THE HANDSTAND

APRIL 2004

RALPH NADER SPEAKS OUT ON IRAQ AND PALESTINE

Turning now to the Iraq-Afghanistan situation.... I said at the time that it's going to be a lot easier to get into Afghanistan than to get out of it. And that it's a lot easier to get into Iraq than to get out of it. And all that of course is known to anybody who knows anything about that region, because we're very good as a military force in destroying opposition. We have trouble in the aftermath.

The unconstitutional war that was declared - not declared - an  illegal war against Iraq under international law , these are not just technicalities. Our founding fathers made it very clear after long debate, they did not want the declaration of war to be put in the hands of one person in the White House, in the presidency. They wanted it in congress. Article one, section eight.

It was treated, except for people like Senator Byrd, was treated like it was a technicality, replace it with the war resolution. A country that is not under attack did not start another attack against another country or under imminent threat under international law.

The Bush Administration thumbed their nose at an ongoing process at the United Nations, which was trying, however fitfully and divided, to move to an expansion of international law. Maybe to an expansion that would never have repeated the devastating massive death, injury and disease caused by the U.N. and U.S.-backed sanctions during the 1990s when anywhere from 500,000 to a million innocent Iraqis died in part because of the embargo, under dual use, of critical medicines, chlorine for purifying water and in part because in 1991 there was a deliberate bombing of the infrastructure that destroyed the purification systems of drinking water leading to all kinds of diseases including Cholera and Typhoid, to which small children are most vulnerable.

Having proceeded against Iraq, the 5 reasons given by President Bush were the following:

One, weapons of mass destruction. You know it's interesting, the use of that term, it's as if a B52 bomber is not a weapon of mass destruction. It's as if... It's as if the massive military might that we can deploy with the latest massively devastating technologies are not weapons of mass destruction. What is then the definition of a weapon of mass destruction? It's a weapon that is used in an unfair way. Unfair way.

By chemical and biological warfare or nuclear weapons. Unfair way. This is playing with words. All weapons that kill human beings and destroy environments are weapons of mass destruction... As you all know, Saddam was our boy. We gave him a list of communist sympathizers after he took power in 1979. He wiped them out. Score one for his U.S. influential allies. Then we wanted him to take care of the burgeoning Iranian revolution, which was leaning left--leaning to the west. And of course we gave him intelligence backing.

We gave him weapons.

We gave him credits.

We gave him money.

We gave him cover.

We even sold him the materials for anthrax and V.X., and sarin and so when somebody says that he never had weapons of mass destruction, that's completely false. We have the receipts.

After the 1991 war, a lot of those weapons were destroyed. The inspectors did a good job. And now they can't find them. It was only a few weeks ago that President Bush before the war started said on his Saturday morning radio show that he had just learned through intelligence sources -- think of the misuse of that word, intelligence sources -- that Saddam had just given his field commanders authority to use the weapons of mass destruction. Somehow they had trouble getting down there because they weren't used. Now they haven't found them after weeks, but we're assured by top officials that they will be found. That is sort of an unsettling degree of nonimperical certainty.

We were never told by our government that given the massive, remote, technological weaponry that we have that those chemical and biological materials don't have much strategic value. They often blow back on their perpetrators. That's one reason why they're not used. It happened in World War I between the Kaiser's forces and the allied forces. Brutal as it was, it didn't give one side any advantage. But they proceeded and now the sands of Iraq are turning into quicksand. And if there was rain, we would call it a quagmire as we called it in Vietnam.

Now what's the second act other than trying to move to control 110 billion barrels of oil, other than to make the Bush regime's oil friends very happy? What of the people in Iraq, what is to become of them? And the children and the disease and the malnutrition and the environmental devastation and the looting and the scoring of points and all the rest of it? As an occupying army has to become larger and larger in order to cope with the resistance? And what is to become of our budgets when half of the federal government's discretionary budget is now devoted to military expenditures, set aside Social Security, half of the federal government's budget goes to military and we have no major enemy in the world. Although we're looking for one.

The budget -- the conventional Pentagon budget is $400 billion and rising and there are other departments such as the Department of Energy, in the nuclear weapons area. But it adds up.

Most of the budget was built because of the Soviet Union's risk. There's no more Soviet Union. It was partially amassed because of communist China. Communist China is rapidly converting criminal communism into criminal capitalism. They're not interested in threatening us, they want to sell to us. So why the $400 billion plus? Why the diversion from school kids and millions of Americans who don't have health insurance? And people who want their clinics and schools and public transit built and repaired? Why no money for the inner cities? Why no money for our crumbling public works, why no money for libraries, for clinics? Why no money for the necessities of the American people?

There are tremendous costs to this diversion. And it's moving into a cycle of violence that's going to be a mollok (sp?) devouring even more of our government. It's time to say to the munitions corporations like Lockheed Martin and Raytheon and Boeing and General Dynamics and Grummond, have you no sense of self-restraint? Have you no decency? When are you going to stop defiling the flag, which you wrap around yourself as you descend with your bags of money to the U.S. congress to get more of the taxpayers' dollars from the needs of the American people?

The American flag has been defiled and the defilers are those who put the people who believe in what that flag really stands for on the defensive. That's quite a propaganda victory. The American flag was never meant to be a gag in the mouths of the American people.

It was never meant to be a bandanna for belligerent and lawless activity. That brings so many innocent people to death, injury and disease. It was never meant to be a fig leaf to hide the shame of the chicken hawks who were belligerently for the Vietnam war but who pushed for more war as they swarmed around and in the White House including George W. Bush and Dick Cheney and Paul Wolfowitz and Richard Pearl and John Ashcroft.

Belligerent chicken hawk, draft Dodgers including Rush Limbaugh, who I might add, he has not hastened to inform you that he got out of the draft because he felt he had a pimple on his rear.

Let me indicate the obvious, here is what the American flag stands for. There's no better description of what the American flag stands for than the last few words of our pledge of allegiance to that flag which we'll all remember to be, quote, with liberty and justice for all. That's what that flag stands for…

Of the five reasons for invading Iraq, the tie with Al Qaeda? False. The C.I.A., F.B.I. were telling the White House that repeatedly. That Saddam is a threat to us. Saddam was a threat and more than that to the Iraqi people. But obviously the way that he behaved after the planes attacked Iraq indicated that he wasn't even a threat to his own palaces much less to anybody in his neighbors. If he was ever a threat in the last ten years to his neighbors, rest assured if he ever had the capability and the intent of being a threat any one of his three hostile neighbors more powerful than he would have moved in and destroyed his regime.

We start with the weakest, Iran, then Turkey, then the fifth strongest military power in the world, the Israeli military. Do you think they would have observed diplomatic niceties if Saddam Hussein was a threat to them? The Iraq war was based on a huge tissue of false pretenses, prevarication and deception of the American people. Unforgivable.

The only valid reason left—was to overthrow a brutal tyrant who was entrenched and supported by us until 1991—to liberate the Iraqi people. That's the only plausible reason, it’s not like we'd been doing this around the world. I'm sure the people in Zaire would have loved to be liberated from Joseph Mobutu who we entrenched as a tyrant destroying hundreds of thousands of their people for 32 years.

But we do have a responsibility to the people of Iraq because of what we did to them and who we supported, who ruled them. So let's see whether the aftermath of the overthrow of Saddam will reflect that touching concern increasingly focused on by President Bush and Vice President Cheney. That touching concern now emerges as the main reason we should all remember for this overthrow.

Afghanistan now is 99% under the control of the warlords plundering, pillaging, bribing, fighting one another. What's the advantage from the overthrow of the Taliban from the viewpoint of the people of Afghanistan?

We know what it is in the viewpoint of U.S. policy.

In short, we're willing to go in, we're willing to topple, we’re not willing to commit, we're not willing to stay, we're not willing to spend the necessary money, we're not willing to even restore some of the status quo ante before the Taliban and the prior regime went into power. Some of you who have been in Afghanistan know that that was a very, very active society with universities and art, culture and some reasonable effort succeeding in feeding themselves and they were getting better until they were caught in the vice between the U.S. and U.S.S.R.

Turning to the Israeli-Palestinian issue.

What more can be said other than what you already have said for years and spoken to many groups, what more can be said than what Ed Said and Jim Abourzek and others have said for many years.

But I think there's a certain approach that needs to be punctuated, and that is the following:

Criticism of Israeli actions in Palestinian areas is often chilled by the phrase anti-Semitism. When that word was used during and after World War II, it had a gravity following the Jewish Holocaust. It not only had a gravity, it elicited sympathy, support, grief. The increasingly cavalier use of the term anti-Semitism increasingly focused on criticism of the present government of Israel, cheapens that term. Turns it into a censorious device. Turns it into the very suppression of dissent, which in any democratic society is most often the mother of future assent. It stifles people in our government, in our business world, at our universities. And it becomes not just what it was—grief, awe, sympathy. It's increasingly becoming an object through its reckless use of subdued derision. It's also broadly used where it shouldn't be used. Arabs are Semites. Jews who came from the Middle East are Semites.

It's time to call the vicious discrimination when it occurs against Arab Americans, the other anti-Semitism. As Jim Zogby pointed out years ago in an article, it's time to use it with prudence, not as a censorious device, but it's time to use it in a way that will send a message to those who recklessly use it to stifle dissent, to stifle the recognition of the facts, to stifle the criticism of the Israeli present day military government.

In almost the exact words that Israelis use in Israel where there's far more freedom to criticize their government than there is in this country to criticize our government for not properly criticizing their government….

You only have to read the writings of Peace Now, of Rabbis for Justice, of the human rights group Beth Salem, which has documented atrocities against the Palestinians in a highly specific and authentic manner. All honor to them. They document atrocities on all sides.

But they're taking a lot of heat for documenting the far greater civilian casualties and children casualties on the Palestinian side. This very idea of debating equivalence of violence is anathema. Nonviolence should always be the top priority in resolving disputes. Once one or both sides devolves into violence, all their violence can be rationalized. All their violence.

We rationalized Hiroshima and Nagasaki, 200,000 dead civilians, they were deliberately targeted to terrorize the population and destabilize the emperor and military regime. I've seen rationalizations of people who think they have justice on their side go to such extremes as to question the stability of the minds that tried to explain it away.

When Rachel Corrie was killed by that bulldozer, there was some people who were saying, it was her fault. She asked for it. She shouldn't have been there. That's how far people will go once they use that as the overwhelming instrument of policy.

We have heard Secretary Colin Powell and others say, there's no military solution to this conflict. Well some people over there haven't heard that. And the people who manufacture cluster bombs and helicopter gun ships and napalm and F16s that are sent over there, they haven't heard that either.

Whenever there's a conflict where there's huge imbalance of power between one side and the other and do you know any conflict where there is a greater imbalance of military power between Israel and the Palestinians? Between prehistoric stones with a few rifles and tanks and jets and artillery and helicopter gun ships and all kinds of other super modern techniques of warfare. The question rises, can there ever be a peaceful solution, whether with a binational state as Ed Said proposed years ago or as a viable, as the saying goes, Palestinian state, capital east Jerusalem ending the colonies, controlling the water, that's part of a viable Palestinian state.

We wouldn't allow Canada to control and move in, to control the headwaters of the Mississippi, would you? A viable Palestinian state involves all these and more that you've discussed. Now who agrees with that?

It's a severe criticism of our policy that our government has never allied itself with the very, very sizable peace movement inside Israel. It's done everything to marginalize it, it will support any regime that goes into power regardless of whether it advocates peace or modus vivendi or status quo or takeover or burgeoning colonies or expulsion.

The peace movement in Israel has filled Tel Aviv Square with 100,000 people demonstrating. That's like five million here. It is composed of members of the Knesset, former ministers of justice, distinguished artists, authors, scholars, workers, farmers. Before the most recent flash points in the last year or two back and forth, a majority of the Israelis wanted essentially what is now being considered the fundamentals of the settlement. Except perhaps they would oppose the right of return because they don't understand that most people, Palestinians, once they got a great free Palestinian state are not exactly going to want to return, although some older Palestinians will. That principle has to be fleshed out with some quantitative significance so it isn't inflated into a major propaganda excuse for sitting down and arriving at a settlement.

I don't think we can exaggerate the importance of the Israeli peace movement as an authentically legitimizing force for freedom of speech on this issue in congress, in our government, and in our civic arenas. And there's very little of that now.

A high official of the Clinton administration walked up to me at some meeting, I'd never met him before, and out of the blue he said the following, quote, if you're a Goy you can't get an Op ed in the major newspapers criticizing Israel. I said, you don't even know, what are you saying?. He said you only can criticize Israel if you're Jewish. He just came up out of the blue, obviously he had it on his mind, anybody he met down the stairs he'd say the same thing. He'd had a number of Op Eds rejected. This is a man of some substance, experience.

Now I want to take your patience just for a few minutes and I want to read what I mean when I say that there should be a demand in our government if they're really interested in a just peace to begin contacting, supporting and giving a stage to the Israeli peace movement and its allies in this country such as lead by Michael Lerner and Peace Now and others.

And I think the consequence of this will be to recognize that until that balance of power is restored by the United States in that equation over there, no matter what words you hear from administration officials, and they're getting a bit hackney, they're going nowhere. They're going nowhere because one side has too much military power and doesn't have an even greater military and political power restraining it. Israeli combat veterans over a year ago started a refusenik movement. They said they would never serve with the Israeli Army, they're called up every year, will never serve in the West Bank in Gaza.

In a statement in the leading Israeli newspaper announcing this courageous action they said the following, we will no longer fight beyond the green line for the purpose of occupying, deporting, destroying, blockading, killing, starving and humiliating an entire people, end quote. They were referring to the Palestinian people.

They now number over a thousand. They're not getting much publicity now. But you can imagine the courage it took, you can imagine the pressure they're under. You can imagine how many of them have already gone to jail. This is their statement. They said they would defend Israel proper as they have in the past. They will not be an instrument of oppression of the Palestinian people. The website is Seruv.org.

Now I want to just go very briefly in making this point. Israeli Premiere at the time, Ehud Barak, was quoted in Ha’aretz 3 June 1998, quote, "if I were a Palestinian I'd also join a terror group," end quote.

I'm sure he's not justifying that kind of activity against his people. What he meant was, that he would be fighting for the liberation of his people if he was on the other side. David Ben-Gurion first Israeli prime minister, quoted by Nehum Goldman in the book "The Israeli Paradox" quote, "if I were an Arab leader I would never sign an agreement with Israel. It is normal, we've taken your country. It is true God promised it to us, but how could that interest them? Our God is not theirs. There has been anti-Semitism, the Nazis, Hitler, Auschwitz, but was that their fault? They see but one thing, we have come and we have stolen their country. Why would they accept that?" End quote. Ben-Gurion.

Ishai Rosen-Zvi -- a reservist who refused to serve, April 4, 2002. Quote,"we are at war again, what is this war intended for? Preventing terrorism? This isn't even an unfunny joke. It is clear and embarrassing to repeat that these operations are the ultimate laboratories for the creation of terrorism. Occupation of towns and villages, the breaking and entry and vandalizing of homes. The cutting off, the humiliation, the suppression, killing by the fastest and most effective factories of terrorism. The facts are simple and cry to high heaven. Several years back less than 20% of the Palestinians supported suicide bombings. Today it is hard to find someone among them who will denounce this phenomenon. The current policy of the I.D.F. in the occupied territories is a great hot house for terror. Nobody believes that more occupation, more killing, destroying and humiliation will help to decimate it. Don't talk about peace. Netanyahu talks about peace also. Talk about the end of the occupation, "end quote. Israeli reservist, combat veteran.

Shrilamut Aroni(sp), Former cabinet member," we're going backwards, what's so difficult to understand. The Jews were once victims. Now we're brainwashed to believe we'll always be victims and victims can do no wrong. Suddenly we've become strong and greedy and pretend we can justify everything. We're told all the time the Palestinians want to throw us into the sea. We have six million people in the strongest Army in the region yet we speak of them as if they were two equal powers. It's just manipulating people's fears," end quote.

Bear with me.

In a book Ben-Gurion published in 1931 entitled "We and Our Neighbors" he explained Palestinians and Arabs had the same rights as Jews to exist in Palestine. He said, quote, the Arab community in Palestine is an organic and separable part of the landscape. It is embedded in the country. The Arabs work the land and will remain, end quote.

Moshe Dayan one the most candid generals in Israeli history, especially when he's talking to Israelis. He said the following, 1969 quoted in Ha'aretz, April 4, quote, "Jewish villages were built in the place of Arab villages. You do not even know the names of these Arab villages. I do not blame you because geography books no longer exist, not only do the books not exist, the Arab villages are not there either. There's not one single place built in this country that did not have a former Arab population," end quote.

You can go right down to the present day with brave and persistent statements by members of the peace movement in Israel, including religious Zionists, 170 of them, who recently demanded an end to the occupation and to the settlement policy.

What to make of all this? I think in conclusion what we have to make is this.

We must never flag from our denunciation of violence in all its forms on all sides.

We must never flag from the replace the addition to that denunciation to demanding that our government perform in a just manner in resolving that conflict. The history of the world shows that there is no suppression of people's adherence to their homelands other than expulsion or genocide, North America was an example of both.

And so the government has to confront, our government has to confront this verity. Are they going to continue to allow the resolution of that crisis to be subordinated to the priority of short term political advantage or are they going to stand tall before history, reverse the terrible course of injustice which our government had a hand in from the beginning and establish the conditions and supervise the resolution so that two states can live in peace together and compete economically, culturally, athletically in all other ways as befits human beings for whom justice is the great work on earth.

Thank you very much.