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  • 2003.03.21
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Bikini Day International Forum

Shizuoka, Japan

Feb. 28, 2003

Dr. Joseph Gerson*


I want to thank Gensuikyo for the privilege of being invited to join in these Bikini Day commemorations. It remains rare that a U.S. American can learn so directly from Marshall Islanders, from the crew of the Fukuryu-maru, and from the Japanese peace movement. I want to express my personal sorrow and apologize on behalf of conscientious U.S. people for what you have suffered in the name of the U.S. people.

Similarly, the killing of two Korean school girls last year by U.S. soldiers who were not held accountable for their terrible crime was not an aberration, but one more brutal and unacceptable "abuse and usurpation" of Korean people who, like Japanese, have suffered U.S. military colonization for more than half a century. While much of the world's energies are now focused on preventing a catastrophic U.S. invasion of Iraq, many of us have also been outraged by Washington's increasingly militarized approach to Korea, and by its preparations for war -- possibly nuclear war -- against the DPRK.

As our world-wide demonstrations on February 15 illustrated, the world now has two superpowers: the U.S. military and international public opinion. The world's people understand the profound significance of the threatened U.S. invasion of Iraq and of all that would follow. A U.N. planning report leaked several weeks ago anticipates that the toll of a U.S. invasion of Iraq could be 500,000 civilian casualties, three million people whose lives and health are already vulnerable because of U.S. led economic sanctions could be brought to the brink of starvation in a matter of days after the assault begins, and 900,000 Iraqis made refugees. These statistics assume that the U.S. will not follow through on its nuclear threats against Iraq. They fail to include the costs of turmoil and possible coups or revolutions across Arab and Islamic nations. Nor do they include the tolls from terrorist actions as Osama Bin Laden and other Islamic political fundamentalists pose as defenders of besieged Islam. I cannot stress strongly enough that the U.N. report does not anticipate the consequences of the unilateralist Bush Administration shattering the 58 year-old United Nations order, which would return humanity to the law of the jungle.

Since the beginning of the Bush Administration, two million U.S. people have lost their jobs, with many more experiencing increasing economic insecurity, declining educational opportunities, and savage cuts in essential social services. At a minimum cost of $100 billion for the war and $250 billion for an unending military occupation of Iraq and its oil fields, many U.S. people and other people face becoming economic victims of the threatened war.

Many of us in the U.S. have been consumed by our efforts to prevent these catastrophes. One member of Congress put it well when he said that Iraq has "sucked all the oxygen out" of all other foreign and military policy debates. So, today I will focus the deadly invasion that President Bush wants to launch. As I prepared this meeting here, I thought about the painful testimonies I have heard in the past from the Rongelap and Fukuryu-maru Hibakusha. Your suffering has been almost infinite. I also imagined the oceans of suffering and loss my Iraqi friends, their families, friends, and compatriots will endure if Bush launches this aggression..

New U.S. voices, unleashed by the most diverse and dynamic U.S. peace movement in history, also resonate within and haunt me today. These are the voices of working class mothers who desperately cry "My son has been shipped to the Persian Gulf. I will do anything I can to bring him home alive. What should I do?" Or the father of a Marine recently dispatched to the Middle East, who told students "The second worst thing that could happen to me would be for my son to be killed in a just war. The worst would be for him to be killed in the unjust and unnecessary war" that Bush is planning for Iraq."

It was a pleasure to put this man in the forefront of a legal case challenging the Bush Administration's right to launch this war. It is a sign of the times that he and his wife are now speaking on some of the most popular television programs in the U.S.

I want to do four things today: 1) place the Bush wars in the context of U.S. strategic policy, 2) describe of U.S. public opinion and our dynamic anti-war movement, 3) describe Bush Administration plans for the construction and testing new nuclear weapons, and 4) to make several proposals for your consideration.

It has been challenging to keep up with the Bush Administration changing rationales for war against Iraq. Regime change is a necessity because Saddam Hussein is a tyrant. Iraq has refused to implement U.N. resolutions. Iraq threatens the United States. Saddam has nuclear and other weapons of mass destruction. He has invaded other nations and used weapons of mass destruction against his own people. He has ties to Osama Bin Laden. And, the U.S. must export "democracy" to the Middle East.

The majority of U.S. people may not have learned every detail of our movement's critiques, the concerns of senior military leaders, or warnings from sophisticated multilateralist imperialists, but they do increasingly understand that something is profoundly wrong. Recent polls show that two-thirds of U.S. people want the U.N. inspectors to be given the time needed to do their work. They oppose any invasion of Iraq not sanctioned by the U.N.

The peace movement concedes that Hussein is a tyrant. We remember how the U.S. long supported him, much as it has supported the Saudi monarchy, Mubarak in Egypt, the Shah of Iran, Pinochet in Chile, Marcos, the South Korean military dictators, and others. The U.S. supported Hussein as long as he was "our" tyrant. We also know that the U.S. provides diplomatic, economic and military support for the Israeli conquest and colonization of the Occupied Territories despite countless violations of U.N. resolutions. We can't ignore our nation's repeated refusals to honor U.N. resolutions calling for the complete abolition of nuclear weapons. We have not forgotten that U.N. inspectors destroyed Iraq's nuclear weapons program and that the amount of Iraqi chemical and biological weapons now under dispute is just 10% of what inspectors destroyed in the 1990s. We know that the U.S. provided Iraq with many of its chemical and biological weapons, and that it helped Iraq target them against Iran in the late 1980s. We remember that the CIA has said that Iraq poses no imminent danger to the U.S. so many times, that Rumsfeld created a new intelligence unit to tell him what he wants to hear. We know that Iraq invaded Iran in 1980 with U.S. blessings and that in 1990 the number two diplomat at the U.S. embassy in Baghdad told Iraq's leaders that Washington did not view the boundary with Kuwait as sacrosanct. We acknowledge that Iraq has supported some Palestinian terrorists and their families, but we agree with many intelligence reports that there is no serious evidence of collusion between the Iraqi government and Al Qaeda.

Why then, are we on the brink of a unilateral U.S. invasion of Iraq whether or not the U.S. succeeds in bullying and bribing enough U.N. Security Council members to provide it with a fig leaf of legitimacy? Vice-President Dick Cheney told us early in 2001, that the U.S. seeks to impose "the arrangement for the 21st century" so that "the United States will continue to be the dominant political, economic and military power in the world." The Bush Administration wants to restructure the global order, Condoleeza Rice told us, as profoundly as it did at the beginning of the Cold War.

This most militarist of U.S. governments, which can be compared to Japanese militarists of the 1930s, has a four-fold approach to re-consolidating U.S. hegemony, which increasing numbers in the U.S. elite - as this edition of the New York Times Sunday Magazine illustrates - openly describe as "Empire."

First, they worship what Noam Chomsky described as "Political Axiom Number One" of U.S. foreign and military policy: that the U.S. will use all means necessary to ensure that neither its enemies nor its allies gain independent access to, or control over, Middle East oil, the "jugular vein" of global capitalism. They not only seek to conquer Iraq and thus monopolize the world's second largest know oil reserves, they also plan to use the war to restructure and to reconsolidate U.S. control of the entire Middle East. (Remember too that the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan also sought a strangle hold on Central Asia's oil reserves, while simultaneously encircling "strategic competitor" China.

Second, the new U.S. military doctrine of "shock and awe" builds on the traditions of Hiroshima, Nagasaki, and the bombing of Baghdad into the "pre-industrial age" during the 1991 "New World Order" - "What we say goes" decimation of Iraq. With the threatened opening barrage of 3,000 cruise missiles and the unnamed "exotic weapons" that the U.S. reportedly plans to launch against Iraqi cities in the coming weeks, Washington hopes to leave the Iraqi people and the world in "shock and awe." The goal, as Deputy Secretary of War Wolfowitz told us, is to ensure that other nations so "fear" the U.S., that they won even think about challenging Washington. Toward these ends, the U.S. is again threatening nuclear war against Iraq, this time with powerful forces in both the Republican Party and in the White House anxious to shatter the taboos against nuclear warfighting. And, the Nuclear Posture Review and a collateral doctrine name Iraq as a potential nuclear target and threaten preemptive nuclear attack against non-nuclear nations.

Third, the Bush-Cheney-Rumsefeld Administration honors its late 19th century imperial antecedents, people like Admiral Mahan, Theodore Roosevelt, and Henry Cabot Lodge who envisioned and created the military that replaced Britain as the world's predominant military power. The Bush Administration is committed to reinforcing the global hierarchy of terror with new nuclear weapons and by monopolizing the militarization of space. We see this in the Nuclear Posture Review, in the U.S. abrogation of the ABM Treaty, in the fusion of the Pentagon's "Strategic" and "Space" Commands, in the pathetic nuclear weapons agreement reached with Russia last year, U.S. subversion of the Biological Weapons Convention, in the accelerating deployment of so-called missile defenses, and in new Bush proposals for development and deployment of yet another "bunker-busting" nuclear weapon and for reducing the time needed to resume nuclear weapons testing. To pay for these and other weapons systems, the U.S. military budget has been increased by nearly $100 billion and now equals that of the world's twenty-five next greatest military spenders --- combined! (And, this is before the monstrous costs of an invasion of Iraq are included.)

The fourth pillar of U.S. imperial re-consolidation is the assault on democratic rights in the U.S. in the name of "the war against terrorism." The September 11 attacks opened the way for the Bush Administration to rule through fear. We now have constant warnings of terrorist attacks that never materialize, constantly changing national security alerts, and assaults on academic and intellectual freedom. It was in the name of "security" that half a million people were prevented from marching in New York City on February 15. In their campaign to limit the number of protesters, the police forced rally organizers to compromise our constitutionally guaranteed freedoms of assembly, speech, and petitioning our government by subjecting us to the indignities and dangers of being corralled in police pens for the twenty block length of our historic rally. Police barricades erected across Manhattan prevented many protesters from reaching the rally site. And attacks by police mounted on horses or spraying "pepper" gas were not isolated incidents. The so-called USA Patriot Act allows increased police surveillance, permits prisoners to be held incommunicado, and legitimates secret trials. The "Total Information Awareness" project, to monitor all electronic communications is headed by Contra-gate felon Admiral Poindexter. Worse, a second "Patriot Act" has been written that will exponentially increase surveillance, secret arrests, and allow people to be stripped of citizenship. It is scheduled to be presented to Congress in the first weeks of the invasion of Iraq, when unquestioning "patriotism" is again, if briefly, resuscitated.

I want to say a few words about the Bush Administration's militarist approach to Korea. Beginning in February 2001, when President Bush humiliated Kim Dae Jung and Colin Powell by subverting the Sunshine Policy, and derailing the late Clinton-era disarmament negotiations with North Korea, Bush Administration policy toward Korea has been a disaster. Yes, the DPRK government is a dysfunctional tyranny and may have a nuclear weapons program. We also know that there is a logic to Pyongyang's confrontational diplomacy, as it bargains with few if any negotiating chips for entry into the Asia-Pacific economy. We know that it fears nuclear attack and invasion by the U.S. and may be seeking a deterrent that it could bargain away in exchange for a non-aggression pact with the U.S. Having been relegated to the diplomatic sidelines by the Bush Administration, Pyongyang is desperate to regain Washington's attention. Clearly, dialog and negotiations, not war, can ensure that North Korea does not become a nuclear power, and that Northeast Asia can enjoy security.

Unfortunately, there are powerful forces in Washington who would prefer engineering North Korea's collapse rather than facilitating the soft landing envisioned by Presidents Kim and Roh, and by the majority of the South Korean people. Intoxicated with militarism, these U.S. officials would prefer war with North Korea - with all its catastrophic consequences, to resolving the current crisis through dialog and diplomacy. We have repeatedly been told that North Korea and Iran are next on Bush's list of "evil doers" after Iraq. The situation is far more dangerous than most U.S. people understand, the more so because the North Korean threat has been greatly exaggerated, with many mainstream opponents of war against Iraq pointing to North Korea and its reputed nuclear weapons program as being a far greater danger to the U.S. than Iraq. Pyongyang's missiles can't reach Alaska! As they oppose war against Iraq, these people are creating the intellectual and political foundations for a catastrophic war that will not be limited to Korea.

Even as there is little political oxygen to engage U.S. militarism in Northeast Asia, AFSC and other organizations are doing our best to educate the anti-war movement and members of Congress. We are urging them to remember that the Agreed Framework was violated by both sides, that it achieved important objectives, that bellicose rhetoric about attacking the DPRK as part of an "axis of evil" and targeting it in the Nuclear Posture Review, exacerbate Pyongyang's fears. We are clear that there is no "military option" to resolving this crisis and that the U.S. should be making meaningful concessions to bring the DPRK more securely out of its isolation.

We are clear that we should all be working to keep the Korean peninsula nuclear weapons-free, that the U.S. must respect the very real security concerns of both the Republic of Korea and the DPRK, as well as Japan, and that the U.S. respect the DPRK's sovereignty. We urge that negotiations with the DPRK include security assurances, progress toward diplomatic recognition of the DPRK, and meaningful economic assistance. We are, of course, also working for the reduction and withdrawal of U.S. troops in Korea and for U.S. nuclear disarmament.

Last August I described the origins and commitments of the post-9-11 U.S. peace movement, not fully understanding that the schisms in the U.S. elite that I described over possible unilateral war against Iraq would contribute to spawning the largest and most powerful U.S. anti-war movement since the Vietnam War. Only in November did we organize United for Peace and Justice which initiated the December 10 protests in communities across the U.S. and the February 15 demonstration in New York. From the beginning, our movement has been based on four principles: 1) condemning the September 11 attacks as monstrous crimes whose perpetrators must be brought to justice, 2) being clear that war is not the answer to terrorism, and that legal and diplomatic means must be used to prevent terrorism, 3) protecting our constitutionally guaranteed civil liberties and communities at risk (Arab and South Asian-Americans and Moslems in the U.S.,) and 4) addressing the root causes of the September 11 attacks.

Since last April, when we mobilized 100,000 people to protest in Washington, D.C., our movement has been led by four major forces. First is the traditional democratic peace movement joined now by students, growing sectors of organized labor, older organizations like the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People and newer ones like September 11 Families for Peaceful Tomorrows. This is the force that organized the New York and San Francisco demonstrations two weeks ago. Second is the ANSWER "coalition" controlled by the Workers World, a small, disciplined, and non-democratic party. Third are Arabs and Moslems living in the U.S. Fourth is the growing number of local politicians and members of Congress, including three candidates for the Democratic Party's presidential nomination. We have also gained greater access to the media, as increasing numbers of journalists sympathize with our opposition to Bush's wars.

The combined power of the U.S. and international peace movements forced President Bush to return to Congress and to the U.N. Security Council to seek authorization for his invasion of Iraq. We did not completely prevail, but we won several concessions including Bush's return to the U.N., the return of U.N inspectors to Iraq, and the Security Council's approval of "serious consequences" not war, if Iraq commits further material breeches." A year ago only one member of Congress voted against war. This time our movement led one-fourth of both houses of Congress to oppose war-authorizing legislation. This was not success, but it was progress. Today, some in Congress are working to pass new antiwar legislation and have gone to court with soldiers?parents, while, lobbying, new mass demonstrations and student and worker strikes are being planned.

There are other important dimensions to our peace movement. The National Council of Churches has emerged as an important force and has been joined by other Protestant and Catholic church leaders. More than 100 city and town councils have adopted resolutions opposing to the war, including Los Angeles, Philadelphia and Chicago. Organized labor, long silent and complicit in Washington's aggressive wars, is speaking out and mobilizing as never before. One feeder march in New York included 10,000 labor activists, and that union provided free office space to United for Peace and Justice to organize the Feb. 15 demonstration. Another innovation has been MoveOn, a small group of technologically knowledgeable young people who have circulated Inernet petitions, raised money for anti-war advertisements in major media outlets like the one in Tuesday's New York Times, and used the Internet to organize hundreds of delegations to meet members of Congress.

With our energies focused on preventing catastrophic war against Iraq, openings for nuclear weapons abolition organizing have been limited. We are raising the alarm over Bush Administration threats to devastate Iraq with nuclear weapons, and we have placed Rumsfeld on the defensive as some in the press have taken up our concerns. Because the New England Congressional delegation plays a decisive role in the outcome of legislation related to nuclear weapons, we are preparing forums and a lobbying campaign across the region in our campaign to defeat Administration proposals to fund research and development of new nuclear weapons and to reduce the time needed to resume nuclear weapons testing. This month we are launching a campaign in New Hampshire, Iowa, and possibly South Carolina -- the first states in which primary elections for the 2004 presidential race will be held a year from now. Our goal is to influence candidates for the Democratic Party's Presidential nomination on nuclear weapons and abolition issues, and thus to influence the national debate over nuclear weapons and warfighting.

Let me close with three proposals. With the Bush Administration attempting to bully and bribe U.N. Security Council members to legitimate an invasion of Iraq, with its continuing threats of unilateral attack, and with some form of imperial authoritarianism threatening to replace what remains of our democratic republic, many are asking what more can we do to prevent the war. Here in Japan you can press your government in every nonviolent way possible to honor your peace constitution by challenging your government's craven support of the U.S. in the United Nations and its military cooperation as Bush and Company prepare their catastrophic war. You can boycott U.S. goods. It may be possible to send a more powerful signal by pressing individual investors, pension and government funds to withdraw their investments from the U.S. Holdings in U.S. dollars can be exchanged for yen and Euros. With the record $200 billion U.S. annual national deficit, reminding the U.S. that there are economic as well as military dimensions to power this could save hundreds of thousands of lives, prevent nuclear war, and preserve the integrity of the U.N. order.

Finally, let us explore the possibility of a Hibakusha or other speaking tour to Iowa, New Hampshire, and other New England states, to augment our campaign to defeat the Bush Administration's new nuclear weapons initiatives and to turn the U.S. toward abolition.

In closing, I want to invoke the memory of the courageous Hibakusha Watanabe Chieko, Years ago she drew from her own incalculable suffering to inveigh against U.S. bombings and nuclear threats against Vietnam. Yes, we want the people of Iraq, North Korea, and Iran to enjoy freedom. We want that for the U.S., Japanese, and South Korean people as well. Yes, we want Iraq, North Korea and Iran to be nuclear-free. We want this for the rest of the world too. And, we know that war is not the answer.

In this urgent hour, let us strain all of our energies to ensure that these and future wars never come, that Iraqis, Koreans, Iranians, Filipinos, Japanese, and Americans again enjoy security, and that we never despair for our children's lives or for the future.

* Dr. Joseph Gerson is Director of Programs of the American Friends Service Committee in New England and Director of its Peace and Economic Security Program. For more information contact: AFSC, 2161 Massachusetts Ave., Cambridge, Ma. 02140, USA. Phone: 617-661-6130. E-Mail: Jgerson@afsc.org, Web: www.afsc.org/pes.htm

This article is a speech that Joseph Gerson will be giving in Shizuoka, Japan on Friday at the Bikini Day international forum. The Bikini Day Commemorations mark the 1954 H-Bomb test on Bikini Atoll. That H-Bomb test irradiated Marshall Islanders and Japanese fishermen, and launched the modern Japanese peace movement. The speech is a comprehensive analysis of the impending crises in Iraq and the Korean Peninsula, and the growing U.S. peace movement.
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