Opening Speech at World Can't Wait National Conference

What We've Accomplished...And What We Must Do to Drive Out the Bush Regime

Revolution #025, December 4, 2005, posted at

Debra Sweet, National Co-ordinator of The World Can't Wait, gave the opening speech at the national conference in New York City on November 19. Revolution is running this important presentation in two parts. The text of the entire speech can be found online at

Somewhere this morning, perhaps in a secret "detention camp" in Eastern Europe, a man kidnapped by U.S. military forces is likely being tortured. No one knows where he’s disappeared to. Somewhere in the Mississippi Delta, a 16-year-old girl is six months pregnant; she’s had no medical care at all, and never had any "choice" because the federal government has cut back on prenatal care, and the last abortion clinic left in Mississippi is four hours away. Somewhere in Kansas a biology teacher is trying to prepare a lesson plan for her students that interests them in science, but can NEVER teach the concept of evolution! As Sunsara Taylor said at our rally on the 2nd, this isn’t so complicated. Are you for that biblical literalism being what the law is, or are you against it?

Ten weeks ago some of us here now met in NY, brought together by the compelling Call to Drive Out the Bush Regime. We struggled hard over a weekend, and we decided, this Regime does NOT REPRESENT US and WE WILL DRIVE IT OUT. Over the next eight weeks we fought to launch a historic movement that seeks to do something entirely unprecedented in this country: drive a sitting President from power, and stop the whole direction his Regime is taking society.

Our launch on November 2 brought thousands into the streets as they left work and school and signaled the powerful potential our movement has. It was a real beginning, and a new thing. But we have to ask: will that good beginning be an interesting footnote in the history books one day? Or will November 2 go down really as the day "history started to change"? We here have a lot to say about how that question is settled.

Our mission this weekend is to decide and make real plans for politically drowning out Bush’s State of the Union message across the country, and the following Saturday, gather people from all over for a massive demonstration in Washington, D.C., raising our demand full of determination: BUSH MUST GO! BUSH MUST GO! STEP DOWN STEP DOWN, BUSH MUST GO! STEP DOWN STEP DOWN, BUSH MUST GO!

But we have work to do to make that real. We--friends, in this room--must decide and figure out this weekend how to build the poles we need to vault this movement to where it must be in another eight weeks to politically drown out Bush’s State of the Union message and make real the demand BUSH STEP DOWN and TAKE YOUR WHOLE PROGRAM WITH YOU!


I want to talk a little a bit about the foundation of this movement, the Call that we put out last July 1. Why is our Call so important? It provides the basis for uniting and guiding a movement to drive the Bush regime from power--and to take its program with it.

The first and most important thing is this: the Call tells the truth about the situation. Listen:

Your government, on the basis of outrageous lies, is waging a murderous and utterly illegitimate war in Iraq, with other countries in their sights.

Your government is openly torturing people, and justifying it.

Your government puts people in jail on the merest suspicion, refusing them lawyers, and either holding them indefinitely or deporting them in the dead of night.

Your government is moving each day closer to a theocracy, where a narrow and hateful brand of Christian fundamentalism will rule.

Your government suppresses the science that doesn't fit its religious, political and economic agenda, forcing present and future generations to pay a terrible price.

Your government is moving to deny women here, and all over the world, the right to birth control and abortion.

Your government enforces a culture of greed, bigotry, intolerance and ignorance.

In light of this, let’s ask: Is it too "extreme,"as some would say, to launch a massive and determined political movement to drive such a regime from power? Or is the situation extreme, and we are responding to that --and rightly so? We must drive this regime from power--the only way it can be done, by mass political action.

We cannot rest for one second to really get this movement moving. This is a serious situation, and we must be--we are!--serious about driving this regime from power--the world can’t wait. Bush hasn’t stopped since November 2.

This Bush crew is relentless. Give them falling public support for the war, and what? Bush makes three speeches on military bases arguing for endless war. He calls anyone who opposes him--even the few Democrats in Congress who have raised questions--traitors, and commits more troops. Meanwhile, the horror and the carnage goes on, every day. Do you realize just how extreme that is?

Give them opposition to secret US detention centers in European countries, and what? Dick Cheney, the poster boy for torture, makes clear again and again that this regime openly opposes ANY bill that would tie the US hands in openly proclaiming its right to torture. Last week the Senate voted to overrule a federal court decision, and reinstated Bush’s self-declared mandate to declare anyone an enemy combatant and deny anyone the right to habeas corpus--that is, the right to not be secretly held in prison without the benefit of a lawyer, a fair trial and what used to be called due process. Do you realize that this overrules 900 years of habeas corpus? Do you realize just how extreme that is?

Give them public outrage at the treatment of people who somehow survived Katrina and the government’s draconian response that let them die, and what? FEMA announces suddenly this week that they’re throwing 53,000 families out of subsidized hotel rooms. 53,000 families! Do you realize just how extreme that is?

We are in a race against time, literally for people's lives. Our call rightly says "The Bush regime is setting out to radically remake society very quickly, in a fascist way, and for generations to come." I don’t think it’s a coincidence that most of the elected officials who have come first to endorse our Call and who spoke at our November 2nd rallies are lesbian or gay. Why have they this taken this risk? What do they see that others don’t? Bush staked his election chances on pulling out thousands of churches against gay marriage last year. These theocrats--and I advocate calling them Christian fascists because that’s just what they are--Christian fascists. Anyway, these theocrats that Bush is so indebted to have a program based on the book of Leviticus in the Bible that advocates killing people who are gay. This is no secret; and these politicians are not crazy to fear annihilation.

Some people are clear on what our Call is warning against when it speaks of what this government is doing in Iraq, or in openly carrying out torture, but they are less clear when it warns of "theocracy, where a narrow and hateful brand of Christian fundamentalism will rule." But this is a very timely warning about a real and dangerous attempt to make law out of a literal belief in the Bible. An attempt, which is well underway, by powerful forces with real power and initiative in this society--and the Republican Party and the Bush regime in particular. Is this threat real? Well, just look at how Bush dropped the nomination of Harriet Miers, when powerful forces in the Republican Party, motivated by this Christian fascist agenda, demanded not just a "stealth" reactionary zealot, but an open ideological representative on the Supreme Court. Someone, they say, like Scalia, who has argued, among other things, that governmental authority and law derive from God.

And what is the result when these theocratic forces grab even a little bit of power? Well, what has happened just this month in Kansas, where not only has a religious creationist belief been brought into science classrooms, but the very definition of science itself has now been changed, as a matter of state policy. And what about "abstinence only" as state policy in reproductive health? Let’s call it for what it is--genocide. Now effective means of AIDS protection are BANNED from any government-funded health programs in Africa, as literally MILLIONS of Africans--men, women and children--die.

Or take what is happening with women’s right to abortion, and even birth control. Are these forces actually trying to outlaw birth control, as well as abortion? Yes, they are! The columnist Ellen Goodman recently wrote about how these Christian fascist forces are mobilizing against a new medical breakthrough in the treatment of cervical cancer, because it undermines "abstinence only." She quotes Senator Coburn, one of these dangerous lunatics with real power, saying he would forbid his daughter this treatment for cervical cancer because it would serve promiscuity.

Opposing theocracy, Christian fascism, is not about opposing religion. But we MUST oppose the imposition of this literal interpretation of the Bible as law. Let me emphasize, because this is very important. Some of us in this movement believe in God...and some of us do not. But all of us are united in opposing the imposition of a "hateful brand of Christian fundamentalism" as law. This is the meaning, and the importance, of the Call which unites us. Lives are at stake--and most definitely the rights and very lives of women.

And let’s be clear. These people are not just a handful of people on school boards. They are in the courts. They are all up into the armed forces. And they are at the very highest reaches of government.

And what lesson did he draw? Did he say that it was really good that we didn’t all get together to fight the whole regime, but just looked after "our own struggle"? Did he say that the problem was that we were too extreme in our opposition? Well, listen to what he said:

"First they came for the communists, and I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a communist.

Then they came for the Jews, and I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a Jew.

Then they came for the trade unionists, and I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a trade unionist.

Then they came for the Catholics, and I didn’t speak up because I was a Protestant.

Then they came for me. . . and by that time no one was left to speak up."

Today, we live in Neimoeller times. This regime is on a course to radically remake society and the world, and our Call put it straight: "That which you will not resist and mobilize to stop, you will learn --or be forced -- to accept."

And our Call also says this:

"History is full of examples where people who had right on their side fought against tremendous odds and were victorious. And it is also full of examples of people passively hoping to wait it out, only to get swallowed up by a horror beyond what they ever imagined. The future is unwritten. WHICH ONE WE GET IS UP TO US."

On November 2, we led thousands to become the first kind of people, and we took a first step into writing a different kind of future.


I want to talk some about what we accomplished. And what we still need to do.

You’ve probably read all the reports on There were good reports on and Michael Moore featured it for two days on his site. Local news coverage across the country was overall very positive and widespread. Our launch brought joy and hope over the outpouring of youth and determined energy.

Across the country, this outpouring had many different faces, reflecting the variety of people who have cast aside politics-as-usual and are daring to do something unprecedented. People who had been in prison, and had reason to fear getting arrested, still came out to march with us. In the last week before the 2nd, hundreds of people who are the voices of conscience in this society, including a few household names like Jane Fonda, endorsed our Call, and it began to take on more influence. Boots Riley of the Coup stuck his neck way out to speak for the World Can’t Wait on national radio spots. On the very morning of the 2nd, the famous writer Gore Vidal went on the local New York City NPR station and called to hundreds of thousands of listeners to come out to Union Square. Howard Zinn made his beautiful challenge to students. And the playwright Harold Pinter--an artist who has, among other things, shown how language can be perverted into oppression and who won this year’s Nobel Prize for literature--wrote from England:

"The Bush Administration is the most dangerous force that has ever existed. It is more dangerous than Nazi Germany because of the range and depth of its activities and intentions worldwide. I give my full support to the Call to Drive out the Bush Regime."

Nationwide, thousands of high school students flooded to the forefront. They walked out of school in the face of massive repression, suspension, truancy officers and military recruiters. Students climbed out bathroom windows after their school doors were locked shut, or were locked in the boiler room but made it to the rally anyway. Some kids like students in Batavia, IL had no rally at all to go to so they marched to the Republican Congressman Hastert’s office and screamed. We just heard--and only by accident--that in Dover, PA, the very place where evolution has been on trial by a school board that wanted to replace it with so-called "intelligent design," that 60 kids walked out of Dover High School on the 2nd. Overall, it was probably the most significant high school walkout since the '60s--over 200 schools taking part. And in many places, parents and teachers defended them, and so did our movement, which is exactly what we should be doing!

The demand BUSH STEP DOWN has come to the notice of some millions of people. This IS the news that we made.

November 2 was a public proclamation that we refuse to be ruled this way, and it called out to millions who heard about it. But it was not massive. We had thousands of people out in 200 some locations, and the low thousands in several large cities. This IS a beginning step, but it is not yet nearly what we need to drive out the regime, where millions are in the streets taking responsibility, led by tens of thousands of organizers. We raised tens of thousands of dollars from thousands of people. We need millions of dollars from hundreds of thousands of donors.

The participation of high school youth was our main strength surpassing any predictions, and you can never have a social movement without youth. But we can’t leave them to take on the whole thing. They have to be joined by tens of thousands and then millions of people from the rest of society. We needed a student movement on 100 campuses, including the elite universities, and while the were great mobilizations at a few schools like Columbia and Pitzer Colleges, these are shoots of what we must do now more broadly.

To create a political situation where the Bush regime’s program is repudiated, where Bush himself is driven from office, and where the whole direction he has been taking society is reversed, we need to have the institutions people look to--the schools, professional organizations, local governments, unions and religious institutions--in turmoil over whether they are with Bush, or see his Regime as illegitimate and intolerable. As much as the left political movements have not joined in this effort, they should. But we are really going for something much bigger, involving millions of people who have never been activists rather suddenly deciding to take to the streets, to debate with people at work, canvass their neighborhoods, ask their friends for money, call radio talk shows to challenge anyone who defends the Bush Regime.

We have decided to lead people in taking independent historical action, with what aim? To drive out this regime, and nothing less. I’ll say it again: TO DRIVE OUT THIS REGIME, AND NOTHING LESS. We are not about passively waiting out the storm. We got something different we are doing. We are giving a voice and vehicle to people who are locked out of the process, and are seeking to change the terms we’re told by which political change can even happen.

We meant what we said and we said what we meant. And that means we have to be very serious to accomplish that aim. We have to be serious--and we also have to be mad creative, refusing to accept the conventional wisdom of what we can’t do. We have to learn from the resisters of an earlier generation who said "BE REALISTIC; DEMAND THE IMPOSSIBLE." We learned much more deeply on November 2 how it IS realistic to move thousands and thousands of people around this demand, and on the foundation of our Call. Now we have to take what we learned, and what we accomplished, and get this thing into a whole other place.

Next week: How can the Bush regime be driven out? The question of elections. An audacious plan for protests around Bush's State of the Union.

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