Op-ed: Why We're Marching



By Medea Benjamin*

On Saturday, September 24, tens of thousands of Americans from all walks of life will come together in Washington, DC to ask Congress and President Bush to end the war in Iraq and bring the troops home now. Here are some of the many reasons why we're marching:
 
We're marching because we are distressed over the continued war in Iraq, an unprovoked, unnecessary war that has cost the lives of tens of thousands of Iraqis and nearly 2,000 US soldiers. We grieve for those families who have already lost loved ones in this war, and we want to stop other families from suffering such painful losses.
 
We're marching because we want to hold George Bush accountable for dragging us into this war on false pretenses. The September 11 Commission officially acknowledged that Iraq was not involved in the terrorist attacks on our nation, and the U.S. military gave up its search for Iraqi weapons of mass destruction because they don't exist.
 
We're marching because we support our troops, and we are convinced that the best way to show that support is to bring them home and fully attend to their economic, physical, and psychological needs when they return.
 
We're marching because we can't afford to continue spending over a billion dollars a week on this unwinnable war, especially in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. Our tax dollars should be channeled away from war and destruction and into rebuilding the Gulf Coast, rebuilding Iraq, and investing in our nation's healthcare, schools and infrastructure.
 
We're marching because we're appalled by the war profiteering of companies such as Halliburton and Bechtel. We believe the Iraqis should rebuild their own country. And we want to stop the corrupt practice of awarding no-bid contracts to US companies with close government ties, as we have done in Iraq and are now repeating in the Gulf Coast.
 
We're marching because we want to seriously address our nation's addiction to oil. We see our ruinous policies in the Middle East and the global warming-induced fury of Hurricane Katrina as consequences of an oiligarchy that must be replaced by an economy based on conservation, efficiency and clean, renewable sources of energy.
 
We're marching because we fear that our government is building 14 permanent bases in Iraq. Our military bases in Saudi Arabia were one of the reasons given by Al Qaeda for the September 11 attacks. We should not provoke new attacks against us by maintaining an ongoing military presence in the Middle East.
 
We're marching because we're convinced that the war in Iraq is endangering our security. It is inflaming anti-American sentiment all over the world, it has turned Iraq into a terrorist training ground and it has actually increased the ranks of terrorist groups. It has also diverted attention and resources from capturing and bringing to justice those who attacked us on September 11.
 
We're marching because the war in Iraq is undermining the capacity of the US military. The military has been unable to reach its recruiting goals for months now, because young people donšt want to be sent off to die in a war they donšt believe in. And as we have seen in the case of Hurricane Katrina, sending a significant portion of our National Guard troops and heavy equipment to Iraq has undermined our capacity to respond to emergencies here at home.

We're marching because our presence in Iraqi is not helping the Iraqis. The US troops are not providing security to Iraqis - in fact more than 200 Iraqis died in the past two weeks alone. The US troops are not preventing a civil war, but provoking the insurgency and increasing the violence. We believe the Iraqi people would have a better chance of encouraging disenfranchised Sunnis to join the government and bringing peace to their beleaguered nation if the US troops withdrew.

We're marching because there are many indications that the Iraqis want us to leave. Polls taken just before the Iraqi election in January showed that a majority of both Sunnis and Shiites said U.S. forces should leave. In fact, one-third of the elected officials signed a letter calling for the withdrawal of foreign troops, and the Iraqi Sovereignty Committee of the National Assembly recently issued a report saying that Iraqi sovereignty was hampered by foreign forces and calling for a timetable for their withdrawal. And in June of this year, one million Iraqis - mostly Shiites - signed a petition calling for an end to the occupation.
 
We're marching because we don't want to see our nation ever again engage in an unprovoked, pre-emptive war. We want our government to adhere to international law and to use force as an absolute last resort. We want to see our nation embrace the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty and the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, including the obligations of the nuclear powers themselves to disarm, since this is the only way we will truly rid the world of the dangers of weapons of mass destruction.
 
When we marched by the millions to protest this war before it started, the Bush administration called us a "focus group." Now that focus group represents the majority of the American public. A New York Times/CBS News poll done this month found only 36 percent approved President Bush's handling of the war, and only 44 percent said we were right to take military action against Iraq, while 60 percent of people interviewed disapproved of President Bush's handling of the war and 52 percent called for withdrawing the troops as soon as possible.
 
This majority anti-war sentiment will be reflected on the streets of Washington DC today in the largest demonstration since the war began. The people are speaking loud and clear, saying this war was a mistake, it's unwinnable, it's making us less safe at home and it must end. It's too bad our government refused to listen to us before invading Iraq. It's time they start listening now.
 
*Medea Benjamin is cofounder of the anti-war group CODEPINK and Global Exchange, and is on the steering committee of United for Peace and Justice, the coalition organizing the September 24 march.