By Bob Fitrakis

April 3, 2008

The great moral issue of our era is the illegal war in Iraq. Like the issues of slavery, the civil rights movement and the Vietnam War in past epochs, silence on this issue equals complicity.

On March 17, the Citizens Grassroots Congress presented a Columbus “City for Peace” resolution to the Columbus City Council. Notably, 283 cities, 10 counties and 17 states across the nation have passed peace resolutions, from Arrowsic, Maine to South Charleston, West Virginia to Missoula, Montana.

Yet, the Columbus Dispatch, in a March 22 editorial, denounced the peace resolution as an “Empty gesture.” They cautioned Council to “focus on city issues,” not the war in Iraq. The Dispatch calls the resolution “symbolic and ineffectual.”

In 1838, when Angelina Grimke became the first woman to address a legislative body in the U.S., her plea for a resolution from the Massachusetts legislature against slavery met with similar scorn from the mainstream media.

The slaves couldn’t speak for themselves, nor can the more than one million Iraqis who have died as a direct result of Bush’s war. The voices of 4,000 U.S. soldiers have been silenced as well.

In addition to these incalculable human costs, we can begin to add up how this war, that was supposed to “pay for itself,” is devastating the economy in Columbus, Ohio.

According to the National Priorities Project, “Taxpayers in Columbus, Ohio will pay $135.1 million for additional proposed Iraq War spending for FY 2008. For the same amount of money, the following could have been provided:
• 47,896 people with health care or
• 151,338 homes with renewable electricity or
• 3,060 public safety officers or
• 2,069 music and arts teachers or
• 15,591 scholarships for university students or
• 12 new elementary schools or
• 1,260 affordable housing units or
• 81,262 children with health care or
• 21,039 Head Start places for children or
• 2,153 elementary school teachers or
• 2,373 port container inspectors”
The cost of the war continues to rise daily. The monthly cost exceeds the monthly cost of the Vietnam War (adjusted for inflation) by half a billion dollars.

And what has the war accomplished? The war has turned Iraq, an anti-Al Qaeda state with no ties to the terrorist organization, into a symbol for “accelerated recruitment” for Al Qaeda, according to the International Institute for Strategic Studies. The country is now “a training and recruitment ground (for terrorists) and an opportunity for terrorists to enhance their technology skills,” according to the U.S. National Intelligence Council.

Mainstream newspapers also warned Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. from speaking out against the Vietnam War. But, on April 4, 1967 he ignored their advice because he believed “Somehow this madness must cease.”

“I speak as a citizen of the world, for the world as it stands aghast at the path we have taken. I speak as one who loves America. To the leaders of our own nation: the great initiative in this war is ours; the initiative to stop it must be ours,” pronounced King at the Riverside Church in New York City.

The Dispatch says the Council’s work should “all center on making Columbus a better place to live.” The cost of war on our city will leave us both economically and morally bankrupt. The cost of silence is far greater than the price of a principled stand.

This military madness once again afflicts our nation, and our elected officials lack the courage to take a stand for peace. The people overwhelmingly voted for peace in the 2006 election, turning out the party of war. The silence of the City Council, to borrow the words of King, equals betrayal of their constituents and their own conscience.

Bob Fitrakis is Editor & Publisher of The Free Press (, where this article first appeared.