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May 2004 • Vol 4, No. 5 •

U.S. Out of Iraq!

By Carole Seligman

Speech at Peoples Park Commemoration, April 25, 2004, Berkeley, California

Today, one of the very largest demonstrations ever is taking place in Washington, D.C. It is a march for women’s lives to tell those in power that women will never go back to coat hanger days. That we will fight for our rights to reproductive freedom of choice and access to all means to control our own reproduction, to birth control and abortion. It is called a “march for women’s lives” because, when women are denied control over their own reproductive lives, millions of them die. That is the situation around the world today and it was the reality in the U.S. before Roe v. Wade legalized abortion. That will become the reality again in the U.S. if the rightwing fanatics that run the government have their way.

The struggle for women’s lives was in part inspired by the same movement that sparked your struggle for Peoples Park here in Berkeley. What helped inspire the women’s rights movement and the Free Speech campaign for this space—both majority movements—was the international movement against the war in Vietnam. The quality about that movement that inspired all struggles for social justice that came after, was the grassroots nature of the movement, the fact that ordinary people, students and working people and eventually soldiers themselves, joined together in a movement that came, after several years, to represent a majority of the American people. That majority, for one of only a few times in American history, actually overcame the government, school administrations, bosses, and the media, and joined an international majority of antiwar humanity.

Today, the U. S. military has unleashed a campaign of mass murder in Iraq. Over 1000 Iraqis, mostly civilians, including small children, were killed in the last couple of weeks. The U.S. is poised to begin a new siege on Falluja and Najaf. U.S. snipers are picking people off from Iraqi rooftops. They have bombed a mosque! They are openly planning targeted assassinations against Iraqi religious leaders and approving such assassinations of Palestinian leaders targeted by Israel.

As in the days of the Vietnam War, the main danger in the world today is the U.S.A. This is the most heavily armed country. This country has the most, and the most powerful, nuclear weapons. New ones are being developed right here in Livermore. The U.S. has weapons of mass destruction capable of ending human and animal life on the planet Earth.

In fiscal 2003, the U.S. Defense Department gave out war contracts to private corporations for nearly a quarter trillion dollars! While these U.S. war contractors are rolling in wealth, billions of people around the world are trying to live on less than $2.00 a day. The big question is what to do about it? This year’s elections offer nothing. Republicans and Democrats are both war parties. Both serve the rich and trample on the poor. Both deprive us of our rights. In an immigrant nation, both oppress immigrants and minorities.

Although the March for Women’s Lives in Washington, D.C. is huge and determined and its cause is right, the leadership of it is convinced that the path to women’s rights is through the Democratic Party. The second and third speakers in Washington today were Nancy Pelosi and Madeline Albright. Both are Democratic Party supporters of mass murder. Albright during the Clinton administration’s genocidal sanctions on Iraq under which one million Iraqi children died, and also the war on Yugoslavia, as well as the 1998 Clinton bombing campaign on Iraq. Pelosi is a strong supporter of the current war on Iraq. That means she voted for Bush to carry out the war.

Tell me. How can people who bear direct responsibility for making war on men, women, and children of other countries, be relied on to save women’s lives here at home? These are war criminals and should be in jail, just like President Bush, Cheney, Ashcroft, and Rumsfeld. They should not be welcome speakers on women’s rights platforms.

A big lesson for us, in the belly of this beast, is to build a mass, independent, united, democratic, antiwar movement—in spite of all attempts by the Democrats to co-opt it as they are trying to co-opt the women’s movement today. To do this we must grapple with and break from the ideology that comes from the ruling class, the ideas meant to keep the people mentally enslaved while a tiny minority of billionaires rule and ruin the world for profit. I’m talking about the ideas that tie the movements for social justice to the very institutions of class rule by the billionaires—their political parties.

We must stay in the streets, tell the truth, and ally with antiwar humanity, as we must march to tell the U.S. government to get out of Iraq. We must unite to free political prisoners like Mumia Abu-Jamal and Leonard Peltier and the thousands of immigrant detainees still held in U.S. prisons with no rights and no trials.

All of us have a part to play in building such a movement. We need to be out convincing our co-workers, neighbors, families, friends, unions, and other organizations we belong to, to march together, carry out door-to-door organizing, to really build a mass movement. June 5th is the date of the next large antiwar demonstration. I urge you to actively build it.

If we can build such an independent movement, then we can become a true part of the human race, and not part of the U.S. system which was built on the twin pillars of genocide against the indigenous people of the Americas, and the enslavement of kidnapped Africans. That system promises endless war for oil profits and world domination. That system allows hunger and homelessness and preventable disease to flourish amidst the great wealth all around us. That system holds 2,000,000 people in U.S. prisons. That system is not in the interests of the American people—except the 1 percent of the billionaires on top.

An independent mass antiwar movement—as part of a global movement of human solidarity—can lead to the kinds of actions which will stop U.S. wars permanently—actions where American working people can unite with our brothers and sisters of Iraq, Palestine, Colombia, Haiti, Afghanistan, Argentina, Venezuela, and all the world, to tell the rulers to stop their wars, and, when we become the majority, collectively strike until they do stop their wars on the people of the world, including us.

Bring all the troops home now! End all U.S. aid to Israel! No to occupation! U.S. Out of Iraq! Yes to freedom!

"Those instrumental goods which should serve to maintain the life and health of all human beings should be produced by the least possible labor of all. The satisfaction of physical needs is indeed the indispensable precondition of a satisfactory existence, but in itself it is not enough. In order to be content, men must also have the possibility of developing their intellectural and artistic powers to whatever extent accords with their personal characteristics and abilities."

—Albert Einstein





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