WASHINGTON, DC- Over the past 2 days I have had the privilege to be involved in an anti-war hunger strike action, organized by CODEPINK, a major women’s peace group in the US. The action, TroopsHomeFast, has had broad support since it began July 4, calling for the immediate withdrawal of US troops from Iraq.
Long term fasters (now in day 24) have been in front of the White House, drawing attention to the illegal occupation of US forces in Iraq and the deadly cost to civilian, Iraqi, and US lives.
On my first day, I joined the action on the afternoon the Prime Minister of Iraq visited Washington, DC, and was able to participate in a press conference across the street from the Iraqi Embassy. Outside the Embassy, CODEPINK organizers called for a meeting with Prime Minister Al-Maliki, urging him to listen to the Iraqi people, not George Bush, and support the Iraqi reconciliation plan to end the occupation and withdraw the US troops.
After discussions on the street outside the Embassy, representatives of the Embassy said they would deliver the groups letter to the PM, requesting a meeting.
On day 2, I spoke with fasters in Lafayette Park adjacent to the White House, and delivered a message of solidarity from Vancouver’s StopWar.ca in front of the White House with a megaphone, as Bush and Al-Maliki held a press conference on the other side of the iron fence on the lawn of the White House. Tourists and passers-by clapped when I said I was a Canadian Member of Parliament, in DC to support the TroopsHomeFast action.
Later in the day we returned to the Iraqi Embassy, and set up chairs and banners on the street, awaiting the arrival of the Iraqi PM to press the demand for a meeting. CODEPINK supporters made a wonderful colourful impact, with pink banners, pink umbrellas, their trademark pink t-shirts, pink bags, and leaflets. Cindy Sheehan, a key US peace activist, and part of the CODEPINK contingent, sat calmly in front of the Embassy, ready, along with others, to be arrested for refusing to move after 3 warnings from police.
Intense negotiations with Washington DC police who were on the scene, resulted in agreement that the anti war activists would move to the end of the block (now cordoned off by police and teeming with Secret Service personnel in dark glasses), on the basis that representatives of the Iraqi Embassy would allow Cindy Sheehan and Medea Benjamin (organizer of CODEPINK and TroopsHomeFast) to go into a reception being held for the PM at the Embassy. As expected they were not allowed in, but resolved to return the next day.
It is wonderful to see the level of commitment, organization and detail of these American peace activists. They are so appreciative of support from Canada. They have a daunting task here in the US, and it’s not easy to get media coverage. But they do have strong cross-sector support. I have met a retired US Army Colonel, a US soldier representing, Iraq Veterans Against the War, a high school student, raging grannies, and many more.
CODEPINK displays a marvellous tenacity, that is creative and bold, and it is inspiring to see them in action.
Of course we have a massive job to do in Canada too, to defeat Harper’s drive to support Bush’s illegal and immoral wars. In that way, we need to develop stronger solidarity between US and Canadian peace activists, as shown at the World Peace Forum held in Vancouver in June.
I will return home with a stronger resolve to work with likeminded people to oppose military aggression and war, and the oppression and denial of Human Rights.