A nationwide civil disobedience campaign aiming
to force the administration of President George W. Bush and the U.S. Congress
to end the military occupation of Iraq is now in full swing.
More than 500 peace groups and justice organizations from all over the United
States have joined the "Declaration
of Peace," a week-long comprehensive campaign that calls for a prompt
timetable for the withdrawal of US troops from Iraq.
Those who signed the Declaration this week pledged to hold demonstrations,
rallies, marches, and vigils in hundreds of cities across the country, which
will continue until next Thursday.
The protests have started at a time when the campaign for upcoming Congressional
elections is getting into top gear and many lawmakers are preparing to go back
to their home states for six weeks of intense campaigning.
On Thursday, police
in Washington, DC arrested more than 30 activists who tried to deliver copies
of the Declaration to the Bush administration as part of their pledge to get
involved in actions of civil disobedience.
Prominent among those arrested in front of the White House include Father Joseph
Nangle, co-director of Franciscan Missions,
James Winkler, general secretary of the United
Methodist Church, and Leslie Cagan, national coordinator of the United
for Peace and Justice activist group.
"The breath and depth of the actions taking place this week are a testament
to the growing sentiment of the people of this country against the occupation
of Iraq," said Cagan in a statement before her arrest.
"As citizens and people of faith, we must be our country's conscience,"
added Reverend Lennox Yearwood of the Hip
Hop Caucus, who was also arrested for taking part in the White House action.
Like Yearwood, scores of church leaders who have joined the antiwar campaign
believe that their actions will give the government "the moral courage
to set a firm deadline to end the occupation of Iraq."
Activists say they have organized more than 350 actions of civil disobedience
in all parts of the country, including in unlikely places such as Lincoln, Nebraska;
Fayetteville, North Carolina; Houston, Texas; Des Moines, Iowa; Little Rock,
Arkansas; and Cincinnati, Ohio.
Though the campaign is heavily dominated by faith-based groups, many lawmakers,
former military leaders, and veterans are also taking an active part in the
"I have seen with my own eyes the human cost of this occupation,"
said Kelly Dougherty, cofounder of Iraq Veterans
against the War. "It is my duty to my fellow soldiers to end the escalation
Though Democratic Party officials have made no call for participation in the
demonstration, this week some lawmakers publicly endorsed the Declaration. They
include Rep. Earl Blumenauer (OR), Danny Davis (IL), Sam Farr (CA), Chaka Fattah
(PA), Barbara Lee (CA), John Lewis (GA), Jan Schakowsky (IL), and Lynn Woolsey
"As a participant in the civil rights movement, I have confronted violence
with nonviolence. I have been arrested over 40 times. I have been beaten and
left bloody in the streets to die," said Lewis after signing the Declaration.
"And what I came to realize is that our strongest weapons as a nation
are not bombs and missiles," he added. "Our strongest defense is the
power of our ideas. It is what we believe about democracy and respect for human
In addition to a prompt timetable for withdrawal of troops, the Declaration
calls for "closure of bases; a peace process for security, reconstruction,
and reconciliation; and a shift of funding for war to meeting human needs."
Signers of the Declaration said if their demands were not met by the administration
and the Congress they would organize another round of civil disobedience actions
Despite protests and growing criticism of the war, the Bush administration
seems to be in no mood to set a deadline for troop withdrawal. Last week, the
House of Representatives passed a motion backing the president's handling of
the war and rejecting a deadline for recalling US forces.
With the Senate having already rejected the troop withdrawal plan, the House
motion was passed 256-153 on a party line vote.
Since the occupation of Iraq started in March 2003, more than 100,000 Iraqis
have died as a direct or indirect result of the US military action and the subsequent
suicidal attacks carried out by the forces of resistance, according to a team
of independent researchers and academics.
The war has cost the United States billions of dollars and more than 2,690
(Inter Press Service)