Socialist Worker

The US mood swings against Iraq war

Anti-war campaigner John Parker from Los Angeles spoke to Kelly Hilditch about the movement in the US and the growing pressures on George Bush

Issue No. 1965

US police use a taser gun on anti-war protesters  in Pittsburgh (see second story) (Pic: MT/http://pittsburgh.indymedia.org/news/2005/08/19784.php

US police use a taser gun on anti-war protesters in Pittsburgh (see second story) (Pic: MT/Pittsburgh Indymedia)


You can really see that the tide of opinion in the US has been turning against the Iraq war over the last few months.

It’s been hard for the anti-war movement in the US. We had great demonstrations against the war before it started.

They had an effect. Before the war started US vice-president Dick Cheney said they would unleash the “mother of all bombs” on Iraq — but they couldn’t use it and I believe that was down to the anti-war movement.

When the war started it was demoralising for people, and it became difficult to organise.

Now things are beginning to pick up again. You have Cindy Sheehan who was camped outside George Bush’s ranch in Texas waiting to get an answer about why her soldier son was killed in this war.

Her campaign has been a spark to get people into action.

There have been over 1,700 vigils across the US in support of Cindy during the two weeks that she has been camped out.

Bush came to give a speech in Salt Lake City, Utah, on Monday of this week. Over 2,000 people protested against him. That’s significant because Utah is a very pro-Bush place. The mayor of the city helped organise the protest.

The biggest focus for the anti-war movement is the anti-recruitment campaign. We are currently fighting to get US military recruitment officers out of the campuses.

They lay in wait for our children in the high schools, especially in the poorer areas. They promise to put recruits through college, to provide homes. These are empty lies to get people into the army.

The recruiters just can’t make their numbers at the moment. The Bush administration has not got enough troops to deal with the situation in Iraq. One possibility it has is to reintroduce the draft, but that would be a gift to the anti-war movement.

According to the latest polls 56 percent of people want the troops to be pulled out of Iraq.

The majority of people believe that the war was wrong and we should leave Iraq. But there are big differences in approach, about whether you go down the route of the Democrats or if you follow a more independent route.

A lot of people argue within the movement that the troops need to stay but the United Nations needs to get involved. They believe that if we left completely there would be chaos.

There is also very little support for the Iraqi resistance — many people feel the way they are resisting is not civilised.

I feel that we need to separate the anti-war movement from the Democrats. You only need to look at last year’s presidential election to see that there was really very little difference between Bush and Democratic challenger John Kerry. Kerry wanted to send another 40,000 troops to Iraq.

I think the troops should leave now. Every day they are there they cause more chaos. They kill more people. The reason the troops are still there is to secure the oil for the US.

They are currently putting together the Iraqi constitution and the proposals show what the US wants from this war.

The last Iraqi constitution was drafted in 1970 — it stated that there would be no discrimination on religious or race lines.

Most galling for the US is that it said that the basic means of production should be owned by the people.

The new constitution doesn’t include any of these demands — it makes sure that the US can keep a presence in Iraq, and keep hold of the Iraqi oil.

One thing that has also begun to swing public opinion here is the news coming out about the numbers of US soldiers who are being killed.

The most shocking thing is the way that Bush’s government has been lying about the numbers killed in Iraq. They have only been counting the soldiers who die in Iraq as being killed in the war.

But many more are injured and then taken elsewhere. Many of those soldiers die.

It was historic when earlier this month the AFL-CIO trade union federation passed a motion calling for the troops to be pulled out of Iraq.

It shows that the members are able to force the leadership to take a stand on an issue. The composition of the unions is changing. There are now far more women and people of colour involved.

When the Gate Gourmet workers at Heathrow were fired the 6,000 Gate Gourmet workers here who are represented by the Teamsters union issued a call demanding their reinstatement. That shows a real unity, and that is what we need to replicate in the anti-war movement.

People are now really pushing for the big anti-war demonstrations on 24 September. We need to come together as an international campaign to say that this war is wrong and it’s time for the troops to leave Iraq.


Police taser protester

Over 100 people took part in a demonstration outside a US military recruitment office in Pittsburgh last Saturday.

As the protesters stood outside the recruitment office listening to speeches police attacked the crowd.

A woman was grabbed, hit, pepper sprayed in the face while on the ground, and then hit with an electric shock taser gun, as three large police officers stood around her.

A 68 year old grandmother was bitten by a police dog as she was walking away. She tried to make a complaint and was arrested. She was then placed in an unventilated police van where she remained for 45 minutes before she was taken to hospital.

When a 17 year old girl questioned the legality of what was happening she was grabbed and slammed to the ground.

Pepper spray also hit a group of children and the police knocked over a man in a wheelchair.

The protest marked the first time in the city’s history that police have used tasers on demonstrators.

John Parker is the West Coast co-ordinator for the International Action Centre. Go to www.iacenter.org


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International
Sat 27 Aug 2005, 00:00 BST
Issue No. 1965
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