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Harry Belafonte takes President to task over war policy and One Nation should take note

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The One Nation rally held at the Lincoln Memorial on Saturday appears to have achieved its goal of bringing together tens of thousands of Americans in the hopes of inspiring them to "march to the polls" for the 2010 mid-term elections.

Though organizers did not tell the crowd to pull the Democratic lever on November 2, the messages of hope and change coupled with sharp criticism of conservatives left little question for those gathered.

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On the table were issues of jobs, affordable education and equality.  One Nation's current platform , however, speaks little of the continuing wars conducted by the United States and how ending and preventing them while redirecting resources is a necessary endeavor in achieving its objectives.

The original call by One Nation was for Americans to demand the change that they voted for in 2008. One might conclude that the energy at the event would then be directed at the current administration and Democratic majority in Congress. Rather, the focus shifted from demanding change to shoring up support for a Democratic win in November.

One seasoned voice, however, didn't shy away from criticizing the President's policy. Singer and social justice activist Harry Belafonte took President Obama to task for his escalation of the war in Afghanistan.

Harry Belafonte speaks at the Lincoln Memorial by Payton Wright

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The 83-year-old Belafonte spoke of Martin Luther King, Jr.'s opposition to the Vietnam war and reminded the crowd of Dr. King's words saying "America would soon come to realize that the war that we were in at that time, that this nation waged in Vietnam, was not only unconscionable but unwinnable."

With a voice strained yet strong, Mr. Belafonte declared "Now today, almost a half-century later as we gather at this place where Dr. King prayed for the soul of this nation, tens of thousands of citizens from all walks of life have come here today to rekindle his dream and once again hope that all America will soon come to the realization that the wars that we wage today in faraway lands are immoral, unconscionable and unwinnable."

Questioning U.S. presence in the region, he continued "The Central Intelligence Agency in its official report, tells us that the enemy we pursue in Afghanistan and in Pakistan, the Al Qaeda, they number less than 50. I say 50 people! Do we really think that sending 100,000 young American men and women to kill innocent civilians, women and children, and antagonizing the tens of millions of people in the whole region somehow makes us secure? Does this make any sense?"

Belafonte then broke ranks with the other speakers and directly challenged President Obama's policy and its consequences. "The President's decision to escalate the war in that region alone costs the nation 33 billion dollars. That sum of money could not only create 600,000 jobs here in America but would even leave us a few billion to start rebuilding our schools, our roads, our hospitals and affordable housing. It could also help to rebuild the lives of the thousands of our returning wounded veterans."

While those in attendance overwhelmingly supported this message there is little to suggest that "marching to the polls" in November will make it happen. Until individuals and organizations focus their energies on the elected officials rather than the rhetoric of the tea party that was strategically placed before the crowd then status quo will continue to be the order for the day.

If speakers for each of the issues presented at the One Nation rally expressed the same determination as Harry Belafonte and zeroed in on the actual policy makers, especially the ones who claim to represent them, then maybe we will see some movement. If One Nation truly wants to effect change they might consider planning and announcing a 2012 Report Card Rally to demonstrate which candidates made the grade and, if need be, open the door to a new class.

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Video by Cheryl Biren


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Cheryl Biren is a Philadelphia-based researcher, writer, editor and photographer. From 2007-2011, she served on the editorial board of

Cheryl has also consulted for the Rob Kall Radio Show with guests such as Noam Chomsky, (more...)

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