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Bill Clinton, George Bush & Craig Scott
US Leaders Mislead Youth by Practicing War
By David Cook
Special Contribution
Bill Clinton with George Bush

On April 20, 1999, a Colorado student named Craig Scott watched his sister and two friends die when they were shot to death by Dylan Klebold and Eric Harris, fellow classmates at Columbine High School. Before the noon sun began to set, Klebold and Harris killed ten others before killing themselves.

Clinton Talks Peace but Promotes War

Two days later, President Clinton felt the need to speak out against the Columbine violence, which had shipwrecked the nation. Traveling to a public high school in Alexandria, Virginia, he held the attention of a student peer mediation club, saying to them, "We must do more to reach out to our children and teach them to express their anger and resolve their conflicts with words, not weapons."

After his speech to the Virginia students, as columnist Colman McCarthy writes, Clinton returned to the White House and, before turning in for bed, gave the order to resume bombing in Serbia. That day in Belgrade, United States military planes, backed with the blessing of our president, streaked across the sky, dropping 500-pound bombs that would fall into the homes and towns of innocent people. That same night in Colorado, thousands of miles away, a community began its long mourning.

Flash forward to last week, as the Amish school shooting in Pennsylvania prompted President Bush to call a similar, post-Columbine conference on character and school violence. Present during the Maryland conference (alongside Attorney General Gonzales and Secretary of Education Spellings) was Craig Scott, the now-23-year-old who had lost his sister and friends in the Columbine shooting. During the only meaningful moment of the conference, Scott stood and addressed the president.

"I've grown up in a culture today that doesn't teach me anything of substance, of value, how it bombards me every day with messages of emptiness and shallowness. And the youth are crying for something to stand for, something to believe in. If it weren't for my faith or my family, I possibly could have fallen into the lies that our culture tells us. But now I've traveled, I've spoken to over a million teens across this country ... I've seen depression, anger and loneliness, students without direction or purpose ... I've seen students who called themselves cutters, have cut themselves because that's the way they know to take out the pain that they're dealing with. I've learned a lot about my generation. And I've learned a lot since I lost my friends and my sister."'

Bush Talks Peace but Promotes War

And then Scott said the greatest words the president or anyone else could hope to ever hear: "And the main thing I've learned is that kindness and compassion can be the biggest antidotes to anger and hatred, and I believe the biggest antidotes to violence."

The president responded in the only way he could, which was to thank Scott, applaud him and then ask for a copy of his speech. The next day, researchers from Johns Hopkins released an updated body count for the war in Iraq. An estimated 600,000 civilians have died since the war began. These are not soldiers or armed resisters; these are mothers, grandfathers, children playing outside. Families, just like yours, just like mine.

God forgive me should I ever truly understand how presidents Clinton and Bush are able to mouth the hollow words about protecting children ("We must...teach them to express their anger and resolve their conflicts with words, not weapons") and then, hours later, give the damnable blessing for military movements that kill other people's children.

This is madness, and it is the hell-bent delusion of violence that allows the president of the United States to stand up before a crowded room of parents, reporters and survivors and announce his intentions to better protect American schoolchildren, and then, before the same day's sun sets, continue to sit on a war that has killed more than half-a-million souls.

And a nation of 300 million barely opens its mouth. When the war began, President Bush openly declared his intentions to use violence against this axis of evil. He gave this speech inside the halls of the National Cathedral and Christians across the country cheered, seeing no paradox, no problem with declaring war inside the church walls of Christ.

Since then, it has been proven that the war and its reasons were manufactured, and that the war-makers and military-engineers and weapons-manufacturers have again orchestrated the dance that is our nation's great addiction: not oil, but violence.

Kindness and Compassion Best Tools for Peace

Craig Scott looked the president in the eyes and told him the greatest sentence he will ever hear: "Kindness and compassion can be the biggest antidotes to anger and hatred, and I believe the biggest antidotes to violence." The president presumably smiled back, applauded Scott and then sat back down.

We must not sit down with the president. I do not speak as a Democrat or Republican, for violence is bi-partisan: the same delusion that infects President Bush and Rumsfeld also made sick President Clinton and Cohen, Kennedy and McNamara. Instead I speak as a human and a Christian that believes in the sacredness of every living life (in Colorado, Belgrade or Iraq) and, more importantly, in the power of the God of Love whose faintest whisper is enough to make straight the crookedest path, disarm the mightiest weapon, and crumble the heart of ten thousand Hitlers. And I do not believe that this God achieves the salvation of the earth through soldiers, generals or presidents that proclaim war.

Violence is violence is violence. It will never bring about true peace or justice anymore than darkness creates light. It is impossible. Craig Scott and the Amish know this. So do Christ and King and Gandhi.

Napoleon once said that, if you have bayonets, it is impossible to sit on them. America has buried in its earth thousands of nuclear weapons. We preach false words about character and justice in schools while continuing to fund a system that, one day, will be tempted to use those nuclear weapons. Has there ever been a weapon created that we have not used?

Yes. There is one, and it goes by many names. Truth. Love. Reconciliation. Dialogue. Faith. Forgiveness.

David Cook is a former journalist for the Chattanooga Times-Free Press. He currently teaches American history at Girls Preparatory School and can be reached at






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