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There has not been an Administration in recent memory that has stood for so little of what we hold to be self-evident American truths.
Our Declaration of Independence, the founding document of our Republic, declares that there are certain unalienable rights and that it is the responsibility of government to protect, preserve, and promote these rights. However, in the words of its signers,
“when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object, evinces a design to reduce [a people to life] under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.”
Today, our young men and women are in harm’s way, facing what we are told to be up to 25 attacks per day. Already, nearly as many have died in George W. Bush’s war as were killed in his father’s.
The young men and women who are now parked in the desert sands of Iraq, appear to have been subjected to deceit by the Bush Administration.
One of the first Executive Orders signed by our President after declaring the War on Terrorism was to deny our young service men and women their much needed and deserved high deployment overtime pay. As our young troops and their families deal with the hardships of deployment for years on end, they won’t get the overtime pay that they were promised and counted on getting.
In addition to that, we still have over 160,000 veterans from the George Bush’s Daddy’s Gulf War who have not been adequately treated for their ailments and toxic exposures when they were sent to fight in 1991. And moreover, as a result of several complaints and lawsuits filed against the government by our veterans of the First Gulf War, health screenings were supposed to be given to each and every soldier currently being sent to Iraq. This time to avoid the excuse that the health conditions were pre-existent. These health screenings were put in place by law to protect our soldiers in the theatre of battle.
Sadly, only after threat of public exposure, and after most of our soldiers had already been deployed without the screenings, did Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld begin the “pre-deployment” health screenings. If our Pentagon really cared about the soldiers fighting their war, they would care for the health of our soldiers.
But then when we look at the homeless veterans of Bush’s Daddy’s Gulf War, we shouldn’t be surprised at any of the broken promises made to our young men and women of the military.
However, we should be outraged at this Administration’s failure to keep its promises.
The next issue is even why are they over there? We’ve read the reports that their families want them home now.
I’m sure even they sometimes, must ask themselves, what the heck they’re doing in Iraq when they joined the military to go to college!
Well, if we just recall, the Administration has given us many reasons for our young men and women being there.
First of all, many Americans believe that we are there because Saddam Hussein perpetrated the heinous attacks of September 11th. But those of us who read know that is the line put forward by Deputy Secretary of Defense Wolfowitz, but few others. And, according to Wolfowitz, not only was Saddam Hussein behind the September 11th attacks, but also the 1993 World Trade Center bombing, as well as the 1995 Alfred P. Murrah Building bombing in Oklahoma City.
Now, if that’s the case, then please tell me what was Donald Rumsfeld ever doing shaking that guy’s hand?
Did we create him just to break him?
Thousands of lives later?
Officially, the reasons our young men and women were sent to Iraq vacillated from Saddam’s past acts of terrorism, to his arsenal of weapons of mass destruction, to our objective of regime change. And Wolfowitz finally told us that the Administration settled on WMD, only because it was the reason everyone could agree on.
Now, at the time we are to believe that everyone agreed on WMD, what were the agencies of the Administration saying?
Well, the Defense Intelligence Agency in September 2002 wrote that they could not find any chemical weapons facilities. And in fact, AP reports that DIA Director Vice Admiral Lowell Jacoby states:
“As of 2002, in September, we could not reliably pin down – for somebody who was doing contingency planning – specific facilities, locations or production that was underway at a specific location at that point in time.”
But at that very same time, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld was telling Congress, and I quote, “We do know that the Iraqi regime has chemical and biological weapons.”
The Bush Administration speaks with forked tongue.
The Administration clings to the hope that they1ll find something to inc riminate the Iraqis and validate the mission leading to so many American, British, and Iraqi deaths. Yet Lt. General James Conway, the man charged with finding these missing weapons had this to say not too long ago:
“It was a surprise to me then as it remains a surprise to me now that we have not uncovered weapons in some of the forward dispersal sites. Believe me, it’s not for lack of trying. We’ve been to virtually every ammunition-supply point between the Kuwaiti border and Baghdad, and they’re simply not there.”
Our young men and women are in harms way, dying every day, and our President who, when faced with an opportunity to serve our country in combat, chose instead to skip town and skip the whole war.
Our young men and women in all the far-flung corners of the globe are denied their overtime pay while our commander in chief plays moral cop on the global block.
Now, why is this important to all of us?
Because an Administration that would lie about matters of peace and security, and send its best and underpaid brightest off to fight in a war declared illegal by the entire international community, in my opinion, will lie about anything.
We need only point to the saga of Jessica Lynch, whom we were told heroically fought her way past hostile Iraqis and was dramatically rescued by her colleagues.
Thanks to the BBC, we now know that it was all a lie. Her life was actually saved by the Iraqis, after she sustained injuries in a car crash!
Or what about George Bush’s Michael Dukakis moment? When in San Diego harbor, he donned navy co-pilot gear and the US public were made to believe that our dynamic, young President had just co-piloted–out at sea–a navy Viking strike aircraft, landing it onto one of the most powerful warships afloat today, the USS Abraham Lincoln.
George BushÐAmerica’s top gun. Only thing was, the ship wasn’t out at sea, it was at base in San Diego harbor!
Why did this Administration have to lie? And why does it continue to dissemble and stonewall in the face of overwhelming evidence that eventually, the truth will come out?
I suppose just as important, why is it that the so-called mainstream press is just as complicit in this dissembling as is this Administration?
These are questions that the Independent Progressive Politics Network will answer this weekend, and more importantly, what we must do about our sad state of affairs.
Our President is now in Africa. The mainstream and the alternative press have paid too little attention to Africa. Particularly the Africa that fails to fit into easy stereotypes or 30 second soundbytes.
So, where’s the critical thinking on this before the US puts ground forces in an oil-rich area of Africa. What is the record of the US military bringing peace and harmony and democracy to peoples around the world? Why will US action under George W. Bush in Liberia be any different from other US interventions? What, in fact, should we truly advocate for Liberia and the rest of Africa. And who will implement the progressive policy recommendations?
In addition to the chaos that we’re stoking abroad, we have serious deficiencies right here at home. And today’s Michigan is an appropriate place for progressives to meet to discuss America’s future.
The Bush reliance on racial politics is evident in its treatment of affirmative action right here on this campus. How ludicrous it is to have Republican good ol1 boy honchos learning Spanish? Just empower Latino America in all its beautiful diversity! But instead of real policy to move the American project forward, what we are getting is hypocritical dissimulation or cold indifference.
This week, the police officer in California who repeatedly slammed the young, handcuffed black teenager on the trunk of the police car goes on trial.
And just a few short days ago, the nation was shocked that a hate crime could be committed right on the premises of a Lockheed Martin plant. Everyone was surprised but the people who work at Lockheed Martin and who have been fighting alone because everyone gives lip service to racial equity but nobody really changes the culture of racism in corporate America. I stood with the valiant workers at Lockheed and called a meeting in DC attended by the CEO himself on this very issue. We tried to take away their federal funding until they changed the culture at their plants. That would have made them change alright. But instead, now six people are dead.
Just last month we were horrified to watch the NYPD Chief and New York Mayor Bloomberg apologize to the Spruill family for choosing to exercise their new no-knock warrant authority on the poor and the weak–on the wrong woman, in the wrong house, on the wrong street. An action that led to Mrs. Spruill’s death because she was shocked by the police invasion of her home and suffered a fatal heart attack. I’m outraged about it because I want to know where are the no-knock warrants for the Carlyle Group, Enron, DynCorp, Halliburton, Worldcom, HealthSouth, all the off-shore companies that fled our country to avoid paying taxes yet continue to get billions in federal contracts? Where are their no-knock warrants?
In Mrs. Spruill’s case, it was the wrong woman, the wrong home, the wrong address. Oops, I’m sorry. Another innocent black person dead.
And what about Ousmane Zongo, the African immigrant shot in the back in almost the same week as the NYPD burst through Mrs. Spruill’s door; their gunshot burst through Ousmane’s body. Oops, I may or may not be sorry. Another unarmed black man dead.
So we come to Michigan, the seat of this year’s affirmative action fight and America’s mini-intifada. But the people of Benton Harbor have their list too, just like black and Latino New Yorkers can call their roll of Amadou Diallo, Patrick Dorismond, Abner Louima, the Central Park Five, and too many other names while too few feel our pain.
So, from young motorcyclist Terrance Shurn and Arthur Patterson, to 16-year old Eric McGinnis and 7-year old Trent Patterson, black people in Benton Harbor have their own roll to call.
And the responsive call for calm and the sending in of troops doesn’t for one minute begin to solve the problems inherent in the treatment of people of color in this country.
In addition, merely targeting culprit police officers and their chief or even the mayor is not enough.
I read that the NAACP called for calm and dialogue.
I’m sorry, but I can’t be calm if my baby is going to be shot or hurt by ou t-of-control police. Dialogue must be followed by swift and deliberate action to root out racism at its very core. From California to New York to Mississippi to Michigan. How much injustice do you think this country can ingest before an eruption of extraordinary proportions occurs?
The progressive community of America must embrace the action needed to fix that which is terribly wrong in our beloved America.
And rooting out racism is a deep core problem rightly on the agenda of the Progressive Policy Network.
And so, placing US troops in Benton Harbor to restore calm and “protect property” is as helpful to the resolution of the problems of Benton Harbor as is the placing of US troops in Liberia to the resolution of the problems on West Africa’s oil-rich shore. Or, for that matter, in the hot, oil-rich desert sands of Iraq.
America today is neither solving her own problems or those of the world. From the environment to the health of the human family, the Bush Administration keeps getting it wrong.
It is clear that this Administration of Bush, Cheney, Powell, Rumsfeld, and Rice has failed to protect, preserve, and promote the fundamental rights of the American people. Indeed, it tramples them and makes our lives more insecure.
In 1776 it was King George III whose rule consisted of a long train of abuses and usurpations that amounted to absolute despotism. Today, after having suffered through George Bush the Father, we are now forced to endure George Bush the Son.
Who among us will place their John Hancock on a declaration that now we must, under the most arduous of circumstances, begin that great effort to remove George Bush from office because his administration has become abusive and utterly despotic?
I sign my name in full confidence that now is our time.
CYNTHIA MCKINNEY served in congress from 1992 to 2002. This is the text of her July 12 speech to Independent Progressive Politics Network University of Michigan, Ann Arbor.