From Cynthia McKinney: Report from London 3/31/09


What an impressive Conference put on by the Government of Malaysia and the Kuala Lumpur Foundation to Criminalise War (KLFCW). Absolutely incredible.  And the audience was packed with information.  I will definitely make a more detailed report later and include the information learned at this Conference in my next economics report, too, on the state of our economy and common sense solutions as I promised you.

The Malaysian Foreign Minister, Dr. Rais Yatim, spoke passionately this morning about the need for accountability in the face of war crimes.  And so too, did the founder of the KLFCW, Tun Dr. Mahathir.  Dr. Mahathir spoke of the long history of Zionism, starting with the Balfour Declaration, and explained that we were in London because there had been a request from a British citizen in Malaysia attending our Forum for Palestine there, to take this information to the source of the problem–England.  Dr. Mahathir recommended that we remember the Balfour Declaration and all the events leading up to the creation of the state of Israel for a better understanding of the challenges we face on our road to peace.

Dr. Mahathir knows a lot about what’s happening in our economy, too.  Remember, he faced down George Soros and the currency speculators and was vilified (by them) for keeping Malaysia out of their snares.  Today, Malaysia has a public Central Bank and a national system of public banks.  Needless to say, the ringgit is doing just fine.  Malaysia is strong to take a stand today because Dr. Mahathir took the unpopular stand yesterday–unpopular that is, with the monied interests of the world.  More on that, later.

After our tea break (of course, we were in London), Lauren Booth, PressTV reporter who was trapped in Gaza for one month, reported on her experiences with individual life stories of how life is made unbearable by the Israelis as they deny health care and education to Palestinian women and children.  Lauren is also a Free Gaza Movement success story as she was on one of the boats that successfully challenged the Israeli seige.  Unlike me, she made it into Gaza and received a hero’s welcome.  She was also with George Galloway as he successfully entered Gaza City by land in a convoy of over 100 vehicles.

Then I spoke.  My comments are included at the end of this report.

Former M.P. Tony Benn delivered wonderful historical context and gave us hope for the future.  All day, for some reason, speakers kept calling him Tony Blair, instead of Benn.  It was quite funny, since I think Blair is Lauren Booth’s brother-in-law and was pretty much reviled roundly by everyone in the audience.  At one point, Benn leaned over to me and asked wryly, “You think I can win the Nobel Peace Prize?”  And at that point, I remembered that I was the sole vote against honoring him for his support of the “Global War on Terror.”

And Rabbi Aharon Cohen of Naturei Karta explained to us what their perspective is on Israel.  Paraphrasing, Rabbi Cohen said that Zionism is the root of the problem and until Zionism is addressed, there will continue to be a problem.  Even in the panel discussion, he brought us back to the problem of Zionism, itself.  He made it clear that Zionism is not Judaism.  His remarks were particularly educational since I had never had the opportunity to dialog with member of Naturei Karta before.  He also gave the significance of the name that means, protectors of the city.  For when the Zionists came to the land, Jews and non-Jews lived together in harmony.  But the Zionists came to steal the land from the non-Jews and the Jews joined with the non-Jews to protect the City, thus, Naturei Karta–protectors of the City.  I will defintely read more about them.

Finally, Sir Gerald Bernard Kaufman basically said that Israel, by its actions, is becoming indefensible.  He said this:  “The Israeli electorate have proven themselves incorrigible,” noting that only 3% of Israelis voted for peace in Israel’s last election.  He has said as much on the Floor of the House of Commons, and a tape was played at the Conference of him saying it.  He talked about his hate mail.  Well, I think we could go toe-to-toe on the hate mail.  Only, in the mail he receives, they call him a self-hating Jew.

Finally, there was a panel discussion where the audience asked questions of the speakers.  And just before people left the room, I was able to make an announcement.  When the gentleman showed me his blackberry, I was sure he was joking.  That he was playing some kind of cruel joke on me.  That is was a hoax.  Because all the night before and in my remarks, as you will see, I touted the judges of Spain and their courage as one of our hopes for justice in the legal arena.  And when I didn’t believe him, he showed his blackberry to me and I could see that it was a real news item:  Spain had agreed to investigate Bush and his cronies for war crimes. Hallelujah!!  What a wonderful end to a wonderful Conference.  What a wonderful way to welcome the G20 into town!!!!

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Here are my remarks: 

Cynthia McKinney
Forum for Palestine
London/March 31, 2009

Not too long ago, I received an invitation to participate in the Malaysia Peace Organization’s effort to Criminalize War and establish a tribunal to try the heads of state who violated the peace and led their countries into war and occupation.

When I was in Kuala Lumpur, I had the opportunity to meet one of my heroes, Tun Dr. Mahathir, who stood up against the very same individuals who are today wreaking havoc on the U.S. economy in a feeding frenzy on the imperial carcass.  As a result, Malaysia became an outpost of resistance in Asia.  Dr. Mahathir’s bold action was the first time I came to know Malaysia, and that was by way of the news reports.  And when I had the opportunity to travel there for the purpose of fashioning a world without war, I dubbed Kuala Lumpur the world capital of peace.  Thank you, Malaysia, for showing the world, along with Cuba, Venezuela, Bolivia, Ecuador, Paraguay, and others, that national dignity is possible.

For dignity depends on peace, and peace depends on justice, and justice depends on truth.  So, our charge today is to help the world attain dignity.

At that 2007 Kuala Lumpur peace conference, I met victims of war crimes, torture, and crimes against humanity, all made possible because of U.S. policy and U.S. taxpayers.  It was an emotional Conference for me, because I came face to face with the scars borne by victims of war.

The next year, I spent International Human Rights Day 2008 in Havana, Cuba with family members of victims of U.S. aggression against that fiercely independent island country.  And while I was there, over and over and over again I heard the word “dignity.”  And how there is dignity in resistance.

I can’t help but remember that it was Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. who, forty years ago, said that the United States was the greatest purveyor of violence on the planet. Sadly, violence sponsored by the U.S. directly or indirectly has only intensified.

And because I stand in London right now, where tens of thousands of people are about to take to the streets in protest of war and occupation, I must not omit the roles that London and Europe have played in promoting this worldwide violence.

The world is rising up against the lies that we’ve been told.  People are reclaiming their dignity.  Against the greed, corruption, and theft that have been committed in our name, with our tax dollars.  In the streets, you will hear the word dignity.

That’s what the U.S. civil rights movement was all about.  And its spirit of resistance to injustice shaped my childhood experiences.  I saw what is possible when people stand up.

On the night before his murder, Dr. King said that he was proud to be alive at the end of the 20th Century when people were rising up saying, “We want to be free.”

Today, we are rising up and saying that we want to be free from hatred, division, oppression, and war.

I admire those stood up on the national stage, and I’ve tried to do my part to take a stand, too.

Thus, in 1991, as a Member of the Georgia Legislature, when President George Herbert Walker Bush bombed Baghdad, I asked the Speaker of the House if I could speak on a point of Personal Privilege to explain my opposition to Operation Desert Storm.  My colleagues stood up and walked out on me during my remarks.

And then, when I decided to run for the United States Congress, I knew that the foundation of all U.S. policy—whether domestic or foreign–had to be:  respect for human rights.

So, when the marginalized and dispossessed of the world came to me, I did my best to help them.

There was no room in my view for policies promoting nuclear weapons, NATO expansion, or discrimination against any person, group, or country.  I voted against every Pentagon budget that came before Congress.

I introduced legislation to stop the transfer of U.S. weapons to regimes that did not respect human rights and to eliminate the use of depleted uranium.

I spoke out against President Clinton’s sanctions against Iraq, and President George W. Bush’s war against and occupation of Iraq.

I represented the Congressional Black Caucus at the Durban World Conference Against Racism, despite intense pressure to not attend in order to avoid a discussion of Zionism.

I worked with a team of internationally-respected lawyers to prosecute Sharon, Barak, and Netanyahu for war crimes as well as those responsible for incitement of genocide in Gujurat, India.

I even turned down a politician’s dream: fame, fortune, and re-election if I would just get arrested in front of the Sudan Embassy and let a famous Zionist lawyer bail me out of jail.

Underlying it all was my belief that the Universal Declaration of Human Rights ought to have universal application.  Afterall, it was Dr. King who reminded us that justice is indivisible:  injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.

But when the subject was justice for Palestine, while I stood my ground, the political resolve underneath me dissolved beneath my feet.

When the pro-Israel Lobby targeted me for defeat, even lifelong family friends abandoned me and those I thought stood for principle, shrank in utter fear.

For all the talk about justice, the principles underlying the Universal Declaration of Human Rights melted away when the topic was Palestine.  Or any other project of the pro-Israel Lobby.  Like Durban, Sudan, Rwanda, Congo, or protecting their interests in Blood Diamonds.  Unfortunately for me, all the issues I had taken on with great enthusiasm pitted me for the people, but against the interests of the powerful pro-Israel Lobby.

And then, they decided in 2002 that I had to go.

That came after I questioned the Bush Administration’s version of what happened on September 11, 2001.  The pro-Israel lobby activated its operatives inside both the Republican and Democratic Parties, and I lost my campaign for re-election to Congress.

Even though, two years later, in 2004, I ran again and regained my seat, I still wore a target on my forehead.  And again, pro-Israel, pro-war Democrats and Republicans joined to oust me from Congress in 2006, when I was the only Democratic Member of Congress to lose reelection.  The significance of the 2006 election was this:

The very first bill to fund the war came up for a vote  and passed with exactly the number of votes required.  Had I been there to cast my no vote, the bill would have failed.  It became clear to me that the “War Party” inside the United States, that consists of pro-war elements inside both the Democratic and Republican parties, do a darn good job of making sure they control enough Congressional votes to keep our country at war.

So, after leaving Congress in January of 2007, I declared my independence from every bomb dropped, every child killed, and every veteran maimed as a part of the U.S. war machine.

In 2008, the Green Party, the largest of the small parties in the U.S., nominated me to lead their ticket and I ran for President.

And now, I’m trying to launch “Dignity,” a movement for peace and justice inside the United States as a counter to the war party.

So, the day after Israel began bombing Gaza, the co-founder of the Free Gaza Movement asked me to travel the next day to Gaza with some doctors and deliver 3 tons of medical supplies.  It didn’t take me 5 minutes to say yes.

And so began my voyage aboard the pleasure boat, Dignity, that was rammed in international waters by an Israeli warship and that almost cost me my life.

Onboard the Dignity was Sami El-Hajj—the Al Jazeera reporter from Sudan who, while covering the U.S. military operation in Afghanistan, was captured and became known as prisoner 345 in Guantanamo for six years.  Once again, I came face to face with a victim of U.S. war policy, against Afghanistan and also against his home country of Sudan.  I apologized to him.

Dr. David Halpin is here.  Stand up Dr. Halpin.  He was onboard the Dignity with me and is the one who told me to prepare myself mentally to die after the Israelis attacked us.  He also noticed that I had my life jacket on upside down and helped me put it on right side up after we had been rammed.

It is clear that those who favor war use every trick in the book to rob us of our human dignity.  And then, feeling powerless, we allow them to do to us what they want.

But effective resistance requires that perpetrators of crime, especially torture, genocide, war crimes, and crimes against the peace, be brought to justice.

It’s a shame that I have to even say that.  But currently, we have a situation in which the killer of one might go to jail, but the killer of one hundred thousand is invited to peace talks.   It seems that in this upside down world, the more one kills, the more impunity one acquires.  But true justice requires the absence of impunity.

And that’s what brings us here today.  We want to criminalize war.  Many people’s tribunals have been initiated precisely because of the lack of justice in the politicized courts of the United States, and increasingly, in the world Courts.  Those with political power have been able to seize these courts and manipulate them to favor injustice.

This includes the conduct of the International Criminal Court, which to date, has not engendered hope.  In his piece entitled “White Collar War Crimes, Black African Fall Guys,” investigative journalist Keith Snow writes:

“First note that the ICC can now be viewed as a tool of hegemonic U.S. foreign policy, where the weapons deployed by the U.S. and its allies include the accusations of, and indictments for, human rights violations, war crimes and crimes against humanity.  To understand this, we can ask why no white man has yet been charged with these or other offenses at the ICC, which now holds five black African warlords and seeks to incarcerate and bring to trial another black man, also an Arab, Omar Bashir. Why hasn’t George W. Bush been indicted? Or what about Donald Rumsfeld? Dick Cheney? Henry Kissinger? Ehud Olmert? Tony Blair?”

The sad fact is that the International Criminal Court has become terribly politicized, as has the entire international justice apparatus.  The ICC has issued indictments, for the first time in history, against a sitting head of state. Meanwhile, according to Snow, an Israeli weapons dealer, also a reputed Mossad operative, is revealed to be shipping weapons into Sudan with Pentagon support.

And Belgium changed its law rather than prosecute Ariel Sharon for war crimes.  The double standard cries out to us.

One country in the West, however, increasingly stands out as a place where justice can be found—and that is Spain.  With its landmark indictment of Pinochet and its current consideration of Israeli war crimes in Lebanon and U.S. torture in Guantanamo, we increasingly look to the Spanish Courts with hope.  It was the Spanish courts that returned indictments against Rwandan soldiers for genocide even as the world coddles U.S. proxy Rwanda and its leader, Paul Kagame.

Now, why is curbing impunity important?  Just this week Israel and the US admitted that Israel murdered approximately 800 refugees as Israel attacked Sudan in January and February using unmanned killer drones.

Israel unleashed death squads to commit targeted assassinations all over the world.

To save the Palestinians from Israel, is to save the rest of us from Israeli abuse, and of course, saves the Israelis from themselves.  Even Israeli soldiers are telling the sad truth about Gaza.  Doctors tell us that Gaza was a weapons testing laboratory.  The world is rightly outraged about Israeli Operation Cast Lead. And of the Sudan operation, of which we are only just now learning, Olmert is reported to have said:  “There is no place where Israel cannot operate. There is no such place.”

Now, I’ve been questioned about my passion because I’m not Arab; I’m not Muslim; why do I care so much about justice in Palestine?

My answer is this:  I struggle every day for the human rights and dignity of blacks, Latinos, Native Americans, Muslims, Arabs, the poor and others discriminated against in America.

I learned from Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. who broke with his friends in the civil rights movement because they did not want to alienate themselves from President Johnson by criticizing the Vietnam War.  Dr. King decided that conscience compelled him to speak out against the war even if it meant losing his friends.  Even if it meant losing his life.  And when asked about it, Dr. King said that he had fought segregation too long to segregate his moral concerns.

The people of the world want war criminals held accountable.  Bolivia wants to hold Israeli leaders accountable for their crimes in Gaza.  The International Criminal Court says it is investigating whether Israel committed war crimes in Gaza.  Now is the time for us to stand firm.

That’s why I support the Malaysia Peace Organization, the Brussels Tribunal, the Hurricane Katrina Tribunal, and other efforts to hold national leadership accountable for their actions.  And I specifically support Malaysia’s efforts to criminalize war.

Because of what happened to our Dignity boat while in international waters, the Free Gaza Movement wants to bring Israel to justice for its war crime against us.

I applaud George Galloway’s success in entering Gaza by land.  The Free Gaza Movement will try again by sea.

I paid the ultimate political price for standing by the idea that the Universal Declaration of Human Rights ought to have universal application.  You can rest assured that I will do all I can to promote dignity, a vision of peace that relies on truth and justice for all of us.

Thank you.

One Response

  1. your compassion, integrity & principle-centered life inspires me to serve others whenever the spirit moves my loving heart. the world is a better place because of your courage, leadership & vision. stay blessed!

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