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May Day Speech in Iowa City*


* A significantly shortened version of these comments were given on May 1st 2007 near the end of a day of antiwar presentations and actions organized by the University of Iowa Anti-War Committee.

 

 

Thank you very much for inviting me to speak.  If I’d known there was going to be all this sound equipment up here I would have brought my electronic piano and given you my rocked out version of that old Bob Dylan song “Masters of War” – the one where Dylan says: 

 

You fasten the triggers

For the others to fire

You sit back and watch

While the death count gets hire

You hide in your mansions

While young people’s blood

Flows out of their bodies and

Gets buried in the mud…

 

Let me ask one question

Is your money that good?

Will it bring you forgiveness

Do you think hat it could?

I think you will find

When your death takes its toll

All the money you made

Will never bring back your soul

 

(Pause).

 

What do I want? Troops out.

When do I want it? Now.

What do I want? Bush out.

When do I want it?

Now.

What do we want?

“Troops Out”

When do we want it?

“Now”

 

 

ASK THEM WHY AND HOW FAR

 

You know when somebody like…I don’t know, like Barack Obama or Hillary Clinton or even John Edwards tells you they’re against the Iraq War make sure you ask them why. Are they against it because it’s an immoral and monumentally illegal and brazenly imperialist oil occupation that has killed more than 700,000 Iraqis as well as 3300 Americans and is part of a larger U.S. project of global dominance? Or do they think that the only thing wrong with the war is that it isn’t working.

 

As you listen to them ask yourself, do they still think U.S. foreign policy is basically good and do they only or mainly talk about U.S. casualties? Sadly, the answer to both questions is going to be yes. 

 

And when someone like Hillary or Barack says they’re against the war on Iraq, ask them how far they are willing to go to express their supposed opposition. Are they willing to cut funding for this ongoing mass murderous and criminal and racist oil war now? Or do they just talk about non-binding timelines and benchmarks off in the future and only about getting some combat troops out maybe sometime before the 2008 elections? 

 

Are they willing to impeach and remove George W. Bush and his overlord Darth Cheney for crimes against national and international law including fraudulently tricking the nation into an illegal, unprovoked war of raw imperial aggression?  Are they willing to acknowledge America‘s crimes against Iraq and to pay reparations to that country for the devastation we have inflicted on that state which never harmed or threatened us?

 

NOT AN ANTIWAR BILL 

 

I really liked those chalk body outlines that one of you did last night to bring home the needless death of 3300 U.S. troops.  But let’s not forget the 700,000 or more Iraqis murdered by this criminal war.

 

Over there by the playground somebody wrote in chalk: “George Bush when is enough enough?” That’s a good question, Yes, when have you had enough killing, when have you had enough death, Mr. President, you blood-soaked tyrant? 

 

But the same question – when have enough died for this criminal war? – also needs to also be directed at Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid and to Barack Obama and to Hillary Clinton and to John Edwards and to our own Demcoratic Congressman Dave Loebesack and to our Democratic Senator Tom Harkin

 

Bush can say whatever he wants and he will.  But this bill the Democrats sent him and which he vetoed today was NOT an antiwar bill (repeat).

 

The Democrats’ so-called “antiwar” bill would have funded the war to the tune of $124 billion, more than Bush asked. It would have left tens of thousands of troops occupying Iraq for an indefinite period of time.  It would leave huge imperial U.S. military bases intact for an indefinite period of time.  It leaves U.S. Air Terror intact over Iraq for an indefinite period.  It makes sure that U.S. imperial forces remain in Iraq to guarantee the transfer of huge Iraqi oil profits to U.S. and British petroleum corporations.   It’s non-binding and therefore lacks any mechanism to actually force Bush and Darth Cheney to pull combat troops out. It even gives Bush a green light to attack Iran without Congressional approval for God’s sake.

 

And of course it says nothing about giving Bush and Cheney what most Americans know they deserve.  It says nothing about impeaching them and removing them from office for crimes against the American people, for crimes against humanity, for crimes against international law and for crimes against national law. It says nothing up giving Bush and Cheney up to international authorities to stand trial for war crimes.

 

DEMOCRACY TAKES TIME

 

It’s worth remembering that today, May Day is the day of the working class. In the late 19th century here in the U.S. it was a day for demonstrations on behalf of the eight-hour day.  It was a day for the workers’ struggle for time away from the supervision and control of their bosses.

 

If you go back and look more closely at the struggle for shorter working hours you’ll find something interesting.  You’ll find that workers wanted more time so that they could participate in the great “democracy” that the United States purported to be.  They knew very well that time is a democracy issue.

 

Democracy takes time.  It takes time to study the issues and their historical context and meaning.  It takes time to disentangle the endless lies of the power elite and its servants. It takes time to cut through all the propagandistic self-serving know-it-all bullshit of the bosses, teachers, newscasters, textbook writers, advertisers, candidates, political consultants, bureaucrats,  professors and other professional liars and thought coordinators. 

 

It takes time to figure out what’s really going and what to do about it.  It takes time to build institutions and ideas and a culture of resistance. It takes time to develop alternative vision. 

 

A FULL TIME JOB

 

It especially takes time to figure out what’s happening when the government is at work 24/7 deceiving the people with the help of the War Media. 

 

With the Iraq War, let’s be honest: it’s hard to keep track of all the lies. It’s a full-time job just trying to keep up with and disentangle their deceptions 

 

First we had the WMD lie.  We also had the lie that Saddam was connected to al Qaeda and to 9/11. It was all complete bullshit, as we know.

 

Then we had the big “Mission Accomplished” lie on this very day, May Day, four years ago. More nonsense.

 

As it became evident that Iraq had no WMD (which those of us on the left knew from the start) we got what I call the “Honest Mistakes” and “Bad Intelligence” Lie, which said basically that the Bush administration acted honestly in Iraq in accord with mistaken intelligence. 

 

This was complete bullshit.  They acted in accord with FIXED intelligence – with COOKED intelligence designed in advance of the war to justify an invasion they had already decided to launch.

 

We also got the big democracy promotion lie claiming that the real reason to invade Iraq was to spread freedom and democracy.  That is a complete fairy tale. The last thing U.S. policymakers want to see in Iraq is real freedom and democracy and independence since the last thing they want to see is that country free to make whatever deals it likes with whoever  it wishes in regard to the remarkable petroleum resources under their soil.

 

We got the big “Stuff Happens” Lie, which falsely claimed that the U.S. had no reason to know that all Hell would break loose in Iraq once they trashed Saddam’s government.

 

We got the Jessica Lynch and Pat Tillman lies, which were belatedly exposed again in the news last week.

 

We’ve been told a bunch of nice stuff about noble U.S. school and hospital building projects and the like.  The New York Times exposed some of the reality on all that last week, showing that many of the structures are already crumbling and are unused and so forth.

 

We got the Big Lie that the U.S. torture of Iraqis in Abu Ghraib and other locations was the result of isolated misconduct by a few deranged rank-and-file GIs. Never mind that torture has been en explicit top-down policy of the Bush administration and Pentagon within and beyond Iraq.

 

And now we have the Big Lie that Congress sent Bush an antiwar bill.  

 

QUESTIONS FOR VOTE-CHASERS

 

I don’t have time for all my ideas and recommendations on what we need to do, but I’ll leave you with one that matters a lot right now as we are already moving into this big presidential campaign with all this focus on the big significant all powerful Iowa Caucuses.  We are getting all these vote-chasing presidential wannabes coming through town and the state every other week. Well, hey: we’ve got some strategic position to be heard on the war.  Let’s use it to get some truth across.  Let’s use it to tell the candidates we won’t take their peaceful and populist promises seriously unless:

 

1. They support the immediate de-funding of the war

 

2. They support impeachment and removal of Bush.

 

 

We and the rest of the world cannot afford to live under George Bush’s reign of terror until January 27, 2009.

 

What do we Want? Troops Out.

When do we want it? Now

What do want? Bush out.

When do we want it? Now.

 

Thank you. Power to the people.

 

 

Paul Street ([email protected]) is an independent writer, speaker, historian, and social policy researcher in Iowa City, IA.  He is the author of Empire and Inequality: America and the World Since 9/11 (Boulder, CO: Paradigm Publishers, November 2004); Segregated Schools: Educational Apartheid in the Post-Civil Rights Era (New York, NY: Routledge, 2005); and Racial Oppression in the Global Metropolis: A Living Black Chicago History (New York, forthcoming in June 2007).

 

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