By David Swanson
Remarks delivered in Ojai, California, on April 22, 2008
I'm going to talk for a while and then take some questions, and maybe even some corrections, since unlike the Pope and George W. Bush I do make mistakes. Our president, as far as I know, has never admitted a mistake. And of this I am sure, I have never publicly done anything as brave as what members of IVAW do in admitting their mistaken roles in Bush's crusade. Some of them have said that that has been harder than anything they did in Iraq, and I believe it. They deserve our gratitude and our support.
Now, the phrase "support the troops" has a bad name, since it has come to mean "insist on funding war crimes that the troops wish they could be done with." But I want to propose a new initiative to support the troops. Let's take the next little dollop of war funding in the pipeline, the $178 billion that Congress intends to vote on within the next month, and let's give it to the troops now stationed in Iraq. Very roughly that will come out to $1 million per troop. Those troops that want to use some of that money to fund contractors, mercenaries, and war profiteers can give some or all of it back. Those troops that want to contribute to the general fund to extend the occupation can do so. And those troops that want to buy a plane ticket home can make that choice. This may sound crazy to some people, but what sounds crazy to me is sending young men and women to kill and die for greed and power and claiming that you're doing it because you "support the troops."
Happy Earth Day! Global Warming, according to the World Health Organization, already contributes to 150,000 deaths each year. Some of those deaths have been in New Orleans over the past two and a half years, and global warming has had a little bit of help. In fact there's a nice video of George W. Bush being warned beforehand about Hurricane Katrina, and another nice video of Bush swearing he was not and couldn't possibly have been expected to imagine what was coming. Today, half the people of New Orleans have not seen any real progress toward restoring their homes or compensating them for their loss. Even if you believed Bush's lie that he had no warning, how can you defend the past two and a half years of failure, of intentional and racist failure? And how can we look at this one act alone and not impeach the president?
Bush attended a church service last week, and his staff talked with the minister beforehand to make sure, not only that he wouldn't touch on unpleasant topics, but that he would praise the president. In fact, I kid you not, maybe it was the Pope being in the country or something, but they asked the preacher to compare Bush to a saint. To his credit, the good minister agreed, but when he got up and gave his sermon, at the end he said, "We are honored to have been joined this week by our president. He is a dishonest, duplicitous, murderous criminal, responsible for the deaths of over a million Iraqis, not to mention the millions around the world who could have been saved with the trillions of dollars he has wasted on killing, torturing, and turning the world against us, but compared to Dick Cheney, he's a saint."
OK, that's not really true, but how can we not start with the guy in charge, with the convener of the secret energy task force that established our energy and war policies behind closed doors? How can we not start with the man who told jokes about global warming at last week's Radio and Television Correspondents Association dinner? How can we not begin with the Vice President for torture, Dick Cheney? How can we not impeach Cheney first?
But why does the media laugh? Maybe the impact of global warming is not felt in Disney Land. The Disney Corporation's presidential primary debate last week was unable to squeeze a single question on global warming into a debate focused on fascistic questions about religion and flags. Yes, I said the F word. It's hard to see fascism in a flag when it's our flag. It's hard to see fascism in religion when it's our religion. Here we are in a town that used to have a German name and changed it as I understand around the time of World War I, but changed it to a name originating with the native people of our own country against whom we had committed genocide. We have stationed 1,000 U.S. military bases in other people's countries around the globe in the name of spreading democracy. We are not a people much given to irony.
But occasionally we see through the fog of war. Someone recently told me that he was certain we would eventually have peace on earth, he just hoped humans would be around to enjoy it. There are two major threats to that possibility. One is nuclear war and the other is global warming. Remember when our nukes were supposedly intended purely for the purpose of destroying the Soviet Union several thousand times if it nuked us first? The Soviet Union has been gone for nearly two decades, and we have more nukes than ever, and we now threaten to use them first and to use them anywhere. U.S. Strategic Command in Omaha, Nebraska, claims the ability to destroy any spot on the planet within 60 minutes, and does not strictly separate conventional from nuclear weapons in its planning. Happy Earth Day!
Mikhail Gorbachev tried to negotiate nuclear disarmament with Ronald Reagan, but Reagan wouldn't do it without Star Wars, without his so-called "missile defense" system. That boondoggle is still around, although its ability to defend against an attack has never been demonstrated. Its usefulness in aggressive war is not in doubt, however. We're now trying to impose new bases on a number of nations around the world as part of a so-called missile defense system, including the Czech Republic and Poland, the main result of which has been to enrage the people of the Czech Republic, Poland, and Russia.
At a House Oversight subcommittee hearing last week, Lisbeth Gronlund, a senior scientist at the Union of Concerned Scientists said of missile defense: "The program offers no prospect of defending the United States from a real-world missile attack and undermines efforts to eliminate the real nuclear threats to the United States."
Gorbachev last week made some perceptive comments as well, including these:
"[J]udging from the USA’s military budget, your nation seems to be at war with the world, and I sense that the American people don’t like this at all. The size of your weapons budget is larger than it was at the peak of the Cold War, and larger than all of the rest of the nuclear nations put together. Why do you continue to build these weapons? This is amazing to me!"
Our approach to nukes over the past several years has encouraged other nations (like Korea) to acquire them and assisted other nations (like India) in acquiring them. Nuclear weapons are proliferating when they should be reduced and eliminated, because we are violating the nonproliferation treaty and encouraging others to do so. But the fact remains that up until the moment some nut pushes the first button (why does a certain Senator from Arizona come to mind?) nuclear weapons can all be rounded up and destroyed and security restored to the earth.
That's not necessarily true with global warming. There is such a thing as arriving too late. At some point it will no longer be possible to avoid spiraling destruction that builds on itself. Already we are losing ice that cannot be refrozen, species that cannot be re-evolved (or re-created or whatever it is Bush supporters believe happened when God made everything in the 1950s or whenever it was). Ecosystems are already gone forever. At some point soon it will be too late. Throwing away the past seven years strikes me as a more suicidal act than anything we did during the Cold War. Pretending the next nine months do not exist is part of that same suicidal behavior. The time to begin reversing our energy policies is now. The time to make that shift a focus of our national government is now. The time to admit that the next nine months exist and matter is now! The time to impeach Cheney and Bush is now!