William Ramsey Clark: The U.S. attorney general who fought against U.S. war crimes

William Ramsey Clark, visiting Nandigram, India in November 2007. (photo retrieved from upload.wikimedia.org)

“As we painstakingly arouse, organize and mobilize against US Imperialism, we will continue to cherish Ramsey Clark’s spirit of internationalism that waged a remarkable and principled struggle for the peoples of the Global South from the belly of the beast.”


MANILA — One might have missed the small but pivotal role of Michael Keaton as William Ramsey Clark in the Netflix film “The Trial of the Chicago 7,” but he sure served as a firestarter for the turn of events in the most notorious trials in history. Ramsey Clark was Attorney General during U.S. President Lyndon Johnson’s administration, who devoted much of his life defending unpopular causes. During his post, he had an active role in the U.S. Justice Department in defending and protecting civil rights activists.

The news of Ramsey Clark’s passing last April 9 is indeed a great loss to those who fought against the injustices and tyranny of U.S. imperialism and local lackeys. He was a staunch defender of the people’s right to national and social liberation, a fierce advocate of just peace and a resolute opponent of imperialist policies and wars of aggression. He was also dedicated in fighting against racial segregation and discrimination.

He utilized his legal expertise and political wisdom in defending individuals accused of war crimes including former Iraqi President Saddam Hussein and Vietnam War protester Father Daniel Berrigan. After leaving government service, Clark became a relentless critic of U.S. foreign policies and even visited North Vietnam as a protest against the bombing of Hanoi.

According to Bagong Alyansang Makabayan, Clark was “one of the great figures in contemporary history who compelled corporate media to use precise terms such as ‘crimes against peace’, ‘war crimes’ and ‘crimes against humanity’ in describing the conduct of U.S. imperialism in the Gulf War as well as in Bush’s War on Iraq.”

An ally of the Philippine national democratic movement

Firm in his stance against U.S. imperialist aggression, Clark was also a consistent supporter and defender of the Filipino people against the U.S.- Marcos dictatorship and the succeeding administrations subservient to U.S. policies.

In a statement, the National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers (NUPL) paid tribute to Clark.

“As human rights lawyers, we at the National Union of People’s Lawyers (NUPL) hail the life and dedication of Ramsey Clark in legal activism. He has chosen to offer his time and expertise as a lawyer to fight U.S. imperialism in the belly of the beast,” the group said.

In a separate statement, Bagong Alyansang Makabayan declared,” Clark held the struggle for national liberation in the Philippines close to his heart as exemplified by his endorsement and active participation in Philippine people’s tribunals…”

These include the Permanent People’s Tribunal, 2007 versus US-Macapagal Arroyo regime and the International People’s Tribunal 2015 versus the US-Noynoy Aquino regime, indicting both U.S.-backed regimes for human rights violations, economic plunder and transgression of the Filipino people’s sovereignty.

A true anti-imperialist and internationalist

William Ramsey Clark with ILPS Chairman Emeritus Jose Maria Sison. (Photo from josemariasison.org)

Clark was also a true internationalist as he stood in solidarity with the International League of Peoples’ Struggle (ILPS) in opposing the US war of aggression against Iraq and the ensuing so-called global war on terror.

From 1998 onward, ILPS Chairperson Emeritus Jose Maria Sison said that from 1998 onward, while he was the chairperson of the International Preparatory Committee that founded the ILPS in 2001, he was in communication with Clark as the chairman of the International Action Center (IAC) concerning US imperialism in global affairs.
Sison became deeply indebted to Clark when the latter publicly defended him and opposed the act of the U.S. government in designating him as “foreign terrorist” in 2002. Clark also opposed Sison’s being named in the EU terrorist list. Sison’s Filipino lawyer, the late Romeo T. Capulong also had extensive consultations with Clark in New York concerning these lists.

“I mention the solidarity and support that Ramsey Clark extended specifically to me by way of showing concretely his readiness to help others. But the Filipino organizations in the US and the Philippines can say more about the various ways by which he has been in solidarity and support for the Filipino people in their struggle for national and social liberation even as he had to pay attention to many issues and struggles in many countries,” Sison said in his tribute.

Beyond lawyering, in the service of the oppressed

Clark’s fearless conviction against U.S. war crimes has undoubtedly caused him consequences of being terror-tagged and banned entry into the Philippines and other countries. As NUPL stated, he was accused of being part of Al-Qaeda, together with hundreds of foreign activists, parliamentarians, lawyers, judges and church people. Despite this, he remained unfazed and resolute in holding the U.S. government accountable for all its terrorist aggression and rights violations in different parts of the world.

After being denied entry into Iran in 1979, Clark returned months later to take part in a conference “Crimes in America” wherein they adopted a resolution condemning U.S. sanctions in Iran. Clark urged the United States to apologize for its crimes in Iran, to which, as a result, then U.S. President Jimmy Carter had threatened to prosecute him for violating the U.S. ban on travel to Iran.

“If you really love your country, you work very hard to make it right. Anything else is an extreme act of disloyalty and an extreme failure of courage,” Clark once said in an interview with the Los Angeles Times.

“He will always be remembered and will continue to inspire us to uphold, defend and advance the just cause of greater freedom, democratic rights, social justice, development, international solidarity and peace against imperialism and all reaction,” Sison said.

Long before his demise, Clark had won the love and respect of peoples of the world and received the honors in recognition of his greatness and concrete deeds in the service of the oppressed and exploited people in need of support and solidarity.

“Together with all the anti-war and anti-imperialist forces in the world, BAYAN pays tribute to his unimpeachable legacy and honorable life. As we painstakingly arouse, organize and mobilize against US Imperialism, we will continue to cherish Ramsey Clark’s spirit of internationalism that waged a remarkable and principled struggle for the peoples of the Global South from the belly of the beast,” BAYAN said. (https://www.bulatlat.com)

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