By Medea Benjamin*
The January 27 anti-war rally in Washington
DC could have become yet another symbolic peace march in
the freezing cold through a city where no one was listening.
But then two things happened: On November 7, the voters
gave Congress an unmistakable mandate to end the war. And
George Bush, ignoring the will of the voters, the recommendations
of the Iraq Study Group, and the advice of his own generals,
announced an escalation of the war.
People who had planned to watch this protest on C-Span from
the comfort of their homes are now cramming onto buses,
planes and trains to converge on the nation’s capitol.
Thanks to George Bush’s latest blunder, we’re
now expecting the biggest march in Washington DC since the
It was easy for politicians to ignore us when we represented
a small, but all-too-prescient minority trying to stop this
war before it started. Now that we represent the majority
of Americans, politicians of all stripes best take heed.
Here’s our message to Congress:
To the Democrats, remember who put you into office on November
7. It’s thanks to growing anti-war sentiment among
voters that you now control the House and the Senate. We’re
delighted you’re introducing resolutions to oppose
President BBush’s call to send more troops to Iraq.
Certainly this repudiation of the Bush administration’s
“surge” will send a strong message to the administration.
But those resolutions are mostly symbolic and would still
leave us back at square one with 132,000 of our sons and
daughters fighting a senseless war.
Opposing Bush’s escalation of the war is a good first
step, but it’s not enough. We want you to bring our
We know—and you know--that the only real power Congress
has to end war is the power of the purse. George Bush will
soon be requesting another $100 billion of our tax dollars
for this disastrous war. Democratic Party leaders Harry
Reid and Nancy Pelosi have said that ending the war is a
priority, but cutting money for the war is “off the
table” because they don’t want to endanger the
troops. But what could endanger the troops more than keeping
them in Iraq? The money that has already been appropriated
is more than enough to provide for the safe and orderly
withdrawal of our troops. More money will be funding the
continuing occupation and carnage.
If you want to support the troops, listen to them. Last
year a Zogby poll showed that 72% of the troops thought
the U.S. should exit Iraq within a year. Just this month
1,000 active duty military personnel filed an Appeal for
Redress, a petition asking Congress to “support the
prompt withdrawal of all American military forces and bases
from Iraq.” The majority of our soldiers want to come
home not because they fear for their safety but because
they no longer believe in the mission. The best way to support
them is to follow the lead of courageous Democrats such
as Lynn Woolsey, Barbara Lee, Dennis Kucinich, Jim McGovern,
and Maxine Waters in saying NO to more money for George
We also have a message for Republicans. This war is tearing
your party apart. It cost you the House and Senate in the
last election, and if you continue to support this quagmire,
it will cost you the presidential election in 2008. All
polls show that the overwhelming majority of Americans oppose
sending more troops to Iraq. While most Republicans are
reluctant to join us peaceniks demonstrating in the streets,
they have lost faith in this mission.
Senator McCain, your call for escalating this
war shows you to be out of touch with the American people.
Not a good move for someone aspiring to lead this nation.
For Republicans who have been speaking out against the war,
you may not want the praise from us, but we can’t help
ourselves. Walter Jones, we were appalled when you called
for French fries to be rechristened “freedom fries.”
But when you joined hands across the aisle to cosponsor legislation
to bring the troops home, our hearts went out to you. When
you said there should be no military attacks on Iran without
Congressional authorization, we had to applaud. We are also
grateful for the growing list of Republican senators, such
as Chuck Hagel and Olympia Snowe, who recognize the need for
a political rather than a military solution to the Iraq war
and are posing alternatives to the Bush administration’s
The people who will surge onto the streets of the nation’s
capitol this weekend will be speaking loud and clear, and
reflecting the sentiments of the general public: Bring our
troops home and don’t drag us into more unprovoked wars.
It’s too bad that most of our elected officials refused
to listen to us before invading Iraq. Let’s hope they’re
*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 January 27 march.