(An abridged version of this piece by Coalition for Peace Action’s Executive Director Bob Moore was published today, with a nice photo, in the Trenton Times, the second letter).
While most Americans celebrate the imminent completion of US troop withdrawal from Iraq, most press coverage and analysis to date suggests that it was President Obama who single handedly accomplished this. At least Time Magazine made “the Protester” its person of the year.
It was actually the persistent activism of millions of concerned citizens that pressured Congress and even a Republican President to commit to the plan for bringing US troops home from Iraq by the end of 2011. I’ve seen that up close as Executive Director of the largest peace group in the region, the Coalition for Peace Action (CFPA), throughout the nearly nine year war.
CFPA worked very hard, even before the War was launched on March 19, 2003, to prevent the War from being initiated. In the fall of 2001, CFPA lobbied intensively against the “blank check authorization” by Congress that allowed the President to unilaterally launch the Afghanistan and Iraq Wars. Of the fifteen members of Congress from NJ, five voted against that authorization.
CFPA mobilized for numerous demonstrations, vigils, and rallies; created and distributed thousands of fact sheets showing that the major reasons offered for going to war were invalid, and that there were viable alternatives to war; and organized lobbying to Washington D.C. as well as in-district.
In February 2003, CFPA sent a trainload of over 350 to New York for a huge final demonstration of one million, which prompted the New York Times to characterize the global anti-war movement as the “new superpower.” It was the largest anti-war mobilization in history before a war started. Tragically, it wasn’t enough to overcome the deceptions and pro-war determination of the Bush Administration.
Once the war broke out, CFPA continued and intensified its organizing to stop the war. It engaged in countless demonstrations, rallies, vigils, and marches; and organized petitions, lobby efforts, media work, and non-partisan efforts to impact elections, on behalf of the cause of peace.
In 2006, an anti-war majority was elected to Congress, and in 2008 President Bush signed a Status of Forces Agreement with Iraq to withdraw all US troops by the end of 2011. In the 2008 Elections, then Senator Obama emphasized his opposition to the Iraq War, and that was a significant factor in his victory.
I do applaud President Obama for following through on the plan to end the War. But the impetus for finally bringing all US troops home was the persistent pressure from the US and global peace movement.
Just as the Women’s Suffrage, Civil Rights, Anti-Vietnam War, and Nuclear Freeze movements brought major change after many years of persistent activism, so the anti-Iraq War movement played the major role in ending this war.
The Rev. Robert Moore
The writer recently celebrated his 30th anniversary as Executive Director of the Princeton-based Coalition for Peace Action, and is Pastor of East Brunswick Congregational Church.