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Revolution #83, March 25, 2007
Editors' Note: The following are excerpts from an edited version of a talk by Bob Avakian, Chairman of the Revolutionary Communist Party, USA, to a group of Party supporters, in the fall of last year (2006). This is the first in a series of excerpts we will be running in Revolution. Subheads and footnotes have been added for publication here. The entire talk is available online at revcom.us/avakian/anotherway.
In relation to what I am going to get into here, the 7 Talks I gave recently (plus the Q&A and the Concluding Remarks accompanying those Talks1), in addition to Views On and Basis, Goals and Methods, 2 serve as background. Obviously, I'm not going to try to repeat much that was said in those talks, but they should remain a point of reference for much of what I am going to say here and provide a foundation for it.
I want to begin by looking at not just the freedom and the ambitions of the imperial rulers of the U.S., and in particular the core of that ruling class now, grouped in and around the Bush regime, but also their necessity and how they perceive that necessity. We have talked a lot about the ways in which they have seized on a certain freedom, for them, as a result of the demise of the Soviet Union in particular, and their ambitions of making U.S. imperialism an unchallenged and unchallengeable power in the world. But it's also important for us to understand, and to enable others to understand, how they are seeing their necessity—particularly how this is seen by that core of the ruling class which has been driving things for the last number of years. Our responsibility lies in, first of all ourselves understanding, but second of all giving people as broadly as possible, at any given time, a full, scientifically based picture of what is going on in the world, where the dynamics are driving things—and why—and what are the means for acting to radically transform all this, with the objective of getting rid of all these horrors and bringing a new world into being—a transformation, in other words, that would be in the interests of the great majority of oppressed people, indeed the great majority of people throughout the world and ultimately humanity as a whole.
At any given time, many people will be out moving in relation to, and in opposition to, the crimes of this system—and we obviously need a lot more of that. Those who are part of this broad movement will have various levels of understanding and different views about what this is all part of, what it stems from, what to do about it, and so on. It is our responsibility at any given time not just to unite with whatever motion there is and to work to develop this into a much broader and more powerful political resistance, but also to be continually digging down more deeply, to understand more fully what's driving things and therefore how to move in relation to it, and through uniting and struggling with a broad diversity of people and forces, to enable people to move in greater numbers, and to greater effect, in the direction in which things need to go in order to actually deal with the root cause of all this.
Recently I read the book Fiasco: The American Military Adventure in Iraq, by Thomas Ricks, who is a military correspondent for the mainstream, bourgeois media, the Washington Post in particular. This is very interesting—this is not simply Thomas Ricks, the military observer, writing—this book represents and incorporates a section of the U.S. military opening up its deep concern, anger, and, in a sense, protest about how the Bush regime has conducted the war in Iraq, with many of them coming to the conclusion that it should never have been launched in the first place—or, if it were going to be launched, then there needed to be a whole plan for what they were going to do after they toppled the Hussein regime, a plan which, in any real sense, they did not have. There is a lot of speaking bitterness from these military people that comes out in this book. In a real sense, besides Ricks' own analysis, this book acts as a conduit and a vehicle for what a lot of these military officials are saying, on the level of colonels and even up to generals, some still active-duty, some of them retired.
At the beginning of the book one of the things Ricks does, which is important, is that he discusses the role and motivations of people like Paul Wolfowitz (former assistant secretary of defense, and now head of the World Bank) and others of these "neo-cons" who were driving forces in insisting on overthrowing the Hussein regime—they were insisting on this even before Bush came into office. Ricks discusses how Wolfowitz and the neo-cons generally were viewing the situation, not only in Iraq but in the Middle East overall, and why they were so determined to invade Iraq and overthrow Hussein. As I was reading this, I thought of a metaphor which then later was explicitly used by Ricks: Among other things, these neo-cons in particular saw the Middle East as a swamp breeding all kinds of terrorist mosquitoes; and their calculation was that, even though Saddam Hussein as such was no threat to the U.S. (or even to his "neighbors" in the region), still if they left the Middle East the way it was, it would just keep on generating these poisonous creatures and this would get in the way of all their fundamental objectives in terms of U.S. imperial domination in that region, and in the world as a whole—objectives which are not those of the neo-cons alone but were, and are, shared by the ruling class as a whole, even with some significant differences among them over how to go about achieving those objectives. So this metaphor of drying up the swamp, which was explicitly invoked by Ricks in this book (Fiasco) clearly does capture the thinking, or an important part of the thinking, of people like Wolfowitz and these other neo-cons, who have been very influential in the Bush regime.
Another way to say this is that Iraq was not just seen as a "target of opportunity," to use their terminology, but invading Iraq was something they needed to do in order to begin installing in that part of the world regimes that would actually more fully serve U.S. imperial interests and would be "enablers" of their agenda in that part of the world (and their agenda overall). And if they didn't do this, if they left Iraq as it was under Hussein, then the whole "mix" in the Middle East—with Iran, on the one hand, and Saddam Hussein on the other, and Saudi Arabia and all the rest in the region—would just keep producing these intolerable conditions from their point of view. So they were looking at this in this way: If we don't get to this and do this pretty soon, this is going to be all out of control.
Yes, they saw real opportunity and some freedom they could seize on, in moving against Saddam Hussein, and this was part of their wild ambitions for further remaking the world under even more firm U.S. imperial domination; but they also were acting out of a sense of real necessity—perhaps more so than I, at least, had recognized previously. As they see things, a policy of maintaining the (relative) stability in the Middle East, as that has existed, has led to a very bad situation, breeding terrorism and getting in the way of everything they need to do, and reacting back against it. This not only comes through in how Ricks speaks to things in the book Fiasco, it was also explicitly stated by Bush in a recent speech, or in a series of recent speeches by Bush and others in the Bush regime.
For example, in September (2006) Bush and Rumsfeld gave extremely important speeches where they were talking somewhat honestly from their own point of view. [laughs] Now, it is important to recognize and keep in mind that their point of view doesn't accurately reflect reality, and it involves a distorted understanding, even on their own part, of what they themselves are doing—of what their objectives really are, as well as what their actions in pursuit of their objectives will actually lead to "in the real world," as the saying goes. But, nonetheless, these speeches by Bush and Rumsfeld were not simply deliberate distortions and demagoguery—they were a combination of demagoguery and actual articulation, by Bush and Rumsfeld, of their views and objectives. So for example, in a speech in Washington D.C., September 5 of this year (2006), on the "global war on terror," Bush said:
"The only way to secure our nation is to change the course of the Middle East."
And then again on September 11 (2006), speaking about the Middle East, Bush said explicitly:
"Years of pursuing stability to promote peace had left us with neither."
By taking these comments by Bush—and subjecting them to critical and scientific analysis, to get to the essence of what these comments are actually speaking to—we can begin to see more fully the real motives and motive forces involved in the Bush regime's approach to not only Iraq but to the Middle East as a whole, as a region of great strategic importance. We can see even more clearly how the Iraq war is not a "distraction" or a "diversion" from "the war on terror" but is, in fact, a central part of what this "war on terror" (or, as we have also identified it, the "juggernaut" of the Bush regime) really is all about. In its essence, this is a war for empire.
As our Party pointed out from the beginning of the juggernaut by the Bush regime—in other words, from shortly after September 11, 2001 and with the U.S. war against Afghanistan following shortly after that—oil, in the more limited sense, has never been the essence of what this juggernaut has been all about.3 Yes, for the U.S. imperialists as a whole (and not just the Bush regime) controlling the oil, in the Middle East in particular, has been very important in terms of a whole ensemble of strategic relations in the world, including with regard to maintaining a superior position vis-à-vis other imperialists (in Europe, Japan, etc.); but all this has never been just about grabbing Iraq's oil, for example. That is involved, but what is more fundamental and essential are strategic calculations—the perceived freedom and perceived necessity on the part of this core of the ruling class, grouped in and around the Bush regime, now, and the ways in which this relates to the strategic interests of the U.S. empire and its ruling class as a whole.
As I'll talk about further as we go along, this relates to the fact that the "war on terror" is, on the one hand, a misnomer—it is not an accurate characterization of what is really going on, in fundamental terms, and this catchphrase "war on terror" involves a whole bunch of demagoguery, and a whole lot of deliberate deception—but at the same time there is also some truth to what's being described with the term "war on terror." Once again, this is the complexity of the reality that we have to understand, more and more deeply, in order to act to change it in accordance with the fundamental interests of the great majority of people, not just in the U.S. but throughout the world.
There is both demagoguery and instrumentalism on the part of Bush & Co. (by "instrumentalism" here I mean torturing reality in the attempt to make a distorted version of reality an instrument of certain aims), but there is also some truth with regard to the so-called "war on terror." That is, from the point of view of these imperialists, looking at a whole strategic arc from Iraq, Iran, and Afghanistan all the way over to places like Indonesia (a country with a large population where Islam is the dominant religion and Islamic fundamentalism is also on the rise), if things were allowed to continue as they have been for a number of years, this would rebound against the interests of U.S. imperialism in very serious ways. Forces of militant, even fanatical, Islamic fundamentalism do not pose a positive alternative for the masses of people—including those currently drawn to or swept up in this fundamentalism—but to a significant degree and in significant ways they do pose a real obstacle to the aims and designs of the U.S. imperialists in particular at this point. These Islamic fundamentalist forces are what the Bush regime (and the U.S. ruling class as a whole) are largely referring to, at this point at least, when they talk about "terrorism"; and these Islamic fundamentalist forces do use methods and tactics that to a large degree can legitimately be described as "terrorism," including deliberate attacks on civilians.
At the same time, it is very important to keep in mind two things in this regard: First, it is the imperialists, and the U.S. above all, who, going back over many generations, have, by far, directly carried out (or in some instances have backed and been ultimately responsible for) the most monstrous acts of death and destruction, including the slaughter of millions and millions of civilians, in all parts of the globe, from the Philippines to Vietnam to Chile, the Congo, Iran, Indonesia, Iraq, and Afghanistan…and on and on…not to mention the actual use of nuclear weapons by the U.S.—the dropping of two atomic bombs on Japanese cities at the end of World War 2, with all the horrors that involved.
And, second, the way in which these imperialists use the term "terrorism" is deliberately calculated to be so broad and vague that it can be turned against any force, of whatever kind, that poses an obstacle to these imperialists—including revolutionary movements and revolutionary wars which do not involve, on the part of the revolutionary forces, deliberate attacks on civilians or the destruction of civilian infrastructure and which have the participation and support of masses of people. Even where all that is true, the U.S. imperialists will not hesitate to label these revolutionary forces "terrorists" if what they are doing runs counter to the interests of U.S. imperialism.
So, once again, there is a great deal of hypocrisy and deception in the use of this term "war on terror"; and at the same time it is also the case that this refers to a war that the Bush regime—and, in fundamental terms, the imperialist ruling class as a whole—feels compelled to wage in order to deal with obstacles to its interests, objectives, and grand designs of unchallenged world domination.
The interests, objectives, and grand designs of the imperialists are not our interests—they are not the interests of the great majority of people in the U.S. nor of the overwhelming majority of people in the world as a whole. And the difficulties the imperialists have gotten themselves into in pursuit of these interests must be seen, and responded to, not from the point of view of the imperialists and their interests, but from the point of view of the great majority of humanity and the basic and urgent need of humanity for a different and better world, for another way.
It is very interesting to read some of these imperialist analysts. For example, Michael Scheuer (a long-time CIA operative), who was the actual author of the book Imperial Hubris (although he wrote it under the name "Anonymous"), made some observations a couple of years ago that were pretty prescient. And you have to give people credit when they have real insight and foresight. [laughs] In that book, he said two things (or two things I want to focus on here). One, he said the Iraq War is for Osama bin Laden the Christmas present he never thought he'd get. (Of course, that statement is somewhat ironic, since bin Laden is obviously a Muslim and not a Christian, but still the basic point is valid and important.) And two, Scheuer said: you watch and see, things in Afghanistan are gonna start going very badly for the U.S. pretty soon—that initial victory there is not going to look so good in a couple of years either. Well, he's been proven right on both counts, you have to say. I mean, he's not the only one who saw that, but if you read that book he made these statements rather emphatically and without qualification, and they're proving to be true.
This ties up with the bind these imperialists are in: In a very real sense, there was an accurate perception on the part of the neo-cons and the Bush regime that, from the point of view of the interests they represent, they did have to do something to change the equation in that whole part of the world ("to change the course of the Middle East," to invoke once again Bush's phrase); and, on the other hand, look at the difficulties they've gotten themselves into as a result of their invasion and occupation of Iraq in particular.
Whenever I get a chance I like to check out what these right-wing demagogues are saying—the way in which they are (to use that phrase) "spinning" the propaganda of the Bush regime and its program. These days many of them are putting out a very different line than the one they used to justify and drum up support for the invasion of Iraq in 2003—all the talk about "Weapons of Mass Destruction" and ties between Saddam Hussein and Al Qaeda, and so on. At the start, they had one set of rationalizations for the Iraq war, but now they've got another set of rationalizations, which more correspond to the situation they face now and how they are seeking to deal with that. Now you hear these people—these apologists for the Bush regime—saying that the Iraq War was really about…Iran! Why? Well, to paraphrase the propaganda:
"Look what's happening now in Iraq. Look at all the gains that Iran is making in Iraq. They've got all these Shias and Shia militias, all these forces there, that the Iranians are basically controlling. So now we gotta take it to Iran."
Of course, these difficulties the U.S. has encountered in Iraq are not the real—or not the most fundamental—reason that they are setting their sights on Iran. I will get into this further a little later in this talk, but the fact is that Bush & Co. had identified the regime in Iran as one it wanted to go after even before they invaded Iraq (remember how, early on after September 11th, they included Iran in the "axis of evil"?). But the fact is that, if they hadn't invaded Iraq and overthrown Saddam Hussein, they wouldn't be having the trouble they are having with these Shia forces in Iraq, and they wouldn't have this whole mess. So Bush and the U.S. ruling class certainly don't have "all freedom" in this situation, and they didn't have "all freedom" all along.
If they had let things go along the way they were, in the Middle East in particular, this would have meant perpetuating conditions that do give impetus to Islamic fundamentalism of the kind that causes real trouble for the U.S. empire. There is, as you know, tremendous suffering on the part of the masses of people throughout that region. There is the corruption of the regimes there, and the repressive nature of those regimes. There is the worsening of the material conditions of the masses of people and, along with that, the tremendous upheaval and dislocation of millions and millions of people in those societies, with the "traditional way of life" significantly uprooted but with no real positive radical alternative possible within the dominant social and international relations—none that would really meet the needs and serve the interests of the masses of people. Is it really surprising that this situation and its driving dynamics would lead people to gravitate to extremes? And there is a force of "Islamic extremism" which has been and is moving to organize people in relation to this—organize them around precisely an extreme version of traditional relations and traditional values and culture, which seem to be, and in a real sense are, under attack from many sides, especially as the effects of globalization, and the imperialist system as a whole, increasingly penetrate into and make themselves felt within these societies.
So, it was the reckoning of those in and around the Bush regime—and, from the standpoint of their system and its interests, there was a logic to this—that they couldn't just leave things to develop as they were—they had to make some dramatic moves to "change the course of the Middle East."
But their problem is, as we are seeing, that whether it's Afghanistan or Iraq, these imperialists are good at invading countries and knocking over regimes, but then when they find themselves in the position of occupying the country and they have a population that gets aroused against them, it becomes a different dynamic, and it is not so easy for them. It is not so easy for them to maintain "order" and to impose the changes they want to impose in accordance with their interests. It is not so easy to impose this "from the top down"—which is the only way imperialist occupiers can impose changes.
In this connection—and referring back to the observations and predictions by Michael Scheuer about the difficulties the U.S. would have in occupying Afghanistan—I have to say that I cannot help noticing the great irony when I hear about these bourgeois feminists and others who got sucked into supporting the war in Afghanistan (or who rationalized their support for this war) on the basis that the U.S. invasion and occupation was supposedly going to bring reforms beneficial to women. Well, if you look at the situation now, the U.S. doesn't control much more in Afghanistan (if any more) than the Soviets did when they were occupying that country in the 1980s. And, if you are going to be honest and scientific, you have to recognize that the reforms that the Soviets brought in, during their occupation of Afghanistan, were a lot more thorough, particularly with regard to women. That's one of the things that provoked the ire of a lot of the Islamic fundamentalists.
Now, the Soviets did this from the top down; they imposed it by invasion and occupation and coups, and so on. Then, when they couldn't get very far with these reforms in this way, and they had trouble achieving a stabilized rule and order under their occupation, they backed off and conciliated with the forces of Islamic fundamentalism. After all, the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan wasn't like the revolution in China, which came "from the bottom"—and which won the masses politically and mobilized and relied on them to carry out radical changes, not only in economic relations but also in the social relations and the customs and culture, and so on.
In contrast to this, the U.S. occupation of Afghanistan, as well as the Soviet occupation before it, has represented and embodied an attempt to impose some changes from the top; but if you're going to talk about what was actually done, the Soviet reforms went further, particularly with regard to the status of women. Yet, in the end, the Soviet occupation could not succeed either.
And to get back to the main point here, the same thing has been shown in Iraq: It's one thing to go in and knock over a regime, especially one you've weakened by a previous war and ten years of sanctions, and so on; but it's another thing to maintain an occupation and to force things on the population you are now directly ruling over. At this point, many political strategists of the U.S. empire, and even many in their military leadership, are admitting this—many of the military people that are quoted in this Ricks book (Fiasco) are acknowledging, in effect: "Iraq was a pushover, their army was chump change, anybody with a formidable army could have gone in and knocked them over." Of course, they don't quite say that, because they want to talk about how great they are, what a great military power they are, but nonetheless they're pretty much acknowledging that, by the time of the 2003 invasion, the Iraqi military was a very weakened force, even compared to the first Gulf War in the early 1990s. Of course, if you go back and look at what many, if not most, of these "experts" were saying—and if you look at the propaganda of the Bush regime in particular—at the start of the present war, and in the lead-up to this war, there was an incessant chorus issuing dire warnings about how dangerous Saddam Hussein and his regime was: It was portrayed as one of the most dangerous and powerful enemies the U.S. faced in the world; it was ready to unleash a mushroom cloud over the U.S. itself as well as constituting a great danger to all of its neighbors.
Then they invade—and it doesn't go so well after Bush declares "Mission Accomplished" in 2003. And it's kept getting worse for them—and now they're really stuck. From the point of view of the imperialists—but we should also understand that this does involve fundamental questions that affect broad sections of the people in society, including many people with progressive sentiments and views in general—there is no easy way to deal with this. There's no easy way out for the U.S. imperialists—and admitting defeat is not an option they want to consider. As I emphasized at the beginning, our responsibility is to be thoroughly scientific. Our responsibility is not to just automatically dismiss whatever the imperialists say—"That's just a bunch of imperialist propaganda—next point, move on." While firmly maintaining our basic stand, in accordance with the fundamental interests of the masses of people, throughout the world, in opposition to the imperialists and their system of exploitation, domination, and oppression, we cannot be simple-minded. We have to be scientific and analyze reality in all its complexity.
It is a fact that it would cause a lot of upheaval and chaos in the Middle East if they just were to pull out of Iraq. It would encourage Islamic fundamentalists to step up their attacks against U.S. forces elsewhere; and given the worldview and the whole approach of those fundamentalists—which, as you know, is fundamentally different from ours and is not good—they would quite likely carry out further attacks against American civilians, to the degree they were able to do so. But it is also very important to keep in mind that in the world today—and in the situation and lives of the majority of people throughout the world—there is already a great deal of upheaval and chaos. And the dynamics that are now, to a large degree, driving things—the dynamics that have led to the current situation in Iraq and more generally in the Middle East, with ramifications and implications in every part of the world—this will, in any case bring a great deal more upheaval and chaos, affecting people everywhere, until there is a resolution of this of one kind or another.
Besides the moral bankruptcy of seeking to avoid chaos for yourself and the things that more immediately affect you, while many, many others are caught up in this and are suffering horribly—besides that whole moral dimension, which I will return to later, because it is in fact something that needs to be emphasized and joined with people—there is the reality that, even those now occupying more privileged enclaves in the imperialist countries and in other parts of the world will not be able to avoid being affected by great upheaval and chaos in the period ahead. The essential question is not whether there will be chaos or no chaos, or whether it will end up affecting people everywhere, in one way or another. The question is: What will this all lead to, what will come out of it, what kind of world will emerge out of all this?
Osama bin Laden and others like him are reactionary but they're not fools. Their program and the tactics which flow from that program—and from their basic worldview and values—are extremely reactionary and harmful to masses of people, even those they mobilize. But they are not without a sense of tactics, and even of nuance. Look at what bin Laden said in the context of the 2004 election in the U.S. In effect, he took the bourgeois democratic views and illusions that so many people in this society, including many progressive people, are mesmerized by and caught up in, and he threw it back in their faces. He said: "You have the right to vote your government in or out. You have the right to change the policies of your government through voting, so if these policies continue you are at fault." And more recently on CNN, I heard some Islamic fundamentalists in Britain saying the same thing about the British government and the British people.
If you think about it, this involves a kind of profound irony: people like bin Laden are taking these bourgeois democratic prejudices and illusions and using them for their own ends. Primarily, of course, statements like this from bin Laden and similar types are, from their point of view, aimed at justifying to their social base what they are doing—that it's justified to attack the civilians of countries like the U.S. and Britain. And there are a lot of people "in the Islamic world," including people drawn to the Islamic fundamentalist banner, who are very uncomfortable about these attacks on civilians. So statements like bin Laden's—about the right to vote out the government in the U.S. or Britain—are not primarily aimed at the people in those countries, but are aimed at the social base of the Islamic fundamentalists themselves. Now, from our radically different perspective and with our radically different objectives, we of course understand that such attacks on civilians are completely unjustified. But, at the same time, we must never lose sight of—nor fail to vigorously bring to light—that what has been done by the bin Ladens of the world pales in comparison to the truly monstrous and massive crimes that have been, and every day are being, carried out by imperialism, and in particular U.S. imperialism.
But the essential point I want to emphasize here is that, in a real sense, the situation that has been created through the U.S. "war on terror" so far, with its invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq (as well as its military actions in other parts of the world) is indeed a mess, and we shouldn't have any simplistic notions of what's involved in all this and what's going to come out of it. There is not going to be any kind of smooth way out of this. And, I'm sorry, as much as I respect John Lennon, "just give peace a chance" is not going to deal with the heightening complexity, and intensity, of the situation. Now let me emphasize here again that we can, and must, unite with lots of people for whom sentiments like that—the desire for peace and the belief that peace can prevail if in fact it is just "given a chance"—are their defining and driving sentiments, but we also have to be struggling with people about what's really going on here—what is the root cause, what are the actual dynamics, and what is the real and fundamental solution.
There is not an easy way out. And many people sense this. I have heard and read about discussions with progressive people who say things like: "Well, it was terrible that the U.S. went into Iraq, but we can't just precipitously pull out now." Again, I am not talking about reactionaries here. People can sense that one result from a U.S. pull-out from Iraq could be the strengthening of Islamic fundamentalist forces, and that these forces do not actually draw any distinction between the U.S. government and the people of the country. Now, let me be very clear once again: What I am saying here should in no way be understood to deny, or to lessen the importance of, the point that I have repeatedly stressed—that the interests of the masses of people in the U.S., as well as those of the great majority of humanity, are fundamentally different from, and opposed to, those of the imperialists; and the difficulties in which the imperialists find themselves as a result of their invasions and occupations must be seen, and responded to, from the point of view not of the imperialists and their interests but in accordance with the interests of the great majority of humanity, and ultimately humanity as a whole. My point here is that the situation is very complex and that bringing forward and rallying people to their own fundamental interests, on the massive scale that is required, cannot and will not be done with any naive and simplistic approach but only by coming to terms with what is really going on in the world, in all its complexity, and the challenges this poses—and struggling to win people to the correct understanding of this, and to acting on that understanding, in the context of and on the basis of grasping the actual situation and its dynamics.
Those who have been around since the 1960s will remember this, and those who weren't around then might find it interesting, and perhaps amusing: During the time of the Vietnam War, one of the justifications for the U.S. aggression against Vietnam was what was called "the domino theory"—if Vietnam falls, then that will set off a chain of falling dominos, not only in parts of Asia but with implications for the world as a whole. This was often expressed in terms such as: "If we don't stop them in Vietnam, pretty soon they'll be at our doorstep." Of course, underlying this was not only crude anti-communism (crude distortions of what communism is and what communists stand for and fight for) but, along with that, the basic assumption that people and countries all over the world constitute essentially nothing more than objects to be controlled, and exploited, by American (imperialist) interests and that it must not be tolerated for the U.S. to "lose" these countries to their own people. This came to be widely rejected, especially by the late 1960s, and one of the ways the "domino theory" in particular was ridiculed was by saying: "What are the Vietnamese going to do—take their boats (sampans, they were called) and sail over to California and attack us?"
Well, that kind of joke doesn't really go right now. Today, these Islamic fundamentalists are, first of all, coming from a whole different place than the Vietnamese liberation forces, which were genuinely revolutionary (even if their leadership was never thoroughly communist). Despite their shortcomings, the Vietnamese revolutionaries had a theory and strategy of people's war which was aimed against the imperialists and their armed forces but was not aimed against the people of the U.S. In fact, the Vietnamese put a lot of emphasis on drawing the distinction between the government and the people of the U.S., and on winning political support among the people in the U.S.—they did a lot of work which was aimed at gaining that support, or at least developing opposition to the war among broad sections of U.S. society. But things are different now, in some significant ways. It is definitely true that the Bush regime in particular seeks to manipulate things so as to continually manufacture fear among the people in the U.S. and the sense that they are constantly in need of repressive government actions "to prevent further terrorist attacks on America and the American people." But that is only one aspect of things. It is a definite orientation and aim, among at least some of the Islamic fundamentalist forces, to strike not just at the U.S. armed forces but also the people in the U.S. This is a very different situation than what obtained during the period of the Vietnam war, and if we are going to really move people in the way that people need to be moved, in order to really act in their own interests in fundamental terms, we're going to have to take account of all this—of the situation in all its complexity. While many others may provide valuable insights into all this, and while it is definitely necessary and vitally important to unite as broadly as possible with others in opposing what the Bush regime (and the imperialist ruling class as a whole) is doing in the world, there is no substitute for our Party speaking to all this in a thoroughly scientific way, with our communist outlook and methodology.
2. Views on Socialism and Communism: A Radically New Kind of State, A Radically Different and Far Greater Vision of Freedom and The Basis, the Goals, and the Methods of the Communist Revolution are drawn from a talk given by Chairman Bob Avakian to a group of Party members and supporters in 2005. Both works are available online at revcom.us/avakian/avakian-works. [back]
3. See, for example, "The New Situation and the Great Challenges," a talk given by Bob Avakian in the latter part of 2001. The text of the talk, first published in Revolutionary Worker [now Revolution] #1143, March 17, 2002, is available online at revcom.us/a/036/avakian-new-situation-great-challenges. [back]
Revolution #83, March 25, 2007
Three NYPD Cops Indicted
On November 25 of last year, 23-year-old Sean Bell was murdered by the NYPD. Months later, on March 16 of this year, after listening to 60 to 70 witnesses and examining exhibitions, maps, photos, and toxicology reports, a grand jury handed down indictments on three of the five cops involved. And, while not yet officially confirmed as we go to press, the mass media is reporting that the panel has charged two of these cops with second-degree manslaughter and the third with reckless endangerment. (The arraignment and opening of the sealed grand jury envelope spelling out the charges was scheduled for Monday, March 19, after the printing of this issue of Revolution.)
Two things must be clearly said and understood about this. First, all five of the cops should have been indicted for surrounding Sean and his two friends, Trent Benefield and Joseph Guzman, and pumping 50 rounds at them, leaving Sean dead at the scene and nearly killing the other two. Two, the charges leveled against the three cops of second-degree manslaughter and reckless endangerment are not at all commensurate with the horrible crime they committed. They, and the other two as well, should have been hit with the strongest charge the grand jury could have brought down in this case—second-degree murder.
Let's review what happened the night of November 25, as related by a number of eyewitnesses at the scene, who later voluntarily testified before the grand jury. Bell, Benefield, and Guzman went to a club in Jamaica, Queens, joining others there for a bachelor party for Sean, who was planning to be married later that day to his fiancée, Nicole Paultre. At the club, according to eyewitnesses, an argument broke out between the three and two other men, which continued in the club foyer as Bell, Benefield, and Guzman were leaving, and then outside the club. The three, not wanting any trouble on the eve of Sean's wedding, walked away from the club and headed for Sean's car parked a block away.
Also at the club that night was a Black undercover cop, Gescard Isnora, a member of a special NYPD unit that was investigating the spot for possible prostitution and drug activity. Having witnessed the argument inside the club, Isnora messaged unit members who were sitting close by in an unmarked minivan and Toyota Camry that one of the three might have a gun. After the three got into Sean's car, the minivan and Camry arrived while Isnora walked toward Sean's car, hollering at them. The three—as Benefield and Guzman told their attorneys and the media several days later from their hospital beds, to which they had been initially handcuffed—feared they were about to be robbed or car-jacked. Trying to get away, Sean first lurched the car forward, which the police say clipped Isnora, then threw it into reverse and then lurched forward again, hitting the undercover cops' minivan.
Isnora then opened up, firing 11 times, and was immediately joined by the other four. One of them, Michael Oliver, fired 31 times, emptying his clip, reloading and then continuing to fire. In a matter of seconds, Sean Bell was dead, and Joseph Guzman, shot 11 times, and Trent Benefield, hit three times, were fighting for their lives.
Isnora testified that he announced he was a police officer before he began firing and was wearing his police shield around his neck. But a number of eyewitnesses said that is not true, that he never identified himself. Isnora also claimed he thought that Guzman, while sitting in the car, had a gun tucked in his waistband, and that is why the cops feared for their own safety and opened fire. But no gun was found on Guzman, or in Sean's car, or anywhere at the scene—no gun, that is, except the ones the five cops used to mercilessly kill one man and do their best to kill two others.
The cold-blooded murder of Sean Bell brings back terrible memories of how, in 1999, members of another NYPD special unit, the Street Crimes Unit, fired 41 bullets at Amadou Diallo as he stood outside his apartment building, with 19 hitting him and killing him instantly. The cops' rationale? They thought Amadou was reaching for a gun, but in fact he was reaching into his pocket for his wallet, to identify himself. Nor is the execution-style murder of Sean Bell by any means an aberration, some tragic mistake. Documentation by the Stolen Lives Project shows that more than 130 people—the vast majority of them young Black people and other young people of color—have been killed by the NYPD since the murder of Amadou Diallo in 1999. The Stolen Lives Project has also documented that during the 1990's, there were more than 2,000 reported cases nationwide of police murders, again overwhelmingly of Black and Latino youth—a veritable national epidemic that has been growing even worse in the aftermath of 9/11, when police have been given even greater license to kill with impunity.
In fact, of all these thousands of documented cases, only a very small number of cops have ever been indicted, and of those who have, only a very small number have ever been convicted, with most of them receiving very light sentences or even just probation. In that light—and while keeping in mind that all five of the cops who killed Sean Bell should have been indicted and all five should have been charged with second-degree murder—it is something of an accomplishment that three of the five have been indicted at all! And a major reason for this is that thousands in New York poured into the streets in outrage at Sean's murder and declared their determination to see justice done.
This gets to a very important point. The indictments and charges against the three cops represent only one stage in a long battle to win justice for Sean Bell and, on that basis, to strengthen our resistance to all police murders and police brutality. Already, even before the charges were officially released, attorneys for the three indicted cops, with the full weight of the system at their backs, were bellicosely announcing they will fight this all the way, including the possibility of demanding a change of venue, as in the Amadou Diallo case, in which the four cops who slaughtered him were eventually acquitted.
The trial of the cops who murdered Sean Bell could be year or more away. And while the indictments of the three can be seen as one small step forward, the people need to fight all the way through on this to demand real justice—that these killer cops be convicted and sent to jail.
Revolution #83, March 25, 2007
Calling All Readers...and Revolutionaries
|All photos: Li Onesto, except top: Stanley Rogouski|
The April 2 issue of Revolution will be a special broadsheet, designed for distribution in huge quantities.
The point: to introduce hundreds of thousands of new people to Bob Avakian’s vision of communism, his analysis of the heavy challenges that people face today, and his program for how to deal with all this.
There is no other leader like Chairman Avakian out there. There is nothing like the body of work he’s produced, the ideas he's brought forward, and his way of going at understanding and changing the world. This is the real thing— for people to dig into, and to apply to making revolutionary change. But there are still far, far too few people who have even had a chance to hear and learn what Bob Avakian is all about and to get into his ideas and thinking. We aim to make a giant stride, in the next few weeks, in changing all that.
We’re calling on distributors and regular readers to think now about how to get this issue out very, very broadly, and to make plans and preparations accordingly. Get people together now to view the DVD Revolution: Why It’s Necessary, Why It’s Possible, What It’s All About.
Think about teachers, clergy, and others who are positioned to get this paper out to many, many others. Then talk to them. Make an appointment to come back and talk to their classes and congregations when the special issue comes out.
Think about the stores, gyms, theaters, libraries, barber shops, galleries, laundromats, and beauty parlors that can carry scores and hundreds of these broadsheets. Then go to them, sell them a video, and set up to get them materials.
Think about key areas where people need to hear about this leader and get into his vision. Then make plans and preparations accordingly.
When the plans are done…then go out there, far and wide, with the next issue of the paper.
Quietly where you have to, but as boldly as possible wherever you can. Saturate the high schools, the neighborhoods, the college campuses with tens of thousands of copies of the special issue. Go out everywhere with this special issue… and go BIG!
Bring new people into the movement, right on the spot. And then come back together and talk about how it’s going. Spread the movement: get out hundreds of thousands of papers, create a massive political wave suddenly roaring up from below like a tsunami.
* * * * *
In order to give people the most possible time to prepare the ground for this effort, we are not publishing a print edition next week. But we will be publishing an e-issue. This will be posted on our site, revcom.us, on Monday morning, March 26. We will cover the news of the next week, including the demonstrations against the war and the Bush regime taking place between March 17 and 20, the response to the grand jury decisions on Sean Bell and, no doubt, much else besides.
Revolution #83, March 25, 2007
"Officials said Speaker Nancy Pelosi and other members of the leadership had decided to strip from a major military spending bill a requirement for Bush to gain approval from Congress before moving against Iran… The measure provides nearly $100 billion to pay for fighting in two wars, and includes more money than the president requested for operations in Afghanistan and what Democrats called training and equipment shortages."
–Associated Press, March 13, 2007
"For all the criticism on the left, Democratic strategists say they are counting on most of the antiwar lawmakers to realize that this current spending bill is the best they can get."
–New York Times, March 14, 2007
You could close your eyes and pretend it isn't happening.
Pretend that the new Democratic Congress—after four years of torture, mass murder and war crimes against the people of Iraq—didn't just promise the War-Criminal-In-Chief that they would do nothing to stop a new and even more dangerous war against Iran.
Pretend that these same Democrats—who have sold you out so many times and at the cost of so many lives—didn't just promise to give the President more money than he even asked for to fight his current wars!
Pretend that somehow history—and the people of the Middle East—will forgive you for meeting this news with passivity, silence or at best "protest as usual."
Or you could open your eyes and confront the nightmares engulfing millions of people in the Middle East and endangering people around the world, and take up the tremendous responsibility that people in this country have to drive out the Bush regime.
Forty years ago, a generation who refused to accept an unjust and murderous war on Vietnam descended on the Pentagon. They looked out at the villages being razed, the children being burned alive by napalm, and the blood that would be on their hands if they didn't bring this to a halt—and they declared it was time to go "from protest to resistance."
Now, at a time when the Bush regime, with the silence and complicity of the Democrats, are escalating their assault on Iraq and aggressively preparing a new war against Iran, it is wrong not to join in protests, like the thousands who marched on the Pentagon on March 17.
It is wrong to hide behind the lie and excuse that "protest doesn't make a difference." It is wrong to despair because "they're not listening to us." And it is wrong to dismiss the real danger of a new war against Iran simply because Bush is having so much trouble in Iraq.
The problem has never been that "protest doesn't work." The problem is that there haven't been nearly enough protests and they haven't been nearly demanding enough.
The campuses across the country have not yet been shut down in massive student strikes demanding an immediate end to the war. The Oscars weren't filled with movie stars and directors giving heart to millions around the world by demanding impeachment right now. The anti-war vets—while way ahead of most of the movement—haven't yet staged their equivalent of the Winter Soldiers testimonials about the war crimes they witnessed or Dewey Canyon protest where the Vietnam Vets threw back their medals. We haven't yet seen this war's Daniel Ellsberg—someone willing to risk 150 years in prison or more to disclose and disrupt the administration's ability to lie their way into more war. Hundreds of thousands haven't yet, in the words of Cindy Sheehan, "turn[ed] off your TV and carr[ied] a sign or a banner and descend[ed] on the White House as oppressed peasants descending on the castle of the lord of the realm with pitchforks and torches."
These are things I know we are more than capable of! The problem is not that millions don't hate the Bush program; the problem is that that anger has not been transformed into active, ongoing, determined resistance—not to merely express our unhappiness—but to bring all this to a halt.
In a time of legalized torture, of expanding war, of war crimes and of crimes against humanity—all of us are accountable!
Let's just be honest: none of us can claim in good conscience we've done all that we can and none of us should sleep soundly at night until we do.
Protest and resistance and refusal to go along are needed MOST when those in power "aren't listening."
Too many people are in denial about the growing likelihood of a U.S. attack on Iran as detailed by Seymour Hersh and others. As Larry Everest has recently written, "The U.S.'s quagmire in Iraq has weakened the U.S. influence, fueled the spread of Islamist trends, and bolstered Iran's regional influence. All this has made the situation in the Middle East even more unacceptable to the U.S. imperialists, and the Bush regime has resolved on a course to become even more aggressive in reversing all this—with the escalation of the war in Iraq and now the serious threats against Iran. And meanwhile the Democrats have proved incapable and unwilling to stop Bush's troop 'surge' to Iraq and have mounted no significant opposition at all—and in some cases significant support—to the real threats to launch a U.S. attack against Iran."
Right now, it is more clear now than ever that there will be no "savior" from the Democratic Party.
It is more clear than ever that the war on Iraq is not going to stop until we act, together with people worldwide, in ways that make it stop. It is more clear than ever that a war in Iran will not be prevented unless we act in ways that prevent it. And it is more clear than ever that Bush won't stop unless we drive him out.
It is time for us to go from protest to society-wide resistance.
Revolution #83, March 25, 2007
March 17 saw actions all around the country to mark the four year anniversary of the war on Iraq. In Washington, D.C, more than 20,000 protesters marched on the Pentagon to demand an immediate end to the war. People converged from places as far away as Florida, Denver, Iowa, Ohio, Vermont, and Kentucky, sometimes forming car-caravans after their bus companies cancelled due to the ice and rain storm that hit the night before. Ann Bonner, who drove through snow with her husband, Tom O'Grady, and two children, 13 and 10, from Athens, Ohio, told the Associated Press: "Too many people have died and it doesn't solve anything ... I feel bad carrying out my daily activities while people are suffering, Americans and Iraqis."
Veterans of the Iraq war and active duty military service members marched in uniform at the front alongside Gold Star Families for Peace, including Cindy Sheehan. At the Pentagon, Iraq war vets called on the audience to go “from protest to resistance,“ echoing the call put out by the anti-Vietnam war movement 40 years earlier in the same place. Cindy Sheehan, Salt Lake City mayor Rocky Anderson, former attorney general Ramsey Clark, and World Can’t Wait spokesperson Sunsara Taylor received tremendous response from the crowd when they called for the impeachment of George Bush.
Other protests were held on March 17th around the world, including in Athens, Greece; Istanbul, Turkey; Seoul, South Korea; and Sydney, Australia and more are planned throughout the week worldwide. In Los Angeles, an estimated 4,000 people marched through Hollywood. San Francisco held a major protest on March 18, but there was also a march in the normally quiet suburb of Walnut Creek, where 1,000 people marched against the war on March 17. One of the protesters, Peter Gassner, is the CEO of a software firm; he marched with his wife and two children. He told the San Francisco Chronicle, "I'd like to teach my kids they have the responsibility to take action.” Protests were also held in Hartford, Connecticut, and San Diego, California.
Other actions have taken place around the country in recent weeks. On March 13, approximately 100 students, all members of SDS New York, occupied an Armed Forces Recruiting Center for two hours; the occupation ended when 20 students were arrested by the NYPD. On March 2, a group called the Pittsburgh Organizing Group (POG) and other supporters carried out civil disobedience in front of the National Robotics Engineering Center (NREC), a largely Pentagon-funded venture of Carnegie Mellon University (CMU) that has become a world leader in warfare robotics. Thirty-four people blockaded the main entrances to the facility in the largest act of civil disobedience/direct action in Pittsburgh since the beginning of the war in Iraq.
Revolution #83, March 25, 2007
by Alan Goodman
I appreciated the article in Revolution #82 dissecting the controversy around Jimmy Carter's new book. In particular, I was glad to see the analysis of why Carter is being attacked by a wide range of mainstream politicians, especially Democrats, for making a limited analogy to apartheid, and for exposing—from the perspective of someone looking out for the strategic interests of U.S. imperialism—even a little bit of the scope of Israel's persecution of the Palestinian people.
Reading this evoked an exchange that took place when I was preparing for my bar mitzvah, attending Hebrew School in the 1960s. My Hebrew teacher was a young guy who had abandoned trying to teach us the Torah and the Talmud, and instead spent our class time discussing current affairs. This teacher supported the civil rights movement and had some enlightened ideas about women. But mixed in with that, he taught us that Israel was a Jewish component of the civil rights movement—a place where persecuted Jews were turning supposedly abandoned desert into farms. One day, someone in class asked why Israel would support South Africa, a country where the (original) apartheid system condemned the African people to the most vicious and racist oppression, locking them down in so-called bantustans (essentially massive concentration camps for African people) and depriving them of any rights.
Learning that Israel was supporting South Africa was very disturbing to some of us. At one point, a rabbi who was sitting in on the class “explained” to us that if Israel didn’t have this relationship with the apartheid regime, then South Africa’s Jewish community would be classified as “colored,” a category of oppressed people, as opposed to the "white” status they held in the racist apartheid caste system. This upset some of us all the more—I actually remember blurting out, “Who wants to be 'white' in a country like that?”
After the rabbi left, our Hebrew teacher told us that he understood how uncomfortable this made us feel, and that this was an awful moral dilemma, but that the rabbi hadn't fully explained the stakes. He told us that while we shouldn't repeat this, it was an open secret that the South African rulers were a bunch of Nazis, and that the Jews there were in a precarious position, protected only by Israel’s military and diplomatic support for the apartheid regime.
I guess this had the benefit of posing very starkly the logic that is supposed to bind Jewish people to Israel. I didn't fully sort all this out at the time, but I remember being very angry at this “justification.” I was being told that the Jewish people should align with the most oppressive, racist, even quasi-Nazi regimes in their persecution of people in exchange for “protection” from being persecuted themselves.And even at the time, I felt, who wanted that kind of “protection”?
I think this is still, in some ways, the “bottom line” when people like Bush and Pelosi invoke the survival of Israel to (unfortunately all too successfully) rally people in this country, who on other issues don't like Bush, to support or at least be immobilized and confused about the endless war on “terror.” The argument that has such people disoriented is that “Israel's security is at stake.” I think the moral issue I had to confront at that time still needs to be confronted by people who have been manipulated into acting against their interests by the invocation of the supposed sacred nature of—yes, apartheid Israel. They need to ask themselves, what does persecuting and displacing the Palestinians, and supplying arms to every isolated despot—not just the apartheid regime, but the Shah of Iran when he was shooting down thousands of people in the streets, the Christan fascist Ríos Montt when he was butchering indigenous people in Guatemala, and on and on—what does this have to do with the survival of the Jewish people? And what is the logic, or the morality, of selling your soul to the worst oppressors and mass murderers on the planet in exchange for your own supposed safety?
Revolution #83, March 25, 2007
By Reggie Dylan
March 13, UCLA: About 100 students and faculty filled the History Department Conference Room for a noon-time discussion by six prominent scholars and public intellectuals of the “Responsibilities of Intellectuals in Dark Times.” The roundtable discussion was sponsored by the Departments of Anthropology, Chicana & Chicano Studies, Comparative Literature, and English; and the Graduate School of Education and Information Studies, and the Women’s Studies Program at UCLA.
Each faculty member who took part is highly regarded in his or her field: Richard Falk is Professor Emeritus of International Law at Princeton University, and is currently teaching at UCSB and UCLA. Juan Gomez-Quinones is a distinguished Chicano historian. Professor Saree Makdisi teaches English and Comparative Literature and contributes often to the L.A. Times Op Ed page. Professor Sondra Hale teaches Anthropology and Women’s Studies. Peter McLaren is an internationally recognized leader in critical pedagogy (education). Vinay Lal, an associate professor of History and Chair of the Center for South Asian Studies, writes a regular column for Economic and Political Weekly, and acted as moderator.
Each of these academics has been targeted for attack by powerful right-wing operative David Horowitz or by people “inspired” by his attacks on critical thinking. Horowitz attacked professors Falk and Lal in his “101 Most Dangerous Professors” book last year. And all of the participants except Professor Falk were declared part of UCLA’s “Dirty Thirty”—the 30 “worst” professors at UCLA— by Andrew Jones. Jones is a UCLA alumnus who once worked with Horowitz. At one point Jones offered $100 to every student who would spy on and record the lectures of their “left-leaning” professors.
The presentations gave a glimpse of how faculty are being suppressed and censored: Professors are being disciplined or terminated for questioning the official version of 9/11. A group calling itself “Scholars for Peace in the Middle East” issued an open letter to the University of California Regents calling on them to suppress criticism of Israel on UC campuses. One professor described being contacted by the FBI and asked to turn over the names of people they met while doing research in Africa. This professor asked: “What lengths would we go to defend academic freedom?” Several speakers pointed to the attempt to fire tenured Native American studies professor Ward Churchill at the University of Colorado—Boulder, for an essay he wrote right after 9/11 critical of the U.S., as the focal point of this nationwide barrage.
Professor Falk posed an important question at the start of his talk: why do the campuses seem so quiet and at the same time feel under siege, in the face of four years of unlawful, criminal war; an open sanctioning of torture; and no principled opposition within official circles? Falk situated the roots of the attack on critical thought in the universities in the attempt by powerful ruling class figures following the Vietnam War (people like Zbigniew Brezezinski and Samuel Huntington, both associated with the Trilateral Commission) to identify, and to eradicate, the source of the so-called “Vietnam Syndrome.” (The “Vietnam Syndrome” is a term used by the political right wing to describe what they see as an undesirable opposition to U.S. wars on the part of the American public and the U.S. government in the period following the Vietnam war.)
Professor Falk concluded by talking about an “American Weimarism”— referring to the government that preceded Hitler’s rise to power in Germany in 1933. There is, he said, a “Weimar atmosphere, that makes people prudently afraid.” Falk described this as a “fragile set of circumstances” that could “slide toward fascism” if there were another 9/11. And in relation to impeachment he asked, “If not now, when?”
* * * * *
Similar issues were taken up later in the day when Professor Ward Churchill and myself appeared on Michael Slate’s Beneath the Surface radio show on Los Angeles station KPFK (Pacifica-LA). Churchill updated the audience on the status of his fight against being fired by the University of Colorado (see "The Case of Ward Churchill: A Witch-Hunt That Must Be Defeated!" in a special supplement of Revolution #81, "WARNING: The Nazification of the American University.") Churchill is appealing a recommendation by the chancellor of the university that he be fired, supposedly for errors in footnoting academic research. Even the committee that investigated Churchill admitted that the whole process was framed by Churchill's comments after 9/11. His appeal is being heard by a campus faculty committee, and their recommendation after reviewing the case will be forwarded to the University president and, ultimately, to the Board of Regents.
Professor Churchill spoke to how he has become a concentration of the overall attack on critical thinking and dissent: “I seem to be the focal point, or the benchmark, that they seem to be gauging tactics, among other things, for neutralization of other targets. As you know, Horowitz has got his 101 [professors who are singled out for attack in the book The Professors: The 101 Most Dangerous Academics in America]… We are sort of the benchmarks of what he is trying to see removed from the academy and he has 101 people who are comparable in some way to us. And that's a short list.” Churchill added, “It's more selective targeting around the country to establish precedents, get people used to this, and to indoctrinate the idea that critical inquiry, engagement, challenging orthodox interpretation is in-and-of-itself unscholarly.”
Later on the show, I had the opportunity to discuss the special supplement to Revolution issue #81, “WARNING: The Nazification of the American University,” which draws parallels between the situation on U.S. campuses today, and the suppression of dissent on campuses during the rise of, and coming to power of the Nazis in Germany. Ward Churchill commented, “Basically you see a craven capitulation of the German academy —lock, stock and barrel. You did have purges and there were people who were resistant but they didn't last too long. Ultimately this became the motor of Nazi ideology. You had your ideologues on the outside, you had your Nazi party officials. But this was essentially the mass basis of it.” And, he noted that “Within this framework—where you looked to the academy and the scientific tradition for validation for concepts and ideas—this is where they came up with a theoretical structure to create the appearance for validation of racial hierarchy and the geopolitical equivalent of Manifest Destiny (Lebensraumpolitik and all that)—which had been articulated in the political sphere. But this provided the appearance of a scientific basis. If you remove that from the structure, you don't have a coherent whole.”
I pointed to the sobering fact that during the rise of Hitler, not one of Germany's 23 universities, 11 academies of science, or 10 technical colleges became a center of protest or resistance. The point being that such resistance is needed here, and now.
* * * * *
Both the dangers posed by the assault on critical thinking in academia, and potential for a counteroffensive, were expressed in the day’s events. At the end of the Roundtable at UCLA, people in the audience recommended holding the same roundtable again, in a much larger venue, providing much broader number of people the opportunity to be a part of this wrangling over how to mount a challenge to the whole direction toward which this society is being driven.
Revolution #83, March 25, 2007
Michael Slate, the only revolutionary communist hosting a weekly drive-time radio show in America, can be heard on Beneath the Surface every Tuesday from 5 to 6 p.m. Pacific time on KPFK 90.7 FM in Los Angeles and 98.7 FM in Santa Barbara. You can also tune in on the internet at www.kpfk.org.
Beneath the Surface with Michael Slate is where many have heard the voice of Bob Avakian, the Chairman of the Revolutionary Communist Party, USA, including a ten-part interview that Slate conducted and recent talks and presentations by the Chairman.
Slate's show provides up-to-the-minute analysis of the most pressing issues of the day: ranging from the war in the Middle East to the assault on science and critical thinking, victims of police brutality, military resisters, writers and scholars dedicated to exposing the dangers of theocracy and Christian fascists, progressive artists, anti-war and impeachment activists, former Guantanamo detainees, and civil liberties lawyers. Past guests have included: Ward Churchill, Steve Earle, Ursula LeGuin, Niles Eldredge, Sam Harris, Rickie Lee Jones, Richard Falk, Ann Wright, David Cross, Jose Maria Sison, rappers Boots Riley and Paris, Ray McGovern, Saul Williams, former U.S. Brigadier General Janis Karpinski, David Crosby, Los Tigres del Norte, and Oscar Brown Jr. The show also features revolutionary journalists who write for the pages of Revolution newspaper.
Michael Slate has been a correspondent for Revolution (formerly the Revolutionary Worker) for over two decades. He has reported from the townships of South Africa during the 1980s; from South Central, Los Angeles following the 1992 L.A. Rebellion; from the mountains of Chiapas, Mexico; and the tsunami-struck coast of Sri Lanka.
This is radio that digs into the world as it is and how it should be and could be. Don't miss it. If you miss a live broadcast, archives are available for listening or downloading at www.kpfk.org (click on "Audio Archives") or from Michael Slate's website (redfuture.com), where you can also sign up for weekly email announcements about upcoming shows.
Revolution #83, March 25, 2007
“Paradoxically, preserving liberty may require the rule of a single leader—a dictator—willing to use those dreaded 'extraordinary measures,' which few know how, or are willing, to employ."
White House advisor and fellow of the American Enterprise Institute,
Machiavelli on Modern Leadership:
Why Machiavelli’s Iron Rules Are As Timely and
Important Today As Five Centuries Ago
“Gen. Tommy Franks says that if the United States is hit with a weapon of mass destruction that inflicts large casualties, the Constitution will likely be discarded in favor of a military form of government.”
November 21, 2003
In October 2006, Bush signed into law the John Warner National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2007. Quietly slipped into the law at the last minute, at the request of the Bush administration, were sections changing important legal principles, dating back 200 years, which limit the U.S. government’s ability to use the military to intervene in domestic affairs. These changes would allow Bush, whenever he thinks it necessary, to institute martial law—under which the military takes direct control over civilian administration.
Sec. 1042 of the Act, "Use of the Armed Forces in Major Public Emergencies," effectively overturns what is known as posse comitatus. The Posse Comitatus Act is a law, passed in 1878, that prohibits the use of the regular military within the U.S. borders. The original passage of the Posse Comitatus Act was a very reactionary move that sealed the betrayal of Black people after the Civil War and brought the period of Reconstruction to an end. It decreed that federal troops could no longer be used inside the former Confederate states to enforce the new legal rights of Black people. Black people were turned over to the armed police and Klansmen serving the southern plantation owners, and the long period of Jim Crow began.
During the 20th century, posse comitatus objectively started to play a new role within the bourgeois democratic framework: as a legal barrier to the direct influence of the powerful military establishment and the armed forces over domestic U.S. society. It served to some degree as an obstacle against military coups and presidents seizing military control over the country. (However, National Guard troops have been legally available to the ruling class for use inside the U.S., and there have been other loopholes to the prohibition of the use of armed forces domestically, as in the mobilization of Marine troops during the 1992 L.A. Rebellion.)
So the changes to posse comitatus signed into law by Bush are extremely significant and ominous. Bush has modified the main exemptions to posse comitatus that up to now have been primarily defined by the Insurrection Act of 1807. Previously the president could call out the army in the United States only in cases of insurrection or conditions where “rebellion against the authority of the United States, make it impracticable to enforce the laws of the United States in any State or Territory by the ordinary course of judicial proceedings.” Under the new law the president can use the military in response to a natural disaster, a disease outbreak, a terrorist attack or “other condition in which the President determines that domestic violence has occurred to the extent that state officials cannot maintain public order.”
The new law requires the President to notify Congress "as soon as practicable after the determination and every 14 days thereafter during the duration of the exercise of the authority." However Bush, as he has often done during his presidency, modified this requirement in his signing statement, which declared, "The executive branch shall construe such provisions in a manner consistent with the President's constitutional authority to withhold information the disclosure of which could impair foreign relations, the national security, the deliberative processes of the Executive." In other words, Bush claims that he does not even need to inform Congress that martial law has been declared!
Changing Role of Military Within the U.S.
This major change in the criteria under which martial law can be declared is a continuation of a process, begun after 9/11, to dismantle legal barriers to unrestrained executive, presidential powers.
In 2002, the government created the new Northern Command. This is the first time since the Civil War that the U.S. military has been given an operational command inside the continental United States.
In 2005, the Washington Post reported that Northcom had developed battle plans for martial law in the U.S. One secret document, CONPLAN 2005, envisions 15 different scenarios where these plans could go into effect.
The U.S. has also used natural disasters like Katrina to push for an increased role for the military. According to the Washington Post, Bush advisor Karl Rove told the governor of Louisiana that she should explore legal options to impose martial law “or as close as we can get.”
Spying by the military against U.S. persons, also supposedly prohibited, has greatly expanded in recent years. Counterintelligence Field Activity (CIFA) was created in 2002 supposedly to evaluate threats against Department of Defense installations. However, a secret 400-page document obtained by MSNBC revealed that CIFA had spied on more than 1500 “suspicious incidents” during a ten-month period, including a meeting of Quakers to plan a protest of military recruiting at local high schools and an anti-war protest in Los Angeles.
James Risen has exposed in the New York Times and in his book State of War: The Secret History of the CIA and the Bush Administration that the National Security Agency, which is under the Department of Defense, has been used in a massive campaign of illegal spying of U.S. citizens, including tapping phone calls and monitoring bank and financial records and the internet. (See Revolution #35, "Spies, Lies, Thugs and Torture.")
In 2006, the Military Commissions Act was passed which, in addition to legalizing torture, allows the president and military courts to declare anyone an enemy combatant without basic civil rights like habeas corpus.
Plans for massive detention centers are already being prepared. Pacific News Service reported that in early 2006, Kellogg Brown and Root (KBR) received a $385 million contract from the Department of Homeland Security to build detention and processing facilities to be used “in the event of an emergency influx of immigrants into the U.S. or to support the rapid development of new programs.”
Would They Really Go That Far?
The Bush Regime's preparations for martial law are part of an extreme agenda. This is a regime that is setting out to create a world empire that is unchallenged and unchallengeable and has embarked on an endless war to bring this about. Along with this, they aim to restructure social relations in the U.S., doing away with many of the social and economic institutions that have characterized U.S. society since World War 2. Because of this extreme agenda, the Bush regime takes very seriously the possibility of jolts and ruptures and resistance and are preparing very extreme measures to deal with this.
On February 27, 1933, a fire broke out in the Reichstag (government) building in Germany. The next day Hitler and his Minister of the Interior Hermann Göring drafted the Reichstag Fire Decree, which suspended civil liberties and gave the central government total power. The decree was signed into law within days. After that point, opposition to Hitler became MUCH more difficult.
In the U.S. today, extreme measures much like the Reichstag Fire Decree are already being put into place—making it even more urgent that a determined struggle be waged to drive out the Bush regime and reverse this dangerous trajectory.