Jeremy Scahill: “Fascism, once again, is on the rise.”
Acceptance speech by Jeremy Scahill on receiving the 2016 ALBA/Puffin Award for Human Rights Activism. May 7, 2016. New York.
Lydia just pushed me to come here first (crowd laughs.) I really, in all candor, I feel like I shouldn’t be here receiving this award, particularly because I think that my co-recipient, Lydia, is one of the greatest we have in the world of journalism, and is so incredibly brave, and is fighting a battle that I think the overwhelming majority of people in the world would never choose to fight. And it’s who she is. I’m humbled by being here with her, but I’m more humbled by the fact that the award that both of us are receiving is the product of the willingness to risk life and liberty for freedom that the veterans of the Abraham Lincoln Brigade exhibited. And I am deeply honored to have known one of the veterans of the Brigade, Clarence Kailin from Wisconsin. His family members are here today. I would have loved to have seen Clarence in the front row here, because there was a tradition that I had every time I would go back to Wisconsin to speak, after I became a journalist, where we would always reserve a seat for Clarence in the front row, and we would often begin events by recognizing his presence, and the sacrifices and risks that he made in the fight against fascism.
We are living in a moment in the world where fascism, once again, is on the rise, in public. And we certainly see it in the form of the elections in this country right now, where Donald Trump—it’s not that he’s bringing in an era of fascism, it’s that he has made public what has been simmering in this country for a very long time and made it more visible. But let’s be clear that we have a president right now who is a constitutional lawyer by training, who won the Nobel Peace Prize, and is presiding over a global assassination program, and is seeking to legitimize the institution of assassination as a central component of what is described as US national security policy. In using his credibility, he has ensured that the next president is going to have a kill list, that the next president is going to expand the use of drones. And there is no such thing as a Democratic or a Republican cruise missile. There is no such thing as a Democratic or a Republican drone strike. And what President Obama’s enduring legacy is going to be, on a foreign policy front, is that he codified, as the law of the land, policies that Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld had dreamt of for their entire careers in government. And I think our real principle is tested not when cartoonish bad guys are in power—people like Dick Cheney, who I legitimately think is living in a lair somewhere, plotting how to ruin the entire world—but they’re tested at moments when people like Barack Obama are President. And I think that’s when you really show what’s principle and what is partisanship.
The final thing I want to say is that I think that all of us have an obligation in our daily lives, but also in how we view the world, to remember the sacrifice of the brave men and women that we honor today, and to ensure that all of the young people in our likes know the story of the Abraham Lincoln Brigade and the Abraham Lincoln Brigade veterans. And I want to close by saying that my dear friend, Father Daniel Berrigan, passed away. And he was buried, laid to rest yesterday. And he’d had many run-ins with the FBI, had been underground and they were chasing him. And at one point, while he was underground, he appeared in front of a crowd of fifteen thousand people while the FBI was hunting him, at Cornell University. And as the FBI agents made their way up to try to arrest Dan, the organizers helped him slip into the costume from the Bread and Puppet Theater Troupe of one of the apostles, and they snuck him out the back door before the Feds could find him. Dan Berrigan made his final escape yesterday from the FBI. He was laid to rest, but his memory also lives on. So I want to dedicate this award to Clarence Kailin, to Daniel Berrigan, and to my father, Michael Scahill. Thank you.