Soon our nation will have a new President. The last page of the Bush era will be turned and a new era will begin. Having no idea who will be elected there are a few thoughts I would like to share with you.
I would like to thank you for all you have done during these dark and dangerous times in our nation’s history. We have faced a tremendous assault on our civil liberties, huge amounts of propaganda to push us towards military solutions, and heavy public pressure to be silent and follow the crowd. Yet you have stood fast and steady against a tide of verbal abuses and intimidation saying no to war. It has been because of your hard work and dedication that no matter the next President, the people of the U.S. have decided the war in Iraq must end and the troops must come home. The next Congress and President will have to deal with this overwhelming sentiment. Our resistance to war, the horrible realities on the ground in Iraq and the economic crisis has changed the political landscape moving us closer to achieving our goal. I know we are frustrated that the occupation rages on and many feel little has changed, but it is important to recognize the change that has occurred and the role we have played in creating that change. Now we must keep up the pressure and see it through.
What next? I will address three general challenges set before us that will not change no matter what happens on Nov 4th. The first is connecting with the U.S. American people. Wednesday morning the mood of the nation and our movements will be very different. There will be a sense of excitement and change or resignation and dread. In both cases we must continue to do what we have done so well in the past. We must remind the nation of the violence, destruction and death caused by our war making. We must tell the truth about the immoral nature of U.S. foreign policy and not allow the maintainers of the status quo to paint a rosy picture of success to cover up their failures and deprivation. The economic crisis and climate change provide readymade openings to connect. The anxiety caused by these global concerns will not dissipate for some time to come. People are searching and looking for answers. We have information and a story people need to know. We must be creative, patient and forward looking as we tell it.
The second challenge is Afghanistan. For the past several months the nation has been showered with messages telling us Afghanistan is the “Good” war. There have been promises to draw down in Iraq to put more effort into Afghanistan, which by extension also means Pakistan. We have been assured Afghanistan is the central front of the “Global War on Terror,” and we must not fail. Sounds familiar, but is the public buying it? I’m not sure. Most of what I have seen and heard in the main stream media suggest that there is wide support for the Afghan war. The results of a CBS News/New York Times Poll dated September 21-24, showed when asked, “Over the last couple of years, do you think the Bush Administration has focused too much on the war in Iraq and not enough on Afghanistan, or focused too much on Afghanistan and not enough on the war in Iraq, or has the balance been about right?” Fifty four percent answered too much on Iraq. Only 3% too much on Afghanistan and 31% balance about right.
When asked “Do you favor, oppose, or neither favor nor oppose increasing U.S. troop strength in Afghanistan?” in a September 5-10, 2008, GfK Roper Public Affairs & Media poll, respondents answered, 51% favored and 41% opposed. We may be in a similar environment of years ago when a hefty majority of the nation supported the Iraq war/occupation. However I believe at best support for continued war in Afghanistan is soft. The U.S. has been at war for 7 years now. Thousands of U.S. Americans have died, the death toll is rising in Afghanistan and more Afghan civilians are being killed. The ethnic divisions in Afghanistan make Iraq look simple. People know this and they are tired. The economic meltdown has slapped everyone in the face and people are waking up to the fact that the cost of war is too much to continue. There is a New York City Newsday poll of Long Island likely voters that gives support to my thinking. Conducted Oct. 1 to Oct. 7, with 761 voters it found that 2/3rd want a timetable to pull troops out of Iraq and half say the United States should decrease troops in Afghanistan or even pull out. We have our work cut-out for us, but the people are ready to receive the message.
This brings me to my final point. Before is an exceptional opportunity to change the direction of our nation. More and more people are looking and longing for a new direction. They are looking for an interpretation of American Exceptionalism that lives up to our professed ideals and values. Our message of peace and justice can help transform this nation into a respectful neighbor who leads by example, helping those in need and respecting those who choose a path different from the one we choose to walk. A nation that understands freedom is not given, it can only be denied. A nation who can see our arrogance and actions in the world have denied many of their freedoms. We can help our nation be conscious of how U.S. polices affect families around the world and our consumerism deprives those who have little. Like it or not much of the world looks to our nation for leadership and guidance. It is time we bring our country to a new thinking of mutual respect, peace and justice for all, not just US.
See you on the other side of November 4th.