Division, Danger and Diversion | The Nation


Division, Danger and Diversion

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Rev. Jesse L. Jackson
The Reverend Jesse Louis Jackson is founder and president of the Rainbow/PUSH Coalition.

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Resolving this injustice could open doors for diplomacy between the US and North Korea. 

A transparent election in Côte d'Ivoire is essential to restoring that country's democracy and economic might. It is time for Côte d'Ivoire to overcome its history of violence.

This is the text of the speech given by the Rev. Jesse L. Jackson Sr., at the anti-war rally in Washington, DC, on Saturday, October 26.

We know the dangers if we go to war. Death, waste, suffering, hatred, blowback.

"Collateral damage" to innocent Iraqi children. To our own soldiers, many of them minorities and poor. To the American economy, with a war's $2 billion cost.

There is a time to every season under heaven. A time for war--World War II, which saved us from fascism; the Civil War, which saved the Union and freed the slaves.

On the other hand, Grenada and Panama were not just wars.

There is a time for peace. Now is such a time.

A time for the UN, not unilateralism. A time for allied pressure, not pre-emptive strikes. A time for international criminal courts, not invasions.

Saddam Hussein should be held accountable for his crimes. That's a good argument for the International Criminal Court--not a good argument for bombing Baghdad.

If we launch a "pre-emptive strike" on Iraq, we lose all moral authority. How will we then say no to India, to Pakistan, to China, when they consider pre-emptive strikes? What moral authority do we use with Putin, when he invokes the Bush Doctrine of pre-emption against Chechnya?

We lose our moral authority when our leaders advocate one-bullet diplomacy. One-bullet diplomacy is for gangsters and thugs, not great nations. We know it is wrong.

Chile suffered from the pain of one-bullet diplomacy. Gandhi and King died from one-bullet diplomacy. So did Lincoln, and both Kennedys.

We have a higher calling.

And when did we vote on pre-emption? When did we, the people, ever decide to change from a strong defense to a first-strike offense?

Since July 4, 1776, thanks to the victories and struggles of our forefathers and foremothers, America has flourished as an expanding democracy. We will fail as an empire. Rome and Britain have already tested that proposition.


Solely on political grounds, if I were George W. Bush, I guess I would want to change the subject, too. Certainly he does not benefit from public attention to the declining economy, or to unmet domestic needs. With ten days left until the elections, the Bush Administration really wants to divert our attention from Enron and Halliburton and Harken, to Iraq.

But we have unfinished business.

Unfinished business with Al Qaeda.

The unfinished business of rebuilding Afghanistan.

We have not yet caught Osama bin Laden, or the anthrax attacker. And we certainly have unfinished business here at home, with the stock market down, healthcare down, pensions down, wages stagnant, deficits up, unemployment up, poverty up, corporate crime up.

This "attack Iraq now" rhetoric is a diversion, an attempt to change the subject before Election Day.

We must keep our eyes on the prize.

The Bush Administration would divert us from:

§ a struggling economy, with the weakest economic growth in fifty years;

§ the loss of more than 2 million jobs;

§ the unemployment rate up by 1.5%;

§ a stock market down by more than 2,000 points, the sharpest decline since Herbert Hoover;

§ 1.3 Million more poor people, in only one year;

§ a shift from large surplus to massive deficit, in record time;

§ a tax cut for the very rich;

§ a corporate crime wave harkening back to the Gilded Age;

§ record CEO pay and benefits, despite corporate corruption and a stagnated minimum wage;

§ the vastly increased gap between rich and poor, both within our borders, and between north and south around the world.

§ Increasing retirement insecurity, with no prescription-drug assistance, pension plans defunded, 401(k)s turning into "201(k)s", consumer confidence way down and the Social Security trust fund raided--despite solemn promises to the contrary.

§ And privatization still looms, despite a conservative tactical retreat.

A diversion from the basic question--are you better off than you were the day George W. Bush was selected President by his father's friends on the Supreme Court?

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