Revolution #114, December 30, 2007
Needed January 11: A Sea of Orange
Torture Scandal & Fascistic “New Norms”
Just when it seemed like the scandal around the shredded CIA torture tapes was being stuffed back into the bottle, new exposures and controversies have begun to erupt daily. This reflects the fact that some very profound things that were supposed to be “accepted norms” in this society are being torn up with the legitimization of torture. The possibility that ripping up such norms could unravel society in unpredictable ways lies behind the differences and disputes at the top—among the rulers of this system—over abandoning even the pretense that “America doesn’t torture.” And these differences are behind some of the leaks and scandals coming out about torture and cover-ups now.
At this moment, there is momentum building for protests on January 11 against the U.S. torture camp at Guantanamo. This situation presents potential openings for leaps in mass independent political resistance—if the moment is seized and acted on by those outraged by torture and other crimes of the rulers.
On December 7, the New York Times revealed that the CIA had destroyed videotapes showing torturing of detainees in secret prisons. The CIA videotapes were reportedly hundreds of hours long and were destroyed in 2005. The House Intelligence Committee has demanded that the Bush administration hand over information about the CIA tapes. Bush’s Attorney General Michael Mukasey has been refusing to hand over any information. His justification is that doing so would interfere with the supposed investigation being carried out by the Justice Department and the CIA.
In a new twist, the CIA has reportedly asked the Justice Department to investigate whether ex-CIA agent John Kiriakou disclosed “classified information” when he went on TV news shows to talk about the CIA tapes. Kiriakou had revealed various details about what was probably on the tapes, including the use of waterboarding—a form of torture where a prisoner is brought to the brink of drowning, and at times actually killed.
And, in another new revelation, on December 19, the New York Times ran a story saying that at least four top White House lawyers—including the lawyers for Bush and Cheney—discussed what to do with the CIA torture tapes between 2003 and 2005. The Times wrote, “[S]ome lawmakers have suggested that [the tapes’] destruction may have amounted to obstruction of justice.” The implication that could be drawn from this is that high-level Bush officials were involved in an impeachable offense. The heads of the 9/11 Commission are now saying in a memo to federal prosecutors and Congressional investigators that the CIA lied to them about the tapes.
The Bush regime demanded that the Times retract the article’s subhead which said “White House Role Was Wider Than It Said.” The Times did retract the subhead, but did not refute the substance of the story.
Fascistic “New Norms”
As we wrote in last week’s issue (“Torture…Shredded Tapes…The New Normalcy? TIME TO ACT!” online at revcom.us), what’s being revealed through the CIA tape scandal points to further strides in the whole fascist direction that this country is being propelled toward. They have decreed that what they say and do trumps whatever laws Congress may pass and decisions the courts may make—that the law is what they say it is. Previous “norms” and “core principles” that “held America together” are being ripped up, and new “legitimating norms” are being laid down in line with this whole fascistic trajectory.
The previous “norms” of America have always meant horrors for people around the world and many here in the U.S.—including torture. To name just a few examples: U.S. troops invading the Philippines in 1898 used water torture against rebel forces. The CIA and U.S. military widely used torture during the Vietnam War. The Chicago police tortured innocent people into “confessing” crimes, including death-penalty crimes. But it is something new, extreme, and very dangerous when things that were once formal violations of law—like torture, warrantless wiretapping, and detention without charges or trial—are being legitimized and routinized.
All this is being driven by the needs and compulsions of the whole capitalist-imperialist system and the ambitions of the rulers to forge a global empire that is unchallenged, and even unchallengeable, by any rival. The fundamental point of departure for the Democrats, no less than the Republicans, is the interests of the U.S. ruling class, and they are all basically on board with the need for the “war on terror,” which is really a war for greater empire. The top Democrats, for example, have had their hands deep in the torture policies of the U.S. government—Nancy Pelosi, the current House Speaker, was among those involved in CIA briefings in 2002 about torture under secret detention.
At the same time, the extremely heavy and radical moves of those at the core of power to change some foundational things about this society—along with the debacle that the U.S. is facing in the Iraq war and the ripples from that—are also sparking various tensions and disputes within the power structure. Much remains to be learned about what lies behind the recent events around the CIA torture tapes. But the erupting scandal may relate to such tensions and disputes at the top—around Iraq, potential attack on Iran, and other issues.
Such ruling class infighting, by itself, will NOT stop the whole trajectory toward fascism that this country is on. As World Can’t Wait says, there will be no “saviors” from the Democratic Party. The Democrats fear the possibility of millions of politically aroused people taking to the streets much more than anything Bush does. The “pendulum” is not going to swing back. The present situation is very bad for the people, and it is quickly getting much, much worse.
There is a deep and broad current of anger out there in society at all the crimes and outrages of the Bush regime. But this whole reactionary direction won’t be stopped unless this deep reservoir of anger becomes manifest in a massive resistance from below.
January 11 Protests—A Crucial Moment
All this makes the protests called for January 11 extremely crucial. These protests are demanding the shutting down of the U.S. torture camp at Guantánamo. Six years ago on that day, the first shackled and hooded prisoners in orange prison jumpsuits were brought to this camp, and hundreds have been held—and tortured—there without any charges or trials. Amnesty International and the National Religious Campaign Against Torture, joined by World Can’t Wait–Drive Out the Bush Regime and others, have called for a protest at the White House and the Supreme Court. The American Civil Liberties Union is calling on people to wear orange armbands saying “close down Guantánamo.” (For more information on the protests, go online to worldcantwait.org)
This is a decisive and pivotal juncture. The question of torture is in the public eye, at least for the moment. And there is a real breadth to the forces who are calling for and joining in the January 11 protests. This situation is creating new opportunities to mobilize many thousands and to reach millions of people. And this could draw in new forces and bring new momentum into the movement to drive out the Bush regime and bring this whole program of the U.S. rulers to a halt.
If this moment is not seized and acted on—if there is not protest in significant numbers in January—the anger among people broadly will again be stifled and could even rot in the deadly chokehold of official politics. The outrage that millions feel will be overtaken by cynicism and even greater political paralysis.
But what if those who are angered and outraged seize the moment? What if the gathering momentum toward January 11 is built on and takes shape in a protest that makes a real and significant impact nationally and internationally? The very heaviness of the times, with all the dangers it contains, also means that large numbers of people stepping out now in political resistance that breaks out of the grip of official politics can have a huge and multiplying effect.
Such protest can serve as an inspiring and eye-opening example for even broader numbers of people to shake off their fears and paralysis and to stir into political action. Think what impact this can have, for example, on the campuses as students return from their winter break. Or think about the effect on the growing movement of anti-war resistance among vets and within the military itself.
And think about how the call from World Can’t Wait to “Wear Orange” can spread far and wide. A number of organizers for the January 11 protests have called for people to wear orange that day. The ACLU has an orange-themed page for January 11 on its website. Amnesty International published an orange-colored full-page ad in the New York Times on December 5 as the Supreme Court heard cases involving Guantanamo detainees. January 11 could actually be a way to jump-start the mass wearing of orange throughout society as a very visible and broad social wave of opposition that could be taken up by all kinds of people, and which could be coupled with, and help spark and reinforce, growing outbreaks of political resistance.
A heightening political resistance can also interact in unpredictable ways with various things going on in society overall. Such resistance, and the prospect of it getting even more “out of control” for the rulers, could intensify the disputes at the top of the power structure and lead to more fissures and infighting. And that in turn could create openings for even greater mass resistance from below to burst through. Through all this, broad numbers of people could come to question not only the legitimacy of Bush and Co., but the legitimacy of the whole system that produced such a monstrous regime. And millions could come to grapple with big questions about the future: about the need for a whole new world, what kind of a world that should be, and how to get there.
All this is possible…if the moment we face now is seized and acted on with determination, courage, and initiative toward powerful January 11 protests.
Stop Torture! Wear Orange and Demonstrate January 11! Drive Out the Bush Regime!
That which you do not resist and mobilize to stop, you will learn—or be forced—to accept.
—from the Call of
World Can’t Wait—Drive Out the Bush Regime
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