On Jan. 25, people around the world will protest the possibility of a U.S. war with Iran.
The local rally will be at First Christian Church in Eugene, and Rep. Peter DeFazio, among others, will be speaking.
“We’ve got to demonstrate that the American people collectively are going to wreak a price on politicians who support a rush to war,” DeFazio says. “I would hope that we see massive, nationwide turnouts on the scale of the anti-war movements during the Vietnam era.”
Organizers of the rally are calling on the Trump administration to work toward peace with Iran. They’re urging Congress to pass bills that could prevent the president from using military force in the country — amendments to the War Powers Resolution of 1973 and a repeal of the 2001 Authorization for Use of Military Force in Iraq. They’re also publicly condemning the Jan. 3 killing of General Qasem Soleimani, the second most powerful man in Iran, which ramped up hostilities between the countries.
The War Powers Resolution currently allows presidents to attack other countries without prior congressional authorization as long as they let Congress know within 48 hours. The House passed a nonbinding bill to stop Trump from attacking Iran again without consulting Congress. A similar resolution in the Senate has 51 supporters, enough to pass.
Oregon Sen. Ron Wyden is a co-sponsor of the bill. Although the resolution won’t become law if the president vetoes it, Wyden says its passage would clearly signal Trump is out of touch with Congress.
“This question of War Powers goes right to the heart of the power of the Congress to hold a president accountable,” he says. The bills would need a two-thirds majority in Congress to override a veto.
DeFazio says he has been fighting to amend the War Powers Resolution for years.
Wyden and DeFazio also support repealing the Authorization for Use of Military Force in Iraq. Trump cited the resolution, which presidents have used as a sweeping authorization for violence in the Middle East, to justify killing Soleimani.
What the protest could do
DeFazio says a good turnout on Jan. 25 could help bring bipartisan support to repeal the Authorization for Use of Military Force in Iraq and to amend the War Powers Resolution.
Medea Benjamin, co-founder of Code Pink: Women for Peace, the prominent national anti-war group that’s organizing the global protest, says the rally could put pressure on the president, too. She says the protest will show leaders that a war with Iran is unpopular and a bad choice for officials who want to get reelected or elected.
“I think the polls showing that Americans don’t want to go to war have already had a restraining factor on Donald Trump,” Benjamin says. “I think we can be part of the mounting pressure to stop a war.”
How did we get here?
The killing of Soleimani brought hostilities between the U.S. and Iran to new highs, but people have been worried about a potential war for years.
Since Trump withdrew from the Iran nuclear deal and started putting harsher sanctions on the country, Benjamin has been worried tensions between the countries would erupt in war. She wrote a book about the countries’ perilous history and traveled around the U.S. warning people about the possibility of war in 2018.
DeFazio says John Bolton, the former U.S. National Security Advisor, has been pushing Trump to attack Iran for years. He sees unnerving parallels between recent U.S. actions toward Iran and the events leading to the beginning of the Iraq war, which Bolton pushed for.
DeFazio says the war in Iraq was started with fake intelligence created by former Vice President Dick Cheney, Bolton and others who claimed al-Qaeda had weapons of mass destruction.
“This time, they’re not even pretending to have real intelligence,” DeFazio says. He says he learned nothing during the briefing he received that was supposed to explain motives for the Soleimani killing, calling it “insulting.”
Walter Smolarek, an organizer for Act Now to Stop War and End Racism Coalition, another national group that initiated the rally, agrees with DeFazio.
“This is not the first time the U.S. government has tried to start a war based on lies, but this is one of the most obvious,” he says.
Repercussions for Iranian Americans
Also similar to the post-911 era, a type of Islamophobic paranoid patriotism has been springing up, says Donna Farvard, an organizer for National Iranian American Council, an endorser of the Jan. 25 rally.
“Anytime there is tension with another country, you see an increase in harmful rhetoric toward that community of people, and an increase in hate crimes against that community of people,” she says.
The Council on American-Islamic Relations reported that more than 60 Iranian Americans were detained for questioning at the U.S.-Canada border in Washington state on Jan. 5. Up to 140 more have been detained on the border since the Soleimani killing, according to reporting by the New York Times.
The Los Angeles Police Department tweeted that it was “monitoring events in Iran,” and asked “every Angeleno to say something if you see something,” on Jan. 2. The mayor of Washington D.C. made similar calls for surveillance on Jan. 3 — which Farvard sees as open invites for racial profiling.
She says things are already hard enough for Iranian Americans, without the added sting of discrimination. She says she worries her cousin in Iran will be drafted into the military and forced to fight U.S. soldiers if a war starts. Farvard, and other Iranian-American families aren’t able to visit the United States because of what she calls Trump’s “Muslim ban,” which bars Iranians from traveling to the United States.
Farvard says it’s important for Iranian Americans to be visible during the Jan. 25 protest, to show they are as against a war as anybody else.
What can people do?
DeFazio, Wyden, Benjamin, Farvard, Smolarek and Michael Carrigan, 350 Eugene co-founder and organizer of the local rally, urge people who oppose a war in Iran to show up for protests, to regularly call their elected officials and to keep disapproving of the war loudly and visibly whenever possible.
“With this protest, I see a chance not only to stop a war with Iran, but to stop the Trump Administration from initiating other wars as well,” Carrigan says. “What really stands out to me — this is a global day of action — and that shows to me that we have hope.”
The No War with Iran rally is 2 pm Saturday, Jan. 25, at Eugene’s First Christian Church, 1166 Oak Street. For more information, search No Iran War Eugene on Facebook. Speakers include Johanis Tadeo; Springfield Alliance for Equity & Respect; Lex Worden, Sunrise Eugene; Michael Peterson, Vietnam veteran; Doyle Canning, candidate for Congress; Greg Evans, Eugene city councilor; and Rep. Peter DeFazio.