When Barack Obama, on his first day in office, moved to close Guantanamo Bay and to ban all internationally recognized forms of torture, he signaled a return of this country to the world community. This community has greeted his election with overwhelming joy. The last time the people of the world showed such unity was in the months leading up to our invasion of Iraq. These months were notable for the sudden coalescence of a global peace movement. It was the first time in history, that the people of the world had raised their voices in a united plea for peace in advance of a war.The editor of the German magazine, Der Speigal recently called Barack Obama the “world 's president”. Perceived as such, he is in an opportune position to move beyond the banning of torture, and to begin the process of banning war itself. I invite you to view these three paintings which I created before and during the Irag war. They were intended to cause us to think more deeply about this archaic form of behavior which breeds violence and threatens our ability as a global community to resolve the pressing issues of economic and environmental collapse.
I completed this painting in the weeks leading up to the war. I was expressing my personal sense of dislocation. War has ruptured the walls of my studio. My model holds the pose of Eve in Michelangelos 'expulsion' on the Sistine Chapel ceiling, except that she is viewed from a different angle. The other imagery was suggested by art I had observed in Mexico and Cuba.
This picture appeared in my mind's eye while I was painting at 8th and Clay in Oakland. I was hearing accounts of thousands of innocent civilians killed by our forces. Particularly upsetting were those slain because they blundered into unexpected checkpoints. I imagined what it would be like if our army invaded Oakland.
The last of this series is the most prosaic and repellent.
The term 'collateral damage' is an antiseptic buzzword for 'civilian casualties' . In Iraq this phrase may well represent 800,000 innocent civilians. In Gaza the current death toll among Palestinians is in excess of 1,300. In both instances the discrepancy between the number of troops and the number of civilians slain is instructive: In Iraq it may be two hundred to one. In Palestine it is a hundred to one. How is slaughter on this scale conducive to peace? Every civilian unjustly killed represents a family, or a community, that will hate us.
The United States, Israel and South Africa (under apartheid) are all examples of colonial cultures with a settler ethic. In the United States we believed we were entitled to stolen lands because of our advanced technology , democratic' institutions and a God given manifest destiny. When the indigenous people struck out blindly at the highly organized invaders they were characterized in the New World as “savages”. In Palestine they are defined as 'terrorists'. In Iraq we were more interested in oil and geopolitical control than land but our attitude to the indigenous people was essentially the same. Non-governmental organizations have had to estimate the number of Iraqis slain because our government did not consider them worth counting.
If we are ever to achieve the dream of world peace, we must climb down from our hypocritical “high horse”, and, as the world's only superpower, take the first steps towards disarmament. There may never be a more opportune moment. If President Barack Obama extends this hand of friendship, I believe most nations will meet us halfway. The few intransigents will eventually be compelled to join the process of disarmament, not by our military might, but by pressure from the world community.
None of these three paintings are currently for sale. They may be viewed in my studio.