Challenging the Culture of Obedience
speech by Ross C. Anderson, Mayor
of Salt Lake City, Utah
www.thenation,com, August 31,
A[s President Bush visited Salt
Lake City August 30 to promote his policies in Iraq and the "war
on terror," Salt Lake City Mayor Ross C. "Rocky"
Anderson delivered this address at a peace rally outside City
Hall that drew more than 2,500 people.]
A patriot is a person who loves his or
her country. Who among you loves your country so much that you
have come here today to raise your voice out of deep concern for
our nation--and for our world?
And who among you loves your country so
much that you insist that our nation's leaders tell us the truth?
Let's hear it: "Give us the truth!
Give us the truth! Give us the truth!"
Let no one deny we are patriots. We love
our country, we hold dear the values upon which our nation was
founded, and we are distressed at what our President, his Administration,
and our Congress are doing to, and in the name of, our great nation.
Blind faith in bad leaders is not patriotism.
A patriot does not tell people who are
intensely concerned about their country to just sit down and be
quiet; to refrain from speaking out in the name of politeness
or for the sake of being a good host; to show slavish, blind obedience
and deference to a dishonest, war-mongering, human-rights-violating
That is not a patriot. Rather, that person
is a sycophant. That person is a member of a frightening culture
of obedience--a culture where falling in line with authority is
more important than choosing what is right, even if it is not
easy, safe, or popular. And, I suspect, that person is afraid--afraid
we are right, afraid of the truth (even to the point of denying
it), afraid he or she has put in with an oppressive, inhumane
regime that does not respect the laws and traditions of our country,
and that history will rank as the worst presidency our nation
has ever had to endure.
In response to those who believe we should
blindly support this disastrous President, his Administration,
and the complacent, complicit Congress, listen to the words of
Theodore Roosevelt, a great President and a Republican, who said:
The President is merely the most important among a large number
of public servants. He should be supported or opposed exactly
to the degree which is warranted by his good conduct or bad conduct,
his efficiency or inefficiency in rendering loyal, able, and disinterested
service to the Nation as a whole.
Therefore it is absolutely necessary that
there should be full liberty to tell the truth about his acts,
and this means that it is exactly necessary to blame him when
he does wrong as to praise him when he does right. Any other attitude
in an American citizen is both base and servile. To announce that
there must be no criticism of the President, or that we are to
stand by the President, right or wrong, is not only unpatriotic
and servile, but is morally treasonable to the American public.
Nothing but the truth should be spoken about him or any one else.
But it is even more important to tell the truth, pleasant or unpleasant,
about him than about any one else.
We are here today as truth-tellers.
And we are here to demand: "Give
us the truth! Give us the truth! Give us the truth!"
We are here today to insist that those
who were elected to be our leaders must tell us the truth.
We are here today to insist that our news
media live up to its sacred responsibility to ascertain and report
the truth--rather than acting like nothing more than a bulletin
board for the lies and propaganda of a manipulative, dishonest
We have been getting just about everything
but the truth on matters of life and death...on matters upon which
our nation's reputation hinges...on matters that directly relate
to our nation's fundamental values...and on matters relating to
the survival of our planet.
In the process, our nation has engaged
in an unnecessary war, based upon false justifications. More than
a hundred thousand people have been killed--and many more have
been seriously maimed, brain-damaged, or rendered mentally ill.
Our nation's reputation throughout much
of the world has been destroyed. We have many more enemies bent
on our destruction than before our invasion of Iraq.
And the hatred toward us has grown to
the point that it will take many years, perhaps generations, to
overcome the loathing created by our invasion and occupation of
a Muslim country.
What incredible ineptitude and callousness
for our President to talk about a Crusade while lying to us to
make a case for the invasion and occupation of a Muslim country!
Our children and later generations will
pay the price of the lies, the violence, the cruelty, the incompetence,
and the inhumanity of the Bush Administration and the lackey Congress
that has so cowardly abrogated its responsibility and authority
under our checks-and-balances system of government.
We are here to say, "We will not
stand for it any more. No more lies. No more pre-emptive, illegal
war, based on false information. No more God-is-on-our- side religious
nonsense to justify this immoral, illegal war. No more inhumanity."
Let's raise our voices, and demand, "Give
us the truth! Give us the truth! Give us the truth!"
Let's consider some of the most monstrous
lies--lies that have led us, like a nation of sheep, to this tragic
Following September 11, 2001, the world
knew that Osama bin Laden and Al Qaeda were responsible for the
horrific attacks on our country. Our long-time allies were sympathetic
and supportive. But our President transformed that support into
international disdain for the United States, choosing to illegally
invade and occupy Iraq, rather than focus on and capture the perpetrators
of the 9/11 attacks.
Why invade and occupy Iraq? Vice President
Dick Cheney and Condoleezza Rice represented to us, without qualification,
that there were strong ties between Saddam Hussein and Al Qaeda.
In September, 2002, President Bush made
the incredible claim that "You can't distinguish between
Al Qaeda and Saddam."
President Bush represented to Congress,
without any factual basis whatsoever, that Iraq planned, authorized,
committed, or aided the 9/11 attacks.
Our President and Vice-President, along
with an unquestioning news media, repeatedly led our nation to
believe that there was a working relationship between Al Qaeda
and the Iraqi government, a relationship that threatened the US.
Even last week, when I met with Thomas
Bock, National Commander of the American Legion, I asked him why
we are engaged in the war in Iraq. He said, "Why, of course,
because of the 9/11 attacks on our country." I asked, "What
did Iraq have to do with those attacks?" He looked puzzled,
then said, "Well, the connection between Al Qaeda and Iraq."
I was shocked. Here is a man who has criticized
us for opposing the war in Iraq--and he is completely wrong about
the underlying facts used to justify this war.
Not only has there never been any evidence
of any involvement by Saddam Hussein or Iraq with the attacks
on 9/11, but there has never been any evidence of any operational
connection whatsoever between Saddam Hussein and Al Qaeda.
Colin Powell finally conceded there is
no "concrete evidence about the connection." "The
chairman of the monitoring group appointed by the United Nations
Security Council to track Al Qaeda" disclosed that "his
team had found no evidence linking Al Qaeda to Saddam Hussein."
And the top investigator for our European allies has said, 'If
there were such links, we would have found them. But we have found
no serious connections whatsoever.'"
President Bush himself finally admitted
nine days ago during a press conference that there was no connection
between the attacks on 9/11 and Iraq. It's terrific that the President
has now admitted what others have known for so long--but where
is the accountability for the tragic war we were led into on the
basis of his earlier misrepresentations.
Besides the fictions of Saddam Hussein
somehow being linked to the 9/11 attacks and his supposed connection
with Al Qaeda, what was the principal justification for forgoing
additional weapons inspections, failing to work with our allies
toward a solution, refraining from seeking additional resolutions
from the United Nations, and hurrying to war - a so-called "pre-emptive"
war--in which we would attack and occupy a Muslim nation that
posed no security risk to the United States, and cause the deaths
of many thousands of innocent men, women, and children--and the
deaths and lifetime injuries to many thousands of our own servicemen
The principal claim was that Saddam Hussein
had weapons of mass destruction--biological and chemical weapons--and
was seeking to build up a nuclear weapons capability. As we now
know, there was nothing--no evidence whatsoever--to support those
claims. President Bush represented to us--and to people around
the world--that one of the reasons we needed to make war in Iraq
- and to do it right away--was because Saddam Hussein was seeking
to build nuclear weapons. His assertions about Saddam Hussein
trying to purchase nuclear materials from an African nation and
about Iraq seeking to obtain aluminum tubes for the enrichment
of uranium were challenged at the time by our own intelligence
agency and scientists, yet he didn't tell us that!
Ten days before the invasion of Iraq,
it was proven that the documents upon which President Bush's claim
about Saddam Hussein trying to obtain uranium was based were forgeries.
However, President Bush did not disclose that to the American
people. By that failure, he betrayed each of us, he betrayed our
country, and he betrayed the cause of world peace.
Neither did the vast majority of the news
media disclose the forgeries--until it was far too late. It took
our local newspapers here in Salt Lake City four months--until
after President Bush declared that major combat in Iraq was over--to
report the discovery that the documents were forgeries--and, therefore,
that there was no basis for the false claims about Saddam Hussein
trying to build up a nuclear capability. By its failure to promptly
disclose the forgeries, the news media betrayed us as well. Had
the American people known we were being lied to--had President
Bush informed us that the documents were forged and that he had
no other basis for his claim--had our nation's media done its
job, rather than slavishly repeating to us the lies being fed
to it by the Bush Administration--our nation may well not have
allowed the commencement of this outrageous, illegal, unjustified
To President Bush, to his Administration,
to our go-along Congress, and to our news media, we are here today,
demanding, "Give us the truth! Give us the truth! Give us
Then-National Security Adviser Condoleezza
Rice said that high-strength aluminum tubes acquired by Iraq were
"only really suited for nuclear weapons programs," warning
"we don't want the smoking gun to be a mushroom cloud."
Undisclosed by President Bush or Condoleezza Rice was the fact
that top nuclear scientists had informed the Administration that
the tubes were "too narrow, too heavy, too long" to
be useful in developing nuclear weapons and could be used for
other purposes. Dr. Mohamed El Baradei, director general of the
International Atomic Energy Agency, agreed. So much for the phony
claims of Saddam Hussein building nuclear weapons--the primary
claims justifying the rush to war. What were we told about chemical
and biological weapons of mass destruction? These claims were
as baseless and fraudulent as the claims about nuclear weapons.
President Bush told us in his January
2003 State of the Union address that Hussein had the materials
to produce as much as 500 tons of sarin, mustard and VX nerve
agent. Then, in May of 2003, he made the outlandish statement
that, "We found the weapons of mass destruction. We found
biological laboratories." Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld
told us, "We know where the [WMDs] are." Vice President
Cheney and then-Secretary of State Powell also joined in the chorus
of lies and misinformation about weapons of mass destruction.
Of course, no stockpiles of biological
or chemical weapons were found. Bush Administration Weapons Inspector
David Kay noted that Iraq did not have an ongoing chemical weapons
program after 1991--a conclusion remarkably similar to statements
made by Colin Powell and Condoleezza Rice before the 9/11 attacks--and
before they sacrificed the truth in the service of promoting the
Bush Administration's case for war against Iraq.
On February 24, 2001, less than 7 months
before 9/11, Colin Powell said that Saddam Hussein "has not
developed any significant capability with respect to weapons of
mass destruction. He is unable to project conventional power against
his neighbors," said Colin Powell.
And in July 2001, two months before 9/11,
Condoleezza Rice said: "We are able to keep his arms from
him. His military forces have not been rebuilt."
It is astounding how they changed their
claims after the President decided to make a case for the invasion
and occupation of Iraq! To think that we could be lied to by so
many members of the Bush Administration with such impunity is
frightening--chilling. Yet these imperious, arrogant, dishonest
people think we should just fall in line with them and continue
to take them at their word.
The truth has been established. Iraq had
nothing to do with the 9/11 attacks on the United States. There
is no evidence of any operational ties between Iraq and Al Qaeda.
And there were no weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. What a
tragedy, leading to greater tragedy. We are fed lie after lie,
our media reinforces those lies, and we are a nation led to a
tragic, illegal, unprovoked war.
We are here because of our values. We
love our country. We cherish the freedoms and liberties of our
country. We don't call those who speak out against our nation's
leaders unpatriotic or un-American or appeasers of fascists.
We have good, wholesome family values.
In our families, we teach honesty, we teach kindness and compassion
toward others, we teach that violence, if ever justified, must
be an absolutely last resort. In our families, we teach that our
nation's constitutional values are to be upheld, and that they
are worth standing up and fighting for. Our family values promote
respect and equal rights toward everyone, regardless of race,
ethnic origin, and sexual orientation. In our families, we teach
the value of hard work and competence--and we are left to wonder
about a President who, after receiving an intelligence memo about
the threat posed by Al Qaeda, decides to continue his month-long
vacation--just before the 9/11 attacks on our country.As we demand
the truth from others, let us also face the truth. Our government
all too often has not cared about the human rights of people in
other nations--and it doesn't really care about democracy, unless
it leads to the election of those who will do our bidding. Consider
the irony regarding the claims that Saddam had chemical weapons
and, because of that, we needed to rush to war in Iraq. When Saddam
Hussein was using chemical weapons--first against Iranians, then
against his own people, the Kurds - our country provided him with
biological and chemical agents and equipment to make the weapons.
Presidents Reagan and George H.W. Bush refused even to support
economic sanctions against Hussein for his use of weapons of mass
destruction. What did our nation do in response to Hussein's use
of chemical weapons, killing tens of thousand of people, when
he actually had them?
We befriended, coddled, and rewarded him--with
government-guaranteed loans totaling $5 billion since 1983, freeing
up currency for Hussein to modernize his military assets.
Perhaps those in the US government who
aided and abetted Saddam Hussein to further US business interests,
while he was gassing the Kurds, should be sharing his courtroom
dock as he is being tried now for crimes against humanity. No
more lies, no more hiding of the truth, no more wars that more
than triple the value of stock in Dick Cheney's prior employer,
Halliburton--and which, as of last September, has increased the
value of the Halliburton CEO's stock by $78 million.
We are patriots. We're deeply concerned.
And we demand change, now. No more lies from Condoleezza Rice
about whether she and President Bush were advised before 9/11
of the possibility of planes being flown into buildings by terrorists.
No more gross incompetence in the office
of the Secretary of Defense.
No more torture of human beings.
No more disregard of the basic human rights
enshrined in the Geneva Convention.
No more kidnapping of people and sending
them off to secret prisons in nations where we can expect they
will be tortured.
No more unconstitutional wiretapping of
No more proposed amendments to the United
States Constitution that would, for the first time, limit fundamental
rights and liberties for entire classes of people simply on the
basis of sexual orientation.
No more federal land giveaways to developers.
No more increases in mercury emissions
from old, dirty, dangerous coalburning power plants.
No more backroom deals that deprive protection
for millions of acres of wild lands.
No more attacks on immigrants who work
so hard to build better lives.
No more inaction by Congress on fixing
our hypocritical and inconsistent immigration laws and policies.
No more reliance on fiction rather than
the science of global warming.
No more manipulation of our media with
No more disastrous cuts in funding for
those most in need.
No more federal cuts in community policing
and local law enforcement grant programs for our cities.
No more inaction on stopping the genocide
in the Darfur region of Sudan.
No more of the Patriot Act.
No more killing.
No more pre-emptive wars.
No more contempt for our long-time allies
around the world.
No more dependence on foreign oil.
No more failure to impose increased fuel
efficiency standards for automobiles.
No more energy policies developed in secret
meetings between Dick Cheney and his energy company cronies.
No more excuses for failing to aggressively
cut global warming pollutant emissions.
No more tragically incompetent federal
responses to natural disasters.
No more tax cuts for the wealthiest, while
the middle class and those who are economically-disadvantaged
continue to struggle more and more each year.
No more reckless spending and massive
tax cuts, resulting in historic deficits and historic accumulated
No more purchasing of elections by the
wealthiest corporations and individuals in the country.
No more phony, ineffective, inhumane so-called
war on drugs. No more failure to pass an increase in the minimum
No more silence by the American people.
This is a new day. We will not be silent.
We will continue to raise our voices. We will bring others with
us. We will grow and grow, regardless of political party--unified
in our insistence upon the truth, upon peace-making, upon more
humane treatment of our brothers and sisters around the world.
We will be ever cognizant of our moral
responsibility to speak up in the face of wrongdoing, and to work
as we can for a better, safer, more just community, nation, and
So we won't let down. We won't be quiet.
We will continue to resist the lies, the deception, the outrages
of the Bush Administration. We will insist that peace be pursued,
and that, as a nation, we help those in need. We must break the
cycle of hatred, of intolerance, of exploitation. We must pursue
peace as vigorously as the Bush Administration has pursued war.
It's up to all of us to do our part.
Thank you everyone for lending your voices
to this call for compassion, for peace, for greater humanity.
Let us keep in mind the injunction of Dr. Martin Luther King,
Jr.: "Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about
things that matter."