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Hundreds rally for peace

Renowned author, political scientist and activist Michael Parenti visited Portland State last Wednesday to speak on terrorism and globalization. Over the course of the day he gave two lectures and accompanied students and the community on a march to the federal building.

He presented his first lecture to an audience of over 200 people in the Smith Center Ballroom on the topic of militarization.

Parenti began by discussing the amount of money spent on the U.S. military. He said that approximately 65 to 70 cents of every tax dollar goes towards past or present military endeavors.

According to Parenti, the United States spent 325 billion dollars on the military last year. He said, “If you add up all the money spent on the Department of Energy and compare it to all the other industrial countries added together, we spend more!” He added that Russia, the second highest funded military, spent $51 billion last year.

Parenti pointed out the irony that Social Security, which has helped millions of Americans, is in danger of being cut because it might cause a deficit in the year 2035, but the government does not discuss military cuts.

He said, “They don’t want to fund [Social Security] because it doesn’t make a profit. It’s socialistic.”

Parenti explained that the goal of global militarization is to privatize everything and make a profit while stopping any populace redistribution of politics. He said the military is “making the world safe for Fortune 500 companies.”

After the lecture, students and other members of the community gathered in the park blocks to rally for a number of causes.

They marched to the Federal Building while holding signs that conveyed many messages such as: “Presidency is Not an Aristocracy,” “Justice Not Bombs,” “Slaves of Consumerism Free Yourselves” and “Let Iraq Live.”

Spectator Alma Abrams said, “Everybody should pay attention to these people. There’s truth in there.”

Once at the Federal Building, they delivered a “letter of solidarity.” The letter requests an end to the war and a reduction in the military budget while increasing funding for public services and alternative energy sources. A request is also made to abolish racial profiling and “unfair criminal prosecutions of the minorities and the poor.”

Heidi Moore, Rearguard volunteer and march organizer, said there were about 400 people at the march.

Sergeant Nederhiser of the Portland police department painted a very different picture of the event. He said, “I heard there were about a dozen people,” speaking of the number of marchers. He said only four officers were assigned to the event. However, pictures taken of the event show police motorcycles and cars lining the streets.

Wednesday evening Parenti presented his second lecture, focused on terrorism, to an audience of about 800 in the Smith Center Ballroom. Parenti began by pointing out the irony that tens of thousands of people around the world have been killed by acts of U.S. state-sponsored terrorism, but the U.S. government and people did not take an interest in the problem until over 3,000 Americans died in a terrorist act.

Parenti was interrupted with laughter after saying, “If you can believe what the White House says.”

After the shared laughter subsided Parenti continued, “They tell us that the Sept. 11 attack happened because there were some crazed zealots driven by an evil doctrine and they targeted the United States because it’s such a free and prosperous country.”

He explained that the perpetrators were indeed driven by a fanatical interpretation of their religious doctrine. He said, “One of the terrible things about human history is all of these people that have been operating right under god’s command.”

Parenti took the audience back to the Oklahoma City bombing and explained that terrorist Timothy McVeigh was associated with a group called “Christian Identity” and had motives to attack the federal government.

However, Parenti said, “The government didn’t launch retaliatory air strikes against the Christian Identity encampment … They didn’t attack the Montana militia units from which some of his sympathizers sprang. Nor did they use racial profiling to detain hundreds of Irish Americans.”

On a side note Parenti shared a story of a high school boy who asked him why he was so against the American system when capitalism has brought America so much prosperity.

Parenti explained that Nigeria, Haiti, Mexico, Indonesia, India and most of the world is capitalist; and most of the world is living in desperate poverty.

He said, “What created our prosperity wasn’t capitalism, but the democratic struggle against the power and abuses of capitalism … People had to wrench and take every gain we made, everything we ever fought for was got not because the capitalist, but in spite of them.”

He continued, “They fought tooth and nail with every bit of miserly miserable greed. Ungiving, unforgiving, unrelenting against every decent thing we’ve had and to credit capitalism for the things that they’ve opposed is to really get your head screwed on wrong.”

A common thread that ran through both lectures was the idea that the “reactionaries” that are in power have a goal to turn the clock back to 1890 “where few control and the obscene rich ruled the country.” Parenti said, “There’s only one thing they ever want (the ruling class): Everything!”

The events were sponsored by the Rearguard newspaper, KBOO radio, Students for Unity, Education Without Borders and Association of African Students.

Parenti said, “Don’t let things end in this room. You as an individual might not be able to do much, but combined with organizations who are ready to help in your efforts, you can make a difference.”

If you would like to volunteer for the Rearguard in a variety of positions, call 503-725-2965 or e-mail [email protected]

Letter of Solidarity

In giving our support, both in presence and spirit to the cause of Peace, Solidarity and Change, we believe that the self-interest of the people of the United States of America is not separate from nor does it stand above, the self-interest of any other person of this world. We are committed to the truth that the violent act of war is in itself an act of terror and will not further our intrinsic desire of all humanity for peace and solidarity. As citizens of the world, in our search for truth, justice and cultural integrity, we request of the United States government to respond to terror, not with more terror, but with rational dialogue. This is our first request.

Secondly, we request of the United States government to reduce the military budget in exchange for: Increased support in education, health care, more jobs, living wages, the use of alternative energy sources, more housing and the abolition of racial profiling and unfair criminal prosecutions of the minorities and the poor. We will be personally delivering the letter of solidarity to all elected representatives of the Oregon government.