As Democracy Now! broadcasts from Salt Lake City, the city’s mayor discusses why he spoke out recently at a protest against President Bush and the Iraq War. [includes rush transcript]
It was here in Salt Lake City that Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld made headlines last month when he likened critics of the war in Iraq to those who tried to appease Nazi Germany during the 1930s. In a speech to the American Legion veterans group, Rumsfeld referred to the period before World War II and said that “some seem not to have learned history’s lessons…I recount that history because, once again, we face similar challenges in efforts to confront the rising threat of a new type of fascism.”
Well, just one day after Rumsfeld’s speech, thousands of critics of the war in Iraq made their voices heard with a massive protest here in Salt Lake City. Among them was Salt Lake’s Mayor, Rocky Anderson.
- Rocky Anderson, speaking at an anti-war rally here in Salt Lake City last month, one day after Donald Rumsfeld and one day before President Bush gave major speeches here.
Mayor Anderson joins me now in the studio. Welcome to Democracy Now!
- Rocky Anderson, mayor of Salt Lake City.
AMY GOODMAN: Just one day after Rumsfeld’s speech, thousands of critics of the war in Iraq made their voices heard with a massive protest here in Salt Lake City. Among them, Salt Lake’s mayor, Rocky Anderson.
MAYOR ROCKY ANDERSON: Our nation has engaged in a tragic unnecessary war, based upon categorically false justifications. More than 100,000 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 unjustified illegal invasion and occupation of a Muslim nation.
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 anymore! No more lies! No more preemptive illegal war based on false information! No more 'God is on our side' religious nonsense to justify this immoral illegal war!”
AMY GOODMAN: Salt Lake City Mayor Rocky Anderson, speaking at an antiwar rally in Salt Lake City here last month, one day after Donald Rumsfeld and one day before President Bush gave major addresses here. Mayor Anderson joins us now in the studio. Welcome to Democracy Now!
MAYOR ROCKY ANDERSON: Good morning, Amy.
AMY GOODMAN: It’s good to have you with us. So you joined an antiwar rally and spoke out against President Bush as he came here to visit your city.
MAYOR ROCKY ANDERSON: Yes. This is actually the second year in a row we did this. We did it the prior August as well, when President Bush came to speak to the Veterans of Foreign Wars convention.
AMY GOODMAN: The American Legion’s response to you, not just an antiwar activist, but the mayor of the city?
MAYOR ROCKY ANDERSON: Well, I actually met with the national commander of the American Legion, and our views obviously differed a great deal. He took the position that you cannot oppose the war and support the warriors. I think that is so off base, when we’re fighting such an unjustified illegal war. We do support our troops, and we want to see them brought home.
It was interesting that he took that position, after the American Legion had formerly opposed President Clinton’s commitment of troops to stop the genocide in Kosovo several years ago. So it seems like they think that when there was no justification — I actually asked him, “Why are we in Iraq?” and he couldn’t tell me, other than that he thinks that there was a tie between Saddam Hussein and Osama bin Laden. It’s very curious that these people are trying to keep the voices stilled in this country, that more and more are seeing that we were lied into this war. And it needs to come to an end. We’re creating more enemies, more hatred toward this country.
AMY GOODMAN: Rumsfeld’s comments, comparing critics like you to Nazi appeasers?
MAYOR ROCKY ANDERSON: Yeah, that was really something. That shows, I think, how absolutely desperate these people are. And whenever Rumsfeld talks about this war, really anything, I think that we need to hearken back to his promise to this country in trying to sell this war initially, that in his view we would be there maybe six days, maybe six weeks, but probably not as long as six months. I think we need to remember what these people were telling this country at the time and how absolutely wrong they have been at every turn.
AMY GOODMAN: FOX News went after you —
MAYOR ROCKY ANDERSON: That was interesting.
AMY GOODMAN: — for this protest. You were on their morning show?
MAYOR ROCKY ANDERSON: I was on a morning show. And I thought that they were interested in hearing from me, but actually they were sort of a caricature of themselves. They wouldn’t let me finish a sentence. They went on the attack. I tried to give details when they asked for specifics. And all they wanted to do was quibble. And I pointed out, you know, this war was sold to the American people, largely by FOX and other members of the media, and we were lied to. We were lied into this war, and in terms of the execution of this war.
AMY GOODMAN: You said, “It’s people like you”?
MAYOR ROCKY ANDERSON: I did. I talked about — that they have helped lie this country into this war, and they continue to lie. I mean, look at the Jessica Lynch story that was sold to this country. It turned out none of what we were told, and even the source, the Army’s source for that story, has never been disclosed. I think the mainstream media, this has been a segment of our country’s history that we will look back upon with great shame and embarrassment, given how the American people were fed so many lies, both in terms of the run-up to this war and the execution of this war. And I think, though, that the American people are certainly getting it. When you look at the polls, that it’s just so sad that there’s been this tremendous lag time.
AMY GOODMAN: Well, perhaps part of the problem of the corporate media is that they reflect the spectrum of opinion between the Republicans and the Democrats. And leading up to the invasion, there was hardly any difference. You had Kerry and Edwards supporting the invasion.
MAYOR ROCKY ANDERSON: That’s a very narrow spectrum, yeah.
AMY GOODMAN: You’re a Democratic mayor here in Salt Lake City. What do you have to say to the leadership? In fact, you were just in New York, weren’t you, for this Clinton summit?
MAYOR ROCKY ANDERSON: Yes, for the Clinton global initiatives. I was there to present on global warming. And they’re doing just amazing work in that area.
But what do I have to say about the Democratic Party? I’m ashamed, really, of how little leadership there has been. There has been just tremendous timidity on the part of the party, generally, although there have been a handful of exceptions. But, you know, we had one member of the United States Senate vote against the PATRIOT Act, the blank check that was given by Congress to this president, I think in total abrogation of the role of Congress under separation of powers and under the power to make war, to declare war. They gave that away to a president that didn’t have his facts straight and, I think, was manipulating the intelligence to sell this war.
AMY GOODMAN: You also, before you were mayor of Salt Lake City, were a lawyer who represented prisoners. In the book that we’ve just published, Static, we have a section on you, where we talk about who were the prison officials who set up Abu Ghraib. One of them came right here from Utah. He was the head of —
MAYOR ROCKY ANDERSON: Two of them, actually.
AMY GOODMAN: — the Department of Corrections, Lane McCotter.
MAYOR ROCKY ANDERSON: Well, McCotter and Gary DeLand, both of them had been directors at different times of the Utah Department of Corrections, and not a great record in terms of human rights or civil rights in the Corrections Department during that period of time. And I did represent a number of inmates, whose rights were clearly abused, whose needs were disregarded, and in one instance, a mentally ill inmate who was not given his medications. He should have been forced with those medications, because he was deteriorating so badly. You don’t give somebody in that situation the choice as to whether they’re going to be medicated, and especially you don’t respond with such violence as they did.
They went in forcefully, took him down, stripped him naked and put him in a restraint chair, tightening the straps around his ankles, his arms, kept him there naked for 16 hours. No chance to go to the bathroom. I’ve heard from inmates that they were sitting in their feces and urine sometimes for days in that chair. And he developed during those many hours, without any examination by the psychologist or psychiatrist, who had ordered him being restrained —
AMY GOODMAN: This was Michael Valent?
MAYOR ROCKY ANDERSON: This was Michael Valent. And he developed blood clotting. When they got him up to take him to shower after 16 hours, he, through a blood clot, had a pulmonary embolism and died.
AMY GOODMAN: And this was under Lane McCotter?
MAYOR ROCKY ANDERSON: That’s when Lane McCotter was the director, yes.
AMY GOODMAN: Then he moves over to Santa Fe and runs a private prison system there, and the prisoners are actually pulled out because of the abuse of the prisoners.
MAYOR ROCKY ANDERSON: Yeah. When Lane McCotter was here and Gary DeLand as directors of Corrections, they were utilizing also a restraint board, a metal board where they were tie people down by their wrists and ankles. I would get calls from people — mentally ill. One man had slashed his eyelids with a razor blade, rushed to the hospital. Instead of receiving any compassionate care, any therapy, any kind of normal mental health services, he was simply strapped down naked to this metal board.
AMY GOODMAN: It’s called four-pointing?
MAYOR ROCKY ANDERSON: Yes, it was four-pointed. And so, you know, the disregard for people’s rights in this country, I think the natural evolution of that is the treatment of those who are incarcerated under circumstances like we saw at Abu Ghraib, like at Guantanamo. I think that there’s a very dangerous trend in this country for people to say we don’t believe in torture, that we believe in human rights, but we’re willing as a nation too often to look away when it’s somebody that we just don’t want to deal with. And these are horrendous circumstances. The national commander of the American Legion actually told me that there was nothing that happened at Abu Ghraib that’s not happening on every campus in this country. I just found that absolutely appalling.
AMY GOODMAN: Or frightening, one or the other. You are not running for a third term, you’ve announced —
MAYOR ROCKY ANDERSON: Yes.
AMY GOODMAN: — to take on issues nationally, like this, torture, human rights and environmental issues. What have you done in Salt Lake City around environmental issues?
MAYOR ROCKY ANDERSON: Well, we’ve been focusing very much on local air quality problems, those sorts of things, but primarily on climate change issues. We have a climate protection campaign that’s been very aggressive. We committed in our governmental operations on the eve of the 2002 winter Olympic games to abide by at least the Kyoto Accord goals. And those are set for 2012, that we accomplish what would be a 21% reduction from 2000 levels in greenhouse gas emissions, global warming pollutants by 2012. By last year, after only three years, we surpassed that goal. And I think the message here is, this can all be accomplished.
And you can save money in the process. This myth of the Bush administration, that somehow it’s going to be economically devastating to reduce our global warming pollutants, it’s just the opposite. We need to grow into this new economy and move toward greater conservation. Corporations have saved billions of dollars in doing this and doing the right thing. So cities around the country now, we have over 300 majors who have signed up for these kinds of measures.
AMY GOODMAN: Mayor Rocky Anderson, I want to thank you for being with us.