Columbia, South Carolina. Everyday people want peace, not only in “Old Europe” and around the world where millions of peace-loving people turned out over the weekend in protests to stop the United States’ invasion of Iraq, but even in this bastion of the United States’ defense establishment.
In South Carolina a flourishing peace movement is organizing and getting more media coverage as peace vigils become larger each week. Although most of the media trumpet the martial call of President Bush with eager editorializing for war, some stories about troop deployments depict the families of military personnel questioning why they have to go. Along with a myriad of heart wrenching stories in our media of departing young warriors hugging and kissing their wives, husbands and children goodbye beneath headlines proclaiming “In Service of Their Country”, stories of peace protests are growing in number and the diversity of activists is evident.
South Carolina is the military laden province of Saint Strom Thurmond, who never heard of a U.S. military action he didn’t like, since the Confederacy lost the Civil War. Our state is the home of Fort Jackson Army Training Center, Parris Island Marine Training Center, Shaw Air Force Base, the Charleston Air Force Base, the Beaufort Marine Air Base and the Savannah River Site, a giant nuclear weapons complex. But, even where George W. Bush triumphed in a crucial contest for the presidential nomination in 2000 and Republicans now control the Governor’s office and both houses of the legislature, some unlikely folks have become outspoken advocates for peace and disarmament..
Folks like Robert Marek of Aiken, South Carolina, a former United Nations’ weapons inspector with the International Atomic Energy Agency. The day before Chief Inspector Hans Blix briefed the U.N. Security Council Marek stepped up and told The State newspaper in Columbia, S.C. that his friends who are currently weapons inspectors in Iraq had e-mailed him saying they need more time than “President Bush is willing to give” to do the job they are supposed to do. “I think it would be unfortunate if they didn’t give them the time they need to do the job”, said Marek, who spent three years as a nuclear inspector in the Far East and now is a law student at the University of South Carolina.
Marek also said, “All the people that I know over there…are all very competent. When it is done properly, they will find out what they are supposed to.”
“I’d hate to see all that ruined for political reasons.” Marek said. He said inspectors in Iraq are getting reasonable cooperation from Saddam’s regime according to recent e-mailed reports he has been getting from his inspector friends in Iraq.
Marek came within a month of going to Iraq in late 1998 to monitor its dozen nuclear labs and research reactors, but a missile attack by the U.S. and Britain resulted in the withdrawal of weapons inspectors, according to Marek. He spent the next three years inspecting nuclear facilities in Japan, South Korea and Taiwan. His job was to monitor whether those nations were diverting their nuclear technology into weaponry. Weapons inspections require painstaking procedures to identify, analyze, map and trace suspected materials and that is why Blix and his team need more time, Marek said.
Over lunch Marek told me about coming to South Carolina to work as a nuclear engineer at the Department of Energy’s nuclear weapons complex at Aiken making nuclear weapons. Robert Marek said he looked into his young son’s eyes one day and contemplated his future with the escalating danger of the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. He then decided to work as a weapons inspector at the U.N. in the cause of peace and disarmament
On World Peace Day last Saturday, the Carolina Peace Resource Center(CPRC) was a co-sponsor of a Teach-In for Peace at the University of South Carolina(USC) and a March and Rally at the South Carolina State House. Leading the singing of peace songs like “Down By The Riverside”, and “Blowin’ In The Wind” with a wonderful country-folk voice was Travis Nagy, a Young Republican leader at USC. Travis said he attended the peace rally in Washington, D.C. on January 18 and was impressed by the diversity and sincerity of the participants.
At the South Carolina State House rally on Saturday was a former artillery officer named Steve Lefemine. Steve is an anti-abortion advocate who held a sign that said “Just Say No! To Abortion & Emperor Bush’s New World Order IRAQ WAR!”.
The world-wide weapons industry relies on the politics of hate, fear and war to sell their evil products throughout the world. The global proliferation of weapons of mass destruction demands global disarmament before it is too late..
It is time for peace and disarmament! Let the inspectors do their work in Iraq, and also in North Korea, Israel, Iran and other dangerously armed nations like the United States, the nation with more weapons of mass destruction than the next fifteen nations combined.
TOM TURNIPSEED is an attorney, writer and civil rights activist in Columbia, South Carolina. www.turnipseed.net