During WWII, African American soldiers would wave a Double V for victory abroad over the Nazis and victory at home over racism. Similarly today, while we are working to stop the war in Iraq, there is a domestic front to that war being waged here at home on the poorest and most vulnerable members of our community. All of this in the name of "security." And all of this to the benefit of the same private corporate contractor few that claim to do security well, never mind civil liberties or human rights or economic justice.
Iraq and Immigration: Two Fronts of the War on Democracy
As we work to advance our progressive vision of rural Oregon founded in true democracy, human dignity, and justice, we see the war at home and abroad as our barrier. We are working to dismantle this war and the common systems and inequalities in power that have created the global war on “terror”, the war in Iraq, and subsequent erosion of civil liberties, breakdown of the safety net, and targeting of immigrant communities. Our overarching strategy is to build a growing movement of rural people committed global justice, peace, and real democracy that will be the undoing of all these wars.
What is the War Abroad?
The main stage for the war abroad is in Iraq and Afghanistan with the threat of expansion into Iran. It is the more than 90,300 Iraqis who have been killed in this war. It extends to the torture at Abu Ghraib and the detention without due process at Guantanamo Bay. It is the threat of establishing permanent military bases in Iraq just as the US has done in countless other countries. Beyond the US military presence, it is the corporations like Bechtel and Halliburton that drive the war and profit off of the war whether through business deals that place them first in line to access oil in the Middle East or through contracting everything from private security forces to drivers and launderers in Iraq who are paid better than US troops but are left without benefits or healthcare if and when they too are left wounded by the war. Beyond the Middle East, it is global corporations and their political counterpart, “free” trade policies that drive outsourcing of jobs and union lay offs in the US, destroy local economies globally by flooding their markets with cheap products, and briefly bring jobs to depressed areas before jumping to the next cheapest, most exploitable labor pool wherever in the world they might be.
What is the War at Home?
The war at home is the financial, human, and moral cost in the US of the priorities and policies of the war abroad. It is the cuts in services and collapse of infrastructure in communities around the US – healthcare, education, libraries, and other social services that our taxes could easily pay for if they were not going to war. It is the lives lost and damaged by the war, over 4220 US soldiers dead and more than 30930 wounded, disproportionately recruited from low income and rural communities without alternative economic and educational opportunities, who return to a government that has not prioritized veterans benefits, healthcare, rehabilitation, or welfare for military families. It is illegal wiretapping and the erosion of civil liberties, such as the so-called PATRIOT Act and REAL ID Act and expansion of unaccountable power through Bush’s Executive Orders. It is scapegoating and targeting immigrants in the name of the “war on terror” through divisive anti-immigrant legislation and ordinances that prey on fear, racism, and scarcity of resource rather than laying the blame where it belongs on corporations and governments that seek to keep workers vulnerable and unorganized. It is the militarization of the border, the rise of “homeland security,” and detention of immigrants by the very same private corporations that profit off of the war in Iraq. It is the treatment of groups of people as if they are not fully human and consequently not deserving of the dignity, rights, respect, or compassion that are inherent regardless of race, ethnicity, citizenship status, gender, sexual orientation, religion, or class. Topping that list these days are Iraqis, Afghanis, Muslims, Immigrants, Poor People, LGBT people, and the list goes on.
Dismantling the War at Home and Abroad
Unfortunately this is not a new war. It has been going on for a long time and the current manifestation that we see in our world today has been building for decades. What is unique right now is that we have unprecedented opposition to the war abroad. Globally and here in the US, an overwhelming majority are opposed to the war in Iraq. It is the tiny but powerful global elite led by the richest country in the world that want the war to continue. We have the people power, the ability to make change, that will end this war. At ROP, we are doing that through coordinate organizing in congressional districts that spans letter writing to town halls to direct action, counter recruitment projects, local vigils, and other community awareness and education.
On the home front, ROP remains committed to organizing for community services, support for veterans and military families, fair taxation, restoring the bill of rights, worker rights, and immigrant fairness. Of the many manifestations of the war at home, we are lifting up the war on immigrants as the most threatening harbinger of where this war on terror is trying to lead us – divided communities that dehumanize any “other,” no universal respect for human rights, corporate dominance, and perhaps most significantly, a working class divided along race lines. We believe that the strategies that will bring us closer to ending the war on immigrants will also bring us closer to ending the entire war at home and abroad. Through ROP’s Immigration Fairness Network, rural and small town human dignity activists are organized to respond to anti-immigrant activities from letters to the editor to ICE raids to proposed local ordinances. We have built and are expanding the IFN through small living room conversations and larger community conversations on immigration that expose the racism behind the anti-immigrant agenda and focus on common solutions to our community’s economic woes, including unionization and living wage jobs regardless of immigration status, fair trade not NAFTA, CAFTA, and currently proposed “free trade agreements” with Peru, Colombia, Panama and South Korea, and urge communities to affirm the standard of treatment they are willing to accept or deny to their immigrant neighbors.