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Anti-War Groups Prepare Post-Election Strategies

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Between the Lines Q&A
A weekly column featuring progressive viewpoints
on national and international issues
under-reported in mainstream media
for release Nov. 15, 2004
http://www.btlonline.org
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Anti-War Groups Prepare for Post-Election Strategies to End U.S.-Iraq Occupation

- Interview with Leslie Cagan, national coordinator of United of Peace and Justice, conducted by Scott Harris

Listen in RealAudio: http://www.btlonline.org/cagan111204.ram

In the months before the Bush administration launched their invasion of Iraq, a powerful international peace movement organized to oppose the impending war. During global protests Feb. 15, 2003 some 10 million people in more than 600 cities marched to oppose President Bush's "pre-emptive" war plan. The New York Times wrote at the time that George Bush had met the other "superpower": world opinion.

After the Iraq war began, organizers continued to mobilize opposition in the U.S. and around the world, putting pressure on the governments of Spain, Italy and Britain that had signed onto the war. During the Republican National convention held in New York City in August, an estimated half a million people marched to oppose the war and the Bush agenda.

Many in the peace movement believe that no matter who sits in the White House after the November election, the U.S. occupation of Iraq will continue to cause death and destruction, and may likely escalate through the deployment of thousands more American troops. The largest anti-war coalition in the United States is United for Peace and Justice. The group's national coordinator, Leslie Cagan has been in the forefront of peace and social justice organizing since the Vietnam War and had a leading role in organizing many of the nation's largest demonstrations. Between the Lines' Scott Harris spoke with Cagan about the role of the peace movement after the U.S. presidential election.

LESLIE CAGAN: Well, it's very clear that the war in Iraq, and the occupation in Iraq is not about to end, regardless of who's in the White House come January. (Regarding the war and the occupation -- nobody's put forth any plans, or any concrete proposals that would indicate a speedy, let alone an immediate withdrawal of U.S. troops. And that remains a consistent position of the antiwar movement in this country and around the world, and that is that not only that this war never should've happened, it obviously was based on a pack of lies, but that needs to end. The quickest way to resolve things in Iraq is to get the U.S. troops out of there. So the work of the antiwar movement in this country and as a global force, we need to carry on. We need to keep doing all of these things, not only the mobilizing, but the organizing work. For instance, we've been talking a lot in United for Peace and Justice about moving into a period over the next several months, of really, very systematically reaching out to the people we haven't spoken to yet, both to win over more people to the antiwar position, but then also to help people in their own settings, in their own neighborhoods, at schools, at workplaces at religious institutions, wherever they are, to find ways to express their anti-war sentiment, whether that's putting a bumpersticker on their car, or passing a resolution at their union or city council or whatever it might be. But, really the neighborhood-based, community-based and workplace-based organizing to strengthen the anti-war sentiment and to make more visible and articulate the antiwar feelings of this country.

BETWEEN THE LINES: Leslie Cagan, during the closing weeks of the election campaign, there was quite a bit more discussion of the possibility of a military draft, and that came along with discussion of personnel shortages at the Pentagon, the idea that more troops may be deployed in the coming year. Although both candidates said they have no intention of reinstituting the military draft, what's your view? How big an issue do you think this is going to be?

LESLIE CAGAN: I think this could be a very big issue, candidates often say things while they're running for office, and then their positions change the minute they are elected. It's great to see them saying there will be no draft, but who knows? If in fact, the leadership of the United States remains committed to keeping a military presence in Iraq, and at the same time there's another military issue or confrontation someplace else in the world -- and the Pentagon, or the State Department or the White House believe that troops need to be sent there, I don't know that they have the wherewithal to cover that.

So, I think that the issue of whether or not there's going to be a reinstatement of the draft in this country -- it's not crazy that people are worried about that, I think we do need to be worried about that. And we do need to fight against it, and we also need to address all of the issues around recruitment. Who are the targets that the military now goes after to recruit into the Armed Services? Clearly, a disproportionately high number of people of color are recruited in, partially because they don't have jobs other places. So, a lot of people go into the Armed Services or Reserves thinking that's a good career move, never expecting that they would be asked to fight in Iraq or anyplace else. Anyway, the point is that it's not at all clear to me, that just because people running for office have been saying that there will be no draft, that six months, or a year or two years down that road, that they wouldn't decide to go for a draft.

BETWEEN THE LINES: Has the peace movement or is the peace movement articulating some kind of practical set of demands for the U.S. to pursue a different policy to end the war that could be translated into civic action as you've been talking about on the street level, as well as maybe even taking the form of legislation before Congress?

LESLIE CAGAN: That's a great question. At United for Peace and Justice we're in a process right now; it will probably take another few weeks to have a finished product. We're trying to hammer out a set of what we would call transitional demands. That is, our main demand is to end the occupation to bring the troops home. We want to hammer out and put on the table, a set of concrete steps that could be taken, concrete commitments that need to be made. For instance, just one that comes off the top of my head right now, it seems as if the U.S. government is now planning 14 permanent military bases in Iraq. One of our demands would be to not go ahead with the building of these 14 military bases. That's an inappropriate way to begin to move toward bringing our troops out of Iraq. But (we want) to articulate a series of very concrete steps that Washington would need to take in order to move toward a final resolution of this problem, and that is bring the troops home.

Contact United for Peace and Justice at (212) 868-5545 or visit their website at http://www.unitedforpeace.org

Related links on our website at http://www.btlonline.org/btl111204.html#3hed

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Scott Harris is executive producer of Between The Lines, which can be heard on more than 35 radio stations and in RealAudio and MP3 on our website at http://www.btlonline.org. This interview excerpt was featured on the award-winning, syndicated weekly radio newsmagazine, Between The Lines for the week ending Nov. 12, 2004. This Between The Lines Q&A was compiled by Anna Manzo and Scott Harris.

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