Troops Out Now Strategy Meeting on Building A United Front to Stop the War
Activists Say: “Bring the Troops Home Now or We’ll Shut It Down!”
This gathering is part of the growing momentum in the antiwar movement for a united front against the war. Polls indicate that the majority of people in the U.S. now oppose the occupation, recruiting numbers are at an all time low, and Bush’s approval ratings are falling. This growing opposition can have tremendous impact when it is manifested in the streets. We have an opportunity to take decisive action to bring the troops home and end the criminal occupation of Iraq, and we have a responsibility to do so. On May 26, the Troops Out Now Coalition issued a Unity Call, calling for massive, unified action to stop the war. This call has gathered nearly 1,000 endorsers in the days since it was circulated, reflecting a widespread recognition that the antiwar movement needs to enter a new phase of struggle against the war.
This was evident in the meeting on Saturday, where more than 200 representatives gathered to discuss the next steps for the antiwar struggle. Discussion was spirited, serious, and respectful. Those gathered clearly affirmed proposals and positions put forth by the Troops Out Now Coalition, including:
- The vital importance of building a united front against the war. Our emphasis needs to be on building a large, militant antiwar movement that is capable of stopping the war. TONC renews its appeal to the small but influential forces in the antiwar movement who refused to work together for the fall and beyond to reverse their positions and help unleash the full mass potential of the struggle to shut the war down.
- That building a united movement means including, not excluding the struggles of oppressed people. Support for the Right of all Palestinian refugees and their descendants to return to their original homes and property in all of historic Palestine is not negotiable.
- That unity means much more than organizational unity. It means, more importantly, that the antiwar movement reaches out to and embraces the struggles of oppressed people here and internationally. It means solidarity with the struggle of communities of color, with LGBT communities, with immigrants, and with struggles against racism, sexism, and all forms of oppression. It means solidarity with the people of Iraq, Palestine, Haiti, the Philippines, and everywhere that people are struggling against U.S. colonial occupation.
- That the antiwar movement needs to look to new and more effective tactics to stop the war. Activists raised the slogan “Troops Home Now, or We’ll Shut It Down!” and discussed the idea of declaring a moratorium against the war, including walkouts, civil disobedience, and other direct actions to bring the cities to a stop until the war is ended.
- That the struggle to end the war will be won by mobilizing a massive movement in the streets. Counting on elections and pro-war politicians to end the war is, at best, a misdirection of time, energy, and resources. Only the people will stop the war. To that end, it is important to immediately begin planning and mobilizing now for the September 24 March in Washington DC, the Millions More Movement events on the weekend of October 14-16, and the Moratorium Against the War.
Speakers and participants in the discussion represented many different struggles and organizations. They included:
Brenda Stokely, New York City Labor Against the War and the Million Worker March
Nana Soul of Artists and Activists United for Peace
Charlotte Kates, Al-Awda NY & New Jersey Solidarity-Activists for the Liberation of Palestine
Berna Ellorin, BAYAN USA
Larry Holmes, International Action Center
Jesse Lokahi Heiwa, Queers for Peace and Justice and Queers for Palestine
Lee Siu Hin, an organizer with ActionLA
Sara Flounders, International Action Center
Carl Webb, a member of the Army National Guard who refused to deploy to Iraq
Nellie Bailey, Harlem Tenants Council
Dustin Langley, Navy Veteran, No Draft No Way
LeiLani Dowell, FIST and Queers for Peace & Justice
Teresa Gutierrez, NY Committee to Free the Five
Paul Zulkowitz, Green Party Peace Action Committee
Hadas Their, Campus Antiwar Network, arrested at CCNY for protesting against military recruiters
Troops Out Now Coalition On Palestine and the September 24 antiwar protest
We don’t think that you can make the movement “broader” by narrowing its appeal and relevance. We believe that the idea that the movement should strive to look more white, colorless, and vapid, and that it should be fearful of looking too Arab, Black, Latin, and Asian, is a false notion. There is no power or future in a movement based on this notion. Either the composition, politics and outlook of the antiwar movement in this country is going to reflect the world, or it’s going to be little more than a irrelevant reflection of a distant past.
Clearly the focus of the movement is Iraq. But we must resist any effort to either exclude or minimize the occupation of Palestine as a focus of the movement. We must do this because the struggle for the Right to Return and against the occupation of Palestine is central to the struggle of Arab people and it is impossible to separate the Palestinian Question From Iraq. Trying to separate the occupation of Iraq from the occupation of Palestine is, to us, the same as trying to separate the struggle against the war from the struggle against racism at home.
Moreover, instead of abetting anti-Arab and Muslim racism and repression, the movement must spare no effort in facilitating the widest participation of the Arab and Muslim community in the Sept. 24 antiwar protest in Washington, and in all of our activities. The movement reached such a high water mark at the antiwar march on Washington in April 2002, when after years of struggle within the movement, the antiwar movement embraced the struggle of Palestine, and for the first time in history, the streets of the capital were filled with tens of thousands of Arabs and Muslims marching arm and arm with antiwar protesters.
The movement has moved forwards on Palestine and the Troops Out Now Coalition is determined to fight any backsliding. Our friends in the National Council of Arab Americans, as well as others in the Arab and Muslim community have engaged TONC on this important issue. We have told our friends and we want to make it clear to all that the Troops Out Now Coalition supports the call for unity in the anti-war movement for the September 24, 2005 mobilization on the basis of the political program achieved on March 20, 2004, the first anniversary of the war on Iraq. We support, as a basis of the September 24 mobilization, the Arab American and Muslim community in the political slogan: End Colonial Occupation from Iraq to Palestine to Haiti, Support the Palestinian People’s Right to Return. Meaningful solidarity with the Arab and Muslim community will truly make September 24 broader and stronger. TONC believes that this is what the world wants to see, and what the Imperialists don’t want.
TONC hopes to build unity on this basis for September 24 and beyond to unleash the full mass potential of the struggle to shut the war down.