Vivian Stockman is with the Ohio Valley Environmental Coalition, which is based in Huntington. (www.ohvec.org)

A talk delivered February 15, 2003 at Peace Gatherng, Spencer WV

Thank you for coming out on this cold and rainy day as part of an international day of actions for peace! Today, we are but one gathering in over 600 cities in 60 countries on five continents, even Antarctica. Over ten million people are expected out in the streets today to say DON'T ATTACK IRAQ!

People in the streets today are from all walks of life, of all different skin colors and ages, representing many different religions. We have heard the reasons given for this war, and they don't make sense. We don't think invading Iraq will make the world one iota safer. In fact, we believe the opposite is true.

The National Council of Churches and the National Conference of Catholic Bishops have passed resolutions opposing military action against Iraq. The Methodist Church, which is Bush and Chaney's own church, says this war is unjustified.

In America, at least 72 city councils have passed resolutions condemning this war. Just as we have veterans here today, veterans across the nation, including those from the first Gulf War, stand in opposition to war on Iraq. Veterans know first hand about death, dismemberment, depleted uranium and the sickness once back home.

Republican business people took out an ad in the Wall Street Journal saying war is bad for business. Even senior Pentagon officials have urged Bush to slow down in his crazed rush for war, urging him not to abandon America's longstanding "no first strike" policy.

Walter Cronkite warned that launching a preemptive attack on Iraq could begin World War III.

Our own Senator Byrd has spoken at length about the dangers of Bush's mad rush to war. On the table we have printouts of his Feb. 12 speech from the Senate Floor. Please let me read his closing comments: I truly must question the judgment of any President who can say that a massive unprovoked military attack on a nation which is over 50% children is "in the highest moral traditions of our country". This war is not necessary at this time. Pressure appears to be having a good result in Iraq. Our mistake was to put ourselves in a corner so quickly. Our challenge is to now find a graceful way out of a box of our own making. Perhaps there is still a way if we allow more time.

These are wise words from Senator Byrd. People everywhere are calling for more time.

In late January, I attended the World Social Forum in Brazil. A nun who lives in Iraq talked about the conditions there since the first Gulf War, during which the allied forces used weapons containing 320 tons of depleted uranium, a substance that is for all practical purposes forever radioactive. The people are sick, she said, living in a radioactive bath. Over 80 percent of the children lost a family member in the first war. The sanctions in place have made the people malnourished, and the United Nations estimates that 500,000 children have already died. Reports say another war will be a catastrophe for the 12 million children of Iraq.

We Americans are not unpatriotic to scrutinize the reasons we have been given for our government's rush to attack Iraq.

Weapons of mass destruction controlled by a vicious tyrant? There are others nations that could meet those criteria, North Korea coming first to mind.

Unproven ties to Al Qaeda? There are 60 nations with ties to Al Qaeda. Are we to bomb them all?

Broken UN Security Council resolutions? There are over 90 UN Security Council resolutions being violated right now by countries other than Iraq.

To liberate Iraq? How does bombing people liberate them, unless you are counting death as the ultimate liberator?

For stabilizing the Persian Gulf? From the republican business people who placed the ad in the Wall Street Journal, to Senator Byrd, to the CIA to Joe Six Pack-people see that bombing an already besieged nation in the Arab world will only fan the flames of hatred against the United States.

People everywhere are thinking past the official reasons. Bush and Cheney have deep ties to both fossil fuel industries and the weapons manufacturing industries. In this, a supposedly open society, they refuse to reveal the details of their secretive meetings with fossil fuel industry executives, in which they were shaping the nation's energy policy.

It is pretty evident to a whole host of people that this war is about controlling Iraq's oilfields, the second largest in the world, as well as about shifting control of the political landscape in the Persian Gulf. War is also a pretty big distraction from all the problems we have here at home--a massively mushrooming national debt; scandals in which corporations bilk citizens of their savings, while destroying the air we breathe and the water we drink; election fraud; unemployment; dwindling budgets for education; the health care crisis…the list goes on and on. War distracts us from these problems, takes money from solving these problems.

And war is the worst possible energy policy our nation could pursue. It's very frightening to contemplate what our so-called leaders can justify in the name of "cheap energy."

We only have to look as far as southern West Virginia. There, in the name of "cheap energy," coal companies, with the complicity of politicians and regulators, are blowing the tops off forested mountains, dumping the former mountain tops into valleys, burying streams and driving away communities. Nearly 400,000 acres have been permitted for this type of destruction, and coal companies are in a mad dash for more.

Amazingly, Gov. Bob Wise is on record as saying that an extended war will bring more attention to America's coal reserves. He, too is joining with those who can justify just about anything in the name of "cheap energy."

Author Dennis Burke, using government statistics, calculated that 2,500 tons of explosives are used against the Appalachian Mountains each day. That is, every four days, more explosives are used in mountaintop removal coal mining than were used in the post-9-11 bombing of Afghanistan in the hunt for Bin-Laden.

In the long run, no amount of bombing our own coalfields or other nations' oilfields will give us homeland security. Our nation's energy appetite shouldn't and needn't drive us to justify such massive cruelties to people and the land that supports us.

There are alternatives. A recent report called Job Jolt shows that in transitioning to cleaner renewable energies ten Midwestern states could create 200,000 jobs. The World Watch Institute says that renewable, cleaner energy technologies are advanced enough to satisfy the world energy needs NOW. And that's without whole-hearted government support for research and development in these technologies. Just think what we could do if we had a Manhattan Project for alternative energies. World Watch says the main thing lacking in getting alternative energies in place is the political will. The political will to find alternatives to war is also lacking.

The task before us --we, the people--is to provide that political will. It is our task to shift the bulk of the vast resources the world spends on making war-in 1999 it was $780 billion-to helping solve problems like hunger, AIDS, access to clean water and environmental degradation.

It's a giant task. But each of us, each of the 10 million people out in the streets today, and more still, are working toward those goals. Our ranks are truly huge. We are the people who have room in our hearts for peace, but not for war. We are the people who work each day to drive fear and hatred from our hearts and from the machinations of our governments. We are here to wage peace and amplify love! May we prevail!

EDITOR'S NOTE: Opposing views will be published in the Herald.

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