President of the Center for Constitutional Rights Michael Ratner’s opening remarks on January 20 at the closing session of the International Commission of Inquiry On Crimes Against Humanity Committed by the Bush Administration can be read at Counterpunch.
…The other important point about being here, at Riverside of course, is that in April 1967, this is the place, this is the church, where Martin Luther King openly, and notoriously I should say, opposed the war in Vietnam. The speech was called “Beyond Vietnam: A time to break the silence.” It’s a historic place for that reason. He began that speech with these words: “A time comes when silence is betrayal. That time has come for us, in relation to Vietnam.” And then in that speech, he lays out a 5-point program. But the ultimate point of that program was: Remove all foreign troops from Vietnam. Incredibly, even though it was Martin Luther King saying that, in 1967, it took 9 more years, millions of Vietnamese deaths, and thousands of American deaths, to do so.
We today model our conduct on that of Dr. Martin Luther King. As he said then, we say today, “A time comes when silence is betrayal.” That time has come for us, in relationship to the war in Iraq. It is time for us to bring the troops home now.
A people’s trial, a people’s commission, is not without important precedents. Almost 40 years ago, in 1968, there was another people’s trial. It was held in Sweden and Denmark. Originally it was to be held in France. But the French wouldn’t allow it; they prohibited it, because it was about Vietnam, and of course the French had been very deeply involved in the subjugation of Vietnam. The witnesses at that people’s trial were well-known progressives, including Jean-Paul Sartre. They gathered in Stockholm and Copenhagen, and they were there to judge another human outrage in our history, the brutal and inhuman Vietnam War. Bertrand Russell, the famous English philosopher, was one of the key participants in that trial. In fact, it was called the Russell War Crimes Tribunal.
Russell opened that trial, and here is what he said: “We meet at an alarming time. Overwhelming evidence besieges us daily of crimes without precedent. We investigate in order to expose; we document in order to indict; we arouse consciousness in order to create mass resistance.” And so, as Russell said then, we say today: we are putting the Bush administration on trial. We investigate in order to expose; we document in order to indict; we arouse consciousness in order to create mass resistance. We want this trial to be a step in the building of mass resistance to war, to torture, to the destruction of earth and its people. It’s a serious moment. Our country and our world are at a tipping point: Tipping toward permanent war, the end of human rights, and the impoverishment and death of millions. We still have a chance, an opportunity to stop this slide into chaos. But it is up to us. We must not sit with our arms folded, and we must be as radical as the reality we are facing….
Tomorrow, he will protesting Bush’s “State of the Union” address, and on February 4th will join the World Can’t Wait protest in Washington, DC. Protesters will be demanding that Bush step down from office. Sounds like a good idea to me.