Labor Advocate Online

Week In Review

A Weekly Column by Bill Onasch
February 19, 2007

Bring ‘em Home Tomorrow
I don’t generally look at Newsweek. I thank Jerry Gordon for forwarding one of the best pieces about the war I’ve seen in a long time–a column by Anna Quindlen entitled “Tomorrow, Tomorrow.” Quindlen opens with,

“Tomorrow. That’s when the United States should begin to bring combat forces home from Iraq. Today would be a better option, but already it’s tomorrow in Baghdad, in the Green Zone fortress Americans have built in the center of the city, out in the streets where IEDs are lying in wait for passing soldiers and every marketplace may be the endgame for a suicide bomber.”

She concludes,

“The people who brought America reports of WMDs when none existed, and the slogan 'Mission Accomplished' when it was not nor likely to be, now say that American troops cannot leave. Not yet. Not soon. Not on a timetable. Judge the truth of that conclusion by the truth of their past statements. They say that talk of withdrawal shows a lack of support for the troops. There is no better way to support those who have fought valiantly in Iraq than to guarantee that not one more of them dies in the service of the political miscalculation of their leaders. Not one more soldier. Not one more grave. Not one more day. Bring them home tomorrow.”

I needed this breath of fresh air as an antidote to the cynicism and futility being demonstrated by the “antiwar” party controlling congress and the mainstream peace movement pandering them. The House indulged themselves by passing a Milquetoast non-binding resolution criticizing the “surge.” Despite waffling even more in negotiations with Senate Republicans they couldn’t get that much done in the upper chamber. Now they are backtracking fast from previously implied threats to reject even the supplemental appropriation for the escalation in Iraq (93 billion.)

The main national peace coalition, United for Peace & Justice, has made lobbying the new congress their over riding priority. But they are “realists.” Here’s what they have to say in their talking points for peace activists to bring to their local reps (I am not disclosing any confidential plans–this is all posted on the Internet):

“UFPJ endorses a two-track strategy. Our first priority is to defeat the supplemental appropriation bill – we are asking all members to vote NO on the bill. It is a longshot that we can defeat the bill so we have a back-up strategy to put conditions on the funding bill...”

Even more “realistic” forces, that have created new letterheads such as Americans Against Escalation of the War in Iraq (SEIU and, and (Win Without War, AFSC, Working Assets long distance company), have found a hero to champion the backup strategy--Congressman Jack Murtha (D-PA), Chairman of the Appropriations Subcommittee on Defense.

In an “exclusive” interview Murtha proposes the following restrictions on the 93 billion:

1) Troops will need to be certified as "fully combat ready" with the training and equipment that they need;
2) Deployments cannot be extended beyond one year;
3) Troops must have at least one-year at home between deployments;
4) The "stop-loss" program where soldiers are forced to extend their agreed upon enlistment period will be prohibited

That’s a long way from tomorrow. But that’s what all the realistic strategy of the peace Democrats, the pacifists, and UFPJ is coming down to–Murtha’s backup restrictions.

I’ve been asked by US Labor Against the War to join a delegation meeting with Representative Emanuel Cleaver, Democrat, MO fifth district, tomorrow. Unlike most others likely to attend I won’t be going in with a two-track strategy. USLAW has a one track strategy. I plan to politely, but clearly tell Rev Cleaver that we think he should not only vote no on the supplemental; we want him to vote against any further funding of the military in Iraq--except for what it takes for the immediate, safe withdrawal of every last GI in harm’s way.

I don’t expect to get that commitment from my congressman. But I’d rather lose what I want than to “win” what I don’t want. Principles and self-respect should dictate that we be at least as strong and honest as a Newsweek columnist.

Making All the Right Connections
You should be sure to read an op ed piece by California Nurses Association president Deborah Burger,
Defense spending overshadowing health care. She not only contrasts war spending to the cuts in Medicare and Medicaid, “Imagine for a moment how else we could have spent $589 billion, the amount already devoured by the war in Iraq, plus the administration's funding request for the next two years.” She also points out the Harvard study that estimates the United States will need to spend as much as $662 billion over the next 40 years on medical costs for the tens of thousands of injured veterans. She wraps up, “‘A nation that continues year after year to spend more money on military defense than on programs of social uplift is approaching spiritual doom,’ said Dr. Martin Luther King, and, he might well have added, endangering the health security of its citizens at home.”

Immigrant Rights Forum In Connecticut
Campaign to Stop the ICE Raids in Danbury is sponsoring an impressive East Coast Forum on Immigrants Rights next Sunday, February 25. Speakers include: Ana Avendaño, Associate General Counsel & Director, AFL-CIO Immigrant Workers Program, Anabel Pimentel and Reina Campos, workers affected by the ICE Raids conducted at the Swift & Co. Meatpacking Plant in Hyrum, Utah, Foster Maier, a Puerto Rican Legal Defense and Education Fund Attorney representing immigrant communities in Hazleton, PA., Riverside, NJ, and Mamaroneck, NY, and Carola Otero Bracco, Director of the Mount Kisco, NY Day Laborers Center. The event will take place at Western Connecticut State University, Ives Concert Hall, located in the midtown campus and is scheduled to run from 4 to 7 p.m.

That’s all for this week.

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