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Anti-war activism comes to California’s capital

Absent a national anti-war political constituency on the near horizon, local politics can point to a trend of note. Consider the activism underway to make peace a political policy for Rep. Doris Matsui.

Anti-war activists have been sitting peacefully in her downtown office for three weeks. A recent appearance by Cindy Sheehan, the Vallejo mother whose son Casey lost his life as a soldier in Iraq, gave this Sacramento “peace in” a boost. These protesters want a face-to-face meeting with Matsui to urge the Democratic congresswoman to vote for a binding resolution to end more funding of the U.S. occupation of Iraq.

Recently, she spoke with the anti-war activists by phone for just under an hour. On one hand, Matsui opposes the war and President George W. Bush’s troop escalation. On the other hand, she won’t put pen to paper to sign off on cutting tens of billions of dollars to fund the future occupation of Iraq. This phone conversation did not change her mind.

Why? Money for war talks powerfully in a national economy that for decades has relied on public subsidies to the military-industrial complex. And the war costs are the highest for Americans with the lowest incomes.

Consider this: In 2004, “the poorest 60 million Americans reported average incomes of less than $7 a day each,” according to the N.Y. Times last November 28 in an article based on IRS data. The tax dollars spent on U.S. military actions in Iraq in 2004 could have been–but were not–spent to help these low-income citizens struggling to get by in the richest nation ever, at least in terms of overall size or gross domestic product.

The Sacramento Coalition to End the War is challenging the current U.S. policy of allocating more tax dollars to wage war in Iraq. The site of this struggle is Matsui’s office in the Robert T. Matsui Federal Courthouse, named after her late husband who represented the district for over two decades.

After the January 27 anti-war rallies and speeches in Washington, D.C., and across the country, the local politics of peace will, for the near future, likely be a lively part of the nascent national movement to end the Iraq war and prevent a U.S. attack on Iran. Recently, a chapter of Peace in the Precincts announced the launch of anti-war protests in the offices of Rep. Dan Lungren, a Republican who represents Gold River, an eastern Sacramento suburb.


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