The Choice Before Us

Somewhere tonight in Iraq, a small girl lies sleeping who in a few weeks may be a lump of scorched flesh buried under concrete. On a basketball court somewhere in the United States a young man hits a jump shot, a man who in a few weeks may have no legs or eyes, or have tumors already brooding in his brain from exposure to the depleted uranium of our own weapons. A young boy who is healthy and vibrant today will be wracked with cancer. A mother will hear her children crying for food and have nothing to give them but tainted water to quench their thirst. Land that is today rich and fertile will in a short time be contaminated with radioactivity that lasts longer than all the years between ancient Babylon and the present.

Young men and women who in the innocence of their hearts volunteered to serve their country will be led to perpetuate unspeakable crimes that will haunt their nights and blight the rest of their lives. When they complain of strange ailments, the Veteran's Administration will admit no connection; and for years afterward, as has happened since the first Gulf War, they will take their own lives in a steady stream of suicides.

They will not be the sons and daughters of the men and women who sit in Congress or the White House. A disparate number of them will come from communities in our own land who suffer poverty, dispossession, and discrimination. All of this will be done at the command of men who have never themselves faced combat or fought a war, who rob our schools and hospitals to pay for their own weapons of mass destruction, who promote an empire-building agenda of their own that will not provide the security they claim. For the sheer injustice of our attack on a country that has not attacked us will provoke such fear and hatred against us that all our bombs and missiles and cops and spies will not be able to keep us safe.

The media and the politicians tell us that war is inevitable, that we can't stop it, that our protests and petitions and pleas make no difference. They murmur a constant incantation of our powerlessness, lulling us into a nightmarish sleep. But we can still wake up. We can choose to walk out of this nightmare and dream a different dream. All it takes is for each one of us who cherishes the lives of children to refuse to be silent, to say "no!" to war and "yes!" to peace. We need to ask ourselves how we have abandoned our country, our fate, into the hands of callous men who have no compunction about wasting lives.

What spell has been cast? What lies have been believed? What power have we let slip away? Replace the nightmare with this dream: that in the moment when one world power has amassed the unchallenged military might to make its bid for global empire, its own people rise up to say, "No! That's not what we want to be. We don't want to rule the world over the broken bodies of children. We don't want blood on our hands. We want children who are sick to get well : in Iraq and in our own country. We want food and jobs and parks and hospitals and food for the hungry. We want to join hands with the people of the world. We want to strengthen those institutions and processes that are slowly and painfully learning to solve conflicts without bloodshed, teaching us to respect our differences. We know peace must be built on justice, and we want peace." Dream that we wake up, speak out, not in the thousands but in the millions : joining with other millions around the world!

Dream that soldiers refuse their orders. Dockworkers refuse to load ships. Workers close their factories, and even politicians find the courage to stand up for what is right. Make sure the dream is real... Go public. Be visible. Be the loud, uncomfortable conscience that has disappeared from the halls of our political bodies. Believe that truth is stronger than lies, that love trumps fear, and that no cabal of power can contain us when we awaken and choose life over death, peace over war.

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