Absent a national antiwar political formation on the near horizon, local politics can point to a trend of note. Consider the activism underway to make peace a political policy for Doris Matsui. She was elected for the first time last November to the House of Representatives for California’s 5th congressional district, based in Sacramento.
Antiwar activists have been sitting peacefully in her downtown office for three weeks. A recent appearance by Cindy Sheehan, the Vallejo mother whose son Casey lost his life in Iraq, gave this Sacramento “peace in” a boost. These protesters want a face-to-face meeting with Matsui to urge the Democratic congresswoman to vote for a binding resolution to end more funding of the U.S. occupation of Iraq.
Recently, she spoke with the antiwar activists by phone for just under an hour. On one hand, Matsui opposes the war and President George W. Bush’s troop escalation. On the other hand, she won’t put pen to paper to sign off on cutting tens of billions of dollars to fund the future occupation of Iraq. This phone conversation did not change her mind.
Why? Money for war talks powerfully in a national economy that for decades has relied on public subsidies to the military-industrial complex. And the war costs are the highest for Americans with the lowest incomes.
Consider this. In 2004, “the poorest 60 million Americans reported average incomes of less than $7 a day each,” according to the NY Times last Nov. 28, in an article based on IRS data. The tax dollars spent on U.S. military actions in Iraq in 2004 could have been”but were not”spent to help these low-income citizens struggling to get by in the richest nation ever, at least in terms of over-all size, or gross domestic product.
The Sacramento Coalition to End the War is talking back to the current U.S. policy of allocating more tax dollars to wage war in Iraq for peace to emerge there eventually. The site of this struggle for one lawmaker’s policy preference is Matsui’s office in the Robert T. Matsui Federal Courthouse, named after her late husband who represented the 5th congressional district for over two decades.
After the Jan. 27 antiwar rallies and speeches in Washington DC and across the country, the local politics of peace will for the near future likely be a lively part of the nascent national movement to end the Iraq war, and prevent a U.S. attack on Iran. Recently, a chapter of Peace in the Precincts announced the launch of antiwar protests in the offices of Rep. Dan Lungren, a Republican who represents Gold River, an eastern Sacramento suburb.
SETH SANDRONSKY is a member of Sacramento Area Peace Action and a co-editor of Because People Matter, Sacramento’s progressive paper www.bpmnews.org/. He can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org.