Commentary from Cynthia McKinney
March 2, 2009
Ruminations on President Obama's Tenure Thus Far and "Acceptable Punditry"
I have played around with this idea for hours now, on whether or not to write this piece. But the events of the last few hours, I believe, mandate that I raise my voice once again.
I have read and re-read President Obama's Joint Congressional Address. All of the "acceptable punditry" have spoken and given the President glowing reviews. And so, to them and the population that still believes in them, "All is right with the world." But for the rest of us, who refuse to swallow the pill that puts us into the Matrix, a good dose of reality is strongly called for.
But reality is not what we're getting, not even from one of the national columnists whom I've met, Maureen Dowd.
I think Maureen Dowd characterized it as "Spock at the Bridge." Now, being the Trekkie that I am, that headline grabbed my attention. I nearly gagged, however, when I got to the line supposedly from President Obama calling President Bush to proclaim, "'I’m ending your stupid war.' Mission Relinquished."
Why write things like this now that it is clear that the Obama Administration is continuing the Bush policies for missile strikes inside Pakistan; torture; rendition for torture; public release of Bush Administration e-mails; illegal wiretaps; status of prisoners at the U.S. base in Bagram, Afghanistan; and workplace immigration raids?
For the record, President Obama is also pursuing Bush policies on Iran and Israel. As recently as yesterday, President Obama's Chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, Admiral Mike Mullen, responded when asked whether Iran was capable of building an atom bomb. Admiral Mullen replied, "We think they do, quite frankly."
Dowd concludes her "Spock" piece by imbuing the President with "a Vulcan-like logic and detachment." But I think the detachment of "acceptable" political punditry from the real world is what is totally lamentable. In the process, they render themselves irrelevant.
So, it's clear. I'm about to step into marshy soil here, by noting that I found 19 questionable Obama policies or statements in his Joint Congressional speech delivered three days before his announcement that upon the end of the U.S. combat mission in Iraq, up to 50,000 U.S. troops could remain through 2011, after the "pullout."
And while various "mint" operations are peddling Obama "Change" coins for purchase, complete with a certificate of authenticity, I wade further into the muck by noting that the President continues the giveaway of our hard-earned coins to an economic team intent on keeping mismanagement structures in place, serving economic ends that do not constitute the common good. I would refer readers to the many statements that I issued during the final days of our Power to the People Green Party Presidential campaign about re-creating an economic system truly and finally owned by the people, operating in our interest. It is possible to do that. All it requires is enough political will.
But what forces me out into the open marshland of "non-mainstream" political punditry has to do with the latest Obama "pullout:" the decision to withdraw from the April 2009 Geneva United Nations World Conference Against Racism, dubbed Durban II.
We heard the same palaver in 2001 from the same forces inside our country, basically that a discussion of Zionism, in the context of such a Conference, would be anti-Semitic; therefore all the world's dispossessed and marginalized people must continue to suffer and sacrifice while muting their grievances so that no discussion of Israel would take place on the world stage in this context.
Well, in 2001, upon hearing this line of reasoning, I went to then-Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) Chairwoman, Eddie Bernice Johnson, and asked if I could be appointed as the CBC Task Force Chair on Durban. The non-participation argument was also a handy "peg on the track" with the potential of derailing many conversations, including a real discussion about the trans-Atlantic Slave Trade and the issue of reparations. Respectful of the excellent preparatory work that had been done, I wanted to avoid that outcome.
Congresswoman Eddie Bernice Johnson made the appointment and I led a delegation of 5 Members of Congress to Durban.
The current Chairwoman of the Congressional Black Caucus, Barbara Lee, was a member of my delegation to Durban. From my position on the International Relations Committee, we successfully argued for U.S. participation in that Conference at a Hearing designed to quash our effort. We not only met with then-United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Mary Robinson, we also presented her with the untold story of COINTELPRO and the remaining unsolved deaths of its Black Panther Party member victims, commissioned by me and written by Kathleen Cleaver and Paul Wolf.
Our CBC Chairwoman made a beautiful statement of why it was imperative that the United States join with our Native American and Latino brothers and sisters and with oppressed peoples all over the planet and not only make our statement of solidarity, but also institute policies at the Congress that recognized their needs. It is incorrect to say that the United States was not present at Durban. We were there and only when the duties of Congress pressed us to return to Washington, DC did the Bush Administration make a big deal about anti-Semitism and then staged its phony walk out. The United States delegation of Congressional Black Caucus Members was there to support the phenomenal work of U.S. activists and the African and Caribbean delegations, in particular. I think everyone in Durban was moved by the plight of the Dalits in India and understood better the surging political power of Afro-Latinos.
Durban was a clear victory for the world's marginalized peoples, including those of us who reside inside the United States. But, when the Congressional Delegation returned to the U.S., there was no time for celebration because the tragedy of September 11, 2001 unfolded.
What has happened in the interim has devastated the very people that Durban was designed to address, unfortunately, much of it due to U.S. policy. Now is not the time for the United States to shrink from this call.
In order to prevail in Durban, I had to go toe to toe with the Anti-Defamation League and Members of Congress Tom Lantos and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen who, among many other Members of Congress, vociferously denounced Durban. This was something that I did because I felt it was the right thing to do. Given Israel's recent actions in Gaza that have brought upon it the world's opprobrium, I can imagine that this is the last point in time that Israel might want to revisit Durban. Israel has said that it will not attend the Conference in Geneva.
Early last year, a government official announced Canada's decision to not attend Durban II after deeming the Conference to be anti-Israel. Shortly afterwards, France followed suit with French President Nicolas Sarkozy stating that the "excesses of 2001" transformed the Conference "into an intolerable platform against the State of Israel." I would note also that France must be particularly loath to discuss racism now with what is happening in Guadeloupe and Martinique as I write this piece. And remembering that Paris, itself, was literally on fire just a few years ago.
The UK, which has been under severe racial tests with Asians rebelling openly in the streets since Durban 2001, and the Netherlands have both threatened to withdraw their support for the Conference if a "negative spiral" of events takes place. Interestingly, these remarks came at the same time as the release of a European Commission Against Racism and Intolerance report which found that the tone of Dutch political and public debate on immigrant integration, racism, and other issues relevant to ethnic minorities, had experienced a "dramatic deterioration."
So, we shouldn't be surprised that the racism stress test is revealing cracks and fissures in human relations. But the United States and President Obama should not shield them or this country from these stresses. This Conference gives us the opportunity to get the issues out in the open and to deal with them. That's the way to put them to an end. The world might have changed because of events occurring in September 2001, but it wasn't because the United Nations successfully convened the World Conference Against Racism.
And now that I am as completely in the middle of the marsh as I was as completely in the international waters of the Mediterranean Sea when my boat was rammed by the Israelis, let me make an observation about one aspect of marshes. I have witnessed the most beautiful sunrises and sunsets on the Savannah, Georgia marshland. And the most beautiful rainbows. Being away from the glass and concrete can give one a better perspective.
I observed last year that I thought U.S. voters went to the polls in large numbers to try and regain a bit of dignity lost during the eight years of outright banditry played out in our names, with our resources, against our interests. But I was reminded at the recently adjourned Transpartisan Alliance convention in Colorado that dignity will not come without first an acknowledgment of the truth: with truth we can have justice; and with justice we can have peace; and it is only with peace that we can truly have dignity. Something as easy as a vote, alone, is not going to be enough to wrest us from this mess that has been wrought.
This morning, I sent the following message to the White House:
‘Mr. President, it was with great disappointment that I read of your decision to pull out of Durban II. Even the Bush Administration, under pressure from the Congressional Black Caucus, provided some funding for the United Nations effort and sent staff to support the Congressional delegation that attended the Conference. I was there. I was head of the Congressional Black Caucus Task Force that negotiated Congressional and Administration engagement on this issue. There is still time for the U.S. to participate. Your decision is not irrevocable. I would encourage you to please reconsider this decision and not only attend the Conference, but also provide funding to ensure its success."
I implore the Members of the Congressional Black Caucus to spearhead the participation of the United States in the United Nation's World Conference Against Racism: to boldly go where we have gone before. Dr. King reminded us that "the ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy." On this issue, President Obama has shown us his measure. I hope that the Congressional Black Caucus and the Progressive Caucus and the Democratic Caucus can show us, oh, so much more.
January 26, 2009 – Mr. President: Give Us a Clean Break from War
It is time that the United States negotiate in good faith with Hamas, the legitimate representative of the Palestinian people. It is also time that the U.S. government tell Israel to release the Hamas Parliamentarians it illegally arrested. President Obama, please say something about Gaza. You have been roundly condemned for your continued silence in the face of war crimes and crimes against humanity committed by Israel in Gaza. Silence is complicity. Not one more bomb for Israel.
Israeli action in Gaza has outraged the world. Starting with Israel's inhumane blockade of Gaza when it didn't like the 2006 election results that put Hamas officially into power. In September 2007, Israel declared Gaza an "enemy entity." Of course, Israeli efforts to isolate the Gaza Strip can be traced back to Ariel Sharon as early as 2005. In carrying out its military Operation Cast Lead, Israel not only committed war crimes and crimes against humanity, it also carried out a long-standing goal of Gaza isolation. The President's continued silence on Gaza and the Palestinian right of self-determination is unacceptable.
I would like to commend President Obama for recognizing that peace is the imperative and that the United States can play a constructive role in its attainment. However, placing a phone call to an irrelevant "leader" in an attempt to revive his political standing is not a route to peace: it is a journey down the same road that we're already on, that is massacres, genocide, war crimes, crimes against humanity, torture--all with U.S. weapons, paid for by U.S. taxpayers.
The President must call the elected representatives of the Palestinian people and that means dealing with Hamas.
President Obama has already spoken with Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert. George Mitchell, the President's Middle East Envoy, is reportedly scheduled to visit the region, but is expected to meet only with Egyptian, Israeli, Saudi, and Jordanian leaders, and the West Bank's Abbas. Unfortunately, despite worldwide revulsion and United Nations outrage at Israeli actions in Gaza, Gaza has not been reported to be one of the Presidential Envoy's destinations.
Even worse, one of the first officials that Obama called on his first day in office was Palestinian Mahmood Abbas. Abbas, however, is no longer President, heading a government that has no opportunity to govern, from a state that exists only as a construct not made by the Palestinian people. For the United States to embark upon the path of peace, it must recognize and act on the fact that Mahmood Abbas is now irrelevant.
I believe that the call to Abbas occurred because of pressure on President Obama from outraged activists around the country and around the world calling for him to do something. But Abbas is irrelevant if the goal is peace.
If the goal, however, is to appear to be doing something while all the time doing nothing but allowing the violence of U.S.-sponsored military action to spread including saber rattling against Syria and Iran, then the President is on the right path.
The American people voted for change and peace. President Obama's current path will produce neither.
I have implored President Obama to say something about Gaza. He has been roundly condemned for his continued silence in the face of war crimes and crimes against humanity committed by Israel in Gaza. Silence in the face of such criminal behavior is complicity.
President Obama must urgently place a call to the elected government of the Palestinian people.
President Obama can send a strong message to the warmongers inside his own party and present them "a clean break" from war. I encourage him to do so. We will not be fooled by actions that have the appearance of putting us on a path for peace, but that are public relations projects that buy time for more war.
To activists and human rights lawyers around the world I say: Now is not the time to let up. We must be unrelenting in our pressure for justice and recognition of the rights of all peoples embodied in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Those rights include the right not to be occupied. And the right to resist occupation. This is the embodiment of self-determination. And the Palestinian people are holders of these rights.
It is time that the United States negotiate in good faith with Hamas, because it is the legitimate representative of the Palestinian people. It is also time that the U.S. government tell Israel to release the Hamas Parliamentarians it illegally arrested.
While the United States Government spends precious resources to imprison Palestinians in the United States who attempted to ameliorate the humanitarian disaster in Gaza, I will attempt another trip to Gaza to assess the depth of the worsened humanitarian catastrophe now there.
I have repeatedly called on the President to ask for and the Congress to vote not one more bomb, not one more dime for the Israeli war machine.
January 10, 2009 – "Let Gaza Live" Washington, D.C.
We don't see the images. They are neatly censored from our view in this country. But everywhere else around the world the carnage that is Gaza is being seen and the people are revolted by what they see.
They see dead babies, decapitated bodies, defenseless relief workers killed. Maimed men, makeshift morgues, mortified mothers.
They see exploding white phosphorus shells, cluster bombs, depleted uranium munitions.
They see what is reportedly the world's fourth most powerful military using all of its power against a defenseless people.
In fact, they are witnesses to 15 days of war crimes, crimes against humanity, ethnic cleansing, and genocide.
They see Hugo Chavez expel Venezuela's Israeli Ambassador and they see lawmakers in Ecuador condemn Israel's actions, calling for an investigation into Israel's crimes against humanity.
And despite the obvious facts of an Israeli-sponsored terror campaign against Palestinians in Gaza, a piece of territory roughly twice the size of the District of Columbia, they see the U.S. Congress support a resolution totally supporting Israel, even though Israel is in violation of U.S. and international law.
They see Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, swaggering in insult to black America by initially refusing to seat Roland Burris from Illinois in the Senate, yet that same Reid cowers before the pro-Israel lobby, and they wonder why.
And sadly, they see the U.S. President-elect, who roared onto the scene like a lion, remain as quiet as a lamb in the face of the utter inhumanity of Israel's actions, and they wonder why.
And then, they see us. Gathered here in front of the White House, reaffirming our own humanity. The tears of the Palestinians roll down our cheeks, even as we bury our own victims of police murder.
A new day is coming in U.S. politics. We will use the power of our vote to change U.S. policy. We will no longer check our values at the door and support politicians and political parties that fail to deliver.
Not one more bomb to Israel.
In defense of humanity, we will not give up and we will win.
January 5, 2009 – Home With My Parents
Last night I got to spend time with my parents and tell them all about what happened. I'll make a full report to you on next steps when I've recovered. Thank you for all the kind messages. I read everything.
It's clear that our movement for peace and justice must not end. We all are needed and doing nothing is not an option.
January 1, 2009 - We Lived to Tell the Story: Lebanon Rescued Us
Yesterday, we met with the President of Lebanon, the Chief of the Military, and the Interior Minister who all thanked us for responding and risking our lives on a mission of mercy; we profusely thanked them for rescuing us.
What would we have done, stranded out at sea, prohibited from reaching our destination, low on fuel, with a badly damaged boat if Lebanon had not accepted us? Lebanon sent their ships to find us. Lebanon rescued us. Lebanon welcomed us. And we are truly thankful.
It's official now. We've been told that the sturdy, wood construction of our boat, Dignity, is the reason we are still alive. Fiberglass would probably not have withstood the impact of the Israeli attack and under different circumstances, we might not be here to tell the story. Even at that, the report that came to us yesterday after the Captain and First Mate went back to Sour (Tyre) to inspect the boat was that it was sinking, the damage is extensive, and the boat will take, in their estimation, at least one month to repair. Tomorrow, we will bring the Dignity from Sour to Beirut. And now, we must decide what to do and from where we will do it and how we are to get back to wherever that might be.
My personal, and I know the group's, thanks must go to Al Jazeera, that allowed three of their reporters to be onboard with us on our voyage. As a result, Al Jazeera carried the story of the Dignity live, from castoff in Cyprus when our spirits were high, right up through the manacing maneuvers of the huge, super fast Israeli ships before they rammed us, the Israeli calls on the ship phone after the ramming calling us terrorists and subversives and telling us to return to Cyprus (even though the Israelis later claimed that they didn't know who we were, they knew enough about us to tell us where we had come from), and the fact that we didn't have enough fuel to follow their instructions, right up to their threat to fire at us if we didn't turn around, ending with our beaten-up boat limping into Sour harbor in Lebanon. Al Jazeera carried our story as "breaking news" and performed a real service to its audience and to us. Al Jazeera called the Israelis to inquire about the incident right as it was happening and I am sure the Israelis were prepared to leave none to tell the story. Al Jazeera told the story and documented it as it was happening.
One of those Al Jazeera reporters with us was Sami El-Haj, who was detained in Guantanamo by the United States for six incredibly long years. What an honor to even exchange glances with such a humble man who had endured so much pain at the hands of the U.S. government. I apologized to him that my tax dollars were being used in such a despicable way. And Sami's crime according to the U.S.? Born in Sudan, and reporting for Al Jazeera in Afghanistan, Sami was the wrong color, the wrong nationality, the wrong religion, reporting for the wrong news outfit, telling us the truth about a wrong war. And for that he survived incarceration for six long years. Sami El-Haj, Guantanamo prisoner number 345.
Another incredibly committed journalist who was with us was CNN's Karl Penhaul. Karl reported the truth even when his own station was repeating Israeli disinformation. The fact that we were traveling with these alert journalists added to the flat-footedness and obvious crudeness of the Israeli response. Sadly, Israel has changed its story too many times to count, and that's because they are not telling the truth.
We lived to tell the story. Karl's incredible reporting, just a portion of our story, can be seen on CNN.
A little more of the story and film of the extensive damage can be seen here.
This video and the photos of Karl's report is particularly interesting given that Israel claims that our boat was only scratched and that, in actuality, our captain, while trying to outmaneuver them, damaged their warship.
I'm told that CNN only played my full statement once--and that's the time that it aired live. Of course, they cut the reference to the U.S.S. Liberty. What are they afraid of?
Last night I was on PressTV.com, along with others who were on the Dignity, and we debated a representative from WINEP, the Washington Institute for Near East Policy. I reminded the audience that the Palestinians don't have nuclear weapons, depleted uranium munitions, white phosphorous, or F-16s, but the Israelis do. The facts, however, tend to get garbled after being processed by the "Grand Wurlitzer" organ of state-sponsored disinformation utilizing the world's press.
With the truth clearly on our side, Israel has been reduced to releasing the ridiculous bombast below, given to me by a reporter who came to our hotel in Beirut for a visit. With their multiple, conflicting stories, it is clear that the Israelis did not expect us to live to tell the truth.
On the drive from Sour through Saida to Beirut, we were welcomed like heroes because our ordeal had been seen by everyone on Al Jazeera. The mayor of Sour came to welcome us. The mayor of Saida insisted that we stop there, on our way to Beirut, for a special ceremony. But there was something else that was visible along our drive, and that is the devastation that Lebanon, itself, has received as a result of the Israeli war machine. The scars of the war are still evident everywhere. I will write more on that tomorrow.
And one final note, President-elect Obama roared like a mighty lion onto the political scene, but now he is as silent as a lamb in the face of the death and destruction that is happening in Gaza. As we approach the birthday celebration of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. let us remember what Dr. King said:
"In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends."
And after five days of aerial bombardment by Israel, the carnage in Gaza continues.
Here is the palaver that the Israelis put out for public consumption. It is pitiful that a powerful and mighty country like Israel would be reduced to publishing something so petty and weak as the following press release dated December 30, 2008:
Consulate General of Israel to the Southeast
Office of Media Affairs
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Israel continues to take its humanitarian relief efforts in Gaza seriously. Border crossings into Gaza remain open, and every effort is being made to deliver aid to the Palestinian people. Nearly 100 trucks carrying relief supplies entered Gaza on the 28th & 29th of December and additional shipments are arriving. Israel is working closely with UNSCO, UNRWA, the Red Cross, and WHO to ensure the entry of the required aid, especially food and medical equipment.
Unfortunately, former Congresswoman Cynthia McKinney has taken it upon herself to commit an act of provocation, leading a small boat of supposed assistants into the conflict zone. She endangered herself, her assistants, and the vessel's crew. The Israeli navy hailed Ms. McKinney but the former Congresswoman failed to respond, thereby leading to the incident. We regret that during this time of crisis, while Israel is battling with the terrorist organization of Hamas and defending its citizens, that we are forced to deal with Ms. McKinney's irresponsible behavior.
Consulate General of Israel
to the Southeast
1100 Spring St NW, Ste 440
Atlanta, GA 30309-2823
Michael Printy Arthur
Director of Media Affairs
For additional information, please visit our website.
December 30, 2008: Oh What a Day!
I'm so glad that my father told me to buy a special notebook and to write everything down because that's exactly what I did.
When we left from Cyprus, one reporter asked me "are you afraid?" And I had to respond that Malcolm X wasn't afraid; Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. wasn't afraid. But little did I know that just a few hours later, I would be recollecting my life and mentally preparing myself for death.
When we left Cyprus, the Mediterranean was beautiful. I remember the time when it might have been beautiful to look at, but it was also filthy. The Europeans have taken great strides to clean it up and yesterday, it was beautiful. And the way the sunlight hit the sea, I remember thinking to myself that's why they call it azure. It was the most beautiful blue.
But sometimes it was rough, and we got behind on our schedule. We stayed on course, however, despite the roughness of the water and due to our exquisite captain.
There were no other ships or boats around us and night descended upon us all rather quickly. It was the darkest black and suddenly, out of nowhere, came searchlights disturbing our peace. The searchlights stayed with us for about half an hour or so. We knew they were Israeli ships. Who else would they be?
They were fast, and they would come close and then drop back. And then, they'd come close again. And then, all of a sudden there was complete blackness once again and all seemed right. The cat and mouse game went on for at least one half hour. What were they doing? And why?
Calm again. Black sky, black sea. Peace. And then, at that very moment, when all seemed right, out of nowhere we were rammed and rammed again and rammed again the last one throwing me off the couch, sending all our food up in the air; and all the plastic bags and tubs--evidence of sea sicknesses among the crew and passengers--flew all over the cabin and all over us. We'd been rammed by the Israelis. How did we know? Because they called us on the phone afterwards to tell us that we were engaging in subversive, terroristic activity. And if that if we didn't turn around right then and return to Larnaca, Cyprus, we would be fired upon. We quickly grabbed our lifevests and put them on. Then the captain announced that the boat was taking on water. We might have to evacuate. One of my mates told me to prepare to die. And I reflected that I have lived a good and full life. I have tasted freedom and know what it is. I was right with myself and my decision to join the Free Gaza movement.
I remembered my father's parting words, "You all will be sitting ducks." Just like the U.S.S. Liberty. We were engaged in peaceful activity, a harmless pleasure boat, carrying a load of hospital supplies for the people of Gaza, who, too are sitting ducks, currently being bombarded in aerial assault by the Israeli military.
It's been a long day for us. The captain was outstanding. Throughout it all, he remained stoic and calm, effective in every way. I didn't know how to put my life jacket on. One of the passengers kindly assisted me. Another of the passengers pointed out that the Israeli motors for those huge, fast boats was U.S. made--a gift to them from the U.S. And now they were using those motors to damage a pleasure boat outfitted with three tons of hospital supplies, one pediatrician, and two surgeons.
I have called for President-elect Obama to say something. The Palestinian people in the Gaza strip are seeing the worst violence in 60 years, it is being reported. To date, President-elect Obama has remained silent. The Israelis are using weapons supplied to them by the U.S. government. Strict enforcement of U.S. law would require the cessation of all weapons transfers to Israel. Adherence to international law would require the same. As we are about to celebrate Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.'s birthday, let us remember that he said:
1. The United States is the greatest purveyor of violence in the world, and
2. Our lives begin to end the day we remain silent about things that matter.
I implore the President-elect to not send Congress a budget that contains more weapons for Israel. We have so much more to offer. And I implore the Congress to vote "no" on any budget and appropriation bills that provide more weapons transfers, period.
Israel is able to carry out these intense military maneuvers because taxpayers in the U.S. give their hard-earned money to our Representatives in Congress and our Congress chooses to spend that money in this way. Let's stop it and stop it now. There's been too much blood shed. And while we still walk among the living, let us not remain silent about the things that matter.
We really can promote peace and have it if we demand it of our leaders.
Monday, December 29, 2008 – On My Way to Gaza
First of all, I have to thank FreeGaza.org and Paul Larudee for tracking me down to extend the invitation to travel to Gaza to learn first-hand of the situation there, particularly since I had spoken out on it during the trip to Damascus to deliver my remarks and that never happened. I've since learned that one other US resident was delayed for three hours at the airport as she attempted to make it to Damascus. Seems I was being too kind to the ticket agents who seemed truly confused about where I was going and what I needed in order to get there--never once allowing me to proceed to security and to my transfer point, which was Paris. I thank her for letting me know that she, too, had the exact same experience with the ticket agents. She did, however, get to board her plane and made it safely to Damascus to participate in the event marking the 60th Anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the Right of Teturn contained in it.
Ooops, I knew I wasn't going to have much time to write. I will connect with you again when I can. I understand the undertaking that I am now involved in: humanitarian relief--medical supplies--to the residents of Gaza. I am being called to board my flight. I am now in Prague, first stop on a journey from which I hope to return and be able to tell you more.
Oh, by the way, I asked the young people here if they remembered Prague Summer, the Brezhnev Doctrine, or if they wanted protection by the U.S. with a missile shield. No, they don't remember Prague Summer; no, they don't remember the Brezhnev Doctrine, and no, they don't want to be protected by the U.S.
December 11, 2008 – Dispatch from an International Conference Being Held in Cuba
On the morning of December 10, 2008, Cindy Sheehan, Nelson Valdes, Saul Landau, and I signed a declaration as the U.S. delegates to an international conference assessing sixty years of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights sponsored by the Network of Networks in Defense of Humanity. Here is our declaration:
We celebrate sixty years of failure. Human rights have been converted from a noble goal into an instrument of foreign policy used by rich and powerful nations against the poorest and weakest people of the world.
In 2008, almost three billion people throughout the world suffer the most basic privations. After sixty years of empty human rights rhetoric, we demand that governments focus their attention on fulfilling the promises of 1948. We write this document on the parchment of environment, which everyone shares, and has warned us all to drastically change the ways in which mass production and consumption take place.
1. The United States is a member of the commonwealth of nations;
2. Benefits accrue to those who cooperate with the global community and view other countries as potential partners for the upliftment of humankind;
3. Unfortunately, the leadership of the United States Government has consistently been a disappointment to those of us who value the tenets and the possibilities for humankind embodied in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights;
4. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights affirms the rights of self-determination, the rights of women, the indigenous, and the rights of association, expression, and resistance to protect and preserve these precious rights;
5. Poverty, severe income inequality on one hand and greed and over-consumption by a few, on the other hand, deny for far too many on the planet universal application of the Universal Declaration;
6. Climate change, unsustainable agriculture, unbridled militarism, terrorism with impunity, nuclear proliferation represent threats to our planet and threats to humankind;
7. The current implosion of the engine of U.S. imperialism and global capitalism contains the seeds of a new global order in which the rights of humankind and the Universal Declaration can find universal application;
8. The incoming Barack Obama Administration has a unique opportunity to make a clean break with the policies of the past, including installation of dictatorships, campaigns of invasion, terror, and slander, torture, and occupation, and can build bridges of peace and justice with dignity and respect to Africa, Latin America, and Europe;
9. Therefore, we call on the President-elect to put the United States on a clear course of global fraternity by
a) invoking the Universal Declaration of Human Rights,
b) rejecting torture and terror and demonstrating this by closing and vacating Guantanamo and ceding to Cuba its rightful patrimony,
c) ending the U.S. embargo,
d) releasing the Cuban Five, and
e) extraditing Luis Posada Cariles;
10. While this list is not exhaustive, it represents a much'needed down payment on hope and change.
11. We will disseminate this document through our respective networks.
November 23, 2008 – Text of Cynthia McKinney's speech prepared for conference in Damascus on Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the denial of the Right of Return for Palestinians
Today, November 23rd, I was slated to give remarks in Damascus, Syria at a Conference being held to commemorate the 60th Anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and, sadly, the 60th year that the Palestinian people have been denied their Right of Return enshrined in that Universal Declaration. But a funny thing happened to me while at the Atlanta airport on my way to the Conference: I was not allowed to exit the country.
I do believe that it was just a misunderstanding. But the insecurity experienced on a daily basis by innocent Palestinians is not. Innocent Palestinians are trapped in a violent, stateless twilight zone imposed on them by an international order that favors a country reported to have completed its nuclear triad as many as eight years ago, although Israel has remained ambiguous on the subject. President Jimmy Carter informed us that Israel had as many as 150 nuclear weapons, and Israel's allies are among the most militarily sophisticated on the planet. Military engagement, then, is untenable. Therefore the exigency of diplomacy and international law.
The Palestinians should at least be able to count on the protections of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. What is happening to Palestinians in Gaza right now, subjected to an Israeli-imposed blockade, has drawn the attention of the United Nations Secretary General, Ban Ki-moon, who noted that over half of the civilians in Gaza are children. Even The Los Angeles Times criticized Israel's lockdown of Gaza that is keeping food, fuel, and medicine from civilians. Even so, Israel stood fast by its decision to seal Gaza's openings. But where are the voices of concern coming from the corridors of power inside the United States? Is the subject of Palestinian human rights taboo inside the United States Government and its government-to- be? I hope not. Following is the speech I would have given today had I been able to attend the Damascus Conference.
Right of Return Congregation
November 23, 2008
Thank you to our hosts for inviting me to participate in this most important and timely First Arab-International Congregation for the Right of Return. Words are an insufficient expression of my appreciation for being remembered as one willing to stand for justice in Washington, D.C., even in the face of tremendously difficult pressures.
Former Prime Minister Tun Mahathir, thank you for including me in the Malaysian Peace Organisation's monumental effort to criminalize war, to show the horrors of the treatment of innocent individuals during the war against and occupation of Iraq by the militaries and their corporate contractors of Britain, Israel, and the United States. Thank you for standing up to huge international economic forces trying to dominate your country and showing an impressionable woman like me that it is possible to stand up to "the big boys" and win. And thank you for your efforts to bring war criminal, torturer, decimator of the United States Constitution, the George W. Bush Administration, to justice in international litigation.
Delegates and participants, I must declare that at a time when scientists agree that the climate of the earth is changing in unpredictable and possibly calamitous ways, such that the future of humankind hangs in the balance, it is unconscionable that we have to dedicate this time to and focus our energies on policies that represent a blatant and utter disregard for human rights and self-determination and that represent in many respects, a denial of human life, itself.
In the same year as Palestinians endured a series of massacres and expulsions, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights became international law. And while the United Nations is proud that the Declaration was flown into Outer Space just a few days ago on the Space Shuttle, if one were to read it and then land in the Middle East, I think it would be clear that Palestine is the place that the Universal Declaration forgot.
Sadly, both the spirit of the Universal Declaration for Human Rights and the noblest ideals of the United Nations are broken. This has occurred in large measure due to policies that emanate from Washington, D.C. If we want to change those policies, and I do believe that we can, then we have to change the underlying values of those who become Washington's policy makers. In other words, we must launch the necessary movement that puts people in office who share our values.
We need to do this now more than ever because, sadly, Palestine is not Washington's only victim. Enshrined in the Universal Declaration is the dignity of humankind and the responsibility of states to protect that dignity. Yet, the underlying contradictions between its words and what has become standard international practice lay exposed to the world this year when then-United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Louise Arbour proclaimed:
"In the course of this year, unprecedented efforts must be made to ensure that every person in the world can rely on just laws for his or her protection. In advancing all human rights for all, we will move towards the greatest fulfillment of human potential, a promise which is at the heart of the Universal Declaration."
How insulting it was to hear those words coming from her, for those of us who know, because it was she who, as Chief Prosecutor of the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda, willfully participated in the cover-up of an act of terror that resulted in the assassination of two democratically- elected Presidents and that unleashed a torrent of murder and bloodletting in which one million souls were vanquished. That sad episode in human history has become known as the Rwanda Genocide. And shockingly, after the cover-up, Louise Arbour was rewarded with the highest position on the planet, in charge of Human Rights.
Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. once said that justice delayed is justice denied. And 60 years is too long to wait for justice. The Palestinian people deserve respected self-determination, protected human rights, justice, and above all, peace.
On the night before his murder, Dr. King announced that he was happy to be living at the end of the 20th Century where, all over the world, men and women were struggling to be free.
Today, we can touch and feel the results of those cries, on the African Continent where apartheid no longer exists as a fact of law. A concerted, uncompromising domestic and international effort led to its demise.
And in Latin America, the shackles of U.S. domination have been broken. In a series of unprecedented peaceful, people-powered revolutions, voters in Venezuela, Brazil, Argentina, Bolivia, Chile, Ecuador, Nicaragua, and most recently Paraguay used the power of the political process to materially change their countries' leadership and policy orientation toward the United States. Americans, accustomed to the Monroe Doctrine which proclaimed U.S. suzerainty over all politics in the Western Hemisphere, must now think the unthinkable given what has occurred in the last decade.
Voters in Cote d'Ivoire, Haiti, Spain, and India also took matters clearly in their hands to make "a clean break" from policies that were an affront to the interests of the majority of the people in those countries.
In country after country, against tremendous odds, people stood up and took their fates in their hands. They did what Mario Savio, in the 1960s, asked people in the United States to do. These people-powered, peaceful revolutions saw individuals put their bodies against the levers and the gears and the wheels of the U.S. imperial machine and they said to the owners if you don't stop it, we will. And I know that people of conscience inside my country can do it, too: especially now that the engines of imperial oppression are running out of gas.
Even though the Democratic Party, at the Convention that nominated Barack Obama, denied its microphone to Former President Jimmy Carter because of his views on Palestine, let me make it clear that Former President Carter is not the only person inside the United States who believes that peace with justice is possible in Palestine.
Inside the United States, millions who are not of Arab descent, disagree vehemently with the policy of our government to provide the military and civilian hardware that snuffs out innocent human life that is also Arab.
Millions of Americans do not pray to Allah, but recognize that it is an inalienable right of those who do to live and pray in peace wherever they are-including inside the United States.
Even though their opportunities are severely limited, there are millions of people inside the United States struggling to express themselves on all of these issues, but whose efforts are stymied by a political process that robs them of any opportunity to be heard.
And then there are the former elected officials who spoke out for what was right, for universal application of the Universal Declaration, and who were roundly condemned and put out of office as a result. My father is one such politician, punished-kicked out of office-because of the views of his daughter.
In my case, I dared to raise my voice in support of the World Conference Against Racism and against the sieges of Ramallah, Jenin, and the Church of the Nativity. I raised my voice against the religious profiling in my country that targets innocent Muslims and Arabs for harassment, imprisonment, financial ruin, or worse. Yes, I have felt the sting of the special interests since my entry onto the national stage when, in my very first Congressional campaign, I refused to sign a pledge committing that I would vote to maintain the military superiority of Israel over its neighbors, and that Jerusalem should be its capital city. Other commitments were on that pledge as well, like continued financial assistance to Israel at agreed upon levels.
As a result of my refusal to make such a commitment, and just like the old slave woman, Sojourner Truth, who bared her back and showed the scars from the lashes meted out to her by her slave master, I too, bear scars from the lashes of public humiliation meted out to me by the special interests in Washington, D.C. because of my refusal to toe the line on Israel policy. This "line" is the policy accepted by both the Democratic and Republican Party leadership and why they could cooperate so well to coordinate my ouster from Congress. But I have survived because I come from the strongest stock of Africans, stolen then enslaved, and yet my people survived. I know how to never give up, give in, or give out. And I also know how to learn a good political lesson. And one lesson I've learned is that the treatment accorded to me pales in comparison to what Palestinian victims still living in refugee camps face every day of their lives.
The treatment accorded to me pales in comparison to the fact that human life is at stake if the just-released International Atomic Energy Agency report is true when it writes that "The only explanation for the presence of these modified uranium particles is that they were contained in the missiles dropped from the Israeli planes." What are the health effects of these weapons, what role did the U.S. military play in providing them or the technology that underlies them, why is there such silence on this, and most fundamentally, what is going on in this part of the world that international law has forgotten?
Clearly, not only the faces of U.S. politicians must change; we must change their values, too. We, in the United States, must utilize our votes to effect the same kind of people-powered change in the United States as has been done in all those other countries. And now, with more people than ever inside the United States actually paying attention to politics, this is our moment; we must seize this time. We must become the leaders we are looking for and get people who share our values elected to Congress and the White House.
Now, I hope you believe me when I say to you that this is not rocket science. I have learned politics from its best players. And I say to you that even with the fallabilities of the U.S. system, it is possible for us to do more than vote for a slogan of change, we can actually have it. But if we fail to seize this moment, we will continue to get what we've always been given: handpicked leaders who don't truly represent us.
With the kind of U.S. weapons that are being used in this part of the world, from white phosphorus to depleted uranium, from cluster bombs to bunker busting bombs, nothing less than the soul of my country is at stake. But for the world, it is the fate of humankind that is at stake.
The people in my country just invested their hopes for a better world and a better government in their votes for President-elect Obama. However, during an unprecedented two year Presidential campaign, the exact kind of change we are to get was never fully defined. Therefore, we the people of the United States must act now with boldness and confidence. We can set the stage for the kind of change that reflects our values.
Now is not the time for timidity. The U.S. economy is in shambles, unemployment and health insecurity are soaring, half of our young people do not even graduate from high school; college is unaffordable. The middle class that was invested in the stock market is seeing their life savings stripped from them by the hour. What we are witnessing is the pauperization of a country, in much the same way that Russia was pauperized after the fall of the Soviet Union. There are clear winners and the losers all know who they are. The attentive public in the United States is growing because of these conditions. Now is the time for our values to rise because people in the United States are now willing to listen.
So the question really is, "Which way, America?"
Today we uplift the humanity of the Palestinian people. And what I am recommending is the creation of a political movement inside my country that will constitute a surgical strike for global justice. This gathering is the equivalent of us stepping to the microphone to be heard.
We don't have to lose because we have commitment to the people.
And we don't have to lose because we refuse to compromise our core values.
We don't have to lose because we seek peace with justice and diplomacy over war.
We don't have to lose.
By committing to do some things we've never done before I'm certain that we can also have some things we've never had before.
I return to the U.S. committed to do my part to make our dream come true.