How Iraq Vets against War & Peace Groups stopped Senate bid to derail Iran Talks

(By Robert Clack)

In 2013, an unprecedented diplomatic breakthrough happened when the United States and Iran, along with other world powers, reached an interim agreement to lift sanctions over a long-standing dispute regarding Iran’s nuclear program. Not content with allowing for peace, on December 19th New Jersey Senator Menendez (D) and Senator Kirk (R), supported by the American-Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), introduced Senate Bill 1881 in an attempt to derail peace negotiations and set the stage for potential war with Iran. Despite successful negotiations, the bill called for more sanctions and for the United States to support Israel militarily in the event they decided to take military action on the country.

Press slowly began to circulate on the left about AIPAC efforts, raising questions about what kind of stand the anti-war left is taking on Iran. By late December the bi-partisan bill had gained 26 sponsors.

Upset by Senator Mark Kirk’s chief sponsorship and by the prospects of another potential war, members of Iraq Veterans Against the War-Chicago sprung into action. “It’s important to lead by example, to step up to the occasion and the threat of war,” said Navy Veteran and IVAW member Michael Applegate. “Our organization is about stopping war.”

In the midst of the holiday lull, 48 hours' notice, and a climate change polar vortex winter, IVAW Chicago was able to turn out two dozen protesters to a frozen New Year’s Day picket at Senator Kirk’s office with the message of “Don’t Ruin the New Year with War on Iran.”

“We wanted to tell the people in government we don’t want this bill” said Iraq Veteran and IVAW member Greg Broseus. “This bill was a way to spit on the face of the diplomatic solution and peace."

Empowered by the response to the action, IVAW followed the New Years Eve action with a statewide call-in day to the Senator and formed an ad hoc “No War on Iran-Chicago Coalition.” Despite the effort by the veterans and other peace groups, things looked dire by the second week of the New Year, when the bill grew to 59 Senate supporters. In response to the bill’s growing momentum, the coalition called for another antiwar Demonstration for February first.

Then fortunes started to change.  On January 14th, the National Iranian American Council, along with 71 other groups, released a public letter denouncing the bill and asking the Senate to give peace a chance. Various groups began organizing call-in and lobby days. According to sources, some Senate offices received hundreds of calls against the bill with only a couple of calls in support. The push culminated with Obama’s State of the Union address when the President himself brought the issue to national attention as he vowed to veto the bill.

On February first — another cold and this time snowy Chicago day — the newly formed No War or Sanctions on Iran coalition mobilized over 60 peace activist to the streets. The group marched to Chicago’s Vietnam Veterans Memorial where Veterans of Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan gave speeches against the sanctions and the new threat of war. At the solemn memorial, Vietnam Veteran and Vietnam Veterans Against the War (VVAW) member Barry Romo, spoke on the human cost of war. “As you look at the Wall of the names of hundreds who died, think of the names that won’t be there. People who died of Agent Orange, people who killed themselves with drugs, people who drank their lives away.”

As he said these solemn words I reflected on the human cost of war and the war weariness of the country. I think of those passed from my own community — IVAW Chicago members Anthony Wagner and Joshua Casteel — who died from the Iraq war, not in country, but from the same brutal aftermath Vietnam Veterans endured with PTSD, moral injury, and environmental poisoning.

As well-funded lobby groups, super PACs, and defense contractors beat the war drums, it’s important for the American public to honor and remember courageous men like Wagner and Casteel. Casteel — who was an eloquent Conscientious Objector, and Wagner — who was arrested as part of the Occupy movement and who took political action until his untimely death.  

The example of Syria and now Iran show the American public clearly wants a new way forward. This sentiment is the result of the millions who opposed war the last decade but also by the very real human cost our country and communities have endured.

On February 6th AIPAC itself backed off its own bill signaling defeat for the lobby and another significant victory for the peace movement. As the peace movement moves forward we must be broad in our vision in working to demilitarize a society and government that spends nearly half its national budget on military spending. We must also make the connection of this enormous military spending to cuts to pensions, food stamps, unemployment, mental health services and other vital human need services—programs the American public desperately needs in the midst of the worst economic situation since the Great Depression. In spite of this need, our politicians prioritize an expansive military industrial complex that has hundreds of military bases throughout the world.  Priorities have to change.

Iran has the right to Nuclear Energy, but in the aftermath of the environmental disaster of Fukushima, we need to also work with the world community in dismantling dangerous nuclear energy as well as nuclear weapons. We must be a peace movement that calls for the demilitarization of all world powers and that works to ensure all of the world’s populace be allowed to live decently and with dignity.     

Mirrored from Commondreams.org

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Related video:

PBS NewsHour reported last week on “Iran takes notable steps in nuclear negotiations ”

16 Responses

  1. AIPAC may have decided to back off, but it’s only “recouler pour mieux sauter.” As the time comes to transition to a permanent deal on Iranian nuclear activities, there is still the possibility (likely IMO) that Israel will stage some incident designed to make the Iranians into two-faced and dangerous bogeymen. In this connection I note the extensive and little-discussed involvement of Israel with Iran’s northern neighbor, Azerbaijan.

    If such a thing occurs, it is certain that AIPAC will be coordinating its US strategy with the perpetrators.

    Israel does not fear Turkey and cannot brook any other rising regional power. The ENTIRE PURPOSE of the sanctions program is to keep Iran down. The Iranian nuclear program is just the peg from which the sanctions are hung.

    • “The ENTIRE PURPOSE of the sanctions program is to keep Iran down. The Iranian nuclear program is just the peg from which the sanctions are hung.”

      This is clearly true of people like Lindsey Graham and Bob Menendez and AIPAC, but doesn’t the administration’s eagerness to work out a deal, suspend sanctions, and otherwise warm up relations with Iran demonstrate a split among sanctions supporters?

      From loose nuclear material in Chile to the Syria crisis to the NEW START accords, the administration has consistently made efforts to contain unconventional weapons proliferation and use a top foreign policy priority. Their actions in both sanctioning Iran, and negotiating an end to those sanctions, are consistent with that interest.

  2. Kirk claims the majority of the American people support his warmongering against Iran, when polling shows decisively that the majority wants peace.

  3. Thank you, brothers and sisters, you who know what war really means, in terms of the human toll that these effing chicken hawks and war wimps and shameless profiteers care nothing about, from up in their well stuffed perches high in the sky.

    NO MORE! You heartless bastards have had ENOUGH!

  4. And under the heading of “WTF,” and mostly under the radar, there is this little “situation” where the only behaviors the Overlords apparently are capable of is throwing napalm on the fire:

    ” Saudis and CIA agree to Arm Syrian “Moderates” with Advanced Anti-aircraft and Anti-tank Weapons”

    link to juancole.com

    Now let’s hear all the carefully scripted rationalizations about why this is “wise” and “necessary” and likely to be “effective,” and a definition of what “effective” is meant to mean, and why onaccounta Global Geopolitics this is the best that can be done. Does the Syrian nominal government stand or fall on the continued existence of Bashar Assad? Mossad and others have shown some adroitness in “removing” individuals, assuming their “interests” are not actually tied to keeping the horror you can see on syriavideo.net and youtube up and running… Maybe a poisoned cigar? or cellphone with a dab of Semtex?

  5. While the work of IVAW-Chicago is quite admirable, the claim that the unraveling of the new sanctions bill was caused by their two-dozen man protest doesn’t seem very realistic. One thing happened after the other, so it must be cause and effect, seems to be the reasoning.

    It’s important to understand how political change happens, in a rigorous and realistic way, if you hope of replicate political successes.

    • I see Joe is back to building his edifice of personal condescending credibility by undercutting the credibility of others, with lots of “corrective” little snipes like this. Where does the author claim it’s 12 vets in the cold that stopped the War Machine and AIPAC from ramrodding S. 1881? Maybe an inartful emphasis on the vets’ activities, but a clear notation that it was a bunch of people, a “coalition” if you will, that for the moment has been able to leverage a general-public distaste for more War Stuff on behalf of our bosses in Tel Aviv and down there on H Street in the Imperial Capital…

      • I think I’ll have “Building his edifice of personal condescending credibility” carved on my tomb stone.

        I have no idea what it’s supposed to mean, but it certainly sounds impressive.

        I’m pretty sure that’s the point.

  6. With all due respect for the actions of the Iraq Veterans, I believe stalling out this bill took the efforts of many groups and individuals, including foreign policy think tanks, church organizations, long-time anti-war activists and Capital Hill lobbying by both the National Iranian American Association and Jstreet – not to mention Obama’s refusal to budge on his veto threat (finally!). In fact, Kirk did NOT withdraw the bill or his support for it.

  7. I am encouraged to see that the men and women that actually put their lives on the line see the difference between actually defending their country, and serving as an enforcer for the imperialist designs of Bush Cheney.

    • “I am encouraged to see that the men and women that actually put their lives on the line see the difference between actually defending their country, and serving as an enforcer for the imperialist designs of Bush Cheney.”

      Perhaps you haven’t noticed, but the events under discussion regarding Iran are occurring under the Obama-Biden Administration. Bush and Cheney left office five years ago, and it would be unwise to suggest that they are still responsible for “imperial designs.”

      • Bush and Cheney (with help from Sharon) put in motion the wars which Obama faced when first elected. They created those “facts on the ground”. Obama’s role has been to react to them. This is indisputable.

  8. I acknowledge that Obama has continued, and even increased the vicious assault on people throughout that area. This interference in the affairs of other countries has been going on since WWII regardless of which party was in power. It is anti American for any country to want to use the resources of their country for the good of it’s people.

    • “and even increased the vicious assault on people throughout that area.”‘

      Wait wait wait. You “acknowledge” that the Obama administration has “increased” – that is, above and beyond the Iraq War – the “assault” on the area?

      “It is anti American for any country to want to use the resources of their country for the good of it’s people.”

      Odd, then, that the Obama administration is negotiating a deal that will enshrine Iran’s right to an peaceful nuclear energy program.

      • “Enshrine?” Is that what “the Obama administration” is doing? Iran already had the right to a peaceful nuclear energy program, as has been well demonstrated in this blog. What Obamanistan may be doing is trying to back away from a questionably internationally-legal embargo of the Iranian economy, as the limits of “our” power are being spotlighted. And from the pressures for another inevitably disastrous war thing in that already fragmenting part of the world.

        Why do you always step up to try to smear another coat of lipstick on the pig, to pitch out little “administration-friendly” talking points?

  9. Excuse me, that comment about since the end of WWII is incorrect. I recommend the book “War is a Racket” by Marine Corp General, Smedley Butler for a fundamental record of events.

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