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Peace and Economic
Justice Committee

Carolyn Eisenberg Answers The Washington Post

Jun 16, 2011

In a June 12th editorial, The Washington Post opined that U.S. troops belong in Afghanistan and must remain there for the forseeable future. Our committee member, Carolyn “Rusti” Eisenberg, felt differently and told them so in a letter to the editor —

Regarding the June 12 editorial “The Afghan withdrawal”:

If the Obama administration accepts the advice of The Post’s editorial board, we can look forward to the same yearly report: commendable progress on the ground, but gains that are“fragile and reversible.” After 10 years of war,the reason should be obvious. The United States is trying to impose its principles, institutions and values on a foreign country with a dramatically different history, geography and culture.

So long as American troops continue to patrol large areas of Afghanistan, they exercise a modicum of control, but it is a fair guess that once they leave, the people who live there might make different choices about their situation.

Does this mean that “extremist forces” will take over the country or that this takeover“would impose huge costs on the United States?” These dangers are routinely invoked to silence dissent. But they are purely speculative. What is not speculative are the existing costs, including the rising casualties among Afghan civilians and our own soldiers, the destabilization of Pakistan and the $2 billion dollars a week that we urgently need at home.

Compared with the overall deficit, this amount may seem a pittance — but it is not to people who need the schools, day-care centers, health-care facilities, housing, public transportation and other services that are being cutback all across this country.

– Carolyn Eisenberg, New York
The writer is co-chair of United for Peace and Justice’s legislative working group.
(and a member of BFP’s Peace And Economic Justice committee, we hasten to add).

The original letter on the Post’s website can be viewed here (scroll to bottom of page left).

 


DC37 To Bloomberg – Cut The Cutbacks & Layoffs NOW!

June 14, 2011

Thousands of union workers, members of the New York’s public employee unions, surrounded City Hall demanding an end to the Billionair Mayor’s programs of layoffs and cutbacks.

You could feel the anger in the crowd. Anger because they were fully aware by now that the officials are refusing to tap the source of billions of dollars that could be used to solve the so-called defecit. By refusing to tax Wall Street, the banks and the wealthiest New Yorkers, Mayors and Governors (like Bloomberg and Cuomo) are attempting to solve the short-fall in revenue on the backs of those least able to pay: poor people, working people, union members.

Brooklyn For Peace members distributed hundreds of flyers pointing out the other major source of money that is not being addressed either: the endless wars and the bloated Pentagon budget. That represents tax dollars being misdirected to war and weapons when they could be used to solve intractible problems of job and homes being lost, shoddy public education and mass transit systems; all suffering a shortage of funds which are drained away to be used for military programs instead.

Take a look at photos of another one of the new rumbling sounds of protest…. that is, the sound of increasing anger among Americans as the sleeping giant awakes and demands a different solution to the crisis that’s stalking our land.

A UFT members demands the proper and human priorities from our political leaders.

 

Park Slope Says No To Firehouse Closing!

May 25, 2011

Hundreds of residents jammed the street in front of Engine House 220. The Billionaire Mayor, Michael Bloomberg, is threatening to close the facility along with many others throughout the city. This is part of his plan to balance his budget on the backs of working people while, at the same time, refusing to tax Wall Street and other wealthy New Yorkers.

Brooklyn For Peace was there with their The Cost of War is Killing Brooklyn flyer which posed the very sensible question – “How many firehouses could we save if twenty billion dollars could be used for domestic programs instead of endless wars?” That amount in taxes is what we’ve had taken from us as our share of paying for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan since 2001.

Coupled with the Mayor’s refusal to tax Wall Street and wealthy New Yorkers, the budget crisis is obviously not due to, as the Mayor claims, excessive spending but, rather, one of insufficient revenue. That’s a crisis that’s easily solved: end the enormously costly wars (1.25 trillion dollars on the two wars since 2001!), cut the bloated Pentagon budget (almost three-quarters of a trillion dollars year in and out!) and make our tax system fairer by ending the decades-long tax holiday enjoyed by the large corporations and super rich.

Cost Of War - BFP's latest flyer. Click to download a pdf file.
Cost Of War - BFP's latest flyer. Click to download a pdf file.

Action Alert! Tuesday May 24
National Call-In to Congress: Bring the Troops Home!

In the next two days, the House of Representatives will be voting on the 2012 Defense Authorization bill. Please call today and forward this message to friends and family.
Toll-free number 888-231-9276. If line is busy, use Congressional switchboard 202-224-3121.

Tell your Representative in Congress …
It’s time we brought our troops home from Afghanistan and stopped wasting the billions we urgently need for domestic programs on a senseless war. The last thing Congress should be doing is authorizing endless war, but that’s exactly what the 2012 National Defense Authorization Act does. Continue reading

This is the moment when we
can end the war in Afghanistan…

May 17, 2011

There are times when events come together at just the right moment in time to allow us the possibility of winning a victory in our quest for peace. This is such a time.

As we know, the President, back in 2009 announced  that he would go ahead with a  “surge” (more properly “an escalation”) of troops to Afghanistan. That was done on General Petraeus’ suggestion that such an escalation would be successful (whatever “success” means when it comes to destroying a country and its people) and bring the war to an early end. The President made that ill-fated decision despite overwhelming opposition from the American people and particularly among those that identified themselves as Democrats. Obama knew well that he would have problems mobilizing his base if he supported the Pentagon in escalating the war. So he added a caveat that he would begin a withdrawal of U.S. troops in 2011. Since then, he has vacillated on how big (or how small) such a withdrawal would be. At the same time, the military brass has agitated against a withdrawal, demanding that it be measured against “facts on the ground.”

Now we’ve arrived at the moment of decision. But the ability of the President to act to end the war has been boosted qualitatively by the assassination of Osama Bin Laden. After all, it was to get Bin Laden that was Bush’s ostensible reason for going into Afghanistan in the first place. Never mind that Bin Laden was finally dispatched by a contingent of just several dozen Navy Seals. That begged the question of why we needed 100,000 troops (with the billions of dollars it took to keep them there for ten years) in order to go after one man that was brought down by a band of fewer than 100 Special Ops forces. It should be remembered that no less than CIA chief Leon Panetta said recently that Al Qaeda amounted to no more than 50 or so men in all of Afghanistan!

Thus, now is the opportune time to raise the demand to bring all the troops (and all our wasted money) home and finally end this disastrous, wasteful and criminal war.

This is the time for us to make that clear to the President – Call him now. Call him today, Call him tomorrow. Tell him to end this war now and bring all our troops home – safe and alive. Tell him we cannot possibly solve problems of jobs, homelessness, crumbling infrastrucutre, deteriorating enviornment and dilapidated public schools as long as we are spending unlimited amounts of limited tax dollars on wars that make no sense.

Here’s the number:  202-456-1111. Or you can email your comments to the President here: http://www.whitehouse.gov/contact

Finally, sign on to a petition calling on the President to end the war in Afghanistan now: bit.ly/end_the_war

Sign the petition (above) and then call. And spread the word. The next few days are critical.

We’ve been busy…

The Iraq/Afghanistan Committee has been keeping busy. We worked hard to build the Seventh Annual Brooklyn Peace Fair, visiting the Brooklyn College campus (site of the fair on May 7, 2011) where committee members handed out 1000’s of postscards to students and faculty members.

Previous to that, we organized flyer distributions at four different Flatbush locations, targeting neighborhoods in the school’s vicinity. We handed out our new flyer – The Cost Of War Is Killing Brooklyn, which was received with great acclaim by many of those we approached.

One woman, a laid-off NYC employee, told us how depressed she was, unable to find a new job. We commiserated and wondered out loud how these layoffs and cutbacks could possibly solve any problems as they seemed to make matters even worse by throwing even more people into the ranks of the jobless.

Instead of taxing the very wealthiest of New Yorkers, who have been given a holiday from taxes in recent years, both Bloomberg and Cuomo have resorted to solving the fiscal crisis by making severe cuts to already-hollowed out services. Particularly hard hit have been early childcare programs which, again, will make it harder for low-income workers to hold onto their jobs.

It was clear, also,  to those that we spoke with, that war spending is recognized as a chief culprit that chokes the ability of localities to get the funds needed to maintain, let alone expand these urgently-needed programs.

Here’s the flyer we distributed at four different Flatbush locations on April 15th, tax day. You can download the most recent version here.

BFP member, Molly Nolan, talks to Flatbush residents on Tax Day. Four different locations were organized in busy Brooklyn locations to drive home the message: “Move the money from war to our communities!”

If you like the idea of getting out on the streets of Brooklyn and putting our borough on the map for peace, well then the Iraq / Afghanistan Committee is the place for you. We invite you to participate with us.  Check here for our next meeting details. Or email our committee.

 

Stop Knocking the Peace Movement!
It’s alive and growing – and poorly reported.

May 12, 2011

By Carolyn Eisenberg

You might never guess, but across the United States, there are literally hundreds of grassroots peace organizations that have been mobilizing opposition to the wars for years. These groups have a local, regional, or sometimes statewide character, with names like the Rocky Mountain Peace and Justice Center, Georgia Peace and Justice Coalition, Lincoln Park Neighbors for Peace, Cape Codders for Peace and Justice, Wisconsin Network for Peace and Justice, Community Alliance of Lane County, and Brooklyn for Peace, to cite just a few.

Such entities have participated in a wide range of activities—local vigils, petition campaigns, call-in days, visits to congressional offices, civil disobedience, letters to local newspapers, veterans’ testimony, street theater, and countless educational forums. Some are affiliated with vigorous national organizations, among them Peace Action, U.S. Labor Against War, CODEPINK, Military Families Speak Out, Progressive Democrats for America, and the American Friends Service Committee, while others are freestanding. Since 2003, most have stayed connected through United for Peace and Justice, which remains the largest peace-activist network in the country.

To people who remember the vast antiwar mobivast antiwar mobilizations of the Vietnam period, present efforts may seem puny. Yet it is worth considering that at the point when those protests were drawing huge crowds, there were half a million American troops fighting in Vietnam, and by 1968-69, 400 U.S. soldiers were dying every week. And while that antiwar movement eventually prevailed, 58,000 Americans and perhaps 2 million Asians perished before the war ended.

Such complexities notwithstanding, it has become the conventional wisdom that the current peace movement is not merely puny, but also ineffective. Yet this overlooks the contribution of antiwar activists to the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq and to the growing pressure on President Obama to reduce the American military presence in Afghanistan.

In an immediate sense, the American troop reduction in Iraq is the product of a status of forces agreement (SOFA) pressed by the Iraqi government in the waning days of the Bush administration. However, the inability of the White House to challenge the al-Maliki government on the provisions of that agreement was the consequence of domestic dissent, as expressed in Congress and in polls. This dissent did not come about through spontaneous combustion, but was the result of many factors, including intense organizing within congressional districts and the wide-ranging educational and protest activities generated by peace groups around the country.

The same holds true for Afghanistan. As he plunges ahead, President Obama must reckon with a strong and growing antiwar bloc in the U.S. Congress and negative poll numbers, which indicate that the American public wants the war wrapped up quickly. Here, too, the peace movement has played a vital, albeit unheralded, role. If there are now more than 100 members of Congress speaking out against the American military presence in Afghanistan, this reflects years of antiwar work among constituents.

Oddly, the polls are sometimes cited to prove the ineptitude of the peace movement. With so many Americans against the war in Afghanistan, why isn’t the peace movement stronger? A fair question, yet one that omits the possibility that the efforts of local peace groups have contributed to that public skepticism.

If the continued existence of the peace movement is unrecognized, how can this be explained? One is the complete freeze-out by the mainstream media. Since 2003, there have been no fewer than four national demonstrations attended by more than 100,000 people, yet the only one to receive coverage was the huge New York City gathering in the run-up to the Iraq War. The others were so many trees falling in the forest, which nobody could hear or see unless they were personally marching.

But while the silence in the mainstream media is perhaps predictable, more surprising and less excusable has been the failure of progressive news outlets to provide positive attention to peace organizations. Since 2001, these alternative outlets have done an extraordinary job of reporting American actions abroad and providing sophisticated analysis of international events that are elsewhere ignored. Barely mentioned have been the mass antiwar mobilizations of the past eight years, the ongoing campaigns to move the Congress, or the steady, creative work of antiwar activists in towns and cities across the United States. The demoralizing result is a constant imbalance between the depressing news about U.S. foreign policy and the apparent lack of resistance here. Individuals who are not already part of the existing peace networks often conclude there is nothing useful to be done and focus elsewhere.

In recent weeks, the silence has been broken by a handful of articles lamenting the absence of a peace movement and attributing its collapse to a misplaced enthusiasm for President Obama and the Democratic Party. In this narrative, the antiwar movement is characterized as nothing more than a partisan club to beat George W. Bush over the head with. Therefore, the story goes, once this particular “evildoer” had retired to Texas, the peace activists simply folded up their tents and abandoned the field. But this description takes no account of the thousands of people across the country who have organized protests for the past decade out of the conviction that the wars are wrong.

There is no denying the fact that after 2008 many local and national groups became strapped for cash, were forced to lay off staff, and saw their membership decline. As a coalition, United for Peace and Justice was especially vulnerable to these developments and had to eliminate its paid positions. Such difficulties were in turn the consequence of the economic recession as well as a decreased willingness by some large individual donors and funding agencies to keep peace as a priority. While some of the latter may have hoped that President Obama would reverse the pattern of U.S. militarism and intervention, there was never a point at which peace organizations decided to step aside and rely on the White House to make wise decisions.

Although largely unreported in both mainstream and alternative media, the work for peace has continued. As one result, this past summer 114 members of Congress (most of them Democrats) voted against the president’s funding request for the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. Indeed, peace groups, including United for Peace and Justice, have not only revived, they have broadened their work to address both the astronomical military budget, which this year totaled $687 billion (52 percent of all discretionary spending), and the wholesale assault on vitally needed domestic programs. One encouraging manifestation of this trend has been the formation of a New Priorities Network, which is rapidly forging links between the peace and social justice communities.

With bin Laden dead, the Petraeus surge in Afghanistan a fiasco, and mounting concern over the federal deficit, we have the best opportunity ever to challenge American militarism. And to be effective, we surely need more people to participate. This will not occur, however, if alternative media fails to provide fair coverage of the exciting work that peace activists do every day.

This appeared on the website of antiwar.com

 
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