Speech at downtown San Diego anti-war march, February 15, 2003

Hi, my name is Marty Sereno, and I'm a professor at UCSD where I study the human visual system. It's very good to see you all here.

I have never given a political speech before, but recent events have motivated me, like you, to stand up and be counted.

To oppose the war, we need to understand the real reasons our government wants it. The stated reason -- that Iraq threatens the US -- is not valid.

The first real reason is to make people in the rest of the world fear the US, to make an example of Iraq, to put on the mother of all war shows, to out-terrorize the terrorists.

In Richard Perle's words, one of the warhawks in the administration, who has never been close to a real war: "If we let our vision of the world go forth, and we embrace it entirely, and we don't try to piece together clever diplomacy, but just wage a total war... our children will sing great songs about us".

This strategy also tries to terrorize Americans with vague daily threats, one alert level away from red, and endless so-called 'news' stories about buying duct tape.

This is not new stuff -- war has always been nothing more than terrorism on a larger scale, killing mostly civilians in order to affect policy -- for example, the 2-3 million civilians the US killed in South East Asia in the 60's and 70's.

The thing that scares me is the speed at which these changes are occurring. The Patriot II act is already written. When it was leaked earlier this week, there was hardly a peep out of our elected representatives.

The administration wants to show the world that they can start a war that is opposed by almost the entire rest of the world, using plagiarized dossiers, and even during the largest domestic anti-war demonstrations that have ever occurred before a war has actually even started.

The second real reason, of course, is oil. This is not about using Iraqi oil, which we already do: 8% of the oil used in California this year came from Iraq.

As a scientist, I think about the world using numbers, and here are some that have been sticking in my mind lately.

If we consider the total oil reserves in the world -- which has been a very stable number over many years -- and compare it to the current world rate of usage of oil, we see that at our current rate, we would use up all the oil in around 30 years.

If we used only oil still left from the US, we would run out in 3 years.

If we went to Iraq and took all of their oil and used it all by ourselves, it would only last us about 15 years at our current rate of usage.

If the rest of the world used oil at the same rate as we do, we would all run out in only 6 years.

And finally, the most important number: though we use more than our share, 75% of the oil is used by non-Americans.

We have to work together, rationally, with the rest of the people in the world to find replacement energy sources -- of which hydrogen is not one! -- before the situation careens out of control.

So, in conclusion, the plan for a quarter of a million US and British soldiers to "shock and awe" the millions of Iraqis in Baghdad, 40% of which are children, will certainly work. Iraq is essentially defenseless.

But the clear message this sends to the rest of the world is that the only way to deter the US is with nuclear weapons -- something Iraq almost surely doesn't have.

This is a dangerous time for democracy in this country. When the war starts, we may possibly go to a red alert, possibly making assemblies like this suspect or even illegal.

Now is the time to turn away from this dangerous course and take back control of our country from the Ashcrofts, Rumsfelds, and Bushes.

Thank you.