PHILADELPHIA - January 29 - The Women's International League for Peace and Freedom, US Section, considers dissent an essential component of democracy. The Primary Season and State of the Union Address provide opportunities to question the present priorities and policies of our government. It is telling that the candidates leading in recent primaries are those willing to challenge Bush Administration policies.
Last year President Bush told the world a pre-emptive attack on Iraq was necessary for immediate defense of the US. Since then the rationale for going to war without United Nations support and over the opposition of world opinion has been revealed to be based on incomplete or deceptive information. WILPF has called for a Congressional investigation of US intelligence and its manipulation in the lead-up to the war.
The President never confronted the high price for his unilateral war: over 500 US military dead, thousands of Iraqis dead and uncounted by US forces, destruction still unrepaired in Iraq - on top of years of economic sanctions. The President did not mention his false claims about Iraqi uranium purchases in Africa and still unsubstantiated claims about imminent risk from Iraqi weapons of mass destruction. The wider casualty of this war is the loss of international credibility and support to the US. International institutions that previous Administrations worked to strengthen have been shattered without regard to consequences. The impact on the present and future "state of the union" is all too real.
While terrorism is a genuine threat, it is not the issue defining the lives of most Americans. The President's speech made no mention of the environment or the AIDS epidemic, or real solutions for unemployment. The traditional critics of federal government intervention are now calling for unprecedented interference in our personal lives. He states that, we must "help [families] raise healthy, responsible children," yet promoting heterosexual marriage eclipses any mention of health care for the over 12 million uninsured children in this country. This administration cut funding of its No Child Left Behind education plan and promotes testing as a cure-all for public schools. Neither did the President address the staggering unemployment rate which has a devastating impact on raising healthy, responsible children.
Mr. Bush announced plans for costly initiatives in abstinence education, drug-testing in schools, and faith-based social service, also calling on Congress to make permanent the tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans despite leading this country into the largest budget deficit in history. WILPF asks that Congress look instead at the soaring US military budget, already the world's highest, to cut wasteful spending.
President Bush stated that "different threats require different strategies." WILPF agrees that current policies of empire-building, war, and greed are a unique threat to the sustainability of our planet, our civil liberties, and the health and safety of the citizens of the world, and we must come together to find different strategies to defeat them. We call on all people to speak up for policies that fulfill the values of peace, justice, and human rights for all.