Friday, July 27, 2007

Debate Rages Within a Section of the American Peace Movement Over Impeachment, Conyers and Race

Debate Rages in the Liberal Wing of the Peace Movement Over the Role of the House Judiciary Committee Chair John Conyers of Detroit in Regard to Impeachment and the Continuing War in Iraq

Cindy Sheehan was arrested in John Conyers office last Monday sparking a substantial controversy. Others in the white anti-war movement attacked Conyers as though the failings of the Democrats were entirely his responsibility.

Sparking a justifiable rebuttal of the racism and insensitivity by African American activists. Some of the responses use the situation to defend the Democrats' wait til 2008 reliance on bougeois elections.

There are others who respond to how attacking Conyers in a way that does not consider the racist society we live in today and the history and may stand in the way of people of color activating against the war.

Any thoughts on this in relation to the Sept. 22-29 mobilization?


Thank you for sending this, Cheryl. I myself was appalled when I heard about Cindy Sheehan being arrested at Conyers' office, and it was not Conyers I was appalled at.

I think the beginning of your second sentence sums up the problem pretty well: "Others in the white anti-war movement...." the very fact that the anti-war movement can be characterized this way shows how deep is the problem of racism in every sector of bourgeois society, including the so-called progressive sector.

I don't see that there is any course of action other than to struggle to rectify this in everything we do, not only in words but especially in deeds, in how we approach the anti-war work, who we reach out to, etc., etc.

When Damu and Clifton write: "... few of the other 'leading lights' of the white left in the anti-war movement (with the notable exception of Ohio Congressman Dennis Kucinich) have ever lifted a finger or raised their voice in support of African Americans cry for repair from the legacy of the Atlantic Slave Trade" re Conyers and the reparations bill - well, I am certainly glad and proud that we have ALWAYS supported reparations including this "lowest common denominator" legislative bill.

I think we need to set in stone a date for Monica to come to Detroit in October for a book signing and meeting on the new book, 'Marxism, Reparations and the Black Freedom Struggle," and find a way to get this book into as many hands as we can. It is a tremendous contribution to the whole struggle....



Responses to the Attacks on John Conyers

* Racism from the white left, John Conyers and
By Jean Damu and Alona Clifton

* Response to Swanson and the sit-in at John Conyers'
office from Al Fishman

* Links to articles by Medea Benjamin, Ray McGovern and
Dave Lindorff

Racism from the white left, John Conyers and Reparations

By Jean Damu and Alona Clifton

The jaw-dropping attacks on Michigan Congressman John
Conyers this week by members of the white, leftist
sector of this nation's antiwar movement have proven how
deeply racism exists.

Conyers was picketed and attacked by leading activists
and spokespeople of the anti-war movement because he, as
chair of the House Judiciary Committee, determined that
there did not exist enough votes to move to the floor of
the House of Representatives a discussion of the
impeachment of president George Bush for creating the
war in Iraq.

"Conyers has betrayed the American people," bawled
Global Exchange and Code Pink co-founder Medea Benjamin.
"Conyers is no Martin Luther King," wailed former
analyst of the CIA, Ray McGovern. Lefty journalist David
Lindorf scribbled, "The shame of John Conyers." All
three articles appeared on the July 24 version of the
progressive website CommonDreams. In addition, Cindy
Sheehan, anti-war mom, had herself arrested sitting in
at Conyers office.

Give us a break!

What does impeaching George Bush have to do with ending
the war in Iraq? And what gives white, anti-war
activists the right to call into question the moral and
humanistic motivations of John Conyers because he
determined the political will did not exist within
Congress to impeach the president?

From our point of view (and speaking as progressive
African-Americans) Conyers is the outstanding member of
Congress, who has been most outspoken in support of the
anti-war movement and against the Bush Administration.

But here is something else. Year after year, actually
every year since 1989, John Conyers has introduced into
congress H.R. 40, the African American Reparations Study
Bill. It is a bill that is likely the lowest common
denominator of the Black reparations movement in the
U.S. To date Conyers has never had the votes to get it
out of committee, onto the floor of the House. But each
year he re-introduces the bill, constantly searching for
more endorsers. He has never given up on this issue that
is supported by the vast majority of African Americans.

To the best of our knowledge neither Medea Benjamin, Ray
McGovern, David Lindorf and certainly not Cindy Sheehan
or few of the other "leading lights" of the white left
in the anti-war movement (with the notable exception of
Ohio Congressman Dennis Kucinich) have ever lifted a
finger or raised their voice in support of African
Americans cry for repair from the legacy of the Atlantic
Slave Trade.

But yet, how ironic that these normally progressive
whites feel perfectly comfortable labeling John Conyers
"a betrayer of the American people."

Here is another irony. If white Americans had voted
against George Bush by half the percentage points that
Black Americans voted against George Bush, Dubya would
have never gotten near the White House.

As for McGovern's claim that Conyers is no Martin Luther
King, we say, who is some white guy to tell us who is
and who is not our leader or leaders? That is what J.
Edgar Hoover tried to do to us with regards to the Black
Panther Party. Also, who is to say, if Martin Luther
King were alive today, what he would or would not say?

Some white sectors of the anti-war movement need to re-
focus themselves and try to build allies in the streets
and in the halls of government to end the war, rather
than engaging in mindless racism and alienating the most
progressive and anti-George Bush communities in America,
namely Black America.

[Jean Damu is active within the Reparations Movement and
Alona Clifton is a former member of the Peralta
Community College board and a long time political
activist in Oakland. Both are members of the Black
Alliance for Just Immigration Steering Committee.]


* Response to Swanson and the sit-in at John Conyers'
office from Al Fishman

[Moderator's note: this was sent out to the UFPJ
Legislative listserve on July 21]

As I celebrate my 60th year of peace and justice
activism, I find it necessary to do what - up to this
point - I have had neither the time nor the inclination
to do, that is, to respond to the misplaced anger that
has filled my email inbox this year. My present reaction
is triggered by two proposals. The first is the demand
that Congressman John Conyers, Chair of the House
Judiciary Committee, proceed with impeachment hearings
or face sit-ins at his Washington, DC and Detroit
offices on next Monday, July 23rd, at which protesters
will risk arrest. What arrogance! The second is that a
notable peace activist - a Gold Star Mother - Cindy
Sheehan plans to run an independent campaign against
Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi unless the Speaker "puts
impeachment back on the table". What folly!

Shortly after a slim 43 vote Primary Election margin in
1964 helped us put John Conyers, Jr. into Congress, he
was one of only 6 Members of Congress to vote against
the Tonkin Gulf Resolution which propelled our nation
into the military invasion and occupation of Vietnam.
For more than forty years since then, Congressman John
Conyers has been one the most consistent champions of
peace and justice - the record being much too long to
detail here. At least, one must mention his organizing
the Congressional Black Caucus and his leadership and
support in virtually every struggle against war and
racism. For this, the people of Detroit - including this
writer -- have overwhelmingly reelected and supported

Any one of us has the right to disagree with the
Chairman of the House Judiciary Committee about
impeachment. Congressman John Conyers also has the right
- indeed the responsibility -- to honor the advice of
Judiciary Committee counsel and independent
Constitutional experts about the lack of a legal basis
for impeaching George W. Bush and/or Dick Cheney at this
time. And that right needs to be respected! I do not
personally know David Swanson or any of the other
individuals whose rantings have filled my email inbox,
but I do know that no reasonable person can doubt the
commitment or courage of Congressman John Conyers. So
attacking Congressman Conyers is both arrogant and
counter-productive. The 2006 election has given
Congressman Conyers and several of his progressive
colleagues the power to hold hearings, to investigate,
and to subpoena witnesses on a host of public policy
issues. These efforts may or may not result in the
exposure of criminal activity subject to impeachment,
but they certainly lay the foundation for building a
different kind of politics.

Now what did the 2006 election accomplish? It certainly
highlighted growing opposition to Bush's invasion and
occupation of Iraq and revulsion with the scandalous
abandonment of the major victims of Katrina. But, as so
many of us predicted during that election campaign, we
elected a Democratic Congress, with a Senate majority
that is razor thin. We could not and did not elect a
progressive Congress. As with many, I am personally
disappointed with the failure to defund the war in Iraq,
but I am also aware of objective political realities.
And I agree with those who call upon us in the peace
movement to find new ways to motivate and activate
people who want to end the war to pressure their elected
representatives - especially those Republicans who have
continued to support the war with their actions. We can
and must continue to press our demand to bring all
military and contractual personnel home as quickly as
safety will allow without getting apoplectic about the
compromises that objective political realities have

Finally, it's necessary to deal with the infantile
notion that it makes no difference which of the two
major parties controls the Congress and the Presidency.
It's necessary to point out that the war in Iraq and the
Bush Administration's threats against Iran are not the
only issues affecting the lives of Americans -
especially working folks and oppressed people of color.
The war is not only the means for expanding imperial
power throughout the world, it is also the cover for the
most dedicated effort to undo the New Deal, the Great
Society and all the elements of the social safety net
introduced by those programs. The federal courts and the
leadership of every federal regulating agency are now
dedicated to that task.

Sixty years ago I began my political activism in the
campaign of Henry Wallace for President as the candidate
of the Progressive Party. But the fact is that until
there is built a unified, grassroots campaign to
radically reform our electoral system, most, if not all
independent candidacies result in achieving political
results opposite to their stated principles, e.g.: Nader
in Florida in 2000. The 2006 election was a small but
significant step forward. Any action that contributes to
the return of one or both houses of Congress or the
White House to the Republican Party in 2008 - such as
undermining John Conyers or replacing Nancy Pelosi with
a Republican -- will sentence to death many more
thousands of young Americans and hundreds of thousands
of civilians in Iraq or other target nations. But those
of us who are serious about building a winning coalition
for peace, jobs and justice must also understand what a
continuation of the Rove-Bush-Cheney agenda will mean to
the living standards and the liberties of the
overwhelming majority of Americans - especially working
folks and oppressed people of color.

I hope that anger can be directed at the real enemies of
peace and justice, and not at friends with whom we might
have strategic or tactical differences, but with whom we
share general objectives. Sit in the offices of
Republican Senators who refused to allow a vote on even
a weak proposal to end the war. Win over their
constituents so that we can achieve change.

Al Fishman

* Member of Peace Action of Michigan Board of Directors
* Member of Detroit Area Peace With Justice Coordinating
Committee, an affiliate of UFPJ
* The organizations listed are for identification only
as I am solely responsible for the comments above.


* Links to articles by Medea Benjamin, Ray McGovern and
Dave Lindorff

** Congressman John Conyers Betrays the American People
by Medea Benjamin

** John Conyers Is No Martin Luther King
by Ray McGovern

** Office Arrests: The Shame of John Conyers
by Dave Lindorff

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