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The following is a transcript of the speech given by Andy Zee, spokesperson for Revolution Books, New York City, at the program "WE WILL NOT BE COMPLICIT" at Cooper Union in New York City on June 19, 2013, shortly after the revelations of massive U.S. government surveillance:
Almost 11 years ago many of us gathered in this very hall for the "Not In Our Name Evening of Conscience" against the crimes begun by the Bush regime. We vowed, "Let it not be said that people in the United States did nothing when their government declared a war without limit and instituted stark new measures of repression... President Bush has declared: "you're either with us or against us.' Here is our answer: We refuse to allow you to speak for all the American people. We will not give up our right to question. We will not hand over our consciences in return for a hollow promise of safety."
Those words bite deep today as the war crimes of the Bush regime have been codified, carried forward, and taken to even more obscene criminal levels by the Obama regime, which has arrogated to itself the right to be judge, jury, and executioner. They have dramatically expanded a vengeful police state that viciously targets whistleblowers who have acted on their consciences to expose injustice. Obama has wielded the Espionage Act of 1917 more than all other administrations combined. Bradley Manning, after months of torture, is caught in a trial with huge stakes that is unbelievably Alice in Wonderland. Julian Assange is surrounded and confined in the Ecuadorian Embassy in London; and Eric Snowden is in hiding 1 while continuing to bravely speak truth, such as when he exposed with apt ridicule the NSA rationale for massive surveillance of everyone by sharply posing: "So we can potentially reveal a potential terrorist with the potential to kill fewer Americans than our own police?"
Edward Snowden's actions reveal not just the vast repressive technology, but also the power even a single person acting on their conscience can have to challenge and change the whole political landscape. The reality is that this system which daily grinds up humanity from the killing fields of Afghanistan and Pakistan to the death trap factories of Bangladesh, depends on people. People are the system's Achilles' heel. We here have the responsibility to awaken and arouse that latent power of the people as we confront not only authority but the thinking of the people that justifies great crimes in the name of protecting privilege-- that cripples the conscience and political sights of those who could and should be part of changing the world.
We can and must do much, yet we can only do so by truthfully challenging the thinking of many people in this country. Helping people break free from a framework that leads to complicity with war crimes and to passively accept a massive government dragnet program directed against everyone--total surveillance--in the hands of a government that has repeatedly shown that their repressive power will only be used against the interests of the people.
You can always rely on [New York Times columnist] Thomas Friedman to articulate a viewpoint that at one and the same time offers his advice to those who rule on how to best package and carry out their crimes while offering an alluring self-centered pragmatic rationale to liberals and progressives to go along with the program. Friedman excitedly picked up on an awful blog post written by David Simon, creator of The Wire--a show which did some good exposure of the War on Drugs as a war on the people. Bill Keller, of the Times, was so pleased with Friedman he repeated the argument in an op-ed a few days later. Their argument is a rationale for complicity. Before getting into this, I must appreciate not only Glenn Greenwald's exposure of the NSA revelations, but his comment: "If they started a club called Liberal Pundits to Defend the National Security State, no auditorium in the country would be large enough to accommodate them."
Friedman writes; "Yes, I worry about potential government abuse of privacy from a program designed to prevent another 9/11--abuse that, so far, does not appear to have happened. But I worry even more about another 9/11." After which he goes on to argue why the massive spy program is not nearly so bad as what might happen to his way of life if there is another 9/11. He concludes: "Imagine how many real restrictions to our beautiful open society we would tolerate if there were another attack on the scale of 9/11. Pardon me if I blow that whistle."
Well, f*ck you, Friedman. The only talk of pardons we should have is for Bradley Manning, and for the millions of Black and Latino youth grabbed up off the streets or in the hallways of the housing projects in this country who are incarcerated or under the control of the prison system in the tens of millions, all in the name of a war on drugs. For three decades this has been nothing short of a slow genocidal war on sections of the people who the system can no longer exploit profitably and who are feared by those in power for their potentially radicalizing effect on the rest of society. Friedman's beautiful way of life does not exist for Black, Latino, immigrant, poor, women victimized by a culture of rape and denial of basic reproductive rights.