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'Work for Peace': A Movement to Bring the Troops and Tax Dollars Home | The Nation

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John Nichols

John Nichols

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'Work for Peace': A Movement to Bring the Troops and Tax Dollars Home

Gil Scott-Heron left us more legacies of consequence than we can count. But few stand the test of time so well as his song “Work for Peace,” with its reflection on the military-industrial complex—“the only thing wrong with Peace is that you can't make no money from it”—and his charge: 

I don't want to sound like no late night commercial,

but it’s a matter of fact that there are thousands of children all over the

world in Asia and Africa and in South America who need our help....

Nobody can do everything,

but everybody can do something,

everyone must play a part,

everyone got to go to work, Work for Peace.

 

 It is often claimed that the United States does not have much of an antiwar movement these days.

That’s the lie perpetuated by a media that does not care to cover politics or government, let alone activism, in any realistic sense.

The fact of the matter is that, when Congress voted last week on the omnibus defense authorization bill, energetic lobbying by grassroots peace activists across the country produced some of the most muscular antiwar votes seen on the Hill in decades.

On the question of President Obama’s undeclared assault on Libya should be allowed to extend from an air war to a ground war, 416 House members (233 Republicans, 183 Democrats) voted “no.”

On the question of whether it was time for the Pentagon to begin developing an Afghanistan exit strategy, the numbers were not quite as strong. But they were striking when compared to past votes on the issue. A total of 204 House members (178 Democrats, 26 Republicans) voted “yes,” versus 215 (207 Republicans, eight Democrats) “no” votes.

On the final question of whether to authorize funding for maintaining the undeclared wars in Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya, and to expend more than half a trillion more dollars on the extension of the military-industrial complex about which President Eisenhower and Gil Scott-Heron warned, ninety-six House members (ninety Democrats and six Republicans) voted “no.”

Now the debate goes to the Senate, and the time to really get to work for peace is at hand.

Tim Carpenter and the veteran peace activists who form the core of Progressive Democrats of America are mounting a national campaign to highlight the cost to American prosperity and liberty that comes when the country’s energy and resources are steered into maintaining undeclared wars and massively over funding the preparation for war.

The message to the Senate is a simple one: “Bin Laden is dead; the Afghanistan mission is accomplished. It is time to bring our troops and war dollars home and start addressing the very real hardships facing Americans, including providing comprehensive healthcare for all and the spiraling costs of healthcare.”

To do that, Carpenter and PDA argue, senators should vote for proposals to begin an orderly withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan while signing on as cosponsors of Senator Bernie Sanders’s legislation to replace America’s broken for-profit healthcare system with a humane and fiscally responsible “Medicare for All” system that provides care according to a single-payer, not-for-profit model.

PDA hopes to get 25,000 Americans to sign a letter outlining this agenda that will be delivered to members of the Senate Democratic Caucus on June 7, the day that thousands of National Nurses United union members and their allies will rally in Washington on behalf of healthcare for all and a reordering of national priorities that puts care for those in need ahead of bailouts for defense contractors, big banks and multinational corporations.

Frankly, 25,000 is a modest goal.

PDA can and should exceed that number, if enough Americans are ready to do a little more “working for peace” by signing the letter.

Here’s the letter:

Dear Democratic Senators,

We, the undersigned, express our support for the Democratic National Committee (DNC) Afghanistan Withdrawal Resolution, introduced by Rep. Barbara Lee and passed on February 26, 2011.

We support the American Health Security Act of 2011 (S.915), sponsored by Sen. Bernie Sanders, which will move us to a single-payer healthcare system.

The resolution and Sanders' S.915 express the intent of the Healthcare NOT Warfare campaign, which is to eliminate unnecessary military spending and redirect those funds to meet the very real need for comprehensive health coverage for all.

The vast majority of Americans are facing economic hardship brought on by policies that have favored the elite over working families. Foreclosures, high unemployment, bankruptcies, and loss of equity, savings, and pensions, accompanied by the rising costs of food, education, gasoline, and energy, have impacted the lives of most Americans.

While much of this problem was created on Wall Street and the failure of regulatory bodies to protect us, we recognize that the spiraling costs of healthcare and continuing to fight a war of choice in Afghanistan are responsible for a significant portion of the national debt and the hardships many Americans face.

With two major spending bills facing the Senate—the Defense Authorization Act and the 2012 budget—we encourage Senate Democrats to offer amendments that will cut unnecessary military spending and redirect those funds to providing healthcare for all and preserving and expanding Social Security and Medicare.

As peace and justice advocates, we expect our Democratic Senators will follow the lead of the Party that elected them and act in compliance with the will of the majority of U.S. citizens by taking necessary steps to begin a significant drawdown of U.S. troops in Afghanistan, beginning in July, as dictated in the DNC Resolution. In addition, we ask that Democratic Senators move to contain the spiraling costs of healthcare and address the 47 million Americans currently lacking access to healthcare by co-sponsoring the American Health Security Act of 2011.

Sign on here.

 

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