As George W. Bush delivered a saber-rattling speech to a handpicked Republican audience in Cincinnati, Oct. 7, 4,000 protesters outside chanted, “Peace in the Middle East … Don’t attack the people of Iraq.”
Sister Alice Gerdeman, director of Cincinnati’s Inter-Community Peace and Justice Center, told the World it was the city’s biggest peace protest in decades. “There is great concern for the loss of innocent lives in Iraq and the loss of jobs here,” she said. “There is suspicion that Bush is pushing us toward war to distract us from our problems here at home.”
Bush, she added, “did not answer our questions. In fact it gave people more questions.” One elderly man, she said, held a sign saying, “My security is Social Security. Protect that!”
A new New York Times-CBS poll reflected these concerns. It showed that 63 percent of the people favor UN inspections rather than war against Iraq. The same poll found that 51 percent think Congress should be asking more questions about Bush’s drive toward war. An equal percentage say Bush has not exhausted diplomatic means of averting war.
A whopping 70 percent believe candidates should “talk more about the economy” while only 17 percent said candidates should “talk more about the possibility of war with Iraq.”
Yet Bush told his audience that Congress must approve now a resolution allowing him to launch a unilateral attack on the oil-rich nation. He offered no proof in his half-hour speech that Iraq is connected to the Sept. 11 terrorist attack or has the means to produce weapons of mass destruction.
A day earlier, Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.) accused the Bush administration of embracing a dangerous “preventive war” doctrine. He cited the administration’s new National Security Strategy, which states, “America will act against such emerging threats before they are fully formed.”
The strategy, Kennedy charged, “openly contemplates preventive attacks against groups or states even absent the threat of imminent attack. It legitimizes this kind of first strike option and it elevates it to the status of a core security doctrine.” Kennedy continued, “Disregarding norms of international behavior, the Bush strategy asserts that the United States should be exempt from the rules it expects other nations to obey. I strongly oppose such extreme doctrine. … It is impossible to justify any such double standard under international law. Might does not make right. America cannot write its own rules in the modern world. To attempt to do so would be unilateralism run amok. … The administration’s doctrine is a call for 21st century American imperialism that no other nation can or should accept.”
Sen. Jim Jeffords (I-Vt.) said he has listened to Pentagon and CIA briefings. “I have heard nothing, nothing, that convinces me that an immediate preemptive military strike is necessary. … Clearly, we need to get UN inspectors on the ground immediately.”
Appearing on CNN moments after Bush spoke, Rep. Mike Thompson (D-Calif.), who just returned with other lawmakers from a fact-finding mission to Baghdad, said he will vote against a “preemptive first strike when there is no evidence of an immediate danger of an attack on the United States. A unilateral war would set back 200 years of constitutional democracy in this country.”
Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-Tex.), chairperson of the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC), told the House that the CBC has adopted a statement against war. “We oppose a unilateral first-strike action without a clearly demonstrated and imminent threat of attack on the United States,” she said. “Only Congress has the authority to declare war. Every conceivable diplomatic option must be exhausted.”
A U.S. attack, she warned, would “undermine the moral authority of the United States, destabilize the Middle East region and undermine the ability of our nation to address unmet domestic priorities.”
Sen. Robert Byrd (D-W.Va.) told the Senate, “We’re about to give the President a blank check to deal with Iraq as he sees fit. I view with great concern the judgment that history will make of us for rushing into this decision in this supercharged political atmosphere.”
Byrd listed the concerns his constituents and people across the nation are raising: “How many casualties is the Defense Department anticipating? In addition to the cost in blood, there is also the drain on the treasury of $150 billion to $200 billion.” With House Minority Leader Richard Gephardt (D-Mo.) and other congressional leaders capitulating to Bush, a vote on the war resolution is expected by week’s end.
Gordon Clark, executive director of the Iraq Pledge of Resistance, told the World, “The more insistent Bush’s mad rush to war, the more people are saying, ‘No! Absolutely not!’ The message to Congress is ‘No war. We will kill thousands of innocent Iraqis.’”
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