voice of the revolutionary communist party,usa
Please note: this page is intended for quick printing of the entire issue. Some of the links may not work when clicked, and some images may be missing. Please go to the article's permalink if you require working links and images.
Revolution #61, September 17 2006
George Bush has spent the past two weeks on an ideological and political rampage. The war-time rhetoric and crusader-posturing is back, and with a vengeance—this time aimed not only at shoring up and possibly escalating the occupation of Iraq, but also at attacking Iran. The fascist tone and measures are likewise being ratcheted up—with Bush demanding that Congress overturn a Supreme Court decision that put impediments in the way of the government openly torturing people, and legally lock in place the ability of the government to torture and remove basic legal rights from anyone it deems to be a “terrorist” and to spy on millions of Americans. And, once again, those who oppose this find themselves with no “official voice” in Washington, as the Democrats refuse to take on either the war-mongering preparations or the horrendous legislation now being shoved through Congress.
Anyone who thought that Bush and the people around him planned to spend two years as “lame ducks” needs to think again. Anyone who thought, or still thinks, that “they wouldn’t dare…,” needs urgently to understand: these people will dare. They are daring. And they are saying as much, in the loudest possible tones. They are answering, you see, to a higher authority: not “God,” but the imperatives of the imperialist system that they (and the Democratic Party as well) serve, and that requires that the U.S. not be seen to lose a war nor to be defied by an “upstart power” in what for them is a strategic region of the world.
Escalating the War(s)
The Bush regime began their offensive with speeches by Rumsfeld, Cheney, and Bush at the end of August. In Salt Lake City, on August 31, Bush called for continuing the occupation of Iraq. Last winter’s talk of “drawing down” U.S. troops has now receded into the background, and John McCain—among others—has recently been calling for a serious increase in the number of U.S. troops in Iraq. (Democratic talk of “setting a withdrawal date” is so vague and filled with hedges as to be meaningless, except for its function of clouding the issues and attempting to reassure people that those who purport to represent them are “doing something.”)
Then Bush turned up his next card: “This summer’s crisis in Lebanon has made it clearer than ever that the world now faces a grave threat from the radical regime in Iran.” Let’s pause here to note that the “crisis” to which Bush so blandly refers is nothing less than the Israeli military assault on Lebanon, in which nearly 1300 Lebanese people were killed and nearly a million made homeless. This war had been in the works for a year, jointly planned by the U.S. and Israel, and was apparently viewed by many in the Bush Regime as a dress rehearsal for a similar attack on Iran. And Bush’s use of the term “grave threat” to refer to Iran is itself a grave threat, echoing as it does Bush’s characterization of the Hussein regime in the run-up to that invasion.
Bush went on to accuse Iran of “pursuing nuclear weapons,” and concluded that “there must be consequences for Iran’s defiance, and we must not allow Iran to develop a nuclear weapon.” Of course, for all Bush’s scare-mongering about Iranian “pursuit” of nuclear weapons, Seymour Hersh revealed last April that the Bush Regime has been actively considering using nuclear weapons against Iran. Reuters news service reported on April 18: “U.S. President George W. Bush refused on Tuesday to rule out nuclear strikes against Iran if diplomacy fails to curb the Islamic Republic’s atomic ambitions. Asked if options included planning for a nuclear strike, Bush replied, ‘All options are on the table.’”
Almost as important in all this has been Bush’s casting of the current and possibly future U.S. wars as part of a titanic global struggle against “Islamo-fascism.” This enables him to evoke memories of World War 2 and to broaden the scope of his targets to every Islamic force that poses an obstacle to U.S. imperial plans. It takes those he aims to appeal to out of the unpleasant contemplation of the situation in Iraq—the continuing murderous U.S. occupation and, now, the terrible sectarian war between Sunni and Shia Muslims—and into dreams of an apocalyptic showdown where everything gets sorted out and U.S. domination is restored. It also provides the justification for what Bush supporters like William Kristol predict will be a war against Iran in early 2007.
As we have pointed out, and as we will continue to stress, such a war would be DISASTROUS. It would be a humanitarian disaster, with thousands and possibly hundreds of thousands killed and with unpredictable consequences and ramifications for the whole region. And it would be a political disaster, continuing the deadly dance in which U.S. imperialism on the one hand and the dead-end reactionary movements of Islamic fundamentalism reinforce each other as the only ideological and political alternatives available to hundreds of millions.
More than a few people brush this off. “The Bush people wouldn’t do it,” some people say. “They don’t have the forces or the political support, and it would be too dangerous, too filled with unforeseeable consequences.” This kind of thinking ignores what a spate of recent books about the war against Iraq—Fiasco, by Thomas Ricks, or Cobra II, by Gordon and Trainor to take just two—illustrate: this regime does not let the contemplation of possible negative consequences get in the way of the urgency they feel to remake the world. It also ignores the fact that no less a figure than John McCain—who, remember, is now positioned as the “responsible opposition”—has called for both raising the level of troops in Iraq and going after Iran, should that government refuse to end its nuclear program. And finally, it ignores the concrete preparations being made by the regime, their exposure by people like Hersh, and the lack of any high-level political opposition to this.
Making Fascism Legal
Last week witnessed yet another chilling spectacle—Bush’s announcement, complete with the tone and body language of a braggart, that yes, the U.S. had been holding people in secret prisons and his demand that Congress now ratify his policies that allow torture and that deny what has come to be seen over centuries as “due process” in courts of law, as well as approving what has been up to now his utterly outside-the-law programs of massive surveillance.[See "Bush Calls for Fascist Changes to Laws on Trials and Torture."]
This is NOT a mere “election-year ploy” as some maintain (though the elections do figure strongly into this whole offensive—a point we’ll address later). This marks a very serious LEAP in what has been a trajectory toward fascism. Bush is now demanding to lock in as law the outrageous illegal practices of his administration. This is an important part of his program: permanently changing what had been certain “core” elements of American society. Some of these—the right of the accused to see the evidence being used to convict them, and to defend against that evidence—have been around since before the U.S. was even founded. The right to be free of a search without probable cause a crime has been committed—and wiretapping is a search—goes back to the Magna Carta in 1215! The abolition of torture was a core demand of the bourgeois revolutions of the 1700s and 1800s, and the U.S. Constitution itself forbids “cruel and unusual punishment.” In actual practice, the U.S. bourgeoisie has often construed these rights very narrowly and flagrantly violated them, sometimes in extreme fashion—the torture of suspects by the Chicago police during the 1980s and 90s, for instance, was just admitted this past summer. And if you go back to the 1960s, thousands of people had their homes illegally searched and their phones illegally tapped, and the revolutionary leader Fred Hampton was murdered while he slept in his Chicago bedroom, by a joint operation of the local and federal governments. And there was torture as well by U.S. troops in Vietnam, amply documented in news photos of the times.
But it is something else when things that were once admitted to be violations of the law, even if done by the authorities, becomes the law. Such steps are not lightly taken, and signal that the core of the ruling class has agreed that it is time to go to new extremes and to actually remake the legitimating norms of society to accommodate those extremes. This amounts to taking some of the moves toward fascism from the shadows into the light of day, with Congress—including the Democratic leadership—signing their names in blood on the dotted line.
We said above that this was not an election-year stratagem. You don’t prepare the ground for a new war and remake what had been historical norms of U.S. law to defend a few seats in Congress.
But you do, if you are the Bush Regime, take advantage of the politicized atmosphere of the elections to marshal public opinion for radical changes in extreme times. Case in point: 2002. Bush campaigned hard on the need to go to war with Iraq and the need to clamp down at home (the so-called “homeland security” bill). But this was not so much about winning those elections (the verdicts of which are generally decided elsewhere anyway), as it was one part of a bigger agenda: to actually prepare public opinion for exactly what he said he was going to do—launch an unprovoked war against Iraq and ratchet up the repressive apparatus. He’s gone back to that playbook this year, and no one can afford to ignore that pattern.
During that electoral season, the Democrats refused for the most part to oppose Bush’s saber-rattling. They even tried to outdo Bush on the need to bulk up the repressive apparatus. Again, this was not due to spinelessness or poor political judgment: it flowed from their essential agreement, based on their class nature and interests as imperialist politicians, with Bush’s objectives. The result was a war for empire in Iraq that has left over 100,000 dead in its wake and a regimen of torture, unlawful detention and surveillance, and the destruction of fundamental rights at home and abroad. And further: the acceleration of a fascist, theocratic trajectory for U.S. society.
And what are the Democratic leaders doing now? Complaining that Bush and his people aren’t giving them the proper credit for supporting the “war on terror.” Remaining silent, if not supporting, the Bush course of Iran. Staying mute on the question of legalizing torture and removing due process, and letting John McCain be “the opposition” to this. To judge by last fall’s brouhaha around legislation that was going to supposedly ban torture (remember that?), this means that McCain will make some high-profile petty amendments, then gut these in a backroom deal, and finally and quietly allow the whole thing to be nullified by a presidential signing statement anyway.
Clearly, the script for the next two months runs like this: at a time when Americans have their attention turned to politics, the alternatives presented to them will be about who will be “tougher” on Iran, who will fight the war “better” in Iraq, and who will more efficiently and thoroughly clamp down on people’s civil and legal rights. No matter who wins, the net political effect of such an election campaign will be a mandate for more war and more repression, with consequences likely to be even more deadly and significantly more extreme than they were four years ago.
To repeat, this is not a new script. This is something people have been through—and gone for—before. And if you have, you have to ask yourself: where has this led you? And now, where will more of the same lead you? The reality is this: right now, anyone who confines or focuses their political activity to electing Democrats must confront that this really amounts to complicity with the direction things are headed. Wake the hell up—and change course.
A Real Alternative Emerges
Thom Hartman, an Air America radio personality speaking at the New York World Can’t Wait meeting this past week, likened the situation in the U.S. to Germany, 1937. He was far from the only person to draw this sort of comparison. There is a growing feeling that this trajectory must be stopped and that to do that, one must identify and confront, fully, where it could very possibly lead. The time for mincing words, if ever such time existed, is by now long since over. There is a sentiment gaining momentum and confidence—and it is a sentiment based on reality—that the window could close, and quickly; that one must act, now.
In this light, it was very revealing that the August 31 Boston Globe editorialized against both Rumsfeld and the recent World Can’t Wait ad in the New York Times for using the word “fascism.” First, it must be said that the Globe mischaracterized the Times ad, by making it appear as if the ad only concerned the racist attack concentrated in the Bush Regime’s handling of Hurricane Katrina and that same regime’s assault on the right to abortion. While extremely important issues in their own right, the genocidal elements concentrated in Katrina and the patriarchal attempts to severely control women’s reproductive rights form parts of a larger package which includes—in the words of the ad in question—”endless wars,” “torture,” and “theocracy.” And in fact, the wars of aggression and the evisceration of political and legal rights, including the criminalization and persecution of whole sections of the people, along with the increasing imposition of a repressive ideology (in this case, fundamentalist Christianity)—all of which have been carried out by the Bush regime and which continue to accelerate—are all things that people rightly associate with fascism. But the Globe editorial writers left out all other “inconvenient truths.”
Beyond that, the Globe editorial board evidently feared that the Times ad had struck a nerve, and hoped to quiet any feeling among their mainly liberal readership that things are heading in an extreme even fascist direction, by equating such thinking to Rumsfeld. But it is also significant that the Globe implicitly cast thes—the Bush Regime (personified in Rumsfeld) and World Can’t Wait—as the two potentially contending forces. There is work to do to realize that potential—but the reality of that potential is beginning to emerge.
A week later, on September 7, some of what the Globe seems to fear took a big step toward coming into being. Over 1200 people attended organizing meetings in over 50 cities to make October 5 a nationwide day of resistance to bring this to a halt. The size and breadth of the turnout, the prominence and spirit of the speakers, and the plan put forth by the World Can’t Wait leadership have made their vision for October 5 assume a whole new dimension of possibility.
This is something very important to build off. The extreme necessity facing people, underlined by the past two weeks of the Bush offensive, as well as the growing possibility of actually doing something real about it, must be made known to millions more in the days ahead. They must hear, and be won and organized to act on, the truth of what is said in the essay on worldcantwait.org entitled “October 5: There is a Way! There is a Day!”
On October 5, 2006, on the basis of the Call, the World Can’t Wait–Drive Out the Bush Regime!, people throughout the country will be stepping forward in a day of mass resistance. The breadth, the depth, the impact and the power of that day depends not only on those in The World Can’t Wait organization, and others, who are already organizing for this day—it depends on you, on us, on all those who have been hoping and searching for a means to do something that will really make a difference.
If we fail to act to make this a reality, then it will definitely make a difference—in a decidedly negative way. But if we take up the challenge to build for this, and then do take history into our hands on that day, through political action on the massive scale that is called for—it can make all the difference in the world, in a very positive sense and for the possibility of a better future for humanity.
Revolution #61, September 17, 2006
On Wednesday, September 6, Bush stood before cameras in the East Room of the White House and demanded that Congress pass the Military Commissions Act of 2006, which would officially approve sweeping changes in U.S. law—legalizing and authorizing exactly the kinds of torture the U.S. carried out against prisoners at Abu Ghraib, and officially stripping away basic legal rights. These changes have ominous and fascist implications—not only for detainees currently held by the U.S. government as so-called “enemy combatants,” but for everyone.
Bush almost bragged about things that had been so fiercely denied: that, yes, his government maintained an international network of secret interrogation centers. This was admitted, in order to press things further—to openly justify the forms of torture being carried out on his personal orders, and to demand that Congress now write into U.S. law the presidential power to seize, brutalize, condemn, and even execute those captives, and legally protect those who carry out the brutality from prosecution.
In other words, George Bush is demanding that the torture and crude denial of the basic legal rights that U.S. agents have been carrying out in the shadows now become new, acknowledged legal norms and precedents for whatever comes next for the U.S. and its empire.
For all these reasons, it is important to look more closely at what Bush is demanding Congress rush to approve in the next few weeks.
Formalizing the Denial of Very Basic Legal Rights
The Military Commissions Act of 2006 now heading for Congress would authorize and legalize a new system for trying “alien unlawful enemy combatants.” In this system, the fate of prisoners would be decided by a military tribunal.
These special Military Commissions would operate under rules and principles that depart sharply from the legal norms that have been basic to U.S. law from its very beginning.
In these commissions, prisoners would have no right to “confront their accusers.” They would not have the right to hear witnesses speaking against them. They would not have the right to examine the evidence presented against them. Prisoners would not even have the legal right to be present at their hearing. What a prisoner would be allowed to hear and see would all be decided by the U.S. military judge hearing the case—and obviously the prisoner will not even be told what they were not being allowed to know about.
In short, people could be condemned of crimes—and even be executed—without ever having a chance to even see evidence against them, let alone the ability to make any serious defense.
If prisoners are condemned by a military “jury of their captors”—what is left of the principle (supposedly guaranteed in the U.S. Constitution) that people have a right to an “impartial jury”?
Who could be thrown before these military commissions? The bill says the commissions are for “alien unlawful enemy combatants.” Georgetown Law Professor Martin Lederman told Revolution that legally, the concept of “alien” includes “millions of lawful permanent resident aliens” within the U.S. And the term “enemy combatants” has been defined, in this bill, to apply to forces and organizations “including but not limited to al Qaeda, the Taliban, any international terrorist organization, or associated forces” (emphasis ours).
In other words, military lynch law approved today, in the name of fighting al Qaeda today, can explicitly be used against other forces tomorrow.
And in the language of this bill, the term “unlawful enemy combatant” is extended to apply to someone who has “supported hostilities in aid of such a force or organization so engaged.” No one can know yet exactly what this government will claim this means—but there are certainly justified concerns that the government might claim the legal right to seize someone who politically “supported” forces fighting the U.S. around the world (even if they did not themselves engage in actual “hostilities”).
All of this holds very dangerous implications. Charles Gittings of the Project to Enforce the Geneva Conventions (PEGC) told Revolution: “The basic concept is quite simple: if Bush says you are enemy combatant you are an enemy combatant. The gist of their legal arguments is that if they designate a two-year-old girl in Chicago a ‘terrorist,’ according to them, that decision is unreviewable and she’s a terrorist just because the President says so. Beyond that you get into the concept of ‘material support.’ What it boils down to in practice is they only do it to people that they can plausibly allege have something to do with terrorism, but once they do that, the effective standards are guilt by association and guilty until proven innocent.”
In every detail, Bush’s Military Commissions Bill of 2006 would set up a nightmarish legal charade—which would allow this government to legally railroad and, if it then chose, execute its captives—and which would enshrine such fascistic legal standards into the precedents and assumptions of U.S. law.
Legitimizing and Legalizing Torture
In a particularly ominous development, Bush’s new law would allow evidence and statements extracted from prisoners through “coercion” to be used against them in court. Historically, the use of confessions and evidence extracted under torture was considered bitter outrages of the theocratic Inquisition of the Middle Ages. It was portrayed as the identifying hallmark of police states. And in U.S. law, such “evidence” has historically been considered “tainted” and has not been admissible in court (even while in reality, police have relentlessly railroaded people into prison by “beating confessions out of them”). But officially, on paper at least, such forced confessions have been specifically inadmissible in both U.S. and international law.
In his September 7 speech, Bush described in great detail how one U.S. captive had refused to talk and how the CIA had used “alternative set of procedures” to interrogate him. A New York Times article on his speech, which questioned many of the claims, reported that Human Rights Watch gave the Times a list of 14 men who the organization believes have been secretly detained since the Sept. 11 attacks and whose whereabouts are still unknown. “One of the men,” the Times reported, “Ibn al-Shaykh al-Libi, is believed to have given false information about links between Iraq and Al Qaeda after CIA officials transferred him to Egyptian custody in 2002. Mr. al-Libi’s statements were used by the Bush administration as the foundation for its claims that Iraq trained Qaeda members to use biological and chemical weapons. It emerged later that Mr. al-Libi had fabricated these stories while in captivity to avoid harsh treatment by his Egyptian captors.” (“Questions Raised About Bush’s Primary Claims in Defense of Secret Detention System,” 9/8/06). This example illustrates that the question is not—as torture advocates like attorney Alan Dershowitz argue—whether evidence coerced by torture can ever be morally used to “save lives.” The question is whether Bush will be allowed to lie and torture in order to destroy lives.
With the swagger of a mobster denying he ordered a hit, Bush declared: “I want to be absolutely clear with our people, and the world: The United States does not torture. It’s against our laws, and it’s against our values. I have not authorized it—and I will not authorize it.” In short, if I ordered it, it’s not torture.
Bush’s proposed law forbids some specific, carefully defined torture techniques for interrogations. But the very process of defining do’s and don’ts for legal torture is itself part of the process of legitimizing and legalizing torture. Ten pages of Bush’s Military Commissions bill would change existing U.S. law to legalize the brutal interrogation techniques that the CIA and military have been using—including exposure to extremes of heat and cold, simulated drowning by “waterboarding,” painful “stress positions,” and sleep deprivation. These actions have been illegal and punishable felonies up until now under the 1996 War Crimes Act.
Bush, Rumsfeld, and their various legal apologists like John Yoo have crudely redefined torture, to claim that their brutal “alternative set of procedures” should no longer be considered torture, or treated as illegal. Barbara Olshansky said (Democracy Now, Sept 7) that this new definition “says torture only occurs when someone’s at the risk of immediate full organ failure or death.”
* * * *
It is nightmarish for the people of the world to have these armies of killers and torturers unleashed on them. Profound injustices and brutalities have been perpetrated all over the globe—in the prison camps from Iraq’s Abu Ghraib to Afghanistan’s Baghram airbase to Cuba’s Guantánamo Bay. And to have the U.S. Congress formally approve and codify such a legal system with such shameful and fascist legal standards would have far-reaching implications—not just in the immediate treatment of those thrown before those commissions, but in what this empire imposes as its standard, approved and institutionalized norms and methods of crushing anyone—internationally or within its borders—that it perceives as an obstacle to its agenda.
Revolution #61, September 17 2006
RCP,USA Statement Originally Released Sept. 14, 2001
September 11, 2001. USA. Shock. Mountains of steel and concrete falling, crushing. Loss. Lives shattered in a moment. Searching for loved ones buried under mountains of debris.
Horror from the sky.
A brown skinned woman stands at the Red Cross line holding a picture of her missing husband. Her eyes scan the scene as if looking hard will bring him back. A young blue eyed man waits nervously for news of his lover. Hope turns to the realization that partners, friends and colleagues are gone. Snatched away by a conflict that has brutally intruded into daily life from the heavens.
In an instant New York City reminds us of Baghdad, Belgrade, Sudan, the West Bank, Vietnam, Panama, Indonesia, Hiroshima, Vieques.
The images flood our minds. Mothers running through the streets of Baghdad with their children as U.S. bombs fall like rain. Iraqi women watching their children die because U.S. bombs and sanctions have deliberately poisoned the water they need to live. Families carrying the coffins of sons taken out by made-in-U.S.A. rockets on the West Bank. Workers at a medicine factory picking through the rubble in Sudan left by U.S. cruise missiles. Scrambling for cover in Belgrade as U.S. bombs strike from the air. Looking through the stadium in Chile where thousands of former lovers, sons, and daughters lay — stilled forever by a coup made in Washington. Gasping with horror as the firing squads of the Indonesian army, with CIA lists of political opponents in their pockets, massacre hundreds of thousands, filling the rivers with the dead.
Hiroshima, Vietnam, Baghdad. The war has come home. Even if the World Trade Center and the Pentagon were symbols of the financial and military power of U.S. imperialism, the reality is that many innocent people were killed as a result.
And who is responsible? Who has put the masses in the U.S. in harms way?
The U.S. power structure points the finger to the Middle East. But the answer lies on U.S. soil. These imperialists -- who have perpetrated countless crimes and rained havoc on the people of the world through their relentless global exploitation and their military actions -- have created a situation where millions of people all around the world hate the government of the United States.
* * * * *
As the dust clears from our eyes, the people in the most powerful country in the world find ourselves held hostage to the inevitable repercussions of the actions of this U.S. power structure and their bloody military machine. Now, besides the horrors that they have perpetuated against the people around the world — horrors that multiply the tears shed in NY and Washington a thousand times -- these cold-hearted imperialists have called forth the same kind of devastation in the belly of their own beast.
And now they call on the people to support their retribution. They speak of war and justice. No.
These hegemonic dominators do not have the right to continue on their warpath. They are the source of so much pain and suffering around the world. And their current moves to war and military actions -- against named and unnamed countries and targets -- must be actively opposed.
Through the shock we seek the truth: Global exploiters and mass murderers have no right to retribution and they can only bring more destruction and injustice. To join forces with them, to seek their protection, will only encourage them to commit more crimes against the people of our planet.
They show us pictures of Arab youth cheering in the streets of occupied territory and ask us to be horrified and seek revenge. But we need to ask why are people in the Middle East and other parts of the world celebrating the events of September 11: not because innocent lives were lost, but because an arrogant power that has been getting away with murder and boasting of its invincibility has been shown to be vulnerable.
* * * * *
The rulers capitalize on our pain and ask the people to pray with them. But as the people remember our dead, what is the power structure doing? Unleashing more war and police state repression. Preying on the people of the world.
They talk of protecting the people but all the while they are drawing up lists of names, carrying out raids, and putting vast new Big Brother measures into place.
They talk of ending terror, through war, and ready their armed forces to bring about great horrors.
They want us to unite with them and wave their flag. No.
In the tension of the present, we remember the lessons of history. While they talk of another Pearl Harbor, we are reminded of how the U.S. government played on people's fear for their own safety to rally support for rounding up the Japanese-Americans, confiscating their property and putting them in concentration camps. We remember how they tried to paint anyone who opposed them as giving aid and comfort to the enemy.
And remembering these crimes strengthens our resolve to prevent such things from happening again. We cannot be intimidated by the official and unofficial pressure to line up behind their war moves and their flag. We can see the logic of this poison in the ugly threats and beatings coming down on Arab people.
As people mourn lost loved ones, as we put our arms around each other, all who seriously want justice need to reach out to the people of the world — to stand together against the crimes of this system, to strengthen our resistance against every act of war and repression.
And, as we build our resistance, we need to be crystal clear on the nature of these oppressors who are hurtling towards a new war: these arrogant lying creatures do not rule in the interests of the people of this country or the world. As long as they continue in power the horrors that come from their system will continue to rain from the sky.
Revolutionary Communist Party,USA
September 14, 2001
available in pdf format
Revolution #61, September 17 2006
Interview with Larry Everest
(l-r) Larry Everest, Ray McGovern, and Cindy Sheehan at Bush Crime Commission hearings, Berkeley, March 23
Revolution recently interviewed Larry Everest about the upcoming release of the final verdict by the Bush Crimes Commission. Everest has written extensively about the Middle East and Central Asia and is a contributing writer to Revolution. He is the author of the book Oil, Power & Empire: Iraq and the U.S. Global Agenda (Common Courage Press, 2003). He was involved in the initiation of the International Commission of Inquiry on Crimes Against Humanity Committed by the Bush Administration.
Revolution: Larry, you helped initiate the Bush Crimes Commission. Can you briefly fill our readers in—including those who aren’t familiar with the Commission’s mission and work—on what the Commission is and what it has accomplished?
Larry Everest: The International Commission of Inquiry on Crimes Against Humanity Committed by the Bush Administration is a project of the Not in Our Name Statement of Conscience. The specific moral imperative for the Bush Commission was really twofold. First, to investigate whether crimes against humanity are being committed; and, from my point of view, what follows from such an investigation is the imperative to stop these acts and see that they are never repeated.
’This is spelled out in our charter, which is available on line at bushcommission.org. The charter states that when there’s the possibility of far-reaching war crimes and crimes against humanity, people of conscience have a solemn responsibility to inquire into the nature and scope of such acts and determine if they rise to the level of crimes against humanity. So we undertook that effort at hearings that we held in October 2005 and January 2006 in New York City. And when we say “inquire” into the nature of such acts, and determine if they do in fact rise to the level of war crimes, what we mean is: inquire with rigor and care, based on facts and evidence.
And the legitimacy of this undertaking derives from the integrity of the participants and our moral mission, the rigor in the presentation and evaluation of evidence, and in the stature and credibility of participants. We interviewed and took the testimony of 45 witnesses—including some of the world’s foremost experts or firsthand witnesses, including Craig Murray, a former British ambassador to Uzbekistan; Ret. Brig. Gen. Janis Karpinski, who had been in charge of all the prison facilities in Iraq following the war, including Abu Ghraib; Scott Ritter, the lead UN weapons inspector in the ‘90s; Dr. Alan Berkman, a world-renowned authority on HIV, and many others.
The other thing that I think is important is that while we did reference international law where it was applicable, we did not limit ourselves to that, because international law doesn’t yet comprehend many acts that have catastrophic implications for humanity, such as global warming.
And in undertaking this, we had quite a discussion and a debate, a very rich debate within the Commission Working Group, on: what were our standards for war crimes and crimes against humanity? And we emerged with an expanded definition which we felt was a real advance; an expanded definition of the conception of crimes against humanity—that, in other words, in a nutshell, there’s more than one way to exhibit enormous disregard for human life and put billions of people at risk, and we felt that, in short, systematic crimes against humanity constitutes systematic brutal acts against whole populations that shock the conscience of humankind.
But having done this investigation, that was not the extent of our mission. We also felt a responsibility to act to stop these crimes. And the specific mission of the Commission in that regard is our mission to frame and fuel the debate: “Is the administration of George W. Bush guilty of war crimes and crimes against humanity?” Ideas matter, and it would be a very different debate in this country and a very different political climate, if the terms of debate were: Is this administration committing war crimes and crimes against humanity? Not “were these actions errors or isolated incidents or bad judgment or bad policy?” and so on.
Revolution: Can you talk about the timing of the release of the verdict, in the context of the anniversary of Katrina, Bush’s admission that people have been detained in secret CIA prisons, and the fact that we’re less than a month away from the mass mobilizations called for by World Can't Wait - Drive Out the Bush Regime on October 5?
Larry Everest: The release of our findings is not timed specifically for political effect. It’s timed based on when our panel of five judges has received the necessary evidence and been able to cull through it, and render its verdict. So that date when the verdict is going to be released is September 13. It is true that this verdict is extremely relevant now. Just in the last few days, Bush acknowledged essentially that the administration has been committing war crimes, torturing people, rendering people, illegally detaining people. And I must say that what Bush said about secret CIA prisons vindicates what our evidence brought forward, including the testimony of former ambassador Craig Murray. A complete vindication of this. And Bush is also stating he wants this to continue and he’s defending this. Meanwhile, they’re recycling similar lies about weapons of mass destruction—not exactly the same, but similar, to the ones they used in Iraq, now against Iran.
The issue of global warming—our commission had to struggle for this, to consider global warming a crime against humanity, because frankly people did not understand the catastrophic impact on humanity that global warming has and the deliberate character of the criminal actions of the Bush administration. I know many of the readers of Revolution have followed the reviews of the Al Gore movie on global warming, which definitely presents a picture of how deep a crisis this is, but the movie lets the Bush Regime off the hook. We don’t.
And we’ve had the anniversary of Katrina. Again, we can see—the whole issue, at least in most of the mainstream discussion, of whether this administration was criminally and deliberately negligent and whether this is a crime against humanity, was not even part of the conversation, in the way it needed to be. And the verdict will have a lot to say about that.
So yes, the release of the Commission’s verdict is extremely timely now, and it’s extremely important that millions of people learn of the verdict, and read the verdict, and popularize the verdict, because the Bush administration has demonstrated that it’s determined to continue committing war crimes and crimes against humanity until it’s stopped.
I think that if the Commission is able to accomplish our mission of framing and fueling a societywide debate concerning whether this regime is guilty of war crimes and crimes against humanity, it will profoundly impact the political terrain, making events and efforts like October 5, and other efforts to resist and protest this regime, that much more broadly understood and supported. So I think there’s tremendous synergy.
Revolution: Could you speak to some of the impact that the work of the Commission has had so far in relation to everything we’re talking about, including in relation to the potential that you’ve spoken to for this to go even further in terms of impacting the political terrain?
Larry Everest: Well, certainly the work of the Commission has gotten some media coverage; not enough, but it has gotten some significant coverage. But let me focus on the impact of the speaking tour we did in the spring. The goal was specifically to awaken and arouse people on campuses, which are far too silent and quiet in the face of all this. I think it was very noteworthy that at each of these programs—probably a dozen of our witnesses and participants spoke at one or another of these programs—someone, or two or three people, from the audience would come up and tell us it was the best program they’d ever been to. You know, some were older people who’d been to a lot of programs.
And I thought that there were a number of reasons why they said this. One reason was the clarity of it—the clarity of the indictment of this regime, I think, speaks to the feelings of millions of people. The second is the stature and the credibility of the people presenting the evidence and the rigor of the evidence. Again, these were generally testimony of someone like former ambassador Murray; or Ray McGovern, a long-time CIA employee, who founded Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity, very active against the Bush administration; or Ret. Brig. Gen. Janis Karpinski. Daniel Ellsberg spoke at one of our events. So these were people that had direct understanding, either of the specific events or of how the government operates. And the presentations were substantive, it wasn’t speechifying. So there was that element to it as well.
And I think many people were so glad that somebody was saying this. And I think they were also excited to see this very unusual mix of people. For example, at our Berkeley program, here’s Daniel Ellsberg, a whistle blower from the 1960s who’s been since then a long-time opponent of many of the injustices of this government, and he was teamed up with Janis Karpinski and Craig Murray, who have somewhat different perspectives; they’re newly alienated from the actions of the Bush and Blair government. And then I spoke, and I’m a contributor to Revolution and a Communist revolutionary. So I obviously have quite a different viewpoint than they do. But we really enjoy working together, all of us giving our perspective on the specific issue of Bush crimes against humanity and war crimes. That was the focus. And there was a great spirit amongst the participants, so I think that that conveyed another element that was new and exciting for people who came.
And the one other thing I wanted to say was that when we first delivered the indictments at the White House on January 10 this year, we did a bunch, 10 or 20, of radio interviews off of this, and a number of the people said, “Boy, I’m so glad someone finally did this.” Because there’s been no accountability, in Congress or by the established order, whatsoever, for any of this. I mean, there hasn’t even been a report on it, let alone an actual deserved criminal indictments for the perpetrators of these things. So there’s an enormous anger about that complete lack of accountability and the utter failure of the current order to bring to account those that have committed these kinds of actions.
Revolution: What can people expect the Commission’s report to include?
Larry Everest: I would encourage people to look at the indictments [available at www.bushcommission.org], which are quite extensive. For example, in the case of war, there were three areas that we indicted: the launching of the war, the conduct of the war, and the occupation—it’s not simply the launching of the war. And in terms of the occupation, there were many specific areas of crimes against humanity. Summary execution, kidnapping and torture, collective punishment, and so on. And there were nine specific charges in terms of the conduct of the war. So this is a very extensive indictment of what they’ve done in the invasion of Iraq.
And there were other indictments. One of the indictments concerned the Bush administration’s policies on global health; this was not at all well understood, including by me, before we did this investigation. And here I just want to say that all of us learned a tremendous amount during this; none of us knew the full scope and nature of the horrors inflicted on the planet by this government. So by bringing together all five areas of indictment—the Iraq war; torture and detention; assaults on global public health; assaults on the global environment; and the response to Katrina—a much deeper, comprehensive, and really qualitatively different picture of the criminality of this administration comes through.
For example, on the indictment around global public health, the first count was that the Bush administration was using its influence to advance programs and policies that actually worsen the AIDS pandemic. A second count was that the Bush administration reinstated the gag rule, which has led to the closing of reproductive health clinics, which in many areas was the only source of HIV/AIDS prevention and care. A third count: the administration has distorted science in an attempt to prevent medical research when it conflicts with the ideology of the Christian Right. And a fourth count is that the Bush administration used its political and economic power to restrict the manufacture and supply of generic drugs, which are the only affordable option for most of the HIV positive population in the Third World.
After September 13th—and again, we want to get the word out of this broadly—on September 19-21 we’re having Bush Crimes Day, which we want to be a decentralized, nationwide day of learning about and speaking out about Bush war crimes and crimes against humanity. We’re urging people to download, print, and distribute the verdict after Sept. 13, and to order our 30-minute videos of each area of indictment and distribute and use them very broadly on this day, including to organize teach-ins, classroom presentations, protests, etc.
George Bush will be speaking at the UN on Sept. 19, no doubt beating the drums for war, and the Bush Crimes Commission will be delivering our verdict there as well. Our slogan for the day is:
Bush War Crimes
Bush Crimes Against Humanity
Bring Them to a Halt!
After that we will be continuing our campus tour—we are going in October and November and going forward, continuing to speak out on these war crimes and crimes against humanity. As we’ve heard this week, these are not going away until the Bush regime goes away.
Revolution #61, September 17 2006
Victims of Israel’s Cluster Bombs
On September 6, the U.S. Senate voted, 70-30, to defeat an amendment to a Pentagon budget bill which would have banned the use of cluster bombs near populated civilian areas.
The U.S. can now continue its long-standing policy of supplying Israel with cluster bombs.
What has this practice already meant?
Israel bombed Lebanon, from July 10 to August 14, using U.S.-supplied weapons, including cluster bombs. The United Nations now reports that there are at least 100,000 unexploded cluster bombs in south Lebanon, littering the landscape in highly populated towns and villages. And now, people are being maimed, wounded, and killed by these ordnance. The UN reports ( as of September 1) that even after the ceasefire went into effect on August 14, 12 Lebanese civilians have been killed and 56 injured from contact with unexploded cluster bombs.
According to Jan Egeland, UN Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs, around a quarter of a million Lebanese who fled their homes were unable to return because of the devastation or for fear of injury caused by these and other unexploded bombs. Egeland said, “What’s shocking and, I would say to me, completely immoral, is that 90 percent of the cluster bomb strikes occurred in the last 72 hours of the conflict when we knew there would be a resolution, when we really knew there would be an end of this.” (UN News Service, 8/30/06).
Simon Conway, director of Land Mine Action, said that “The premeditated targeting of residential areas with high-failure-rate cluster munitions in the final days of the conflict means that the rubble-filled villages of southern Lebanon have been deliberately turned into minefields that will indiscriminately kill civilians for years to come.”
Lebanese and international relief groups working in Lebanon report that the unexploded “bomblets” appear on the ground as small objects that are mistaken for toys by children who are often maimed or killed when the weapons explode.
The New York Times reported on August 11 that the U.S. was considering a rush shipment of more cluster bombs to Israel for use in their attacks in south Lebanon. These M26 artillery rockets each contain 644 submunitions or “bomblets” that spread across a wide area and are not aimed at destroying vehicles or buildings, but specifically designed to kill and maim people.
Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International have also reported on the extensive use of such weapons by the U.S. in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Such anti-personnel weapons are aimed at terrorizing whole populations of non-combatant civilians and designed to depopulate whole geographic areas. They were used extensively by the U.S. during the Vietnam War—where one U.S. military commander who directed the burning down of a whole peasant village said, “We had to destroy the village in order to save it.”
During the recent invasion of Lebanon, the Israeli army pounded Shi’a, Sunni, and Christian villages with artillery and bombs, including cluster bombs. Some analysts have said this was done in an attempt to turn Christians against Hezbollah or that Israel did this to punish the Christian population for not opposing Hezbollah influence in south Lebanon. In any case, Israel’s bombing, including the use of cluster bombs, succeeded in turning the vast majority of the people in south Lebanon even more against Israel. And for many people, it is also clear that these cluster bombs—which still continue to maim and kill people—are “Made in USA.”
Revolution #61, September 17 2006
Death and Maiming – Made in the USA
In a report on August 31, Amnesty International condemned the widespread Israeli use of cluster bombs and included several first-hand reports on victims of these weapons (amnestyusa.org):
“Six-year-old Abbas Yusef Shibli told Amnesty International delegates how a cluster bomb exploded as he tried to pick it up in the village of Blida on 26 August. Speaking from a hospital bed, Abbas said he was playing with three friends when he tried to pick up what looked like a ‘perfume bottle.’ Abbas suffered a ruptured colon, ruptured gall bladder, perforated lung and torn medial nerve and has so far undergone two blood transfusions. His three playmates were also injured…
“In the next room, Mahmud Yaqub, a 38-year-old shepherd, lay with his leg in plaster having had it shattered when he stepped on a cluster bomb. Mahmud said he’d lost four of his 21 goats during the Israeli attacks as they were unable to get to water. He was rarely able to take them outside during the fighting and now, since the ceasefire, cluster bombs litter the hillsides which are their normal pasture.
“At another hospital, Amnesty International visited 13-year-old Hassan Hussein Hamadi who remains in a coma after surgery. His family said that, on 27 August, he and his five brothers and sisters had been playing in the front yard of their home in the village of Deir al-Qanun south of Tyre when he picked up a canister type cluster bomb that then exploded. The explosion blew off four fingers of his right hand, leaving only his little finger and he sustained major injuries to his shoulder and abdomen.
“19-year-old Hussein Qaduh, a student in accounting at the Beirut Islamic Technical Institute, was severely injured by a cluster bomb on 28 August in the southern Lebanese village of Soultaniye as he walked along a path in the village next to a football field. When Amnesty International delegates visited the area the next day, they found it was littered with unexploded cluster munitions, some of them a few inches from the path, where the blood was still visible on the ground. Hussein underwent extensive surgery for hemorrhaging in the intestines and liver. This was stopped but bleeding continued in the brain. His prognosis was described as extremely critical.”
Revolution #61, September 17 2006
On September 7, in 50 cities around the country, more than 1,200 people came to meetings to get serious about organizing to make October 5th a great leap in the movement to drive out the Bush regime. Reports on the meetings, along with the speech given by World Can’t Wait, and audio and video of speakers, are available at worldcantwait.org. Correspondents from Revolution newspaper attended a few of these events, and forwarded the following excerpts from speeches they heard:
Daniel Ellsberg, who revealed the Pentagon Papers, exposing the U.S. crimes in Vietnam (San Francisco):
What we need at home of course is people who will change their lives, risk their careers and their jobs and their relationships with their families and their bosses and their church groups by taking a stronger stand than most people were ready to take; by saying truths that most people were not ready to hear. Without that courage things like this can’t be changed. With it, they may still not be changed, they may fail, but without it, and without mass mobilization there is no chance.
Jed Stone, progressive lawyer known for his anti-death penalty activities (Chicago):
We stopped Lyndon B. Johnson from running for reelection. It can be done. We got Spiro Agnew to resign in disgrace. These are history lessons we can’t forget. The first abolitionists refused and resisted and destroyed slavery. The new abolitionists have brought an end to the death penalty in Illinois for the time being with a moratorium…. On October 5th, we will stand up. And our collective voices will drown out the voice of a tyrant.
Timuel Black, historian, civil rights activist, photojournalist, and retired professor (Chicago):
When I was in DuSable High School, we had a teacher who used to send us home to listen to the radio—we didn’t have television in those days. And so I would go home, because we had to do a report, and I would listen to the radio. And I heard this man talking. I couldn’t understand German, but I heard him talking and I knew something was wrong with this guy. His name was Adolf Hitler. And at the end of each speech, he would say something like this: “Deutchland, Deutchland, Deutchland Uber Alles.” As I was listening to the President of the United States this evening, I heard that same concept in English. “We are the best. We are going to make them do what we want them to do”… The world can’t wait, folks—we must do something to stop this movement in the wrong direction with our movement, which will be going in the right direction, a humane movement to give freedom, equality, and justice to all people, wherever they may be.
Bob Watada, father of Iraq war resister Lt. Ehren Watada (Seattle):
Here’s a President who feels he’s above the law… It’s fascism that we have. I’m sure you people have seen the parallels between what Hitler was doing and what’s happening today in the United States.
Judith Shattuck of Progressive Democrats of America (Seattle):
New Orleans is still in ruins, the President is raping the environment… If we don’t bring this regime to its knees we are teaching the children that this is alright.
Chris Daly, San Francisco Supervisor and author of measure on the San Francisco ballot calling on the Congress to impeach and remove from office Bush and Cheney (San Francisco):
I’m proud to work alongside the sisters and brothers of World Can’t Wait to make sure that the Bush administration and members of Congress realize the extent of the discontent of the American people. We know that worldwide this administration is incredibly unpopular. It’s also incredibly unpopular in the United States of America among everyday people. The atrocities of the illegal war in Iraq, the illegal wiretapping, the illegal torture, the complete malfeasance in response to Katrina in New Orleans and the entire Gulf Coast—the discontent of the American people is enormous. And anything less than Bush and Cheney gone from office and institutions of justice and righteousness in the country, anything less than that is not sufficient. The World Can’t Wait!
Revolution #61, September 17 2006
On September 11th, 1973, the U.S. government orchestrated a coup d’etat in Chile that overthrew the elected government of Salvador Allende and installed the fascist regime of General Augusto Pinochet. Writing on the 30th anniversary of the coup, A World To Win news service reported that, “No one can say for sure how many people were murdered. At the time, Chilean revolutionaries spoke of tens of thousands of victims. Today’s Chilean government says 3,000, but the armed forces that committed that crime still have the last word over political events that displease them and they are not interested in counting. Some estimates say that 400,000 people were tortured. A whole generation of intellectuals and others who could escape was driven into exile.”Many of those murdered during Pinochet’s years in power were “disappeared,” kidnapped by the U.S.-installed regime, and never seen again.
Countless numbers of people were taken by the U.S.-installed regime to secret torture centers, including on Chilean ships like the Esmeralda where torture included “the use of electric prods, high-voltage electric charges applied to the testicles, hanging by the feet and dumping in a bucket of water or excrement (Santiago Times, September 7, 1999). In many cases, the truth about the deaths of missing persons only came to light because the dead included foreigners like a British priest, a U.N. Official, or a U.S. filmmaker named Charles Horman, who was among those killed right after the coup. Horman’s story was told in the Academy-Award-winning movie Missing.
The coup that unleashed 17 years of terror and death on the people of Chile was directed by the government of the United States. The U.S. Secretary of Defense at the time, Melvin Laird, told a National Security Council, “We want to do everything we can to hurt him [Allende] and bring him down.” A CIA memo on preparations for the coup describes the work of a key U.S. ally in Chile “to increase the level of terrorism in Santiago.” (See: The Pinochet File: A Declassified Dossier on Atrocity and Accountability,” edited by Peter Kornbluh)
Transcripts of White House conversations between President Nixon and National Security Adviser Henry Kissinger shortly after the coup reveal the direct and hidden hand of the U.S. Five days after the bloody coup, Kissinger complained to Nixon that “In the Eisenhower period we would be heroes.” Nixon replied, “Well we didn’t--as you know--our hand doesn’t show on this one, though.” Kissinger replies, “We didn’t do it. I mean we helped them.” And he added that “[agency deleted from transcript] created the conditions as great as possible.” Nixon responded, “That is right and that is the way it is going to be played.” (New Transcripts Point to US Role in Chile Coup, Reuters, May 27, 2004).
Revolution #61, September 17 2006
Correspondence from readers
Editor’s Note: Controversy is raging among Black people, and throughout society, on the message being pumped out by Bill Cosby that the conditions poor and working class Black people - the “lower economic” people as he calls them, are facing. Cosby says they are in the situation they are in due to the names they give their children, the attitude they have towards authority, and other lies that put the blame for the situation Black people are in on themselves—as if they decided to fire themselves, move their jobs to places where the capitalists can more ruthlessly exploit people, shut down social services, abandon schools, and all the other things that people did not do to themselves. The seven new talks from Bob Avakian—available at revcom.us and bobavakian.net must be deep in the mix in this controversy, including the talk “Conservatism, Christian Fundamentalism, Liberalism and Paternalism…Bill Cosby and Bill Clinton…Not all ‘Right’ But All Wrong!” That talk speaks explicitly to what Cosby and others who claim to speak for, or be friends of, Black people are running out, and how it fits into an overall agenda coming down with very dangerous implications. In that context, we are sharing some experience from a reader, and encouraging all our readers to be making this talk—and the rest of the new talks by Bob Avakian—available widely in society, as well as discussing them with friends, co-workers, and political associates including in the course of helping build the movement to drive out the Bush Regime, and beyond that bringing forward a revolutionary people and a revolutionary movement that can remake all of society.
I listened to part 1 of the first talk—”Why We’re in the Situation We’re in Today…And What to Do About It: A Thoroughly Rotten System and the Need for Revolution”—and the Bill Cosby/Bill Clinton talk with a friend. He is impressed by how excellent a speaker Bob Avakian is and appreciates how sharply he poses questions and how he breaks things down. He mentioned that some political forces he is familiar with are talking about having community discussions on different topics and he would like to see Avakian’s talks be included as part of the conversations that people are having about the current situation and what to do about it. One immediate thing he wants to do is take the Cosby/Clinton talk to the editor of the local Black newspaper, because the Cosby attacks on the masses has been the subject of controversy and discussion in the Black community and though the editor’s immediate response might be “why should this white guy’s position be so important?”, he thinks that once the editor listens to it, he will find it challenging and important for people to consider...
* * * *
At the barbershops there was disagreement over Cosby, and Avakian’s analysis of his role. Some didn’t want to say they liked Cosby, but they end up blaming the masses for their situation anyway. Some did support Cosby. These barbershops exist in the same block with Palestinian- and Eritrean-owned stores and there is an ongoing intersection between them all, with visits back and forth and discussion over who was going to put the poster up [editor’s note: readers can download PDF files at revcom.us to print stickers, flyers, postcards, and posters telling people about the new talks by Bob Avakian and how to listen to them]. All three stores in the immediate area put up the poster and some played the talks in their stores. I thought this showed some interesting things about the positive side of the multinational proletariat, as well as the back and forth influence between the basic Black masses and Arab and African store owners...
* * * *
Another person I know is a proletarian in his mid fifties and gets Revolution newspaper weekly. He listened to the first Bill Cosby/Bill Clinton track. He loved it. I left it with him. I came back, and he said “this takes me back to all the stuff they have done to us, all the discrimination.” He recounted the stories he has told me over and over about not being able to get a carpenters license at first because he was Black, all the different ways he was pushed aside. But then he said something that I thought was the very point we are fighting so hard for people to get. He said, “I get it now, it’s the system! It’s the system that’s responsible for all this stuff that’s happened to us. It’s the system! They always blaming us when it’s the system.”
Revolution #61, September 17 2006
by Joe Veale, spokesperson, RCP Los Angeles Branch
Inspired by the article in Revolution #60—”Building For October 5th in the Projects”—I want to share a little of the flavor and feel from some of our experience.
We have been taking out the Chairman’s New Presentations, as well as the Call for mass resistance on October 5th from the World Can’t Wait—Drive Out The Bush Regime! in Watts, Los Angeles. We’ve been taking out both these things to the proletarian masses and small shop owners there. A number of these stores carry Revolution, Oct 5th flyers, postcards on new Presentation, and black armbands.
It’s been a trip. A good trip. Of course the road needs to be broadened quickly so that others can begin to take this trip. Here are a few examples.
Dewayne is a proletarian in South Central L.A. He thinks a lot about world affairs, history and likes dealing with general principles and conceptualization. We’ve had ongoing discussions on the New Presentations and he was the first person in this area to buy Ardea Skybreak’s new book, The Science of Evolution and the Myth of Creationism.
After listening to the track on “Communism and Jeffersonian Democracy,” Dewayne exclaimed: “Why have I not ever heard this before! They don’t teach you this in school. Jefferson was atrocious. They are all hypocrites with a double standard.”
Dewayne tended to see it as the intentions of the rulers to trick people, and missed how their words and actions come out of the production (economic) relations that they represent. We struggled over this and bourgeois democracy in general, and over urgent questions like how to drive out the Bush Regime and why we cannot rely on the Democrats.
We also struggled over the Chairman. Dewayne said he’s “very radical for a white man.” I told him, “The radicalism that you like is because he is a communist leader.” I made comparison to Mao, Lenin and how Avakian is standing on their shoulders and going beyond what they were able to understand and see. Someone like this is rare, unique, and special.
Dewayne thought about this: “You know I’m very intrigued about the things he is saying. He is very visionary. I want to study more. I’m not ready just yet. But we should continue these discussions so I can learn more.” He wanted to know what would be different if he joined the party. We ended up talking about the life of comrade Mobile—what his life inside the party and out amongst the masses was about. He said he had to learn more before doing that.
Rob is someone else I listen to the New Presentations with. We listen to “Conservatism, Christian Fundamentalism, Liberalism, and Paternalism: Bill Cosby and Bill Clinton—Not All ‘Right’ But All Wrong! “
Rob laughed and voiced agreement at different parts on “…the youth with pants sagging did not fire themselves…,” agreeing and adding that Muhammad Ali’s former name came from a slave master.
He thought there is much truth in what Avakian was saying. He started talking about how he had worked in a chemical plant in the area and now it had closed down and moved out of the country, relating it to the point that he did not fire himself. He now survives by fixing up old cars in front of his house.
He spoke bitterly about how those in power don’t care about what happens to people like him, and is angry over being trapped in his jobless situation. We struggled over his anger being misdirected towards immigrants, blaming them for doing work at wages that he finds degrading and impossible to live on. We also struggled over him saying that people make “bad choices” as he disagreed some with what was said about this in the New Presentation.
We got more into why some people attend $10K a plate dinners and make decisions about what country to make war against, or how many billions of dollars of investment to take out of some place like Mexico and invest it in Thailand to pay people even cheaper. I told him about a PBS show I saw where people in the Congo (I think) work for less than 2 dollars a day digging out minerals that people in imperialist countries like U.S., Europe, Japan and other countries used for their cell phones.
I asked him why is it that these people are making these kinds of choices of working like this or starving or stealing something to survive—why those on top are making these other choices? We went back and forth on this. What does that have to do with how human society is organized? With him having to choose between fixing up old cars or going hungry?
He admitted he was wrong about immigrants and they’re not to blame for his situation, but he didn’t budge on the question of “choices.” He ended up saying it was both things. It’s the system and the choices people make.
Some other young proletarians, Steve and Rahsad, listened to the same Presentation and were very excited. They thought it all was true. They’re from the generation that seems to infuriate Bill Cosby and Clinton.
Yet they tended to see Cosby as someone who’s “made it” and is now looking down on those who are being eaten up by this meat grinder system. They had a tougher time grasping how what the 2 Bills are doing is an ideological assault on the people. Seeking to rob them of the truthfulness that masses have about their condition. They did not create it, something and somebody else did. This assault is designed to take people’s eyesight from them so that they cannot see clearly what the problem and solution is—and act to change those circumstances and themselves in the process.
It took a little struggle and further discussion to get them to key in on this. But once they did they also asked for literature on immigrants. According to Rashad, 9 out 10 Blacks he talks to take the wrong side on this.
While getting down with people in this way, we’ve also been getting down with them about Oct 5th. A group of us got together and watched the Spike Lee movie When the Levees Broke. Black armbands that say “Katrina: Never Forgive! Never Forget! Drive Out The Bush Regime! Oct 5th”—have been circulating.
People have said things like: “This is a crime. Something should be done about it. This is how the ‘white man,’ and sometimes it is said Bush, has always treated Black people…I’m upset about it…people are still suffering…but I’m not shocked.” Then we would get into that people should be shocked because this represents a new twist to the oppression of Black people, especially the poor and those considered “disposable” people, like gays and the disabled. This is all part of a plan to cleanse society of those who’ve brought a “stain” on society, in the view of the Christian fascists grouped around Bush.
At other times we would break down how they are waging war for empire, and sometimes people would come back with: the war is because Bush is against all “third world” people. People then link Katrina up with the Bush Regime being against all “third world” people. So we would struggle and debate over these points as we would make plans to do something on the anniversary of Katrina, get out the armbands, pass out flyers, and listen to more of the New Presentation by Avakian.
One immigrant proletarian was very excited about doing something on the anniversary of Katrina. He was very upset about how they left people to die. It was his hope that this would encourage Black people to rise up and struggle because he saw Katrina shows how this system has always treated Black people—they lie and try to turn Blacks against immigrants. He saw it as an opportunity to bring out the commonality of the struggle.
So on the 3rd of September a little more than a dozen of us got together in a local park and had a picnic under the theme: Katrina: Never Forgive! Never Forget! Drive out the Bush Regime! Oct 5th, with giant “Wanted” posters of Bush Regime and pictures from Katrina. Flyers for the 5th and armbands went out to those passing through the park, and also the “Wanted” t-shirts, Revolution newspapers, and the New Presentations CDs.
I gave a talk on Katrina, Oct 5th and the relation of all this to making revolution. We listened to music, ate, and informally talked about there being a way and day to build a movement to drive out this regime. People had questions about could we get and keep enough people in the streets to do this. Could the required upheaval in society sustain itself and be broad enough to do this? Is there something to learn in this connection from the recent upsurge of immigrants? Bush has a lot of people who support him—what are we going to do about that? Don’t we need someone from the “inside” to help us?
We discussed and debated these and other questions--with some feeling very inspired, encouraged, and uplifted off of this to reach out to others, taking flyers and making plans to build for October 5th.
Revolution #61, September 17 2006
We received this letter from a reader, who is part of a team selling textbooks for Revolution Books at colleges:
We sold 43 copies of Bob Avakian’s memoir, From Ike to Mao and Beyond…, in three different classes yesterday. And there is a basis for more sales tomorrow in these same three classes. The classes are in the History of the Americas. After meeting several times over the summer with the professor, he rejected the book for this upcoming Fall but was strongly considering it for Spring. However, he stayed “open-minded” to hearing me out, and finally agreed to having it be an “option” for an Open Topic section of the class syllabus. With that, we seized the time. We followed up his supportive introduction of us in his classes with our own comments, and the overwhelming majority of the students ready to purchase books bought the Memoir. Reading the Memoir and writing an 8-12 page paper on it will be 35% of the students’ grade in class. It’s a real chance for us to learn what a cross-section of students thinks about the memoir, and to build off this to spread it further.
So, I wanted to pass this on. I’m still working with other professors with regards to the Memoir and its use as a text. But these are the first three classes we’ve got on the university level, although a high school teacher has ordered a classroom set of 40. I’m passing this on to the paper to give other people a sense of how persistent follow-up and follow-through can lead to good things, and to hopefully hear more from others on their experiences on campus.
Revolution #61, September 17, 2006
Revolution newspaper is reprinting the following edited excerpts from a Political Report from a meeting of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of Iran (Marxist-Leninist-Maoist). These edited excerpts from a much longer document were distributed by A World To Win News Service (August 28, 2006). The Communist Party of Iran (Marxist-Leninist-Maoist) is a participant in the Revolutionary Internationalist Movement, as is the Revolutionary Communist Party, USA. The views in these excerpts are those of the Communist Party of Iran (Marxist-Leninist-Maoist). We are making them available to our readers in order to help our readers understand the views of revolutionary forces internationally.
From A World to Win News Service
28 August 2006. A World to Win News Service. Following are edited excerpts from the much longer Political Report from a meeting of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of Iran (Marxist-Leninist-Maoist).
With the intensification of the contradictions between the US and the Islamic Republic of Iran (IRI), the possibility of a military attack on Iran has become the main question in Iran and the world political scene. The American aim is to achieve unchallenged and direct domination of Iran. The US wants to use Iran as a steppingstone to consolidate its domination over the Middle East and the world. To do so it cannot rely on a regime whose claims to political independence and self-proclaimed “nationalist” character are one of the pillars of its legitimacy. At a time when the US is working in the Middle East to forge a new world order, such regimes are no longer helpful to them. The US needs new reactionary experts, trained by the Pentagon and US State Department political schools. In addition, the regime’s dependence on the world capitalist system is mainly through the European imperialists, and it also has ties with the Russian imperialists. This makes it an obstacle to the US imperialists’ plans.
The contradictions at work
Whether or not the US carries out its threats, or how (air attacks, partial or complete military occupation, massing its armed forces on Iran’s borders) will depend on different factors: US military strength, given the possibility that the European powers may not cooperate; the opposition of regional powers such as Russia and China; the strength of the antiwar movement on a world scale; the growth and broadening of the mass movement in Iran against the IRI; and whether or not a significant section of the political and military forces within the IRI would be ready to cooperate with US plans for regime change.
The rivalry between the different factions of the IRI, their constant splits and mutual distrust (each fears the others will betray them to the US), is one of the main reasons for the instability and weakness of the regime. Because of both the resistance of the people and the lack of internal cohesion within the regime itself, the ruling coalition is not able to suppress the mass movements as they used to. From that point of view, they are in an unstable situation and their control of society is loosening.
Today the political confrontation between the IRI and the US plays a powerful role in shaping the political stance and tendencies of the various strata and classes in Iran. We are witnessing the growth of support for one or the other of these two poles from among a broad spectrum of different political forces. But deep popular hatred for the IRI, on the one hand, and the disastrous results of the US-led invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan on the other, have also strengthened opposition to both of these reactionary poles.
Moods and trends among the masses
There is a strong tendency among the masses to believe that the US and the IRI will ultimately reach a compromise and avoid all-out conflict. Many people tend to believe that the IRI leaders are so dishonest that at the last minute they will give in and give up whatever they must to remain in power. This logic has some material basis, but it expresses a serious lack of awareness about what’s going on in the world and the region. While a nationalist tendency and a desire to defend the motherland can be seen among sections of the intellectuals, the majority of the people react to this situation with indifference. The dominant trend is to curse and hurl vulgar insults against both the Islamic Republic and the US. The IRI has been making some effort to fan the idea of defending the motherland among the masses, hoping to revive the popular sentiments of the time of the war with Iraq, but it seems to have had no luck in this regard. When talking about the Iran-Iraq war, most people conclude, “We were deceived.” The people know that they became poorer while those in power accumulated massive wealth. That is why they deeply hate the heads of the regime, in particular the commanders of the Revolutionary Guards.
Obviously, it is not easy to predict how the people would react in the case of a military assault. If and when a war actually breaks out, with everything that would cause, different spontaneous tendencies could emerge. The reality is that the majority of the people, in particular the people in the cities, would not defend the IRI and would remain indifferent in relation to a war between the IRI and the US. But the experience of class struggle shows that such sentiments would not last long. If the advanced and revolutionary forces do not play an active role, the main danger would be that the people will fall victim to the interests of one or another reactionary group. This makes the formation of a revolutionary pole an urgent necessity.
Only an anti-imperialist and anti-reactionary pole could mobilise the people and keep them active. Only by an active policy and putting forward the alternative of the third pole can we create hope and motivation for the masses to participate in deciding their own destiny. It is true that forming a third pole will be a very difficult task, because the majority of the masses have serious ideological-political doubts concerning the development of the situation and the possibilities for the future. But this atmosphere will not dissipate in the absence of a relatively powerful front that is independent of both the imperialists and the Islamic Republic and is heading for a showdown with both of them.
The mass struggles provide the main starting point for building that pole. Growing mass struggles are another political development marking the new situation. Though these struggles (workers, students, women, and toilers of the cities and the villages) have their ebbs and flows, they are an expression of a new mood that is, in practical terms, in opposition to the political poles of both the IRI and the US. We should not underestimate the influence of the bourgeois lines and existing political trends within the mass movements, but the reality is that this revolutionary potential is a big reason forcing the imperialists and reactionaries to think twice before carrying out their plans. US imperialism supports only those movements that help its influence in the society. Whenever radical and militant rebellions take place, the imperialists not only do not support them, they hesitate about going ahead with their plans. This shows that it is only by relying on the mass struggles and organising the revolution that we can prevent the implementation of the criminal plans of the enemies.
The need to form a third pole
The anti-imperialist struggle is a class struggle too. That means different sections and classes have different approaches towards this struggle. The politics of the third pole is a class policy that first of all serves the interests of the working class and the majority of the people and opposes the political power of the reactionary classes and imperialists.
It’s not hard to think of possible combinations of forces in the regime the US is preparing for Iran’s future: the former Shah’s torturers, Khomeini’s Revolutionary Guards, the Mujaheddin Khalq Organization (which, whenever they smell power, starts to threaten the communists) – all of these plus US military commanders and intelligence service officials who have much experience in organizing death squads in Latin America.
In terms of goals within Iran itself, the US is preparing to keep the existing social and production relations in place and install new guards for another reactionary state that is dependent on imperialism.
The politics of the third pole mean opposition to reaction and imperialism, which means opposition to the Islamic Republic and to any reactionary regime meant to replace it through intrigues, political manipulation, military crimes and possibly years of civil war of the kind going on in Iraq.
In the previous revolution, the G7 imperialists united with Khomeini and his clique to cut short the revolution in an effort to defeat it. Now the G8 (the same imperialists plus Russia) are seeking to decide Iran’s future after the IRI, and this time they want to impose a new reactionary regime possibly through war, bombing, coups and death squads.
The whole point is whether we want to and can forge another alternative. The politics of the third pole are essentially to pose an alternative to both the present and future reactionary regimes. That is why being against the threatened war is not enough. The real challenge is the future of Iran. Do we, the proletariat and toilers of Iran, want to take our future and destiny into our hands or not? This is the fundamental question that all the communists and revolutionary and progressive forces should answer.
Today the basic reality is that the reactionary regime and imperialism have their own alternatives, but the people don’t. How can this situation be changed?
The communists should create a third pole by relying on their closest allied forces that will represent the interests of the majority of the people and work to build a pole that has influence and authority over a vast section of the people. To this end, such a pole should introduce a minimum programme and a plan for running the future society, and dare to express itself as an alternative in the service of the people and strive to gain recognition as such by the masses.
It is possible to learn from reactionaries, too. Before getting state power in 1979, Khomeini and his clique were already acting like a future government. This strongly mobilized their social base and even influenced sections of the people that were not part of their social base. However, what enabled him to dare to pose himself as an alternative government was that he had reached an agreement with the imperialist powers.
Our source of strength is the people and our aspiration is to serve the interests of the majority of the people. By relying on them, we should courageously declare that the people need their own political power.
Moreover, in order that the third pole become more than just an opposition, it must involve itself in leading the mass struggles and become a leading centre for the various struggles of the masses. The experiences of these struggles has shown that when the mass struggles arise, the existence of such a centre can play a positive role in the development of the mass struggle and expansion of revolutionary initiatives, and helps develop the political and practical strength of the third pole. The task of our party in this sensitive period is to draw a clear horizon for the revolutionary struggle. The effort to form such a broad revolutionary unity corresponds entirely to our aim and horizon. Within the current of such unity, our party will propagate and agitate for its own programme and perspectives, that is, the proletarian revolution. Our alternative is a new state. The framework of such a new state is sketched out in our party’s programme. It is clear that the new state with a new democratic social and economic programme and a socialist orientation can only come about through a revolutionary war. But the political opening to that goes through the agenda of today’s political struggle.
How to carry out this policy
Like any other great work there is a need for a strong core with the necessary flexibility to be able to unite a wider spectrum.
Our party as a communist party should play a key role in forming such a strong core. But such a role should be extended to the whole communist movement of Iran. Without the intervention, cooperation and coordination of communist and revolutionary parties and organizations who feel they are close together, it is not possible to turn the policy of a third pole into reality and achieve a common programme.
Definitely such a programme would help strengthen the whole communist movement in Iran and serve as a ground for the ideological, political, organizational and practical development of that movement. Of course, to build the broad unity of all the communists of Iran demands other kinds of theoretical and practical efforts as well, and we cannot reduce the whole of the tasks of the communists of Iran to the most urgent political tasks of the day. But without active political intervention and organizing revolutionary practice, it is not possible with the scattered front of Iran’s communists.
The effort to unite some of the left forces and parties is one level of activity, while to unite the activists of the mass movements around the politics of the third pole is another level. Without forming such a level of unity, it is not possible to decisively influence public opinion. This will give hope to many of the advanced masses.
It is clear that the people’s struggle should be focused against the main enemy, the IRI. As long as the IRI is in power, there cannot be any talk of aiming the struggle against the US and the regime equally. However the reality of the likely future – the plans of US imperialism – should be strongly presented and illusions or support for US policies should be opposed. This is the only way to prevent the disintegration of the mass movement in the interests of one or the other reactionary pole and line up support for the third pole.
The whole point is that the masses and especially the communists and revolutionary forces must understand the urgency of the situation – that if we don’t hurry up, there is a danger that in the coming political developments we will be caught between the IRI and the imperialists. Right now the contradiction between imperialism and the IRI and the splits within enemy ranks have created some breathing room for us. If we don’t do anything now, then tomorrow will be too late. Such a situation certainly will not last long and after that we may be faced with a situation even worse than Iraq.
What is the relation of this policy to the strategy of people’s war?
How would this tactic serve our strategy? What are its short and long term goals? What is its relationship to the plan to reconstruct the communist movement? How can it help to initiate the people’s war? There is a need for more discussion and debate to answer these kinds of questions.
After the foundation of the party we emphasised that we need an initial accumulation of forces to initiate the people’s war. We need to win these forces through activity in the mass movements and expanding the building of our party.
We should continue to emphasize this basic orientation. But how to advance when the political situation undergoes critical changes? This is especially the case when violence is sure to play a critical role in political developments. One of the positive particularities of the situation is that the imperialists do not hide this fact – they admit that they cannot advance without using guns and violence. Although they have always used violence, in the decade after the collapse of the Soviet Union, illusions about “the era of peace”, even among progressive political forces, created an atmosphere of hostility to revolutionary violence and the idea of just war. But today’s atmosphere is more favourable for the propagation of ideas such as “Without a people’s army the people have nothing” and “Without political power all is illusion.” Economist and reformist trends in the left movement will be an obstacle for this line, but we should broadly continue with our propaganda and agitation that without revolutionary violence there is no way to turn this society upside down and eliminate injustice. Such a situation will increasingly facilitate the work of educating the masses about the necessity of having their own army and organizing revolutionary violence.
Ultimately the third pole, in our view and in fact, is a new political power, one opposed to the old system and its effort to renovate itself. In the final analysis this pole will be materialised through people’s war, a people’s army and the new power. But the politics that will lead there must be put forward now and start becoming a reality. The programme of the future society as opposed to the old system should be courageously put forward. Naturally we should look not only at existing political forces, but recognize and work to realize broader potential as well. This will create an atmosphere that is favourable to our strategic work.
In any case, within this broad front we should constantly try to create public opinion that without a people’s army the people will be crushed between two powerful forces, the Iranian reactionaries and the imperialists, and not achieve anything. Further, the experience of Iraq has shown that the people will not be silent in the face of an imperialist invasion. If the US attacks and occupies the country, the people will resist spontaneously. If the communists are not present on the scene to channel the struggle and hatred of the people towards proletarian revolution, the people might tail the reactionary classes and be lead along another reactionary path.
Our policy toward the world antiwar movement
Among Western antiwar forces, we are facing a trend that pays little attention to the class character and the social programme of the reactionary forces resisting the imperialists. They should distinguish between the different forces resisting the imperialists, and take a position in a way that would help the forming of a revolutionary resistance (not a reactionary resistance) against the imperialists.
This would help the masses throw off the influence of local reactionaries and launch a revolutionary and anti-imperialist liberation struggle. To struggle against imperialism with a reactionary programme is not resistance against imperialism. The aim of these reactionary local forces is to gain a small share of the exploitation of the people of the world. This should be looked at from an internationalist point of view. Our understanding is not in contradiction with revolutionary defeatism [Lenin’s stand that in wartime people in the imperialist countries should welcome defeats for “their” ruling class], but completes it. The present slogan of the global antiwar movement should be to prevent a US war against Iran. But this movement must at the same time support the struggle of the people of Iran against the IRI.
The weakness of the antiwar movement in the case of Iraq is that an anti-imperialist and anti-reactionary third pole has not existed in that country. If there were one, the antiwar movement would support it, and that movement would have qualitatively more influence and political legitimacy against the imperialists. In sum, it is important that the antiwar movement support the revolutionary forces in Iran.
Revolution #61, September 17 2006
On September 5, the Federal Election Tribunal in Mexico officially declared Felipe Calderón of the National Action Party (PAN) to be President of Mexico, ruling against opposition challenger Andrés Manuel López Obrador (AMLO) of the Party of the Democratic Revolution (PRD). The court ruled that while there were “irregularities” in the July 2 presidential election and clear interference in favor of Calderón by current president Vicente Fox, the PAN, and the business community, none of this interference could be said to have invalidated the results.
When the dispute around the elections exploded in early July, the Sept. 6 deadline for the Tribunal’s decision was looked to with anticipation as the day when the solemn court ruling would lay to rest the political crisis. It was hoped that AMLO’s supporters who have been blockading the center of the capital would pack up and go home and that the social unrest that has focused around this dispute among the rulers would dissipate. But nothing could be farther from the truth. Mexico is more polarized than ever. AMLO is not backing down, and September 16 could bring a showdown of some sort. It is very unclear what will happen.
In spite of all this, on September 6, Bush called Calderón and Fox to congratulate them anyway on the “solidity of the Mexican democratic institutions.” As if, on September 1, the night Fox was supposed to give his last address to Congress, there hadn’t been sharpshooters on the roofs above the Congress, nor tanks and thousands of troops in the streets, and opposition delegates from the PRD and the Partido de los Trabajadores (PT) hadn’t taken over the Chamber of Deputies in protest and prevented Fox from speaking! The reality behind the “solidity of the democratic institutions” was further demonstrated on Sept. 6 when, in order to attend his own ceremony at the Federal Election Tribunal, the new President Calderón had to be flown in by helicopter and sneak in and out of the court by the backdoor. Guarding the surrounding streets were 1200 Federal Preventive Police. Protesters pelted the front of the building with eggs. Clods of dirt quite appropriately hit the ex-minister of agrarian reform who was trying to make his way into the ceremony.
September 16, Mexican Independence Day, is shaping up to be a day when all of this could come to a head. AMLO has called for one million delegates to arrive from all over the country for a National Democratic Convention, fill up the streets in the City Center, and bring into official existence a new peaceful resistance movement. The military has stated that it will carry out its traditional parade in these same streets. The blockade of the City Center by AMLO’s supporters also continues. The Convention will possibly elect a parallel government complete with a “legitimate” president to “take possession” on November 20 or December 1. AMLO has laid out 10 resolutions that he has put before the Convention, including: whether to “recognize the usurper government,” whether “to name a President of Mexico, a head of the government in resistance or a coordinator of peaceful civil resistance,” and whether to create a permanent Assembly and elect a political council to direct it when it is not in session.
The struggle is sure to sharpen, and the expectations of the masses for radical transformation is very high. All eyes should be on Mexico in these next days.
For an in-depth analysis of the current developments in Mexico, see the coverage in Revolution #60: “Mexico: The Political Volcano Rumbles” and “Who is AMLO, What Is His Program, and Where Will It Lead?”
Revolution #61, September 17 2006
Cheers to NBA Hall-of-Famer Charles Barkley for being an all-too-rare voice of support for gay people in the world of pro sports. Barkley told ESPN’s Chris Berman, “I think if [gay people] want to get married, God bless them.”
And on the same tip, cheers to actor Brad Pitt for stating, in the September 19 issue of Esquire magazine, that “Angie [Angelina Jolie] and I will consider tying the knot when everyone else in the country who wants to be married is legally able.”