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Working In These Times

Thursday, Apr 5, 2012, 11:15 am

Labor Coalition Warns Against War With Iran

BY Roger Bybee

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US Labor Against the War says "it is time to invest at home"

A broad coalition of influential labor organizations and leaders is urging the Obama administration to avoid any steps that would escalate tensions with Iran, which allegedly poses a nuclear threat in the near future. US Labor Against the War—which is independent of U.S. unions but affiliated with scores of unions and labor councils around the country—is alarmed both by the potential for a catastrophic U.S. or Israeli attack on Iran, and the resulting drain on resources needed to rebuild America's economy. 

The USLAW statement highlights the human costs of yet another U.S. assault, but also stresses how an attack on Iran would rob U.S. workers of the resources needed to rebuild an economy still wracked by high unemployment and falling wages.

USLAW declared in a statement last month:

the AFL-CIO National Executive Council said in its statement on jobs and labor’s agenda on August 3, 2011: "There is no way to fund what we must do as a nation without bringing our troops home from Iraq and Afghanistan. The militarization of our foreign policy has proven to be a costly mistake. It is time to invest at home."
…the budget crises at federal, state and local levels and their devastating consequences for working people make all the more urgent reductions in U.S. military operations and expenditures, and the transfer of those funds to meet pressing domestic needs…

Yet momentum continues to build for an attack on Iran, with Republican presidential candidates taunting the Obama administration as insufficiently tough toward Iran and supposedly hostile to Israel.

“We’re urging the administration to pursue diplomacy and avoid any precipitous steps like those that got us into the wars with Iraq and Afghanistan,” said David Newby, the past president of the Wisconsin AFL-CIO, which is affiliated with USLAW. It "has shown some understanding that a war with Iran would be disastrous, but the rhetoric of [Secretary of State] Hillary Clinton has been disturbing."

Current evidence indicates that Iran does not pose a nuclear threat. As recently summarized the results of a major investigation,

The report, citing breaking intelligence from current and former U.S. officials, outlines the less than dramatic realities of Iran's nuclear program, running counter to many U.S. and Israeli claims that Iran has imminent nuclear weapon capabilities. Such had been the desired justification for a joint attack on Iran.

“Yet we’re being told that the threat from Iran is imminent,” Newby said. “It’s so much like the lead-up to the Iraq War,” which was paved with misleading and distorted intelligence reports asserting that Saddam Hussein possessed 'weapons of mass destruction.'

The outcome was a war that destroyed much of Iraqi society, fractured the nation along religious lines, and caused the deaths of 4,486 Americans and "the death of hundreds of thousands of innocent civilians, including a half-million children," the USLAW said.

Still, even mainstream elite publications like Foreign Affairs publish calls for yet another conflict in the Mideast.

An attack on Iran by the US or Israel would unleash disastrous results across the entire region, said Newby. “The whole region would be in turmoil, with potentially huge risks for Israel.” This is a concern that even the ultra-hawkish Israeli Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman has admitted.

USLAW includes several international unions—the Amalgamated Transit Union, Communications Workers of America, United Electrical Radio and Machine Workers—and a variety of state and local AFL-CIO councils and dozens of union locals. Its mission is to be "the organized voice within the labor movement for peace and new priorities."

The organization's Iran statement was sent to Congress and the White House, along with its affiliates, the AFL-CIO and Change to Win.

Roger Bybee is a Milwaukee-based freelance writer and University of Illinois visiting professor in Labor Education. Roger's work has appeared in numerous national publications, including Z magazine, Dollars & Sense, The Progressive, Progressive Populist, Huffington Post, The American Prospect, Yes! and Foreign Policy in Focus. More of his work can be found at

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