Introductory Address at the 2017 No War Conference
by Jill Stein, M.D.
September 22, 2017
Dr. Jill Stein is a practicing physician, activist, and environmental health advocate hailing from Boston, Massachusetts. In 2006, she transitioned her focus from clinical medicine to political medicine in order to cure the most major of illnesses currently in American society: the corrupt, disease-ridden political system. She was the Green Party presidential candidate in both the 2012 and 2016 US general elections. Her most recent deeds involved her as part of the delegation to South Korea to stand in solidarity with South Koreans against the rising conflict and militarism between the United States and North Korea. Here is her speech at the No War 2017 Conference in Washington D.C., where she discusses the connections of the political and environmental ills of the United States to this long-standing 60-year war.
Thank you, David [Swanson]. Thank you, thank you, thanks to all of you for being here tonight, and thanks to you for the work that you do, which is so critical, and it's really such an honor to be here with so many of the trailblazers in this movement, which is connecting the dots. The dots between the environment and war, but also with a whole bunch of other things, like human rights, and the plight of immigrants, and Black Lives Matter, and the DREAMers.
And it's such a remarkable time, and I think all of us come here now because it's such a unique moment. I sort of feel like I'm coming to the mecca, or to the altar, or what, I don't know what, but it feels like we're coming here searching for truth, searching for justice from each other to gather strength, to meet this incredible moment that we're in right now. And it's a historic moment because it's unprecedented in the crises that are converging right now. But it's also an amazing moment of incredible resistance, which is really sweeping the country, and sweeping the planet as people are really rising up like we haven't seen for generations. And that goes from the pipeline resisters to Black Lives Matter to the DREAMers standing up, undocumented and unafraid.
And it is the heroes of Standing Rock, Black Lives Matter again is just now facing rubber bullets again this weekend in St. Louis, where it's almost sort of like Mike Brown all over again with another...dismissal of a case of police violence. The heroism of everyday people who came out by tens of thousands in my home city of Boston to tell the white supremacists after [Charlottesville] that you are not welcome here, and they actually went home. They did go home, they went home, and they did cancel their rallies.
So it's a moment where [we're] facing incredible crisis, but it's also a moment where our social movements are very much alive and well, and one of the many things we're coming here for is to try to ponder together.
So how do we lift up our social movements? How do we strengthen them? How do we bring them together? The Civil Rights Movement in the 1960s, you may remember, if your hair is my color, that back then, you know, the churches were a real source of strength and foundation for the Civil Rights Movement. The anti-Vietnam war and the women's movement were based very much out of our colleges, but the colleges have been so privatized and corporatized that they're not the same place at all.
So, it's not as though we don't have these passions, and these values, and these visions out there among everyday people. You know, that's why people voted for Donald Trump, you know, it's like, "Well, nothing else is working: try that." In fact, most people who voted for Donald Trump were not voting for Donald Trump. They were voting against another campaign that they happened to know more about. So we're sort of living in this political system where the question is: "Which of the choices do you hate the most?"
You know, we have a crisis in our democracy now, like where we have a crisis in just about everything else, and all of these dots are connected. And that's part of why we're here, is to figure out how do we harness this sense of resistance, this sense of integrity, and justice. Almost half of voters stayed home in the last election, because the corrupt political system that people hear about doesn't address our needs, and our values, and has been throwing everyday people under the bus.
So it's not that as though people don't have a moral compass, it's just that that moral compass is not reflected in the choices that the corporate bureaucracy and that the political establishment and the media, and so many of our institutions, you know, that's not what they're providing us. They're not providing us choices of integrity. You know, I want to move forward here and kind of state the obvious, which has been said already, that the environment and war are intermittently connected, and I will go ahead and assert that war and preparing for war inherently destroys the environment, and that the destruction of environment is a driver of conflict and war, and this conference, I think, comes at such at a critical time, because not only are those two issues going off the charts right now, but also the overarching paradigm in which these problems exist, that paradigm is collapsing right now before our very eyes. That paradigm of neoliberalism, of militarism, of ruthless exploitation of human and natural resources.
This paradigm is failing. Some call this corporatism, some call this end-stage capitalism, Martin Luther King called it "the triple threat of racism, militarism, and extreme materialism." But whatever you call it, it all adds up to an utter, dire necessity of transformative change. Because we are all in target hairs of endless war, as, I think, David mentioned earlier. There is no such thing as a limited nuclear war, and that even a regional nuclear war can, and is likely trigger a nuclear winter, which is essentially if you kick up enough dust and debris into the atmosphere and it filters out the sun to a degree that you cannot produce the food that we need. And it's predicted that we will see starvation, mass global starvation, if we have an exchange of even a couple dozen nuclear weapons, which in fact, North Korea is in possession of, and the idea that if there's a nuclear war, it will stay "over there," you know, as Lindsay Graham is reassuring us.
Well, guess what, Lindsay Graham? It doesn't stay "over there" because global nuclear winter comes home to us all. So there's no ducking out of this, and likewise, a nuclear war is not just over there. Of course it is much worse over there because of a variety of conditions and in paticular, the hurricanes in Florida. 7 million people couldn't get their cars, and evacuate. People can't do that in Bangladesh, even when they have the electric fences around them, and the infrastructure's not there to allow that to happen. One-third of Bangladesh is now underwater. In fact, as of the last couple of weeks because of these incredible furious rainstorms in Southeast Asia. And Southeast Asia has lost almost 14 million lives, where we lost, somewhere around 200, between the severe storms that we've seen in the last two or three weeks. It's devastating in the other poorer countries in the world. The bottom line, however, is that there's no escaping this. And even if you have a car that you can hop in, well, guess what? Houston cannot evacuate, you noticed, Houston was not evacuated, because they tried that during Hurricane Rita, and more people died trying to evacuate from the traffic jam, the heat, and running out of gas, and that mitigation and adaptation is not an option. You can't push back against these problems, you can't control them. We have to, in fact, go to the essence of what they are.
So I'm going to jump here because of [limited] time, and moving on to [discuss] some of the things that we can do, and you're going to hear about a lot of things people are doing throughout this conference. We're going to throw a few things into the mix here. Because a historic crisis is also a historic opportunity. Discontent also charts student debt, jobs, the skyrocketing cost of health care, immigrants facing deportation, the disaster on the War on Terror, whatever, you know, it's not working out so well for us, with the military usurping 54% of our discretionary budget. We don't have the dollars to help with our needs here at home. So there's a huge amount of discontent if we can only manage to get the word out, and network to make that happen.
So I just want to underscore that it's time to really think big. Little change around the margins is not going to fix this. This is kind of a Hail Mary moment. The darkness is kind of closing in if allowed to continue on its current path whether that's nuclear war, or whether it's climate change. What's happening on the Korean Peninsula is not an aberration. This is exactly where the system of war, a foreign policy based on economic and military domination and nuclear weapons takes us. Korea may be the first modern instance of this kind of era [...happened] over and over because non-proliferation doesn't work. More and more countries will have nuclear weapons because it doesn't make a whole lot of sense for some to have the means of basically ruling the world, and others not to have. That was part of the original agreement, that it was only a temporary measure, and that we were going to be working diligently towards abolition. And I want to make sure everybody in the room here, in the conference knows that just this week, fifty-one countries have signed the New Nuclear Ban Treaty that makes nuclear weapons illegal for once and for all.
So it's not just North Korea. It's not just North Korea who should pack up their nuclear weapons. Likewise, it's the United States and the nuclear umbrella. When we talk about de-nuclearizing the Peninsula, that means all of us. This is a two-way street.
And so just real quickly, the Korean conflict is really a poster child of US militarism, combined with nuclear weapons. If you thought regime change was a disaster in the Middle East, throw in great powers, namely China and Russia, to that equation and nuclear weapons, and it is a no-go.
In fact, the goal, where 25 million people live, is within striking distance of nuclear weapons as well as conventional weapons. We cannot allow war to take place on the Korean peninsula. It is not rocket science to say that we must use negotiation, not escalation. In fact, negotiation has worked before. Both North Korea, contrary to the prevailing propaganda out there that we're hearing that "oh no, it doesn't work, they're much too crazy." In fact, it has worked successfully in the 1990s, and working right now with Iran in spite of Trump's efforts to try to demonize that deal. And it worked, and it worked coming out of the Cold War. So, we should not allow ourselves to be bullied like the rest of the world here into resorting to solutions being foisted on us by the military industrial complex, who is the one party who stands to benefit from the path that we're on involving towards nuclear conflict on the Peninsula. We can solve this, just using our vision, our values, and sitting down and having plain, old, basic human dialogue. There's a lot to discuss. North Korea, as well as Russia, as well as China, have put negotiations on the table, and has said, that we will freeze these war rehearsals. They're not war rehearsals, war games. They're serious, they rehearse invasion and decapitation in a climate which have been threatening North Korea with a first strike by nuclear weapons for decades. So any regime in their right mind is going to develop nuclear deterrence, even Dan Coates, Director of National Intelligence, said as much himself.
What we're facing here is basically deterrence against US nuclear weapons, so if we will all put our weapons down, we can solve this, and ensure that we have a future to live with on and a planet that we can live on. So I'll just conclude here by saying that this is not rocket science. This is plain old, basic human values, human vision, and it's broadly supported out there. Even in spite of the endless propaganda that people have been subjected to. Vast supermajorities of the public...say that they want negotiations. They do not want conflict, they do not want to resort to either bombing, or nuclear weapons, or ground troops in North Korea. This can be done. It's up to us to figure out, and get the message out, because if it gets out there, it will prevail, and it will be heard. So, again, you know, just remember, forget the lesser of two evils, fight for the greater good like our lives depend on it because they do. We can have an America and a world that works for all of us. The power to create that world is right here, right now, at this conference, it's in our hands. Let's make it so. Thank you very much.