April 30, 2013
Transcript of the final quarter of author, journalist, filmmaker, Jeremy Scahill’s speech at the Drone Summit in Washington DC, organized by CODEPINK: Center for Constitutional Rights and Reprieve, held on April 28, 2012.
“The application of the Espionage Act – unprecedented, record-setting – to go after whom? People who blew the whistle on Bush Era crimes. Those who participated in the warrantless, illegal tapping of US Citizens can walk around as free citizens – unless they blow the whistle on it.
“Then, you’re going to be prosecuted, then they’re going to ruin your life. Then, they’re going to knock down your door, and snatch you and threaten you take you and and try to put you on trial. As John Kyriakou, the former CIA agent did, if you talk about water-boarding, they will go after you [Kyriakou was sentenced to 30 months in prison on January 25, 2013].
“If you DO the water-boarding, you get to write a book, like Jose Rodriguez, who destroyed the CIA interrogation tapes and is running around bragging about it – and we’re going to have to see him all over this country while he pimps his book – and he’s on 60 Minutes tomorrow night.
“So, we live in an upside down society, where the people that orchestrate these policies; that are torturing people, that are using robotic warfare to kill people based on “pattern of life” and not evidence that they’ve been involved in any crime or act of terrorism, whatsoever – those people, who are engaged in these activities, they’re going to retire with the pensions. But those people who blow the whistle on it are going to have to fear for their liberty, every day that they walk around.
“It’s chilling what it’s done. We already had a totally pliant media culture in this country – the White house Sycophant Association is having their dinner tonight. With few exceptions, that’s what it is. These White House Correspondents that sit there, correspond whatever the agenda is, in the White House and they serve as conveyor belts for the lies and the propaganda of whoever happens to be up at that podium…I wouldn’t be surprised if they joke about drones, tonight at the White House Press Association, because they’ve joked about life and death issues before and they’re all chummy.
“What does it say that some of the best independent journalists in this country never get invited to those things – nor would they want to be – but Lindsay Lohan is sitting there at the White House Correspondents’ Association – that, to me, pretty much sums up the state of the US media.”
“The moment you cede your conscience for any politician or political party, is the moment you’ve actually stopped fighting for change. I don’t care if it’s Barack Obama or Gandhi that you’re supporting – when you cede your conscience to someone else, in the service of their aim at getting power, in the case of the Democrats – then, you’ve stopped fighting for actual democratic principles in this country and an end to these wars.
“What we’re seeing is a phase of escalated drone bombings, of the continuation of the prison camp at Guantanamo, where some people who were cleared for release, years ago are still being held there, these Uyghurs who were recently released were supposed to be released years ago…and they still, under Barack Obama languish there.
“When you use proxies to run secret prisons and proxies to snatch people off the streets, you’re waging war against whistle-blowers and you’re intimidating journalists and you’re using National Security letters to take over email accounts and you threaten the Internet Service Providers with prison if they tell the person whose email account it is that their email account is being targeted – that they’re going to go to jail – we’re living in a society, where President Obama has shown us, in a very clear way that when it comes to the premier National Security Policies of this nation, there’s not a dime’s worth of difference between the Democrats and the Republicans.
“…you know what one of the most shameful things that happened in Congress, in a Sea of Shame over the past several years? Is that when it was revealed that Anwar al-Awlaki, a US Citizen was put on a JSoC (Joint Special Operations Command) and CIA hit list, Dennis Kucinich wrote a Bill…it was very short and it simply said…that the United States does not have the authority to assassinate its own citizens without due process. Six members of the House signed on to that with him. Six. No Senators signed on with it. That is where things are at, under President Obama…
“What is happening to this country right now? We have become a nation of assassins. We have become a nation that, somehow has become silent in the face of – or *embraces*, as polls indicate – that assassination should be one of the centerpieces of US foreign policy. It’s a throwback to another era – an era that many thought was behind us. The most dangerous element in this is the complicity of ordinary people in this. I have gotten more hate mail and attacks for pointing out the same things about President Obama that I pointed out about President Bush.
“In some circles in this country, I was a hero for going up against Blackwater and I was a hero for exposing Cheney’s crimes – and I never liked that term, anyway but that’s how I’d be introduced at events, at Democratic Party groups and others.
“Nowadays, I’m some kind of ‘unrepentant Libertarian’ or I’m a Socialist – OR, my favorite is that I want Mitt Romney to be President…I like to say that I’m not a Democrat or a Republican, I’m a journalist, because I think we’re in such a crisis in this country that I think that journalists have an obligation to look at who’s in power – Now, I’d rather have a beer with Obama than a Cognac with Mitt Romney but I don’t care what they’re doing in private – I care about what they’re doing in public!
And what they’re doing in public is waging preemptive wars around the world and trampling on the United States Constitution and trampling on any sense of morality or decency.
“So, when you have lemmings that are going to follow ‘Dear Leaders’ off of cliffs, we stop looking like a Democratic country. We start looking like the nations around the world that we condemn as anti-Democratic. But the rub, here is that we’re complicit in it. We participate in it, in our silence. Your principles are not tested when Dick Cheney is the President, as he was during those eight years – your principles are tested when Barack Obama is the President. Especially if you’re a reporter – your principles are actually tested.
“Nothing is going to change in this country until we break the ‘duopoly’, until we get corporate money out of elections, until we stop believing that it’s just going to be Democrat-Republican, “Cheech and Chong politics”. It’s a hard, hard battle and people who believe in the future of this country have to commit a part of their lives to change the political system in this country.
“Because, if you don’t take it seriously and you keep voting for the ‘lesser of two evils’, then you’re always going to be complicit in this same, exact formula. So, the challenge for all of us – particularly when a leader like Barack Obama is in the White House is to be the same people we were when President Bush and Dick Cheney were in the White House. If you can’t bring yourself to do that, if you can’t stand up to people who make these ridiculous allegations, that you’re somehow a ‘Republican Operative’ or an unrepentant, unrealistic person – I’m VERY realistic. I’m so realistic, that I believe that we have power in this country to change it – but we need to wake ourselves up…We’re out of touch with our principles, now. In my last conversation with Dennis Kucinich, he said, ‘Everything is up for the auction of the assassin.” And if you think about it, it’s a profound statement, because you can assassinate values, also. And we’re engaged in very dangerous groupthink.
“And so, the challenge for all of us and why I’m so grateful to know so many of you in this room, and for the struggles of people, whether you’re in Yemen or Pakistan or Afghanistan or Somalia or Mali or Libya or Syria, or you’re living in US-backed dictatorships or under Russian-backed dictatorships – all of those who dare to fight – who have the audacity to say, “No!” when “Yes!” is the political slogan of the day – when you have the audacity to say, “No!” then you become a human being. Then, you’re engaged in the fight. The challenge is a simple one: Be the people that we were when someone we didn’t like was in office as when Barack Obama is in office – because it’s not about him – it’s not about the culture of personality.
“It’s about a system that gives us no options in the voting booth and about a system that is created by the corporate parties – the Democrats and the Republicans – and then unleashed upon the world. Until we take our own resistance seriously enough, until we stand up for the people on the other side of the barrel of the gun, that is US policy, pointed at the world, then we’re just lemmings engaged in groupthink, following someone off a cliff, as the Constitution goes down with it. Thank you very much.”
Jeremy Scahill (born October 18, 1974) is the National Security Correspondent for The Nation magazine and author of the international bestseller ‘Blackwater: The Rise of the World’s Most Powerful Mercenary Army’, which won the George Polk Book Award. Scahill is a Fellow at The Nation Institute. He is also a producer and writer of the film, ‘Dirty Wars’, which premiered at the 2013 Sundance Film Festival and will be released by IFC Films throughout North America in June 2013. You can read his blog on TheNation.com
Scahill learned the journalism trade and got his start as a journalist on the independently-syndicated daily news show, “Democracy Now!”. He lives in Brooklyn, NY.
April 29, 2012
Jeremy Scahill of The Nation spoke at the Drone Summit in DC organized by CODEPINK, Center for Constitutional Rights and Reprieve.