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Kevin Danaher: Opportunity for Progressive Change

Between the Lines Q&A
A weekly column featuring progressive viewpoints
on national and international issues
under-reported in mainstream media
for release Sept. 28, 2005

Crisis of Confidence in Direction of U.S. an Opportunity for Progressive Change

Interview with Kevin Danaher, co-founder of the human rights group Global Exchange, conducted by Scott Harris

Listen in RealAudio:

President Bush's lack of leadership after the devastation of Hurricane Katrina on the Gulf Coast, appears to have been a tipping point for many Americans in their dissatisfaction with the direction of the nation. A Washington Post/ ABC News poll found that 54% disapprove of the way Mr. Bush is handling the recovery from the hurricane and 57% disapprove of his overall performance as commander and chief. The poll found that among African Americans 63% believe that the problems with hurricane relief are an indication of racial inequality in the country.

The president's mother Barbara Bush shocked the nation with comments made at facilities in Houston's Astrodome, set up for evacuees who lost homes and loved ones to the storm. The former First Lady told a reporter that, "many of the people in the arena here, you know, were underprivileged anyway, so this, this is working very well for them." Despite the resignation of Federal Emergency Management Agency director Michael Brown, there is a widely held perception that Mr. Bush will never admit to a mistake and holds no one in his administration accountable for their failures.

With the growing perception that Mr. Bush is disconnected from the realities confronting average people here in the U.S. and increasing opposition to the war in Iraq, many Americans are searching for answers, or at least new leadership. Between The Lines' Scott Harris spoke with Kevin Danaher, co-founder of the human rights group Global Exchange. He looks at America's crisis atmosphere, and what he sees as the role of the progressive peace and social justice movement in this moment in history.

KEVIN DANAHER: Well, you know the Titanic is sinking and it really doesn’t need us to catalog the injustices so much anymore because they're so blatant. It's out there, anybody who reads books knows that global warming is causing more (intense) hurricanes and ocean levels to rise. Well, when those ocean levels rise, what happens to the $10 million mansions in West Palm Beach or Boca Raton that are right on the beach? They go underwater first. So that’s causing people within the establishment, people who run oil companies and run General Electric way up in the ruling class -- they’re admitting that we’re in a crisis.

So, when it gets that bad, we in the movement need to start shifting some of our attention. Instead of it being 95 percent “ain’t it awful, here are the problems” and five percent, "here are the remedies," it should be more 50-50 percent or 40-60 percent or something like that.

I think if you look at the collapse of the Soviet Union, you’ll see something very similar in what’s going on now with the U.S. empire. The Soviet Union, one of the main reasons that Soviet communism collapsed, was you had an elite that were putting out a line, an ideology saying, “oh, we’re all equal, oh, we’re all brothers and sisters.” But they were shopping in special stores, living in mansions, riding in limousines, with big security. So here you have people who are doing the exact same thing, they're saying, “oh, we believe in democracy,” when it’s obvious they don’t believe in democracy. They don’t believe in equality.

This country was founded on the principle that all people are created equal and they are endowed with natural rights that cannot be given up and cannot be taken away. But here they are, carrying out policies that not only take away people’s rights, they take away people’s lives. So, Bush’s approval rating is down as low as it can be. People are waking up. It’s kind of shocking that there’s still 30-some percent of the population that supports Bush. But what’s happened is there’s been an opportunity here created for us to go out to people and say, look, there is a better way. If we marry social justice with environmental sustainability, we can fix these things that are wrong and we can run things a lot better than the guys who are currently in power.

BETWEEN THE LINES: There’s a lot of people in this country, as you say, the 38 percent who think George W. Bush and his administration are doing a fantastic job. They're pretty far away from the idea that the American empire is unraveling. When you saw those images from New Orleans where people were being videotaped without water, and their babies were dying from dehydration and other afflictions caused by the lack of government intervention, what came to your mind in terms of your feeling about where this country is going? It elicited a lot of strong views I know all over the country. But what were you thinking?

KEVIN DANAHER: Well, it's very similar to the war in Iraq where the question is, how bad does it have to get before the American people are going rediscover their spines and go out in the street and say, "these guys have to be fired." If you or I performed our jobs half as bad as the Bush administration is running this country and running the empire, we'd be out of a job. We'd be out on the street looking for work. So, it's a question of accountability. But for there to be accountability, the citizens have to be informed.

If you go to the Jefferson Memorial in Washington and you read the quotes of Jefferson that are chiseled in the marble, the highest quote that's up inside the rotunda, you have to bend back to look up and read it, he says, "On the altar of God, I pledge undying hostility to any government restriction on the free minds of the people." The free minds of the people were supposed to be the bedrock of democracy and that's the basic problem. People are allowed -- and in a lot of cases, it's in their self-interest to ignore what's going on. If you went out with blank maps of the world and held them up to Americans, and said, "here, point to Iraq for me, would you?" What percentage of Americans could even find Iraq on a map? Yet, we've massacred between 20,000 and 100,000 innocent Iraqi men, women and children. And most Americans don't even realize it. And that's not counting the hundreds of thousands of people that were killed by the economic sanctions that were imposed under the Clinton administration. On the one hand, yes, that's awful. But it creates a situation for those of us who are educators and activists to go out and educate people and say, "come on, moral authority says we've got to do something about this."

It's like if you were walking past a house on fire and you saw a child screaming in an upstairs window, you wouldn't go to the library and read a book about combustion, you'd break down the door and go in and save that kid -- or, it would haunt you for the rest of your life that you were a coward and you didn't step up to the plate when moral authority said you had to act in that situation. If we don't rise to this historic challenge, what are our kids and grandkids going to say about us and about how we failed in this important historic task?

Contact Global Exchange by calling 1-800 497-1994 or visit their website at:

Related links on our website at

* Hurricane Katrina Disaster Relief
* "As Bodies Recovered, Reporters are Told 'No Photos, No Stories"


Scott Harris is executive producer of Between The Lines, which can be heard on more than 35 radio stations and in RealAudio and MP3 on our website at This interview excerpt was featured on the award-winning, syndicated weekly radio newsmagazine, Between The Lines for the week ending Sept. 23, 2005. This Between The Lines Q&A was compiled by Scott Harris and Anna Manzo.



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