Ben Cohen

Ben Cohen’s Speech at the Washington Peace Rally
October 26, 2002

The President’s men have compared their war in Iraq to a new product, but this is a product that nobody wants. So, they’ve timed it, from a marketing point of view, and they’ve supported it with a multi-million dollar P.R. blitz, but their product is a deadly distraction, bristling with nasty side effects and violating national law.

Speaking as businessperson, if I put this product out on the market, my shareholders would have my head. This is a war based on lies. The connection between Saddam and al-Qaida is a lie. The idea that Saddam is capable of attacking the U.S. is a lie. And a war of so-called surgical strikes is a lie.

Many thousands of people, fathers and mothers, sons and daughters, will be killed in this war, and yet there is no imminent threat to the security of America that justifies sending our brave men and women in uniform off to die. And the idea that the people of Iraq, who have already been terrorized by the loss of 500,000 of their children due to U.S.-led sanctions, the idea that these mothers and fathers want to be liberated by being bombed by the United States, is absurd.

The Bush administration is engaged in the most extreme form of power politics that I’ve ever seen. What their actions are saying is that we are the biggest, baddest bully on the block and, therefore, we can make and break the law as we see fit. We are told that we are to attack Iraq because Saddam Hussein has violated U.N. resolution. But just to put it into perspective, let’s look at the U.S. record.

The U.S. has repeatedly violated, and continues to violate, the nuclear non-proliferation treaty. The U.S. pulled out of the ABM treaty. The U.S. has refused to ratify the comprehensive test ban treaty. The U.S. has scuttled the biological weapons treaty because we wouldn’t agree to inspections. And we forced out the head of the chemical weapons convention, who was trying to bring Iraq into the fold. The last time UN weapons inspectors were in Iraq, the U.S. violated regulations by using them as spies. And now we have the Bush doctrine of preemptive war which states that WE can attack any country that we THINK might attack us, although I do not believe it gives that right to other countries.

But enough about war and lost lives and the rule of law. I mean, let’s talk about money. After all, I’m a businessman and money’s my game.

I’ve got a chart here that gives you an idea of how our government has been spending our money. Now this is a big crowd, but this is a big chart:

40 billion — children’s health care
30 billion — children’s education
15 billion — higher education
8 billion — job training
30 billion — affordable housing
8 billion — environmental protection
355 billion — the Pentagon budget. That does not
include the 200 billion dollars that war with
Iraq and the ensuing occupation and
nation-building is expected to cost.

Now these are tough economic times for the U.S. America is on the brink of recession. Median
household income is down. Poverty and unemployment are up. The huge surpluses of the last years have been frittered away on tax breaks. City, state and school budgets across the country are in shock. Retirement and college savings have been decimated.

And now the administration wants to add another 200 billion dollars to that last line on the chart. 200 billion — that’s a lot of money. What could we buy with that if we didn’t have this war?

Well, for 55 billion dollars we could provide all of our public schools with state of the art computer systems for all of our students. For 11 billion dollars a year, we could reduce class size, kindergarten through 3rd grade, to 15 kids per class. For 6 billion dollars a year, we could provide health insurance for all those kids who don’t have any today. For 2 billion dollars a year we could provide Head Start for the hundreds of thousands of eligible kids who can’t get into the program.

For another 2 billion dollars a year, we could double funding for clean and renewable energy. And you know, there are 30,000 children a day, around the world, who are dying from hunger. For 13 billion dollars a year, we could feed all of ’em!

There are 6,000 people a day dying from AIDS in Africa. For 10 billion dollars a year, we can curb the disease. And for 1 billion dollars a year, we could provide complete public financing of all federal elections, allowing us to really, totally and absolutely get money out of politics — for one billion dollars a year.

All of those things I just reeled off add up to 100 billion dollars. This war is going to cost 200 billion. We have another 100 billion leftover!

The continued belligerence of our leaders saps our souls, saps our spirit, and saps our strength as a nation.

Let us instead rededicate ourselves to helping our nation to match its actions with the spirit and soul of our people in goodness and justice and compassion and love.

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