Thoughts on Our War against Terrorism
From radio interview, March 2002
Authorities tell us that the world changed on September 11. As a result, university professors must watch what they say in class or be turned in to the "speech" police. Elected officials must censor themselves or be censured by the media. Citizens now report behavior of suspicious-looking people to the police. Laws now exist that erode our civil liberties.
Americans now accept these infringements as necessary to win America's New War. America, the world's only superpower, is stifled in its ability to defend human rights and democracy abroad because it has failed the fundamental test at home. Our combination of money and military might, and our willingness to use them, did not make us a superpower. We are the most powerful nation on the face of the planet because we have combined raw power with American ideals such as dignity, freedom, justice, and peace. These ideas and ideals are admired around the world and are more important, in my view, to our position of global strength than our ability to shoot a missile down a chimney. We might be feared because of our military, but we are loved because of our ideals.
Sadly, we have put American goodwill at risk around the world because of an imbalance in our foreign policy that is palpable to even the most disinterested observer.
In 1994, after an act of terrorism killed two sitting presidents, the Clinton Administration purposely failed to prevent the genocide of one million Rwandans in order to install favorable regimes in the region. In 1999 Madeleine Albright OK'd a Sierra Leone peace plan that positioned Foday Sankoh as Chairman of the Commission for the Management of Strategic Resources, a position that placed him answerable only to the President despite the fact that his terrorist organization raped little girls and chopped off their hands as it financed its way to power with illegal diamond sales.
Jonas Savimbi, recently killed on the battlefield, helped the US protect the minority rule of racists in South Africa and his organization continues to rampage across southern Africa in Angola, Namibia, parts of Congo-Kinshasha, and Rwanda without restriction, financed by illegal diamond sales. The continued plunder of Africa's rich resources without penalty and sadly with the knowledge and support of powerful people in the US, serves as the foundation of the particular terrorism that victimizes Africans.
And now, as Africans grapple with the fundamental right to control their own resources and despite United Nations reports making no such links, Bush Administration experts seem prepared to link African diamonds with anti-US terrorism, thus "necessitating" tightened US control over Africa's resources.
And so, with no concern at all for the effects on others of US-supported terrorism, the US, with its bombs and military, embarks on a worldwide crusade against terrorism that Bush says likely will last as many as twenty years.
The list of target countries is long with Afghanistan, Somalia, Tanzania, Kenya, Sudan, the Philippines, and Iraq offering the starters. But what of the fact that Henry Kissinger and the current new US Ambassador to Afghanistan, Zalmay Khalilzad, both once lobbied Washington, DC on behalf of a US oil company, Unocal, and a softer policy toward the Taliban?
Whose war is this really?
In November 2000, Republicans stole from America our most precious right of all: the right to free and fair elections. In an organized manner, Florida Governor Jeb Bush and his Secretary of State Katherine Harris created a list of convicted felons--57, 700 to be exact--to "scrub" from the state's voter rolls. The names were created from Florida records and from lists provided by 11 other states, the largest list coming from Texas.
We now know that most of the people on that list were innocent of crimes. The list was a phony. And worse, the majority of these rightful voters were people of color and likely Democratic voters. Of the thousands who ultimately lost their vote through this scrub of voters, 80% are African-American. Had they voted, the course of history would have changed: Harris declared Bush the victor by only 537 votes. President Carter has said that the Carter Center would not certify the US 2000 Presidential elections had they had been asked to do so.
Consequently, an Administration of questionable legitimacy has been given unprecedented power to fight America's new war against terrorism. Before September 11, two million Americans found themselves behind bars: 80% of them people of color. Millions of Americans are sleeping on the streets of American cities. All over America, unarmed black men are targeted by rogue police officers, who shoot first and ask questions later. While 52% of all black men feel they have been victims of racial profiling, the Supreme Court declines to hear an important case on racial profiling. The Bush Administration totally "disses" the World Conference Against Racism and the people around the world who care about eliminating racism.
Assault on civil liberties
In February 2001, The United States Commission on National Security, including Newt Gingrich, recommended that the National Homeland Security Agency be established with a hefty price tag. Most people chuckled at the suggestion. After September 11, we have OK'd the targeting and profiling of certain groups of people in America while not arresting in any way the racial profiling and discrimination that existed prior to September 11.
Mass arrests, detention without charge, military tribunals, and infringements on due process rights are now realities in America. Even more alarming are the calls in some circles to allow the use of torture and other brutal methods in pursuit of justice." Sadly, US administration of justice will be conducted by an Administration incapable of it. Interestingly, prominent officials explain to us that September 11 happened because we are free. And "they" hate us because we are free.
Moreover, persons close to this Administration are poised to make huge profits off America's new war. Former President Bush sits on the board of the Carlyle Group. The Los Angeles Times reports that on a single day last month, Carlyle earned $237 million selling shares in United Defense Industries, the Army's fifth-largest contractor. The stock offering was well timed: Carlyle officials say they decided to take the company public only after the Sept. 11 attacks. The stock sale cashed in on increased congressional support for hefty defense spending, including one of United Defense's cornerstone weapon programs.
Now is the time for our elected officials to be held accountable. Now is the time for the media to be held accountable. Why aren't the hard questions being asked. We know there were numerous warnings of the events to come on September 11. Vladimir Putin, President of Russia, delivered one such warning. Those engaged in unusual stock trades immediately before September 11 knew enough to make millions of dollars from United and American airlines, certain insurance and brokerage firms' stocks.
What did this Administration know, and when did it know it about the events of September 11? Who else knew and why did they not warn the innocent people of New York who were needlessly murdered?
September 11 erased the line between "over there" and "over here." The American people can no longer afford to be detached from the world, as our actions abroad will have a direct impact on our lives at home. In Washington, DC, decisions affecting home and abroad are made and too many of us leave the responsibility of protecting our freedoms to other people whose interests are not our own. From Durban to Kabul to Atlanta to Washington, what our government does in our name is important. It is now also clear that our future, our security, and our rights depend on our vigilance.
We Come for Peace
Address to peace rally in Washington, D.C., April 2002
We come here today from the four corners of this nation.We are blacks and whites, Latinos, Asians, and Native Americans; Christians, Muslims, and Jews; gay, lesbian, and straight; immigrants and native-born Americans; rich and poor.
Here today are representatives of all sections of society: students, union members . . .union members on strike . . .homeless veterans . . .and everyday warriors on the battlefield for justice.
But despite all our differences, we are here today . . . one community with one thing in common: a desire to see the restoration of the true ideals of America. America -- where fundamental rights to vote, speak, and practice religion mean something. A country that has a democratic form of government, a democratic way of life and a nation in which all can participate freely in political activity and share in the abundance of its harvest.
But America today is still a far cry from the noble Republic founded upon those words: "All men are created equal." We have not dealt well with our diversity and too many of our citizens suffer needlessly.
Unjust, undemocratic society
Each day millions of Americans suffer poverty, hunger, the sting of discrimination . . .arbitrary arrest, racial profiling, and brutality from rogue police . . .inadequate health care, drug abuse, and unemployment.
For the millions of poor Americans, ours is not a just society. More than 31 million Americans live in poverty. One in every six of our children lives in poverty. Some of our nation's poor even sleep each night on the steps of the buildings just visible from the bedrooms of the White House. And sadly, many of those who sleep on America's streets are our veterans from US wars . . .
Sadly, nor is ours a democratic society. In November 2000, the Republicans stole from America our most precious right of all: the right to free and fair elections. Florida Governor Jeb Bush and his Secretary of State Katherine Harris, created a phony list of convicted felons--57,700 to be exact--to "scrub" thousands of innocent people from the state's voter rolls. Of the thousands who ultimately lost their vote through this scrub of voters, 80% were African-American, mostly Democratic Party voters. Had they voted, the course of history would have changed. Instead, however, Harris declared Bush the victor by only 537 votes.
Wage peace instead of war
Now President Bush occupies the White House, but with questionable legitimacy. But however he got there, his Administration is now free to spend one to four billion dollars a month on the war in Afghanistan . . . free to cut the high deployment overtime pay of our young service men and women fighting in that war . . . free to propose drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Reserve National Park . . . free to stonewall on the Enron and Energy Task Force investigations . . . free to revoke the rules that keep our drinking water free of arsenic . . . free to get caught in Venezuela . . . and free to propose laws that deny our citizens sacred freedoms cherished under the Constitution.
We must dare to remember all of this. We must dare to debate and challenge all of this. And that is why we are here today.
We come here today to chart a new course for our communities and for America:
To fight against bigotry, we stand together as one, and we must.
To fight against injustice, we stand together as one, and we must.
To fight against poverty, we stand together as one, and we must.
To fight against the destruction of our environment, we stand together as one, and we must.
To wage peace instead of war, we stand together as one, and we must.
Because, through our efforts, I believe we can once again make America a force for good in the world.
We, as the world's most powerful nation have a responsibility to act in defense of the weak and to protect them from harm. We failed in Rwanda. We failed in Srebrenica. We failed in East Timor. And now, as we speak, we fail in Jenin.
Let us dedicate ourselves here today, to join together as one. When one person stands up and speaks out for the suffering of the weak, a tiny ripple of hope is created. When numerous people stand and demand justice for the multitude who have been forgotten, a strong current of possibilities is created. When an entire community stands up and demands change a mighty wave of freedom and justice is created.
We gather here today and we speak with one voice . . .And let us remember, that one person can make a ripple. One ripple can make a movement. One movement can make a voice. And one voice can make mighty change.
Let us leave here today and make the change this country needs to be loved and respected around the world once again. And remember one thing: Register and Vote!