New York congressman Maurice Hinchey (D-NY) delivered a fiery critique of the Bush Administration's drive to war in Iraq, labeling the push part of a "conspiracy" to deceive Congress and occupy the country.
The speech, made Sept. 19 outside the District Courthouse in Binghamton, New York before the federal trial of the St. Patrick’s Four, was transcribed by RAW STORY's Jennifer Van Bergen.
Speaking of the four protesters who spilled their own blood at a military recruiting center, Hinchey said "what they were protesting was the conspiracy of the Administration of George W. Bush to bring about an attack and then an occupation of the country of Iraq, and as a result making the world a much more dangerous and difficult place than it was prior to those actions."
"It is that conspiracy," he added, "that conspiracy which has now been documented by among other things official British documents called the Downing Street Memo which are communications between the highest ranking officials of the British government – the head of the British Intelligence, the foreign officer, the prime minister himself."
Hinchley's remarks break ranks with most Democrats in Congress, who have been critical of the leadup and operations surrounding the Iraq war, but who have been loath to deliver stinging perorations. The New York Democrat said he saw the trial as somewhat Orwellian -- a move towards curtailing speech.
"We do not want to see an end to this democratic republic," Hinchey quipped. "We want it to be strengthened. We want it to go on forever. We don’t want it to be ended by people who are telling us, or who would like to tell us, what we can do and say and even think. But that’s what this Administration is engaged in."
The full speech follows. The four protesters were acquitted Monday of conspiracy, but face months in jail on other charges.
The circumstances that bring you here today are critically important to the future of our country. We are engaged as a nation now in a very tragic circumstance in the Middle East. Our country was attacked on September 11, 2001. Unfortunately and tragically, the Administration of George W. Bush twisted and manipulated and distorted information, facts and intelligence to attempt to justify an attack on a country that had absolutely nothing to do with the attack on the United States on September 11, 2001.
The Bush Administration wanted to attack Iraq not because the United States was injured but for their own private, personal and political reasons and for nothing else.
As a result of that, they have caused an enormous amount of distress for our country. They have placed us in a very awkward situation with regard to other people around the world, other nations. They have cost us an enormous amount of money – now more than 200 billion dollars and increasing a more than five billion dollars a month. But much more important than that, they have cost the lives of innocent people.
Among these innocent people are men and women who wear the uniforms of the American military – who never should have been placed in those circumstances in the first place.
They were placed there unjustly, dishonestly and as a result now, nearly 2,000 of them, American men and women, have lost their lives. Approximately 45,000 have been wounded and injured – many very, very seriously, in ways that will impede their actions for the rest of their lives, that will impact negatively on their entire future. And also as many as 100,000 Iraqis have been killed and probably about half that number were civilians – mostly women and children.
So, the circumstances in Iraq are deeply, deeply tragic.
I mention our servicemen and women because I want it to be clear to everyone that we support the troops. We support the troops more than this Administration does, more than the leadership at the Pentagon does, more that the leadership to the Congress does, more than any of them do – we support our men and women in uniform and we are determined to bring the United States of America back to the place where it can once again be viewed as an honest, decent country by the rest of the world.
The trial that is going on here is symbolic of all of the things I’ve just said and much more. It is itself a tragic circumstance and it comes about as a result of thoughtlessness and carelessness.
One of the most important aspects of citizenship in this country is the right and responsibility to stand up to our government when we believe it is doing the wrong thing.
This government, this present Administration, and the leadership in the congress of the United States would like most if not all Americans to forget about that. But we need to make sure it is not forgotten. Because if it is, that means the end of our country as it always has been and should always be in the future.
We do not want to see an end to this democratic republic. We want it to be strengthened. We want it to go on forever. We don’t want it to be ended by people who are telling us, or who would like to tell us, what we can do and say and even think. But that’s what this Administration is engaged in.
So the protest that these four people advanced was entirely in keeping with some of the best traditions of American society from the very beginning.
They were brought to trial in Tompkins County because it was in Lansing where they made their beliefs known. They were brought to trial in Tompkins County and as a result of that trial, three-fourths of the jury wanted to release them. Seventy-five percent of the jury said the charges should be dropped. Nine out of the twelve jurors believed that they should not be tried or prosecuted any further.
At that moment, a responsible district attorney recognizing the events, the facts and circumstances, probably would have agreed with them and that would have been the end to it.
So, the District Attorney could have done that or could have brought a new trial in Tompkins County. But instead, he did something different. He referred the responsibility to the federal government.
Why that was done is at this moment a mystery. But it is a question that really should be on everyone’s mind.
Why, why was this case given to the federal government? It should not have been.
Now we have four people who are being charged with conspiracy. They are being charged with a conspiracy to impede the actions of a federal officer. That officer was a military recruiter in Lansing.
The idea that they are being tried for conspiracy is replete with irony. Deeply, deeply ironic.
Because what they were protesting was the conspiracy of the Administration of George W. Bush to bring about an attack and then an occupation of the country of Iraq, and as a result making the world a much more dangerous and difficult place than it was prior to those actions.
But it is that conspiracy, that conspiracy which has now been documented by among other things official British documents called the Downing Street Memo which are communications between the highest ranking officials of the British government – the head of the British Intelligence, the foreign officer, the prime minister himself.
We know that this Administration conspired to deceive the Congress of the United States and the American people to bring this country at war and to cost the lives of all those people that I mentioned just a few moments ago.
We as Americans cannot tolerate that and the four that are being tried today understood that. They understood it very early on and so they engaged in their protest.
And they did so, once again, in the best traditions of American citizenship and responsibility.
So I am here today with you to lend my support to every ongoing effort – and I pledge to you that I began it early myself. I began it very, very early myself, long before that resolution came before the Congress.
I began to opposed this Administration on this issue and I’m here today to thank you for all the time and energy and effort that you’re putting into this and to pledge to you that I am devoting every bit of energy and time that I have to stop the aggression of this country in a way that has brought shame and dishonor and deep, deep danger to our nation. Let us make sure that we continue until we get our country back on the right track.
Originally published on Monday September 26, 2005.