Peace is patriotic

When Bush invoked the Constitution in his prime-time ultimatum this week, pundits and politicians praised his “patriotism.” These same pundits and politicians have attacked anti-war protesters as being “unpatriotic.”

Well, look up “patriot” in the dictionary and you find it defined as “a person who loves, supports and defends his or her country.” The National Museum of Patriotism defines it as “Love for one’s country, to support, serve, and defend, to be inspired by, to change for the better and to care deeply for its citizens.”

Nowhere do they say “supporting war or the misguided and illegal policies of that country’s president.” To the contrary. The true patriot holds dear the basic ideas our country was built upon – those found in the Declaration of Independence, Constitution and Bill of Rights.

That means the pursuit of life, liberty and happiness, not the pursuit of war, oil or “pre-emption.”

Hundreds of thousands of anti-war protesters have come out across the country – and around the world – to oppose the Bush administration’s drive to war. They hold dear the rights in the First Amendment to gather in protest of the government’s policies. And they care deeply for the citizens of this country, including those who have been sent to fight Bush’s war.

The U.S. has deployed 225,000 troops to fight a war against Iraq’s 350,000 troops. But to speak of war in terms of “troops” sanitizes the fact that these are people. Brothers, sisters, mothers, fathers, children, grandchildren.

To protest for peace is not to protest against the troops, or for Saddam Hussein. It is to question the legitimacy of war, to express concern about the lack of diplomacy and to worry about where this war will take our nation and our world.

Those working for peace come from many backgrounds. Veterans march next to moms, students march next to seniors. What unites them is their patriotism – their honest desire to have their country do the right thing.

Taxes, taxes and more taxes

George W. Bush continued playing his favorite roles this week: policeman of the world and sugar daddy to the rich and super-rich who helped grease his path to the White House.

He has tied them together in a neat package known as the budget for fiscal year 2004. On one side of the ledger is the expenditure of $399.1 billion for the military, up 4.4 percent over 2003, with more to come when a Pentagon request for money to defray the cost of war with Iraq is factored into the equation, to say nothing of the additional money necessary to pay for post war occupation. On the other side are tax cuts totaling $1.6 trillion – $2 trillion when interest is added – on top of the cuts enacted in 2001 that have not yet become effective.

Given its Constitutional authority to initiate tax and spending measures, the House has already approved a $2.2 trillion budget resolution that broadly reflects the priorities of the budget the White House submitted to Congress in February. The battle has now moved to the Senate where the best that can happen is action that, the Senate leadership says, will reduce the cost of the tax cuts from $1.59 to $1.28 trillion. However, as Bush the First would say, that claim is based on sleight-of-hand “voodoo economics.”

But be that as it may, one outcome is certain: Reductions in public revenue of even $1.28 trillion – plus interest – will make it much harder to meet real needs in education, in helping to solve the states budget crises, in providing federal funding for extended unemployment benefits and in providing for “first responders.”

But “harder” doesn’t mean “impossible.” The budget process will end sometime this fall, ample time to get rid of some of its worst features. The challenge is to take the unity and militancy that has developed during the fight for peace and bring it to bear on the budget fight as well.