won't deny our consciences
Prominent Americans have issued
on the war on terror
Friday June 14, 2002
Let it not be said that people in the United States did nothing
when their government declared a war without limit and instituted
stark new measures of repression. The signers of this statement
call on the people of the US to resist the policies and overall
political direction that have emerged since September 11 and which
pose grave dangers to the people of the world.
We believe that peoples and nations have the right to determine
their own destiny, free from military coercion by great powers.
We believe that all persons detained or prosecuted by the US government
should have the same rights of due process. We believe that questioning,
criticism, and dissent must be valued and protected. We understand
that such rights and values are always contested and must be fought
We believe that people of conscience must take responsibility for
what their own governments do - we must first of all oppose the
injustice that is done in our own name. Thus we call on all Americans
to resist the war and repression that has been loosed on the world
by the Bush administration. It is unjust, immoral and illegitimate.
We choose to make common cause with the people of the world.
We too watched with shock the horrific events of September 11.
We too mourned the thousands of innocent dead and shook our heads
at the terrible scenes of carnage - even as we recalled similar
scenes in Baghdad, Panama City and, a generation ago, Vietnam. We
too joined the anguished questioning of millions of Americans who
asked why such a thing could happen.
But the mourning had barely begun, when the highest leaders of
the land unleashed a spirit of revenge. They put out a simplistic
script of "good v evil" that was taken up by a pliant
and intimidated media. They told us that asking why these terrible
events had happened verged on treason. There was to be no debate.
There were by definition no valid political or moral questions.
The only possible answer was to be war abroad and repression at
In our name, the Bush administration, with near unanimity from
Congress, not only attacked Afghanistan but arrogated to itself
and its allies the right to rain down military force anywhere and
anytime. The brutal repercussions have been felt from the Philippines
to Palestine. The government now openly prepares to wage all-out
war on Iraq - a country which has no connection to the horror of
September 11. What kind of world will this become if the US government
has a blank cheque to drop commandos, assassins, and bombs wherever
In our name the government has created two classes of people within
the US: those to whom the basic rights of the US legal system are
at least promised, and those who now seem to have no rights at all.
The government rounded up more than 1,000 immigrants and detained
them in secret and indefinitely. Hundreds have been deported and
hundreds of others still languish today in prison. For the first
time in decades, immigration procedures single out certain nationalities
for unequal treatment.
In our name, the government has brought down a pall of repression
over society. The president's spokesperson warns people to "watch
what they say". Dissident artists, intellectuals, and professors
find their views distorted, attacked, and suppressed. The so-called
Patriot Act - along with a host of similar measures on the state
level - gives police sweeping new powers of search and seizure,
supervised, if at all, by secret proceedings before secret courts.
In our name, the executive has steadily usurped the roles and functions
of the other branches of government. Military tribunals with lax
rules of evidence and no right to appeal to the regular courts are
put in place by executive order. Groups are declared "terrorist"
at the stroke of a presidential pen.
We must take the highest officers of the land seriously when they
talk of a war that will last a generation and when they speak of
a new domestic order. We are confronting a new openly imperial policy
towards the world and a domestic policy that manufactures and manipulates
fear to curtail rights.
There is a deadly trajectory to the events of the past months that
must be seen for what it is and resisted. Too many times in history
people have waited until it was too late to resist. President Bush
has declared: "You're either with us or against us." Here
is our answer: We refuse to allow you to speak for all the American
people. We will not give up our right to question. We will not hand
over our consciences in return for a hollow promise of safety. We
say not in our name. We refuse to be party to these wars and we
repudiate any inference that they are being waged in our name or
for our welfare. We extend a hand to those around the world suffering
from these policies; we will show our solidarity in word and deed.
We who sign this statement call on all Americans to join together
to rise to this challenge. We applaud and support the questioning
and protest now going on, even as we recognise the need for much,
much more to actually stop this juggernaut. We draw inspiration
from the Israeli reservists who, at great personal risk, declare
"there is a limit" and refuse to serve in the occupation
of the West Bank and Gaza.
We draw on the many examples of resistance and conscience from
the past of the US: from those who fought slavery with rebellions
and the underground railroad, to those who defied the Vietnam war
by refusing orders, resisting the draft, and standing in solidarity
with resisters. Let us not allow the watching world to despair of
our silence and our failure to act. Instead, let the world hear
our pledge: we will resist the machinery of war and repression and
rally others to do everything possible to stop it.
Edward Asner, actor
Russell Banks, writer
Rosalyn Baxandall, historian
Jessica Blank, actor/playwright
Medea Benjamin, Global Exchange
William Blum, author
Theresa Bonpane, executive director, Office of the Americas
Blase Bonpane, director, Office of the Americas
Fr Bob Bossie, SCJ
Bell Chevigny, writer
Paul Chevigny, professor of law, NYU
Stephanie Coontz, historian, Evergreen State College
Kia Corthron, playwright
Kevin Danaher, Global Exchange
Carol Downer, board of directors, Chico (CA) Feminist Women's Health
Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz, professor, California State University, Hayward
Leo Estrada, UCLA professor, Urban Planning
John Gillis, writer, professor of history, Rutgers
Jeremy Matthew Glick, editor of Another World Is Possible
Suheir Hammad, writer
David Harvey, distinguished professor of anthropology, CUNY Graduate
Rakaa Iriscience, hip hop artist
Erik Jensen, actor/playwright
Robin DG Kelly
Martin Luther King III, president, Southern Christian Leadership
C Clark Kissinger, Refuse & Resist!
Jodie Kliman, psychologist
Yuri Kochiyama, activist
Annisette & Thomas Koppel, singers/composers
James Lafferty, executive director, National Lawyers Guild/LA
Ray Laforest, Haiti Support Network
Rabbi Michael Lerner, editor, Tikkun magazine
Barbara Lubin, Middle East Childrens Alliance
Anuradha Mittal, co-director, Institute for Food and Development
Malaquias Montoya, visual artist
Robert Nichols, writer
Rev E Randall Osburn, executive vice president, Southern Christian
Jeremy Pikser, screenwriter
Jerry Quickley, poet
Juan Gumez Quiones, historian, UCLA
Michael Ratner, president, Centre for Constitutional Rights
David Riker, filmmaker
Boots Riley, hip hop artist, The Coup
John J Simon, writer, editor
Michael Steven Smith, National Lawyers Guild/NY
Bob Stein, publisher
Naomi Wallace, playwright
Rev George Webber, president emeritus, NY Theological Seminary
Leonard Weinglass, attorney
John Edgar Wideman
Saul Williams, spoken word artist
Howard Zinn, historian