Democratic Underground  

Discerning Dissent
March 31, 2003
By Norma Sherry

There's a huge misconception being proliferated in the media about war protestors. I've read that these misguided seekers of peace don't support our service men and women; that they are the fringe of society; misfits that jump on every anti-American bandwagon or cause; that they, themselves are un-American.

The organizations that have made gathering a coalition have fared even worse. In the newspapers, on the web, and in the television news, we've been told they are not only Anti-American but have Marxist ties and are anti-government; that they have supported brutal regimes and have an ulterior motive that has been hidden from the poor souls who have been misguided in their belief that this war upon Iraq is an unjust war.

Countries that have not joined in the American plan to "shock and awe" and bring Iraq and its leaders to its knees are said to be contemptible, irrelevant, meaningless, and worthless little nations. French has been replaced with freedom when it comes to fries. Wine has been poured down drains and bushwhackers encourage anyone who will listen not to ever purchase another bottle of Evian.

A local reporter described those that prefer peace over war as ridiculous and stupid. He's not alone in his belief. He says the silly, arrogant speakers at the peace rallies are foolish; that they are persuading no one; that they are simply singing to the choir. Perhaps this is partly true. For many months peace loving citizens from around the world, and particularly here in the states, have fought an upward battle to get their conscientious voices heard. Their thoughtful, persuasive arguments have had little or no media coverage.

Finally, in the eleventh hour there have been snippets in the news - carefully chosen segments that bolster the contention that these groups of beleaguered citizens are foolish indeed. None of the eloquence and the passion, or for that matter, the truth, has been reported.

People for peace come from all sectors of our society: Democrat, Republican, liberal, right wing, leftist, preacher, pastor, rabbi, man, woman, white, black, yellow, red, Jewish, Catholic, Christian, Buddhist, soldier, veteran, intellectual, scholar, student, homeless, educated, uneducated, doctor, lawyer, cashier, rich, poor, and every thing and every one in between. They are not the scum of the earth. They are not the hippie, flower child, dope heads that the media and particularly, the talk show combatants seem bent on portraying them.

Some in fact are even Nobel laureates. Not just any laureates, but laureates of science and economics. Forty-one, to be precise have declared their opposition to the war against Iraq in a formal declaration.

Among the signers, laureates all, were Hans A. Bethe, one of the atom bomb architects; Walter Kohn, a defense adviser to the Pentagon; Norman F. Ramsey, one of the Manhattan Project scientists who readied the bomb that struck Hiroshima and a NATO advisor; Charles H. Townes, a past research director at the Pentagon. Simply and eloquently, they declared, "… Even with a victory, we believe that the medical, economic, environmental, moral, spiritual, political and legal consequences of an American preventive attack on Iraq would undermine, not protect, U.S. security and standing in the world."

For the first time in the history of labor unions, 130 million workers belonging to over 200 unions and 550 union leaders from 53 countries have signed an International Labor Declaration demanding that the US abandon the illegal aggression against Iraq.

Religious leaders from Briton and the United States joined together and in part, said: "We represent a diversity of Christian communities - from the just war traditions to the pacifist tradition. As leaders of these communities in the United States and the United Kingdom, it is our considered judgment that a preemptive war against Iraq, particularly in the current situation would not be justified."

Their statement went on to say, "…our nations and the international community must pursue these goals in a manner consistent with moral principles, political wisdom, and international law. As Christians, we seek to be guided by the vision of a world in which nations do not attempt to resolve international problems by making war on other nations. It is a long-held Christian principle that all governments and citizens are obliged to work for the avoidance of war."

The Rev. Dr. Konrad Raiser, the general secretary of the World Council of Churches, informed the United Nations Security Council that they, "…strongly believe that pre-emptive war against Iraq is illegal, immoral and unwise."

Senator Robert Byrd on the floor of the Senate delivered a most eloquent and frightful speech. To his fellow representatives he proclaimed that, "The doctrine of preemption - the idea that the United States or any other nation can legitimately attack a nation that is not imminently threatening but may be threatening in the future - is a radical new twist on the traditional idea of self defense. It appears to be in contravention of international law and the UN Charter."

And a much less known speaker, but a world citizen and humanitarian, Philip J. Rappa, spoke fervently and emotionally when he delivered the following speech at a peace rally in January, 2003:

"Friends, neighbors, fellow citizens, on this day we congregate in hope and in prayer, but more importantly fully aware and in total control of our mental faculties.

"We join together for all the world to bear witness that we the people demand peace.

"We join together to remind this president, and this congress, that we the people shall hold them accountable…for what is done in our name.

"We gather here today, Mr. President, because of our love of country. We gather here today, Mr. President, because we honor the men and women in our armed forces; Mr. President, because we honor their sacrifice and dedication to duty; Mr. President, because they are our sons, and our daughters, our fathers, and our mothers. Mr. President, in their stead, and in their honor we join together in peace, for peace.

"Mr. President, Mr. Ashcroft, we gather here today because it has become obvious that we the people must inform you that protest and dissent is patriotic.

"Mr. President, we gather here today because it seems necessary for we the people to remind you that the presidency of the United States is a temporary job.

"We gather here today, Mr. President, because we the people so love this nation - Mr. President, because of our belief in the principles of our Constitution and our Bill of Rights.

"We gather here today, Mr. President, because we the people believe in our hearts, and in our minds…and to our very marrow, that we are a nation of laws, not men.

"We gather here today, Mr. President, because the soul of the world can only be saved when each of us believe the truths that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their creator with the inalienable rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

"Not just for America, Mr. President, but a guarantee for all the world's citizens.

"We gather here today, Mr. President, because of all your talk of unilateral, pre-emptive strike, regime change, or your plans for as you would say, new-cu-lur first strike.

"Mr. President, we gather here today, because we the people are aware these ideas are not new. These ideas are the ways of kings, and dictators.

"Mr. President, this course of action shows a lack of wisdom and a lack of vision. The mere suggestion is un-American and inhumane.

"Mr. President, we gather here today, because we the people believe - and are certain of this, that without proof of a clear and imminent threat - should this administration attack Iraq, or any other sovereign nation we the people will come to realize that America, on that day, in that hour, from that moment on will be nothing more than a rogue nation.

"Mr. President, we gather here today, because we can be as certain as tomorrow's sunrise – if you take us down this path, other nations will emulate your policies, other nations will disregard international treaties and laws. The final result will be international anarchy

"Your legacy, Mr. President, will be entering a new century taking us from the cold war to a nuclear winter of our discontent.

"Mr. President, we gather here today, because we the people believe the world cannot survive your version of enduring freedom.

"Mr. President, we gather here today, because we the people suggest that you fulfill FDR's promise to the world – a call to arms for enduring peace encompassing four freedoms: freedom of speech, freedom of religion, freedom from fear, and freedom from want.

"A foundation built on right, not might with the knowledge that the world cannot be right until all its people live free from hunger, censorship, and the dread of bombs.

"Mr. President, we gather here today, because my fellow American's understand our children and future generations will judge us by our words – and our actions, but mostly by our decisions.

"I believe if we the people just allow this to happen that our collective consciousness and our collective soul will be irreparably damaged because we the people still have the right to choose our fate and our future….Peace be to all – and blessed are the peacemakers."

I suggest that these are not the insignificant, ignorant, misinformed, illiterate, kooks that the proponents of war suggest they are.

I close by offering two final views, one of a well-known conservative talk show host who bellows that he has single-handedly and intellectually destroyed the liberal media. As the bombs of shock and awe were beginning their assault upon Iraq, he laughed and quipped, "Please, don't surrender, I want to see this."

And the last, was from a soldier in Iraq. "It was a spectacular light show," he said, speaking of the shock and awe.

As the bombs destroy Iraq, I fear we have lost our place in history, our dignity, and the respect of the world at large. I fear the world as we know it, will never be the same.


Norma Sherry is Vice President of the Civil Liberties Defense Committee and Together Forever Changing. She is an award-winning writer with many published works. In this capacity she has joined a coalition of concerned individuals to educate and stimulate an awareness of the attack upon our civil liberties within the U.S. Patriot Act and the impending U.S. Patriot Act II
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