labor movement and among the military itself. Organizers of the Jan. 27-29 Washington antiwar march and lobbying report growing interest in the protest actions.

The co-chairs of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, Reps. Lynn Woolsey and Barbara Lee, and Rep. Maxine Waters, chair of the Out of Iraq Caucus — all California Democrats — held a press conference Jan. 17 in the House Radio/TV Gallery to introduce the Bring the Troops Home and Iraq Sovereignty Restoration Act.

The measure would repeal the 2002 authorization for the use of force, fund withdrawal of U.S. forces and military contractors from Iraq within six months of the bill’s passage, prohibit funding to deploy or keep U.S. troops in Iraq, accelerate U.S. aid to train Iraqi police and community-based security, bar permanent U.S. bases there, provide economic and political aid to the Iraqi government, authorize U.S. support to replace U.S. troops and contractors with an international stabilization force if requested by the Iraqi government, and fully fund VA health care for all veterans.

Meanwhile Republican Sens. Chuck Hagel (Neb.) and Olympia Snowe (Maine) said they would join Democrats Joe Biden (Del.), Foreign Relations Committee chair, and Carl Levin (Mich.), Armed Services Committee chair, in supporting a bipartisan resolution opposing Bush’s escalation plan.

In a new USA Today/Gallup poll, 70 percent of the public disapproved of Bush’s handling of Iraq. A Jan. 10-15 Pew Research Center poll showed 70 percent think Bush has no clear plan for Iraq, and 59 percent think the U.S. should set a timetable to withdraw. Directly opposing Bush’s rhetoric, 57 percent said America’s safety from terrorism does not depend upon our “success” in the war in Iraq, and 61 percent opposed sending in more troops.

On Jan. 16, a delegation of U.S. service members delivered to Capitol Hill an appeal signed by 1,031 active duty and reserve soldiers, sailors and Marines asking Congress to end the Iraq war and bring all U.S. troops home. Signers of the online appeal included 35 troops serving in Baghdad. Reps. Jim McGovern (D-Mass.) and Dennis Kucinich (D-Ohio) received the petition from leaders of Appeal for Redress (www.appealforredress.org), a Norfolk, Va.-

based organization of active duty and reserve military personnel formed last fall.

The service members’ appeal reads, “As a patriotic American, proud to serve the nation in uniform, I respectfully urge my political leaders in Congress to support the prompt withdrawal of all American military forces and bases from Iraq. Staying in Iraq will not work and is not worth the price. It is time for U.S. troops to come home.”

At a news conference in Norfolk the day before, Marine Sgt. Liam Madden, 22, co-founder of the group, said, “This is not politics. It’s our generation’s call to conscience.”

Navy Seaman Jonathan Hutto, 29, the other co-founder, is a graduate of Howard University who serves on an aircraft carrier. He told a reporter for the Richmond Times-Dispatch he was motivated to organize the group while stationed off the coast of Iraq last year, after reading a book on GI resistance to the Vietnam War.

National Guard Sgt. Jabbar Magruder, who served 11 months in Tikrit, said at the Norfolk event, “We served in combat and we’ve seen the futility of this war,” the Times-Dispatch reported. “The soldiers want to resist. The soldiers want to come home now. We need the citizens to back us.”

David Cline, president of Veterans for Peace, accompanied the delegation delivering the petition. He told the World, “This is a very impressive initiative by active duty and reserve soldiers and shows just how strong opposition to this war is among men and women in uniform.”

In a poll of military personnel published last month in four military newspapers — Army Times, Navy Times, Air Force Times and Marine Times — only 41 percent felt it was a good idea to go to war in Iraq in the first place.

AFL-CIO President John Sweeney and AFSCME President Gerald McEntee blasted Bush’s escalation plan.

Bush is trying to “salvage his own legacy by putting in harm’s way more young American soldiers,” Sweeney charged in a Jan. 11 statement.

The soldiers risking their lives in Iraq come from America’s working families, the labor leader said. “They deserve leaders who will call them only when the nation’s security is at risk and there is a clear plan for victory. This administration has failed and continues to fail that basic obligation.

“What is needed in Iraq is an expansion of political and diplomatic efforts — not an increase in United States military performing police functions,” Sweeney emphasized. “Moreover, sustainable social and economic development and the guarantee of fundamental labor and trade union rights are absolutely essential.”

McEntee called pouring more troops and funds into the war “reckless and wrong” — “bad foreign policy” that “takes away the resources we need to solve problems here at home.”

suewebb @ pww.org Tim Wheeler contributed to this article.