Members of Veterans for Peace (VFP) Iowa led in organizing a state-wide rally held in Des Moines on March 19, the 9th anniversary of the U.S. war in Iraq.
"It's our hope that there won't be a need for another March 19 rally to end the war," Ed Flaherty, president of VFP Iowa chapter 161, told The Independent Monitor.
"Iraq and the United States have agreed that we are going to have all troops out of there by December 31. We should begin bringing those 50,000 home now. It's very easy math. There's 10 months left in the year; 5,000 troops a month and we'd be out," said Flaherty.
The U.S. could regain some moral and political credibility and begin to restore economic viability by ending the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, said Flaherty, who lives and works in Iowa City.
Flaherty noted that the Democratic National Committee passed a resolution at its recent Washington, DC conference calling for an acceleration of the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Afghanistan, a more rapid withdrawal that President Obama's current 2014 timeline.
Iowans rally in Des Moines to end the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan by Self
About 200 Iowans, many veterans among them, gathered at Nollen Plaza on a cool, windy Saturday afternoon under cloudy skies to listen to speeches and songs extolling the virtues of peace and declaring the necessity of ending the longest wars in American history.
Mary Hanson Harrison, representing the Des Moines chapter of the Women's International League for Peace and Freedom (WILPF), called for a revolution.
"Not the kind that comes with guns and bombs--although pitchforks might be a possibility--rather it's a call for a cultural revolution to sway those independent voters, to have them understand that they are not independent, but they are interdependent," said Harrison.
Noting that one if five American children live in poverty and that 80 percent of those who are malnourished are women and children, Harrison declared, "We are here today calling--shouting out--for peace--to give peace a chance--to give peace a chance!"
Citing environmentalist and author Bill McKibben's warnings about the future of our planet and decrying "a new roaring Guilded Age," the WILPF speaker urged Iowans to, "give our future generations a vision, a hope for the commons on which we all live."
"Our heritage of Midwestern pragmatism hardly seems like a revolution, but we cannot abide any longer our own exploitation that is mirrored and suffered by the people of Japan, Iran, Afghanistan, Haiti, Egypt, Sudan, Libya, Michigan, Wisconsin. " We are not here today to give up--not to go gentle into any damned fascist night. I'm not willing to give up on the communities and the values that Jane Addams revolutionized with Hull House and with the support of unions that gave us a voice! I'm not willing to give up on the populist movement of Henry Wallace! I'm not willing to give up my live and the lives of my children and grandchildren to multinational corporations that have no soul! Today's capitalism has become the exploitation of the majority for the sake of the minority, the one percent who cradle 25 percent of the wealth in the United States," declared Harrison.
Quoting William Butler Yeats 1921 poem, "The Second Coming," Harrison decried the tyranny of multinational corporations.
Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.
"So prophesied W.B. Yeats. But we are the center and we will hold, with our sleeves rolled up and our hands full of compassion. The beastly birth that Yeats had slouching toward Bethlehem to be born is the usurpation by multinational corporations of our human and individual rights. We are not here today to facilitate that birth but to give birth to a movement that will come as a new social and moral force, fierce and steadfast in the face of our common ruin! We have come together before to move our government, to move our world, in fact, and we can do it again!" said Harrison.
"We can, here today, build a revolution founded on our common good, not on common greed. Obama started here, in the center. He said for us to push him, to make him move. It is not a silent, speculative chess game. Rather, it is a call for a cultural revolution using words like compassion, ethics, and morality. We can spell those words with our dictionary, not the spinning of those words by the extremist Right," declared Harrison.