- October 20 - Despite growing opposition by the American public, lawmakers are repeating the mistake they made before the Iraq war began: giving President Bush a green light for a muddled and unwinnable policy. Victories in Congress and the U.N. will be hollow ones without a fundamental change of course.
Contributions from countries meeting this week at the October 23-24 International Donors Conference in Madrid will lag far behind Iraqs needs. While making some concessions for international support, the U.S. continues to dominate the military, economic and political reconstruction of Iraq, alienating many Iraqis and other nations.
Facing deep budget cuts, deficits and unmet needs at home, Americans are angry about reported war profiteering by U.S. corporations in Iraq. Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chair Richard Lugar (R-IN) himself predicts that U.S. forces might be in Iraq for eight years or more. Everyday, more soldiers and civilians are dying. As they did during the long-drawn out Vietnam War, a growing number of U.S. soldiers in Iraq are speaking out in the face of Washington's intelligence failures and rosy PR:
In the beginning I was into this; we all were, Specialist Juan Castillo told the New York Times while home on furlough. No longer. We haven't found anything, no weapons of mass destruction, no Saddam, no nothing. And the people there hate us... Were conquerors to them. It wasn't supposed to be like that.
Major countries in the United Nations Security Council Russia, Germany, France say they won't commit more money or troops to Iraq because the new U.N. resolution does not spell out a strong enough role for the United Nations nor a quick enough pace in transferring responsibilities to the Iraqi people. These are serious reservations.
Peter Lems, AFSC National Representative for Iraq, says, The central question remains: will Iraq be defined by military occupation and foreign control, or the emergence of a civil society guided by the Iraqi people? The United Nations not the United States should oversee the transition to Iraqi self-governance or the seeds of discontent will continue to be sown.
The AFSC is calling for:
· fairness, openness and accountability in budgeting and contracts and an end to war profiteering by U.S. corporations
· a realistic plan to bring U.S. troops home and stop the mounting casualties
· a plan that puts reconstruction and the transition to Iraqi self-governance under clear U.N. oversight.
· repeal of the tax cuts for the wealthiest 1 percent of U.S. taxpayers to help pay for costs in Iraq and fund education, health care, public safety and other essential services at home.
The American Friends Service Committee, an international peace and social justice organization and co-recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize for humanitarian service during World Wars I and II, is backed by more than 85 years of worldwide experience rebuilding communities ravaged by war or natural disaster including Iraq. In challenging the current dangerous course of U.S. policy, AFSC draws on its substantial experience in peace building, reconstruction and humanitarian relief efforts, including in Iraq.
Available spokespeople (Bios attached):
Arnie Alpert, AFSC New Hampshire Program Coordinator
Jo Comerford, AFSC W. MA, traveled to Iraq in 2002 with an AFSC/Quaker delegation
Craig Eisendrath, Sr. Fellow, Center for International Policy and former State Dept. foreign service officer
Joe Gainza, AFSC Vermont Program Coordinator
Martin Gonzalez, AFSC Director for Community Economic Development, Portland, OR
Shady Hakim, Coordinator of Middle East Peace Education Program, AFSC Pacific Southwest Region
Peter Lems, AFSC National Representative for Iraq, led delegations to Iraq in 2002 and 1999
Michael McConnell, Regional Director of AFSC Great Lakes Region based in Chicago
Joyce Miller, Director, AFSC Community Relations Unit
Samir Moukaddam, AFSC Middle East Peace Education Program Director, Atlanta, Georgia
Dan Pearson, Regional Director, AFSC Central Region, based in DesMoines
Rick Wilson, Program Director of AFSC West Virginia Economic Justice Program
Martha Yager, Coordinator, AFSC New Hampshire Housing and Community Development Project
For additional information on AFSC, visit www.afsc.org or view the following stories from Iraq:
Human Face of War web site:
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The American Friends Service Committee is a Quaker organization that includes people of various faiths who are committed to social justice, peace and humanitarian service. Its work is based on the belief in the worth of every person and faith in the power of love to overcome violence and injustice.
American Friends Service Committee (AFSC) Spokespeople Bios:
Arnie Alpert is AFSC New Hampshire Program Coordinator, active in movements for economic justice, affordable housing, peace and disarmament, and civil rights. He writes and speaks frequently on workers rights, globalization and trade policy, and chairs the board of directors of the Campaign for Labor Rights, a national anti-sweatshop organization.
Jo Comerford traveled to Iraq in 2002 with an AFSC/Quaker delegation and spoke with more than 60 community groups throughout New England upon her return. She is Coordinator of the AFSC western Massachusetts office, which works on a broad range of issues such as economic justice and human rights.
Craig Eisendrath is a senior fellow at the Center for International Policy, a former Foreign Service officer with the State Department and a frequent guest on radio and television. His books include "National Insecurity: U.S. Intelligence After the Cold War" and the forthcoming "Bush League Diplomacy" and "How the Neoconservatives Are Putting the Nation at Risk."
Joseph Gainza is the AFSC Vermont Program Coordinator, where he works on issues such as the causes of war, and social and economic injustice. He is a former school teacher and has been a community organizer/outreach worker for an anti-poverty agency and an advocacy director for the rights of people with disabilities.
Martin Gonzalez, is Director for Community Economic Development of the AFSC, has been a spokesperson on peace, police accountability issues and education, and has participated in numerous Human Rights delegations. He lived on Bergstrom and Mchord Air Force bases during his childhood and is president of the Latino Network in Portland, OR.
Shady Hakim is Coordinator of the Middle East Peace Education Program of the AFSC Pacific Southwest Region based in Pasadena, CA, where he works on Middle East issues and domestic issues effecting the Arab and Muslim community. Born in Cairo, Egypt, Shady spent over three months in the occupied West Bank with the Christian Peacemaker Team in Hebron.
Peter Lems is the AFSC Program Associate for Iraq. He led a delegation of Quakers to Iraq in June 2002 to witness the effect of economic sanctions and a delegation of Quaker teachers and administrators in 1999 to examine the effects on education. In March 2001, he participated in an AFSC delegation to Israel, Palestine and Jordan.
Samir Moukaddam is the Director of the Middle East Peace Education Program at the AFSC Southeastern Regional Office in Atlanta, Georgia. An Arab-American who grew up in Lebanon and has been living in the U.S. since 1981, he is active in peace and justice issues including preservation of civil rights in the post 9/11 era..
Dan Pearson is Regional Director of AFSC Central Region based in Des Moines, IA and has a Masters degree from the University of Denver in International Affairs. Dan has spent much of the past year developing programs for children affected by AIDS (primarily in Africa) and programs for youth leaders (primarily in Asia and Latin America).
Michael McConnell is Regional Director of the AFSC Great Lakes region, based in Chicago. His books include "Sanctuary: The New Underground Railroad" and the forthcoming "Lost Voices: A Multicultural History of the United States." He is an ordained minister in the United Church of Christ and has served previously as associate minister of Wellington Ave. UCC.
Joyce Miller is Director of the AFSC Community Relations Unit, which works to establish social, economic and environmental justice for all people. A 1974 graduate of Harvard Law School, Joyce has extensive experience working in the areas of education, affirmative action, family law and civil rights.
Rick Wilson is Program Director of the AFSC West Virginia Economic Justice Program, which focuses on issues affecting low-income and working families through advocacy, educational programs, coalition building and research. A native of West Virginia, Wilson has taught for WVU-Tech and Marshall University and is a contributing columnist for the Charleston Gazette.
Martha Yager is Coordinator for the AFSC New Hampshire Housing and Community Development Project. She coordinates the NH Housing Forum, a coalition of human service agencies, advocacy groups, private housing developers and public officials dedicated to increasing the supply of affordable housing. Martha was previously Vicar of Holy Cross Episcopal Church in Ware, NH.