War and Empire

by Chris Hedges

Dissident Voice

May 22, 2003


Editor’s Note: The following speech by author and New York Times reporter Chris Hedges was delivered at the graduation commencement ceremony at Rockford College, a small liberal arts college in Illinois, on May 17. Hedges was the ceremony’s keynote speaker. His address elicited loud protests, jeering, chants of “patriotic” songs, and calls by guests for him to get off the stage. A few people tried to rush the stage, and his microphone was twice cut off. His speech was cut to 18 minutes as the ceremony threatened to get out of control. As Democracy Now! notes, “Rockford College’s most prominent alum is Jane Addams, a pacifist who was booed off the Carnegie Hall stage for opposing US intervention in World War I. Addams was the founder of Hull House, a non-profit social service agency, the first president the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom and a Nobel Peace Prize Winner.”  This transcript was originally published in the Rockford Register Star. Because of threat of legal action by the Register Star’s parent corporation, Gannett, we can only include the first paragraph and a link to the transcript (despite our offer to pay a fee to post the entire speech).


I want to speak to you today about war and empire.


Killing, or at least the worst of it, is over in Iraq. Although blood will continue to spill -- theirs and ours -- be prepared for this. For we are embarking on an occupation that, if history is any guide, will be as damaging to our souls as it will be to our prestige, power, and security. But this will come later as our empire expands and in all this we become pariahs, tyrants to others weaker than ourselves. Isolation always impairs judgment and we are very isolated now . . . Click here to read the rest of the transcript


* Listen to an interview with Hedges about the speech on Democracy Now! (Includes audio of the speech)


* Read the transcript of Democracy Now’s interview with Hedges


Chris Hedges is a Pulitzer Prize winning reporter for the New York Times. He is author of the highly recommended War is a Force That Gives Us Meaning (Public Affairs, 2002). The book was nominated for a National Book Critics Circle award.




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