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
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
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
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
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
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