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Revolution #75, January 7, 2007
The High Stakes in Iraq—For Them And For Us
"So we'll be in Iraq until the job is complete, at the request of a sovereign government elected by the people. I know there's a lot of speculation that these reports in Washington mean there's going to be some kind of graceful exit out of Iraq. We're going to stay in Iraq to get the job done, so long as the government wants us there."
George W. Bush, at a press conference in Amman,
Nov. 30, 2006
The U.S. is facing a crisis--and possible defeat--of historic proportions in Iraq. Sharp debate is raging over how to proceed, with Bush himself preparing to announce reshaped plans in a major address after New Years.
Two things stand out in all this.
First, government officials, media pundits, etc. are trying to enlist people in supporting their particular plan--and the war. “What should ‘we’ do in Iraq?” is how the debate is framed, as if “we” are all in it together. In fact, all the plans being debated represent efforts to maintain the domination of the Middle East by the U.S. imperialists. All would likely mean ongoing war, more intolerable suffering for Iraqis, and an intensification of the current horrific dynamic created by the clash between reactionary imperialism on the one side and reactionary Islamic fundamentalism on the other. These plans, as we’ll see, have nothing to do with the interests of the great majority of people, either in Iraq, the Middle East more broadly, or the U.S. itself.
Second, the war will continue--and may very well escalate--unless there’s a “surge” of something sorely missing now: mass opposition to the entire war that is not bound by the terms of the current debate within the government and bourgeois media. Without that, nothing good will come of the current struggle within the ruling class.
Overlapping and Reinforcing Crises--and No Good Options
The current ruling class turmoil reflects the complexity of the contradictions they face--and the tension between their great necessity to succeed in Iraq, and the fact that no course of action guarantees success, while any could backfire.
The Bush administration invaded Iraq to change the trajectory in the Middle East, a region crucial to the functioning and power of U.S. capitalism-imperialism--in particular to stem the rapid and destabilizing growth of anti-U.S. Islamic fundamentalism. Hussein wasn’t a fundamentalist, but the Bush team saw the conquest of Iraq as a way to dramatically assert U.S. power and begin to restructure regional governments to undercut the Islamists.
But the war boomeranged. The U.S. invasion and subsequent collapse of the Iraqi state exacerbated a host of contradictions, including hatred of the U.S. and its ally Israel, and opened the door to anti-U.S. Islamist and nationalist currents among both Sunni and Shia Muslims. The repressive and somewhat incoherent U.S. response intensified these problems. Thus today the Bush regime faces a host of overlapping and rapidly intensifying crises in Iraq: an anti-U.S. insurgency, a civil war between Shia and Sunni, a weak and fragmented state, infiltration by Al Qaeda, and the unraveling of Iraqi society in many areas.
This has spawned what the liberal imperialist New York Times calls a “cacophony of competing plans.” The Baker-Hamilton Study Group, Democratic Congressman John Murtha and Senator Joe Biden, Republican Senator John McCain, and others have proposed different ways to move.
The military options being debated include increasing troops levels, maintaining current troops levels, and withdrawing troops (either immediately or according to a timetable). The Bush team is reportedly considering the so-called “temporary surge” option--adding 20,000 to 50,000 more combat troops to gain control of Baghdad (including possibly by attacking the Shia Mahdi Army militia headed by cleric Muqtada Sadr) and then Anbar province. This plan is favored by Sen. McCain, many neoconservatives, and reportedly Vice President Cheney, who argue that without order and security, political and economic steps, including efforts to consolidate a coherent Iraqi government, will be impossible.
“Surge” is imperialist-speak for escalation. Some in the military are reportedly calling it for what it is--“double down”--raising the stakes or double-or-nothing. Think about what this would mean. A study conducted by Al Mustansiriya University in Baghdad and Johns Hopkins University (published in the British medical journal Lancet ) estimates that 655,000 Iraqis have died as a result of the war, 601,000 of them violently, including an estimated 180,000 at Coalition hands. “Surge” means more of this and worse. As Col. W. Patrick Lang and ex-CIA analyst Ray McGovern point out (Counterpunch, 12/25), a “surge” of troops will mean “total war with the likelihood of all the excesses and mass casualties that come with total war. To force such a strategy on our armed forces would be nothing short of immoral, in view of predictable troop losses and the huge number of Iraqis who would meet violent injury and death.”
There is no guarantee such a “surge” would be temporary because it may well fail (as did a U.S. effort this past summer to quell violence in Baghdad by adding 8,000 troops). Having more decisively committed U.S. forces and “credibility,” there would be enormous pressure on the imperialists to escalate once again should it fail.
Others in government have their own reasons for opposing escalation. According to the Washington Post (12/14), some Pentagon officials worry it “will increase the Iraqis' dependency on the United States," fuel anti-American hostility (as it has since the occupation), and impede a political solution that the Pentagon feels is key to bringing stability. The Army's top general warns that Iraq and Afghanistan “will break” the active-duty Army, unless the military is expanded and reserves are called up more often. Attacking Sadr’s forces could also confront the U.S. with a two-front war--Sunni fighters and Sadr’s Shia followers.
Another option under consideration (and recommended by the Baker group) is maintaining the current troops levels (or gradually reducing them), while focusing on forging a credible Iraqi government and shifting the U.S. military mission to training the Iraqi military and going after al Qaeda in Iraq.
In reality, the U.S. has already been training the Iraqi military, and one result has been the empowerment of reactionary Shia and Kurdish militias and the rise of Shia death and torture squads (and there is evidence that the U.S. directly encouraged or organized some of them).
(This effort has so far failed to create a reliable Iraqi government military because the new Iraqi forces have either refused to fight or been loyal to their tribe or political faction, instead of the new government.)
Another permutation of this plan is to train Iraqi forces, set a fixed withdrawal date for U.S. forces, and then be able to blame Iraqis for the general disaster that sets in (thereby attempting to sum up that the debacle wasn’t the U.S.’s fault, and congeal as much ideological and political support as possible for other U.S. interventions).
A third option--championed by Murtha--is to re-deploy U.S. forces from Iraq to neighboring countries (such as Kuwait), and let the Iraqis fight to a finish, then deal with the victor, all the while being poised to intervene if U.S. regional interests are threatened (including if the fighting spilled over into other countries). Right now, this option is not being seriously considered--it is mainly being held and promoted as a “safety valve” for the majority of Americans who actually oppose the war and want withdrawal. But a withdrawal plan like this trains people to think that Iraqi lives are supposedly worth less than American lives (“who cares, let ‘em kill each other” is the almost-openly-stated subtext) and that American military might should be stationed in the Middle East and able to intervene to dominate other nations and peoples.
Question: how are any of these options in the interests of the people? And for those who voted in November, thinking that they would end the war by doing so--how is any of this conscionable?
“80% Solution”--or Coalition of Pro-U.S. “Moderates”
There is also debate over political strategy--both its relation to military strategy and over how to cobble together a government that can exercise authority, restore order, and maintain Iraq’s territorial integrity. A leading candidate at this point, reportedly favored by Cheney, is the so-called “80 percent solution.” This would basically turn Iraq’s government over to the Shias and Kurds who make up roughly 80 percent of Iraq’s population, while scaling back or ending efforts to include elements of the Sunni establishment and co-opt Sunni resisters. It would essentially mean backing the slaughter of the Sunni population.
Establishment opponents of the “80% solution” (reportedly including Secretary of State Rice, elements in the Pentagon, and the Baker group) fear it’s a recipe for ongoing civil war, the break-up of Iraq, and a possible regional war which could undermine, even topple, key U.S. allies like Saudi Arabia and Jordan, while strengthening pro-Iranian factions of the Iraqi government. (Saudi officials are reportedly warning the U.S. that if it leaves Iraq or doesn’t protect the Sunni population, they will arm and fund Sunni fighters to prevent ethnic cleansing, perhaps even send Saudi brigades to join the fight. One Saudi advisor warned in the Washington Post that in the event of an anti-Sunni bloodbath backed by Iran, Saudi Arabia would boost oil production and cut prices in half to bankrupt Iran. “Saudi engagement in Iraq carries great risks--it could spark a regional war,” he wrote. “So be it: The consequences of inaction are far worse.”)
Instead, they propose trying to form a governing coalition of Sunnis, Shias, and Kurds willing to collaborate with the U.S., backed by increased U.S. economic, financial, and political support, while isolating or crushing the militia of the Shia Mukhtada Al-Sadr. If successful, such a plan would mean consolidating a pro-U.S. government in Iraq, isolating and crushing any anti-U.S. forces, and creating a platform for further U.S. aggression in the region. Thus far, however, such efforts have failed--with the dramatic evidence on the streets of Baghdad.
Another plan, favored by Democratic Senator Joe Biden, proposes that Iraq be divided into three separate autonomous areas, with a weak federal government and some means of dividing up oil revenues. Such a plan is a blueprint for increased and intensified U.S. domination in the region by destroying Iraq as a nation, leaving a group of smaller, weaker, and fragmented regions, which could be played off against each other by the U.S. and Israel. So far this plan hasn’t gotten much traction because a unified Iraq is still seen as a potential counterweight to Iran, and because of the fear of regional war as a result of partition.
In sum, all of the above plans involve ongoing war, the ongoing slaughter of Iraqis, and continued U.S. domination of the region and Iraq in particular. None of this is in the interests of anyone other than the imperialists, and the Islamic Fundamentalist trend that has fed off this carnage. What also stands out here is that for all the talk of democracy and “self government,” it is the councils of U.S. imperialism that are debating and dictating the future political arrangements of Iraq.
Talking to Iran and Syria--or Attacking Them
There is also debate over regional strategy. The Baker group and others argue that Iraq can’t be stabilized without help from neighboring states, and so the U.S. should talk to Iran and Syria (as well as other states in the region) to get their help. This is a plan for maintaining U.S. influence in the region, and a very oppressive status quo, while regrouping and possibly preparing for confrontation with Iran and Syria down the road. Even Baker himself has acknowledged that there is not all that much benefit for Iran and Syria in such a move, but has said that part of the point of such a plan is that should Iran and Syria refuse to help, they will isolate themselves--with the unspoken punch line that this would open the door for a possible U.S. assault on either one.
Others--seemingly the dominant elements of the Bush team--argue that Iran and Syria are part of the problem in Iraq and in the region generally, so the U.S. should do nothing to cut against the current state of crisis and hostility, but should instead step up pressure and continue to push for “regime change.”
Iran remains the focus of imperialist concern, in part because it has benefitted from U.S. difficulties in Iraq and increasingly made itself a, if not the, central player in the whole Islamic movement through its support of Hezbollah in Lebanon and its activities within Iraq (and now there are reports that it is trying to increase its influence in Afghanistan).
So the danger of taking the “war on terror” to Iran remains very great, and perhaps is growing. Recently the U.S. has increased its naval patrols near Iran, arrested Iranians in Iraq and accused them of organizing attacks on U.S. forces (even though some were invited by the Iraqi government), and helped pass a UN resolution against Iran’s nuclear program. (According to Time magazine (12/19), it is also working to undermine the Syrian government.) The fact that no Democrat has opposed this aggressive posture--and that some have at other times called for going after Iran--makes this possibility very real indeed. In 2004, speaking about the possibility of the U.S. bombing Iran, Barack Obama said: "In light of the fact that we're now in Iraq, with all the problems in terms of perceptions about America that have been created, us launching some missile strikes into Iran is not the optimal position for us to be in. On the other hand, having a radical Muslim theocracy in possession of nuclear weapons is worse. So I guess my instinct would be to err on not having those weapons in the possession of the ruling clerics of Iran...” (Chicago Tribune, September 25, 2004)
“The Primary Strategic Challenge of Our Time”
As the internal debate proceeds, the core of the Bush team has publicly staked out an approach of staying their strategic course, even as they adjust: Bush is reportedly “weighing whether to make a deeper American commitment in Iraq” and talks of “victory,” not backing off. Rice has stated there would be “no retreat from the administration's push to promote democracy in the Middle East,” which is a “matter of strategic interest,” and has rejected negotiations with Iran and Syria.
"I've heard some ideas that would lead to defeat,” Bush declared shortly after the release of the Baker report. “And I reject those ideas, ideas such as leaving before the job is done.” A few days later, he said, “If we lose our nerve, if we're not steadfast in our determination to help the Iraqi government succeed, we will be handing Iraq over to an enemy that would do us harm.”
This is a rejection of core elements of the Baker report, which never mentioned victory or Middle East democracy. The Baker report warned the cost of Bush’s present course could be astronomical--a broader regional war, Sunni-Shia clashes across the Islamic world, skyrocketing oil prices, growth of Islamic jihadism, weakening of U.S. global standing, defeat in Afghanistan, and greater polarization in America.
The Bush team is not oblivious to these dangers, but they also fear that retreat or defeat could intensify all of these problems, including further emboldening anti-U.S. Islamist forces, strengthening Iran in the region, isolating Israel, weakening pro-U.S. allies, and creating openings for other global powers. And they continue to feel these crises also contain opportunities; the Washington Post (12/15) reported that Rice told them the region “is being rearranged in ways that provide the United States with new opportunities,” which she described as a “new strategic context,” and this was “a ‘clarifying moment’ between extremists and what she called mainstream Arabs.”
Bush’s determination to maintain U.S. hegemony in the Middle East in the face of enormous risks isn’t due to “stupidity” or loss of contact with reality. Rather, it flows from the deep realities of U.S. capitalism, and the structure of the global social order. A handful of rich, imperialist countries feast off the markets, raw materials, and labor of impoverished Third World countries like those of the Middle East--while they also contend with each other for advantage and dominance. This demands the U.S. control key regions and resources--including energy sources--while preventing imperialist rivals like Russia and emerging “wild cards” like China from doing so. This drive isn’t peripheral, it’s foundational.
These necessities are today sharply concentrated in the Middle East/Central Asian region. Since the fall of the Soviet Union, the geopolitical “tectonic plates” of this region have been in motion, and its future up for grabs. The stakes there are huge--militarily, politically, economically, and ideologically, including--but not only--because this is home to 80% of the world’s oil and natural gas. And central to this whole mix is the rise of Islamic fundamentalism as a pole of opposition to the regional status quo, including the domination of the U.S. and its allies.
Recently on the Charlie Rose show, imperialist foreign policy guru Henry Kissinger said that due to the wave of Islamic “fervor” sweeping the Middle East and Central Asia, forces were coming together there which threatened the entire global system. He pointed specifically to one “catastrophe” scenario: Iran obtains nuclear weapons, a political vacuum develops in Iraq, then Iran is tempted or compelled to intervene (challenging the regional order), and its possession of nuclear weapons changes the whole U.S. calculus of how to respond in this or other regional crises (and undercuts the longstanding U.S. insistence that Israel be the region’s dominant military force).
For these and other reasons, many U.S. strategists, including the Bush team, feel the Middle East is, as one put it, “The Primary Strategic Challenge of Our Time”– a hinge or focal point that impacts everything else. All this points to why dominance of this region is urgent for the U.S. today, why it’s central to the Bush program, and why there is no easy way out for the U.S. rulers. In fact, to the degree the war has ended up accelerating the negative dynamics they confront in the region, it heightens their sense of urgency to wrench something approaching victory in Iraq. So picking up and leaving is not on the table.
Important: there is no Democrat of any standing who would dispute or deny the “right” of the U.S. to remain the dominant power in that region. Indeed, it was Democrat Jimmy Carter himself who, while President, declared in his 1980 State of the Union address that “any attempt by any outside forces to gain control of the Persian Gulf region will be regarded as an assault on the vital interests of the United States and such an assault would be repelled by any means necessary, including military force.”
Also important: Bush remains “the decider.” And because the Democrats share his underlying assumptions, and because they remain loath to really unleash the antiwar millions who are still following their leadership, he retains the initiative in enforcing and carrying through whatever plans he decides on--as long as things remain within the current political framework, terms and dynamics. In fact, Democratic House leader Nancy Pelosi has stated, "As long as our troops are in harm's way, we will be there to support them”--in other words there would be no cut-off of funds. And Senate leader Harry Reid has said he would support a troop “surge.”
Needed: a “Surge” of Opposition to the Entire War
Which gets to the last point. Without determined and massive opposition to the war, one or a combination of these plans will be chosen, and U.S. aggression will continue in Iraq and the region, in spite of whatever disastrous consequences this bring to the masses or the real risks this may pose for the imperialists themselves.
The people's interests require a complete U.S. withdrawal from Iraq. Any U.S. “victory” would legitimize an illegal, immoral, and unjust war of imperialist aggression and would guarantee ongoing bloodshed and torture by the U.S. and its Iraqi allies. It would mean forging a pro-U.S. neo-colony and strengthening the oppression of the Iraqi people in many ways, for decades to come. It would turn Iraq into a "model" of U.S. domination in the region and a staging area for further aggression in the region. It would embolden the U.S. rulers to attack others, while driving even more people in the region into the arms of reactionary Islamic fundamentalism.
This is not to say that a U.S. withdrawal would immediately end the bloodshed. By invading and smashing the previous order, the U.S. has unleashed and strengthened reactionary Islamic fundamentalist forces--both Sunni and Shia. While each are complex and somewhat different political mixes, both are guided overall by reactionary religious ideologies and programs (as well as former supporters of Saddam Hussein’s regime in the case of the resistance)--not revolutionary or even nationalist anti-imperialism.
Both have employed the strategy of targeting civilians and have committed massive atrocities against innocent people. These Islamist forces justify military attacks on civilians and blur the distinction between the masses and the forces of imperialism, and decide who’s friend and who’s enemy based on religion--whether one is a believer or an “infidel.” This has fueled a dynamic of revenge killings, and a spiral of ethnic cleansing and civil war. If the U.S. leaves Iraq, this dynamic could continue.
The U.S. ultimately bears primary responsibility for turning Iraq into a waking nightmare, but the Islamist forces--both Sunni and Shia--have also played a big part. Should either take power, that nightmare would continue in Iraq. And if such forces gained power, there is no getting around the fact that there could be increased attacks on U.S. interests and allies in the region, and quite possibly on the U.S. itself.
Today, the U.S. invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq, and its war for greater empire overall, is creating a dynamic that is strengthening – not undercutting – such reactionary forces. That dynamic must be reversed – and one crucial way to begin to reverse it is by politically forcing Bush to end the Iraq war and withdraw U.S. forces. We need a powerful mass movement, not only against the war but aimed at driving the Bush regime from power; part of that effort must include repudiating this whole so-called “war on terror.” This will require people taking to the streets in the millions – but if it were done, it could be part of inspiring people all around the globe with the potential for something different – neither the McWorld/McCrusade of imperialism nor the Jihad of reactionary Islamic fundamentalism. Such a resistance could pose the promise of a common cause among people of the world who hate imperialist domination. It could give "air to breathe" to the kind of movements around the world that can really liberate people from the global oppressors—and create societies where poverty, unjust violence, ethnic hatred, and the oppression of women can be eliminated.
Such opposition and resistance is possible and extremely urgent. Major papers editorialize that the “nation is in crisis,” and the potential for this to sharpen will increase if (as is likely), Bush’s actions fly in the face of what millions thought they were casting ballots for (against the war), and what they expected the Democrats mid-term election victory would bring. But it will not happen unless people break out of the killing confines set by the system, where efforts to bring about change are all geared toward and channeled into the elections – including the Democrats.
The millions who oppose the war can become a force--if they dare to face the reality of what their government is doing and what it has already meant for the Iraqi people; if they dare to face the reality of the even greater horrors to come if this force is allowed to continue; if they do not shrink from their responsibility to others on the planet and instead recognize that their actions (or inaction) reverberate powerfully around the world; and if they combine their actions to feed into the movement to drive out this vicious regime, halt its crimes, and reverse the intolerable overall direction of this society.
Revolution #75, January 7, 2007
As we go to press, the world received the sudden news of the hanging of Saddam Hussein. Carefully covered over or minimized in the obituaries is Hussein’s history of cooperation with the United States before he ran afoul of them with the 1990 Iraqi invasion of Kuwait. In particular, the U.S. encouraged and backed Hussein in his war against Iran in 1980--a war which took nearly a million lives, and which was pursued to maintain and reinforce U.S. strategic domination of the Persian Gulf region.
Hussein’s execution raises more questions than it settles. Why the rush? And who decided? The liberal imperialist New York Times made a point of quoting one of Hussein’s lawyers shortly before the execution that he was “expressing the views of many” when he said that “No one knows when it’s going to happen except God and President Bush.” True? And if so, why?
Was the U.S. government worried, for instance, about what might come out at future trials, in particular any trial on the use of poison gas against the Iraqi Kurds, about its own culpability? Was it concerned that even deeper details about U.S. collaboration in Hussein’s 1980 attack on Iran might come out and would further constrict its “room for maneuver” against Iran? Or did it, and other forces within Iraq, just want to “get this off the table” at a crucial and highly explosive juncture, one where the Bush team is huddled in Texas attempting to rework its strategy? Is that why this execution was so suddenly rushed--even as it conflicted with an Iraqi law forbidding executions on religious holidays?
Next week we will have more to say on Hussein’s execution and his whole grisly history, including his connections to the U.S.
But one thing must be said now: for a ruling class which directly murdered several million (yes, million ) in Indochina; which sponsored, through its advisors and proxies, the killing of hundreds of thousands in the 1980s in Central America, southern Africa, Afghanistan and in the Iran/Iraq war; which during the 1990s put the Iraqi people themselves through the living hell of sanctions that killed five thousand Iraqi children a month (a figure not only admitted but justified by former U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright in an interview on60 Minutes )…for this ruling class to sponsor and then dare to celebrate the execution of one of their own former butchers as a blow against “tyranny”…is nothing but a new depth of nauseating hypocrisy, injustice, and shamelessness.
Revolution #75, January 7, 2007
I want to move on now—everything that’s been spoken to so far forms, in one aspect, a kind of a background for this—to speak more directly and fully to the question: What is the new synthesis?
The first point that needs to be made is that this is something that is dealing with real world contradictions—it’s not some idealist imaginings of what it would be nice to have a society be like. When we talk about a world we want to live in, it is not a utopian notion of inventing a society out of whole cloth and then trying to reimpose that on the world once again. But it is dealing with real-world contradictions, summing up the end of a stage (the first stage of socialist revolutions) 1 and what can be learned out of that stage, attempting to draw the lessons from that and dealing with real-world contradictions in aspects, important aspects, that are new. It is a synthesis that involves taking what was positive from previous experience, working through and discarding what was negative, recasting some of what was positive and bringing it forward in a new framework. So, again, it’s dealing with real-world contradictions—but in a new way.
In this connection, there is a point of basic orientation that is worth quoting from a paper written by a leading comrade of our Party:
“If we try to embrace, encompass and explore non-communist people, ideas and perspectives ever more widely and flexibly (which we should do) but do so on the basis of something other than a truly solid core and strategic grounding in OUR project and objectives, we will at one and the same time fail to harvest as much as we could from these wider explorations and initiatives AND, most unconscionably, we will LOSE THE WHOLE THING!”
Now, this has particular application with regard to the orientation and approach of our Party; but, in the broader framework of the larger world we need to be transforming, this also has more general application. And what’s being said here is an important aspect of the principle of solid core with a lot of elasticity, 2 which is itself a kind of encapsulation, or concentrated expression, of what is involved in the new synthesis I am referring to. Not only now but throughout the struggle, to first seize power and establish socialism and then to continue advancing to communism—in other words, both before and after the seizure of power—the general principle of solid core with a lot of elasticity and the specific point that’s being driven home in what I cited above from that paper by a leading comrade will have important, indeed fundamental, application: the contradiction between on the one hand, yes, embracing, encompassing and exploring non-communist people, ideas and perspectives ever more widely and flexibly and getting the most we can out of that—not in a narrow, utilitarian sense, but in the broadest sense—but at the same time not losing the whole thing, not letting go of the solid core, without which none of this will mean anything in relation to what must be our most fundamental objectives.
1. What is referred to here, with the concept of “end of a stage,” is the experience that began (after the short-lived Paris Commune) with the Soviet revolution in Russia, in 1917, and then the Chinese Revolution, which achieved nationwide political power in 1949, and ended with the restoration of capitalism in China, after Mao’s death in 1976—which, in turn, followed the restoration of capitalism in the formerly socialist Soviet Union in the mid-1950s. See “The End of a Stage—The Beginning of a New Stage” by Bob Avakian ( Revolution magazine, Fall 1990). [back]
2. Bob Avakian speaks to this concept of “solid core with a lot of elasticity” in the talk Dictatorship and Democracy, and the Socialist Transition to Communism, and it is referred to in the book by Bob Avakian, Observations on Art and Culture, Science and Philosophy (Chicago: Insight Press, 2005); in particular footnote 2, on pp. 68-69 of Observations, explains this concept as follows: “Avakian discusses this concept in the talk Dictatorship and Democracy, and the Socialist Transition to Communism as follows: ‘[Y]ou have to have a solid core that firmly grasps and is committed to the strategic objectives and aims and process of the struggle for communism. If you let go of that you are just giving everything back to the capitalists in one form or another, with all the horrors that means. At the same time, if you don’t allow for a lot of diversity and people running in all kinds of directions with things, then not only are people going to be building up tremendous resentment against you, but you are also not going to have the rich kind of process out of which the greatest truth and ability to transform reality will emerge.’ (‘A World We Would Want to Live In,’ Revolutionary Worker #1257 [October 31, 2004].)” [back]
Revolution #75, January 7, 2007
Atheists Push Back
A Scientist Speaks on Wonder, Romance, and Meaning
One highlight of the conference was a presentation by Carolyn Porco, leader of the Cassini spacecraft Science Imaging Team. (Cassini is a spacecraft orbiting Saturn that is sending back images and data. See http://saturn.jpl.nasa.gov/home/index.cfm and http://ciclops.org/view_event.php?id=56) She showed amazing photographs from the Hubble telescope and Cassini missions. One picture was of a moon of Saturn, Enceladus. Scientists have discovered that Enceladus has hot fractured regions at its south pole, and that jets of fine icy particles issue forth from below its surface. Enceladus appears to have liquid water, excess warmth, and simple organic compounds. Porco said that we may have stumbled on the “holy grail” of modern-day exploration--an environment that may be suitable for living organisms. If it is ultimately found that life has developed twice in this solar system alone, we can assume it has occurred a staggering number of times in the cosmos as a whole – and such a finding would prove, in Porco’s understated words, “very difficult for religious doctrine.”
Carolyn Porco described growing up Catholic and practicing earnestly to try to find answers within it to her questions about meaning and purpose and why we’re here. She said religion couldn’t provide these answers, so she turned to astronomy. “It seemed to me, if there were any answers to be found at all, they were going to be found in the facts, and understanding the greater theater in which human life has unfolded. And I was right about that. Being a scientist, and staring immensity and eternity in the face every day is about as meaningful I think, and grand and awe-inspiring as it gets. We, especially we astronomers, confront the big questions of wonder every day and the answers to these questions in the aggregate have produced, and this is absolutely with no hype,…the greatest story every told. And there isn’t a religion, I think, that can offer anything better. And as Jules Verne said, reality provides us with facts so romantic that imagination itself could add nothing to them.”
Leading scientists and academics recently came together for an important conference, “Beyond Belief--Science, Religion, Reason and Survival.” The event was sponsored by the Science Network and held at the Salk Institute in La Jolla, California Nov 5-7. The conference website (http://beyondbelief2006.org/) described the impetus for the gathering this way:
“Just 40 years after a famous TIME magazine cover asked ‘Is God Dead?’ the answer appears to be a resounding "No!"…. Religions are increasingly a geopolitical force to be reckoned with. Fundamentalist movements--some violent in the extreme--are growing. Science and religion are at odds in the classrooms and courtrooms. And a return to religious values is widely touted as an antidote to the alleged decline in public morality. After two centuries, could this be twilight for the Enlightenment project and the beginning of a new age of unreason? Will faith and dogma trump rational inquiry, or will it be possible to reconcile religious and scientific worldviews? Can evolutionary biology, anthropology and neuroscience help us to better understand how we construct beliefs, and experience empathy, fear and awe? Can science help us create a new rational narrative as poetic and powerful as those that have traditionally sustained societies? Can we treat religion as a natural phenomenon? Can we be good without God? And if not God, then what?
“This is a critical moment in the human situation.”
Among those participating in the conference was Richard Dawkins, a scientist and popularizer of the theory of evolution. Dawkins’ book The God Delusion has been on the New York Times bestseller list for 13 weeks in a row, and he has been getting large and enthusiastic audiences on tour in the U.S. promoting his book. In a U.S. News and World Report article (“The New Unbelievers”--Nov. 5, 2006), Dawkins commented on why he is now getting such a hearing: “Six years of Bush, which seems to be a step in the direction of theocracy, and the rise of Islamic fundamentalism seem to suggest that the world is moving toward two extreme religious views.”
Video of the La Jolla conference sessions are available online at the conference website. We encourage Revolution readers to check out the videos and critically listen to the different viewpoints and controversies expressed.
One main arena of controversy in the conference was whether there is an inherent conflict between science and religion. Some participants said that scientists should focus on spreading a greater appreciation and knowledge of science but stay away from a debate over the existence of God, or other things that would conflict with mainstream religious belief.
But others argued that science inevitably conflicts with religious faith. Since scientific thought and discovery is based on evidence and fact, it undermines the unfounded faith of religion--which has no basis in evidence for any of its wild claims. And religion cannot help but contest with science. As the author Sam Harris put it, “Every religion is making claims about the way the world is… these are claims about the divine origin of certain books, about the virgin birth of certain people, about the survival of the human personality after death. These claims purport to be about reality…and this inevitably puts religion on a collision course with science because these are claims made on bad evidence.” Richard Dawkins argued that with the loss of religion would be lost the religious brainwashing of children, the subversion of science, and the view that faith is a virtue--“belief without evidence.”
Steven Weinberg, professor of Physics and Astronomy at the University of Texas, commented that science has dug away at core religious beliefs-- showing that humans are not the center of creation but another animal species that has evolved from other animal species, and that science sees less and less of a special role for humans in the laws of nature or the universe. Weinberg said science has shown that the earth is not the center of the universe, the solar system is not the center of the galaxy, our galaxy is not unique and now there is plausible evidence that the Big Bang may well just be one episode in a much larger multiverse with Big Bangs “popping off all the time.” And so science has increasingly made religious explanations unnecessary. Weinberg said, “The world needs to wake up from its long nightmare of religious belief. And anything that we scientists can do to weaken the hold of religion should be done, and may in fact in the end be our greatest contribution to civilization.”
These arguments are both a welcome “pushback” against the attack on scientific thought and method by Christian fascist theocrats at the core of power and throughout U.S. society today, as well as a response to those who would try to tiptoe around the theocrats, fundamentalists, and Bushites by not challenging religion’s claims. But again, readers should go to the site to get a full sense of the back-and-forth discussion and debate over this. Also up for debate were the seriousness of the threat from religion, and particularly religious fundamentalism, in the world today; the relation between science and morality; and other topics as well.
There were also some secondary shortcomings to the conference. In particular, many participants lumped communism in with fascism as one of the “twin horrors” of the 20th century. This view was not challenged and was accepted as a sort of “common logic” or conventional wisdom. But such a view cannot stand up to the deep study of the evidence and the testing and debating of contesting theories that should characterize a scientific approach to any question, and the unthinking acceptance and repetition of such views does damage to the whole scientific project, closing off the examination of a genuinely scientific approach to human society itself and thus giving ground to sloppy and unscientific thinking more generally. For those, scientists and others, who wish to read an actually scientific account of the history of communist revolution, see the Revolution series “Socialism Is Much Better Than Capitalism, and Communism Will Be a Far Better World” by Raymond Lotta [revcom.us/strs/set-the-record-straight.html], as well as the article “The Outrageous Equating of Communism with Nazism” by the Set the Record Straight project [revcom.us/a/011/outrageous-equating-nazism-communism.htm].
Overall however, the La Jolla conference was an important and stimulating event advancing opposition to the attacks on science and the scientific method, and in grappling with the role of science in contending with religion in the world today. The video sessions are well worth delving into.
Revolution Online Special Report, December 19, 2006
We have recently returned from an investigative reporting trip to Oaxaca, Mexico. We were able to participate in one of the human rights delegations investigating and documenting the repression going on in this southern Mexican state, and had the opportunity to meet and talk with many different kinds of people. The following report was written while we were in Oaxaca--and there will be more to come!
First, a little background: In the pre-dawn hours of June 14, 2006, over 2,000 police brutally attacked an encampment of striking teachers, their families (including children), and supporters, while they were sleeping in the zócalo, the town square, of Oaxaca City. The encampment had been in the zócalo since May as part of the teachers’ strike to demand improvements in education, assistance for poor students in the rural areas, and a pay raise. The teachers usually go on strike in May, but it had never been met with such repression. Hundreds of people were injured. The teachers were dispersed temporarily but then fought their way back into the zócalo.
June 14 sparked a wider struggle that has raged for six months and impacted Oaxacan society as a whole. People from all walks of life rallied around the call to drive out the governor, Ulises Ruiz Ortiz (URO). URO has been hated since he came into office--for violent repression of the indigenous struggles and as a representative of the continued domination in that state by the PRI (the political party that was the institutionalized ruling party over all of Mexico for over 70 years).
Hundreds of thousands of people took part in mega-marches through the city. Radio stations and a TV station were taken over by masses of people. In August, a group of women took over Channel 9 and broadcast for three weeks before the station was attacked. Armed government thugs and police were going through neighborhoods shooting and killing people. After someone was killed near the TV station, barricades went up all over the city--an estimated 1,500 of them. All kinds of people came out to the barricades. In some cases 70-year-old women guarded barricades armed with sticks. People from the neighborhoods brought food and coffee to the defenders of the barricades. In some neighborhoods there were fierce battles to stop the police forces from coming in.
In October the Federal Preventive Police (PFP) came in and surrounded the zócalo. They killed several people at the end of October. Then on November 25, the repression reached a whole new level. The PFP attacked a march, arresting over 150 people who they then tortured and jailed--and some of whom were just people who happened to be passing through the zócalo that day. This repression has drawn international attention, and several human rights delegations have traveled to Oaxaca to learn about and document the abuses.
Oaxaca, Mexico, December 18— Contrasted against the blue sky, the red noche buenas blooming throughout the city, along with the sounds of women cooking and children playing in the marketplace, make the center of town seem almost…normal. Oaxaca is not the same place it was before the people stood up in June of this year. The fact that for months the people raised their heads throughout Oaxaca—from the center region and through much of the countryside—cannot be erased. Oaxaca demanded to be heard.
* * * * *
On Sunday, December 17, 43 prisoners who had been detained in a prison in Tepic, Nayarit were released. Immediately upon their arrival back to Oaxaca City, many of the people released began sharing stories of the November 25th repression when the Federal Preventive Police (PFP)—which had been occupying the zocalo, the central city square, since October—attacked protesters demanding the ouster of Oaxaca's hated governor, Ulises Ruiz Ortiz. More than 150 people were brutally beaten and arrested in the area around the zocalo, including many people who were coming home from work and shopping.
Magdalena was coming home from work on the afternoon of the 25th. She’s a 50-year-old widow and works as a housekeeper to support her family. She had heard of the popular movement, but didn’t really know too much about it. She remembered some of her neighbors telling her that the teachers were just troublemakers and that it was time for the authorities to bring down order. But on the 25th everything changed. She was swept up along with many others by the PFP while she was in the town center. She was hit, thrown down on the floor, had her hands tied and told—along with other women—that they were going to die and that after they were killed their bodies would be thrown in garbage cans where nobody would find them.
Magdalena saw her relatives bloodied and beat up. For the 21 days she was in prison, she and the others arrested that day had no contact with the outside world. For Magdalena, what is burned into her consciousness is the desperation of the women prisoners who don’t know where their children are and whether or not they are eating. Just as arbitrarily as she’d been grabbed off the street on the 25th, she was told that she was going home. She can’t stop thinking about the women she left behind.
Before, Magdalena hadn’t given much thought to the people’s struggle. Her experience has affected her profoundly. She says after what the government has done to her she wants to participate in the struggle however she can. She now remembers the repression against the people of Atenco, who were fighting against the government's moves to take their land, and never would have believed she’d find herself identifying with the women who were brutalized there. She is most of all driven by an urgency to free the prisoners who remain in the conditions she’s just escaped, and she says that though she can’t read or write she wants to be involved in whatever way she can. She says she doesn’t seek to be rich and live in a mansion like URO, but she demands respect and a more just world—not just for herself, but for everyone.
* * * * *
The air is still thick in Oaxaca. In the past weeks police helicopters have occasionally flown low over the city—their blades a reminder of the brute force of the state. Officially the PFP forces have withdrawn from the city, but there are still eyes and ears everywhere. Just last night Florentino Lopez, Pedro Garcia, and Macario Padilla, prominent figures in the APPO movement were detained at a stoplight and were beaten and arrested. They were released the same night—but the threat of more repression is clear, as is determination on the people’s side.
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Revolution #72, December 10, 2006
Interview with Navy Seaman Jonathan Hutto and Sgt. Liam Madden-USMC
Among the deep problems for the U.S. imperialists in Iraq is the broad and growing dissension and even outright opposition to the war and occupation within the U.S. armed forces. The Pentagon itself estimates that 8,000 soldiers have gone AWOL since the 2003 invasion of Iraq. There have been some high-profile cases of GI resistance to the war. The Army recently announced it was court-martialing Lt. Ehren Watada, the first commissioned officer to refuse deployment to Iraq.
And a group of active-duty GIs have launched a public campaign -- Appeal for Redress -- calling for U.S. troop withdrawal from Iraq and an end to U.S. occupation. 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 is not worth the price. It is time for U.S. troops to come home.”
Articles on the Appeal have been printed in the Navy, Army and Marine Times and it has been circulated on the internet. As of Nov. 20, organizers have been able to verify 700 signers of the appeal who are military members.
Revolution recently interviewed co-founders and organizers of the Appeal effort. Jonathan Hutto is a Seaman in the United States Navy, stationed at Norfolk, VA. Liam Madden is a Sgt in the United States Marine Corps stationed at Quantico, VA. He is an Iraq war veteran who was deployed in Haditha, Iraq.
In Revolution newspaper, this interview is being published in two parts. Part 1 appears in issue #74. Part 2 appears in issue 75. The entire interview is here online.
* * * * *
Sgt. Liam Madden
Revolution: Can you first of all describe the purpose of the Appeal for Redress and what you hope to accomplish with it?
Jonathan Hutto: The purpose of the Appeal for Redress is to give active duty, reserve, and guard personnel the opportunity to voice any reservations or misgivings about the current Iraq occupation. What the Appeal asserts is that the current status quo policy in Iraq is not going to work. And that ultimately we have to win our political leadership to the principle of withdrawal. That’s what the Appeal for Redress seeks to do. So for those service members who agree with us, they can send in an appeal through this process. What we hope to achieve in the short term is to add our weight to the dialogue, debate, and discussion, in the hopes that it can affect the outcome of policy decisions. That’s in the short term. In the long term, we hope to build an actual active duty service member organization that can potentially serve as an advocacy arm on behalf of active duty members of the military, especially the enlisted.
Liam Madden: The ultimate goal is to end the occupation of Iraq. That seems lofty, but shoot for the stars and you won’t end up with a handful of mud, right? Short term goal is to get several thousand appeals sent to Congress to kind of set the tone for the next Congress. Hopefully prioritize the withdrawal of American troops from Iraq as one of their biggest missions.
Revolution: Can you talk a little about some of your own experiences, in terms of why you joined the military and what has been the process that you’ve gone through to come to the position you’re taking now?
Madden: A lot of people ask me that, and they’re kind of looking for the answer that there’s something specifically traumatic that happened to me in Iraq and it’s not true. I went to Iraq opposing the war and I left Iraq opposing the war. I always opposed the war so there was really no development in that or any specific development only I could have gotten from my vantage. It was really something that any American could get, just by staying abreast of the situation, like, ‘where are these WMDs, what threat did Iraq pose,’ just critically looking at the situation. Numerous other things: Why are we ignoring the will of the Iraqi people? Why are we insisting on staying in a situation that aggravates the violence? Things that any American could see. It’s really just a coincidence that I’m a Marine and it’s a great opportunity to have a platform.
I see American history, what you get fed growing up, in American schools and the standard curriculum and furthermore what the news tells you is news, it basically paints America as the knight in shining armor, maybe occasionally misguided, but basically the good guy. A big influence on me was reading Howard Zinn. I’m basically an independent enough minded person to acknowledge that that’s just not so, we’re not always the knight in shining armor and lots of times there’s an agenda to our foreign policy that’s not on the surface. It’s just obvious to me that WMDs, it’s obvious to everyone, that WMDs—although they were on the surface, there was an agenda beneath that. Then they made the surface the terrorist link, but there was something beneath that. And now they’re kind of relying on, ‘it’s democracy, we need to spread it.’ That’s a very valid thing to say we want there to be. Saddam Hussein was an evil tyrant and it’s good that he’s gone. But there’s another agenda, other than these righteous-sounding things and that’s one of the big reasons I oppose the war.
Liam Madden wrote to a Revolution correspondent about the holiday care packages being delivered by Appeal for Redress to troops in the U.S. This project is undertaken by a few dozen volunteers, a coalition of active service members who have submitted appeals for redress, veterans and veterans organizations, military families, and concerned citizens. Care packages contain an appeal for redress in a pre-addressed envelope, baked goods and other treats, and DVDs of Sir No Sir , (a documentary about GI resistance during the Vietnam War) and The Ground Truth (which documents the experience of GIs in Iraq), and informational fliers. Madden said, “We saw the holidays as a great opportunity to reach out to the troops and simultaneously show our support and deliver our message to the active duty.” Packages have been delivered around Christmas and New Years to Fort Carson, Colorado; Davis Monthan Air Force Base, Arizona; Dover Air Force Base, Delaware; Groton Naval Base, Connecticut; Norfolk Naval Base, Virginia; the DC area; and the cluster of bases in Southern California.
Hutto: In terms of my personal experiences. It’s interesting because oftentimes I get questions from reporters asking me if I had some sort of personal revelation, was there some kind of event that took place. That’s not the question you’re asking, but it’s kind of a naïve question, in the sense that it seems to propose that people who join the military are staunch defenders of the status quo. That’s not true. The majority of the people who join the military primarily join for economic reasons. Those reservations and misgivings I have about the Iraq war are those that I had when I joined, and that many of us have when we joined. Many of us joined for all sorts of reasons, to straighten out their personal lives, pay off some debts, get some degree or educational opportunity or what have you.
In terms of my own personal beliefs, my personal political background starts in Atlanta, Georgia post civil-rights era, being raised in a family and in a community, by institutions in my community—whether it was my school, whether it was my church, whether it was the YMCA in downtown Atlanta right there where the King center is…where the history and the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King is. Growing up in that city we were reinforced with the principle of peace and justice and ensuring equality and fairness in society. This is something that’s just part of me as a person, whether or not I’m in the military or teaching school or working in corporate America I would totally have it in mind, peace and justice in society.
I definitely had experiences since I’ve been in. I’ve been the recipient of racial harassment, xenophobia on behalf of shipmates and dealing with those within the chain of command who pretty much were intolerant to the type of person that I am. But we definitely handled those situations appropriately. When I was off the coast of Iraq, we had one shipmate pull out a hangman’s noose in front of me and in fact make a mockery of lynching, a very brutal history, a very brutal time in history of this country…. But the petty officer is no longer a petty officer. He had his rank taken from him and also he was restricted to boat for 30 days. This type of stuff is the culture of what goes on in the military. Unfortunately it’s an institution that is laced with a lot of racists, a lot of sexists, a lot of xenophobic behavior.
So just in my own personal life in the military, it’s coming up on three years now, but because of my own background, having been born and raised in Atlanta, Georgia, having gone to the historic black college Howard University where I was very politically active, having also worked with two nonprofit organizations—the ACLU and Amnesty International, I knew how to fight, I knew how to get my issues across if I needed to. I’m not someone who was trained to be obedient or subservient in the face of so-called authority. We come out of a tradition where Dr. King taught us there is such a thing as moral law and immoral law and you have an obligation to break immoral law. If order seems to affirm somebody putting a hangman’s noose in your face then you have to break that law, so that’s the tradition that I come out of.
Revolution: How did you get to the position where you felt you should organize this Appeal?
Madden: I don’t know if you know how Jonathan and I met, but we met…I was talking at an event down in Norfolk, VA and Jonathan got my e-mail address. And he e-mailed me maybe a month after that and said “do you want to get more involved in creating a movement, letting our voice be heard regarding military personnel who disagree with this war?” And there was no question in my mind that I wanted to. I already opposed the war. I was already the type of person that believed that you can’t just feel something and not act upon it. It’s kind of your civic obligation to act and move and do these things. So we started brainstorming, and Jonathan did a lot of the leaps and bounds in the research part, and legally, and it kind of just grew from there.
Hutto: When I was overseas, an old friend of mine sent me a book. The book is called Soldiers in Revolt, written by David Cortwright. David Cortwright at the time was enlisted in the United States Army, from 1968 to 1971. In 1975 he wrote this book, which is the definitive chronicle of that history, the history of the GI movement. The history of active duty soldiers, sailors and marines during the Vietnam era who were active within the armed forces back then, raising these issues.
Reading this history I thought to myself, “How could active duty soldiers, sailors, and marines get active in today’s context? How could they legally, in a constructive way do so?” We began doing our research. We began pulling up the documentation and doing research and we found the Military Whistleblower Protection Act, which said any and all military members without prior command approval, can communicate with a member of Congress, and cannot have any reprisal against themselves for having done so.
So that’s what they say the law is, then we want to test the law and see if the law works. Now unfortunately, some believe military members should be separate from the political process, which to us would actually be military members existing within a fascist order. They say this is a democracy, so they call it, so let’s participate. That’s what a democracy is. It’s a government of, for, and by the people, and the military members are people and citizens of the government. So let’s find out if it works
Revolution: You mentioned, Jonathan, and I noticed an article where you were quoted talking about a similar appeal during the Vietnam War and that there was this widespread opposition within the military then—some of it is documented in the movie Sir No Sir…
Hutto: I have seen that.
Revolution: But given that experience, how do you look at the opposition within the military right now and also looking at that, how do you see the role of GIs today in ending the Iraq war, etc.
Hutto: There is no comparison. At that time, you had essentially what became a mass movement, a movement that was spontaneous in nature, but a movement that was mass. Because at that time it got to that point, particularly in the late 1960s, where dissent and resistance became a culture within the United States. You couldn’t go anywhere in the U.S. and not be touched by this culture of dissent, whether you were going into the military, whether you were going into college, or just going into the workforce. You were going to be touched by the movement. The hot summer of ‘67, right? You got urban cities burning all over America. You got the summer of ‘68, you got the Democratic convention. The spring of ‘68 you got the assassination of Dr. King and America in flames. Robert Kennedy, whether you love or dislike Robert Kennedy, his assassination also sparked much upheaval. So you couldn’t go anywhere, 1969 you got Woodstock, you couldn’t go anywhere and not be touched by it.
I think today, even though there’s been a lot of mass protest, I mean the ANSWER coalition and others have been very active. But we haven’t been able to create that culture of dissent within the country. On top of that, one of the things that was different was that back in the ‘60s you had a draft that touched every element of society. You had people like the current president—I can’t say anything slanderous about him, DOD regulation—but the point is you had people like our current president who went into the Texas national guard. I mean the draft was touching every element. Today you don’t have a draft, you have a volunteer army. A volunteer army of men and women who primarily come from the margins of society. They come from that part of the society that people don’t care about. And it’s by design. Because people don’t value that which they feel has no value. So that’s the difference, that’s the basic difference.
I think, what would it take for there to begin to be a mass movement? I think the longer and longer we stay in Iraq, people on their third and fourth tours, the more frustrated people get, the more people see their lives are not being improved and the more people see their loved ones taken away. Between what’s happening in Iraq and the degradation of their communities at home, the frustration level rises, the misery rises, and people will begin to take action.
What we’re doing is a legal and constructive way to get active. But I’m reminded that when legal, constructive means do not bring about what the masses of people are looking for, people do look to other alternatives. But this here is a legal, constructive way for people to get involved.
Revolution: Where do you think soldiers and others are at in terms of developing that kind of a movement or that kind of a mood?
Hutto: I think the mood is there actually. I haven’t talked to too many people that I work with who are overwhelmingly supporters of the Iraq war. The question is not so much the mood, the question is having the spark and the catalyst that can set the mood in motion. Sometimes that takes a particular case, takes a particular issue. But I think that powderkeg is already there. It’s going to take something to really, really set it in motion. I think the election two weeks ago is a case in point about what I mean about the mood being there. But the mood being there and who captures the mood are two different things. You got a mood throughout the country that what’s taking place in Iraq is not good and it’s not in the best benefit of the citizenry. But who captures the mood, is it the people or the Democratic Party, that’s the question.
Revolution: It seems like people are voting to both end the war and stop the whole direction of things in many ways, at least that’s what they hope happens, there’s a big sentiment for that, but that’s not what the Democrats are planning to do.
Hutto: I think people should get that. I mean, our initiative is not partisan, it’s not partisan for a reason. We know the occupation of Iraq was not a Republican occupation. This is an occupation that was agreed upon, it was a bipartisan agreement. And we’re not going to allow those who voted for the Iraq war to now position themselves as all of a sudden being anti-occupation. These are people who affirmed it. Even John Murtha, who has come out as the anti-war hero in the House of Representatives, he supported the initial invasion of Iraq. We have to keep that in mind.
Revolution: Can you talk about the extent and the character of the opposition to the Iraq war among active duty GIs?
Madden: I think within the Marine Corps, which is definitely one of the more conservative branches, it would be a pretty fair estimate to say one-third oppose the war and want us to leave, one-third support the war and want us to stay, and another third are in the middle and they have feelings like, well I don’t want to be there but if we left things would go to hell. Or they don’t really have an opinion either way, they just see it as a job. There’s a third in the middle that could really go either way.
Hutto: I think it’s pretty broad actually. There’s not mass support for what’s taking place in Iraq. People are not going to Iraq because they are really gung-ho and ready to go over there and kick some butt. People are going to Iraq because they have to go, because they are legally obliged to go. They have families, wives and children, bills to pay. So this is their way of life. They’re protecting what they perceive to be their way of life and their way of living. And if getting back to their families means staying out of trouble and fulfilling their obligation, they’re going to fulfill that obligation. I think it’s more of an obligation and an economic basis than it has to do with any sort of ideology.
Revolution: There is opposition within the military, like the Lt. Watada case and many thousands who have gone AWOL.
Hutto: I think right now, like I said earlier, the mood is there. People have to see some way in which they can voice their concern. First they have to be won to see their concern even matters. They definitely have concerns, they definitely have views, they have reservations, they have misgivings, as shown by our initiative and things you mention in terms of AWOL and desertion, even though we’re not advocating people do that. But I think people have to know they have a way in which they can channel that energy and we have a responsibility to organize that energy. But in terms of the sentiment and the level of sentiment, I think it’s already there. I just think it has to be organized. People have to be shown they can participate and have their voices heard and that their political leadership will take them seriously.
Revolution: In terms of the sentiments of people in the military, and your own personal sentiment too about, in particular, the domestic situation, what the Bush regime is doing in this country—there’s been the Military Commissions Act which has basically legalized torture, the stripping of habeas corpus, there’s been this whole NSA wiretapping and spying on people and so forth, there’s a whole direction of things with this administration, so I’m just wondering your sentiments or if you could comment on that and also is this a topic among active duty GIs, in terms of what they’re thinking about.
Hutto: DOD regulations doesn’t allow me to make any slanders about the Commander-in-Chief, but I will say this, that all the issues you mentioned are issues of serious concern to myself. I’m definitely very much concerned about the eroding of civil liberties and civil rights in this country, eroding of the Bill of Rights. I think the Patriot Act should definitely be one of the first major agenda items to be addressed by the Judiciary Committee of the House when they come back to session the first of the year. I think all of the issues you listed are definitely top priority for myself, and I think many military members as well. I can’t say for sure, I haven’t polled on any of those topics. But I will say I think those topics are of prime concern.
Revolution #75, January 7, 2007
The following excerpt is from: “Daring to Change Minds and Move Millions: The Case for Impeachment Now,” a speech given by Sunsara Taylor (World Can't Wait advisory board member and writer for Revolution newspaper) in NYC on December 10.
For five years we've gone through this dance where the Bush regime proposes--or gets caught doing something--outrageous. At first the Democrats make some noises of opposition, then they get reasonable, and eventually capitulate, and the world is made worse.
There's been Roberts, Alito, the Patriot Act I, the Patriot Act II, the Terri Schiavo theocratic lunacy, the NSA spying, the Military Commissions Act, it just goes on and on and on. And now, we're seeing the same thing happen--again--with the war on Iraq. The Democrats promised a “new direction,” but already they are accommodating to Bush, saying it’s too messy to pull out, and maybe best to send in tens of thousands MORE troops.
But there is another force in society. There are people. Millions and millions of people. People who are sick of this war.
Troops who don't believe in their mission stuck on their second and third tour of duty.
Thousands still scattered across the country by Hurricane Katrina and millions more whose smoldering anger at how Black people were treated there has been inflamed again by the NYPD's 50 shots that killed Sean Bell.
Women and gay people whose fundamental rights are being systematically shredded.
Rivers of immigrants who not long ago clogged the streets of every city in this country in protest.
Intellectuals and artists who are not ready to bow down to a king.
And there are all the people who tried to give expression to their sentiments through this election.
These people, totaling in their millions, have the potential strength to upset this whole direction. These are the people that WE need to get out to and WE need to bring into the streets on January 4th, the first day of the new Congress, to demand: Impeach the war criminals! The Bush Regime must go!
Some people say we should stay away from impeachment, that it’s better to just let the Republicans twist in the wind and take a loss in '08. How removed from reality, how enveloped in political meaninglessness do you have to be, not to see or not to care that it is the torture victims, the Iraqi families, the people of Iran, the women and gays, the immigrants and Black people you would be leaving to twist in the wind as this regime barrels forward?
Nancy Pelosi and the rest of the Democrats say that "impeachment is off the table." But if George Bush is not impeached over these crimes, then everything he has done -- the doctrine of preemptive war, the torture, the assault on the separation of church and state, the undermining of the rule of law -- all of this is legitimized and will continue, no matter who becomes the next president. And it means we are complicit in all of this.
Some say--oh no, this will divide the country. Today the major media won't mention impeachment except to say that the Republicans would love it. And many are afraid of saying things because it might incite the Republicans. Hello! Bowing down and giving them the horrific future they want without a fight, is even worse.
When you had racist vigilantes hunting down and terrorizing Black people and you had laws and good ol' boy networks backing it all up--you had to politically confront it!
When you had an unjust war sending tens of thousands of young men to their deaths and destroying the Vietnamese countryside and slaughtering millions of Vietnamese--you had to politically confront it.
Without a political confrontation, these crimes weren’t going to go away.
We are not talking about spoiled children making mischief that you can ignore long enough that they'll eventually get bored and move on. This is a regime with a strategic plan for remaking the whole world. They have their hands on the levers of state power and they have an unthinking fanatical social base they have built up and are increasingly unleashing to intimidate and terrorize people who don't agree with them. This reality needs to be politically confronted and transformed. Avoiding that political confrontation, avoiding the necessary polarization and upheaval means being complicit as all of this gets worse.
Besides, what is so wrong with polarizing people when they are wrong — and going along with great crimes?
The biggest problem right now is not that people don't want what we are for. It is that too many people are inactive, tuned out, they don't know how bad it is and they don't know how they can affect things. The only way this will change is if we go out and challenge and polarize people around what is being done in our names.
Seriously, imagine how much further along we'd be if every person in this country was forced to take a side: Are you for torture or are you against it? For the slaughter of the Iraqi people or against it? For spying on the public or against it? For preaching abstinence, ignorance and patriarchy or against it? For denying fundamental rights to gay people or against it? For replacing science with religion in the public schools or against it? For papering over global warming or against it? Let’s get people picking sides.
It is good to stand against these crimes. It is RIGHT to stand against these crimes.
This country needs to be polarized. The White House and Congress need to look out and see that the country is overwhelmingly polarized against them and they need to seriously fear that if they don't put a stop to this whole direction that they are going to lose the allegiance of millions of people.
We have to challenge people to take a stand on this. And we have to do it on terms that are radically different than those being counseled right now by the Democrats.
So, January 4th, everyone here needs to be serious about getting to Washington, DC and organizing others to be there. On that day, the new Congress, the people of this country, and the people of the world need to hear the will of the people ringing out loud and clear: Start the impeachment and open the investigations. If war crimes, torture, and crimes against humanity aren’t enough to start impeachment, then what is? Bush must go!
Revolution #75, January 7, 2007
Cheers & Jeers:
Cheers to Sean Penn whose acceptance speech upon receiving The 2006 Christopher Reeve First Amendment Award from The Creative Coalition, was a timely wake up call deeply challenging complicity and calling for impeachment of the Bush Administration. Penn expresses his sense of moral responsibility to speak out and act. With a wry sense of humor and outrage he exposes a lot of hypocrisy in the media and the current political atmosphere. There are some valuable insights, including on the case for impeachment. He poses to us “I've got a feeling about how we can begin to change this process and I want to pass it by you” and then goes on to demand that the Bush administration be held accountable:
“Now, there's been a lot of talk lately on Capitol Hill about how impeachment should be "off the table." We're told that it's time to look ahead - not back…
“Can you imagine how far that argument would go for the defense at an arraignment on charges of grand larceny, or large-scale distribution of methamphetamines? How about the arranging of a contract killing on a pregnant mother? "Indictment should be off the table." Or "Let's look forward, not backward." Or "We can't afford another failed defendant."
Our country has a legal system, not of men and women, but of laws. Why then are we so willing to put inconvenient provisions of the U.S. constitution and federal law "off the table?" Our greatest concern right now should be what to put ON the table. Unless we're going to have one set of laws for the powerful and another set for those who can't afford fancy lawyers, then truth matters to everyone. And accountability is a matter of human and legal principle. If we're going to continue wagging our fingers at the disadvantaged transgressors, then I suggest we be consistent. If truth and accountability can be stretched into sham concepts, we may as well open the gates of all our jails and prisons, where, by the way, there are more people behind bars than any other country in the world. One in every 32 American adults is behind bars, on probation, or on parole as we stand here tonight.”
Penn's feelings that we must demand impeachment and hold these people accountable are an important sentiment which needs to be echoed all throughout society at this time, and must be acted on by large numbers of people. Read his entire speech on-line at worldcantwait.net.
Revolution #75, January 7, 2007
Ugly Dynamic in Somalia
On December 19, open war broke out in the Horn of Africa. With U.S. backing and support, at least 15,000 troops of Ethiopia's battle-hardened armed forces invaded neighboring Somalia and quickly routed the Union of Islamic Courts (UIC), an Islamic fundamentalist force that had only recently consolidated power over much of Somalia. Guided by U.S. intelligence and satellite information, the invading army drove the UIC back from the Ethiopian-Somali border and, after barely a week of fighting, poured into Somalia's coastal capital of Mogadishu, accompanied by some armed units of their allies, the so-called "Transitional Federal Government" (TFG) of Somalia.
The U.S. has sent this armed force marching into Somalia in order to assure that no force hostile to U.S. interests will be allowed to consolidate power there. This new and unjust warfare has plunged Somalia into crisis, and will drive its bitterly impoverished people to new suffering and desperation. And this Ethiopian invasion, despite its quick initial victories, is a move that could very possibly draw much larger forces, including other countries in the surrounding region, into a maelstrom of confrontation and reactionary war.
This is nothing new for the U.S. which has backed and used brutal armies to carry out its bidding in African countries as diverse as South Africa, Angola, Mozambique, the Congo, and in Somalia and Ethiopia themselves before this newest round. They have forced people to endure unimaginable suffering as they have installed neocolonial governments, plundered the continent of its raw materials and competed with their rivals over militarily strategic areas.
The cruelest part of the tragedy this time is that the Islamic fundamentalists of the UIC do not provide a progressive alternative to the masses that can shatter the imperialists’ grip and that, once again, a battle is shaping up between two reactionary--and mutually reinforcing--poles.
U.S. Aggression in Somalia
For many long years the people in Somalia have suffered bitterly from the legacies of European colonialism, the operations of modern capitalist-imperialism and the constant clan warfare between rival, backward-looking warlords. Somalia's central government collapsed in the early 1990s, and the attempt by the U.S. to impose its domination by invasion failed there in 1993, after the famous "Black Hawk Down" rout of U.S. forces in Mogadishu.
After September 11, 2001, the U.S. started a new and aggressive series of operations around Somalia--saying that the "failed state" there could potentially become a gathering point for Al-Qaeda forces from fleeing the U.S. attacks on Afghanistan. There was both truth to this statement and rank opportunism--in other words, there actually was and is such a possibility AND the U.S. is at the same time using this threat as a justification to further extend and tighten its domination around the world.
In October 2002, the United States sent 1,500 troops to establish a military base for itself at Camp Le Monier, in the nearby country of Djibouti. Quickly this Djibouti base became the staging area for extensive and often covert operations throughout the Horn of Africa and in nearby Yemen--with the U.S. acknowledging the deployment of hundreds of elite commandos there, while insisting that their main work is "humanitarian assistance" projects.
The U.S. unleashed a campaign of intrigue and superpower pressure in Somalia and tried to impose a government on Somalia in 2004--the so-called Transitional Government. On May 6, 2005, U.S. Marines conducted a major intrusion into northern Somalia, complete with television coverage --all while Pentagon spokespeople insisted that such operations were not being conducted.
Meanwhile, the U.S. actively propped up the extremely oppressive and tottering government of neighboring Ethiopia headed by Prime Minister Meles Zenawi, trained Ethiopia's armed forces, and prepared to use these forces as a proxy force (armed agent) for any future U.S. operations in Somalia.
The Emergence of the Islamic Fundamentalists: A Reactionary Pole of Opposition
As has been happening in so many places in the world, the bribery and belligerent demands of U.S. imperialism brought some forces to its side and bitterly alienated others. The U.S. has failed to impose its domination over this huge, tumultuous and fragmented region--with a population of 165 million people in an area roughly half the size of the continental U.S.--and in many ways reinforced the banner of Islamic fundamentalism (or Islamist Jihad) as a counter pole to its actions.
In Somalia, a new force arose, Union of Islamic Courts (UIC), based in its own coalition of clan and warlord forces. It sought to consolidate national power using Islamic fundamentalism as a unifying force--and imposed a harsh theocratic order in many of the areas under its control, immediately enforcing strict religious codes for dress, behavior, and punishment. This included draconian restrictions on and repression of women, the stifling of intellectual and artistic endeavor, and in general the enforcement of patriarchal authority--that is, the absolute authority of the (male) head of the clan (or extended family) and of the main religious figure in the area. These social relations are based on a feudal form of production--one where peasants are exploited by and beholden to those who own and control the land. The Islamic fundamentalist trend generally aims to both reinforce those backward relations and get a share of the imperialist plunder of the nation.
At one point, the U.S. tended to back these sorts of forces against revolutionary or progressive secular nationalists; but today, through the peculiar way things played out after the collapse of the Soviet Union, they have emerged as a pole of opposition. But this is a reactionary pole of opposition, one that poses no real future for the masses. And, as we are seeing again in Somalia, these two poles both contend with and mutually reinforce each other (with the U.S. pointing to Islamic fundamentalists in Somalia as an excuse to sponsor an invasion, and the Islamic fundamentalists in turn pointing the finger at the U.S. to rally support).
The UIC systematically pushed aside the weak and highly unpopular Transitional Federal Government. By summer, the pro-U.S. TFG leaders and armed units were huddled in the backwater border town of Baidoa under Ethiopian military protection, as the UIC established control over much of Somalia.
In fact, the current Ethiopian invasion was long in the planning, and was unleashed within weeks after top U.S. general Abizaid made a personal visit to Ethiopia to confer with its government and military leaders. While U.S. officials have made pro forma statements denying involvement, the U.S. “encouragement” of Ethiopia’s actions--beginning with Ethiopia’s infiltration of their troops into Somalia six months ago--is a more or less “open secret,” acknowledged in ruling class newspapers like the New York Times.
Press accounts in East Africa reported U.S. Marines entered northern Kenya to interdict any reinforcements or supplies arriving to support the UIC war effort through the southern Somali coast. And they reported that Ethiopian forces received detailed military intelligence during their offensive from U.S. surveillance planes.
The U.S.-sponsored invasion has already intensified the suffering of the Somali people and is quite likely to lead to a new escalation of the internal fighting within that country.
It has bolstered the extremely oppressive government of Ethiopia and will attempt to consolidate new forms of rule by hated clan warlords over the 10 million people of Somalia. And it threatens to further strengthen the influence of reactionary class forces holding up the banner of Jihad--not just in Somalia but potentially within Muslim areas of Ethiopia, and much more broadly in the world.
These events underscore the compulsion felt by the U.S. ruling class to ruthlessly press ahead, on a world scale, making major new gambles and committing major new crimes to reinforce and further impose their domination. And they once more reinforce the deadly dynamic in which the people are caught between the dead ends of Jihad and McWorld/McCrusade, a dynamic which must urgently be broken.
Revolution #75, January 7, 2007
The Holocaust took place in the period leading up to and during the second world war between imperialist powers, when Hitler's Nazi regime carried out horrific acts of mass murder in Germany and other countries. The Nazis started out with round-ups of communists and then targeted Jews, trade unionists, Roma people (often known as "Gypsies"), homosexuals, and others. As Hitler's troops invaded other lands, Poles, Slavs, Russians, and others fell victim to the Nazi death machine. By the end, six million Jews and millions of others had been killed in pogroms and massacres and in infamous extermination camps like Auschwitz, Treblinka, and Sobibor.
The Holocaust is one of the towering crimes in all of human history.
The Islamic Republic of Iran recently hosted an international conference which was an outrageous and extremely reactionary attempt to deny the historical fact of the Holocaust. Addressing the conference was Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who has said that "they have invented a myth that Jews were massacred."
Now it is true that the actual reality and meaning of the Holocaust has been twisted and distorted by the U.S. imperialists and Israeli rulers to somehow justify the tremendous injustice against the Palestinian people: the massive theft of Palestinian land to establish the settler-colonial state of Israel in 1948, and the continuing oppression of Palestinians in brutal apartheid-like conditions. The fact of the Holocaust has been hypocritically manipulated to cover over and justify the reality that the state of Israel serves as a vicious and reliable attack dog for the U.S. rulers in this region and even in other far-flung parts of the world. And the hypocrisy here is really rank: the U.S. and Britain refused to bomb the train tracks that brought the poison gas to Auschwitz, and the Zionist leaders of the 1930s encouraged Jews in Europe to not resist the persecution and instead flee to Palestine.
But coming from an opposite pole of reactionary ideology and politics, the denial of the Holocaust by Ahmadinejad and other Islamic fundamentalists represents nothing remotely progressive or liberating for the masses of people. Just look at one of the featured guests at the Islamic Republic's Holocaust denial conference—David Duke, whose resume includes being the former "Imperial Wizard" of the KKK and a Louisiana state legislator. Duke is part of the whole ugly history of lynchings and the continuing reality of white supremacy in America. Clearly there are deep currents of fascism, religious fundamentalism, and anti-Semitism that attract those like Duke and Ahmadinejad toward each other.
The promotion of the idea that the Holocaust was a myth, contrary to mountains of actual historical records and evidence, is rooted in a whole anti-scientific epistemology (an understanding of the nature of truth and how people acquire knowledge) that Ahmadinejad and Iran's theocratic rulers operate on. In their worldview, truth is not arrived at by confronting reality as it is, but by absolutist adherence to religious texts. (And the Christian fundamentalists share this same epistemology of rigid and willful ignorance.) At the same time, facts that serve their aims are considered useful—and so Iran's theocratic rulers have, for example, developed their technology to a point where they may be able to develop nuclear weapons.
The masses of people in Iran are suffering through the nightmare that results when such an outlook commands society—a theocracy where medieval religious laws and rules control every aspect of political and social life…where, for example, women are lashed and stoned for simply being caught without a head covering.
Ahmadinejad's Holocaust denial is also related to the whole vision of the Iranian Islamic regime to build itself up as a bigger power in the Middle East and spread its influence over various groups and among the masses of people in the region. As part of these goals, the fundamentalist rulers hope to gain moral authority among Palestinians and others who oppose the Israeli occupation of Palestine—not to support a genuine struggle against imperialism and the Israeli occupiers but to further their own reactionary aims in opposition to the U.S. And these moves and ambitions of Iran are increasingly on a crash course with the moves and grand ambitions of the U.S. rulers to radically transform the Middle East in their own imperialist interests.
Both the cynical manipulation of the Holocaust's legacy by the U.S. and Israel, on the one hand, and the outrageous denial of the Holocaust by the Iran's fundamentalist rulers, on the other, are distortions of history for reactionary aims. Neither is in the interests of the masses of people to support or unite with, and both must be rejected--because if you want to change the world in the real interests of humanity, truth not only matters, it is essential.
Revolution #75, January 7, 2007
Revolution received an unusual number of responses to the articles about the rampage of police murder in the last month and we are reprinting some below.
My condolences go out to Sean Bell’s family and also the other two gentlemen who barely escaped from it all. You know I refuse to keep sitting back listening, looking at what is going on in the world with our people… Who in their right mind would keep ignoring this and continue to let this go on. We had this issue before with the police, and it happened sadly to Sean Bell, like he wasn’t nothing. He was somebody’s son, he was a little girl's father, and almost someone’s husband. Bottom line he had family. Really… I’m now starting to think we are “their targets” especially our black males.
I must say that this is yet another disturbing case of police brutality. It is not fair and it sends really bad messages to everyone. I wish that this system would stop trying to protect these officers. Emotions are so high that people are on edge. Case in point, I was harassed three different times by the NYPD. I am totally legal, very well educated and I have no prior record, the police are trying to intimidate people of color. I will not be intimidated. My father is an officer in Michigan and he doesn’t act like this. What is really going on? The thought is scary and the truth is even scarier.
Well I want to send strength to Sean Bell’s kids and family. As these days go by let us not forget that the police did not care that Sean Bell had a family and a bride-to-be waiting for him. I want justice to be made for the Bell family and justice for his baby girls.
I feel more pain for Sean Bell’s daughters, they will never be able to do anything with their father or even wish him a happy Father’s Day. For the rest of their lives they will have to wonder what kind of father he would have been to those beautiful girls. For the rest of their lives they have to decide should they trust police or will they kill them the way they killed their father…
That club has been a constant problem; therefore, an investigation was started. It went terribly wrong. I believe it happened so fast both Bell and the police officer felt there lives were in jeopardy. On the one hand, I cannot imagine being in the shoes of someone that feels their life may be in jeopardy. Fear will make you react in ways you would, otherwise, never consider. What would you do to protect your life? What if you had access to a weapon? On the other hand, the amount of shots is not at all justified…
I am outraged by this terrible act of violence that has once again taken place to a minority. Here is a man who obviously had his future ahead of him, wedding just hours away and was killed, for what? Do we have a charge? Of course not. This is just another cruel reminder of the harsh world we are living in. To protect and to serve right??
I agree that the Sean Bell incident can be seen as a very excessive use of police force. However I greatly dislike how your articles are condemning police as the "KKK." This was a horrible event, but what you don't hear about are the dozens upon dozens of black men that are arrested daily, without incident, for crimes they are guilty of committing. The nature and sheer volume of crime the police deal with daily almost insures that events like this will occur every now and then. The truth of what happened that night lies somewhere between the eyewitness accounts and the police accounts.
I think that excessive force was used and there was a better way for trained officers to handle the situation, but we as blacks especially young black males have to understand that we are already targets and that simple action is best. The officers bare some responsibility as it is their job to protect and serve but the young men aren't totally innocent where they were involved in an altercation.
To hell with the NYPD. I am a criminology major at the present time and I think that police are handed too much power to begin with… [This] gives them a greater chance to abuse it. To the family, you are in my prayers. On the other hand sue for wrongful death. At one point in my life I wanted to be an officer of the law… Not anymore.
What you people are doing is brave. The type of individual that elects to be a police officer ranges from violent bully at best and racist murderer at worst. Please know that your efforts to publicize the crimes of these fascist intruders do not fall on deaf ears. Thank you.
My cousin and I were sitting at the table having breakfast while reading the newspaper. I looked up at her with confusion as I read about the incident in USA Today. I am truly troubled by what happened to Sean Bell and his two friends. My prayers go out to the family of the victims. At the same time I am so angry about what happened to that 23-year-old young man who now has to be buried by his mother and his fiancee. The mayor response made no sense to me. How can you ask that people not jump to conclusions when there is an unarmed man DEAD. My cousin expresses her anger with regards to the officer who shot 31 bullets emptying two magazines. As for this household we are enraged. What explanation can be given to the family as well as the people of New York? It makes it very difficult to not be supportive of the idea, eye for an eye and tooth for a tooth. May Sean rest in peace and may God comfort the many people he has left behind. We also pray for the speedy recovery of his two friends.
I believe you are looking past some very obvious defenses on the police side. It was a strip club under observation for drugs, prostitution, and weapons. The guys were taking a girl home, it was 4am, and they tried to run over a police officer trying to stop them.
I understand the cause of your newsletter is to prove the radical right is wrong but don’t do so at the expense of the truth. If you do, then people won’t believe those things that are.
Response from Revolution Editors
The deep anger and bitter experience reflected in many of these letters is righteous and positive. That anger must be transformed both into action and, even more important now, into a search for the cause of these outrages, and the way to end them. Prayers to a god that doesn't exist will only lead away from what needs to be done—we need science to really understand what we're up against and how to make revolution to change it all. Get with that science. Take up this paper. And get into the work of the leader of the RCP, Bob Avakian. Listen to the talks up on bobavakian.net and get your hands on the DVD Revolution: Why It's Necessary, Why It's Possible, What It's All About. The Revolution DVD breaks down and answers those questions with sweep and depth (and, as one part of that, dissects the particular role and purpose of the police under this system).
For those who wrote and made excuses for the police or who put stock in “the official story,” even if you’re upset at what they did to Sean Bell: we're tempted to just say that you should wake the hell up. Can anybody or anything justify 50 shots at an unarmed man? But you too should get deeper into our paper and into the works of Bob Avakian. You should listen to the other letter writers and the reality they're reflecting. And to the person who objected to the KKK comparison and raised the specter of crime: Ask yourself this, before you talk of crime and criminals in this instance: Leaving aside the fact that no crime has been proven or even charged against Sean Bell and his friends... what kind of a system casts off a whole section of these youth into rotting decaying schools, in communities with few if any jobs, and then proceeds to lock up so many of these youth—most for nonviolent offenses—that this country has the highest rate of imprisonment in the world? What kind of a system is it where crime has become "a rational choice" for many youth of the oppressed nationalities, as even some of the system's own theoreticians admit? What does this have to do with the whole history of slavery and Jim Crow and the present-day reality of racist discrimination in every sphere that marks this country and its system? And how are the police who defend and enforce this system really any different than the KKK which enforced Jim Crow segregation? Who are the REAL criminals in all this? And is this really what you want to defend?
One story, for your consideration:
In the Spring of 2000, in a flurry of other shootings at the time, Patrick Dorismond, 26, was fatally shot in the chest by a police officer in midtown. An undercover police officer had stopped the Haitian immigrant and asked him where you could purchase marijuana in the area. Dorismond told him to bug off, a scuffle broke out and the cops shot and killed the unarmed Dorismond. To justify the shooting, Mayor Giuliani released Dorismond’s sealed juvenile arrest record and tried to make it look like he was shot while dealing dope. The city then sent hundreds of police officers dressed in riot gear to patrol Dorismond’s funeral. Police assaulted and pepper-sprayed mourners. It was only later that the real story came out, and even then a grand jury chose not to indict.
Now multiply this story by the hundreds, or even thousands. The Stolen Lives Project (a project of the October 22nd Coalition to Stop Police Brutality, www.october22.org) has documented the killings of more than 2,000 people in the 1990s. According to the Project, since New York City police killed Amadou Diallo in 1999 in a hail of 41 bullets, they have gunned down 133 other people; Stolen Lives estimates that on a national level, already more than 2,000 others have been killed in the first half of this decade.
Two thousand people. If you are a responsible human being you have to get hold of the Stolen Lives Project book—or go to their website—and get the facts on these cases: how people were cut down by the police; how the police then lied; and how the accused cops were rarely indicted and, when they were, almost always went free. Then ask yourself why, and—again—what kind of a system allows that. Look that reality in the face—and then break with it.
To all our readers: keep writing.
Revolution #75, January 7, 2007
Revolution is asking its readers to help uncover the hidden stories about the Swift & Co. raids and other recent attacks on immigrants. If you or someone in your family were affected by these raids, or if you are an advocate or lawyer for immigrants, please send us reports about what has and is happening. Your name and any other identifying information will not be used without your permission.
Imagine: For one moment, step into the shoes of an immigrant. You are forced to come here in order to have any kind of future for yourself or your children--and because U.S. imperialism has made it impossible for this to happen in your own country. You go deeply into debt for the privilege of risking your life to cross the razor wire and death fields of the border, where more than 400 people die every year trying to cross. You finally get here, only to find yourself working in the sweaty, deadly hell of the slaughterhouse, where you can feel your life bleeding away bit by bit. And every day you live in fear--that you might never come home from work, or that a routine traffic stop might mean never seeing your children again. Which is exactly what happened last month to nearly 1,300 people.
December 12 in Greeley, Colorado; Marshalltown, Iowa; Worthington, Minnesota; Grand Island, Nebraska; Cactus, Texas; and Hyrum, Utah: Customs Enforcement (ICE) officials conducted the largest ever workplace immigration raids on a single employer in the history of the United States.
More than 1,280 people were rounded up and detained at meatpacking plants operated by Swift, a major agricultural giant. Officers in riot gear with military weapons stormed the plants, locked the doors, and hunted down immigrants like animals, sending some running in terror to hide in pig pens.
The Salt Lake City Union-Tribune quoted one worker describing a raid in Hyram, Utah, that was reminiscent of Nazi Germany: light-skinned and white-looking workers were given blue wrist bands and allowed to step out of line, and those "suspected" of being undocumented, mostly darker-skinned immigrants, were lined up to be interrogated and many arrested.
The workers were loaded onto buses, in some cases with family members crying and searching for their loved ones to wave goodbye. Some were coerced, while still handcuffed, into signing agreements to "voluntarily" leave the United States. Kim Salinas, an immigration rights attorney, told Democracy Now! how lawyers were kept from advising detainees before they signed their own deportation papers. The rest were taken to federal and state jails all around the country, and in many cases, families and lawyers had no idea where the arrested immigrants had been taken. One immigration lawyer said he believed that workers had been sent to Atlanta, Georgia--more than 900 miles away.
In some cases, children were left at schools and day care centers, waiting for parents who never showed up. In other cases, family members scrambled to hide the children for fear they, too, would be deported. The Salt Lake Tribune told this story:
“Now, the children of those workers are left to wonder why their mom or dad isn't coming home. They are left to wonder what will happen to them--a feeling that has manifested itself in elementary schools across the valley, teachers say. Children refused to go outside for recess at Adams Elementary, fearing that they might be snatched, an aide said. Some students didn't come back to school at all. At Bridger Elementary, children wouldn't eat school lunch. Their tummies hurt, a teacher said. Janey Stoddard teaches first grade at Bridger, which had almost two dozen students affected by the raid. She remembers asking one of her tiny Latino students how she was doing. The child responded that she was OK, then turned back and said, "Ms. Stoddard, I'm not doing OK." The girl began to cry and asked, 'Am I ever going to see my mom again?'”
Elizabeth Barnhill, executive director of the Iowa Coalition Against Sexual Assault, and Laurie Schipper, executive director of the Iowa Coalition Against Domestic Violence, sent out an email that said: "There are many awful stories emerging… a house of 35 children without parents and community members attempting to care for them; a priest trying to find a breast-feeding mother whose infant won't eat and being denied access; the same priest trying to find a father of an asthmatic child to get information about the child's care and again being denied access." According to the e-mail, raids continued when ICE officials also went to individual houses after the December 12 raids and arrested six people in Marshalltown, Iowa.
The Swift and Co. raids were characterized as “identity theft” cases, even though more than 95% of those arrested were charged with minor immigration violations and less than 60 people were charged with “identity theft.”
If you think these raids were routine isolated incidents done for your security think again. This is part of a nation wide fascistic clampdown on immigration law. A recent New York Times article by Nina Bernstein reports a record 189,924 deportations nationally during the 2005-2006 fiscal year that ended Sept. 30, up 12 percent from the year before. Bernstein's article also talks about the impact of immigrant arrests that have swept through the state of New York. Dozens of workers have been disappearing from farms where they have worked for years—taken in low-profile immigration raids over that past few months. The article reports “Whole families have gone into hiding, like the couple who spent the night with their child in a plastic calf hutch.” Employers and families of immigrants live in panic and anxiety. Even though many oppose the raids, people are afraid to speak out against them, fearing neighbors will report them or their workers, and they will be the next to disappear. The effect of these ongoing attacks is to strike terror into tens of thousands, if not millions, of immigrants all around the country.
This recent enforcement of immigration laws comes in the context of increased repression in the U.S. not just for immigrants but for all--a highly repressive atmosphere with new invasive laws, government spying, and the ripping away of fundamental constitutional rights.
None of the different programs that the ruling class is implementing or considering implementing with regards to immigrants are actually in the interests of immigrants and their families. Nor are these raids and other anti-immigrant measures--and the violation of basic human rights and moves toward fascism in the name of “border security”--a good thing for the masses of people in the United States.
Why are people forced to cross this border in the first place? They are driven to come to the U.S. by conditions that are largely created by imperialist domination and exploitation to begin with. No longer able to live off their land, millions are forced to cross the border to look for a way to feed their families and then end up doing the most dangerous and grueling jobs like working in meatpacking or stoop farm labor. And now these immigrants are the victims of vicious attacks by the U.S. government--scapegoated and subjected to what many ordinary citizens consider Nazi-like raids.
Thomas Hodge, who owns The Real Trading Co. Inc. in southeast Greeley, sells and repairs leather products and Catholic religious items such as Bibles and statues. About half of Hodge's customers are Latino. Talking about the Colorado raids, Hodge told the Denver Post, "I thought it was an atrocity. I wondered if they were taking them to the gas chambers on those buses. I don't think we're going about this the right way… Eventually, I think they should open up the border and let people live where they want."