This is a message that should be appearing everywhere these days. Other similar slogans in our marches and vigils should be Money for jobs not for war, Health care not warfare, Convert the military industrial complex, We can't eat Star Wars, Build mass transit not endless war, We can't live in a bomb, and so on.
The peace movement is doing a pretty poor job of connecting the occupation of Iraq, now costing us $12 billion a month, to the public's concern about a declining economy, jobs moving overseas, and cutbacks in social spending.
By now people get the "No more blood for oil message." They've heard that slogan for five years. What are we saying today that is relevant to their lives?
Joanne Sheehan, regional organizer for the War Resisters League, arrived at our house last night for a meeting that we held about converting the military industrial complex. We are now doing preparations for a long-term campaign in our region of Maine about the need to transform Bath Iron Works from building destroyers (outfitted with "missile defense systems") to build rail, solar, windmills and/or other sustainable technologies. Our point is that research shows that spending money on weapons production creates less jobs than if we invested in any other kind of peaceful production.
Joanne worked on economic conversion issues in southern Connecticut where she lives back in the early 1990's when the issue was big in the peace movement. At the time the Cold War was ending and people all over the country began talking about the peace dividend and started thinking about converting military production facilities. Even the International Association of Machinists, which represents many of the military production workers, was a leader at that time in the peace-labor efforts to bring conversion into reality. The reason that conversion did not survive the George H. W. Bush Panama and the Persian Gulf invasions was because we didn't do a good enough job of getting the peace movement to internalize the issue as essential to our being able to stop endless war.
Weapons are presently the #1 industrial export product of the U.S. Today many local communities are economically dependent on military production. If we don't talk about economic conversion how will we ever end war?
Now is the moment that the public is really casting about for answers. They fear the economic future more than they fear "terrorism." They know that jobs are becoming scarce and that opportunities for their children are drying up. Many are very responsive to talk about converting from a war economy to peaceful production. Many understand conversion means good and reliable jobs, a cleaner environment, and a more humane foreign policy that ends the need to wage war for oil.
But is the peace movement talking about this? Is the peace community offering a transformative economic vision that builds a peace-labor-environmental-social justice movement alliance? Sadly the answer is no. By and large the peace movement is saying the same things we were saying five years ago - Bring the troops home now. That just does not cut it.
We all need to stretch ourselves and begin to incorporate a positive vision of an economy that creates jobs and lessens the need for endless war. We've got to begin to link with the average American citizen who is worried about losing their home, paying for education, buying food, keeping the heat on, and holding onto their jobs. We've got to begin to talk about how military spending is killing their future and our nation.
All of our local peace and justice groups should take this 5th year of Iraq occupation as an opportunity to organize local meetings to discuss making our opposition to endless war relevant to our fellow citizens.
I'm afraid if we delay doing so we will be on the streets five years from now still holding signs that say No more blood for oil - Bring the troops home now!