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AFL-CIO CONVENTION CALLS FOR TROOP WITHDRAWAL FROM IRAQ


By David Bacon

CHICAGO, IL (7/26/05) - On the second day of its convention in Chicago, the AFL-CIO took an historic step, calling for the rapid withdrawal of US troops from Iraq, and an end to the country's occupation. Public attention has focused largely on the split in US labor, and the decision by two of the federation's largest unions to leave. Yet the impact of this call will reverberate for years, with as profound effect on the future of US workers and their unions. Brooks Sunkett, vice-president of the Communications Workers of America (CWA), started a train of passionate speeches on the convention floor, saying that the government had lied to him when it sent him to war in Vietnam three decades ago. "We have to stop it from lying to a new generation now," he implored. Henry Nicholas, a hospital union leader in the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, told delegates that his son, who has served four tours of duty in Iraq, is now threatened with yet another.

Speaker after speaker rose to condemn the war and occupation, and to demand the return of the troops. No one dared defend a policy that has caused revulsion throughout US unions.

Watching from the visitors' gallery was a handful of Iraqi union leaders. One of them had traveled to the US two months ago, with five other union activists, to plead the case of Iraqi workers. For 16 days they traveled to more than 50 cities, often speaking before hundreds of angry workers, demanding an end to the occupation. The Iraqis urged their US union counterparts to take action. The resolution at the convention was the answer to this call. It was the culmination as well of an upsurge that has swept through US unions since before the war started two years ago. From the point when it became clear that the Bush administration intended to invade Iraq, union activists began organizing a national network to oppose it, US Labor Against the War. What started as a collection of small groups, in a handful of unions, has today to become a coalition of unions representing over a million members.

The network organized the tour of the Iraqi unionists, to provide them a chance to speak directly to US workers. "We believed strongly that if unions in our country could hear their Iraqi brothers and sisters asking for the withdrawal of US troops, they would respond in a spirit of solidarity and human sympathy," said Gene Bruskin, one of USLAW's national coordinators. "We were right." Resolutions calling for troop withdrawal poured in from unions, labor councils, and state labor federations across the country. But as the convention began, AFL-CIO national staff tried to substitute another resolution that called for ending the occupation "as soon as possible." This was the same position as that put forward by the Bush administration.

Delegates at the convention, who belong to the USLAW network then called for using instead the phrase "rapid withdrawal" of the troops. At a strategy-planning session attended by over 150 delegates, US and Iraqi unionists joined together to plan a fight on the convention floor to win that language. Before it could take place, however, CWA Vice-president Larry Cohen went to the AFL-CIO executive council, the federation's ruling body, and asked them to accept the change.

Knowing that a fight was in store, and suddenly unsure of their ability to win it, the council agreed.

The resolution was put on the floor of the convention Tuesday afternoon, two days before the scheduled debate on Iraq. When the proposal for rapid withdrawal was introduced by Fred Mason, head of the AFL-CIO in Maryland, it was obvious what he meant by the words. His call to "get out now" became a chorus thundering from speaker after speaker. The new language was adopted with the votes of an overwhelming majority.

The resolution marks a watershed moment in modern US labor history. It is the product of grassroots action at the bottom of the US labor movement, not a directive from top leaders. The call for bringing the troops home echoes the sentiments of thousands of ordinary workers and rank-and-file union members, whose children and family have been called on to fight the war. A growing number, who now form a majority in US unions, believe the best way to protect them is to bring them home.

The resolution represents a deeper understanding that is making its way into thousands of discussions in workplaces and union halls. The war in Iraq never had much credibility as an effort to find weapons of mass destruction, since none were ever found. The administration's claim that it is fighting to bring democracy to Iraqi people inspired a similar disbelief. After five years of administration attacks on US workers and unions, none but the most diehard of its supporters have much faith left in its pro-democracy pronouncements.

Over the last year, however, the Iraqis themselves have provided a new understanding of the occupation's anti-democratic impact. American military authorities, they told US union members, have banned labor organization in oil fields, factories and other Iraqi public enterprises. Meanwhile, Bush political operatives have begun to engineer the sell off of those enterprises to foreign corporations, with a potential loss of thousands of jobs and the income needed to rebuild the country.

"This is not liberation. It is occupation," said Ghasib Hassan, a leader of the Iraqi Federation of Trade Unions, one of the unions that sent its members to speak in the US. "At the beginning of the 21st century, we thought we'd seen the end of colonies, but now we're entering a new era of colonization."

In the many meetings and discussions that finally led to the resolution, union members understood the purpose of the occupation in a new way - as the imposition, at gunpoint, of Bush administration free market policies on Iraq. After the resolution's passage, the Iraqis called on delegates to act on that understanding, and asked the AFL-CIO to bring its members out to coming national demonstrations against the war.

Rapid withdrawal means more than just bringing US soldiers home. Calling for it puts American workers on the side of Iraqis, as they resist the transformation of their country for the benefit of a wealthy global elite. Brooks Sunkett, Vietnam vet turned union leader, spoke powerfully for this renewed unwillingness to wage wars based on lies and greed. His call for rapid withdrawal breathes new life into the Vietnam syndrome - so feared by US administrations intent on military intervention to defend their free market policies around the world.

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This has got to be the absolutely greatest sign yet that America, the people, are starting to wake up from a long, stressed out slumber. Thank Goodness!!!

Congress -- where are you? Do we have to to surround you with people on the streets of DC? Where is the one Republican Congressman who has the guts to stand up and fight for the Constitution and Democracy as it has always worked in this country? The one who does it, and means it, will go down in history as a hero. Heck, I might even vote for him/her!

Media, Where Are You? I know it's late on a work night, but WAKE UP!

Sorry, folks, the media are not going to wake up any time soon. They are not asleep. They laugh all the way to the bank because they obey Bush, our Fuehrer.

YOU ARE THE MEDIA! Tell it loud and clear!

John Conyers, Jr. is one Representative to the U.S. Congress who is standing up and fighting. So is Rep. Barbara Lee, of California's 9th District. Those are the only two I know of right now. If others know of someone who is working for America in Congress, please let us know at this site. (Conyers is from Michigan).

She comes from behind the modem and ROCKS the CROWDS (even bloggers with videolips get to see her in ACTION!!! >>>Out of Iraq Caucus is showing the WHOLE nation on the other side of the cyberdivide >>>the TRUTH

http://www.change-links.org/maxinewaters.htm

Keep the FAITH>>>tell your tell your churches and synogogues and mosques that people just want to get along and MAKE PEACE. Tell them you want them to preach against the EVILDOERS that MAKE WAR on our brothers and sisters of GOD'S WORLD (it ain't Bushco's world). Tell your religious leaders you want to HEAR PEACE FROM THE PULPIT.

My God - are we actually seeing the sun coming out from behind the clouds? Please let this be happening!

Yes, dear, praise God - the sun IS coming out from behind the clouds! Americans are waking up from the brainwashing they received during the "campaign" (read vote stealing) we Americans all endured last November.

Everybody, tell your friends and neighbors what is happening. Americans now know that Bush lied about Iraq. Our soldiers need to come home. Iraqis need to run Iraq, its oil wells and everything else. Not the U.S. Or Bush's friends. It was never about WMD - but you now know that. It was always about the oil, the money and the power for Bush and his cronies.

DON'T LET BUSH GET AWAY WITH IT! IMPEACH THE ADMINISTRATION NOW!

How much louder must we scream to be heard?

There are millions of us screaming for an investigation and we are ignored.

What do we have to do to light a fire in congress?

I'm AFSCME, so when I saw this story, my jaw dropped ... this is it brothers and sisters, these brave Iraquis that have endured Saddam and Bush bullsh*t combined seek refuge with the American Labor Unions>>>>SOLIDARITY ROCKS!!! We cannot let them down>>>RAPID WITHDRAWAL it is. I hope a portion of MY union dues goes towards rebuilding Iraq, because I certainly know my tax-dollar is only going toward destroying and occupying Iraq. I am so glad they told their story of Bushco's true goals - UNION BUSTING IN IRAQ FOR AN IMPERIALISTIC OIL GRAB. This is the first that I have heard about the US military union-busting in Iraq>>>PNAC are the Fascists using OUR military kids & reserves as goon squads and union-busters. I did not think it was possible that Bushco could be more repulsive ...the BIG LIE gets BIGGER>>>there is NO democracy in Iraq. It is a PURE imperialistic occupation.

Now time to send out the challenges> US Catholic Bishops, your silence is deafening. Please start bringing Iraquis to Sunday Mass to plead their case of withdrawal to the Catholic parishioners. We collectively in Christ owe it to the Iraqui people that we will stand solidly for RAPID WITHDRAWAL to end the imperialistic occupation of EVILDOERS>>>>Bushco and his PNAC thugs.

YOU GET IT! All I can say to your message is AMEN, Brother in Christ.

AFL-CIO THANK YOU.

I am not a union member but I stand with their ideas and objectives, we must bring the troops home now and remove Bushco from power. Why did the administration abolish all of Saddam's laws except the one banning unions?

I agree 100% with Michael Perkins. I, also, stand with the unions' ideas and objectives. I, also, say BRING THE TROOPS HOME NOW! REMOVE BUSHCO FROM POWER NOW!

Michael, you ask why the administration abolished all of Saddam's laws except the one banning unions. It's because unions have power and single workers don't. BushCo don't want workers to have any power. He just wants them to be slaves to his beloved corporations. Don't you see the writing on the wall?

BE SELF-EMPLOYED, FELLOW AMERICANS! Or either join a union. One or the other. It's the only way anymore. Unless you WANT to be a slave. God help us all as we attempt to take back our country from Bush, the corporations and the neocons who are destroying America. For further information on these kinds of things happening now, see http://www.karlschwarz2008.com.

>card-carrying member on weekdays & an e-Bayer on weekends

I would like to be more upbeat; but I've got a bad feeling about this.

What if Bush & Co. are a step or two ahead of you?

Today we hear that even a U.S. general in Iraq is suggesting a rapid withdrawal.

What if the purpose of all of this is to create a complete chaos and then leave the Democrats and other progressives holding the bag? What if the price of oil is manipulated to go through the roof at the appropriate time and Bush and Co. just turns around and says that it is the progressives who are to blame for the chaos?

These people weren't born yesterday. You can bet that, if they are forced into a position where withdrawal becomes politically necessary, they will have prepared ahead of time to do it in such a way as to throw ALL blame for any negative consequences on those who have beeen urging them to withdraw for so long.

Hitler, after all, had the 'stab in the back' story.

I doubt that 'Bush's brains' are not clever enough to figure out something just as effective.

M.C.

I have a sinking feeling you might be right- and I don't believe for a minute that the administration didn't prepare for post-conflict in Iraq. They know exactly what they're doing, as demonstrated by your scenario... and suprise,suprise... the oil companies (read:BUSH & CO) get even richer still....imagine that.

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