“The same shit’s happening all over again,” said Nancy Hood from East Bay Citizens for Peace. “We can not have this happen again. We must stop this madness. And shame on our four representatives for voting for this National Defense Authorization Act…”
Over a hundred rallies were held across the country on Saturday in response to United States President Donald Trump‘s assassination via airstrike of the Iranian General Qassem Soleimani that took place within Iranian borders, in Baghdad, on Thursday evening. Trump’s action has escalated tensions within the region and has drawn criticism from Democrats in Congress, who were not consulted about the assassination. Many now feel that the United States is stumbling towards a war with Iran. This has lead peace groups across the country to call for rallies against the possible war.
Here in Rhode Island, groups such as Brown War Watch, Providence Democratic Socialists of America, East Bay Citizens for Peace, Rhode Island Anti-War Committee and No Endless War or Excessive Militarism (NEWEM) came together for a rally outside the Rhode Island State House. About 150 people gathered in the cold drizzle to rally against the looming war.
“We’re here because we are very concerned about the escalation of Trump’s war with Iran with the assassination of one of the top Iranian leaders,” said Jonathan Daly-Labelle from NEWEM. “We want to build pressure and awareness on this to keep us away from another disastrous war in the Middle East.
“There are close to a hundred events happening across the country where we’re trying to [convince] Congress that they need to take immediate, strong and clear action to reign Trump in. We know what a danger Trump is and what devastation he’s all about, but in Rhode Island, what we really need to be doing is to reaching out to our Congresspeople, all four of our delegation. In particular we really need to be talking to Jack Reed and Jim Langevin who are on their armed service committees in the House and Senate. They had an opportunity with the National Defense Authorization Act to get amendments in there to prevent Trump from doing this kind of specific action. And they didn’t. We don’t just need press releases from them and statements using the correct words – We need them to take specific action…”
“This is like déjà vu,” said Nancy Hood of East Bay Citizens for Peace, which was founded 17 years ago in response to President George W Bush‘s invasion of Iraq. That war, said Hood, was sold under false pretenses and claims of threats to our national security. “The same shit’s happening all over again,” said Hood. “We can not have this happen again. We must stop this madness. And shame on our four representatives for voting for this National Defense Authorization Act…”
All four members of Rhode Island’s congressional delegation voted to give Trump the authority to launch such attacks, and three of the four have come out in opposition to Trump’s action.
After her comments Hood led those in attendance in song.
“I was born in Iran. I grew up there. I went to college there, which is why I, as soon as I heard the news of assassination, I knew how big of a deal this would be,” said Babak Hemmatian of Brown War Watch. “In my opinion, the war has already begun. I have no doubt that there is going to be violent retaliation against American forces in the Middle East…
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“I want people to keep the memory close in their head of who the real people who bear the brunt of what such a war will be,” continued Hemmatian. “Those people would be people like my mom who’s a retired primary school teacher who lives in Tehran, the capital. My cousin, my artistically talented, highly educated cousin who’s now serving, because of mandatory military service, in the army. He messaged me yesterday on Facebook feeling hopeless, feeling like a few months from now, he probably wouldn’t be alive. Or another core member of my family who suffers from MS. I’m worried she might not be able to get the medication that she needs to survive if war happens. And these are kind-hearted people, these are capable, interesting individuals that most of you would love to have as your friends, if you got to know them…”
“We want absolutely no more escalation. We want them to start closing down military bases, the ones that completely surround Iran. The people of Iran have to live under constant fear that any moment the United States could begin attacking. They have been living like this for multiple decades,” said Corey Joseph of the Providence Democratic Socialists of America.
“We want absolutely no more escalation. We want them to start closing down military bases, the ones that completely surround Iran. The people of Iran have to live under constant fear that any moment the United States could begin attacking. They have been living like this for multiple decades. “
“For the past year [we] have been working to build relationships with members of Congress in an attempt to get both the 2001 authorization for use of military force, which was passed just three days after 9/11 and the 2002 authorization which is otherwise known as the Iraq authorization. We’ve been working to get both of those repealed and we were very hopeful. The House passed a version of the National Defense Authorization Act, which included repeal of the 2002 Iraq authorization,” said Nancy Houston from a local advocacy team associated with the Friends Committee on National Legislation.
The repeal of the 2001 and 2002 authorizations were stripped out of the final version of the bill.
“We can now see why,” said Houston. “This morning, on the radio, I heard a Trump administration spokesman refer to the 2002 authorization as a legal justification for the attack they just pulled off.”
“Again and again we’re told that these wars are for our safety and what do you know? Who is it that’s repeating that claim the most frequently and the loudest?” asked former State Representative Aaron Regunberg. “It’s the politicians and corporations who have made a killing off of these wars. They have reaped incredible material gains, but we are the ones paying for their bloody profits. The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan will end up costing us somewhere in the ballpark of $6 trillion. As we talk about war. Let us all keep this in mind.
“Whenever any politician looks you in the eye and says, we don’t have the money for that, they are lying,” continued Regunberg.
“Today we are at the very brink of an unimaginable climate catastrophe. Australia is on fire. Families are literally fleeing for their lives, from walls of flame and smoke. Meanwhile, a recent study from scientists at the United Nations found that a mobilization of $300 billion could lock millions of tons of carbon back into our soil and buy humanity up to 20 years of time to address global warming – a real chance to save human civilization as we know it, for less than a 10th of what we’ve spent to destabilize the Middle East and make all of us so much less safe tonight.
“How many Americans will go to sleep, homeless on the streets?” asked Regunberg. “How many families are forgoing needed medical care because they can’t cover the cost? We have people who are sick. We have kids who are hungry. We have coastal cities that are drowning because, and I mean specifically because this system and its leaders and profiteers choose to fabricate endless war rather than invest in our future.
“We cannot let this happen again,” continued Regunberg. “And let’s be clear: Unfortunately, stopping this catastrophe does depend on us. I am not at all interested in hearing from the politicians, the pundits, the so called experts who supported the invasion of Iraq in 2003 and the nearly two decades of devastation that followed. We are the experts now and we need to take action together and to continue taking action tomorrow and the day after and onwards to ensure that the greed and hate and violence of this terrifying new threat is beaten back and defeated by our hope for real livable future.”
“It is a testament to how much our state does not want another war that all of you are out here to say no to a war in Iran. We will not let this happen. We cannot let this happen because it will kill so many people and destabilize the Middle East and it would be devastating for decades. But more than that, we have to talk about how we hold this dangerous president accountable. And that does mean, and this is a little uncomfortable for some people to hear, but that does mean all of our representatives in Congress in Rhode Island standing up and telling Donald Trump that he cannot make dangerous, illegal strikes,” said State Senator Samuel Bell (Democrat, District 5, Providence).
“And yes, I’m going to say it, that includes all of our Congress people, including Jim Langevin, who put out a statement that was unusually weak, that said that he was willing to take Trump at his word and that it might’ve been legal…”
Boos from the crowd.
“Yeah,” continued Bell. “Our Senators and Congressman Cicilline were willing to stand strong and stand up to Donald Trump… but we had a Congressman from a safe blue district not willing to take the farm line and speak out with truth about just how bad what Donald Trump did was. And I don’t think that’s right, but he needs to hear from Rhode Islanders. He needs to know that Rhode Island wants him to stand up to this dangerous president to make sure that he uses his voice and speaks out as strongly as is merited to say no to illegal dangerous actions like this.”
Bell then gave those in attendance Langevin’s Washington phone number [(202) 225-2735] so that people could let the representative know how they feel about his statement.
Nancy Hood led the crowd in a song.
“As we prepare to enter another war of false patriotism, to destabilize another region in the Middle East, we have over half a million of our people, sleeping and suffering out on the street,” said David Morales, who is running for the House District 7 seat in Providence. “We have over 44+ million individuals without healthcare coverage and we have over 46 million individuals living in deep poverty. It is clear our government for decades and decades on end would rather prioritize war and pour billions into the military industrial complex than prioritize and recognize the needs of working people. Working people and our taxes are forced to fund these wars. We have killed millions in the Middle East and overseas and at the same time are own people are suffering and have needs that have been unaddressed.”
“This is about more than the costs and the use our taxpayer dollars,” continued Morales. “This is about the lack of morality that we are showing on a global stage. We are failing to recognize human rights for everyone, regardless of their nationality, and regardless of where they live. 2020 will not be the decade of wars. 2020 is when we fight for a better future and we recognize human rights for everybody because I will be damned if we send our young Rhode Islander to go fight off in a war. Our youth of color, that have so much potential – young adults that are forced to go into war because that’s their only option for economic mobility. We can do better than that. We can guarantee them a high quality education here and a well paying job without the need to enter a war and kill innocents while at the same time risking their own lives because the media has portrayed this war as an act of patriotism, which it is not. Like I said, 2020 is not the year of wars. 2020 is the year and the decade where we end all endless wars stop endless wars, and it begins here.”
The crowd chants, “No more endless war!”
“In 2001, as we heard before, there was a vote for the authorization of the use of military force. There were 500 members of Congress who voted for this. There was one, only one, vote against this, Barbara Lee,” said Peter Nightingale, a professor at the University of Rhode Island.
“Today, once again, she is a voice crying in the wilderness trying to make the crooked straight, and as long as that doesn’t happen, we are an Empire… This week the imperial cabal acted, and committed a war crime an act of war that may start God knows what what. In recent weeks the Afghanistan Papers came out and they made it clear there is no oversight. Our congressional delegation does nothing. They just sit there and say, ‘Thank you for your service,’ while they are home. There’s no oversight. There is no accountability. I personally think that in this two party system of ours, there is no solution. I hope that all of you who work inside of it are successful, but I think that there is only one solution to our problems. That is massive civil resistance…”
“The problem is imperialism,” said Garrett. “Violence, racism, exploitation, these are all endemic to the economic and governmental system of the United States, whether you like it or not. No politician is going to help you. Sam Bell over here, talking about Jim Langevin and reed, they’re not going to save you. We need social movements. We need mass bodies of regular working people to challenge the system. Not the ballot box. Voting is easy, it takes one day, but you need a sustained movement to really truly challenge this shit.”
“This was an assassination… Nobody went through Congress. Nobody went through the Security Council at the United Nations. This was just a random decision. That’s a violation of every Geneva Convention and everything the United States stands for,” said Keshia Lawrence.
“I know that there are a lot of likeminded veterans like myself, men and women who can see this for what it actually is. We have entered into a constant cycle of war, not for freedom, not for democracy, not for security, but for profit. This needs to end and this needs to end now,” said David Andrews of Veterans for Peace.
Lauren Niedel, one of the organizers of the rally, read a statement from presidential candidate Bernie Sanders.
“There’s a kind of a defeatist thinking when we say we have to choose from who’s already out there. There’s better people out there. There’s over a million people who live in Rhode Island, so I can guarantee that Reed, Langevin, Whitehouse and Cicilline are not the best four of a million plus people in this state,” said Jonathan Daly-Labelle, wrapping things up. “It’s absolutely ridiculous. We really need to press them. We need to press them now, and then we need to get rid of them. Trump is the most existential threat in every way, shape and form, but we really need… to replace [our federal delegation] as well.”
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