Dear Friends and Colleagues,
It fills my heart with hope to be with you at the 2003 World Conference against A and H Bombs. To meet with the representatives of peace movements from here and around the world is not only an honor but also a new opportunity to strengthen the movement for peace and justice in the United States.
Yes, "A Peaceful World Without War and Without Nuclear Weapons" is possible!
In the Fall of 2002, the American people responded to the Bush administration's war drive with a mass peace movement not seen in the country since the Nuclear Freeze Movement of the 1980's. Our united efforts did not stop this senseless, illegal war, but it gave birth to new levels of united political action by millions of people.
Out of the struggle against the Bush doctrine of preemptive war, representatives of the peace, religious, labor, youth and student movements, and communities of all colors and nationalities founded a new coalition: United for Peace and Justice.
It is a coalition of over 600 organizations that represents national peace organizations and local groups that work every day to improve the communities we live in. But United for Peace and Justice represents far more than these broad organizations. Our coalition represents the emerging majority support for peace, justice and democracy.
Millions of Americans who may have supported the war initially have realized that Bush and his administration used every means possible to manipulate public opinion in support of war on Iraq.
At the time of the founding of United for Peace and Justice, the majority of US public opinion opposed preemptive war against Iraq. Thousands of people flooded the halls of the US Congress lobbying against the Bush administration's call to war on Iraq. The US peace movement spoke with one voice, "No to war! Let the United Nations inspectors do their job."
In the buildup to the Iraq War, the rightwing called members of the US Congress who spoke for peace unpatriotic and disloyal. And when the Congress gave war authorization to the Bush administration, the peace movement did not lose hope. The movement supported the brave the Congress people who fought the war drive. In newspapers, on editorial pages across the country the debate continued. The 40 million-member National Council of Churches purchased full-page advertisements in major newspapers opposing the war as a violation of the UN Charter and setting a dangerous precedent.
In thousands of towns and cities, candle light vigils, rallies and picket lines were organized by new coalitions of religious and community groups along with peace organizations. The movement continued to pressure the Bush administration to let the UN inspections go forward.
In the midst of this struggle, in October 2002, United for Peace and Justice was born. United for Peace and Justice is a national coalition that for the first time had the potential to unite the historic, traditional peace and disarmament groups who've worked for decades for peace with the newly forming local coalitions that could challenge the Bush administration's preemptive war strategy.
Our first national action was to organize local actions on December 10th, International Human Rights Day. Hundreds of actions were organized. In New York City, over 100 religious leaders, Christian, Muslim and Jewish blocked the doors to the US mission to the United Nations and were arrested on the steps of the US mission.
We brought the call for peace to the city of the September 11 attacks because we knew that the people had seen violence and acts of terrorism with their own eyes. We knew that the people of New York and our country would stand up and say no to war. The Bush administration knew as well. The city government of New York was pressured to deny demonstrators the right to march in opposition to the war.
The world was counting on the American people to say no to war. So together with peace movements around the world, we called a national rally though denied the right to march on February 15 under the slogan "The World Says 'No' to War."
Tens of millions of people around the world marched together in the biggest outpouring for a peaceful world and disarmament in world history. With meager resources and the power of conviction, United for Peace and Justice helped organize millions of people into the streets of New York City, San Francisco and in hundreds of towns and cities across the US.
The New York Times on Feb 16 declared the world peace movement a new "superpower."
The new layer of opposition, which had its reflection in every sector of society, could not be ignored. Hundreds of trade unions from the national to the local levels passed resolutions against the war. Hundreds of college campuses protested for "Books not Bombs." Hundreds of city councils, religious leaders and average people joined together to say no to war. Immigrant communities protested, civil liberties groups made the connection between the drive to war and the destruction of the US Constitution.
But the Bush administration defied the rising democratic upsurge pushing ahead with its illegal war in the face of world opposition.
The Bush administration manipulated the people's fears. The tragedy of September 11 became the foundation of the Bush administration's argument for war. They argued that there were weapons of mass destruction that were an immediate threat to the security of the United States. That was a lie. They linked Al-Qaeda with Saddam Hussein. That too was a lie.
The Bush administration took the real fears of the American people and went to war. Now they are sacrificing the lives of Iraqis and US troops to satisfy their drive to control that region of the world, to take over Iraqi resources, and to bring in US corporations to rebuild the destruction they had created.
But now the American people are rapidly beginning to realize that the Bush administration lied and they are scrambling to cover up. For weeks, every day there is a new revelation that haunts the administration beyond their greatest nightmare. In many ways, the outcome of the 2004 elections hangs in the balance.
United for Peace and Justice recently convened it's first national assembly in June, 2003 with over five hundred delegates from 35 states. The hundreds of groups that have affiliated with United for Peace and Justice reflect the urgency of organizing against the occupation of Iraq and Afghanistan. Our assembly also called for strengthening the movements for justice in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. We are organizing to prevent preemptive strikes against Syria, Iran, Cuba and Korean Peninsula.
Our coalition takes a clear stand against the Bush administration's new nuclear weapon posture, which for the first time since the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki makes a first-strike nuclear attack as a "legitimate" option. We also call on the return to compliance with the ABM treaty and an end to weapons in space.
We have set our course to continue the fight for the disarmament of the United States, the biggest nuclear power in the world. We also continue to connect the domestic economic crisis and attacks on civil liberties at home to the rightwing war drive abroad. And in the final analysis how to break the Bush administrations preemptive, first-strike foreign policy is by defeating Bush and the rightwing in the 2004 elections.
We in the peace movement of the United States face the challenge of struggling for " A Peaceful World Without War and Without Nuclear Weapons "with optimism and realism. Without a strong and unified movement involving a broad cross section of the people, we will not succeed. Without strong ties of solidarity with the world peace movement we cannot succeed.
Together a peaceful world is possible! Thank you.