Citing Dr. Ron Paul's clear and unambiguous "non-interventionist" platform
which condemns US troop presence in Iraq and Afghanistan, anti-war speakers at a
rally headlined "No You Can't" called for an alliance between
anti-war left and anti-war right on war and peace issues.
Organized by the newly-formed anti-war coalition End US Wars, the rally was held in Lafayette Park in front of the White House last Saturday. The coalition announced a new alliance of national and grass-roots antiwar organizations and more than 100 leading peace activists. It featured a joint appearance of four former presidential candidates, former Democratic Senator Mike Gravel, Rep. Dennis Kucinich, former Rep. Cynthia McKinney, and Ralph Nader.
"Rally organizers are calling for the left to end its support for Obama now that he has committed to a troop surge, and to condemn and oppose Obama's war policy. In addition, the process will begin to replace Obama with an anti-war candidate, and to remove any pro-war legislators. Protests will intensify..."
One of the most passionate denouncements of the proposed troop escalation came from Rev. Graylan Hagler, a prominent African-American DC-area minister and former supporter of President Obama. Hagler said, "We want people to be respected and treated right. I did not vote for Barack Obama to take his people into a war. I voted for change"
Speaker after speaker spoke of having worked for, campaign for, raised money for and enthusiastically supported Obama's presidential campaign, but feeling a sense of betrayal at the announcement of the escalation into Afghanistan. A speaker for the Black is Back coalition spoke of the Democratic party taking black voters for granted, and called on fellow African-Americans to remember the oppressions of the past, and to not participate through silence in state violence against the Afghan people.
While acknowledging probable disagreements on other issues, such as
health care reform and abortion, two speakers noted that Republican followers of
Dr. Ron Paul cited a clear and unambiguous "non-interventionist" policy which
could form the basis of an alliance between right and left elements on war
issues. A show of hands of "any Ron Paulies in the audience" was requested at
one point. At the show of a few hands, a warm welcome was extended.
"We may agree to disagree on many things, but on the issue of war and peace we are all just Americans, and can work together on this" the speaker said. A welcome was also extended to the Capitol Police detail, who nodded cordially.
Speakers included World Can't Wait coordinator Debra Sweet, Military Families Speak Out Chairwoman Elaine Brower, writer Chris Hedges, numerous members of Iraq Veterans Against the War and Veterans for Peace, and statements from Rabbi Michael Lerner, Col. Ann Wright, Kevin Zeese, Dr. Stephen Zunes, Granny D (turning 100), Jared Ball, John Judge, and Stephen Lendman.
Dr. Ron Paul has charged that the proposed escalation is a recipe for "perpetual war," and holds that it will be militarily impossible to begin withdrawal in 2011. Paul writes in "Who Wants War? Follow The Money"
"Perpetual war is not solving anything. Indeed continually seeking out monsters to destroy abroad only threatens our security here at home as international resentment against us builds. The people understand this and are becoming increasingly frustrated at not being heard by the decision-makers. The leaders say some things the people want to hear, but change never comes.
One has to ask, if the people who elected these leaders so obviously do not want these wars, who does? Eisenhower warned of the increasing power and influence of the military industrial complex and it seems his worst fears have come true. He believed in a strong national defense, as do I, but warned that the building up of permanent military and weapons industries could prove dangerous if their influence got out of hand. After all, if you make your money on war, peace does you no good. With trillions of dollars at stake, there is tremendous incentive to keep the decision makers fearful of every threat in the world, real or imagined, present or future, no matter how ridiculous and far-fetched."
During his presidential campaign President Obama called for sending of "two
or three more brigades" of troops to Afghanistan, about 10,000 troops, at a time
when troops numbered about 30,000 in Afghanistan. The total is now up to
62,000, after granting a Pentagon request last May.
The proposed increase would bring the total to almost 100,000. Scholars and journalists have called the renewed insurgency in Afghanistan a result of dashed hopes of a reconstruction and descent into economic despair. Unemployment in Afghanistan remains at 40%, with the UN estimating that at least 35% of Afghans are malnourished, 40% of children underweight, and starvation being common across the country.
Although relatively stable until 2005, in that year car bombs and suicide attacks began to rise exponentially. With high unemployment, the Taliban has been called the employer of last resort, able to pay young fighters $10 per day for participating in attacks, sometimes issuing rifles just before an attack.
Western contractors have come under fire for turning excessive profits on reconstruction projects, which often employ relatively few Afghans.
Kucinich, Nader, McKinney, Gravel, and organizer