Nobel Peace Prize winner wants to "kill Bush"

Nobel Peace Prize winner Betty Williams apologized Thursday for saying she could kill President Bush, remarks that drew scorn from Bush loyalists and shook up the International Women’s Peace Conference in Dallas.

“My feelings now and again get way ahead of me,” Ms. Williams said. “I couldn’t kill anybody, but I must confess that I’m extremely angry with the Bush administration and what they have done. To say that was wrong.”

Conference organizers immediately sought to distance themselves from her speech Wednesday night, but it brought a swift rejoinder from the White House, dominated some radio talk shows and drew a flurry of hateful e-mails to attendees.

Questioned about her speech Thursday morning, Ms. Williams initially denied making the comment but reversed course after organizers confirmed the quote.

In a speech before 1,000 people Wednesday, Ms. Williams said that violence is a choice and the push for peace takes hard work and commitment.

“Right now, I could kill George Bush,” she said. “No, I don’t mean that. How could you nonviolently kill somebody? I would love to be able to do that.” As she made her point, she chuckled and some members of the audience laughed.

Ms. Williams, who won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1976 for creating a group that helped start peace talks in Northern Ireland, also said that Mr. Bush should be impeached. About half the audience responded to that with a standing ovation.

The speech, given in the city that will host Mr. Bush’s presidential library, caused a stir on talk radio and Internet sites, and among those attending the conference.

“Threatening the president of the United States is a crime,” conservative talk show host Mike Gallagher said on his nationally syndicated program, which airs in Dallas. “Many of us are resentful at a so-called Nobel Peace Prize laureate having the audacity to threaten the life of our commander in chief.”

Several women at the conference said they admired Ms. Williams for having the courage to say what she thought – even if unpopular.

“It was an incredible act of bravery to make that statement in Texas,” said Lucinda Marshall of Louisville, Ky., who added that the anti-Bush rhetoric appealed to her. “When you have a president that’s consistently breaking the law, you do not have a democracy. You have a dictatorship.”

White House spokesman Blair Jones called Ms. Williams’ comments “surprisingly hostile rhetoric coming from someone who has been recognized for promoting peace.”

It wasn’t the first time Ms. Williams has spoken critically of Mr. Bush. Last July, she made an almost identical comment about wanting to “kill George Bush” to a group of schoolchildren in Brisbane, Australia. She said her point was that it is hard to be nonviolent when there are so many atrocities in the world.

Ms. Williams said Thursday that the focus on her comments about Mr. Bush was a distraction from her more important message about peace.

“I’m just really passionate about my work. Sometimes it’s ‘open mouth, insert foot,’ ” she said. “I’ll spend the rest of the day saying I’m sorry to everybody.”

Conference chairwoman Carol Donovan stressed Thursday that the conference is nonpartisan and that Ms. Williams’ views are her own.

“The remarks were spoken from her heart and were based on her own concern and opinions,” she said. “With over 1,000 delegates, you can imagine the range of opinions is very wide.”

Peace conference delegates talked about the speech Thursday between workshops on issues like genital mutilation and globalization.

Nancy Sonntag, a Dallas psychotherapist who has worked with Iraq war veterans, said she is not a Bush supporter but called Ms. Williams’ comments “totally inappropriate.”

“I was a little disappointed in her response,” Ms. Sonntag said, referring to the conference’s overarching question of how to achieve peace. “I don’t think that’s the solution I was looking for. There are so many other problems.”

Unda Sigera of Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, said people in her country are generally supportive of Mr. Bush – if they talk about him at all – because he increased the amount of U.S. aid to Africa. “I do not know much about America,” she said. “Back home, they don’t say anything about Bush because this is beyond their say.”

Beth Weems Pirtle of Farmers Branch, a past state president of the United Nations Association and a volunteer at the conference, described herself as a friend and longtime supporter of Mr. Bush’s, but she said that she has become increasingly opposed to the administration.

“Betty Williams was right on target in a lot of what she said,” Ms. Pirtle said. “On Sept. 11, he had the world at his feet. He dropped the ball. He let the neocons around him take advantage of him.”

Hateful responses

Conference organizers reported that a Dallas police detective was working with hotel security to review about 40 hateful e-mails received in response to Ms. Williams’ speech.

They wouldn’t say whether anyone was threatened.

Assistant Police Chief Ron Waldrop said police presence at the Adam’s Mark Hotel and Conference Center was not increased as a result of the speech. “We have people that work with protesters and monitor controversial events,” he said. “We do that on a routine basis.”

Secret Service spokesman Eric Zahren in Washington declined to comment, but a Dallas agent said Ms. Williams had not been questioned and there were no plans to do so.

And Ms. Williams said she did not fear for her safety.

“If I would have been concerned about my safety,” she said, “I wouldn’t have started the peace movement in Northern Ireland.”

Staff writers Todd J. Gillman, Jason Trahan and Tanya Eiserer contributed to this report.


3 Responses to “Nobel Peace Prize winner wants to "kill Bush"”

  1. July 13, 2007 at 1:47 am

    Bush Bashing… the next American pastime. Has anyone noticed that someone can get up and shoot their mouth off (as long as it is liberal) and get applauded for saying what they think even if it isn’t popular… meanwhile Bush gets dragged through the mud for saying that the war in Iraq can work? I don’t get how something that obviously hypocritical can be so heroic and patriotic to the left. Were I the DA in the Dallas area, I would arrest that woman and get all the legal action I could against her. She didn’t just make a private comment to a few friends, she was at a conference with 1000+ attendees… that’s pretty darn public. I remember a day where if someone would have done something like that (to Clinton) they would have been torched at the stake for treason.

  2. July 13, 2007 at 4:04 am

    I’ve been concerned at this kind of loose language here in the UK – usually about Tony Blair. It’s hard to judge where free speech stops and incitement to violence starts. And I have a lot of concerns about some of the stuff posted on the internet. We should remember that there are plenty of oddballs out there just waiting for someone with authority, as presumably this Nobel peace prize winner has, to allow then free rein. It always amazes me that it is the ‘peace-loving’ anti-war types who tell you that leaders deserve to die for their decisions. These people do not grapple with complexity but wallow in emotion. Apart from that, they side-step democracy by insisting on the greater validity of THEIR cause. The politicians have the democratic mandate, not the unsatisfied or unsatisfiable pressure group.

    And what’s this “peace movement” she started in Northern Ireland? Forgive me if I’ve never heard of it. What I HAVE heard of is my former prime minister’s work over 10 years to bring the centuries old Irish problem to an end. In that he succeeded after all his predecessors had failed by bringing together opposing factions over his period in power, starting a few months after being first elected in 1997. I am VERY proud of Blair for his years of peace-making war here as well as in Kosovo and Sierra Leone. You know, Blair the ‘war criminal’? He had the help of American presidents and others and the backing of many groups, true. Despite many seeing his as equally ‘complicit’ with Bush in responsibilty for the deaths in Iraq, Blair brought peace to Northern Ireland. A ‘man of war’ making peace. Never forget THAT. YOU, Ms Williams, did not make war or peace, but a lot of noise, signifying little.

    Groups with their worthy but narrow “peace agendas” do NOT hold the key. Nor do they have the diplomatic skills necessary. Singing “all you need is love” or “give peace a chance” is churlish, simplistic and in the end naive.

    Bring us your simple message of peace – unadulterated by reality – if you must. But until YOU are elected, don’t tell us that it’s OK to kill western leaders. There are enough mad and evil anti-democracy groups and individuals in this world with that agenda.

    Get behind your president, not with a gun, but to support him. Few of us ‘like’ the present situation in Iraq but we should remember whose side he is on. None of us like to see the increasing numbers of dead, which are being caused by insurgents. That’s exactly WHY they do it. They know we are affected, unlike themselves whose mediaeval extremism and yearning for martyrdom puts them well beyond any standards of human decency.

    Those who conflate cause and effect so effortlessly and concude that WE are the bad guys are WRONG, so wrong.

  3. July 15, 2007 at 7:28 pm

    very well stated. As an American I am very appreciative of Tony Blair’s actions. I did not agree with many of the man’s social agendas, but he was a tiger of a foreign relations guy. One of a select few liberals who actually love western society and are patriotic… That, my friends, is worth admiring in an individual. The problem with many “anti-war” groups is that they have no grid for war being a means to an end, namely, peace. True justice is that when evil is done, consequences follow, and then there is peace and righteousness in the land once again. I would love to ask Hillary Clinton what she really means when she claims that Bush is “The most radical presidency in our history.” That being said, war is not an end… it is a means to an end. Until we reach that end, war is a very necessary evil.

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