Ramsey Clark (1927–2021)

10/2021 Joachim Guilliard, Ossietzky.net

On the evening of April 9, 2021, former U.S. Attorney General and prominent human rights activist Ramsey Clark passed away at the age of 93. With him, the world lost a determined and brilliant opponent of western war policy. On the memorial page for him, on the homepage of the International Action Center (IAC), which he founded, numerous personalities from all over the world, including the presidents of Cuba, Nicaragua, Bolivia and Venezuela, paid tribute to his “commitment and dedication to peace and justice”.

»We honor Ramsey Clark,” said his longtime comrade-in-arms at the International Action Center, Sara Flounders, “as an intrepid defender of all forms of resistance to oppression of a population, as a leader who has always been willing to denounce the crimes of U.S. militarism and its global arrogance.” He will be “remembered by people and fighters around the world as a prominent figure who used her name, reputation and legal skills to defend popular movements and leaders who had been thoroughly demonized by the corporate media.”

Clark also had considerable influence on the German peace movement from 1991 at the latest, when the USA initiated its “New World Order” with the first war against Iraq. I was personally shaken up by his book »Desert Storm \ u2012 US War Crimes in the Gulf«, in which he shows the extent of the crimes committed in the war against Iraq.

Ramsey Clark came from the heart of texas’ political establishment. As a child, he made ice cream in the kitchen of future president’s wife Lady Bird Johnson, and his father became a Supreme Court justice. As a law student and lawyer, he began to take an increasingly critical view of the prevailing conditions, which were shaped by racism and oriented towards the interests of the elites. At first, he tried to change it by working in the government. He became Deputy Attorney General under John F. Kennedy and from 1967 Attorney General in the administration of Lyndon Johnson. During this time, he played a major role in the civil rights laws passed for the black population in 1965 and 1968, and drafted laws on housing and the enforcement of the contract rights of indigenous nations.

While most members of the administration converted their offices into careers worth millions after leaving, Ramsey Clark used his reputation as former attorney general to stand up for the poor, oppressed, and lawless, becoming a leading critic of U.S. foreign policy as well as the country’s human rights situation.

In 1972, during the bombing campaign under President Richard Nixon, he traveled to North Vietnam against Washington’s will to document U.S. war crimes. It was one of the first of many trips ramsey Clark undertook from then on to meet victims of US aggression and to show solidarity with attacked countries. He visited Cuba numerous times to denounce the US blockade, stood by the side of the Sandinista revolution in Nicaragua in 1979 and supported the liberation struggle in El Salvador against a US-backed dictatorship in the 1980s.

In 1991, during the height of the US bombing, he travelled to Iraq – despite the high personal risk – to document its consequences. He then wrote a 19-point, legally impressive indictment of the Bush administration for war crimes and crimes against humanity, which received considerable international attention. The indictment became the basis of an independent “International War Crimes Tribunal”, similar to the Russell tribunals, with public hearings in 19 countries.

Similarly, after the NATO bombing of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia in 1999, he denounced NATO and demanded its dissolution. Clark was twice in Yugoslavia during NATO’s 78-day airstrikes, visiting bombed schools, hospitals, marketplaces, water treatment plants, grain silos, and pharmaceutical factories. He also met with Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic and later took over his defense before the NATO tribunal in The Hague. In his view, the wrong people were charged there. According to his indictment for the “People’s Tribunal on War Crimes in Yugoslavia” he proposed, US President Clinton and Secretary of State Albright should have been in the dock, as well as the responsible members of the government of Germany, Great Britain, France and other NATO powers.

From then on, the conflicts that challenged him increased more and more: the invasion of Afghanistan, the second war against Iraq and the various other US aggressions in the so-called “war on terror”. He tirelessly denounced military operations, drone attacks, secret arrests, economic blockades or regime change actions. After the “Arab Spring”, the NATO war against Libya and the aggression of the USA and its allies against Syria were added. Clark also travelled to Syria several times to once again draw attention to the consequences of Washington’s military operations for the civilian population.

He faced particularly sharp attacks in the West for taking over the defense of very controversial victims of US policy such as Slobodan Milošević and Saddam Hussein. He was accused of defending evil dictators and criminals simply because they were enemies of the US. In his view, however, each defendant was entitled to a defence. Above all, it was important to him to explain the background of the wars and not to leave the historiography to the victors alone.

Despite the hostility of politics and the media in the West, the United Nations General Assembly awarded Ramsey Clark its Human Rights Prize in 2008, which it awards every five years to deserving defenders of human rights. The UN honoured him for having spoken out against the US incursions in the fight against terrorism. Previous winners include Eleanor Roosevelt, Nelson Mandela, and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.