The Bush administration's drive to oust Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein is so aggressive that even before a war has started its repercussions are being felt in every corner of the world, says Nobel Peace Prize laureate Adolfo Perez Esquivel.
The Argentine, who won the 1980 Peace Prize, views President George W. Bush's plans for attacking Iraq with great alarm. "Bush is setting the world on fire," he said.
Nobel Peace Prize recipient Adolfo Perez Esquivel listens to a discussion titled:
"A world without wars is possible" during the World Social Forum in
Porto Alegre, Brazil, Sunday, Feb. 3, 2002. (AP Photo/Douglas Engle)
Mr. Perez Esquivel, a native of Buenos Aires, is an architect, sculptor and teacher. He won the 1980 prize for his resistance to Argentina's Dirty War against leftist rebels. Imprisoned and tortured, he was freed with help from Amnesty International and the Pope.
At 71, he leads the Latin American human-rights group Servicio, Paz y Justicia, and travels widely on behalf of the antiwar movement. He has been in Toronto and Ottawa under the auspices of the church group KAIROS: Canadian Ecumenical Justice Initiatives.
After visiting Iraq last year for a firsthand look at what 12 years of sanctions and U.S. bombing attacks have done to its battered infrastructure, Mr. Perez Esquivel scoffed at the notion that Iraq poses any significant threat.
A U.S. attack, on the other hand, would open "a Pandora's box, threatening to set free the demons of death and destruction," he wrote recently.
"The chief danger in the world today is not Saddam Hussein," Mr. Perez Esquivel said. "It is the United States."
Like other critics of U.S. policy, he perceives in the United States an angry, isolated country inflicting lasting damage on itself. Mr. Perez Esquivel reaches for some words by Abraham Lincoln, quoted by President John F. Kennedy at the United Nations in 1962.
"What Lincoln said more than a century ago is that if the United States doesn't defend life, then it faces the prospect of self-destruction."
Yet unstable as the planet is, Mr. Perez Esquivel fears surging anti-Americanism will make it far more so. Across Latin America, he says, the antiwar sentiment, which has prompted big demonstrations in half a dozen countries, is vigorously feeding long-term resentment over U.S. policies on trade, tariffs, militarization and debt.
"What's happening with Iraq is not isolated, it's part of a global phenomenon. When we see the installation of U.S. military bases throughout Latin America, when we look at [American interference] in countries such as Venezuela and Colombia and Panama, we have to ask ourselves what's going on.
"Lots of people think it and won't say it, but I will say it: The United States is seeking to control the world. That's why we are seeing the reaction in so many countries."
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