VOICEOVER: On Thursday, December 10, President Obama was in Oslo accepting the Nobel Peace Prize. And in his acceptance speech, he reaffirmed the US commitment to the war in Afghanistan and in Iraq.
BARACK OBAMA, US PRESIDENT: Whatever mistakes we have made, the plain fact is this: the United States of America has helped underwrite global security for more than six decades with the blood of our citizens and the strength of our arms. The service and sacrifice of our men and women in uniform has promoted peace and prosperity from Germany to Korea and enabled democracy to take hold in places like the Balkans. We have borne this burden not because we seek to impose our will. We have done so out of enlightened self-interest. I believe that force can be justified on humanitarian grounds, as it was in the Balkans or in other places that have been scarred by war. Inaction tears at our conscience and can lead to more costly intervention later. And that’s why all responsible nations must embrace the role that militaries with a clear mandate can play to keep the peace.
VOICEOVER: Two days later, on December 12, antiwar demonstrators gathered in front of the White House, protesting President Obama’s war plans. End US Wars organized the rally, bringing together political leaders, veterans, community members, and activists from across the political spectrum, speaking out against the escalation of the war in Afghanistan.
MIKE GRAVEL, FMR. US SENATOR, 2008 PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE (D): Don’t be hoodwinked about the concept that, "Well, I go to Dover and I watch the caskets," or, "I go to Arlington and I salute the graves, and I’ve got a snappy salute." You know, don’t be hoodwinked by that. It is not honorable to die in vain, and that’s what we did. We died in vain in Vietnam, and we died in vain in Iraq, and we’re dying in vain in Afghanistan.
RALPH NADER, 2008 PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE (I): Obama is a voluntary prisoner of war. He’s a prisoner of the Iraq War. He’s a prisoner of the Afghan War. And he’s trying to make the American people prisoners of a war machine of an empire. These are undeclared wars, we should remember. They are violating constitutional statutes, federal laws, and international treaties. These are wars of aggression, which means these are war crimes. These are [also] costly wars: to the Iraqis, over 1 million perished; to the Afghanis, uncounted numbers and growing; and to American soldiers, and the soldiers who were killed, and the soldiers who the Pentagon underestimates who were sent back home injured and sick. This is a war that the White House itself is costing $1 million per year per soldier. So an escalation of 30,000 soldiers, which includes almost double the number of corporate contractors and mercenaries, is $30 billion. Now, let me put that in the framework: $30 billion is more than the entire budgets of the Food and Drug administration, the Occupational Safety and Health Agency, the Environmental Protection Agency, the Auto Safety Agency, all the agencies whose mission is to save the lives and preserve the health and safety of the American people have budgets far less than just this latest escalation into Afghanistan.
REP. DENNIS KUCINICH (D-OH), 2008 PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: These wars are corrupting the heart of our nation. They raise serious questions about the legitimacy of the two-party system. This coming week, Congress will fold unemployment compensation into a bill which will provide $130 billion to keep the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq going. Where is our security when 10 million people will lose their homes in the next year? Where is our security when there are 15 million Americans out of work? Where is our security when 47 million Americans go to bed every night hungry? Where is our security when 47 million Americans do not have health care? We are nation-building in Iraq, in Afghanistan, in Pakistan, and some would have us nation-build even in Iran, but we cannot nation-build here at home.
REP. CYNTHIA MCKINNEY (D-GA), 2008 PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: In the face of growing income inequality, our president chose to transfer over $23 trillion of our hard-earned money to the bankers and financial elite, who didn’t have to work hard at all for it, just take our economy. So, huddled in fear, we pray together that the flu, a hurricane, the Great Depression, or the next terrorist attack doesn’t hit us. Now, given all these problems, what do our leaders do? Bomb, maim, and kill people on the other side of the planet whose resources certain powerful people in this country want to steal and whose territory occupies the land necessary for global conquest. Instead of investigating war criminals in the Bush administration, President Obama has chosen to become one. Our president is now complicit in torture, war crimes, crimes against humanity, and crimes against the peace. So what are we to do?
KUCINICH: I will soon introduce two bills invoking the War Powers Act, which will force votes on withdrawal from Afghanistan and Pakistan. The decision to go to war is not the president’s alone to make [snip] that the Constitution places on Congress, under section Article 1, Section 8, the ultimate responsibility. And we must insist that Congress take the responsibility whenever the president does not. Congress must stop funding these wars. Congress must demand a withdrawal from the war. Congress must pass legislation to put millions back to work. Congress must pass legislation to provide health care for all. Congress must restrain this administration’s impulse to use armed force to achieve a false sense of security.
VOICEOVER: We spoke with David Swanson from After Downing Street, and he hoped for even more drastic measures.
DAVID SWANSON, COFOUNDER, AFTERDOWNINGSTREET.ORG: We’re hearing opposition to wars. I mean, this was called a "No to the Escalation" rally, but I’m not here to oppose an escalation. I’m here to demand the complete end of these wars. They’re illegal. They’re immoral. There’s nobody who wants the current level. There are some people who want to escalate, but most of us want to end these things as quickly as possible. We as people, you know, we’ve been lobbying the president, of all absurdities, for about 12 months. I think it’s time that we put a focus on the House of Representatives and told them to say no to the money. In fact, next week they have a final vote on a bill that includes $130 billion to keep these wars going. There’s no excuse for voting for that. They can vote no until that’s taken out, and then vote yes on everything else. I’m not for abandoning Afghanistan. I think we need diplomacy, we need aid, we need everything that was missing from President Obama’s speech in Oslo, that everything you would have expected in a Peace Prize acceptance speech. The right wingers love his speech in Oslo, and the liberal columnists are sort of quiet. I mean, you could imagine the outrage and embarrassment had George W. Bush gone and given a Peace Prize acceptance speech and promoted war. We have to sort of see through the superficial partisan bickering to what lies underneath, and that is that the illegality continues and grows, and we have more troops in the field now than Bush ever had, larger military budget than Bush ever had, larger war budget than Bush ever had. We have bases in more countries than Bush ever had. We have the powers of the imperial presidency being cemented in place more firmly than Bush and Cheney ever managed. And we’re acting as if it’s okay because it’s a different president from a different party.
Please note that TRNN transcripts are typed from a recording of the program; The Real News Network cannot guarantee complete accuracy.