My opening remarks for the press conference at Quaker House, Fayetteville, NC, organized in response to George W. Bush’s speech on June 28, 2005, at Ft. Bragg:
I retired out of 3rd Special Forces ten years ago, right up the road here when the out-processing one-stop was still over by the Main PX. My sonâ€™s first assignment after jump school was there in the 82nd Airborne Division, and it was with them that he went to Iraq the first time.
Dozens more soldiers and hundreds more Iraqis have been killed over the past couple of weeksâ€¦ and not just killed â€“ crippled, burned, blinded, amputated, consigned to colostomy bags and medication for their rest of their lives, and countless others will be driven a little bit mad by their experience. And we have no idea how many will be damaged by the ticking time-bomb in their bodies that is depleted uranium.
Not only are the troops suffering, but the families of those who are on their second and third deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan are living with unremitting fear, and I am one of those families. My grandson has seen his father for only a few months of his two and a half years.
Yet, tonight the President of the United States is going to come here to Fort Bragg and tell everyone in the country that this war is making people safer. In fact, since the Bush administration opportunistically used the terrible shock of 9-11 to advance what we now know to have been a pre-determined agenda, the number of terror attacks in the world has dramatically increased.
Let me say this very clearly, because the empirical evidence is very clear. Bushâ€™s war has not made anyone safer. It has, however, destroyed the lives of thousands of Americans and hundreds of thousands of Iraqis, and according to international polls, the United States is now held in lower public esteem in the world than China.
The United States is already suffering higher casualties than we were at the same stage of the Vietnam War. So, okay, Iraq is NOT Vietnam. It could, in fact, get worse. Rumsfeld is now telling us that the war could last for 12 more years.
And just two years ago George Bush pulled his little airplane stunt on the USS Abraham Lincoln, and had a big MISSION ACCOMPLISHED sign as his backdrop.
Tonight he will use a captive audience of soldiers, who he commands, and who will be ordered to smile and cheer and shout hooahs at the appropriate points in this latest Karl Rove production, and I find that offensive. More than offensive, it is obscene.
I find it offensive that the very people he would send to death, disfigurement and despair in the service of this administrationâ€™s lengthening list of lies, are now required, — when they could be home tonight with the loved ones they have missed so much in the last two years â€“ to serve as stage props so George W. Bush can add one more bit of cheerleading hype, one more publicity stunt, to his resume. And in Iraq, every time the poll numbers spook the White House, they add one more so-called counter-offensive, each promising that there is light at the end of this tunnel, and each dispatching more military sedans to the homes of those who wait to hear the terrible news that someone they loved is no longer in the world.
George W. Bush is using troops as props, but he doesnâ€™t show up for the funerals of the troops who have been killed in his war. This is about as clear as things get.
This publicity stunt is an obscenity. It is an insult to the intelligence of the nation, that is now waking to the reality that this war had nothing to do with 9-11, nothing to do with weapons of mass destruction, nothing to do with liberation, but everything to do with establishing permanent military bases on the earthâ€™s biggest oil patch.
Americans are waking up, and members of Congress who let themselves be stampeded into this war need to put their wind meters back out, because while Bush doesnâ€™t have to run for anything again, every member of the House of Representatives and a third of the Senate are running in 2006. Americans are waking up, and they are in a very bad mood about this war, and as Bob Dylan once sang, it donâ€™t take a weatherman to know which way the wind blows. Iâ€™ll tell my Democrat right now from the platform, if he doesnâ€™t fight to bring them home now, Iâ€™ll vote a Republican who says he or she will. People are dying, and we will not respect on election day those who sat on a fence while the coffins arrived at Dover, and the cries of pain echoed off the walls at Landstuhl and Walter Reed.
Bush says if we declare a withdrawal date, the insurgents will wait us out. But we haven’t even declared the *intention* to leave Iraq — in fact, it looks like we are building permanent bases there — and the Iraqi resistance seems to be growing stronger, more sophisticated, and more audacious with every day. This could not be happening if the resistance did not enjoy substantial popular support. And if our presence strengthens the resistance, how is this better than having them “wait the US out”?
WE, who wasnâ€™t all of us after all, WEâ€¦ had no business in Iraq in the first place. Thatâ€™s why this administration doctored evidence, attacked its critics, purged its own public servants, intimidated the press, and repeated 9-11 and Iraq in the same breath like a never-ending mantra for months, in order to get the American public to acquiesce to this crime.
Bush will get up there tonight and say that this is the first anniversary of newly-won Iraqi sovereignty.
But sovereignty is defined as supreme and independent political authority. How can anyone make the claim of independence, when they live in the Green Zone surrounded by foreign troops and a occupation authority that has veto power over any political action, the ability to order any press closed, and the ability to arrest and indefinitely detain that country’s citizens without showing cause? How can any country be sovereign, when its entire security apparatus is under the control of a foreign military? There is no sovereignty in Iraqâ€¦ any more than there was an al Qaeda connection or yellow cake uranium.
The Iraq Sovereignty Scam was a Bush election-year stunt. And tonight is a publicity stunt. It is an offensive publicity stunt, using our troops as his personal stage props. He couldnâ€™t deliver this phony missive from the White House and leave these people alone to spend precious time with their families?
Donâ€™t sell us any more fake milestones, George Bush, that major combat is over, that Saddam is captured so the resistance will stand down, that sovereignty exists under a military occupation, that a constitution is being written under the careful eye of the US Ambassador, or that the insurgency is in its last throes, as Dick Cheney continues to insist in the face of all this blood and fire.
Here are our milestones. They are numbers.
500 is a milestone, when we count returning bodies. 1,000 is a milestone. We will soon enough see 2,000, after 250 more families blanch at the sight of a military sedan pulling up in front of their houses.
Our milestones are names, like Abu Ghraib, like Fallujah, like the Downing Street memo.
Can even the most careful journalist continue now to award the presumption of honesty to this administration? If we had half the analysis of the Michael Jackson trial devoted to the Downing Street memos, there would already be an impeachment under way.
Bush will stand up there tonight and talk about brave soldiers, and he damn well better say something nice after what he has put them and their families through. What he wonâ€™t say, though, is that the bravery of the troops has nothing to do with whether that bravery should be placed in the service of an immoral, illegal, and un-winnable war.
There were plenty of brave soldiers who went to Vietnam, but it didn’t change the outcome. We don’t have to question the character of these troops to question the character of the commander-in-chief. In fact, there is something obscene about people like George W. Bush and Donald Rumsfeld riding around in limos and expensive clothes issuing orders like they are playing Risk, when the folly and criminality of those orders are felt as consequences on the bodies and spirits of soldiers and their families, and on the countless bodies of the Iraq people.
He damn well better say something nice, because just the other day, we watched not just our sons but our daughters killed in clusters, and when I saw that news report, I thought of the same thing I have thought of every day when I get on the internet and review the dayâ€™s news about this war.
I think about his cavalier little aside to the press two years ago, when he said, â€œBring ‘em on!”
He said it. And they did. They brought it on. And we say, “Bring ‘em home… and do it now.”