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Home  » Analysis   »  Seattle Day After Peace Vigil

Seattle Day After Peace Vigil

A speech by David Korten
by David Korten
March 21st, 2003

March 21, 2003 - Federal Building, Seattle

David C. Korten

I stand before you today as a patriotic American, a
former Captain in the United States Air Force, and a
veteran of the Vietnam War.

This day, Friday March 21, 2003, will go down in
history as one of America's darkest hours. Our brave
sons and daughters have been ordered onto the battle
field to risk the ultimate sacrifice and American
planes and missiles have been launched in a campaign of
"shock and awe" against the Iraqi people, possibly the
most brutal air assault in history short of dropping
the atomic bomb on Nagasaki and Hiroshima. It is a war
most of the world considers unnecessary, immoral and
illegal. On this same day the Republicans who control
the House of Representatives have used the cover of war
and the nation's willingness to sacrifice for the sake
of the troops to approve a massive tax cut for the
wealthiest Americans and cut disability benefits for
military veterans - thus setting a new standard for
political hypocrisy.

The accomplishments of the administration now in
power in America are of historic proportion.
Domestically, in a mere two years it has turned the
largest fiscal surplus in our national history into its
largest fiscal deficit - even before counting the costs
of the war in Iraq and the newly passed tax cuts.

In foreign affairs, it took only a year and a half
to turn the enormous international good will America
enjoyed in the aftermath of September 11, 2001 into the
most massive and universal international condemnation
of a country's leaders and policies in world history.

Under its newly announced doctrine of preventive
war this administration claims the right to launch an
unprovoked attack against any nation it believes might
present a threat to America's interests - even years in
the future. It is a doctrine of madness - a path of
mutual destruction that violates the most fundamental
principles of our Constitution and the United Nations
charter and has been condemned as immoral by the Pope

By favoring the rule of power over the rule of law,
America's ruling junta has convinced much of the world
that the most dangerous outlaw regime in the world is
the regime now in power in Washington. It may take
decades to heal the damage to America and the world for
which this regime bears responsibility.

This administration can, however, take credit for
one positive accomplishment. By its failures and
extremism, it is awakening the people of America and
the world to the essential responsibilities of
democratic citizenship.

Yes. Saddam Hussein, a man that our own government
helped to put in power, is a ruthless dictator who has
brutalized his people. We condemn him and will work for
his removal from office through means consistent with
the rule of law. It is a travesty of justice, however,
when the very men who helped to put Saddam Hussein in
power and who supported and profited from his rule and
brutality, now, in the name of justice launch a war
that will kill additional tens of thousands of Iraqi
innocents who will have survived Saddam's brutal rule
only to be killed and maimed by bombs and missiles made
in America and paid for with our taxes.

Apparently the mothers of those who have launched
this war failed to teach them the most basic of moral
lessons: two wrongs do not make a right. This war is
not an act of liberation. It is not an act of justice.
It is an act of state sponsored tyranny and terror.

Far from being a sign of America's strength and
determination, this war is a sign of weakness and of
the hubris and moral bankruptcy of a group of right
wing extremists who are obsessed with a self-righteous
messianic vision of empire. Their vision, spelled out
in their own words in public documents, is its own
contradiction - a vision of democracy and a Pax
Americana, imposed on the world by the application of
overwhelming military force. Afghanistan was first,
Iraq is the second.

We know not which country or countries will be
third, fourth, fifth, sixth - or where it will end - if
the extremist architects of this administration's
military policies continue to have their way. We only
know that perpetual war is a centerpiece of their plan.
Iran, North Korea, Saudi Arabia, Syria, and Pakistan
have all been mentioned as candidates.

Some will say the war in Iraq is underway. It will
soon be over. The time for demonstrations has passed.
They say it is time to support the troops and the

Let us pray this war ends quickly with a minimum
loss of American and Iraqi lives. Our movement - the
global peace and justice movement - is about far more,
however, than the war in Iraq. It is a call to end
failed diplomatic and military policies that isolate
America from our friends and allies, bankrupt our
treasury, and leave us at ever greater risk of
terrorist attack. It is a call to embrace a new vision
of security based on international cooperation to find
and prosecute terrorist networks, to eliminate all
weapons of mass destruction in all countries including
our own, and to create the world of truly democratic,
life-serving societies that can be - a world in which
war is obsolete and every child is born with a
reasonable hope for a decent life.

In our call for peace today we honor and support
the brave men and women of the U.S. armed forces who
serve their country with courage and devotion, as we
honor and support the innocent people of Iraq,
especially the children of Iraq, who already have
endured horrors no child should ever know. We also
honor and support the police, fire, and emergency
personnel who will be courageously placing their lives
on the line to protect us from the acts of terrorist
retaliation likely to come in the days ahead.

The true America patriot stands steadfast in
defense of the American ideals of truth, liberty,
justice, democracy, and the rule of law. Our
patriotism, our commitment to America and the world,
will be severely tested in the days ahead by those who
falsely equate patriotism with unquestioning obedience
to authority.

It has been a tried and true tactic of
authoritarian rulers through the ages. If your policies
are failing and your authority is slipping, play to
fear and hatred, declare a war, and demand absolute
loyalty and obedience in the name of a false

This is the way of demagoguery. It is not the
American way.

So long as those who have launched this war can
count on us to bow to their will once our brave troops
are in harms way we shall never again know peace.

In these dark times we must refuse to give in to
fear and hatred - whether of terrorists, our own
government, those who look different from ourselves, or
those who hold contrary views. When fear and hatred
win, freedom, justice, democracy, and the rule of law
die. For these American ideals to prevail we must act
and stand together with courage, calm, and wisdom from
a place of inner strength.

We must be ready in these dark days to confront
those who would abuse the powers of the state to deny
the legitimate rights of any individual - especially
those of immigrants and people of color. It is one of
the most basic principles of justice and our great
constitution that the rights of the accused must not be
abridged. This is arguably the most sacred of all
rights, for without it we all stand naked before the
power of a lawless and authoritarian state.

We must support those of our Senators and
Representatives in Washington who speak truth with
courage and integrity - like Nancy Pelosi and Dennis
Kucinich, and especially our two brave local heroes
Representatives Jim McDermott and Jay Inslee.

Last Sunday evening I joined the candle light peace
vigil on Bainbridge Island next to our City Hall. It
was a beautiful event, all the more beautiful because
we knew we stood with so many millions of others around
the world joined in a vision of hope and peace. There
was a brisk wind. Sometimes a candle flame would
flicker out. But always a neighbor would offer their
flame to relight the darkened candle. Such a fitting
and powerful symbolism. Together we can and we shall
keep the flame of peace, liberty, justice, democracy,
and the rule of law burning.

Consider the implications of what happened only a
few weeks ago, on February 15, when some 10 to 11
million people of every nationality, religion, race,
and class marched in solidarity in a planetary call for
peace and justice. It was the largest and most broadly
international protest action in human history. The New
York Times proclaimed this expression of global public
opinion a new global superpower.

It came together within a space of weeks as a
spontaneous self organizing process of planetary-scale.
There was no charismatic leader. No financial sponsor.
No organizing committee. Some people put out an idea.
It spread like a wildfire through the Internet as it
captured the imagination of millions of citizen
leaders, who picked it up and created an epic event
that began to shift the global political consciousness.
You could feel it. You could see it. You could hear it
in the debates in the United Nations Security Council.

We are participants in the birthing of something
new to the human evolutionary experience. We have taken
an epic step toward a new planetary politics of hope,
love, and healing with the power to change the course
of history.

Global civil society is giving substance to the
essential truth that in a democracy, sovereignty
resides in the people. When politicians dictate our
course we call it dictatorship. When private economic
interests dictate our course we call it corruption.
When dictatorship merges with private economic
interests around extreme right-wing nationalism in
pursuit of imperial expansion we call it Fascism. Only
when those in power are accountable to the leadership
of "We the people" can we truly call it democracy.

These insights have especially important
implications for those of us who enjoy the
extraordinary privilege and responsibility of being
American citizens. Our country has been taken over by
forces not of our choosing for ends contrary to the
great ideals of liberty and justice for all on which it
was founded - founded I might note in a rebellion
against empire - and a king named George.

We take justified pride in the America the world
has long looked to as its champion of freedom and
democracy. It is now our responsibility as Americans to
act from a place of strength and courage to reclaim our
government and rededicate this nation to its founding
ideals. We must renounce the doctrines of
unilateralism, preventive war, and the rule of power
over the rule of law and return America to the path of
international peace and cooperation. We must work
through electoral and judicial processes to assure that
the dangerous outlaw administration that is bankrupting
our treasury, isolating us from the world, and
undermining our security does not serve another term.

We must and we can relight the flame of freedom to
once again shine bright and clear as a beacon of hope
and inspiration for the whole of humankind. The place
is here. The time is now. The responsibility is ours.
We the people - we are the ones we've been waiting for.

Thank you.


Dr. David C. Korten
is the author of When Corporations Rule the World,. He
is also a former Harvard Business School Professor, a
former Captain in the United States Air Force, and a
veteran of the Vietnam War. During his military service
he held assignments as an instructor in the Special Air
Warfare School at Eglin Air Force Base in Florida and
as staff to the Secretary of the Air Force and the
Secretary of Defense in the Pentagon. For most of his
adult life he worked as a development worker in Africa,
Asia, and Latin America seeking to eliminate poverty
and the roots of violent conflict. He is presently
board chair of the Positive Futures Network, which
publishes YES! magazine.