Remarks at 3/20 Burlington, VT Anti-War Rally
Brothers and sisters we rally and march this weekend to rebuild the resistance to empire. Bush, with the near unanimous support of the Democratic Party, lied us into this war and occupation
They lied about weapons of mass destruction. They lied about links between Saddam and Al Qeada! They lied about Iraq being a threat to the United States. Based on lies, they have murdered over 100,000 Iraqis, tortured countless people in the jails of Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo, and laid waste to the infrastructure of Iraq. They have spent billions of our dollars and sacrificed over 1,500 working class soldiers on this conquest.
But across the world this weekend we march to say enough is enough. We will not stand for any more blood spilt for these lies. Mr. Bush, we demand that the US bring the troops home, not on some distant day, but now, today, so that Iraq can be free.
We the forces of the anti-war movement are the vast majority of the world, the majority of the United States and the majority of Vermonters. 59% of Americans want an end to the occupation. Vermont shocked the nation with our resolutions against the war and occupation! Here in Burlington, we voted two to one to bring the troops home now! In the words of the Christian Science Monitor, our town meetings were a revolt against war and occupation.
Faced with mass popular opposition to occupation, Bush has manufactured yet another lie-that the US aims to bring democracy to Iraq and the Mideast. Just as they have for the last five years, the media and the Democrats have accepted and repeated this new lie. Even Ted Kennedy said Bush deserves support for bringing democracy to the Mideast. The stench of hypocrisy is overwhelming.
In reality, the US has been the main supporter of dictatorships in Mideast for the last fifty years. It has backed the Shah of Iran, the Saudi Monarchy, Egypt’s dictatorship, Saddam Hussein himself, and of course the Israeli occupation of Palestine. A leopard does not change its spots. The US cares nothing for democracy; it supports regimes that agree to its terms and overthrows those that disagree whether they are democratic or autocratic. The US values obedience not democracy.
Remember, just a year ago, the US staged a coup in Haiti against the democratically elected government of Jean Bertrand Aristide. They have twice tried to topple Venezuela’s democratically elected government of Hugo Chavez. But the worst of the hypocrisy is really in the Mideast. Against the wishes of the majority of the planet, Bush violated democracy by invading Iraq. He denied Iraqi’s right to self-determination by occupying the country, building 14 permanent military bases, and asserting US control over the country’s economy. This is not liberation or democratization; it is conquest.
The recent election itself was a farce, part of a long American tradition of staging demonstration elections throughout the world over the last one hundred years. The US aimed to give a democratic veneer to its permanent occupation of Iraq. The Bush administration even recognizes that you cannot have free and fair election under an occupation. Listen to what they said about Lebanon having elections during the Syrian Occupation. One of Bush spokespersons declared “How fair an election can Lebanon hold if the troops are there to intimidate voters, people running for election, or people now in office?”
What applies to Lebanon applies to Iraq. The US did not want elections and only held them under pressure from Ayatollah Sistani and the popular resistance in Iraq. The US delayed them for a year, cut deals with all parties that ran, who now support the continued occupation. They bought the parties off. So while the Iraqis who did vote thought they could use the election to kick the US out of Iraq, the opposite has turned out the be the case.
The new rigged government will support the occupation. Already regular Iraqi’s are figuring it out. Walid Mohammed told the New York Times that the new government does not think, “about what the Iraqi people need. They all work for the occupier. Whatever America wants that is what will happen in the end.”
The US is no more serious about democracy in the rest of the region. It is using the rhetoric of democracy to justify its plans to violate democracy by overthrowing regimes in Iran and Syria. Meanwhile it does not support democracy in Saudi Arabia where if elections were held the regime would be booted out of office. It also supports Israel and its undemocratic and illegal occupation of Palestine. We are in a weird Orwellian World-black is white, night is day, democracy is occupation.
We must reject this lie of democratization as we have all the others. The US fought this war to control the Mideast’s oil reserves and thereby the entire world system. Its ambitions were imperialist. Remember that the first name they came up with for the invasion of Iraq was Operation Iraqi Liberation. They only changed it after they figured out the acronym spelled OIL!
The US aims to control the region’s governments, seize its oil reserves, and thereby dominate it competitors like the European Union, China, and Japan who are all dependent of Mideast oil. The US assisted by its hit man, Israel, is planning to overthrow governments in Iran and Syria to prosecute these aims.
In fact, the entire war on terror is a smokescreen for similar ambitions throughout the world. The US intervened in Afghanistan to assert its control over the natural gas and oil reserves in the Caspian Sea. It wanted to make sure that it would control these and not Russia or China. The US is using its massive military arsenal to reorganize the world system in the interests of its corporations.
That’s why we must demand the immediate end to US interventions and occupations around the world from Iraq to Afghanistan and Haiti. As founder of Iraq Veterans against the War, Mike Hoffman stated, “to those who say we can’t cut and run, let’s be clear. The military can’t fix the problem. We are the problem.”
Far from benefiting from this imperial war, we the workers and oppressed of the United States are paying an enormous price. Martin Luther King said during the 1960s, “the bombs dropped in Vietnam explode at home.” What was true then is even more true today.
At the same time that Bush and the Democrats are spending billions on imperial war and occupation, they are slashing funding for unemployment benefits, education, social programs like Medicaid and Medicare, and now even threatening to destroy Social Security.
They have also shredded our civil liberties and civil rights with the Patriot Act. Worst of all, they have launched a racist witch-hunt against Arabs and Muslims. They have rounded up, detained, and deported thousands of Arabs across the country.
In the universities, the right wing has initiated a neo-McCarthyite attack on Arab professors, attempting to squelch the voices of dissent against US policy in the Middle East. They have used Ward Churchill’s statements about 9/11 to justify trying to fire him and launch an attack on professors at Colombia, Northeastern, and several other campuses. We must stand up and defend academic freedom, the first amendment, freedom of speech, the right to dissent, and especially the rights of Arabs and Muslims. We must demand money for jobs and education not for war and occupation.
Our government’s war on the world and its war on us here at home have built up an untapped reserve of resistance. We have an enormous opportunity and responsibility to re-galvanize an international movement against US Empire.
We should learn from the past about how to organize our movement to win this time. The head of Veterans for Peace Dave Cline has said that three things ended the Vietnam War-the mass anti-war movement in the US, the soldier’s resistance inside the American military, and the Vietnamese people’s fight for liberation.
It was not the Democratic Party, which was the architect of the war. We should learn this lesson. The Democrats are again on the side of war and occupation again today. They voted for the war, $81 billion to fund the occupation, the Patriot Act, the Intelligence Bill, Bush’s cabinet and on and on.
Over the last year, we compromised and demobilized our movement to get behind the pro-war campaign of John Kerry. We must not make that mistake again. Instead of hoping against reality that Democratic Party will be our ally, we must help organize the three forces that can end the occupation of Iraq.
Already, the Iraqi people have built an enormous popular resistance to the occupation demanding their right to self-determination. That resistance has actually bogged down the US military, prevented Bush from launching more wars and occupation, and thereby saved countless lives. It is the democratic expression of Iraqi’s fight for control of their country.
We see the beginnings of resistance inside the US war machine through Military Families Speak Out and Iraq Veterans against the War. Pablo Paredes and other soldiers have refused to fight for the empire. We have to support this resistance in order to paralyze the war machine.
What is lacking is our popular resistance in the streets, communities and workplaces of the US. We have to tap into the majority support for bringing the troops home now to re-galvanize our struggle. We need to rebuild local struggles. We can take inspiration from the counter-recruitment campaign on campuses and high schools across the country. They are exposing the lies of the recruiters and preventing them from hoodwinking working class students into becoming cannon fodder for empire. We need local actions of this sort everywhere.
At the same time we need to galvanize this local activism with mass marches on the centers of power to demand an immediate end to the occupation of Iraq. The combined struggle of such a renewed mass movement in the US, soldiers resistance inside the military, and the Iraqi resistance will end the US occupation of Iraq and prevent further US interventions.
This international struggle is the real movement for democracy and liberation throughout the world. Bush is what hypocrisy looks like; we are what democracy looks like. Now is the time to fight for an immediate end to the occupations of Iraq, Afghanistan, Palestine, and Haiti. Now is the time to fight for the US to pay war reparations to Iraq so that Iraqis can rebuild their own society. Now is the time to fight for social programs, jobs and civil liberties here at home.
It is time to rebuild our popular resistance against US imperialism and lay the foundations for a new society. Bring the troops home now! Iraq for Iraqis! Another world is possible, necessary, and we have to rebuild our mass movement to fight for it!
ASHLEY SMITH can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org