News and reports
October 8, 2004 | Pages 10 and 11
Stop the war on Iraq
WASHINGTON, D.C.--Around 600 to 700 people--organized by Iraq Veterans Against the War, Veterans for Peace and Military Families Speak Out--marched from Arlington National Cemetery to rally at the Ellipse south of the White House October 2 in protest of the war on Iraq.
One thousand coffins, draped with black shrouds and American flags, were placed in orderly rows on the grounds of the Ellipse, and marchers brought almost 100 more to symbolize the 100 soldiers killed since the march was first organized. While the mood of the march was somber and quiet, the rally was markedly more militant.
Michael Hoffman, of Iraq Veterans Against the War, told Socialist Worker that more demonstrations like this were needed to make sure people here in the U.S. understood the cost of the war. The mainstream media doesn't convey the real pain and anguish felt by families on both sides, and Iraqis, when they're represented at all, are presented as victims of the battle against the "insurgency" rather than as targets of U.S. military actions.
"Many soldiers joined for noble reasons--to protect their country, believing they'd make the world a safer place, and they feel that doing the job they were sent to do is their only option," said Hoffman. "I blame those who sent them there for no other reasons than profit, power and oil. We have to get the soldiers out and bring them home now."
Like many others at the demonstration, Dennis Kyne--a former soldier who served as a medical officer in the 1991 Gulf War--plans to vote for Kerry in November, but he doesn't think a Kerry presidency will ultimately solve the crisis in Iraq. "If [Kerry] does keep troops in Iraq for four more years, he'll be as guilty of war crimes as any other president during the last 20 years," said Kyne.
In Madison, Wis., William Olson, a former member of the U.S. Coalition Provisional Authority in Iraq, came to deliver a pro-war rant at the University of Wisconsin-Madison in late September. But antiwar activists didn't let his diatribe go unopposed. While Olson spoke, activists staged a re-enactment of the gruesome torture at Abu Ghraib, effectively stealing the show. In the back of the room, a person stood with a black hood and electrical wires dangling from his fingers.
After the speech, activists confidently pressed Olson on the issues, and he either talked around them or outright refused to respond. When the questioning got too tough, he refused to take any more and skulked out of the room.
We need to keep on confronting war criminals wherever we can--and rebuild the antiwar movement across the country.
Kevin Prosen contributed to this report.
SAN FRANCISCO--The continued Israeli attacks in Gaza set a serious and determined mood at the October 2 Struggle for Palestine conference. The conference brought together 300 activists for various workshops and panels to mark the fourth anniversary of the Intifada.
The event--despite destructive efforts by local Zionists--was a remarkable success. Throughout the day, people from different struggles discussed the parallels with the fight for a free Palestine.
At a panel of U.S. solidarity groups, Monadel Herzallah, founder of the Arab American Union Members Council in the Bay Area, said that the hotel strike and the resistance of the Palestinians were part of the same fight. He stressed the potential of the U.S. labor movement to be an important ally to the Palestinians, but had a sober analysis of the state of the labor movement. "The labor movement has to learn to have solidarity with itself [as well as with the Palestinians]," he said.
Elias Rashmawi of the Free Palestine Alliance continued the theme. "We know that the war against Palestine and Iraq is the same as the war here," said Rashmawi. "They demolish homes in Palestine, they deny you homes in the U.S. As we seek penicillin, they deny you health care."
Given the prevalence of "Anybody But Bush" sentiment that has dampened much of the antiwar movement, it was impressive to see such a large turnout. Despite the diversity of views, the unity of the conference was especially apparent when a small group of Zionists demanded to be let in to the conference--after trying for the past week to have the conference shut down by appealing to the mayor and others that the conference "supported terrorism."
All the groups at the conference participated in a tight security effort to refuse them entrance. But in the end, our solidarity paid off, and the police, who had wanted to escort them into the conference, backed down after we insisted that we could refuse the right of entry to people aiming to disrupt this private event.
This was a scorching defeat for the local Zionists, who have felt more confident given the vocal bipartisan support for their racist ideas. The coalition's next step is to sponsor a post-election protest, in solidarity with all the "targets of empire," no matter which presidential candidate wins.
Josh On, Katrina Yeaw, Sue Sandlin and Ragina Johnson contributed to this report.
LOS ANGELES--The Mexican-American Political Association (MAPA) voted for an "open endorsement" of both Green Party candidate David Cobb and the campaign of Ralph Nader at its conference at East Los Angeles College on October 2. "The Democrats need to understand that unless they stop perpetuating racist policies, they will become the minority party in California," said MAPA leader Nativo Lopez.
This is a huge step for MAPA, which usually endorses Democrats. Nader's vice presidential running mate Peter Camejo spoke at the conference on his opposition to the war in Iraq, Plan Colombia, the coup in Venezuela and NAFTA.
The convention voted for an open endorsement of both Cobb and Nader--MAPA chapters may campaign for either--because of the differences between the two candidates on whether to run a "safe-states" campaign. Cobb favors vigorous campaigning only in states where his votes won't jeopardize a Kerry victory, while Nader-Camejo argue for campaigning in every state. On October 1, Camejo spoke to 225 people at Occidental College in LA.
San Francisco--Camejo spoke to a packed room of 300 people at San Francisco State University's Cesar Chavez Student Center September 30. Even though supporters of right-wing wacko Lyndon LaRouche interrupted the meeting and had to be escorted from the room, 60 people signed up for Students for Nader.
New York--"The concepts of democracy and of free speech--these are profound," Camejo told a group of 70 people at Hunter College on September 23. "Truth can only be ascertained through the conflict of ideas. When a society starts shutting down and not allowing the conflict of ideas, then you can't discover truth and you can't advance."
Sarah Knopp, Diana Mendez, David Russitano and Sam Scholl contributed to this report.
Rochester, N.Y.--The Puerto Rican Youth Development and Resource Center held its 14th Annual Hispanic Leadership Conference here September 17. The theme of the conference was "Improving the Quality of Life for Latinos," and brought together almost 100 youth and leaders from the community to strategize about how to improve conditions for Puerto Ricans in Rochester.
The conference featured a youth panel, where teenagers talked about their major concerns and fears as Latino teens. All teens on the panel mentioned getting a job as a major concern. Other concerns mentioned were HIV/AIDS and gang violence. Workshops throughout the day included Latinos in the Media, which addressed the way in which Latinos are stereotyped in the newspapers.
Unfortunately, the keynote speaker was the president of a major electronics company whose speech focused on emphasizing the strength of the Latino market and the possibilities for Latinos to start their own businesses. Since the Latino population has grown so much over the last decade, he argued, the key is for us to bank in on our market value and start our own businesses.
Another drawback was that no one really discussed the issue of police brutality affecting the Rochester community. Last month, at the annual Puerto Rican Festival, Rochester Police attacked the community, harassing and insulting Puerto Rican people and arresting 27. Some people said the police were stepping on the Puerto Rican flag.
We have to continue to work with each other to develop the confidence to come forward and speak out against racism. This conference was an important step forward in that direction.