PEACE IS WORTH THE RISK|
Reverend Jesse L. Jackson, Sr.
London Antiwar Rally
February 15, 2003
Moment of Prayer
Brothers and sisters, let us take a moment of prayer now, a moment of silence, a moment of reconciliation. Take the hand of the person next to you. Take a moment to fill your hearts with peace and nonviolence.
Imagine. Imagine Dr. King. Imagine Gandhi. Imagine John Lennon. Imagine all the people, living life in peace.
As the prophet Isaiah said: "And He shall judge among the nations, and shall rebuke many people: and they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more."
Greetings from the American Peace Movement
[Stop the War chant.]
Brothers and sisters, I bring you greetings from the peace movement in America. We exist. We are getting stronger. We are still trying to stop this war.
Thank you for being here today. It is a joy to march with you-all of you! When we march together, we win.
We have changed history together before. I marched with you in the mid-'80s, in Trafalgar Square, at London's anti-apartheid rallies, with Bishop Huddleston and Bernie Grant. Together, we helped free Mandela, change South Africa, end apartheid.
And I marched with you here in London to freeze nuclear weapons.
Now it's time for an encore.
So thank you for putting your bodies in the path of the war machine.
And especially to all the young people here today-thank you for helping to energize a new peace movement, on both sides of the Atlantic. When young people rise up, the world rises.
Cold Weather, Warm Hearts
We can still stop this war.
It is cold outside today, but all of you have warmed my heart.
It may be winter, but all of you together are generating some serious "street heat." George Bush can feel it. I know Tony Blair can feel it.
All over the world this afternoon, the people are coming alive.
Dr. King's Last Birthday
Many years ago, I had the honor of serving on Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.'s staff. I was with him on his last birthday.
Let me share with you how he spent that day, his 39th birthday, in 1968.
We met together to make plans for a 3-point agenda:
(1) to pull together a multi-racial coalition with a commitment to mass action, to fight a war on poverty;
(2) to make sure civil rights laws were enforced, and justice was done;
(3) to end the war in Vietnam, choosing containment and negotiation over endless bombing and confrontation, to give peace a chance.
We chose minds over missiles; there is nothing more dangerous than guided missiles combined with misguided leadership.
We have come full circle.
Why Are We Here Today?
Why are we here today?
Because we choose coexistence over co-annihilation.
Because we choose brains over bombs and brute force.
To stop the cycle of terrorism before it spreads.
To stop a war before it starts.
Today, we appeal to the world: choose life over death.
Choose hope and healing over hurt and hostility.
Choose reconciliation, not intimidation.
A line has been drawn in the sand; but it is not enough to choose sides-we must reconcile sides.
In this battle, which can still be avoided, there may be no winners. Young soldiers and civilians, killing and being killed. There is no future, no growth, no prosperity in that equation.
When the world's superpower searches for victory rather than reconciliation, it ignores the consequences and global repercussions. It ignores the tragedy inflicted on the Iraqi people, defenseless in their homes.
Hitting Iraq begins the battle, but it does not end the terror.
Filling the air with threatening rhetoric from the Wild West only fans the flames of fear and hatred and violence and reaction. The rhetorical war is a psychological war which has already created an ominous tension around the world.
In our arrogance to rush to war, we underestimate the perils, the price, the pain. To rush to war without fully counting the moral and physical and fiscal risks is arrogant; and arrogance precedes the fall.
And while the war may be short, the cycle of violence will go on.
As a global peace movement, we must not rush towards unconditional peace without justice. We know the rule-no justice, no peace.
Peace without security and accountability is naÃ??Ã?Â¯ve; it is just the absence of conflict-it is not the presence of justice.
No one can fruitfully search for victory in this conflict-there is another level. We must not choose sides; we must choose reconciliation; we must choose coexistence over co-annihilation.
Today, we march for healing.
We march to fight the demons of militarism, racism, sexism, anti-Semitism, Arab-bashing, gay-bashing, greed.
We march to silence the drums of war.
Today, I appeal to France and Germany and Belgium, and Brazil and Russia and China, to keep hope alive.
Don't give up-much of America, and most of the world, is with you-and our numbers are growing every day.
I appeal to Saddam Hussein.
I wrote an open letter to Saddam, asking him to cooperate fully with the UN inspectors, now. President Hussein, those weapons do not protect you-they will lead to the destruction of your people.
Secrecy will not protect you; only transparency will save your country now.
Help the inspectors do their jobs.
You can still save the women and children of Baghdad.
You can preserve your nation. But time is very short.
I appeal to Prime Minister Tony Blair: Please take a step back from this war.
The Archbishop, the Pope, Desmond Tutu, Nelson Mandela-they all say this war is wrong, that it's immoral.
But this war may be your legacy. Is that what you want?
Prime Minister Blair, if you say no, the cruise missiles may not fly; without your support, the smart bombs may stay dumb.
I appeal to you-let's ask the United Nations and Kofi Annan to empower an Eminent Persons Commission, perhaps under the leadership of Nelson Mandela, to go to Baghdad.
Let's talk to Saddam Hussein, face-to-face. 12 years ago, armed only with my faith, I did just that-I went and talked to Hussein, and brought back hostages safely from Baghdad-Americans, British, Canadians.
An Eminent Persons Commission could avoid war, while the inspectors and perhaps UN peacekeepers pull us back from the brink of war.
You could help get it done. You have the talent, the charm, the influence with America's leaders. You, Tony Blair, could snatch peace from the jaws of war.
And I appeal to President Bush-Jesus changed your heart.
Jesus, the Prince of Peace, saved you.
Well, what would Jesus do now?
The Moral Center
One of the lessons that Dr. King taught me, that Gandhi taught us, is that times of crisis could also be times of opportunity.
Points of pain can turn into chances for change.
That is one reason why I often travel to points of pain. I believe peace is worth the risk, so I try when others say it is hopeless.
At times of crisis, I have gone to Syria-I tried, and a downed airman was freed. I went to Cuba, and took Castro to church-we talked, and the result was freed prisoners. I went to Iraq, when the bombs were about to fall, and got Saddam Hussein to agree that he should free a planeload of hostages. I even went to Serbia, and got Milosevic to free 3 captured soldiers-I tried, and they got to go home.
Points of pain are often chances for change.
The firehoses and vicious police dogs of Sheriff Bull Connor in Birmingham led to the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
The head-beatings of civil rights marchers in Selma, Alabama, as they attempted to cross a bridge to challenge Governor George Wallace-those beatings led directly to America's Voting Rights Act of 1965.
When Gandhi marched to the sea with his masses of the scorned and dispossessed, suddenly colonialism became untouchable.
When the suffragists chained themselves to the palace fence, sexism crumbled, and women won the right to vote.
When workers sat down in their factories, the corporations trembled, and trade unions were born.
Dr. King and Gandhi recognized that politics could be redefined, society turned inside out and upside down, if people-poor people-working people-and especially young people-acted on behalf of the moral center.
At certain times,history pauses at the crossroads.
At certain times, soul force can overcome armies, topple tyrants, knock down walls.
At certain times, a prisoner on Robbens Island becomes a prophet for the whole world, and apartheid is broken. Nelson Mandela spent 27 years in jail, but hung on long enough to free his jailer; together, we can change history.
At certain times, the people united, can never be defeated.
This is such a time.
A Better World Is Possible
The press has asked me-why am I in London?
The better question is, why are we all here today?
Because another world is possible.
I spoke at both of the massive antiwar rallies in the United States, last October and just last month in Washington, D.C. And I was invited to speak in New York, where there will be a huge rally later today. But I decided that London was the decisive link in the chain of events leading to war.
Tony Blair's support for a war on Iraq-and England's place in the war coalition-is literally the difference between majority support and majority opposition in the United States.
As England goes, so goes the peace.
And as the people of England go, so should go your Prime Minister. This is a democracy, after all. During the Cold War, we used to say that the people in Eastern Europe were not allowed to speak up, to make their voices heard.
Today in our Western democracies, the people are speaking with their feet. As millions march in Europe and the U.S., the question becomes-will their leaders listen? The people are speaking-will they be heard?
As your Labor Party rises up, and the unions begin talk of a general strike, and the polls reflect your overwhelming opposition, and the people march in the streets in London, in New York, in San Francisco, in Amsterdam, in Bangkok, in Rome, and all over the world, we give peace a chance.
Together, we can still stop this war.
Why are we here?
Because we can do better than guided missiles, and misguided morals.
We can do better than letting 365,000 children die every single day from what the UN calls "conditions of starvation."
We can do better than this world of growing inequality, where "the richest fifth of the world's people consume 86% of all goods and services, while the poorest fifth are left with just over one percent." The UN Human Development Report of 1999 also reported that "the income gap between the fifth of the world's people living in the richest countries and the fifth in the poorest doubled from 1960 to 1990, from 30-to-1 to 60-to-1. By 1998 it had jumped again, with the gap widening to an astonishing 78-to-1."
We can do better than a world where more than half of the world's largest economies are corporations, rather than nations.
We can do better than ignoring the 3 billion people around the globe who try to scrape by on less than $2 per day.
The legacy of this war will be: Division, Danger, Diversion-and perhaps Destabilization.
But we do not have to choose these 4 D's; instead we could try another list of 4 D's: Debate; Deliberation; Delivering aid and investment; and trusting in Democracy.
Why are we here today?
To rebuild our world. To waste less on weapons of war, and spend more on growing food, cleaning air and water, curing disease, fighting AIDS, building schools.
Why am I here today?
Because, to paraphrase the novelist Camus, I love my country, and I also love justice. America is a great nation. Born in the original sin of slavery, but redeemed by the Civil War, Reconstruction, the civil rights movement.
America grows more rainbow every day, and so does the world. But America is only 5% of the people, consuming 25% of the resources.
America is a great country, with a generous people and great wealth-because of this, we have a duty to use our power wisely in the world. But there are those who want to downgrade our democracy, and enlarge our empire.
Many of the loudest voices belong to men who have never tasted war. Still, they toss around code words like "collateral damage," "bounce the rubble," "shock and awe," and "pre-emptive strike"-whatever those terms mean, they do not signify justice.
They talk about 800 cruise missiles and smart bombs hitting Baghdad in 48 hours, a "shock and awe" pre-emptive strike on one of the founding cities of world civilization; they gloss over UN estimates of hundreds of thousands of civilian deaths, mostly women and children, with continuing disease and hunger and occupation-but whatever these ideas really are, they are not the best of America.
These horrors are not worthy of a great nation, neither the United States nor Great Britain.
This nightmare is not Dr. King's dream, nor Gandhi's vision, nor even John and Yoko's songÃ?Â¢?Ã?Â¦
Remember: when President Bush and Prime Minister Blair get together to talk about Iraq, it's a minority meeting. They represent only 6% of the world, one out of every 16 people. Half the world lives in Asia, half of them in China. One-eighth of the world lives in Africa, 1/4 of them in Nigeria. The U. S. is not even a majority in its own hemisphere.
Most people in the world are black, brown, yellow, young, female, non-Christian, and don't speak English.
We must learn to live together. Unilateralism is a dead end. The U.S. and Britain will not prosper for long with a 2-member coalition.
Multilateralism is a necessity. With development, not destruction.
The wealth of the world must be shared more fairly.
A better world is still possible.
What Is To Be Done?
So what is to be done? What should we do next?
Keep working, keep struggling, keep marching together.
We are doing something brand new here-trying to stop a war before it starts.
Trying to rebuild a serious peace movement.
Trying to save multilateralism, and the UN.
Trying to slow down the strong, to protect innocent children.
Trying to fend off the trap of empire, and redeem the hope of democracy.
Never forget what Dr. King taught us: "The arc of history is long, but it bends towards justice."
Don't you give up. Don't surrender. Your spirit and faith will be tested; the war machine will give us fierce opposition.
But faith can move mountains.
[If my people, who are called by my nameÃ?Â¢?Ã?Â¦]
Faith helped Moses march out of Egypt, and across the Red Sea.
Faith helped Joshua bring the walls tumbling down.
Faith helped Jesus turn crucifixion into resurrection.
Faith kept Mandela alive long enough to liberate his own jailer.
It's not easy; but nothing is too hard for God.
It's dark, but the morning comes, and you are the light of the world.
It's fearful, but hope is alive in Hyde Park, in Central Park, in our world.
Someday soon, swords will be beaten into plowshares.
Someday soon, lions will lie down with lambs.
Someday soon, justice will roll down like waters, and righteousness like a mighty stream.
Keep hope alive! Give peace a chance!
Keep hope alive! Give peace a chance!