Votermarch and Others Launch Official Campaign 2004 Theme:
His Re-election Spells Death to Roe v. Wade and Democracy
by Marta Steele
“We can change America here.
This is where we start the march for 2004.”
(Greg Palast, quoting Martin Luther King III)
With the cessation of the bombing of Iraq, it is not as if the fight is over, nor even the war, but progressives demonstrating on Monday, June 23, in front of the Sheraton Hotel in midtown Manhattan stressed other issues. The organizer was Lou Posner, head of votermarch.org and nobloodforoil.org, among the first to organize and protest the illegal outcome of election 2000 and the subsequent iniquities that have plagued this country in the inept hands of the “Commander in Thief” and his cronies. The catalyst was Bush’s visit to a $2,000 per plate fundraiser at the hotel, on the heels of a stop at the UN to discuss the Humanitarian Appeal for Iraq. Whom better to consult on the subject of humane treatment of Iraq than Bush? But deeper contradictions plague our country than pretending to care, something Bush does every day while his actions speak otherwise.
Other progressive groups represented at the 7th Avenue and 54th St. protest were democrats.com and democracy march, also pioneers in protesting the mangled ethics of election 2000. Speakers included Posner, Bob Fertik and Chris Acosta of the former group and Cheryl Guttman of the latter. A last-minute addition was the investigative journalist and best-selling author Greg Palast, just back from a book tour in England, where he is also producing a new film. As speakers addressed the exigent themes of the protest--military aggression against Iraq, the corrupt influence of corporate interests, the quashing of civil rights, and disregard for the environment--they also manifested a combination of anxiety and determination on the subject of election 2004. Crucial issues like Roe vs. Wade are at stake, not to mention our basic freedoms and the future of democracy. Grass-roots activism is imperative. But it must transcend in a way totally beyond “us usual suspects.” As Lou Posner later noted, it must lead not to a narrow victory margin of one or the other candidate (as supposedly occurred in 2000) but a large one. And this involves campaigning the hinterlands, among those who stayed home from the polls in 2000: both registered and unregistered (See the statistics in my article “When Democracy?” in this issue and the more detailed focus on this moral majority in both this and “ Dear Fellow Progressives.”)
Other protest groups turned out also in larger numbers, but far from the millions that opposed the Iraq invasion. ANSWER protested Bush at Times Square; some Israel supporters and a few championing Palestinian autonomy flanked the votermarch protest, and Planned Parenthood activists stood outside the Sheraton Hotel opposing the ultra rightwing favoritism of unborn lives over those already on the earth and in need. All were confined within police barricades. This time around, I found them welcome. Having endured three years of Bushocracy, I found them suddenly sheltering me from him and gladly respected the barriers, needing the protection, wanting real protection from the right wing, which the entire NYPD could not deliver, horses, clubs, guns, and all. That is where the theme of miracle comes in, that vertical ice Everest we must climb to unseat the usurpers.
”Bush is no fool,” lamented Posner. “The real fool is the American public who believes him. He doesn’t have their interests at stake. He supports the top .1 percent of the wealthy in this country [Note the decimal that replaces the statistic formerly cited: one percent. Another .9 percent cheated. Where is their protest?]. The culprit? In Manhattan especially, but throughout the country, the conservative talk shows that dominate this media sector are lying to the public, Chris Acosta of democrats.com later told the crowd that maxed at a few hundred at the progressive gathering. He called hosts like Rush Limbaugh and Bob O’Reilly “Meccas of misinformation.” Fully 52 percent of New Yorkers, for example, thought Iraqis were on the planes that crashed into the World Trade Center on 9/11, connecting both Iraq and Saddam Hussein with that event. “There is no connection,” Acosta said.
“The truth must be known,” Posner continued. “The president of the United States is a dishonest scoundrel who stole the election with the help of Jeb Bush, Republican bullies, and a crooked Supreme Court. He lied to the American public, the UN, and the world community, using false pretexts for waging military occupation of a Third World country. He lied about WMDs to invade the Middle East oil reservoir, where there were either no WMDs or so few that there was no threat to our security. Votermarch seeks constructive solutions!”
“The true patriots are here, not at that $2,000 a plate dinner. While those at the Sheraton trade favors with Bush, we in the street tell the truth,” said Posner. One protester held up her sign “Weapon of Mass Deception,” an arrow pointing toward the mouth of an enlarged photo of Bush. “Operation Enduring Feardom,” read another sign. “Bush leaves 12 million children behind,” “Bush leaves no multimillionaire behind,” read others.
A major focus of the protesters was the Republican plan to hold their convention in 2004 to renominate Bush in Manhattan, timing it to coincide with the laying of the new cornerstone at the 9/11 memorial. “Have it in Texas!” growled one protester. “Call Bloomberg, get a petition,” said Posner. “Three thousand people did not die on 9/11 for that!”
Chris Acosta was next to speak. “Bush is losing the gains we worked so hard for two hundred years ago,” he told the group. “Bush lies to the world and gives his friends multimillion-dollar contracts, while the families of dead soldiers receive $6,000 and a purple heart. A family of three will receive $15,000 a year,” he added later. He commented on Bush’s “heroism” during the Vietnam war, flying “missions” over Texas as a member of the Air Guard, having been admitted there despite his admission test score of 25% through the machinations of his father, then a U.S. Congressman, and his grandfather, then a U.S. Senator [the latter information forthcoming from Palast, who spoke later]. It was at that time that he deserted for a year, on the books as a capital crime without a statute of limitations. That alone should have disqualified him from the candidacy altogether.
“There is no election in Iraq, no food, no medical supplies, children are dying of malnutrition, but we turned on the oil and got the shipments started,” Acosta continued. “There was nothing in Bush’s September 2002 speech to the UN on liberating Iraqis, nothing in resolution 1441, nor in his February 5, 2003, speech. Instead he spoke of five hundred tons of WMDs Iraq had ready to dump on the U.S. and the ‘suspicious trailers’ that were actually sold by England to Iraq in 1997. Clinton may have stained a dress, but Bush has stained the American flag. Americans are doing nothing, letting Bush do what he wants, including lying about the WMDs.
“There are millions to spend on Iraq, but not a dime to keep our firehouses open and support our police force [whose jobs are being cut],” Acosta said. “We must organize the country to get rid of Bush before the U.S. becomes a Third World country like Afghanistan. Thousands of jobs were lost so Bush could fight in Iraq. Fifteen Saudi Arabians were on the planes that attacked America on 9/11 and Bush had the Saudi prince to a Texas barbecue.” Acosta later added that after 9/11 we were not permitted to check banking records in Saudi Arabia.
“Bush has already raised $200 million in campaign funds,” continued Acosta. “I can’t find a place in the Constitution where the Supreme Court elects the president. Bush has destroyed American credibility in the world. France, Germany, and Russia were right and we were wrong. We went to war over a lie.”
Bob Fertik, owner of democrats.com, took the podium next. “Tell the talk shows you are sick of their lies. Tell them you want to hear Palast,” he said. He then contributed some novelty to the usual format by leading a singalong of Madeleine Kane’s (www.madkane.com, regularly featured at his website) rewording of old favorites like the Broadway hit “Wouldn’t that be loverly” (All I want is some leadership … Bush out of my gray hair, oh wouldn’t that be loverly?), “Don’t cry for me, Argentina,” “Let it be,” “Blowin’ in the wind” (How many wars must a president start without any reason at all?), and others. Fredda Weinberg, a Palast associate (profiled elsewhere in this issue) and Cheryl Guttman of democracy march joined Fertik as amateur soloists within blocks of the world’s Mecca of musicals, Broadway.
In a more sober vain, Fertik then focused back on 9/11, of which Bush would be the hero, a notion he proceeded to disprove. “The families of the 9/11 victims still wait for an independent investigation,” he said. “Eight million New Yorkers would be angry if they knew that the conservative press is lying to them.”
Fertik then reviewed the president’s actions on the morning of 9/11. “Though a $400 billion Pentagon budget keeps fighter jets on runways poised for defense, we all knew of the hijackings at 8:20 that morning, flying over the most densely populated area in the world. Why weren’t the jets scrambled? Where was Bush? At 8:46 the first plane hit the World Trade Center. Bush said twice that he watched this happen live from Booker Elementary School in Florida. He knew the second plane was headed toward the World Trade Center…. At 9:03 the second plane crashed into it.
“Andrew Card whispered to Bush, ‘America is under attack.’ Bush sat reading to the elementary school classroom about a goat. People at the World Trade Center were crawling out on ledges a hundred stories above the ground praying that God would save them.
“Bush is here to raise $4 million from New Yorkers who knew people who died at the World Trade Center that day, whom he betrayed. While people leaped to their deaths and he read a story about a goat, he wants the biggest celebration in history as the hero of 9/11. I will tell this story over and over again until the people of New York rise up and say, ‘George, go somewhere else. Where were you when we needed you?’”
Palast succeeded Fertik, explaining his continued work for BBC tv as illegal in this country, so that his commute to report the real news is continuous between England and the United States. He spoke of a 101-page document he received, detailing plans for the reconstruction of Iraq months before the U.S. public knew “the plan to sell off their oil fields.”
“We didn’t go in for oil but we aren’t leaving without it,” he said. He quoted Bush’s “high-noon speech before the war”: “Do not destroy the oil wells…. Tonight they’re celebrating that the oil wells weren’t destroyed. We have a president building mansions for the shameless, not homes for the homeless,” he quipped. He then quoted Bush again, forty-eight hours before the invasion began in March: “There is no certainty in war except sacrifice.”
Calling the Texas Air Guard a unit for those” afraid of the sight of blood,” Palast next quoted Bush’s position on affirmative action, the ultimate irony: “No one should be hired except on the basis of merit.” Here he quoted Bush’s test results in 1968 and the “affirmative action” that kept him and Cheney (who supported that war) far afield of the Vietnam holocaust. Turning to election 2000, Palast said the illegal and racist voter purge he publicized was “front-page news all over the world except in this country.”
Palast warned of the “Help America Vote act” (HAV), a $4 billion plan to computerize all voting machines in this country, “taking the Florida system and spreading it all over the U.S…. You may have already voted in 2004 and not know it,” he further warned. We must petition Ashcroft to stop this action.
Turning back to earlier trials in history, Palast quoted Martin Luther King III, who recalled the fortieth anniversary of his father crossing the bridge into Birmingham “with a crowd no larger than this that succeeded in making large changes in this country.” “We can change America here. This is where we start the march for 2004, asking the same questions King asked forty years ago: “Can blacks vote in America?”
Palast further criticized the “Bush-style democracy in Iraq; democracy was promised in Kuwait twelve years ago. In Afghanistan, the rule is one war lord-one vote. Iraqi elections should be in progress, as promised by Jay Garner, subsequently replaced by Kissinger’s friend Bermer.” Palast called Bush’s HAV act “Orwellian.”
Chris Acosta spoke again, addressing the specifics of how grass-roots efforts can combat the Bushocracy. We must each meet with ten friends, who in turn will fan out and each meet with ten more friends until we have spanned the entire country. We must learn who our representatives are (my representative is head of the House committee that slaps ENRON wrists). We must write to these representatives stating our feelings and what we want done.
“It takes work,” Acosta said. “Realize the stakes of the next election: eight years of Jeb Bush after George II. If Bush wins in 2004, we can say good-bye to Roe v. Wade…. The world’s most dangerous criminal sits in the White House. Cheney is the world’s second most dangerous criminal, Rumsfeld is the third, Wolfowitz the fourth, Ashcroft, the fifth, and so on.”
Acosta quoted Ben Franklin: “Those who sacrifice liberty for security will have neither,” adding that Franklin said these words under more dangerous conditions than prevail now. More chilling than Bush’s lies to the U.S. and the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution lie were the words of George Bush Sr. after the Gulf War, proclaiming a “new world order,” a direct quotation from Hitler’s Mein Kampf (alas, Hitler was quoting the “novus ordo” from Eclogue IV that the poet Virgil wrote to celebrate Augustus Caesar’s Pax Romana.) Acosta further quoted Hitler that “the bigger the lie, the more the people will believe it.”
“Do you want our loved ones to die so that Halliburton can make millions? They’ll send you a purple heart and $6,000,” warned Acosta. Regarding the horror expressed at the chemical warfare Saddam waged against the Iraqi Kurds, Acosta recalled the U.S. B52 bombers that sprayed Agent Orange over Vietnam in the 1970s. “We can respond. We can get people to vote. We can give the Democrats in Congress the courage to stand up against those assholes,” he said.
“France knew we were lying. French intelligence told Bush that Iraq was no threat,” continued Acosta. “Now they’re trying to blame the CIA, hiding behind ‘bad intelligence’ since 9/11.” Referring to Condoleeza Rice’s disclaimer “We didn’t know they’d use planes as weapons,” Acosta asked, “When do your enemies tell you what they’re going to do?”
Acosta reminded listeners that after Ken Lay’s indictment Bush denied knowing him, despite documentation that he had flown in his plane. “Sources in Iraq were telling us where the WMDs were. Now the sources and WMDs have vanished,” he said. “There were five hundred tons of WMDs and thirty 18-wheeler trucks. We haven’t found anything and experts say we won’t. Bush and his people say that we need more time for their Easter egg hunt.
‘It’s lucky that there are some sane people in the world: France, Germany, and Russia. We might have otherwise rolled up the entire Middle East and Asia,” Acosta continued. “Six months from now I hope the people are sick of the lies and that millions of Americans besiege Washington and demand a recall to get out of that quagmire.”
Lou Posner took the podium to wrap up the two hours allotted for the protest. “Every act of Bush is of an illegitimate president. We should not forget,” he said. “We should not be campaigning off the backs of New Yorkers,” he continued. “The Commander-in Thief was asleep at the switch.
“New York City hasn’t gotten federal money for security. Criminal checks on airport personnel are incomplete, but when it comes to funding our activities in Iraq, taxpayer money was there, wrapping the bodies of 9/11 victims in the flag.
“When the Republicans come here, we will be there organizing. Our brothers and sisters died. The Republicans wrap themselves in the flag now matter how bad the economy and unemployment. There s always time for tax cuts for the top .1 percent of the country. What kind of a democracy is this? Vote these people out of office!”
“We already did!” protested one voice in the crowd. “So much damage has been done,” continued Posner. “The consequences of reelection are serious. We must vote them out of office. Their views affect everything. All their decisions are against the people and for the corporate chieftains. Let’s continue!!”
After an ANSWER spokesperson reminded the group of the July 4 protest in Philadelphia they plan, Fredda Weinberg stood up again briefly, to relate another 9/11 memory: From London Palast called her about an FBI report he had just received over the transom. The FBI had been investigating other members of the bin Laden family for links to terrorist organizations. He was hesitant what to do with this information marked “Secret.” “The people trust you to get the word out,” she told him, and he did.
Weinberg reminded us that under Clinton it was difficult to investigate Saudi terrorist networks, but under Bush it became impossible.” By working together, we protect our liberties and work for the common good,” she concluded.
Copyright © Marta Steele 2003. All rights reserved.