Fourth of July Talking Points by John Nichols
Americans need to recognize that, in addition to the lives and dollars the occupation of Iraq has cost the United States, it has also assaulted democratic ideals handed down by the founders of this country's experiment with democracy. George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison and their kind did not warn casually against the "entangling alliances" that go with empire building. Having revolted themselves against an occupying force, they well recognized the necessity that democracy be homegrown.
"We should have nothing to do with conquest," warned Jefferson, who believed the US must lead by example, not by force. The invasion and occupation of other lands would, the founders feared, turn America into precisely the sort of empire against which they had so recently rebelled. And the wisest stewards of the American experiment -- from Frederick Douglass to Abraham Lincoln to Helen Keller and Martin Luther King Jr. and Barbara Lee -- have recognized this truth across the generations.
When he served as Secretary of State, John Quincy Adams gave voice to the fundamentally American principle of responsible internationalism in speech to Congress on July 4, 1821: "(America) knows best that by enlisting under other banners than her own, were they even the banners of foreign independence, she would involve herself beyond the power of extrication, in all the wars of interest and intrigue, of individual avarice, envy, and ambition, which assume the colors and usurp the standard of freedom."
None of the twisted "spin" about spreading democracy that is mouthed by members of the Bush Administration, its allies in Congress and its amen corner in the media will be sufficient to counter the truth handed down by those who founded and nurtured American democracy.
Liberty is not spread at gunpoint, nor by the occupation of distant lands. There will be no real democracy in Iraq -- or American -- until the occupation has ended.
Thus, the campaign for the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq is not merely about common sense. It is a patriotic imperative.
So it is that, this July, as Americans celebrate the 229th anniversary of their nation's founding, a new generation of patriots will go to their town squares and meeting halls and read aloud the words of Adams and others who warned against wars of conquest and empire. Many of these events will take place on July 4 but, as with the reading of the Declaration of Independence in 1776, this celebration of true patriotism will carry on throughout the month.
We are gathering not merely to recall the wisdom of those who taught us to "have nothing to do with conquest," but to reclaim that wisdom -- and to make it once more the guiding principle of a land that has been thrown off course by those who would sacrifice our democracy for a career of empire.
"We fight not for glory or for conquest".
"If there be one principle more deeply written than any other in the mind of every American, it is that we should have nothing to do with conquest."
Of all the enemies of true liberty, war is, perhaps, the most to be dreaded, because it comprises and develops the germ of every other. War is the parent of armies; from these proceed debts and taxes; and armies, and debts, and taxes are the known instruments for bringing the many under the domination of the few. In war, too, the discretionary power of the Executive is extended; its influence in dealing out offices, honors and emoluments is multiplied; and all the means of seducing the minds, are added to those of subduing the force, of the people. The same malignant aspect in
War is in fact the true nurse of executive aggrandizement. In war, a physical force is to be created; and it is the executive will, which is to direct it. In war, the public treasuries are to be unlocked; and it is the executive hand which is to dispense them. In war, the honors and emoluments of office are to be multiplied; and it is the executive patronage under which they are to be enjoyed; and it is the executive brow they are to encircle. The strongest passions and most dangerous weaknesses of the
Monsters to Destroy
She has uniformly spoken among them, though often to heedless and often to disdainful ears, the language of equal liberty, of equal justice, and of equal rights.
She has, in the lapse of nearly half a century, without a single exception, respected the independence of other nations while asserting and maintaining her own.
She has abstained from interference in the concerns of others, even when conflict has been for principles to which she clings, as to the last vital drop that visits the heart. She has seen that probably for centuries to come, all the contests of that Aceldama the European world, will be contests of inveterate power, and emerging right. Wherever the standard of freedom and Independence has been or shall be unfurled, there will her heart, her benedictions and her prayers be. But she goes not abroad, in search of monsters to destroy.
She is the well-wisher to the freedom and independence of all.
She is the champion and vindicator only of her own.
She will commend the general cause by the countenance of her voice, and the benignant sympathy of her example.
She well knows that by once enlisting under other banners than her own, were they even the banners of foreign independence, she would involve herself beyond the power of extrication, in all the wars of interest and intrigue, of individual avarice, envy, and ambition, which assume the colors and usurp the standard of freedom. The fundamental maxims of her policy would insensibly change from liberty to force....
She might become the dictatress of the world. She would be no longer the ruler of her own spirit....
[America's] glory is not dominion, but liberty. Her march is the march of the mind. She has a spear and a shield: but the motto upon her shield is, Freedom, Independence, Peace. This has been her Declaration: this has been, as far as her necessary intercourse with the rest of mankind would permit, her practice.
"Strike Against War!"
We are facing a grave crisis in our national life. The few who profit from the labor of the masses want to organize the workers into an army which will protect the interests of the capitalists. You are urged to add to the heavy burdens you already bear the burden of a larger army and many additional warships. It is in your power to refuse?
We are not preparing to defend our country--we have no enemies foolhardy enough to attempt to invade the United States. Yet, everywhere, we hear fear advanced as argument for armament. Congress is not preparing to defend the people of the United States. It is planning to protect the capital of American speculators and investors in Mexico, South America, China, and the Philippine Islands.
Every modern war has had its root in exploitation. The preparedness propagandists have still another object, and a very important one. They want to give the people something to think about besides their own unhappy condition. Every few days, we are given a new war scare to lend realism to their propaganda.
They are taught that brave men die for their country's honor. What a price to pay for an abstraction--the lives of millions of young men; other millions crippled and blinded for life; existence made hideous for still more millions of human beings; the achievement and inheritance of generations swept away in a moment--and nobody better off for all the misery!
Strike against war, for without you no battles can be fought. Strike against manufacturing shrapnel and gas bombs and all other tools of murder. Strike against preparedness that means death and misery to millions of human beings. Be not dumb, obedient slaves in an army of destruction. Be heroes in an army of construction.
This Way of Settling Differences is Unjust
A true revolution of values will soon cause us to question the fairness and justice of many of our past and present policies. On the one hand, we are called to play the Good Samaritan on life's roadside, but that will be only an initial act. One day, we must come to see that the whole Jericho road must be transformed, so that men and women will not be constantly beaten and robbed as they make their journey on life's highway.
True compassion is more than flinging a coin to a beggar; it is not haphazard and superficial. It comes to see that an edifice which produces beggars needs restructuring. A true revolution of values will soon look uneasily on the glaring contrast of poverty and wealth.
With righteous indignation, it will look across the seas and see individual capitalists of the West investing huge sums of money in Asia, Africa and South America, only to take the profits out with no concern for the social betterment of the countries, and say: "This is not just." It will look at our alliance with the landed gentry of Latin America and say: "This is not just." The Western arrogance of feeling that it has everything to teach others and nothing to learn from them is not just.
A true revolution of values will lay hands on the world order and say of war: "This way of settling differences is not just." This business of burning human beings with napalm, of filling our nation's homes with orphans and widows, of injecting poisonous drugs of hate into veins of people normally humane, of sending men home from dark and bloody battlefields physically handicapped and psychologically deranged, cannot be reconciled with wisdom, justice and love. A nation that continues year after year to spend more money on military defense than on programs of social uplift is approaching spiritual death.
Let Us Not Become the Evil that We Deplore Rep. Barbara Lee's Speech to Congress Opposing the Post 9-11 Use of Force Act
Mr. Speaker, I rise today with a heavy heart, one that is filled with sorrow for the families and loved ones who were killed and injured in New York, Virginia, and Pennsylvania. Only the most foolish or the most callous would not understand the grief that has gripped the American people and millions around the world.
This unspeakable attack on the United States has forced me to rely on my moral compass, my conscience, and my God for direction.
September 11 changed the world. Our deepest fears now haunt us. Yet I am convinced that military action will not prevent further acts of international terrorism against the United States.
I know that this use-of -force resolution will pass although we all know that the President can wage war even without this resolution. However difficult this vote may be, some of us must urge the use of restraint. There must be some of us who say, let's step back for a moment and think through the implications of our actions today-let us more fully understand their consequences.
We are not dealing with a conventional war. We cannot respond in a conventional manner. I do not want to see this spiral out of control. This crisis involves issues of national security, foreign policy, public safety, intelligence gathering, economics, and murder. Our response must be equally multifaceted.
We must not rush to judgment. For too many innocent people have already died. Our country is in mourning. If we rush to launch a counterattack, we run too great a risk that woman, children, and other non-combatants will be caught in the crossfire.
Nor can we let our justified anger over these outrageous acts by vicious murderers inflame prejudice against all Arab Americans, Muslim, Southeast Asians, and any other people because of their race, religion, or ethnicity.
Finally, we must be careful not to embark on an open-ended war with neither an exit strategy nor a focused target. We cannot repeat past mistakes.
In 1964, Congress gave President Lyndon Johnson the power to "take all necessary measures" to repel attacks and prevent further aggression. In so doing, this House abandoned its own constitutional responsibilities and launched our country into years of undeclared war in Vietnam.
At this time, Senator Wayne Morse, one of the two lonely votes against the Tonkin Gulf Resolution, declared, "I believe that history will record that we have made a grave mistake in subverting and circumventing the Constitution of the United States©I believe that with the next century, future generations will look with dismay and great disappointment upon a Congress which is now about to make such a historic mistake."
Senator Morse was correct, and I fear we make the same mistake today. And I fear the consequences. I have agonized over this vote. But I came to grips with it in the very painful yet beautiful memorial service today at the National Cathedral. As a member of the clergy so eloquently said, " As we act, let us not become the evil that we deplore."