More Than a Million in the Streets When the Bush Team Meets

The New Rome and the RNC

Revolutionary Worker #1250, August 22, 2004, posted at

Have you read the 9/11 Commission Report? The one that John Kerry says should be adopted in toto by the Congress? The one that George W. Bush also applauds and supports (with a few amendments)?

The report states that "threats [to the U.S.] are defined more by the fault lines within societies than by the territorial boundaries between them.. In this sense, 9/11 has taught us that terrorism against American interests `over there' should be regarded just as we regard terrorism against America `over here.'" And then they conclude: "In this same sense, the American homeland is the planet."(p. 362)

Wait a minute--did they really just come right out and say that? Yeah, they did. Read it over one more time. And think about it: "the American homeland is the planet."

A few years back, a lot of people looked at what Bush was doing and said "I don't want to live in a new Rome." According to the 9/11 Commission, you already do. According to the 9/11 Commission--strongly endorsed, again, by both parties and both candidates--the planet not only belongs to America, but any resistance anywhere on the planet can and must be seen through the prism of a "threat" to "American interests." More than that, they're telling you to get used to it: you live in Rome, so learn how to think, feel and act like a Roman--like someone who's got a right to the whole planet.

Hey! You're Engaged!

The report goes on to state that "the U.S. is heavily engaged in the Muslim world and will be for many years to come." But, the Commission laments, this is somehow "resented":

Polls in 2002 found that among America's friends, like Egypt--the recipient of more U.S. aid for the past 20 years than any other Muslim country--only 15 percent of the population had a favorable opinion of the United States. In Saudi Arabia the number was 12%. And two-thirds of those surveyed in 2003 in countries from Indonesia to Turkey (a NATO ally) were very or somewhat fearful that the United States may attack them. (p. 375)

Gee, imagine that. Might it have something to do with the way in which the U.S. military aid props up and manipulates the incredibly repressive regimes--oops, sorry, its "friends"--in Egypt and Saudi Arabia and other countries besides? The way in which the U.S. government actually has threatened, invaded, occupied and overall dominated countries throughout the region? With the way it has literally inserted Israel into the area as its own nuclear-armed client state? Or with the Crusader mentality and rhetoric emanating from Bush?

Naw, can't be that, says the Commission. It can only be that America, despite its vast media machinery, somehow hasn't put out "its values" well enough. So it recommends that the U.S. "defend [its] ideals abroad vigorously" and offer a competing vision of the future--one that:

"should stress life over death: individual educational and economic opportunity. This vision includes widespread political participation and contempt for indiscriminate violence. It includes respect for the law, openness in discussing differences, and tolerance for opposing points of view." (pp. 376, 377)

Right. "Life over death" and "contempt for indiscriminate violence?" Tell it to the Iraqi parents mourning their child lost to an American artillery shell, or to the Iraqi orphan next door to them whose parents ran afoul of an American checkpoint or midnight raid. "Individual education and economic opportunity?" Explain that one to the Pakistani eight-year-old who sleeps under his machine each night, where he makes the carpets that are sold in New Jersey or Oregon. "Respect for the law?" Go preach it in Abu Ghraib, or Guantánamo, or the immigrant detention centers here in the U.S. "Wide spread political participation?" Where? In Gaza? Pakistan? Or maybe Florida?

Give us a fucking break, okay? No, messieurs and madams commissioners, your message is getting out just fine. Your Report makes very clear that your so-called War on Terrorism is nothing but a war for deeper and more complete domination of the world. Go ahead, you cynics, and try to dress it up in the shrouds of the victims of 9/11--but behind your mask beats the voracious heart of imperialism.

Our Real Interests. . .

But, okay, let's talk about interests. We,unlike the 9/11 Commission and the presidential candidates, have no interest in the kind of "engagement" they are talking about. We have no interest in militarily occupying and dominating the people of Iraq a single day more. We have no interest in raping the Middle East (or Indonesia, or Nigeria) for their oil, nor do we have any interest at all in maintaining the brutal, slave-like conditions of child labor in Pakistan or Bangladesh. We have no interest in regarding 80% of the world's people with suspicion. We have no interest in ignoring and trying to cover over why people really--and righteously--"resent" America, when the answer is as plain as the shirt on your back or the gas in your car, and as loud as the noise of the choppers over the slums of Baghdad, Nablus, and Los Angeles. And we most especially have no interest whatsoever in lining up behind some Commission report that regards "the planet" as the domain of the U.S. army and police forces, that calls for seriously strengthening repression at home and abroad, and disingenuously "wonders" why people in the Middle East fear being invaded by the U.S.

Be aware. In the name of "our interests", this report is setting you up for complicity in the terrible crimes now being committed by this so-called "war on terrorism," and worse ones yet that are on the drawing boards. We have to declare, as loudly and dramatically as we can, that these are not our interests and we have to forcefully reject the crimes that are being done, and planned, in our name.

And Our Urgent Message

But are we getting our message, that very urgent message, out? Almost three years ago Bob Avakian, the Chairman of the RCP, USA, called for a "movement against the war acts and repression of `our own' U.S. government that is so powerful that it cannot be hidden from the masses of people all over the world-- including in the countries and areas that are targets of U.S. imperialist aggression and are, justifiably, `hotbeds' of hatred `against America.'

"Imagine, what it would (and will) mean to those millions and millions of people when they see hundreds of thousands and ultimately millions of people in America itself , taking on the aggression (and repression) of their own government and standing with the people of the world against all that this government stands for and is doing and enforcing in the world. Imagine the questions that will raise in those people's minds, the `dialogue' (even if indirect) it will give rise to, among people all over the world with people in the U.S. itself.

"Imagine the inspiration it will provide and the potential realignment it will contribute to -- with ordinary people worldwide finding common cause against the oppressors and bullies of the world, first and above all the rulers of America--who, it will be more and more clear, do not speak and act in the interests, or in the name of large, and growing, numbers of American people themselves..."

This kind of dialogue was no dream--or, rather, it was a dream that, with work, became very real. We saw it two years ago, when the Statement of Conscience--signed by hundreds of the best-known and loved artists, intellectuals and activists in the United States, and endorsed by tens of thousands of more people--came out. The signers stated that "people of conscience must take responsibility for what their own governments do--we must first of all oppose the injustice that is done in our own name. Thus we call on all Americans to RESIST the war and repression that has been loosed on the world by the Bush administration. It is unjust, immoral, and illegitimate. We choose to make common cause with the people of the world.. We will not hand over our consciences in return for a hollow promise of safety. We say NOT IN OUR NAME. We refuse to be party to these wars and we repudiate any inference that they are being waged in our name or for our welfare. We extend a hand to those around the world suffering from these policies; we will show our solidarity in word and deed."

The statement ran in scores of papers within the U.S. and helped to flip the script at a time when all too many people felt pressured to couch their protests in terms of safety and "fighting the war on terrorism." And it had an equally important effect overseas, where it ran in major newspapers throughout Europe and Latin America and Asia--as well as Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Lebanon, the United Arab Emirates and in the Arab-language press in Europe and North America. It told millions--no, tens of millions--around the world that there was a difference, as we put it in our original editorial welcoming Chairman Avakian's call, "between the U.S. power structure and the great majority of the people in the U.S.--who have no fundamental interest in oppressing and ripping off the people of the world" and it helped "give `air to breathe' to the kind of movements that can really liberate people from the global oppressors -- and create societies where poverty, unjust violence, ethnic hatred, and the oppression of women can be eliminated."

The Statement didn't go for the deadly Faustian bargain of putting the safety of Americans above the well-being of literally billions worldwide, or trying to come up with "better ways" to wage an utterly illegitimate "war on terror"; it pledged instead that it would resist the immoral, unjust and illegitimate policies of this government. People worldwide saw that there were indeed people in the United States who opposed the government not on the basis of narrowly conceived self-interest, but in the name of their solidarity with all of humanity being victimized by this government. By bringing this forward, the Statement of Conscience played an "inspiring" role in developing not just a movement but the beginnings of a new ethos that began to spread around the planet in the months and weeks leading up to the U.S. invasion of Iraq. What began here was picked up on, amplified, given a few further twists in Istanbul, Madrid and scores of other places, and beamed back to the U.S. a thousand times stronger. And that's pretty damn positive.

The Big NO--and the Big Yes

Now we face another juncture, in many ways even more critical. People are struggling day and night to bring more than a million people to New York City, to shout an unmistakeable NO to Bush and all he represents. That million can be a truly beautiful thing, picking up where the massive opposition against the war in Iraq left off and further opening up the chance of a whole different future. But for that to happen, the NO should, can and must be a NO to the logic that would privilege American lives over those of Iraqis and all the other peoples who, as even the 9/11 Commission must admit, fear American military attack. It must be a NO to the logic that would elevate the supposed safety of native-born Americans over the rights and lives of immigrants; and a NO to the logic that would shut down or chill out or suffocate our protests in the name of "electing the lesser evil."

Paradoxically, the harder and more uncompromising that NO is, the bigger the YES it contains. A YES to a dialogue between the world's peoples on how to bring forward truly just societies. A YES to acting together against the outrages of today to do that. A YES to a recognition of common interests of all those who oppose the "oppressors and bullies of the world" (no matter how refined or "multilateral"). And a huge YES to a resistance that is breathtakingly audacious and unstoppably imaginative, based as it is on knowing that it and it alone represents not only the real interests of the masses of people but, increasingly, their felt needs and aspirations.

August 29: Make our message clear. Let the dialogue develop and deepen. More than a Million in New York's Streets Saying NO when the Bush team meets.