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From a Speech Delivered by Mr. Werner at a Gathering to Honor Dr. Martin Luther King


I stood before you in October of 2001, one month after 9 - 11. I asked then if meeting violence with violence would make us a safer nation? I asked if the bombing in Afghanistan would only breed more terrorism? I think we now know the answer to those questions.

Today, as we honor Dr. Martin Luther King, I must again ask questions. How can I as an individual stand by and consent to my country waging an illegal war against another nation? How can I as an elected official stand by and consent to our president driving this country into financial ruin? How can I as a humanitarian stand by while ten million children suffer from the aids virus in Africa, while our country spends my tax dollar to support dictators and murderers around the world; while our own state of Nebraska discriminates against gays, lesbians, and trans-gendered people; and while our own city does not even guarantee that workers be paid a living wage. I will not stand idly by and I will take every opportunity to speak out against inequality and injustice, whether it be at the city, state or national level.

Walter Mosley, a mystery writer, recently wrote in the Nation magazine (1/27/03) about his view of "Universal ideas as...rules of fair treatment . . . To live by" - he lists them:

Mosley goes on to say, "I believe the institution of these simple statements would halt the rampant onslaught of the haves, in whose numbers many of us are counted, against the have-nots."

If only we as a nation could begin to live by these simple truths. We certainly would not be talking about the use of first strike nuclear force and pre-emptive military action!

The Washington Post in an article by Michael Dobbs (12/1/02) estimated that the dollar cost of the war in Iraq could exceed $200 billion dollars. This is on top of the $396 billion annually spent for defense in the United States. Compare this to the meager $3.3 billion spent for the aids virus programs in our country, or the $54 billion annually spent for education. How about the millions of working men, women and children in our country without health care. Again, I must ask another question, where are our priorities? $54 billion dollars for education or $400 billion dollars for the military? And again I must ask, do you feel more secure? Are we safer?

Under George W. Bush our country has gone from a budget surplus to a budget deficit. Our state is short nearly $700 million dollars. Our cities and schools are struggling, and he wants to spend $200 billion to invade Iraq. I say that we need to speak up now and stop this war before it even gets started.

The financial burden on this country will be great, there is no doubt, but what about the people of Iraq? The United Nations predicts that as many as "500,000 Iraqis could require medical treatment as a result of serious injuries". (Global Network, 1/9/03) They estimated that another 3 million could be driven from their homes, a third of those into neighboring countries. The basic medical services will essentially be eliminated in their country, and the "outbreak of diseases" could be in "epidemic if not pandemic proportions". I have one final question to ask. Are we as a nation ready to accept responsibility for these actions done in our name? I am not. Thank you!

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