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A Note to Anti-War Protesters
February 13, 2003
By Geurino Calemine

After grinding my teeth one too many times in the wake of another right-wing tirade in the press about peace activists being anti-American or undermining the war against terrorism, I write to make sure the anti-war protesters know that they are appreciated.

I work in Washington, DC - a city that has already suffered two major terrorist attacks in the past year and a half. I watched the Pentagon burn from my bedroom window, and I watched firefighters with gas masks walk past me in my office building during an anthrax scare. I attended multiple memorial services for members of my union who died in the Pentagon and the World Trade Center.

And no one should want to go through that ever again.

Unfortunately, the Bush Administration is guaranteeing it will happen again. And again. And again. By attacking Iraq, a country with no connections to 9/11, Bush will enrage millions and spawn countless new recruits for Al Qaeda.

We have to track down and stop terrorists, particularly those responsible for 9/11. But the war in Iraq is not about terrorism. Osama bin Laden and Al Qaeda remain at large and threatening. Saddam Hussein, a ruthless tyrant for sure, poses no imminent threat to us or any other country.

There is not a single, credible connection linking Saddam with bin Laden. Yet Bush spent 20 minutes of his State of the Union talking about Saddam and embarrassingly did not mention the name Osama bin Laden once. This was the same Osama bin Laden whom Bush wanted "dead or alive" just a year and a half ago.

Despite the deliberate effort to forget bin Laden, it is becoming increasingly clear that, in a perverse symbiotic relationship, Bush and bin Laden need each other. On the one hand, since 9/11, with the unsurprising boost in approval numbers that comes with war, Bush (who spent the month before 9/11 on a month-long paid vacation at his ranch after just half a year on the job) has repeatedly exploited the tragedy to pursue an extremist right-wing agenda that has amounted to a class war on the economy, on the federal budget, and especially on working people.

His domestic agenda has become a cavalcade of audacities, ranging from tax cuts for the rich and tax cuts for the super-rich to attacks on the free lunch program for schoolchildren and attempts to gut Social Security and Medicare with privatization schemes. The man who lost the popular vote apparently lost it for good reason - for in two short years, we have gone from record budget surpluses to record deficits, from peace to war, from a healthy economy with rising wages to a chronically recessed private-sector economy that has hemorrhaged 2.2 million jobs in the last two years.

And Bush now pushes for an unprovoked war in the Middle East, drawing the focus of our military and intelligence resources away from Al Qaeda and, for that matter, away from North Korea - a country that openly flaunts its pursuit of the very weapons of mass destruction that the war in Iraq is supposed to be about. Bush's arrogant and incompetent drive for war has alienated many of our allies and eroded the international support we need to monitor, investigate, and stop the terrorist cells that now pepper the planet.

On the other hand, the only person that wants this war more than Bush is none other than Osama bin Laden. He knows Bush's attack will serve as a rallying cry for frustrated Arabs inclined to blame America and the West for their problems, and he knows his ranks will swell because of it. By augmenting support for Al Qaeda, the war in Iraq will augment terrorists' abilities to carry out attacks - and undermine the safety of American citizens. In the meantime, Bush has done absolutely nothing to address the underlying desperation and humiliation that lead so many down the twisted path of terrorism.

For these and other reasons, I oppose the war in Iraq. And I thank the patriotic people who brave the cold and make their voices heard in the name of peace and national security. That is about as American as you can get. And many of us who live and work in prime terrorist targets appreciate it more than words can describe.

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