Code Pink Counters Bush's Code Red

As President Bush prepares to invade Iraq, prominent women, mothers, human rights activists and women's groups from around the country gathered yesterday at Lafayette Park in front of the White House to launch a 16-week vigil and fast for peace.

"All over the world, women disproportionately bear the effects of war and conflict," Media Benjamin, founder of Global Exchange said to the gathering, which began the vigil yesterday morning in a pouring rain. "An attack on Iraq will undoubtedly kill tens of thousands of civilians, many of them women and children. As mothers, we have a special moral authority to say that war is not the answer and a special obligation to actively oppose war."

The groups Unreasonable Women for the Earth and Codepink4peace joined with other women's groups in kicking off the vigil. Each week the Women's Peace Vigil will feature a different theme about the costs of war. Featured themes include the impact of war on children, the impact of war on the environment, the financial costs of war, who profits from war, and the disproportionate enlistment of people of color and poor people. Targeted demonstrations and especially designed educational events will help illustrate the different weekly themes.

Diane Wilson, the Texas fisherwoman and hunger striker for the victims of the chemical spill in Bhopal, announced her commitment to increase the length of her hunger strike to 40 days.

"This is the bottom line," Wilson said. "I do this for the future of the planet I have been working to protect and a future for my children."

She said a hunger strike is the most powerful action she can do. "The strength of my intent is more than meets the eye."

Some of the survivors of Bhopal she was helping earlier in the year will join her from India. Other women around the country are joining her in the park and from their homes. Wilson voiced amazement at the women who have just appeared out of the woodwork during the last week of planning with their generosity and joy.

As they all escaped the rain by climbing into a temporary tent, while the DC police moved in to have it pulled down, Nina Utne, CEO of Utne magazine expressed some concern about embarking on a fast given her enormous work load. "I have decided to get involved in this peace vigil, and to fast, for the sake of my children. I don't want them, or any other mother's children, to be put in harm's way for what I consider an unnecessary war."

Drenched in rain, Utne said, "We feel like completely drowned rats but everyone is in such good humor and spirits. This was an auspicious beginning, all good things begin with the rain washing away what isn't needed."

Diane Wilson ended the kickoff by saying, "We will encourage more women to stand up and speak out. As our numbers grow, our voices will be heard."

Jodie Evans is a member of Bad Babes with Bucks and their Buddies and the UnReasonable Woman for the Earth. To register for the hunger strike, visit Codepink4peace.

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