Talk at Ehren Watada rally

Thanks for coming. Growing resistance inside and outside the U.S. military, together with the Vietnamese resistance  to the U.S. occupation in Vietnam forced the U.S. to withdraw from  Vietnam. We can and will do the same in Iraq, hopefully sooner than later.


The Bush administration has given many reasons for its invasion and occupation of Iraq:


First: regime change, which actually began under Clinton; then supposed WMD including nuclear weapons, also Iraq government support for 9/11 and Al Qaeda; and since April,  2003—bringing democracy to Iraq, then rebuilding it,  then stopping a Civil War inside Iraq and a bloodbath if we withdrew; and now stopping  a regional war and Middle East instability; and/or stopping Iran expansionism. The only constant is the lies and that the destruction of Iraqi society continues and worsens-deaths, lack of electricity and water, unemployment, insecurity and unimaginable and growing violence, almost two million fleeing the country. 


What is behind the U.S. invasion and continued occupation? It is not a mistake;  unfortunately U.S. covert and overt intervention to dominate other countries economically and politically to serve the profits of U.S. corporations has shaped U.S. foreign and military policy for over 100 years and in the Middle East for 70 years.


The word for this is U.S. imperialism, which  is about controlling the oil, its exploration and marketing by  Exxon and Chevron;   to create a neoliberal Iraq where taxes on rich Iraqis and foreign corporations are low, production is for profit, privatization, so-called free trade and most goods are imported, an unequal and unjust Iraq. U.S. policy makers also hope to create permanent military bases in Iraq to control the Middle East and to turn the region  into this neoliberal model—Egypt, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Syria. These are neoconservative delusions. They have not been  successful but they haven’t given up.


Our response must be demanding, immediate and complete U.S. withdrawal, no U.S. military bases. The only acceptable U.S. role is payment of reparations to the Iraqi people, paid for by taxes on those have so obscenely profited, like Halliburton, and distributed to the Iraqis through neutral non U.S. agencies.  If Iraqi people want peacekeepers, Arab League, UN should provide them.  U.S. isn’t and shouldn’t be trusted. 


No more Iraqi lives destroyed No more U.S. lives;  Not in Our Name!!


What about a bloodbath if the U.S. withdraws? It is already happening. The  U.S. military occupation makes it worse daily.  Let Iraqi groups who are concerned about Iraq negotiate with each other for a peaceful Iraq. The U.S. withdrawal will isolate those involved in sectarian killing. Moreover, a major cause of violence —the attacks  on the U.S.,  and U.S. aggression and returning massive firepower to these attacks will end. There are no easy answers but the U.S. continued presence makes the situation for Iraqis more dangerous and deadly daily.  We cannot be part of the solution,


The war is wrong; winning should not be the goal. For the most part, the Democrats, the Iraqi study group disagree with the Bush administration  only on tactics, how to maintain some control—e.g., of oil, they ask the wrong questions.  Our principled position must be like Ehren Watada—the war is wrong and immoral. Our demand is for total U.S. withdrawal, before May Day, and support for military resisters. So the war is more than just bad policy. 


Support the U.S. troops-must mean also calling for U.S. withdrawal and ending the War—otherwise our only concern is U.S. lives and we are not valuing Iraqi lives as equal to U.S. lives, 700,000 plus Iraqis dead by now. Let us mourn each one of these Iraqis and also mourn the more than 3000 U.S. soldiers and the hundreds of their allies killed and many times that number on both sides wounded for life.


Most people join the military here because of limited economic opportunities for themselves and their families. We should support the troops by organizing to create alternatives to enlisting by working for universal, single-payer health care, by fighting racism, by winning living wage jobs for all and the right to organize unions as most troops are working class people who are facing with their families an unjust and unequal society when they return.  So supporting the troops means working  for economic and social justice  at home as we challenge this war and possible future wars,  like in Iran. It also means supporting those who resist.


The estimates for the indirect and direct costs of  the war are 2 trillion dollars and rising, $20,000 per household  in the U.S. and many times more than that in Iraq plus the deaths, which do not have  a price tag. Think what that money could do if it funded human needs, like day care, health care, education, etc. 


I am struck by how similar U.S. government strategy is in Iraq and New Orleans—privatization of schools,  militarization, destruction of housing, not valuing the lives of poor people in New Orleans or the Iraqi people, racism.  We need to connect the war at home to the one in Iraq in building movements for economic and social justice and peace. For example, I urge that people support and visit the Tent City in downtown Olympia on State and Columbia where homeless people and their allies have built a peaceful tent city. Support their demands that the repressive, anti-street people, laws that went into effect on February 1st that outlaw panhandling, sitting on the sidewalk and playing music without  a license in downtown be repealed and that more affordable housing be built.


No Justice! No Peace!


The Democrats, if elected,  are not without  a strong movement in the streets going to end the war in Iraq nor create a decent society at home. At best, they can be pressured to do the right thing a little bit easier than the Republicans. We are living in a period where the majority of people in the U.S. strongly oppose the war. They are looking for people like Ehren Watada, war resister like Darrell Anderson, Agustin Aguayo, Suzanne Swift, and many other courageous  individuals,  and everyone here today to stand up and be bold and to give guidance by their actions and deeds on how to end this obscene war.  We need to build on this week’s actions to build a  stronger and more inclusive anti-war movement that uses all tactics, from teach-ins to petitions to lobbying to large rallies to massive legal demonstrations  to civil disobedience to protests,  such as trying to stop war supplies that flow through our ports in Olympia and Tacoma, where we put our bodies on the line to stop this war and future ones and build a sustainable and just society based on need not greed.


Talk to and encourage your friends, families, neighbors, coworkers to take small and big steps for justice and peace. Support Ehren Watada, Support Iraq Vets Against the War, and all resisters, inside and outside the U.S. military to this unjust war.


Power to the People. Thank You!! 



This is a slightly edited version of talk by Peter Bohmer at an anti-war, support Ehren Watada Rally at gates of Ft.  Lewis. Monday, 2/05/07

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