"Dedicated to exposing the lies and impeachable offenses of George W. Bush"


War and peace Activists' ultimatum: Withdraw or impeach
Vermont Guardian
By Kathryn Casa
August 4, 2006

BRATTLEBORO — From veterans to grandmothers, more than 50 activists representing some 100 organizations in five states turned out for a Vermont meeting unified by a single goal: a quick and concrete plan to end the war.

And if it takes impeachment to get there, they said at a follow-up rally on the Brattleboro town commons, then so be it.

"It's time to move this to a higher level of national consciousness," said organizer Dan DeWalt, a Newfane selectman and the activist behind the impeachment town meeting resolutions that passed in seven Vermont communities earlier this year.

Participants at the July 30 meeting said that although they didn't agree on every point, there was unanimous support of a "Declaration of Peace" now circulating throughout the country and planned to culminate in a week of grassroots activism and nonviolent civil disobedience in Washington starting Sept. 21 if a hard deadline for withdrawal is not met. (See sidebar).

The declaration, already endorsed by nearly 200 individual U.S. peace groups including United for Peace and Justice, a coalition of 1,400 organizations, "is a pledge to take nonviolent steps for the immediate withdrawal of U.S. troops — and to engage in peaceful protest if a comprehensive, concrete and rapid plan for an end to the U.S. war in Iraq is not established and begun by Sept. 21, 2006, just days before Congress adjourns for the fall elections," according to the website http://declarationofpeace.org.

Anti-war icon Cindy Sheehan sent a handwritten statement to participants in which she called the Iraq War "the most pressing and urgent issue of today."

"George Bush himself said the problem will have to be solved by future presidents. That statement tells me two things, first of all, he is once again leaving his messes for other people to clean up; second and most important, for the sake of the world we need a new president," Sheehan wrote.

Sheehan had canceled her scheduled participation in the Vermont events after deciding to travel to Jordan this week to meet with members of the Iraqi parliament. But her absence didn't stop activists from New Hampshire, Maine, New York, Connecticut, and Vermont from traveling to Williamsville to discuss how to move toward the beginning of impeachment and the end of war. Later in the day, about 100 people turned out each for rallies in Brattleboro and Montpelier.

Francis Crowe — a Massachusetts resident who became a war tax resister at age 84 and later erected a transmitter in her Northampton backyard to broadcast Amy Goodman's Democracy Now! when the local radio station refused to do so — compared today's situation to the South of the 1960s. "Churches and black ministers were talking about Gandhi and nonviolence, the Highlanders Center was formed, and there were all kinds of black and white citizens' councils springing up, so when Rosa Parks refused to move it was just the kind of spark that was needed."

Dud Hendrick, of Veterans for Peace in Maine, said the weekend meeting gave activists the opportunity to network and support each other regionally. "Previously we'd been kind of isolated; now we're coming together, the leadership from various states, to coordinate our efforts, share information and ideas with the goal of seeing an expanded antiwar and impeachment movement throughout the entire Northeast region," he said.

Another Mainer, Bruce Gagnon of the Global Network Against Weapons and Nuclear Power in Space, said the coordination will help reach more people who oppose the war but may not know how to show it. "Polls are showing they're against the war, they're worried about the economy, but they're not necessarily moving into action, and we think they feel like the corporate domination of our political system is such that it doesn't do any good to speak out."

DeWalt over the weekend continued his criticism of Rep. Bernie Sanders, I-VT, who has refused to pursue impeachment, despite the Vermont town meeting resolutions and others passed by several county Democratic committees.

Immediately following the passage of the Town Meeting Day resolutions, Sanders issued a statement that said, "[P]eople who are outraged by the conduct of the Bush Administration, who want serious investigations of what they have done, and who want to see the United States move in a new direction, it's my view that all of our energy must go into the November elections with the goal of ending Republican control of the House and Senate."

To this day, Sanders insists there is no support in Congress to launch an impeachment investigation. On July 23, he told supporters in Putney that activists' time would be better spent trying to elect him to the Senate and Democrat Peter Welch to the U.S. House, according to press reports.

At the Brattleboro rally, DeWalt shot back that Sanders "doesn't care if we think the war in Iraq is wrong, that valuing our Constitution is right. All he cares about is where his contributions are coming from."

"We think we have quality politicians in Vermont. We're wrong. We have politics as usual in Vermont," said an energized DeWalt. "Our so-called independent congressman, Bernie Sanders, can't get far enough away from impeachment. He was not even willing to vote for a resolution calling for a ceasefire in Lebanon … he voted for Iran Freedom Support Act. That's our Bernie Sanders, independent."

In a statement e-mailed to the Guardian, Sanders said he has "vigorously opposed" Bush's "disastrous record on civil liberties," and "helped lead the opposition to the war in Iraq."

With this in mind, Sanders said he has signed onto H.R. 635, which is a formal resolution authored by Rep. John Conyers, D-MI. This measures calls for "the establishment of a committee to investigate the conduct of this administration. Unfortunately, we have virtually no realistic chance of holding these types of hearings unless we end one party rule in Congress," Sanders said.

Although less frequent than impeachment and Iraq, Israel and its fights with Hezbollah and Gaza also came up throughout the afternoon. Sunny Miller of the Traprock Peace Center in Massachusetts called for the United States to stop shipping weapons to countries that use them against civilians.

DeWalt repeated his call for a grassroots movement that politicians can't ignore. "If you think that we will get the Democrats elected and they will do anything at all without us, you're dreaming," he told cheering supporters Brattleboro gathered in the shade for several hours to hear the activists, musicians, and poets who took their turn on the clapboard gazebo.

DeWalt said after the weekend that petition drives have begun in Moretown, Montpelier, Waitsfield, Warren, and Brattleboro to get the impeachment question before voters in November.

According to declarationofpeace.org, between now and September Declaration of Peace supporters will:

  • Call on the Bush administration and Congress for an end to the war. As part of this, they will call on and visit members of Congress and all candidates in the fall elections to "declare peace" by publicly pledging to support and vote for legislation that brings the troops home and cuts off funding for the war;
  • Participate in activities leading up to Sept. 21, including marches, vigils, and nationally coordinated phone-ins and e-mail campaigns, calling for a firm plan for withdrawal;
  • If the Sept. 21 deadline is not met, declaration signers will engage in peaceful action in Washington, DC, and at congressional offices and other sites throughout the nation from Sept. 21-28.
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