Haunani-Kay Trask, human rights activist and professor at the University of Hawaii, spoke about American militarism and the liberties she believes have been lost in the United States because of the Bush administration’s war on terror at the University Student Union’s Grand Salon on Oct. 6.
“(The speech) was looking at the connections between military build up abroad and the limiting and taking away of rights of people in the United States,” said Teresa Williams-Leon, Asian American Studies Department chair and professor.
During Trask’s speech, she criticized the Bush administration for its handling of civil liberties.
“The Bush administration has become a fascist government,” Trask said. “They are taking away liberties and demonizing people who are not Christian, especially the Islamic world.”
Trask said she does not like that the Bush administration is giving all Muslims a bad name in his war on terror.
“He is demonizing Muslims when he doesn’t have to,” she said. “If you are targeting people just because they are Muslims, you’re shooting yourself in the foot.”
Trask referred to the United States War on Terror as a war on people of color and a war for oil.
She said the targets of the war reside in the U.S., and that the war is not about securing democracy – it is to militarize the state.
The Patriot Act, passed in the months after the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks, has made the United States a police state, Trask said.
The FBI’s right to tap any persons phone line without probable cause, and the 1-800 number where anyone can call and report a suspicious person are two things that she said violates citizens right to privacy.
“The FBI should investigate criminals, not citizens protesting the war in Iraq,” she said.
The War on Terror is closely linked to al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden, Trask said, adding that the Bush administration placed great emphasis on blaming bin Laden for the terrorist acts that occurred. She said that type of ideology is unwise because it recruits budding terrorists to a cause that has bad intensions.
Trask also discussed the media’s coverage of the war in Iraq, which she said has been sympathetic and an “authoritarian arrogance toward the people.”
Trask encouraged the audience to read leftist magazines to acquire more of an accurate picture of what has occurred in Iraq.
Trask did not attempt to hide her feelings toward President Bush as she, several times throughout her speech, referred to him as “stupid.”
“This is one of the dumbest presidents this country has ever had, and there has been some pretty dumb presidents,” she said.
Trask also criticized the Democratic Party. She said Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., who ran against Bush in the 2004 presidential election, should be “stoned” for not doing a better job during his campaign.
After her speech, Trask answered questions from the audience.
One student asked for her opinion of how the government handled the Hurricane Katrina and Hurricane Rita disasters.
Trask called the government’s actions inept and said she blames it on the so-called stupidity of the Bush administration.
She said Bush did not know there were a lot of poor people of color that were suffering in the Gulf Coast states.
Eighteen-year-old freshman Brieanne Buttner said she thought Trask’s speech was good because “it addressed a lot of serious issues that activists have in this day and age.”
“I wanted to learn more about the (Hawaiian Sovereignty Movement’s) perspective of what’s going on in the world today, and I thought she would be a perfect example as an activist leader in Hawaii,” she said.
Trask told the audience to publicly and loudly oppose the Patriot Act, push for the protection of freedom of speech, and insist on the practice of criticizing the government.
Trask has been quoted before as saying: “I am not an American. I will die before I am an American.”
Williams-Leon explained that quote by saying Trask “believes her people and country was illegally overthrown by the U.S. in 1893, so she’s an occupied indigenous Hawaiian woman in her own land.”
Johan Mengesha can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.