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Defuse Our Warheads

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Who's got the best antiwar sign so far? How about the one some friends of ours spotted in Washington over the weekend, featuring George W., Donald Rumsfeld and the words: "Two More Empty Warheads Found." In Durham, where an antiwar march around Brightleaf Square Saturday attracted more than 1,000 protesters, "War Is So Out" was the message on the posters the organizers were distributing. They included the Franciscan Friars from Immaculate Conception Catholic Church. "We can't sit back while George Bush is in control of our future," said Father David McBride. "God has called us to be people of peace."

Can Bush be stopped from going to war? It sure doesn't look like it from here, unless you think he's putting 200,000 troops into the Gulf region (so far) as a bluff. And yet, what if the U.N. Security Council refuses to sanction an invasion? What if, then, the British government backs away? Would Bush really invade alone? He would if he had American public opinion behind him. But the surest way for him to lose in the U.N., and lose the British, is if the American public is seen to rise up in protest over the next three weeks. That's how long we have: Three weeks.

There's a case to be made for international enforcement of the nuclear non-proliferation regime (emphasis on the word "international") and for the use of force if inspections determine that Iraq's in violation. But Bush hasn't made that case, or even tried, and the world thinks he's the problem.

TIMEeurope.com took a poll: Which country poses the greatest danger to world peace in 2003? With 244,000 responses as of Monday morning, the results were: Iraq, 9.3 percent; North Korea, 8.1 percent; the United States, 82.6 percent. It's not scientific, no. But it is indicative.

Perhaps you think, like both of our U.S. senators, Edwards and Dole, and two of our three local congressmen, Etheridge and Miller (but not Price), that internationalism's a lot of hot air, and the United States, Protector of the Universe, is within its rights to invade on Bush's say-so. Hope you've thought that through.

But if you think we'll reap the whirlwind, that the harm from an invasion will far surpass the good (and overthrowing Saddam Hussein would be good), Father McBride is right. You can't just sit back, especially now when it's relatively easy to go forward.

MoveOn.org. Polite protest is no longer a political oxymoron thanks to the Internet--petitions opposing the war fly to their destinations at warp speed. But do they actually register with anybody? The best online campaign is the one organized by www.MoveOn.org, the bunch that toted up a million e-mails to Congress at the time of the Clinton impeachment ("Censure and Move On," remember?). MoveOn raised enough money online to pay for TV ads in a dozen media markets (not ours) around the country and delivered 250,000 signatures this week on their "Let the Inspections Work" petitions to members of Congress, including 7,000 to Sen. Edwards in Raleigh. "There's been a real groundswell of support across the country," says Gary Messenger of Durham, one of those who made the Edwards delivery. "People want to know who's going to pay for this war and for Iraq's recovery. Besides, the inspection process is working."

Several of the 25 MoveOn volunteers who brought the petitions to an Edwards aide Tuesday took care to tell him that they are, as Durham's Marilyn Hartman said, "patriotic Americans, and not the radical fringe." Jonathan Scott, a Southern Pines businessman, said he wanted Edwards to know how many people--hearing that he was headed to Raleigh--had told him "they're afraid to come to a protest, but are strongly opposed to the war."

Other online resources: For veterans, try CalltoConscience.net ("there is no honor in murder. ..."); for students, StudentPeaceAction.org plans a weekend peace summit at N.C. State starting Feb. 28. Also: Peace-Action.org.

Demonstrations. The D.C. demo last Saturday was, according to the Washington Post, "the largest antiwar demonstration here since the Vietnam era." But it wasn't the only one--Durham's was among the dozens of smaller demonstration held all over the U.S. and Europe--and it/they certainly weren't the last. On Tuesday, about 200 protesters gathered on the Fayetteville Mall in Raleigh to watch a die-in, meant to dramatize what it's like when the bombs come down on your village. It was the in-your-face alternative to petitioning, complete with at least two dozen cops. More such protests are ahead, with Feb. 15 the next "international day." Some contacts: Adam Sotak (942-1503), Hart Matthews (416-6168) and Bill Towe (469-0831).

Civil Disobedience. Some protesters have committed themselves to acts of nonviolent civil disobedience should the U.S. start shooting. An "Iraq Pledge of Resistance" and links to the groups planning it is at www.peacepledge.org.

Call George. The White House runs a public opinion line Monday-Friday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Call (202) 456-1111, and in less than a minute you can register your opposition (or support) for the war with the Commander-in-Chief. EndBlock

Send antiwar slogans to rjgeary@aol.com.

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