When word came that Representative Patsy Takemoto Mink of Hawaii had died at age 74, National Organization for Women president Kim Gandy declared, “Every woman today who is enjoying the fruits of her education and job opportunities, and every girl who has a chance to play sports in school, owes a nod of thanks to Mink.” That was not hyperbole. Co-author and prime advocate for the 1972 Title IX education legislation that opened academic and athletic doors for women, Mink was the first minority woman ever elected to the House and did battle against the sort of discrimination that prevented her from entering medical school as a young woman. Mink linked her advocacy for gender equity to broader struggles for economic and social justice and peace. Most recently, she voted against the USA Patriot Act and challenged the Bush Administration’s attempts to use 9/11 as a pretext for military adventures. She also found time to join a NOW celebration of the thirtieth anniversary of Title IX, telling the delegates to see it as just another step in the march toward equality. “You have a chance to speak up for poor women and defend poor children!” she said. “Open the doors of opportunity to all women!”
CONFRONTING THE IMF
Robert Weissman writes: At the end of September more than 10,000 protesters descended on Washington during the meetings of the International Monetary Fund and World Bank, at a time when faith in these institutions and the policies they espouse has dipped to an all-time low. US corporate scandals have generated a new public recognition of the need for economic regulation. IMF policies in Argentina and Brazil have failed totally. HIV/AIDS-decimated Africa continues to send more than $14 billion in debt payments out of the continent a year. The sham IMF/World Bank debt relief program will leave half of the first two-dozen “beneficiary” countries with debt levels that the institutions themselves consider “unsustainable.” The meeting produced an agreement to push for an international bankruptcy arrangement, but there is every reason to fear that the IMF hopes to use bankruptcy to tighten its grip on poor countries: Not only could it serve as the bankruptcy judge; it could also condition eligibility on another round of structural adjustment policies. Meanwhile, on the streets of DC, a September 27 protest by a grouping called the Anti-Capitalist Convergence was met by hundreds of pre-emptive arrests, including passersby. And the police greeted demonstrations conducted with permits (including a September 29 antiwar demonstration) with a display of overwhelming force designed to intimidate and to chill the exercise of speech. Still, the US wing of the global justice movement demonstrated its staying power, which it will need. Shrinking the power of the IMF and World Bank is going to be a long process.
THE FIRST CASUALTY OF WAR
Our thanks to Michael Kelly, who recently used his Washington Post column to associate this magazine with Representatives David Bonior, Jim McDermott and Michael Thompson, Democrats who traveled to Baghdad to assess the possibility of reinstituting weapons inspections in lieu of war. Railing against these legislators, Al Gore and unnamed Democrats, Kelly thundered: “This is not a little cabal of contributors to The Nation telling the world that the American President is not to be believed and that he wishes to send Americans off to fight and possibly die in Iraq because war is good for his party. These are men in the leadership ranks of the Democratic Party.”
We reply: If only. Most Democrats have been supporting Bush. On the day Kelly’s column appeared, House minority leader Richard Gephardt–a senior Democrat, last time we checked–enthusiastically worked out with the White House a resolution that would give Bush the power to launch war on Iraq. Senate majority leader Tom Daschle, another prominent Democrat, has only questioned–not challenged–aspects of Bush’s rush to war. And most of the Democratic 2004 contenders have encouraged Bush’s actions.
But let’s stick with the remark that sent Kelly into his fury: McDermott’s assertion that Bush was willing to “mislead” the American public to win backing for his war. Granted, it would have been better if McDermott had made his comment on the floor of the House rather than in Baghdad. But that doesn’t detract from its legitimacy. The Administration has said the threat of Iraq’s imminent acquisition (within six months, according to some Bush officials) of nuclear weapons compels us to war. But they have yet to prove this. The Administration has tried to link Saddam to Al Qaeda, offering no evidence. Bush has also trotted out the canard that Saddam Hussein “kicked out” UN inspectors in 1998–omitting the fact that the inspectors were withdrawn because the United States was about to bomb Baghdad. Kelly’s comrade in conservative column land George Will also went ballistic over the Bonior-McDermott-Thompson trip, accusing these “useful idiots” of giving aid and comfort to the enemy.
Such name-calling blasts are attempts to chill debate over the most fundamental issue a nation and legislative body can face. Questioning the case for war is a patriotic endeavor. Yet Kelly and Will want everyone in Congress to salute the President and declare, “Whatever you say.” Talk about political correctness.