Belafonte on Bush, War and Wiretaps
Democracy Now!, February 4, 2006
Renowned musician and activist Harry Belafonte
speaks up about why Bush and Co. are the world's worst terrorists
-- and what we can do about it.
Editor's Note: The following is an edited
transcript from Amy Goodman's syndicated radio show Democracy
Amy Goodman: The son of Caribbean-born
immigrants, Harry Belafonte grew up on the streets of Harlem and
Jamaica. After serving in World War II, he returned to New York
and began a successful acting and singing career. Along with his
rise to worldwide stardom, Belafonte became deeply involved in
the Civil Rights Movement and was close friends with the Rev.
Martin Luther King.
In the 1980's he helped initiate the "We
Are the World" single which helped raise millions of dollars
in aid to Africa. He also hosted former South African President
Nelson Mandela on his triumphant visit to the United States. Belafonte
has been a longtime critic of U.S. foreign policy, calling for
an end to the embargo against Cuba, and opposing policies of war
and global oppression.Belafonte spoke at a rally in Caracas, where
he commented on President Bush:
"No matter what the greatest tyrant
in the world, the greatest terrorist in the world, George W. Bush,
says, we're here to tell you: Not hundreds, not thousands, but
millions of the American people -- millions -- support your revolution,
support your ideas, and yes, expressing our solidarity with you."
Amy Goodman: Harry Belafonte was standing
next to President Chavez when he made those comments, and he didn't
let upHarry Belafonte joins us today in our Firehouse studio for
the hour. Welcome to Democracy Now!
Harry Belafonte: It's nice to be here.
Amy Goodman: It's good to have you with
us. Well, let's go back for a moment to Venezuela and your comments
there, for which you got a lot of attention in the United States.
Talk about your views of President Bush.
Harry Belafonte: When Katrina took place,
there was a great sense of tragic loss for many Americans who
saw that terrible tragedy. What we had not anticipated was that
our government would have been so negligent and so unresponsive
to the plight of hundreds of thousands of people in the region.
And in a dilemma that we all face as to
what we could do as private citizens to help the folks that were
caught in that tragedy, we began to listen to voices that were
outside the boundaries of government, the United States government.
We listened to voices that came from as far away as Denmark, who
offered to send goods and services in emergency, and we also heard
the voices of people from Venezuela through their leader, Hugo
Chavez, who said that 'In this moment of your great tragedy, we,
the Venezuelan people, extend all the resources we can summon
up to help the plight of those people caught in the Gulf region.
The United States very abruptly and very
arrogantly rejected that offer, while in its stead, we did nothing
to bring immediate relief. And as a matter of fact, I must tell
you, we're still quite delinquent in what the peoples of that
region need, because we still failed to fully mobilize and meet
the needs of the people, particularly in New Orleans, but other
places within that region.
I and many other private citizens decided
that we would listen very carefully to what people outside of
the government were saying, because there was no immediate sense
of relief and response to what we were experiencing, the people
in Katrina. And so, like others, I went with a delegation of 15
people, at the invitation of the Venezuelan government, to come
and to meet with President Chavez and members of his cabinet to
talk about what we could do to help American people caught in
While there, we were given the right and
the permission and the opportunity to visit barrios, villages,
going into the schools, going into the prisons of Venezuela. We
went into the academic institutions, in which Cornel West spoke.
Tavis Smiley went to TeleSUR and other television communications
development taking place, to examine, to see what was happening
to, quote-unquote, "freedom of the press."
As we've said, freedom of the press in
Venezuela is vigorously denied. There is no opposition noise.
Yet it's interesting to note that nothing in Venezuela has been
nationalized. There's still a very vigorous private sector, albeit
that it's a little disgruntled that it is not able to sustain
the rather one-sided agreement that they drew with that government
a long time ago in contracts that were drawn for oil and other
Amy Goodman: Did you meet with the opposition
Harry Belafonte: Yes. We met with the
opposition, as a matter of fact, the leader of the opposition.
And for a little over two hours, we had an exchange. I asked him
questions that I thought were appropriate about what he felt about
Chavez and the program, why did he take an opposition position.
And he expressed his thoughts on the way things were going. We
found that there were some contradictions to what he said, but
that was not my purpose.
I didn't go down to be an investigative
reporter. I went down to ascertain facts and to make sure that
if we got responses from the Venezuelan government that would
help the plight of poor people in America, not just those caught
in Katrina, but, as you well know, already the South Bronx has
received aid, oil at very favorable prices for people who were
not given any to be able to face this winter that we're experiencing
now, and it is expected that will become more severe. Massachusetts
received oil. They just recently negotiated with Vermont and Maine
and other places, about not only oil, but what other goods and
services can the Venezuelan government bring to take up the slack
for what the United States says it has no resources to fill.
It is quite curious that we can find billions
and billions of dollars to sustain an illegal and immoral war
in the Middle East, invading a country that did not provoke us
and moving into this conflict unconstitutionally, even though
it had the approval of the Congress. Even the Congress violated
the statutes of the Constitution.
We were not invaded. There was no threat
of an enemy. We unilaterally walked into a country that had no
threat to this country, and we invaded it. That's against the
Amy Goodman: You call President Bush a
Harry Belafonte: I call President Bush
a terrorist. I call those around him terrorists, as well: Condoleeza
Rice, Rumsfeld, Gonzales in the Justice Department, and certainly
Cheney. I think all of these men sit -- and women -- sit in the
midst of an enormous conspiracy that has been unraveling America
for the last six years. It is tragic that the dubious way in which
this president acquired power should have begun to unravel the
Constitution and the peoples of this country.
Yes, I say that there are people in this
country who live in terror. Poverty is terror. Having your Social
Security threatened is terror. Having your livelihood as an elderly
person slowly disappearing with no replenishment is terror. Students
who are dropping out of school because there are no resources
to keep us in school is terror.
You find people in the streets, watching
drugs permeate our communities and destroy our young, it's a life
of terror. And men who sit in charge of that distribution mechanism,
which can help the American people overcome these problems and
refuse to do so, while giving the rich more money than they've
ever dreamt of having, while turning around our institutions and
redirecting resources from those who are truly in need to those
who are already generously endowed, if not hedonistically so,
it's a great tragedy.
And I think most important is that we
have words that attempt to give us moral cleansing, so that somehow
we hold those responsible for crashing into the Twin Towers and
killing over 2,000 Americans citizens in cold blood, which is
an act of terrorism -- people who have done that should be sought
out and brought to justice; there's no question of that -- but
when we do what we have done, illegal war, going into the Middle
East, bombing at will, and then hundreds of thousands of people
get caught, who are either maimed or over 100,000 have already
been killed, who are innocent men, women and children, and we
chalk that off to a thing called "collateral damage,"
as if somehow that murderous thing that we're doing so cruelly
and so inhumanely has no judgment before world opinion, that we
are somehow righteous and above criticism and above the law. That
is unacceptable. And that's what I speak out against.
Amy Goodman: I wanted to ask you about
the comments you made about former Secretary of State Colin Powell.
This is what you said about him during a radio interview in Los
Angeles in October 2002:
There's an old saying in the days of slavery,
there are those slaves who lived on the plantation, and there
were those slaves who lived in the house. You got the privilege
of living in the house if you served the master to exactly the
way the master intended to have you serve him. That gave you privilege.
Colin Powell is permitted to come into the house of the master,
as long as he will serve the master according to the master's
dictates. Now, when Colin Powell dares to suggest something other
than what the master wants to hear, he will be turned back out
Amy Goodman: Your thoughts today about
Harry Belafonte: I think I'm mostly saddened
by the fact that now that Colin Powell is no longer in office
and enjoys the privileges of private citizenship, that even in
this aftermath, he is still not repentant. And I'm not asking
him to repent in some supercilious commanding way. What I'm looking
at is his soul, and I'm looking at redemption from past grievances
He lied to the American people, as did
his president, before the United Nations. That led us into this
war. We were told about weapons of mass destruction -- there aren't
any -- and all the things that you and I'm sure your listeners
already know. And I would imagine that now that he's been removed
from that responsibility, that he would have taken a position
that maybe would have said to us more clearly and more humanely
what his difficulties and problems were while he was in service
and that he now choose to look at all of this from another perspective,
especially in the wake of all that has been revealed by intelligence
reports that have been released, by the debate that we've been
having on what happened and how we did it, and what all the subterfuges
were and what has come out from the intelligence communities in
other nations around the world. But no, there has not been such
-- he still maintains that what he did was just and correct.
I find that sad. I mean, I remember John
Kennedy, when he went into Cuba and understood very quickly how
ill-advised that was, that he had the courage and the strength
to say, I made a mistake, and that I'm sorry that I listened to
counsel that misled me, and that I accept all responsibility for
this act, and that I will not do that again. And he apologized
not only to the American people, but to the world at large, and
stepped forward. For that, he was greatly admired.
I don't think that we are a species or
a people that can exist without making mistakes somewhere along
the line. Some make mistakes that are greater than others. But
I do believe that we should have the courage and the ability to
look at something that we did, even if in the first instance we
believed it, when in the wake of the aftermath and the truth,
you find out that that was not the case, to then say, 'Let me
go back and examine what led me to this conclusion. What gods
was I serving? What masters was I serving? What was it all about?'
and then try to be more instructive to people who will listen
Amy Goodman: I wanted to ask you about
the surveillance scandal; President Bush wiretapping Americans
without court warrant. This isn't the first time, of course, and
you were a victim of it. Can you, in talking about that, also
talk about your relationship with Dr. Martin Luther King, how
you met, the conversations you had, and then recently learning
about these wiretaps?
Harry Belafonte: When I was discharged
from the United States Navy, having served almost two years during
the Second World War, I came back, like millions of us did, with
an expectation that those principles for which we fought would
be fully revealed and embraced by the American government and
the American people -- the war was about democracy, the war was
about ending white supremacy, the war was about ending colonialism
-- only to discover that the Allies, the British, the French,
the Dutch and the Americans, all who were the forefront of the
democratic charge, having victoriously won that war, did not upon
the celebration of victory do anything but go back to business
Segregation was more vigorously enforced
in this country. Many citizens in this country did not have the
right to vote. Opportunities were not on an equal level playing
field. The peoples of Asia and Africa and the colonial Caribbean
were not experiencing any relief from their colonial degradation.
And many of us were very, very upset and very angry with the fact
that here was democracy, having been fought for so vigorously,
not reaching out to those of us who were the victims of the absence
of democracy. And in that context, rather than submit, we joined
and organized and did everything we could to have the principles
of democracy in our Constitution upheld. That meant we went after
voting, we went after ending the segregation laws. We did everything.
For that act, we were looked upon as unpatriotic,
we were looked upon as people who were insurgents, that we were
doing things to betray our nation and the tranquility of our citizens,
when nothing could have been further from the truth. That engaged
the F.B.I. That engaged the House on American Activities Committee.
Many of our leaders were hounded and denied their livelihood.
Their passports were taken away. So vigorous was that campaign
of oppression that even American citizens committed suicide, and
not by ones or twos, but by large numbers. It was a cruel, oppressive
period. But we stayed the course, many of us. We resisted. And
ultimately, we prevailed.
On the threshold of that experience came
the Civil Rights Movement. As a matter of fact, we were the forerunners
to the movement. We energized the spirit and people to make America
live up to its code, live up to its great promise. In that context,
the Civil Rights Movement began to do the same things that those
before the movement did to vigorously pursue the unjust laws of
this country and to turn them over.
J. Edgar Hoover and others in government
began to put surveillance on the citizens. I have no idea how
many court permissions were given to have our wires tapped, but
nevertheless, we were. Everything we talked about were tapped.
As a matter of fact, as an artist, while I was away, the innocence
of my family and my children were invaded one evening by the F.B.I.
agents who came while I was away, knocked at the door. My wife
was very startled at the experience, and when she queried them
as to why they were there, they said they had come to investigate
me, because they felt that I was doing acts of treason towards
Amy Goodman: When was this?
Harry Belafonte: This was 1950, '51, '52,
around that period. Although we suspected that we were being surveilled,
we didn't know the extent of it until reports began to be revealed
and came out in a number of books that were written.
Perhaps the most detailed and one of the
best-researched was a writer by the name of Taylor Branch, who
did a trilogy called Parting the Waters and then Pillar of Fire,
and the most recent, Canaan's Edge. In Canaan's Edge, much of
his research was drawn from wiretaps, from surveillances, from
conversations taped in the White House and the Justice Department
and through the F.B.I.
These revelations should say to the American
people: such a mechanism has been in place for a very, very long
time. The essential difference between then and now, in the face
of the same horror, is that no previous regime tried to subvert
the Constitution. They may have done illegal acts. They may have
gone outside the law to do these, but they did them clandestinely.
No one stepped to the table as arrogantly as George W. Bush and
his friends have done and said, 'We legally want to suspend the
rights of citizens, the right to surveil, the right to read your
mail, the right to arrest you without charge. You do not have
the right to counsel if we so decide, and you can stay in prison
as long as we want you to, until we're satisfied that we have
reached the objectives that we want, despite the Constitution.'
I think that every person in the United
States of America should be up in arms, should be up in rebellion
against the reality that we face, that it is that fact that made
me say that I think and I feel that we are at the dawnings of
a new Gestapo state here in the United States, through the security
-- Securities Commission and through the Homeland Security, as
well -- National Security Agency.
All of these different agencies, all of
these different bureaucracies have their own special assignments,
and then they come -- and when you look at the collective, America
is playing out a horror theme. The fact that we're a joyous nation,
when you see sports and you see so much light, frothy, mindless
entertainment bombarding you every day and so much disinformation
coming your way, is enough to make any citizen mentally, as well
as socially, blurred to truth.
But the fact is that it exists, and it
exists very intensely in our midst. There are citizens at this
moment who are being arrested, who are not being told why they're
arrested. Some have been spirited out of this country to faraway
places to be imprisoned and tortured. These are realities, and
the American people had best wake up, because as one priest once
said, or I think it was a protestant minister in Germany, said,
'When they came for the communists, I didn't know any. When they
came for the Jews, I didn't know any. When they came for the labor
movements, I didn't know any. And then when they came for me,
no one was left.' I don't think we can distance ourselves from
what's going on in America.
And as Roosevelt said, that 'When our
government is being subverted, our Constitution is being undermined
by those who sit in the seat of government and power, it is the
right of citizens and the responsibility of citizens to raise
their voice against this intrusion and this collapse and should
speak out against it and, in fact, change the government; and
those who do not do that, should be charged with patriotic treason.'
Amy Goodman: How do you think people should
Harry Belafonte: By organizing, by coming
together, by meeting, and if those sources of information that
come your way blur, and all have the same voice, it's very easy
to find Democracy Now! It's very easy to go to the internet. It's
very easy to go to local meetings that are being held all over
this country, on university campuses, in communities. I work very
vigorously with groups in California, in South Central, up in
Northern California. I go into the prisons of America. This nation
is humming with people who are in discussion about what's happening
Amy Goodman: Can you talk to people who
are afraid of being blacklisted or whitelisted, if you will, from
your own experience? I mean, here you were. the Calypso King.
You were the first one to sell a million albums, way ahead of
Frank Sinatra, all of them, but you were willing to risk it all.
What did it mean to be blacklisted in this country?
Harry Belafonte: Actually, upon hindsight,
it meant that I was doing something right, and regardless of any
doubts that I may have had in the beginning, in wondering where
this was all going, I've come to find that men like Paul Robeson
and women like Eleanor Roosevelt and Fannie Lou Hamer and Ella
Baker and so many noble warriors that were in the Civil Rights
Movement, also those noble people in Africa, many who waged a
vigorous resistance to colonialism, foremost would be Nelson Mandela,
when our correspondence started while he was in prison and then
ultimately to see the A.N.C. come about and bring a transition
to a rather oppressive experience, one of the most in that century,
and to do so nonviolently, to transform this government without
firing one shot, all of these people stand as torches to my --
to the validation of what it was that we did, as the principle,
as the clear voice of what people have to do. And I would say
to my colleagues, 'If it is the economics of your life, when will
you have enough? And at what price do you sell your soul when
you know what the truth is and refuse to embrace it at the price
of losing our democracy?'
Amy Goodman: When you say you started
writing to Nelson Mandela when he was imprisoned -- for almost
three decades -- where was this country? And how dangerous was
this to do it?
Harry Belafonte: Writing to Nelson Mandela,
as such, was not an act that endangered me, I don't think. It
was certainly an act that was very much in tandem with the way
I was behaving with a lot of people in the world who were having
their human rights violated. I had done quite a lot of work in
Africa. I was a cultural advisor to the Peace Corps, appointed
by John Kennedy. I helped shape some of the early policies and
how the Corps did its business in faraway countries. And long
before most of the African countries had come to independence,
I was there, talking to potential heads of state. I went to Kenya
with Thurgood Marshall at the celebration of their independence,
the only American artist or global artist to be so invited. And
I worked with Tom Mboya before Kenya got its independence to bring
African students to this country by the hundreds, along with Jackie
Robinson and others who foot the bill.
We did a lot of work in Africa. I knew
Julius Nyerere and Kenneth Kaunda, and then eventually Seku Ture,
and had a long relationship to the continent. And so, therefore,
writing Nelson Mandela would not have been an unusual thing for
me to do, except that we knew he was incarcerated, charged with
being a terrorist and all those things that we charged him with.
And then I thought that in prison he should be at least -- we
should make an attempt to reach him and to help with his spirits.
My letters were delivered through his attorney, because all of
his mail was read, and some of the letters got to him in a clandestine
I don't think any of us expected to see
him alive. And at the end of 27 and a half years, because I continued
to work with the A.N.C., I had continued to work with the issues
of apartheid and the sanctions, I had brought to this country
great African artists, Miriam Makeba, Hugh Masekela, who were
hugely successful, and they delighted American audiences. And
those artists spoke to the plight of the South Africans. And behind
their calling, behind their power, and in the midst of my own,
we did a lot to put the light on the darkness of what was going
on in South Africa. And when Nelson Mandela was finally released
from prison, the A.N.C. asked me to come to London to meet with
Oliver Tambo, because they wanted me to personally handle all
of his events when he came to the country, to help pick his agenda,
what were the best targets, who were the people that he should
most reach out to.
Amy Goodman: And this was Nelson Mandela?
Harry Belafonte: This was Nelson Mandela.
And all the events were looked at. We negotiated -- we discussed
clearly where we thought he should be. George Bush's father, the
original President Bush, was in office then. I had to meet with
his special services, securities, to talk about Nelson Mandela's
safety in the country. David Dinkins was the mayor. I had to negotiate
with him in the city -- a host of things that were done, in order
to be able to secure his presence in this country and to let his
voice be heard. So that was not unusual for me.
I had talked with other heads of state,
Michael Manley from Jamaica, a place in which I grew up, where
my roots stood. I worked very hard with Michael Manley for the
Caribbean nations in the region, and I spent a great deal of time
there, working socially and politically. So that's an open page.
There was nothing clandestine about it. It's hard to be a superstar
Amy Goodman: But early on, you were taking
on corporate America and the U.S. government by supporting the
Harry Belafonte: Yes. I still take on
corporate America and the U.S. government.
Amy Goodman: What about in Haiti? President
Aristide is now in South Africa, ousted from Haiti. In February
29, 2004, he was taken out of the country in a U.S. plane, out
of his own country, sent to the Central African Republic. And
he said, he was the victim of a kidnapping in the service of a
coup d'etat backed by the United States. Your response?
Harry Belafonte: My response is that I
believe his story to be so. I believe that is exactly what happened.
I've talked to many people who have far more information than
I do, because I don't live within the womb of government, but
those who do have attested to the fact that what took place historically,
that we described as an undermining of a legitimate democracy,
was the case. And as a matter of fact, I think the story that
you alluded to at the beginning of this broadcast in the New York
Times does not say that fully. But it certainly has taken a big
slice of that period to show America's complicity in helping to
undermine that government and destabilize that beleaguered country.
That's not unusual for us. We've done
that with many places. While we talk about having democracy for
the world, we undermine the democracy of Chile, where we murdered
and participated fully in the murder of Allende. We have now talked
about another legally existing president in Venezuela, Hugo Chavez.
We sought to do everything to diminish and demonize that president.
We're speaking about other democracies in the region. It is not
unusual for us to be duplicitous when it comes to talk.
We admit and accept democracies according
to how we think they serve our most selfish and our most arrogant
and our most oppressive needs. That's what we do, especially in
the developing world. We stepped in while Vietnam was trying to
iron out its own internal policies and were very close to having
a victory there, when the United States intervened and lied once
again to the American people, led us to a war that cost millions
of lives, and all the things that we know about Vietnam.
It's not an unusual thing for us to do.
And I think that citizens just have to understand that the first
order of business for a democracy is vigilance among the citizens.
It is a delicate instrument. It continues to need nourishment
and attention. And the minute we turn away from that nourishment
and that attention, it will be taken away from us, as it is now
appearing to be the case.
Amy Goodman: You knew Paul Robeson?
Harry Belafonte: Yes, very well.
Amy Goodman: Paul Robeson, who the government
pulled his passport. The government went after him. White-listed
from almost every public space in this country. Have you been
concerned in the past, and especially if young people are listening,
as you were deeply concerned also about your career, that they
could go after you in the same way? And what did Paul Robeson
say about this?
Harry Belafonte: Paul Robeson was very
clear. He felt he did
what he had to do, in conscience and in
the spirit of this nation. And he made a choice. He has never
imposed that choice on others. He knows that it is a very, very
difficult thing to do, especially if you're from the poor. Especially
if you're in the black community, coming from a line of never
having to a moment where you have access, and all of a sudden
to put that access in jeopardy. And I think that I would not put
upon people some harsh judgment if they found that they were living
in a zone of fear and had to move cautiously, as to what they
would do to try to speak out against that oppression. But I suspect
that if it is not attended to in the earliest, it may have to
be attended to in the latest. And in the latest, you may find
that it's too late.
Amy Goodman: You also knew Rosa Parks.
Harry Belafonte: Yes, I knew her.
Amy Goodman: What about her legacy? One
of the things the corporate media said when she died, though they
did pay a lot of attention, they made the point that she was no
troublemaker. But it looks like her history shows the very opposite.
She was a troublemaker from way back, committing her life to equality,
Harry Belafonte: She never stopped being
a troublemaker. But it is now to this country's best interest,
in order to further hide its villainy, to reach out and to somehow
blur those who were very revolutionary and those who, in the end,
turned out to be huge moral, as well as social, forces in our
time, to lay claim to them, because it helps hide who they are
and what they do. Cheney, I mean, he didn't want Dr. King to be
a holiday. He worked vigorously against the levels of acceptability
that he has reached in the United States government. I mean, our
government is replete with people who now lay claim to Dr. King
and honor him.
Well, let me say this, as one who was
instructed by Dr. King to seek and to encourage redemption, I'm
glad that at this late date in life they somehow celebrate it.
But I don't think they celebrate it in honor. They celebrate it
to subvert what it is that they do, by having people believe that
they embrace the principles of a woman like Rosa Parks and people
like Fannie Lou Hamer, one of the most courageous of all.
Amy Goodman: Kanye West, after Hurricane
Katrina, said President Bush doesn't like black people. Do you
Harry Belafonte: I do not know that I
could look upon President Bush as someone who actively works every
day of his life to oppress and to kill black people as a direct
act of race. I think his insensitivity, in the class frame, being
who he is, coming from the privileges that he does, being one
who pursues the edge of imperial ambition -- not so much the edge,
he's right smack in the center of it -- he can be expected to
do those things, which will cruelly administer no relief at all
to those who are oppressed, who are poor. And in that act, because
of the way in which our society is structured, a large group of
brown people, a large group of yellow people, a large group of
black people, are on the forefront of this nation's poverty. And
therefore, we feel the brunt of it.
One cannot help but wonder that if what
happened in Katrina in that region of America had happened somewhere
in Maine or had happened somewhere else in America where white
sensibilities and white life would have been in great jeopardy,
that our nation would have been that blurred, and certainly our
government, to what was happening to the citizens who are not
I think somewhere in the American psyche,
black people are expendable when we try to sustain our positions
of privilege and our positions of power, just as I think people
in the Middle East are expendable.
I don't think America really knows who
we are. We don't know our fellow citizens. We don't know the nations
we invade. We don't have a real deep and honest sense of who we
are as a people, both on the good side of the ledger, to who we
are as a people that comes from the dark side of the ledger. We
are the most uninformed people on the face of the earth. And I
don't say that as hyperbole.
Amy Goodman: Do you think Americans should
join the military, and do you think soldiers should go to Iraq?
Harry Belafonte: I don't think soldiers
should be anywhere in the world. I mean, that is a moral and a
basic philosophy. I think that the only way to end wars is to
have no military and to find other ways in which -- I think we
should suspend all nuclear weapons. Do I think we can do that
as an act that is instantaneous? No. I think too much of the world
is locked in to what the military stabilizes in civilized society.
So I think there is a process. But if that is the goal and the
aim, and it is so declared, then I think citizens should participate
in the prospect of disengagement.
Let me just say this. If you have a patient
who is hit by a disease, and doctors look and say, 'To go in,
it will be a shock to the body to move that, without looking at
what it does to other parts of the body; let us move to prepare
the body for the moment of great relief,' then that's what we
pursue. I think the same thing exists in a civil society and in
the political process. We have to be careful. But I think that
we should have as our goal to end military intrusion as a way
to settle grievances.
Amy Goodman: Would you counsel soldiers
not to serve in Iraq?
Harry Belafonte: If I were a soldier today
or going into the military today, as an act of conscience, I would
not serve. I volunteered to be in the United States Navy during
the Second World War as an act of conscience, not just because
it gave me relief from poverty and I had a place to go to maybe
learn a skill, because I wasn't learning anywhere I lived and
had opportunity where I was living, but because I really believed
in the principles of what we fought for and what we said we were
doing in making the world safe.
So I think it's an act of conscience and
an act of social responsibility to say yes, as tens of thousands
of young people do. We just don't hear about them. I think we're
having trouble recruiting young people, because they're not readily
volunteering because they have conflict about what this war means
and what our government is asking them to do.
Amy Goodman: What gives you hope?
Harry Belafonte: People. I cannot believe
that which we have achieved in this country, nothing could have
been darker than the time of slavery. We extricated ourselves
from that. Nothing could be darker than a century of apartheid
and oppression. We extricated ourselves from that. The Second
World War was not winnable by the onslaught of the German forces.
We won that. I think in the final analysis, the people are the
true frontier, and I think people will save this nation. But it
is only people who can do it.
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