Frida Berrigan, senior research associate with the Arms Trade Resource Center of the World Policy Institute. She joins us on the phone from the protest.
The United States is entering the fifth year of its occupation of Iraq. To mark the fourth anniversary of the U.S. invasion, tens of thousands of people in cities across the U.S. and the world have taken to the streets in the past few days to protest. The largest U.S. demonstration took place in Washington, D.C., on Saturday, where thousands braved below-freezing weather to march on the Pentagon. [includes rush transcript]
This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.
AMY GOODMAN: The United States is beginning the fifth year of the occupation and war in Iraq. March 19, 2003, the U.S. began dropping bombs on Iraq, as thousands of U.S. forces poured across Iraq’s borders. Four years later, the occupation continues. In that time, over 3,200 American soldiers have died. Many thousands more have been wounded. As many as 650,000 Iraqis have been killed, with the number of wounded unknown.
Meanwhile, Iraq is suffering the worst refugee crisis in the world today. According to the United Nations, some two million Iraqis have fled the country, many of them to neighboring Jordan and Syria. Forty thousand more leave each month. Another 1.9 million are estimated to be internally displaced, driven from their homes by violence and ethnic cleansing.
To mark the fourth anniversary of the U.S. invasion, tens of thousands of people in cities across the United States and the world have taken to the streets in the past few days. The largest U.S. demonstration took place in Washington, D.C., on Saturday, where thousands braved below-freezing weather to march on the Pentagon. Due to the bad weather a number of buses were turned back. The rally was organized by ANSWER, an acronym for Act Now to Stop War and End Racism.
Former Congressmember Cynthia McKinney was one of the first speakers. She represented her Georgia district for more than a decade. She was the first African-American woman to represent Georgia in the House, until she was beaten in last year’s Democratic primary. Her target at the antiwar rally was the party she used to represent.
CYNTHIA McKINNEY: Well, it seems that George Bush and the Democratic leaders were right: They confidently told us that only the Democrats would fund the surge, but that the Democrats would not stop action in Iran, too. Now, we are not surprised when the unelected, illegitimate administration of George Bush ignores us. But we are shocked that the Democratic majority in Congress chose war over us, as we say, "Bring our troops home now." The answer is clear: Our country has been hijacked.
What about a livable wage for America’s workers? What about the right of return for Katrina survivors? What about repealing the PATRIOT Act, the secret arrogance act and the Military Tribunals Act? Why is impeachment off the table?
Our country is bankrupt, yet this institution, the Pentagon, has lost $2.3 trillion. I want that money back for jobs, for healthcare, for education, for our veterans. The Democrats have become so timid, they won’t even repeal the Bush tax cuts as a strategy to deal with the bankrupt nation. Seems the story is to say more money for war, but we can’t feed the poor. It’s hard to believe, but now the Democrats are full partners in George Bush’s wars. And by funding his wars, the Democratic Congress is explicitly complicit, complicit in war crimes, complicit in torture, complicit in crimes against humanity, complicit in crimes against the peace. The FBI spied on us. Condoleezza, Dick and George lied to us.
In 1957, Dr. King observed that both political parties have betrayed the cause of justice. And so it must be repeated today. Our beloved America is dividing again in two Americas. Our struggle is for nothing less than the soul of our country. We want an America that is respected in the commonwealth of man. We want our values to shine like a beacon around the world.
As an American of conscience, I hereby declare my independence from every bomb dropped, every threat leveled, every civil liberties rollback, every child killed, every veteran maimed, every man tortured. And I sadly declare my independence from the leaders who let it happen. We will not stop! We will win! And we will take our country back!
RALLY MC: All right, I want you guys to give a very special welcome to our next speaker, who has been a courageous fighter against this war. Please give much love and respect to Michael Berg, whose son Nicholas Berg was killed in Iraq in 2004.
MICHAEL BERG: Thank you. Thank you for being here. Three years ago, my son Nick went to Iraq on a mission of peace to help the people of Iraq rebuild that country. He was arrested by the Iraqi police and turned over to the U.S. military, who held him illegally for 13 days, 13 days during which time the horrible events that took place at the Abu Ghraib prison — the rapes, the murders and the torture — were made public and the city of Fallujah exploded and the people of Iraq united in resistance against this country. Because the military held Nick in their prison until this explosion came, he never made it home. He was abducted and killed in May of 2004.
And I stood up and said that Nicholas Berg died for the sins of George Bush and Donald Rumsfeld. And I realized that at the time I would have added Alberto Gonzales who rewrote those definitions of torture to allow those atrocities to happen. Well, right now we’ve got one down, one on the verge, and one to go. Impeach Bush! Impeach Bush!
But, you know, the Bush administration, they’re not the only ones that are responsible for this war. I know how I voted in 2006 and in 2004 and in 2000. Did you get what you voted for yet? I didn’t. We need to tell our congressmen right now and our congresswomen right now that we won’t vote again for war funders. No votes for war funders! Send a postcard now to your congressperson and just say on it: No votes for war funders! Thank you!
RALLY MC: Impeach Bush! Impeach Bush! Impeach Bush! All right. Sisters and brothers, I’d like to bring to the front Jonathan Hutto, a co-founder of the Appeal for Redress.
JONATHAN HUTTO: All right! All right! All right! Money for jobs! Act like y’all hear me. Money for jobs, not for war! Money for schools! Money for healthcare! Money for jobs!
I come here as a co-founder of the Appeal for Redress. If the other co-founder, Marine Sergeant — now out of the Marine Corps — Leon Madden is around, come up to the stage. Right here, my brothers and sisters, within the active-duty ranks of the United States military, those of us who took an oath to defend the Constitution against all enemies, foreign and domestic, where now we’re here fighting a domestic enemy policy, a policy that is continuing to destroy the country of Iraq, to decimate its people in the hundreds and hundreds of thousands, a policy that has killed over thousands of American troops and soldiers, and sadly they come back here and cannot get proper jobs, proper healthcare and the proper treatment they need.
So what the Appeal for Redress is, building off the strength of the GI movement — and there are veterans of the GI movement out there — I’m going to wrap it up — is it gives military members the right to appeal to their members of Congress to end the war in Iraq. Go to www.appealforredress.org. If you’re active-duty, file your appeal. Tell your congressperson to get a backbone, to get a spine, and to stand up on the mandate that the American people gave them last November!
AMY GOODMAN: Jonathan Hutto is the co-founder of Appeal for Redress. He is a Navy seaman, speaking this weekend in Washington, D.C., at the march on the Pentagon.
Ramsey Clark was another of the speakers, former attorney general of the United States. He braved the 20-degree weather to address the gathered crowd on this fourth anniversary of the U.S. invasion of Iraq.
RAMSEY CLARK: How beautiful you are! This is the place to be today. We’ve got work to do. If you thought about what will happen in the next 22 months if we don’t act now, there will be a big buildup of U.S. troops in Iraq. That’s what the surge is about. It’s a permanent surge. That huge new embassy will be occupied. We’ll be taking half of the oil and gas from Iraq for U.S. oil companies. Do you realize that the Iraqi Parliament is supposed to vote this month on legislation that President Bush has been pushing? It would open up the oil in Iraq to U.S. companies and take it right out from under. That’s where they were going when they started in this criminal adventure.
You’re going to see a major escalation in U.S. military expenditures. We exceed the expenditures of all other countries in the world combined already. We’ve got to stop that, and turn it around and cut it in half, and then in half again. Until you really cut the military budget, you’re going to have wars from this country. We have to face that. You can’t spend that much on arms and not start killing people with them. We’re the ones that are developing new nuclear weapons. You know, we’ve threatened several other countries because they want nuclear energy or whatever they’re doing. They couldn’t hurt us if they had them. But we’re developing new weapons, and we’ll use them. They’ll be tactical weapons. We’re building them right now. We’re building a new star wars. We’re pushing right up into Czechoslovakia and Poland and Turkey. And Russia doesn’t like it. And who would? So it would be another Cold War.
We’ll have more corruption in the government. The Department of Justice will be totally politicized if we don’t do something about it now. That’s dangerous for every man, woman and child in the country. You’ve seen the Bill of Rights shredded. What’s privacy mean to the Bush administration? Nothing. What’s the Bill of Rights mean to them? Nothing. What’s habeas corpus mean to them? Nothing. What’s torture mean to them? They believe in it.
The people who wrote the Constitution were serious about impeachment. They put provisions all through the Constitution on it. There’s no subject in which they went into greater detail than impeachment. They told us the House of Representatives has the sole power of impeachment. We have to go to every member in the House and say, "We want you to begin impeachment proceedings now! No delay!" The Constitution says that the president, vice president and other civil officers in the United States shall be removed from office for impeachment for and conviction of high crimes and misdemeanors. How many crimes do you have to have? How long do you let them go on? How close to tearing the country apart are we?
We’ve got to move now for impeachment. We can’t stop, we can’t rest, until we have it. You and I have miles to go before we sleep. We can’t fail in this task. The future of the United States and the future of the people of Iraq and the future of the poor and the people who are suffering constantly for what we do, we’re making enemies all over the world. We have to turn the country around. And impeachment is the first step and the first requirement for restoring order, the rule of law and the Constitution of, by and for the people. Thank you.
AMY GOODMAN: Ramsey Clark, former U.S. attorney general, served in the same position that Alberto Gonzales occupies today. Ramsey Clark speaking at the march on the Pentagon on Saturday. This is Democracy Now!, democracynow.org. When we return from break, we go live to Wall Street, where a civil disobedience is underway. Stay with us.
AMY GOODMAN: We turn now to Frida Berrigan, senior research associate with the Arms Trade Resource Center of the World Policy Institute. She is on Wall Street. Welcome to Democracy Now!, Frida.
FRIDA BERRIGAN: Oh, thank you, Amy.
AMY GOODMAN: Can you describe what’s happening?
FRIDA BERRIGAN: I’m sorry. Say that again.
AMY GOODMAN: Can you describe what’s happening?
FRIDA BERRIGAN: Sure. There are about 65, maybe 80, people who are walking along different streets. We have big cardboard skulls with the names of weapons manufacturers on them. And we’re converging on the New York Stock Exchange. And we’re carrying fliers that say, "This war is brought to you," and then a list of military contractors, like Lockheed Martin, whose stock price has increased 116 percent since the war began; Boeing, whose stock price has increased 224 percent since the war began, and to draw attention to all of these corporations who are really the only winners as we move into the fifth year of war in Iraq. And so, we’re marching to say, "No more war dividends! No more profits for war!" And so, people are in small groups of 20 or so, walking along, moving to the New York Stock Exchange with the goal of disrupting the site where the war profiting, where the buying and selling, is happening.
AMY GOODMAN: And how exactly are you going to obstruct business as usual? What kind of civil disobedience are you engaging in?
FRIDA BERRIGAN: Well, we’re envisioning a series of blockades, people coming out of the subway, people coming from different streets. You know, the Stock Exchange has become more and more of a militarized area. You know, it’s very blocked off already by the kind of security measures that have been put into place since September 11. So we don’t think it will be as hard as you might think to shut it down. But even if we’re not able to fundamentally disrupt business as usual there, to bring that message and to call to account those who are buying and selling seems like a significant and important thing to do in this weekend where we’re focusing on the war in Iraq so intensively.
AMY GOODMAN: Frida Berrigan, thanks for joining us. We will report on what happens tomorrow on Democracy Now! Frida Berrigan, joining us live from Wall Street, where activists are trying to shut down the New York Stock Exchange.
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