Sins of the fathers are visited on our children

May 11, 1999

This is an excerpt of remarks made by Ramsey Clark at the annual awards ceremony of the Maryland chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union, which was held on April 27. Mr. Clark served as U.S. attorney general under President Lyndon Johnson and has been involved in a variety of civil rights and international human rights causes.

WHERE I grew up in Texas, it gets hot as hell in the summer. The closest place to escape the heat, back before air conditioning, was Colorado.

The Colorado state flower is the columbine. The Colorado columbine is found only high in the Rockies. It's a solitary flower. It doesn't spread like bluebonnets, all over the field. It is orchid-like, perfect beauty.

Those who named Columbine High School wanted it to be as beautiful. How did it happen that such a beautiful aspiration could become the killing field that took place there? What kind of teachers are we that the children who committed those acts could have learned such a thing?

Dr. Martin Luther King, 32 years ago, in a statement that he said pained him the most, said, "The greatest purveyor of violence on earth is my own government."

Could this dreamer have dreamed the violence of our government now? We will spend $290 billion this year for the military. We spend more money on the military than the rest of the Security Council of the United Nations combined.

Missile madness

The Peoples Republic of China, whom we fear so greatly, will spend $34 billion. Our billions will include weapons systems like the Trident II submarine, which can launch 408 nuclear warheads through 24 missiles, which can be fired simultaneously -- 17 on each missile, independently targeted and maneuverable, with a span of 70 nautical miles in each direction. That is halfway -- a hemisphere -- around Mother Earth's ample waist, the equator.

They hit within 300 feet of a pre-determined target. They can incinerate a center of population of 1 million or more, with a blast that is 10 times greater than the bomb that destroyed Nagasaki.

What madness would imagine such a bomb? We have 20 Trident II nuclear submarines commissioned today, a decade after the Cold War, which was the original justification. There was never any justification. We have got to be out of our minds to conceive of such violence. We rained 110,000 bombing missions on Iraq in 42 days, one every 30 seconds. We dropped seven and a half times the equivalent of Hiroshima -- 88,500 tons of bombs. We killed 200,000 people. We lost 158 soldiers, according to the Pentagon. One-third by "friendly fire" and the rest by accidents.

Worrisome attack

Since the bombardment of 1991, a million and a half people living in Iraq have died by U.S.-imposed sanctions which deprived them of food and medicine and safe drinking water.

If you wonder what our targets are in Yugoslavia, think of the Sudan. I went there after the U.S. attack in August 1998 to see what we really did.

We sent $15 million worth of missiles at this huge country -- second largest in Africa. And what did we hit? We hit the El Shifa pharmaceutical plant, and we knew it.

It was the flagship of their health care industry, produced 50 percent of their pharmaceuticals. The Sudan is a very poor country. Malaria is rampant there. It is the highest cause of death.

Hurting the poor

Ninety percent of the medication available to cure people with malaria came from that plant, and we destroyed it. They cannot afford to buy the medication on the market; it's not available. American pharmaceutical companies do not manufacture medicine for malaria. We don't have malaria. Rich people don't need medicine for malaria and poor people can't afford it. That was the target.

Why do we think destroying Yugoslavia saves Kosovars? If we cared about the Kosovars, if we felt a moral obligation to do something, we would move in there and protect them. We wouldn't bomb other people. Other people will never understand it. They will never understand why we destroy their television station; why we hit their little factories; why we destroy their bridges; why we hit their apartment houses; why we have killed many hundreds, thousands; why we lie when we hit a column of refugees. [NATO's supreme commander, U.S.Gen. Wesley] Clark said, "We have hard evidence that the Serbs did it," when he knew it wasn't true.

So what are high school kids to think? What is the great lesson we are passing on? Violence. The people you hate, you destroy. Demonize and destroy. What is a high school student to believe? We blame the parents. We blame the schools, drugs, delinquency. We blame glamorized violence on TV and in movies.

The great teacher is what we do, what they see constantly. In Iraq, they saw a 42-day running commercial for military violence and the glorification of Tomahawk cruise missiles.

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