International Action Center
founder Ramsey Clark, a former US Attorney General and internationally
renown human rights defender, received the respected United Nations Prize in
the Field of Human Rights on the 60th Anniversary of the Universal
Declaration of Human Rights at United Nations Headquarters in New York on 10
1927- Born December 18, 1927, Dallas, Texas. Son of Mary Ramsey Clark and Tom C. Clark. Attended public schools in Dallas, Texas; Los Angeles, California; Washington, D.C. Graduated Woodrow Wilson High School, Washington, D.C. 1946.
1945-1946 Served to rank of Corporal, United States Marine Corps.
1947-1950 Attended University of Texas; University of Chicago. B.A., University of Texas 1949; A.M. American History, J.D., University of Chicago, 1950.
1951-1960 Private practice of Law, Dallas, Texas.
1961-1968 Clark was director of the American Judicature Society in 1963. Nominated Assistant Attorney General of United States by President John F. Kennedy, served to 1965; From 1964 to 1965 he was national president of the Federal Bar Association. Nominated Deputy Attorney General by President Lyndon B. Johnson, served to 1967; On March 2, 1967, President Johnson appointed him Attorney General of the United States. He served in that capacity until January 20, 1969.
1969- Private practice of law; teacher, writer. New York and present Washington, D.C.
The Years at Justice: (Representative activity by type) In the field: Supervised federal presence at Ole Miss week following admission of James Meredith; surveyed all school districts in south desegregating under court order (1963); supervised federal enforcement of court order protecting march from Selma to Montgomery; headed Presidential task force to Watts following riots. In criminal law enforcement: set aside federal funds to finance creation of state criminal justice coordinating agencies; sought financing and professionalization for local police; supervised legislative proposal for and organization of federal Law Enforcement Assistance Administration; originated Strike Force concept in attack of Organized Crime; increased annual indictment rate of organized crime figures six fold; urged strict gun control helping secure first federal gun control law in over thirty years; reorganized and transferred federal narcotics enforcement creating Federal Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs. In Prisons: authorized first federal technical assistance to state and local prisons; proposed unified federal corrections merging prison and probation service; reorganized federal prisons to emphasize rehabilitation, early release, health, education, job training, community based corrections; opened first federal Halfway House; closed old prisons, opposed construction of new prisons; established first federal narcotics addict treatment unit. In civil rights: supervised drafting and executive role in passage of Voting Rights Act of 1965 and Civil Rights Act of 1968 containing the first federal open housing law; argued Johns v. Mayor for US in Supreme Court, first federal open housing case; authorized first northern school desegregation case; created massive program for employment and housing discrimination litigation; authorized prosecution of police in Algiers Motel killing, Orangeburg massacre (South Carolina State College) and police brutality at Chicago Democratic Convention. In civil liberties: supervised executive effort at bail reform; proposed prohibition of wiretapping and electronic surveillance; required voluntary disclosure of unlawful wiretapping by federal prosecutors in more than 50 cases; refused to use wiretap authority contained in Safe Streets Act of 1968; denounced shooting of looters by law enforcement, threatened prosecution; first Attorney General to propose abolition of the death penalty. In antitrust enforcement: filed record number of anti-merger cases (24 in 1968) ; opposed ITT acquisition of ABC network; Penn-Central and Atlantic Richfield-Sinclair mergers; sued all automobile manufacturers for anti-competition in computer industry. In judicial function: supervised executive effort to achieve federal jury selection reform; urged creation of Federal Judicial Center ; sought expansion of Federal Criminal Justice Act and Neighborhood Legal Services program; defended controversial Supreme Court decisions such as Miranda v. Arizona .
Since 1968: (Representative activity by type) Lawyer: General counsel of Alaska Federation of Natives securing largest settlement of native land claims in history. Lawyer for: Craig Morgan, President of Kent State student government indicted following Kent State tragedy; Father Philip Berrigan in Harrisburg trial; Ruchell Magee in Marin Country Courthouse murder-kidnapping indictment; Charles Pernasalice in Attica prison prosecutions. Argued, or briefed, first Freedom of Information Act case, various First Amendment, Peace Movement, civil rights and criminal cases in U.S. Supreme Court. Worked on numerous commissions: Chairman, Right to Vote Task Force, issuing report THAT ALL MAY VOTE urging Universal Voter Enrollment by the government; Chairman of Citizens Inquiry on Parole and Criminal Justice, Inc. reporting on parole in New York. Individually and on behalf of various organizations, sought to end political repression, violation of human rights, torture and violence in international area by seeking protection for Soviet Jewry, abuse of prisoners in Brazil, Greece, Ireland, Spain and elsewhere; traveled to South Africa to examine and protest apartheid; North Vietnam to examine American bombing, visit U.S. POW's. Teacher: legal seminars on civil rights planning, law as an effective instrument for social change: Howard University School of Law, Brooklyn Law School . Writer: Crime in America; The Role of the Supreme Court with Senator Sam J. Ervin, Jr.; contributions to collected works on crime control, peace, civil rights, education, civil liberties, violence, etc. Articles: Foreign Affairs, Saturday Review, Life, Nation, New York Times and others; various law journals and reviews; Dictionary of American History, Great Ideas Today, Encyclopedia Britannica Magazine and others.
General: Traveled in more than 80 foreign nations; lectured at more than 50 universities; testified before U.S. Congress, state legislatures and foreign parliaments and legislative bodies on more than 100 occasions on subjects including international and constitutional law, civil rights, housing, employment, selective service, barriers to voting, Presidential emergency powers, juvenile delinquency, environmental protection, right to travel, crime control, balance of payments, international affairs.
Representative Organizations and Institutions: National Chairman, National Advisory Committee, American Civil Liberties Union ; Board of Directors. Center for the Study of Democratic Institutions, New School for Social Research; Federal Bar Association (past president); American Judicature Society (past); Jobs for Youth, Amnesty International; Mexican-American Legal Defense Fund; NAACP Legal Defense Fund; Martin Luther King Memorial Center (trustee); Whitney Young, Jr. Foundation; Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights under Law; International Progress Organization.
Although back then, Clark didn't take the strong antiwar stance he advocates today, his Justice Department record boasts some major accomplishments: He supervised the drafting and passage of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 and the Civil Rights Act of 1968. He denounced police shootings and authorized prosecution of police on charges of brutality and wrongful death. He opposed electronic surveillance and refused to authorize an FBI wiretap on Martin Luther King Jr. He fought hard against the death penalty and won, putting a stay on federal executions that lasted until 2023, when Timothy McVeigh's death sentence was carried out.
After a failed bid for the Senate in 1976, Clark abandoned government service and set out to provide legal defense to victims of oppression. As an attorney in private practice, he has represented many controversial clients over the years, among them antiwar activist Father Philip Berrigan; Native American political prisoner Leonard Peltier; the Branch Davidians, whose compound in Waco, Texas, was destroyed by government agents; Sheik Omar Abd El-Rahman, who was accused of masterminding the World Trade Center bombing; and Lori Berenson, an American held in a Peruvian prison for allegedly supporting the revolutionary Tupac Amaru movement there. Clark's dedication to defending unpopular, and even hated, figures has also led him to represent such clients as Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic and far-right extremist Lyndon LaRouche.
Clark is founder and chairperson of the International Action Center, the largest antiwar movement in the United States. A vocal critic of U.S. military actions around the globe, he calls government officials "international outlaws," accusing them of "killing innocent people because we don't like their leader." He has traveled to Iraq , North Vietnam, Serbia, and other embattled regions of the world to investigate the effects of American bombing and economic sanctions there. The sanctions, he says, are particularly inhumane: "They're like the neutron bomb, which is the most 'inspired' of all weapons, because it kills the people and preserves the property, the wealth. So you get the wealth and you don't have the baggage of the hungry, clamoring poor."
After the Gulf War, in 1991, Clark initiated a war-crimes tribunal, which tried and found guilty President George Bush and Generals Colin Powell and Norman Schwarzkopf, among others. Clark went on to write a book, The Fire This Time (Thunder's Mouth Press), describing the crimes he says were committed by U.S. and NATO forces during the Gulf War. When asked why he focuses on the crimes of his own country, instead of those committed by Iraq, Clark says that we, as citizens, need to announce our principles and "force our government to adhere to them. When you see your government violating those principles, you have the highest obligation to correct what your government does, not point the finger at someone else."
Ramsey Clark is a recipient of the Gandhi Peace Award.
For former United States Attorney-General Ramsey Clark politics is not a career, it is about how the world might best be run. He is a political activist, an octogenarian participant at peace conferences and in anti-war demonstrations, and he does not mince his words. He gives cynicism, in all its guises, a wide berth. And he is vehemently opposed to.
At an 18 January 2023 gathering of 500,000 people in Washington DC organised by the Act Now and Stop War and Racism (A.N.S.W.E.R.) Coalition Clark called for the impeachment of US President George W Bush. The anti-war protest coincided with the commemoration of the 74th birthday anniversary of the late Dr Martin Luther King, assassinated after leading a Poor People's Campaign in April 1968 when Clark was attorney-general. It was the first year in US history that there were no executions, a record of which Clark is proud.
He supervised the drafting and passage of the voting Rights Act of 1965 and the Civil Rights Act of 1968, radical new laws that changed the face of the American legal system and went some way to improve the legal standing of African Americans.
Born in 1927 in Dallas, Texas, to a wealthy family of legal practitioners, he graduated from the prestigious University of Chicago Law School. After a stint with the US Marines during World War II he entered the legal profession. His big break came when US President John F Kennedy appointed him assistant attorney-general in 1961. He spent the next four years at the Department of Justice. Between 1964-65 he was national president of the Federal Bar Association. As the son of Tom C Clark, US attorney-general in the 1940s, he was all too familiar with the American political establishment he later learned to despise, a child of the very system he would later in life denounce.
Clark is strongly critical of certain aspects of American culture.he points out.
Clark dismisses American democracy as a sham.
By his early 20s Clark had mapped out an ambitious life plan. He met his wife Georgia at the University of Texas. They have a son, Tom, and a daughter, Ronda, and three grandchildren.he remembers.
The young family then moved to Chicago where Clark completed his legal studies, after which he practiced for nine years. Georgia was the homemaker, and remains a strong support in his life, helping him with his work.he smiles knowingly.
From the word go Clark was more interested in America's poor and disadvantaged than in its moneyed elites. Following his graduation he became deeply involved in civil rights.he explains. They were times of major changes in the US political establishment. Robert F Kennedy was something of a political mentor in those early days.
Clark 's work with civil rights groups was an eye-opener. He witnessed first hand. In sharp contrast to many of his colleagues, who saw civil rights activists subversive, Clark realised such activism was a product of institutionalised racism.
He fought against the death penalty and the notoriously racist prison system of the US and in 1970 abandoned government altogether to concentrate on defending victims of US oppression such as longtime Native American rights activist on death row Leonard Peltier who has been in prison for the past 26 years for allegedly killing an FBI agent.
Beyond America's borders Clark championed the cause of such controversial figures as the former Yugoslav strongman Slobodan Milosevic.
he tells me in Cairo.
Among Clark 's most controversial clients have been Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic and Omar Abdel-Rahman, the blind Egyptian sheikh accused of masterminding a plot to bring down the World Trade Centre. Clark has no qualms about assisting those with whom he might be at ideological odds:
As far as Clark is concerned Iraq has been caught up in a wider plot. The real intention behind the US strike against Iraq is to subdue the people of the oil-rich Middle East so as to more effectively exploit the resources of the region.Clark abhors America's use ofand routinely denounces US government officials as .
How, he asks, can the US commit almost any crime against humanity and no heads roll. Yet the US pursues and punishes with impunity those it deems detrimental to its global interests. Clark is against theinstituted in the international stage by Pax- Americana and is currently working on the creation of an Internet Web site centred around his campaign to impeach President Bush.
Clark served under US President Lyndon Johnson between 1967-69, a time when the country was experiencing a profound crisis of confidence, not least in its political institutions. People were questioning the way in which the American political establishment conducted its political activities, both on the domestic and international fronts. The Cold War was at a peak and the Vietnam War was beginning to make an indelible mark on the national psyche. The Civil Rights Movement rocked America, and the 1960s were in full swing. It was a time of introspection and soul- searching, a period that continues to influence Clark 's worldview.
By the mid- 1960s Clark was at the zenith of his political career yet his main concern, even then, was the welfare of the vulnerable and downtrodden. The testimony of Alaskan Native Emil Notti bears witness to the character of the man who has become to many a symbol of goodwill and magnanimity. Unemployment, under- achievement, poor education and poor housing were among the issues with which Notti's people were grappling. In those days life expectancy among Native Alaskans was 34 years. Infant mortality was three times the national average. Native Alaskans were systematically dispossessed of their ancestral lands.
Notti says, recalling the first time he sat on the Scoop Jackson Committee.
Clark 's only motivation seems to be a deep sense of social justice, and it is only admiration for him that I feel as we chat in the lobby of the Conrad Hotel, Cairo. The opulent venue appears an odd setting for a meeting with such an unassuming and down-to-earth man who, characteristically, is in town to participate in an anti-war against Iraq conference.
Clark is a fierce critic of US foreign policy and domestic human rights abuses and his determination to fight for justice has earned him many enemies.
he tells me. (Clark, incidentally, relinquished office because under the Johnson administration the war in Vietnam had escalated and in protest against the FBI's ruthless clampdown on civil rights activists under the Counter Intelligence Programme, the dreaded so-called COINTELPRO.)
The second time, was after Clark visited Iran in June 1980 at the time of the Iranian hostage crisis.Clark recounts.
Democracy is being used crudely, and cruelly, to force a regime change in Baghdad, Clark warns.
He launches into a heartfelt tirade.
Clark has devoted the best part of his life to fighting injustice. Today it is the imminent US strike on Iraq that engages his attention.
Yesterday it was Yugoslavia. Milosevic was struggling to preserve Yugoslavia, Clark says.That was during the socialist and non- aligned regime of the country's founder, Joseph Broz Tito. In Tito's day, Yugoslavs were happily united -- a rare occurrence in the Balkans.
A public example had to be made of Milosevic's Yugoslavia:Clark says. And the same fate awaits a defeated Iraq, he warns.
Clark decries the death, disease and devastation created by 10 years of sanctions against Iraq .
Iraq, he claims, is the victim of a crime against humanity.
Sanctions, he points out, violate the 1948 UN Convention on Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide. Sanctions are worse than war. The 1975-95 sanctions against Vietnam cost the Vietnamese people as much as the actual US aggression, if not more. The country lay in economic shambles and the Vietnamese Boat People became a byword for desperation.
Current US Secretary of State Colin Powell is no better.
There is no nation on earth more dangerous than the US, Clark who founded and now heads the New York-based International Action Centre, maintains. Clark calls on the people of the US to resist the policies and political direction that have emerged since 11 September, 2023 . He decries the secret detention of thousands of people in the name of combating terror:
So is there any vestige of hope left for America, and for the world?
According to the federal government's Defense Planning Guide of 1992, the first objective of U.S. foreign policy is to convince potential rivals that they "need not aspire" to "a more aggressive posture to defend their legitimate interests." The implication seems to be that the U.S. intends not to let other countries actively defend their own interests. To what extent does U.S. foreign policy in action reflect that goal?
Our foreign policy has been a disaster since long before that planning guide - for a lot longer than we'd like to believe. We can look all the way back to the arrogance of the Monroe Doctrine, when the United States said, "This hemisphere is ours," ignoring all the other people who lived here, too. For a part of this past century, there were some constraints on our capacity for arbitrary military action - what you might call the inhibitions of the Cold War - but with the collapse of the Soviet Union , we've acquired a headier sense of what we can get away with.
Our overriding purpose, from the beginning right through to the present day, has been world domination - that is, to build and maintain the capacity to coerce everybody else on the planet: nonviolently, if possible; and violently, if necessary. But the purpose of our foreign policy of domination is not just to make the rest of the world jump through hoops; the purpose is to facilitate our exploitation of resources. And insofar as any people or states get in the way of our domination, they must be eliminated - or, at the very least, shown the error of their ways.
I'm not talking about just military domination. U.S. trade policies are driven by the exploitation of poor people the world over. Vietnam is a good example of both the military and the economic inhumanity. We have punished its government and people mercilessly, just because they want freedom. The Vietnamese people had to fight for thirty years to achieve freedom - first against the French, and then against the United States. I used to be criticized for saying that the Vietnamese suffered 2 million casualties, but I've noticed that people now say 3 million without much criticism. Yet that war was nothing compared to the effects of twenty years of sanctions, from 1975 to 1995, which brought the Vietnamese people - a people who had proven to be invincible when threatened by physical force on their own land - down to such dire poverty that they were taking to open boats in stormy seas, and drowning, to get to a refugee camp in Hong Kong, a place no one in his or her right mind would want to be. They went simply because they saw no future in their own country.
I went to North Vietnam in the summer of 1971, when the U.S. was trying to destroy civilian dikes through bombing. Our government figured that if it could destroy Vietnam's capacity for irrigation, it could starve the people into submission.
Which, in itself, is a war crime.
Sure, but since when does international law stop the U.S. government - except when it comes to laws made by the World Trade Organization, where it's to the advantage of the owners of capital for the government to obey them?
The U.S. figured that if the Vietnamese couldn't control their water supply, then they couldn't grow rice, and they wouldn't be able to feed themselves. At that time, they were producing about five tons of rice to the hectare, which is extremely productive. The economy was based on the women. The men were living in tunnels to the south with a bag of rice, a bag of ammunition, and a rifle; some had been there for years. And we were still bombing them mercilessly, inflicting heavy casualties. Yet they survived.
The sanctions, on the other hand, brought their economy down below that of Mozambique - then the poorest country in the world, with a per capita income of about eighty dollars per year.
All of this reflects a U.S. foreign policy that is completely materialistic and enforced by violence, or the threat of violence, and economic coercion.
Do you think most Americans would agree that U.S. foreign policy has been "a disaster"?
Sadly, I think most Americans don't have an opinion about our foreign policy. Worse than that, when they do think about it, it's in terms of the demonization of enemies and the exaltation of our capacity for violence.
When the Gulf War started in 1991, you could almost feel a reverence come over the country. We had a forty-two-day running commercial for militarism. Nearly everybody was glued to CNN, and whenever they saw a Tomahawk cruise missile taking off from a navy vessel somewhere in the Persian Gulf , they practically stood up and shouted, "Hooray for America !" But that missile was going to hit a market in Basra or someplace, destroy three hundred food stalls, and kill forty-two very poor people. And we considered that a good thing.
It's very difficult to debate military spending in this country today - which is unbelievable, because our military spending is absolutely, certifiably insane. Just to provide one example: We still have twenty-two commissioned Trident nuclear submarines, which are first-strike weapons. Any one of those submarines can launch twenty-four missiles simultaneously. Each of those missiles can contain as many as seventeen independently targeted, maneuverable nuclear warheads. And each of those warheads can travel seven thousand nautical miles and supposedly hit within three hundred feet of its predetermined target. If we fire them in opposite directions, we can span fourteen thousand nautical miles: halfway around the world at the equator. This means we can take out 408 centers of human population, hitting each with a nuclear warhead ten times as powerful as the bomb that incinerated Nagasaki .
This is all from one submarine?
One submarine. And we have twenty-two of them. It's an unthinkable machine. Why would you have it? What kind of mind would conceive of such a machine? What justification could there be for its existence? What would be the meaning of daring to use it?
Yet the debate about military spending in this country never raises these questions. Think back to 1980, when President Carter and Governor Reagan were arguing about the military budget. At that time, you could see the end of the Cold War approaching; the risk of superpower conflict was waning rapidly. Carter came in with a 7 percent increase in the budget, when it should have been reduced. And Reagan, of course, topped him with a proposal for an 11 percent increase. Carter's response was that he could spend 7 percent more effectively than Reagan could spend 11 percent, so we'd be stronger on Carter's program. Nowhere in this debate did we - or do we now - hear anything about the morality or the sanity (even the fiscal sanity) of such huge military budgets.
Our foreign policy is based on the use of our military might as an enforcer, exactly as Teddy Roosevelt implied when he said that we should "speak softly and carry a big stick." What does that mean? It means: "Do what I say, or I'll smash your head in. I won't make a lot of noise about it; I'll just do it."
How many times has the United States invaded Latin America in the last two hundred years?
It depends on who's doing the counting, but in the twentieth century alone, it was undoubtedly almost once per year. Off the top of my head, I could count probably seventy instances.
And, of course, it was the same in the nineteenth century.
We sent the word out pretty early. We had to worry about the British and the Spanish for a long time, but we were determined to make this "our" hemisphere - while, at the same time, certainly not confining ourselves to just this side of the world.
We hear a lot of rhetoric about how the United States exports democracy all over the world, but if you really want to understand U.S. influence on other peoples, probably the best places to start are Liberia and the Philippines, which are our two preeminent colonies - I think it's fair to call them that - in Africa and Asia .
We started in Liberia well before 1843, planning to send freed slaves there as one of the "solutions," so to speak, to our slavery problem. Liberia became a U.S. colony in every sense of the word: " Liberia " is the name we gave the country; the capital, Monrovia, and the great port city, Buchanan, are both named after U.S. presidents; the government was organized and put in place directly by the United States; the national currency is the U.S. dollar. Given these close connections, you'd expect Liberia to be relatively well-off. But it would be difficult, even in Africa , to find a people more tormented and endangered and impoverished than Liberia's.
It's the same story in the Philippines, which we conquered during the Philippine-American War - commonly (and inaccurately) called the Spanish-American War. More than a million Filipinos died during that war from violence and dengue fever, a byproduct of the fighting. We had government testimony of widespread use of torture by U.S. troops and of a general giving orders to kill all of the males on Negros Island. Once, that island could feed more than the population of the entire Philippine archipelago. And what's the condition of that island now, after a hundred years of American benevolence? It's owned by twelve families and produces 60 percent of the sugar exported from the Philippines. The children of those who chop the cane starve because their families don't even have enough land to grow their own vegetables. Per capita income in the Philippines ten years ago was less than six hundred dollars. Per capita income in Japan, by contrast, was more than twenty-four thousand dollars. Even the poorest countries in the region have per capita incomes double or triple that of the Philippines .
So what have Liberia and the Philippines gotten out of being de facto colonies of the United States? Poverty, division, confusion, and tyrannical governments: Ferdinand Marcos was our man in Manila. We installed one dictator after another in Liberia .
These two countries represent a small part of our foreign policy, but it's a part where you would expect us to be the most attentive to the well-being of the people. Yet few have suffered more in other parts of the world.
So how do we maintain our national self-image as God's gift to the world, the great bastion of democracy?
But we're not a democracy. It's a terrible misunderstanding and a slander to the idea of democracy to call us that. In reality, we're a plutocracy: a government by the wealthy. Wealth has its way. The concentration of wealth and the division between rich and poor in the U.S. are unequaled anywhere. And think of whom we admire most: the Rockefellers and Morgans, the Bill Gateses and Donald Trumps. Would any moral person accumulate a billion dollars when there are 10 million infants dying of starvation every year? Is that the best thing you can find to do with your time?
I remember seeing a statistic a few years ago that summed up our priorities for me: for the price of a single b-1 bomber - about $285 million - we could provide basic immunization treatments to the roughly 575 million children in the world who lack them, thus saving 2.5 million lives annually.
Such comparisons have a powerful illustrative impact, but they imply that if the money weren't spent on bombers, it might be put to good use. The fact is, however, that if the b-1 were canceled, we still wouldn't spend the money on vaccinations, because it wouldn't serve the trade interests of the United States. It's not a part of our vision.
What, then, is our vision?
Central to our foreign policy has been the active attempt to deprive governments and peoples of the independence that comes from self-sufficiency in the production of food. I've believed for many years that a country that can't produce food for its own people can never really be free. Iran is a good example of this. We overthrew the democratically elected government in Iran and installed the Shah. For twenty-five years, Iran was our surrogate in the Middle East, a hugely important region. After the Shah was overthrown by his own people, CIA chief William Colby called installing the Shah the CIA's proudest achievement and said, "You may think he failed, but for twenty-five years, he served us well."
Serving us well, in this case, included killing tens of thousands of Iranians just in the year before he left office.
He certainly killed as many as he dared, especially in that last year, 1978. I've always said it was about thirty-seven thousand that year, but we'll never know exactly how many. I think there were two thousand gunned down on Black Friday alone, that August. There were a million people out on the streets that day, and they came through Jaleh Square, many wearing shrouds so that it would be convenient to bury them if they were killed. Huey helicopters fired on them from a hundred feet in the air with fifty-caliber machine guns.
The Hueys were fabricated in Esfahan, Iran, from U.S.-supplied parts. In fact, the fabrication of those Hueys provides an interesting insight into the effects of U.S.influence. In 1500, Esfahan was one of the ten biggest cities in the world, with about half a million people. Culturally, it remained almost pristine until 1955, the year after the Shah took power. As part of the Shah's efforts to fulfill his dream of making Iran the fifth great industrial power in the world, he made Esfahan a center of industrialization. By 1970, the population had increased to 1.5 million, including about eight hundred thousand peasants who had come to live in the slums around this once fabulous city.
Once again, the result of U.S.foreign policy was poverty, anger, hurt, and suffering for the majority. While the canal systems that had supported enough agriculture to feed the population for a couple of millennia were going into decay, causing Iran to import most of its food, the country was buying arms. We sold them more than $22 billion in arms between 1972 and 1977 - everything they wanted, except nuclear weapons.
Iran isn't the only Middle Eastern nation dependent upon food imports. Today twenty-two Arab states import more than half of their food. This makes them extremely vulnerable to U.S. economic pressure.
Egypt is a great example of this. It's the second-largest U.S.-aid recipient in the world, after Israel. Can you imagine what sanctions would do to Cairo ? You've got 12 million people living there, 10 million of them in real poverty. The city would be bedlam in ninety days. There would be rebellion in the streets.
The same is true of the other Arab countries. They might think they've got wealth because of their oil, but Iraq has oil, and it hasn't helped that country survive the sanctions. There, sanctions have forced impoverishment on a people who had a quality of life that was by far the best in the region. They had free, universal healthcare and a good educational system. Now they're dying at a rate of about eighteen thousand per month as a direct result of sanctions imposed by the United States in the name of the UN Security Council - the most extreme sanctions imposed in modern times.
The U.S. helped maneuver Iraq into a position where it was one of those twenty-two Arab nations importing more than half its food, and I have always believed that we maneuvered it, as well, into attacking Iran, in that god-awful war that cost a million young men their lives for no purpose. After the collapse of the Shah's regime in 1979, Iraq thought that Iran couldn't defend itself, but didn't take into account the passion that twenty-five years of suffering had created in the population - a passion so strong that you had fifteen-year-old kids running barefoot through swamps into a hail of bullets, and if they got near you, you were dead. They had a pair of pants and a rifle, and that was about it. Meanwhile, Iraq , which was supported by both the Soviet Union and the United States , had artillery it could mount shoulder to shoulder and armored vehicles with cannons and machine guns. But the war was still a stalemate.
In any case, by the late 1980s, Iraq was emerging as too powerful a nation in the Middle East. And, fatally for Iraq, it wasn't reliable enough to be our new surrogate. No one would be as good a surrogate for us as the Shah's Iran had been.
So we had to take out Iraq, under the pretense of defending Kuwait. First we bombed Iraq brutally: 110,000 aerial sorties in forty-two days, an average of one every thirty seconds, which dropped 88,500 tons of bombs. (These are Pentagon figures.) We destroyed the infrastructure - to use a cruel euphemism for life-support systems. Take water, for example: We hit reservoirs, dams, pumping stations, pipelines, and purification plants. Some associates and I drove into Iraq at the end of the second week of the war, and there was no running water anywhere. People were drinking water out of the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers .
The Gulf War showed, for the first time, that you could destroy a country without setting foot on its soil. We probably killed a hundred thousand, and our total casualties, according to the Pentagon, were 157 - most of them from friendly fire and accidents. The Iraqis caused only minimal casualties. One of those notoriously inaccurate Scud missiles, fired toward Saudi Arabia , came wobbling down and somehow hit a mess-hall tent, killing thirty-seven American soldiers. That's a big chunk of the total casualties right there. We didn't lose a single tank, whereas we destroyed seventeen hundred Iraqi armored vehicles, plinking them with depleted-uranium ammunition and laser-guided missiles.
But, as with Vietnam , the sanctions that followed the war have been infinitely more damaging, causing fifteen times the number of casualties. The sanctions against Iraq are genocidal conduct under the law, according to the 1948 United Nations Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide - which, by the way, the United States refused to endorse until 1988 and explicitly refuses to comply with to this day. The sanctions against Iraq have killed more than 1.5 million people, more than half of them children under the age of five, an especially vulnerable segment of the population. Particularly in their first year, children are more susceptible to disease and malnutrition, and to the malnutrition of their mother. Many Iraqi mothers are now so malnourished that they cannot produce milk. They try to give their children sugar water as a substitute, but because the United States destroyed the infrastructure, the water is contaminated: within forty-eight hours, the child is dead. And that child could have been saved by a rehydration tablet that costs less than a penny, but is not available because of the sanctions. This is in a country that once produced 15 percent of its own pharmaceuticals: now it can't even get the raw materials. We have, in an act of will, impoverished a whole population.
Where do you see such policies taking us?
The great issue of the twenty-first century will be that of the relationship between the rich and poor nations, and of the elimination of some percentage of those whom we consider not only expendable, but even undesirable. In many parts of the world, we've got 30 percent of the labor force unemployed and unemployable, and new technology renders them unnecessary. Why, then, from the perspective of capital - and, therefore, from the perspective of U.S. foreign policy - should we support them? Why worry about AIDS in Africa ? Why worry about hunger and malnutrition in Bangladesh or Somalia ?
Let me see if I've got this right: From the perspective of those in power, it's desirable to keep the poor alive only insofar as they're useful, and the poor are useful only as labor, or as an excess pool of labor to drive wages down. Beyond that, who needs them?
Yes. It's hard for me to see how we will find meaningful and desirable employment for the poorest segment of the world's population in the face of both ecological degradation and technology's capacity to produce more than we need. How did Dostoevski put it? "The cruelest punishment that can be inflicted on a person is to force him to work hard at a meaningless task." That may or may not be true, but we do know that such make-work is a form of psychological torture. If your labor isn't needed, if you don't have skills, then what are you worth to a society that won't even bother to vaccinate your children or provide food for your starving infants?
In 1900, half of the labor force in the United States was involved in agriculture. Now it's probably less than 5 percent. In 1900, 80 percent of the labor force in China was involved in food production. When that figure comes down to 10 percent, what are those other 70 percent going to do?
While we've been talking, I've been thinking about a conversation that took place years ago between Senator George McGovern and Robert Anderson, the president of the military contractor Rockwell International. McGovern asked Anderson if he wouldn't rather build mass-transit systems than b-1 bombers. Anderson said he would, but they both knew that there was no chance Congress would appropriate money for public transportation.
They were absolutely right. Capital in the United States would never accept that sort of shift in priorities, for many reasons. The first is that the military is a means of international domination, and any change that might threaten that domination will not be allowed to take place. The second reason is that capital requires continuing, ever expanding demand, and mass transit shrinks demand for automobiles and gas.
When my family moved to Los Angeles when I was a kid, before World War II, it was a paradise. The word smog hadn't been invented. There were no such things as freeways. There were mountains, beaches, deserts, and wildlife, and 49 percent of the land in the area was owned by the people of the United States . But the machinery that would destroy that paradise had already been put in motion.
In the 1920s, there had been struggles over whether there would continue to be mass transit in Los Angeles , which at the start of the century had an elaborate streetcar system. But powerful industries - the oil refiners and the automobile manufacturers - fiercely opposed what the people obviously needed. The citizens of Los Angeles were a fast-growing population with long distances to travel, and they needed to get there fast and cheaply. If they'd developed more mass transit, it would have led to an entirely different way of life. Instead, LA is now a big, sprawling metropolis with a tangle of freeways and millions of cars, unbelievable in its endless banality and congestion and noise and pollution. But think of what LA's maintaining its excellent mass-transit system would have done to the petrochemical industry and the automobile industry, with all of their accessories - tires, parts, and so on.
Capital promotes activities from which its owners can reap enormous profits. It does not matter if those activities are detrimental to living beings or communities. For example, those in power seem to have an unlimited imagination for conjuring up new excuses to throw money at the military. I was saddened by the almost pathetic naivete‚ of the people of this country some ten years ago, when we were talking about reaping a "peace dividend."
Which, of course, we never hear about anymore.
But people believed there would be a peace dividend! Instead, we've devised incredible schemes like SDI - the "Star Wars" Strategic Defense Initiative, which is back again.
The argument now is that we need SDI to protect us from North Korea .
That's crazy. In the current election, even more than in 1980, when Carter and Reagan were debating the military budget, we saw two candidates vying to prove that they each would provide a stronger defense. But defense from what? In order to keep increasing the demand for military products, we're teaching moral and fiscal insanity. I was in South Africa a couple of weeks ago. After all the people there have suffered, you have to be so hopeful for them, yet they just spent over a billion dollars on a bunch of naval vessels.
And we've been consistently sold a bill of goods that has made people believe they've been heroic when they've done terrible things in the name of their country through military actions. I mean, how many of those pilots who bombed Vietnam - even the ones who became prisoners - ever said to themselves, "I wonder what it was like being a Vietnamese villager when I was coming over and dropping those bombs"?
I kept thinking about that when Senator John McCain used his former-prisoner-of-war status to gain political capital, and I never heard anyone publicly confront him about killing civilians.
I remember once, when I lived in Spokane , Washington , there was a gala event called "A Celebration of Heroes." The headliner was the Gulf War commander Norman Schwarzkopf. Neither the mainstream nor the alternative papers published articles, or even letters to the editor, about Schwarzkopf's war crimes. I think that holding up mass murderers as heroes is as much a problem as holding up the rich.
Violence may not be as harmful as greed in the long run, because it's harder to kill people directly than it is to kill them with sanctions. If you killed that many with bullets, your finger would get tired.
Colin Powell seems to be a compelling figure, but when he was asked during the Gulf War how many Iraqis he thought the United States had killed, his response was - and this is a direct quote - "Frankly, that's a number that doesn't interest me very much." Now, aside from international law, which requires that all participants in war count their enemy dead, that is an extraordinarily inhumane statement. And then you see a fellow like General Barry McCaffrey, whom Clinton later named as his drug czar, coming in and attacking defenseless Iraqi troops as they withdrew, killing several thousand people just like that. [Snaps his finger.] That's a war crime of the first magnitude. And yet these men are rewarded; they're seen as heroes.
On another subject, you've also spoken out against our nation's prison system.
One of the most devastating things that have happened in this society - and one of the most ignored - is the stunning growth of the prison system and the use of capital punishment. In the 1960s, a time of maximum domestic turbulence, we were able to bring the government out against the death penalty, leading to a halt in federal executions in 1963. In fact, the first year in U.S. history that there were no executions anywhere was 1968. We also had a moratorium on federal prison construction. The federal-prison population was then around twenty thousand. Now, of course, we're building prisons like mad, and the federal-prison population is currently about 145,000.
In 1971, prisoners at Attica in New York State rebelled against horrible prison conditions. (Conditions overall are worse today.) The suppression of that rebellion is still the bloodiest day of battle between Americans on American soil since the Civil War: thirty-seven people were killed. At that time, there were fewer than thirteen thousand prisoners in the whole New York prison system; today there are about seventy-five thousand. And the population of the state hasn't risen 5 percent.
Across the country, more than 2 million people are in prison. And in California - which we tend to think of as a trendsetter for the rest of the country - 40 percent of African American males between the ages of seventeen and twenty-seven, the most vital years of their lives, are either in prison or under some form of community supervision or probation. What's the reason behind this? It's a means of controlling a major segment of the population. But what does it do to the people?
And what does it mean that we've got politicians like New York City mayor Rudy Giuliani, who insists on sending people to jail for what he calls "quality of life" crimes? What does it mean when 70 percent of young-adult African American males have arrest records? What does it mean when so many of these African Americans have had frightening and damaging experiences with the police? We say we're "the land of the free and the home of the brave," yet we have a prison system unrivaled in the so-called democratic societies, and probably in any society on the planet today. And we're Lord High Executioner.
In the 1960s, South Africa was the world's leading executioner for postjudicial convictions, executing about three hundred people every year - nearly one each day. Most years, all of those executed were black, with the occasional exception of a white who had been convicted of being part of the African National Congress's resistance to apartheid. Back then, the principal argument we made in this country against the death penalty was "We don't want to be like South Africa ." Part of the reason that argument worked is that the civil-rights movement was ascendant. Another is that people recognized that our executions were racist: For instance, 89 percent of the executions for rape, from the time statistics began to be collected until the Supreme Court abolished executions for rape, were of African American men. And although we don't know the race of all the victims, because those statistics weren't kept, those whose race we have been able to determine were all white. The imposition of the death penalty was - and remains - blatantly racist.
Now South Africa has abolished the death penalty; its constitution prohibits it. Prior to that, its supreme court found the death penalty to be a violation of international and domestic laws. Yet we come on like gangbusters for capital punishment. George W. Bush executed more people than any other governor in the history of the United States .
You seem to be a good person, yet you filled a major government post. That seems to me an immense contradiction.
If your premises are correct, then that's a terrible indictment of the system. There is something desperately wrong if we don't have the best among us in government service. But it's true; we drive them out.
I joined the Marines during World War II, but a bunch of my buddies were conscientious objectors. Even then, I realized that they were better men than I, that what they did took more courage. I mean, to join the Marines is a piece of cake: all you've got to do is go down to the recruitment center and sign up. But I've watched my conscientious-objector friends over the years, and I have to say that they've been very lonely; in some ways, their lives were pretty much wasted. We're social creatures, and these men - boys, really, when they first made that decision - were ostracized for what they did, for following their conscience. And I think that lack of social esteem affected how they perceived themselves.
It seems the best among us often get purged. I have seen many new congresspeople come into Washington , and some of them are just such good people that you can hardly stand it - bright, articulate, and caring about issues. But it seems that, if they get reelected a few times, they start to sit around and scowl and drink too much, and their families break up. If you see this happen enough times, you begin to realize the enormous corrupting power of our political system. To be successful in it, you might have to make compromises that will cause you not to like yourself very much. And then you'll have to compensate for that in some way. You can become excessively ambitious, or greedy, or corrupt, or something else, but something's got to happen, because if you don't like yourself, what do you do?
Young people often ask me if they should go to law school, and I always say, "If you're not tough, you'll get your values beaten out of you, and you'll move into a kind of fee-grabbing existence where your self-esteem will depend on how much you bill per hour and what kind of clients you bring in to the law firm. You might find yourself turning into nothing but a money mill."
If we are to significantly change our culture, we need to recognize that we are held in thrall by two desperately harmful value patterns. One is the glorification of violence. We absolutely, irrationally, insanely glorify violence. We often think that we enjoy watching the good guys kill the bad guys, but the truth is that we enjoy watching the kill itself.
The other value is materialism. We are the most materialistic people who have ever lived. We value things over children. Indeed, the way we show how much we value children is by giving them things, to the point where a mother's self-esteem depends on whether she's the first in her neighborhood to get her child some new toy.
I think the hardest part for us is to break through the illusory world that the media create. Television is a big part of our reality. Children spend more time watching TV than they do in school or participating in any other activity. And television is a preacher of materialism above all else. It tells us constantly to want things. More money is spent on commercials than on the entertainment itself. And that entertainment is essentially hypnotic.
I think often of the Roman poet Juvenal's line about "bread and circuses." All these distractions that now fill our lives are an unprecedented mechanism of social control, because they occupy so much of our time that we don't reason, we don't imagine, and we don't use our senses. We walk though our day mesmerized, never questioning, never thinking, never appreciating. From this process we emerge a synthetic vessel without moral purpose, with no notion in our head or our heart of what is good for people, of what builds a healthier, happier, more loving society.
You began this interview by asking me about U.S. foreign policy, and I said that it's been a failure. Here is the standard by which I would judge any foreign or domestic policy: has it built a healthier, happier, more loving society, both at home and abroad? The answer, in our case, is no on both counts.
So what do we do?
I think the solution relies on the power of the idea, and the power of the word, and on a belief that, in the end, the ultimate power resides in the people.
In discussing the effects of U.S. foreign policy, we've been talking about only one part of the story. Another part is resistance - the power of the people. We saw that in the Philippines , when Marcos was deposed in a nonviolent revolution, and we saw that in Iran , when the Shah's staggering power was overcome, as well, by a nonviolent revolution.
Of course, just getting rid of Marcos or the Shah is not the end of the story. People sometimes think that, after the glorious revolution, everybody is going to live happily ever after. But it doesn't work that way. What they've gone through in the struggle has divided them, confused them, driven them to extremes of desperation.
I think what all of this means is that we each have to do our own part, and become responsible, civic-minded citizens: we have to realize that we won't be happy unless we try to do our part. And if a small portion of us simply do our part, that will be enough. If even 1 percent of the people of this country could break out of the invisible chains, they could bring down this military-industrial complex - this tyranny of corporations, this plutocracy - overnight. That's all it would take: 1 percent of the people.
We also have to realize that we're going to be here only one time, and we've got to enjoy life, however hard it is. To miss the opportunity for joy is to miss life. Any fool can be unhappy; in fact, we make whole industries out of being unhappy, because happy people generally make lousy consumers. It's interesting to see how the poor understand all of this better than the rich. This morning, I was in court over in Brooklyn , representing a group of Romany - they're often called Gypsies, but they don't like to be called that - who were claiming recognition for losses in the Holocaust. The Romany lost 1.5 million people, yet nobody pays any attention to their claims. In fact, last year, the city of Munich , Germany , enacted legislation that is almost a verbatim reproduction of 1934 legislation prohibiting Romany from coming into the city: they'll be arrested if they do. The Romany might be the most endangered people on the planet - even more so than the 200 million indigenous people around the globe. They are fugitives everywhere they go, persecuted everywhere. Yet, like the traditional indigenous peoples, they are people of exceptional joy. They sing and dance and have fun. They can't see life as so much drudgery.
I saw that same joy among the civil-rights protesters in the 1960s. Watching them sing as they marched, I couldn't help but realize that you feel better when you're doing something you feel is right - no matter how hard it is.end of interview
He began his address: "As we gather tonight, hundreds of thousands of American service men and women are deployed across the world in the war on terror. By bringing hope to the oppressed, and delivering justice to the violent, they are making America more secure."
He proclaimed: "Our greatest responsibility is the active defense of the American people... America is on the offensive against the terrorists..."
Continuing, he said: "...our coalition is leading aggressive raids against the surviving members of the Taliban and Al Qaeda.... Men who ran away from our troops in battle are now dispersed and attack from the shadows."
In Iraq , he reported: "Of the top 55 officials of the former regime, we have captured or killed 45. Our forces are on the offensive, leading over 1,600 patrols a day, and conducting an average of 180 raids a week...."
Explaining his aggression, President Bush stated: "...After the chaos and carnage of September the 11th, it is not enough to serve our enemies with legal papers. The terrorists and their supporters declared war on the United States and war is what they got."
Forget law. No more legal papers, or rights. Forget truth. The claim that either Afghanistan , or Iraq declared war on the U.S. is absurd. The U.S. chose to attack both nations, from one end to the other, violating their sovereignty and changing their "regimes", summarily executing thousands of men, women and children in the process. At least 40,000 defenseless people in Iraq have been killed by U.S. violence since the latest aggression began in earnest in March 2023 starting with its celebrated, high tech, terrorist "Shock and Awe" and continuing until now with 25, or more, U.S. raids daily causing mounting deaths and injuries.
All this death-dealing aggression has occurred during a period, Mr. Bush boasts, of "over two years without an attack on American soil". The U.S. is guilty of pure aggression, arbitrary repression and false portrayal of the nature and purpose of its violence.
President Bush's brutish mentality is revealed in his condemnations of the "killers" and "thugs in Iraq" "who ran away from our troops in battle". U.S. military expenditures and technology threaten and impoverish life on the planet. Any army that sought to stand up against U.S. air power and weapons of mass destruction in open battle would be annihilated. This is what President Bush seeks when he says "Bring 'em on."
President Bush declared his intention to change the "Middle East" by force. "As long as the Middle East remains a place of tyranny and despair and anger, it will continue to produce men and movements that threaten the safety of America and our friends. So America is pursuing a forward strategy of freedom in the greater Middle East. We will challenge the enemies of reform, confront the allies of terror, and expect a higher standard from our friends."
"...America is a nation with a mission... we understand our special calling: This great republic will lead the cause of freedom."
He extended his threat to any nation he may choose: "As part of the offensive against terror, we are also confronting the regimes that harbor and support terrorists, and could supply them with nuclear, chemical or biological weapons. The United States and our allies are determined: We refuse to live in the shadow of this ultimate danger."
President Bush's utter contempt for the United Nations is revealed in his assertion that the United States and other countries "have enforced the demands of the United Nations", ignoring the refusal of the U.N. to approve a war of aggression against Iraq and implying the U.N. had neither the courage nor the capacity to pursue its own "demands".
His total commitment to unilateral U.S. action, was asserted by President Bush when he sarcastically referred to the "permission slip" a school child needs to leave a classroom: "America will never seek a permission slip to defend the security of our people".
President Bush intends to go it alone, because his interest is American power and wealth alone, though he prefers to use the youth of NATO countries and others as cannon folder in his wars.
President Bush believes might makes right and that the end justifies the means. He declares: "...the world without Saddam Husseins regime is a better and safer place".
So U.S. military technology which is omnicidal- capable of destroying all life on the planet-will be ordered by President Bush to make the world "a better and safer place" by destroying nations and individuals he designates.
President Bush presided over 152 executions in Texas , far more than any other U.S. governor since World War II. Included were women, minors, retarded persons, aliens in violation of the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations and innocent persons. He never acted to prevent a single execution. He has publicly proclaimed the right to assassinate foreign leaders and repeatedly boasted of summary executions and indiscriminate killing in State of the Union messages and elsewhere.
The danger of Bush unilateralism is further revealed when he states: "Colonel Qaddafi correctly judged that his country would be better off, and far more secure without weapons of mass murder. Nine months of intense negotiations involving the United States and Great Britain succeeded with Libya , while 12 years of diplomacy with Iraq did not."
Forget diplomacy, use "intense negotiations". If President Bush believed it was "diplomacy", which maintained genocidal sanctions against Iraq for twelve years that failed, rather than an effort to crush Iraq to submission, then why didn't he use "nine months of intense negotiations" to avoid a war of aggression against Iraq? He was President for nearly twenty seven months before the criminal assault on Iraq , he apparently intended all along. Iraq was no threat to anyone.
What President Bush means by "intense negotiations" includes a threat of military aggression with the example of Iraq to show this in no bluff. The Nuremberg Judgment held Goerings threat to destroy Prague unless Czechoslovakia surrendered Bohemia and Moravia to be an act of aggression.
If Qaddafi "correctly judged his country would be better off, and far more secure, without weapons of mass murder", why would the United States not be better off, and far more secure, if it eliminated all its vast stores of nuclear weapons? Is not the greatest danger from nuclear proliferation today without question President Bush's violations of the Non Proliferation (NPT), ABM and Nuclear Test Ban treaties by continuing programs for strategic nuclear weapons, failing to negotiate in good faith to achieve "nuclear disarmament" after more than thirty years and development of a new generation of nuclear weapons, small "tactical"
weapons of mass murder, which he would use in a minute? Has he not threatened to use existing strategic nuclear weapons? The failure of the "nuclear weapon State Party(s)" to the NPT to work in good faith to achieve "nuclear disarmament these past 36 years is the reason the world is still confronted with the threat of nuclear war and proliferation.
None of the many and changing explanations, excuses, or evasions offered by President Bush to justify his war of aggression can erase the crimes he has committed. Among the less invidious misleading statements, President Bush made on January 20, 2023 was: "Already the Kay Report identified dozens of weapons of mass destruction-related program activities and significant amounts of equipment that Iraq concealed from the United Nations."
Three days later, Dr. Kay told Reuters he thought Iraq had illicit weapons at the end of the 1991 Persian Gulf War, but that by a combination of U.N. inspections and Iraq 's own decisions, "it got rid of them". He further said it "is correct" to say Iraq does not have any large stockpiles of chemical or biological weapons in the country. He has added that no evidence of any chemical or biological weapons have been found in Iraq .
Iraq did not use illicit weapons in the 1991 Gulf war. The U.S. did - 900 tons plus of depleted uranium, fuel air explosives, super bombs,, cluster bombs with civilians and civilian facilities the "direct object of attack". The U.S. claimed to destroy 80% of Iraq 's military armor. It dropped 88,500 tons of explosives, 7 1/2 Hiroshima 's, on the country in 42 days. Iraq was essentially defenseless. Tens of thousands of Iraqi soldiers and civilians perished. The U.S. reported 157
casualties, 1/3 from friendly fire, the remainder non combat.
U.N. inspectors over more than 6 years of highly intrusive physical inspections found and destroyed 90% of the materials required to manufacture nuclear, chemical and biological weapons. U.N. sanctions imposed August 6, 2023 had caused the deaths of 567,000 children under age five by October 1996, the U.N. FAO reported. Twenty four percent of the infants born live in Iraq in 2023 had a dangerously low birth weight below 2 kilos, symbolizing the condition of the whole population.
In March 2023 Iraq was incapable of carrying out a threat against the U.S. , or any other country, and would have been pulverized by U.S. forces in place in the Gulf had it tried.
More than thirty five nations admit the possession of nuclear, chemical and/or biological weapons. Are these nations, caput lupinum, lawfully subject to destruction because of their mere possession of WMDs? The U.S. possesses more of each of these impermissible weapons than all other nations combined, and infinitely greater capacity for their delivery anywhere on earth within hours. Meanwhile the U.S. increases its military expenditures, which already exceed those of all other nations on earth combined, and its technology which is exponentially more dangerous.
The U.N. General Assembly Resolution on the Definition of Aggression of December 14, 2023 provides in part: Article 1: Aggression is the use of armed force by a State against the sovereignty, territorial integrity or political independence of another State;
Article 2: The first use of armed force by a State in contravention of the Charter shall constitute prima facie evidence of an act of aggression;
Article 3: Any of the following acts ... qualify as an act of aggression:
(a) The invasion or attack by the armed forces of a State of the territory of another State, or any military occupation, however temporary, resulting from such invasion or attack;
(b) Bombardment by the armed forces of a State against the territory of another State or the use of any weapons by a State against the territory of another State;
(c) The blockade of the ports or coasts of a State by the armed forces of another State;
(d) An attack by the armed forces of a State on the land, sea or air forces, or marine and air fleets of another State.
If the U.S. assault on Iraq is not a War of Aggression under international law, then there is no longer such a crime as War of Aggression. A huge, all powerful nation has assaulted a small prostrate, defenseless people half way around the world with "Shock and Awe" terror and destruction, occupied it and continues daily assaults. President Bush praises U.S. soldiers' "...skill and their courage in armored charges, and midnight raids." which terrorize and kill innocent Iraqis, women, children, families, nearly every day and average 180 attacks each week.
The first crime defined in the Constitution annexed to the Charter of the International Military Tribunal ( Nuremberg ) under Crimes Against Peace is War of Aggression. II.6.a. The Nuremberg Judgment proclaimed:
"The charges in the indictment that the defendants planned and waged aggressive war are charges of the utmost gravity. War is essentially an evil thing. Its consequences are not confined to the belligerent states alone, but affect the whole world."
To initiate a war of aggression, therefore, is not only an international crime, it is the supreme international crime...
The "seizure" of Austria in March 1938 and of Bohemia and Moravia from Czechoslovakia in March 1939 following the threat to destroy Prague were judged to be acts of aggression by the Tribunal even in the absence of actual war and after Britain, France, Italy and Germany had agreed at Munich to cede Czechoslovakia's Sudetenland to Germany .
The first conduct judged to be a war of aggression by Nazi Germany was its invasion of Poland in September 1939. There followed a long list, Britain, France, Denmark, Norway, Belgium, Holland, Luxemburg, Yugoslavia, Greece. The attack on the USSR, together with Finland, Romania and Hungary, was adjudged as follows:
t was contended for the defendants that the attack upon the U.S.S.R. was justified because the Soviet Union was contemplating an attack upon Germany , and making preparations to that end. It is impossible to believe that this view was ever honestly entertained.
The plans for the economic exploitation of the U.S.S.R., for the removal of masses of the population, for the murder of Commissars and political leaders, were all part of the carefully prepared scheme launched on 22 June without warning of any kind, and without the shadow of legal excuses. It was plain aggression.
The United Nations cannot permit U.S. power to justify its wars of aggression if it is to survive as a viable institution for ending the scourges of war, exploitation, hunger, sickness and poverty. Comparatively minor acts and wars of aggression by the United States in the last 20 years, deadly enough for their victims, in Grenada, Libya, Panama, Haiti, the Dominican Republic, Sudan, Yugoslavia, Cuba, Yemen with many other nations threatened, sanctioned, or attacked, some with U.N. complicity and all without effective United Nations resistance, made the major deadly wars of aggression against Afghanistan and Iraq possible.
Failure to condemn the massive U.S. war of aggression and illegal occupation of Iraq and any U.N. act providing colorable legitimacy to the U.S. occupation will open wide the gate to further, greater aggression. The line must be drawn now.
The United Nations must recognize and declare the U.S. attack and occupation of Iraq to be the war of aggression it is. It must refuse absolutely to justify, or condone the aggression, the illegal occupation and the continuing U.S. assaults in Iraq . The U.N. must insist that the U.S. withdraw from Iraq as it insisted Iraq withdraw from Kuwait in 1990.
There must be no impunity or profit for wars of aggression. The U.S. and U.S. companies must surrender all profits and terminate all contracts involving Iraq .
There must be strict accountability by U.S. leaders and others for crimes they have committed against Iraq and compensation by the U.S. government for the damage its aggression has inflicted on Afghanistan and Iraq, the peoples injured there and stability and harm done to world peace.
This must be done with care to prevent the eruption of internal divisions, or violence and any foreign domination or exploitation in Iraq . The governance of a united Iraq must be returned to the diverse peoples who live there, acting together consensually in peace for their common good as soon as possible. Sincerely,
The identical letter has been sent to: Members of the UN Security Council The President of the UN General Assembly The Secretary General of the UN The President of the United States
A friend and New York activist recently told me an "apocryphal story" about Ramsey Clark: that he was born of the elite, schooled in high principles of justice, ethics and art, but that during that critical time, perhaps in adolescence, when the sons and daughters of the ruling class are spirited away to some secret camp and told, "This is what the world actually is. Here is how you will rule, and why you must rule, and who your enemies are," Clark had the measles and never received the message. He went out into the world with an armoury of ideals, and no cynicism.
Ramsey Clark, 78, former attorney general of the United States under President Lyndon B Johnson, appears indeed a believer in truth and justice when we speak in the East Village apartment days after his latest return from Baghdad and ahead of key US mid-term congressional elections. Mr Clark is a lead defence lawyer in the trials of Saddam Hussein, the first of which is slated to reach a verdict 5 November.
The attorney general of the United States, in theory, is the chief protector of justice while also the embodiment of law and thus the establishment. Now you are widely recognised as one of the most outspoken critics of American governments, particularly American imperial thinking and practice. Was there a turning point in your life when the call of justice outweighed defending the establishment, or has the establishment gravitated towards unlawfulness?
I think the duty of an attorney general in the narrow sense is to the constitution and law of the United States and in a more general sense to truth and justice. I think the task is to protect rights, to fulfil rights, not to serve a political party or political interest, or a particular administration. I've often thought it important to have an attorney general from the opposite political party, or no political party, because there is no room for partisanship outside of what we consider the legislative programme. The legislative programme is where you have policy discretion to establish new law or change old law. In my time something like the Voting Rights Act was seeking to establish new law, to first create and then protect the rights of people to vote regardless of race and other absences of equality. When you start there, my criticism of the Vietnam War was as strong as any other violation of laws and principles that has occurred. That doesn't mean to say it was equal in degree.
Illustrations can make the conflict of law and politics clear. When Mayor Daly in Chicago during the race riots said they would shoot looters, my response, publicly and immediately, was that anyone who shot a looter would be arrested under federal law. You can't shoot a looter. You can't use deadly force against a 12-year old kid for stealing a basket of apples, or anything else. To intervene was urgent because life was in danger. Second, it was a duty because shooting looters, however politically attractive to some, or expedient in terms of stopping a riot, is something you just can't do. The race riots occurred after the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr. When King was shot I flew down that night to Memphis. He wasn't a public official, but he represented, to me, the highest ideals of the American people. To me, the government had the highest duty to respect his life and pursue those who took it, and to show our commitment to law enforcement in those circumstances. In other instances there were powerful interests that wanted extensive wire-tapping and I prohibited it in all kinds of fields.
So at that time, defending law was also defending justice?
In an ideal situation the same lawyer can be a prosecutor and a defence counsel and as zealous in each pursuit as ethical conduct would indicate appropriate. If you have to take sides in everything you're not living by principle, you're living by self-interest: your side against their side. The problem is that we assume that there are sides: the government side and those who criticise the government. I've always thought that the highest form of patriotism is to criticise your own government in a time that is it doing wrong in your opinion. Silence in the presence of unlawful conduct by your own government is the most unpatriotic thing you can do.
By this definition, there have been few American patriots of late, though their number appears to be growing.
A long time ago The Nation, our oldest magazine, asked several others and myself for a definition of patriotism. Betty Jean Craige wrote a book on my definition entitled American Patriotism in a Global Society. My definition was: "a personal commitment to make one's country honest and just in all its acts, and to motivate the whole country to be as good a neighbour in the community of nations as the conscience of individuals motivates them to be in the communities where they live."
Any other form of patriotism is ultimately destructive because you're taking sides, right or wrong. The ultimate cowardice and failure of patriotism is to say "My country, right or wrong." You're saying if your country's wrong, you're for it. You shouldn't even be for yourself if you're wrong. We need government, but we better need just government. We won't solve problems of war and peace, of poverty, hunger, sickness and ignorance without systems designed to effectively address those problems, to share resources and instil a commitment to help the hungry and the sick and the weak wherever they are, and to design means of controlling violence, and to eliminate it from our technology and our character. A government that pursues the opposite agenda is the enemy.
The present US administration appears uninterested in anything but power. Do you think this a fair assessment?
Just government is a commitment to fulfil human need wherever it exists and prevent violence wherever it threatens. The present US administration is the antithesis of that. It's a government by and for wealth, leading to more concentration of wealth and a greater spread of poverty. By definition, it's a plutocracy, and that's a very dangerous self-serving, destructive worldview and form of government. One weapon it wields is deception and manipulation of opinion -- the distortion of truth to serve an end. The theory has existed at least since Aristotle's time, which means thousands of years before that, that the best form government is government by the select, the wealthy; that you concentrate power in order to control and prevent the self-destructiveness of human nature. In fact, that concentration is the most destructive aspect of our nature.
The Bush administration appears to be pushing further in that direction than any other in recent history. Is this your view?
You have to be careful in how you describe the present administration. It's hard to argue with the seeming reality that most administrations, going back to the very beginning, have been aggressive; have sought expansion and domination over territories and people, whether in continental North America or the whole world. In addition, it's very difficult to identify a strongly divergent view between the major political parties. But what you have here is a president who seeks to advance the same interests that most American administrations have but in an unprecedented and unprincipled way. It's the same goal, but there are no rules in the way you play the game. Between the two, if they're divisible (not playing by the rules or seeking domination), seeking domination is the more dangerous. People who seek domination without restraint are obviously inhumane.
Yet the present bid for empire is so stark, so garish, that it fails. When Bush is exposed to the world, and he is, his plans have no efficacy.
The problem with saying that Bush is exposed is that the administration is still able to manipulate, dangerously, a huge sector of the public, leading, perhaps in most given elections, including the use of dirty tricks, to the ability to win. It's not clear what is going to happen in the 7 November congressional elections.
What this means -- and it's happening -- is that the part of the world that sees how violent and immoral the Bush administration is also sees that the American people are unwilling or unable to stand up to it. That makes a different form of enemy. Usually everyone is careful to distinguish between the government and the people. Now it becomes harder to do with the extremism of the Bush administration. It's a real test for the American people. There's an assumption that this is democratic society. It's more than an assumption; it's almost unchallenged when it has never been a democracy and it's the furthest thing from a democracy now. It's a plutocracy in the classical sense and they use the mass media (after all, they own it) very effectively to blindside the people and create a false sense of history and patriotism, and all the rest.
So the future in America is bleak?
The thing that may happen from the Bush administration is that it will go further than any other administration could have gone, because of its means, in bringing down the system that both parties have used to seek in general the same goal. His father sought the same goal but he was far more pragmatic. This president doesn't see that some things don't work, which is what has happened in Iraq and what will happen if he continues this military policy. However omniviolent the technology, they can't use it without self-destruction; and they can't win because even in a country like Iraq their numbers are insufficient to prevail.
Some say the American empire is buried is Baghdad; that this time marks the end of globalisation by war.
That would be nice, but the cat has nine lives. I remember pointing out to the first Bush that Alexander the Great died in Babylon so he ought to be careful where he goes. Perhaps now, however, marks a decisive turning point in history.
Recently The Lancet put the number of "excess" deaths following the 2023 US-led war on Iraq at 650,000. Added to the massive civilian toll of the preceding 13 years of sanctions, does such a figure not reflect the intent necessary to be deemed genocide?
I think sanctions were genocidal. Clearly. They took a million and a half lives or more. The Food and Agricultural Organisation reported in October of 1996, just six years into sanctions, that 570,000 children under the age of five had died as a direct result of the sanctions. Given that this was foreseeable a commitment is suggested to destroying in whole or part Iraqis as a national, racial or religious group. Now we're three and half years into "Shock and Awe" and it would be hard to argue there are not half a million dead already, and the rate is accelerating.
Even worse than the idea of genocide is the "let them kill each other" strategy, and that's obviously a strong element that's involved here. Kissinger said at the beginning of the Iran-Iraq war, "I hope they kill each other," by which he meant that its our policy that they should kill each other. Although we're responsible for all the killings, because we turned the faucet on, one of the saddest things is that Iraqis are killing Iraqis.
And now, though the invasion was a war of aggression, US presence is justified in the name of stemming civil war.
Right. And if you don't begin with the war of aggression, you're not addressing the single most dangerous element of what happened. Because it is clearly and beyond question a war of aggression -- there's no possible justification for it. It violates the first articles of the UN Charter that prohibit threat of assault against equal sovereign states. Article 51 doesn't save it because there was absolutely no threat. It would be hard, in fact, to find a country that was less a threat to the United States than Iraq was when it was attacked.
That's the thing that makes impeachment of Bush so critically important, because if the American people can't or are not willing to restrain their government from arbitrary wars, and have no way of knowing what is going on -- both because of deception and because of diversion -- then we're mere consumers, not citizens.
Some say this all just a blunder. I'd suggest the goal has been constant and the means have been getting harsher as resistance has grown. How do you see it?
I think it's false that the idea is to establish democracy and freedom. It would be wrong even if it were the purpose because you have no right to decide for other people how they live their lives. Also the idea that the United States made an effort to simply stabilise Iraq seems patently false. If you go beyond the point of diminishing returns in letting people destroy a society you create a vacuum that's going to draw in larger and larger areas and you can't control it. It's not like having Iran and Iraq destroy each other; for this administration that would be the best of all worlds. They've made the armed resistance a rod for their own backs because they've killed too many young people in a war that made no sense whatsoever -- not that any does. Now, in Baghdad, you have to assume that our purpose is not saving Iraqi lives but in further diminishing their ability to resist, which is at a remarkably high level considering all they've been through.
US generals are saying openly that their pacification plans for Baghdad have failed. I'm surprised that they declare defeat, but suspicious of their declarations also.
It's pitiful. Casey's there with the US ambassador, just days ago, saying that within a year to 18 months Iraq will be able to protect itself. It's baseless propaganda, and I suspect these other statements on Baghdad are also. What they're saying is for the benefit of the Bush administration, in the election, pure and simple. When they talk about it not working, then the public thinks, "Well, the generals had this idea and they carried it out and it didn't work. Can I blame George Bush for that? Can I blame the Republicans for that? They're trying to do these things they say they're trying do, which is bring democracy to the Middle East and freedom of the people," when in fact Bush has done more than any president in our history to destroy liberty.
Bush loves to say liberty, but he's the principal enemy of liberty in the world right now: undercutting the writ of habeas corpus, the right not be arbitrarily detained without charges or people knowing where you are, or what's happening to you, the right to not to be tortured, demeaning the Geneva Conventions as not relevant to current societies. The deceptions are very difficult for societies to deal with, even if they want to. It's very hard on the streets here to know what to think about what's going on in Iraq. How do you find out?
While there is talk of impeachment there seems little will to uphold applicable instruments of international law relative to alleged war crimes in Iraq, even while some of those imputable -- for example, Paul Wolfowitz -- are formally out of government. Will this change?
Well, ideally. But that's why the United States has gone to such lengths to reject international law altogether; to gut the International Criminal Court (ICC) statute before it's ratified; to coerce 80 countries into agreeing not to surrender US citizens to the ICC by bilateral treaties that are above the law. The problem is that the United States remains dominant. Look at the UN Security Council. It's quite amazing. China and Russia are sitting right there with them, and then others, doing nothing, despite all the power they have.
Turning to Saddam Hussein, will a verdict on the Dujail trial be issued 5 November? Reports last weekend suggest it could be delayed a second time.
With this court you're never sure. They've said things before that didn't happen. They said that they're going to announce it on 5 November and the thing that gives it credibility is not their announcement but the fact that that's two days before US congressional elections.
It is hard to imagine anything but an execution order being issued from this court, and yet militarily and politically executing Saddam Hussein in the current context in Iraq -- especially after 300 tribal chiefs, including leaders from Kirkuk, called for him to be reinstated as president -- seems suicide for the US.
Well, you can always do a foolish thing. You can always misjudge and be self-destructive. Originally the verdict was due 16 October. They probably moved it because they were afraid of more chaos, which would be counter-productive around the time of the US elections. Now, from Sunday 5 November to Tuesday 7 November, when the polls open, they can control the appearance of any outbreak. It's cruelly calculating and Machiavellian.
On the other hand, it's hard to imagine a more fraudulent case than the Dujail case. It's a case brought by the Dawa Party. Jafaari was apparently directly or personally involved in planning some of the assassinations, including the assassination attempt on Tarek Aziz, between 1980 and 1982. It's a case that involves a judicial proceeding, whether you like it or not, because from the time of the event until the time of signing the death warrants three years went by. If your purpose was vengeance or to show your arbitrary power and strike fear into people you'd have hung them immediately, stuck their head on poles so the people can learn what happens. Instead, they couldn't even find some of them after three years because they'd gotten lost in the prison system or been released.
It's so incredible that of all charges they could bring they brought a Dawa Party case. Dawa is a party that was formed in Iran to overthrow the Iraqi government. They took up arms against that government when the nation was endangered. I oppose death penalty in all circumstances, but while you have the concept of nation, treason against the nation is the most dangerous assault on that institutional concept of international regulation. Bush signed 152 death warrants as governor of Texas, and that included people under 18 at the time of the offence. It included women and retarded people, included aliens in violation of the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations. Never a commutation, never a pardon, just a belief in killing: stamp out sin by death.
Will there be a right to appeal?
I don't think the right to appeal is any more meaningful than the right to trial under these circumstances. Even under the structure it's ridiculous because you've got to appeal within 10 days and there's a dispute whether the execution has to take place within 30 days of the entry of the judgement of the trial chamber, or the decision of the appeals chamber. Either way, it can be very quick. It can't be in two days, though. One of the virtues of 16 October, so to speak, was they could have had an execution before congressional elections. Now they'll go to polls with the headlines. Sunday in the electronic media it will be "Saddam to hang," and the same Monday in all the print media. So the undecided going to the polls will say, "We were always for justice!"
I heard from a Geneva source that the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention has concluded that the trial of Saddam Hussein does not conform to binding principles of international law. If true, given the group's mandate to make legal determinations, will this opinion have an impact on the outcome of the trial?
There is an opinion pending from the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention but it has not been released so I cannot comment on it. We have already had several rapporteurs and commentators say that this trial is unfair. As much as I believe in these institutions and hope for their effectiveness, if some UN agency says the trial is unfair it makes little difference when Bush says its fair. It's a court that's totally lacking in independence with judges that are totally lacking in impartiality -- a trial that's as unfair as it can get. Judges are lifted off the court and defence counsel tortured and murdered, and this is a fair trial?
One power that you have is to change public perception of the trial, yet people don't seem to know how numerous and grave have been the procedural irregularities, or how decisively contested is the legality of the Iraqi Special Tribunal overall.
Of course, but that's a criticism, too, of institutions and individuals. The flaws are all public record. Anyone can dig them out, including any member of the press. Most journalists are aware of the most grievous facts, even if they don't report them.
Given your view that the 2023 US-led invasion of Iraq was illegal, do you advocate popular resistance? International law would appear to deem the resistance, including armed struggle, the only legal entity in Iraq.
The greater responsibility and urgent need for corrective action is with the people of the United States. We share a degree of responsibility for the actions of our governments. We need to react effectively, and with the least violent potential, not only to relieve the problem that exists now but also to prevent it from happening again. I think armed resistance is a solution, but it's the least desirable means to accomplish an end that has to be accomplished. I like to think that there are a range of non-violent alternatives to armed resistance that are not only less destructive of life but more likely to prevail.
The present condition in Iraq has degenerated to the point where, while the greatest hatred is towards the occupier, what some people call sectarian struggles are taking far more Iraqi lives than US or other lives. For all the talk the US is still planning to stay. They're hardening bases. The embassy is rising above the walls of the Green Zone. They think they can finish it and protect it. With US casualties at 100 a month and Iraqi casualties at 5,000 a month, the US can hold out a long time.
But the majority of that 5,000 are victims of death squads that serve forces of the US-installed political process. They are the means of terrorising the population to suppress its support of the resistance.
That's true. It's a tragic story of failure of principle here and the reign of violence there. But the most important thing for the people of Iraq to do is recognise that they're going to self-destruct if they don't unite. If they can unite the United States will understand right away; it will understand that it has a serious fight on its hands. They need to unite in a common purpose of eliminating the occupation.
The interviewer is visiting professor in political science at An-Najah National University, Nablus, Palestine.
Ian Douglas is a member of the BRussells Tribunal Advisory Committee
International Action Center founder Ramsey Clark, a former US Attorney General and internationally renown human rights defender, received the respected United Nations Prize in the Field of Human Rights on the 60th Anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights at United Nations Headquarters in New York on 10 December 2023.
The announcement of the award was presented by the President of the General Assembly, Miguel d´Escoto Brockmann, who is one of the five members of the selection committee. The award is made every five years to five human rights defenders whose life's work has been outstanding. It is presented on December 10, International Human Rights Day, every five years
At the UN Press Conference after accepting the award, Ramsey Clark emphasized the UN's role in ensuring world peace reminding journalists that “The greatest threat to human rights is war.”
The award is given to individuals and organizations in recognition of their outstanding contribution to the promotion and protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms. Previous recipients have included Nelson Mandela, Amnesty International, Jimmy Carter, Eleanor Roosevelt, and Reverend Dr. Martin L. King.”
Assembly President Miguel D’Escoto said “As we mark the 60th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, we acknowledge the tireless work and invaluable contribution of these individuals and organizations that have fought to see the rights and freedoms embodied in this historic document become a reality for people in all corners of the world.”
“These awardees constitute symbols of persistence, valour and tenacity in their resistance to public and private authorities that violate human rights. They constitute a moral force to put an end to systematic human rights violations.”
The UN announcement described Ramsey Clark as “a veteran human rights defender and rule of law advocate, played a key role in the civil rights and peace movements in the US, and more recently has spoken out against abuses committed in the name of “counter-terrorism.”
The International Action Center, founded by Ramsey Clark in 1992 is known internationally for its major role in the anti-war movement in the U.S. and its actions in the forefront of extending solidarity to countries and peoples facing U.S. attack and threats.
The many activists and the large all-volunteer staff of the International Action Center along with hundreds of people who have worked with him over many years extend their enthusiastic congratulations to Ramsey Clark for his tireless and courageous efforts. This United Nations Human Rights Award is well deserved.
We remain committed to solidarity with peoples and countries under U.S. attack. We are determined to continue developing ever wider opposition to U.S. policies of endless war, expanding militarism, racism and growing poverty for millions. Si se puede!