Friday, December 19, 2008

United for Peace and Justice National Conference

The national conference of United for Peace and Justice (UFPJ) took place in Chicago over the December 12 – 14 weekend. The conference was attended by around 200 people, including Trudy Quaif, Tim Herr, and me (Joe Lombardo) as representatives of Bethlehem Neighbors for Peace. BNP also brought along its literature table, which did a brisk business.

At the conference, we discussed a number of documents prepared by the UFPJ steering committee and elected a new steering committee to serve until the next conference. The UFPJ steering committee documents included a unity proposal, a structure proposal, and a proposal for action. Bethlehem Neighbors for Peace joined with 18 other UFPJ groups in proposing two amendments to the documents.

The first amendment was on Afghanistan. In the UFPJ documents, the war in Afghanistan seems to be downplayed. While the UFPJ documents still called for immediate withdrawal from Iraq, they did not do so for Afghanistan. Our amendment basically said that Afghanistan is not the “good war,” as some contend, and that UFPJ should call for immediate withdrawal from Afghanistan. Ashley Smith from Vermont presented the motivations for passing this amendment, which appeared to have strong support. After some discussion, the UFPJ leadership decided to accept the amendment as "friendly," which means that it got adopted.

The second amendment was on unified spring actions around the anniversary of the war in Iraq. Specifically, the amendment called for UFPJ’s support for a March 21 demonstration at the Pentagon, which is being supported by a broad array of peace groups, including ANSWER, the National Assembly, Iraq Veterans Against the War (IVAW), and others. Although IVAW did not formally attend the conference, a flyer was circulated from their National Board of Directors calling for UFPJ to support the March 21 action. The UFPJ document that we sought to amend called for a number of actions on various issues leading up to a rally on Wall Street on April 4th around the issues of “re-ordering of economic priorities.” The supporters of our amendment were not opposed to any of the actions that the UFPJ leadership proposed, so we asked that we not counter-pose the resolutions and simply include one more action in the UFPJ proposal, March 21. The UFPJ leadership said that it would be too much to work on their actions plus March 21, so they wanted the two proposals to be counter-posed. That means that the delegates had to vote for one or the other, but not both.

Motivations for our amendment were given by Marilyn Levin from Boston. There were three speakers for the amendment and three against. There were three Iraqis at the conference; all of them supported our March 21 amendment. The three speakers for our amendment included two of the Iraqis and me. There was then a motion to have open discussion for a half-hour. That motion was defeated, and so the discussion ended. The vote was 49 for March 21 and 111 against.

There was also a discussion around the structure of the steering committee. The UFPJ leadership proposed having 40 members, 20 voted by the conference and 20 permanent positions from the national groups that support UFPJ. The discussion was mainly opposed to this structure, so the proposal was dropped. I was nominated for the UFPJ steering committee but was not elected.

All of the above was placed in the context of the recent elections. The UFPJ leadership felt that we are now in a new political period brought on by Obama's election and by the movement that his campaign engendered. They believe that there are now massive numbers of young people and African Americans who became politically active around the campaign and that this requires a new orientation for UFPJ. Although this was never said explicitly, I interpreted this to mean that they did not want to put forward positions that might be construed as opposing Obama. I believe this is why the Afghanistan war was downplayed, why they moved away from the anti-war issue as being central to their orientation in the coming year, and why they did not want to have a demonstration in Washington.

Immediately after the conference, the call for the March 21 Pentagon march was solidified. I’m sure that many of you saw the e-mail that came from the ANSWER coalition. Below is the call from the National Assembly. An ad hoc coalition is being set up to build the action, and a web site is being created.

I strongly believe that as long as we have troops occupying two countries, we must keep a strong anti-war movement that is visible and out in the streets. As the Iraqis who spoke for the March 21 resolution told the UFPJ conference, the Iraqi and Afghan people need to see a strong movement against the war in the US. The present condition of the economy and the people coming into political motion around the Obama campaign simply mean that we have a greater opportunity today to build the anti-war movement and relate the war to the fiscal crisis, jobs, and other issues that have become pressing during this period.

Although I will encourage the anti-war movement to build the March 21 action, I think that organizations, especially those close to New York City, should also participate in any Wall Street action that develops out of the UFPJ call. Although we did not achieve formal unity this spring, those of us who support unity should practice it by supporting the Wall Street action. Perhaps we can build an anti-war contingent with a slogan like, “Money for jobs, not for war.”
If you would like to discuss any of these developments with me, please contact me at or 518-439-1968

Joe Lombardo

March on the Pentagon! March 21, 2009

The National Assembly to End the Iraq and Afghanistan Wars and Occupations is joining with other coalitions, organizations, and networks in a united MARCH 21 NATIONAL COALITION to organize the broadest mobilization of people across the United States to take part in a March on the Pentagon on the sixth year of the military invasion and occupation of the Iraq War: Saturday, March 21.

Demonstrations will also be held on that date in San Francisco, Los Angeles, and other cities across the U.S.

These actions will remind the nation that all U.S. military forces must be brought home from Afghanistan and Iraq, and that the U.S. antiwar movement – marching behind a banner demanding “Out Now!’ – will intensify its struggle to make it happen.
The actions are needed to assure the people of Iraq, Afghanistan, and other countries threatened by Washington’s expansionist policies that tens of millions of people in this country support their right to settle their own destinies without U.S. interventions, occupations and murderous wars. International law recognizes – and we demand – that the U.S. respect the right to self-determination. We reject any notion that the U.S. is the world’s self-appointed cop.

The March 21 united mass actions are also needed at this time of economic meltdown to demand jobs for all; a moratorium on foreclosures; rebuilding the crumbling infrastructure; guaranteed, quality health care for all; an end to the ICE raids and deportations; and funding for sorely needed social programs. So long as trillions of dollars continue to be spent on wars, occupations, and bailouts to the banks and corporate elite, the domestic needs of the people of the U.S. can never be met.
The So-called Status of Forces Agreement

As for Iraq, the so-called “Status of Forces Agreement” offers proof positive that far from ending the U.S. occupation, the plan is to extend it indefinitely. Tens of thousands of U.S. troops and mercenary soldiers will be maintained to carry out a number of stated missions, but in reality their aim is to carry out the one mission that is not stated: Ensure the U.S. subjugation of Iraq to exploit its oil resources and dominate the Middle East.

Any doubt about Washington’s intentions should be dispelled by the statement by Gen. Raymond Odierno who said on December 13, 2008 that U.S. forces would remain indefinitely in dozens of bases in Iraq cities, despite the language in the Status of Forces Agreement that appears to require a withdrawal from urban areas by next summer. (Wall Street Journal 12/15/08)

As for Afghanistan, it is not the “good war” claimed by the Obama administration and the power structure, which plans to increase the number of U.S. troops in that country by 20,000. Afghanistan will prove to be another U.S. Vietnam. The Soviet Union’s intervention in Afghanistan resulted in a million Afghanis being killed, along with 15,000 Soviet troops. The U.S. war will only result in a continuation of the slaughter that has been the hallmark of all previous occupations by foreign powers.

The daily U.S. bombing and killing of Afghanis attending weddings, classes, funerals, or simply trying to survive shows how cruel and deadly this war is. It is directed against the same forces that the U.S. armed, financed, and helped bring to power.

Why is the U.S. at war against Afghanistan? To gain control of a pipeline across that country. (See the 1998 statement submitted to Congress by the Union Oil Company of California, which later merged with Chevron, stressing the need to build a natural gas pipeline across Afghanistan. And note Dick Cheney’s 1998 statement made when he was chief executive of a major oil services company: “I cannot think of a time when we have had a region emerge suddenly to become as strategically significant as the Caspian,” which led the Guardian newspaper to remark “But the oil and gas there is worthless until it is moved. The only route that would make both political and economic sense is through Afghanistan.”)
The March 21 demonstration will also highlight the dangers of expanding Washington’s two wars to Iran and Pakistan. It will also condemn U.S. support for the continued occupation of Palestine.

The National Assembly

From its inception, the National Assembly to End the Iraq and Afghanistan Wars and Occupations has called for united antiwar demonstrations this spring. We urge the entire movement to unite now around March 21. We will do everything possible to make this unity a reality.

Think of the civil rights, union, anti-Vietnam War, women’s liberation and gay rights movements. They would not have achieved victories without having built truly massive movements that were able to organize repeated and powerful independent mobilizations in the streets.

Why the demonstration in Washington? Because it is the seat of power, where foreign and domestic policies are decided, where money for war is allocated, and bailouts of the banking industry and corporate rich are given away.

Join us in mobilizing the largest possible outpouring of antiwar opposition built by a united movement on March 21. Let’s march and continue to march until all U.S. forces come home, U.S. bases are dismantled, and the sovereign people of the world have the right to control their own resources and determine their own futures.
To endorse the March 21 March on the Pentagon, please click here.

To send a contribution to support the National Assembly’s work, please click here.

For more information, please visit the National Assembly’s website at or write or call 216-736-4704.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

The Crisis of Capitalism

The present economic crisis is not only a periodic crisis in the economy but also a crisis of capitalism itself. For the past few weeks and months, we have been told that it is a credit crisis – which it is – but it is also a crisis in other sectors of the economy, as seen by the huge losses in auto, airline, construction and other industries. In the past, the financial industry represented only about 2% of the US economy; today it is around 40%. Given this situation, the collapse of the financial industry has a much greater impact than it has in the past.

The only solutions we are being presented with are solutions that fall within the framework of the capitalist system. The politicians talk about bailouts and rescue plans that ask working people to assume the bad debt while bailing out the wealthiest layer of society. This allows the wealthy to make additional fortunes using the same methods that got us into this crisis in the first place. Repeating the same actions and expecting different results is a well-accepted definition of insanity.

Europe is doing the bailouts differently, because it has always had a stronger worker’s movement than does the US which has fought for a bigger portion of the pie for the European working class. They are nationalizing many of the financial institutions or requiring that the public get a return as shares of the companies. That means that if the financial institutions ever return to profitability, the profit will go to the government, not to just the capitalist classes in those countries.

As the crisis deepens, the US, too, is thinking that it may need to nationalize all or part of some banks and financial institutions. But isn’t nationalization of industry equivalent to Socialism? Well, not really. Nationalization under a capitalist government would be used to support the capitalists, the same people who rail against socialism, even as they clamor for it for themselves. For nationalization to work for the majority, it needs to be administered by a worker’s government that will use the profits for the good of the working people.

The US is the wealthiest and most powerful country in the world and the one with the biggest disparity between the rich and the poor. In the US, the wealthiest 400 people are wealthier than the bottom 150 million people. During the past 8 years, these top 400 have increased their wealth by about $700 billion, the exact amount of the bailout. Maybe they should bailout their ailing financial industry instead of us; they will still have more money than they can count in several lifetimes. But instead, it is our tax dollars that are being used. They don’t even pay much in taxes themselves and have been the recipient of the bulk of the tax givebacks. As New York Times tax columnist David Cay Johnston explained in his book, “Perfectly Legal,” taxes from corporate profits used to account for 45% of the countries tax revenue; today it accounts for only 7.5%. Yet the corporations take advantage of the services provided by our taxes, such as roads to transport their goods, education to obtain qualified workers, and the military to defend their interests overseas. We have a government of the rich, by the rich, and for the rich. We need a government of, by, and for the working people.

For the past twenty years or so, under both Democratic and Republican administrations, there has been an orgy of deregulation that allowed the corporations and financial institution to play loose and gamble away our money and security. There has been deregulation of the financial industry, the media, the utilities and of other necessary services and industries. We were told it would bring prices down due to competition. Instead, prices went up, safety and service went down, and competition decreased as companies took over their competitors. Thanks to deregulation, our food, prescription drugs, and workplaces are no longer safe.

It is time we turned this situation around. Even the corporate media is now musing that a socialist solution is being used to bailout capitalism. We should start talking about how socialism can and should be used to make a better life for the vast majority--the working class. We already have many socialized institutions, such as public schools, the fire department, social security, and other government sponsored programs. Why not socialize healthcare, as do most other advanced industrial countries? Why not socialize public education through college, as is the case in most other advanced countries? Instead, both Democratic and Republican administrations have pushed for privatization of almost everything from jails to the military to social security. These are plans to make the rich richer and put working people at the mercy of the same type of capitalist schemes that created the present financial crisis.

It is time for the left to start talking about socialism as the solution to the present crisis. Let’s build a society that puts human needs before profit.

One aspect of people’s lives in the US in recent times is the fact that we are under increasing stress. People go bankrupt when they get very sick, even with “good” medical insurance. Social programs and safety nets have been cut. People’s homes are being foreclosed. Retirement has moved from company sponsored guaranteed programs to Individual Retirement Accounts and 401K plans, which increase people’s financial insecurity. Perhaps these are the reasons that the U.S. has the highest rate of mental illness of 26 countries recently studied.

Given this situation, perhaps one way to talk about socialism is to talk about relationships between people and between ourselves and the earth. I strongly believe that what some people consider human nature is actually social conditioning. Today we live in our own isolated houses, travel in our isolated cars, and are responsible for our own problems, even when they are not of our own making such as with the present economic crisis. Despite the fact that pre-class societies were technologically backward, human relationships were more functional then they are today. In pre-class societies, no person was considered superior to others; each one was valued for what they could contribute to the community. In such societies, crime was rare and seen as a mental illness. The family was defined much more broadly, and the idea of the whole community raising a child was accepted. In fact, in some of these societies, the name for an adult male and for a father were the same, as was the name for an adult female and a mother.

As we point out what is wrong with capitalism, we should also project the image of what could be. We could build a world where the resources of society were used not for the profits of a few but for the needs of the many. There would be universal healthcare, a secure retirement, adequate housing, food, and other necessities for all. In such a society, humans could reach their full potential. There would be no need for us to be divided by race, gender, or sexual orientation. Instead of fearing each other, we could enjoy the diversity of humankind. There would be no need for war. A good education would be available to all, not just the rich, allowing us a better chance to solve pressing problems like global warming and peak oil.

Today, capitalism not only threatens the world with economic disaster, nuclear weapons and war but also stands in the way of seriously addressing the problems that threaten our very existence. There are only two paths forward: socialism or barbarism. It’s time to engage in the fight for socialism.

In Solidarity,
Joe Lombardo

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Why I will vote for Nader

Below is reply to someone who e-mailed me asking why I would support Nader who he called a "spoiler"

I understand your position, but don't agree with it. The Democrats did not lose the last 2 elections, especially the 2000 election -- an election where Gore won the popular vote by 1/2 million votes -- the elections were stolen. But even if they weren't, I would have not voted for either of the democrats in the last 2 elections because they supported the war and supported the kind of corporate deregulation that has led to the economic crisis that we are now facing. In fact, most of the deregulation that caused this crisis was done under Clinton.

Exit polls of Nader voters pretty much confirmed that he took as many votes from the Republicans has he did from the Democrats. The Reform Party, which came from the Republican Party, endorsed him in the last election. Many Greens, who would not vote for the Democrats for the reasons I said above, also supported him. In this election Ron Paul has given some tacit support to Nader. Ron Paul is a Republican.

The problem is with the electoral system in this country, not Nader. The electoral system is undemocratic. It requires so much money to run for office that you have to be rich yourself or be supported by the rich. The media is corporate controlled and the debates are no longer run by a non-partisan group. It is also a winner take all system insuring that a 3rd party candidate will not get a good hearing because of the fears you expressed. This situation allows the major candidates to not support the positions of the majority (anti-war, single payer healthcare, etc.) in deference to their corporate backers.

In countries where they have a more democratic parliamentary system, there are 12 or 15 parties that run. Voters don't need to vote for the person they dislike the least, they can actually vote for someone they like. As a result, they get a bigger percentage voting in these countries and have reforms like socialized healthcare, free higher education, etc. The top vote getter in these kinds of electoral systems puts together a coalition of the parties closest to them to get a majority and therefore, many points of view are represented in the government which guards against the kind of right-wing extremism that we have seen for the past 8 years.

The only way to change this situation is to start to change it by voting for who you want, not the lesser of the 2 evils. The lesser evil politics has brought us to where we are today - continued wars, a planet heating up and a crashing economy.

Unlike the Republicrats, Nader has been warning against these problems for years. He has been the one person who has been talking about the close relationship between the corporations, the financial institutions and the government. Elections give him a bigger platform, even as the corporate media and Democratic and Republican parties vilify him. This platform can help build a movement that can actually fight for the changes that this world needs to survive.

If you are afraid that Nader may cause Obama to lose, I would urge you to fight for a more democratic election system: get rid of the electoral college; stop the voter "cleansing"; take money out of the elections; demand third parties in the debates; end the laws that make it extremely difficult for 3rd parties to get on the ballot; stop gerrymandering; push for instant runoff elections and fight for a system closer to what other, more democratic countries have.

In solidarity,
Joe Lombardo

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Meeting with President Ahmadinejad

On Wednesday evening, September 24, I was one of over one-hundred activists who met for two hours with Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the president of Iran. President Ahmadinejad was in the US for a General Assembly meeting at the United Nations. Leila Zand, an Iranian woman from the Capital District who is the Iran Program Director for the Fellowship of Reconciliation (FOR), organized the meeting. The next morning, anti-war group members who had attended Wednesday’s meeting met again to discuss how to organize against an attack on Iran.

I attended both meetings as a representative of Bethlehem Neighbors for Peace and of the Muslim Solidarity Committee. Also at the meeting was Priscilla Fairbank from Women Against War (WAW). Over 100 different anti-war organizations from across the country were represented, including, the Syracuse Peace Council, and Rochester Against War from upstate, NY.

After welcome addresses from FOR and the Iranian ambassador, eleven people, including Priscilla Fairbank of WAW, asked questions of the Iranian president.

President Ahmadinejad’s started his formal address by thanking those who were gathered for their work on behalf of peace. He observed that World War II took the lives of over 60,000,000 people, more than the number killed in all previous wars combined, and was then followed by additional wars in Korea, Vietnam, Granada, and elsewhere. He had determined, therefore, that it was not enough to fight against a single war; rather, the peace movement must address the causes of war in general and work towards ending all war.

He stated that, in his opinion, war has two major causes:

1. Greed, or the desire of one country to take the resources of another; and
2. Geographical expansion, or one country trying to take over the territory of another.

He said that the only war that modern Iran was involved in was the eight-year war with Iraq, which was started by the “professional criminal,” Saddam Hussein. Saddam, he said, started that war with the encouragement and support of the US. As a result, over 200,000 Iranians died, including many killed by chemical weapons supplied by the US.

President Ahmadinejad stated that the reason Iran is against war is because, in Iran, politics and religion are not separate. He said that all the great religions have a common moral code and that unless politics is based on a moral code, war will continue. He also said that Iran is against nuclear weapons and implied that nuclear weaponry violates the religious beliefs of Islam.

One of the questions asked of President Ahmadinejad involved the recent demonstration at the national political conventions and the number of arrests (over 800 were arrested in St. Paul including legal observers, medical helpers and reporters). The questioner asked about similar political repression in Iran. President Ahmadinejad replied that they have demonstrations in Iran, including two annual demonstrations that attract millions of people. He said political demonstrations are allowed in Iran. However, one Iranian women at the meeting the following morning stated that there have been non-government sanctioned demonstrations in Iran that have been broken up by authorities.

Another questioner asked about the role of women, youth, and gays in Iran. Ahmadinejad replied that Iranian youth are very involved in politics and that a national youth organization advises him. He said that people can vote in Iran at the age of 15.

President Ahmadinejad said that two of his vice-presidents are women and that women make up 70% of the university students and perhaps a majority of all professions. Women can work at all jobs , including taxi driving and truck driving. He noted, however, that he did not think it was a good thing for women to be taxi drivers and truck drivers, as he believes women should not do hard labor and represent beauty and the finer things in society. (I also noticed that all the dignitaries who came with him were men.)

He did not answer the question about gays although he did answer that question on Democracy Now the following morning. He stated that although he does not approve of homosexuality, gays are not discriminated against in Iran. What people do in their own homes is their own business, he said. Amy Goodman had a picture of two gays that she said were hanged in Iran. President Ahmadinejad responded that he did not believe that; people in Iran are only executed for murder or rape.

He was asked why Iran supports nuclear power instead of renewable energy. He said that he thought it was strange that the U.S., Britain, and other countries supported Iran’s nuclear power programs under the US supported dictatorship, but that once Iran had elections, these same countries no longer supported it. He said that they spend three times as much on renewable energy than they spend on nuclear power. He felt that both renewable and nuclear energy were necessary for Iran’s energy future.

Medea Benjamin of Code Pink asked why it is difficult for Americans to get visas to visit Iran. She said that they had sponsored tours of Iran but she herself had been denied a visa. President Ahmadinejad said that he did not know and instructed the Iranian ambassador to open up the process for Americans. He then told us that we should now go to our own government and ask why Iranians can’t get visas to come to the US.

President Ahmadinejad stated that the demise of the old Soviet Union started with their protracted war in Afghanistan. He believes that the US is going through a similar process. He said that the $700 billion bailout of US financial institutions could be better used by the poor around the world and that the $700 billion was more than the budgets of over 100 countries in the world. Because of the crisis, the US would not be able to have another war for perhaps a decade, he said. He also stated, “Iran will not seek war with anyone, ever.”

After meeting with Ahmadinejad, I had the opportunity to hear Bush’s televised address on the economic bailout. The contrast was clear: Bush spoke with the expressionless face of a psychopathic liar. Ahmadinejad spoke with expression and emotion, like a normal person. Although I disagree, at times strongly, with many of the points Ahmadinejad has made, I believe the U.S. campaign of vilification against the Iranian president is designed to build up a case for war against Iran.

The most important human right is the right to live. Any movement toward war by the U.S. against Iran would bring mass destruction and death. The role of the peace movement in the U.S. is to strongly oppose a war against Iran not criticize Iran, which will just add to the US villification of Iran and support the US war effort. As long as the US continues to threaten Iran, the Iranian people will band together to defend their country, and all their other progressive struggles in Iran will be postponed.

At the meeting the following morning, over 60 people representing a wide array of the national peace movement met at a church in the East Village. FOR has many ties to the religious peace movement ,and so a number of religious peace leaders were there along with most of the secular peace groups. Ahmadinejad’s comments about religion and politics became a topic of discussion at the meeting. Most people clearly disagreed with Ahmadinejad’s perspective, although some thought that his perspective comes from Iranian traditions where there is not a concept of separation of church and state.

One Iranian woman mentioned that she spoke to the Iranian ambassador during the meeting and he asked her if some of the people who attended the meeting would be arrested for attending. Perhaps this comment says a lot about the real political situation in Iran

There was discussion about legislative initiatives and about the importance of people to people contact between the two countries. There was not a lot of time for strategizing; however, FOR plans to keep us in contact with each other as a national network opposing an attack on Iran.

The meeting with President Ahmadinejad was filmed. FOR will let us know how we can get copies of the video.

On October 18, 2008 there will be a conference on Iran and strategies to end war in our area. Information can be found at the link below. Please join us to further discussion of avoiding war with Iran.

How to Prevent War on Iran and the Constitution

Joe Lombard

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Georgia vs Russia

As George Bush and virtually all other American politicians and news media express their support for Georgia and condemn Russian “aggression” in the conflict between the two counties, it seems some important facts are being ignored. It was not Russia who started this fight, but Georgia by its unprovoked attack of South Ossetia. According to Associated Press interviews with survivors of the Georgian assault on Tskhinvali, the South Ossetian capital, the city was left in flames with hardly a single building left untouched. The parliament, the university and the main hospital were all totally destroyed. According to Eduard Kokoitym, the South Ossetian leader, more than 1,400 civilians were killed in this Georgian assault. Yet these facts seem to be unnoticed as the US continues to insist that Russia is the aggressor.

South Ossetia, along with the neighboring region of North Ossetia-Alania has been an autonomous region for over 70 years, including under the old Soviet Union. The Ossetians are a distinct nationality with their own Persian-related language and culture. The Georgian attempt to annex this region is in clear contrast to the wishes of the Ossetian people who have fought Georgia’s attempts at annexation since the break-up of the Soviet Union.

The US is not innocent in this conflict. The Georgian government is an ally of the US and had 2,000 troops in Iraq at the time of their invasion of South Ossetia. The US has armed and trained the Georgian armed forces. There are US military advisors in Georgia today and just before Georgia invaded South Ossetia, one thousand US Marines left the country after conducting joint military maneuvers called “Operation Immediate Response.” In the period leading up to the Georgian invasion of South Ossetia, the US supplied the Georgian military with hundreds of tanks, armored vehicles, artillery weapons, rocket launchers and dozens of combat helicopters and anti-aircraft missile systems. These were used in the Georgian invasion of South Ossetia.

Additionally, the Georgian invasion of South Ossetia comes at a time that the US is pushing for Georgia and the Ukraine to join NATO, an act that Russia sees as a threat. It also happens at a time that the US is installing missiles and listening systems in Poland and the Czech Republic causing Russia to threaten to aim its missiles at these countries in response.

The timing of the Georgian attack on South Ossetia is also of concern. The attack happened on the opening day of the Olympics as all eyes were on China and Bush sat watching the opening ceremonies. As Russia is fixing its attention on Georgia and South Ossetia, the US is amassing a huge armada off the coast of Iran. Three carrier groups with 39 Navy vessels prepare for something just outside the territorial waters of Iran. This armada includes nuclear weapons and weaponry that can reach all parts of Iran.

Is a Fall surprise being prepared by the Bush administration?

Joe Lombardo

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

How to End the War

The following is a reply to a message sent to one of the local peace listservs expressing the feeling that our anti-war work is not effective.

Edpell wrote: why will the ruling elite care what we say?

I think this is a very important question. The ruling elite cares what we say only because they know that we have the potential power to stop them. To turn that potential power into real power requires organizing the American people and raising their political consciousness. This organizing and consciousness-raising must be the goal and the guiding principle of the peace and progressive movements.

Because the “ruling elite” does fear an increase in political consciousness and organization, we have had some success. They have not yet attacked Iran, though they want to. They have not used nuclear weapons in Iraq, though they have floated the idea such as the use of “bunker buster” bombs, which are low yield nuclear weapons. As they move towards attacking Iran, they know they will have to consider the reaction of the American people, of the rest of the world, of the soldiers, and of the Iranian people.

Our job is to cut through the media’s political propaganda, keep up our organizing efforts, and keep raising people’s awareness of what is going on. This will ensure that if they do attack Iran, the people’s reaction will be massive.

As far as increasing consciousness and organization are concerned, we are winning, even as the government continues with the same lies and propaganda. We have now gone from about 1/3 of the population being against the war to more than 2/3 being against the war. As part of that process, more and more people have started to draw far reaching conclusions about this war and about politicians, the media, and the government as a whole. I believe that there is now more mistrust toward both Democratic and Republican politicians than there ever has been before. Even during this election period, as news of the war has almost disappeared while the media uses up all the air time talking about the political horse race, anti-war groups are popping up, and the movement is strengthening in local areas across the country.

We have had glimpses of what can happen when potential power is manifested. On this past May 1st, 25,000 longshoremen went on a one-day strike on the West Coast, closing down all 29 ports on the West Coast. Their single demand was “US out of Iraq and Afghanistan Now.” Most strikes are economic strikes, like the one conducted by the transit workers in New York City a few years ago, which shut down New York City. That strike showed the power of working people when they are organized. But there has not been a political strike in this country for decades, except for the strike of the longshore workers and the strike conducted by immigrant workers last year to protest the injustices inflicted on them by this country.

It is clear that the longshoremen’s strike struck fear in the hearts of the American ruling class and their politicians, because the mainstream media, in lockstep, completely ignored it. The same thing happened with the Winter Soldier hearings, where Iraq veterans testified about U.S. atrocities in Iraq. The media all decided to say nothing, because if soldiers start opposing this war, it could turn into what happened near the end of the Vietnam War, when soldiers started to refuse orders and refused to fight.

So it is our job to let people know about the longshore strike and Winter Soldier, because it gives them an idea of what is possible. This is part of the consciousness raising that must happen. I believe that if the US attacks Iran, especially right in the middle of the ongoing war with Iraq, the response from people in this country, from the military, and from people throughout the world will be explosive. Once again, the political consciousness of people will be raised as they begin to understand what this ruling elite is really about and that it is not acting in the interests of the people.

This is why it is critically important right now to build a strong peace movement, as well as other progressive organizations. As people’s consciousness raises, they will be looking to join organizations in order to collectively fight back. We are the great majority. As Ralph Nader points out, in this country the top 1% is wealthier than the bottom 95%. The top 1% is organized; they have 2 political parties to represent them. Our 95% is not organized. Therefore, we must build a movement that seeks to organize the masses and move them into action. To do this, we must keep up our visible activity, seeking to draw in more and more people and figuring out ways to reach further and further into the general population.

This is one of the reasons why I worked to build the Cleveland Anti-War conference that was held in late June. On a national level, the anti-war movement is poorly organized and painfully divided, to the extent that the major national coalitions refuse to work with each other. The conference represented an attempt to change all of that by building a single united movement. This movement is critically important, especially as the US moves towards war with Iran and seeks to violently implement its goals throughout the world. (For a report on the Cleveland conference which took place June 28 - 29 go to: )

Joe Lombardo