Mourn the dead and organize for peace

Many mourned the death of 145 U.S. soldiers in the Iraq War this past Memorial Day weekend. Surely the deepest grief is suffered by mothers and fathers – both U.S. and Iraqi – who lost a child in a war that George W. Bush said was needed to seize “weapons of mass destruction.”

One of these grieving parents is Fernando Suarez del Solar of Escondido, Calif., whose son, a Marine Lance Corporal, Jesus, died when he stepped on a U.S. cluster bomb in Iraq. The father spoke to a peace rally at San Diego’s Balboa Park, Sat. May 24. “Instead of grabbing a rifle, young people should be allowed to have books,” he said. “With a book, an education, these young people can do more good for the world than with a rifle.”

Suarez said he hoped that by speaking out, he might save the lives of other soldiers “forced into the military because of lack of opportunity. For Latinos, especially, we need more opportunities for education outside of military service. I want everyone to remember my son as a loving and brave young man. He gave his blood to show the American people that Latinos do not come to take or to rob anything. On the contrary, we are here to give our blood to this country.”

Solar’s appeal underlined the disproportionate share of casualties suffered by African Americans, Latinos, and other people of color, including at least 24 who were not even U.S. citizens. The “poverty draft” sends mostly poor and working class youth to die for the interests of wealthy chickenhawks like Bush. Already Bush and his gang are plotting the next preemptive war against Iran. Again the working class will pay in blood and tax dollars if he gets his way. We should listen to a grief stricken father. Books are better than rifles. In memory of Lance Corporal Jesus Suarez de Solar, in memory of all who died in this immoral war, stop Bush’s war machine!

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Caging the foxes

The Financial Times hit the nail on the head recently when, after surveying the new tax bill, it said, “The lunatics are now in charge of the asylum.”

We would say it differently. Those in charge of the White House and Congress may be crazy but they are crazy like a fox – and are absolutely determined to change the role of the federal government.

If they get their way, that role will be drastically changed from providing for the general welfare to that of providing for the welfare of the likes of General Motors and General Electric, while making sure that the generals in the Pentagon get theirs.

They know that’s a tough job. But they think they’ve found the way: Enact tax cuts favoring the rich, run huge deficits – and the stage is set for cuts in spending for social programs because “there’s no money.”

David Stockman, Ronald Reagan’s budget director, put the theory into practice when he recognized that those favoring privatization of Social Security could turn public concern over deficits to their advantage.

The process was further refined under the leadership of then House Speaker Newt Gingrich who said the best way to kill Medicare was to “let it die on the vine” by refusing to fund it. How better to get government “off your back?” Nor did President Clinton’s “the era of big government is over” help matters.

When all of the rhetoric is stripped away, budget struggles are resolved on the basis of strength; more specifically, on who’s got the most votes. And that, in turn, will be determined in large measure by who gets the most votes on November 2, 2004.

Elections without issues and candidates pledged to support them will not do much to change the situation.

Therefore the challenge: What are the issues by which candidates will be judged? And how can they be brought into the debate?