SAN FRANCISCO – Three Nobel laureates are throwing their weight behind an international coalition in demanding the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq and calling on the public to protest the occupation by taking part in nonviolent lawbreaking at U.S. military bases.
Joining the Global Call to Action coalition are Northern Ireland’s Mairead Corrigan Maguire, who shared the 1976 peace prize, Britain’s Harold Pinter, who won the 2005 literature prize, and Argentina’s Adolfo Perez Esquivel, winner of the 1980 literature prize.
Over the coming year, Global Call to Action has planned a series of mass protests along with civil disobedience in cities around the world. The first protest is scheduled for major cities worldwide on March 25, the third anniversary of the Iraq War.
Planned events ”involve participants risking arrest as a way of showing their conviction that the occupation must end,” said Danny Malec, a spokesman for the coalition’s coordinating committee. ”Furthermore, the actions will make it more difficult for those engaged in the war and occupation to ignore the opposition to it.”
The Nobel laureates had agreed to take part in the actions in some way, Malec said without providing specifics.
Maguire, who won her prize for organizing Northern Ireland’s largest nonviolent marches during one of the worst periods of killings there, said ”the USA and UK, out of fear, or worse, used the politics of revenge and the old ways of militarism, war, invasion and occupation of Iraq.”
Describing the continuing occupation as ”the business of violence, death, and exploitation,” she said in a statement that ”it must be blocked and stopped by responsible citizens.”
Pinter, who challenged militarism and the Bush administration in his acceptance speech, said it was ”crucial” that people grasp that the Iraq war was based on lies.
”The invasion of Iraq was a bandit act, an act of blatant state terrorism, demonstrating absolute contempt for the concept of international law,” Pinter said. ”The invasion was an arbitrary military action inspired by a series of lies upon lies and gross manipulation of the media and therefore of the public. To define the real truth of our lives and our societies is a crucial obligation which devolves upon us all.”
Esquivel won his award after initiating a campaign to persuade the United Nations to create its human rights commission and for recording human rights abuses in Latin America.
The three tenors join U.S. activist and Gold Star Families for Peace founder Cindy Sheehan, whose son died on military duty in Iraq, and signatories from more than 30 countries in supporting Global Call, the coalition said.
A number of public organizations also have chimed in with the call and are expected to take part in protests. These include Code Pink, School of Americas Watch, Peace People, Pace e Bene, Christian Peacemaker Teams, International Movement for a Just World, and Shalom Center.
Malec said civil disobedience was being planned for Washington, D.C., Boston, Hartford, Chicago, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Atlanta, and other U.S. cities.
Overseas venues included Rome, Pretoria, Madrid, Managua, Buenos Aires, and San Salvador, Malec added.
”As the U.S. population has turned against this war, we look to the support of our allies, the majority of the world’s population, as we transform our private discontent into public clamor,” said Joe Mulligan, Global Call to Action’s Iraq spokesperson. ”We invite people to organize wherever they are to help bring an end to this unjust occupation of a sovereign nation.”
Participation in civil disobedience could lead to legal repercussions, the coalition warned potential members.
Nonviolent civil disobedience has been used to foment change in unresponsive governments around the world, most famously in India, but has not been widespread in the United States since the days of Martin Luther King Jr. To what extent the public climbs on board with illegal resistance planned for the coming year remains to be seen, activists acknowledge, but they appear in little doubt that the public is growing more restless for troop withdrawal from Iraq.
A recent Zogby Interactive poll said that 55 percent of the U.S. public wanted a phased withdrawal of American forces from Iraq while 46 per cent favored an immediate withdrawal.
President George W. Bush, in his State of the Union address last month, ruled out a withdrawal of troops from Iraq any time soon.
”A sudden withdrawal of our forces from Iraq would abandon our Iraqi allies to death and prison, put men like [Osama] bin Laden and [Abu Musab al] Zarqawi in charge of a strategic country and show that a pledge from America means little,” he said, referring to the head of al Qaeda and the terrorist network’s top man in Iraq.
Bush is not alone. His predecessor, Bill Clinton, also has warned that American and coalition troops should not leave Iraq prematurely.
In polar opposition to Bush’s stance, Maguire said withdrawal is the only way the UK and U.S. can calm Iraq.
”Actions [like the ongoing Iraq war] bring forth counter-violence and have for the foreseeable future made the world a more dangerous place for us all. The occupation of Iraq should end and an inquiry into those responsible in the UK and USA administrations, who illegally took the world to war, should begin,” Maguire said.
With some 8,500 troops still deployed in Iraq, the British government announced earlier this month that it intends to lower the number of troops assigned there.
Britain has said in late March it plans to begin withdrawing about 600 troops on a humanitarian reconstruction mission in the Iraqi city of Samawah.
The U.S.-led war against Saddam Hussein’s regime began in March 2003. At least 2,248 American soldiers have died since military operations began and more than 16,500 troops have been injured–25 percent of them severely, according to official figures. By most estimates, more than 25,000 Iraqi civilians have been killed and some 100,000 wounded.
In dollars, total U.S. spending on the war reached $251 billion as of Dec. 30, 2005, according to Nobel economics laureate Joseph Stiglitz. That amounted to about $200 million a day or more than $138,000 a minute.