Seattle forums against the war

June 13, 2008

SEATTLE--Two leading voices of opposition to U.S. war in the Middle East spoke out here in early June.

Cindy Sheehan, the mother of a U.S. soldier killed in Iraq and currently an independent antiwar candidate running for the seat held by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, appeared before a crowd of 100 at Town Hall on June 6. The next day, Dahr Jamail, author of Beyond the Green Zone, about his experiences as an unembedded journalist in Iraq, spoke to 150 people.

Sheehan came to Seattle to raise awareness of her campaign. In her speech, she blamed Democrats for perpetuating the U.S. war on Iraq when they have the ability, as the majority party in Congress, to cut off funding and end the war.

Sheehan noted that more than 1,000 U.S. soldiers and many more Iraqi civilians have died since Pelosi took over at House Speaker in January 2007. Sheehan wants to organize a campaign to send 1,000 dog tags to Pelosi, representing the soldiers who have died since Democrats took over Congress.

Besides the war, Sheehan attacked U.S. militarism in general. "The U.S. has had a war economy since World War One! We have either been in wars, preparing for wars or engaging in covert operations every year since then.

"If you count everything, the U.S. spends $1 trillion a year on the military. China, the world's largest nation, only spends $95 billion. We should demand that the U.S. spend no more on the military than the largest country in the world spends."

On other political issues, Cindy called for universal single payer health care, free public education through college for all U.S. citizens, apprenticeships for those who didn't want to go to college, development of solar power, wind power and other renewable energy resources and cleaning up pollution around the world. She said that much of this could be funded by cutting the military budget.

Sheehan's remarks were well received and several hundred dollars were raised for her campaign after an appeal by Jesse Hagopian, a member of the Seattle Education Association and antiwar activist.

THE NEXT night, Jamail took up the U.S. occupation of Iraq, war threats against Iran and the world political situation.

"The corporate media doesn't show the real effects of the war," Jamail said. "Do you know what a 2,000-pound bomb would do? It would kill everyone in this church, and there wouldn't be enough of us left to identify the remains. It would create a crater 400 yards across. How can you drop bombs like this in a city, and not expect to kill hundreds of civilians?

"But the media doesn't present this. They did nothing to question the drive toward war. Only the alternative media and the Internet questioned the war plans."

Jamail put the war on Iraq and the threat of war against Iran in the context of U.S. foreign policy generally and the drive for U.S. empire. Quoting from government documents, he said the U.S. was to dominate "resource areas, especially oil and shipping lanes." The documents call for the U.S. to have "full-spectrum dominance" over air, land, sea, space and information.

He noted that though the current administration has an unprecedented connection with the oil industry, this policy has been around for decades, under Democrats and Republicans. The current administration represents oil corporation dominance " on steroids," he said.

Jamail stressed that the U.S. war is at a critical point, with many thousands dying in Iraq and the threat of a war on Iran. Asked what to do about these crises, he urged people to step up activism. "Find an issue that motivates you to take action and join a movement around that issue," he said. "The crisis is too real not to be involved."

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