Cynthia McKinney prevented from leaving US
- Cynthia McKinney prevented from leaving US
November 23rd, 2008
Today, November 23rd, I was slated to give remarks in Damascus, Syria
at a Conference being held to commemorate the 60th Anniversary of the
Universal Declaration of Human Rights and, sadly, the 60th year that
the Palestinian people have been denied their Right of Return
enshrined in that Universal Declaration. But a funny thing happened
to me while at the Atlanta airport on my way to the Conference: I was
not allowed to exit the country.
I do believe that it was just a misunderstanding. But the insecurity
experienced on a daily basis by innocent Palestinians is not.
Innocent Palestinians are trapped in a violent, stateless twilight
zone imposed on them by an international order that favors a country
reported to have completed its nuclear triad as many as eight years
ago, although Israel has remained ambiguous on the subject. President
Jimmy Carter informed us that Israel had as many as 150 nuclear
weapons, and Israel's allies are among the most militarily
sophisticated on the planet. Military engagement, then, is untenable.
Therefore the exigency of diplomacy and international law.
The Palestinians should at least be able to count on the protections
of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. What is happening to
Palestinians in Gaza right now, subjected to an Israeli-imposed
blockade, has drawn the attention of the United Nations Secretary
General, Ban Ki-moon, who noted that over half of the civilians in
Gaza are children. Even The Los Angeles Times criticized Israel's
lockdown of Gaza that is keeping food, fuel, and medicine from
civilians. Even so, Israel stood fast by its decision to seal Gaza's
openings. But where are the voices of concern coming from the
corridors of power inside the United States? Is the subject of
Palestinian human rights taboo inside the United States Government
and its government-to-be? I hope not. Following is the speech I would
have given today had I been able to attend the Damascus Conference.
Right of Return Congregation
November 23, 2008
Thank you to our hosts for inviting me to participate in this most
important and timely First Arab-International Congregation for the
Right of Return. Words are an insufficient expression of my
appreciation for being remembered as one willing to stand for justice
in Washington, D.C., even in the face of tremendously difficult
Former Prime Minister Tun Mahathir, thank you for including me in the
Malaysian Peace Organisation's monumental effort to criminalize war,
to show the horrors of the treatment of innocent individuals during
the war against and occupation of Iraq by the militaries and their
corporate contractors of Britain, Israel, and the United States.
Thank you for standing up to huge international economic forces
trying to dominate your country and showing an impressionable woman
like me that it is possible to stand up to "the big boys" and win.
And thank you for your efforts to bring war criminal, torturer,
decimator of the United States Constitution, the George W. Bush
Administration, to justice in international litigation.
Delegates and participants, I must declare that at a time when
scientists agree that the climate of the earth is changing in
unpredictable and possibly calamitous ways, such that the future of
humankind hangs in the balance, it is unconscionable that we have to
dedicate this time to and focus our energies on policies that
represent a blatant and utter disregard for human rights and self-
determination and that represent in many respects, a denial of human
In the same year as Palestinians endured a series of massacres and
expulsions, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights became
international law. And while the United Nations is proud that the
Declaration was flown into Outer Space just a few days ago on the
Space Shuttle, if one were to read it and then land in the Middle
East, I think it would be clear that Palestine is the place that the
Universal Declaration forgot.
Sadly, both the spirit of the Universal Declaration for Human Rights
and the noblest ideals of the United Nations are broken. This has
occurred in large measure due to policies that emanate from
Washington, D.C. If we want to change those policies, and I do
believe that we can, then we have to change the underlying values of
those who become Washington's policy makers. In other words, we must
launch the necessary movement that puts people in office who share
We need to do this now more than ever because, sadly, Palestine is
not Washington's only victim. Enshrined in the Universal Declaration
is the dignity of humankind and the responsibility of states to
protect that dignity. Yet, the underlying contradictions between its
words and what has become standard international practice lay exposed
to the world this year when then-United Nations High Commissioner for
Human Rights Louise Arbour proclaimed:
"In the course of this year, unprecedented efforts must be made to
ensure that every person in the world can rely on just laws for his
or her protection. In advancing all human rights for all, we will
move towards the greatest fulfillment of human potential, a promise
which is at the heart of the Universal Declaration."
How insulting it was to hear those words coming from her, for those
of us who know, because it was she who, as Chief Prosecutor of the
International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda, willfully participated in
the cover-up of an act of terror that resulted in the assassination
of two democratically-elected Presidents and that unleashed a torrent
of murder and bloodletting in which one million souls were
vanquished. That sad episode in human history has become known as the
Rwanda Genocide. And shockingly, after the cover-up, Louise Arbour
was rewarded with the highest position on the planet, in charge of
Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. once said that justice delayed is justice
denied. And 60 years is too long to wait for justice.
The Palestinian people deserve respected self-determination,
protected human rights, justice, and above all, peace.
On the night before his murder, Dr. King announced that he was happy
to be living at the end of the 20th Century where, all over the
world, men and women were struggling to be free.
Today, we can touch and feel the results of those cries, on the
African Continent where apartheid no longer exists as a fact of law.
A concerted, uncompromising domestic and international effort led to
And in Latin America, the shackles of U.S. domination have been
broken. In a series of unprecedented peaceful, people-powered
revolutions, voters in Venezuela, Brazil, Argentina, Bolivia, Chile,
Ecuador, Nicaragua, and most recently Paraguay used the power of the
political process to materially change their countries' leadership
and policy orientation toward the United States. Americans,
accustomed to the Monroe Doctrine which proclaimed U.S. suzerainty
over all politics in the Western Hemisphere, must now think the
unthinkable given what has occurred in the last decade.
Voters in Cote d'Ivoire, Haiti, Spain, and India also took matters
clearly in their hands to make "a clean break" from policies that
were an affront to the interests of the majority of the people in
In country after country, against tremendous odds, people stood up
and took their fates in their hands. They did what Mario Savio, in
the 1960s, asked people in the United States to do. These people-
powered, peaceful revolutions saw individuals put their bodies
against the levers and the gears and the wheels of the U.S. imperial
machine and they said to the owners if you don't stop it, we will.
And I know that people of conscience inside my country can do it,
too: especially now that the engines of imperial oppression are
running out of gas.
Even though the Democratic Party, at the Convention that nominated
Barack Obama, denied its microphone to Former President Jimmy Carter
because of his views on Palestine, let me make it clear that Former
President Carter is not the only person inside the United States who
believes that peace with justice is possible in Palestine.
Inside the United States, millions who are not of Arab descent,
disagree vehemently with the policy of our government to provide the
military and civilian hardware that snuffs out innocent human life
that is also Arab.
Millions of Americans do not pray to Allah, but recognize that it is
an inalienable right of those who do to live and pray in peace
wherever they areincluding inside the United States.
Even though their opportunities are severely limited, there are
millions of people inside the United States struggling to express
themselves on all of these issues, but whose efforts are stymied by a
political process that robs them of any opportunity to be heard.
And then there are the former elected officials who spoke out for
what was right, for universal application of the Universal
Declaration, and who were roundly condemned and put out of office as
a result. My father is one such politician, punishedkicked out of
officebecause of the views of his daughter.
In my case, I dared to raise my voice in support of the World
Conference Against Racism and against the sieges of Ramallah, Jenin,
and the Church of the Nativity. I raised my voice against the
religious profiling in my country that targets innocent Muslims and
Arabs for harassment, imprisonment, financial ruin, or worse. Yes, I
have felt the sting of the special interests since my entry onto the
national stage when, in my very first Congressional campaign, I
refused to sign a pledge committing that I would vote to maintain the
military superiority of Israel over its neighbors, and that Jerusalem
should be its capital city.
Other commitments were on that pledge as well, like continued
financial assistance to Israel at agreed upon levels.
As a result of my refusal to make such a commitment, and just like
the old slave woman, Sojourner Truth, who bared her back and showed
the scars from the lashes meted out to her by her slave master, I
too, bear scars from the lashes of public humiliation meted out to me
by the special interests in Washington, D.C. because of my refusal to
tow the line on Israel policy. This "line" is the policy accepted by
both the Democratic and Republican Party leadership and why they
could cooperate so well to coordinate my ouster from Congress. But I
have survived because I come from the strongest stock of Africans,
stolen then enslaved, and yet my people survived. I know how to never
give up, give in, or give out. And I also know how to learn a good
political lesson. And one lesson I've learned is that the treatment
accorded to me pales in comparison to what Palestinian victims still
living in refugee camps face every day of their lives.
The treatment accorded to me pales in comparison to the fact that
human life is at stake if the just-released International Atomic
Energy Agency report is true when it writes that "The only
explanation for the presence of these modified uranium particles is
that they were contained in the missiles dropped from the Israeli
planes." What are the health effects of these weapons, what role did
the U.S. military play in providing them or the technology that
underlies them, why is there such silence on this, and most
fundamentally, what is going on in this part of the world that
international law has forgotten?
Clearly, not only the faces of U.S. politicians must change; we must
change their values, too. We, in the United States, must utilize our
votes to effect the same kind of people-powered change in the United
States as has been done in all those other countries. And now, with
more people than ever inside the United States actually paying
attention to politics, this is our moment; we must seize this time.
We must become the leaders we are looking for and get people who
share our values elected to Congress and the White House.
Now, I hope you believe me when I say to you that this is not rocket
science. I have learned politics from its best players. And I say to
you that even with the failabilities of the U.S. system, it is
possible for us to do more than vote for a slogan of change, we can
actually have it. But if we fail to seize this moment, we will
continue to get what we've always been given: handpicked leaders who
don't truly represent us.
With the kind of U.S. weapons that are being used in this part of the
world, from white phosphorus to depleted uranium, from cluster bombs
to bunker busting bombs, nothing less than the soul of my country is
at stake. But for the world, it is the fate of humankind that is at
The people in my country just invested their hopes for a better world
and a better government in their votes for President-elect Obama.
However, during an unprecedented two year Presidential campaign, the
exact kind of change we are to get was never fully defined.
Therefore, we the people of the United States must act now with
boldness and confidence. We can set the stage for the kind of change
that reflects our values.
Now is not the time for timidity. The U.S. economy is in shambles,
unemployment and health insecurity are soaring, half of our young
people do not even graduate from high school; college is
unaffordable. The middle class that was invested in the stock market
is seeing their life savings stripped from them by the hour. What we
are witnessing is the pauperization of a country, in much the same
way that Russia was pauperized after the fall of the Soviet Union.
There are clear winners and the losers all know who they are. The
attentive public in the United States is growing because of these
conditions. Now is the time for our values to rise because people in
the United States are now willing to listen.
So the question really is, "Which way, America?"
Today we uplift the humanity of the Palestinian people. And what I am
recommending is the creation of a political movement inside my
country that will constitute a surgical strike for global justice.
This gathering is the equivalent of us stepping to the microphone to
We don't have to lose because we have commitment to the people.
And we don't have to lose because we refuse to compromise our core
We don't have to lose because we seek peace with justice and
diplomacy over war.
We don't have to lose.
By committing to do some things we've never done before I'm certain
that we can also have some things we've never had before.
I return to the U.S. committed to do my part to make our dream come
For more information on Cynthia McKinney please visit
NOTE: Cynthia McKinney was the nominee of the Green Party of the US
for President this year.
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