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Activists gear up for Saturday’s antiwar march

By DANIEL STURM

Two groups will conduct demonstrations on Saturday, Feb. 15. The Greater Lansing Network Against War in Iraq is sponsoring a march beginning at noon at Beaumont Tower at MSU. Marchers will walk to the Capitol via Michigan Avenue. Meanwhile, Direct Action will begin marching at 1 p.m. from Ranney Skate Park near the Frandor Shopping Center to the Capitol, where there will be a rally.
When Colin Powell made his case for war before the United Nations last Wednesday, a blue cover was thrown over Picasso’s masterpiece, "Guernica," behind the podium. Diplomats told The New York Times that the painting, which depicted brutal images of a Spanish town’s 1937 bombing, would send a mixed message to the audience. The large-scale tapestry was covered with the Security Council flags.

At their Thursday press conference, peace activists of the Greater Lansing Network against War in Iraq, which represents 35 organizations in the area, said they weren’t impressed by Powell’s attempt to convince U.N. Security Council members that a pre-emptive strike is necessary. "The Secretary of State’s presentation did not reveal anything that the American public doesn’t already know," said GLNAWI organizer Bob Alexander.


Bob Alexander
U.N. inspectors destroyed 95 percent of the chemical and biological weapons materials shipped to Iraq by former Presidents Ronald Reagan and George Bush during the 1990s, Alexander argued. "Secretary Powell didn’t demonstrate how Iraq’s allegedly hidden weapons pose an imminent threat to the United States." There is no justification for attacking Iraq and killing thousands of Iraqi civilians, and the deaths to the country’s military forces, he said.

A day before Powell’s presentation, the director of the U.N. inspection team, Hans Blix, told the British newspaper Guardian that there was "no evidence of mobile biological weapons laboratories, or of Iraq trying to foil inspectors by moving equipment before his teams arrived." Blix also said that the inspectors had "no persuasive indications" of Iraq al Qaeda links, which has been another key component of Powell’s allegation. There was also no evidence of Iraq sending scientists out of the country, nor of Iraqi intelligence agents posing as scientists, monitoring the weapons inspector’s conversations.

The day after Powell’s speech, British News Channel Four TV reported that the bulk of the 19-page British intelligence dossier that Powell praised as an up-to-the-minute intelligence analysis was actually a plagiarized document copied from three academic articles -- one written by a graduate student, and one paper being more than five years old. The punctuation marks and typographic errors of the original articles were retained.


Beth Monteith

Beth Monteith, a minister of the Fellowship for Today in East Lansing, pointed out that veterans, world leaders, 41 Nobel laureates, and most organized religions in the United States were opposed to this war. "We are unwilling to stand by as the citizens, as Germany did in the 1930s, and allow our country under a powerful and popular leader, to become a machine bent on violence, death and destruction."

Monteith called upon Lansing-area residents to sign a resolution presented to City Council last week, asking the President to call back the 150,000 forces deployed to the Middle East, "allowing our country to again become a promoter of peace among nations." She also pointed out that the deaths and disability claims of Gulf War veterans were related to the 320 tons of radioactive uranium dropped on Iraq in the allied bombings.

Nearly one-third of United States tanks during the Gulf War had been armed with munitions made from depleted uranium-238, exposing the soldiers who manned the machines to whole body gamma radiation. Helen Caldicott, president of the Nuclear Policy Research Institute, reported that Iraqi pediatricians in the city of Basra found six to 12 times as many incidences of childhood leukemia and cancer, and that congenital malformations have doubled. "Yet because of the sanctions imposed on Iraq by the United States and the United Nations, they have no access to antibiotics, chemotherapeutic drugs or effective radiation machines to treat their patients," Caldicott wrote in an Oct. 6 Baltimore Sun editorial.


Eric Williams
Eric Williams, a Lansing attorney and American Civil Liberties Union member, said that wars weren’t only a disaster on the battlefield but also on the homefront. "The history of war in the United States is littered with civil liberties atrocities. In the First World War people were imprisoned for criticizing the government under the sedition act. In World War II we incarcerated Japanese Americans, something that brought us very close to the Nazis we were fighting against. And during Vietnam we spied on civil rights groups." Williams said that since Sept 11 the Bush administration has already adopted a series of repressive acts such as the U.S.A. Patriot and the Homeland Security Act and has introduced race-based laws, such as the registering of Arab immigrants. "If we start a war in the Middle East, the situation will just get worse," said Williams.

An Ann Arbor Area Committee for Peace member, Andy Hartmann, said the administration’s war against terrorism was targeted equally against people of color and poor, "which is intrinsically linked to international belligerence on the part of very few people that have an awful lot of power." Hartmann spoke enthusiastically about the antiwar resolution approved by the Ann Arbor City Council in December 2002. He suggested that Lansing activists work with their Council members, in order to get "any" peace resolution passed.


Andy Hartmann
Two weeks ago activists in Grand Rapids presented 1,500 signatures to their City Commission when presenting their no-war resolution. When President Bush came to speak to Republicans on Jan. 29, a peace rally in downtown Grand Rapids attracted more than 1,000 Michigan demonstrators. Jeff Smith, a rally organizer for the People’s Alliance for Justice and Change in Grand Rapids, said that 13 arrests took place despite the fact that nothing illegal had been done. "We’ve had more lawyers than those arrested, who’ve stepped forward and offered to help. The city attorney is now considering to drop the charges."

The two Lansing antiwar resolutions, which include proposals from the Green Party and from GLNAWI, will be discussed at the Committee of the Whole meeting on Thursday, Feb. 13. The GLNAWI resolution was on the agenda for public comment on Feb. 3, but no one attended to discuss it. GLNAWI leaders were busy in a meeting with the mayor’s assistant, David Wiener, to discuss the permit for the Feb. 15 antiwar march and rally. Both resolutions are scheduled for discussion this Thursday, Feb. 13, at the Council’s Committee of the Whole meeting.

The city government legislative assistant, Ron Wilson, was skeptical about the outcome, saying that City Council doesn’t usually discuss "any issues of national concern."

But Lansing activists believe that the peace movement’s momentum will grow even stronger after the demonstration this Saturday. The antiwar group Direct Action has also called for a breakaway march with street theater, blockades, lockdowns, weapons inspections, a "die in," music, and "whatever your hearts desire and minds can think of."


Tom Smith
Tom Smith, a former clergyman of the Unitarian Universalist Church in Lansing, said that the Greater Lansing Network Against War in Iraq should join a nationwide effort to impeach Bush. "He’s in violation of everything that’s decent in terms of world peace, and he represents the arrogance that Americans are accused of when they travel abroad," Smith said. The clergyman, who was a conscientious objector to Word War II, said that he missed the presence of radical public figures such as Martin Luther King and Malcolm X. He said he wished the Democratic Party hadn’t given Bush authorization to war in Congress. "Today they should ask to impeach Bush, and their silence is disturbing me."

Responding to the criticism, Alexander said that the antiwar activists should only do "one thing at the time."

"My effort has been to get my Democratic brothers and sisters in the area to stand up," Alexander added. He said the Ingham County Democratic Party recently approved an antiwar resolution, and that campaigns in several other counties were also underway. When Michigan residents march to the State Capitol this Saturday, Alexander will be in Detroit campaigning for an antiwar resolution at the statewide Democratic Party convention.



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