U.S. peace movement key to stopping Iraq war

The NAACP has reaffirmed its opposition to a U.S. war against Iraq, with a statement urging “ solutions that offer peace over resolutions that end in war.”

Rev. Julius C. Hope, NAACP Religious Affairs Director, said the group “took the extraordinary step in issuing an anti-war statement to galvanize our collective spiritual power as people of God to emphasize that we fundamentally oppose a war on Iraq … we cannot sit idly by without calling for the U.S. to seek more Godly and holy solutions of peace.”

A similar resolution was passed last fall by the NAACP Board of Directors. Julian Bond, NAACP chairman, said it “reflects serious discontent among African Americans and all Americans about the risks and perils of war.”

With the Bush administration working to steamroller United Nations compliance with its war drive, broad-based peace actions by the American people may well hold the key to preventing a U.S. attack on Iraq. Indicative of the expanding movement opposing Bush’s war policy, Cleveland AFL-CIO Executive Secretary John Ryan and Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-Ohio) will join Dr. Otis Moss, an associate of Martin Luther King, and other religious leaders in the city’s African-American community, in a Voices Against the War event, Jan. 12, initiated by the newly formed Intercommunity/

Interfaith Push for Peace coalition.

United for Peace, a national campaign including a broad range of organizations throughout the country, has issued a call for a national week of peace and justice Jan. 13-20. A host of national and local actions will take place the weekend of Martin Luther King’s birthday, Jan. 18-20, including rallies in Washington, D.C., and San Francisco on Jan. 18.

On Jan. 20, Black Voices for Peace is holding a national event in Washington, D.C. and local actions/commemorations, focusing on organizing for peace, racial and economic justice, and civil rights and liberties. The Iraq Pledge of Resistance is calling for local civil disobedience events Jan. 15-20.

A mass anti-war mobilization will take place in New York City on Feb. 15, initiated by United for Peace. The same day, millions are expected to march against war in Europe and Japan.

More than 30 national, state and local labor organizations and leaders have, in one way or another, expressed concern over the Bush administration’s drive to war, and that number is expected to grow. Major religious, environmental and women’s groups have also voiced opposition to war.

Thirteen religious leaders, led by National Council of Churches General Secretary Robert Edgar, returned Jan. 3 from a mission to Iraq, where they said they witnessed the 20-year legacy of suffering of Iraqi civilians – especially children – and were “burdened with the knowledge that war would further deepen that suffering.”

A delegation from Pax Christi, a Catholic lay organization, also recently returned from Baghdad, where they met with Iraqi religious leaders, UN officials, relief organizations and ordinary Iraqis. Delegation members said a war on Iraq would be a grave mistake and lead to further destabilization of the region.

The Bush administration is working to create an atmosphere that war is inevitable, with daily reports of troops, hospital ships, and battle command staff taking up positions near Iraq. Nevertheless, dozens and dozens of peace actions are happening throughout the U.S., Peace Action communications director Scott Lynch, told the World. “People are holding vigils in a way I’ve never seen before,” he said. United for Peace co-chair Bill Fletcher told the World the unprecedented level of anti-war activity is “a source of inspiration.” Fletcher, president of TransAfrica Forum, will be among the speakers at the Jan. 18 Washington, D.C., rally.

Observers note that the White House, intent on ensuring the re-election of George W. Bush and his ultra-right team in 2004, is sensitive to shifts in public opinion. “The Bush administration can be influenced,” Lynch said, adding, “If the chickenhawks had had their way we would have rolled into Baghdad a long time ago.” Lynch cited recent polls showing a 10 percent drop in support for Bush’s war policy, and said the push to war is widely seen as dictated by geopolitical designs including control of the oil-rich Middle East rather than any threat from Iraq.

At the United Nations, the Bush administration is using its enormous capacity to “threaten and cajole” support for war, Global Policy Forum executive director James Paul told the World. If countries like France and others are convinced the U.S. will wage war on Iraq no matter what, they may back a second UN resolution authorizing military action in order to get a share of Iraq’s oil following a war, Paul commented.

This highlights all the more the pivotal role of the U.S. grassroots movement in stopping war, Paul said. “We shouldn’t be resigned to Washington ruling the world,” he said. “We have to struggle against it.”

The author can be reached at suewebb@pww.org