William Hughes reported on the event for Media Monitors Network. Excerpts from his report follow:
“How primitive can you get to start a new century with a war--a war of choice? We have a President [George W. Bush Jr.] who decided to attack a country that did nothing to us. I say: ‘Cry the beloved country!’ So, we have so many wrongs to right before our country gets back its honor. Hopefully, the American people will not accept this President’s primitive drive for war without end. What can he be thinking? More than that: Why do Americans tolerate such a dumbing down of our country? The American people will soon say: Enough is enough! It is wrong to ask the ultimate sacrifice of friend and foe without a good reason--an acceptable reason. We have yet to hear the real reason why we went into Iraq. I say: Truth took a holiday!”As a matter of fact, many things are wrong with this picture. And if we ever begin to put it right, we will owe no small debt of gratitude to Helen Thomas, who remained a journalist while most of the people around her were becoming stenographers.
“President Bush struck a match across the Middle East, which is always known as a tinder box. He invaded Iraq under false pretenses. We now occupy that destroyed country and we’re warning them if they don’t shape up and do what we tell them to do, we might just pick up our marbles and go home. They should be so lucky. Who are we? What have we become? Whose war is this? Thousands are dead, thousands are wounded. And to this day, we can’t get a straight answer on why we attacked a Third World country. We had a choke hold on Saddam Hussein. He couldn’t make a move. We had the tightest economic sanctions, satellite surveillance. We were bombing Iraq, every other night in the ‘No-Fly’ zone--so-called. Now, we have had four years of this.”
“We know that terrorism has to be fought,” Ms. Thomas said. “We are the target. But, first we have to find out: What is terrorism? What causes it? Is it politics? Religion? Is it our foreign policy that has compelled this hostility against our country? It never existed before. We are no longer the most admired country, one to be emulated in the world. This is the time to begin thinking about peaceful solutions to set our world right again...You cannot shoot people in their own country to liberate them... As you can tell, I’m against the invasion and occupation of Iraq because it is illegal, immoral and unconscionable to wage a war against a country that did nothing to us. The war is in its fifth year, now, and the killing still goes on. I’m sorry to be such a downer. But, it is your world we are talking about. No man is an island.”
“We have a President more and more ‘isolated’ and ‘speaking of victory in Iraq.’ He has two years to go and he has a right to worry about his legacy...There is no other place to go, so one should always want to try to do the right thing. But, time is running out...The President is ignoring the will of the people to cut our losses. They are keeping up the charade at the White House that we were ‘invited’ into Iraq. I remember asking Ari Fleischer, Bush’s former White House press secretary: “If they asked us to leave, would we leave?”
Ms. Thomas emphasized: “There is no question that ‘9/11’ has brought on a dramatic change in our country. For alleged security, we seem willing to forego our privacy and our great sense of justice. We have allowed ourselves to go to war based on untruths. No WMD. No ties to the al-Qaeda terrorist network. No threat from a Third World country. We have permitted ourselves to be wiretapped, our e-mails pried into, our mail opened. We have tolerated torture of suspects and prisoners at Abu Ghraib, and at other prisons in Iraq and Guantanamo Bay, where human beings are humiliated. Surely, that is not worthy of a great country. We’ve allowed Congress to take away the ancient right of Habeas Corpus, which goes back to Magna Carta...We pickup people with dark skin. We imprison them. We never charge them or try them. We keep them in limbo and send them to secret prisons to be tortured and interrogated. Is that America?”
“We are spending our national treasury on war, while 48 million people in this country have no health insurance. Children go to school with no breakfast. Schools are falling down. Government programs to alleviate the suffering are being cut. And yet the biggest tax cuts go to ‘the richest people’ in our country. Surely, something is wrong with this picture.”