Friday, January 12, 2007

Iraq War Update: TONC Response to Bush Speech; Hostile Hearings in Congress


The Troops Out Now Coalition urges antiwar activists to
participate in the many protests being organized over the
coming days in response to Bush’s call for escalating war.
In addition to the protests scheduled for Thursday, TONC
is calling on activists in NYC to gather on Monday, January 15, Martin Luther King, Jr.'s Birthday for a United “Surge” Against the War
Between 4 and 6 pm at the Times Square Recruiting Station, 43rd St. & Broadway.

In Detroit there will be the annual MLK Day Anti-War march and rally starting at Noon at Central United Methodist Church on Woodward at East Adams, downtown. []


The War Will Go On Forever Unless We Rise Up and Stop It
Force Congress to Cut Off ALL War Funding
We can do it if we move from symbolic protest to mass
Be prepared to stay in D.C. this spring

An Appeal for Unity in the Antiwar Movement:
Lets work together for the January 27 and March 17
antiwar marches

The point of President Bush’s “surge” speech this evening
is not in the details of his proposals; rather, it’s the
message. The details of Bush’s proposal amount to nothing
more than a desperate effort to bolster a criminal
colonial occupation by ordering more killing and
destruction. Bush’s message is more important. He’s
telling us once again that he doesn’t care that the
majority of us want the war and occupation to end
immediately; he’s going to continue the war until the
people literally rise up in mass rebellion in the streets
to end it.

Indeed, Bush is not only determined to continue the war
and occupation in Iraq; he's opened a new front for his
global war of colonial conquest in Africa. At this very
moment, U.S. AC-130 gun ships are attacking the people of
Somalia, as an armada of Pentagon war ships with thousands
of troops and bombs waits off the Indian Ocean coast of
that country for orders to attack. At the same time, the
Pentagon is strengthening it’s land and sea forces around
Iran in preparation for a military attack on that country.

The time has come for the antiwar movement to move from
symbolic protest to mass resistance.

Congress must be put on notice; it is not enough to merely
oppose Bush’s proposal for a “surge” in troops to Iraq.
It’s not enough for Congress to hold more hearings to
criticize the war--talk is cheap and people are tired of
it. It’s not enough for Congress to vote on resolutions
calling for phased withdrawals and timetables, or any
other partial measures. It’s not enough for Congress to
threaten to oppose funding for new troops.

Last November, the voters mandated the government to get
out of Iraq. The elections changed the leadership of
Congress to serve this purpose. It is now up to the people
to insure that Congress does not betray this mandate.

The people want nothing less than the immediate,
unconditional, and complete withdrawal of all troops, and
the shortest route to that end is for Congress to vote
"no" to any further request for war funds, period.

When Congress gets President Bush’s request for $100
billion more to fund the war, it must say "no" to the
entire amount. To ensure that Congress does not approve
another dollar for the war, on March 17, (the fourth
anniversary of the war) when we march on Washington
against the war, instead of getting back on our buses and
heading home, we must be prepared to stay in Washington to
make sure that Congress votes "no."

Forcing Congress to cut off all war funding is the
defining struggle for the antiwar movement this spring,
and we can do it if we think and act big. The people are
on our side, the momentum is on our side; the whole world
is on our side. The only question is whether we have the
conviction and the courage to take our struggle against
the war from the level of symbolic protest to real mass

A key factor will be our ability as a movement to rise
above our differences and renew a commitment to work for
unity with each other--for all anti-war forces, especially
the national antiwar coalitions, to work together this
spring. We appeal to our sisters and brothers in United
For Peace and Justice to work together with the ANSWER
Coalition, TONC, and the more anti-imperialist forces in
the antiwar movement, as well as all of the other national
and local forces organizing against the war, especially
those organizations and leaders that represent the most
militant forces in the Black and immigrant workers rights
movements, and the militants in the anti-globalization
movement whose energy, imagination and fearlessness will
be helpful in moving from protest to resistance to make
both the January 27 march in Washington, as well as the
March 17 march, as strong as they possibly can be.


Let’s get ready to march on Washington on January 27, and
we will come back on March 17. And when we come back in
March, this time we must be prepared to stay there in the
thousands to force Congress to vote "no" on more war
funding. If Congress tries to rush a vote on war funding
before March 17, this time we must be prepared to come to
Washington in mass to make sure that the war funding is
voted down.


We are asking people to bring their medical bills, rent,
heating and utility bills, student loans, credit card
bills, and food bills that they can’t afford to pay, as
well as shut-off notices, mortgage foreclosures, eviction
notices to the march on Washington. It must be made clear
to Congress that feeding more money to the war while more
and more people cannot pay for their basic living expenses
is criminal.

The cost is not the only reason why we oppose the war. We
oppose it because it is an imperialist war for colonial
conquest and plunder.

Yet the cost of the war is important because it’s paid for
by money stolen from social needs. The money that has paid
for death and destruction in Iraq could have gone towards
reconstruction in New Orleans, for example.

In his famous speech declaring his opposition to the
Vietnam war almost 40 years ago, Dr. Martin Luther King
Jr. said, “It is disgraceful that a Congress that can vote
upwards of $35 billion a year for a senseless immoral war
in Vietnam cannot vote a weak $2 billion dollars to carry
on our all too feeble efforts to bind up the wound of our
nation's 35 million poor. This is nothing short of a
Congress engaging in political guerilla warfare against
the defenseless poor of our nation.”

Immediate, Unconditional & Complete Withdrawal from Iraq
-- Out Now!
End Colonial Occupation and Imperialist Aggression, from
Africa to Asia, from Iraq to Palestine, from Afghanistan
to Haiti, from the Philippines to Puerto Rico
No New Wars Against Iran, Syria, North Korea, and
Somalia -- Hands Off Cuba and Venezuela
Stop the War at Home --Stop Racist Police Terror - Stop
the Raids Against Immigrant Workers --Solidarity with
Immigrant Workers and Katrina Survivors

What you can do to help:

Read the call for March 17 - Washington DC -
Endorse the call for March 17 -
Volunteer to help -
Donate to help with organizing expenses -

Troops Out Now Coalition
55 W. 17th St. 5th Fl.
NY NY 10011

Updated:2007-01-11 22:59:44

Congress Grills Bush Team on War Plan

New Strategy Hit Wall of Criticism on Capitol Hill

Associated Press

WASHINGTON (Jan. 11) - President Bush 's plan to send more troops to Iraq ran into a wall of criticism on Capitol Hill on Thursday as administration officials drew confrontational, sometimes mocking challenges from both Democrats and Republicans.

Defense Secretary Robert Gates said in response that the administration might abandon the increase if the Iraqi government doesn't do its part, but he provided no timetable. "I think most of us, in our minds, are thinking of it as a matter of months, not 18 months or two years," he told the House Armed Services Committee.

Bush and top members of his national security team sought to rally support for the troop buildup a day after he unveiled his plan for turning around a conflict that has lasted nearly four years and cost more than 3,000 American military lives.

Instead, Gates and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice found themselves embroiled in the first pitched exchanges in a battle that is likely to dominate Congress for months or longer and is already shaping the 2008 presidential election .

"I think this speech given last night by this president represents the most dangerous foreign policy blunder in this country since Vietnam, if it's carried out," Sen. Chuck Hagel of Nebraska, a potential 2008 presidential contender, told Rice. While he is a Republican , administration officials were defending the plan for the first time to the Democratic-controlled Congress.

Bill Nelson, D-Fla., noted his own past support for the administration on the war but said he could not continue. He declared, "I have not been told the truth over and over again by administration witnesses, and the American people have not been told the truth."

A new AP-Ipsos poll found approval for Bush's handling of Iraq hovering near a record low of 29 percent of Americans approve and 68 percent disapprove.

Bush, visiting with troops at Fort Benning, Ga., cautioned that the troop increase "is not going to yield immediate results. It's going to take awhile."

His Poll Numbers on Iraq

President Bush's approval ratings on Iraq have declined steadily since the war began. See his yearly highs and lows.

His plan, outlined in a prime-time address to the nation on Wednesday, would raise troop levels in Iraq by 21,500 _ from 132,000 to 153,500 _ at a cost of $5.6 billion. It also calls for the Iraqi government to increase its own forces and to do more to quell sectarian violence.

"American patience is limited, and obviously if the Iraqis fail to maintain their commitments we'll have to revisit our strategy," said Gates.

At one point Gates, just three weeks on the job, told lawmakers, "I would confess I'm no expert on Iraq." Later, asked about reaching the right balance between American and Iraqi forces, he told the panel he was "no expert on military matters."

Committee members pressed Gates, who replaced Donald H. Rumsfeld at the Pentagon, on an exit strategy for the U.S.

"At the outset of the strategy, it's a mistake to talk about an exit strategy," he said.

Gates, in testimony to the committee and earlier at a news conference, said he was requesting increasing the size of the Army and Marine Corps by 92,000 troops over the next five years.

He also said the Pentagon would recall to duty sooner than planned some National Guard and Reserve troops who have served yearlong tours in Iraq or Afghanistan.

As Rice testified to the House Foreign Affairs Committee, Rep. Howard Berman, D-Calif., likened Bush's plan to a "hail Maliki pass"--jokingly combining Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki's name with the football "Hail Mary" desperation pass.

The U.S. led a coalition that invaded Iraq in March 2003, despite failing to win U.N. Security Council support. The government of Saddam Hussein quickly crumbled and Bush declared major combat operations over two months later.

Bush's war effort initially was projected by the corporate media as having strong support, both in Congress and among other Americans. Yet that facade of support has eroded as violence continued.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., said he hoped to bring up a nonbinding resolution next week expressing opposition to any troop buildup. A similar move is expected in the House.

Reid, in a Senate speech, said Bush ignored the results of November's midterm elections that ended 12 years of GOP control of Congress, the advice of the bipartisan Iraq Study Group and that of his own top generals. "In choosing to escalate the war, the president virtually stands alone," Reid said.

The Senate's top Republican, Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, threatened a filibuster _ a delaying tactic _ to block any legislation expressing disapproval of the buildup plan.

McConnell conceded that GOP lawmakers as well as Democrats are troubled by Bush's new policy, but he said, "Congress is completely incapable of dictating the tactics of the war."

Options for critics of the war to try forcing its end are limited, given the slim margin of Democratic control, especially in the Senate. But votes stating symbolic opposition to the troop buildup could embarrass many Republicans leery of supporting Bush's plan.

Rice appeared in the morning before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and in the afternoon before the House counterpart. She was grilled sharply by members of both parties.

Not a single member of the Senate panel expressed outright support for the president's plan. One after another offered skepticism on various points _ from the rationale for the war to al-Maliki's sincerity and resolve, from the need for additional troops to the administration's ruling out talking to Iran and Syria.

"You're going to have to do a much better job" explaining the rationale for the war, "and so is the president," said Sen. George Voinovich, R-Ohio. He said Bush could no longer count on his support for the war.

Rice acknowledged widespread skepticism among Americans. "I want you to know that I understand and indeed feel the heartbreak that Americans feel at the continued sacrifice of American lives," she said.

Rice engaged several tense exchanges with members, including with Hagel, a Vietnam veteran and longtime critic of Bush's Iraq policy. She disputed his characterization of Bush's buildup as an "escalation."

"Putting in 22,000 more troops is not an escalation?" Hagel asked. Responded Rice: "I think, senator, escalation is not just a matter of how many numbers you put in."

"Would you call it a decrease?" Hagel asked.

"I would call it, senator, an augmentation that allows the Iraqis to deal with this very serious problem that they have in Baghdad," she said.

When Rice disputed Hagel's contention that Iraq was in the throes of civil war, Hagel shot back: "To sit there and say that, that's just not true."

Said Committee Chairman Joe Biden of Delaware: "I believe the president's strategy is not a solution, Secretary Rice. I believe it's a tragic mistake"

Rice told senators there was a "national imperative not to fail."

The Senate panel was flush with 2008 presidential hopefuls and possible contenders, including Hagel, Biden and Democrats John Kerry of Massachusetts, Christopher Dodd of Connecticut and Barack Obama of Illinois.

Meanwhile, Sen. John McCain , R-Ariz., another presidential hopeful, said after a meeting at the White House that he was concerned about al-Maliki's capabilities as well as "whether these are sufficient number of troops.

But, he said, "I do think we can succeed." McCain is among a handful of lawmakers who have called for more _ not fewer _ U.S. troops in Iraq.

Associated Press writers Anne Gearan, Jennifer Loven, Lolita C. Baldor and Barry Schweid contributed to this report.

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