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Activist questions Bush plan

September 30, 2002|by DAVE McMILLION

charlestown@herald-mail.com

SHEPHERDSTOWN, W.Va. - A former CNN Middle East bureau chief warned against any U.S. invasion of Iraq during a talk in Shepherdstown Sunday night.

Any attempt to topple Iraqi President Saddam Hussein would likely result in large numbers of deaths on both the U.S. and Iraqi sides, Jerry Levin said.

Levin, who is now an anti-violence activist, was also skeptical of any new government being able to set up in Iraq.

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"The U.S. is poised to turn oil-rich Iraq into a modern-day equivalent of the many central American banana republics whose chances to achieve real democracy were continually thwarted and then subverted by our armed interventions there," Levin told a crowd of more than 50 at the Entler Hotel.

In contrast to President Bush, who says Hussein is a "tyrant" that must be dealt with, Levin said Hussein has not demonstrated any threatening characteristics since the Persian Gulf War.

Hussein has simply stood his ground "as any leader does," Levin said.

Levin said leading Democrats have not questioned Bush's plans for attacking Iraq in depth for fear of appearing unpatriotic.

Levin encouraged those present to take to the streets and demonstrate "around the clock" to show the nation's leaders that any attack on Iraq is unwise.

"The dam is on the verge of breaking," Levin said.

"Let's set a date," said a man in the audience, reacting to Levin's call for demonstration.

Levin was kidnapped by the Hezbollah group in Lebanon in March 1984 while serving as CNN's bureau chief in the Middle East. He was imprisoned in isolation for nearly a year and lost about 45 pounds.

He has since left CNN and is working for Christian Peacemaker Teams, which work to protect Palestinians from violence in the Palestinian West Bank.

Levin's wife, Sis, who accompanied him Sunday, is an author who teaches peacemaking at a kindergarten-through-college baccalaureate program in the region.

In his discussions, Levin talks about "the futility" of violence.

"Not just the futility of the violence of the so-called bad guys, but the futility of the violence of the so-called good guys, too. In other words, I firmly believe that violence - anyone's and everyone's, bin Laden's or Bush's ... does not work," Levin said.

Levin's appearance was sponsored by the Shepherdstown Presbyterian Church peace study group, the Panhandle Peace and Justice Coalition and the Rolling Ridge Retreat Study Community.

The approaches supported by Levin and his wife are useful for teachers in helping them to curb classroom violence, said Donna Acquaviva, who is affiliated with the Shepherdstown Presbyterian Church group and the Panhandle Peace and Justice Coalition.

The issues take on a heightened importance during the threat of war, Acquaviva said.

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