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Borough activists protest possible conflict with Iraq

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More than a hundred Queens peace activists attended a teach-in seminar last week in Sunnyside where panelists discussed the possibility of a war with Iraq and presented peaceful alternatives to a military confrontation with the Middle Eastern nation.

The West Queens Greens, the New York Fellowship of Reconciliation, West Queens Independent Democratic Club and Desis Risign Up and Moving sponsored the event, which was held at All Saints Church Jan. 25. It featured speakers from the World Policy Institute, War Resisters League American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee.

“One day of war in Iraq would equal the entire budget deficit New York City is facing this year,” said Frieda Berrigan, a five-year city resident working at the World Policy Institute, a private body working with the New School that offers policy research and advocacy on critical world problems. “New York City spends more than $9,700 per child per year for education, while one second of a war in Iraq would break down to $12,000 per second.”

Berrigan works at the Arms Trade Resource Center, a partnership with the Manhattan-based institute and the New School. She said she has been working there for almost four years.

She said the institute was focusing on the cost of a war with Iraq because city and state officials as well as residents are facing an enormous budget crisis, thus making people more aware of how and where their tax monies are being spent.

“It’s a question of priorities,” Berrigan said. “We try and make the argument that the United States could be a lot safer and more secure by using diplomacy and international institutions — and save money by using those tools.”

David McReynolds, a former presidential candidate for the Socialist Party in 2000, said he visited Iraq in 1991 and saw a modern country that if left alone could transition from dictatorship to democracy like Eastern Europe did after the collapse of the Soviet Union.

“If we have a war with Iraq, it will be really devastating on the people,” said the 73-year-old who has visited Vietnam, Cuba and the former Soviet Union. “You can’t go in with a huge military and devastate a country.”

Patrick Langhenry, a former state assembly candidate for the Green Party and co-coordinator of the event, said there were several other organizations in the borough trying to promote a peaceful solution to the conflict in Iraq.

“There’s quite a string of peace groups in Queens,” he said.

Reach reporter Alex Davidson by e-mail at TimesLedger@aol.com or by phone at 1-718-229-0300, Ext. 156

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