They spoke in different voices and from different perspectives. But the dozens
of Wisconsinites who addressed Monday's extraordinary legislative hearing on whether
the United States should attack Iraq delivered a single message: The Bush administration's
attempt to fake up a case for war has not succeeded in convincing the people of
this state that there is a need to go to war.
Former U.S. Rep. Robert Kastenmeier, who represented south-central Wisconsin
in Congress for 32 years, told the town hall meeting at the Capitol, "I wish my
fellow Americans were not so easily talked into going to war." But, as speaker
after speaker came to the microphone in the State Capitol hearing room, it was
clear that Wisconsinites are not as easily fooled as some Americans.
As state Sen. Fred Risser, D-Madison, and state Reps. Frank Boyle, D-Superior,
and Mark Miller, D-Monona, listened, a stunningly diverse array of speakers addressed
the question of whether the United States should launch a pre-emptive attack on
Iraq. Religious leaders and atheists, farmers and city folks, students and professors,
elected officials and people who said they had previously been apolitical all
Perhaps the most striking detail of the day - and it really was a day
of testimony - was the age range of the speakers.
Sixteen-year-old Norah Hazelton, a Stoughton High School junior, waited more
than three hours to argue, "The U.S. should not even be considering war when all
of the alternative options have not been explored."
Referring to the inadequate "case" that the Bush administration has made for
launching a pre-emptive attack on Iraq, Hazelton said, "I don't see why we should
risk starting World War III over a paranoid assumption."
Hazelton may be young and idealistic.
But her take on the Bush administration's ill-advised rush to war was echoed
by the elderly and experienced - from Kastenmeier to the many war veterans who
addressed the hearing.
"Whether or not the Congress approves, whether or not the United Nations approves,
I oppose bombing Iraq," said Ted Shannon, a World War II veteran from Middleton.
Shannon argued that the Bush administration is engaging in hyperbole about
Iraq in order to turn the attention of the American people away from a badly stumbling
economy and the president's failure to address real threats to the United States
and the world. "Iraqis are not our enemies. Our enemies are poverty and disease
at home and abroad," said Shannon, who called talk of war with Iraq "a very convenient
foil to distract our nation."
Shannon joined veterans from World War II, the Korean War and the Vietnam War
who argued passionately against the unnecessary war that the Bush administration
is now attempting to cook up.
"Among the strongest critics of proposals for new wars are the veterans of
past wars," said World War II veteran Jackson Tiffany, 77, who said he and other
veterans of the fight against Hitler's aggression felt a sense of "outrage that
our nation would be considering a pre-emptive war."
It is sad that members of Wisconsin's congressional delegation were not present
to hear the testimony from their constituents on an issue the House and Senate
could be addressing as early as this week. The state's two senators and nine representatives
should have rearranged their schedules to be present. But their absence is no
excuse for a vote cast against the wishes and the sound arguments of their constituents.
Congressional votes on whether to give the president the authority to wage
war against Iraq are coming fast - perhaps before the end of this week. If Wisconsin's
representatives choose to represent Wisconsin, they will listen to the loud voices
of the people of this state and vote "no!"
Copyright 2002 The Capital Times