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by Senator Mike Gravel (D-Alaska, 1969-81) with Evan Ravitz

Senator Mike
On September 17, 2002, the 215th anniversary of the signing the U.S. Constitution in Philadelphia, our organization, Philadelphia II, will start collecting 60 million signatures supporting the Democracy Amendment to the Constitution and the Democracy Act that goes with it. Here's the single most important reason we're commencing this singular process. You can probably think of your own reasons.

I devoted much of the Spring and Summer of 1971 to filibustering the U.S. Senate until we reached an agreement to end the military draft. The draft had permitted the Administration to escalate the U.S. military presence in Vietnam without a declaration of war by Congress. At that time I decided I must release the Pentagon Papers to the public. (This got Daniel Ellsburg off the hook for leaking the Papers to the press.) It was crucial for the American People to see this secret study that described why and how our nation had been misled into war. Those were my best efforts to end the tragedy of Vietnam.

We, the People, paid the price. But we learned from it: By 1975, public opinion polls showed that "65 percent of Americans oppose military aid abroad because they feel it allows dictatorships to maintain control over their populations" (from a Harris poll). Yet our government continued to arm the world, to deceive and to lead us recklessly into war: arming, then fighting Manuel Noriega; arming, then fighting Saddam Hussein; and, as recently as May of this year, financing the Taliban to the tune of $43 million. Only the PR has improved! The Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, exactly a year before he was assassinated, on April 4, 1967, spoke of "the greatest purveyor of violence on the planet - my own government."

Those polls quantify what President Eisenhower had stated: "The people want peace; indeed, I believe they want peace so badly that the governments will just have to step aside and let them have it." But they haven't stepped aside!

Like most people across the globe, most Americans are good-hearted. But our government's military policies are not under our control. These policies are controlled by the weapons industry that, according to the UN Research Institute, is the biggest business on earth. It buys the most congressmen, who then vote to keep it number one. It's a perfect system! George Washington first warned against "overgrown Military establishments, which under any form of Government are inauspicious to liberty" More recently, Eisenhower warned us in his 1961 farewell address to the nation: "We must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist." It has. The military-industrial complex is the first and largest public/private partnership.

In my two terms in the United States Senate and as Speaker of the House in the Alaska Legislature, I became convinced that power corrupts absolutely everybody--including myself when I had power. (I've had 20 years to recover.) In an attempt to limit that corrupting influence, in 1977 I joined Senators Hatfield and Abzourek in what proved to be a vain effort to pass the "Voter Initiative Amendment", which would have given We, the People, a vote on the issues. I was naive to think that Congress would want to share even that much power with The People.

This time we're not going to depend on Congress. We intend to put our much-more-ambitious Democracy Amendment in the Constitution the way We, the People, originally ratified the Constitution -- ourselves. The Founders did it by "First Principles," -ironically, known now to few besides constitutional scholars and historians-- and we can too! On February 16-18 we convened the Democracy Symposium to address this and other matters in historic Williamsburg, Virginia. When this Amendment is enacted into law, then We, the People, will be able to vote to change the government's military policies which arm our enemies and make us all the target of the oxymoronic "holy war." With some effort, citizens will be able to vote on any popular proposal, at any level of government. All details are on our web site at

This is not going to be "instant democracy." Our proposal includes extensive hearings, deliberations by randomly-selected "citizen juries" and much public information and discussion. Claims that the initiative process existing in 23 US States and Washington, D.C., has been corrupted by big money are largely false. The best academic studies show much the opposite. See Most real problems with initiatives are caused by the limitations imposed on the people by the legislatures. In spite of this, a century of state initiatives show the people have a superior track record of legislation -much of which was later adopted by Congress (see

In addition to providing a check and balance to the Military-Industrial Complex, and other powerful interest groups, there are many other reasons for us to share law-making power with politicians. With this new power, We, the People, will learn responsibility instead of being treated like civic children by our elected representatives. It gives us an incentive to educate ourselves. It gives politicians some competition -an incentive to do better. The 9/11 attacks give us a new reason: If the plane that crashed in Pennsylvania had hit the US Capitol, as the hijackers apparently planned, the US might now be without a legislative branch of government. Thanks to the heroism of The People on that flight, the U.S. Capitol was saved. The "Legislature of the People" that would be created by the Democracy Amendment would be everywhere, impossible to target. (Similarly, a national energy policy based on wind, solar and other renewable and decentralized energy would also be more secure and ecological than our centralized oil-based and Middle East based policy. Polls show the vast majority of people want this.)

If the legacies of the Vietnam War bring forth a national moral awakening and lead us to a paradigm shift in human governance to true democracy, then the human cost will not have been in vain. You can help us finalize the language of the Democracy Amendment and the accompanying Democracy Act or donate money or volunteer time at


Mike Gravel
December 2001

Sen. Gravel's bio available here.

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