Week In Review

A Weekly Column by Bill Onasch
August 25, 2008

The Greedy Iraqis
Perhaps the most cynical ploy of the Obama campaign so far came in a television commercial purporting to flip through a book on McCain’s economics. One “chapter” proclaims “McCain gave Iraq a 79 billion dollar oil surplus–that hurts the American economy.”

Actually, 79 billion over more than five years of U.S. occupation is quite modest in today’s oil markets. But the fact of the matter is that this money is not at the disposal of the Iraqi government. It’s currently in American banks, losing value in international currency exchange, a bargaining chip in the occupier’s negotiations with the Baghdad regime.

Over the period that this “oil surplus” was accumulated, hundreds of billions of our tax dollars went in to killing Iraqis and destroying Iraq’s infrastructure. Senator Obama, Senator Biden, and all but a handful of their Democrat congressional colleagues, have consistently voted for the spending bills that enabled this war--and, far from “supporting the troops,” kept GIs in harm’s way.

Little has been appropriated, and even less actually spent, to rebuild the physical destruction of the American occupation that condemns millions of Iraqis to unsafe drinking water, under-staffed and ill-supplied health care, food shortages, and unreliable electricity–basic necessities once in abundance before being attacked by the U.S.

Obama wants it both ways–projecting a conditional time table for exit from Iraq, to appeal to the antiwar majority, while reaching out to the xenophobes by blaming the principal victims of the war for hurting the American economy. Another remarkable example of the politics of change.

Many of the antiwar majority still accept the Establishment wisdom we’re taught, beginning with our lessons in civics class, that if you want change you get it by supporting one of two choices offered on election day. But the historical record tells a different story. Major changes have always come about because of mass movements outside the electoral arena–as demonstrated by the impact of the civil rights and labor movements–and the massive mobilizations against the Vietnam war.

But some mainstream peace groups still don’t get it. Groups such as True Majority, Peace Action, Win Without War, Code Pink, and UFPJ, whose tax status prevents them from endorsing candidates, seek to help perceived “peace candidates” indirectly through an ambitious project called a Million Doors for Peace. They hope to get 25,000 volunteers to go door to door on Saturday, September 20, with a petition that would call for “End this immoral war, bring our troops home, and invest in America's future.” Signers would also be offered “peace report cards” for their representatives and senators, and urged to be a “peace voter” in November.

You will notice there is not so much as a timetable attached to the bring the troops home part, much less the standard demand of the antiwar movement to bring them home now. There is no mention of the war in Afghanistan–which the “peace candidates” want to expand. Investing in America’s Future seems a bit vague as well.

The initiators of the Million Doors have some story lines to suggest to the media:

“ Rather than holding a massive anti-war demonstration in DC to an unaccountable Congress, Iraq war opponents will talk to their neighbors about the need to end the war.”

and,

“This will be one of the largest activities to end the Iraq war this year.”

They also hype,

“21st Century online organizing meets traditional, grassroots organizing.”

But the reality is that a large component of the peace movement is again cooperating with the Democrats to divert the energies of opponents of war from visible mass protests in to hustling votes–just as they did in the Kerry fiasco in 2004, just as they did in 2006 electing a “peace congress,” now acknowledged by them to be “unaccountable.”

Not all the movement is prepared to accept this role. While recognizing the difficulty in building mass antiwar actions during the election campaign some are urging more modest actions now while working for unity in preparing for truly mass actions next spring. The leadership body elected at a national antiwar assembly in Cleveland in June has issued an Open Letter to the Anti-War Movement which urges,

“In the coming months, there will be a number of major actions mobilizing opponents of U.S. wars and occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan to demand ‘Bring the Troops Home Now!’ These will include demonstrations at the Democratic and Republican Party conventions, pre-election mobilizations like those on October 11 in a number of cities and states, and the December 9-14 protest activities. All of these can and should be springboards for very large bi-coastal demonstrations in the spring.”

I’m proud that Kansas City Labor Against the War is one of dozens of antiwar groups who have endorsed this Open Letter and will be working in the National Assembly to End the Iraq and Afghanistan Wars and Occupations to advance its goals.

We’re All Skating On Thin Ice
My friend Rod in Vancouver is a good example of the growing number of militant trade unionists who have also come to recognize the urgency of environmental questions for the working class. From time to time he sends me stories about not only labor struggles in Canada but useful resources about the environment as well. Recently this included alarming discoveries about the rapidly shrinking Arctic ice and its expected impact on our whole planet.

Most of the reports in the mainstream media relating to diminishing ice have focused on the plight of Polar Bears being stranded in open water. Sometimes efforts are made to rescue stranded cubs, transporting them to zoos. But we won’t be able to keep up rescuing bears at the alarming rate of lost habitat. And bears are far from the only threatened species.

When Arctic, and Antarctic ice melts it raises sea levels. Hundreds of millions of humans–including, of course, my friend Rod--live in coastal areas. Many other of our readers do too.

Perennial Arctic Sea ice–what’s left over at the end of each summer–has shrunk 38 percent since satellites started tracking it in 1979. The rate is clearly increasing.

Glacier melt on the southern portion of Greenland has been seriously dripping in to the Atlantic over the past decade; now there are fissures and breakoffs being recorded in the island’s region north of the Arctic Circle. If unchecked, the total melting of Greenland’s ice cover alone will raise sea levels by 5-7 meters (16-23 feet.)

The principal cause of this most accelerated warming in human history is, of course, greenhouse gases, largely the result of burning fossil fuels, deforestation, and growth in livestock herds. But, not only are we making no progress modifying these destructive practices–most of those Polar Bear sightings in the headlines have been made by those exploring for new opportunities for off-shore drilling in the troubled Arctic and Bering Sea regions.

Among the slogans of those labor, antiwar, and environmental folks protesting at the Republican convention in St Paul next week are,

No War, No Warming–Fight Climate Change, Not Oil Wars.

Hats Off Once More to the Nurses
Ending a 15 month-long contract fight which included three strikes and a legislative campaign, RNs in the California Nurses Association won tentative agreements with two Sutter hospitals. The deal likely to be approved provides for a cumulative total of 22 percent wage increases over the life of the contract, which runs through 2011. Significant improvements were also won in working and safety conditions, pensions, and health care.

Next weekend we’ll have a special review on the occasion of Labor Day in the USA. It’s shaping up to be 2-3 times longer than our normal column and those of you on the e-mail list will get a clickable link because of the hefty size.

That’s all for this week.

Demand Guaranteed Healthcare on a SinglePayer model for everyone in America, for life.

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