By Ted Waddell
MONTICELLO October 15, 2002 As the winds of war start to swirl around a looming conflict with Iraq, a couple of dozen people gathered in front of the Lawrence H. Cooke Sullivan County Courthouse in Monticello on Saturday to voice their opposition to military action.
Heidi Schneider of Damascus, Pa. has been involved in the international peace movement for virtually all her life. She protested the gathering clouds of battle over Iraq by carrying a traditional circular peace sign tacked to a wooden stick.
Im very much against war with Iraq, she said. Im against war, period. We have to try to negotiate this very difficult problem in a peaceful manner.
In 1991, the United States and other nations engaged in the Persian Gulf War in the wake of the short-lived Iraqi invasion of neighboring oil-rich Kuwait.
While many felt the outcome of the war was left unfinished, others felt military action was based on Western efforts to control oil and was the first stage of a major conflict in this tinderbox area.
After September 11, 2001, U.S. officials linked Iraqs president, Saddam Hussein, to efforts to support worldwide terrorists and harboring weapons of mass destruction.
Voicing concern over Iraqs reported possession of chemical, biological and possibly nuclear weapons, the current U.S. administration launched a campaign to sway public opinion that the president should be given virtually unprecedented power in deciding if and when to declare war.
A vocal minority has dubbed the situation weapons of mass deception.
Last week, the U.S. House of Representatives and Senate passed Resolution 114, which prompted local anti-war activist Liz Bucar of Jeffersonville to say, Weve upped the ante. . . . The administration essentially seized Congresss right to orchestrate war. The president now has the right to choose when we will go to war.
Congress may be willing to give up their War Powers Act, but Im not willing to give up my First Amendment rights, she said. Im not willing for this administration to take due process rights away from American citizens.
She carried a reversible sign in front of the courthouse proclaiming for the world to see on one side, Why Not the Constitution, the U.N. Charter, the Bill of Rights? and on the flipside, Why War, Why Iraq & Why Now?
On Friday, October 4, Bucar and about 75 other anti-war, pro-peace folks marched in Honesdale, Pa. The following Friday, a similar march attracted approximately 45 protesters who braved the rain to voice their opposition to a war on Iraq.
According to Bucar, a passing motorist rolled down his window and yelled, What are you, a bunch of Communists?
It was an ugly and frightening incident, she recalled.
On Saturday evening in Monticello, the protest attracted a sparse crowd, but the mood was positive as several motorists honked their horns or gave a thumbs-up in support of the No War On Iraq signs.
Maris Hearn, host of local public radio station WJFFs program Gumbo Shop, showed up wearing a sandwich-board sign proclaiming Say No to the War on Iraq. Say No to the War Against Freedom & Democracy & Civil Rights.
Im worried about the United States Constitution, and the war on Iraq, she said.
Vietnam War resister Glenn Pontier wasnt carrying a protest sign, but he spoke impassionedly about opposing a war with Iraq and the rights of American citizens to freely express opinions.
It is very difficult for a lot of people to get past the hurdles, to understand the meaning of 9/11 . . . and in a lot of peoples pain, they misunderstand the response that was made to 9/11 to what we are doing in Iraq, he said.
For the masses of American people, we need to drive home the difference between the war on terrorism and going after Iraq, he added. A war on terrorism is not the war on terrorism.
We are Americans, and this is our view, said Pontier.
Dick Riseling hosts WJFF Connections, a weekly radio call-in show that focuses on how we can think globally, but act locally.
As he stood with a sign reading Resist the Empire over his shoulder with the domed courthouse serving as a backdrop, Riseling said that last week, 22 people called in to voice their opinion on what might be an imminent war on Iraq: 21 listeners were against war, while one caller said he was pro-war.
Riseling said he is opposed to starting a war with Iraq and views the Patriot Act as a challenge to our civil liberties.
Empires were not good for the people, and they did not last, he said of his view of the current administration engaging in empire building. They collapsed from within because they did not have integrity, were fatally flawed and were immoral.
As the protest drew to a close in front of the county courthouse, the crowd gathered in a circle to, one-by-one, voice their opposition to the looming clouds of war.
They sang in unison Woody Guthries classic This Land is Your Land and The Times They Are A-Changin, recalling the days of protest against the war in southeast Asia, more than 30 years ago.