Roosevelt Seeing Red Over The War In Iraq

Borough residents urge congressman to help bring troops home

Examiner – Thursday, August 23, 2007

Staff Writer

A green sign with that saying on it is a mainstay in Roosevelt. Located on a home at the corner of Homestead Lane and North Valley Road, the posting represents the sentiments of the Johnson family. Lately, locals may have noticed other, red signs expressing a similar sentiment popping up on lawns all over town. The new postings read, "Support our troops. End the war" and not surprisingly, the Johnsons have one in their yard as well.

As a leader of the Roosevelt Peace Action Group, Herb Johnson has ordered a bunch of the red signs from www.iraqcampaign.org and has been giving them away for free to any folks who want them.

Johnson recently partnered with resident and borough Councilman Bob Silverstein to reinvigorate the borough's Peace Action Group. Both men are also members of the Princeton chapter of the Coalition for Peace Action in New Jersey and recently had an audience with Congressman Chris Smith (R-4th District) to share their viewpoints about the war in Iraq.

The two Rooseveltians said that Smith has a good record on human-rights and veterans' issues, so they wanted to let him know that many of his constituents would support him in helping stop the bloodshed of Americans and Iraqis overseas in any way possible.

Silverstein said that Smith let those in attendance know that he believes Congress was misled by the administration in its justification for going to war in Iraq but that he feels America is making progress in that country. Smith also told the 12 constituents in attendance at the Aug. 16 meeting in his Hamilton office that America has an obligation to the Iraqi people to prevent mass genocide in that country, according to Silverstein.

Smith did not return calls made to his office regarding the meeting. Smith's press agent's secretary related on Friday that the congressman's press agent would not be in the office during the week of Aug. 20.

Silverstein said he expressed to Smith that he would not support the reinstatement of a draft in America to prevent a civil war in Iraq and would prefer to see the United Nations help stabilize Iraq.

Johnson said they left the meeting feeling as if peace groups will soon make a difference in helping end the war in Iraq.

"He wouldn't say yes that he would change his vote [on continuing to fund the war in Iraq], but he will have to think about it," Johnson said.

Silverstein said that Smith said he would wait to review Gen. David Petraeus' report next month on the recent increase in the number of U.S. troops in Iraq to further solidify his position on the war.

Although Silverstein is skeptical about the report, which the current administration first said Petraeus would give and then said it would deliver, he said he believes that Smith took to heart what he and the rest of the group in the office said. Silverstein said he appreciated the chance to look the congressman in the eye when telling him that he did not want to have to watch his children get drafted into fighting in the war.

When asked what he thinks will motivate the growing number of people against the war into doing something to stop it, Silverstein said he believes it will take something like the threat of a draft – which would have an effect on almost every single family in America – to motivate large-scale protests and other antiwar actions.

Both Silverstein and Johnson said they feel that many Americans care about the issue but are too busy with their daily lives to organize themselves for meetings and protests. They have been disappointed with the low turnouts for the borough's monthly Peace Action Group meetings and said that with additional members, the group could do more to help stop the war, such as conducting letter-writing campaigns and organizing protests.

A peaceful world will depend on a more just, thoughtful and sustainable society and a socially responsible economy, according to Silverstein. He said the governing system that continues to increase the gap between the wealthy and the poor must be overhauled. As a member of the Better World Project, Silverstein encouraged others to join such endeavors. The project, launched in 2005 by the Association of University Technology Managers (AUTM), an international, nonprofit membership organization, aims to promote public understanding on how academic research and technology transfer can benefit individuals and communities around the world.

Besides joining efforts like the Better World Project or local peace coalitions, Silverstein urged people to make their viewpoints known with actions as simple as wearing a button, using a bumper sticker or putting up a sign.

"A small act can help make a profound change," he said. "If one person stands up, other people will have the courage to stand up."

Johnson encouraged locals to call Smith and other representatives to express their concerns about the war.

"One sentence is all that it takes," he said.

He also urged residents to attend the next meeting of the peace group on Aug. 22. During the meetings, which take place at borough hall on the fourth Wednesday of the month, the group shows films and holds discussions.

Johnson added that putting up one of the signs that the borough's peace group is giving away is the easiest way for people to express themselves and start getting involved.

Silverstein said, "What better way is there to support our troops than bringing them home."

For a free sign, call Herb Johnson at (609) 443-1947.

Copyright 2007 Examiner

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