On September 4th at the San Francisco Civic Center the Campaign for Liberty hosted a "Principles over Politics" rally with the slogan, "Ending Washington's War on Us." The event featured speakers Ron Paul and John Dennis as well as Matt Gonzalez, who was the first Green Party candidate elected to public office in San Francisco, and Ralph Nader's 2008 vice presidential running mate. The event was primarily an anti-war rally, which this trio insists is a bipartisan cause. They also brought the message that those in Washington, regardless of party affiliation, have failed to defend the American people’s essential civil liberties, and that the people should demand certain solutions from their representatives which people across the political spectrum can agree upon. What follows is transcribed from the audio of Matt Gonzalez’s speech I recorded at the rally:
Well it’s certainly not lost on me that we’re in part here to protest a war that two separate presidents have told us is over, from two separate political parties. Bush announced ‘mission accomplished’ aboard the USS Abraham Lincoln back in 2003, and of course our current president wants us to believe that leaving 50,000 combat troops, not to mention somewhere between 100,000 and 200,000 private contractor mercenaries is bringing a conclusion to this war in Iraq. I think it’s incredible that anybody would actually believe this rhetoric. And I think it’s important that those of us who care about this country and care about the future of this country raise questions about these outrageous statements.
In 2005, after I left the board of supervisors, I was asked by Ralph Nader to accompany him on a tour of California to talk about trying to end the war in Iraq. We traveled from Willis all the way down to San Diego. I don’t think either of us at that time ever thought that this conflict would exceed the length of the Vietnam war. At the time we were trying to say to people that, even putting aside questions about what kind of foreign policy the United States should have, the notion that we would be spending this kind of money in a foreign land for very obscure and unclear objectives wasn’t justified. It couldn’t be justified. I tried to point out, having come from a city council like San Francisco, that this war was draining even a local municipality like San Francisco of $500 to $600 million dollars every single year. And trying to get people to think about what we could actually do with that money.
When we don’t have that money the left and the right fight over taxation. They fight over scarce resources. Rather than having plenty we have very little. A few years later in 2008 Nader sought the presidency and I ran with him as his vice presidential nominee. We got on about 45 or 46 different ballots around the country despite very draconian ballot access laws. During that time people said to me, ‘Well what’s wrong with Barack Obama?’ He wants to end the war. He’s going to protect our civil liberties and things like that. And yet, when you go to his record what do you see? Support for the Patriot Act. Support for the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. Support for the Military Commissions Act. You’ve got somebody voting for every war appropriation.
At some point the rhetoric runs out, and we have to ask ourselves, ‘Are we simply going to standby while somebody’s rhetoric is good, but their actions are so lousy?’ Are we going to stand up for that? Are we going to reach the conclusion that they want us to believe without examining their own record? Or, are we going to object to it?
Now, the phenomena that is Barack Obama is also complicated by his new strategy with Afghanistan. During that campaign I wrote about Afghanistan. Between 1979 and 1989 the Russians, the Soviet Union had over 600,000 soldiers in Afghanistan. They left that country defeated. Of the over 600,000 soldiers they had, over 500,000 were casualties, when you took into account wounds, deaths, and all the infectious diseases that caused those soldiers not to be able to engage in combat. The United States has just under 100,000 soldiers with about another 100,000 private contractors and I can assure you we are not going to succeed, even if we were morally justified in being there.
Now, when we look at this history, when we look at this record, we have to no step back and say, ‘Ok, we’ve got a president of the United States saying he was going to protect our civil liberties and he has failed. He’s going to get us out of the wars, but we’re still fully engaged. What is it that we can do?’
In 2008 Ron Paul, Ralph Nader, the Green Party nominee Cynthia McKinney, and Chuck Baldwin of the Constitution Party came together on some points of agreement to try to say the left and the right can come together. I’d like to talk about those briefly, and suggest that rather than rewarding incumbent politicians that show us that they’re not going to protect our rights, that we start engaging in a litmus test that takes these points of agreement and we simply say, ‘If you’re not with us on these, you’re not entitled to our support. You’re not going to get our votes. You’re not going to get our money.’ We’re going to vote for a candidate elsewhere. What were these points of agreement?
First, we need to end the war in Iraq. To withdraw troops, and to withdraw troops from all bases in foreign countries. We’re talking about over 700 military bases.
The second point dealt with privacy. The protection of civil liberties. Some of the things I’ve already mentioned. The repeal of things like the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, and the Patriot Act. But also, the ending of torture. Ending the eroding of Habeas Corpus. The end of secret tribunals and military trials etc.
The third point dealt with the National debt, and a commitment by our candidates not to increase that national debt, and in affect place that burden on future generations.
Finally, the fourth point was about the Federal Reserve. That we need to end this cozy relationship with corporate banking and other financial institutions. We appose tax payer bailouts. No corporate subsidies. And to aggressively prosecute corporate crimes and fraud.
These are not left or right issues. These are issues we can work on together. Now, one of the things I’ve noticed, and some of you may disagree with this, but I’ve noticed that the natural opposition to Barack Obama on the left should critique him on these four points, but instead of the opposition that should be there, because some elements on the right call him a socialist, a label that does not belong to him, but by calling him a socialist, that outrage on the right is containing the outrage on the left. It’s causing the left not to see the points of comparison and points of agreement that we have with the right or with libertarians and others. I think that it’s important that we be careful about that. This is not a socialist president who is engaging in bank bailouts. It’s not a socialist president who passes healthcare that forces you to buy private medical insurance. It’s not a socialist president that keeps hundreds of thousands of troops in foreign counties.
Finally, let me just say that we need to have a foreign policy the is based on some overriding guiding principle. This notion that we’re going to prop up foreign governments, that we’re going to invade other countries for some kind of perceived benefit where we’re going to install somebody who’s going to be supportive of American interests or American corporate private interests needs to stop. We have to allow the natural evolution of democratic principles to take place in foreign countries. We’ve learned our lesson. When you have a democratically elected president of Iran you don’t topple him for the Shah. You don’t help topple Arbenz in Guatemala. You don’t do what we did in Vietnam etc. We cannot have a healthy democracy, a healthy republic if we erode our own Constitution and we engage in a foreign policy that is contrary to all of the principles that the founder had in mind.