October 9, 2005
Revolution #017, October 9, 2005, posted at revcom.us
Frank Rich, the liberal columnist in the New York Times, recently compared George W. Bush to the Wizard of Oz, once Toto pulled the curtain open. He’s all image, according to Rich, and essentially over. The pendulum done swung. Rich goes on:
“What comes next? Having turned the page on Mr. Bush, the country hungers for a vision that is something other than either liberal boilerplate or Rovian stagecraft. At this point, merely plain old competence, integrity and heart might do it.”
(The New York Times Week in Review, Sunday, September 18, 2005)
Is it true? Have falling “approval ratings” rendered Bush into a toothless old carnival barker, all smoke and mirrors, with no more ability to do damage? Has “the page been turned”? Or has Rich himself fallen victim to--and become a purveyor of--a most dangerous illusion?
Take a look at what the supposedly “all-over-but-the-shouting” Bush regime has managed to do in just the past month or two.
Begin in Iraq, where 149,000 U.S. troops continue to enforce an occupation that gets bloodier by the day. Where the army just quietly announced adding “a few thousand” more troops for the constitutional elections in October. Where three American soldiers last week exposed the ongoing, widespread, and systematic use of torture by the U.S. army, after having their complaints suppressed within the “proper army channels” for 17 months. Look over at Iran, where U.S. commandos busily prepare the ground for military action. And then note well the refusal of any prominent Democrat to attend last week’s antiwar rallies.
Now return to the United States itself, where in early September the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the government could indefinitely imprison Jose Padilla--a U.S. citizen apprehended on U.S. soil--as an enemy combatant, simply by claiming he is a “terrorist.” Padilla has now languished in jail for over three years, with no formal charges. Even mainstream newspapers noted with alarm that this ruling effectively wipes out habeas corpus for political opponents of the regime.
And then there was this week’s confirmation of John Roberts as Chief Justice of the Supreme Court. Roberts is a man whom the Christian Fascists found totally acceptable and who, from what little is known of his record, is clearly anti-affirmative action and anti-civil rights, anti-abortion and anti-women’s rights generally, and strongly in favor of expanding the repressive powers of the state. He was approved as Chief Justice by 78 (!) senators. Go back then to August, when the Senate unanimously approved an even more repressive version of the “Patriot Act” and when news leaked out of a secret Pentagon plan for martial law in the U.S., complete with plans to dispatch troops to key areas and begin roundups.
Move on to Lancaster, Pa., where people are fighting against the doctrine of “intelligent design,” which is being used as a battering ram to undercut and eventually eliminate the teaching of evolution. Then remember that in August both Bush and Senate majority leader Bill Frist argued that intelligent design should be taught in the schools.
Finally, take a look in New Orleans, where Bush continued and intensified his administration’s racist policy toward Black people. Note his murderous actions (and inaction) during the flood’s first few days, including his “no tolerance for looters” order. Take stock of his policies since then--eliminating affirmative action and “living wage” measures in the rebuilding, dispersing people all over the country and doing nothing to reunite families, and maintaining a high degree of repression in the shelters. Look at how Bush has used the flood to further promote Christian Fascism--beginning with FEMA’s listing of Pat Robertson’s swindle operation as the number three recommended charity, and moving on to the promotion of church-sponsored charter schools and church-based operations as a central part of the relief efforts, while the government does nothing to meet the people’s just demands. And last, but unfortunately not least, ponder the orgy of racist slander and lies unleashed by his armies of fascist radio commentators, administration supporters, and Bush’s mother herself!
Even this brief list belies Frank Rich’s view that “the page has been turned” on Bush. Each and every outrage over these past six weeks has had very serious, life-and-death consequences for millions of people and, on top of that, has put into place more of the norms and infrastructure of a fascist state.
In this light, we should recall the hubbub just a few short months ago over Karl Rove’s involvement in “outing” a CIA agent. Remember? This too was about to usher in a pendulum swing. But what in fact happened? Nothing.
We should also listen to Daniel Ellsberg, the man who broke the Pentagon Papers and who is well-acquainted from the inside with “how government works.” Ellsberg recently warned that the Bush administration is counting on another 9/11-type incident to change public opinion and enable the regime to bring in a military draft and a clampdown “that will make the Patriot Act look like the Bill of Rights.” (“How the Antiwar Was Won,” Philip Weiss, New York, October 3, 2005)
The world truly cannot wait!
But Bush himself is part of something bigger. For the past 15 to 20 years, powerful forces within the U.S. ruling class have come together around the need to change the governing “consensus” on what makes the government legitimate, and the morality and ideology underlying the “cohesion” of society--and to change it to something quite different from what has gone before. These forces are going for a much more openly imperialist policy toward the world and a fascist form of rule within the U.S., which will at minimum include a very large element of fundamentalist Christianity. Within this most unholy alliance, the Christian Fascists make up a powerful battering ram and driving force, and these forces are not going to be satisfied, as Bob Avakian has written, until this country is ruled as “a biblically based, militarized, patriarchal and male supremacist, and yes, white supremacist society--that is in essence the Christian Fascist program. And, yes, this means that their religious fundamentalist epistemology must be in command.” ( Revolution, #1, May 1, 2005, “Changes in the World and the ‘Clash of Civilizations’--Within This Civilization”.)
This is not transitory. Over the past 15 to 20 years, a hard-core Christian fascist social base has been nurtured and developed; it has placed its people in key positions in the courts and armed forces, developed its own massive institutions and infrastructure, and, in the process, influenced the whole of the society.
Nor is this arbitrary. It arose in the face of serious new challenges to U.S. imperialism. These include: the breakup of the old arrangements among the imperialist powers and the scramble for the U.S. to establish itself as the new Rome; the huge socio-economic changes brought on by globalization, including massive immigration, urbanization, and integration of women into the modern workforce outside the home, all of which have introduced tremendous uncertainty and dislocation into people’s lives worldwide, and shaken the old assumptions; the ‘60s legacy of critical thinking, rejection of blind patriotism, belief in equality for Black people and other oppressed nationalities, and for the emancipation of women; the ‘90s thinking, ironically enough, of “get rich quick” (with its unwillingness to “sacrifice for the country”); and other changes as well. In the face of this, an increasingly influential--and determined--section of the ruling class decided that they needed the new, and very radical, cohering norms and have systematically and relentlessly brought this movement forward.
The material underpinnings of the secular, liberal “social contract” of the “New Deal” and “Great Society” (which themselves, let us not forget, were based on imperialist plunder) have vanished, and the Democrats find themselves with no answers other than to move increasingly to the right. And so we now have Hillary Clinton echoing Bush that the war in Iraq is a “noble cause”; we have the same Clinton calling for “common ground” with anti-abortion fanatics and the Democratic Party moving to run anti-abortion candidates in the 2006 elections; and we see the Democrats conceding to the breakdown of the separation between church and state and voting for the renewed Patriot Act. This is not because they are “spineless” or “unresponsive”; it is because they share the overall objectives and fundamental assumptions of empire with the Republicans, and they do not have a coherent program of their own to deal with what our Party has called this “period of transition with potential for great upheaval.”
(The above has necessarily been a broad-strokes sketch of some very complex phenomena. Readers are urged to check out the upcoming pamphlet by Bob Avakian, “The Coming Civil War And Repolarization for Revolution in the Present Era” and “The Truth About the Right-Wing Conspiracy. . . And Why Clinton and the Democrats Are No Answer” at revcom.us for a fuller analysis.)
When you look again at the past month or two and consider the deeply rooted forces driving the Bush regime’s agenda, the urgent need to act NOW stands out acutely, as does the self-defeating character of attempting to influence the Democrats--even if you call it “holding their feet to the fire.” Above all, the crying need for mass action independent of the dead-end framework of politics-as-usual asserts itself with extreme urgency. November 2 must be the day when DRIVE OUT THE BUSH REGIME resounds throughout society and the world--for we really can’t wait!
People will and should come at November 2 from many different views and with many different objectives. In our view, the ultimate goal of this movement cannot and should not be a return to the previous liberal consensus which, we must emphasize again, rested on the foundation of terrible imperialist plunder. The point must be to go forward--to resolve these murderous social contradictions through a socialist revolution, led by the re-envisioned communism of Bob Avakian. Such a revolution would carry forward the best impulses and values of the ‘60s, in the only way that can truly be a step toward emancipating humanity. (See online at revcom.us/chair_e.htm)
At the same time, we all urgently need NOW to join forces and to debate the future WHILE WE ACT DECISIVELY, TOGETHER, TO DRIVE OUT THIS REGIME. It matters a great deal to people all over the world whether we resist and reverse the direction that this regime is daily bolting into place--or whether, in the name of illusionary pendulum swings and a futile hope for saviors from the Democratic Party, we allow it to go forward. It matters a great deal whether November 2 marks a new turn in society--a day that history begins to change.
Ironically, Frank Rich himself, during the Terri Schiavo ordeal, pointed out that fascists in power need only a hard core of support in society at large, if everyone else is disorganized and unable or unwilling to act. At the time, Rich put the figure at 20% of the population. Well, the Christian Fascists probably do make up about 20% of the U.S. right now and, if anything, have become even more energized in recent months. Unfortunately, for whatever reasons, Rich seems to have shrunk from the implications of his earlier insight.
But there is a real need to break with wishful thinking and plenty of reason to take heart from the potential that does in fact exist--and which can be tapped, IF WE ACT. The very depth and foulness of the changes afoot actually create the basis to reach out to the millions who are agonizing over them and urgently turning over in their minds and hearts what to do about it. November 2 is an answer, the only answer with the courage and audacity and vision to recognize the real stakes and the enormity of the challenge, and to call forward people in a way commensurate with those stakes and that challenge.
Bill Moyers, in his recent speech “9/11 And The Sport of God,” discussed the “unique . . . intensity, organization and anger” of “the radical religious right,” and reported on yet another burgeoning strain of this movement: “Patriot Pastors,” self-styled “Christocrats,” gladiators “for God marching against the very hordes of hell in our society.” These forces are NOT, in other words, going gently into the night. Moyers went on to say that the success of the “the radical Christian right. . . has come in no small part because of our acquiescence and timidity.” He ended by recalling the joke about the Irishman who happened on a street fight and asked if it were a private brawl--or could anyone join in?
November 2 must mark a break with this timidity and acquiescence, a turning to resistance, and the beginning of a truly two-sided fight. As the call to November 2 states,
We must, and can, aim to create a political situation where the Bush regime’s program is repudiated, where Bush himself is driven from office, and where the whole direction he has been taking society is reversed. We, in our millions, must and can take responsibility to change the course of history.
Revolution #017, October 9, 2005, posted at revcom.us
November 2 in your area:
(check the WCW Calendar for more information!)
TUCSON: 12 PM at the intersection of Church and Congress,
SAN FRANCISCO BAY AREA: 12 PM Civic Center, San Francisco
LOS ANGELES: 12 PM Actions along Wilshire Blvd from Downtown to Santa Monica, rallying at 5:00 PM at the Westwood Federal Building, Wilshire & Westwood Blvds,
UNIVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA, BERKELEY:
BOULDER: 12 Noon at Bandshell Park, Canyon & Broadway
Line the streets!
NEW HAVEN: 4 PM New Haven Green,
11AM at Lafayette Park near the White House
ORLANDO: 12 PM Orlando City Hall, Orange Ave & South Street,
ATLANTA: 1 PM, Woodruff Park @ Five Points @ downtown Atlanta
ATLANTA UNIVERSITY CENTER Committee is calling for student walkouts for November 2nd at Spelman, Morehouse and Clark University.
HONOLULU: 7 AM – 5 PM Old Stadium Park (King and Isenberg) Hawaii@worldcantwait.org
CHICAGO: Noon - Federal Plaza - Adams and Dearborn
OAK PARK: 3 PM Columbus Park
DETROIT: 12 PM Warren and Woodward, Detroit@worldcantwait.org
LAS VEGAS: email@example.com
NEW YORK CITY: 12 PM Union Square 14th Street,
GREENSBORO: 5 PM Downtown Governmental Plaza, Greene St.
CHAPEL HILL: Chapelhill@worldcantwait.org
CLEVELAND: 12:00 PM Public Square
AUSTIN: 3 P.M – State Capitol
Feeder marches: 1:15 PM - UT students, University of Texas West Mall; 2:15 P.M. - high school students, 6th & Lamar, near Whole Foods,
HOUSTON: 12 PM Market Square Park at Preston and Travis.
SAN ANTONIO: 4 PM at Travis Park, 301 E. Travis, San Antonio, 5:30 Rally at Milam Park.
SEATTLE: 11 AM: Brief rally at Westlake; 12:00 PM: Hit the streets!
The World Can't Wait
Revolution #017, October 9, 2005, posted at revcom.us
Years from now, when children want to know the character of their parents -- as they lived in a country that was normalizing torture, moving to condemn half the population to enforced motherhood or back-alley dangers, attacking science and critical thought, enforcing a narrow brand of fundamentalist religion and bigotry, disenfranchising and then abandoning hundreds of thousands of Black people in an illegitimate “election” and a foreseen natural disaster, waging wars of preemption based on outrageous lies, snatching people off the street without lawyers or charges, and no major office-holder was making a stink-- they will ask, “Were you in the streets that day, on November 2, 2005?”
To the thousands we spoke to at the September 24 antiwar protests:
You met us. We listened to you. Almost all of you loved the idea of not waiting until 2006 or 2008, but the question you asked over and over again was: “How do you drive out a regime?” Here�€™s what we have to say:
In recent years, millions have spoken out, protested, refused to comply with outrageous new repressive measures, given money, voted, and more.
Still, the Bush juggernaut of war, repression, and hurtful fundamentalist morality has rolled ahead. All this has shown two things:
1. There are, indeed, tens of millions who are deeply disturbed by and opposed to the whole direction that the Bush administration is dragging our world into.
2. This will of the people means nothing to the Bush regime. The people�€™s will must be forged into an organized political resistance which repudiates and reverses the whole direction of society and where Bush himself is driven from office.
Of course, everyone wants to know exactly what steps will be taken to create a political situation where these things happen. But setting out to drive out a regime, in particular this regime, in this country has never been done before and there is no familiar script for how this will all unfold or what its final days will look like. On the other hand, we have a vision and more than a few ideas on this. And one thing for sure: You won�€™t drive out this regime by waiting on a move by the Democratic Party, who keep coming up with pale imitations and “yes, buts” every time this regime comes out with yet another reactionary monstrosity. It�€™s up to us.
The future is unwritten. Right now, we need very urgently to start writing a new chapter.
Think about this: When four young people sat in at a lunch counter in the South, they didn�€™t know exactly what forms of struggle the Civil Rights movement would develop or how many and who would join them. When women and doctors developed networks to provide abortions and held speak-outs to make it legal, they didn�€™t know exactly what court ruling or piece of legislation would codify this right. When a thousand young people stepped up the militance of the anti-Vietnam War struggle by attempting to shut down the Oakland Induction Center during “Stop the Draft” week, they did so before millions of others were prepared to take such steps.
They did these things because living one more day as things had been was intolerable. And, by doing what was right and not compromising, and having the confidence that people were ready to hear and join them, they set new terms for society, changed what was deemed possible and realistic, and galvanized many thousands more in ways they couldn�€™t have predicted.
Today we are facing an unprecedented situation. The challenge is bigger, the stakes are higher, and the Bush regime is relentlessly hammering their agenda into place, public opinion be damned. There is a moment to seize right now while millions are seething with anger and aching with desire to affect things. The world cannot wait. The Bush regime must be driven from power. But we must leave the comfortable ruts of familiar territory and politics-as-usual if we are to stand a chance.
Think of how many people were inspired by the uncompromising and courageous stand of Cindy Sheehan. We are in a moment when one person stepping boldly forward, pointing out that the emperor not only has no clothes, but is a lying, callous brute, can change the whole national discourse. Imagine what can happen when hundreds of thousands, on one day, refuse to bite their tongues or stay at home.
November 2, 2005 will be a launch of a new kind of movement, a society-wide resistance. It holds the potential to break open new space and possibilities for the struggle going forward.
November 2, 2005 must be a day when history starts to turn.
November 2 will be a day when those who hate and fear the future Bush is creating will pour into the streets together, out from beneath the suffocating “mandate” Bush claimed last November 2, out of the “acceptable” political framework that forces people to speak in “reasoned” tones about compromise positions in the face of utterly insane measures, out of the dynamic of fighting Bush�€™s outrages one at a time constantly losing ground to the whole onslaught, out of the logic of waiting�€�and waiting�€�and waiting for someone somewhere else to say what must be said and do what must be done, while each day people grow accustomed to unspeakable crimes.
On November 2, in society-wide outpourings--in large cities and small towns, emptying high schools and colleges and lining the highways in rural areas, buzzing through the media and provoking frank debates among families, friends and coworkers--we will say: NO MORE! WE REFUSE TO BE RULED IN THIS WAY! BUSH DOES NOT REPRESENT US AND WE WILL DRIVE HIM OUT! THE WORLD CAN�€™T WAIT!
People who come out will be clear--this outpouring is just the beginning of a new kind of movement which takes the offensive in society and really wages a pitched political battle for the whole direction of the future. The gatherings will bring together the impatience of the youth who walk out of school, with the experience of those from the �€˜60s generation, with the stature and creativity of prominent artists and intellectuals, together with the anger and perspective of those who have been hardest hit by the Bush program of repression and heightened poverty and racism. The organizers will lead participants to trade phone numbers and emails, forging thousands into new communities of resistance which actually defend and take the counter-offensive around those who come under attack and who spend time reading and discussing the history of fascism and resistance movements elsewhere.
To launch our resistance onto this new trajectory, these outpourings must be powerful enough to become the top story in small towns and large cities on the news that night. In this way, this day will give heart and inspiration to millions of others who are looking for a way to stop this direction and will bring them into an organized resistance--perhaps more quickly than we can now even imagine. It will put a challenge to many who still support Bush, causing them to question and, for some, begin to break with a program that is not in their interests. And, it will give notice to the regime and its die-hard supporters that they will not have a free hand in reshaping the world, leaving them further exposed in the eyes of millions.
This day alone will not stop the regime, but it will introduce a whole new dynamic that can enable millions to make a big leap towards a movement that can. Finally, the relentlessness of this regime will be matched, but our relentlessness will be in the pursuit of justice as people will continue to press, uncompromisingly, for what the whole world wants and needs--the ouster of this regime. November 2 will embolden individuals and groups everywhere to speak up, to defend others who come under attack, to challenge the Bushian mentality and program everywhere it pops up--from the local school boards pushing “Intelligent Design” and Abstinence Only, to the unjust war and continuing torture, to the pulpits promoting hurtful intolerance of gays and non-Christians--all as part of an escalating coherent movement to drive this regime from power.
November 2 is a day for which thousands must immediately throw in all their energies and time, creativity and critical thought, connections, skills and finances to pull off on a scale that accomplishes this important beginning.
From here, further organization and planning will be required, but all of it will be in a new context and with new strength. As organizers of the World Can�€™t Wait--Drive Out the Bush Regime, we pledge to take responsibility for leading and broadening the core of those leading this all the way through. We will hold a national summit to chart our next steps, bringing to bear all the strength and momentum and lessons we have gathered and surge ahead on a higher level which impacts the terrain again nationally and internationally.
Years from now, when children want to know the character of their parents--as they lived in a country that was normalizing torture, moving to condemn half the population to enforced motherhood or back-alley dangers, attacking science and critical thought, enforcing a narrow brand of fundamentalist religion and bigotry, disenfranchising and then abandoning hundreds of thousands of Black people in an illegitimate “election” and a foreseen natural disaster, waging wars of preemption based on outrageous lies, snatching immigrants and others off the street without lawyers or charges, and no major office-holder was making a stink-- they will ask, “Were you in the streets that day, on November 2, 2005?”
From A World to Win News Service
Revolution #017, October 9, 2005, posted at revcom.us
September 12, 2005. A World to Win News Service. Four years after the U.S. launched a global rampage in supposed retaliation for the 9/11 attacks, its global empire of prison camps and torture chambers continues to swell.
The best known is Guantanamo, Cuba, where the U.S. military says it is now holding about 520 men, most seized shortly after the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan in October 2001. They have been imprisoned without charges for what is now going on four years. According to lawyers in New York and London, since last August 8, 210 prisoners have been on what they vow will be a hunger strike to the death. They are demanding that they either be charged with a crime or released, and, in the meantime, that they be treated according to the Geneva Conventions governing prisoners of war, including an end to torture and punitive conditions.
Although about 70 people have been released from Guantanamo over the last year, construction is now underway on a sixth camp in the prison complex, designed for “long-term detention.”
In Afghanistan itself, the U.S. is still keeping 350 prisoners at its Bagram airport military base near Kabul. Rather than shutting this jail down, American authorities have said they may expand it so that they can send prisoners there from Guantanamo. If these facilities were rebranded as Afghani--supposedly under the authority of the government the U.S. installed in Afghanistan--lawyers would no longer be able to file suit in American courts. The Pentagon has particularly objected to judicial orders that prisoners be allowed contact with attorneys. Similar arrangements to turn over legal responsibility for prisoners now at Guantanamo are under negotiation with Saudi Arabia and Yemen.
Last June, a 2,000-page secret U.S. Army document on an investigation of torture at Bagram was leaked to the media. The resulting uproar forced even the U.S.’s Afghanistan president Hamid Karzai to mouth criticisms of his masters, but the U.S. defied UN calls to let Afghanistan’s human rights commission have access to the base. The U.S. Army did, however, feel obliged to try four GIs for the deaths of two Afghans whose murder was described in terrible detail in that report. American soldiers had grabbed a young taxi driver known as Dilawar in December 2002. They hung him from the ceiling with wrist shackles and beat him over four days. More than a hundred times, they applied special, “scientific” blows to the sides of his knees with metal rods to cause maximum pain while leaving no external marks. This technique is similar to ones used at Guantanamo and perhaps developed there. The secret report mentioned that interrogators believed Dilawar never really had any information to give them. The base coroner wrote that his knees had been “pulpified,” as if he had been run over by a heavy vehicle.
Two soldiers tried for killing Dilawar and another man were convicted but given no jail time. In late August, two more were given a two and three-month sentence, respectively.
The U.S. prison at Abu Ghraib, infamous for the torture photos that shocked the world in April 2004, has also been expanded. It now holds 4,000 people. Currently the U.S. is holding nearly 11,000 captives in Iraq, double the number of a year ago, in three military prisons, with a new one under construction. Recently the U.S. government announced plans to expand the capacity of its prisons in Iraq to 16,000.
At the same time, the number of people being held in the prison system run by the Iraqi puppet government is exploding. An article in the British Observer (July 3, 2005) describes what happens on the seventh floor of the Ministry of the Interior:
“Hanging by the arms in cuffs, scorching of the body with something like an iron and knee-capping [using an electric drill to make holes in the knees] are claimed to be increasingly prevalent in the new Iraq. Now evidence is emerging that appears to substantiate those claims. Not only Iraqis make the allegations. International officials describe the methods in disgusted but hushed tones...”
The newspaper points out, “British and U.S. police and military officials act as advisers to Iraq’s security forces. Foreign troops support Iraqi policing missions. What is extraordinary is that despite the increasingly widespread evidence of torture, governments have remained silent. It is all the more extraordinary on the British side, as embassy officials have been briefed by senior Iraqi officials over the allegations on a number of occasions, and individual cases of abuse have been raised with British diplomats.”
Actually, this isn’t surprising at all since these things are being carried out under the authority, and for the benefit, of the U.S./UK-led occupation. The Wolf Brigade, an “Iraqi government” security force the Observer cited as one of the most vicious, made up largely of former members of Saddam’s secret police and Republican Guard, works under U.S. Special Forces officer James Steele, whose background includes training American-backed death squads in El Salvador during the 1980s, according to CounterPunch (June 10/12, 2005).
There are other such centers in official buildings in the capital and other cities. Alongside them exists a chain of unofficial dungeons and killing rooms run by the Shia and Kurdish parties allied with the U.S. Sources such as the Washington Post’s Anthony Shadid (June 15 and August 21) report that U.S.-seized captives are routinely delivered to these facilities for disposal.
Many of those being held in the U.S.’s worldwide network of military prisons are children. U.S. investigative journalist Seymour Hersh wrote in the UK Guardian that a memo addressed to Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld shortly after the 2001 invasion noted “800-900 Pakistani boys 13-15 years of age in custody.” In Iraq, sociology professor Arlie Hochschild wrote in The New York Times (June 29), “The International Committee of the Red Cross reported registering 107 detainees under 18 during visits to six prisons controlled by coalition troops. Some detainees were as young as 8. Since that time, Human Rights Watch reports that the number has risen.” Some Guantanamo prisoners--it’s not clear exactly how many--were captured at the age of 15, 14 or even younger, and the U.S. says that about half a dozen are still under 16.
At Abu Ghraib, Hochschild cites cases of children as young as 14 being tortured by setting dogs to bite them. Brigadier General Janis Karpinski, formerly in charge of that prison, told military investigators “about visiting a weeping 11-year-old detainee in the prison’s notorious Cellblock 1B, which housed prisoners designated high risk. ‘He told me he was almost 12,’ General Karpinski recalled, and that ‘he really wanted to see his mother, could he please call his mother.’ Children like this 11-year-old held at Abu Ghraib have been denied the right to see their parents, a lawyer, or anyone else. They were not told why they were detained, let alone for how long.”
Karpinski was the only officer to even so much as lose their job because of the torture recorded in soldiers’ photos at Abu Ghraib--not for her responsibility in the crimes committed there, but for failing to defend them to the media. Testimony in the trials of several soldiers given prison terms last June in relation to the scandal brought out that the “interrogation” techniques used there were developed at Guantanamo and brought to Iraq first by a special training team and then by the head of the Cuban prison himself, Major General Geoffrey Miller, who was put in charge of prisoners in Iraq and, after the military investigation of Abu Ghraib, given a promotion.
The fact that Guantanamo remains the flagship and research and development laboratory for the U.S.’s global torture network gives the hunger strike there even more significance.
Prisoner statements written at the start of the current hunger strike were recently released by British civil rights lawyer Clive Stafford Smith, who represents 40 detainees. Binyan Mohammed, a former London schoolboy, wrote, “I do not plan to stop until either I die or we are respected. People will definitely die.” He compared their action to the hunger strike at Maze prison in the UK led by Bobby Sands in 1981, when eight accused Irish Republican Army members died in a fast to protest their internment without trial. “He had the courage of his convictions and he starved himself to death. Nobody should believe that my brothers here have less courage.” CounterPunch reports that as of october 1, 210 out of more than 500 detainees are still on hunger strike, and at least 20 are being force-fed through nasal tubes.
Apparently there have been quite a few protests at Guantanamo, although for the first few years the prisoners were so completely isolated that little word got out. The New York-based Center for Constitutional Rights, which represents many prisoners there, documents these actions in their recent pamphlet “The Guantanamo Prisoner Hunger Strikes and Protest: February 2002--August 2005” (www.ccr-ny.org ). A hunger strike that began in June called for better access to books, bottled water (prisoners say they are deliberately given repulsive drinking water), medical care, mail contact with their families and other basic human needs. Prisoners also demanded that they all be treated equally. Currently, the small number of prisoners who cooperate with interrogators are housed in a special unit, camp four, with relatively better conditions and privileges. This is the unit visiting U.S. Congressmen were taken to see (although even they were forbidden to talk to prisoners). The harshest unit is the newest, camp five, with about 100 inmates, who haven’t been told why they were sent there. That protest ended July 28 when the authorities promised to meet at least some of the detainees’ demands. The military would “bring the prison into compliance with the Geneva Conventions. They said this had been approved by Donald Rumsfeld himself in Washington, DC,” explained the British prisoner Mohammed.
But apparently these promises were a trick. In August, a Tunisian prisoner was severely beaten with a metal chair during interrogation. A Kuwaiti was violently assaulted by the military’s “Extreme Reaction Force” when he refused to return to interrogation after being sexually abused. This triggered a second hunger strike. In retaliation, the Prisoners Council representative was put in isolation. Contact with lawyers was forbidden, contrary to a court order. On September 12, the U.S. Defense Department announced that 128 prisoners were “fasting” and 18 had been hospitalized for force-feeding. The government declined to give out a list of hunger strikers or notify their families. Attorneys warn that the purpose of hiding the real number of people involved and their names--like the U.S. government’s continuing refusal to make known the exact number and identity of Guantanamo prisoners overall--may be to cover up deaths. The U.S. is still refusing to allow UN officials to inspect the prison complex.
In addition to these prisons, there is also reason to believe that the U.S. has secret detention centers located, among other places, on American naval ships in the Indian Ocean, UN Special Rapporteur on Torture Manfred Nowak told BBC June 28, adding his weight to a regularly repeated charge. He said that the UN has been demanding that the U.S. provide a comprehensive list of detention centers for over a year--in vain.
International law and institutions clearly cannot stop what the U.S. is doing, and American law as well is not allowed to be an obstacle. In the U.S., the Democratic Party has refused to make an issue of the torture network. A few months ago, during an upsurge of criticism of Guantanamo, ex-president Bill Clinton put forward the slogan “Clean it up or shut it down”--as if a “clean” concentration camp is acceptable. This one seems as “scientifically” administered as any Nazi could wish, with doctors and other professionals intimately involved in developing torture techniques ranging from psychological manoeuvres to the use of thorax pressure points to cause extreme pain and unconsciousness with no traces. After a few days, Clinton and his party just dropped the whole thing.
Further, while it’s not surprising that the UK and the other “coalition” members go along with Guantanamo and the other military camps, it seems that so far, at least, no government is willing to go against the U.S. on this.
People who find these outrages intolerable will either have to learn to live with them, or take mass action themselves to end this situation and all that lies behind it.
by Bob Avakian, Chairman of the Revolutionary Communist Party, USA
Revolution #1, May 1, 2005, posted at revcom.us
Just briefly, let’s talk about the dialectical relation between the international and the domestic dimensions of what is going on, and what has gone on over several decades. Let’s look at some key conjunctures and nodal points. Where did all this stuff that the ’60s was part of come from, what was the underlying basis of that? It was the resolution of World War 2, and what arose out of that on an international scale, and what became the principal contradiction in the world—between the oppressed nations of the Third World and imperialism—and other things we’ve analyzed in connection with that. The transformations in the southern U.S. were related to that—the changes in southern agriculture and related political, social, and cultural changes—and this, in turn, was related to what was going on in the world as a whole, both economically but also superstructurally (in terms of politics, ideology, and culture). There was the civil rights movement that arose in that context, and the Vietnam war also arose in that context. In other words, without being mechanical, there’s plenty of international dimension that has played and ultimately is playing a determining role in all this.
And then go to the situation today. What sets the context for all this is the resolution of the contradiction with the Soviet Union—"the end of the Cold War," as it is put—by highly unexpected means: the collapse of the Soviet Union. And then there is superstructural stuff going on in relation to and in the context of that, in all different kinds of ways, including different sections of the ruling class in the U.S. trying to forge new strategies and new consensus. And it’s true that, as a comrade pointed out, Clinton did try to bring forward a new consensus; but it was within the same fundamental framework as has historically existed within the U.S. What Clinton was doing was objectively bringing greater hardship for masses of people, but frankly it was not bringing a "clash of civilizations" right within this civilization, if you want to put it that way. It was not bringing two different "irreconcilable"—or, to put it in different and perhaps better terms, philosophically, two antagonistically op- posed worlds and worldviews directly up against each other. And that is what’s being posed now.
Now, the fact is, if there is another event like September 11, the configuration and the dynamics are going to change dramatically again. Some people, including some generally progressive people, left to their own devices, are perhaps going to join the Christopher Hitchens’ in deciding to cast their lot with the Christian theocratic fascists of U.S. imperialism rather than the Islamic theocratic fascists. Now, that is a metaphor for saying that a lot of the forces who right now don’t think they can live in the same world with these Christian Fascists will, in those circumstances (of further attacks on U.S. soil) be inclined to go under the umbrella of whatever the government in the U.S. is, even if it’s a Christian Fascist one, to protect themselves. If we allow that dynamic to go on, things will become worse, even much worse, than they are now. And, on the other hand, not only progressive people but even people like Andrew Sullivan, who is gay, should be reminded of the Niem�ler statement (in Nazi Germany: First they came for the communists, but he was not a communist so he did nothing...1) and think about whose wing they believe they can crawl up under.
That was the point that came up sharply in a recent Bill Maher show—in particular the comments by D.L. Hughley, who insisted: I believe in Jesus, but I don’t believe Jesus resides only in the "red states" (where Bush and the Republicans carried the vote). Andrew Sullivan, who was also on that show, was getting all puffed up, and so Bill Maher says to him: "Well, try going into one of those churches in Mississippi and see how you..." And Sullivan cut in: "I do belong to a church, and I’m quite welcome in it." And they both, Hughley and Maher, responded: "In Mississippi?!" That’s where the gay question and the Black national question come together—in Mississippi (literally and metaphorically).
There is a particularity that they’re talking about with Mississippi too. Andrew Sullivan can find a church in New York or Washington, but he will have a hard time finding one in Mississippi. There’s still a particularity to Mississippi. Malcolm X was right in making the point, "Stop talking about the South—as long as you’re south of the Canadian border, you’re south." But still there is another side to it. There is still a South. My point about the Bible belt and the lynching belt—how they are the same—is not that the South is the only place they have ever lynched people, but there is a point there.
In any case, this is the dynamic that’s in play now, and it is important to understand that there is a difference between Hitler getting appointed Chancellor and the Nazis having totally consolidated power and crushing and eliminating the opposition. Without being mechanical, that analogy is indeed very relevant to what is going on in the U.S. now.
I agree with the point (made by another comrade), I do think Bush actually believes this fundamentalist shit, but he is also the president of the United States and he can’t simply be a Christian Fascist. I believe he is a Christian Fascist, but at this point he can’t simply be a Christian Fascist. That makes for (and reflects) another complexity. And there is a difference between what is the leading edge in the Republican Party and what is the character of the society overall, at this point at least.
We can’t be reductionist: The leading edge in the Republican Party is this Christian Fascism, the Republican Party is the leading party, and right now the ruling party, in the U.S. and bourgeois politics in this country is increasingly dominated by one party, the Republicans...so therefore the country is already fascist. That is not a correct way of reasoning, not correct methodologically. You can’t go mathematically—by mathematical reduction—to arrive at a conclusion like that. In fact, it is not even the case that a Christian Fascist consensus has won out within the ruling class at this point. That has not happened yet, and we should not confuse things. This is not being ruled as a Christian Fascist biblically based country—at this point.
But there are forces fighting for that who are not going to be satisfied until that is the way the country is being ruled. It’s got to be a biblically based, militarized, patriarchal and male supremacist, and, yes, white supremacist society—that is in essence the Christian Fascist program. And, yes, this means that their religious fundamentalist epistemology must be in command.
There is going to be a battle over what is truth and how do you arrive at the truth. There is so-called "biblically based" truth vs. actual truth. There is going to be fierce struggle over these epistemological questions as well as political struggle. What is truth? These right-wingers write things like, "People claim Bush `lied’ "—and they put "lied" in quotes—about Iraq and WMD [BA laughs]. I mean, here you see clearly that this is a battle of epistemology. Bush lied without the quotes, okay?—and everybody saw him do it. But, as another comrade was pointing out, this is not true in the worldview of these people who put forward, or take up, this fascist, and in particular Christian Fascist, epistemology. What Bush says is true: even if it’s a lie, it is true—or it doesn’t matter, because it’s subsumed by a larger "Truth," with a capital T.
This superstructural stuff does matter a great deal. What was Pat Buchanan talking about in speaking of a great division in American society that will reassert itself?2 This is a division that has developed out of all the upheaval of the ’60s—and everything else that’s happened since. If you read the supplement on the Clinton impeachment ("The Truth About Right-Wing Conspiracy... and Why Clinton and the Democrats Are No Answer")3 it talks about two phenomena at work, in terms of the problems the ruling class has in promoting patriotism, especially blind patriotism—people not being patriotic enough, from the point of view of the ruling class. One is the ’60s thing—everything that millions of people learned through that whole experience, which makes them not want to be very patriotic, or certainly not blindly and unquestioningly patriotic—and the other is precisely the ’90s thing—all this "gold rush" (get rich quick) shit makes for a lot of individualism, and it doesn’t make for much self-sacrifice for the "larger imperialist good." It isn’t just the one phenomena that’s being talked about there. We should understand the nuances, the gradations, the levels, the contradictory character, the particularity, all of that.
There is right now this whole battle shaping up over these two different worlds and worldviews. And there are millions and millions of people, right now, non-religious and religious people, who are deeply troubled by what is happening—and there are a lot of people who are religious among the basic masses who are saying, "We are fucked by this Bush thing." That doesn’t mean inroads can’t be made among them by the Bushites and Christian Fascists—we have been talking about that, and we should definitely be aware of that. But many among the masses who are religious are saying, "we’re fucked"—not because Bush is religious but because of what he is actually doing. The appeal to religious fundamentalism doesn’t have the same impact, it doesn’t have the same political effect, right now at least, on many of these masses, because they have different material interests, and—without being mechanical materialist—there is a point to material interests. But it would be very wrong to think that this religious fundamentalism doesn’t have an effect on these basic masses.
In fact, there is a tug between some of this superstructural stuff, and in particular religion, on the one hand, and material factors, on the other hand. Part of the problem with Thomas Frank’s reasoning in his book What’s the Matter with Kansas?—his argument that people who are getting screwed economically by the policies of the Republicans shouldn’t be supporting the Republicans, although they are supporting them now—part of the problem is that actually many of the people Frank is talking about are present or former labor aristocrats, bourgeoisified workers, and lower level and working petty bourgeois. They don’t have a whole history of being fucked over in this country, by the system, in the same way as people at the base of society, people in the inner cities and so on—people who have a whole history of this, so when they get fucked again, they respond on the basis of that whole history. Whereas these other people that Thomas Frank is talking about respond differently, because their history and their place in society has been and is still different—and part of the picture is that their self-identity, to use that term, has involved trying to set themselves apart from the people who are held down at the base of society.
This is not to argue that Frank is wasting his time agonizing over what is happening with these strata of people, or that it is not important to try to win them over to a progressive, and indeed to a revolutionary, position. But, precisely in order to do that to the maximum extent possible, it is necessary to understand, in a thoroughly materialist way, what their social position is, and what it has been, how that is changing and what are the, very contradictory, responses this calls forth among them, rather than just looking at them through some generally populist lens that fails to take note of important economic, social, cultural and ideological distinctions among different sections of the people. For example, within a broad category like "working people," there are impoverished proletarians, who are bitterly exploited by the capitalists who employ them, or are denied employment altogether, at least much of the time; and there are, on the other hand, self-employed working people and even small business people who may do some work themselves but also employ, and exploit, a few others. While the people in all these categories are in a vastly different position from the truly rich and powerful ruling class of capitalists, at the same time there are significant differences among these different strata among the people, and these differences have a definite effect on their outlook and how they respond to being further pushed down.
There is a rich tapestry involved in all this—not all of it is good, I don’t mean "rich" in that sense, but a very complex tapestry with a lot of different things tugging and pulling on different sections of people in contradictory directions.
Even with the Christian Fascist social base, as we pointed out in our statement right after the election ("The Will of the People Was Not Expressed in This Election"), they have kids getting killed in the war in Iraq, and more of them are going to get killed as this global war for empire is carried on. And they have kids who go out of this confined world (of Christian fundamentalism, etc.), into another world, for example when they go into the military. Yes, they go into another Christian Fascist universe within the military, but they can’t erect complete barriers around the rest of the world they send these kids out into. It’s more complex than that. And these strata are going to take economic hits. There is constantly a complex interplay between the base and superstructure—between underlying economic factors, on the one hand, and, on the other hand, political, ideological, and cultural factors. And we have to approach this with a dialectical materialist, not a vulgar materialist, method. There has been enough vulgar materialism in the world, and there is a need to thoroughly rupture with that.
This configuration within U.S. society could change. International events could change the character back toward what was happening at the time of the "New Situation/ Great Challenges" supplement,4 soon after September 11, 2001. But this Christian Fascist element is not going to go away. That is the point I keep coming back to: They are not going to go away, and they are not going to give up. As other people have said, this is a monster that’s demanding to be fed. It’s stayed on its leash pretty much because it’s been promised to be fed. But it has its own dynamics.
So all this makes for a very volatile situation, and one that requires us to grasp it—and to act on it, to transform it— in all its complexity and its potential for an extreme resolution, one way or the other.
"Then they came for the Jews, and I didn’t speak
up because I wasn’t a Jew.
—Pastor Martin Niem�ler, imprisoned by the Nazis from 1937-1945. Initially a supporter of Hitler, Niem�ler realized too late what the Nazis were all about. Niem�ler criticized himself in this now famous quote and gave many speeches criticizing his fellow clergy, and other progressive people, for not opposing the Nazis when they had a chance.
2. For example, in his book The Death of the West, published after the September 11 attacks, Pat Buchanan accurately predicted the following: The sense of national unity which existed right after September 11 would not last; he argued that there are deep social and cultural and other divides in this society, and they were going to reassert themselves.
3. "The Truth About Right Wing Conspiracy. And Why Clinton and the Democrats Are No Answer" by Bob Avakian was first published in the Revolutionary Worker, November 1998, in the midst of the attempts to impeach Clinton. It was republished in October 2004, on the eve of the election of 2004. It is available in issue 1255 of the Revolutionary Worker and online at revcom.us.
4. "The New Situation and the Great Challenges" by Bob Avakian, Chairman of the RCP,USA, Revolutionary Worker #1143, March 17, 2002, available online at revcom.us]
EDITORS NOTE: This is part of a series of excerpts on various subjectsdrawn from conversations and discussions, as well as more formal talks, by Bob Avakianwhich appeared in the newspaper earlier this year. The series, The Coming Civil War and Repolarization for Revolution in the Present Era, is available online at revcom.us and now in pamphlet form from RCP Publications. This article has been edited for publication and footnotes have been added.
World Can't Wait Campaign
August 30, 2005
Cindy Sheehan's defiant stand has unleashed a welcome storm-- tapping into the deep hatred of millions for the Bush regime, re-energizing anti-war resistance, and re-igniting debate over the Iraq war. At last count, "Cindy Sheehan" brought up 4,440,000 hits on google. Maureen Dowd calls the moment a "cultural shift that is turning 2005 into 1968."
Since Sheehan helped force the spotlight back on Iraq, political forces of many stripes (ultimately representing different classes) have felt compelled to respond and try to shape the raging debate. Bush was even forced to interrupt his five-week vacation to stump for the war. So, as the weekly Revolution newspaper recently pointed out, the question now "is where this anger will go and what it will really take to end the insane path of the Bush agenda."
Farhad Manjoo in Salon.com recently offered his answer: stuffing the genie of mass outrage and protest back into the suffocating bottle of "acceptable" mainstream politics, specifically recommending the been-there/done-that deadend of relying on Congress and the Democrats to oppose an agenda (of which the war is but one part) that they actually support in the main, and helped launch.
In the guise of friendly advice to the anti-war struggle, Farhad Manjoo in "After Cindy Sheehan" argues that the anti-war movement's biggest problem is, well, the anti-war movement-- especially those who are clearest about the illegal, immoral and unjust nature of the war and occupation, and consequently firmest in demanding the war end and the U.S. leave Iraq now. That includes Cindy Sheehan, who says, "We're over there and we need to come home.....We need to let the Iraqi people handle their own business."
To Majoo, immediately withdrawing from Iraq poses a "dilemma," because all the options "look bad," i.e., they look bad to the U.S. establishment whose global power rests in significant part on control of the Middle East. Manjoo's solution: support "Homeward Bound," a bill in the House that (if it ever passed and was implemented) would not even BEGIN withdrawing SOME - not all - troops until October 2006, over a year from now! So the resistance is supposed to sit on its hands for another year, waiting on a bill that doesn't have a snowball's chance in hell of passing, much less forcing Bush out of Iraq? We'd like to ask - how many more thousands of Iraqis and how many more GI's will be dead or maimed by then to continue an illegitimate war and imperialist occupation?
Manjoo's logic is that the war is not murderous and utterly illegitimate, but rather the problem is planning and execution, or that it’s a diversion from what, by implication, is legitimate—the so-called “war on terror.” He quotes MoveOn.org, who describes Sheehan as a symbol of "the administration's refusal to face the facts about Iraq." No! The real problem, as Sheehan and many others have pointed out, is NOT that the Bush regime hasn't "faced facts." The problem is 1) they've lied about them and the entire agenda of the “war on terror” from day one, 2) they occupied Iraq to reshape it in U.S. interests as part of a global war for greater empire, and 3) they are still hell-bent on pursuing that agenda as Bush made clear in his most recent rant: "we will stay, we will fight, and we will win the war on terror."
(Norman Solomon points out that Move.on's Aug. 17 vigils "acknowledge the sacrifices made by Cindy Sheehan, her son Casey and the more than 1,800 brave American men and women who have given their lives in Iraq - and their moms and families," but “MoveOn does not support her call for swift withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq.” )
Manjoo titles his article "After Cindy Sheehan," not "WITH Cindy Sheehan." He labels her "impolitic" and a "hard-liner." He argues that her "rants" and "foul-mouthed tirades" -- such as criticizing Israel, calling the Bush gang "f*ing hypocrites," and denouncing Bush as the "biggest terrorist in the world" -- will "derail" the anti-war movement.
In other words, telling the truth will supposedly "derail" the struggle. In fact, it's Manjoo who is trying to derail the struggle because he doesn't really oppose the war, and he's trying to steer the opposition back into the pro-war Democratic Party fold.
And it is precisely the truth that people need to derail the whole U.S. juggernaut of war and repression. This is what millions are thirsting for, and why so many are rallying around Sheehan. "I have been known for sometime as a person who speaks the truth and speaks it strongly," Sheehan wrote in an August 20 letter, "Why do my friends at Camp Casey think they are there? Why did such a big movement occur from such a small action on August 6, 2005?...The people who supported me did so because they know that I uncompromisingly tell the truth about this war."
This war is NOT in people's interests. Millions and millions can be won to seeing this - and a crucial national debate can be fueled - by people boldly speaking the truth and standing in uncompromising opposition to the war and the Bush agenda.
The right-wing is desperately trying to outlaw this truth and suppress this debate. As anti-war protests are gaining momentum, the American Legion condemned them as "visions of Jane Fonda."
No wonder they're worried. Jane Fonda recently went on a national book tour, and here's what she found: "I just spent five weeks traveling around the country, and except for one incident where a vet spit at me, what I'm seeing is that people are ready and hungry for statements like this. They really are. I'm talking in the heartland, in those red states."
Manjoo tries revising the history of the 1960's to bolster his attack on the resistance: "Could Sheehan's rants derail the antiwar movement? It's conceivable, if what happened in Vietnam is a guide." He quotes revisionist '60's historian-in-chief Todd Gitlin, "Nixon was able to score points off the protesters' theatrical condemnation of the war." What actually happened is more accurately alluded to by war criminal Henry Kissinger when he admitted that "the tiny indigenous radical movement" was "pivotal" in forcing the U.S. from Vietnam. (Kissinger, Years of Upheaval, p. 84) And let's not forget, the '60's were the 60's because both the anti-war and Black liberation struggles were, in large measures, revolts against the Democratic Party! That's precisely what Manjoo and Gitlin are terrified of.
Even Manjoo admits, "Many of the criticisms of the war in Iraq that were once heard only on the far left ... now echo across suburbia." Well, how in the f* do you think those criticisms have spread to suburbia? In large part, because many people have refused to take your advice and have continued to call this war out for what it is: naked, unjust aggression based on lies!
As protest explodes, the Democrats (who have voted for the war every time the issue has come up in Congress) continue to support the war and occupation. As Lucinda Marshall points out, the crucial issue in the eyes of the Democratic Party is "how best to achieve success in Iraq," and how to "convince voters that they can do a better job of winning the war." Listen to Howard Dean, the National Democratic Party chair: "Now that we're there, we're there and we can't get out . . . I hope the president is incredibly successful with his policy now that he's there."
This is not the Democrats being stupid, short-sighted or cowardly, as in, if only we could persuade them to wake up. No, this is the Democrats being who they are -- a party representing the reactionary interests of U.S. global capitalism, as C Clark Kissinger succinctly details ("Getting Real About the Democrats")
We have already seen where the Manjoo/Move.on logic of supporting these war collaborators leads - to paralyzing and demoralizing the resistance. What happened to the massive outpouring of 2002-2003 against the war, which the New York Times talked about as "the other superpower"? It was demobilized when people put aside their convictions “in the name of realism," held their noses while pouring their time, energy and money into elections controlled by the system that actually brought us the war. And then they even voted for a pro-war candidate! Why should we do this in 2006, 2008, or EVER AGAIN!? Talk about a deadly remake of Groundhog Day!
Today it's more urgent than ever that this confused "superpower" -- the human beings who can’t stand the direction of the Bush regime-- again find its voice. We need a new upsurge against the war, and against the whole Bush agenda. It must be a more determined upsurge based on our greatest strength: those who are turning against Bush and the war by the millions -- including in corners of society unimaginable a few short months ago.
This will only happen if people refuse to get roped into the killing confines of the political terms set by the Democrats, when people refuse to limit their struggle to this or that particular outrage. None of these outrages will be stopped unless we stop the whole Bush agenda and drive out his hated regime.
Everyone is talking about "tipping points" and quagmires, but let’s face facts about what it is really going to take to end the war and derail the Bush agenda. First, the quagmire in Vietnam (which was brought to you by the Democrats) was only ended by a revolt that shook society to its foundations on many fronts, giving rise to fears in the ruling class that they could lose much more than Vietnam. People were putting themselves on the line, changing their lives, and taking risks: Troops were in open revolt in the military. Students were closing down campuses and stopping troop trains (contemptuously rejecting the advice of the Todd Gitlins of the world). Black people were rising up in the inner cities and in the deep south. Women were refusing to be submissive and subordinate. And a spirit of revolution against the entire system was in the air.
Today it will take that kind of clarity, courage, determination and massive upheaval -- and more. The Bush regime is hell-bent on conquering the world and reshaping U.S. society along fascist lines. It has already killed 100,000 people in Iraq and is now threatening to attack other countries. With near-unanimous support from the Democrats, it has made permanent the fascist Patriot Act, and it's moving against all spheres of culture and life (again, with no opposition from the Democrats) -- from women's right to choose, to the teaching of science, to the separation of church and state.
Anything short of this, and most certainly falling back into the Democratic Party trap, will have disastrous consequences. It will deepen the post-2004 election dynamic of paralysis, passivity and demoralization that set in among millions who hate (and voted against) Bush, leaving us much less able to respond powerfully to what the Bush regime might do next -- including very real possibilities like attacking Iran, moving to outlaw anti-war protest, packing the Supreme Court with right-wing fascists and theocrats, outlawing abortion, or rounding up dissidents.
Jane Fonda is on target when she says, "I think this is the scariest time I've ever lived through. It's a dying beast, and they're always the scariest and most dangerous. Just below the crust of the surface there is a volcano ready to erupt. It's our job to create critical mass and ignite it."
As the World Can't Wait puts it, "People who steal elections and believe they're on a 'mission from God' will not go without a fight."
But there IS a way out, something that can really make the difference. It is refusing to fight Bush's outrages one at a time, constantly losing ground to the whole onslaught, and refusing to wait for the Democratic savior who’s never coming. On November 2, The World Can’t Wait -- Drive Out the Bush Regime is launching a movement aimed at creating "a political situation where the Bush regime's program is repudiated, where Bush himself is driven from office, and where the whole direction he has been taking society is reversed."
The vision of this new national organization represents what is urgently needed and what millions actually want. For these reasons this movement has the serious potential to transform the political terrain. Come to a national organizer's conference on September 3-4 in New York City and help make this vision a reality. "We, in our millions, must and can take responsibility to change the course of history." The world really cannot wait.
Larry Everest is the author of "Oil, Power and Empire," an organizer of the World Can't Wait Campaign, and frequent contributor to the Revolutionary Communist Party USA weekely newspaper "Revolution." His views do not nessarily reflect those of Not in Our Name, but are included here to further dabate on key questions facing the anti-war movement today.
Revolution #017, October 9, 2005, posted at revcom.us
Before Hurricane Katrina, Black people made up about 70% of the population of New Orleans. On September 29, in an interview with the Houston Chronicle, Bush’s Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Alphonso Jackson predicted the rebuilt city will be only 35-40% Black and said: “New Orleans is not going to be as Black as it was for a long time, if ever again.”
This is right in line with Bush’s plan for “rebuilding New Orleans”--a strategy for turning devastation into profit (see Revolution #15). This is a plan with billion dollar construction contracts, new zoning laws, no environmental protections and even lower wages--a plan where it isn’t profitable to rebuild neighborhoods and new housing for the hundreds of thousands of Black people displaced by the hurricane.
This is a system and a ruling class that looks at hundreds of thousands of poor Black people losing their homes as an opportunity to try and “solve” the intense social contradictions of poverty and racism by literally getting rid of a huge population of poor Black people. This is what’s behind Louisiana Congressman Richard Baker’s statement, “We finally cleaned up public housing in New Orleans. We couldn’t do it, but God did it.”
There is intense bitterness and anger among the people in New Orleans about how they were depicted and treated like criminals. One man still in New Orleans told Revolution reporter Michael Slate,
“They say they trying to help us, they say they came with buses for us. They didn’t. Don’t believe them. Instead of having people to help us, they gonna ship army guys down here to take what we got, to punish us cuz we wanted to survive..”
There is also a deep sense that the government’s neglect and abuse is part of a bigger, conscious and even more oppressive plan. One woman still in New Orleans told Slate,
“Since it’s a lot of minorities here, it is a lot of Black people here--do you want us all just to die? Is this a bigger part of the plan that we don’t know about or something? ‘The more of them that dies, the less we have to worry about.’”
Author Mike Davis, speaking about the destruction of public housing in the years before Hurricane Katrina, pointed out,
“There has been a kind of policy of triage, where you tear down two of the largest public housing projects in the city--the famous Desire project and St. Thomas in the Warehouse District--to make room for a Wal-Mart and gentrification. You re-house only a portion of the population--a minority--and the other residents are basically thrown out onto the streets, with the expectation that they would leave the city.” (“The struggle over the future of New Orleans,” September 23, 2005)
And what is happening to the hundreds of thousands of Black people evacuated after Katrina? These are the people HUD Secretary Jackson says won’t (or won’t be allowed to) come back to New Orleans.
The whole world saw the absolutely inhuman way people were treated at the Terrordome and how thousands of people were left to sit on their rooftops for days with no food or water.
Now evacuees from New Orleans are being treated as criminals or potential criminals--shuttled off to destinations unknown, often far away from familiar surroundings, almost always separated from their families.
People in Baton Rouge, Houston, and cities scattered throughout the country tell of how they pleaded with officials to let them get to areas where they knew they had family they could reunite with. But they were told they had to go wherever the bus they got on was taking them. People who had relatives in cities like Baton Rouge and LaFayette were often driven right through those towns--but no stops were allowed--and people were taken against their will to locations in Texas, Arkansas, and elsewhere. The authorities are running background checks on people coming into their state and at least one man, shipped to Rhode Island, was arrested because he had an outstanding warrant.
Centers set up to house people in Houston, Baton Rouge, and elsewhere are like heavily guarded detention centers. In Baton Rouge, the River Center, which is the main downtown civic center, was surrounded by scores of police cars blocking all the streets, with military vehicles forming a perimeter around the police cars. Heavily armed soldiers, police, along with FEMA agents and federal, state, and local officials of every type swarmed around the area. Police from states as far away as Michigan were sent in to help institute a clampdown and “maintain control.”
Every time people left the center for a walk or some fresh air, they had to wait in long lines to pass through a metal detector and have their IDs and whatever they were carrying checked. Strict curfews were put in place. People had to wear ID wrist bands that identified them as being in the centers and people felt watched and feared everywhere they went.
The mountain of lies and rumors spread by government officials and the media, vilifying Black people coming out of New Orleans, has run wild in the cities and towns people have been sent to. One young woman said the way they were treated made her think that it is as if the people of New Orleans “have a disease inside us, and everyone else is supposed to be afraid of us.”
News stories have made it seem like the government is taking care of everyone, that the evacuees are all being given new homes, jobs, and emergency money. But this too is a lie.
FEMA is putting harsh new regulations on people as they are being “relocated” into apartments in different cities. People were promised, , and some people got, $2,000 debit cards. But anyone with a sense of reality knows this amount comes nowhere close to what is needed by a family that has lost everything and is trying to survive in a strange city. To add insult to injury, FEMA has put people through endless delays, hours of standing in line after line, and humiliation after humiliation to get even this puny amount.
People are being promised apartments, and six months rent in cities like Houston. But in case after case, after being bussed around the sprawling metro area for hours, people are taken to areas far from the city center. They don’t have cars and would almost certainly be unable to find jobs they could get to. And once they get to the places where they are supposed to be able to live, they are often told they aren’t eligible if they have any kind of arrest record or unpaid rent on their apartments in New Orleans. This abuse is happening to the people being sent to a potential place to live. But most of the evacuees aren’t even being offered this.
Among the masses there is a real feeling that the efforts to gentrify New Orleans that have been going on for the last 20 to 25 years played a big role in the lack of planning for a disastrous hurricane. And now the policy of dispersing evacuees, whether deliberately or not, serves this plan by encouraging people to not return to the city.
The people must never forgive and never forget the murderous atrocities that have been, and continue to be, committed against the people of New Orleans. What is called for is solidarity with the people made victims of both Hurricane Katrina and the Bush regime’s abuse--and resistance and protest against the neglect, abuse, lies, racism and repression that is continuing against the people evacuated out of New Orleans.
Revolution #017, October 9, 2005, posted at revcom.us
After Hurricane Katrina there was a whole flood of lurid and completely fabricated stories depicting the people abandoned by the authorities and struggling to survive as, in George Bush’s words, “criminals who had no mercy.” It was like a mass murderer emerging from the scene of his latest crime, dripping with the blood of his victims, pointing at someone who had somehow escaped his rampage, and crying out, “He’s the one! Get him!”
In many cases, the campaign of deliberate lies against the people directly affected rescue efforts. The New York Times reported that a team of paramedics was barred from entering one area for nearly 10 hours based on a state trooper’s report that a mob of armed, marauding people had commandeered boats. It turned out to be two men escaping from their flooded streets. In another case, a company’s ambulances were locked down after word came that a firehouse in Covington had been looted by armed robbers of all its water--a report that proved totally untrue. People trapped by the floods were taunted and mocked by military forces prowling through the city as nothing was done to rescue them. People fired off guns and set fires to attract the attention of those they thought were there to rescue them --and this was used to say rescues weren’t possible because medical personnel were under attack. While people went into stores to get food, water, and medical supplies, gangs of New Orleans police looted stores in the business districts of the city, and even a hospital, stashing their goods in hotel rooms.
In one instance a deputy sheriff radioed for help, saying he was pinned down by a sniper, and National Guard troops and a SWAT team surrounded the area. The “shots” turned out to be the relief valve on a gas tank that popped open every few minutes. It’s not hard to imagine how, with all the racist rumors about “looters running wild,” this incident could have ended up with a lot of Black people getting gunned down.
Revolution #017, October 9, 2005, posted at revcom.us
On September 29, California’s governor, Arnold “The Discriminator” Schwarzenegger, vetoed a bill that would have legalized the most basic right of lesbian and gay couples to marry. He invoked “the will of the people” in his veto, citing a five-year-old “referendum” against gay marriage in California, even though both houses of the California legislature voted in favor of the bill.
But this is a question of basic rights that goes beyond the results of any vote. The Human Rights Campaign has identified 1,138 legal rights denied to gay and lesbian couples, even those in civil unions. Hospital visitation rights and the right to make medical decisions for your partner; custody rights in the case of death or a breakup; the ability to be covered by your partner’s health insurance; the right to sponsor your partner to come to the United States if they are an immigrant; the ability to inherit your partner’s property if they die without a will; Social Security and tax benefits--all these are denied to same-sex couples.
When he vetoed the gay marriage bill, Schwartzenegger issued a statement saying that “I believe that lesbian and gay couples are entitled to full protection under the law and should not be discriminated against based upon their relationships.” But bigger forces were operating than Schwarzenegger’s own inclinations. Arnold came into office as a Republican and the Republican Party “has become a Party of theocracy.” And that’s a quote from “moderate” Republican congressman Christopher Shays. Central to that theocratic agenda is drawing a line in the sand around gay marriage.
“On so many fronts that is where we are as a nation these days: divided, clearly and seemingly unbridgeable, in sensibility, values, foundations, even sense of humor.”
Russell Shorto writing about the battle over gay marriage
(New York Times, “What’s Their Real Problem with Gay Marriage? [It’s the Gay Part.]” 6/19/05)
The battle over gay marriage reveals a deep rift in American society. On one side, times and attitudes are changing. Not just San Francisco and New York City, but places like Boise, Idaho; Pueblo, Colorado; and Jacksonville, Florida have gay pride events. Historian and sociologist Stephanie Coontz estimates that in the U.S. today, five million children are being raised by lesbian and gay parents. And as people interact with each other, long-held prejudices and stereotypes are beginning to break down. A poll taken in September of 2005 showed that Californians, for instance, were evenly split on whether or not to support gay marriage.
Underlying all this, huge changes in the world have worked to undermine economic and social underpinnings of the traditional “Father Knows Best” family. (See “Changes in the World and the ‘Clash of Civilizations’--Within This Civilization” by Bob Avakian, page 8.)
These changes, and the courageous stand of many lesbians and gays to come out of the closet, have opened minds and changed public attitudes. And they have been met with a vicious backlash by the forces of Christian fundamentalist theocracy.
When San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom began marrying gay and lesbian couples in San Francisco, George W. Bush attacked this as tampering with “the most fundamental institution of civilization.” And in the midst of his election campaign, Bush called for a constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage. Bush claimed that the amendment was needed to “protect marriage in America.” Like many other Bushisms, this statement appeared to be simply stupid (as if same-sex marriage presented a threat to heterosexual marriage) but actually pandered to and unleashed an audience that absorbs his utterings through the prism of a literal interpretation of the Bible, and sees the “spread” of homosexuality as an “unnatural” attack on their core beliefs and core institutions--with the traditional family at the center.
The ignorance and stereotypes spread by these fundamentalists manifests itself in brutality and murder--like the beating deaths of Matthew Shepard and Gwen Arroyo, and even upholding that violence as self-defense (in the case of Matthew’s murderers) or claiming that Gwen’s murderers were driven by supposedly justifiable anger.
Many who uphold the right to gay marriage see it as a personal issue. And, of course, on one level, it certainly is. Regardless of the silly accusations of the fundamentalists, nobody is forcing anyone to be gay. And, it has been the case that many people have adopted more enlightened attitudes towards lesbians and gays because of personal friendships and interactions.
All that is important. But we’re up against a much bigger problem. The struggle for equality, including for the right to gay marriage, is running into a brick wall of extreme, right-wing, fundamentalist Christianity that has its man in the White House. Take a close look at how that side defines the battle:
Robert Knight, director of the Culture and Family Institute of Concerned Women for America, declared that the problem with gay marriage is that “People feel liberated….they feel like they don’t have to go along with this stuff anymore …”
Steve Crampton, chief counsel of the American Family Association’s Center for Law and Policy, said voting to legalize gay marriage was like “the godless French revolution.”
James Dobson, leader of Focus On the Family, writes in his book Marriage Under Fire: “[T]he institution of marriage represents the very foundation of human social order. Everything of value sits on that base. Institutions, governments, religious fervor and the welfare of children are all dependent on its stability.”[our emphasis]
This James Dobson is not just a raving Christian fundamentalist whose radio commentaries are heard by 200 million people a day worldwide. Writing in Slate, Michael Crowley describes Dobson as a “Republican kingmaker,” who “may have delivered Bush his victories in Ohio and Florida.”
Esther Kaplan’s book With God on Their Side details just how deeply these theocratic Christian fundamentalists are embedded in the Bush regime. Take Lieutenant General William Boykin. During a church service in October 2003, he declared that Bush was “in the White House because God put him there for such a time as this.” Boykin is also infamous for statements like “Satan wants to destroy this nation… and he wants to destroy us as a Christian army.” Boykin is now Deputy Undersecretary of Defense in the Bush regime!
Bush has people running AIDS programs who think homosexuality is a sin, and that young people should be taught abstinence, not safe sex. Kaplan’s book documents how Bush appointed members of Concerned Women for America to replace the American Medical Association as official delegates to the UN, in an attempt to undermine the workings of the world’s second largest family planning organization, the UN Population Fund. Kaplan describes their role in demanding an anti-abortion position in the name of “right to life” yet “while at the same time fighting against any resolutions that would exempt children under eighteen from the death penalty.” And Bush sent a leader of Concerned Women for America to an HIV prevention meeting in December 2002, where he told a member of the National Minority AIDS Council, “I think you [referring to gay men] are sick and demented.”
Drawing a line in the sand against gay marriage is a bedrock element of the Bush regime package. Bush’s “Brain,” Karl Rove, orchestrated anti-gay marriage constitutional amendments and referendums in eleven states last November 2, pandering to and mobilizing a social base for a Christian fascist agenda, and setting terms for the debate. Campaign mail with a return address of the Republican National Committee warned West Virginia voters that the Bible would be prohibited and men will marry men unless Bush was “re-elected.”
Where is the Democratic Party and its national leaders in this battle? California Senator Dianne Feinstein complained that when San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom allowed lesbian and gay couples to marry, it was “too much, too fast, too soon.” And even openly gay Representative Barney Frank said, “The more you do, the more opposition you provoke.” That is exactly wrong--and suicidal! The progress that has been won so far in the battle for equality for gays and lesbians has come because people pushed and fought. How does telling people to “just concentrate on the fights you can win,” as Frank advised, lead anywhere but back into the closet-- and far worse? And this is all the more true when you confront Bush’s agenda.
George Bush right now is pushing a nationwide campaign for a constitutional amendment that would outlaw any state from legalizing gay marriage, regardless of state court decisions or legislative action. This, along with the whole Bush agenda, is intolerable. It won’t do to wait three more years and hope that maybe a “Bush lite” comes in. That’s way too little, and way too late! There is a spirit to learn from in the determination of gays and lesbians to step out with pride, and that must be a force that merges with other sections of society to drive out the Bush regime--starting with mobilizing on November 2.
Revolution #017, October 9, 2005, posted at revcom.us
A series submitted by A. Brooks, a reader of REVOLUTION newspaper
In part 1 of this series, I discussed the many ways in which a society organized according to the Bible would be a total nightmare for the people living in it. To use just a few examples, the following themes were discussed: The complete dominance of faith over science; the total subjugation of women to men and various forms of deadly oppression that came with that; the condemnation of homosexuals to death; the Bible’s sanctioning of trading in human slaves; the total and vicious intolerance shown to people of other religions; and the meting out of the death penalty for not only violent acts but also acts that reasonable people would not even consider to be crimes, such as insulting one’s parents, engaging in homosexual sex, or committing adultery.
As frightening as such a society would be, what is perhaps even more frightening is the consequences that God implements and calls for in relation to any persons who do not rigidly and absolutely follow his rule. Examining these consequences, we indeed find that, much like the current President and many who have come before him, God’s rule was based on extreme repression of dissent and demands for total, unwavering obedience.
It is quite ironic that so many Evangelical Christians lament the abundance of “violent images” in Hollywood movies and video games when (a) these same Evangelical Christians have mobilized rabidly to support the mass slaughter of Iraqi people and the destruction of their towns by the U.S. military; and (b) when the very text these Christian fascists turn to as inspiration for “proper” morality is one of the bloodiest and most gratuitously violent books that has ever been written! And when one actually sits down and reads the Bible, there can be no doubt that, much like the passages about slavery mentioned in the previous installment in this series, the passages dealing with such violence are not mentioning it from a critical standpoint. On the contrary, the Bible is a tale of brutal death, relentless destruction, and tremendous human suffering initiated for the purpose of strengthening the rule of a leader who views himself as divine and all-powerful. Sound familiar?
From the earliest books of the Bible onward, a basic theme emerges from God’s commandments and utterances: Follow me completely, or else I will annihilate you. Before delving into the numerous instances in which God says this openly and clearly to his supposed “chosen people,” let us begin by looking at an example that is more subtle, though no less instructive: The story of God, working through Moses, leading the Israelites out of slavery in Egypt. Much like the story of Adam and Eve, even those who have not studied the Bible closely (or at all) are generally familiar with this story of Moses and the Pharaoh of Egypt, and the famous instance during which Moses defiantly tells the Pharaoh: “Let my people GO!” What is perhaps less known about this story of “Exodus” is that if one were to take the story literally, they would have to believe that God deliberately enslaved the Israelites in Egypt, and then when the Pharaoh was tempted to release the Israelites, God repeatedly hardened the heart of the Pharaoh so that he would refuse to release the Israelites!
Indeed, at the beginning of Exodus, the famous story of the “burning bush” is described: God supposedly reveals himself to Moses in a burning bush and tells him that the Egyptians will have enslaved the Israelites for a period of 400 years before God finally delivers the captives from their masters. (Exodus 2) Now remember: This is supposed to be an all-powerful God we are talking about here! Instead of subjecting his own “chosen” people to horrible suffering and enslavement for centuries and then freeing them, why not just prevent them from being enslaved in the first damn place?
Well, reading on in Exodus, we get our answer. God hints to Moses that this whole process by which the Israelites become slaves to the Egyptians and then are freed is to him nothing more than a sick game--an opportunity to “shock and awe” everyone with his power: “You shall repeat all that I command you.... But I will harden Pharaoh’s heart, that I may multiply my signs and marvels in the land of Egypt.” (Exodus 6) The “you shall repeat all I command you” portion of this passage refers to the instructions God provides to Moses where he tells Moses to tell the Pharaoh to release the Israelites from captivity or else God will punish Egypt. The next few passages of Exodus follow a basic pattern: Moses threatens the Pharaoh that unless he releases the Israelites from captivity, God will unleash plagues on the Egyptians--including blood, lice, frogs, locusts, swarms of insects, and inflammation of the skin, among other things. The Pharaoh witnesses one of these plagues, and immediately agrees to free the Israelites if the plagues are stopped. God halts the plagues, but then also hardens Pharaoh’s heart so that he recants on his promise to free the slaves, and thus God “has no choice” but to inflict more plagues on the Egyptians.
Think about this passage for a second. What does it say about this “God” that, even though he is “all-powerful” and could easily have prevented the Israelites from being enslaved in the first place, and then subsequently could have freed them once they were enslaved, he would instead choose to intentionally prolong the suffering of both the Israelites and the Egyptians merely so that he could show off his -powers? Is that God any kind of God to uphold or believe in?
This passage is one of the earlier examples of the brutality of God’s logic, and the remainder of the five Mosaic books clearly demonstrate that this passage is the rule and not the exception. The text, in fact, is littered with instances where those who do not follow God’s commandments absolutely meet with unspeakable death and suffering. Let us now look through some of these instances--a section we might refer to as “ God’s greatest hits.”
In Leviticus, God makes it clear that his laws are to be followed absolutely--no questions asked: “You shall not copy the practices of the land of Egypt where you dwelt, or the land of Canaan, to which I am taking you; nor shall you follow their laws. My rules alone shall you observe, and faithfully follow my laws.” (Leviticus 17) Sounds pretty “totalitarian” to me! Yet strangely, one never hears those who would use that very word to describe Stalin or Mao use it to describe God! But sure enough, it gets worse. Following the passage mentioned at the end of Part 2, where God describes homosexuality as an “abhorrence,” the Lord proceeds to threaten the Israelites: “Do not defile yourselves in any of these ways, for it is by such that the nations I am casting out before you defiled themselves. Thus, the land became defiled... You must not do any of these abhorrent things...for all those abhorrent things were done by the people who were in the land before you, and the land became defiled.” (Leviticus 18)
Thus, not only does God demand complete obedience to all of his laws, which include laws that label homosexuality as an abhorrence, but he goes one step further and implies that he will smite the Israelites completely, just as he did the Egyptians, if his laws are not followed. God elaborates on the exact forms that this “smiting” will take in a lengthy passage further along in Leviticus:
If you do not obey me and do not observe all these commandments, if you reject my laws and spurn my rules....I will in turn do this to you: I will wreak misery upon you--consumption and fever--which cause the eyes to pine and the body to languish; you shall sow your seed to no purpose, for your enemies shall eat it.... I will make your skies like iron and your earth like copper.... And if you remain hostile toward me and refuse to obey me, I will go on smiting you sevenfold for your sins. I will loose wild beasts against you and they shall bereave you of your children and wipe out your children.... I will bring a sword against you to wreak vengeance for the covenant; and if you withdraw into your cities, I will send pestilence among you...but if despite this, you disobey me and remain hostile to me, I will act against you in wrathful hostility; I, for my part, will discipline you sevenfold for your sins. You shall eat the flesh of your sons and daughters....I will spurn you. I will lay your cities in ruin....I will scatter you amongst the nations and unsheathe the sword against you. Your land shall become a desolation and your cities a ruin....These are the laws, rules, and instructions that the Lord established through Moses on Mount Sinai, between himself and the Israelite people. (Leviticus 26)
To be continued: Part 3b--more examples from the Mosaic books of how God’s rule was based on terror directed at all those who dared to dissent from his laws.
Revolution #017, October 9, 2005, posted at revcom.us
You have an audience. Use your ability to reach a broad audience to fulfill a great need--to mobilize millions for November 2 to take a massive first step in a powerful movement to force Bush out.
When you are in front of a mike, on stage, on a podium, and on TV/radio talk shows, read this key section from the call “The World Can’t Wait! Drive Out the Bush Regime!”
“Silence and paralysis are NOT acceptable. That which you will not resist and mobilize to stop, you will learn--or be forced--to accept. There is no escaping it: the whole disastrous course of this Bush regime must be STOPPED. And we must take the responsibility to do it.”
“And there is a way. We are talking about something on a scale that can really make a huge change in this country and in the world. We need more than fighting Bush’s outrages one at a time, constantly losing ground to the whole onslaught. We must, and can, aim to create a political situation where the Bush regime’s program is repudiated, where Bush himself is driven from office, and where the whole direction he has been taking society is reversed. We, in our millions, must and can take responsibility to change the course of history. ”
““To that end, on November 2, the first anniversary of Bush’s ‘re-election,’ we will take the first major step in this by organizing a truly massive day of resistance all over this country. People everywhere will walk out of school, they will take off work, they will come to the downtowns and town squares and set out from there, going through the streets and calling on many more to JOIN US. They will repudiate this criminal regime, making a powerful statement: NO! THIS REGIME DOES NOT REPRESENT US! AND WE WILL DRIVE IT OUT!”
Get in touch with World Can’t Wait at worldcantwait.org
Revolution #017, October 9, 2005, posted at revcom.us
“Beginning with the brutal landing of U.S. troops in 1898, Puerto Rico has been crudely dominated by the needs of U.S. capitalism…. The RCP,USA supports the struggle for the unconditional, total independence of Puerto Rico and the complete social liberation of the Puerto Rican people.”
“Puerto Rico: A Particular National-Colonial Question”
from the Draft Programme of the Revolutionary Communist Party, USA
Available online: revcom.us/rcp-e.htm
On September 23, the Federal Bureau of Investigation had a tight seal around a small farmhouse in Puerto Rico’s mountains. Inside was Filiberto Ojeda R�s, the longtime leader of the Ejercito Popular Boricua-Los Macheteros, a Puerto Rican independence organization. He had been living clandestinely since 1990, after being convicted of a major Wells Fargo robbery in Connecticut.
For years he has been known to his supporters through tape-recorded speeches played at rallies and gatherings on the island. In fact, the very same afternoon that federal sharpshooters were closing in, Filiberto Ojeda’s recorded speech was echoing through the nearby town of Lares --where hundreds of people had rallied for the anniversary of the “Grito de Lares,” the 1868 uprising celebrated as a symbol of Puerto Rican nationhood and independence.
The local head of the FBI, Luis Fraticelli admitted that Filiberto Ojeda offered to negotiate for the safety of his wife Elma Beatriz Rosado--who emerged from the house and was taken captive. It is reported that Ojeda asked for a reporter be brought to the scene to serve as eyewitness and mediator, and that the FBI refused.
The U.S. government has a long history of executing militant and revolutionary leaders of the people. The Black Panther leader Fred Hampton was assassinated in his bed. Malcolm X was shot after delivering a speech.
Leaders and fighters of the Puerto Rican independence movement have been coldly targeted by the government. Dr. Pedro Albizu Campos, the founder of the modern Puerto Rican independence movement, was imprisoned by the U.S. during the 1950s. While in custody, he was deliberately exposed to dangerous radiation which contributed to the decline of his health and his death in 1965.
In another famous case, two young independentistas were forced to their knees after surrendering on Cerro Maravilla mountain in 1978--and coldly shot by five policemen. One of these cops later described getting orders from the commander of the police intelligence division that the independentistas "should not come down alive.’’
And now they have executed Filiberto Ojeda, a man in his seventies, in his isolated rural hideaway. The federal agents poured over a hundred rounds into his house, while Filiberto Ojeda defended himself with shots of his own. Somewhere in that exchange, a government sniper’s bullet ripped through his body, piercing his lung. They then sealed off Ojeda’s house for 12 more hours, as he slowly bled to death.
A storm of outrage and fresh revolutionary sentiment has arisen over this execution.
Demonstrations took place across Puerto Rico, and in New York City. As his body was carried from San Juan to the cemetery in his eastern home town of Naguabo, many schools closed and crowds of many thousands lined the caravan route, hanging Puerto Rico’s national banner from the overpasses.
The U.S. at War - A History of Shame
Revolution #017, October 9, 2005, posted at revcom.us
This is the second article in this series.
On December 20, 1989, over 27,000 U.S. troops invaded the small Central American country of Panama. The world’s most powerful military overwhelmed the Panama Defense Force (PDF) and its 3,000 soldiers. AH-64 Apache helicopter raked the country, both military bases and working class communities. After the PDF crumbled, fighting by irregular Panamanian militia lasted a few days.
The invaders called this “Operation Just Cause.”
What were the reasons given for this invasion? They are all too familiar:
The U.S. President, then George Bush, Sr., said he was removing an evil dictator, General Manuel Noriega, who was brutalizing his own people. Noreiega was portrayed on TV as a madman waving a machete. After a concocted incident provoked by U.S. troops, Bush claimed that an invasion was needed to “protect American lives.”
Meanwhile, this same Noriega was actually on the CIA payroll (right up to invasion), and the main reason for the invasion was to make sure that the Panama Canal remained under U.S. imperialist conrol.
The U.S. has never had qualms about brutalizing the Panamanian people--not during this invasion and not during the previous 83 years of U.S. domination.
In the 1989 invasion, heavy U.S. firepower was turned on civilian communities. The poor working class neighborhood of El Chorillo was burnt to the ground and quickly got a new nickname--“Little Hiroshima.” Panamanians estimate that between 2,000 and 6,000 people were killed in this invasion. Many of them were dumped into mass graves. Witnesses reported that U.S. troops used flame-throwers on the dead, the bodies shriveling up as they burned.
This invasion was obviously NOT done to protect Panama’s people!
A U.S soldier was killed by PDF troops. Bush said this meant all 35,000 Americans stationed in Panama were in danger.
In reality, the U.S. government had been working hard to provoke such an incident for months--by running military “exercises” through the streets of Panama City. A schoolteacher was killed by U.S. troops in one exercise. In this artificially charged climate, U.S. soldiers ran a Panamanian checkpoint near a sensitive military installation--and one of them got shot.
And what, after all, were all these 35,000 Americans doing in Panama? They served the U.S. economic, military, and political domination of Panama. And what did it mean to “protect” their safety? It could only mean tightening that domination.
General Noriega was a military officer handpicked and trained by U.S. to run Panama. He became a paid CIA operative in 1967 and attended the U.S. Army’s notorious School of the Americas (also known as the School of Assassins). When the previous Panamanian leader Omar Torrijos fell out of U.S. favor (and then fell out of the sky in a 1981 plane crash), Manuel Noriega was hoisted into power with U.S. backing.
Noriega certainly was a corrupt and vicious thug. This was (in part) why Noriega was seen as a valuable “asset,” as a ruthless man whose loyalty could be bought, who would do whatever was needed to serve U.S. interests (including suppress the Panamanian people).
Under Noriega, U.S. military operations expanded in Panama. Bush, Sr. personally met with Noriega in 1967 (when he was head of the CIA) and in 1983 (when he was vice president). In the early ‘80s, Noriega helped set up the CIA’s “drugs-for-guns” trade that used cocaine trafficking to finance their secret Contra war against Nicaragua. All during the Reagan ‘80s, Noriega got personal CIA and Pentagon payments of nearly $200,000 a year.
So it was complete hypocrisy for the U.S. government to claim that they were liberating the Panamanian people. The U.S. government (and Bush Sr. personally) had after all imposed this brutal agent on Panama for many years.
When Noriega stole the 1984 Panamanian election, Reagan’s Secretary of State praised the farce for “initiating the process of democracy.” But then (with more hypocrisy) the Bush administration suddenly started claiming by 1989 that their invasion was now needed to overthrow Noriega and “restore democracy.”
And so what did the invading U.S. force replace Noreiga with in 1989? More handpicked puppets!
Elite U.S. forces seized Noriega and flew him to the U.S. to stand trial--and to take care that he was never allowed to spill all the secrets he knew about the CIA and George Bush 1.
Meanwhile, Guillermo Endara--the U.S. government’s hand-picked choice--was sworn in as president of Panama on a U.S. base in the U.S.-controlled Canal Zone. The new Panamanian president and others in his government were tied to Panamanian banks deep into drug trade and money laundering. And none of them, of course, came to power to serve the Panamanian people.
Elections were held later--under conditions that guaranteed results that would closely serve what the U.S. wanted and needed in Panama. And the main “guarantee” of those results was, of course, the soldiers, guns, and planes of the U.S. military packed all around Panama--forces who had just proven, in case anyone had doubts, that they could be merciless in enforcing U.S. interests.
The U.S. interest in Panama has always focused on one main thing: the strategic importance of the Panama Canal. The Canal was crucial to U.S. global operations--its capitalist penetration of Latin America and Asia, and its ability to shift its military forces aggressively around the world.
The U.S. stole Panama from Colombia in 1903. They colonized the Canal Zone and packed it with U.S. bases--so that no one (including Panama’s people) could challenge U.S. control. And after World War 2, it became the headquarters of SOUTHCOM--the U.S. military command center for gathering intelligence, carrying out intrigues, and suppressing insurgencies throughout Latin America.
In the 1970s, faced with defeat in Vietnam and growing challenges from its Soviet rivals, the U.S. ruling class decided to change how they exercised control over the Panama Canal Zone--from direct U.S. colonial control, to control through the Panamanian neocolonial government.
As that changeover approached, Noriega looked less and less like the man-for-the-job. Just ten days before much of the administration of the Canal was scheduled to go over to Panama (on January 1, 1990) the U.S. invaded to get rid of Noriega.
Thousands of Panamanians were killed so that Washington could be confident it would keep control of the Canal--and so a new set of corrupt rulers could imposed.
It represented a tightening of the U.S. grip on Panama and all of Latin America. It was one of the first new global moves (after the collapse of the Soviet Union) to push forward the U.S. as the world’s “only superpower”--soon to be followed by the first Gulf War in 1990 (against that other, estranged U.S. ally Saddam Hussein!).
This invasion of Panama was a U.S. war of lies and shame.
This series is available online at revcom.org/history.htm
Revolution #017, October 9, 2005, posted at revcom.us
“Being arrested is not a big deal. Even though we were arrested for ‘demonstrating without a permit’ we were protesting something that is much more serious than sitting on a sidewalk: the tragic and needless deaths of tens of thousands of innocent Iraqis and Americans (both in Iraq and here in America) who would be alive if it weren’t for the criminals who reside in and work in the White House.”
Cindy Sheehan, Sept. 26
On Monday, September 26--two days after more than 200,000 marched in Washington, DC to demand an end to the U.S. war in Iraq--hundreds of determined protesters were right back in the streets of the capital. They went up to the heavily guarded fence around the White House. And by the end, over 370 people were arrested--including Princeton professor Cornel West and Cindy Sheehan, whose antiwar encampment outside Bush’s Texas vacation ranch this summer inspired millions in this country and around the world. Earlier in the day, 41 people were arrested at a sit-down protest at the Pentagon.
Many of the people who joined the White House action were ready to go to jail if necessary. A 34-year-old woman told reporters, “I’m going to do anything I can to stop this war. As many times as it takes me to get arrested, I will.”
At the White House, people tied ribbons, signs, and names of those killed in the war to the fence. One young man climbed the fence--and was immediately set upon and dragged away by a large group of security forces.
Cindy Sheehan and others demanded to see Bush--as she has been doing since early August. She wrote later,
“We again wanted to know: What is the Noble Cause? Our request was, to our immense shock and surprise, denied… He knows there is no Noble Cause for the invasion and continued occupation of Iraq. It is a question that has no true answer.”
A group of protesters wore orange jumpsuits and black hoods--evoking the prisoners at the U.S. military prison at Abu Ghraib. One of these protesters said,
“I want this image in the minds of the American people. What our country is doing is practicing torture. We cannot be a part of this torture.”
As cops carried and dragged arrested protesters into police vans, chants rose from the rest of the crowd: “Arrest Bush! Arrest Bush! Arrest Bush!”
The following are some voices from the protesters, heard on a short video (“a truthout/shoot and run production”) available online at truthout.org
Man: “At home I do small things. I send money. I join groups. I join small gatherings. But it doesn’t seem to be working. So enough is enough already. If my voice has to be heard through me getting arrested, so be it.”
Young woman:“Hi Mom, I’m almost in jail.”
Women from Code Pink, singing to the tune of Don McLean’s “American Pie”:
Why, why Mr. President why?
You didn’t fix the levees
Now the water’s too high.
Spending all our cash on a war that’s a lie
You don’t care if poor people die.
Not in Our Name National Organizer AiMara Lin: “We are serving this eviction notice to George Bush. We’ve endorsed the call to drive out the Bush regime and this is our first action. We’re serving this today (points to a sign saying ‘Notice to Terminate Tenancy’) and it says: George W Bush you are hereby notified to quit and get the hell out immediately, if not sooner. His whole crew is next.”
Interviewer: “Do you plan on being arrested today?”
Woman: “Yes I do.”
Woman: “Because I’m committed to stopping this war--now. NOW. Do you hear me out there? NOW. We’ve got to get out now… We’re sick of it. And we’re not going to take it any more. Got it?”
“A Knock at the Door….”
Revolution #017, October 9, 2005, posted at revcom.us
Steven Kurtz, a professor and artist, called 911 when his wife was dying of a sudden heart attack. The paramedic who responded ran across the bacterial cultures that Kurtz uses for his art, which protests genetic engineering--and called the FBI to finger Kurtz as a possible “terrorist.” Within hours, the grieving Kurtz, his books, his computer, and his whole life were targets of a Kafka-esque “anti-terrorist” operation (legally justified using the Patriot Act). Even before the authorities allowed his wife’s body to be removed from their house, Kurtz was taken away to spend two days in interrogation. And now, even after the materials were proved to be harmless, he is still awaiting trial on jacked-up charges of mail and wire fraud for buying these materials.
Kurtz is not the only artist caught in the government crosshairs. Since 9/11, there has been a growing awareness of a number of artists who were investigated by police or faced other forms of government interference because their art was considered suspect, subversive, or dangerous.
In June, roughly at the same time as Kurtz was facing the Joint Terrorist Task Force, New York Governor George Pataki announced his “absolute guarantee” that no art would be allowed at the Ground Zero site that could offend “the 9/11 families” (or the rightwing cultural warriors who claim to speak for those families). This fascist declaration demanded an answer. And steps were taken to deliver on using subversive art.
Out of all this came a courageous and powerful exhibit called “A Knock at the Door….”--organized by the Lower Manhattan Cultural Council, an organization that lost one of its own artists in the 2001 collapse of the two towers. No one missed the exhibit’s timing--from September 8 to October 1. This art show and an accompanying conference collided hard with reactionaries' plans to put their mark on the September 11 anniversary. In your face!
The first thing you saw when you entered the exhibit site at the South Street Seaport Museum was a a pile of garbage--water bottles and pizza boxes. It was actually made out of the garbage that police investigators left at Steven Kurtz’s home. And the installation piece is signed by the “U.S. Joint Terrorism Task Force” (though in reality it was created by the prankster-art crew the Yes Men).
Hanging nearby is a portrait of President Bush’s hateful mug by Chris Savido, which (you can see up close) is made up of tiny monkey faces. It is an irreverent joke. But reading the explanatory text nearby, things suddenly become less light-hearted: the artist reports that a show at the Chelsea Market was closed last year because it included his playful “Bush Monkeys” piece.
Artist Lisa Charde contributed an American flag shaped into a strait jacket--simple and entitled “(un)Patriot(ic) Act.”
Jenny Polak built a reception counter with a secret hiding space. It challenges us all to take risks--to shelter the fugitive slave, the illegal immigrant, or the political outlaw from the slave hunter, La Migra, or the fascist police.
Nearby stands an empty display case. In it you find a small sign bearing the logo of Homeland Security that simply says “Artwork removed pending investigation.” For a moment the mind flickers: is this an actual act of censorship right in front of us?
The artist who created this piece, Dread Scott, told Revolution:
“This government is waging war for empire and shutting down critical thought and dissent. The other artists in the show and I are not going to tolerate that. We are making works to defy any attempt for them to steal our future and enforce their nightmare on the world.”
In the exhibit’s other site, at Cooper Union, Nora Ligorano and Marshall Reese show the leaders of the empire--Bush, Rumsfeld, Cheney, Rice--in raw black-and-white mug shots. There’s no Fox News halo here--on this wall they are seen as the CRIMINALS they are.
The attacks opened up before this exhibit even opened its doors. Would such art even be allowed in post-9/11 America? (Is Lower Manhattan now to be roped off as a stifling patriotic shrine, and denied to all the shocking, cross-pollinating artistic ferment that have long bubbled through its twisted streets?)
The New York Daily News (Sept. 2) charged that this art exhibit was insulting to the memory of 9/11, and simply “inappropriate.” The News added in their slippery way:
“This is not a demand to cancel the exhibit. Artistic freedom, you know. But it would be terrific if someone had the conscience and courage to reschedule it.”
In other words: “Artistic freedom” is to be upheld in words, while the offending art itself is supposed to get the bum’s rush--carried out by private hands like powerful grant-givers or exhibit hall landlords.
Other responses were even less subtle: The New York police showed up to inspect--and especially examine one work shaped like a suitcase bomb. Fox News found some “relatives of 9/11 victims” to grind their teeth at the very idea of allowing such “offensive” art.
On the other hand, New York Times art critic Caryn James wrote:
“The show is a thoughtful, legitimate exploration of one way in which American artists’ lives have changed because of 9/11; it raises questions about artistic freedom that ought to be asked near ground zero. And the anger directed against the show reveals some chilling cultural trends: the devaluing of art as a proper response to 9/11, and the persistent, wrongheaded idea that to question the government is to dishonor the memory of those who died.”
Artists under fire, art curators feeling the air sucked out of the culture, rebel spirits refusing to buckle and go along--it took real courage from all of them to conceive of this witty and edgy “A Knock at the Door…” art show and then dare to actually see it through. Here is a defiant response to walls that rebel artists see closing in all around them. Here was a cry to the rest of us to find our voice and pick our spot to take a stand.
Artist Dread Scott told Revolution:
“This is a time when the government is shutting down critical thought and dissent, a time when they are waging war for empire. It is significant that in the face of this, many artists are making work which reflect deeply on this pivotal moment in hisory and what is going on in the world. And it is courageous that this exhibit has been brought together to highlight work that the government finds so dangerous that they want to prevent an audience from seeing it. As the battles get fought out over the direction of this society, work like this is challenging, provoking and very needed.”