July 25, 2006

AFT Peace & Justice Caucus Action

From the AFT Convention.....

On Sunday, at its biannual convention in Boston, the American Federation of Teachers declared that it opposes the war in Iraq, calls upon the US for withdrawal of troops and military bases in "a rapid and timely manner," and directs the AFT to urge its local and state affiliates to work with AFT and AFL-CIO in working to bring the troops home rapidly. The actual resolution follows below.It should be noted that the resolution also includes the resolution that passed the AFL-CIO last summer, with all its outdatedness and weaknesses, but members of the newly formed AFT Peace and Justice Caucus were glad that we finally got the membership to agree that we OPPOSED THE WAR!Unfortunately, some pretty awful resolutions got passed as well, and I will report on that soon (as well as the exciting activities of the Caucus and its future plans). These included a resolution supporting Israel in its attacks on Lebanon (???????), which we believe will marginalize AFT, and another resolution in support of Chinese workers, which for the most part is good, but has some red-baiting in it, and fails to also condemn the US government and the multi-national corporations for their role in the exploitation of those same workers, due to its neoliberal policies.

Submitted by Andy Griggs

Amended Resolution 31: US Policy in Iraq
(as passed by the AFT Convention)

(bold type indicates language inserted by members of AFT Peace and Justice Caucus in the International Relations Committee, after narrowly losing an effort to substitute language calling for immediate withdrawal)

WHEREAS, AFT has always supported American troops in combat; and

WHEREAS, we have now lost more than 2,500 brave Americans in Iraq to date, and Iraqi civilian dead and wounded number over 100,000;

RESOLVED, that the American Federation of Teachers oppose the war in Iraq, and call upon our country's leaders to withdraw all troops, bases, and operations in a rapid and timely manner and to put a stop to the unending military presence that will waste lives and resources, undermine our nation's security and weaken our military; and

RESOLVED, that the AFT support AFL-CIO Resolution 53, below, on the war in Iraq; and

RESOLVED, that the AFT actively encourage its state and local affiliates to join AFT in working with the AFL-CIO to end the war in Iraq and bring our troops home rapidly.

Well it is just too bad that our national organization is still too squemish to get involved in an issue that is killing OUR STUDENTS.

July 23, 2006

Sad Results of Israeli Strikes....

This story just rips your heart out. And remember folks, the Israelis are using American made weaponry paid for through our tax dollars....

Collateral Damage
An Israeli air strike in southern Lebanon hits a bus filled with women and children trying to flee the region, raising questions about whether Israel is doing enough to avoid civilian casualties.

By Kevin Sites, Sun Jul 23, 9:02 PM ET

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TYRE, Lebanon -- Israeli air strikes are taking a tremendous toll on the civilian population in southern Lebanon, with an attack Sunday on a bus filled with women and children that left three dead and 13 injured, many of them severely.

At Jabal Amel Hospital in the southern city of Tyre, where most of the victims were taken after the incident, Rhonda Shaloub is wheeled into a recovery room next to her 15-year-old niece, Radije, following emergency surgery.

Their faces are both mummy-wrapped with gauze bandages. There are openings only for their noses and mouths. What can be seen of their faces is deeply disturbing. There is blood seeping at the edges of Rhonda's bandages, while Radije's lips are stitched with medical sutures, the skin on her chin speckled with red tissue damage caused by the blast.

Rhonda is still deeply sedated from surgery, but when she does regain consciousness she will be told that her husband and her mother are dead, both killed when the bus was hit.

A nurse at the hospital says the victims were traveling from their village of Tairi, fleeing north because of the air strikes, when their own bus was hit.

In another room down the hallway, another victim of the bus attack, Radia Shaitoo, raises her bandaged and broken arm near her face, which is covered with tiny blast lacerations. She rolls her head back and forth on the pillow and moans almost as if she is sick. She mumbles something like, "only people with no religion would do this," an insult against

The bus incident is the latest, and one of the most dramatic, illustrations of civilians being killed and wounded by Israeli air strikes, which Israel claims are focused on Hezbollah forces and weapons. Yet the strikes are having a punishing effect on the general Lebanese population and infrastructure.

Shell shock in Tyre » View

"People are starting to realize this isn't a war against Hezbollah," says Timor Goksel, former head of the U.N. peacekeeping force in southern Lebanon for more than 25 years. "It's a war against the country, against the infrastructure."

Some analysts have theorized that with attacks against civilians and non-military installations, Israel is trying to turn the Lebanese population against Hezbollah by making them pay a price as Hezbollah's host nation. Goksel says the strategy will never work, since Hezbollah isn't just an organization, but part of the fabric of Shia society.

"I spent a lot of time in the south," he says. "I've seen women down there attack Israeli tanks with knives. You're not going to turn these people against Hezbollah by making their lives miserable."

At the entrance to Jabel Amel Hospital, an exhausted medical technician, Bassem Mteirek, lies on an empty gurney, taking a short break from the flood of patients.
"We've seen more than 400 people come through this hospital in the last ten days," he says, shaking his head.

At the base of the gurney is a suitcase covered with blood. It belonged to one of the passengers on the bus. A man comes out of the entrance, talking on the telephone. He has lost his wife in the attack. He says he's too heartbroken to speak. He picks up the suitcase and walks back inside.
In another hospital room inside, Aneza Hamza lies in bed with a head injury and a broken leg, a victim of an earlier air strike. When I approach her, she covers the bandages on her head with her scarf. She is an older woman, but despite her injuries smiles beatifically and seems almost cheerful.

Aneza Hamza

"What can we do," she says, with a slight shrug.

Imani Darwish doesn't have a scratch but lost her husband and four of her eight children in an air strike against an apartment building in Tyre. The only reason she is alive, she says, is because one of her daughters was in the hospital, pregnant, and she was visiting. She shows no sign of grief or emotion about the loss.

"We can't cry every day," she says. "What good will that do? It's all up to God what happens."
Amina Shaloub and her 12-year-old son, Hussein, were victims of an air strike against a civil defense building in Tyre. Her face has the now familiar marks of blast trauma. Her son took shrapnel in the stomach, which had to be removed by surgeons.

"I'm happy for my life and I'm happy for the life of my son," she says. "But it doesn't really matter if we live or die. Whatever [happens] is God's will."
Asked if they can ever live in peace with Israel, especially after the toll from the recent air strikes, she is surprisingly conciliatory.

"If they stop bombing the women and children, if they let us live in freedom," she says, "then we can live with them like family, like brothers and sisters."

July 16, 2006

NEA Representative Assembly--Orlando

The NEA held it's representative assembly in Orlando over the 4th of July holiday. The major peace and justice issuses that came up were as follows...* We asked President Reg Weaver what the NEA had done in the previous year after we adopted a call for a timetable for withdrawl from Iraq at the last rep. assembly. The President admitted on the floor of the RA that the national leadership had not yet taken any action on that New Business Item. Supposedly, the leadership will try to do something this year but there are no promises. (My own editorial comment here: This is frustrating when the elected body of representatives votes for such a commitment by our organization and then one year later nothing has been done. I urge you to e-mail President Reg Weaver and express your concern. Kudos to Andy Griggs from California for asking the question at RA!)* We failed to get a new business item discussed on the floor asking for a pull out of the troops. It was met with the old "Object to Consideration" trick. I should say that the body was pretty well split on the issue however.* We did get a commitment to give NEA's assistance (and some money) to assist the striking teachers in Oaxaca, Mexico.* Iowa's delegation raised a large amount of money to send to schools in Chiapas, Mexico. A big thanks to Muscatine's Carol Kula who donated $30 a month to the cause!* Another issue that was debated was whether the NEA should sponser/co-sponser a march on Washington D.C. to try and influence the nation and Supreme Court over the desegregation case that will be heard next year. This case could alter the desegregation plans of schools around the country. The R.A. did not feel it necessary to sponser a march based on a huge cost estimate and a doubt on some peoples' part that marches are effective anymore. Instead the NEA is filing an amicus brief with the court.Enrollment in NEA Peace and Justice continues to grow. In our Iowa delegation we signed up more people than we had last year thanks to the velvet touch of Tom Wolfe.