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Wisconsin Votes 'No!' to War

They spoke in different voices and from different perspectives. But the dozens of Wisconsinites who addressed Monday's extraordinary legislative hearing on whether the United States should attack Iraq delivered a single message: The Bush administration's attempt to fake up a case for war has not succeeded in convincing the people of this state that there is a need to go to war.
Former U.S. Rep. Robert Kastenmeier, who represented south-central Wisconsin in Congress for 32 years, told the town hall meeting at the Capitol, "I wish my fellow Americans were not so easily talked into going to war." But, as speaker after speaker came to the microphone in the State Capitol hearing room, it was clear that Wisconsinites are not as easily fooled as some Americans.

As state Sen. Fred Risser, D-Madison, and state Reps. Frank Boyle, D-Superior, and Mark Miller, D-Monona, listened, a stunningly diverse array of speakers addressed the question of whether the United States should launch a pre-emptive attack on Iraq. Religious leaders and atheists, farmers and city folks, students and professors, elected officials and people who said they had previously been apolitical all answered, "No!"

Perhaps the most striking detail of the day - and it really was a day of testimony - was the age range of the speakers.

Sixteen-year-old Norah Hazelton, a Stoughton High School junior, waited more than three hours to argue, "The U.S. should not even be considering war when all of the alternative options have not been explored."

Referring to the inadequate "case" that the Bush administration has made for launching a pre-emptive attack on Iraq, Hazelton said, "I don't see why we should risk starting World War III over a paranoid assumption."

Hazelton may be young and idealistic.

But her take on the Bush administration's ill-advised rush to war was echoed by the elderly and experienced - from Kastenmeier to the many war veterans who addressed the hearing.

"Whether or not the Congress approves, whether or not the United Nations approves, I oppose bombing Iraq," said Ted Shannon, a World War II veteran from Middleton.

Shannon argued that the Bush administration is engaging in hyperbole about Iraq in order to turn the attention of the American people away from a badly stumbling economy and the president's failure to address real threats to the United States and the world. "Iraqis are not our enemies. Our enemies are poverty and disease at home and abroad," said Shannon, who called talk of war with Iraq "a very convenient foil to distract our nation."

Shannon joined veterans from World War II, the Korean War and the Vietnam War who argued passionately against the unnecessary war that the Bush administration is now attempting to cook up.

"Among the strongest critics of proposals for new wars are the veterans of past wars," said World War II veteran Jackson Tiffany, 77, who said he and other veterans of the fight against Hitler's aggression felt a sense of "outrage that our nation would be considering a pre-emptive war."

It is sad that members of Wisconsin's congressional delegation were not present to hear the testimony from their constituents on an issue the House and Senate could be addressing as early as this week. The state's two senators and nine representatives should have rearranged their schedules to be present. But their absence is no excuse for a vote cast against the wishes and the sound arguments of their constituents.

Congressional votes on whether to give the president the authority to wage war against Iraq are coming fast - perhaps before the end of this week. If Wisconsin's representatives choose to represent Wisconsin, they will listen to the loud voices of the people of this state and vote "no!"

The Capital Times



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