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Groups Launch “People’s Petition for an Iraq Peace Plan”

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Anti-war groups in the United States are announcing a campaign today to build support for a peaceful exit strategy from Iraq. We speak with the primary author of the “People’s Petition for an Iraq Peace Plan,” longtime activist Tom Hayden. [includes rush transcript]

On Monday, the Washington Post reported that the Bush administration is significantly lowering expectations of what can be achieved in Iraq. Officials are now saying the U.S. can no longer expect to see a model new democracy, a self-supporting oil industry or a society in which the majority of people are free from serious security or economic challenges. Many blame the continuing violence and lack of infrastructure in Iraq on the U.S. occupation itself.

Today, anti-war groups in the United States are releasing a People’s Petition for an Iraq Peace Process. Peace Action and Progressive Democrats of America are inviting other organizations and individuals to join their call for U.S. military withdrawal from Iraq and the appointment of a peace envoy to broker a political settlement.

  • Tom Hayden, the primary author of the petition. He is a former California State Senator and longtime antiwar activist.

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This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: Today, anti-war groups in the United States are releasing a people’s petition for an Iraq peace process. Peace Action and Progressive Democrats of America are inviting other groups and people to join their call for U.S. military withdrawal from Iraq and the appointment of a peace envoy to broker a political settlement. In addition to Kathy Kelly, we’re joined on the phone by Tom Hayden, the primary author of the petition, former California State Senator and long-time anti-war activist, joining us from Los Angeles. You have really spearheaded this, Tom. Can you talk about why you see this standing out from other discussions?

TOM HAYDEN: Well, we’re at a — good morning, Kathy, and good luck.

KATHY KELLY: Thank you.

TOM HAYDEN: We’re at a moment of opportunity for debate because the President is constantly talking about Cindy Sheehan in Crawford, and for the first time he’s talking about the demands of the anti-war movement. And once again, he has kind of talked about us in a way to marginalize us by saying we cannot pull out the troops now, you know, with the emphasis on “now.” So, he certainly is without an exit strategy. The democrats are without an exit strategy. And so, some of us have been meeting for the past several weeks to put forward a proposal for how we can get out, what it means to decide now to get out and how to do it, and we’re going to the grassroots first. We’re going to try to build a constituency that demands that Congress hold hearings on an exit strategy, the absence of one on the part of our government, and we’re going to build a movement in every congressional district possible to put pressure on before the funding of this war in January. So, it’s kind of an ad hoc petition, and certainly it will either catch on or not, based on the will of the grassroots, but we have got it down to five fairly straightforward points. If you want me to —

AMY GOODMAN: Go ahead.

TOM HAYDEN: Go through them with you, I will be glad to. Well, first of all, as a confidence building measure, the government, our government, has to declare that it has no interest in permanent military bases or the control of Iraqi oil. Second, the government has to set goals for ending the occupation and bringing all of the troops home in months, not years, and begin with an initial withdrawal of troops by the end of this year. Third, the government has to request that the United Nations be the monitor for any process of military disengagement or de-escalation and that the United Nations or some body blessed by the United Nations, authorized by the United Nations, organize a peaceful reconstruction effort. The U.S. has to fairly compensate the Iraqis for damages, has to assist Iraqi reconstruction, and at the same time eliminate the imposition of these privatization schemes over the Iraqi economy and the dominance of U.S. contractors in the bidding process. Fourth, the government should appoint a peace envoy, independent of the occupation authorities, independent of the Pentagon, to underscore the commitment to an entirely different mission, which is a peace process to end the occupation and bring the soldiers home. And the peace envoy — this is the final point — should be encouraging and cooperating in talks with Iraqi groups opposed to the occupation, including insurgents, to explore a political settlement. The settlement has to include representation of opposition forces and parties, power sharing and the protection of women’s rights as core principles, and so on.

What’s happening in Iraq is very interesting and is being entirely avoided by the media and by the government in Washington. A majority of Iraqis have said in polls that they want a U.S. near-term withdrawal. At least a third, maybe more, of the National Assembly that the United States has created has called in a letter, in correspondence, for the departure of the occupation. That’s the translation. A former minister in the original government set up by the United States has left, and is — has formed a political front for negotiating with 11 insurgent groups. Muqtada al-Sadr, the so-called Shiite firebrand, his organization recently in about a ten-day period collected 1 million signatures calling for U.S. withdrawal. Earlier this year, 100,000 Iraqis demonstrated in Baghdad for a U.S. withdrawal.

So, the reason — the reason that the United States ignores and the media ignores this anti-occupation movement, this peace movement in Iraq, these voices of Iraqis for peace and for pullout, has to be because it would be troubling to the American people, to say the least, to discover that the Iraqis, who we’re told we’re trying to protect, actually want us to depart. So, we think there’s momentum for peace talks to begin and undermine the whole model of occupation and replace it with a conflict resolution model.

AMY GOODMAN: Tom Hayden, just one question on the issue of withdrawal, for clarification. In terms of a timetable, again, just reiterate what it is that you’re saying. There are those who are saying now, withdraw now. What is your stance?

TOM HAYDEN: We went around and around on this. We think we’re being stuck by the President and by the media on this issue of now, because it implies, like, in five minutes. It’s absurd. The whole point about now is now make a decision to get out. And if you are going to do that, you have to have some kind of plan to offer the American people and other parties. So, it would be — the concept would be to withdraw the troops as a proposal to move the process forward. Begin the withdrawal of some troops this year, not next year as the Pentagon is hinting at, and get them out in months, rather than years. That would be consistent with the legislation that has sponsored by Jones and Abercrombie and Kucinich and others that I think calls for complete and total withdrawal by about a year from now.

Some in the peace movement think now means just now, not a year from now, and I understand that. We’re emphasizing where we are. We have to explain that there is a way to get out. Because Bush has pinned people down, I think, in believing — at least a third of the American people and almost all of the elected officials, believing that the war is a mistake, but we can’t just pick up and leave. So, I believe that it’s time to explain how to leave and what leaving means. It’s not equivocal. We’re not saying maybe we should leave, maybe not. We’re saying we should leave, and there are examples from other wars and other conflicts that we can explore as to how these things are ended, how these things are brought to a conflict resolution state, rather than perpetual war.

AMY GOODMAN: Well, Tom Hayden, I want to thank you very much very being with us, primary author of the Petition for Peace. We’ll post it at our website, and we’ll be interested in getting people’s response. You can email us at Tom Hayden, long-time peace activist and former California State Senator, joining us from Los Angeles.

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