Open Letter to CODEPINK from Tom Hayden

Posted by CODEPINK Staff

I have to tell you right off that I cannot be neutral on Barack Obama versus John McCain. I am a progressive for Obama. I understand CODEPINK is a 501c-3 and cannot endorse candidates.

That said, I strongly support CODEPINK's efforts to pressure the Obama campaign on Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan and etcetera etcetera. The peace vote will be and should be a big factor in this election. We cannot let the White House help McCain with false appearances of peace. We cannot wait. Our invisibility now will make it harder for us in the future. If Obama wins, he needs to know who elected him, we need to hold him accountable in Iraq, and we need to build the climate that can make him rethink his Afghanistan commitment.

It is very significant that Obama's 16-month withdrawal plan - originally a compromise between "immediate withdrawal" and "gradual withdrawal", has the support of the US client prime minister in Baghdad,Nuri al-Maliki, against the wishes of both Bush and McCain. Obama is winning the fight over withdrawal deadlines, forcing Bush and McCain into rhetorical retreat from their long opposition to any appearance of deadlines. While anything can change, the current draft of the bilateral agreement includes June 30, 2009 as the deadline for the withdrawal of US forces from "cities and villages", and December 31, 2011 for withdrawing all US combat troops.

It is not that we should invest support or hope in this current Bush maneuver - the Congress should try to block it - but its draft content reflects the impact of public pressure in both America and Iraq, and is a victory for our position and that of Barack Obama in the struggle to undermine the occupation of Iraq. As support for the US combat mission wanes, we also must expose and oppose the secret dirty war that still detains 50,000 Iraqis without charges or legal representation, in total violation of the 1997 Leahy Amendment.

With John McCain, I hope you will focus on his tendency, probably rooted in his life experience, to become carried away with mistaken forms of militarism. When you think about it, Vietnam was an unwinnable war, Iraq and Afghanistan are unwinnable wars, and certainly Georgia's fight with Russia over South Ossetia is an unwinnable wars. Yet the same paid lobbyists who fabricated the reasons for going to war in Iraq - for example, his foreign policy adviser Randy Scheunemann - have been paid lobbyists forGeorgia while on his staff.

Perhaps these wars are not mistakes for the neo-conservatives when considered politically and economically. War and the climate of war are powerful stimulants for the politics of fear which props up support for hawkish candidates and whole the military-industrial-oil complex.

I think we all have to continue creating organic links - theoretically,politically and organizationally - between Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan and the seemingly domestic issues of the economy and energy. We should never talk about the war without talking about its $3 trillion dollar cost, and the superprofits being reaped by the oil giants who are invading Iraq economically. Nor can we continue the politics of war and occupation without increasingly severe restrictions on our liberties to protest and resist. Our single-issue movements are being turned into a larger one of democracy versus empire. We need to carry these issues beyond the narrow bounds of the peace movement into coalitions with people not involved directly in anti-war work.

I don't know how you do it, but I respect how CODEPINK carries out direct action while at the same time spending hours in discussion, study and reading, for the oppressions we face are not simple ones. In fact the very success of the peace and human rights movements has forced the worst oppressions to mask themselves as "humanitarian". I appreciate Medea Benjamin's recent article calling on the movement to do more homework and come together on Afghanistan. There was a time not so long ago that movement activists felt obliged to adhere to rigid dogmas or two-word solutions or feel like they were selling out. Medea is showing that we can be absolutely anti-war while at the same time sorting out the best, or least-worst, options available in terms of conflict resolution.

One possibility worth pursuing, I think, is through Iran. The Iranians may be the key to whether the American troops can withdraw from Iraq in a safe and orderly way. Iran also shares the long border with Afghanistan, and supported the 2002 US war against the [Sunni] Taliban. Perhaps a prolonged US-Iran negotiation will be the crucial contribution to political settlements and withdrawals from both Iraq and Afghanistan. That is why building our opposition to any US, or Israeli-US, military escalation against Iran in the next few months is so important.

In any event, the fate of women is at stake under repressive Islamic regimes even if US withdrawal is achieved. Women's rights should never have been a pretext for these wars in the first place, but massive global support for Afghan, Iraqi and Iranian women will be an ongoing task if and when the wars are ended. Therefore CODEPINK is and will be a key part of the continuing global justice movement.

So much to do, so little time, and then there's living life too.

Carry on. With gratitude, Tom

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