Veteran journalist criticizes Iraq war

Veteran White House reporter Helen Thomas denounced the war in Iraq as a mission to spread democracy “with the barrel of a gun” at an assembly Monday in Taper Gym celebrating Women’s History Month.

Thomas, 86, heavily criticized President Bush’s decision to invade Iraq, declaring it “immoral, illegal, and unconscionable.”

Thomas was the first female White House bureau chief for United Press International and is often referred to as the “First Lady of the Press.” She expressed concern that women still don’t have the same opportunities as men.

“Women can do anything,” Thomas said. “We should not rest until we have equality in the workplace…We have to strive for a better world.”

Thomas referred to journalism as “the only institution in our society that can question the President and hold him accountable” and proudly called the First Amendment “a weapon.”

Thomas, currently a columnist for Hearst Newspapers, recalled some humorous memories from her 57 years in Washington. With a smirk, Thomas spoke of a comment made by President Jimmy Carter’s mother Lillian. “Miss Lillian,” as she was called, once told the press that “when I look at my children, I wish I had remained a virgin,” a comment that had the audience packed into Taper Gym roaring with laughter.

On President Richard Nixon, Thomas joked, “He always had two roads to go, and he always took the wrong road.”

Thomas described Congress, now led by a Democratic majority, as “a whole new ballgame on Capital Hill.”

On the upcoming presidential election, Thomas opined that “the country has long been ready for a woman, a black, a Mormon…they just have to do the right thing.”

She also criticized the government’s recent decision to grant tax cuts for the rich in a country where 48 million citizens live without health insurance.

She concluded her speech with a plea to “give peace a chance, and let it begin with us.”