Editor's Note: Advance text of remarks to be delivered this Saturday at the Asheville, NC Rolling Thunder event.
You and I can agree and disagree about many things, and still respect each other as friends and as fellow Americans with strong opinions.
I was among the many people who thought Mr. Bush should have disarmed Iraq peacefully through the United Nations process that was already underway. But Mr. Bush took the road he took. There was, as a result, a time of killing and looting, and the spoiling of the treasures of an ancient civilization. Though I do not take lightly the great loss suffered by so many parents, children and elders because of the American government's approach, we must, as a historical matter, agree that what's done is done and that most people are relieved and generally satisfied with the outcome. Though we disagreed with the means employed, there is now an opportunity for peace and for freedom in Iraq, and that can be a very good thing if it is properly advanced by people who respect the rights of the people of that region to be free, which means politically self-governing and the masters of their own resources. If that is what Mr. Bush has in mind for them, then we can still hope for a happy outcome. It is our experience, however, to expect otherwise.
It has been interesting to me to notice that, though the leaders speaking on the rally stages of the great peace marches have often spoken with righteous anger, and even though death was hanging in the air before and after this little war, and even though the marchers understood, and still do understand, that our American and global environment is also under attack, as are the working poor, and as is our dear Bill of Rights, that nevertheless the people in these marches were joyful. Did you notice that? Did you feel it yourself if you were among them? The best smiles I have seen in years have been in these marches. This leads me to think that the peace movement is about something far deeper than the Bush Administration's attack du jour.
And if the movement is not only about the war, I must wonder if the movement is indeed being ineffective, as its inability to stop the war might indicate, or if it is succeeding or failing at a deeper and therefore more important level.
This is important digging we must do. Our own emotions have been so conflicted by this war. We peace marchers of course wanted our young people in uniform to come home safely. It's just that we wanted them to do so sooner rather than later. And we now are hopeful that the new day in Iraq can be a good day for the people of that region.
Many Americans and others have a happier view of the whole thing, and I think I can understand their point of view. Let me see if I can put words to it. Let me see if I can convince all my dear peacenik friends and myself that the U.S. is on the right course. Then, of course, I will try to knock that view down a bit.
It is a dangerous world, this line of thinking runs. We have come through the Cold War, where competing superpowers held each other in check and avoided nuclear war by setting up dictators here and there to protect their interests in key regions. Now the Cold War is over and these dictators, who have outlived their usefulness, must be given their walking papers or otherwise shown the door at the point of a tomahawk missile. It is important to do so now, some strategists argue, because these dictators have enough wealth and isolation to develop weapons that can destroy our own cities, if they will only give those weapons to the growing armies of terrorists in the world. This rising danger of terrorism and leftover dictators is a prescription for future tragedy that must be defused, both by going after the terrorist networks, and by taking away the possible providers of their most fearsome weapons. To police the world in this new era of danger, we must be willing to become the policeman in dangerous regions. We must put military bases in key regions, not only to support our vital resource supply lines, but to preempt terrorism in the regions were it is nurtured. At the same time, we must strive to encourage modern, secular democracies to replace the dangers of the fundamentalist religious state. We must do this not only to protect our own interests, but to advance human values and to protect those who are commonly oppressed or tortured by such regimes, especially women and religious minorities. This is simply the advance of civilization, and we must be prepared for the fact that it sometimes requires a fight and a sacrifice.
Now, if I have been able to get inside the minds of those who have given their unqualified support to the war, let me now ask those people to try to do as good a job getting inside our peacenik heads and seeing things through our eyes. We do respect your point of view and expect the same in return.
The United States, as you have no doubt heard many times, accounts for about five percent of the world's population, but we consume a quarter of the world's oil and approximately that percentage of many other of the world's resources. If we raise the entire world to our standard of living and of consumption, we run into some math problems rather quickly. There is also the matter of the amount of carbon dioxide that once was so thick in the hot atmosphere that only the most basic life forms could exist. Over billions of years, that carbon dioxide was put in safety deposit boxes, away from the atmosphere. It was taken up by the plants of great swamps, and trapped in now deep layers of coal and oil. If we bring it all up, which we must do if all the world is to have SUV's and 100-watt toothbrushes, we will be back to swamps and beachwear in no time. It may be entertaining for a while, with its tropical drinks with little umbrellas, but our great coastal cities -- Venice, New York, Amsterdam, London, Rio, Hong Kong, will be awash and we will perish in heat and famine and unimaginable violence and anarchy, or unimaginable authoritarianism. And it is not out there in the distant future; it will begin in this century.
Now it should not take too much effort to see all this, as nearly all the scientists of the world agree that we are releasing more carbon into the atmosphere than the atmosphere can bear without changing, and that will mean a disruption of our agriculture, to be sure.
Don't worry, I am getting to Iraq and all that in a moment.
For it works like this. The leadership elite of our society are very invested in the idea of continuing with things as they are. They would like a McDonalds restaurant on every beach in Tahiti and an SUV in every pop-up garage in Tierra del Fuego. That's the only way they know how to think. The CEO's of their corporations make tens of millions of dollars a year, not on the long range expectations of profits, but on this year's, this quarter's profits, and how those profits affect stock prices. They can't think more than a year out. The real problem is that they also own all the broadcast networks now, and they finance the careers of most of the politicians in Congress and certainly in the White House, whether it be Democratic or Republican. These people do not go around the world spreading peace, justice and democracy. They spread credit card debt, cell phones, sweatshop conditions, factory farms for hogs and not much better for people. They are in it for the money, and they want to economically enslave people, not free them. I will bet that Iraqis will see bills from MasterCard before they see a meaningful ballot, just like us. This is a new wave of economic colonialism, and, like previous waves, it is done it partnership with armies and rulers.
Did Iraq have weapons of mass destruction? Only what was left of the ones we sold them. Why the change of heart on our part? With the Cold War over, we don't need them anymore and we want some control in the region, as it is key to our business interests.
And terrorism? Was there much likelihood that Iraq would sell or give a bomb to Islamic fundamentalists, their enemies? Really.
And to the larger issue: How do you stop terrorism? You stop it the same way you have always stopped terrorism. With justice. Justice for all the people of the Middle East. Everyone knows that. The war's proponents know that. It is just that war is more useful, and terrorism is more useful, and tragedies are more useful, if you want to take over regions abroad and limit freedoms at home. Why do you want to do all of that? It is very, very good for business, and that is ninety to ninety-nine percent of it.
So, that is a more complex view of things than the pro-war supporters might entertain. Which view has the ring of truth to you? Different people will surely see it differently, and history will decide.
Some of us want America to move toward environmental sustainability so that the world, especially if it is to become more like America, will be sustainable for future generations. We are the conservatives. We want to conserve nature, the atmosphere, our carbon resources, or cultural diversity around the world, and our ideas of freedom, justice and happiness. We want America to be safe. We don't want our children to have to suspiciously eye every person who enters a bus or a restaurant. We understand that this security can only come with international justice. We know that, if America is energy self-sufficient and less dependent on other foreign resources, we can well afford to be a force for justice in the world, not for self-serving greed. So we have a vision of a better world, and we will work hard to make it so. You cannot protect an open society from the effects of injustice. You can either close the society, as Mr. Bush is doing, or you can cure the injustices. Which should be the American way?
We know the answer, don't we. We will fight the radicals whose short term, unsustainable vision of the world drives American policy today. We will work in the coming election to move our imperfect candidates to victory. I have set up a website, SwingState.org, where you can sign up to do this important work in a critical region. We have volunteers in every state now to move toward a victory in 2004.
Our victory strategy must be simple but thorough.
One. We must hold the left together, friend Ralph, and connect with the middle.
Two. We must split the right: driving a wedge between the neo-conservative radicals and the traditional conservatives -- who are our friends on many issues, including civil liberties and elder programs. We must do this door-to-door.
Three. We must widen our circle on the left and do so in many languages, connecting with all the people and groups who are being seriously damaged by the Bush social agenda, helping them connect the dots, helping them register, and helping them get to the polls, especially in the swing states, which are many.
Four. We have a very narrow media window, because so many networks and newspapers are now controlled by the neo-conservatives or by hapless corporate idiots who are missing all the big stories. So we must have a narrow message to fit this narrow window. We must replace the missing media with door-to-door work, and must recruit respected American voices of authority -- the Oprah Winfrey's and the Walter Cronkite's -- to join us in projecting our messages, such as the erosion of personal freedoms under Bush and the danger to our Social Security system and health programs.
Who are we to be out there fighting, to be winning elections? We are the people who believe in a world of environmental beauty, of happiness and not exploitation, of justice and not oppression and torture. A world safe for children. Government budgets that invest in our smart babies, not smart bombs. We believe in international law and cooperative action. We are the opposite numbers to the Bush neo-conservatives. If we lose, the world loses its environment, its justice, its happiness. So we are clear that we must win.
There are many among us on the peace trail who will not support a candidate unless that candidate is perfect on every issue. Politics is about winning. For us, it is about winning to save lives and raise people up from poverty and illness and loneliness and injustice. Those posturing on the left sometimes forget that. Don't tell me that you can't support a particular candidate because of this or that. This isn't about you and your precious political standards. It is about saving nature and our people. We are coming out to win, so please don't stand in our way. When we have reasonable people in power, let us start our arguments again, for we can not move forward unless we have a decent government underneath us and a Bill of Rights to let us speak freely.
This is great work. Did you, as a child, hope that one day it would be in your hands to save the world? Then rejoice. Is it not indeed joyful to find yourself embarking on a life of great meaning? Yes, that is the great peace march smile we saw on the streets of New York and Washington and San Francisco and a thousand other cities and towns, is it not? Aren't we joyful for this moment, when all is at stake? We are, we are. And do not stand in the way of our joy.
For what is life, if not a theater of the soul where we might take our part for good or ill? What better thing to we have to do in these months ahead that save the world? We will, we will. And do not stand in the way of our joy.