Its been two years since George W. Bush invaded Iraq. He pulled off the elections but didnt find any weapons of mass destruction. Theres been no evidence of a connection between Saddam and the 9/11 bombings, but George put the fear of God into the hearts of Syria and Iran. More than 1,500 American soldiers have died that we know of, as well as thousands more wounded, both physically and emotionally. Untold Iraqis have perished. Rumor has it there are 5,000 U.S. soldiers who deserted to Canada, and many more soldiers refusing to fight. Enlistments are down.
So lets talk about it. Rockford Peace & Justice will host a Regional Peace Conference Saturday, March 19, at Rockford College campus, 5050 E. State St. We are renting their facilities to provide comfortable surroundings. Speakers on the history of the Middle East, conscientious objection, and what its like to fight in Iraq will present all day long. You are more than welcome and may stop in all day or just for one of the workshops (pick up a list by calling (815) 964-7111.) At 4:30 p.m., there will be a peace rally to join with protesters around the world as they commemorate the second anniversary of the invasion.
I dont usually work on these big conferences. A lot of energy for meager results. But this time, people are coming from 100 miles away to Rockford to share information and pick up more peace resources. I doubt whether our convention will increase the city revenues to the motel tax, but I know that folks will drive here, eat, and might even shop before they go back home. Most of the peace activists are middle age, middle income, and middle-of-the-road on most political subjects. Iraq concerns not only those who hate war, but also those who have friends and family serving in the armed forces. As John Kerry says, we become more active as we see our loved ones placed in harms way.
I wish our government would expend more energy and money on healing wounds instead of creating fear. I know there is a vision of peace, justice and human rights that can cross borders, and it cant be delivered at bayonet point. This all-day workshop is one way you bring people together to share that vision while working to stop a war. Its a gamble worth taking.
And speaking of gambling
Just how much money would the city make with a casino right in the middle of downtown? We know the government would get 10 percent right off the top. But whats the overall economics? There is a professor of economics who has studied and written books just on that subject. Dr. Earl Grinols from the University of Illinois will share his insights at a public meeting, Thursday, March 17, at 7 p.m. at Second Congregational Church, 318 N. Church St. And you are welcome!
Rockford may have little chance for a casino, but I wouldnt put it past the Illinois Legislature to work out a deal, while at the same time the anti-gambling forces fight the Beloit mega-conference center and water slide gambling pit.
Thats why I ask U.S. Rep. Donald Manzullo to investigate why its so easy for a group of half-breeds to proclaim themselves a tribe and acquire land on the Illinois-Wisconsin border (I dont care who declares themselves Native American, but they cant then legally scalp us). Our congressman has more strength than he uses. We should encourage him to get off his Small Business seat, do some real work, and help stop the Beloit casino.
I would also suggest that we as citizens politely ask the Wisconsin governor to continue his opposition to new forms of gambling (just like our own governors pledge). Write: Governor Jim Doyle, 115 E. State Capitol, Madison, WI 53702.
If we have any clout with Wisconsin, its through our good neighbors and friends up north. The surrounding Wisconsin counties have no interest in a Beloit casino, and some oppose such a drain on their local economies. Just the minimum amount of information on gamblings addictive nature could do the trick and stop the Beloit casino. Would that it could be so easy stopping a war.
Stanley Campbell is executive director of Rockford Urban Ministries and spokesman for Rockford Peace & Justice.