By David Swanson
[Remarks at Peace Vigil in Charlottesville, VA, on August 28, 2007]
Thank you all for coming. My name is David Swanson.
Ken Zelin who organized tonight’s vigil asked me to welcome everyone and say a few words.
This event is one of over 500 taking place today all over the country organized by Moveon and many other organizations.
Moveon provided me with suggested things to say, but – for better or worse – and with gratitude for their organizing work, I’m going to make a few changes to what they suggested.
Moveon calls what is happening in Iraq a war. It’s not a war. It’s an occupation. Our brave men and women who signed up to defend this country have been sent thousands of miles away to occupy someone else’s country. They never signed up for that. And the American people never agreed to it. A war is a contest between two armies. It can be won or lost. An occupation is a crime committed by one army against a civilian population. It cannot be won or lost. You can never win a crime. You can only stop committing it.
Moveon also calls what is happening in Iraq a civil war. But imagine if the U.S. civil war had been fought not between two armies, but between dozens. And imagine if, during the years of the U.S. civil war, an enormous Chinese army had occupied the United States. And imagine most of the violence directed not at the Union or the Confederacy but at the Chinese and their collaborators. What we have in Iraq is not a civil war. It is an occupation. It will not deteriorate when the occupiers leave. It is deteriorating now and will continue to go from bad to worse as long as U.S. troops are on Iraqi soil. The death rate in Iraq is double this year from last year, according to the Associated Press. The Iraqi people want the occupation ended. The American people want the occupation ended. Our active duty troops, when polled, say they want it ended. We need to cease all hesitation and bring every single troop, contractor, and mercenary home now.
Moveon wants us to urge Congress Members to vote to end the occupation. We need to urge Congressman Goode to do that. We need to applaud Senator Warner for suggesting that he might. We need to demand that Senator Webb finally do what we elected him to do. But we need to demand something very specific. We need to be aware that any bill ending the occupation will be vetoed. And we need to be aware that the Democratic leadership in Congress can end the occupation by simply announcing that there will be no more votes on any bills to fund it. Bush has plenty of money already in the pipeline to bring the troops safely home, and he should use it.
The Congressional Progressive Caucus organized 70 Congress Members last month who sent a letter to Bush committing to vote against any more funding except to bring the troops home by January of 2009. If Goode or any Congress Member refuses to sign onto that letter, he is saying that January 2009 is too soon to end this nightmare. Rahm Emanuel, a member of the Democratic leadership, takes that position and told the Washington Post that keeping the occupation going will benefit Democrats in the elections. I’m convinced he’s wrong. What will benefit any Congress Member, including Congressman Goode, is taking real action to actually bring the troops home now.
Four U.S. servicemen and women were killed in Iraq yesterday, bringing the official total to 3,732. Of these, 729 have been killed since we elected a new Congress to end the occupation. These figures do not include the tens of thousands seriously injured in body and mind.
We are going to take turns reading some of the reports of U.S. military deaths in Iraq this year.
Before we do, I think we should take a moment to recognize, honor, and consider the Iraqis killed over the course of our occupation of their country. The only scientific estimate, maintained by Just Foreign Policy, now places the figure of Iraqi deaths resulting from the invasion and occupation at 1,025,092. I’ll say that again: 1,025,092. Can we have a very brief moment of silence to recognize these victims of war.
Now, we’re going to all take turns reading. For this to work well, we should bring our circle in close together and everyone should speak loudly. This should take about 40 minutes and then we’ll wrap up with a few remarks.