A Conversation Between Kevin Martin of Peace Action, Sue Udry of United for Peace and Justice, and Kevin Zeese of Democracy Rising and VotersForPeace
As the effort to end the Iraq War and occupation reaches a critical phase – the Democrats response to the veto of the supplemental – I had a conversation with two key leaders of the anti-war movement, Kevin Martin Executive Director of Peace Action, Sue Udry Legislative Action Coordinator of United for Peace and Justice about next steps in ending the war.
You can view the video of their conversation at democracyrising.us/content/view/871/151/
In our conversation we noted the hypocrisy of President Bush as well as some Members of Congress from both parties who claim to be “supporting the troops” by continuing to fund the war. The falseness of this claim is heightened by the announcement that the military will be extending the deployment of soldiers from one year to 15 months. This is an incredible hardship on the soldiers and their families which demonstrates that concern for the soldiers fighting in this quagmire is not a primary concern of those who vote to fund the war. Kevin Martin emphasized that these lengthened deployments should provide more reason for people to take action against the war and strengthen the view of those in Congress opposed to the war as the fig leaf of “support the troops” means a lot less when the troops are treated as they are currently being treated – both when they serve and when they are veterans.
We all recognized that President Bush is likely to follow through on his threat to veto the supplemental even though it has loopholes large enough to allow him to keep as many troops as he wants in Iraq for as long as he wants. Why? A veto by Bush will demonstrate that he is still relevant and not a lame duck but a president who has power. In other words, he’s still “the decider.”
In focusing on how the Congress should react we urged the Democrats to follow the recent advice of former senator John Edwards. Edwards has urged the Congress to give President Bush an even tougher bill to end the war in reaction to a veto. If the president doesn’t like it he can veto it again. In this way the Democrats will show they are serious and will continue to represent the interests of a majority of U.S. voters. No doubt, this is an effort to challenge his presidential contenders especially Senators Clinton and Obama. But, this is a stand the Democrats should continue to take because ending the war and saving tens of thousands of lives is not something on which there should be compromise.
The Democratic leadership suggestion that they provide Bush with “only” three or four more months of funding in order to keep him on a shorter string had, at best, mixed reviews among all three of us. Sue Udry made the important point that the supplemental would only fund through September 2007 so providing four months of funding will provide Bush with virtually all he is requesting. However, we also recognize that temporary funding allows the peace movement more opportunities to challenge the war, educate the Congress and build political pressure.
One strategy that made sense to all three of us – if the Democratic leadership puts forward an Iraq spending bill that does not restrict the president or include a deadline for withdrawal – is to urge a filibuster by senators who oppose the war. See www.FilibusterForPeace.org. It only takes 41 senators to stop the funding of the war. Just as the Republicans have used the filibuster to push their agenda, senators who oppose the Iraq war can use the filibuster to end the war.
Kevin Martin urged anti-war activists to not get caught up in the specifics of legislation but rather to take an uncompromising stand to end the war – remove U.S. troops and corporate interests, fund the rebuilding of Iraq by Iraqi’s and support a regional peace keeping force. This is path out of the Iraq quagmire and legislation will come to that conclusion as pressure builds.
I pointed out that what looks impossible now will be possible in the future if we keep building the pressure. We should not forget that when the Democrats came to majority status their leadership said in unison “the power of the purse is off the table.” Now, the president is likely to veto a bill because it uses the power of the purse. We have gotten farther than we expected against this seeming wall of opposition to using the appropriations power and we will get further than we expect now if we continue to take a consistent stand.
To keep those with the power to end the war moving toward using their power to fulfill the voter’s mandate, the peace movement not only has to remain steadfast in its demands, but also needs to let elected officials know that the Iraq war is the key issue that will determine their votes. We need to make it clear that there will be no votes for war funders. (One place to make this point is the “Voters Pledge” at www.VotersForPeace.org.) They need to hear at town hall meetings, fundraisers and other public events the voice of the anti-war voter. And, they need to read it in their home town newspaper. They need to be constantly confronted on the war so both Democrats and Republicans recognize they are vulnerable if they vote to continue the occupation of Iraq.
View a video of the conversation at: http://democracyrising.us/content/view/871/151/