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Ash of the Titans: Darrel Darling at the antiwar action on Ash Wednesday.


Red Letter Days

France, Germany and Russia unite (to veto a U.N. resolution). Millions march for peace globally (though tensions arise within the peace movement over where people stand on Israel/Palestine). And the pope is urged to visit Baghdad (presumably to act as a holy human shield, unless this is a plot to off the pontiff, thereby making him an insta-saint before pedophiliac priests bankrupt the church).

Subtexts aside, you gotta give it to George W. Bush for getting more people to unite, mobilize and demonstrate about a war (which hasn't officially even started yet) than at any other time in history.

Locally, Dubya has created a ripple effect, too.

Santa Cruz was the first city to denounce the war on Iraq, in what is now a nationwide municipal movement. Congressmember Sam Farr has introduced legislation to rescind Bush's authorization to use force--and to exempt libraries and booksellers from provisions of the USA Patriot Act. And state Assemblymember John Laird joined 49 Democratic legislators in signing a letter that listed a myriad of concerns (including lack of credible evidence, failure to persuade other nations and lack of clarity about possible instability in the Middle East during the war and subsequent foreign occupation of Iraq) and opposed war with Iraq without a formal resolution by the U.N. Security Council and a declaration of war by Congress.

But if you think all our local reps are against Bushie Boy, think again.

Last week, state Sen. Bruce McPherson, along with 32 Republican legislators, signed a letter supporting Bush's work and proclaiming that they "stand in general agreement with the fundamental process, integrity and patience" with which Bush has "pursued peace and safety for the American people."

Unlike voting on a resolution, reps aren't required to sign such letters, which makes Nu­z wonder what exactly the termed-out McPherson is planning after Sacramento.

Signs o' the Times

"Peace in Israel. Peace in Palestine," say the placards held by peace activists outside the First Congregational Church in Santa Cruz.

Meanwhile, two American Jews now living in Israel are offering American and Canadian tourists a five-day, $5,500 package tour of counterterrorism training, complete with a mock terror attack, a stay at an Israeli army bunker, hand-to-hand combat in the desert and training on "how to understand the mentality of terrorists."

Up on campus, the UCSC antiwar group Standing United for Peace organized a day of action March 5 in solidarity with college and high school students nationwide, forming a 47-human-strong peace sign on the athletic field below Cowell College.

Meanwhile, in suburban Albany, a man was charged with trespassing in a mall when he refused to take off a T-shirt that said, "Peace on Earth."

And while Bush says, "We don't need U.N. approval," on national TV, antiwar groups promise civil disobedience and a general strike. Here in Santa Cruz, Public Witnesses for Peace blocked the entrances to the Santa Cruz County Military Recruiting Offices on 41st Avenue as part of the National Moratorium to stop the war on Iraq; this event happened to coincide with Ash Wednesday, a day of repentance within the Christian tradition.

"We call on the president and Congress to repent of their plans for war and to radically change course, to turn away from war and to work," said an ash-smudged Darrel Darling as he prepared to risk arrest.

"The closer we get to war, the greater the resistance on the part of the global community, as witnessed by France, Germany and Russia's taking an almost unprecedented veto action," said Darling. "All of which doesn't seem to sway Bush."

Darling said that from a global political POV, "It's abundantly clear that containment has, does and will work in Iraq. It's been demonstrated to be an immensely [more] effective solution to hostilities than war. And we have the apparatus; we've worked hard and diligently to create NATO and the U.N. for global defense and peacekeeping actions."

He added that he is also coming from a spiritual perspective: "It doesn't matter how many others take up arms; my faith way is a nonviolent one, grounded in the spiritual but manifested everywhere in the physical material and political existence. Because of that, I'll do whatever it takes on this Ash Wednesday to follow the way of Jesus, who showed us what the bottom line is. That's what the cross is all about--the willingness to give up one's life and not take another's life, to preserve life. The world has looked to us to be an arbiter of some modicum of justice, and now France, Germany and Russia are stepping up to the plate."

Last but not least, with AOL asking which interrogation method seems most effective in the wake of Khalid Shaikh Mohammed's arrest (39 percent voted for sleep deprivation, 32 percent for prolonged painful positions, 22 percent for physical force and 6 percent for starvation, with 78 percent answering "No" to the question "Does any of the above go too far?), members of the Redwood Nonviolence Community of Santa Cruz are calling for a public war-tax resistance as a positive act to withdraw our consent to war with Iraq.

Pointing out that "our government is spending $1 billion a day for military forces to attack Iraq, while public schools are laying off teachers, eliminating vital programs and closing schools. ... Our government's commitment to superpower military forces is destroying essential services for education, health care and housing," the group notes that--as Henry David Thoreau did when the United States military attacked Mexican territories--we can refuse, even partially, to fund the war.

"We each are choosing an amount to withhold from the federal taxes we owe and paying this money instead to our local public schools. In this way, we withdraw our consent to the federal budget that allocates 47 percent (source: www.warresisters.org) of the federal taxes we pay to the military. Instead, we will support essential services that are at risk in federal, state and local budgets."

For more information, email [email protected], call 423.1626, ext. 307, or write Schools Not Bombs, PO Box 2066, Santa Cruz 95063.

Shocking Pink

Local residents Joanne Calkins and Sheila Moser, who participated in the International Women's Day Peace March in Malcolm X Park in Washington, D.C., report that the event, organized by Code Pink (which took its name as a protest against the guvmint's color-coded terror-alert system), got little media attention, though it attracted 10,000 mostly female, bright-pink-clad protesters.

Calkins reports that about 25 participants, including chief code pinker Medea Benjamin, Alice Walker and Michelle Shocked, were arrested for crossing a police line in front of the White House but were later released. Demonstrators said they believed they were within the law by having only 25 people seeking access to the closed-off section, and that the arrests show that "the White House is definitely afraid of women in pink and the power of love."

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From the March 12-19, 2003 issue of Metro Santa Cruz.

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