CLEVELAND – “No war for oil,” thundered the Rev. Marvin McMickle at Antioch Baptist Church, Jan. 12, before a crowd of more than 600. Rev. McMickle denounced the Bush administration’s war drive, “We are negotiating with North Korea, but threatening to bomb and invade Iraq. What’s the difference? The difference is that Iraq has oil, and North Korea doesn’t. This war is about oil … Bush has ties to oil. Cheney has ties to oil. This is all about making Exxon, Chevron, Sunoco and the rest of the oil companies richer,” concluding that communities must oppose any war drive for as long as it takes.

The rally, was organized by a newly formed Intercommunity/Interfaith Push for Peace (IIPP), led by Rev. Mylion Waite, Associate Pastor of Antioch Baptist Church. The coalition includes representatives of Peace Action, Southern Christian Leadership Council, pastors and a representative of the Cleveland Council of Mosques. It was the first major organized expression of opposition to the invasion of Iraq in Cleveland’s African-American community.

In her opening remarks Rev. Waite said, “We must not go down in history as the first nation that ever launched a pre-emptive strike against another country.”

Speaking for the labor movement, Executive Secretary of the Cleveland AFL-CIO John Ryan told the audience, “it is the sons and daughters of the working class who will be called on to fight this war. … It is wrong for our government to make its first choice war, instead of health care, human services, prescription drugs and the other needs of our people.” Also present from the AFL-CIO was Pierrette “Petee” Talley, secretary-treasurer of the Ohio state federation.

Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-Ohio) said Iraq has not acted aggressively toward the U.S., and is not linked to Sept. 11, Al Qaeda or the anthrax scare. “Why is our nation prepared to spend $200 billion to attack Iraq? Why do we have money for war but not for health care? We spend billions to retire Sadam Hussein, but can’t provide secure retirement for our people. Why spend billions to blow up buildings there, when we can’t build and repair homes here? There is no answer except oil economics, the profits of the arms trade, and empire building,” he said. Kucinich has also proposed a Department of Peace, which would make non-violence an organizing principle for our society.

Pointing out the benefits of peace, Rev. Otis Moss, pastor at Olivet Institutional Baptist Church said: “What could we build with $200 billion? How many diseases could we cure? How many schools could we refurbish and re-equip? We could close the gap on Medicaid and prescription drugs. We could send every child in America to college. We could expand Head Start. This is what peace can do. The cost of war is greater than the price of peace. Rev. Moss referred to the recent round up of Middle Eastern immigrants saying “It is the immigrants today, but it could be any of us tomorrow.” Rev. Moss concluded by goading the Bush administration’s failure to find Osama bin Laden saying “Bush and Cheney can’t find you, Osama, even though they armed you several years ago.”

A number of other political leaders attended the rally, including several members of Cleveland’s City Council, a state senator, and Cleveland Mayor Jane Campbell. The mayor’s mother, Rev. Joan Brown Campbell, former head of the National Council of Churches called on Americans to “take the risk for peace. We can’t call on the whole world to disarm, while we marshal our troops.”

The organizers of the IIPP peace rally also announced that they would be sending a bus to Washington, D.C. for a demonstration on Jan. 18, and urged everyone to sign up for tickets.

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