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Anti-war Movement Picks up Momentum – in Congress and in the Streets
By Joel Wendland
Opposition to Bush's war on Iraq continues to grow. An important sign of this fact is the growing dissension in the Republican Party as some GOP leaders are beginning to regard support for the war as an electoral liability in 2006. While others like Sen. Chuck Hagel of Nebraska, who recently compared the Iraq quagmire with the Vietnam war, might see the war issue as part of a presidential bid in 2008.
Republican opportunism doesn't overshadow the wide national support for Cindy Sheehan's two week long "occupation" of Crawford, Texas or a 2,000 person anti-war demonstration in Salt Lake City, a bastion of conservatism at which Bush gave a weak defense of his war effort over the weekend. Read more about Cindy Sheehan here.
On the defensive, Bush has retreated to his usual strategy of first ignoring his critics then lashing out at them. On Tuesday, Bush accused people who disagree with his "resolve" to stay in Iraq for possibly several years as trying to "weaken" the US and accused Cindy Sheehan, who son was killed in Iraq, as out of touch with most Americans.
Polls show that at least 60 percent of Americans disagree with the President's Iraq war policy and want troop withdrawal. Most also think the war wasn't worth the cost in money or dead and wounded.
Millions more have been angered to learn about the Downing Street Memos and related documents which show that the Bush administration knew its case for war was weak, if not downright made up, and that it continued to plan ways to deceive the American people and Congress to support it. Read more about that here.
Meanwhile in Congress, several dozen Democrats led by Rep. Maxine Waters have formed the Out of Iraq Caucus and a bi-partisan effort to affirm the UN mandated timetable for US troop withdrawal. Both efforts have seen growing support over the last two months.
On May 25, Congresswoman Lynn Woolsey introduced on the floor of the House an amendment that would have called on President Bush to develop a plan for the withdrawal of U.S. forces and a plan for the reconstruction of Iraq. 123 Democrats and 5 Republicans voted in favor of the amendment. Ultimately, the Republican leadership ensured the amendment’s defeat.
Rep. Woolsey said: "Everything about this war has been a ruinous debacle: the way we got into it, the way we've conducted it, the refusal of a plan for disengagement, the high price – in dollars and lives – we've paid for it. It must end as soon as possible. There is only one solution: bring the troops home."
Woolsey has for months requested official bipartisan hearings on an exit strategy, but been blocked by Republican committee chairs. This week she announced unofficial hearings to be held on Capitol Hill on September 15.
Last week, two organizations seeking an end to the Iraq War, began collecting signatures on a petition to Congress calling for an exit strategy. Thus far over 13,000 signatures have been collected on the websites of Progressive Democrats of America and Peace Action.
"The majority of Americans are anti-war," said Kevin M. Martin, executive director of the Peace Action Education Fund, "and over 13,000 thousand have signed a petition to Congress with a statement of principles on how to get out of Iraq. The hearing on an exit strategy being held by Representative Woolsey is an example of Congress doing what it was supposed to do—represent the will of the people of America. After the hearings, the voice of the anti-war majority will rally at the White House and make the President think he's back in Crawford."
The September 15th hearings will pre-date what is expected to be one of the largest peace demonstrations during the Iraq war. On September 24th a rally and march organized and cosponsored by United for Peace and Justice and the International ANSWER Coalition will take place in Washington, DC, beginning at the Washington Monument and culminating at the Capitol Building. Find out more information here.
--Joel Wendland may be reached at email@example.com.