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Division, Danger & Diversion

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By Jesse L. Jackson Sr.

We live in perilous times. The president has used the awesome powers of his office to cajole the U.S. Congress into blessing the doctrine of pre-emptive military strikes and one-bullet assassination diplomacy.

This is a radical turn for our nation, away from moral authority, to military might as the measure of our nation’s strength. Tonight the war drums are beating with such intensity that we can’t hear anything but “Saddam, Saddam, Saddam.” And “be afraid, be afraid, imminent danger is on the way.” Seemingly it has impaired our vision as well.
Our strength has been offset by a continuous trend toward isolation and unilateralism. Two years after a democratically flawed election, we are left with George W's policies of danger, division and diversion. We’ve gone from a surplus economy to mounting deficit, and the weakest economic growth in 50 years. The stock market has lost $8 trillion in market value. Workers have lost two million jobs. A tax cut for the very rich, coupled with a wave of corporate crime and corruption have greased the skids of greed and selfishness, and wiped out the savings and pension funds of millions of working families.
The longshoremen were locked out and rather than use the power of the presidency to open the ports and uphold collective bargaining, he imposed Taft-Hartley and severe federal government intervention. The president has not met with AFL-CIO President John Sweeney, or the NAACP, one time.
While Bush attempts to stack the courts with Right-wing judges who threaten civil rights, the tentacles of corporate scandals reach far up into our government. The American people are facing rising poverty, rising unemployment, rising tuition costs—an economy driven by fear rather than hope. We are worse off two years later.
It seems that the Iraq obsession is a diversion from these painful economic realities. It is divisive of our coalition, which rallied to fight Al Qaeda and the Taliban. That war is not over. There are cells in our country. We lost American soldiers in the Philippines and Kuwait. That war is not over. The Middle East crisis is deteriorating into a painful recycling of violence and hatred, with a notable lack of U.S. presence as a source of reconciliation and reconstruction.
We fast forward to Iraq with the express intent to fight until there is a ''regime change''—which means remove Saddam, dead or alive, as suggested by the White House. One-bullet diplomacy. If we pursue this mission, against the advice of many military leaders and diplomats, many innocent people will die, which the military and press will call ''collateral damage.'' In the meantime, the impact of the war in Iraq will spill over into the Persian Gulf, and into our own country. The ramifications of this misadventure in Iraq seem not to be part of our equation.
Pursuing this mission, the United States will then have to occupy Iraq for an indefinite period and with a cost of tens if not hundreds of billions of dollars, while our own economy continues to sink. Our capacity to do that is in serious question—our desire to do it, as a nation is not very great.
It seems that political diversion, oil and defense contracts, bolstered by polls artificially inflated by fear, are driving the agenda. The Bible says, “Without vision, our people will perish.” We deserve a worldview through a door and not through a keyhole. A worldview built upon truth and democracy, not built upon manipulation and deception. We deserve a nation driven forward by hopes and dreams, not backwards by fear and cynicism.
I call you to action. Religious leaders, civil rights and community activists. Peace activists and labor. Seniors and women. Students and youth. We must not surrender nor adjust. A new anti-war movement is on the horizon.
I offer the three “Ds debate:” deliberation; delivering aid and investment; and trusting in democracy. Together, we could build a better world. There is still time. And you could help lead the way.
Keep hope alive!

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