Youth in Action: ‘Our War is Right Here at Home’


‘Our War is Right Here at Home’

Following are excerpts from a speech given by Paul M., 18, at an antiwar rally in Santa Rosa, Calif., on June 25. Paul is a member of the San Francisco chapter of Youth for Socialist Action (YSA).

I am a high school student and I have here with me today a copy of my high school textbook from my government class. There is a section in the book that says what America’s major goals are in foreign policy.

One of these goals, according to my textbook, is to achieve world peace. Another goal is to spread democracy throughout the world. Another goal, and this is especially relevant to the situation in Kosovo, is to help humanity.

But there appears to be a sharp contrast between what my book says and reality. How can the U.S. be fighting for world peace when it has just waged a war on another country and bombed civilians? How can the U.S. be fighting in the interests of democracy when democratic rights-like the right to education, jobs and health care-were taken away from Yugoslavians because the United States bombed factories and schools?

And it is especially hard to believe that the U.S. is engaged in a war for humanitarian reasons, considering this country’s role in the world. This is the very same country that overthrew elected governments and supported the most brutal dictators in Latin America. It is the same country that, at the School of the Americas, trained the most bloodthirsty murderers to torture freedom fighters. The U.S. government, which believes it can judge the rest of the world, is the same government that dropped two atomic bombs on Japan-killing hundreds of thousands of innocent people.

When they tell us in school that the U.S. is the world’s protector of human rights, they must expect us to close our eyes and pretend that the conditions we live in just don’t exist. Are we supposed to forget that we are given inadequate education in deteriorating schools at the same time as our government just spent billions on war?

Are we supposed to forget that right here in California, 21 new prisons have been built in the last 15 years but only one new university? How can a country that puts its energy into locking up young people instead of giving them education talk about human rights?

We would be fools to believe that the war on Yugoslavia had anything to do with protecting human rights. The Kosovar Albanians have been the victims of brutal ethnic cleansing-there is no denying that. But how could it be possible that the U.S. government is seeking justice for the Kosovars at the same time that it allows racist police brutality and a racist criminal justice system to flourish at home?

Even though the war in Yugoslavia is officially over, our war is just beginning. And our war is right here at home against the same forces that were bombing Yugoslavia. Our war is against the people who put all our money into the military and throw us crumbs for education. Our war is against the policy of filling prisons with young people instead of putting them into universities. Our war is against police brutality.

Our war is against the whole system which puts profits before people and offers no future to young people except the inside of a jail cell. That is the war we must wage. And that is the war we will win with your participation.

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