Peace as a Civil Right

An address given to Lakewood Ministerial Alliance for a 2003 Martin Luther King Day Celebration at Lakewood Presbyterian Church in Lakewood, Ohio

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In 16 months since America was attacked, no credible evidence has been presented that Iraq perpetrated Sept. 11 or conspired in Sept. 11. Iraq was not responsible for the anthrax attack on our country. Nor does Iraq have missile-strike capability against the United States, usable weapons of mass destruction or the intention to use them against us.

It is more than strange that while no credible connection has been made between Iraq and Sept. 11, the Administration blocked efforts at an early official inquiry into Sept. 11, while beating the drums to attack Iraq.

Why is the Administration targeting Iraq? Oil. America has become increasingly reliant on imported oil. The future of an oil-dominated economy rests in the Gulf region. Instead of a new energy policy, we get a new war of "good" acting against "evil."

To be sure, the dictator Saddam Hussein is an easy target, for murder of his own people. He was an easy target, too, years ago when supported by the United States, notwithstanding his cruelty.

When war is already in the hearts of those who lead this nation, because our leaders aspire to dominate oil markets, or expand arms trade or desire a world empire, or to distract from failures domestically, what are the American people to do? Do we just sit and watch while the United States moves next to declare war against North Korea, or Iran?

In the spirit of Dr. King, we must reject this White House war mentality and the unfortunate energy policy that spawns it, or we are facing endless war over diminishing resources. The Administration has made its intentions for war known. Now the American people must make our intentions known for peace.

We must reject war with Iraq. We must not let it happen. We must insist that the U.N. inspection process continue. As long as the U.N. inspection presence is at work in Iraq there is the possibility that Iraq can be disarmed, rebuilt and reintegrated into the community of nations.

Yet predictions of war swirling around the Capitol involve not if, but when and whether America "goes it alone." The question is not whether we shall go to war with the U.N. or without the U.N. The question is, why should we go to war at all? Some have made a cause of 12 empty "warheads" recently discovered. There is something lacking in the warheads as there is something lacking in the heads of those who want war.

The narrow-minded drive for regime change will have severe consequences. Regime change means war. Regime change means invasion. It means occupation. It means colonization. It means the death of countless Iraqi citizens and the deaths of countless American servicemen and servicewomen. And the waste of up to $1.9-trillion in our tax dollars, wrecking our economy while, at the same time, the Administration gives out a trillion-dollar tax cut to the wealthy.

If the goal of our leaders continues to be regime change, then let regime change begin at home. We must be prepared to continue to provide lawful, nonviolent, civil resistance in this nation. We must be prepared to exercise our constitutionally protected rights to assemble, to free speech, to free press, to challenge the government in the streets, on campuses, in town halls, in labor halls, in churches, wherever people gather, wherever people meet, in a manner consistent with the finest democratic traditions.

If we are successful in disarming Iraq nonviolently, then our nation needs to hasten our efforts to lead the way for disarmament worldwide. Seventeen nations are seeking, have or are capable of acquiring nuclear weapons of mass destruction; 20 nations, biological weapons; 26 nations, chemical weapons.

More than 20 nations have or are at work on missile technologies to deliver those weapons. America has much work to do as a nation among nations, furthering peace through disarmament.

We have a transformational opportunity in this nation. It is no less significant than the spirit of the times, which gave birth to this nation more than 226 years ago.

In his exploration of the philosophical underpinnings of America, in a work titled To Begin the World Anew, Bernard Bailyn writes of that long ago moment of democratic ferment which produced the world's grandest experiment with democracy through "the recasting of the world of power, the reformation of the structure of public authority, of the accepted forms of governance, obedience and resistance, in practice as well as in theory."

Such was the creativity of our founders. They used the creative energy of their hearts and spirits to change the world. Why has our creativity turned destructive? We need no longer be destructive with war. It is time to be creative in peace.

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