The following is adapted from a speech at a March 20 antiwar gathering at Chicago Methodist Temple.
Insofar as we are meeting in a house of worship, I would like to begin with a little scripture. The Book of Proverbs reports that there are six things that the Lord hates:
A proud and haughty look; A lying tongue; Hands that shed innocent blood; Heart that devises wicked imaginations; Feet that run to mischief; A false witness that speaks lies; and One who sows discord in families.
The Book of Proverbs also tells us that “the greedy man stirs up strife.”
That’s what this war is about: greed. It was the reason for the war, the way it has been carried out, and why our troops are still there.
We talk about the $87 billion that Bush requested, and got from the Congress, for the war. But it has already cost more money than that.
As of March 19, according to the Congressional Budget Office, the war has cost $107,093,500,000! And that is just the cost to the United States government. That doesn’t include the cost to the people who have lost sons and daughters; it doesn’t include the cost to the people of Iraq.
Do you know what you can do with that amount of money?
You can provide every child on earth with enough food, basic medical care, primary education and clean water for three and one-quarter years.
You can cover the costs of all UN peacekeeping missions (in 1996) for 80 years.
You can finance the budget of UNICEF (United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund) for 80 years.
And get this – you can cover the budget of the WHO (World Health Organization) for 250 years!
But look at what they are doing with it! And who is paying for it? We are, and our children and grandchildren. The wealthy aren’t paying for it. Bush has just given them huge tax cuts. And he wants to make those tax cuts permanent, which will cause a $6.3 trillion federal deficit over the next 10 years.
You can’t separate Bush’s war agenda abroad from his war agenda at home. He is eliminating overtime pay for millions of workers. Funding for job training, education, housing, health care and Social Security are all under attack. The labor movement is singled out for special attention: imposing new regulations designed to hamper the ability of the movement to organize effectively; preventing unions from mobilizing the membership to participate in elections; rolling back the social legislation fought for and won with so much blood and pain 70 years ago.
Under George Bush we have lost 2.9 million private-sector jobs. We have some 15 million U.S. workers unemployed, underemployed or too discouraged to continue looking for jobs.
There is no evidence Iraq was involved in 9/11. Iraq posed no imminent threat to the United States. There is no evidence of weapons of mass destruction.
There is evidence that this was planned from the very moment Bush took office. There is evidence that companies like Halliburton, which still pays the vice president of the U.S. some $150,000 per year in “deferred compensation,” have profited mightily at taxpayer expense.
Iraq teeters on the brink of malnutrition, chaos and civil war while multinational corporations scramble to divide up Iraq’s national resources.
At home, we teeter on the brink of failing schools and health care, the permanent end of livelihoods of millions of manufacturing and technical workers, while the same corporations violate our rights, fight our unions, abandon our communities, and export our jobs.
Terrorism doesn’t spring out of nowhere. If we want to stop terrorism, then we must stop our government from engaging in it. It was the U.S. government that supplied Osama Bin Laden for years in Afghanistan. And who gave Saddam Hussein his chemical weapons capability? It was the U.S. government. Who funded the terrorists in Nicaragua and Chile? Who funded the terrorists under Jonas Savimbi in Angola? Who funded the death squads in El Salvador and Guatemala?
Sometimes it’s hard to be an American. The injustice that is done in our names! The arrogance of our leaders! The exploitation. The lies.
But I can still fly the flag on the Fourth of July. Would you like to know why? Because my country is not the country of George W. Bush. My country is the country of Cesar Chavez, of Paul Robeson, Rosa Parks, and Dorothy Day. My country is the country of the Haymarket Martyrs and the Flint Sit-Down Strikers. My country is the country of Dr. Martin Luther King. And the question he posed to us nearly 40 years ago still challenges us today: “Where do we go from here, chaos or community?”
There will be many marches this year. But the most important march this year will be in November. Get your neighbors, your family and your friends, and march to the polls. Vote for community!
Tim Yeager is financial secretary/treasurer of UAW Local 2320. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.