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Bikini Day International Forum, Feb. 28, 2003

Dr. Joseph Gerson*


I want to thank Gensuikyo for the privilege of being invited to join in these Bikini Day commemorations. It remains all too rare that a U.S. American can learn so directly from Marshall Islanders and their family, the crew of the Fukuryu-maru, and from the Japanese peace movement. In the simplest, and most profound way, words I want to express my personal sorrow and an apology on behalf of conscientious U.S. people for what you have been forced to suffer in the name of the U.S. people.

Similarly, the killing of two Korean school girls last year by U.S. soldiers who were not held accountable for this terrible crime, was not an aberration, but one more brutal and unacceptable "abuse and usurpation" of Korean people who, like Japanese, have suffered U.S. military colonization for more than half a century. While much of the world's energies are now focused on preventing the catastrophe of the threatened U.S. invasion of Iraq, many of us have been outraged by Washington's increasingly militarized approach to Korea, and by its preparations for war -- possibly nuclear war against the DPRK.

As our world-wide demonstrations on February 15 illustrated, the world's people understand the profound significance of the threatened U.S. invasion of Iraq and of all that would follow on the dangers and destruction of this war. A U.N. planning report leaked several weeks ago anticipates that the toll of a U.S. invasion of Iraq could be 500,000 civilian casualties, three million people whose lives and health are already vulnerable because of U.S. led economic sanctions could face starvation in a matter of days after the assault begins, and 900,000 Iraqis are expected to become vulnerable refugees. These statistics assume that the U.S. will not follow through on its threats to attack Iraq with nuclear weapons. They do not include the costs of turmoil and possible coups or revolutions across Arab and Islamic nations. Nor do they include the likely tolls of terrorist actions as Osama Bin Laden and other Islamic political fundamentalists violently pose as defenders of besieged Islam. Nor can the U.N. figures begin to calculate the disastrous human costs of the unilateralist Bush Administration shattering the 58 year-old United Nations order, which the U.S. is also threatening to do, and which would return humanity to the law of the jungle where might is right.

Since the beginning of the Bush Administration, two million U.S. people have lost their jobs, with many more experiencing increasing economic insecurity, declining educational opportunities, and savage cuts in essential social services. At a minimum cost of $100 billion for the war and $250 billion for an unending military occupation of Iraq and its oil fields, many U.S. people and other people face becoming economic victims of the threatened war.

Many of us in the U.S. have been almost totally consumed by our efforts to prevent these catastrophes. One member of Congress put it this week when he said that Iraq has "taken the oxygen out" of debates over all other foreign and military policy debates. So, much of what I say today will relate to the deadly invasion that President Bush plans to launch. As I prepared for our meetings here, I found myself thinking of the painful testimonies I have heard in the past from the Rongelap and Fukuryu-maru Hibakusha. Like other Hibakusha, your suffering has been almost infinite. I also intimated infinite oceans of pain, suffering and loss should my Iraqi friends, their families, friends, and compatriots be forced to suffer as you have.

There are also other and new U.S. voices, voices unleashed by the most diverse and dynamic U.S. peace movement in history, that resonate within and haunt me today. These are the voices of working class mothers who desperately cry "My son has been shipped to the Persian Gulf. I will do anything I can to bring him home alive. What can I do to bring him home alive?" Or the father of a Marine recently dispatched to the Middle East, who told students "I am not a pacifist" that there are some wars he would support, That the second worst thing that could happen in his life would be for my son to be killed in a just war. The that the worst thing that could happen to him would be for his son to be killed in the unjust and unnecessary war" Bush is preparing for Iraq. "I will do anything I possibly can" he said "to ensure that this unjust war is not fought."

I cannot tell you how good it felt to put this man in the forefront of a legal case challenging the right of the Bush Administration to launch this war. And it is a sign of the times that Charley and his wife are now being invited to speak on some of the most popular television programs in the U.S.

I want to do four things today: 1) place the threatened invasion of Iraq and other dimensions of the Bush Administration's global military crusade in the context of U.S. strategic policy, 2) to provide a brief description of U.S. public opinion and of our massive and dynamic anti-war movement, 3) to describe Administration plans for the construction and testing new nuclear weapons, and finally to make several proposals for your consideration.

Last August I was interviewed by several Japanese journalists who had spent several weeks in the U.S. as they worked on a story. Before arriving in the U.S. the idea of a U.S. war against Iraq seemed unimaginable to them. But after listening to the unremitting cascade of uncritical news reports about the dangers posed by Iraq and President Bush's threats, and omnipresent hysterical right-wing talk shows comparing Saddam Hussein to Hitler these journalists were appropriately frightened by the probability of a catastrophic U.S. preemptive attack against Iraq and by the silence and confusion of the U.S. people.

Since September, it has been challenging to keep up with the Bush Administration's changing rationales for unilateral or U.N. backed, and possibly nuclear, war against Iraq. Regime change, we are told, is an urgent necessity because Saddam Hussein is a tyrant. Iraq has refused to implement U.N. resolutions. Iraq threatens the United States. Saddam Hussein has nuclear and other weapons of mass destruction. He has invaded other nations and used weapons of mass destruction against his own people. Saddam Hussein's regime has ties to Osama Bin Laden. The U.S. must export "democracy" to the Middle East.

While the majority of U.S. people may not have learned every detail of the peace movement's critiques, of the concerns of senior military leaders, and the warnings of more sophisticated multilateralist imperialists, they do increasingly understand that something is profoundly wrong. Recent polls show that two-thirds of U.S. people want the U.N. inspectors to be given the time needed to do their work, and they oppose any invasion of Iraq not sanctioned by the U.N.

The peace movement concedes that Hussein is a tyrant. We remember how the U.S. long supported him, much as it has supported Saudi monarchy, Mubarak in Egypt, the Shah of Iran, Noriega and Pinochet, Marcos, the South Korean military dictators, and Chang Kei-shek. The U.S. supported Hussein as long as he was "our" tyrant. We also know that the U.S. provides diplomatic, economic and military support the Israeli conquest and colonization of the Occupied Territories, despite its violation of countless U.N. resolutions. We can't ignore our nation's repeated refusals to honor U.N. resolutions calling for the complete abolition of nuclear weapons. We can't forget that U.N. inspectors destroyed Iraq's nuclear weapons program or that the amount of Iraqi chemical and biological weapons now being disputed is but 10% of what inspectors destroyed in the 1990s, that the U.S. provided Iraq with many of its chemical and biological weapons and provided its military with targeting information so that they could be used against Iran. We can't ignore that the CIA has said that Iraq poses no imminent danger to the U.S. so many times, that Rumsfeld had created a new intelligence unit to tell him what he wants to hear. that Washington used its satellites to provide the Iraqi military with the targeting information so that it could decimate Iranian units with these CB weapons, and that the amount of chemical and biological weapons now in question equal one-tenth of the total destroyed by U.N. inspectors in the 1990s. We know that the historical record demonstrates that Iraq invaded Iran in 1980 with U.S. blessings and that in 1990 the number two diplomat. At the U.S. embassy in Baghdad let Iraq's leaders that Washington did not view the boundary with Kuwait as sacrosanct. We acknowledge that Iraq has supported some Palestinian terrorists and their families, but we also agree with the CIA that there is no serious evidence of collusion between the Iraqi government and Al Qaeda.

Why then, are we on the brink of a unilateral U.S. invasion of Iraq, or a "multilateral" invasion if the U.S. succeeds in bullying and bribing enough U.N. Security Council members? Vice-President Dick Cheney put it well in the spring of 2001, when he said the U.S. seeks to impose "the arrangement for the 21st century" so that "the United States will continue to be the dominant political, economic and military power in the world." The Bush Administration wants to restructure the global order, Condoleeza Rice told us, as profoundly as it did at the beginning of the Cold War.

This most militarist of U.S. governments, which can be compared to the militarists who seized power of Japan in the 1930s, has a four-fold approach to re-consolidating U.S. hegemony, which increasing numbers in the U.S. elite - as this edition of the New York Times Sunday Magazine illustrates - openly describe as "Empire."

First, they worship what Noam Chomsky described as "Political Axiom Number One" of U.S. foreign and military policy: that the U.S. use all means necessary to ensure that neither its enemies nor its allies gain independent access to, or control over, Middle East oil, the "jugular vein" of global capitalism. The Bush Administration not only seeks to conquer Iraq and thus monopolize the world's second largest know oil reserves, they also plan to use the war to restructure and to reconsolidate U.S. control of the Middle East. (We should also remember that the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan was closely related to gaining a strangle hold on Central Asia's oil reserves, while simultaneously encircling "strategic competitor" - China.

Second, the new U.S. military doctrine of "shock and awe" building on the traditions of Hiroshima, Nagasaki, and the bombing of Baghdad into the "pre-industrial age" during the 1991 "New World Order" "What we say goes" decimation of Iraq. With the threatened opening barrage of 3,000 cruise missiles and the unnamed "exotic weapons" that the U.S. reportedly plans to launch against Iraqi cities in the coming weeks, Washington. hopes to leave the Iraqi people and the world in "shock and awe." The goal, as Deputy Secretary of War Wolfowitz told us, is to ensure that other nations so "fear" the U.S., that they won't even think about challenging the U.S. Toward these ends, the U.S. is again threatening nuclear war against Iraq, this time with powerful forces in both the Republican Party and in the White House anxious to shatter the taboos against nuclear warfighting, and with a Nuclear Posture Review and collateral doctrine naming Iraq as a potential nuclear target and threatening preemptive nuclear attack against non-nuclear nations.

Third, the Bush-Cheney-Rumsefeld Administration honors its late 19th century imperial antecedents, people like Admiral Mahan, Theodore Roosevelt, and Henry Cabot Lodge who envisioned and created the military that replaced Britain as the world's predominant power. The Bush Administration is committed to reinforcing the global hierarchy of terror with new nuclear weapons and by monopolizing the militarization of space. We see this in the Nuclear Posture Review, the U.S. abrogation of the ABM Treaty, the fusion of the Pentagon's "Strategic" and "Space" Commands, the pathetic nuclear weapons agreement reached with Russia last year, U.S. subversion of the Biological Weapons Convention, the accelerating deployment of so-called missile defenses, and in new Bush proposals for the development and deployment of yet another "bunker-busting" nuclear weapon and to reduce the time needed to resume nuclear weapons testing. To pay for these and other weapons systems, the U.S. military budget has already been increased by nearly $100 billion to equal the combined total of the world's twenty-five next greatest military spenders!

The fourth pillar of U.S. imperial re-consolidation is the assault an democratic rights in the name of "the war against terrorism." The September 11 attacks opened the way for the Bush Administration to rule through fear: constant warnings of nonexistent terrorist attacks, constantly changing national security alerts, and assaults on academic and intellectual freedom. It was in the name of "security" that we were prevented from marching in New York City on February 15. In their campaign to limit the number of protesters, the police forced the rally organizers to compromise our constitutionally guaranteed freedoms of assembly speech and petitioning our government by submitting to the indignities and dangers of being corralled in police pens for the twenty block length of our historic rally. Police barricades were erected across Manhattan to prevent protesters from reaching the rally site. And police attacks on mounted on horses or by spraying "pepper" gas were hardly isolated incidents. We have the so-called USA Patriot Act that allows increased police surveillance, prisoners being held incommunicado, and secret trials. The "Total Information Awareness" project, to monitor all computer communications is headed by Contra-gate felon Admiral Poindexter, designed to monitor all computer communications. Worse a second "Patriot Act", has been written that will exponentially increase surveillance, secret arrests, and allow people to be stripped of citizenship. It is scheduled to be presented to Congress in the first weeks of the invasion of Iraq, when unquestioning "patriotism" is again, if briefly, resuscitated.

I want to say a few words about the Bush Administration's militarist approach to Korea. Beginning in February 2001, when President Bush humiliated Kim Dae Jung and Colin Powell by subverting the Sunshine Policy, and derailing the late Clinton-era negotiations with North Korea, Bush Administration policy toward Korea has been a disaster. Yes, the DPRK government is a dysfunctional tyranny and has what may be a nuclear weapons program. But we also know that there is a logic to Pyongyang's confrontational diplomacy, as it bargains with few if any negotiating chips for entry into the Asia-Pacific economy and for a non-aggression pact with the U.S. Having been relegated to the diplomatic sidelines in the first years of the Bush Administration, it has desperate to regain Washington's attention. Clearly, dialog and negotiations, not war, are the ways to ensure that North Korea does not become a nuclear power, and that Northeast Asia enjoys a secure and prosperous future.

Unfortunately, there are powerful forces in Washington who would prefer engineering North Korea's collapse to facilitating the soft landing envisioned by Presidents Kim and Roh and by the majority of the South Korean people. Intoxicated with militarized national chauvinism, these U.S. officials would prefer war with North Korea - with its catastrophic consequences across the Korean peninsula and Northeast Asia, to resolving the current crisis through dialog and diplomacy. In the U.S. we have repeatedly been told that North Korea and Iran are next on Bush's list of "evil doers" after Iraq. Yet, the situation is far more dangerous than most U.S. people understand, the moreso because many mainstream opponents of war against Iraq point to North Korea and its reputed nuclear weapons program as being a far greater danger to the U.S. than Iraq - even if Pyongyang's missiles can't reach Alaska! Even as they oppose war against Iraq, they are creating the intellectual and political foundations for a catastrophic war in Korea.

Even as there is little political oxygen to engage U.S. militarism in Northeast Asia, AFSC and other organizations are doing our best to educate the anti-war movement and members of Congress. We are urging. people to remember that the Agreed Framework was violated by both sides, that it achieved important objectives, that bellicose rhetoric about attacking the DPRK as part of an "axis of evil" and targeting North Korea in the Nuclear Posture Review, only exacerbates Pyongyang's fears. We are clear that there is no "military option" to resolving this crisis and that the U.S. should be making meaningful concessions to bring the DPRK more securely out of its isolation.

We agree that we should all be working to keep the Korean peninsula nuclear weapons-free, that the U.S. must respect the very real security concerns of both the Republic of Korea and the DPRK, and that the U.S. respect the DPRK's sovereignty. We urge that negotiations with the DPRK include security assurances, progress toward diplomatic recognition of the DPRK, and meaningful economic assistance. We are, of course, also working for the reduction and withdrawal of U.S. troops in Korea and for U.S. nuclear disarmament.

Last August I described the origins and commitments of the post-9-11 U.S. peace movement, not knowing that the schisms in the U.S. elite that I described over possible unilateral war against Iraq would spawn the largest and most powerful anti-war movement in the U.S. since the Vietnam War. It was not until the past November that we organized United for Peace and Justice which initiated the December 10 and February 15 protests in communities across the U.S. and two weeks ago in New York. From the beginning, our movement on the foundation of four principles: 1) condemning the September 11 attacks as monstrous crimes whose perpetrators must be brought to justice, 2) being clear that war was not the answer and that legal and diplomatic means should be relied upon to prevent terrorism, 3) stressing the importance of protecting our constitutionally guaranteed civil liberties and communities at risk (meaning Arab and South Asian-Americans and Moslems in the U.S.,) and 4) insisting on the need to address the root causes of the September 11 attacks.

As was the case last April, when we mobilized 100,000 people to protest in Washington, D.C., our movement continues to be led by four major forces. First is the traditional democratic peace movement joined now by students, growing sectors of organized labor, old organizations like the National Association for the Advancement of Colored Peoples and new ones like September 11 Families for Peaceful Tomorrows. This is the force that organized the New York and San Francisco demonstrations two weeks ago. Second is the ANSWER "coalition" controlled by the Workers World, a small, disciplined and non-democratic party that has difficulty working with other organizations. Third are Arabs and Moslems living in the U.S. The fourth force is the growing number of local politicians and members of Congress, including three candidates for the Democratic Party's presidential nomination. We have also gained greater access to the media, as increasing numbers of editors and journalists sympathize with our opposition to Bush's wars.

The combined power of the U.S. and international peace movements forced President Bush to return to Congress and to the U.N. Security Council to seek authorization for his threatened unilateral war against Iraq. We did not completely prevail, but we won several concessions including Bush's return to the U.N., the return of U.N inspectors to Iraq, and the Security Council's approval of "serious consequences" not war, should Iraq be found guilty of further "material breeches." Unlike a year ago, when only one member of Congress voted against war, this time our movement led one-fourth of both houses of Congress to vote against war-authorizing legislation. This was not success, but it was progress. Today, some in Congress are working to pass new antiwar legislation and have gone to court with soldiers' parents, while new mass demonstrations and student and workers' strikes are being planned.

There are other important dimensions to the U.S. peace movement. The National Council of Churches has emerged as an important force and has been joined by other Protestant and Catholic church leaders in opposing the war. More than 100 city and town councils have adopted resolutions opposing to the war, including Los Angeles, Philadelphia and Chicago. Organized labor, long silent and complicit in Washington's aggressive wars, is speaking out and mobilizing as never before. One feeder march in New York included 10,000 labor activists, and that union provided free office space to United for Peace and Justice as it organized the Feb. 15 demonstration. Another innovation has been MoveOn, a small group of technologically knowledgeable young people who have circulated Inernet petitions, raised money for anti-war advertisements in major media outlets, and used the Internet to organize hundreds of delegations to meet members of Congress.

With our energies focused on preventing catastrophic war against Iraq, openings for nuclear weapons abolition organizing have been limited. We are raising the alarm over the Bush Administration threats to attack Iraq with nuclear weapons, and have placed Rumsfeld on the defensive as some in the press have taken up our concerns. Because the New England Congressional delegation is decisive in legislation relating to nuclear weapons and war, we are preparing forums and a lobbying campaign across the region in our spring and summer campaign to defeat the Administration's proposals to fund research and development of new nuclear weapons and to reduce the time needed to resume nuclear weapons testing. This month we are launching a focused campaign in New Hampshire, Iowa, and possibly South Carolina -- the first states in which primary elections for the 2004 presidential race will be held a year from now. Our goal is to influence candidates for the Democratic Party's nomination on nuclear weapons and abolition issues, and thus to influence the national debate over nuclear weapons and warfighting.

Let me close with three proposals. With the Bush Administration attempting to bully and bribe U.N. Security Council members to legitimate the threatened invasion of Iraq, and with its continuing threats of unilateral attack, many are asking what more can we do to prevent the war. Here in Japan you can press your government in every nonviolent way possible to honor your peace constitution by refusing any many military cooperation for this unjust and catastrophic war. In addition to joining boycotts of U.S. goods, it may be possible to send more immediate and powerful signal to the U.S. government and elite. Individual investors, pension and government funds can be withdrawn from The U.S. and reinvested in Japan or elsewhere. Holdings in U.S. dollars can be exchanged for yen and Euros. With the record $200 billion U.S. annual national deficit, reminding the U.S. that there are economic as well as military dimensions to power could save hundreds of thousands of lives, prevent nuclear war, and preserve the integrity of the U.N. order.

Finally, let me suggest that we explore the possibility of a Hibakusha speaking tour to Iowa, New Hampshire, and other New England states, to augment our campaign to defeat the Bush Administration's new nuclear weapons initiatives and to turn the U.S. political debate toward abolition.

In closing, I want to invoke the memory and spirit of the courageous Hibakusha Watanabe Chieko, Years ago she drew from her own incalculable suffering to inveigh against the U.S. bombings and nuclear threats against Vietnam. Yes, we want the people of Iraq, North Korea, and Iran to enjoy freedom - we'd like that for the U.S. and Japanese people as well. Yes, we want Iraq, North Korea and Iran to be nuclear-free. We want this for the rest of the world as well, and we know that war is not the answer. In this urgent hour, let us strain all of our energies and efforts to ensure that these and future wars never come, that Iraqis, North Koreans, Iranians, Filipinos, Japanese, Americans again enjoy security and never again despair for our children's lives or for the future.

Dr. Joseph Gerson is Director of Programs of the American Friends Service Committee in New England and Director of its Peace and Economic Security Program. For more information contact: AFSC, 2161 Massachusetts Ave., Cambridge, Ma. 02140, USA. Phone: 617-661-6130. E-Mail: Jgerson@afsc.org, Web: www.afsc.org/pes.htm.


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