by Justine McCabe
Originally published in the New Milford Times January 31, 2003.
A January 23 poll commissioned by the Washington Post and ABC News showed that US public support for the Bush Administration and war on Iraq is rapidly waning: nearly 7 out of 10 Americans support giving inspectors months more to search Iraq before considering any military action. Where will this growing anti-war sentiment in Litchfield County and across the US be represented in American government? It was certainly not inside the Capital on Tuesday when President Bush delivered his State of the Union address to applause from Republican and Democrat lawmakers.
But outside, on the National Mall, these anti-war sentiments were being heard from another political party by over 1,000 people gathered. Instead of calls to war and a domestic picture that will continue to privilege the wealthy and big business, a "Sorry State of the Union" address was being delivered by US Green Party spokesperson Natalie Johnson Lee, an African-American member of the Minneapolis City Council. She welcomed all those disenfranchised Americans to join the Green Party: "Tonight the President promised America a policy of war. A war on Iraq. War on minorities. War on America’s most vulnerable. War on regular working people. In response, the Green Party, America’s only growing political party, offers the only national security policy that really works: a policy whose goal is peace, not war."
Ms. Johnson Lee’s contrasting view of foreign and domestic policy was informed by the key values of non-violent conflict resolution, social justice and sustainable economic and ecological development, which are all shared by Green Parties in 90 countries worldwide, including representatives in many Western European governments, notably Germany’s Green Foreign minister, Joschka Fischer.
She echoed sentiments of the other 170 elected Green city council members, state legislators, mayors, county supervisors and school board members that Mr. Bush’s eagerness to invade Iraq preemptively and in opposition to growing numbers of Americans, revealed the true purpose of the political establishment, Republicans and Democrats alike: "Not peace and security for Americans, but control of oil. Not peace in the Middle East, but military bases across the globe."
Challenging Bush’s intent to wage war on behalf of such big business interests, Johnson Lee offered the Green Party’s way of "waging peace" on several fronts, especially with regard to our energy policy and defense budget:
By breaking the hold of oil corporations on Congress and the White House and using our technology to develop a long overdue and comprehensive renewable energy policy that would go well beyond Bush’s proposing hydrogen-powered autos for future generations.
By stopping the global trade in weapons. She said "We must stop it at its source. That’s here, at home, in the United States. US-based corporations are the prime suppliers of weapons to the world. . . America can wage peace instead of war by helping the economies of the poorer countries of the world. Exploitation breeds poverty, poverty breeds hatred, and hatred breeds terror. Unrestricted corporate power has caused massive unemployment and environmental destruction across Asia, Africa, and Latin American, and today threaten the US as well."
Of course, the details of US military spending are staggering: the Bush 2003 military budget of $432 billion represents a $46 billion increase over the 2002 budget, is over 50% of the US discretionary budget, exceeds the combined military spending of the next 25 nations, and is more than 26 times the combined spending of the seven most likely US adversaries identified by the Pentagon as Cuba, Iran, Iraq, Libya, North Korea, Sudan, Syria.
As we spend so much of our hard-earned tax dollars for more arms and more war, domestically our union is in a sorry state: over 41 million Americans have no health insurance, most of whom are employed; another 25% are so underinsured that a major illness would bankrupt them; the US is 23rd among nations in infant mortality, 25th in life expectancy; and the only industrialized nation that does not provide paid maternity/family leave by employers. And, while the US may now lead the world in the propensity to go to war, it also leads in terms of economic inequality. We now have the biggest disparity between rich and poor of all industrial countries. It’s sobering to think what this year’s $46 billion dollar increase in military spending alone could have brought CT residents: the Headstart program to 121,004 children, 11,961 affordable housing units, 13,513 elementary teachers, and insurance for all the uninsured here.
Also highlighted in Tuesday’s address was the striking contrast between the proposed remedies of the Green Party and President Bush to our health care crisis. The Green Party supports a fee-for-service, publicly-funded health insurance plan for all Americans designed on a state by state basis. This plan is supported by dozens of studies including the government’s own GAO and CBO as the most fair, efficient and high quality way to insure the universal right to health care. President Bush’s statements that such national health insurance would ration care or prevent doctor choice are simply untrue. In fact, Bush’s health care proposals would do that: his proposed Medicare prescription drug benefit could only be accessed by seniors joining the managed Medicare programs which have been shown to have lack of doctor choice, high rates of poor care and death, as well as higher costs.
In the end, the Green Party accepts no corporate contributions and offers clear domestic and foreign policy alternatives to the Republican and Democratic parties who have become increasingly merged in their fundraising and willingness to solve international conflicts with violence. While President Bush is willing to risk more American lives, kill more Iraqi civilians, alienate our allies and threaten American civil liberties and security, the Green Party is choosing to meet the demands of peace. We believe that it’s in meeting these demands that we will know what peace is.
Justine McCabe of New Milford is co-chair of the Connecticut Green Party