Good evening, my fellow Americans.
St. Augustine said that “hope has two beautiful daughters: anger and courage. Anger at the way things are, and courage to struggle to create things as they should be.” These acts perpetrated against humanity on Tuesday were acts of anger at the way things are. They were not courageous acts, but horrendous atrocities, acts of anger laced with hate. Our first response must be support and compassion for the victims, and families and friends of the victims. But, in addition, we should ask ourselves “what conditions led these fellow humans to develop such anger and hatred, led them to commit such abominably inhumane acts, and why was it directed at these particular targets in the United States?”
We should not repress our anger and indignation at these hateful and callous acts, or our anger and indignation at all hateful and callous acts, but our anger must be accompanied not by hate, but with love, and by the courage to struggle to create a more just world, and THAT my fellow Americans will require a major effort to question, understand, challenge, change and raise OUR national consciousness. Please, my fellow Americans, listen with open ears, open minds and open hearts.
While no loving and decent human will tolerate acts of terror, we must try to understand the extremely difficult question: why? For example, what is the symbolic significance of the Pentagon and the World Trade Center in the eyes of the world? And here, my fellow Americans we must search deep into our own history, our own policies, our own pursuits, our own impositions, and, our own hearts. It is painful, but, let us be blunt: the war against terrorism has begun, violently. The two most potent symbols of global military and economic violence, global military and economic terrorism, have been struck. These were cowardly and unconscionable acts, to be sure, and, as in most acts of terror, the innocent suffer most, the working class, the toiling class, the secretaries, the firemen, the rescue workers, etc. We must launch a war against terrorism, non-violently. A.J. Muste, committed pacifist, advised us that in a world built on violence “we must be revolutionaries before we are pacifists.” That is, we must work to abolish the institutions of violence, non-violently.
However, make no mistake, my fellow Americans, the Pentagon IS the center of world military violence and terrorism. The US is the world’s leading exporter of tools of death and destruction. Let us be honest, we have been committed to violence as a way to address international conflicts for many, many years. And a PARTIAL list of the results of our commitment to violence includes: Korea ? millions killed. Vietnam ? millions killed. Cambodia ? hundreds of thousands killed. Laos ? hundreds of thousands killed. Iraq ? hundreds of thousands killed. Guatemala ? hundreds of thousands killed. Hiroshima and Nagasaki ? hundreds of thousands killed. East Timor ? hundreds of thousands killed. Nicaragua ? tens of thousands killed. El Salvador ? tens of thousands killed. Colombia ? tens of thousands killed. Dominican Republic ? thousands killed. Somalia ? thousands killed. Haiti ? thousands killed. Yugoslavia ? thousands killed. Panama ? hundreds killed. And let us not forget the ways in which we have mistreated the Cuban people for over 40 years now with our embargo and repeated acts of terrorism. Let us remember my father’s words during the buildup to the US attack on Iraq: “there will be no negotiationswhat we say goes.” “No negotiations” simply means we prefer violence. “What we say goes” expresses the arrogance, chauvinism and mystique of invincibility that has separated the US from the world. Both views express the notion that the US is above international law and the UN Charter, outside the family of nations. Is it any wonder that Harvard professor Samuel Huntington said that in the eyes of most of the world the US is seen as “THE rogue superpower,” considered “THE single greatest external threat to their societies”? The world quakes in its boots wondering when we will attack, and what form of violence will ensue: cruise missiles, helicopter gunships, chemical or biological agents, nuclear bombs, F18’s, F22’s, B52’s, fumigation campaigns, IMF/World Bank “Structural Adjustment Programs,” or “Austerity Programs,” embargoes, sanctions, disappearances, assassinations, massacres, tortures, cultural cooptation or erasure, etc., etc., etc.
The Bible warns us: “what ye sew, ye shall reap.” Today, sadly, we have experienced what we have sewn on much of the world. Today, as a country, we have learned that raining death and destruction on another country creates a toll far higher than simply destroyed buildings and dead bodies. Today our freedom came under attack. We thought we were free to impose military and economic violence anywhere we chose, with impunity. The freedom from impunity appears to no longer exist. The World Court attempted to sanction the US for our commitment to violence but the Reagan Administration claimed that the World Court had no jurisdiction over our actions. Yes, we have been, and we are a rogue state, and, my fellow Americans, it must stop!
Tonight, while many are calling for vengeance, my fellow Americans we must raise a call of humility, a humility that does not in any way diminish humanity, but a humility that raises the respect for, and dignity of, all people, a humility that allows us to celebrate all human life. Let us recall the words of that great man of peace, Martin Luther King, Jr., who said: “The ultimate weakness of violence is that it is a descending spiral, begetting the very thing it seeks to destroy. Instead of diminishing evil, it multiplies it. Through violence you may murder the liar, but you cannot murder the lie, nor establish the truth. Through violence you murder the hater, but you do not murder hate. In fact, violence merely increases hate…Returning violence for violence multiples violence, adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars. Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate: Only love can do that.”
It is time that we joined the world, not as its major purveyor of violence and destruction, but as a peaceful participant who will work to end violence, end racism, end classism, end sexism, rather than increase them. The proposed Pentagon budget, the “violence” budget, for next year is $330 billion dollars. I am tonight proposing an immediate 50% decrease in this spending that promotes violence, and calling for a redistribution those funds to help ameliorate problems of hunger, poverty and poor-health around the world. It is a call to reach out with love, and a call to find the courage to struggle to create a more just, peaceful, healthful and equitable world, a world in which human creativity is celebrated rather than the human capacity for great violence.
Tonight we must call on the world to forgive us OUR sins, forgive us OUR sordid and calamitous acts of violence that we have pursued without pause for over 50 years. Let this be the beginning of our reconciliation with the world. We now, to some degree, understand the pain, misery and suffering we have caused, the turmoil we have perpetrated, the hate we have elicited, the destruction we have imparted, the physical, emotional, psychological and spiritual scars and unconscionable hurt we have created and that much of the world has endured because of our rapacious and destructive pursuit of wealth, power and privilege at the expense of human concerns and human lives. We humbly beg the forgiveness of all humanity, as we pray that you will offer your support, your compassion, your understanding, and your love in our time of suffering, mourning and loss.
This is not a time, as it is never a time, to seek vengeance, but a time to seek the courage to forgive, to harbor the power of anger to be used in acts of love, and to uncover insights that will allow us to direct our indignation at the institutions of power, violence and greed, many of which, sadly, are centered in the US, and begin to transform them in order to increase our love for the victims of that power, violence and greed, including those who died and were injured in the attacks on the Pentagon and the World Trade Center.
When I attended the G8 meetings in Genoa recently I saw a banner in the street that said, “you are 8, we are 6 billion,” and it struck me deeply. We have pursued for too long the interests of the few at the expense of the many. Wealth, privilege and power inequalities exacerbate every day. We have created, protected, endorsed and now imposed on the rest of the world an economic system, symbolized by the World Trade Center, and protected by the Pentagon, that must produce and expand in order to profit and survive, an economic system that treats everything as a commodity to be exploited whether it is water, food, air, soil, the rest of the environment, animals, fish, or our fellow humans, a system that puts corporate profit interests above human interests. This must stop. We, who represent and serve power, should have listened sooner.
Let this horrible tragedy serve as our wake up call. Let us begin tonight to transform this monster before it is too late. This act of terror, infamous and abominable, will pale in comparison to the growing terrors of increasing global militarism of which we are the primary cause, increased global warming of which we are the primary cause, and intensifying environmental destruction of which we are the primary cause and which may soon make much of the world uninhabitable for humans, and surely increase human suffering, misery and death.
If we are to overcome these acts of terror, and more importantly prevent future acts of terror against humanity, we must act out of a sense of hope and faith that the future is unfinished, that it is there to be created; and, we must be driven by a judicious anger at the way things are, anger at the monster we have created, anger that can be harbored in momentous acts of love, and the courage to struggle in cooperation, understanding, support and solidarity with the rest of humanity to create a world in which all will be happy to live.
Tonight, and in the days and weeks to come, we must find the courage to not only reach out with love and understanding, but to find the courage to self-reflect honestly about what WE have done to the world so that we can understand why things are the way they are, and what we can and will do to struggle to create things as they should be ? a world of less violence and greater peace; a world of diminished arrogance and greater humility; a world where more people do not die of hunger every two years than were killed in both World Wars combined, but a world in which all people have access to the great and nourishing bounties of the earth; a world of less disease and greater health; a world of less hate and greater love; a world of less vengeance and greater understanding; a world of less greed and greater sharing; a world of less destruction and greater creativity; a world of less disparity and greater equality; a world of less fundamentalism and more progressivism; a world of less mysticism and more humanism; a world of less criminality and greater justice; a world of less separatism and more solidarity; a world in which we live both an examined life and a committed life; a world of less militarism and more artistry; a world of less vilification and more celebration; a world in which life is worth living; a world in which we understand well the lesson of Rousseau who said “the fruits of our labor belong to us; the fruits of the earth belong to everyone; and, the world itself belongs to no one.”
So, in closing, my fellow Americans, allow us to support one another in our quest through hope, and anger, and courage, to make love our aim during this time of crisis, and in the future. And, let us remember and reflect upon the words stated in Corinthians 13:1-3: “though I may speak with the voice of angels; though I may understand all the mysteries; though I may have all the knowledge; though I may give all to feed the poor; though I may give my body to be burnedif I have not love, I have nothing at all.”
Thank you. Good night, and blessings, peace, justice, solidarity and love for all humanity.
And now, my fellow Americans, in order to assist us in developing a much deeper understanding of all of these issues, I have invited MIT professor Noam Chomsky to share his views. Professor Chomsky will have unlimited time. Thank you. Professor Chomsky, welcome. CP