We Won't Deny Our Consciences
Prominent Americans have issued this statement
on the war on terror
North Bay Progressive, July 11-24, 2002
[did nothing when their government declared a war without
limit and instituted stark new measures of repression." The
signers of this statement call on the people of the U.S. to resist
the policies and overall political direction that have emerged
since September 11 and which pose grave dangers to the people
of the world.]
We believe that peoples and nations have the right to determine
their own destiny, free from military coercion by great powers.
We believe that all persons detained or prosecuted by the U.S.
government should have the same rights of due process. We believe
that questioning, criticism, and dissent must be valued and protected.
We understand that such rights and values are always contested
and must be fought for.
We believe that people of conscience must take responsibility
for what their own governments do - we must first of all oppose
the injustice that is done in our own name. Thus we call on all
Americans to resist the war and repression that has been loosed
on the world by the Bush administration. It is unjust, immoral
and illegitimate. We choose to make common cause with the people
of the world.
We too watched with shock the horrific events of September
11. We too mourned the thousands of innocent dead and shook our
heads at the terrible scenes of carnage - even as we recalled
similar scenes in Baghdad, Panama City and, a generation ago,
Vietnam. We too joined the anguished questioning of millions of
Americans who asked why such a thing could happen.
But the mourning had barely begun, when the highest leaders
of the land unleashed a spirit of revenge. They put out a simplistic
script of "good v evil" that was taken up by a pliant
and intimidated media. They told us that asking why these terrible
events had happened verged on treason. There was to be no debate.
There were by definition no valid political or moral questions.
The only possible answer was to be war abroad and repression at
In our name, the Bush administration, with near unanimity
>from Congress, not only attacked Afghanistan but arrogated
to itself and its allies the right to rain down military force
anywhere and anytime. The brutal repercussions have been felt
from the Philippines to Palestine. The government now openly prepares
to wage all out war on Iraq a country which has no connection
to the horror of September 11. What kind of world will this become
if the US government has a blank cheque to drop commandos, assassins,
and bombs wherever it wants?
In our name the government has created two classes of people
within the U.S: those to whom the basic rights of the U.S. Iegal
system are at least promised, and those who now seem to have no
rights at all. The government rounded up more than 1,000 immigrants
and detained them in secret and indefinitely. Hundreds have been
deported and hundreds of others still languish today in prison.
For the first time in decades, immigration procedures single out
certain nationalities for unequal treatment.
In our name, the government has brought down a pall of repression
over society. The president's spokesperson warns people to "watch
what they say". Dissident artists, intellectuals, and professors
find their views distorted, attacked, and suppressed. The so-called
Patriot Act - along with a host of similar measures on the state
level - gives police sweeping new powers of search and seizure,
supervised, if at all, by secret proceedings before secret courts.
In our name, the executive has steadily usurped the roles
and functions of the other branches of government. Military tribunals
with lax rules of evidence and no right to appeal to the regular
courts are put in place by executive order. Groups are declared
"terrorist" at the stroke of a presidential pen.
We must take the highest officers of the land seriously when
they talk of a war that will last a generation and when they speak
of a new domestic order. We are confronting a new openly imperial
policy towards the world and a domestic policy that manufactures
and manipulates fear to curtail rights.
There is a deadly trajectory to the events of the past months
that must be seen for what it is and resisted. Too many times
in history people have waited until it was too late to resist.
President Bush has declared: "You're either with us or against
us." Here is our answer: We refuse to allow you to speak
for all the American people. We will not give up our right to
question. We will not hand over our consciences in return for
a hollow promise of safety. We say not in our name. We refuse
to be party to these wars and we repudiate any inference that
they are being waged in our name or for our welfare.
We extend a hand to those around the world suffering from
these policies; we will show our solidarity in word and deed.
We who sign this statement call on all Americans to join together
to rise to this challenge. We applaud and support the questioning
and protest now going on, even as we recognise the need for much,
much more to actually stop this juggernaut. We draw inspiration
from the Israeli reservists who, at great personal risk, declare
"there is a limit" and refuse to serve in the occupation
of the West Bank and Gaza.
We draw on the many examples of resistance and conscience
from the past of the US: from those who fought slavery with rebellions
and the underground railroad, to those who defied the Vietnam
war by refusing orders, resisting the draft, and standing in solidarity
with resisters. Let us not allow the watching world to despair
of our silence and our failure to act. Instead, let the world
hear our pledge: we will resist the machinery of war and
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