(Cynthia McKinney is a former U.S Congresswoman and was the 2008 Green Party presidential nominee. The following is the transcription of a speech she delivered at the 20014 Veterans for Peace Conference.)
Veterans for Peace 2014 Convention
Asheville, North Carolina
July 26, 2014
Thank you so much for inviting me to be with you this evening. I don’t know whose idea it was, but I thank you from the bottom of my heart for building this bridge to me.
I awoke this morning to the sounds of nature: birds chirping and I looked outside to this beautiful natural environment and thought to myself, no matter how hard humans try to replicate what is natural, only Mother Nature can do what I see now and what I saw yesterday as my plane arrived near dusk into Asheville.
My thoughts then went to movements around the world that have successfully guaranteed, in national constitutions, the rights of nature, itself. And the right of humans to live in a clean environment. And then I lamented that we seem to not be able to sustain many victories in the many movements that we have for justice and peace in this country. I lament because when our movements for justice are weak at home, then people suffer—not only at home, but also abroad. And I’m sick and tired of being sick and tired of war, oppression, and suffering–when there need not be any. We are in this predicament in the U.S. because of deliberate actions that some people take and that other people allow. Either we are actively engaged in the struggle for justice and peace, or we are on the sidelines watching as events unfold, or even worse, we take the side–knowingly or unknowingly–of the perpetrators of war and injustice.
And now, because of U.S. policies from the Clinton Administration to the Obama Administration, we know that all people are potential do-gooders and that too many people choose to go the other way. The perpetrators of injustice and war can be White men and women, Asian men and women, Latino men and women, and African descendant men and women. By now, we should have learned that blindly voting for a Barack Obama was not going to give us the policies of a Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Therefore, let us be clear, that blindly voting for any candidate that is popularly portrayed in the media—so-called mainstream or progressive—is not going to give us the change that all of us want and need. There is no substitute for each of us doing personal research on the candidates that step forward–from the school board, to judges, to Congress, to the White House–to make sure that the candidates for whom we vote actually align with our values.
The time is out for settling for the lesser of two evils, because as Glen Ford of Black Agenda Report likes to say, you end up with a more effective evil: A more effective evil that we the voters are responsible for putting in power.
So, the first theme I’d like to explore with you as I ruminate aloud is the idea that arsonists are at work all over our world.
I find it interesting that we have been called together at a time when the world is literally on fire. And the arsonists who are setting these fires are still not happy. They want every corner of the world to be aglow—either with nuclear radiation of one sort or another: a la Fukushima or as a result of what this President calls “high or low kinetic activity” that includes the use of Depleted Uranium munitions, or with this human species being alit with hatred. Institutions in the U.S. have trained everyone since the beginning of this country to be especially afraid of Black males. And with that now so permanently seared into the psyches of Blacks, Whites, and all newcomers to the U.S., it was time to move on to the next group to hate: Latinos from what Hugo Chavez called Nuestra America, Our America, where the straightness and thickness of the hair reveal too much Indigenous heritage and the darkness of the skin or the roundness of the lips or the frizziness of the hair reveal too much African heritage. Latinos from Nuestra America, leave their family, homes, communities, and countries because U.S. foreign policy has made life unbearable there, come to the U.S. and are abused for their labor and our programmed hatred of them makes it easier for us to support policies that abuse and mistreat them.
Today, the U.S. is supposedly negotiating with Hondurans, a way to deal with the influx of underage asylum seekers arriving on the U.S. border with Mexico; but just imagine if the United States had not interfered with two Honduran elections, regime changing the Presidency of Manuel Zelaya when he dared to support land reform and a new Constitution for all the Honduran people and then the U.S. interfered in Honduras’s most recent, 2013, Presidential election, preventing the election of Zelaya’s wife, Xiomara Castro. Without that foreign policy of the U.S., President Obama’s first coup after he came to office, Hondurans would be building their nation instead of fleeing it.
If truth is the first casualty of war, then it could also be said that hatred is one of the spoils of war.
Not satisfied with lighting the fire of hatred of Blacks and the Indigenous, and “Nuestra America” Latinos, in the last decade or so, we have been told that Muslims are worthy of our hatred. So, many of the new generation of young people in the U.S. believe that Muslims want to kill us or kill them them because Muslims hate our freedoms and so we had better kill them before they kill us. But, interestingly, while we are taught to hate Muslims, from what I’ve seen of the arsonists’ successful work, Muslims are doing a pretty good job of killing each other; but we are supposed to hate and fear them.
Now, not even satisfied with the carnage thus produced: Colombia is on fire, Venezuela is on fire, Syria is on fire, North Africa is on fire, West Asia is on fire, the arsonists have added China and Russia to the menu, and have set Eurasia afire on their path to these countries. For the moment, that is Ukraine. But, for the arsonists, Iran and Turkey are mere stepping stones toward setting Russia and China afire. And they’ve already firing up the kindling inside these countries—that includes the Chechens for the Russians and the Uighurs for the Chinese. So, today, in a highly calculated move to overthrow the government of Ukraine and set the wheels in motion, the chariots of fire have begun their roll through Asia. It just dawns on me to ask, is this what our President meant when he announced U.S. policy as a “pivot” to Asia?
Interestingly, we have been called together to this beautiful hamlet tucked away in the heart of the Cherokee nation; a plateau where two Cherokee trails crossed is now the town of Asheville. And even as we gather in this idyllic setting, the arsonists are still at work. While here, it might even be easy to forget what is happening in the rest of the world. But I can’t. Because I know that what is wrought abroad, comes home and what is made at home is exported abroad. And I have evidence for what I say.
Medea was with me in Georgia when the pro-Israel Lobby struck me the first time. We had waged a valiant struggle, and Medea and all of you who were with me then, at that very difficult time, I say “thank you” to you now. I have been quoted as saying that the moment I refused the AIPAC pledge of loyalty to Israel as a candidate in 1992, I became engaged in hand-to-hand combat and staying in Congress was trench warfare. And sadly, very few people understood or even cared what I was going through, because as other victims, I was made to appear in public as if I “deserved” what I got.
Media demonization is purposeful in that it leads the public to believe that the demonized person deserved what they got. I can point to the example of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. whose murder I have studied extensively —both as a Congressperson and as a Ph.D. student. According to Sheldon Appleton’s research, nearly one third of respondents to a poll taken after the murder of Dr. King felt strongest that Dr. King had brought his assassination on himself. That’s why whole countries are now personified in the media by the likeness of one individual whom we are actually being directed to hate. So, seven million people in Libya are reduced to Muammar Qaddafi; one hundred forty three million Russians are reduced to Vladimir Putin; one point four billion Chinese will be reduced to Xi Jinping—if he stands up for the Chinese people and their national interest and fights foreign domination. It works that way whether the arsonists are lighting the kindling underneath a foreign leader or a domestic one. Not only have I been through this firsthand and have my own personal experiences, and can watch and understand what is happening when this template is being applied in other situations to other leaders, but I now understand the mechanisms of oppression and repression because Antioch University has allowed me to study this particular phenomenon as a part of my Ph.D. studies. And so that’s where I want to go next in this moment of what I hope is mutual sharing: what we struggle against are the tactics and orchestrations that prevent us from experiencing peace at home as well as peace abroad.
Your theme for this 2014 Convention is “Peace at Home, Peace Abroad.” One thing we should know by now is that the arsonists will prevent peace abroad by lighting up, for example, Congo in the 1960s with regime change that brings about untold suffering on the African Continent and then will spark fire again by executing regime change in the 1990s in Rwanda, Burundi, and then Congo again that brings about even more suffering in Africa. From these two examples in Africa, we now know that the United States will have targeted assassination as a policy and will lie about it for as long as it can get away with the lie.
In December of 2013, the United States finally admitted that President Eisenhower authorized the murder of Patrice Lumumba and set aside dollars for the deed to be carried out. On my Facebook page, I asked my subscribers, “How do we as a country make up for something like that?” The murders of the democratically elected Presidents of Burundi and Rwanda during the Clinton Administration, with regime change as its objective, unleashed what the world knows now as the Rwanda genocide and exposes the lie to those willing to do the research that Africans just like to kill each other. The arsonists have succeeded in keeping Africa on fire.
John Perkins, in his many interviews after publication of his book, Confessions of an Economic Hitman, exposes the targeted assassinations carried out by the U.S. of Omar Torrijos of Panama and Jaime Roldos of Ecuador because they dared to care more about the people of their own countries and less about the interests of the cartel of bankers that wanted to indebt them and U.S. corporations that wanted to rape them. Declassified documents from U.S. Operation Condor show the establishment of kill teams whose function was to go around the world–-wherever needed—to kill public officials who, like us, only wanted justice and peace.
The Frank Church Senate Select Committee on Intelligence Activities specifically found that policies and behaviors that were honed overseas were brought back home and used against U.S. citizens. That was the point of COINTELPRO, the U.S. government’s organized and total effort to wipe out dissent at home for its policies abroad. The purpose of the Church Committee was to examine U.S. intelligence policies and found that they included targeted assassination, illegal employment by the CIA of university professors, members of the clergy, journalists, publishing houses, and media outlets; the Church Committee found that anti-war activists were subjected to illegal break-ins into their homes, illegal wiretaps, blacklisting so that they could not earn a living, and a broad range of activities to smear them in the press so that whatever happened to them would appear as if they “deserved” what they got. When the FBI’s COINTELPRO program used the word “neutralize” in reference to Black groups, it meant bad jacketing that sent innocent people to prison (like recently passed Geronimo Pratt, later known as Geronimo Ji Jaga), and even targeted assassination, like Malcolm X and Dr. King. For the Puerto Rican independence movement, Filiberto Ojeda Rios was “neutralized” when he bled to death at his home after the FBI surrounded his home and shot through his front door, wounding him, and then prevented an ambulance from coming to save him. Anna Mae Pictou Aquash was neutralized when she was bad jacketed and then murdered and dismembered, with the autopsy being performed by a “company coroner” thereby preventing her immediate identification. Anna Mae was a budding leader in the American Indian Movement who was neutralized as a result of affirmative U.S. government policy to do so.
Now, what I want to leave you with is this: If these arsonists would light a fire in Africa, Asia, Latin America, even Eurasia if they have to to preserve their freedoms over us, why wouldn’t they light fires at home? I hope I’ve demonstrated that they will just do that.
My final admonition is this. I have lent extensive study to the assassinations in the U.S. during the decade of the 1960s. These are assassinations that mattered: they changed U.S. policy from a peace and justice orientation to what we have today. I believe that the antecedents to the struggles in which we are engaged today can be found in what happened in the U.S. in the 1960s when we the people who struggle for peace were on the verge of winning.
The torch of leadership in the U.S. was about to be passed to a new generation that thought differently. President John Kennedy said the word peace over 30 times in his graduation address to American University just weeks before he was killed; in one of my Congressional Conferences on COINTELPRO, we learned from one researcher that Bobby Kennedy had shortlisted Martin Luther King, Jr. as a Vice Presidential possibility. And so, instead of the torch being passed to a new generation that was willing to struggle with the meaning of U.S. patriotism in a multipolar world, and what we ask our soldiers to do for us; and what we expect our police to do to us; and what we do for them in return, every one of you in this room knows what we have, instead.
At this conference you have covered important issues like conscientious objection—my son is one and I insisted that he learn about that as an option; ways to heal PTSD; serving homeless veterans; the legacy of Agent Orange; the battle for justice in Palestine; and new forms of resistance. I’ve been underneath U.S. bombs in Libya; I’ve tasted the grit and had to flush it from my uncovered eyes; I’ve been in prison in Israel, but nothing I have done for peace can ever give me an experience like what you all have had. I have long said let’s end U.S. wars and create not one more generation of veterans who will in the future be neglected by their own government.
I salute you for leading for peace and I hope that this Convention has been all that its planners and attendees hoped it would be.
Make my funk the peace funk and bring the troops back home!