“Let’s Stop the Machine!!!”

United for Peace and Justice Teach-In, Washington, DC, May 31, 2003

We are here to save our country.

Never before in the history of our Republic have we, the citizens, been met with so many challenges from our leaders.

President Bush proclaimed himself the President who would leave no child behind.

Yet, millions of our children go hungry every night, and poverty, lack of health insurance, shortages of child care assistance, deficits in reading, writing, and math, high school dropouts, all confront too many children and their parents today.

When George Bush was sworn in, our country had a surplus; but now that surplus has been frittered away. And those whose mantra used to be “fiscal responsibility,” “balance the budget,” are silent as the Administration owns up to its own report that places future US budget deficits at more than $44 trillion.

In its quest for more butter, our President proposed tax cuts that would return more to the five Waltons who inherited Wal-Mart than to their nearly one million employees. And now the Administration denies tax cuts to minimum wage working families.

Meanwhile, corporate criminals and tax cheats are getting millions in contracts from this Administration. World Com and DynCorp got no-bid contracts in Iraq. And just since March 2002, Halliburton has been given $530 million for work in Afghanistan and Iraq. This doesn’t count the $70 million contract to repair Iraqi oil wells. Nor does it count the $30 million contract for constructing US terror camps at uantanamo Bay.

Our school children are about to be fed irradiated hamburger in the school lunch program. I wonder who’ll get that contract.

In its quest for more guns, we face steep hikes in defense spending, even though the Pentagon admits it’s lost $2.3 trillion. The Bush Administration seems to be following a militaristic, global blueprint that plans for a new American Century.

All Americans are being asked to sacrifice so that a few can get butter while the masses get guns.

Presidents from George Washington to Dwight Eisenhower have warned us against state militarism and weapons manufacturers.

“Our interest, guided by justice” is what George Washington said.

When John Kennedy was confronted with the Cuban Missile Crisis and the men in his Pentagon who wanted to launch a pre-emptive strike against Cuba, Bobby Kennedy called the proposition a Pearl Harbor in reverse, saying, “For 175 years, we have not been that kind of country.”

John F. Kennedy avoided that war and instead, set about to make the world safe for diversity. JFK rejected Pax Americana.

The brother who advised him against that war was also cut down while campaigning for the Presidency; we later learned that Bobby was considering Martin Luther King, Jr. to be his running mate.

Imagine the America we might have today with real men of peace at our helm.

Instead we are confronted with an Administration that arrived at the White House by *not* counting our votes, and that projects 60 countries as possible targets for war.

This Administration proposes to increase defense spending, develop usable nuclear weapons, increase military personnel without a fair draft, and control space and cyberspace. Some have even suggested that genotype specific biowarfare could become a politically useful tool.

Instead of pursuing the peace agenda of the Clinton Administration, this Administration has managed to transform us from a country that pursued peace in Kashmir, the Middle East, Northern Ireland, and North Korea to one that has become a power ranger on patrol in countries all over the planet.

Our former CIA Director, James Woolsey, says we’re now engaged in World War IV.

And that’s why we’re here today.

What sense does it make for America to win any war when it’s lost its soul?

Two more black people are being mourned in New York City this weekend. Victims of the New York City Police Department. One a grandmotherly woman, the other an unarmed black man.

We need new leadership.

This Administration put our armed forces in harm’s way while citing faulty evidence. Before the war, Vice President Cheney announced that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction. Ari Fleischer told us “We know for a fact that there are weapons there.” Just a few weeks ago, Colin Powell told us, “I’m absolutely sure that there are weapons of mass destruction there and the evidence will be forthcoming.”

Then, the backtracking began.

Condoleeza Rice announced that US officials never expected to “open garages and find” weapons of mass destruction. Then four days ago, Donald Rumsfeld told the Council on Foreign Relations, “They may have had time to destroy them, and I don’t know the answer.” Three days ago, Paul Wolfowitz, in a Vanity Fair interview, said that the Administration settled on weapons of mass destruction as a justification for invading Iraq because it was the one reason everyone could agree on. Then just yesterday Lieutenant General James Conway said he’s surprised about the weapons. He said, “We’ve been to virtually every ammunition supply point between the Kuwaiti border and Baghdad, but they’re simply not there.”

We care about health care, education, America’s children, employment, transportation, veterans, the glass ceiling, affirmative action, urban sprawl, air quality, race relations, drug abuse, poverty, social justice, death penalty, US standing in the world. War. Peace.

A new breed of leader has invaded Washington DC. And they don’t give a darn about the things we care about.

If this Administration has its way, we won’t know *any* of George Bush’s secrets. The White House will be able to shut down information to all of us just as easily as it shut down this year’s Easter Egg hunt.

But we must remember, it wasn’t always this way. There was a brighter time for America. When we were respected around the world and our leaders truly cared about each and every one of us.

Bobby Kennedy just happened to be with black America at the time of the announcement of Dr. King’s death. At that moment, unscripted and unrehearsed, Bobby said:

“What we need in the United States is not division; what we need in the United States is not hatred; what we need in the United States is not violence or lawlessness; but love and wisdom, and compassion toward one another, and a feeling of justice toward those who still suffer within our country, whether they be white or they be black. . . . We can do well in this country. We will have difficult times; we’ve had difficult times in the past; we will have difficult times in the future. It is not the end of violence; it is not the end of lawlessness; it is not the end of disorder. . . . But the vast majority of white people and the vast majority of black people in this country want to live together, want to improve the quality of life, and want justice for all human beings who abide in our land. Let us dedicate ourselves to what the Greeks wrote so many years ago: to tame the savageness of man and make gentle the life of this world.”

In the end, we can lament together the state of our beloved America, or we can put our bodies on the gears and wheels and levers of the machinery that runs what this country is becoming and we can stop it. We can stop the machine.

Let’s stop this machine together and make gentle the life of this world.

Thank you.