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U.S. Peace Movement Shifts Focus Amid Changing Face of War

Amberdc, flickr

At least one peace organization got its start by coordinating efforts to end the war in Iraq. On this 10th anniversary of the start of that war, and with its end, that peace group now directs its attention to more than just war.

The initial meeting for United for Peace and Justice was in Washington, D.C., on October 25, 2002.  More than 70 peace and justice organizations agreed to form a new coalition to coordinate efforts to end the war in Iraq.  Over the past 10 years, the organization grew to more than 1,400 member groups around the world working on a broad range of issues. Michael McPhearson is the national coordinator for United for Peace and Justice and a board member of Veterans for Peace. He says even though the Iraq war has ended, at least nominally, one of the reasons there is still an anti-war movement is because of Afghanistan.

President Obama in his State of the Union last month announced the withdrawal of 34,000 troops from Afghanistan by around this time next year. McPhearson applauds the move, but says he would like to have heard that all troops were coming home. As for Iraq, though the occupation has ended, there is a way the peace movement draws attention there.

McPhearson was a field artillery officer during the first Gulf War, and in December of 2003 he returned to Iraq as part of a peace delegation. He says his son joined the Army and served one tour in Iraq beginning in 2005. During the Iraq War, McPhearson says the anti-war movement was front and center.

He says peace activists are now lending their voice to these other movements, yet still relating to them from an anti-war perspective, coming at them from the economics of war or the environmental cost.

Dr. Sidney Plotkin is professor of political science at Vassar College in Poughkeepsie. He says the nature of war and U.S. militarism is changing in a way that renders the politics of the anti-war movement more complex.

Though perhaps more difficult to target, United for Peace and Justice’s McPhearson says the anti-war movement persists in opposing the use of drones.

And Vassar’s Plotkin suggests that the peace movement may have traction with an unlikely ally.

He refers to U.S. Republican Senator from Kentucky Rand Paul.

With a new political ally or not, today, United for Peace and Justice serves as a network  of hundreds of peace and justice organizations around the world, working to end war and oppression, shift resources toward human needs, protect the environment, and promote sustainable alternatives.

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