BTL: Ralph Nader Speaks Out Against War With Iraq
Between The Lines
the Lines Q&A
A weekly column featuring progressive viewpoints
on national and international issues
under-reported in mainstream media
for release Feb. 17, 2003
Ralph Nader Speaks Out Against War With Iraq
Interview with Ralph Nader, citizen activist and former Green Party presidential candidate, conducted by Melinda Tuhus
Listen in RealAudio: http://18.104.22.168/nader022103.ram
Consumer advocate and former Green Party presidential candidate Ralph Nader is wearing an additional hat these days as an anti-war activist. He held a news conference in Washington, DC. last week with other groups opposed to war in Iraq, where he accused the Bush administration of allowing its ties to the oil industry to lead the country to battle and was quoted as saying the administration is "marinated in oil." Nader criticized Bush for refusing to meet with retired military officers, former intelligence agents, academics, clergy and business leaders who support pursuing a diplomatic resolution to the Iraq crisis.
Nader spoke at a fundraiser for the New Haven Green Party in his home state of Connecticut Feb. 8 where he again emphasized the number of top retired military officials who oppose the war, but he said Bush isn't listening. He urged Americans to continue to speak out against the war, and described the terrible consequences he fears will likely to result from a full-scale U.S. attack on Iraq.
Between The Lines' Melinda Tuhus spoke with Ralph Nader about his views on the White House drive for war and the growing international peace movement.
Ralph Nader: It's like a beehive. If you’re standing near a beehive, you can watch it operate. But if you smack it hard, the bees are going to come out. Just as the CIA predicted last year in a letter to Congress that if we invade Iraq and attack Saddam Hussein, he's more likely to use chemical and biological weapons, the raw materials of which we sold him under the Reagan and Bush administrations under Department of Commerce Export Licensing. This is an incredible situation that we are now condemning this brutal dictator for doing in the 1980s what he did with chemical warfare based on materials we sold him before, during and after he gassed these innocent people and the Iranian combatants.
Between The Lines: You've been in Washington many decades. You've been through a lot of administrations. How does this administration stack up compared to, say, what went on during the Nixon administration or the Reagan administration in terms on a whole range of things you'd like to comment on -- civil rights, civil liberties certainly, but also our willingness to go it alone in the world?
Ralph Nader: This is the most radical extremist administration. George W. Bush is not his father's son. In fact, his father was counseling, through his older security advisors, to go very careful on this Iraq situation. And in the process, the Bush administration has transforming America for the worst. They're starving the necessities of our country in terms of budgets that are now being allocated to the war against Iraq and the military buildup. They are undermining our civil liberties -- the critical pillar of our democracy, chilling political dissent, privacy and created a nation of suspects, and above all, they're endangering this country by a reckless invasion of Iraq, that many retired generals and admirals think pose no threat to the United States, however brutal he is to his own people.
Between The Lines: You talked earlier about how Americans should look at different sources and inform themselves. But since the vast majority of Americans aren't doing that, do you have any hope or any idea how the tide might be turned? There is a lot of anti-war sentiment, and there's been huge demonstrations, but what else has to happen for more people to become aware of the things that you've spoken about?
Ralph Nader: Well, Americans are fair-minded people. If they think that the president of the United States has never received an anti-war delegation -- whether from the clergy, human rights, military veterans, business, even some Republicans are against this war -- then they'll look at President Bush as a president who doesn't want to listen. And people don't like presidents who don't want to listen, who just go on TV and with belligerent soundbites talk to the American people. I think that has to become a near-term issue. This president is not hearing the other side from many people who have fought in our wars and who know and are much more experienced about these matters than both he and his "chickenhawk" advisors.
Between The Lines: I heard you mention earlier that Al Gore has probably been the Democrat who has spoken out most strongly against what's currently going on. Do you think he can only do that because he's not either in elected office or running for president again?
Ralph Nader: Well, that's certainly a part of it. Al Gore outside of office is different than Al Gore in office. He's freer to be who he is instead of to be a prisoner of the various lobbies that surround a White House and are very war-mongering.
Between The Lines: Last time you were (in Connecticut), you were talking a lot about your new organization at the time called "Democracy Rising." Has that been folded into United for Peace and Justice? Is that a member organization of it, how much of a role is that organization playing and educating American people or trying to reach out to people with views that may be different from the mainstream?
Ralph Nader: It's part of the anti-war coalition and lots of people are working in different dimensions of the struggle.
Between The Lines: What do you think will happen if and when we go into a full-fledged war? Do you think the American population will go more toward supporting a president because we're in a full-scale war or do you think there will be even more obvious and wide-spread opposition, or both?
Ralph Nader: Unfortunately, the minute the first shots or bombs are fired or fall, most people give up any opposition to the president and he will have overwhelming support whether active or passive, with the exception of some hardcore dissenters who think that if wars can't be stopped, they can be shortened and they can be minimized in terms of their damage.
Between The Lines: What do you think those hardcore dissenters should do?
Ralph Nader: Keep up the opposition. You know, if stopping the war is important, if the war starts, it's even more important to stop the war. This isn't a war where there is any firepower on the other side, so to speak. They don't have an air force; they don't have a navy, their military is obsolete -- the only danger comes from chemical and biological material release. The American people who are not participating in this great debate on the war should realize that if they don't have a say, they're very likely to pay in many ways for themselves, their children, in terms of the state of the economy and the safety of our country.
Ralph Nader's latest book is titled "Crashing the Party," published by St. Martin's Press. Contact organizations affiliated with Nader by visiting Essential Information at http://www.essential.org
Melinda Tuhus is a producer with Between The Lines. This interview excerpt was featured on the award-winning, nationally syndicated weekly radio newsmagazine, Between The Lines (www.btlonline.org), for the week ending Feb. 21, 2003. AOL users: Click here!
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