Right now, as states face bankruptcy and social programs are floundering or disappearing entirely, as our roads, schools and other basic infrastructure systems are crumbling, and unemployment and poverty continue to grow, we have the largest military the world has ever known. The combined military might (and budgets) of the next eight countries do not match ours. $900 billion is spent on military budgets worldwide, half by the U.S. alone. With no enemy that can begin to match our military strength, our country is being eaten away from the inside out. Our national debt is skyrocketing as the U.S. continues to enlarge and support this behemoth fighting machine.

Hundreds of U.S. bases ring the world, from the Atlantic to the Pacific, yet we are the only industrialized nation without universal health care. Our infant death rate is higher than the worldwide median. We cannot afford the global empire our politicians, and the corporations they are beholden to, have built and are continuing to build. We cannot support the "wars" they insist we must wage - for their profit.

Though there is nothing linking Iraq to al Qaeda or the attack of Sept. 11, we are being driven to slaughter the Iraqi people, over half of whom are children under 15 years old! We are told we must spend upwards of $300 billion in a carnage that will drop more missiles the first day than were dropped during the entire forty day Gulf War. They plan to repeat this the second day as well. CBS said this plan, called "shock and awe," focuses on the "psychological destruction of the enemy's will to fight rather than the physical destruction of his military forces."

Nearly all the bombs used will be dropped from old B52s, in carpet bombings. These bombs are encased with depleted uranium and will make the land uninhabitable for thousands of years. (In the Gulf War we dropped forty tons of the stuff and, according to the U.N., by 1994 cancer rates had skyrocketed 700 percent. Few Iraqi babies are born with all their organs now and most of those that are, are born bleeding from them.) The ancient city of Baghdad, in "the cradle of civilization," with all her treasured antiquities, her beauties and her people, her palms and her animals, will be incinerated. Wiped from the face of the earth.

Our Joint Chiefs of Staff and the CIA have been reported to be reluctant to engage in this illegal "preemptive war," fearing a multitude of repercussions from many sources. Doug Thompson, a Washington based correspondent writes, "An angry Rumsfeld, who backs Bush without question, is said to have told the Joint Chiefs to get in line or find other jobs. Bush is also said to be 'extremely angry' at what he perceives as growing Pentagon opposition to his role as Commander in Chief."

Over 100 city councils have now passed resolutions condemning the "war" and there are bills before Congress and the Senate to rescind Bush's war powers. Several senators have even joined in a lawsuit, saying only congress can declare war - and congress cannot give that right to the president.

If Bush goes ahead with this massacre, in opposition to overwhelming worldwide and domestic view, what can we do about it? Well, there is a strong movement afoot to impeach Bush, which we can insist our elected representatives get behind. (There are over 1,560 web sites dedicated to this, the most comprehensive is Ramsey Clark's: http://votetoimpeach.org/.)

And because, in the words of Dr. Martin Luther King, "Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter," rather than despair, the day the bombs start falling (if, indeed they do) let's meet at Astoria's Community Store at 5:30 p.m. to walk through town in silent dissent. If we aren't told we're at "war" until after 5:30 the first day, let's meet the next day at 5:30. Bring signs and black armbands. Gatherings like this will be happening internationally.

The U.N. says that just 10 percent of what the U.S. spends on the military annually (about $40 billion) would ensure the essentials of life to everyone in the world. Many of us feel that our money would be better spent saving lives than taking them and, in the process, creating more enemies.

Kate O'Neal

Astoria

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