Friday, May 23, 2008

Former Salt Lake Mayor Rocky Anderson To Participate In Antiwar Rally Concomitant To President George W. Bush's May 28th Utah Visit

Former Salt Lake City mayor Rocky Anderson, a longtime vocal critic of the Bush Administration who now runs a group called High Road for Human Rights Advocacy Project, has organized a rally for peace and human rights to take place at 5:30 P.M. on Wednesday May 28th, 2008 on the west side of the Salt Lake City-County Building at 451 S. State. Full story reported by the Deseret News and the Salt Lake Tribune.

During the hour-long event, Anderson and other peace and human rights advocates will be calling on Utahns to continue to speak out against the Bush administration and the "egregious human rights violations that continue to occur".

"This is not a partisan gathering," Anderson said in an interview on Friday May 23rd. "This is a gathering of people of conscience, raising their voices to communicate that we will not accept the immorality of torturing and kidnapping people around the world; that we insist on the rule of law; and that we will not stand idly by as the president acts in contravention of our Constitution, domestic laws and treaty obligations".

Unfortunately, Anderson will be joined at the rally by some rather unsavory characters. One of them is Daniel Ellsberg, the whistle-blower who in 1971 leaked to newspapers classified documents known as the Pentagon Papers, which revealed information about casualties in the Vietnam War. Anderson characterizes Ellsberg as "our generation's greatest voice of conscience". In 2004, Ellsberg started the Truth-Telling Project, urging past and present government officials to reveal to Congress and the public the truth about governmental wrongdoings, lies and cover-ups. He recently has been calling on whistle-blowers to come forward with any information about possible plans of the Bush administration to attack Iran.

However, this does not change the fact that Ellsberg deliberately leaked classified information to a source not entitled to it, possibly jeopardizing the lives of American troops serving in Vietnam at that time. I've always maintained that Ellsberg should have gone to jail and the New York Times fined heavily for having done this.

Rocky Anderson believes too many Americans have become complacent and have let their voices fade in the call for an end to the Iraq war and illegal acts by the Bush administration. "Their focus is on a new election," he said, "and they think this administration is irrelevant. But there is so much damage that can still occur. ... By all appearances, it looks like they're gearing up to attack Iran". The possibility of a preemptive attack upon Iran, which would be completely immoral and unjust, is a legitimate concern, and the Bush Administration must be deterred by all political means from launching such an attack.

Anderson has spoken out against Bush during two previous Utah visits by the president — both while serving as mayor of Salt Lake City. On August 22nd, 2005, he spoke at a rally protesting Bush's visit to address the Veterans of Foreign Wars. A year later, in August 2006, Anderson spoke at a protest when the president was in town to speak to the American Legion. And it was this second protest which unleashed a firestorm of controversy, even reverberating all the way to Alaska. A Deseret News story about the August 2006 protest can be found HERE.

Although current Salt Lake Mayor Ralph Becker is also opposed to the war and a critic of the Bush Administration, he does not plan to participate in any anti-war rallies or protests during the president's visit. While he's not been invited to meet with Bush during his visit, he intends to make time available should he receive such an invitation.

Bush will be in Utah on Wednesday May 28th to appear at fundraisers for presumptive GOP presidential nominee John McCain in Salt Lake City and in Deer Valley. He is expected to meet with the First Presidency of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints on Thursday.

Also speaking at the peace and human rights rally will be Marshall Thompson, an Iraq veteran and peace activist who walked the entire state of Utah calling for withdrawal from Iraq; and Kathy Snyder, a Utah mother of serviceman who was killed in Iraq and who wrote a book entitled "Not Another Mother's Son Should Die In Iraq".

An additional protest is planned for 6 P.M. Wednesday outside the Salt Lake City Library, 210 E. 400 South. Another unsavory group,, will host the Bush-McCain Challenge, asking voters to try to tell the difference between the policy positions and statements of Bush and Sen. McCain. However, I consider unsavory because of their close association with the unkempt and troglodytic Michael Moore, who engages in this hysterical "Bush Lied, Babies Died" nonsense. This is not responsible activism.

For more information about the peace and human rights rally or to make a financial contribution for the event, visit the PeaceAndHumanRights website.

Commentary: I have no objection to Rocky Anderson participating in an antiwar demonstration as a private citizen. As a matter of fact, considering the Bush Administration's desire to use war as a first resort, we can use some more antiwar demonstrations. In particular, we must oppose any attempt to launch a preemptive military strike against Iran, unless it can be proven that Iran. as a state, is actively furnishing weapons to the insurgents killing our troops in Iraq. However, Iran shouldn't be targeted merely because it wants nuclear capacity or because they disagree with Israel.

However, when Rocky Anderson AS MAYOR led an antiwar demonstration against Bush in August 2006, he crossed the line. When the President visits a city, it is the mayor's professional responsibility to represent the entire city and act as a gracious host. He failed in this task, disgracing his state, his city, and, above all, himself. He also sharply polarized the population.

But those who want to raise their voices against American imperialism abroad should not be reluctant to attend these events. While some of Rocky Anderson's political allies are a bit unsavory, we can't always pick and choose our allies in a struggle. But the focus of the protest should be upon policy rather than personality. Most people know by now that George W. Bush is merely a tool of the neocons, led behind the scenes by Dick Cheney. What's astonishing is that a disproportionate number of the neocons are "Israel-Firsters". More information on this aspect can be found by visiting the NoWarForIsrael website.

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