Former U.S. attorney general and longtime human rights lawyer Ramsey Clark has died at the age of 93, and we look back on his life. Clark was credited as being a key architect of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 and the Fair Housing Act of 1968. He served as attorney general from 1967 to 1969, during which time he ordered a moratorium on federal executions and opposed J. Edgar Hoover’s wiretapping of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., though he was also involved in the prosecution of antiwar activists. After leaving office, Clark became a leading critic of U.S. foreign policy. “The world is the most dangerous place it’s ever been now because of what our country has done, and is doing, and we have to take it back,” Ramsey Clark said while addressing a protest against the inauguration of George W. Bush on January 20, 2005. We also play an excerpt from an interview with Clark about defending the Hancock 38, a group of peace activists arrested at a U.S. drone base near Syracuse, New York.
AMY GOODMAN: This is Democracy Now! I’m Amy Goodman.
Former U.S. attorney general, longtime human rights lawyer Ramsey Clark has died at the age of 93. He was the last living member of Lyndon Johnson’s Cabinet. Clark was credited as being a key architect of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 and the Fair Housing Act of '68. He served as attorney general from ’67 to ’69, during which time he ordered a moratorium on federal executions and opposed J. Edgar Hoover's wiretapping of Martin Luther King, but he was also involved in the prosecution of antiwar activists.
After leaving office, Ramsey Clark became a leading critic of U.S. foreign policy. In 1972, he traveled to North Vietnam, in defiance of the U.S. government, to document U.S. war crimes. It was one of many trips Ramsey Clark would take to meet the victims of U.S. militarism. Also in 1972, he successfully defended the Harrisburg Seven, a group of religious antiwar activists, led by the former Catholic priest Philip Berrigan and his wife Liz McAlister. He would go to defend members of the Plowshares, the anti-nuclear arms movement founded by Philip and Daniel Berrigan. In 1989, Ramsey Clark traveled to Panama to document the devastation brought by the U.S. invasion, which he called a, quote, “physical assault of stunning violence.”
Beginning in the early '90s, he became a leading opponent of U.S. policy in Iraq, speaking out against the first Gulf War, the U.S. sanctions and the 2003 invasion. He would later join Saddam Hussein's defense team. After the September 11, 2001, attacks, Ramsey Clark helped found the antiwar group ANSWER.
He was also a longtime defender of Palestinian rights and represented the Palestine Liberation Organization. Palestinian legislator Hanan Ashrawi wrote on Twitter Clark, quote, “was an indefatigable defender of Palestinian & human rights, a lawyer who knew & pursued genuine justice & the rights of the oppressed,” unquote.
Ramsey Clark was also a longtime critic of the U.S. embargo of Cuba.
He was born in Dallas, Texas, in 1927. His father, Tom Clark, served on the U.S. Supreme Court.
This is Ramsey Clark speaking at a protest against the presidential inauguration of George W. Bush in Washington, D.C., January 20th, 2005.
RAMSEY CLARK: Really to support and defend the Constitution of the United States. We have to take the Constitution back, back from crimes against peace, from war crimes and crimes against humanity.
You know, the Nuremberg tribunal called the war of aggression the supreme international crime, and it is. And George W. Bush has waged a war of aggression against Iraq. He’s killed more than 100,000 people. Are their lives worth nothing? Can we have a moment of silence in memory of all the people who have died in Iraq because of the criminal acts of George W. Bush in waging this war of aggression?
Every moment of their lives is fraught with danger right now because of us. The world is the most dangerous place it’s ever been now because of what our country has done, and is doing, and we have to take it back. We can’t wait four more years.
There can’t be any more Fallujahs. Fallujah is the 21st century equivalent of Guernica. We just went in and destroyed that city, drove the people out, killed them, thousands. We don’t know how many. They won’t even bother to count who’s been killed or how many, or estimate how many. They just keep killing. Almost every day we’re reading about another checkpoint where some family got wiped out because they didn’t do what they were supposed to do, according to the military there.
Abu Ghraib is unbelievable in the innocent times of 1961, that we would torture people that way, and on the instructions of the president of the United States and his highest legal advisers. “Torture is OK,” they said. “Go for it, fellas.” If we can’t renounce that and remove it from office, then the Constitution doesn’t work anymore.
We’ve got to do more than take back the Constitution. There has to be accountability for what’s happened. The Constitution says that the president, vice president and other officials of the United States shall be removed from office upon impeachment for and conviction of high crimes and misdemeanors.
If you care about the Constitution, you better start talking to your member of the House of Representatives and say impeachment now is essential to the integrity of the United States government and to the future of the United States. We’ve had more than 500,000 people sign on “Vote to Impeach.” We need to get 5 million, and we need to get 5 million on there quick. And then the Congress will react.
AMY GOODMAN: That’s former U.S. Attorney General Ramsey Clark, speaking January 2005. Seven [sic] years later, in 2011 — six years — he appeared on Democracy Now!, was interviewed by Juan González about President Obama’s drone war program. Clark had just finished defending the Hancock 38, a group of peace activists arrested at a U.S. drone base near Syracuse, New York.
RAMSEY CLARK: During the trial, the day after I testified, in fact, The New York Times had an editorial about a guy who was working on peace in Islamabad. He had met with a family the day before. And the next — not the day before — they had left to go back up to the frontier territories. An 11-year-old boy was killed in a car driving back home. And we had 20-plus troops, soldiers, of an ally, more or less, Pakistan, killed by our drones. Incredible.
I mean, they’re assassination and murder weapons, and they create more fear and anger, because they come out of the blue. You don’t feel safe anyplace. You’re not safe anyplace. They’ll chase you down anyplace. And it’s a weapon that ought to be prohibited. It’s a criminal weapon. And —
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Yet President Obama just said yesterday that he will not apologize for the attack. And the issue of these drones and the — what is happening around the rest of the world, as they see the willingness of the United States to basically go into any country it feels necessary to do so with these drone attacks?
RAMSEY CLARK: Yeah, we totally disregard the sovereign territory of a big country, Pakistan, a major country, and basically say we’ll kill anybody there we decide to, without consultation, so watch your step. It’s a weapon of extreme provocation and extreme danger, extreme inaccuracy. Its ability to address a single individual is nonexistent. It kills whoever happens to be around, and it also kills sometimes when there’s no one around except a bunch of people in a meeting, because you’ve got the wrong target.
But the decision to murder or to assassinate anybody, anyplace, to send one of these things out, is itself a crime.
AMY GOODMAN: That’s former Attorney General Ramsey Clark, speaking in 2011.
When we come back, we remember Standing Rock Sioux tribal historian LaDonna Brave Bull Allard.