“So let us reach for the world that ought to be – that spark of the divine that still stirs within each of our souls. Somewhere today, in the here and now, a soldier sees he’s outgunned but stands firm to keep the peace. Somewhere today, in this world, a young protestor awaits the brutality of her government, but has the courage to march on. Somewhere today, a mother facing punishing poverty still takes the time to teach her child, who believes that a cruel world still has a place for his dreams.”
-President Barack Obama, December 10th, 2009, from his Nobel Peace Prize acceptance speech
When Obama remarked on young protestors awaiting the brutality of their government, he probably wasn’t thinking about the hundreds of Afghan university students who have been rallying against a U.S.-led raid earlier this week, an act of brutality that resulted in civilian deaths. He probably wasn’t referring to how four civilians were gunned down by Afghan troops, which NATO and the U.S. are using to successfully wage war and occupation in Afghanistan.
How does one reconcile the acceptance of a peace prize with the deployment of 30,000 more troops to a country for a war? How does one rationalize the continued use of NATO forces and Afghan security forces to further destabilize and ruin one of the poorest countries in the world with rhetorical flourishes that reference historic peace advocates like Nelson Mandela, Mahatma Gandhi, and Martin Luther King Jr.?
A new coalition of antiwar organizations, peace and justice advocates, and citizens of consience in America aim—the End U.S. Wars Coalition—aim to address such questions and will come together this weekend for a rally on Saturday, Dec. 12th, in Lafayette Square in Washington, D.C. Not far from the White House, they will challenge the Nobel Peace Prize winner President Barack Obama and his administration to halt the escalation in Afghanistan and stop the war crimes being committed in countries throughout the Middle East by U.S. forces.
Laurie Dobson, a lead organizer for the rally, intends to make sure Obama knows there is a consequence for his decisions. Dobson wants leaders from Congress to the White House to know the antiwar movement will respond to decisions for escalation or expansion of U.S. wars.
Organizers behind this End US Wars Rally also seek to engage and energize fellow citizens to challenge this “war party mentality” and also reject defeatist thinking and futile rationales, which have had a demobilizing effect on the antiwar movement in the past year.
Lynne Williams, a Green Party candidate for governor in Maine who will be speaking at the rally, says, “There’s a need for visibility.”
Williams explains, “A lot of people including a lot of progressive democrats really believed Barack Obama’s rhetoric and thought, ‘Let’s give him a chance. It can’t be worse than Bush and Cheney.’ Yeah, it can. It can be at least as bad if not worse. And the way it can be worse is not because Barack Obama does not have perhaps more of a moral compass but because so many people in the movement at least until recently” were not out visibly protesting war because Obama is president.
National World Can’t Wait leader Debra Sweet, who will be speaking at the event, explains that World Can’t Wait is participating in the first national rally since Obama announced the surge of the troops to Afghanistan because his campaign promise to make Afghanistan into a good war and increase U.S. forces should not be tolerated.
Sweet, along with other organizers, are compelling all Americans, from those who didn’t vote for Obama to those who still believe in the power of Obama to bring peace to the world, to come and join in the antiwar movement’s action this weekend.
“I really welcome the people who voted for Obama and in a sense the people still hoping for the best to be a part of it,” says Sweet. She adds, “Those of us who did not vote for Obama and were concerned for this very thing—We have to stick to our principles and keep making a noise about it and pull as many people into reality if we can.”
Sweet and others speaking and organizing for this rally believe the time is now for Americans to assess the reality of the situation. The people of this country should be educating their friends and neighbors on the situation in Afghanistan and at home. They should be providing information for understanding the true implications for expanding the Afghanistan War.
“Whether Obama stated something in his campaign or not, that doesn’t mean we fall behind his campaign promises whether they went in a certain direction or not. We have to hold him to account to be the best representative of the people that we can,” says Dobson. “The campaign is over but the process of becoming a respectable president has begun and he has fallen so short and it has become apparent to even the most hardened Democrats that he never was a true antiwar candidate.”