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Revolution #68, November 5, 2006
Bourgeois elections are not, and cannot be a way for the interests and desires of the masses of people to be implemented.
For starters, to be a serious candidate for any significant office, you need to have and/or raise millions of dollars. For the 2006 election, 2.6 billion dollars will be spent to promote candidates and issues (“Drugs Take Center Stage,” Wall Street Journal, 10/28/06). And beyond these billions directly spent to tell voters how to think about candidates and issues, the mainstream corporate media—which in this country has tremendous resources and reach—defines terms of societal discourse, and channels dissent, discontent, and rebellion into terms acceptable to the powers that be. Public opinion in this society is also manufactured through the ubiquitous pollster. In an illuminating online exchange, the polling editor of the Washington Post ranted against readers demanding that the Post take a poll on how many people wanted Bush impeached (this was by far the most reader-requested poll). He replied: “We do not ask about impeachment because it is not a serious option or a topic of considered discussion--witness the fact that no member of congressional Democratic leadership or any of the serious Democratic presidential candidates in '08 are calling for Bush's impeachment. When it is or they are, we will ask about it in our polls. Enough, already.” (“Poll: Bush Approval Numbers Up,” 12/20/05).
Further, the very process of becoming a credible candidate for serious public office involves rounds of screening and filtering to ensure that the two remaining candidates for any office reflect the interests of the ruling class. Those candidates who fail to espouse and effectively promote policies in sync with the interests of the ruling class will fail to raise sufficient money to run, open the morning paper to find the skeletons in their closets exposed, or in one way or another get filtered out through the election process. The end result is that whoever ends up in “the finals” at election time is an acceptable choice to the powers that be.
Most fundamentally, any elected official in this society operates within the basic economic structure of capitalism-imperialism. This is a society rooted in exploitation, where the wealth produced by millions in this country, and many millions more around the world, is appropriated as capital by the bourgeoisie. And this defines what any politician can do—even regardless of their own inclinations. You can see this illustrated sharply in this election, where despite massive opposition to the Iraq war, you will not have the option of voting against that war—for an immediate end to U.S. occupation of Iraq. That is because at this point, the consensus among the ruling class in this country is that withdrawal from Iraq now, a defeat in Iraq, would be intolerable to their global setup of domination and exploitation. [See "The Iraq War: '…And If the Democrats Win?'"].
Let us suspend disbelief for a moment, and imagine that somehow, someone was elected to an important political office with a program of withdrawing U.S. troops not just from Iraq, but from all of the 700 or so military bases it maintains in 132 different countries. Doing that would pull the legs out from the whole global network of U.S. imperialist exploitation that is enforced by those troops on those bases. The system could not maintain itself if something like that happened, and long before this politician got anywhere with such an agenda, the ruling class would step in and put a stop to this politician's career or at least his or her influence—through scandal, indictment, or some other means.
Legitimizing the System & Disorienting the People
In bourgeois elections, the issues are defined, the candidates are screened and selected, and the voters are told what to believe by the ruling class. And after all that, the results of elections are held up by those who orchestrated this whole process as a mandate from the masses to carry out an agenda that came from and serves the interests of the system.
To the extent that people's outrage and opposition are funneled into this process, elections act to disorient and disempower people. Decisions arrived at by the ruling class are imposed on society in a form that makes it appear that these are the decisions of the ruled. The dictated-to appear to be choosing their own rulers. You don't like the direction society is going? Well, you have only yourself to blame.
On another level, elections reduce the scope of anyone's influence over society to acting as an individual, cut off others with the same basic interests. And—importantly—for the alienated, radicalized, oppressed, and marginalized in society, the “mandate of the people” scam is used to keep them disoriented, and feeling isolated.
The problem is not just or mainly that the bourgeois electoral system is corrupt. The basic problem is that bourgeois elections are a highly effective form for the capitalist ruling class exercising dictatorship over the masses of people.
Never has a capitalist ruling class allowed the people it rules over decide in an election whether they will be exploited, oppressed, and live in a society driven by an addiction to profit. Enforcing such exploitative social relations is the real role of bourgeois elections, and behind that stand the armed forces, police, and judicial system of the capitalist state.
The Role of Elections Under Socialism
We have discussed how the “will of the people” cannot be expressed through elections in capitalist society. For the interests of the people to define the direction of society, there needs to be a whole different kind of system where the masses of people rule—the dictatorship of the proletariat, where society is not driven by capital's pursuit of profit. This is socialism.
Can there be lively debate, discussion and participation in the political life of society by the broad masses under the dictatorship of the proletariat? Not only can there be, but there must be. Within that, elections can play a role, though not the decisive role.
To understand why this is true requires breaking out of the framework of bourgeois democracy—where political participation in society is by and large limited to, and measured by voting and getting behind certain bourgeois politicians. As we have seen, elections under capitalism are not the means through which basic decisions are made and serve to legitimize the system and the policies of the ruling class. So how would all this be different under socialism, under the dictatorship of the proletariat?
Under the dictatorship of the bourgeoisie, politics and in particular elections serve to pacify the masses and maintain the overall status quo of class society. But under the dictatorship of the proletariat, political institutions and the overall political life of society (including any role that elections might play) aim to lead and unleash the masses to change the status quo, to continually revolutionize society.
This has everything to do with the very character of socialist society as a transition to a communist world where the “four alls” have been achieved: the abolition of all class distinctions; the abolition of all the production relations on which those class distinctions rest; the abolition of all the social relations corresponding to those production relations; and the revolutionization of all the ideas corresponding to those social relations.
For a pathbreaking view of democracy and dictatorship in socialist society people should read and seriously study Bob Avakian’s talk, Views on Socialism and Communism: A Radically New Kind of State, A Radically Different and Far Greater Vision of Freedom [available for download at revcom.us].This is a sweeping and mind-expanding vision of socialist society—learning from, building on, and in critical ways advancing beyond the great achievements, as well as weaknesses, of the building of socialism in the Soviet Union and China.
Here, we can only touch on the important dynamic under socialism, of the masses being constantly and more fully drawn into the running of and the transforming of society—and how there is a very important epistemological dimension (pertaining to the theory of knowledge) that interpenetrates with the political aspect of things.
In capitalist society, the masses of people are not allowed to participate in the running of society. And especially for the proletariat, conditions of life—for example, lack of education, poverty, working long hours to survive, etc.—make it extremely difficult for people to be politically active.
Under the dictatorship of the proletariat, the masses will have the right to fully participate in the political life. Their lives will no longer be controlled, mangled, and ruined by capitalist exploitation. And with the leadership of the vanguard party, the masses will be able to immediately and then, in waves, increasingly transform society—narrowing differences, for example, between mental and manual labor, men and women, or white people and oppressed nationalities. But to the extent that such differences remain, they will still present real obstacles to the masses fully participating in the intellectual and political and life of society. To take one example, socialist society will “inherit” the situation where a relatively small section of society do intellectual work and are trained to work with ideas, while the masses of people do manual work.
Another great challenge faced by socialism is the fact that for some time, a large part of the population still has to spend most of the time working to produce the requirements of society. This limits their ability to participate fully in all the different spheres in society. Other sections of society will be in a better position and more trained to engage in political discourse. For both these reasons, simply throwing every question in society “up for grabs” in an election would throw the door wide open to the restoration of the old society based on exploitation.
Under socialism, there will be class forces in society—both the old exploiters but also new exploiters generated by the remaining inequalities in society—that will be actively working to sabotage the building of socialism, to overthrow the government and restore capitalism. And for some time, socialist societies will very likely be surrounded and threatened with invasion and subversion by remaining powerful capitalist countries. Defending socialist society from such enemies will be a life-or-death challenge. In that context, simply throwing the fate of society open to the result of an “anything goes” election, or putting socialism up for a vote, would betray the revolution.
The proletariat needs to be firmly in control of the state. But within this framework, there has to be an ongoing process, led by the revolutionary communist vanguard party, in which the masses are increasingly able to know the world, to understand the complexity of things, to figure out right from wrong, truth from lies, etc.—in order to be able to actually run society and transform it toward the goal of communism. This will involve the masses increasingly participating in the exercise of state power, as well as other aspects of administering and governing society. And this underscores the importance of an overall atmosphere of intellectual ferment, debate in socialist society—where critical and creative thinking and dissent make for a more vibrant society where the masses are consciously participating in knowing and changing the world. In that context, some contested elections, as one part of the process of selecting government leaders, could contribute to helping the masses of people sort out different agendas, including through critically listening to positions that are opposed to the revolutionary regime, and that are articulated directly by opponents of the socialist government. Contested elections can be part of subjecting different elements of the socialist society to necessary critical examination. All this can further strengthen the people's ability to lead society towards the abolition of the four alls.
Elections, like everything else in class society, are conditioned and shaped by the fundamental class relations that exist. And under socialism, elections will reflect and serve the exercise of political power by the proletariat, with the role of the vanguard party leading the masses to understand and transform all of society as part of bringing about a communist world.
Revolution #68, November 5, 2006
Note: As we go to press, the situation in Oaxaca
is escalating; reports in the Mexican newspaper La Jornada indicate
that the Federal Preventive Police (PFP) entered the Zócalo (town square)
on Sunday afternoon, tore down barricades, and used water cannons to disperse
protesters, arresting dozens. Mexico Indymedia reports that the PFP beat
protesters as they advanced. The Popular Assembly the People of Oaxaca
(APPO) is reported to have held off one advance of the PFP and to be holding
the center of the Zócalo, squaring off against the PFP, which has begun
retaking buildings previously held by APPO. Flavio Sosa, a spokesperson
for the APPO, told La Jornada that APPO would not engage with the riot
cops, but that neither were they “prepared to turn over the city”, and
he warned that the riot cops seemed to be trying to provoke a confrontation
that would provide an excuse for a violent crackdown against the protesters.
La Jornada also reported that protesters had fought back against the PFP's
advance by burning tires, and throwing rocks, and had dispersed a contingent
of riot cops by slashing tires and throwing rocks at the escaping PFP.
There have been protests in Mexico City, and there are calls for protests
at Mexican Embassies in many cities and countries. Watch revcom.us for
continued analysis and updates.
Watch this website (revcom.us) for continued analysis and updates.
“With our heart in our hand we are telling you: it’s now or never…”
Message to the fighters at the barricades in Oaxaca City from the 21 Oaxacan hunger strikers in front of the Mexican Senate
As we go to press, 4000 federal police have arrived in Oaxaca to try to enforce a bloody solution to the people’s rebellion to demand the resignation of the governor of Oaxaca, Ulises Ruiz Ortiz (URO). The federal police have come because they cannot allow a people’s movement to set a precedent by forcing from power a tyrant who has the force of the state to back him up. The president has ordered the people to “immediately hand over streets, plazas, public buildings and private property.” The people have reinforced their barricades.
URO has been champing at the bit for a bloody invasion of Federal Preventive Police (PFP) backed up by the army for several months now. There are 36 days before Felipe Calderón is set to take power. Calderón was the candidate of the right-wing National Action Party (PAN), and he was declared the winner of a highly fraudulent election by Mexican Federal Election Commission on September 5th. Mopping up after a massacre is not how Calderón would like to assume office. The preferred solution for the government has been to suggest to URO that he resign, and to work to divide the less radical sections of the striking teachers union from the more conscious and determined sections who are seeking to broaden the struggle. On Thursday, October 26, the government had come to a “promise of the return to normality” with one section of the teacher’s movement who agreed to go back to classes. The government had hoped to slowly wind down the struggle and isolate the more radical sectors.
But Friday afternoon changed all this. Friday, October 27, was a day of showdown. The more radical section of the teachers together with APPO (the Popular Assembly of the People of Oaxaca) took the offensive, and URO sent in his “sicarios,” his hired assassins armed with high-powered rifles and machine guns.
APPO had issued an ultimatum for URO to be gone by Friday, and over 1000 barricades were put up all over the state, and all freeways leading in and out of the state were blocked. In the capital Oaxaca City the businesses closed and public transport shut down. A little before 4 p.m. there were simultaneous shootings at 15 different blockades. This is when American Indymedia journalist Brad Will was shot and killed as he filmed what was going on. Three other men—Saul Diaz, Jorge Hernandez Hernandez, and the teacher Juan Andres Robles Juarez—were also killed that day. Even with the shootings, the people came out in the streets with homemade objects of self-defense and surrounded the gang of 40 armed thugs affiliated with the city government of Santa Lucia, a subdivision of the capital, who shot Brad and the others. “There’s no fear here, there’s only fury and sooner or later the pri-istas (referring to members of the PRI, the Party of the Institutional Revolution—the ruling party in Oaxaca) have to run out of bullets and then we will respond.” On Friday, in addition to the four people who were killed, 20 teachers were arrested, 13 of whom had gunshot wounds. 50 people have been disappeared.
The federal government is now using this violent assault to justify the invasion of federal forces. URO and the official press are trying to imply that APPO attacked the people, but news reporters have pictures of the municipal police and the government officials with their guns, shooting out of car windows and from balconies. The office of the presidency said “In response to the events that have occurred in the city of Oaxaca that threaten the order and peace of the citizens there, the president Vicente Fox ordered the mobilization of federal forces to this city.”
This invasion of Oaxaca cannot be done in the name of the people because the will of the people has been clearly demonstrated by the broad unity this movement has forged. This includes world-famous artist Francisco Toledo (whose house was shot up because of his support), the business community who has begun negotiations with APPO and the APPO organizations that have been formed in 23 states in Mexico and three major U.S. cities. An indigenous leader quoted in the Mexican newspaper La Jornada said that while the visible force of this movement is the capital city, the indigenous communities in the Sierra North and South, in the Mixe, Mazateca, la Cuenca, and the Central Valleys hold a reserve of resistance and support.
Just a few days ago, a march of Zapotec people arrived in Oaxaca City. This march started out in the community of Yalálag which is located high in the sierra and has fought hard and suffered bitterly for autonomy. The march picked up more people on the way from surrounding communities as it came down out of the mountains. At the front of the march was a 90-year-old woman named Eulalia who addressed the people in Zapotec language. They had come to “show their dignity”—to draw the line against a group of indigenous officials from the Sierra Norte who had signed a message of support for URO. The 90-year-old Doña Eulalia told the teachers that the people of the sierra would never support URO and asked them to “have the courage not to back down and to keep fighting until he falls.”
Over the past few weeks when the government has been working to pressure striking teachers back to classes through threats and murders, they finally offered the teachers a wage increase, conditioned on their return to classes. Oaxacan teachers are among the lowest paid in the country. It was the outrageous repression of the teachers that precipitated the bursting forth of APPO, which united 350 social organizations. Although the teachers had originally begun their protest around economic demands, they united around the demand together with APPO to stay on strike and maintain the struggle until URO was forced from office. But over the past weeks, underlying contradictions had been emerging and the government had been working to widen these cracks.
Fox reportedly has offered the hated governor a position in the federal government as a way of getting him out of power without appearing to give into the people’s demands. Calderón—who remains silent in the face of the murder, unjust imprisonment and paramilitary attacks on indigenous people that generated APPO to begin with—has characterized the teachers’ strike as a terrible violation of the rights of children and said that it damages the economic potential of such a poor state as Oaxaca.
APPO has called for a national “peaceful insurrection” on December 1, the day of Calderón’s inauguration, which is a very key day for the ruling class to prove the legitimacy of the government.
Through the twists and turns of this crisis, the legitimacy crisis of the government has been deepened. In the eyes of the world and especially coming out of the election crisis where millions participated in demonstrations against the fraudulent election in the summer months, the inability and unwillingness of the government to force out of power a hated, Mafioso-like dictator governor has put the moribund and rotten nature of the ruling class on sickening display. The PAN’s (National Action Party) own hated government official, the new president Calderón, will only be able to take power with the backing of the PRI members of the government. The ability of Calderón to take power is in danger of flying apart, and the need to resolve this crisis before December 1 in a way that does not leave a rebellion in the south or an even more fractured and divided legislature is conditioning all the actions of the ruling PAN party. The PRI has stood firmly behind URO and neither the PAN nor President Fox could jeopardize this alliance by taking any definitive steps to force URO out.
But the reasons for the government’s refusal to remove URO goes deeper. All three ruling parties—the PAN, the PRI, and the PRD (Party of the Democratic Revolution)—are the political representatives of the landlord, big bourgeois, and comprador bourgeois classes that exploit and oppress the masses of Mexican people. They defend the whole rotten edifice of semi-feudalism and capitalism subordinate to and tied up with U.S. imperialism. All three of these ruling parties are rooted in the economic and social relations in the service of imperialism that mean the ruination of millions of peasants and the forced migration to El Norte or the slums of major cities. The mafia-like functioning of URO—his use of paramilitaries and criminally corrupt officials—is necessary to repress the people in order to carry out the imperialist modernization and restructuring embodied in plans such as Plan Puebla-Panama. Plan Puebla-Panama would remove barriers to more intense imperialist economic penetration and exploitation of the nine southern states (the state of Puebla, and all states south of that) in Mexico and Central America. All of the ruling parties, including the PRD and its leader, Andrés Manuel López Obrador (AMLO), back this “Plan” which means death to the indigenous people.
During the second week of October a Senate Commission made up of two senators from each of the three ruling parties—PAN, PRI and PRD—were sent to investigate the situation on the ground in Oaxaca and hopes were high among the people that they would rule that the URO government was not functioning and dissolve it and resolve the crisis this way. URO appears on TV or radio a lot, but his government agenda, place of residence, and place of operation is kept secret. He flies around in a helicopter that, whenever or wherever it touches down, is pursued by angry protesters. To prove that they had actually been working, URO’s functionaries delivered boxes of papers to the senators. They had a secret meeting in an airport hangar next to the famous helicopter, the same one used to fire teargas at the teachers that fateful day in June. Like a scene from a spy movie, three senators secretly met the Secretary of Interior of Oaxaca at a taco stand at 2 a.m. to receive more documents.
The senators visited the APPO barricades and attended a testimonial meeting where the people brought bags of spent bullet shells and tear gas canisters they had collected from the attack on the teachers in June. They listened to hours of testimony from indigenous people about paramilitary attacks by URO gunmen and illegal imprisonment. In 2004, a few weeks after URO took power, 250 police surrounded and opened fire on an indigenous village that had formed an organization to protect its forest from being cut down. The villagers took the case to the federal human rights commission and a negotiation was set up with Oaxaca state officials to set up a time to meet with the governor. After the meeting to set up a time to see URO, the people’s organization leaders were arrested in the parking lot and imprisoned. Many artists and intellectuals testified for hours in front of the Senate Commission about how URO brought bulldozers into the zocalo in Oaxaca and tore up the paving stones and fountain and destroyed century-old trees.
After the senators went back to Mexico City and began their pontificating in the Senate over whether to force URO out and dissolve the government powers in Oaxaca, undercover army soldiers killed Alejandro Garcia Hernandez, who headed up the barricades and security forces as president of his neighborhood organization. Together with his wife and kids he was bringing food to the people at the barricades. A drive-by, called “death caravan” by the teachers, shot him in the head and yelled “Long live URO!” The shooter dropped his wallet and in it was his soldiers ID card. At his funeral march Alejandro’s father-in-law stated: “The senate should take note and stop being blind: here in Oaxaca there are hired assassins and the 8 murders in this struggle demand justice.”
On October 15, Alejandro Garcia was buried after a rally in the zocalo. URO had proclaimed to the press that the movement was “just a group of radicals.” Alejandro’s father-in-law spoke: “Those of us who were afraid are present here now, I feel fury and indignation. If they kill one of us, let 10 more be borne! That out of this will come one more radical. Today I feel very radical!” Another man commented, “it’s not just a few of us who are angry, we are all of Oaxaca.”
At the end of all the posturing and discussion, the Senate released their findings that “it is clear that the continued presence of the head of the Executive Power in the state does not provide sufficient conditions to help reestablish normality,” but they found it more convenient to declare themselves a “talk shop” with no constitutional powers to do anything about the situation. Within all this, the PRD spoke about the rights of the people and called for URO’s resignation, but when it was clear that this would not pass, they did not take over the chamber, they did not mobilize the people in the streets as they did to protest the declaration of the Election Commission that their candidate, AMLO, lost the election for president. The PRD’s AMLO-headed social movement for “the good of all—the poor first” does not include the poor stepping out of the electoral arena and attempting to take matters into their own hands. AMLO does not support the Oaxacan people’s movement—at the time all this was going on he was very occupied with campaigning for the PRD candidate for governor in his home state of Tabasco (who lost).
The Need for Revolution in Mexico
Luis Hernandez Navarro wrote in La Jornada, “In this struggle those who have no future found a place and an identity. The punk youth and the unemployed, the excluded ones who have not immigrated to the U.S., to the San Quintin Valley [Baja California] or the periphery of Mexico City have found in this protest a space with dignity and the possibility to make a mark on the world. Their radicalness is notable, also their determination.”
One does not have to stretch that much to imagine that real communists in Mexico—together with dispossessed radical youth such as these, and indigenous peasants who came down from the mountains to join in the struggle and expressed the desire for new ideas to take hold—could take up a liberating scientific ideology and could wrangle through the questions opened up by this struggle and figure out how to advance. That this could contribute to the forging of a real, far-reaching revolution that really takes responsibility to liberate Mexico and fights together with the people here in the U.S. and people all over the world for the liberation of humanity.
Revolution #68, November 5, 2006
The Iraq War:
Many millions, sick and disgusted with the Bush administration, are hoping that the Democrats will take one or both houses of Congress, and that this will mark the beginning of a sea-change: stepping away from the right-wing Republican monopoly on government, Bush’s all-around extremism, heading off new wars, and winding down the occupation of Iraq.
But is this hope founded on reality? What’s likely to actually happen if the Democrats win the mid-term elections?
Let’s focus on the key issue for voters in the election—the Iraq war: how much power and influence will a Democratic Congress have? What are the Democrats campaigning on, and what’s their program? And on a deeper level, what kind of party are they, and what kind of problems and issues are they faced with?
Add it up, and what’s clear is that a Democratic Congress would be a change—but not the kind millions are looking for: it won’t derail the Bush juggernaut. To the degree the Democrats get their way, things won’t even be that different than the Bush program. And in some ways things could end up even worse, especially if a Democrat victory undermines or prevents the emergence of mass public opposition to the whole direction Bush is taking the world.
In sum, the mid-term elections are taking place against the backdrop of momentous events, when the world is at a great turning point with even greater upheaval and turmoil yet to come. Yet the real situation and the real stakes, and the interests of the masses in it, all are nowhere to be found in this election campaign, including in the rhetoric and program of the “opposition” Democrats.
Their Power: “Formidable Constraints, Political And Institutional”
In the U.S., foreign policy has historically been carried out in secret by the executive branch, with Congress and the courts generally deferring to the president, particularly in times of war. Bush has taken this history even further; his White House is even more secretive, more tightly controlled, and has marginalized Congress more than any previous administration—including through devices like “signing statements,” in which Bush declares which parts of laws passed by Congress he is and isn’t going to abide by. The Iraq war is a perfect example: it was planned and executed in secret, months before any public discussion, to achieve goals that were never publicly spelled out.
As the New York Times (10/27) summed up, “even if the Democrats win one or both houses of Congress, they will not have the authority to change the course of the war significantly.” The Times also noted (10/8) that the Democrats would be operating “under some formidable constraints, political and institutional,” including the fact that many Democrats are right-wingers, for example, one candidate from Indiana who declares, “Here’s what I believe: I’m pro-life. I believe in a traditional marriage and the Second Amendment.” One Democratic Party analyst summed up, “The overriding dynamic in this election is the war. The paradox is that once [the Democrats] take control of Congress, there is little they can do. That’s the great irony of this election.”
The only way to really change this equation would be a mass movement that drives Bush from office, which World Can’t Wait is struggling to bring forward. Such a mass upsurge to drive out the Bush regime might lead to impeachment. But no Democrat in contention to win a seat in Congress is running on an impeachment platform, and the Democratic leadership has ruled it off the table. When asked if impeachment was ruled out, Nancy Pelosi, who would become Speaker of the House, declared, “It is a waste of time…”
This decision has nothing to do with “wasting time” (after all, if your objective was stopping the Bush agenda, why wouldn’t you have “time” to impeach Bush?), spinelessness, or fear of “alienating” voters (it would energize and thrill millions of voters). As we’ll analyze below, it’s because (a) the Democrats agree with Bush’s agenda in broad strokes, (b) they understand that the extreme right, including a Christian fascist core, remains extremely well organized, funded and powerful, and that any effort to overturn the Bush agenda would be met with howls of treason and betrayal (and perhaps even a coup), and (c) the last thing in the world the Democrats want to do at a time when the U.S. is in very deep trouble in Iraq and the Middle East, and American global power is on the line, is to take action that could energize and unleash the millions in this country who have very different aspirations than Clinton, Gore, Biden, Schumer & company—they hate Bush and everything he stands for, and hate the war and want it ended—now!
Their Campaign: “A Choice Between Muck And Murk”
If the Democrats take Congress, they will have certain powers. But what will they use that power to do? What is their agenda?
It’s hard to tell what their agenda is from their campaign—which has been purposefully confusing and vague. One linguist complained in the New York Times (10/27) that the Democrats’ “‘new direction’ slogan offers no values and no positive vision. It is taken from a standard poll question, ‘Do you like the direction the nation is headed in?’”
In the same issue, the Times concluded, “Democratic leaders and candidates are virtually unanimous in opposing the president’s conduct of the war, and most advocate American disengagement—either quickly or slowly. But most are not calling for an immediate withdrawal of American forces or offering a vision of what postwar Iraq should look like… But most Democrats standing for election are not as detailed or categorical. If the election has become a referendum on Iraq, it is one without a definitive choice.” David R. Gergen, a former presidential adviser declared, “The republic is being offered a choice between muck and murk. Neither party is offering a clear path ahead in Iraq.”
The Democrats, like the Republicans, have been vague, because Iraq has turned into a debacle for the U.S. and there are no good answers for the imperialists. From that perspective, the Times editorialized (10/24): “Neither side is prepared to be honest about the terrible consequences of military withdrawal and the very long odds against success if American troops remain.”
But the vagueness and confusion are also intentional: the Democrats are seeking to head off an anti-war revolt from below by corralling the millions who’ve turned against the war, and diffusing their anger with vague promises of change, buying time for the ruling class as a whole to attempt to deal with Iraq on THEIR terms.
Their Program For Iraq: “The Administration Has Lost Focus on Winning”
One reason the Democrats are purposely vague is to obscure the fact that their base is anti-war, but the party is pro-war. Democrats have been howling of late at Bush - for blundering and incompetence—not for waging an immoral, illegal and murderous war. No Democrat is exposing and denouncing the goals of the war—only its execution. None are calling for an immediate end to the war and occupation and an immediate withdrawal of U.S. forces.
Their biggest problem with Bush is that he isn’t succeeding in carrying out his aggression and conquering Iraq. Bush has a “stand-still-and-lose strategy in Iraq,” according to John Kerry (Washington Post, 10/14). Hillary Clinton complains, “The Administration has lost focus on winning the war on Iraq” and criticizes Bush because “their rhetoric has not been matched by resources or resolve.” The New York Times (10/21) concluded that the Democrats were trying to “out-right the right.” Such formulations point toward more troops and/or escalation in Iraq—not ending the war.
As for the position of John Murtha—which puts more emphasis on redeploying U.S. troops from Iraq, two things can be said: One is that the leadership of the Democratic Party is not talking about withdrawing troops quickly, let alone right away; and second, that Murtha would still deploy troops in Central Asia and Middle East, keeping troops in the region—to enforce the same interests.
On the website Counterpunch.org (10/14 and 10/24), writer John Walsh analyzes how Rahm Emanuel, the Democratic Congressman in charge of strategy and the purse-strings for Democratic candidates running for the House, has worked to ensure that pro-war candidates are running, regardless of what rank-and-file party members want: “64% of the Democratic candidates in the 45 closely contested House Congressional races oppose a timetable for withdrawal from Iraq… The position of these candidates is indistinguishable from that of George W. Bush… Emanuel is not choosing proven fundraisers or winning candidates; he is choosing pro-war candidates.”
Walsh notes, “Emanuel had worked hard to guarantee that Democratic candidates in key toss-up House races were pro-war. In this he was largely successful, because of the money he commands and the celebrity politicians who reliably respond to his call, ensuring that 20 of the 22 Democratic candidates in these districts are pro-war. So the fix is in for the coming elections… In 2006, no matter which party controls the House, a majority will be committed to pursuing the war on Iraq—despite the fact that the Democratic rank and file and the general voting public oppose the war by large margins.”
Their Program For The World: “Democrats Are Determined to Take the Fight to the Enemy.”
The Democrats’ position on Iraq flows from their global strategy and agenda and their overall nature as an imperialist party—not fear of being tarred by the Republicans as soft on “national security” (the Democrats, after all, were in charge during World Wars 1 and 2 and Vietnam). Specifically this means that they have fundamental agreement with the Bush regime on (a) the need to maintain U.S. global predominance, (b) that dominating the Middle East is essential to doing so, and (c) they agree on the broad outlines of the so-called “war on terror,” which is actually a war for greater empire.
Their differences with the Republicans—which are very real and very sharp—are not the same deep anger and alienation that millions feel for Bush and whole direction he’s taking things. They’re differences between ruling class parties over how to carry out objectives a, b, and c, above—in short, over how to maintain their empire and rule (which allies can be worked with, which countries pose the greatest threats to U.S. power, how much capacity the U.S. has to wage which kind of wars, etc.).
Consider the following from leading Democrats:
In a new book, The Plan: Big Ideas for America,” Democratic Party, strategists Rahm Emanuel and Bruce Reed call for “a muscular, progressive strategy to use all the tools of American power to make America safe in a dangerous world” and for enlisting “our allies in a common mission against the conditions” that breed terrorism, including by calling for 100,000 more troops for the Army.
Howard Dean: “The United States has to…take a much harder line on Iran and Saudi Arabia because they’re funding terrorism.” While campaigning for president in 2004, Dean contended that President Bush had been far too soft on Iran.
Senator John Kerry (opinion piece in the Wall Street Journal titled “Losing Afghanistan”): “We’re not adequately fighting the war we should be fighting… Quite simply, we must change course—starting with the immediate deployment of at least 5,000 additional U.S. troops.”
Hillary Clinton, January 18, 2006 speech at Princeton: “I believe that we lost critical time in dealing with Iran because the White House chose to downplay the threats and to outsource the negotiations. I don’t believe you face threats like Iran or North Korea by outsourcing it to others and standing on the sidelines. But let’s be clear about the threat we face now: A nuclear Iran is a danger to Israel, to its neighbors and beyond. The regime’s pro-terrorist, anti-American and anti-Israel rhetoric only underscores the urgency of the threat it poses. U.S. policy must be clear and unequivocal. We cannot and should not—must not—permit Iran to build or acquire nuclear weapons.”
The Situation They Face: “On the Verge of Losing Not Just One but Two Wars”
The Democrats are also “constrained” by the situation they face. Bush created “facts on the ground” by invading Iraq. Whatever they thought of the original decision to go to war, or the war’s execution, they’re part of the ruling establishment and don’t want to see a U.S. defeat in Iraq or the weakening of the U.S. globally. So whatever they say during a campaign, they’re confronted by the same grim choices (from an imperialist viewpoint) that Bush is confronting on Iraq.
And referring to the situation in Afghanistan as well as Iraq, columnist Paul Krugman wrote in the New York Times (10/27), “It’s hard to believe that the world’s only superpower is on the verge of losing not just one but two wars. But the arithmetic of stability operations suggests that unless we give up our futile efforts in Iraq, we’re on track to do just that.” Senator Joseph Biden and former State Department official Leslie Gelb painted a similar picture in an opinion piece in the Wall Street Journal (“Bipartisan Redeployment,” October 24, 2006): “Political leaders in our country must choose to hang together rather than hang separately… Some of Iraq’s neighbors have no desire to do us any favors—but like us, they can see the abyss opening up before them, and like us, they all have powerful interests in preventing a full-blown civil war that becomes a regional war.”
And what would the Democrats’ response be if Bush creates new “facts on the ground,” for instance by attacking Iran? No doubt support their president during a time of crisis and go along.
The other aspect of this is that having differences over foreign policy from an imperialist viewpoint does not mean that you want to drag the masses into this—and ESPECIALLY at such a “delicate” and dangerous moment for the entire imperialist system, that’s the last thing you want and you’ll do everything you can to even more actively suppress the independent action of the masses out of a sense that the future of the empire is on the line and this is no time for the unpredictable masses. When the rulers are facing enormous problems and are deeply divided—the last thing they want is for their divisions to become an opening for the masses, threatening the whole system.
So both Democrats and Republicans are trying to brainwash and exclude the masses when the fate of the world is being determined, precisely when people have to wake up to the reality and take responsibility to change it.
For those who are genuinely horrified by the slaughter in Iraq and the threats of more to come in the region, they must confront that it’s impossible to oppose this criminal war by criticizing the administration for not waging the war “competently,” or not having a strategy for victory. This is simply a call for more efficiently waging an illegal, immoral and unjust war which will only mean new horrors and forms of oppression for the Iraqi people. Nor can it be opposed by debating whether the invasion of Iraq is a diversion from the “war on terror.” This means accepting the framework of the Bush II global agenda, and the legitimacy of an unbounded imperial war against whomever the administration chooses, and the torture and repression that go with that.
Los Angeles Times columnist Rosa Brooks wrote (10/20), “Hillary Clinton hit a new low last week, telling the New York Daily News that the president should have ‘some lawful authority’ to use torture or other ‘severe’ interrogation methods in a so-called ticking-bomb scenario.”
In sum, the Democrats do not provide a way to oppose the illegal, unjust, immoral U.S. war on Iraq, and the broader war on the world that it is a part of. And people need to confront the reality that by voting for Democrats you are not doing anything to stop the war—which has been responsible for the deaths of 650,000 Iraqis.
Revolution #68, November 5, 2006
Last week George Bush, in a campaign season when many Republican candidates are choosing not to appear together with such an unpopular president, made a point of standing alongside Don Sherwood. The reason for Bush's special visit is that Sherwood, a Republican Congressman from Pennsylvania running for reelection, who is embroiled in a controversy over his five year affair with a woman. She recently filed a suit accusing him of having repeatedly violently struck her face, neck, chest and back with a closed fist and attempting to strangle her. In his remarks, Bush made a point of praising Sherwood's wife, Carol, for responding to this scandal by sending a letter to voters on Don's behalf.
In other words, the woman who reported being assaulted wasn't mentioned, the wife who stood by her cheating, apparently abusive husband was praised, and the man accused was recommended to take part in shaping state policy. It's hard to imagine a less subtle statement from George Bush on the role and value of women.
On the other hand, West Virginia's Democratic candidate comes pretty close. According to The New Yorker, after spending decades boasting of his military service in Vietnam and hurling macho insults at those who refused to fight in that immoral war, James Webb viewed the "prolonged investigation of the Navy Tailhook sexual-abuse scandal in the nineteen-nineties as a political witch hunt, driven by a radical-feminist agenda to undermine the masculine culture of the military."
What "will of the people" determined that this year voters should have a "choice" between men who assault women and men who scorn women who report their assault?
On November 8, the day after the midterm election, the Supreme Court will consider whether to uphold a ban that would, according to the ACLU, "prevent doctors from performing abortions as early as 13 weeks in pregnancy." This comes at a time when South Dakota and Louisiana have already banned abortion state-wide and when the Supreme Court has been remade in George Bush's ideological image. In this context, many Christian fascists consider the outlawing of abortion just a matter of time and have moved on. Doing just that, a month ago, Pro-Life Action held a conference called "Contraception is Not the Answer."
It's hard to imagine a more surefire way to stunt and degrade the lives of women than to force them back to a time when they were enslaved to their reproduction.
It's also hard to imagine a more surefire way to land us back in those not-that-historic days than to fall in line behind the Democratic Party's strategy of totally capitulating on this issue.
The Democratic Senatorial Candidates Committee campaign mailings don't even bother to mention the words abortion or birth control. Meanwhile, all nine Democratic women senators came together under the banner "Progressive Pragmatic Women for Casey" to endorse and raise money for a candidate who is vehemently anti-choice, pro-war, and against stem cell research. And all too many progressive people and organizations have fallen victim to this logic —censuring the word abortion from their own vocabularies or speaking of it always as an unfortunate tragedy.
What "will of the people" decided that voters should have the "choice" between theocrats who are moving relentlessly to criminalize and culturally demonize birth control and abortion and a Party whose strategy is to change the subject or join in?
In recent decades, a biblically literalist and fascistically fundamentalist movement has effectively captured the Republican Party. Their rallying cry is interchangeably "traditional values" and "family values" and their program hardened in opposition to the social gains made by the Civil Rights, anti-war, and women's movements of the 1960s and ’70s.
Today, their cruel attacks on the fundamental rights of women —to remove reality-based sex education, to criminalize and even kill doctors who provide abortions, to dry up access to and social acceptance of birth control, and to reassert the shackles of traditional marriage including through legally and culturally attacking divorce —do indeed hearken back to the traditions of this country which regard women as the legal property of their husbands. Consider that it was only 13 years ago that the last state made it a crime for a husband to rape his wife and that the most dangerous place for women and girls is in their own homes, at the hands of their fathers and husbands.
Rather than making the simple and much-needed truthful statement that women are human beings with the ability, and deserving the right, to participate fully and equally in every sphere of society, today the Democratic Party is characterized by their attempts to "out-family-values" the Republicans. Rather than standing up for women's rights to control their own destinies, including their right to choose not to have a child at any time for any reason, the dominant liberal logic today is to substitute the discussion of the rights of women with a discussion that they are the true defenders of American families and mothers.
Consider the fact that leading Democrats like Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama, and Ted Kennedy have teamed up to support MoveOn co-founder Joan Blades's new effort, Momsrising.org. Its mission is to champion "core motherhood and family issues in political, social, and economic spheres." The trailer to momsrising's Motherhood Manifesto movie challenges viewers to take up the campaign as the real way to fulfill the promise of "a pro-family culture, a pro-family state." And groups like the National Organization for Women, the National Women's Law Center, The Network of Spiritual Progressives and dozens of other progressive organizations have gotten on board with this effort.
The reality is that traditional values mean the horrors of tradition's chains and patriarchy no matter who is professing them! Revealingly, the Momsrising website features a quote from George Bush that could be mistaken for their own words: "Today, two-thirds of all moms also work outside the home…and government must take your side."
What "will of the people" decided that voters should get a "choice" between a Party that celebrates enslaving women to their reproduction and male authority and a Party that attempts to repackage these same traditions as somehow empowering to women?
None of these choices were shaped by the will of the people. Instead, they were shaped by the needs of a system: capitalism.
And the fact that people get to come in and "choose" between two programs, both of which in different ways reflect the need of this system to forcefully reassert male supremacy and the oppression of women at this time in its development, does not make this a "democracy for all."
Rather, it reveals the reality of bourgeois dictatorship behind bourgeois democracy. This is a dictatorship of the capitalist-imperialist class that accumulates tremendous wealth in the hands of a relative few through the exploitation of the labor of millions across the globe and which has the oppression of women woven into the fabric of its culture and ideology and has the patriarchal family as the basic unit of its economic functioning.
But over the past several decades, there has been a significant breakdown of the "traditional family" and the traditional role for women in the U.S. Most women have to work and are not full-time housewives, many households are headed by women, many marriages end in divorce, and so forth. These and other changes in the role of women and the family—along with other dramatic economic, social, cultural, and demographic changes related to heightened globalization —have given rise to sharp and volatile contradictions for the ruling class as a whole, which faces an acute need to resurrect and reinforce the traditional family and traditional roles for women. This is especially true as the U.S. has embarked on a very risky and unpopular war on the world. It‘s in this context that the Christian fascists and other reactionary movements are on a fanatical mission to drive women into obedient submission to the authority of men, and more generally the authority of patriarchal capitalist relations.
Certainly the Republicans are more brazen in their insistence that women are fundamentally different from, and inferior to, men. But in their own way—sometimes dressed up in "enlightened" or pragmatic language (but often not)—the ruling class forces generally represented by the Democratic Party are responding to the same fundamental imperatives of global capitalism where the forceful reassertion of male supremacy is not up for debate.
At least not if progressive people continue to allow the terms of the elections to stifle honest and urgent discussions of the dangers posed. If people remain confined within these worse-than-meaningless choices, women will be thrust backwards in the most cruel, brutal, and degrading ways.
It is a time for resistance. It is a time for opening up new political space by advocating unapologetically and struggling fiercely for the full equality of women, rather than being confined to the ever-narrowing "electable" discourse. And it is a time for people to spread very widely a debate about the true nature of this system and of what it will take to bring about the full emancipation of women and of humanity as a whole.
Revolution #68, November 5, 2006
On November 8 the Supreme Court will hear two related cases on a reactionary law passed by Congress in 2003. If upheld, this law would ban the safest and most commonly performed procedures for second-trimester abortions and codify into law anti-science lies.
Just one day earlier on Nov. 7, voters in South Dakota will vote on whether to keep or toss out a law banning all abortions in that state except where the woman’s very life is at stake. The most draconian ban in the country, it makes no exception for rape, incest, or the health of the woman. Anti-abortion forces designed it to overturn Roe v. Wade, the 1973 Supreme Court decision that legalized abortion, and if the South Dakota law is not rejected by voters, it will likely end up at the Supreme Court.
The anti-abortion forces see South Dakota as a testing ground and have pulled out all the stops. The antis, under the name “Yes for Life,” have money pouring into the state for expensive TV ads. They have mobilized fundamentalist churches to hand out anti-abortion signs, and pro-choice clergy are finding themselves under attack. Pro-choice forces have mobilized people from around the state and elsewhere to go door-to-door and urge people to vote down the law.
The anti-abortionists have especially gone on the offensive around so-called “partial-birth” abortion and even named the federal ban that is the focus of the Supreme Court cases the “Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act.” This name is totally fabricated. There is no such thing as a “partial-birth” abortion in medical textbooks, and abortion has nothing to do with birth. The term is used to conjure up images of cute infants just inches away from baby blankets in order to spread confusion and put women and pro-choice forces on the defensive about abortion in general and mid- and late-term abortions in particular.
Over 90 percent of abortions are done in the first three months of pregnancy when the fetus is a tiny clump of cells anywhere from the size of the period at the end of this sentence to about an inch in length. Abortions done at this time are easiest, safest, and less expensive.
Less than 10 percent of abortions are done in the second trimester - approximately the 13th- 24th weeks of pregnancy, when the fetus develops a lot but is still incapable of living outside the woman’s body, even with medical assistance. Thousands of women need second-trimester abortions each year because of state restrictions, such as waiting periods and parental notification laws, along with difficulties in finding an abortion provider (87 percent of all U.S. counties have NO provider) and raising the money to get one (federal Medicaid does NOT cover abortion). Some women don’t realize they’re pregnant until they are farther along in pregnancy. And some women who want a child discover that the fetus has severe abnormalities from tests given only after 15 weeks or themselves develop medical conditions that put their health at risk.
Only a tiny percentage of abortions are done in the third trimester, overwhelmingly because of severe fetal abnormalities or serious health problems for the woman.
The government ban supposedly targets a particular abortion procedure that is used in the second and third trimesters of pregnancy— intact dilation and extraction, also called D&X. This is a variation of the dilation and extraction method (D&E) – a method used after the12th week of pregnancy. The reality is that this ban would apply to all D&E procedures, which are used for 90 percent of mid-term abortions, and would have a chilling effect on doctors being able to decide the best medical procedures to use for fear of criminal prosecution.
In the upcoming cases, Gonzales v. Carhart (a Nebraska doctor and abortion provider) and Gonzales v. Planned Parenthood, the government hopes to reverse a previous Supreme Court ruling just six years ago that said a near-identical abortion ban in Nebraska was unconstitutional. The only difference now is the makeup of the Court and the strengthened influence of the Christian fascist theocrats.
The federal ban, along with the South Dakota law, are part of a major offensive of the whole fascist theocratic agenda against women that have huge implications for society overall.
The grim Handmaid’s Tale society ruled by theocratic patriarchs where fertile women are forced to become breeders, depicted in Margaret Atwood’s 1986 novel, is becoming less like fiction and more like reality. And it is crucial to confront the moral as well as political issues at stake here and go on the offensive.
As the article “The Morality of the Right to Abortion… And the Immorality of Those Who Oppose It” (see excerpt) said, referring to Roe v. Wade: “Overturning the ban on abortion—a ban which consigned thousands of women a year to death or horrible mutilation, and millions more to humiliation and oppression—was a profoundly moral thing to do!” And today it remains a moral imperative to defeat the attempts outlaw abortion.
Revolution #68, November 5, 2006
(Revolution 38, March 12, 2006, complete article posted at revcom.us)
Abortion on Demand and Without Apology
There is nothing immoral about terminating an unwanted pregnancy or removing a clump of cells that have not yet developed into a viable human being from a woman’s body. A fetus is not a baby. If a woman doesn’t want to continue a pregnancy all the way (for whatever reason), she should have the freedom to end it, safely and easily. There is nothing tragic about it—indeed, the real tragedy lies in the lives of women that are foreclosed and disfigured and even ended by being compelled to have children that they do not want, a tragedy that happens millions of times a day on this planet, with the connivance and support of the U.S. government.
The life of a woman who is forced to continue an unwanted pregnancy is endangered. From the dangers of illegal abortions to the disrespect for her own life, she is harmed and demeaned as a human being. Being forced by society to have a baby when a woman either does not want or cannot care for one is one of the age-old tragedies that are no longer necessary for anyone to have to suffer. But if a woman is not allowed to control her own body, her own reproduction, not allowed to decide whether or not or when to become a mother, she has no more freedom than a slave. This is for the greater good for the health and overall well-being of that woman, whose life we should value and cherish more than that of a partially formed fetus. And for the greater good of humanity—for don’t we want a society where all forms of slavery are ended?
The morality that should be supported and fought for is one that values the rights of women to lead full social lives. It supports social and intimate relations where people respect each other’s humanity and flourish together—and not where women are supposedly commanded by “God” to “submit themselves” to men. This morality sees children as a joy to society, and as ultimately the responsibility of all society, while not compelling anyone in any way to have children against their will. It does NOT, as these theocrats do, sanctimoniously shout hosannas to a clump of cells that might someday become a child—while feverishly upholding the murder of real live children in the war being waged by the U.S. in Iraq, and self-righteously dooming literally millions of other real live children, right in the U.S., to lives of deprivation and punishment—in the name of those same traditional values.
In fact, overturning the ban on abortion—a ban which consigned thousands of women a year to death or horrible mutilation, and millions more to humiliation and oppression—was a profoundly moral thing to do! It was and is part of a morality that corresponds to the fundamental interests of the vast majority of people in this society and worldwide. These values are also consistent with communist morality, which in addition to the emancipation of women aims at the elimination of all oppressive and exploitative relations among people and the establishment of a freely associating community of human beings. And at the same time, there are many, many people beyond communists who actually yearn for and even strive to live by values that promote and celebrate equality between women and men, and between peoples and nations; that appreciate both diversity and community; that put cooperation over cut-throat competition and the needs of the people over the accumulation of wealth, that oppose imperialist domination, and that cherish and foster critical thinking.
Why in the world should anyone be defensive about such a morality? Why should we not proudly proclaim these morals and values, strive to live up to them and put them in practice, and rally millions more to live their lives by them? Truly, we should and we have to—it is an absolutely crucial and necessary part of defeating this reactionary fascist offensive.
Revolution #68, November 5, 2006
The World Can't Wait—Drive Out the Bush Regime organization is calling for massive distribution on election day, Nov. 7, of its new statement: "Everything the Bush Regime Is Doing Is INTOLERABLE! The World Can't Wait until 2008!" The statement says in part:
"Three and a half years into a war that should never have been launched, Iraq has been plunged into a human, environmental, and geopolitical catastrophe of staggering dimensions… Already preparations have begun for a new, possibly nuclear and even more devastating, war against Iran. And every bit of torture and degradation captured in the boastful pictures snapped at Abu Ghraib prison has been made legal through the bipartisan approval of Bush's Military Commissions Act.
"This is what is being done in our names. None of it is tolerable…"
To read the statement, and to download a PDF flyer version, go online to: worldcantwait.org.
Revolution #68, November 5, 2006
Revolution newspaper gathered the following information from the website of World Can’t Wait—Drive Out the Bush Regime movement: worldcantwait.org
Where: St. John the Divine, Synod Hall, 11th Street and Amsterdam Avenue
When: Monday, Oct. 30, 2006, 7 p.m.
WATCH THE NEW YORK CITY TEACH-IN ONLINE
Streaming video of this teach-in will be available online starting at around 9 p.m. EST on Oct. 30, and online for the following 2 weeks.
This is an important and urgent opportunity to hear from experts the truth about the horrific agenda the Bush regime is cementing into place. Be part of nation-wide efforts: organize viewings in your house, school, dorm, church, etc., and invite everyone you know. All you need is a dsl or cable internet connection. More details and registration available at worldcantwait.org.
Les Roberts - An author of the recent Johns Hopkins report revealing that over 600,000 Iraqis have died as a result of the 2003 invasion and occupation.
Bill Goodman - Legal Director for the Center for Constitutional Rights.
Chris Hedges - Former Middle East bureau chief for New York Times; author of bestseller War Is a Force That Gives Us Meaning.
Cristina Page - Author, How the Pro-Choice Movement Saved America: Freedom, Politics, and the War on Sex.
Larry Everest - Author, Oil, Power & Empire: Iraq and the U.S. Global Agenda.
* * * * *
From the Call issued by The World Can’t Wait—Drive Out the Bush Regime and the Bush Crimes Commission for Nationwide Emergency Teach-ins, October 26-30:
The world faces a grave emergency. The very nature of U.S. society and its relationship to other countries are being reshaped in horrific ways before our eyes. Yet the full implications of these sweeping changes are not widely understood, even among those who oppose the Bush administration. This must change!
This is why “The World Can’t Wait—Drive Out the Bush Regime” organization, in conjunction with the Bush Crimes Commission and others, are calling for emergency teach-ins—in communities, on campuses, and in homes—to explore the actual content of the Bush program and where it is taking the people of the world.
* * * * *
Revolution #68, November 5, 2006
A group of active-duty soldiers have launched a public campaign calling for U.S. troop withdrawal from Iraq and an end to the U.S. occupation. According to the organizers of the campaign, more than 200 active duty had signed the online “Appeal for Redress” as of October 27, and the number has been growing daily.
The Appeal states: “As a patriotic American proud to serve the nation in uniform, I respectfully urge my political leaders in Congress to support the prompt withdrawal of all American military forces and bases from Iraq. Staying in Iraq will not work and it is not worth the price. It is time for U.S. troops to come home.” (appealforredress.org)
According to appealforredress.org, “The Appeal for Redress is sponsored by active duty service members based in the Norfolk area and by a sponsoring committee of veterans and military family members. The Sponsoring committee consists of Iraq Veterans Against the War, Veterans For Peace, and Military Families Speak Out.”
The Pentagon itself has estimated that 8,000 soldiers have gone AWOL since the Iraq war began in 2003. There have been some high-profile cases of GI resistance—including the case of First Lieutenant Ehren Watada, the first commissioned officer to refuse deployment to Iraq. Watada is facing over 8 years in prison and waiting to hear whether the Army will try him in a court martial.
One of the appeal organizers, Navy Seaman Jonathan Hutto, is quoted on the Iraq Veterans Against the War (IVAW) website stating, “We write on behalf of active duty service members to ask you to engage in a worldwide effort to end the U.S. occupation of Iraq and bring our troops home.” A Reuters article quoted Hutto saying that a “similar appeal during the Vietnam War drew support from over 250,000 active duty service members in the early 1970s.”
Another organizer, Marine Sergeant Liam Madden, told the San Jose Mercury News, “The more informed I got, the more I opposed the war… The more people who died there, the longer we stayed there, the more I opposed the war. The more I know, the easier it is to support withdrawal.”
The appeal seeks to take advantage of military regulations and protections under current U.S. law allowing GI’s to communicate directly to Congress to redress grievances. The “Rights Under Law” section on the Appeal website points out legal rights and limitations of soldiers to dissent and protest, including to the right to attend demonstrations, as long as they are “off base, off duty, and out of uniform.”
This effort—and other resistance within the military—comes at a time of growing problems for the U.S. in Iraq, including the U.S. military’s inability to control the situation even in Baghdad. There is growing opposition to the war throughout society and sharpening debate in the ruling class. The U.S. atrocities and war crimes in Iraq continue to mount: The medical journal Lancet recently published a study by the John Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health documenting that more than 650,000 Iraqis have died as a consequence of the U.S. occupation between March 2003 and July 2006. And October saw the highest one-month total of U.S. soldiers killed (96 as we go to press) in Iraq in at least a year.
Revolution #68, November 5, 2006
On Oct. 19, Kevin Tillman posted a scathing critique of the war on Iraq and the Bush administration on the website Truthdig.
Kevin Tillman is the brother of Pat Tillman, a star football player who turned down a three-year, $3.6 million contract with the Arizona Cardinals to join the Army Rangers in May 2002. Pat Tillman was killed in combat in Afghanistan in April 2004. Kevin Tillman was also in the U.S. Army Rangers and the two brothers served in the same unit.
In his statement, Kevin Tillman says, in part:
“Somehow our elected leaders were subverting international law and humanity by setting up secret prisons around the world, secretly kidnapping people, secretly holding them indefinitely, secretly not charging them with anything, secretly torturing them. Somehow that overt policy of torture became the fault of a few ‘bad apples’ in the military…
“Somehow the more soldiers that die, the more legitimate the illegal invasion becomes. Somehow American leadership, whose only credit is lying to its people and illegally invading a nation, has been allowed to steal the courage, virtue and honor of its soldiers on the ground.
“Somehow those afraid to fight an illegal invasion decades ago are allowed to send soldiers to die for an illegal invasion they started. Somehow faking character, virtue and strength is tolerated. Somehow profiting from tragedy and horror is tolerated.
“Somehow the death of tens, if not hundreds, of thousands of people is tolerated. Somehow subversion of the Bill of Rights and The Constitution is tolerated. Somehow suspension of Habeas Corpus is supposed to keep this country safe. Somehow torture is tolerated. Somehow lying is tolerated. Somehow reason is being discarded for faith, dogma, and nonsense.”
Pat and Kevin Tillman joined the U.S. Army after 9/11 out of a sense of patriotic duty. When it was announced that Pat turned down a big offer to renew his NFL contract to join the military, it was made into a major media story and a vehicle to rally people behind the U.S. war on terror. Donald Rumsfeld sent Pat a personal letter thanking him for serving the country. The fascist mouthpiece Ann Coulter oozed that Tillman was “an American original—virtuous, pure and masculine like only an American male can be.”
But according to sports writer Dave Zirin, writing in The Nation, Tillman resisted numerous efforts by the Pentagon to be used more directly for recruitment purposes. Apparently Pat Tillman was a complicated and independent individual, according to his family, a deep thinking person whose views were always developing.
The Army Ranger unit the two Tillmans were in was sent to Iraq first. According to a fellow Ranger, Pat voiced opposition to the Iraq war and Bush while he was in Iraq, saying the war was “so fucking illegal.” Then the two brothers were sent to Afghanistan.
According to their mother, Mary Tillman, a friend of Pat had arranged for him to meet with one of his favorite authors, Noam Chomsky, upon his return from Afghanistan.
When Pat Tillman was killed in Afghanistan, the Pentagon and Bush regime seized on his death to build patriotic support for the war and to counter news of the Abu Ghraib scandal, which was poised to hit the press the same week. Tillman’s funeral was nationally televised. Bush declared that Pat Tillman was “an inspiration on and off the football field, as with all who made the ultimate sacrifice in the war on terror.”
The U.S. Army Special Operations Command awarded Pat Tillman the Silver Star posthumously, releasing a statement that lied—saying that Pat Tillman had been killed by “enemy fire” and described his last moments like something out of a John Wayne movie. During the 2004 presidential campaign, Bush addressed Arizona Cardinal fans on the stadium’s Jumbotron.
Military and political officials appeared with the Tillman family at the funeral. All the while, the Army knew the story they had released and told Tillman’s family was a fabrication and a lie.
In fact Pat Tillman had been killed by “friendly fire” from Rangers in his own unit. They had mistaken him and others for Taliban fighters who had ambushed them moments before. This was common knowledge by all those who participated in the firefight, acknowledged by top Ranger commanders the day after his death, and known to General John Abizaid, commander-in-chief of U.S. Central Command, for days before Tillman’s nationally broadcast funeral.
All this was kept from Tillman’s family until more than a month after he was killed. According to the Washington Post, the truth was even kept hidden from Tillman’s brother Kevin, who was in the same Ranger unit. Since then, the family has been pushing to find out what happened. And the Pentagon is in its fourth investigation of the incident.
In late 2004, by chance Kevin Tillman met the army officer who had conducted a first inquiry right after his brother’s death. This officer told him about the existence of a first Army inquiry, that suggested some of the Rangers who shot Tillman “could be charged for criminal intent” and had demonstrated “gross negligence.” This inquiry had been replaced by an “official” inquiry conducted by Ranger regiment executive officer Lt. Col. Ralph Kauzlarich.
According to reports, in this inquiry higher-ranking officers allowed witnesses to change their stories to prevent anyone from being singled out for real punishment. One captain was given immunity from any perjury charges. All in an apparent attempt to whitewash criticism of the Army and the war.
Tillman’s body armor and uniform were burned, supposedly for “biohazard” reasons. His journal was “lost” right after his death. Rangers present have been warned by superiors not to talk about what happened.
Due to the family’s pressing for the truth, the army finally released thousands of pages of heavily censored documents on the investigations, which have allowed the family and reporters to piece together some of what occurred.
Mary Tillman told reporter Robert Scheer, “The administration used Pat, they tried to attach themselves to his virtue and then they wiped their feet with him.” The Washington Post reported that Pat’s father, Patrick, said he’s convinced “‘all the people in positions of authority went out of their way to script’ the fake narrative (or as he puts it, ‘outright lies’) that followed.”
Kevin Tillman says in his statement that he and his brother spoke about how, when they signed up for the US Army, “once we committed, we were at the mercy of the American leadership and the American people. How we could be thrown in a direction not of our volition. How fighting as a soldier would leave us without a voice…until we got out.”
Kevin Tillman left the U.S. military last year and now, he’s courageously speaking out against the war crimes of the Bush Regime.
Revolution #68, November 5, 2006
Revolution newspaper received the following from the National Office of the October 22nd Coalition to Stop Police Brutality, Repression and the Criminalization of a Generation. To contact the October 22nd Coalition, go to www.october22.org or call 1-888-NOBRUTALITY.
The theme of October 22, 2006 was: Homeland Security = More Stolen Lives. The theme emerged from the research done by the Stolen Lives Project, which shows that since law enforcement agents and border patrols have been given a free hand to do whatever they want, under the name of fighting terrorism, that the result has been more people harassed, beaten, and killed. “Homeland Security” is used to justify sweeps on street youth in Los Angeles, naming everyone as “gang” members; racial profiling of Arab, South Asian and Muslim immigrants; increased repression of immigrants along the border; and increased presence of police and military in transportation centers and public places. The result has been an increase in the climate of fear and repression, and more deaths at the hands of law enforcement agents.
Events took place in over 25 locations this year, including New York, Los Angeles, Bay Area, Seattle, San Diego, Minneapolis, Pittsburgh, Fresno, Albuquerque, Olympia, and more. The events took different forms—some areas had marches and rallies, others candlelight vigils, and some did film showings and talks on police brutality. For the National Day of Protest to Stop Police Brutality, the national October 22nd Coalition published an updated booklet for Stolen Lives containing information on cases since 2000, which was used in several areas as part of the “Presente” tradition of October 22nd, where people call out the names of those whose lives have been stolen from us by law enforcement and the audience answers, “Presente” to say that they will be remembered. This updated booklet will soon be available on the website, www.october22.org, and can be ordered from the October 22nd Coalition, P.O. Box 2627, N.Y., N.Y., 10009, for $4.
Revolution #68, November 5, 2006
Josh Wolf, a journalist, videographer, and political activist, has spent over two months in federal prison for refusing a request by a federal grand jury to testify and turn over a videotape he made of a July 2005 protest in San Francisco against the G-8 Summit. Wolf could be forced to stay in prison until July 2007, when the term of the Grand Jury ends. This case reveals the extremes the government will go to in attempts to silence, suppress, and intimidate journalists who expose the truth.
Wolf filmed the demonstration, sponsored by Anarchist Action, and posted edited footage on his video blog and on Indymedia. He also provided this footage to mainstream television stations. The video shows demonstrators marching in the streets carrying banners reading, “War Is the Symptom, Capitalism Is the Disease” and “Destroy the War Machine.” It shows police demanding that demonstrators get on the sidewalk or be arrested. And it shows police brutally choking and sitting on top of a demonstrator while another cop wields guns in both hands, while ordering demonstrators to stay back. Police are shown dispersing the crowd shoving demonstrators who are walking away, saying, “Leave or you ’re going to be fucking blasted,” and “I’m a Fed, motherfucker.”
After the protest, two FBI agents showed up at Josh Wolf's apartment and began asking questions about what he knew about the anarchist movement in the Bay Area. The agents asked him to turn over the full videotape. After consulting with his attorney, Wolf refused.
It is unusual for the federal government to be involved in prosecuting a case against a local demonstration. The Joint Terrorist Task Force took up the case on the pretext that the police allege that some demonstrators attempted to set fire to a police car (although the only damage to the police car was a broken taillight), and the government argues that because federal funds went to the San Francisco police, the alleged attack on the police car was an attack on federal property.
This is part of a larger trend for the federal government to use its new “anti-terrorism” powers to prosecute what would normally be local cases. Because the case is being held in front of a federal grand jury, California press shield laws, which would have protected Wolf, do not apply.
Grand juries are special courts that are conducted in secret to investigate crimes or charge defendants. The public, the press, and even defense attorneys are not allowed and testimony is secret. A person who testifies in front of a grand jury has very limited rights to refuse to answer questions. There is a long history of grand juries being used against the people. And there is a long history of activists refusing to cooperate with grand juries.
In an online interview with CNET, Josh Wolf described what he believes would happen if he went in front of the grand jury. “They would say, ‘Do you know this person, or this person, or this person?' They would then take all those people and call them into the grand jury, the same way the House Un-American Activities Committee did to create a list of Communists."
Wolf also argues in the interview that he could not surrender the video because he would be acting as an arm of law enforcement, damaging his relationships with sources.
Kevin Ryan, U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of California, who is responsible for Josh's imprisonment, has a history of using grand juries as an instrument of suppression against activists. In 2003, he rounded up former Black Panthers from all over the country to march them in front of a grand jury, supposedly to investigate Panther activities over 30 years in the past. According to news accounts, Ryan was acting in that case with jurisdiction under a terrorism provision of the USA Patriot Act even though the activities in question were not on federal property.
The political motivations of the government in going after Wolf's videotape and imprisoning him were further revealed when Wolf's attorney revealed that the videotape contained no footage of any vandalism to a police car. Wolf's attorney, Martin Garbus, told the San Francisco Chronicle that the footage does not depict the crimes in question, but features interviews with about 10 protesters who shed masks to speak in front of Wolf's camera.
“They expected he would safeguard them, which is what he is doing," Garbus told the Chronicle. “When they take off the masks and talk to this guy, they're assuming it will not be shown in a hostile place," such as a grand jury room.
Wolf's case has gotten widespread support from journalists and others. The Society for Professional Journalists gave Wolf a $30,000 grant—the largest ever given by the organization. SPJ President Dave Carlson said, “We have to make a stand someplace as the government attempts over and over to change the role of journalists as independent observers to arms of law enforcement.”
Reporters Without Borders issued a press release saying, “Sending this journalist to prison for protecting his material is both a serious violation of press freedom and a negation of the U.S. Constitution's First Amendment. Journalists are not supposed to be judicial auxiliaries or police auxiliaries.”
New York Times reporter Judith Miller, who spent 85 days in jail for refusing to testify before a federal grand jury investigating a leak naming a covert CIA agent, said, “I fear that the Josh Wolf case, my case and others like it are really going to have a chilling effect on the press and a chilling effect on the willingness of sources to come forward.”
Wolf's case is only one of a number of recent attacks on the press for stories that expose the Bush regime. Even the New York Times, a key institution of the liberal bourgeois establishment, was threatened with prosecution for treason when it revealed details of a secret government program to monitor bank records of thousands of Americans.
In a letter to supporters on his blog, Josh Wolf writes, “The disturbing worlds put forth by the likes of George Orwell and Aldous Huxley have swiftly become reality... The time to wake up has long since passed—quit hitting snooze and hope it's not too late. Whatever you do, don ’t succumb to the notion that you can't make a difference—that's just another form of cowardice. You can't even fail if you don't try, and you just might succeed.”
Revolution #68, November 5, 2006
On October 24, in a interview in his White House office with right-wing talk show host Scott Hennen of the North Dakota radio station WDAY, Vice President Dick Cheney openly advocated a form of interrogation known as waterboarding. In waterboarding, a prisoner is brought to the brink of drowning. According to Human Rights Watch, “Waterboarding is intended to cause a victim to believe he is about to die, and is similar to a mock execution” and “There is no doubt that waterboarding is torture.” In fact, waterboarding does sometimes result in death by drowning.
At one point in the interview, Hennen asked, “I’ve had people call and say, please, let the Vice President know that if it takes dunking a terrorist in water, we’re all for it, if it saves American lives. Again, this debate seems a little silly given the threat we face, would you agree?” Cheney answered, “I do agree.” He pointed to the Military Commissions Act, recently passed by the Congress and signed into law by George Bush on Oct. 17, and said, “Are we going to allow the executive branch to have the authority granted and authorized by the Congress to be able to continue to collect the intelligence we need to defend the nation.”
Then there was this exchange:
Hennen: “Would you agree a dunk in water is a no-brainer if it can save lives?”
Cheney: “It’s a no-brainer for me, but for a while there, I was criticized as being the Vice President ‘for torture.’ We don’t torture. That’s not what we’re involved in. We live up to our obligations in international treaties that we’re party to and so forth. But the fact is, you can have a fairly robust interrogation program without torture, and we need to be able to do that.
“And, thanks to the leadership of the President now, and the action of the Congress, we have that authority, and we are able to continue the program.”
Three days after this interview, White House press secretary Tony Snow faced an unusually combative series of questions from reporters at a press briefing about Cheney’s comments. After Snow said, “The Vice President says he was talking in general terms about a questioning program that is legal to save American lives, and he was not referring to waterboarding,” there was this back-and-forth between Snow and the press, according to official White House transcripts:
Q: What could “dunk in the water” refer to if not waterboarding?
Snow: I’m just telling you—I’m telling you the Vice President’s position. I will let you draw your own conclusions, because you clearly have. He says he wasn’t talking…
Q: I haven’t drawn any conclusions, I’m asking for an explanation about what “dunk in the water” could mean.
Snow: How about a dunk in the water?
Q: So, wait a minute, so “dunk in the water” means what, we have a pool now at Guantánamo, and they go swimming?…
The questioning goes on for several more minutes, with Snow continuing with his line of argument that 1) Cheney never used the word “waterboarding,” and 2) the U.S. doesn’t torture.
But Cheney was clearly talking about—and advocating for—the use of waterboarding and other torture. As the reporter at the press briefing pointed out, “What could ‘dunk in the water’ refer to if not waterboarding?”
And with the Military Commissions Act, the U.S.’s global program of torture has now been legitimized and legalized [see “The Facts About the Military Commissions Act (Torture Law) in Revolution #64, online at revcom.us]. While banning certain forms of torture, this law leaves other kinds of torture unmentioned and legal—including sleep deprivation, exposure to dangerously cold temperatures, and waterboarding. In the Orwellian language of the Bush regime and those around them, such brutal methods are part of what they call a “robust interrogation program.”
Revolution #68, November 5, 2006
Tired of mid-term election madness and hypocrisy? Or perhaps you voted and are having the day-after blues? For a really hilariously entertaining respite from all this, rent a copy of the 1998 movie Bulworth.
Warren Beatty stars as Jay Billington Bulworth, a U.S. Senator running for re-election, having a nervous breakdown, dodging a hit man and hanging out in the hood. On the edge of insanity, he’s different than any other candidate—he tells the truth.
Tossing out his usual “vote for me” script, Bulworth goes to a Black church in South Central, LA and asks, “Half your kids are out of work and the other half are in jail. You see any Democrat doing anything about it? Certainly not me! So what’re you gonna do, vote Republican? Come on! Come on, you’re not gonna vote Republican!” During a TV debate he says: “We got three pretty rich guys here, getting paid by some really rich guys, to ask a couple of other rich guys questions about their campaigns. But our campaigns are financed by the same guys that pay you guys your money.”
Bulworth hooks up with Nina, played by Halle Berry, and things really get wild when she takes him to her home in South Central. The Senator learns a little something about how the masses of Black people have to live. A crack dealer, played by Don Cheadle, calls him a “greed greedy-ass politician” and offers some insights into why the youth end up dealing drugs. And after shedding his suit and tie and dressing like a rapper, Bulworth gets a first-hand lesson in police brutality. Later, on another campaign stop, Bulworth launches into another uproarious spurt of truth-telling. He raps, “Rich guys/Democrats/ Republicans/It’s a club” and tells ordinary white people that they have more in common with ordinary Black people than they do with rich people.
When Bulworth came out in 1998, Beatty told interviewers, “The real issue is the disparity of wealth in this country. And that gets unattended and unacknowledged. Traitors to their class are marginalized in political discourse. They’re seen as nuts. Their motives are weird. They’re antithetical to our stock portfolios.”
In the years since, this hasn’t changed and neither has something else Beatty told reporters at the time: “You can say things in a movie: You can say Black people are treated badly in the United States. It’s an oversimplification but it needs to be said. You can say rich people control politics. It’s an oversimplification but it needs to be said.”
This is definitely one worth checking out. Bulworth delivers his message and gets you crying with laughter. As Beatty put it: “I have a lunatic in this movie who has a nervous breakdown, runs around in short pants, acts like an adolescent, talking in a voice that’s not even his own. He oversimplifies the message pretty drastically, but he’s funny.”