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by Kathy Williams

No, I never intended to see it. Part of me wishes I never had. Two decades
after the Vietnam War ended, I made the citizen's pilgrimage to Washington,
D.C. for the first time. There I saw that chilling black wall etched with all
those names.

I was on my way from the Washington Monument to the Lincoln Memorial. On the
far side of the reflection pool, they were dedicating the Korean War
memorial. Such a hot day, I had walked all over Washington and I lost my
resolve to climb all those steps to the Lincoln Memorial. I searched for
some shade and found myself facing the black wall.

People kneeled and wept. On the sidewalk lay tokens of affection and respect
for brave and patriotic lives lost in that pointless, violent exercise. Some
rubbed the image of a precious name on paper, a grim personal souvenir.

I looked along the gracefully sloping edge of the monument. It seemed to go
on forever, its 4-foot-high surface filled with names. Thousands upon
thousands of America's youth are honored there. The overwhelming sadness of
it all descended. As I lifted my eyes upward, I saw the Capitol dome in the
distance. There they were, superimposed in one image: Thousands of dead
soldiers, sailors, airmen and marines -- and the political machine that put
them in harm's way. A scream rose, not in my throat, but in my mind. Rage.
Old men's pride and greed making cannon fodder of the young.

And what had I done to stop it? A couple of silent vigils on the Austin
College lawn. Marching in the Moratorium. Letters to Congress. Then back to
my sweet, happy, easy life: College and concerts; eventually husband and

"If you're not part of the solution, you're part of the problem."

I vowed there, amid Democracy's sacred monuments, never, never again would I
be part of the problem.

How does the protest of war get twisted into something unpatriotic? How can
acts intended to keep young men and women out of war be viewed as
non-supportive of troops? Perhaps if non-violent words are spoken early,
they find their proper target of policy, not patriots.

The old spiritual, "Ain't Gonna Study War No More" runs through my head now.

We need to study peace: How to make it and how to keep it. We had the "Peace
Dividend" from the end of the Cold War. Peace and justice groups across the
country had studied peace. They knew how to convert the economy into a peace
economy rather than a war machine, but we didn't listen. We paid no attention
to the need for alternative fuels to keep us from reliance on oil supplies
held by despots and in hostile or pristine environments. We paid no attention
to investing in civic construction projects. Now, we have a tired and
crumbling infrastructure -- and a growing mountain of red ink.

Of course, it's un-American for governments to employ citizens in "made
work": Building systems of transportation, cleaning the environment or
tending to the aged or ill veterans of other wars.

Instead, we continue to build war toys and look for new markets. America is
in the business of exporting violence. Heck, if we can't find someone to buy
them, we send them over for free.

In Iraq we faced weapons we supplied them to fight Iran.

When Clinton bombed the "terrorist camps" in Afghanistan and Bush II, the
Taliban, those were the same "freedom fighters" the U.S. supported with
training, weapons, supplies and advisers when they were fighting the

And good ol' Ollie North and the Reagan boys sold weapons to Iran to raise
money to buy more guns so Nicaragua, El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala
could war against their own people.

We faced American-provided arms when we invaded Panama to arrest our old
friend Noreiga on drug charges.

War isn't good business, it's great business. Ask Dick Cheney and his
buddies at Halliburton. Cheney drew a cool $36 million in income from
Halliburton in 2000, reward for increasing Halliburton's government
contracts by 91 percent (nearly $2 billion) during his five-year tenure as
CEO of the oilfield services corporation.

Last year, when we began detaining terrorism suspects at Guantanamo Bay,
Cuba, Halliburton got the $9.7 million contract to build holding cages for
the detainees. That contract could rise to $300 million over the next four
years. Although Cheney now draws a public paycheck, he earned $1.6 million in
deferred compensation from the corporation, he claimed on his 2001 income tax

Perhaps right now, while only a dozen or so Americans and a few hundred
innocents in Afghanistan have lost their lives, voices of protest may be
raised without being condemned as traitorous and non-supportive of our brave

And if not, well, damn the torpedoes -- and the guided missiles and the
surgical strikes. And damn Tony Blair and those good ol' boys and girls in
Congress and the White House.

Maybe just now, before it all gets muddy and "spun" and conveniently
remembered; before we have to avenge even one more soldier's death, we have
an opportunity: Pursue every alternative before invading Iraq.

If Bush's advisors can't come up with some new ideas, maybe it's because
he's surrounded himself with the same advisors that led Poppy Bush to war.
How cynical to believe that a nation of 290 million people hasn't produced
any new statesmen or women with fresh ideas in the past 12 years. Other than
the Bush, Blair and Australian administrations, all the other countries with
whom we would band to fight this war are urging restraint.

Let the inspectors work. And even if they find something, seek ways to
render those weapons useless. We are a people of great imagination and
industry. Surely we can find a better way.

We have before. Even when Khrushchev, sitting on millions of tons of nuclear
weapons, pounded his shoe and vowed to bury us; even when China developed
nuclear technology and threatened to destabilize its relationship with the
Soviet Union; even when that sex-crazed megalomaniac in North Korea kicked
out our inspectors and promised he will develop nukes, we didn't strike up
the war drums.

They are pounding now. Television networks are all but advertising in favor
of a war as if were some kind of ratings competition.

When we take the step of invading a country before we are attacked, these
acts of war get easier for any country to pursue. What if our attack
emboldens someone to attack Israel and Israel uses its nuclear weapons? What
if Pakistan decides it's OK to hit India with its nukes? What if China is
emboldened to attack Taiwan?

If we launch a war, we never will know what lay ahead on the road not taken,
or how much misery and death we could have avoided.

KATHY WILLIAMS is managing editor of the Herald Democrat.

Copyright Herald Democrat 2003

Roger Stroope
Treat others not as you wish to, but as they wish to be...
Austin College, Sherman Texas

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