On Thursday, January 29th, I sent President Obama this message:
“Mr. President: The Bush Administration lied to the people in pursuit of war. As a result, at least one million Iraqis and thousands of U.S. soldiers are dead. Thousands more are maimed. The stature of the U.S. is severely damaged. The U.S. Constitution is in shreds after signing statements, wiretaps, and torture. Your obligation is to investigate and bring to justice those who violated U.S. and international law, such as the torture treaty. Failure to do so makes you complicit in their crimes.”
On Wednesday, January 28th, I sat in front of the television and I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. Exactly what I’ve been saying, myself. But it was coming from an unexpected source: the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Torture, Manfred Nowak. I wrote down every word. He said that the United Nations has proof that former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld knowingly approved of torture as a policy for the United States. He said that President Barack Obama has a responsibility to investigate and prosecute those who condoned, conducted, or approved of torture.
Further, Jonathan Turley, in an MSNBC interview stated that if Obama fails to investigate or prosecute that he would be an “accessory.”
This is significant. It means that all of us, sadly, were right to pursue impeachment of the key figures in the Bush Administration. Impeachment was the Constitutional imperative; but the Constitution didn’t mean anything to either the Republican or Democratic national leadership.
And to think, on this day filled with impeachment news, Nancy Pelosi took impeachment “off the table” for this cast of villainous characters. I never will forget watching Rocky Anderson, former Mayor of Salt Lake City, say on national television that Nancy Pelosi should be impeached for impeding impeachment. But Nancy Pelosi isn’t the only one who obstructed justice.
In fact, how could Dick Durbin and Harry Reid, so voluble in standing up to Roland Burris because he was Governor Blagojevich’s pick for Obama’s vacated Senate seat, sit as quiet as church mice in the face of repeated calls for impeachment because of the reckless criminality of the Bush Administration?
And now, we have the United Nations tell us the equivalent of “Houston, we have a problem.”
Some of us knew all along, from the very beginning, that the Bush Administration was the quintessence of election theft, graft, corruption, and war criminality. Some of us recognized early on that our struggle was “against principalities, against powers, … against spiritual wickedness in high places.” It is impossible to “go along and get along” with illegal and immoral acts. But that is exactly what the national leadership of this country asked us all to do, and that is exactly what they did.
Dr. King was confronted with the expediency of staying on the civil rights track, remaining with his friends in the civil rights movement, or doing what his conscience impelled him to do. That’s when he made his famous statement, that popular chroniclers of Dr. King seem to have forgotten:
“When I first decided to take a firm stand against the war in Vietnam, I was subjected to the most bitter criticism, by the press, by individuals, and even by some fellow civil rights leaders. There were those who said that I should stay in my place, that these two issues did not mix and I should stick with civil rights. Well I had only one answer for that and it was simply the fact that I have struggled too long and too hard now to get rid of segregation in public accommodations to end up at this point in my life segregating my moral concerns.”
Dr. King had to leave behind some of his best friends in the movement when he decided to speak out against the Vietnam War. Dr. King could have bowed to the pressure and stayed in his “civil rights” lane. But he knew that the war was wrong and he had to use every fiber in his being to stop it. Even his life, itself.
One of the first under-reported acts of President Obama was to sign an order continuing the drone airstrikes, resulting in at least 22 killed so far. For the dead children of Afghanistan or Pakistan or Gaza, it doesn’t matter to their parents if the bomb was dropped by Bush or Obama or the client state they support. And President Obama has made it clear that the bombs will continue to drop; it is up to us–the people of the United States–to stop them. That’s why it was on my birthday, in front of the Pentagon in 2007, that I declared my independence from every bomb dropped, every child killed, every veteran maimed in the name of U.S. wars. I said it, and I meant it, and I knew I was going to have to do something I’d never done before if I was ever going to have something I’d never had before. So I left the Democratic Party.
I don’t regret my decision one minute. I draw my strength from Dr. King, who in his own way, did the same thing when he refused to segregate his moral concerns.
My neighborhood in Los Angeles, Watts and South Central, is already a police state. Tonight, 25 to 30 young black men, standing handcuffed, outside the barber shop. Every night, routine dehumanization is carried out in black and brown neighborhoods by LAPD. I see it. I never miss it. It’s all around me.
Oscar Grant murdered in cold blood by law enforcement. Robert Tolan, murdered in cold blood by law enforcement, for driving his father’s car, mistaken for stolen.
Filiberto Ojeda Rios assassinated by the U.S. government; I met his wife and heard the entire story of what happened as he was shot by the FBI and then bled to death.
Innocent black and brown and poor white men on death row. How many Troy Davises and Mumia Abu Jamals will we allow to exist in our country?
Native Americans trying to survive despite genocide and ethnic cleansing, struggle against drug and alcohol abuse and poverty, and try to keep their culture alive.
And yet the likes of Harry Reid, Dick Durbin, Nancy Pelosi, and now Barack Obama say nothing about the pain I see on the mean streets and reservations across our country, and the miscarriages of justice that are its regular feature, but they allow Bush and company to get away with the highest of crimes, involving millions of deaths.
In each of these writings, I ask you, too, to write to the White House and let them know that you exist. We didn’t recruit President Obama to run, so I am clear on the limitations of a White House letter writing campaign. But trust me, our collective efforts will congeal into the movement for dignity, real peace, and true justice that we so desperately need for ourselves and the rest of the world.