June Jordan Speaks Out Against the 1991 Gulf War

Correct me if I'm wrong, but this killer crusade, this conversion of a stranger's land into a killing field, this reduction of a people to a video display. This homicidal rhetoric that history does not support, that our common destiny is certain to condemn. This war has not saved one human being. This war has not saved a single American life. This war has not saved a single Israeli life. This a war has not saved a single Iraqi life. This war has not rescued the lives of Kuwait. This grand undertaking, this enormous, this infinitely casual overkill, this draining of our hearts, this annihilation of all tenderness, this erasure of every reason, every rational and civilized approach to dispute. This arched and leering assault upon all peaceable possibilities, this blasphemy unleashed against our shrunken trembling earth, that has become in the hellified lexicon of the killers ruling us, a target rich environment. This war has not saved one human being from terror or from unspeakable agonies of extinction. Then, why do we permit this blasphemy to persist, expand, and explode our body politic as well as the entire middle east? I grieve the sorrow roar, the sorrow sob. I grieve the monstrous consequences of this war...

[but] I am reassured because not every American has lost her mind or his soul. Not every one of my compatriots who become a plaid-wrapped lunatic, lusting after oil and power, the perversions of kicking ass, preferably via TV. A huge number of Americans has joined with enormous numbers of Arab peoples and European communities in Germany, England, France, Italy, Spain and Muslim communities throughout India and Pakistan to cry out "stop"! When I say huge, I mean it. If 1,000 Americans contacted by some pollster can be said to represent 250 million people, then how many multi, multimillions do we anti-war movement gatherings of more than 100,000 coast to coast and on every continent, how many do we represent? How come nobody ever does that kind of political math? Tonight, February 2, 1991, when yet again, the ruling white men of America despise peace and sneer at negotiations and intensify their arms length arm-chair prosecution of this evil war, this display of racist value system that will never allow for any nationalism that is not their own and that will never allow third world countries to control their own natural resources and that will never ever express let alone feel regret or remorse or shame or horror at the loss of any human life that is not white. Tonight, I am particularly proud to be an African-American. By launching the heaviest air assault in history against Iraq on January 15, George Bush dared to desecrate the birthday of Martin Luther King Jr.

Tonight, and 83,000 bombing missions later is the 26th anniversary of the assassination of Malcolm X. On this sorry evening, the world has seen the pathological real deal behind the sanctimonious rhetoric of Bush & Company. The Persian Gulf War is not about Iraqi withdrawal from Kuwait. The war is not about Kuwait at all. Clearly, it's not about international law or respect or United Nations resolutions since by comparison to Washington and Pretoria, the Butcher of Baghdad is a minor league Johnny come-lately to the realm of outlaw conduct and contempt for world opinion. What has happened tonight is that the Soviet leader, Mikhail Gorbachev and the government of Iraq have reached an agreement whereby Iraq will withdraw from Kuwait, and that is a fact regardless of anything else included or omitted by the proposal. This agreement should provide for immediate ceasefire, a cessation to the slaughter of Iraqi men and women, and a halt to the demolition nationwide of their water supply, the access to food and security. What is the response of the number one white man in America? He's gone off to the theater. I guess that means that the nearest church was closed. Or that Colin Powell was busy dipping his spoon into the comfort of a pot of soup somebody else cooked for him. And that Dick Cheney was fit to be tied into any uniform so long has nobody would take away his Patriot missiles and Apache helicopters, and B52 cluster bombers, and black and brown and poor white soldiers and sailors and all of the rest of these toys for a truly big-time coward. Confronted with the nightmare prospect of peace, Bush goes off to the theater because he will be damned if he will acknowledge that Saddam Hussein is a man, is the head of a sovereign state, is an enemy to be reckoned with, an opponent with whom one must negotiate. Saddam is not a white man. He and his Arab peoples must be destroyed. No peace, no cease-fire, no negotiations. And I am proud tonight to remember Dr King and Malcolm X and to mourn their actions even as I pursue the difficult challenge of their legacy. Both of these men became the targets of white wrath when they in their different ways developed into global visionaries persisting against racism in Alabama, in Harlem, in South African, in Vietnam. Neither of these men could have failed to condemn this current attack against the Arab world. Neither of these men ever condoned anything less than equal justice and equal rights.

Hence, the undeniably racist double standards now levied against Saddam Hussein would have appalled and alienated both of them completely. I am proud to shake hands with the increasing number of African-American conscientious objectors. I am proud to remark the steadfast moral certainty of the United States Congressman Ronald Dylan's opposition to the war. I am proud to hear about the conscientious objections of Congressman Gus Savage, and John Conyers and Mervin as I am proud to observe that even while African-Americans remain disproportionately represented in the United States armed forces, we as a national community stand distinct, despite and apart from all vagaries of popular opinion. We maintain a proportionately higher level of opposition to this horrible war, this horrendous evasion of domestic degeneration and decay.

I want to say something else specific you to, Mr President. It's true you can humiliate and you can hound and you can smash and burn and terrify and smirk and boast, and defame, and demonize and dismiss and incinerate and starve, and yes, you can force somebody -- force a people to surrender what happens, what happens to remain of their bloody boweled into your grasping, bony, dry hands -- but all of us who are weak, we watch you. And we learn from your hatred, and we do not forget. And we are ready, Mr. President. We are most of the people on this god-forsaken planet.

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