THE TRUE STATE OF THE UNION
by Dr. Robert M. Bowman
I wrote my first State of the Union Address in 1992 as an alternative to the one given by the first President Bush. This 2003 State of the Union Address has nothing to do with my possible candidacy for President of the United States. It is just the truth as I see it, and it contains proposals which I sure wish some president, some day would present to the American people and the Congress. In the off chance that these words give somebody an idea, I am sending copies of this to all the presidential candidates of both major parties. They are welcome to use these ideas as their own. Please email comments to bobrmbowman.com .
I now ask you to suspend reality and pretend (just pretend, remember) that I am speaking to you as President of the United States and giving my State of the Union Address.
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Mister Speaker, Madam President, distinguished Members of the Congress, honored guests, and my fellow Americans: Not since Gerald Ford rose from obscurity to become president following the resignations of Agnew and Nixon has something like this happened. Gerald Ford rose to the occasion, raised this nation from the depths of confusion and despair, and became one of our better presidents. I hope to do likewise.
I've been told that it doesn't take a rocket scientist to be president. Nevertheless, I am one. I'm also a career military officer, the father of seven children, and the grandfather of twenty-one. I've been a corporate engineer and executive, a song-and-dance man, a stuffy college professor, an itinerant preacher, a fighter pilot, a radio talk show host, and a husband to the same wonderful woman for 47 years. One thing I have never ever been is a politician -- and I don't intend to start now. Heck, I'm not even a lawyer. I came to Washington to restore power to the people. Once that's done, I'll go back to being a part-time rocket scientist, a part-time bishop, and a full-time troublemaker.
I have been your president for but a short time, and I still have much to learn. I hesitate to act in haste, and yet the times cry out for change. We can never know for how long we are privileged to play our role in life's drama, and this thought gives me a sense of urgency. Lord knows the ponderous machinery of this government has a momentum of staggering proportions. To change its direction is not an easy task. Yet change, I believe, it must, and I will therefore speak plainly and with candor.
My talk tonight will have three main parts. In the first I will attempt to describe the current state of our Union and how we got to where we are today. In the second, I will propose concrete steps toward resurrecting the American dream. And in the third, I will discuss our new relationship to a changing world.
CURRENT STATE OF THE UNION
We're Number One:
I'm here tonight to declare to you that the United States is number one in the industrialized world: number one in our use of the world's resources, number one in the production of pollution, number one in the gap between the rich and the poor, number one in deaths by gunfire, number one in teen pregnancy, number one in poverty among the elderly, number one in citizens without health coverage, number one in child poverty, number one in homeless veterans, and number one in citizens behind bars. And all that was true before "W" came in and made things even worse. In the two years of his failed presidency, George II turned a $236 billion per year surplus into a $157 billion dollar deficit -- and the 2003 budget I inherited is over $300 billion in the red. In these two years he did away with 1.7 million American jobs, saw 1.4 million added to the uninsured, and had more than a million more Americans falling into poverty each year, reversing three decade-long trends. He saw bankruptcies soar 23% to the highest level in history and stocks (including all our private retirement funds) lose over $6 trillion in value. His policies resulted in the first rise in serious crime in a decade. He slashed education funding by $90 million, while giving huge tax cuts to the corporations and wealthiest 1% of us. His most recent tax proposal would have given this same elite a tax cut averaging over $30,000, while the average working family would have gotten $289. As a result, we are again (as we were under his father) the world's #1 debtor nation, #1 in the creation of new billionaires, #1 in school dropouts, #1 in poverty, homelessness, hunger, divorce, suicide, and (oh yes) #1 in military force, nuclear weapons, and military spending -- almost as much as all the other nations in the world combined. This also makes us the number one object of fear and hatred and therefore the number one target of terrorists (along with our friends in Israel). We also lead the world in the number of hours worked per family, since it now takes two wage-earners and three jobs to provide the income earned with one 40 hour per week job in the 1950s -- this despite soaring productivity. If it wasn't for corporate control of our government and the resulting trickle-down economics, ordinary workers could support their families with one job … working two days a week! If worker pay had kept pace with executive pay, the average worker would now be making a million dollars a year!! and the minimum wage would be $143 an hour!
What do you call a country whose principal exports are wood pulp and scrap metal, whose principal imports are manufactured goods, and whose fastest-growing industry is building and operating private prisons? A third world country. That is the US today. We just happen to be an extremely rich third world country. (Only one fourth of our preschoolers live in poverty.) That is the state of the union we have inherited.
We are without doubt number one in military power. But what about the other measures of a nation? In our drive to protect the far-flung financial interests of our multinational corporations, we have abandoned our principles and fought wars of aggression against small countries. We have overthrown popularly-elected leaders and installed puppet dictators who sell out their own people to our global robber barons. We have squandered the good will purchased by the blood of our youth in the defense of democracy in World Wars I and II. In our unilateralist arrogance, we have abandoned the ideals championed by our forebears who founded the United Nations. We have violated the legal framework established by our greatest generation at Nuremberg. In our phony war against the terrorists our policies have created, we have overturned the Constitutional protections given us by our founding fathers in the Bill of Rights. In our drive toward a corporate New World Order, we have sold out our workers, our families, our environment, our children's futures, and the American dream. This too is the state of the union we have inherited.
What Has Led Us To This State?
We are also probably the most blessed nation on earth. We have a bounteous and beautiful land, a skillful and creative work force, and an inspired Constitution. With the wealth and power we had at the end of the second World War, and the productivity gains made since then, we have had the opportunity to create a land without want. What went wrong? Why are our workers paid such a tiny percentage of their true worth? Why are we the only major nation without a national health program? Why are our high school graduates two years behind their counterparts in other countries? Why are we hated by so many around the world? Why do we have hundreds of thousands of troops patrolling foreign lands and supporting foreign dictators? What is going on here?
The answer is that we have lost our republic. Legislators no longer represent the people who elect them, but the corporations who finance them. They answer not to their constituents, but to the lobbyists who line their pockets and fill their campaign coffers. In return, government officials have undone decades of hard-fought victories against the robber barons of the nineteenth century. The courageous efforts of the Roosevelts -- one Republican and one Democrat -- to control the corporations and monied interests have been undone by Reagan and his successors.
For years now, through both major political parties, the world's billionaires have directed U.S. policy for their own personal profit. This has included agreements (NAFTA and the WTO) falsely portrayed as supporting free trade, but in reality promoting free investment, overturning U.S. laws, and putting American workers in competition with those in the Third World. It has also resulted in a series of wars, from Iraq to Bosnia to Kosovo to Afghanistan to Iraq again -- wars which are never in the interest of those fighting them, or of the families left behind … wars which only serve the insatiable greed of the global investor class.
Corporate power over our political system, over the media, and over most aspects of our lives is the greatest danger we face today. Curtailing this power and restoring it to ‘We the People’ is our greatest challenge. Until this is done, nothing else of great value is possible, especially real ‘reform.’ Those of us who dedicate our lives to peace, economic justice, and environmental preservation can make little progress in our struggles so long as ultimate power is in the hands of those who profit from war, poverty, and pollution. We must reassert the sovereignty of ‘We the People’ over the billionaires and their hireling bureaucrats in the Corporate New World Order.
Well, I didn't get here tonight by taking corporate millions. I didn't get here by selling myself to the oil companies, the pharmaceutical companies, and all the other global robber barons. To be quite honest, I'm not sure how I got here! But here I am, and as long as I am president, this government will serve the needs of the people, not the greeds of the wealthy elite.
RESURRECTING THE AMERICAN DREAM
Turning things around won't be easy. What our Constitution empowers me to change, I shall. But for much of what needs doing, I will need the cooperation of Congress, and I ask for it tonight.
The first thing we need to do is to sever the connection between money and political power. This means electoral reform and media reform. The latter can be done now. I am ordering the Federal Communications Commission to reinstate equal time rules for both radio and television and to reimplement the ban on multiple ownership. Monopolistic media corporations will be given reasonable time to divest themselves of excess holdings. Democracy only works with an informed electorate, which in turn depends on a variety of news sources. A free press is incompatible with corporate domination of the media.
Electoral reform requires the participation of Congress and the States. The most important reform is the adoption of Instant Runoff Voting at all levels. I ask the States to adopt IRV for all statewide elections, including that for President of the United States. The second is Proportional Representation. I ask the States to consider PR for electing their Congressional delegations. I also ask them to follow the lead of Florida and eliminate burdensome petition requirements for qualifying third party and independent candidates for the ballot. Finally, I ask Congress to enact true campaign finance reform, banning the use of corporate, union, or other organizational funds completely, and funding campaigns with public money. Granny D is right. Corporations are not people, and money is not speech. The first amendment right of free speech was not intended to give corporations the right to control electoral politics with their money. If the Supreme Court disagrees, then I will introduce a Constitutional Amendment which states that corporations and other fictitious entities are not people and have no rights and privileges under the Constitution. I also ask Congress to declare Election Day a national holiday with the polls opening and closing simultaneously in every state from Maine to Hawaii. Whatever it takes, we must once and for all sever the connection between big money and political power.
This is not a partisan issue. It is a people's issue. It is necessary to save our republic. I ask the members of Congress to cooperate and pass the necessary legislation. If you don't, I am going to ask the American people to vote you out, regardless of your party affiliation. We must, and we will, have a Congress that serves the people and not the corporations.
Once that is done, everything becomes possible. In this richest of nations, we can and we will guarantee every American a good education, a decent job at a living wage, health care, and the undiluted protections of the Constitution and the Bill of Rights.
In accordance with respect for the rights of Americans, I am ordering a review of all cases identified by Amnesty International of U.S. citizens being imprisoned for political offenses. I envision granting pardons to many, as I did at my inauguration for Leonard Peltier and Mumia Abu Jamal. I am ordering that U.S. citizens detained after 9/11 be either charged in accordance with law or released. Immigrants who have been indefinitely detained will be either charged, legally deported, or released. Those captured in Afghanistan and detained at Guantanamo Bay will be accorded the rights of prisoners of war. Fear of terrorism is not going to make this country a police state!
Access to a good, high quality education must be recognized as a right, not just for the affluent in the suburbs, but for all Americans. We cannot tolerate a literacy rate which is lower than that of Iraq. Probably the two greatest problems are lack of money and lack of discipline -- not necessarily in that order. Teachers should be paid in accordance with their great value to society, and they must be given the authority to maintain discipline.
Perhaps the most important right we can give American families is the right to a decent job at a living wage. Not three jobs, but one job; not a minimum wage, but a Living Wage. If both husband and wife choose to pursue careers, they should have that right. At the same time, they shouldn't be forced into the workplace. Every family with children should have the option of one parent staying home and just being a parent. One wage earner with one job should be able to comfortably support a family. To help make this possible, I'm asking that NAFTA and the WTO be renegotiated to provide protections for workers and the environment, not just here in the United States, but in all nations involved. Should this not succeed, we will withdraw. American workers should not be forced to compete with Chinese slave labor.
One of the ways we will achieve a Living Wage in the United States is a simple change to the tax code. We will tell corporations, "This is a free country. You can pay your executives anything you want. But we don't have to give you a tax deduction for it. From now on, the tax deduction for executive compensation is limited to twenty times the salary of your lowest paid worker, including contractors and subcontractors." You'll be amazed how fast workers' wages will go up.
The second small change we'll make to the tax code is to say that any wages paid to a worker making less than a Living Wage are not deductible to the corporation.
If that doesn't work, we'll change the minimum wage to equal the Living Wage of $14.42 per hour (indexed for inflation), with exceptions for teenagers and seniors receiving Social Security, who can be paid as little as two-thirds of the living wage or $9.61 per hour (also indexed for inflation).
One big effect of better wages will be that fewer families will feel they need two or three jobs. So there will be fewer job-seekers and less competition for jobs. This will be a step toward full employment.
A major disincentive to hiring is the soaring cost of employee health insurance. We intend to eliminate that cost altogether, completely severing the connection between health care and employment. Every American deserves good basic health care, with decisions made not by HMOs or insurance companies or government bureaucrats or hospital accountants, but by their doctor. It's time to end the patchwork of band-aid programs like Medicare, Medicaid, VA, and private insurance which leave out forty million Americans. Instead of adding yet another band-aid to cover prescription drugs, we need to perform radical surgery on the system. About half of every healthcare dollar, instead of paying doctors and nurses, goes to insurance companies for overhead and profit. It’s time to kick the bloodsuckers out of the health care business, break the stranglehold of the for-profit hospital conglomerates and HMOs, and finally join the rest of the civilized world. It's time for a doctor-run single-payer national health system.
Our main export under NAFTA has been jobs. No more. Those companies that moved to Mexico can start giving their Mexican workers the same protections for their health, their safety, their environment, and their right to organize as we demand for American workers; or they can move back to the United States; or they can continue saving money by exploiting poor Mexicans, but they will not be allowed to import their junk into this country. Under my fair trade plan, the standards for Mexican workers will gradually be raised to those we enjoy here. Under NAFTA, American standards were being dragged down to match those of Mexico. No more.
Another step toward full employment will be taken by doing away with taxes that penalize companies for providing jobs -- payroll taxes. This will relieve employers of a financial burden, make hiring workers cheaper and easier, and eliminate a mountain of paperwork. By only taxing businesses on their profits instead of on their payroll, we make it easier for entrepreneurs and startups to succeed.
The so-called "service economy" is a fraud. Of course, we've always had nonproductive segments of society, earning money but not producing anything. But we can't all be politicians, investors, and lawyers. Somebody has to build something! People want to build a better, richer America for their children. Fortunately, there are lots of such jobs just waiting to be done. Here are just a few examples:
(1) We need to build a new energy system for our country. Our dependence on fossil fuels is causing us to have to sell off pieces of America to pay for foreign oil. It is causing us to maintain huge military forces and a militaristic foreign policy in order to guarantee access to oil that doesn't belong to us. It is causing us to pollute our air with toxic smog and kill our forests and lakes with acid rain. And it is causing us to hasten global warming and the inundation of coastal cities, including our own. It is slow suicide. Nuclear is no better. We still don't know how to get rid of the radioactive waste, much of which will remain deadly for thousands of years.
We know how to get energy from the sun, the wind, and the tides. We know how to use these renewable sources to produce electricity and hydrogen from seawater. We know how to use electricity and hydrogen to run cars, trucks, tractors, combines, and boats. New non-polluting power plants and distribution systems are needed. We know how to build them. I'm asking Congress to work with the Secretary of Energy to develop new policies which will hasten the changeover from the energy of death (oil). We're going to put people to work building a clean, green energy future for America.
(2) We need to build a non-polluting transportation system for our country. Using the renewable energy I've already described, we need electric cars and trucks, non-polluting mass transit in our cities, magnetically levitated (MagLev) trains, and automated intercity highways. In general, we know how to do it. But it's going to take more than just bending tin and laying concrete. It's going to take research and development ... and the scientists and engineers no longer needed for MXs and such. We're going to put the defense industry to work building a new transportation system for America.
(3) We need to build a reinvigorated civilian space program for our country. Why waste all our space scientists on useless "Star Wars" weapons? We need a Rescue Mission for Planet Earth, with satellites monitoring global change, tracking sources of air pollution, water pollution, acid rain, and deforestation. We need to better measure and understand the hole in our ozone layer, the stability of the Antarctic ice sheet, and the greenhouse effect. We need a replacement for the Space Shuttle system with its 1960s technology. It has been a marvel of creativity. Even with its two spectacular failures, it has served us well. But there are now better, cheaper, safer ways of doing the job. It's time to move on. We're going to put NASA to work building a new space program for America and for the global environment we must share with the rest of the world.
(4) We need to build new green versions of old industries. We are going to quit subsidizing the polluters and rapers of the land, so they will have to put people to work building new, clean, non-polluting industries for America.
(5) We need to build a new infrastructure for our country. Our roads, bridges, water supplies, and sewer systems are decaying. Schools, hospitals, and libraries are in need of renovation. We're going to put people to work rebuilding America.
My domestic proposals are extensive, and they will cost money. At the same time, we intend to end the Bush deficits and return to budget surpluses which will allow us to pay off the nearly seven trillion dollar debt run up primarily by Reagan and the two Bushes. How are we going to do this? (1) by administrative savings gained by the elimination of hundreds of patchwork programs and taxes, (2) by collecting income taxes from multinational corporations and rich investors who currently escape taxation completely, and (3) by utilizing a peace dividend achieved by eliminating military spending made unnecessary by the adoption of a constitutional foreign policy. The details are in my budget.
The Secretary of Defense, The Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and I have defined four missions for our armed forces: (1) deterring anyone from attacking the United States with weapons of mass destruction, (2) defending our shores and borders from foreign invasion, (3) assisting the UN Military Committee in defeating aggression, maintaining freedom of the seas and airlanes, and performing peacekeeping functions, and (4) engaging in humanitarian and relief efforts at home and abroad.
We have determined that, for the foreseeable future, these four missions can be accomplished with about a third of our current forces and for about a fourth of the cost. This will, after a few years of transition, result in a peace dividend of over $200 Billion per year. This is my number one domestic priority -- the transition from a wartime economy to a peacetime economy without a single person joining the ranks of the jobless.
Most of the peace dividend will come from lower operations and maintenance costs and from the cancellation of weapons programs. We intend to cancel the space weapon portion of National Missile Defense and return the remainder to laboratory research, a savings of about six billion dollars the first year. We will cancel about 30 other programs, for an annual savings of 40 billion dollars. I have told the management of each of the major contractors involved that other contracts, for civilian systems, will be coming. During the transition, we will pay them to retrain their work force, provided there are no layoffs. One more time: we don't want anybody becoming jobless because peace has broken out. If we can pay farmers not to grow crops, we can pay engineers and machinists not to build weapons.
I am, effective immediately, cancelling the stockpile stewardship program of subcritical and computerized nuclear testing. We have also ordered a halt to the production of weapons-grade fissionable materials and the permanent closing of facilities involved in the production of nuclear weapons. The Department of Energy, which has been spending 80% of its budget on nuclear weapons, will now have only two jobs: (1) clean up the radioactive and toxic mess created by half a century of weapons production, so that at least a portion of the land involved can be returned to productive use, and (2) what their name implies: energy. Their primary mission will be to develop clean, renewable, safe, non-polluting sources of energy for this country and to improve energy efficiency.
OUR NEW ROLE IN A CHANGING WORLD
In half a century, the United States has gone from savior of the civilized world to the most feared and hated nation on earth. This in turn has made our citizens, at home and abroad, the prime target of thousands of desperate, fanatical terrorists. With our belligerence, our arrogance, our name-calling, our overwhelming military superiority, our unilateralism, and our troops stationed in 150 different countries, we have driven other nations to develop nuclear weapons to deter us from attacking them. We have then used their weapons developments to justify our further belligerence in a never-ending cycle toward disaster. The end result of all this is that despite spending more than a billion dollars a day on military power, the American people are less secure than at any time since the end of the Civil War. Tens of billions of dollars for "Star Wars" weapons, thousands of nuclear weapons, hundreds of thousands of troops, and the expenditure of ten trillion dollars since World War II have brought our people only more insecurity, massive debt, and the loss of many of the cherished rights enshrined in our Constitution.
It's time for the cycle to end. It's time to end the belligerence, bring home our troops, and rejoin the family of nations. And that's exactly what we're going to do. Now let's get to some specifics.
Nuclear Weapons and Materials:
My predecessor rejected a Russian offer to destroy nuclear warheads removed from use in arms control agreements. I have contacted the Russians. Their offer is on the table and I am accepting it.
We have two related problems. (1) The world is awash in plutonium and highly enriched uranium from surplus and obsolete nuclear weapons. Safeguarding this material and keeping it from falling into the hands of nuclear wannabes and terrorists is a continuing problem, especially in Russia since my predecessor slashed the Nunn-Lugar funds authorized for safely carrying out and monitoring disarmament in the former Soviet Union. This most important piece of the defense budget was cut in half. I am immediately reprogramming funds from cancelled weapons programs to restore and then double again Nunn-Lugar. (2) We have a mountain of Depleted Uranium (DU). Much of it has been made into munitions. Tons of it was used in the first Gulf War and again in Bosnia and Kosovo and Afghanistan. Scientists and physicians say that the radiation from these munitions is extremely hazardous, both to the soldiers using it and to civilians coming into contact with it, even decades later. DU has been implicated in the cancer deaths and deformity of thousands of Iraqi children in the last twelve years. It may also be responsible for the disabling Gulf War Syndrome inflicting tens of thousands of our own Gulf War veterans.
The solution to these two problems is fairly simple. Fissionable plutonium and uranium will be mixed with DU making it useless for nuclear warheads, similar to natural uranium as it comes out of the ground. The mixture will be glassified and disposed of as safely as is humanly possible. All DU munitions in our possession will be destroyed. Never again will America endanger its own troops and despoil a target nation by the use of radioactive munitions. We propose a worldwide ban on the production of DU munitions and fissionable materials, and we begin by unilaterally implementing such a ban on ourselves.
Reflecting our new cooperative relationship with the rest of the nations of the world, I will sign the anti-personnel land-mine treaty and submit it to the Senate for ratification. All U.S. stocks of land mines will be destroyed, and we will cooperate with and assist other nations in the cleaning up of land mines we have deployed, including those in the Korean DMZ. Hopefully, we can reduce the number of innocent civilians maimed and killed by these terrible weapons.
ABM and other Treaties:
We will also sign a series of other treaties which have languished all too long without U.S. support. Among them will be the Kyoto Accords, The Law of the Sea Treaty, The International Criminal Court, and the Treaty on the Rights of the Child. During the last administration, one of our most valuable treaties was lost -- the ABM Treaty. Since the U.S. withdrawal from that treaty was a unilateral presidential action taken without the advice and consent of the Senate, I am disavowing that action. I hereby declare to our Russian treaty partners and to the rest of the world that I am ordering the cancellation of all programs in violation of the letter and spirit of the ABM Treaty. This administration will spend no money and take no action which would be in violation of the ABM Treaty were it still in force. I call on President Putin to do likewise.
Weapons in Space:
I commend Congressman Dennis Kucinich of Ohio for his Space Preservation Act and accompanying treaty. This new treaty builds on the successful 1967 Outer Space Treaty which prohibited the stationing of weapons of mass destruction in space. The Space Preservation Treaty bans all weapons in space, including directed energy weapons like lasers and particle beams and kinetic energy weapons such as High Frontier, Brilliant Pebbles, and the like. This treaty will forestall a new arms race beyond the earth's atmosphere and preserve space for peaceful uses on behalf of all humankind.
I have presented to the Congress a separate document which outlines the history of the conflicts in Bosnia and Kosovo and documents U.S. responsibility for the breakup of Yugoslavia. The American people have been told many lies about the causes and conduct of this affair. I am appointing a blue-ribbon panel to take the report which I have prepared and do a full investigation. If indeed, as I suspect, American troops were sent into harm's way to secure an oil and gas pipeline from the Caspian Sea to the Mediterranean, and not to protect the human rights of Kosovars, then the American people deserve the truth. It is only by exposing the truth behind such events that we can prevent them from happening in the future. The truth shall make us free.
As a military officer and fighter pilot, I was stationed in Korea twice. I developed a fond love of the Korean people, especially the children. What we must remember is that the Korean people, North and South, are the same. The artificial division of their country divided families down the middle. Yes, their governments are very different, but the people are the same.
In an article published in June, 1994, I said, "Without North Korea as the designated bad guy, how would the American oligarchy justify continuing to spend a quarter of a trillion dollars a year on 'defense'? After all, we have already trounced Iraq, whose defense budget is three times that of North Korea. In return for a verifiable end to their nuclear program, we should offer North Korea a peace treaty, the withdrawal of U.S. forces from Korea, support for reunification talks with the South, open trade and tourism, diplomatic recognition, and normalization of relations."
The issue at the time was North Korea's nuclear reactors, almost their only source of electricity. These relatively primitive reactors produce fissionable plutonium as a byproduct. The U.S. was concerned about North Korea separating the plutonium out of the spent fuel rods, and using it to make nuclear warheads. I thought at the time that if we gave North Korea another way to generate electricity, and if we tossed in a bunch of diplomatic goodies, we could get them to stop operating their reactors.
It turns out that President Carter was able to obtain such a deal much more cheaply. All he had to give the North Koreans was some light-water nuclear power plants (which do not yield fissionable material as a byproduct), and (until they were built) some oil to satisfy their meager need for electricity.
That deal held throughout the Clinton years, although the Americans and Japanese got further and further behind in building the promised power plants. Then when George W. Bush became president, our government quit talking to North Korea. Still without a peace treaty to end the Korean War, and faced with an intransigent superpower, the North Koreans began to doubt that they would ever get those reactors. Then, in his first State of the Union Address, my predecessor named North Korea as part of an "axis of evil." That did it. Now they were faced with a superpower that was more than intransigent; it was downright belligerent. They started hedging their bets and preparing to restart their own nuclear power program. In response, the U.S. halted oil shipments to North Korea -- their only means of generating electrical power. In continuation of this deadly tit for tat, the North Koreans kicked out the monitors from the International Atomic Energy Administration (IAEA). The North Koreans now want a promise that we won't attack them without provocation. I'm willing to make that promise. I'm asking President Carter to once again go to North Korea to defuse the situation. We must try to bring North Korea back into the family of nations. As soon as this crisis is resolved, I will order our 40,000 troops home. We will do all we can to help the Korean people find a path to reunification, but it is something for them to decide, not for us to impose.
In our dealings with Iran, some are tempted to criticize them for not being democratic. Let us remember that it was the United States who deposed their last democratically elected leader (Mohammed Mossadegh) and replaced him with the brutal Shah … for oil profits. After the Shah was finally deposed, we helped Saddam Hussein kill millions of Iranians in his war of aggression against Iran. If some Iranians hate us as the Great Satan, it is not without reason. If we want an improved relationship, if we want to eliminate Iran as a source of terrorists, we must earn the respect of the Iranian people. This will not be done by "axis of evil" talk, but by respectful diplomacy.
Saddam Hussein is a bad guy. I don't know anyone who disagrees with that. He's a bad guy now. He was a bad guy in 1990 when April Glaspie of the State Department gave him the green light to invade Kuwait. He was a bad guy in the 1980s when Donald Rumsfeld sat down with him for a chat while he was gassing the Kurds. He was a bad guy in 1977 when Zbigniew Brzezinski met with him and proposed the invasion of Iran. And he was a bad guy in the 1960s when the CIA hired him to assassinate Iraqi leader Abdel Karim Qassim and then helped him take over Iraq. But he was always our bad guy. Right up to 1990, official DoD documents praised Saddam for vastly improving the education, medical care, and standard of living of his people. His regime was called one of the most enlightened, progressive governments in the region.
But there was a problem. The Berlin wall had come down and the Soviet Union had collapsed. The first Bush White House had to find another bad guy -- fast. In May 1990, a National Security Council white paper stated that Iraq and Saddam Hussein were (and I quote) "the optimum contenders to replace the Warsaw pact as the rationale for major military expenditures." Two months later, on July 20, 1990, General Norman Schwarzkopf conducted training exercises simulating exactly the contingency of an Iraqi attack on Kuwait. Five days later, Glaspie gave the green light, and a week after that Saddam fell into our trap. He marched his troops across the undefended border into Kuwait. Almost immediately, the U.S. deployed as many troops and twice as much materiel as was moved for the Normandy invasion. (Could they have done that without a lot of advance planning?) Then President Bush gave Saddam an ultimatum and wouldn't take "yes" for an answer. The first Gulf War was on. We dropped over 300 million pounds of high explosives on Iraq, devastating the country and killing a quarter of a million people -- most of them civilians.
This was the war the first Bush administration wanted, the war they planned for, the war they instigated, the war they salivated over, the war that Saddam's unconditional withdrawal wasn't going to deny them, the war that would show off our smart bombs better than a hundred trade shows, the war that would prove George wasn't a wimp, the war that would make billions for the future president George W. Bush, who had exclusive rights to offshore oil in the Gulf, the war that would kill the "loser" image from Vietnam once and for all.
Why all this ancient history? Because it is so eerily familiar. The second President Bush wanted his Gulf War too. Planning for it started long before 9/11, even before he was elected president. The outline is contained in a September 2000 document ["Rebuilding America's Defenses: Strategies, Forces, and Resources For A New Century" authored by Jeb Bush, Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, Paul Wolfowitz, and Lewis Libby for Project for the New American Century (PNAC). You can read it on the PNAC web site.]. The document sets "regime change" in Iraq as a primary objective of US foreign policy should Bush be elected. It makes clear that the purpose of moving against Saddam is to set the stage for occupying the entire Middle East (and therefore controlling its oil, no matter who's in power, especially in Saudi Arabia). The document says "even should Saddam pass from the scene, bases in Saudi Arabia and Kuwait will remain permanently." As long as he was president, George W. Bush wasn't going to be dissuaded from having his war.
The problems with starting a preemptive war against Iraq are several: (1) It's immoral and would probably be judged illegal by the World Court. (We are already responsible for many hundreds of thousands of deaths from the first Gulf War, from the Depleted Uranium we left there, and from our sanctions. Do we really want to kill thousands more innocent Iraqis?) (2) It's costly, in terms of American lives and in dollars. (The number of lives could be anywhere from a few dozen to many thousands, depending on whether we have to fight our way through the streets of Baghdad. The dollar cost will be on the order of $200 billion for a short war -- much more for a long one.) (3) It would require us to keep troops in Iraq indefinitely, until an acceptable democratic government was installed and in control. (Since Iraq has no history of democracy, this could take a very long time indeed. The occupation would also cost money.) (4) An unprovoked invasion of Iraq will incense the Arab world, probably causing the downfall of friendly governments who cooperate with us (like Saudi Arabia and Turkey). It will also cause an enormous increase in the terrorist threat to Americans at home and abroad, providing Osama bin Laden with thousands of new recruits ready to die in a Holy War against the evil Americans. It might even cause World War III between the Muslim countries of the world and their allies against the Western powers. Win or lose, such a conflict would be an unthinkable tragedy. One of the great ironies is that if such a conflict had happened before 1990, Saddam Hussein and his secular Baath government of Iraq would have been on our side.
These four considerations are enough for me. There will be no preemptive attack on Iraq on my watch.
Yes, like most of the CIA hirelings that we have installed to run countries for us and for our oil companies, Saddam Hussein is a bad guy. We need those inspectors there, if only to keep him from using what he's hiding. But preemptive war in violation of the UN Charter, the Nuremberg principles, and our own Constitution isn't the answer. I am cancelling all deployment orders and directing the Secretary of Defense to start bringing our troops home, starting with those in Saudi Arabia. When I ran for president in 2000, I promised to get our troops out of Saudi Arabia. If that had been done, there likely would not have been a 9/11 tragedy. The presence of our troops in the Muslim Holy Land was the excuse Osama bin Laden used to get 15 young Saudis to commit suicide in our hijacked airliners. We're having enough problems protecting the American people from those who already hate us. It is senseless to keep doing the things that we know create terrorists. And we won't.
Terrorism is both a short-term problem and a long-term problem. In the short term we must protect the American people from the terrorists we have already created. This means enhancing port security, beefing up cockpit doors, strengthening the border patrol, introducing computerized tracking of aliens, funding local communities for first response activities, shoring up the Coast Guard, and improving communications between intelligence agencies. These we will do. It also means developing new ways of detecting and neutralizing weapons of mass destruction. The Defense Threat Reduction Agency at Fort Belvoir, Virginia, is doing important work in these areas and will be given my full support. At the moment, this is probably the most important part of the Department of Defense.
In the long term, we must stop making more terrorists. That means stopping policies and actions which make people fear and hate us. It means listening to the legitimate grievances of peoples we have wronged, and then changing our ways. Only one thing has ever ended a campaign of terror -- separating the terrorists from the larger community which supports them. This is done by ending the feelings of desperation, hopelessness, and powerlessness afflicting the people. It is done by listening to them and then actually making their lives better. It is not done by revenge and retaliation, which may feel good, but only create more terrorists. If retaliation worked, the Israelis would be the world's most secure people. In the end, we can have revenge or we can have security. We cannot have both.
The way I read the Constitution, my job is not to make the American people feel good. (That's a job for a queen, not a president.) My job is to make the American people secure. To do that, we must change our government's ways so that we are no longer feared and hated. So that's exactly what we will do. (Besides, it's the right thing to do!)
We have at times had a government with bad policies. But we are a good people. What we need is a government which reflects the values and goodness of the American people.
School of the Americas:
Our values and goodness are not reflected by a government which uses your money to train death squads in the techniques of torture, intimidation, and assassination. The School of the Americas (by whatever name they choose to call it) has been responsible for unspeakable atrocities wherever its graduates have gone. It must and will be closed. As Commander-in-Chief, I am ordering that the students presently attending the School be shown the movies "Romero" and "Panama Deception" and then sent home. It's the right thing to do.
Our values and goodness are not reflected by a government which gives Most Favored Nation status to the butchers of Tienanmen Square and places an illegal secondary embargo on the impoverished people of Cuba. I ask Congress to repeal the Helms-Burton law. We are ending the embargo of Cuba and entering discussions toward the normalization of relations.
It's the right thing to do.
Central Intelligence Agency:
We desperately need good advance information on the activities of Al Qaeda and those who wish to do us harm. But our values and goodness are not reflected by, and our security is not enhanced by, an organization which promotes instability, insurrection, tyranny, torture, terrorism, murder, and war around the world in our name and with our money. If the CIA won't stick to gathering intelligence, I will abolish it. It's the right thing to do.
According to Oscar Arias, every jet fighter sold by an industrialized nation to a developing country costs the schooling of three million children. The cost of a submarine denies safe drinking water to 60 million people. In the 1997 fiscal year, the United States exported $8.3 billion in weapons to non-democratic countries. Our values and goodness are not reflected by a government which promotes and subsidizes arms sales around the world to dictators who use our weapons to control their own impoverished people. Archbishop Oscar Romero pleaded with us to stop sending weapons to the right-wing government of El Salvador. His pleas went unheeded. The arms trade is wrong. It must stop. And it just did. It's the right thing to do.
The Role of Our Military Forces:
Earlier I outlined four missions for the Department of Defense. These missions are notable for what they do not include. They do not include protecting the worldwide financial interests of multinational corporations. And we won't. If the global robber barons insist on using force to subjugate third-world peoples, at least they can use their own ill-gotten money and hire their own mercenaries. Why should American taxpayers provide their own sons and daughters and then get stuck with the bill?
Our values and goodness are not reflected by a government which sends its youth around the world to kill the sons and daughters of working people in other countries. Our values and goodness are not reflected by sending our children to the Middle East to kill Arabs so the oil companies can profit from selling the oil under their sand, making us the target of terrorists.
Ask my wife about war. Her father fought in World War II. He commanded the engineering battalion that built the first bridge across the Rhine. He was gone for almost 3 years. Her two brothers were Marines. The oldest was at the Chosin reservoir in Korea when the Chinese flooded across the border into the war. And of course she had to take care of our seven children by herself while I flew 101 combat missions in Vietnam. She wasn't aware of the specific times that I came very close to not coming back. But she lived with the possibility every day. One of our sons was in the Army, and one of our grandsons in the Marines. I'd say she's given enough. We have another twenty grandchildren. If you ask her, she'll say, "Enough is enough. You're not getting them too."
And I agree. This country owes a huge debt of gratitude to our combat veterans. We also owe them medical care for life, and I intend to see that they get it. We owe it to them not to squander the liberties they purchased with their blood. We owe it to them to resurrect the American dream. But the best thing our government can do for its combat veterans is to quit making more of them. No more Iraqs. No more Kosovos. No more El Salvadors. These are not isolated incidents of stupidity. They are part of a long, bloody history of foreign policy being conducted for the financial interests of the wealthy few. It is a new colonialism. It endangers our national security. It must stop … and it just did.
As president, I will use the men and women in our Armed Forces to protect our borders and our people, not the financial interests of Folgers, Chiquita Banana, and Exxon. With nearly sixty years having passed since World War II, and with the Cold War long since over, there is no reason why we should still be occupying Germany and Japan. I have ordered the Secretary of Defense to look at all our overseas deployments and identify any which must continue. With the exception of these special cases, I will begin the process of bringing our troops home. We will continue to provide peacekeepers when requested by the United Nations. The rest of our global military presence will end within two years. This is not isolationism. It is common sense. It is in the interest of our people. And it is obeying our Constitution for a change. Every president in recent memory has violated our founding documents with foreign military ventures. At my inauguration, I swore to protect and defend the Constitution of the United States. Lip service isn't enough. We must treat the Constitution as if it mattered. I intend to do just that.
Instead of a worldwide military presence, we are going to have a humanitarian presence. Along with the other wealthy nations of the world, we shall initiate a new Marshall Plan, providing funds to rebuild the Middle East as we rebuilt Europe after World War II. We will also take the lead in complete debt forgiveness for the poorest countries, starting with those in Africa. If we are once again to be a great nation, we must first be a good nation.
We must build an America at peace with the world and with its own people … an America that seeks not to be king of the hill nor subservient to the World Trade Organization, but to be a responsible sovereign member of the family of nations … an America that is free of the threat of terrorism because it is no longer feared and hated … an America that leads the world -- not just with military might, but with its vision, its compassion, its democracy, its productivity, its freedom, its standard of living, its treatment of its own people, and its goodness. That's the kind of America our people deserve. And -- working together and with God's help --that's the kind of America we will become.
It is customary at the end of these talks to say, "God bless America." He already has. Now we must do our part. Thank you, and good night.
Institute for Space and Security Studies
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