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Vice mayor calls on Black Caucus not to support war

Vice Mayor Maudelle Shirek
Thursday October 04, 2001

Following is Vice Mayor Maudelle Shirek's statement delivered at the Congressional Black Caucus Convention last week in Washington, D.C. 


Honorable Representatives: 

Thank you for the opportunity to let this 90 year old woman address you. I am Maudelle Shirek, Vice Mayor of patriotic, peace-loving Berkeley, California and I’ve served on the City Council for 17 years. I am here to support your colleague and my friend, Barbara Lee, who I have known most of her adult life. I would like to read the text of an ad from the San Francisco Chronicle signed by 200 individuals which echoes my sentiments: 

“We condemn the violent acts perpetrated against innocent people in New York, Washington, D.C. and Pennsylvania. We grieve the loss of human life and the horrific human suffering. Now is the time for careful consideration of an appropriate response. We salute Congresswoman Barbara Lee for her courage in casting the one vote in Congress against war. Her vote was a recognition that war will only worsen the crisis. Thank you Congresswoman Barbara Lee for voting your conscience and being an inspiring leader of peace-loving people everywhere.” 

I grieve for those killed and injured in the terrible, tragic suicide bombings of Sept. 11; 

I also grieve for their families and friends; 

I also grieve for the Afghani people whose country has been hijacked by a small group of people resulting in civil war, abject poverty, and five million people leaving the country. Long- term famine conditions resulted in 5.3 million Afghanis receiving U.N. food aid last year. The landscape is covered by more landmines than any other country, leaving a population more physically maimed than any other; 

I also grieve for the one and one-half million Iraqis, mostly children under 5, who have died during the past 10 years due to United Nations/United States trade sanctions on necessities such as food and medicine; 

I also grieve historical inequities resulting in the expropriation of lands from the indigenous people in the Americas to the Palestinians in the Middle East and all areas of the world where colonialists subjugated people and drew borders with no regard to local conditions; 

I also grieve that we are in total denial of the global AIDS cataclysm, on par with the Holocaust and Bubonic Plague, which has taken 22 million lives and continues to kill over 8,000 daily, over 90 percent of them Africans; 

Why can’t we be honest with ourselves? A military war against a defenseless, innocent people will only result in the creation of more terrorists. As Ghandi said, “An eye for an eye will only blind the world.” We should follow the Oklahoma City bombing response and seek out the individuals responsible and bring them to justice. We can do this under the U.N. Charter and the World Court by suing Afghanistan for harboring terrorists, to ascertain if this is actually the case. We should not forget that the CIA funded, armed and trained the Taliban. We gave them $43 million in aid this year for drug eradication. 

Our role in the world must be to alleviate pain and suffering, not cause it. No one will win the proposed military conflict. Knee jerk vengeance will only give ammunition to those who mine human desperation to lash out against innocent people. 

If we are to declare war, let us declare war on the causes of terrorism. Let us declare war on hunger. Let us feed Iraqi children and the Afghanis crowded in refugee camps who get one meal of grain every three days. Let us honestly reconcile historical grievances be they made by Africans, African-Americans, indigenous peoples, Palestinians, Jews, Japanese or others. 

Let us declare war on disease. Let us make a $2-$3 billion dollar contribution to Kofi Annan’s Global Health Fund to eradicate the horrendous human suffering caused by AIDS, malaria and TB. Do you realize that Norway’s per capita contribution to this fund is $25, while America’s in only 67 cents? Barbara Lee has made AIDS, hunger, poverty and justice her priorities. Won’t you join her? 

Forty billion dollars would go a long way in solving these problems and in making us friends throughout the world. Let us choose this path rather than the present course which may very well lead to our own destruction. On behalf of my constituents in California’s Ninth Congressional District, I thank you.