Troops Out Now

Remarks at Anti-War Rally 1/27/2007, Austin, TX

At this turning point in the anti-war movement, I’m honored to be here helping to kick off the Austin event. We are part of something big: Hundreds of thousands of people have gone to Washington, D.C. to demand more than a non-binding resolution from Congress. Many thousands more—students, workers, veterans, families of troops stationed in Iraq, and soldiers themselves—are gathering around the country to demand of our leaders, both Democrat and Republican, that they bring the troops home now.

It will take all of us together to send a message that cannot be ignored by our rulers. It takes resistance to stop a war—resistance in the occupied country, resistance inside the military, and resistance in the streets across this country and around the world.

We march today because the devastation the U.S. occupation has wrought is criminal and, I dare say, apocalyptic. You probably know that more than six hundred fifty thousand Iraqis are dead as a result of the war and occupation. It is a staggering number. As Mike Ferner calculated in an article in Counterpunch, the carnage in Iraq, if carried out in the United States in the same proportions, would mean that every person in Atlanta, Denver, Boston, Seattle, Milwaukee, Fort Worth, Baltimore, San Francisco, Dallas and Philadelphia would be dead.

It is little wonder that the war itself has galvanized sectarian violence inside Iraq and sparked massive and violent resistance to the occupation. It has radicalized what’s left of an entire generation of Iraqis. As one U.S. soldier explained of the intensifying resistance to U.S. forces, “I’d fight back too.”

Both Bush and the Democrats say we must stem the violence but actually have suggested, in Barack Obama’s words, that it is time for the Iraqis to “step up.”While Democrats and Republicans may find common ground in blaming the Iraqis for the disaster the U.S. created, we must be very clear in demanding troops out now because the cause of the violence cannot be its solution. From Abu Ghraib to Falujah to Haditha, U.S. forces have been guilty of atrocities against the Iraqi people. In its attempts to set set up a U.S. friendly government, the U.S. set out to create and deepen sectarian differences between Shia and Sunni Muslims as part of the divide-and-conquer logic of occupation.

There were no terrorist forces to speak of based in Iraq before the occupation. The U.S. occupation drew what few there are now. The war itself has brought massive death and destruction, provoked resistance, and caused the collapse of the country into civil war.

Yet against all reason and against the wishes of the American people and the Iraqi people, Bush in his towering arrogance is planning to send more of our young people to Iraq to the slaughter.

We must do everything in our power to stop him. Some of you may be thinking, we demonstrated before and we marched before, and it didn’t make any difference. And it is true that demonstrations alone cannot stop a war. But today we march at a moment of real opportunity. Do you feel it? The Bush administration is on shaky ground. The Democrats and Republicans who once sang God Bless America together on the Capitol steps now find themselves bitterly divided. The Iraqis are fighting back, while growing numbers of U.S troops like Lt. Ehren Watada are refusing to fight. Defending war resisters is crucial to our movement, because this kind of resistance actually can stop a war.

And so in the gaping cracks of the war machine split open by resistance on all fronts, our voices are amplified.

The U.S.admitted defeat in Vietnam when facing resistance on the ground, organized mass rebellion in the ranks of the military, splits in the ruling class over the direction of the war, and a mass movement they could not ignore. This is the kind of movement we must build now. We must demand unflinchingly the immediate and total withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq—and full reparations for the Iraqi people.

An imperialist army can never bring freedom with the slaughter. We must demand that Bush get the troops out now–not in six months, not in a year, but right now–and we must do it loudly. Now is the time for our voices to be heard.

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