Abayomi Azikiwe, editor of the Pan-African News Wire, at Central United Methodist Church in downtown Detroit on February 17, 2007. Azikiwe was chairing a meeting to demand the withdrawal of funds for the occupation of Iraq. (Photo: Patricia Lay Dorsey).
Originally uploaded by Pan-African News Wire File Photos.
By Eric Campbell
February 25th-March 3rd, 2007 Issue
On Feb. 17, on the second floor of the Central United Methodist Church, a crowd of over a hundred committed activists engaged in a passionate dialogue meant to keep the fire lit under the quest for peace.
The event was a nationwide effort with similar town hall meetings in New York, Philadelphia, Los Angeles, Boston, Atlanta and many other major cities across the U.S.
Under the banner 'Cut Off All War Funds Day', the meeting was called to emphasize the costs and misappropriation of tax dollars in waging a war in Iraq and the Middle East.
Speakers, including U.S. Representative John Conyers, Michigan State Senator Martha Scott and Detroit City Councilwoman JoAnn Watson, connected the national war funding with the poor local economy. Speakers said resources are diverted from health care, public education, affordable housing, job-loss assistance programs and funneled directly into military action overseas.
Abayomi Azikiwe, co-founder of the Michigan Emergency Committee Against War and Injustice, said everyone whether they acknowledge it or not are "involved" in the war.
"They're losing their jobs, they're having utilities shut off, their salaries are decreasing, they're already involved," said Azikiwe. "People went out on November 7th and voted overwhelmingly in opposition to the war. So it's just a question of getting the government to respond affirmatively."
Literature at the event describes the numbers the U.S. has committed to its military campaign.
Analysts have estimated that the Iraq war has cost the state of Michigan $9.5 billion and the city of Detroit $600 million.
These numbers were compared with local struggles such as the $19 million dollar budget hole that the Detroit School Board is trying to fix by closing 52 schools.
According to the Institute for Policy Studies, the U.S. has spent a total of $321 billion in Iraq as of Sept. 2006 with an estimated long-term bill of $1.3 trillion.
After an introductory welcome by Azikiwe, Councilwoman Watson offered a plan from which to mount a campaign to stop the military effort in Iraq.
"There's war going on all around the globe, with American money, American troops, America's military power--but Americans of conscience, of all backgrounds must stand together as one. Not based on philosophical roots, and one group or another group--the truth is we're one family," said Watson, "And as one family, it's good for us to take this stand today."
Congressman John Conyers, who has been vocal in the effort to cut off funds for the war, said he believes the war abroad affects domestic issues at home. Conyers also spoke at the national peace demonstration in Washington, D.C. Jan. 27th.
"It's been made clear here that we're connected," said Conyers. "The suffering here in Michigan is being caused by the wars that this administration is pursuing."
He added a historical perspective on the issues explaining: "This is the only war in American history in which taxes for the wealthy did not go up, but went down. This is the only war in which we haven't had a draft. Remember that in Vietnam it was when they utilized the draft that millions of parents joined their children in closing down that war. And that's what we have to do this time."
Conyers was clear about his support for the public funding of campaigns for public office and universal health care.
He also expressed his disdain for a recent announcement in Congress that the U.S. military plans to set up a permanent base on the continent of Africa.
"We don't need anymore military installations in Africa and in Iraq, in South America or anywhere," said Conyers. "We have a department of war--the department of defense was called the department of war when they were just naming things for what they were--but the need now is for a department of peace."
Conyers said the Democrats are committed to stemming the tide of military escalation being pursued by the Bush administration.
Conyers is a co-sponsor, along with Rep. Maxine Waters (CA-35), Rep. Lynne Woolsey (CA-6), Rep. Barbara Lee (CA-9) and others, of H.R. 508 which would conclude the United States' involvement in Iraq within six months of the enactment of the legislation.
The representatives hope to focus the White House and its allies on the domestic repercussions of war, as well as the damage inflicted overseas.
The 'Cut Off All War Funds' is part of a continuing political action series that began last November.
Abayomi Azikiwe from MECAWI said, "There were 500,000 (demonstrators) on Jan. 27th, the crowd will probably be larger on March 17th. We are mobilizing buses...There's no question about it--the anti-war sentiment in this country is overwhelming."
The Michigan Emergency Committee Against War and Injustice is leading the drive to organize the trip to Washington as part of a worldwide protest March 17, 2007 on the fourth anniversary of the U.S. invasion and occupation of Iraq. For details call (313) 680-5508 or visit http://www.mecawi.org
H.R. 508 Calls For The:
-Repeal of the authorization of the use of force against Iraq that was passed by Congress in 2002.
-Require the complete withdrawal of U.S. troops and contractors within six months of the enactment of this bill.
-Turn security activities and military operations in Iraq over to the elected Iraqi government within six months of the date of enactment.
-Prohibit the U.S. from establishing permanent bases in Iraq.
-Accelerate the training and equipping of Iraqi military and security forces.
-Pursue security and stability in Iraq through diplomacy.
-Provide assistance to the Iraqi government in recovering archeological, cultural and historic artifacts that have been lost since the U.S. invasion.
-And fully fund veterans health care.