Dr. Cornel West argued that President Obama’s use of drone strikes in the Middle East is a war crime.
Honoring late Palestinian activist Edward Said in Washington, West said that Said had to deal with “tremendous antagonism” during his life.
“I said to myself, ‘my God if he can do that, I can try to keep the president accountable,’ be it drones dropping bombs on precious folk in Yemen or Pakistan and Afghanistan — what is it, 231 children killed by bombs dropped by U.S. drones? Where’s the voices? That’s a war crime to me. Those are war crimes. I don’t care what color that leader is, that’s a war crime across the board,” West said at the Palestine Center event. “Let’s just tell it the way it is, you know what I mean?”
West lamented Obama’s “friendly relations” with Wall Street as the opposite of what Martin Luther King, Jr. and other civil rights leaders advocated. He referenced the president’s meeting with the heads of the largest financial institutions at the White House in 2009.
“What does it mean to go into a meeting in March of 2009 and tell the top 13 CEOs, you bring a cake and say, ‘I stand between you and the pitchfork and the masses but I am on your side, I will protect you.’ No, that’s not Martin Luther King, Jr., Malcolm X, Fannie Lou Hamer, you go to the poor children and the working people and say, ‘I will protect you. I will serve you.’ You don’t go to Wall Street and tell them that,” he said.
West also criticized the electoral process in America and endorsed Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.).
“Let’s just be honest. The electoral arena for the most part is a site of legalized bribery and normalized corruption, that’s really what it is,” he said. “You’re so tied to big money. You’re so tied to fundraising. You’re so tied to resources that allow you to reproduce yourself, to find some splice of integrity like Bernie Sanders, you know, it makes you want to breakdance.”
West said Sanders’ supporters should put “strong pressure” on him.
“Now wait a minute, ‘you’re a moral person, you know the Israeli occupation of the Palestinians is wrong and unjust and immoral, now it’s going to be difficult for you to say that and you might lose votes and so how are you going to walk that tightrope?’ That’s a challenge,” he said.
“Now he knows I’m going to say it whether I’m supporting him or not. I’m going to support him because I think he’s got some very important things to say about Wall Street and what have you, but I’m not going to stop speaking my truths in regard to other issues – no doubt about that. I’m a still free black man.”
Throughout his speech, West called for more “voices” to speak out against the “Israeli occupation” of the Palestinian territories.
“I do consider the vicious Israeli occupation of precious Palestinians as a crime against humanity. It’s a moral issue. I speak as a revolutionary Christian, so it’s a moral issue. It’s a spiritual issue. Any occupation – be it Tibetan, the Chinese, if it were Jews under anybody I would be here too, it’s a moral and spiritual issue,” he said.