City of Roses
|Bear with me as this is lengthy. State of the Reunion speeches are lengthy after all, LOL!
This is what I have prepared for the Teach-In this Saturday in Portland to mark the 2nd Anniversary of the War in Iraq.
STATE OF THE REUNION ADDRESS II
My fellow Americans, and to all our friends across the world, God Bless You all during these shaky, sensitive times.
As you may be aware, the second anniversary of the war in Iraq is Saturday, March 19th, an unfortunate date that'll leave a lasting scar on the hearts of many across the world.
This nation remains deeply and dangerously polarized. Across this chasm of conflicting ideologies, we live amidst conflicting ideals of what peace and democracy is all about, what constitutes a word that has been repeated incessantly; freedom.
I for one disagree with our president's views on what peace and freedom are all about. In my heart, I have always recognized that peace and war don't go hand in hand, with peace being the absence of war and war being the absence of peace. To go to war to push an agreement or treaty to end hostilities, or establish a form of democratic government, leaves others at distress, with loved ones within families and innocent bystanders who happen to be in the wrong place at the wrong time killed or left with a life-afflicting injury or tragic memory.
In recent weeks, we have seen what may appear to be democracy on the march in the region, from Lebanon, where Syria is beginning to withdraw their forces from the region, to Egypt, where there is talk of multi-party elections on the horizon, to Saudi Arabia, who participated in the call for Syria to withdraw from Lebanon.
Any reasonable person or lover of freedom would be happy to see a citizen-sponsered democracy come to any part of the world like this. With that said, some may argue, "So, are you going to admit he was right, when are you going to kneel to your knees and admit he deserves credit for all that?"
My answer to them would be what I've said a few times already: "This was never about who was right, this was about what was just and sound."
I phrased my thoughts on war before in a way that has resonated to me; it's not only a mess, but it makes a mess of things. Metaphorically speaking, I believe Bush and his colleagues took foreign policy in and shook it like dice in a Yahtzee cup, hoping to score a Yahtzee or at least a four of a kind.
Right or wrong in how Bush may have come out in this gamble, what remains wrong from the beginning of this senseless war and invasion can be explained in the form of this Chinese proverb that reads,
"If you must play, decide upon three things at the start: the rules of the game, the stakes, and the quitting time."
First and foremost, we must never lose sight of why this president invaded Iraq in the first place. The faulty intelligence provided to him and his colleagues suggested Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction, and that became the thesis argument. Secondly, though the reports suggest otherwise, Bush believed there was a solid connection between Saddam and 9/11.
Where was all that rhetoric you hear now about invading to spread freedom and peace throughout the Middle East? It simply wasn't the language you heard Bush speak prior to March 19, 2003, or in the months following that day to that manner, with "spreading freedom" listed as #5 or lower on the list of reasons to go to war, if listed at all.
61% of Americans believed within the days leading up to the invasion after Colin Powell made his testimony to the United Nations that more time should be made for inspections and diplomacy.
The Constitution itself reads the president cannot legally wage war against another nation in the absence of a declaration of war against that nation from Congress, and regardless of whether Bush believes that war against a certain nation is just and morally right, he is nevertheless prohibited by our supreme law of the land from waging it unless he first secures a declaration of war from Congress, and just one reason why this war in Iraq is illegal.
Article VI of the Constitution also clearly reads, "This Constitution, and the Laws of the United States which shall be made in Pursuance thereof; and all Treaties made, or which shall be made, under the Authority of the United States, shall be the supreme Law of the Land;"
One of the most important rules in leading a nation to war under any circumstance is to respect and comply with these "laws of the land". Bush refused to, and has violated the Third and Fourth Geneva Conventions, Chapter 1, Article 2 of the United Nations Charter, Principal VI of the Nuremberg Charter, the Posse Comitatus Act, the U.S. War Crimes Act, and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights among other violations, all of which could make a solid case for his impeachment.
Now, I ask you.
"Is that democratic?"
Because of his refusal to play by the rules and choose irresponsibility and recklessness over responsibility, we've wrongfully invaded another nation that never even attacked us to begin with, we've wrongfully sacrificed the lives of over 1,500 soldiers, we've killed over 107,000 innocent Iraqis, and have incited an uncertain fate in the region that continues to encourage widespread violence.
There's an incredible sense of irony to the fact that while our president stresses the word "freedom" so many times, he has actually subverted our own democratic principles at home. He swore in his constitutional oath to execute the office of President of the United States and, to the best of his ability, "preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution of the United States."
How is repeatingly allowing the providing of misinformation to the American people and Congress halthy for our nation? How is completely wrongly linking Iraq to 9/11 when the evidence shows otherwise healthy for our nation? How is repeatedly claiming that satellite photos in Iraq depicting factories as WMD storehouses in contradiction to the findings of the United Nations inspectors healthy for our nation?
And, in addition, though he may believe in the greatest funding of our military, he has actually threatened the security of our nation by encouraging other nations to violate International Law by Bush defying the United Nations himself. What type of message does that send terrorists and other people of ill will across the world?
It is because of these reasons why we are NOT safer since the war in Iraq has began.
I, myself, am a pacifist, and will not fight any war because of it. But the more and more who have declared they've had enough and have continued building the opposition to this war are not even pacifists. They are those who believe under more extreme circumstances it's sensible to go to war if we HAVE to but not under senseless reasons like in Iraq. They have learned of the truth behind the window dressing our government and the mainstream media tell us.
The anti-war movement here has grown, and it is continuing to grow stronger! I repeat; the anti-war movement here has grown, and it is growing stronger!
You may not necessarily believe it when you watch the mainstream media and see little or no images of protests or rallies, and when you do, it's always expressed as negative, ugly or unruly. But there's tens of thousands out there who sacrifice many hours just to set up these demonstrations, just to volunteer in their communities, and this Saturday, you are going to see them flood the streets in many major cities, and hear the bass drum beat from dozens of blocks away. And this Saturday we will prove to the world once and for all we are not sleeping, and when we say we're determined to end this senseless war, we MEAN we'll be working until it's over.
In these last two years, Bush has not only failed to recognize the rules of the game, he also hasn't thought over or recognized the stakes of this senseless invasion.
While Iraq and much of the Middle East remains facing a cloudy, uncertain future, here at home we have actually gone backwards in terms of our treasured democratic cornerstones and achievements.
On October 26, 2001, the USA Patriot Act was signed, a document which so many Americans have not even read or are even aware how it was passed to begin with. Originally a bi-lateral version was offered to Congress, until an overnight revision was snook in, with barely any time to read and no time to discuss or debate. Under this unfortunate piece of legislation, U.S. intelligence agents could conduct a secret search in your home, use evidence found there to declare you as an "enemy combatant," and imprison you without trial, while the courts may have no chance to review the decisions or may not even ever know about them.
But the single most troubling part of the act is its effect on what you read.
Libraries and bookstores have always been and are meant to be a source of knowledge and information in this country. The right to read without the fear of government surveillance is a cornerstone of our democracy. Freedom of the press means nothing without a corresponding freedom to read. Open and democratic debate is impossible without free and open access to diverse views and a broad array of information. And, under this act, investigators are authorized to seek a search warrant for "any tangible things" in a library or bookstore, a category that easily includes book circulation or purchase records, library papers, floppy disks and computer hard drives. It's literally fueling Big Brother's rise.
Bush and his colleagues continue to say they believe in freedom and democracy. But what you see or hear is not always what you get or what is meant, everyone.
If Bush truly cared about democracy at its fullest, then why would he either allow or fail to condemn the military coup performed on Hugo Chavez, Venezuela's twice-democratically elected president (not to mention elected in six referendums) in 2002?
Why would he either allow or fail to condemn the coup of Haiti's democratically-elected Jean-Bertrand Aristide, who won 67% of the vote in 1990 and remained the favorite to Haiti ever since?
If Bush believed he could coup those like Chavez and Aristide, why couldn't he do the same for Saddam Hussein, and free the people of Iraq while sparing the losses of tens of thousands?
Bush himself was not the one who originally called for or desired democratic elections in Iraq. We must not forget that until Ayatollah Sistani insisted on early nationwide elections, the US was opposed to such an election and was determined to form a government based on local community representatives handpicked by the US. It was only after the US agreed to these elections to install the transitional government that the Shiite community cooperated with the occupation forces and the Shiite insurgency led primarily by Moqtada Sadr in Najaf and other places fizzled out at the intervention of Ayatollah Sistani who expedited his return from Britain, on August 25, 2004, to placate the growing anger in Iraqi Shiites.
Meanwhile, while our administration continues to claim they represent the fullest of our morals and values and represent Middle America, the people beg to differ in so many areas.
7 in 10 Americans said in a poll revealed over the weekend that they are concerned about government secrecy, that good government depends on openness with the public and nearly just as many felt access to public records was "crucial" to good government. Yet we have the most secretive administration in our nation's history.
A strong majority of Americans strongly disapprove of harsh interrogation tactics the U.S. government has used to try to extract information about possible terrorist attacks from detainees held in Afghanistan, Iraq and Cuba, as well as damage the USA's reputation as a protector of civil liberties. Yet, Bush, Gonzales and others in our administration are either doing nothing to condemn these acts or even endorse it.
Health care, environmental protection, on so many fronts the general public's position differs from that of Bush's.
But most significantly, despite the losses of Uday and Qusay, despite the capture of Saddam Hussein himself, despite the transfer of power to the Iraqis last June, despite the taking back of Fallujah, despite the elections in Iraq, and despite what may be the sign of freedom on the march across the Middle East, the American public and the world have not been moved of their opinion on the war.
And why should they be? Because they believe just what I believe: "It was never about who was right, it was about what is just and sound."
Finally, in taking part of this huge foreign policy gamble, he has failed to note a quitting time, or under this case, an exit strategy.
People continue to die in Iraq as we speak to this day, and with this administration stubbornly refusing to share any sign of light at the end of this long tunnel of an exit strategy or timetable for withdrawal, it continues to bring discomfort to America, Iraq and the world.
What kind of message does that send us Americans, to our troops who long to return to their loved ones and breathe easy, and to the Iraqis, which a majority want our occupation to end so they can take their country into their own hands?
THAT is why we believe Bush does not deserve credit for what has happened and what is happening now in Iraq and across the Middle East, and why we continue to protest this war which we still consider senseless and immoral.
A Chinese proverb reads, "At the gambling table, there are no fathers and sons." And that's precisely how this whole operation has been conducted; behind closed doors, away from the public, away from democracy.
As an American, when we think about gambling, I prefer to think of gambling in a different way. Dan Bennett once said, "One of the healthiest ways to gamble is with a spade and a package of garden seeds."
I believe myself that non-violence and peace are meant to be together, and must be cultivated together within the same soil. I absolutely am blessed to be an American and truly believe, despite having troubles like every other nation in the world, this is the greatest nation in the world and we have more rights than most other countries would only dream to adopt someday. And I believe we should continue to inspire our examples to the world and influence the updating and building of democracies worldwide, and do so without imposing.
But we also need to be sensitive, careful, disciplined and acknowledging of the international community when we go about promoting campaigns in spreading this democracy and freedom in the world. And it comes to no suprise to me when about half our own nation like myself and the world seemingly unanimously believes the war in Iraq was wrong. Because war truly is hell, and many like myself see war as terror or terrorism itself.
I was told here that my views of universal peace were utopian or just wishful thinking because history has shown that they can't and because of the nature of humanity that has generated Attillas, Caligulas, Neros, Lenins, Stalins, Hitlers, Mussolinis, Milosovitches, Duvaliers, Husseins and Zarqawis.
I believe in my heart that the reason we continue to see this endless cycle of Attillas, Caligulas, Neros, Lenins, Stalins, Hitlers, Mussolinis, Milosovitches, Duvaliers, Husseins and Zarqawis is because we have failed to resolve what I define "unfinished business", or the failure to understand or get to the psyche or inner-truth of our enemies. I myself believe that terrorism is unacceptable, it is a problem and must be stopped, but I also believe when we fail to play the role of cultural anthroplogist and understand the origin of these terrorist instincts or what encouraged or incited the terrorist mind, we may never fully dissolve the toothache and misunderstanding will continue to haunt the world. I believe that some form of clemency must be given while we also see to it these terrorists don't hurt another innocent soul.
I may be quite the optimist, but I believe it's not too late to resolve and amend. For I believe there's nothing more cynical than war in the whole world.
My hero Martin Luther King Jr. said, "The good neighbor looks beyond the external accidents and discerns those inner qualities that make all men human and, therefore, brothers."
I believe this is exactly what's lacking in our policies and our governmental frame of thinking right now. I, myself, believe Bush is wronged and delusional as our president, perhaps more than any other president to me in recent memory, but I also recognize we are all God's children, and that no man is perfect. Though I'll always find him guilty for war crimes and such in Iraq, and no penitence can ever fully resolve the losses this war has generated, forgiveness, I believe, is the Christian thing to do. I believe Jesus wants us to be this way, regardless of how wrong someone is, IF the guilty conscience will open up first. All he must recognize is that the forgiveness process begins with admitting your own faults and follies, and I pray with all my heart he will do just that as soon as possible.
From the beginning, I, like many others, was absolutely nervous in getting out there and expressing my dissent on this war. Some may ask why I bother going about much of my time doing all of this.
Martin Luther King Jr. said in "Strength to Love": "The hope of a secure and livable world lies with disciplined nonconformists who are dedicated to justice, peace and brotherhood."
Honestly, I can't blame many here for shaking their heads before and saying they are upset by my views. But I've recognized also that history has shown dissent during controversial times like in Vietnam at first were seen as unpopular and radical, and even Martin Luther King Jr. was seen as heretical or tasteless in his views. But later on, and now, history has come to recognize those faithful spirits who rose up for what they believe in with all their hearts as heroes, and I believe young people like myself will be understood more in time.
So as I take to the streets this coming Saturday, let it be known that we are not merely going out to express our distress and frustration with Bush, his administration and the wrongs of this war. We're also coming out with a positive purpose; in educating the community with our message and encouraging positive ways in which you can embrace the community and build grassroots support in changing the world for the better. Providing an animated forum for communities north, south, east and west across many major communities.
I mentioned the other day I was most inspired on October 3rd, 2004, when I co-organized a major historic rally in Portland, Oregon where almost 10,000 turned out and participated in. That day, dozens of children were out there who took part in the march, many wearing peace capes and these little angels were giggling and cheerfully skipping around flying kites and waving peace flags.
And one little girl showed me a painting she made, depicting her sleeping in bed, dreaming, and in a big bubble of what she was dreaming of everyone holding hands of all nationalities, with a rainbow arching above them with a peace sign and a dove. The sight of seeing that made me cry in tears of warmth.
The world is full of dreamers who dream beautiful dreams, and I want to see a world for our children in the future where they could all live together in peace and not fear of turning on the TV or overhearing talk from their parents of this ugliness in our world.
Everyone is affected by these such tragedies, and I do it because I want my children when I become a father in the future and all the children of the world to see a world, glazed with a renaissance of innocence and youthful beauty, as free of the ugliness of war as possible.
And THAT is exactly why I'm going to be out with tens of thousands this Saturday to protest. For I believe what one of the buttons I wear reads: "War is not healthy for children and other living things".
So, if you feel like I do, I ask of you to get out there with your local community this Saturday and let your voice of dissent be heard. For democracy will always be "of the people, by the people and for the people" and you, my friend, will always have a place.
This message is a gentle, peaceful call to arms, a call on the renaissance of accountability. We truly are volunteers of America, and we must prove that to those in office with all our hearts by volunteering. What's lacking right now in our nation is accountability.
For those of you who stand with me, I ask of you to take to the streets Saturday and let the streets echo with the voice of democracy.
For those of you who disagree, I wish no ill will or hurt feelings to any of you, as I believe we are all God's children, and, perhaps in time, you will understand where I come from more and we can seek a common ground peacefully together. I offer heart hugs to all of you as well.
I leave you today with the lyrics of a Jefferson Airplane hit, "Volunteers". It energized a generation during the Vietnam anti-war movement, and though we may be far from the golden age of rock and roll, it's message is just as relevant now:
"Look what's happening out in the streets
Got a revolution Got to revolution
Hey I'm dancing down the streets
Got a revolution Got to revolution
Ain't it amazing all the people I meet
Got a revolution Got to revolution
One generation got old
One generation got soul
This generation got no destination to hold
Pick up the cry
Hey now it's time for you and me
Got a revolution Got to revolution
Come on now we're marching to the sea
Got a revolution Got to revolution
Who will take it from you
We will and who are we
We are volunteers of America."
God Bless You all, and God Bless America! Have fun Saturday, and good luck!
Peace, love and harmony,
"If we have no peace, it is because we have forgotten that we belong to each other"