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Brooklyn Peace Fair 2005 Opening Remarks

by Carolyn Eisenberg, Co-Founder of Brooklyn for Peace
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On behalf of Brooklyn For Peace I want to welcome all of you to the Peace Fair and to thank Cindy Sheehan, both for joining us today and for giving inspiration, visibility and fresh energy to the peace movement.

Carolyn (Rusti) Eisenberg speaks at the Brooklyn Peace Fair 2005

Before we disperse into the many wonderful workshops and cultural events that have been scheduled, I want to say a few words about the work we have to do here in New York. On September 11, 2001 we learned in the most dramatic way possible what happens when violent men with a mission target a city. Osama bin Laden provided a graphic illustration of "shock and awe". And the overriding response here was not one of anger or desire for revenge, but of profound sorrow and helpfulness to neighbors.

Although the Bush Administration has used our suffering as an excuse for war and made our landscape a stage-set for their Republican convention, their goals were not ours. There was no mandate in NYC to invade Iraq nor is there is any significant support for a continued occupation. But our passive opposition is not enough.

As the polls are showing, across the United States majorities of Americans are saying that the invasion was a mistake, and that we need to start withdrawing troops. And yet despite those polls the war continues — the war expands. Today 156,000 are serving there. And as the insurgency grows, more may be added. This President will never willingly pull out of Iraq.

But its not just this President; it's the whole strata of politicians. Not just Republicans, but Democrats who are their enablers.

That's the challenge we all face: compelling our government to listen to the people. And to do that, we can't simply sit in our living rooms and tell each other how bad things are. We need to mobilize our own base — to make it clear that the war in Iraq requires everyone's urgent attention. That if we don't bring the troops home soon, we will be at war in the Middle East for a generation, that our city will be the obvious target for terrorists, and the $1 billion a week we are spending in Iraq will multiply, destroying our already inadequate health, education and welfare systems.

With a mobilized public, we can accomplish two other vital tasks:

  • to stop the flow of young people into the military
  • to stop the flow of money that is funding the war.

That should be our message: "None of our kids! None of our money!" We have it within our capacity to accomplish these things, if we are creative, courageous and committed.

Here in Brooklyn, our Congressional representatives are among the most progressive in the nation. But on issues of war and peace, our Democratic Senators are among the very worst on Capitol Hill.

By quietly supporting the President, Clinton and Schumer have weakened their own party and stifled the national debate. By the end of this weekend the 2000th American soldier will die for a war that these Senators authorized and still approve. Senator Clinton proposes to send even more troops. A vital mission, they say. And yet here is something we all know: you will never find a Schumer or Clinton daughter driving a humvee in Iraq!

One other point about our Senators. At some time probably half the people in this room looked at somebody and said, "That Schumer and Clinton; they're impossible." Almost true. But not quite. These are politicians, who need our votes. One of them hopes to be President. And I have absolute confidence that if we can create a tidal wave for peace, that Hillary Clinton will learn to swim. But it will take that tidal wave.

Brooklyn For Peace is dedicated to building the strongest possible movement here in Brooklyn for peace and social justice. We are determined to reclaim the real spirit of 9/11 — the spirit of helpfulness, non-violence, concern for others, willingness to sacrifice for a common humanity.

For those of you, who are new please help us this work. Sign your cards legibly so we can call you, donate generously so we can maintain a staff person, take our petitions and circulate them, join this afternoon in marching to the recruiting station, volunteer for our projects or launch new ones in your neighborhoods, schools or religious organizations.

This is an uphill struggle. But we owe it to our troops, to the Iraqis, and to future generations to stop this cycle of violence. And we can learn from Cindy and Casey Sheehan that even one brave person can make a difference.

Carolyn (Rusti) Eisenberg, Ph.D., Vice-Chair of Brooklyn For Peace, is a professor of U.S. foreign policy at Hofstra University and a member of the Coalition for a Realistic Foreign Policy as well as Historians Against the War. She is the author of Drawing the Line: the American Decision to Divide Germany, 1944–49 (Cambridge University Press, 1996).

Rusti Eisenberg delivered this speech at the Brooklyn Peace, October 22, 2005