Stop the killing in Iraq! Ceasefire now!

In the tiny farm community of Palestine, West Virginia, people sighed with relief that 19-year-old Jessica Lynch has been rescued from a hospital in Nasariya, Iraq, albeit with broken bones and bullet wounds. But the roster of dead, wounded, and missing is too long for rejoicing. Take, for example, Shoshana Johnson, 30, a single mother from Fort Bliss, Texas. She is still held as a POW. Or take Marine Staff Sergeant Kendall Waters-Bey, killed March 21 along with eight others in the crash of a helicopter. His father, son, and sisters will bury their loved one this Friday in Baltimore.

Or take the Iraqi women and children shot to death by U.S. soldiers when the vehicle they were in failed to stop at a military checkpoint.

The prospect of an endless cycle of death looms if we permit Bush’s plans for long-term U.S. military occupation of Iraq. Like the corporate CEO he is, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld blames the Iraqis for the soaring body count. But the blame for every casualty lies with the Bush administration, that insisted on launching this war in defiance of international law, the United Nations, and world public opinion. All the rosy promises that U.S. soldiers would be greeted as liberators were false. Instead, the Iraqi people see them as invaders. Now U.S. troops are poised near Baghdad. Will they and countless Iraqi soldiers and civilians die in bloody, house-to-house hand-to-hand combat?

In a speech on the House floor, Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-Ohio) called for a ceasefire, and bringing in the United Nations, to avoid a bloodbath. UN Secretary General Kofi Annan says Arab nations are urging the UN to work toward a ceasefire. Greenpeace has made a similar proposal to stop the slaughter. This war is a disaster that keeps getting bloodier, although not much of the mayhem is covered by our war-mongering media. Stop the killing! Ceasefire now!

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Patriotism and dissent!

Given the right wing control of most of the mass media, it should come as no surprise that dissent and patriotism – or, better put, the patriotism of those who dissent – have become the subject of debates as the casualties mount in a war that many people oppose and even more question.

Nor should it come as any surprise when Congressional Republicans join the fray with attacks on their Democratic colleagues who have spoken out against the Bush administration’s determination to launch a war with Iraq or that Donald Rumsfeld and the Joint Chiefs of Staff warn retired military officers not to weaken the moral of the troops with their criticism of the conduct of the war.

A case in point is the recent attack on Rep. Charles Rangel (D-NY) by a TV talk show host. Rangel, who appeared on the show, was accused of being unpatriotic for saying he did not believe in bombing women and children to enforce something against a lying cheat.

In a statement defending his remarks, Rangel said, “Nothing is more important than our freedom to speak out, to disagree. It is frightening that, in their passion for this war, some people are accusing anyone who opposes it of being unpatriotic. If members of Congress are going to be attacked for fulfilling their responsibility to speak out on matters of war and peace, then we might as well tear up the Constitution.”

We agree with the Congressman. Freedom of speech and the right to organize in order to influence or change policy and events – and with them the implicit right to dissent – are enshrined in the First Amendment to the Constitution. And for good reason: It is the only protection we have against those who would begin the process of tearing up the Constitution by silencing those opposed to war with Iraq.

It is no surprise that the attacks have all but silenced Congressional opposition to an immoral and unjust war. But it is a shame.

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