John Scripsick addresses July 10 news conference at Oklahoma Capitol.
Photo: Rena Guay, New Media Active
BY ARNOLD HAMILTON
Despite a decade of misadventures in Iraq and Afghanistan, thousands of needless American casualties and waste of trillions of taxpayers’ dollars, neo-cons are at it again – this time urging the U.S. to strike Iran.
A coalition of Oklahomans hopes to ignite a prairie fire of opposition against such folly with a series of highway billboards imploring “Tell Congress: No War on Iran.”
“The same people who were cheerleading for the Iraq War are now fear-mongering about the threat from Iran,” said Dr. Katherine Scheirman, former chief of medical operations for the U.S. Air Force in Europe.
“The reality is that Iran is a second rate military power, with an economy being crippled by poor management and international sanctions. It is isolated in the Middle East and surrounded by U.S. military bases.
“I agree with [Republican presidential candidate and U.S. Rep.] Ron Paul who said that the threat to U.S. national security is not Iran, but endless wars.”
The Oklahoma activists from the group Americans Against The Next War [AANW] are spending $15,000 to place three billboards for the next five months on major highways in Oklahoma City – at the self-described “Crossroads of America” – in an effort to stir Americans to speak out against needless military action.
“We are especially concerned that a constant state of war now seems normal to a whole generation of Americans,” said Nathaniel Batchelder, director of the Peace House in Oklahoma City. “We hope that our advocacy for non-military solutions to international disagreements will resonate with other war-weary Americans who will contact Congress with that message, too.”
Neo-cons led by the likes of former Bush Administration UN Ambassador John Bolton and special interests from the nation’s increasingly powerful military industrial complex are promoting war against Iran. They warn ominously that the Middle East country is seeking to build nuclear weapons that could threaten Israel, the region and U.S. interests therein.
The reality is quite different.
As Norman’s Jalal Farzaneh, an AANW member, put it: “Our generals and secretary of defense confirm that Iran is not building nuclear bombs. We ask Congress to say no to a war on Iran based on faulty intelligence, and to not put our troops in harm’s way. This war will not serve America’s interests.”
Somewhere Ike – who warned six decades ago against the dangers of the military industrial complex – must be spinning.
John Scripsick, an Oklahoma farmer whose Marine son Bryan was killed in a suicide bombing in Iraq in September 2007, joined the chorus in opposition to war against Iran, noting that many promoting military action benefit financially from a perpetual U.S. war machine.
Scripsick also condemned what he described as the pro-war crowd’s willingness to demonize non-Americans and those of other religions.
“This hatred has to stop,” he said. “The civilians will pay the price.
“It will never hurt the political leaders of a country. It will hurt the civilians. I am totally against this war.”
Oklahoma City attorney Robert D. Lemon described a scene in which a child – wounded in war – “screamed as loud” and “struggled as hard” as he could to withstand the pain of injury and gangrene that led medical personnel to amputate his arm.
“I oppose war,” Lemon said. “War kills people. War kills military on both sides. War kills civilians on both sides. And children – my graciousness …
“Let us not take on Iran in another unnecessary war.”
Lemon also urged Oklahomans and Americans to consider that “our record isn’t perfect” when it comes to nuclear weapons – especially considering the U.S. is the only nation to have ever used them [both times against Japan in World War II].
“We need to remember that a little bit,” he said, “when we’re judging others.”
Rev. Bruce Prescott, executive director of Mainstream Oklahoma Baptists, was unable to attend the news conference, but sent a statement supporting the anti-war effort:
“Early on, [President] Obama made a valiant attempt to find a diplomatic solution to our differences with Iran but that effort was abandoned prematurely. Instead of diplomacy, this administration is now pursuing a policy of using sanctions to force Iran to not develop nuclear weaponry.
“The effect of the sanctions falls disproportionately on the middle class in Iran which comprises the bulk of the pro-democracy green movement in Iran that filled the streets in protest of the stolen elections in 2009. The effect of our sanctions is undermining the green movement which we ought to be supporting, it is strengthening the hand of the extremists in Iran, and it is leading us on the path to yet another war.
“I am opposed to war with Iran and I am opposed to Iran developing nuclear weapons. Frankly, I am opposed to nuclear weaponry in any nation’s arsenal.
“As long as the world turns a blind eye to nuclear weapons in Pakistan and Israel, it is hypocritical to be overly alarmed about the possibility that Iran might acquire them.
“We need to be working for the nuclear disarmament of all nations.
“Instead of rejecting agreements like the Tehran Declaration that was successfully negotiated by Brazil and Turkey, we need to return to the conference table with patient and prolonged diplomatic efforts that give peace a chance.”
According to AANW, churches and organizations endorsing or supporting the Oklahoma project include Mayflower Congregational Church, UCC; Church of the Open Arms, UCC; Joy Mennonite Church; First Unitarian Church of Oklahoma City; Tulsa Peace Fellowship; Oscar Romero Catholic Worker House; National Lawyers Guild, Oklahoma Chapter; Peace Education Institute; and Oklahoma Center for Conscience and Peace Research.
Individuals supporting or endorsing the billboard project include state Sen. Constance Johnson, D-Oklahoma City; Bill Bryant, president of United Nations Association of OKC; Martha Skeeters, PhD, University of Oklahoma associate professor; Kenneth Meador, Iraq war veteran; and many others.
The “No War On Iran” billboards are located on Interstate 35, north of SE 15th Street [east side of the road, facing north]; on I-35, a half-mile north of Britton Road [west side of road, facing south]; and on I-40, west of Yukon near Clarence Page airport, [north side of road, facing west].
“Our billboards demonstrate that voices for peace and negotiations are now crucial to the process of resolving issues with Iran,” said Batchelder. “A war with Iran would raise world oil prices, reverse our fragile economic recovery, and plunge the U.S. into further debt.”
For more information, visit the website http://AmericansAgainstTheNextWar.org.
– Arnold Hamilton is editor of The Oklahoma Observer