U.S. Labor Against the War Demands:

End the Occupation of Iraq! Bring the Troops Home Now!


The following press release and statement was issued on May 3, 2004, by the trade union network U.S. Labor Against the War (USLAW), which represents millions of organized workers. For a list of unions that endorse USLAW, see its web site www.uslaboragainstwar.org

[Comment by the Editors of Labor Standard on USLAW’s May 3 Statement:

[We think USLAW has issued an excellent statement. It comes from a significant sector in the U.S. trade union movement. (Gene Bruskin, the USLAW coordinator, is a top-level AFL-CIO official.)

[We do wish to strike one cautionary note about the statement.

[Aside from the implied call for a vote for John Kerry, almost everything in the USLAW statement is, in our opinion, just what needs to be said in the present situation.

[This statement comes from trade unionists and is addressed to trade unionists, and that gives it major social weight.

[Meanwhile the May 4 Wall Street Journal has an article by a former head of the National Security Agency, one General Odom, calling for…U.S. withdrawal from Iraq!  And a right-wing magazine, American Conservative, is calling for the same.

[This means that even some sectors of America’s corporate ruling class see that Bush’s war on Iraq has created a disaster (for them as well as everyone else), and it would be better to get out now before the disaster gets worse.

[For the working class the demand is “Out Now!” and, as the USLAW statement suggests, to call to account those who prosecuted this criminal war. It is equally important to build an independent political movement of the working class that speaks for workers' interests against the Corporate Agenda.

[One passage in the USLAW press release that we caution readers about is this: “Calling for a massive turnout at the polls in November, the organization [USLAW] called upon the labor movement to “resoundingly reject four more years of bravado, unilateralism, and squandering of precious lives and the public treasury on corporate cronyism, militarism, and global domination.” It continued, “No matter who is elected U.S. president in 2004, the anti-war movement, including its labor component, must be prepared to challenge U.S. foreign and domestic policies that harm our people and the peoples of the world and to hold all our elected officials to a course of peace and social justice at home and abroad.”

[We fully agree with the part of the statement that says, “No matter who is elected U.S. president in 2004, the anti-war movement, including its labor component, must be prepared to challenge U.S. foreign and domestic policies that harm our people and the peoples of the world, etc.”

[And of course we agree with the demand to “resoundingly reject” the “squandering of precious lives and the public treasury on corporate cronyism, militarism, and global domination.”

[But the implied call for a vote for John Kerry would not “resoundingly reject” the continued "squandering of precious lives and the public treasury" because Kerry calls for …more troops to Iraq! Kerry, just like Bush, has spoken in favor of “staying the course” and continuing the occupation of Iraq. He just wants more of a “multilateral” figleaf to disguise the naked U.S. colonial occupation of brutality, torture, and massacre in pursuit of oil.

[The USLAW statement is absolutely right that we of the antiwar movement and labor movement must pursue our aims “no matter who is elected president.” An independent working class movement, and an antiwar movement independent of pro-corporate politicians, is the only sure way for working people to win what we need: “Healthcare Not Warfare, Books Not Bombs, Free Public Education for All Through College, Jobs for All, Workers’ Rights,” and other similar demands as expressed in the program of the Labor Party.—The Editors, Labor Standard.]


PRESS RELEASE:
U.S. LABOR AGAINST THE WAR
PMB 153, 1718 M Street NW, Washington, DC 20036
www.uslaboragainstwar.org   info@uslaboragainstwar.org

Contact:  Gene Bruskin, Co-Convenor 202-297-0198
Amy Newell, National Organizer 831-728-4922

National Labor Antiwar Network Calls for End to Occupation, Return of Troops

U.S. Labor Against the War (USLAW), a national network of 69 national, regional, and local unions and other labor organizations* has issued a call for an end to the occupation of Iraq and return of all U.S. troops to the U.S.

Citing 743 deaths and 3,600 wounded among U.S. troops and the death of more than 10,000 Iraqi civilians, the USLAW statement said, “We call for an end now to the U.S. occupation and for all military, political, and economic authority to be transferred to the people of Iraq…We call upon all public officials and candidates for office to oppose this war and the never-ending occupation and to support steps that can be taken immediately to end it…It is time to acknowledge this tragic mistake and to hold to account Bush and those who prosecuted this disastrous war.”

The statement charged, “Every reason Bush gave for going to war—Iraq having weapons of mass destruction, Iraq collaborating with al Qaida, and Iraq being an imminent threat to the U.S.—has been proven false…Our government’s senseless war and occupation in Iraq have been met by worldwide outrage and have provoked acts of terror in retaliation. In short, our country and the world are not safer, and the crisis in Iraq continues to deepen. Rather than a solution to terrorism, the occupation has become the cause of continuing hardship and violence, death and suffering. It is time to end the occupation!”

Gene Bruskin, USLAW’s national spokesperson, said, “The U.S. occupation of Iraq is in crisis. As any sensible union member knows, the first thing to do when you find you’ve dug yourself into a hole is to STOP DIGGING. The U.S. needs to find a way out of the mess that our government has gotten us into and stop digging this country deeper into Iraq.”

Describing the war and occupation as “Bush’s folly,” USLAW decried the waste of $150 billion to “pad the profit margins” of Halliburton, Bechtel, and other corporate backers of the president while Iraqis continue to go without reliable electricity, clean water, food, and jobs and while “social programs in the U.S. are being savaged, state and local governments are being driven into fiscal crisis, and our own democratic liberties are being eroded in the name of national security.”

Calling for a massive turnout at the polls in November, the organization called upon the labor movement to “resoundingly reject four more years of bravado, unilateralism, and squandering of precious lives and the public treasury on corporate cronyism, militarism, and global domination.”  It continued, “No matter who is elected U.S. president in 2004, the anti-war movement, including its labor component, must be prepared to challenge U.S. foreign and domestic policies that harm our people and the peoples of the world and to hold all our elected officials to a course of peace and social justice at home and abroad.”

USLAW condemned the continuing enforcement by the Occupation Authority of a law imposed by Saddam Hussein outlawing unions in state enterprises, where the vast majority of Iraqis with jobs are employed. The coalition of labor groups called for support of Iraq’s emerging democratic labor movement and observance in Iraq of International Labor Organization standards for labor rights to organize and bargain free of government or outside interference. The organization called the Iraqi labor movement the most progressive secular force for a new, democratic, peaceful, and prosperous Iraq.

USLAW has established the Iraqi Labor Solidarity Fund it to provide financial support for struggling Iraqi unions. It urged union members and labor organizations to donate generously to the fund at its website at https://secure.groundspring.org/dn/index.php?aid=1822.

FULL TEXT OF USLAW’S MAY 3 STATEMENT:

We call for an end now to the U.S. occupation and for all military, political, and economic authority to be transferred to the people of Iraq…We call upon all public officials and candidates for office to oppose this war and the never-ending occupation and to support steps that can be taken immediately to end it…It is time to acknowledge this tragic mistake and to hold to account Bush and those who prosecuted this disastrous war.

The U.S. occupation of Iraq is in crisis. As any sensible union member knows, the first thing to do when you find you’ve dug yourself into a hole is to STOP DIGGING. The U.S. needs to find a way out of the mess that our government has gotten us into and stop digging this country deeper into Iraq.  Every reason Bush gave for going to war—Iraq having weapons of mass destruction, Iraq collaborating with al Qaida, and Iraq being an imminent threat to the U.S.—has been proven false.

Consider the following:

·  As of the end of April, 738 U.S. troops have died (137 in April alone; 532 since George Bush provocatively declared “Bring them on!”). Through mid-April, more than 3,600 have been wounded in this unnecessary, unprovoked and long-planned war by the Bush administration against Iraq. [http://lunaville.org/warcasualties/Summary.aspx]

·  10,000 or more civilian Iraqis have been killed in the past year according to reliable international sources (the Occupation Authority refuses to keep count) and many thousands more were wounded. [http://www.iraqbodycount.net/] Estimates of Iraqi troop deaths range as high as 40,000.

·  In the first three weeks of April, more than 1,100 Iraqis—hundreds of women, children, and the elderly — lost their lives in Fallujah, in the Shi’ite neighborhoods of Baghdad, and in the Shi’ite cities to the south. Fighting age young men have been barred from leaving Fallujah, while the U.S. has begun bombing heavily populated areas where tens of thousands of Iraqi civilians are forced to remain in their homes without access to food, water, or medicine.

·  Amnesty International has documented the torture of prisoners, demolition of homes, and collective punishment of innocent civilians (all violations of international law) by the Occupation Authority.

·  Senior Pentagon officials say the Iraq war is costing $4.7 billion per month. The $150 billion already spent on Bush’s folly (and an additional $50 billion or more he will reportedly seek after the election, if he wins) have padded the profit margins of Halliburton, Bechtel, and his other corporate cronies while electricity, clean water, food, and jobs remain in short supply for most Iraqis.

·  Meanwhile, social programs in the U.S. are being savaged. State and local governments are being driven into fiscal crisis. Our own democratic liberties are being eroded in the name of national security. Economic inequality is growing. Millions remain jobless or marginally employed in low-wage non-union jobs. The Bush administration has painted a bull’s eye on the labor movement. Those who question or challenge the direction the president is taking the nation are accused of being unpatriotic or, worse, aiding the enemy.

·  Iraqi army and police units trained by the U.S. refused to join the U.S. troops in their assault on Fallujah and other towns, and the U.S.-appointed Governing Council (never accepted as legitimate representatives by the Iraqi people) has had serious defections, infighting, and a further decline in their already low standing. The Coalition is falling apart as other governments respond to the demand of their people [above all, in Spain] to get out of Iraq.

·  There is widespread cynicism about the U.S. plan for the alleged transition to Iraqi “sovereignty” on June 30. Continued U.S. military, economic, and political domination make the notion of Iraqi sovereignty laughable. The U.S. plans to maintain a military force of as many as 130,000 troops on fourteen permanent military bases currently under construction, and the U.S. military insists on command authority over the newly created Iraqi military and police forces. The Coalition Provisional Authority will be replaced by a massive U.S. embassy staff, perhaps the largest in the world, with over 3,000 employees. Bush’s plan to sell Iraq’s economic resources to the highest bidder is still high on his agenda. Rather than a path to democratic self-rule, this is a roadmap to continued rebellion.

·  Sunni and Shi’ite communities have united in their opposition to the occupation. Recent events demonstrate that this opposition is gaining support among ever wider sections of the population, transcending religious and ethnic allegiances. U.S. credibility is at an all-time low, both in Iraq and around the world.

·  In line with Bush’s assaults on organized labor here at home, the Occupation Authority continues to enforce Saddam Hussein’s 1987 law banning unions and collective bargaining in all state enterprises, where the vast majority of Iraqis with jobs are employed. Despite repression and harassment, newly organized independent democratic Iraqi unions struggle for recognition and to improve the desperate conditions that Iraqi working people, with and without jobs, experience.

·  The morale of U.S. forces is declining rapidly as the casualties mount and active duty time is extended for the already exhausted and emotionally shattered troops, thousands of whom are reservists and members of the National Guard, not professional soldiers. The people our troops  are told they have come to liberate are now shouting and shooting at them. Military families at home struggle to survive. More and more families are speaking out against the occupation and the directionless U.S. strategy in Iraq.

·  Public support for the war has dipped to 47%, down from 58% in March and 63% in December.  Public approval of Bush’s handling of the war has dropped to 41%, down from 49% in March and 59% in December. Our government's senseless war and occupation in Iraq have been met by worldwide outrage and have provoked acts of terror in retaliation.  In short, our country and the world are not safer and the crisis in Iraq continues to deepen.  Rather than a solution to terrorism, the occupation has become the cause of continuing hardship and violence, death and suffering. It is time to end the occupation!

We call for an end now to the U.S. occupation and for all military, political, and economic authority to be transferred to the people of Iraq with the full assistance of neutral members of the international community. The U.S. needs to leave and cede authority if the process of democratization and reconstruction is to have any hope of success. Ending the occupation does not end our obligation to pay for the rebuilding of Iraq, but that reconstruction should be under the control of Iraqis. We call upon all public officials and candidates for office to oppose this war and the never-ending occupation and to support steps that can be taken to immediately end it.

It is time to acknowledge this tragic mistake and to hold to account Bush and those who prosecuted this disastrous war.  At the polls in November, let’s resoundingly reject four more years of bravado, unilateralism, and squandering of precious lives and the public treasury on corporate cronyism, militarism, and global domination. In helping to defeat George W. Bush, the labor movement can demonstrate that the American people will turn out of office anyone who follows his policies of war, occupation, and attacks on working people. But no matter who is elected U.S. president in

2004, the anti-war movement, including its labor component, must be prepared to challenge U.S. foreign and domestic policies that harm our people and the peoples of the world and to hold all our elected officials to a course of peace and social justice at home and abroad.

U.S. Labor Against the War believes:

·  The Iraqi labor movement represents the main progressive, secular force for a new, democratic, peaceful and prosperous Iraq. We pledge our ongoing solidarity with all genuine Iraqi labor organizations in their efforts to organize workers and win improved standards and living conditions for employed and unemployed workers.

·  We call for the full right of Iraqi workers to organize and bargain under internationally recognized ILO conventions. [The International Labour Organisation (ILO) was established by the United Nations after World War II to set international labor standards.] We pledge to work with the international labor movement to support the struggle of Iraqi unions to win these protections. We call upon all elected officials and candidates for office to publicly commit their support for labor rights as essential to a democratic, secular Iraq.

·  We support Iraqi unions and workers in their opposition to the privatization of Iraqi industry and support the full right of the Iraqis themselves, not U.S. or multinational corporations, to make all decisions about the future of their economy. The independent democratic unions of Iraq must be given a major role in the reconstruction of Iraq, decisions about the future of its economy and civic culture, and the creation of a stable, democratic secular state.

·  We call upon labor organizations and individual union members in the U.S. to contribute generously to the Iraqi Labor Solidarity Fund established by USLAW to offer concrete financial support to these struggling unions as they strive to restore Iraq to peace, democracy, and prosperity. Donations to the fund can be made on the Internet at https://secure.groundspring.org/dn/index.php?aid=1822. All funds donated will go directly to the democratic labor federations of Iraq.


SOMETHING WE CAN DO NOW TO HELP IRAQ’S NEW LABOR MOVEMENT

§        Without resources, computers or office equipment…

§        In defiance of Saddam Hussein’s anti-union laws (still enforced by the U.S.-run Occupation Authority)…

§        Operating under the harsh conditions of occupation and armed conflict…

§        In defiance of harassment and arrests by the U.S. military —
the labor movement in Iraq is rising like a Phoenix from the ashes of the old order.

These courageous trade unionists need and deserve our help!

U.S. Labor Against the War has established the Iraqi Labor Solidarity Fund to financially support these emerging unions so they can function effectively to build a free, independent, democratic labor movement in Iraq. Our initial objective is to raise $5,000 for each of the two new democratic labor federations organized since the fall of the Hussein regime.

The Iraqi Workers Federation of Trade Unions (IFTU) and the Federation of Workers’ Councils and Unions in Iraq (FWCUI) and its affiliated Union of the Unemployed have already organized thousands of workers in a wide range of industries across Iraq in spite of all the obstacles, the risks and the danger. They have both been recognized by the international labor movement as legitimate representatives of Iraqi workers.

o       We can provide the resources to help them succeed in their mission to enable Iraqi workers to defend themselves against the invasion of U.S. and other multinational corporations—like Bechtel, Halliburton, and Stevedoring Services of America—the same anti-union companies we face at home.

o       We can help them win formal recognition and the right to organize and bargain as promised by the Conventions of the International Labor Organization of the U.N.

o       We should support their demand that Iraqi’s labor movement have a major role in deciding how the country should be run, how its resources should be owned and managed, and what conditions will prevail for Iraqi’s workers and unemployed.

o       We can help them build a democratic, labor-friendly, secular Iraq—one that provides peace, justice, dignity, and prosperity for all its population, regardless of religious or ethnic affiliation.

o       Our contributions will go a long way to help Iraqi unions put out newspapers and educational materials, support organizers, buy office equipment, and pay the costs of conferences that bring workers together from around Iraq.

·        BUILD WORKER-TO-WORKER SOLIDARITY-PLEASE MAKE A GENEROUS PERSONAL DONATION TO THE IRAQI LABOR SOLIDARITY FUND.

·        ASK YOUR UNION, CHURCH, AND COMMUNITY ORGANIZATION TO CONTRIBUTE.

·        MAKE A CONTRIBUTION ON THE INTERNET AT THE SECURE WEBSITE OF U.S. LABOR AGAINST THE WAR AT https://secure.groundspring.org/dn/index.php?aid=1822

 *A list of USLAW affiliates is available at http://uslaboragainstwar.org/article.php?id=3606