Rev. Lennox Yearwood
If you have heard Rev. Lennox Yearwood speak against the continued occupation of Iraq and express outrage at how Katrina has been handled you have no doubt been in inspired. He is a speaker in the mold of Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr., who not only can move people to tears with his words – but more importantly, move people to action. And as the Chairman of the Hip Hop Caucus he reaches youth, especially African American youth – the people the U.S. military needs to continue its occupation of Iraq. This is probably the threat that moved the Air Force to seek to discharge him on the basis of "behavior clearly inconsistent with the interest of national security."
What is this behavior? Rev. Yearwood has pointed out that the military attack and occupation of Iraq are illegal – that the U.S. is engaged in an illegal war of aggression. And, he argues the Iraq occupation can be opposed not only for its devastating human impact on Iraq civilians, U.S. soldiers and families in both countries, but also because it undermines U.S. national security.
There are many ways in which the Iraq occupation undermines U.S. security. The continued presence of U.S. troops in Iraq is causing violence in Iraq, creating enemies for the United States – enemies that will impact future generations of Americans. The bombings this week in England show how the occupation is exporting tactics to western nations – car bombs are a threat that the UK and U.S. will have a hard time combating. When they hit U.S. shores, as is sadly likely, remember that their roots began to grow in Iraq.
In short, the occupation stretches the U.S. military too thin while strengthening those who oppose the United States while doing nothing to face-up to the underlying causes of anti-Americanism. We are undermining U.S. national security every day we stay in Iraq.
Rev. Yearwood's view that the Iraq occupation is a threat to U.S. national security is not a novel one. Indeed, many in the foreign policy establishment – retired military officers, intelligence officials and Foreign Service officers – have said that Iraq is undermining national security.
A declassified National Intelligence Estimate dated April 2006 provided a stark assessment – the U.S. invasion and occupation of Iraq has helped spawn a new generation of Islamic radicalism and that the overall terrorist threat has grown since the Sept. 11 attacks. The NIE, which brings together the findings of 16 intelligence agencies, attributes the Iraq war with a direct role in fueling radicalism against the United States. The most recent thirty page NIE described the war in Iraq as a primary recruitment vehicle for violent Islamic extremists, motivating a new generation of potential terrorists around the world whose numbers are increasing faster than the United States can capture or kill them.
Last week one of the leading foreign policy experts in the U.S. Senate, Republican Richard Lugar of Indiana, noted the threat the Iraq occupation poses to U.S. national security. He said "Unless we recalibrate our strategy in Iraq to fit our domestic political conditions and the broader needs of U.S. national security, we risk foreign policy failures that could greatly diminish our influence in the region and the world."
Sen. Lugar is not alone in the foreign policy establishment for criticizing the occupation of Iraq other examples include ret. General William Odom former head of the NSA and a national security adviser to President Carter and Reagan, Brent Scowcroft a national security adviser to President H.W. Bush, John Deutch, head of the Central Intelligence Agency from 1995 and 1996 and deputy defense secretary 1994-1995, Zbigniew Brzezinski, national security adviser to President Carter, Melvin Laird, the Secretary of Defense for President Richard Nixon, Gen. Joseph P. Hoar, a retired four-star general, was Commander in Chief of the U.S. Central Command (1991-94) – these are just a few example among many.
Rev. Yearwood is certainly not alone in advocating an end to the occupation because it undermines U.S. security. Indeed, if the military wants to target Rev. Yearwood for threatening national security with his words they may also want to consider targeting ret. General William Odom and other former generals, colonels and officers who have criticized the Iraq invasion as a blunder of historic proportions that undermines U.S. security.
It is important to note that Rev. Yearwood does not define U.S. national security narrowly as merely military security. He has a broader perspective as he argues we must update our understanding of what the real threats to national security are.
Rev. Yearwood has not only spoken out, over and over about the need to end the war, but he has also been a leader in efforts to face up to the disaster of Katrina and its root cause global climate change and lack of investment in urban areas. And, on all of these issues he also reminds Americans that our government has its priorities wrong – rather than focusing on the disparity of wealth, widespread poverty and ecological disaster – which all threaten national security, the U.S. spends half its discretionary income on preparing for war – as much as the whole world combined.
I have worked with Rev. Yearwood on efforts to end the war and one issue he brings up as one that opponents of the occupation should highlight is the diversion of massive tax dollars to Iraq at a time when the basic necessities of life for many Americans are not being met. This is particularly true, he notes, for his "brothers and sisters in arms, returning vets," who face an overrun and underfunded Veterans Administration. Because of lack of funding the VA is unable to provide vets with the services they desperately need.
An issue on which the reverend has spent a lot of time is the government's response to Hurricane Katrina and the climate chaos that stoked its deadly force. Like Iraq, this is an issue of human devastation but it too is an important national security issue. The occupation misuses critical funds needed for basic domestic infrastructure, the basic necessities of the American people, our national guard, and the reconstruction of New Orleans for an illegal occupation of a foreign country.
On the issue of climate change being a security threat, the Department of Defense has published two public reports on the relationship of climate change to future military conflict. The UN Security Council now considers climate change a security issue. In 2005, former Secretary General Kofi Annan identified global warming as the emerging threat to global peace and security. Richard A. Clarke, counterterrorism advisor to five presidents, wrote in the Washington Post in December, 2006 that climate change is the nation's number one security threat but it is being ignored because of the Iraq war. Numerous reports have documented that environmental degradation and the struggle for resources including fossil fuels, land, food and water due to global warming and now bio-fuels will increasingly be sources of conflict.
Further by facing the issues of militarism, ecological disaster and disparity of wealth the United States will come to recognize that to solve these problems will require nations working together. To achieve peace in the world, restore our environment and prevent ecological catastrophe, as well as to achieve economic fairness requires the nations of the world to join together. Multi-nationalism – a true family of nations – is central to a secure international future. Compliance with international law would have avoided the catastrophe in Iraq. The illegal war of aggression and ongoing occupation of Iraq is counterproductive to real security.
In fact, when people look back on this era of militarism in the United States, Rev. Yearwood will be on the side of speaking for real national security – economic security, ecological security and security from terrorism by dispossessed people of the world injured by U.S. foreign policy. And the military that attempts to intimidate him will be on the wrong side of history seeking to control countries through force while misusing resources that could really solve the root causes of insecurity.
Rev. Yearwood lives up to the Air Force axiom "first an officer, always a leader."
For more information or to help Rev. Yearwood:
July 7, 2007 You can read Rev. Yearwood's "Open Letter to America" at where he pledges to challenge the U.S. Air Force efforts to intimidate him. You can also donate to his defense fund at www.hiphopcaucus.org or send checks, money orders or cash to: Hip Hop Caucus1112 16th St. NW, Suite 600, Washington, DC 20036. Kevin Zeese is director of Democracy Rising (www.DemocracyRising.US) and Chair of Voters for Peace ( ).
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