The nature of the "crime" I committed is of such little consequence as to be absurd. Yet the fact that I was arrested when I stood up -- in resistance to the war and in open defiance of the Committee Chairman's order not to -- speaks volumes about true moral and political corruption, and the facade of institutional power.
The warmongers and war-makers throughout history have always escaped all responsibility for their decisions -- as long as they win: winners decide matters of criminality; winners write history. Dissenters and war-resisters, however, have always been subject to the corrupt and illegitimate authority of the State to punish, whether in an inconsequential case such as mine, or whether in hanging Mennonites by their thumbs from the top rungs of a jail cell all day long, day after day, balanced on their tiptoes, for refusing to fight in WW I.
I repeat President Eisenhower's warning to us 50 years ago: we, an informed and knowledgeable citizenry, must guard against "the acquisition of unwarranted influence...by the military-industrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist.
Something is happening today. Sunlight is anathema to the Military-Industrial Complex (the existence of which is now self-evidently a permanent fact of life in this country). The facade of institutional power is crumbling; all it needs is a little push to watch it collapse (and when you think you have pushed as much as you can, push a little more). The minions and elites of the Corporate State will always try and protect their profits and privileges. To them, public scrutiny, public protest, public defiance, public resistance -- these constitute a dire threat. Political dissent is a contagion to be eradicated. Full-scale resistance, an action to be wholly wished for, would be a plague.
I am 54. I was raised to love my country. I believed that my country was a grand experiment in democracy and self-rule. I was offended, as if by reflex, by calls for an American Empire, which is profoundly antithetical to the life of a democracy. I believed in the theory of my country, right or wrong. But as you get older and a little wiser in this world, the youthful illusions you might once have had give way to reality and experience.
I have traveled from the illusion of certainty that all these wars and all this killing had to be just simply because my country was committing them; to doubt and the need to investigate the truth; to outrage and a seething anger; to complete despair after reading history and thinking about it for myself; to the realization that I might not be able to stop it, but if I did nothing, nothing would happen.
Your Honor, because I am a citizen in a democracy, I am responsible for what happens in my name. And I recognize now that my country has been in a continuous state of war for as long as I have been alive.
President Eisenhower said: "In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist. We must never let the weight of this combination endanger our liberties or democratic processes. We should take nothing for granted. Only an alert and knowledgeable citizenry can compel the proper meshing of the huge industrial and military machinery of defense with our peaceful methods and goals, so that security and liberty may prosper together."
His warnings have become reality. And I am responsible.
The Cold War led to a myriad of deadly and destructive proxy wars in which millions -- millions -- of innocent human beings were killed, caught in the deadly and destructive maw of this ultimately useless competition between world powers.
In my lifetime, we the citizens of the United States have been responsible for the deaths of two to three million Vietnamese. In Indonesia we created, supported and armed a dictator who was responsible for the deaths of somewhere between 500,000 and a million fellow Indonesians. In Angola, 300,000 innocents dead. In Guatemala, we created, armed and supported the military and paramilitary forces responsible for 200,000 dead, mostly Mayan Indians. Cambodia was an inconvenient impediment to American imperial plans to dominate Southeast Asia. Through a secret bombing campaign and subsequent invasion, we so destabilized the country that the murderous Khmer Rouge grabbed power. The result? Two million murdered -- one-third of the entire population. In Iraq, the sanctions we imposed through the '90s led to the deaths of 800,000, most of them children. The conquest and occupation of Iraq beginning in 2003 led directly to the deaths of 500,000 more. And the abominable list of murder and barbarities goes on and on and on. Each number, each single digit, represents the violent death of one human being, one-by-one-by-one.
Perhaps the most evil war we prosecuted was in Nicaragua throughout the '80s. President Reagan felt the United States was so threatened by the policies of the Sandinistas that he declared a national emergency, explaining that the Sandinistas posed "an extraordinary threat to the national security and foreign policy of the United States." The population of Nicaragua is 6 million.
What was the result of the political delusions, the absurd lies they told, the false fear they fanned?
A State Department report finds that, for Nicaragua, "the death toll in per capita terms was significantly higher than the number of Americans killed in the Civil War and all the wars of the 20th century COMBINED. The death toll would be comparable to 2.25 million Americans, relative to population."
Your Honor, this year we will spend approximately $80 billion on health care, $45 billion on housing, $45 billion on education -- and $650 billion on a war machine that apparently needs to continuously attack, invade and kill in order to survive. The inner workings of the machine are oiled by blood. The lasting results are vast, bottomless pools of profit for the Military-Industrial Complex -- a reservoir of wealth that Popes and Kings throughout history could only dream of, all of it stolen from the public treasury.
Something happened to me in 2011. I realized, at long last, that in US international and military affairs, MORALITY IS MEANINGLESS. I had to do something. I had to do something to stop all this killing. This is MY country, and therefore this is MY responsibility. And if I did nothing, nothing would happen.
In October, I packed up my gear, left Vermont and came to Washington. I occupied Freedom Plaza. I slept in a tent for three months, on granite and marble, through all kinds of weather, to protest the War Machine. It was an act of protest, and defiance, and resistance. And I engaged in numerous peaceful, non-violent marches and demonstrations to register my moral outrage.
Your Honor, I have never been arrested. When I attended the hearing where I was arrested and charged with Disruption of Congress, I wasn't sure what I would do. I had lost my voice the day before, so I knew I wouldn't be able to say anything. But when a young activist next to me stood up to express herself -- and was brutally manhandled by the police -- my sense of outrage and defiance grew. As she was dragged away, the Committee Chairman warned the gallery that any further disruptions would not be tolerated. But here in a microcosm was a palpable demonstration of Eisenhower's warnings: the unwarranted influence and arrogance of authority; the existence and persistence of misplaced power; the will to dominate others; the thoughtless and automatic resort to violence; the threat to true liberty; and the true indifference of the powerful to the voices of dissenters, who have little power as individuals, but who, united as one, actually might find an effective way to obstruct further mayhem and destruction. I could no longer be a passive player in this charade. I simply had to stand up and be counted as an alert and knowledgeable citizen. It was -- and is -- my responsibility.
At the precise moment the Chairman concluded his warning, I stood up and raised two peace symbols in the air. I stood for the millions of dead for whom we -- and I -- were responsible. I stood for the veterans who were acting under orders to engage in these crimes. I stood for millions of Americans who are just sick and tired of it all, who don't understand why but sense the imbecility of it. I stood in a spontaneous expression of shame and defiance. But most of all, I stood in a spontaneous expression of conscience. I felt a profound need to simply say, "Stop Killing In My Name." It was one citizen's assertion that in the affairs of my country, morality does matter. I could not say a word, but I could stand up -- and I did.
I am charged with Disruption of Congress. But I didn't have an epileptic seizure, or a heart attack, or spill a glass of water. These would be disruptions. No Sir, my real crime was to defy Congress, and this, to them, is intolerable.
Your Honor, I am an American. This is my country. I am responsible for what is done in the name of my country. We can all hear the drums of war beating loud once again, this time for an attack on Iran. Illusions are no longer possible. Despair is no longer possible. The only thing it is in my power to do is to express my heartfelt desire to bring this military madness to an end. If I can do it by marching, I will. If I can do it by writing or simply talking to people, I will. And if all I can do is stand up and raise two peace symbols in the air, I will do that too.
Your Honor, I want to sincerely thank you for allowing me the time to read this statement -- and to express myself without fear of being arrested.