Shortly before the U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003, CLUW endorsed a statement at its National Executive Board meeting asserting that unions must educate workers about all issues that impact their lives, jobs and families, including foreign policy, militarism, and war. CLUW opposed the war, urged anti-war activism and participation in US Labor Against the War (USLAW), the first ever anti-war organization within the US labor movement. We became affiliates of USLAW around the same time.
The points made in that statement have been borne out through these long years of war:
*that the principal victims of any military action will be the children of the U.S. working class, and innocent civilians in the occupied country who already face difficult life and economic hardships;
*that billions of dollars will be spent, shortchanging funding for domestic schools, hospitals, housing, Social Security, environmental protection and healthcare;
*that war is a distraction from our domestic problems and a pretext for attacks on labor, civil, immigrant and human rights at home, and is a vehicle to stifle dissent at home;
*that the war would likely exacerbate misunderstandings and distrust that have led to an increase of terrorism around the globe;
*that military action undermines efforts toward peaceful resolution of disputes between nations, as well as the UN as a stabilizing presence in world affairs.
CLUW participated in many anti-war actions; we invited speakers, mostly wives of soldiers or female veterans, from USLAW and other anti-war groups to address our conventions; we passed resolutions at each Convention to renew our affiliation with USLAW and address emerging developments, emphasizing the huge, lingering impact war has on women and families, at home and in the war zones.
Now we are at the end of this long, ugly road, resulting in military failure, trillions of dollars spent, hundreds of thousands dead and maimed, millions displaced. We inflicted barbaric torture; we enriched military contractors, arms merchants and fossil fuel corporations to an obscene degree; we sent our children to fight and die for ill-defined missions and outright lies. We propped up weak, unpopular leaders, allied with corrupt warlords, and ignored the lessons of past wars with cultures very different from ours and opponents much more invested in victory in their own homelands than we will ever be.
There will be terrible consequences to ending our longest war, especially for Afghani women and children and those who have worked with the U.S. We welcome the war’s end nonetheless; we applaud President Biden for having the courage to act and for refusing to spill more blood and expend more treasure on a war we cannot win, an occupation we cannot sustain.
We applaud the brave members of our military who fought out of love of country and their belief that they could truly help the Afghani people. We must commit to providing every resource they need to fully heal from their physical and mental wounds and resume productive lives, and we must commit to never again send them to fight and die in unnecessary wars. We must also:
*provide humanitarian aid to the Afghanis, including those fleeing their homeland, and apply diplomatic and economic pressure on the Taliban government to protect human rights, especially women’s and female children’s rights to education, employment, and freedom from abuse;
* employ diplomatic measures to resolve international conflicts, through our membership in the United Nations and our alliances around the globe, only using military action as an absolutely last resort;
* reduce the U.S. military budget and redirect funds to urgently needed social programs, infrastructure repair and rebuilding, support for local and state governments, and job creation at home.