Dedication in Honor of Ramsey Clark

Dedication in Honor of Ramsey Clark

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I would like to dedicate this book to my friend and colleague, Ramsey Clark, whom I have followed (for the most part) during the past two decades on our mutual quest for peace, justice, human rights, and democracy around the world, and especially here in the United States of America.

Defending the poor, the oppressed, and the downtrodden. Unfortunately, I do not believe that I can personally measure up to the task of trying to honor Ramsey. Therefore, I believe it would be better for someone else besides me to say a few words in his honor. And I have just the right person—the late Sean MacBride, Irish Nobel Peace Prize Laureate and former Chief-of-Staff of the Irish Republican Army.

Image on the right: Ramsey Clark speaks at the March 20, 2010 anti-war protest in Washington, DC (Source: Wikimedia Commons)

File:2010-03-20 13-08-02Ramseyclark.JPG

I think both Ramsey and I would agree that perhaps the greatest man we have ever known was Sean MacBride, whose profound impact upon me has been duly recorded elsewhere. Sean was one of the great historical figures of the twentieth century. And I am sure that Ramsey would also be the first to agree that Sean was the most principled and courageous person it has ever been our pleasure to know. Indeed, it never ceases to amaze me that when I travel around the world, oppressed peoples everywhere still possess an enormous degree of respect, admiration, gratitude, and genuine personal affection for Sean MacBride despite the fact that he has been dead now for over fifteen years. They feel the same way about Ramsey.

In August of 1987, Sean and I were attending an international conference of lawyers against nuclear weapons for the purpose of founding an international organization to achieve the objective of eliminating nuclear weapons from the face of the earth. At the time, one of Sean’s great fears was that the organization would be dominated by the lawyers from the United States and the Soviet Union to the effective exclusion of meaningful input from lawyers all around the world, and especially from Third World countries. Sean believed that it would be unprincipled, imprudent, and counterproductive to have lawyers living in the world’s two nuclear superpowers placed in charge of eliminating nuclear weapons. As he saw it, that would be akin to putting the foxes in charge of the chicken coup. In order to prevent this from happening, Sean strongly believed that Ramsey Clark should be invited to play a prominent role in the founding of this organization. Without even bothering to discuss the issue with him, Sean instinctively knew that Ramsey would agree with him on this important matter of principle and politics, which he later did.

A special executive meeting of this proposed organization convened to discuss these and many other issues as well. There Sean put forth Ramsey’s name. Sean’s proposal immediately provoked sharp objections from most of the American lawyers sitting around the table. They argued that Ramsey Clark was generally perceived to be too radical, without credibility, marginalized, and without much of a following. These ad hominem attacks upon Ramsey precipitated a fairly sharp response from Sean and me. After about 30 minutes of fairly vigorous debate on this subject, we all agreed to take a break from the discussions in order to allow tempers to cool.

Image below: Sean MacBride (Source: Wikimedia Commons)

Seán MacBride 1984.jpg

As we strolled down the hallway from the meeting room, I turned to Sean and said:

“You know, all their objections to Ramsey Clark are total nonsense. Ramsey is a hero to tens of thousands of people in the peace movement here in the United States as well as around the world, myself included.”

At that point, Sean turned to me and said:

“You’re right, Francis. And Ramsey Clark is one of my heroes too!”

Sean then proceeded to tell me the story of when they were both in Hanoi together on a fact-finding mission to oppose the U.S. aggression and genocide against Vietnam while American B-52 bombers were mercilessly pounding that city with their “ordnance.” They had to take cover in bomb shelters on more than one occasion. Many years later, Ramsey would repeat this heroic performance during February of 1991 when he travelled to Iraq on a fact-finding mission while those same U.S. B-52 bombers were mercilessly obliterating the cities and people of that poor country.

Plus ça change, plus ça reste la même chose.

Sean concluded his story by giving the following instruction to me:

“Now you go back into that room and tell those American lawyers that Ramsey Clark is one of my heroes!”

He then walked off to his hotel room, obviously fatigued by these needless mental exertions. He had less than five months to live. He died just before he was to meet with U.N. Secretary General Javier Perez de Cuellar for the purpose of establishing his truly international organization of lawyers from around the world in order to eliminate nuclear weapons from the face of the earth. In any event, pursuant to Sean’s instructions, I returned to that room by myself in order to argue the case for Ramsey’s inclusion. Of course, Sean’s ringing endorsement of Ramsey did not make any difference to the American lawyers sitting around that room—for they also believed that Sean MacBride himself was too radical, marginalized, and without a following. Be that as it may, both at the time and in retrospect, I was and am still struck by the fervor of Sean MacBride when he emphatically told me that Ramsey Clark was one of his “heroes.” I think that even Ramsey would agree that no greater tribute could ever be paid to him by anyone. Someday I shall be most honored and pleased to learn that those in power consider me to be as radical and marginalized as Ramsey Clark and Sean MacBride. My heroes.


Just His Name
Brings Hope to People
All over the world
Ramsey coming to help!

For Poor, Oppressed, Downtrodden
Against rich, powerful, famous
Against states, governments, empires
Especially American Empire
Ramsey in town!

As young man thought Ramsey
Typical LBJ Imperial Goon
Persecuting Ben Spock et al  for Vietnam
Got on that plane to North Vietnam
Mirabile dictu!
I Was wrong!

Four Decades
Working with Ramsey
Solid as Rock
Principles Unbending
Will of Steel

Gone to hell
And back with him
Then again
No end
Still today

How many times
Risked his life
For Poor, Oppressed, Downtrodden
Against rich, powerful, famous
Against states, governments, empires
Especially American Empire
Lost count

From Field of Battle
Hope can say
Same someday

Miss My Buddy
My Friend
My Comrade-in-Arms

Calls me Pal
No greater honor
Ramsey’s Pal!

Will carry on
Best I can
Poor substitute I am

His Sterling Example
Always on Mind
Be like Ramsey?
No way!
Never can!
North Star

With Sean MacBride
Our Friend
And Comrade-in-Arms
Our North Star

Three Musketeers
Three Amigos
Up the Rebels!


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Francis Boyle is professor of international law at the University of Illinois College of Law. He is the author of many books on International Law and an outspoken critic of US policy in the Middle East.

Featured image is from Wikimedia Commons


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