It fills my heart with hope to be with you at the 2003 World Conference against A and H Bombs. To meet with the representatives of peace movements from here and around the world is not only an honor, but also a new opportunity to strengthen the movement for peace and justice in the United States. “A Peaceful World Without War and Without Nuclear Weapons” is possible!

In the fall of 2002, the American people responded to the Bush administration’s war drive with a mass peace movement, not seen in the country since the Nuclear Freeze Movement of the 1980s. Our united efforts did not stop this senseless, illegal war, but it gave birth to new levels of united political action by millions of people.

Out of the struggle against the Bush doctrine of pre-emptive war, representatives of the peace, religious, labor, youth and student movements, and communities of all colors and nationalities founded a new coalition: United for Peace and Justice.

It is a coalition of over 600 organizations that represents national peace organizations and local groups that work every day to improve the communities we live in. But United for Peace and Justice represents far more than these broad organizations. Our coalition represents the emerging majority support for peace, justice and democracy.

Our first national action was to organize local actions on Dec. 10, 2002, International Human Rights Day. Hundreds of actions were organized. In New York City, over 100 religious leaders, Christian, Muslim and Jewish, blocked the doors to the U.S. mission to the United Nations and were arrested.

Then we brought the call for peace to New York – the city of the Sept. 11 attacks. Because people had seen violence and acts of terrorism with their own eyes, we knew that the people of New York, and our country, would stand up and say no to war. The Bush administration knew as well. The city of New York, under pressure from the White House, denied demonstrators the right to march.

Yet, the world was counting on the American people to say no to war. So together with peace movements around the world, we went ahead and called a national rally, though denied the right to march, on Feb. 15 under the slogan: “The World Says No to War.”

With meager resources and the power of conviction, United for Peace and Justice helped organize millions of people into the streets of New York City, San Francisco and in hundreds of towns and cities across the U.S.

The New York Times on Feb. 16 declared the world peace movement a new “superpower.”

But the Bush administration defied the rising democratic upsurge, pushing ahead with its illegal war in the face of world opposition. They argued that there were weapons of mass destruction that were an immediate threat to the security of the United States. That was a lie. They linked Al-Qaeda with Saddam Hussein. That too was a lie.

The Bush administration took the real fears of the American people and went to war. Now they are sacrificing the lives of Iraqis and U.S. troops to satisfy their drive to control that region of the world, to take over Iraqi resources, and to bring in U.S. corporations to rebuild the destruction they have created. Millions of Americans, who may have supported the war initially, have realized that Bush and his administration used every means possible to manipulate public opinion in support of war on Iraq.

United for Peace and Justice recently convened its first national assembly in June 2003 with over 500 delegates from 35 states. Our assembly also called for organizing against the occupation of Iraq and Afghanistan, and strengthening the movements for justice in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. We are organizing to prevent pre-emptive strikes against Syria, Iran, Cuba and the Korean peninsula.

Our coalition takes a clear stand against the Bush administration’s new nuclear weapon posture, which, for the first time since the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, makes a first-strike nuclear attack as a “legitimate” option. We call on the U.S. to return to compliance with the ABM treaty and to put an end to weapons in space.

We also continue to connect the domestic economic crisis and attacks on civil liberties to the right-wing war drive abroad.

In the final analysis, the way to break the Bush administration’s pre-emptive, first-strike foreign policy is by defeating Bush and the right wing in the 2004 elections.

Without a strong and unified movement involving a broad cross section of the people, we will not succeed. Without strong ties of solidarity with the world peace movement, we cannot succeed.

But, together a peaceful world is possible.

Judith Le Blanc is a national steering committee member of United for Peace and Justice and a vice chair of the Communist Party. This is an excerpt of the speech she gave to the 2003 World Conference against A and H Bombs in Japan. For more info: www.unitedforpeace.org