Organizing Our Discontent
Latinos must take a stand on the war against Iraq
Despite the fact the UN inspectors have not finished their investigation for the so-called weapons of mass destruction, much less rendered a report, the war against Iraq is imminent and the sending of the troops, destroyers, helicopters and bombers to the soon to be theater of war in the Middle East, is rapidly increasing.
Published on LatinoLA: January 16, 2003
Regardless of the facts or consequences, the indicators say President George Bush and British Prime Minister Tony Blair will unleash the massive assault, unless the peoples of both countries can halt it. Hypocritically, it will be done for freedom and democracy and in the name of the people, including us Latinos .
By their own accounts, the inspectors have found nothing and probably will not discover anything to justify the upcoming massacre in Iraq. As has been poignantly said by experts, with 260 billion proven barrels of oil, the war is nothing but a move to take control of the second largest oil reservoir in the world and to also place the region under US domination. Secondly the US economy is contracting and will worsen in the next two years and the president wants the war trump to offset the economy in the minds of the voters, thus riding the ensuing patriotism that will surely come, all the way to the next elections.
It may work for a while George, but not for long. On Saturday January 11, 20,000 Angelenos, including several hundred Latinos, flooded downtown LA and marched against the war. This has set the stage for January 18 when an estimated 200,000 or more antiwar protesters will demonstrate in San Francisco and Washington D.C.
And the war has not yet begun.
The rising anti war movement is on the move and way ahead of its Viet Nam era counterpart. As Tom Hayden has clearly pointed out, ?At this stage of the movement in the late sixties, the demonstrations in Washinghton D.C. against the war had only reached 7,000. Today?s protests have already soared to hundreds of thousands.?
And so it is, for in most large cities and many small corners of the country the community street vigils, the teachins, seminars, conferences, and major demonstrations have been a continous reality. It is said that the war has been delayed due to the early surge of discontent.
But after having said all this, my big question is, where is the Latino community on the war issue? In the ?70s, we had a strong grass roots Chicano civil rights and anti war movement in the barrios and in the schools and it made its historic mark against the imperial war designs of the Nixon Republicans. Today, Latinos have grown to 35 million spread throughout the country. We have a significant amount of regional and national organizations and elected officials, especially in key states like California. Labor in Los Angeles is certainly in the hands of Latino labor leaders, many schooled in the farmworker and civil and immigrant rights struggles.
The Latino Spanish language media, albeit conservative and owned by major corporations, is a factor in creating Latino public opinion and can be pressured. More, there is a proven 35 year record of major protests in the urban streets and in the fields.
From Delano in the late sixties, to the 1970 historic National Chicano Moratorium, the huge 1984 LA March Against The Simpson-Mazzoli Immigration Bill, a highlight of Jesse Jackson?s first presidential campaign, and on to the mammoth 1994 marches against Proposition 187 to the massive legalization protests of today. All these factors as a whole reveal an impressive array of Latino potential and intellect that if effectively mobilized can make a difference and move our numbers onto the playing field against the impending war.
Of course for this to happen there has to be an organized push from the bottom in the colleges, neighborhoods and institutions which can move Latinos to the forefront with the rest of the country. And we won?t begin from zero.
Last year, the California Latino congressional delegation voted unanimously against the war. Moreover, Latinos must clearly understand the Iraquis are not their enemies and the war will not help any of our communities. On the contrary, as the 1991 Gulf War revealed, we will be robbed again, for the money to fund the war will not come from the elite class, but at the expense of social programs, health, education and housing services among other resources that all of us are presently fighting for, including other communities of color and the poor in general. The war will only benefit corporate America, especially big oil and the arms manufacturers, and the close friends of the Bush and Cheney clicks.
In 1991, as Iraq was retreating in defeat from Kuwait, US and British planes needlessly slaughtered over 200,000 Iraqui soldiers. Since then, Iraq has been mercilessly bombed but Iraq has never bombed England or the US. Over a million Iraqui civilians, including 500,000 children, have been killed or have died due to the unending bombings and the imposed sanctions. Most important, the people of Iraq possess zero nuclear weapons, but the US has close to 10,000 nuclear weapons and it is the only country to have ever used the nuclear bomb.
These facts are undeniable. Latinos must know that the destruction of Iraq and its people will be carried out in our names, unless we act. Latinos are part of the world?s community and it is our responsibility to do our share to save human beings from the atrocities of an unjust war of aggression. We have to massively organize our discontent and let Bush and the right wing zealots that control the government know...it will not be done in our name.
Javier Rodriguez is an activist and a writer in Los Angeles. Jrodhdztf@hotmail.com