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Revolution #103, October 7, 2007
Sept. 20: A Great Day for the People
On September 27, Mychal Bell, one of the Jena 6, was finally released from jail. He had been UNJUSTLY locked up for over nine months. Reed Walters, the District Attorney, has said he will now try Bell in juvenile court. And the other five youth of the Jena 6 still face charges and possible jail time. Meanwhile, there has been a vicious racist backlash from KKK-types (see sidebar, “Racists Lash Back in Jena 6 Battle”), including death threats against family members of the Jena 6. And Reed Walters has gone on a major campaign in the media, putting out lies and distortions aimed at creating public opinion against the Jena 6. All this underscores the significance of the mass outpouring of support of protest on September 20 and the need to continue this fight, all the way through, until all the Jena 6 are all-the-way free.
Thursday, September 20, was a great day for the people!
It was still dark, the day just starting out. But the small town of Jena, Louisiana was already different than it had ever been before. Buses and vans from as far away as New York and California, were lined up. Thousands of people already streaming in, tens of thousands on their way. The usually lonely two-lane country highway clogged with traffic bumper-to-bumper. Cars were already starting to park every which way, people piling out and walking toward town. Black motorcycle clubs roaring in. Windows of cars with hand-painted signs: “Jena Bound, Follow Us,” “Journey to Jena,” and “Jena 6—We got your back.”
The groundswell of outrage and grassroots organizing that had been steadily, and then by leaps and bounds, growing over the last few weeks was coming together—manifesting in a powerful, visible, and concrete way. Tens of thousands came out from the grassroots to demand that the Jena 6 be freed and that this outrageous injustice be stopped. Nothing like this mobilization—nothing like its spirit or turnout or determination—has been seen in a long, long time.
And in cities all over the country, thousands of people held protests, walkouts, wore black, and organized other actions in solidarity with the demonstration in Jena (see page 12, revcom.us, and future issues of Revolution for more coverage).
After so long of being told “the system is too powerful and we’re too messed up”…after so long of those in power relentlessly hammering on the people…this was a real glimpse and a feel of the people’s potential strength and the potential weakness of those who ride atop this rotten system.
By 10 a.m., thousands and thousands of people were packed outside the Jena courthouse – and more were still arriving. College and high school students made up a big part of the crowd. Looking back down the road, people were walking up the road for as far as you could see. At one point people marched over to Jena High School, where the nooses had been hung and where Black students had taken a courageous stand against racism. Everyone wanted to see where the “Whites-Only Tree” had stood (since removed by school officials this summer). People took turns walking up to the patch of dirt where the tree had stood and touched the ground. Some grabbed bits of the roots still there to put in their pockets. In Ward Park about two miles way, a crowd of 1500 gathered to rally and then marched over to the courthouse.
For hours people kept coming and the outrage, determination, and creativity of the people was evident wherever you looked. The word had gotten out to “wear black” and just about everyone had black t-shirts. Everywhere you looked groups with different messages. People stood together wearing their unique t-shirts: “Enough is Enough.” “Stop the ‘Jenacide.’” “Release to the Captives.” “Get to the Root of the Problem.” “Jena Six Did What Was Right!” “Jena Six, Harlem's Got Your Back.” “The noose is loose, handcuff free clothing, Free the Jena Six!” “No room for racism.” “Stop the Criminalization of our Youth.” “I was there. September 20, 2007.”
“Get on the Bus!”
People piled off the buses, after long rides that were a great experience in themselves. Young people going to their first demonstration mixed in with those recalling bus rides during the Civil Rights Movement. Union members on the buses from Detroit talking about how people back in the plant were wearing black that day in solidarity with the protest in Jena. Some people had just heard about the Jena 6 a couple of days earlier, but had dropped everything to go. A common sentiment was, “It’s about time! This is long overdue.” One 46-yr-old Black professional said she felt that the most important thing that this day represented was “hope for the future” – that a new movement, a new generation of people were determined to change things. This sentiment was echoed over and over – that this was the beginning of something new. There were people with experience from back in the day. There were youth with new thoughts on where the struggle needs to go. People came with experience, strong opinions, deep questions and openness to new ideas. Hundreds of copies of Revolution newspaper got out on the buses and on some buses people watched the track “They’re selling postcards of the hanging” from the DVD of Bob Avakian’s talk “Revolution: Why It’s Necessary, Why It’s Possible, What It’s All About.”
One person on a bus from Detroit told Revolution: “When you cross the bridge over the Mississippi from Natchez into Louisiana, you are instantly in the Deep South. This hit people very strongly. The first thing we saw was a Black man and woman, standing on the edge of this country road, holding up signs that read, ‘Jena 6,’ welcoming our caravan of eight buses. Then a mile or two down the road, we came upon another sight: convict laborers dressed in stripes, doing work on the side of the road and in the median. This hit everybody like a gut punch – people were angry. This is the state where Angola prison has chain gangs. This is the state where the juvenile authorities have been shown to rape and torture youth. This is the future the state of Louisiana intends for the Jena 6. Then we passed through miles and miles of cotton fields. The bus driver, who was from Louisiana, said ‘doesn't that snow look beautiful?’ People looked, then realized it was cotton – fields that had once been worked on by Black people under conditions of slavery. And then we got to Jena! Unbelievable. From every direction poured thousands and thousands of people were pouring in, almost all of them dressed in all black.”
Many buses had traveled all night and when they got close to Jena, lots of them pulled over to the side of the road. No one knew what was happening and people started piling out, gathering on the side of the highway. Looking up and down the highway, buses were lined up for miles. The sentiment began to build and people began to call out, "Let's march! If they won't let us drive to Jena, we will march there!" Some people began to form up into a column and begin walking. The prospect of marching over 20 miles didn’t seem to faze anyone. Finally the buses got back on the road toward Jena.
People shared with each why they had gotten on the bus. On one bus some said they saw this as being about the future of Black youth in this country. A number of women said they came because they had sons or brothers or grandsons the same age as the Jena 6 and that the same thing could so easily happen to them. One woman said, "They are all my sons, these boys in Jena are my sons too, and I have to be there for them just like they are my own." Some college students spoke about how they had been lucky enough to get into school, but they had to be in Jena for all Black youth.
One student from Louisiana said, “Well I think its kind of America's ugly little secret, they don't want to admit that racism still exists and especially in little towns where city officials may feel like no body's watching them and they can get away with certain things that you maybe can't get away with in larger cities and its just exposing a lot of different things, just like Katrina.”
A Day of Struggle, Pride and Accomplishment
Mychal Bell’s conviction had been overturned a week before – in response to the growing nationwide movement in support of the Jena 6. (And he would be released a week later.) And this day gave people a real feeling of the power and potential of the people. A student from Louisiana said, “Just us being here today will make huge strides in this case because even before we came, look at the changes we made, just the news buzz that we were coming and how many people were coming.”
Going home on the buses, people felt really proud at what had been accomplished on this day, as well as a renewed determination to continue the struggle until the Jena 6 are all free. One person said: “On the bus headed home people got up to testify about why they came and what they learned. This was very powerful. People spoke about how important it is to see Black people coming together to resist. One person spoke about how this was a statement to Black youth, that there is a way off the street, and that is to fight for something worth fighting for. One woman got up and said that her son had convinced her to go – she said she'd always wondered when ‘they’ were going to fight back, then she realized that she had to be part of ‘them,’ that the only way things could change is if everybody decides to be part of ‘they.’ She said even though she is in her 70's, that this is what she is going to do with her life. One autoworker spoke about how he felt he had to come, that he had heard there were no seats on the buses, but came down anyway, determined to find a way to get on the bus. Some youth talked about how they had not known anything about the Jena 6 until they looked it up on the Internet and then knew they had to be part of this fight to the end, going right back to Jena if necessary. An older man spoke about how he had lived under Jim Crow and faced Bull Connor's dogs, been beat by the police in the North and the South. He said he wouldn't rest his whole life until all this was ended.”
Continue the Struggle to Free the Jena 6!
A man from St. Louis being interviewed by Revolution, handed us his camera and asked that we video it for him—he wanted a record for his five-day-old granddaughter to show to her friends when she got older, showing that her grandfather had been part of this historic event. He said, “This was much bigger than I expected. I'm in awe, I'm in shock, I'm so ecstatic, it will probably take me a year to come down off this high. It’s just so many people, the expressions, not just the shirts, but what people had to say. We’re not just creating history, we are history.” Then he added where he thought things should go from here: “Being that this is so successful, we need to don't just stop right here. This is not a one-time event as far as I'm concerned. If we need to come back, let’s come back and double the numbers, triple the numbers... And then, let’s just say after Jena's over with we need to move in masses! There are a lot of different cases like this.”
Indeed, this is not just about Jena. It’s about the whole way this system chews up so many Black and other minority youth, and everything else they’ve been bringing down on people for years and years and more. And it’s a fact: the only thing that has prevented these young men from being totally railroaded already, and that has won some beginning concessions, has been the power of the people in struggle. Coming out of Jena, we have to redouble our determination to completely free the Jena 6. And, as we do that, we have to redouble our determination to call out to people to “Get with the revolution” – to take up this battle and to take up as well getting into why this system does this to people, where is it going, and how does this righteous fight for justice relate and contribute to getting rid of this system and getting to a whole different society.
Right now, immediately, we have to continue to support and build outpourings against the injustice in Jena. And the struggle to free the Jena 6 should be one big part of October 22 – the National Day of Protest to Stop Police Brutality, Repression and the Criminalization of a Generation. And we have to get out this paper, far more widely – especially into the high schools and campuses, as well as the communities – by the hundreds and hundreds, and getting others to take 20 or 50 or more to sell in turn. We have to get out the DVD of Bob Avakian’s speech, “Revolution: Why It’s Necessary, Why It’s Possible, What It’s All About,” showing it in classes and on the streets. As we do, listen to people’s outrage at this injustice, as well as their joy for what was accomplished with this demonstration on September 20. Work with them to give all that further political expression. Build the resistance to the injustice in Jena, and spread the idea of revolution.
Now is the time to push forward. There are real stakes in this struggle. There is a real battle yet to WIN. The people cannot allow this injustice to go down. The people have begun to show an inkling of their strength and must stop, through mass political action, this violent enforcement of white supremacy and prevent yet another case of Black youth disappearing into the system’s dungeons.
Revolution #103, October 7, 2007
The sun had not even set on September 20 when a vicious backlash emerged. During the rally in Alexandria white racists drove by repeatedly with nooses hanging from the back of their pickup truck. One of them told police his relatives were involved with the KKK. After white supremacist websites put up racist, hateful slurs about the Jena 6 case and posted the names, phone numbers, and addresses of family members of the Jena 6, calling on racist vigilantes to take action, family members of the Jena 6 got started getting threatening phone calls. There has been new racist bathroom wall graffiti and threats against the Jena 6 at the high school. Justin Barker, the white student the Jena 6 are accused of beating up, and his parents gave an interview to the editor of a white supremacist publication. The editor of this paper also interviewed Jena’s mayor, Murphy McMillin, telling him he “would like to arrange to set aside some place for those opposing the colored folks,” to which McMillin said, “I am not endorsing any demonstrations, but I do appreciate what you are trying to do.”
This underscores that an important part of this struggle is to resist such threats and protect the Jena 6 and their families from any retaliation and harm.
Meanwhile, District Attorney Reed Walters, who is prosecuting the Jena 6, has gotten major promotion in the mainstream media, spreading the lie that this case is not about race, that it has nothing to do with the nooses being hung, that it is just about getting justice for the so-called “victim,” Justin Barker. This is a concerted attempt to cover up the TRUTH of this case. A blatant effort to wipe away and deny the very reason this case has touched a nerve among millions of Black people all over this country. Reed Walters wants to wipe away, with the stroke of his pen, the real facts of this case:
Black high school students sit under a “whites-only” tree in the schoolyard. Racist white students respond by hanging nooses from the tree. After Black students protest by standing under the tree, a school assembly is called where Walters tells Black students to shut up about the nooses, that if he hears anything else about it, he “can make their lives go away with the stroke of his pen.” The three students who hung the nooses are given what amounts to a slap on the wrist. Robert Bailey, a Black student, tries to go to a dance at a hall considered to be “white.” When he walks in he’s punched in the face, knocked on the ground and attacked by a group of white youth. Only one white youth is arrested and only gets probation. The next night, a white man, along with his friends, pulls a gun on Bailey and two of his friends at the Gotta Go gas station. The Black youth wrestled the gun from him to prevent him from using it. They are arrested and charged with theft, and the white man goes free. Then when a fight breaks out that sends a white student to the hospital for a couple of hours, the law comes down on six Black students. Mychal Bell, Robert Bailey, Theo Shaw, Carwin Jones, Bryant Purvis, and an unnamed minor are arrested, originally charged with attempted murder, and face decades of prison time. And these young men are all still facing prosecution – for standing up to racism.
Revolution #103, October 7, 2007
Revolution #103, October 7, 2007
As tens of thousands converged on Jena on September 20, there was also an outpouring of protest in cities across the U.S. demanding Free the Jena 6. Here are pictures of some of those events, based on reports online, and from correspondence to Revolution.
• Washington, DC: Over 2,000 rallied at the Capitol. A post by someone at the web site of radio host Michael Baisden said, “It was hard for me to hold back tears as I witnessed thousands descending on the Upper Senate Park which is located directly in front of the Capitol Building. Teachers ushered in students, parents ushered in children, colleagues ushered in one another, and together we stood to support justice.
• Los Angeles: Close to 1,000 students at Locke High School in Watts walked out of school and filled the street outside. Black and Latino students acted together to carry out this action. Several hundred then marched two miles to Southwest College in South-Central L.A., where they held a rally and speak-out. Earlier, a 6 a.m. march of about a hundred people down Sunset Blvd. in Hollywood was organized by the Black Surfers Association. A rally in Leimert Park drew nearly a thousand people from all over the city. (Check online at revcom.us for a fuller report from L.A.)
• San Francisco Bay Area: Over 1,000 students rallied on Sproul Plaza on the UC Berkeley campus, including scores of high school students from Berkeley High and Oakland Tech who had walked out of school. Eighteen students from Casa Magdalena Mora, a Chicano theme house at UC Berkeley, delivered a statement of support of the Jena 6. Later in the afternoon, in downtown San Francisco, several hundred people protested—getting major mainstream news coverage. Other protests in the region took place at San Jose State University, Laney College in Oakland, San Francisco State University, University of San Francisco, and California State University Fresno. (Check online at revcom.us for a fuller report from the Bay Area.)
• New York City: 500 people, almost all wearing black, rallied at Borough Hall in Brooklyn. Speakers included writer and activist Kevin Powell and Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz. Some 200 rallied on the City Hall steps in Manhattan. Twelve patients and staff of a convalescent home, all dressed in black, marched across Harlem.
• Cleveland, OH: Over 600 people gathered in front of an inner-city high school at 7 a.m. and marched to Cleveland State University for a panel discussion on the Jena 6. In the town of Twinsburg, where there is a Chrysler plant and a large Black community, the principal at the high school supported a student rally for the Jena 6.
• Detroit: Hundreds of people took part in several marches and rallies around the city.
• Chicago: 300 students at marched at Chicago State University on the city's South Side. Excel Academy high school students organized themselves to form a giant “Free Jena 6” that was visible from the air.
• Trenton, New Jersey: 250 people marched down the Lower Trenton Bridge.
• Baltimore, Maryland: more than 2,500 people of all ages packed the New Shiloh Baptist Church.
• Hampton University, Virginia: 400 students marched, and two-thirds of the student body wore black.
• Spartanburg, SC: More than half of 523 students at McCracken High School wore black to support the Jena 6. The student who organized this said, “It wasn’t just a black people thing. We got everyone involved.”
• Rockford, Illinois: students at a K-8 school researched the Jena 6 case, including listening to Billie Holiday's “Strange Fruit” in a music class, and wrote speeches for a rally they organized. The principal relaxed the uniform to allow students to wear black in support of the Jena 6.
• Seattle, WA: 75 marched through downtown.
• Northeast Iowa Community College: students and faculty at organized a rally of 50 people in Calmar, Iowa—a town of 1,000 people that is over 98% white.
Protests for Jena 6 have continued. The following are just some of what’s been happening:
• A coalition of hip-hop artists including Mos Def, M1 and Talib Kweli, along with a number of political organizations, are calling for a national student walkout on Monday, October 1. As we go to press, students are organizing around the country for the walkout on Monday to Free the Jena 6.
• More than 200 students at the University of Wisconsin, Madison rallied on September 25 in support of the 6.
• A Black fraternity at the University of Southern Mississippi rallied on September 25.
• Three of the Jena 6 parents spoke at a Howard University panel titled, “Endangered Black Males: Racial Injustice and the Pipeline, The Jena Six” on September 25, attended by 1,000 students and faculty members.
Revolution #103, October 7, 2007
In the days right after the big September 20 protests in Jena, Louisiana, it’s very intense and the town is even more polarized. Rumors are flying all over the place--some of them, it seems, designed to inflame racist reaction to the growing struggle to free the Jena 6. We’re in the McDonald’s using the wifi and an older white guy comes in and declares that three buses, when they heard about Mychal Bell not getting out of jail, turned around and were headed back for Jena. I ask him how he knows this is true. He drawls, “Can’t say but it’s from a reliable source.” I say, how do I know this isn’t just another rumor? He says, “Can’t say, but this came from someone in law enforcement.” I ask him again, “So how do you know this is true?” He just smiles and shrugs his shoulders.
For months, Black people standing up to racism and speaking out against the prosecution of the Jena 6 had faced isolating repression. Now, the day after tens of thousands had filled these streets in an historic and powerful demonstration to demand that these young men be freed, Black people in Jena are holding their heads higher, knowing that people all around the country got their back. But among white people in Jena, the most backward and racist are setting the terms of things. A lot of white people tell you the Jena 6 case is giving their town an “undeserved” bad name--which just amounts to justifying the unequal, racist and segregated status quo. The day before the protests, the Jena Times quoted city officials saying they would ensure that order is maintained. And meanwhile there was an ugly undercurrent of white people reacting like plantation owners hearing rumors of a slave revolt--leaving town and talking about how maybe they should board up their windows. Then on the day, when tens of thousands descend on Jena from all over the country to demand the Jena 6 be freed, schools are closed, almost all businesses shut down. State troopers are brought in. A state of emergency had been declared.
The morning after the protest, the courthouse is mobbed with national and international press. When the family of Mychal Bell comes out, they say nothing, even though they are being pummeled with questions. Bell was not granted bail and is being loaded on a van headed back to jail. The family members have a look of not only heartache and disappointment but building anger at this latest outrage. More than the press is gathered on the lawn in front of the courthouse--protesters from the day before have stayed around and yell out, “Stay strong!” “We're with you 100 percent, ” “We're gonna be back until this is over.”
That night we talk with some young white guys hanging out in a parking lot. They are typical of a section of white people in Jena who swear up and down to you that they aren’t racist--but in the same sentence tell you that the problem is that the press has made too big a deal out of the Jena 6 case. And none of them came out on Thursday to demonstrate. The oft repeated claim, “I’m color blind, I don’t see Black and white” amounts to nothing but a willful denial of the truthful fact that racism is a part of everyday life in Jena. One guy tells us he recently watched the DVD of the movie Jasper, Texas which tells the story of James Byrd Jr., a Black man who was dragged behind a truck and killed by a bunch of KKK racists. He also checked out the movie American History X, where Edward Norton plays a former neo-Nazi skinhead. He’s trying to connect this up with what’s happening in Jena. But he’s still unwilling to take a clear stand with the struggle to free the Jena 6.
A white woman at the Wal-Mart tells us she’s against racism and thinks all the charges should be dropped. But when we ask her where she was on Thursday, she says she had something else to do that day. She seems surprised when we don’t automatically accept her claims of being a “good white person.” We say, it don’t mean shit if you say you’re against racism and injustice but then stand on the sidelines--which isn’t really the “sidelines” at all. We challenge her, asking, what could be more important than taking a clear stand on this--and how significant would it have been if a section of white people in Jena had come out and stood with the protesters? She looks kind of sheepish and hardly convincing when she says dispassionately, “I’ll be out there next time--if I can make it.”
Jena is a very small town and on Saturday night you can sit in the McDonald’s where people are coming in and out all night and get a slice of current rumors, sentiments, and tensions. An hour long CNN special on the Jena 6 is playing on the TV, sparking debate among customers. One of the Jena 6 youth comes in and goes up to the counter to order his food. About half an hour later, a white guy comes in and asks if we are journalists and what newspaper we are with. He’s acting kind of cocky and aggressive and I ask him who he is. He says he is a family member of “the victim”--a cousin of Justin Barker, the white student who the Jena 6 are accused of beating. Justin Barker, who has just that day given an interview for an openly admitted KKK publication.
The mostly empty, small-town streets of Jena seem different now. You can’t help but look at them and remember how the huge crowds took over the downtown streets, then snaked for miles along the country roads and filled the air with angry chants. It feels good. But at the same time there is also a disquieting sense because of the immediate and ugly backlash--in the courtroom and out in the street. Even as protesters were still in Alexandria, a truck with nooses hanging from it repeatedly drove by. And then the neo-nazi websites threatened the Jena 6 and their families, posting their names and addresses in a vicious, murderous call for vigilante action. Some of the parents got death threats on the phone – which poses an urgent challenge for people to find ways to make sure no harm comes to the Jena 6, their families and supporters.
It’s late in the afternoon when we drive over to one of Jena’s Black neighborhoods. A bunch of kids are playing in their front yard, jumping up and down and laughing. Their pure exuberance and unrestrained joy is apparent even from afar and we make a u-turn and stop to watch. I can’t help but notice the stark contrast between the carefree nature of these kids and the growing intensity in Jena where two sides, and really two futures are fighting it out. What is happening in this town has touched a nerve of millions of Black people around the country, and spurred tens of thousands into action, exactly because in so many ways the persecution of the Jena 6 is a concentration of the hopeless future this system has for Black youth--of low-wage jobs, unemployment, police brutality, and imprisonment. A Black youth living in a place like Jena, before you even have a chance to grow up, your options are closed off--your neighborhood, school segregated, and living on the Black side of town has deep and lasting effects.
We spend a really nice evening with Vera and James (not their real names), two people who live in this neighborhood. People are coming in and out--apparently it’s somewhat of a weekend ritual here where the word gets out that barbecue is on the table and everyone stops by. One visitor reports that the state troopers are back in town, seems they are getting ready for something, but nobody knows what. Vera talks about how her young daughter Emma (not her real name) had been really scared the last two days. Vera had never seen her act like this before, afraid to sleep by herself. She’s a spunky kid, the kind that strikes you as not afraid of anything. But she knew her parents had been to the protest on Thursday and all the talk about the KKK and the death threats to the parents of the Jena 6 has gotten her upset. She looks a bit embarrassed when her mother tells us this, but then smiles when we tell her that she should be very proud of her parents and the other people in Jena who were standing up to the nooses, standing up for what is right, that this is how history changes, when people take a stand and fight for a better world.
You learn a lot from just sitting around with people like this. They are so hospitable and friendly and always have an interesting story to tell about what it’s like to live in Jena. Vera tells us about how Emma started out playing on a sports team where there were only a couple of other Black girls. Seems like it wasn’t a very comfortable situation. Emma now plays on one of two Black girls teams that some parents started and they compete with all the other girls teams. Emma takes us into her room and shows us her trophies. There is a tall glass case where she has them displayed, there are about 20 trophies, mostly for sports, but she pulls out one to show us that is a spelling bee trophy.
We also stop in James Jr.’s room. He’s playing an intense football video game but pauses for a minute to tell us about his trophy case, which is just as big and almost as full as his sister’s. The walls of the rooms are decorated with a couple of sports jerseys and some photos of him playing ball. The wall reflects nothing but his all-the-time passion for sports, except for the latest addition. His parents hadn’t allowed him to go to the demonstration on Thursday--they were afraid something might happen to him. But they had brought him a souvenir from the day that he had already put up--an orange “Drive Out the Bush Regime” bandana.
James has lived in Jena for quite a while and is an especially good storyteller, and once we get him started he doesn’t need any further prodding. He remembers most everything about Jena in terms of the intense and violent relations between Black and white people. And especially the times that Black people have been killed by whites. So many of them have been about a Black man “looking at” or dating a white woman.
He tells us that in 1974, Billy Ray Hunter was killed at the fairgrounds by some white guys. James says Billy Ray made the “mistake” of bumping into a white woman. He apologized to her but she went and told her boyfriend and seven white guys came back and stomped Billy Ray to death. James says, “The way I remember this is because it’s a fair that comes here every September and that's something the Black kids look forward to. And my Daddy stopped us from goin' after that happened, for a long time. That's why I really remember that, because when you take something special away from a child like goin' to a fair -- that's the only thing you have to look forward to in these little country towns, you remember that stuff.”
James tells the story of another man who died because of the color of his skin. This guy Thompson, who had been a professional baseball player in the 1970s was home visiting when he got into a fight with someone and was shot. His cousin tried to rush him to the hospital but they were stopped by state troopers. When the cousin tried to argue with them, they dragged him out of the car and beat him. Meanwhile, Thompson didn’t get to the hospital and died.
The next story is about a Black man, who people say died in 1991 for dating a white woman. He was working in a plant when somehow 5,000 pounds of plywood was dropped on him, crushing him to death. The official account at the courthouse says it was a “work-related accident”--but a lot of Black people in Jena say there is more to it than that.
Then there is the horrifying story of 22-year-old Bobby Ray Smith, a Black man who was killed and mutilated by a group of white men in 1979. James tells us, “They cut off his private parts, stuffed them in his mouth and then took him out to the oil field, tied him to a chair and threw him in the oil pit.” Nobody found him for like three weeks and the only reason they could identify him was because he was wearing his dad’s military jacket from World War 2 that had his name on it.
All these stories--and many more we didn’t hear this evening--are the background to what is happening in Jena, Louisiana today. This is what runs deep when you talk to Black people in Jena about why it was so great to see tens of thousands of people from around the country come to Jena on September 20. Jasper, Texas is not that far from Jena, Louisiana. And this is what most of the white people in Jena refuse to confront--and then thoroughly denounce and struggle against.
Revolution #103, October 7, 2007
Excerpt from New Book on Religion by Bob Avakian
Editors Note: The following is an excerpt from the book AWAY WITH ALL GODS! Unchaining the Mind and Radically Changing the World, by Bob Avakian (to be published this coming spring by Insight Press). While the book has not yet been published—and what is excerpted here is not necessarily the final version of this section of the book—because of the importance and great relevance of the subject matter now, Revolution has received permission, from the author and from Insight Press, to publish this excerpt here. (The footnotes included here are part of the [draft] text of the book itself.)
Here it is important to answer the argument that is not infrequently made—including by people whose stance is to oppose religion in general—that while all religious fundamentalism is bad and harmful, there is something particularly evil and dangerous about Islamic fundamentalism. This, for example, is the position of Sam Harris, author of The End of Faith: Religion, Terror and the Future of Reason and Letter to a Christian Nation; and it is the stand rather obviously and quite aggressively insisted on by Christopher Hitchens, whose recent book, and in a concentrated way its title, God Is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything, encapsulates the contradiction I am speaking to here. On the one hand, as expressed in the secondary part of the title, Hitchens' book is a broadside against religion in general; but the first, and main, part of the title involves—and is no doubt meant to involve—a very definite salvo directed against Islam in particular: it is a "negative echo," so to speak, of the common Islamic invocation: God is Great. It is not hard to see how this position dovetails rather neatly with that of the Bush regime and the U.S. imperialists in general with their "war on terror" and its declared target of "Islamic extremists."
To begin with, from what has been shown so far, it should be very clear that, with regard to the scriptures and the religious tradition of Christianity there is no basis for arguing that it is, in any fundamental or essential sense, different from or better than Islam. Any attempt to take this up and apply it—and still more to impose and enforce it—in a literalist sense, insisting that it is the inerrant word of God which must be followed to the letter, as the Christian fundamentalists do, can indeed only lead to horrors of the greatest magnitude. Once more, all this is something which humanity needs to move beyond and forever leave behind.
Perhaps in recognition of the reality that there is nothing to choose between Islamic fundamentalism and Christian fundamentalism, as such and on the level of the literal word, a common component of the position that somehow Islamic fundamentalism is worse than fundamentalist Christianity is the argument that, yes, the latter may be just as awful in its content, but particularly in a country like the U.S.—where it is increasingly hard to ignore or deny that Christian fundamentalism is a major phenomenon—the effect it can have and the danger it poses is restrained and mitigated by the fact that one of the pillars of Constitutional government in this country is the separation of church and state. Well, first of all, that separation, while real, has always been anything but absolute; and, moreover, it is a separation that is under concerted attack by the Christian fundamentalists and powerful forces in the ruling class representing, or allied with, these fundamentalists (while the sections of the ruling class that are not themselves advocates of this religious fundamentalism are at great pains to compromise and conciliate with it and to promote religion in public life—witness, as just one example, the repeated professions of profound religious faith on the part of every major candidate for the Democratic Party presidential nomination). The danger posed by theocratic Christian fascists—and the lack of any real ruling class opposition to this—is very real. And this assault on the separation of church and state has not at all been rendered toothless, or strategically weakened, by the fact that Bush has become an extremely unpopular president.1
Generally speaking (although not uniformly so) it is true that in the parts of the world where Islam is the dominant religion, there has not been the same phenomenon of a bourgeois-democratic transformation of society that has occurred in countries like the U.S., in which one of the main aspects of that transformation has been a (relative) separation of church and state. The prevailing, and institutionalized, doctrine and tenets of Islam reject a separation between religion, on the one hand, and politics and the law, on the other hand, as well as between religion and what is generally referred to as civil society. But that has been true of Christianity, and the states where Christianity has been the dominant religion, for most of their history—and it is only a relatively recent period, historically speaking, that has seen a change in this, through the kind of bourgeois-democratic transformation to which I have referred. And it is important to recognize that, as a rule, it is those countries which have undergone such a bourgeois-democratic transformation, as part of the emergence and triumph of the capitalist system, which have developed into imperialist powers, and whose imperialist conquest and domination of countries throughout the Third World, including those where Islam is the dominant religion, has been a major factor in obstructing the kind of transformation that would involve the separation of church and state. The relative "backwardness" of those Third World countries has repeatedly been invoked as justification for colonialism and imperialist conquest. And, in turn, this imperialist conquest and exploitation, with all the consequences it has led to, including the installing and backing of corrupt and tyrannical "local governments" and the devastation of much of the way of life and the living conditions of the large majority of the population, has actually strengthened tendencies which identify ideas associated with "the West"—such as the progressive aspects of the Enlightenment, with its spur to critical thinking, its challenging of religious dogma, and its contribution to the separation of politics from official religion—as alien and antagonistic to the needs of the people.
This speaks to the argument that is also frequently raised that, even if it is true that the ideas embodied in Christian fundamentalism are every bit as bad as those of Islamic fundamentalism, there is a great difference in that Christian fundamentalists do not go around blowing up people and buildings and generally engaging in terrorist activity, while such activity is common among Islamic fundamentalists. Besides the fact that Christian fundamentalists have indeed engaged in acts of terror, including within the U.S.—such as the bombing of clinics where abortions are performed and the murder of doctors who perform abortions—and that Christian fundamentalist forces are being "primed" to carry out reactionary violence on a much greater scale, should that be deemed necessary by those for whom they are in fact being readied as shock and storm troops—there is the reality that, up to this point, violence which serves ends that are passionately supported by the Christian fascist fundamentalists has been carried out on a massive scale by the imperialist ruling class of the U.S., utilizing the armed forces and police of the imperialist state—with more of that violence currently being threatened (such as an attack on Iran, in addition to the wars presently being waged in Iraq and Afghanistan). And one of the distinguishing features of those armed forces in this period is precisely that they are being increasingly influenced by, and even indoctrinated with, a fundamentalist Christian fascist outlook, from the top levels of the military on down.2 Therefore, up until now at least, there has not been a need or compulsion among Christian fascist fundamentalists to engage in terrorist activity and reactionary violence on a large scale, separately from the "official" armed forces and police of the ruling class—although, again, it has certainly been carried out by Christian fascists on a smaller scale and there is definitely the potential for this to be carried out on a much wider scale.
All this, once again, is a reflection of the "lopsided" relations of a world which is dominated by a handful of imperialist countries, and one imperialist superpower in particular at this time, while the great majority of countries, and of people, in the world, and particularly in the Third World, endure extreme conditions of poverty, exploitation, massive dislocation and upheaval—all enforced on the basis of imperialist rule.
In today's world, a particular expression of these contradictions is the mutually reinforcing opposition between imperialist globalization and its effects, on the one hand, and Jihadist Islamic fundamentalism on the other hand. Utilizing a phrase (actually a book title) from Benjamin R. Barber, who refers to the phenomenon of "Jihad vs. McWorld," and expanding on this to include the element in which Christian fascist fundamentalism is in fact a significant element within the prevailing program and ideology of the imperialist ruling class of the U.S., I have put it this way:
"What we see in contention here with Jihad on the one hand and McWorld/McCrusade on the other hand, are historically outmoded strata among colonized and oppressed humanity up against historically outmoded ruling strata of the imperialist system. These two reactionary poles reinforce each other, even while opposing each other. If you side with either of these ‘outmodeds,’ you ended up strengthening both."
This speaks precisely to what is wrong with the position that somehow Islamic fundamentalism is worse than Christian fundamentalism and to how that position lends support to the "historically outmoded ruling class of the imperialist system." And, as I have also emphasized in relation to these "two outmodeds":
"it is important to be clear about which has done and continues to do the greater damage, which has posed and does pose the greater threat to humanity. Clearly, and by far, it is ‘the ruling strata of the imperialist system.’
"It is interesting, I recently heard about a comment that someone made relating to this, which I do think is correct and getting at something important. In relation to these ‘two historically outmodeds,’ they made the point: ‘You could say that the Islamic fundamentalist forces in the world would be largely dormant if it weren't for what the U.S. and its allies have done and are doing in the world—but you cannot say the opposite.’ There is a profound truth captured in that statement.
"As a matter of general principle, and specifically sitting in this imperialist country, we have a particular responsibility to oppose U.S. imperialism, our ‘own’ ruling class, and what it is doing in the world. But, at the same time, that doesn't make these Islamic fundamentalist forces not historically outmoded and not reactionary. It doesn't change the character of their opposition to imperialism and what it leads to and the dynamic that it's part of—the fact that these two ‘historically outmodeds’ do reinforce each other, even while opposing each other. And it is very important to understand, and to struggle for others to understand, that if you end up supporting either one of these two ‘historically outmodeds,’ you contribute to strengthening both. It is crucial to break out of that dynamic—to bring forward another way." (See Bringing Forward Another Way, at revcom.us)
1. Besides what I, and our Party generally, have been doing to call attention to and build opposition to Christian fascism, a number of others have also, from various points of view, been giving emphasis to the dangers posed by right-wing Christian fundamentalists. See, for example, American Fascists: The Christian Right and the War on America, by Chris Hedges; The Baptizing of America: The Religious Right's Plans for the Rest of Us, by Rabbi James Rudin; The Theocons: Secular America Under Siege, by Damon Linker; Kingdom Coming: The Rise of Christian Nationalism, by Michelle Goldberg; With God on Their Side: How Christian Fundamentalists Trampled Science, Policy, and Democracy in George W. Bush's White House, by Esther Kaplan; and Contempt: How the Right Is Wronging American Justice, by Catherine Crier, a former Republican judge. [back]
2. Regarding the influence of Christian fascism within the U.S. military (and in particular its higher ranks), in addition to the continuing exposure and analysis of this which is found in Revolution newspaper (available at revcom.us), see for example Making the Corps, by Thomas Ricks (Scribner, 1997), and Black Hawk Down: A Story of Modern War, by Mark Bowden (Atlantic Monthly Press, 1999)—both of which were written before the advent of the Bush presidency which has been marked by an increasing growth of and support for Christian fundamentalism within the U.S. military. [back]
Revolution #103, October 7, 2007
David Horowitz' Reactionary Road Show Must be Confronted and Exposed
Multiple choice: If a nationwide group of fascists announces a week of programs at over 100 campuses across the country, openly designed to gain support for the “war on terror” and to intimidate and silence its opponents, what is the best course of action?
A) Ignore them. Their highly paid well-publicized speakers, their hounding of progressive professors, and their harassment of women’s centers and Muslim student organizations will have no effect. Their monopolization of the discourse—and their manipulation of the language—is really best left unchallenged. Their thug-like intimidation shouldn’t really be taken seriously. The professors that they’ve already driven out of academia shouldn’t bother us. After all, “it can’t happen here”—can it?
B) Confront them and expose them with the truth, and in doing so create openings to involve thousands of students in debate and critical thinking on the crucial issues of our time, and to transform the complacency and passivity on the campus. That will mean struggle and turmoil – but the stakes are too high for anything less.
All too many people, even some with an understanding about how fascism arises and then becomes dominant, are answering A. There is too much bitter history, and too much at stake in the present and future, to accept that. What makes it urgent to get the answer right is that just such an event—“Islamo-Fascism Awareness Week”—is being planned at over 100 campuses around the country. Indeed, it is less than three weeks away, set to begin on October 22.
An Offensive Too Dangerous To Ignore
Many academics know of David Horowitz, the organizer of this “week.” They may know of his poisonous Frontpagemag.com website; they may remember his campaign against reparations for slavery in the ’90s (in which he actually claimed that African-Americans should be “grateful” for their ancestors having been kidnapped and enslaved!), or his role in the hounding and eventual firing of Ward Churchill. But there is a strong tendency to simply dismiss him as an academic charlatan and marginal extremist who poses no fundamental danger to universities. And there is a corresponding failure to grasp the seriousness of the “Islamo-Fascism Awareness Week.”
Horowitz plays a strategic intellectual function—to lie and distort, to whip up and rally reactionary foot-soldiers and put others on the defensive, especially in academia. Horowitz has mastered the "art" of packaging the aggressive agenda of the most reactionary section of the ruling class in the progressive language of academia. His "Academic Bill of Rights" is actually an assault on critical thinking. His "Students for Academic Freedom" are really a cadre of aggressive right wing student bullies and snitches bent on forging a Nazi youth movement on college campuses.
"Islamo-Fascism Awareness Week" is a conscious effort to bring together, mobilize and cohere a social base of diverse reactionaries and outright fascists, both on and off campuses—anti-immigrant nativists and hardcore racists, reactionary military and veterans’ groups, College Republicans and other right-wing student groups, Christian fascists and Zionists. At the same time, well-known right-wing extremists like Ann Coulter, Rick Santorum, Robert Spencer, Horowitz himself and others hope to gain "legitimacy" on campuses like Columbia, Penn State, DePaul, the University of Michigan, UCLA, UC Berkeley and more by portraying themselves as champions of the rights of women, and of gays and lesbians in Islamic countries, and as opponents of Islamic "fascism."
If "Islamo-Fascism Awareness Week" succeeds, it will put even more teeth in the "you're either with us or against us" position of the Bush administration by bringing forward the aggressive social base needed to enforce it. For example, their targeting of the national Muslim Student Association is aimed at unleashing a pogromist hatred of Muslims. And they are screening the film Borders during this week in order to lump together the fight to "protect our borders" with the battle to defeat "Islamo-fascism" and enlist the anti-immigrant crowd in their crusade.
The U.S. rulers face both a strategic and an immediate necessity to mobilize a right wing campus student pole to intimidate and challenge the growing opposition to the U.S. war in Iraq, and to actively prepare for war with Iran. People have to soberly come to grips with what "Islamo-Fascism Awareness Week" represents, and to recognize that there is a big need to deal them a political defeat.
But within this situation there also lies the potential to actually turn the tables and create a more favorable polarization on campus and in society. But this can only happen if this IFAW offensive is met by a "U.S. Fascism Awareness" counteroffensive.
Sowing Ideological Confusion
An essential part of the danger—and effectiveness—of "Islamo-Fascism Awareness Week" is how it spreads ideological confusion. It highlights actual horrors of Islamic fundamentalism—its treatment of women, gays and lesbians, and much else. But it does so in order to recruit people into the global military crusade launched by U.S. imperialism. As a result it is actually bringing people forward who shouldn't be on their side, while paralyzing many who should be fiercely opposing them.
To bring clarity to the way these forces are exploiting the current complex world situation, two things need to be recognized. First, these forces claiming to be champions of equality for women, opponents of theocratic rule, and fierce opponents of terrorism are proven liars and utter hypocrites. We can never forget—and must constantly confront these liars on the fact—that they consciously supported and continue to support Bush’s and Cheney’s calculated lies. Lies which have killed hundreds of thousands in Iraq and uprooted millions more from their homes.
In this country, these same forces work closely with the most extreme Christian fascist forces, including Rick Santorum, who have an agenda that is out to ban not only abortion but birth control as well; that unleashed terror and killing on doctors at abortion clinics; and that vilifies homosexuals and aggravated the conditions that led to the killing of Matthew Shepperd. Champions of women and homosexuals? These people are fascists posing as anti-fascists. (It should also be noted that where it suits their purposes—as it did in Afghanistan and Israel in the 1980's, the U.S. ruling class which Horowitz fronts for has had no compunction about supporting severely oppressive Islamic movements.)
Second, we cannot be held back by the argument that if you do not support the U.S. crusade, you are objectively siding with Islamic fundamentalism. There is no reason to allow these choices to set the terms. Islamic fundamentalism is indeed a reactionary force. Like other brands of religious literalism, it is a program full of oppressive and outmoded content: patriarchy, bigotry, religious warfare and the all-round promotion of superstition and ignorance. Harnessed to the force of state power, it creates societies that no one should want to live in, and people who are truly fighting for revolution and progressive change in those societies should be politically supported.
But the U.S. is the far more aggressive and dangerous reactionary force. And those who live in this country have the particular responsibility to oppose this power. The idea that anyone who refuses to line up with the unfolding crimes of U.S. imperialism is “working for the enemy” must be fundamentally opposed. Sitting on the sidelines ends up strengthening both of these reactionary forces—imperialism and Islamic fundamentalism—when neither represents liberation for the people.
A Vision of Resistance
Horowitz means what he says, and it's not at all an idle threat. What's called for is nothing short of inflicting political defeat on them. In some ways, Horowitz has provided an opening for progressive and revolutionary-minded people to pry open and seriously change the terms of the whole debate, on campus and beyond. There is a basis for this—but it will require a major leap in awareness, mobilization and determination.
People need to step back and look at the whole picture, the whole sweep of U.S. society and where it is heading. Students especially need to recognize what it would mean to have such a week go uncontested, to allow such forces to set the terms of discussion and political life, to have a genuinely fascist political program and ideology not just legitimized but widely promoted as the main trend on campuses.
Work needs to be done immediately to transform the campuses across the country. Horowitz and "Islamo-Fascism Awareness Week" need to be exposed for what they are, in diverse and creative ways. There need to be public forums and classroom discussions about "Islamo-Fascism Awareness Week" and the threat it poses. Campuses need to be saturated with posters. Those who are planning protests against the fascists, and defense of Women's Studies departments and Muslim student groups should be supported. The forces behind "Islamo-Fascism Awareness Week" need to be exposed and isolated. Other forces caught up in it need to be presented with the truth about Horowitz and what "Islamo-Fascism Awareness Week" is all about.
These people are not the champions of anything progressive. They are proven liars who are responsible for the death of hundreds of thousands of Iraqis and laid that country to waste. They are readying a strike against Iran, which could include the use of nuclear weapons, as part of a global crusade which they say will last a generation. They engage in torture on an industrial, world-wide scale. They include biblical literalists who want to create a world which would be a horror for women, and for gays and lesbians.
“Islamo-Fascism Awareness Week” must be repudiated and politically defeated. Work needs to begin now with distributing materials, like this paper, that expose what this is really all about. When the week comes, people need to be informed and mobilized, ready to deal this fascist offensive a decisive political defeat. Horowitz needs to be thoroughly called out and identified as persona non grata, someone with no right whatsoever to try and impose his fascist vision on universities. At the end of "Islamo-Fascism Awareness Week", these fascists need to be defeated, deflated, discredited and sent packing. If this offensive is thrown back, their ability to launch further attacks on professors and on critical thinking and dissent will be undermined. The momentum of campus brownshirts could be reversed. A very different dynamic in the universities is possible.
The battle against "Islamo-Fascism Awareness Week" and the brownshirt offensive may be the crucible through which a new generation cuts its teeth and finds its place in history. All who want a better world should relish this fight.
Revolution #103, October 7, 2007
** The first thing that has to be understood is that the U.S. is an imperialist power that has brought, and continues to bring, great suffering to people throughout the world. That is the context within which to understand the so-called "war on terror" and attacks that are made against "U.S. interests" around the world.
** The origins of this country, and the foundations of its wealth and power, are grounded in slavery, genocide against the Native Americans and the theft of their land. And then the expansion across the continent, in the second half of the 19th century, involved further wars of aggression and theft of land (from Mexico as well as from the Native Americans), to extend the slave system (this, for example, was the essence of the fight for Texas, with its battle of the Alamo) and then, especially after the Civil War, to spread the triumphant capitalist system.
** At the close of the 19th century, as part of a worldwide scramble of competing capitalist powers to establish colonial empires and subjugate and exploit the peoples living in those colonies, the U.S. grabbed more overseas territory, most notably in the Philippines—where the U.S. betrayed and then slaughtered, in the hundreds of thousands, the Filipino people fighting for independence from Spain and turned the Philippines into a U.S. colony, along with seizing Puerto Rico and turning Cuba and other parts of the Caribbean and Latin America into little more than U.S. colonies, which witnessed repeated bloody invasions and occupations by U.S. military forces in the first part of the 20th century.
** Then, after World War 2, with the weakening of other colonial powers, on both the winning and losing sides in that war, the U.S. moved to bring vast amounts of territory under its domination, in the form of "neo-colonialism," effectively controlling and robbing countries throughout the Third World, with terrible consequences for billions of people, even while those countries were nominally "independent." Where they stood in the way of this domination and exploitation by the U.S., governments throughout the Third World, including popularly elected (and more or less secular) governments, were overthrown through bloody coups engineered and led by the CIA—for example, in Iran in 1953, and Indonesia in 1965—and brutally oppressive regimes, subservient to the U.S., were installed and kept in power for decades.
** It is impossible to understand the real reasons for the growth of Islamic fundamentalism, and the deep hatred for the U.S., in the Middle East and other parts of the world, without being aware of and fully taking into account this whole bloody history of plunder and repression which the U.S. has carried out, and continues to carry out. And it is impossible to break out of the current very bad and potentially even more disastrous dynamic—where U.S. imperialism and reactionary Islamic Jihadism continue to reinforce each other even while opposing each other—without a mass movement that challenges this whole dynamic. A special responsibility in all this falls to the people of the U.S.—to mobilize active, politically meaningful and truly powerful resistance to what is being done, in their name, by the government of the U.S.
Revolution #103, October 7, 2007
Last spring, at the School for International Training in Vermont, a student posted a fact sheet about the state of Israel on an online discussion group. The fact sheet came from Revolution’s predecessor, the Revolutionary Worker. The school went into an uproar. The Dean of Graduate Studies called for a campus forum – not to debate the content of the fact sheet, but to criticize the student who sent it for violating the school’s policy on “appropriate use of the electronic media” by posting “material that may be or may be perceived as harassment”!
Apparently a simple examination into the actual history of the state of Israel is now verboten on college campuses and intellectual centers. Were it only this campus, it would be one thing – but a number of prominent universities have “disinvited” everyone from poets to historians who’ve criticized the state of Israel. And then there’s the shameful firing of Norman Finkelstein at DePaul, for his critical views of Israel.
So, be forewarned. The following quiz will bring out facts that may make you uncomfortable. It may even cause you to question long-held beliefs and – gasp! – change your understanding.
In this issue, we are printing Parts 1 & 2 of the quiz. Watch future issues and visit revcom.us for the complete quiz.
Part 1: Who Said It?
1. “For Europe we shall create there in Palestine an outpost against Asia, we shall be the vanguard of the civilised world against barbarism.”
2. “After the formation of a large army in the wake of the establishment of the state, we will abolish partition and expand to the whole of Palestine.”
3. “If I knew that it was possible to save all the children in Germany by transporting them to England, but only half of them by transporting them to Palestine, I would choose the second—because we face not only the reckoning of those children, but the historical reckoning of the Jewish people.”
4. “If I was an Arab leader I would never make terms with Israel. That is natural: we have taken their country. Sure, God promised it to us, but what does that matter to them? Our God is not theirs. We come from Israel, it’s true, but two thousand years ago, and what is that to them? There has been anti-semitism, the Nazis, Hitler, Auschwitz, but was that their fault? They only see one thing: we have come here and stolen their country. Why should they accept that?”
5. “Jewish villages were built in the place of Arab villages. You do not even know the names of these Arab villages, and I do not blame you because geography books no longer exist, not only do the books not exist, the Arab villages are not there either… There is not a single place in this country that did not have a former Arab population.”
Part 2: “A Land Without People for a People Without a Land?” — Or an Ethnically Cleansed Settler State?
1. True or False: Israel is the only democracy in the Middle East. All citizens of the state of Israel, including Arabs, enjoy equal rights under the law.
2. Multiple Choice: Zionists hold that historically, Palestine had been "a land without people for a people without land." What was the actual Palestinian Arab population compared to the Jewish population in Palestine at the beginning of World War 1 in 1914?
a) 10,000 Arabs and 150,000 Jews
b) 100,000 Arabs and 150,000 Jews
c) 15,000 Arabs and 10,000 Jews
d) 683,000 Arabs and 60,000 Jews
3. Multiple Choice: The November 1947 UN resolution backed by the U.S. and other powers partitioned Palestine into a Zionist state and an Arab state. At that time, the Palestinians outnumbered Zionist settlers two to one and owned 92 percent of the land. The partition gave Israel 54 percent of the land. On May 14, 1948—after the Palestinians and the Arab countries refused to accept the partition—Israel launched a war against Palestinians. What percentage of the land of Palestine did the state of Israel seize in the 1948 war?
4. Israeli leaders have always claimed that during Israel’s “war of independence” in 1948, Arab leaders ordered the Palestinian population to abandon their homes in Palestine and promised that refugees would be cared for in neighboring Arab countries until they could return to Palestine. True or False: This is the reason that when the war ended in January 1949, nearly 800,000 Palestinians—two-thirds of the population—ended up in exile in Lebanon, Jordan, Syria, Gaza, and the West Bank.
5. In the 1967 “Six-Day War,” Israel took over the remaining 23 percent of historic Palestine—the West Bank, Gaza, and East Jerusalem—along with Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula and Syria’s Golan Heights. True or False: All Israeli leaders have insisted that they were defending themselves against Arab aggression, in particular threats from Egypt’s Nasser.
6. Multiple Choice: Ariel Sharon was Israel’s prime minister from 2001 until suffering a stroke in 2006. Which of the following is he famous for?
a) Led a commando unit of the Haganah, a Zionist underground group, that carried out terrorist operations against Palestinian communities before the establishment of the Israeli state.
b) Led an Israeli army unit in the 1950s called Unit 101 which carried out armed attacks against Palestinians. In October 1953, for example, this unit blew up the village of Kibya in the West Bank, killing 69 civilians.
c) As defense minister, was the main architect of the 1982 invasion of Lebanon when, in a space of a few weeks, the Israeli military killed 20,000 Lebanese and Palestinians.
d) Being charged with “indirect responsibility” by an official Israeli investigation for the September 1982 massacre of 2,000 people at the Sabra and Shatila refugee camp outside Beirut, carried out by Israeli-backed fascist Phalange forces.
e) The blatantly provocative action in September 2000 when he visited Haram al-Sharif in Jerusalem, one of the key sites in Islamic religion, surrounded by a huge contingent of Israeli soldiers. Israeli troops gunned down 90 Palestinian youths during protests that erupted in response.
f) All of the above
1: Theodore Herzl, founder of the Zionist movement. Zionism arose at a time of great social ferment in Europe, including over the place of Jews in society. Many Jewish people joined Marxist movements or other movements fighting against the oppression of Jews in European societies. But Zionist leaders instead offered to set up a settler-state in the Middle East in service of various imperialist powers. The imperialist power that eventually became the patron of the Zionist movement was Britain. Herzl explained that “England with her possessions in Asia should be most interested in Zionism… The shortest route to India is by way of Palestine. And so believe in England that the idea of Zionism, which is a colonial idea, should easily be understood.” [back]
2: David Ben-Gurion, founder of the state of Israel, speaking in 1938. Ben-Gurion maintained from the beginning that Israel would have to dominate all of historic Palestine, despite agreeing to different “partition” plans. [back]
3: Ben-Gurion, 1938. The bitter irony of this, given the ways in which Israel utilizes the Holocaust to prop up its legitimacy, is obvious. [back]
4: Again, the speaker is Ben-Gurion, in 1956, to Nahum Goldmann, president of the World Jewish Congress. [back]
5: Moshe Dayan, the commander of Israel’s 1967 war against Egypt, Syria and Jordan. Approximately 500 Arab villages and nearly a dozen urban neighborhoods were utterly destroyed by Israeli settlers. Dayan also remarked that, “There is not a single Jewish village in the land which was not built on the site of an Arab dwelling place.” [back]
1: False. A few of the many reasons: Israel was founded in 1948 as a Jewish state. In 1992, a Knesset (the Israeli parliament) committee removed a clause from the Israeli Basic Law on Human Dignity and Liberty before the final version became law. That clause would have guaranteed equal rights before the law for all citizens and outlawed discrimination based on race, nationality, country of origin, religion or gender. The Israel Democracy Institute reported in May 2003 that 53 percent of Israeli Jews “are against full equality for the Arabs” and only 31 percent “support having Arab political parties in the government.” [back]
2: d. And over half of these 60,000 Jews were recent settlers.] [back]
3: c [back]
4: False. The often verbalized (but only rarely officially codified) doctrine of the Zionist movement is to “transfer” the Arab population out of Palestine in order to pave the way first for the establishment and then the strengthening of the Jewish state (see statements by Ben-Gurion and Dayan in Part 1, for example). In 1948, at the village of Deir Yassin, Israeli forces massacred defenseless villagers. While all credible sources admit to over 100 Palestinian people being slaughtered, the Jewish eyewitness Meir Pa’il insists that there were 250. Israel used this atrocity to spread terror among the Palestinian people, and many fled their homes in panic. Other Arab towns such as Lydde and Ramle were surrounded and the people forcibly expelled en masse. [back]
5: False. After the war, Menachem Begin, who later became prime minister, said in a speech to the Israeli National Defense College, “The Egyptian Army concentrations in the Sinai approaches do not prove that Nasser was really about to attack us. We must be honest with ourselves. We decided to attack him.” And a number of historians and researchers—even within, and supportive of, Israel—have challenged the official story that the “Six Day War” was in response to the threat of Egyptian aggression. [back]
6: f [back]
Revolution #103, October 7, 2007
ALL OUT FOR OCTOBER 22, 2007!
October 22, the National Day of Protest to Stop Police Brutality is the day for people to come together and say NO MORE—to police brutality, to immigration raids, to a whole generation being treated like criminals. It has become a day when people across the country take to the streets to call for all this official brutality and repression to STOP. A day when those who suffer this directly have a platform to speak out about how the authorities are coming down on them. And a day when allies from many different walks of life are rallied to stand with them. We in the Revolutionary Communist Party stand with the people coming out on October 22nd and raising this demand, and we call on everyone else to do so as well.
This year, there needs to be a particularly powerful outpouring.
We must take to the streets in massive numbers on October 22. Because brutal murdering cops are stealing the lives of our people and never get punished for their crimes. Think of Sean Bell, gunned down in a hail of 50 police bullets just hours before his wedding. Think of Kathryn Johnson, a 92-year-old grandmother in Atlanta, gunned down by cops who claimed they were after drug dealers. And many, many more people have been killed by those who are sworn to protect and serve. Think of the more than 3000 deaths at the hands of police in the US since 1990 that have been documented by the Stolen Lives Project. Most of these victims were young and Black or Latino. THIS MUST BE STOPPED!
Think of what it means when cops, courts, prosecutors--the whole damned criminal injustice system--treat our youth like criminals, guilty till proven innocent, if they survive to prove their innocence. When cops patrol the halls of the schools in many big cities and brutalize and bully students every day. When more than 2.3 million people, most of them Black or Latino, rot in the prisons and jails of this country. When cops taser a student for daring to question a politician speaking at his university. ALL THIS MUST BE STOPPED!
What does it mean when the immigration police (ICE) raid homes in the middle of the night or drag people away from work during the day, jailing people and breaking up families for the crime of being driven by global capitalism-imperialism to this country in search of work and survival? THESE RAIDS MUST BE STOPPED!
What does it mean when six young Black men in Jena, Louisiana, are hit with criminal charges that could put them away for more than 20 years? Their crime—standing up to white supremacy. They protested a whites-only tree and the lynch nooses that were hung in it. These youth are heroes, not criminals. And they must be supported. WE MUST FREE THE JENA 6!
People are beginning to stand up and to resist. It was very powerful when tens of thousands marched in Jena, Louisiana, on September 20—you got a sense that the people were starting something aimed at not only freeing the Jena 6 but taking on the white supremacy this system has built into its very fabric. There were protests in cities across the country on May First, when tens of thousands marched against attacks on immigrants. There have been outpourings against police murders in New York City, Chicago, Oakland and other places over the last year. And this movement of people standing up has to get stronger. And become part of a revolutionary movement. In that spirit, we call on everyone who sees this injustice for what it is to bring all this resistance together on October 22 and declare to friends, foes and those still standing on the sidelines: we refuse to take this and we are going to unite the people, both the ones directly under this threat and reality and all who are willing to stand with them, to fight till we bring all this to a halt.
On this day, we unite with the demand of the October 22nd Coalition--STOP POLICE BRUTALITY, REPRESSION AND THE CRIMINALIZATION OF A GENERATION! And we call on people who've had all they can stomach of the misery and degradation people are forced to endure all over the world to get with the revolution. The capitalist system is the source of all these problems, and it will take nothing less than revolution to end them once and for all.
We can, and must, change the way people here and around the world are forced to live. There is no need for a system that runs on exploitation. No need for a system that relegates whole sections of people into lives of hustling to get by, getting carted off to prison or being stuck on a treadmill of low-wage, dead-end jobs. No need for a system which requires the repression of whole nationalities of people. No need for a system which carries out brutality, murder and mass imprisonment to enforce its rule.
When people protested in Jena, and against attacks on immigrants, people of different nationalities and from all walks of life began to stand with them. In these developments you can see the seeds of a better society we could bring into being, one where people worked together to produce what was needed and solve problems instead of being divided and fighting against each other. And you can also see the seeds that could grow into a powerful revolutionary movement aimed at getting rid of all the exploitation and oppression this system brings down on people. There IS another way. We can bring a far, far better world into being through revolution. Get with the revolution and be a part of making this vision real.
The challenge is clear. Police brutality and police murder is wrong. The case of the Jena 6 is a concentration of the criminalization of a generation, and they must be freed. Immigration raids are unjust. We have to put aside all the divisions the system puts down on us, come together and declare that we will accept this official brutality no longer. And we must talk about and get to the bottom of what’s causing all this and build a movement that can end this misery and degradation once and for all. As part of doing this, all who see these injustices for what they are must act together on October 22.
STOP POLICE BRUTALITY, REPRESSION AND THE CRIMINALIZATION OF A GENERATION!
WEAR BLACK, FIGHT BACK!
Revolution #103, October 7, 2007
From the Call for Oct. 22, 2007, National Day of Protest to Stop Police Brutality, Repression and Criminalization of a Generation:
“October 22nd has come to be recognized as a concentrated day of resistance -- a national day when people all over the country, in different cities and through different means of expression, come together to STOP police violence, repression, and the criminalization of a generation. The nationwide epidemic of police brutality and repression is hidden from many people who would be outraged if they knew what was happening. We must resist the onslaught of police abuse as we work in many different ways to drag this truth out into the light of day. Our resistance will give others courage…”
(The full Call can be found online at october22.org/Call2007)
To contact the October 22nd Coalition to Stop Police Brutality, Repression, and Criminalization of a Generation:
web site: october22.org
mail: October 22nd Coalition, PO Box 2627, New York NY 10009
Initial List of Assembly Points for Oct. 22, 2007:
Gather 12 noon at Los Angeles St. and 1st St in front of Parker Center (LAPD headquarters). March at 2 to MacArthur Park
4 p.m. rally at Marcus Garvey Park (124th St. and 5th Ave.). March followed by rally at St. Mary’s Church.
Noon rally at Federal Plaza
6:30 to 9:30 p.m., Bohemos Coffee Shop, 708 Telephone Rd.
San Diego, CA
Endorsers of the Call for October 22nd, 2007
(as of Sept. 25)
Families of People Killed by Law Enforcement
Larry Barnett Sr., son killed by Sandusky, Ohio police
Ariel Cruz, friend of Silverio del Rios (died under questionable circumstances at Elmira, N.Y. correctional facility)
Ophelia Randall Ealy, mother of Michael Randall Ealy (killed by Seattle police 12/28/98)
Danny Garcia, brother of Mark Garcia (killed by SFPD)
Nicholas Heyward, Sr., father of Nicholas Heyward Jr. (killed by NYPD)
Tina Mercado, companion of Dave Baker (killed by Burlington, NC police)
Mesha Monge-Irizarry, mother of Idriss Stelley (killed by SFPD)
Antonio Ponce, father of Rick Ponce (killed by El Paso police)
Margarita Rosario, mother of Anthony Rosario and aunt of Hilton Vega (killed by NYPD)
Frank Rosenberg, father of Richard Rosenberg (killed by Fremont, CA police)
Calvert Stewart, father of Gil Barber (killed by Guilford Country Dep. Sheriff)
Juanita Young, mother of Malcolm Ferguson (killed by NYPD)
Comite No Nos Vamos, Fresno, CA
Eastside Fellowship of Reconciliation, Bellevue, WA
Education Not Incarceration, SF, CA
Freedom Socialist Party, NY
Free the Jena 6, SF chapter, CA
Idriss Stelley Foundation, CA
Independent Citizens Review Board of Oregon State Police
International Workers of the World, General Defense Committee
Pastors Against Injustice, Roanoke, VA
People’s Coalition for Justice, Seattle, WA
Picture the Homeless, NY
Radical Women, NY
SF Village Voice Community Radio, CA
San Francisco Bay View National Black Newspaper, SF, CA
Vietnam Veterans Against the War, Anti-Imperialist
Geoffrey Blank, No Police State Coalition, NY
Craig Butler, Evolution Strength and Fitness, Inc.
Dan DiLeva, October 22nd Coalition, Seattle, WA
Carl Dix, Revolutionary Communist Party
Aaron Dixon, Seattle, WA
SwanEagle Harijan, SEEDS, Vashon, WA
Pastor Rachel Hartman-Northway, Spokane WA
Sue Kay, Seattle, WA
Michael Ladd, Socialist Alternative, Seattle, WA
Greg Lewis, victim of police brutality, Seattle, WA
King La Sombra, Almighty Latin Kings and Queens, NY
Edward Martin, Seattle, WA
Efia Nwangaza, African-American Institute for Policy and Planning
John Page, Black Prisoners Caucus, Seattle, WA
Nina Paulino, NY
Ben Saari, Santa Rosa Copwatch
Mary Smith, Seattle, WA
Celeste Taylor, Pittsburgh, PA
Claudette Thomas, Oct. 22, Seattle, WA
Ameegill Whitlock, MSW, Baltimore, MD
Revolution #103, October 7, 2007
Oakland Police Murder Gary King Jr
At 4:30 pm, on Thursday, September 20, Gary King Jr. was murdered by an Oakland cop. Gary and his friends were walking out of a corner store on Martin Luther King Blvd in North Oakland. Sgt. Pat Gonzales was driving on the other side of the wide street. Gonzalez claims to have identified King as a “potential suspect” in a murder that had occurred nearby a month prior. According to interviews with youth at the scene, Gonzalez sped across six lanes of traffic, grabbed Gary by his hair, and tasered him. When Gary tried to run away, Gonzales shot Gary in the back.
In the days following the killing, Gary’s friends, family, and people from the community gathered at a shrine erected at the spot where Gary was shot down. Gary’s father courageously stood out on Martin Luther King Blvd at the spot where his son was murdered, telling everyone he could what happened, and challenging people on the spot to join him in fighting for justice for his son. Four days after the killing, on Monday, September 24, over 100 people joined Gary’s family to demand justice in a rally at Oakland City Hall.
Gary’s mother, Cathy King, told Revolution, “[Gary] was 20. He had his whole life ahead of him and now he doesn’t.” And she said, “I want the cop arrested for murder. I believe that man murdered my son in cold blood.”
Revolution #103, October 7, 2007
Death Under ICE Detention
Victoria Arellano’s photographs fill her mother’s living room. In one picture Victoria and her friends squeeze together to fit the camera frame. In another picture, Victoria’s smile lit up the photo as she struck a Charlie’s Angel pose full of youthful playfulness and life.
Victoria Arellano was picked up by immigration in May of this year and taken to an Immigration Customs Enforcement (ICE) detention facility in San Pedro, on the outskirts of Los Angeles. Victoria had been diagnosed with HIV a couple of years ago and was taking medication given to AIDS patients. Although officials at the detention center knew Victoria’s health conditions and special medical needs, she was not given the life-preserving medications she needed to prevent pulmonary infections and to keep her immune system strong enough to fight off any pathogens that could be deadly in her condition while she was in detention.
In July, Olga Arellano—Victoria’s mother—received a call from a hospital where Victoria was hospitalized in grave condition.
When Victoria saw her mother she tried to lift her arms to hug her, but she was too weak to find comfort in her mother’s arms. Olga could barely speak as she described her daughter in her final days.
Victoria was breathing through a respirator and her foot was chained to the bed while two guards stood outside her hospital room.
Victoria died only days later.
* * * *
Victor Arellano was born in Jalisco, Mexico and lived there before making the journey into the U.S. He changed his name to Victoria when he decided to live as a transgender person. Victor’s mother commented that she knew life was difficult for him because he was transgender, but that any mistreatment that he received in daily life was surpassed by the way he was treated while in ICE custody.
Other detainees who were in the same ICE detention center with Victoria noticed her health deteriorating. They repeatedly pleaded with staff to give Victoria the medical treatment she needed. Desperate, some of the detainees called her mother to tell her what was going on. Olga said, “They told me that he was lying in bed all the time, unable to eat and with a high fever, and that he couldn’t get up. They had to pick him up to go to the bathroom and it was a very serious situation, but no one paid attention to them [when they asked for help].”
Walter Ayala, an immigrant from El Salvador who shared a living space with Victoria said, “We made requests to the infirmary asking for help because she was so sick. She wasn’t eating, she had constant diarrhea, and she was vomiting blood. The nurse who responded was totally inhumane. She said, ‘Oh is that the same person you complained to us about before? The doctor hasn’t approved any medication. Just give her Tylenol and water, and it’ll go away.' This happened each time we made a request for six days.”
Fearful that Victoria might die, 80 people staged a protest in the facility. Some chanted “Hospital! Hospital! Hospital!” Fifty-five detainees also signed a petition demanding that she receive the medical treatment she needed.
* * * *
More than 300,000 men, women, and children are detained by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) each year, their numbers growing as the attacks on immigrants escalate. “It's a system that’s grown rapidly. Ten years ago we had maybe 20,000 people annually in detention. It's just expanded at a tremendous rate due to immigration law changes in the United States," says Michele Garnett McKenzie with the Minnesota Advocates for Human Rights.
These detainees, most of whom have no criminal record, are held in over 400 local and state facilities without adequate healthcare services and treated like criminals with their humanity stripped from them. More than 60 people have died in I.C.E. custody since 2004. Among the dead are a pregnant Mexican woman who lost consciousness at a facility in El Paso and a Brazilian man who died in a facility in Rhode Island after his family pleaded with authorities to give him medicine for his epileptic seizures, according to an American Civil Liberties report filed this year.
ICE has refused to comment on Arellano’s case, citing “privacy” issues. Megan McLemore from Human Rights Watch visited the San Pedro detention facility that Victoria was imprisoned in to interview her cellmates and investigate the medical care of HIV/AIDS patients in detention. However, more than 20 people who were witnesses to Victoria’s lack of treatment had already been transferred.
“At times, my Victoria wanted to reposition her body, but she couldn’t because she was shackled,” said Olga Arellano, who asked the guards to unshackle Victoria before she died. “I don’t think any human being deserves that.”
While Victoria’s photographs are a reminder of her life—laughing with friends, holding a rose, doing a cartwheel on the beach—they’re also a reminder of a life stolen too soon. Her humanity was stripped away from the moment the Migra first arrested her and further stripped as she was imprisoned and treated like a criminal for not having “legal” papers--and as if that were not enough, further stripped to the bone as she lay shackled in a hospital bed dying.
Revolution #103, October 7, 2007
The air is thick with intensifying U.S. threats against Iran. The tension level got higher last week when Iranian President’s visit to New York to speak at the United Nations and Columbia University became an occasion for an orgy of chauvinism – with the NY Post running a picture of Ahmadinejad with the caption “NO DOGS ALLOWED.” Bush too spoke at the U.N., diplomatic and economic assaults by the U.S. are in the works, and there are reports that discussion within the Bush regime has “tilted” toward war with Iran. Since our last alert (“Alert: Bush Regime Escalates Iran War Preparations” in issue #101, online at revcom.us), the trajectory toward confrontation, possibly war, has accelerated.
Six years into the bloody conquests and occupations of Afghanistan and Iraq, the U.S. is bogged down and facing major difficulties. Its global war was launched post-9/11 with the aim of crushing anti-U.S. Islamic fundamentalism and remaking the Middle East and Central Asian regions, as part of a sweeping plan to create an unchallenged and unchallengeable empire. But in many ways this has backfired. Anti-U.S. anger rages across the region; Islamist movements have been further unleashed and fueled; the U.S. has been unable to secure its imperial grip on Iraq and faces years, perhaps decades, of combat; and the U.S. military is strained.
The U.S. rulers have staked their global power on this war for greater empire, waged under the banner of a “war on terror.” So now they’re increasingly focusing on Iran, a prime target of this war from day one. The imperialists’ problem with Iran’s Islamic Republic is not that it’s a reactionary theocracy that has imprisoned or executed thousands of progressives and revolutionaries and enforces very oppressive social relations. Far from it: the U.S., in fact, has supported—or inflicted—bloody repression and oppressive relations across the region, including in Iran during the reign of the tyrant Shah. No, the U.S. rulers’ problem with the Islamic Republic is that it’s a growing obstacle to their predatory agenda of unfettered hegemony and regional transformation. Iran’s fundamentalist regime has been strengthened by the fall of Saddam Hussein to its west and Afghanistan’s Taliban to its east. In Iraq, Shi’a parties with close ties to Tehran are the predominant faction in the new government, and Iranian influence has greatly increased. It has a nuclear energy program, which has the potential to give it the ability to make nuclear weapons at some point in the future. It’s an ideological and material center of support for Islamist groups and trends throughout the region.
In recent speeches on the U.S. war in Iraq, Gen. Petraeus, Ambassador Crocker, and Bush all targeted Iran. Winning in Iraq, Bush argued, was key to countering the “destructive ambitions of Iran” and not allowing it to “dominate the region.” Crocker declared that “Iran plays a harmful role in Iraq.” Petraeus denounced Iran’s “malign actions.”
Bush officials were furious when the UN International Atomic Energy Agency recently reported that Iran was being “unusually cooperative,” and the IAEA director, Mohamed ElBaradei, stated that “This is the first time Iran is ready to discuss all the outstanding issues. It’s a significant step.” U.S. officials dismissed the agreement between Iran and the IAEA and denounced ElBaradei for “irresponsible meddling.” This reveals that the U.S. imperialists have never just wanted to prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons—they’re out for “regime change,” whether Iran’s ayatollahs want to make a deal or not.
Rather than lessen tensions, the U.S. is intent on further tightening the screws. The U.N. Security Council has so far has passed two punitive measures against Iran, and the U.S. and Europe are waging what some are calling a “financial war” against Iran, designed to cripple its imperialist-dominated economy. Now the U.S. wants yet more sanctions—“with teeth” in the words of Condoleezza Rice. U.S. officials are meeting with other major powers to try and push this through, although China and Russia remain opposed at this point.
On Sept. 20, U.S. forces seized and arrested another Iranian official in Iraq, claiming that he is part of an elite Iranian military unit. Iraqi President Jalal Talabani condemned the action and demanded that the official—who is part of a trade delegation—be released immediately. And the stream of U.S. military “briefings” charging Iran with arming and directing anti-U.S. militias continues.
“A CAREFULLY CALIBRATED PROGRAMME OF ESCALATION”?
Within the Bush administration, a sharp debate has reportedly been taking place between Secretary of State Rice and Vice President Cheney over whether to deal with Iran through continued diplomatic and economic pressure (at least for now), or to more immediately use military means. Rice and Defense Secretary Gates insist that the U.S. still wants to deal with Iran “through diplomatic and economic means,” but a number of recent news stories report that those advocating war are winning the debate. Senior officials believe that “Bush and his inner circle are taking steps to place America on the path to war with Iran,” the Sunday Telegraph reported (9/16). “Pentagon and CIA officers say they believe that the White House has begun a carefully calibrated programme of escalation that could lead to a military showdown with Iran.” The Telegraph also states that Rice “is prepared to settle her differences with Vice-President Dick Cheney and sanction military action.” The New York Times (9/16) says Bush’s recent speeches “indicated that the debate, at least for now, might have tilted toward Mr. Cheney.”
These stories come in the wake of French President Sarkozy’s statement (immediately after his “heart-to-heart” meeting with Bush this August) that war with Iran is a real possibility—and the ominous declaration by the French Foreign Minister, who said in mid-September that France must “prepare for the worst” and that “The worst, sir, is war.”
Meanwhile, two U.S. naval battle groups are positioned near Iran, including an aircraft carrier battle group headed by the U.S.S. Enterprise and the Kearsarge Expeditionary Strike Group, with some 10 warships, two submarines, and attack aircraft. The U.S. reportedly plans to build a military base on the Iraq-Iran border. And Adm. Fallon, the U.S. commander for the Middle East, is touring the region, “pressing Arab allies to form a more united front against Iran.” (AP 9/18)
While publicly discounting the possibility of a U.S. attack, Iran’s leaders are making counter-threats of their own. Iran has been shelling Iraqi bases of anti-Iranian Kurdish forces and warns that they will send troops into Iraq if the attacks in Iran by these Kurdish forces don’t stop. The new leader of Iran's Revolutionary Guards publicly warned that Iran has identified U.S. "weak points" in Iraq and Afghanistan and would “launch a crushing response to any attack.” Iranian officials have declared that they will launch missile strikes at U.S. and Western targets across the region, including Israel, if Iran is attacked.
THE DANGER OF WAR & THE URGENCY OF RESISTANCE
The U.S.’s belligerent threats, “financial war,” demand for tougher sanctions, and its funding of covert operations and anti-regime groups inside Iran (as reported by Seymour Hersh last year) may be aimed at forcing the Islamic Republic to capitulate to U.S. demands or to trigger an internal collapse short of war. The Bush regime could also be waiting to see how these moves play out before deciding on war. But it’s also quite possible that the rulers have begun a “calibrated programme of escalation,” as the Telegraph puts it, in preparation for war.
In any case, Iran is increasingly the focus of U.S. imperialist bullying, and the current trajectory is clearly moving toward confrontation. Given these extreme and growing tensions, war could even start by accident or miscalculation by either side—perhaps as the result of a border clash, a naval incident in the Persian Gulf, or some other event. War could also be triggered by what Steve Clemons (Salon.com, Sept. 19) calls an “engineered provocation” by those close to Cheney (perhaps Israel), leading to an “end run” around the rest of the U.S. decision-making apparatus. A dry run for such a provocation may have already taken place on Sept. 6 when, under still mysterious circumstances, Israeli planes attacked targets in Syria. Bush’s former UN Ambassador John Bolton called this air strike “a clear message to Iran that its continued efforts to acquire nuclear weapons are not going to go unanswered.”
What are the Democrats doing as Bush pours gasoline on the flames in the Middle East? A few leading Democrats say they’re opposed to attacking Iran, but when Congressional Democrats have actually done anything, it’s been to pave the way for war—first, by removing legislative language early this year demanding that Bush consult Congress before any attack on Iran; and second, by voting overwhelmingly this summer for a war-like resolution blaming Iran for killing U.S. soldiers in Iraq. The top Democrats all agree, as Barack Obama recently put it, that Iran “poses a grave challenge.” Obama, Hillary Clinton and John Edwards have all said at one time that “all options” against Iran were on the table. As a ruling class party, the Democrats share with Bush and the Republicans the imperialist goal of defeating Islamic fundamentalism, giving full support to Israel, and maintaining the U.S. stranglehold on the region—even as they have various differences over just how to navigate all the roiling contradictions their empire faces.
Any U.S. attack on Iran—no matter the pretext—would be launched to further America’s imperialist aims, not to liberate anyone, save lives, or lessen the danger of nuclear war. It would be unjust and criminal, and could cause enormous suffering and death in Iran and spark bloodshed across the region. U.S. aggression and war threats are already fueling a very bad dynamic in which the reactionary poles of imperialism on one side and Islamic fundamentalism on the other reinforce each other, even as they clash.
All this makes it urgent for people to speak out and protest U.S. bullying and war preparations now. The organization World Can’t Wait-Drive Out the Bush Regime has called for people broadly to take up the “Declare It Now! Wear Orange!” campaign. Anti-war protests are scheduled for October 27. (See www.worldcantwait.org for details.) Read and distribute Revolution so that many, many more can get the truth and be inspired to politically resist the crimes that the U.S. imperialists are committing and further crimes that they are planning.
Revolution #103, October 7, 2007
Everyone was talking about “free speech” last week at Columbia University in New York City. The president of the university had invited Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, president of Iran, to speak. But how were people to get at the truth, when the only positions offered were either the dogma and justification of Islamic theocracy or—in the case of University President Lee Bollinger—an ad hominem attack that parroted the main talking points of the Bush regime’s war propaganda, virtually down the line?
And how unfettered was speech—and how comprehensive was the debate—when the campus paper, the Columbia Spectator, then refused to run a paid ad by World Can’t Wait contesting this utterly false choice—“for fear of losing advertisers”?!? This is really outrageous and intolerable—and quite ominous, in fact. And in a further lurch to outright lockdown-style censorship in this society, the free daily NY Metro also double-talked their way out of a commitment to run the same ad.
Thus was it ensured that the debate would be narrowly constricted. The “marketplace of ideas,” as it worked out in practice, meant that those with power (ultimately resting on capital) dominated the discourse and suppressed viewpoints that challenged their interests. The presenter of the rationale for U.S. imperialism’s “war on terror” on the one hand, and the president of a reactionary Islamic theocracy on the other, went at it, and the people were told these were their choices. The free and unfettered debate and ferment that people need to get to the truth was constrained in very narrow bounds and outright repressed. And when all was said and done, the overwhelming preponderance of argument and the entire underlying framework into which people were to fit everything they heard was that of U.S. imperialism. And the fact that any challenge at all came out was due to the determined efforts, risks, defiance, and ingenuity of those who insist on a different future…and know they need the truth to forge it.
Neither Bollinger nor Ahmadinejad represents anything but extremely oppressive dead ends. But the truth is that there really IS another way. The lesson is that if you want the truth to get out there, you’re going to have to fight for it.
Revolution #103, October 7, 2007
As General Patraeus, commander of U.S. troops in Iraq, was trotted out to testify before Congress in support of that war, MoveOn.org published an ad in the New York Times titled “General Petraeus or General Betray Us--Cooking the Books for the White House.” A barrage of Republican outrage over the disparaging of a U.S. military general followed--with a media frenzy that pummeled MoveOn.org in over 500 articles. A week later George Bush denounced the ad at his news conference and challenged Democrats to do the same. The same day 70 senators passed a Republican resolution strongly condemning MoveOn for “personal attacks on the honor and integrity of General Petraeus and all members of the United States Armed Forces.” The Democrats in the Senate who did not vote for the censure passed a similarly worded bill that did not mention MoveOn by name. John McCain went on record to say that MoveOn should be thrown out of the country. Charges of treason were raised. Republican attack groups headed by Ari Fleischer, Bush’s former press secretary who delivered the famous “Watch What You Say” message after 911, ran ads that said, “Surrender to terrorists is not an option--Victory is America’s Only Choice.” A Republican congressman called for an investigation of the New York Times for running the ad at a “discount “ rate . Within the next few days the public editor of the Times ran a Sunday Times column saying that the ad “ had backfired on both MoveOn.org and fellow opponents of the war in Iraq--and on the Times” and opined that the disrespect shown to Petraeus went against the Times’ own policy. And by Monday the Times itself had gone on record admitting its “mistake.”
And what came of all this bellycrawling and appeasement of Bush’s declared intent to carry on in spite of widespread revulsion to continuing an unjust war that has claimed upward of a million lives and pulverized Iraqi society into a state of ruin while threatening a full air attack on Iran? What’s the atmosphere for dissent to the official war propaganda now? A student who dared to ask a question that challenged Senator Kerry is swarmed by security and tasered--screaming in pain as an auditorium of mentally stunned students sat and watched. A student editor of the Rocky Mountain Collegian at Colorado State that printed a cogent four-word editorial--“Taser this: Fuck Bush”--is facing calls for his firing for having the insolence to exercise the once-thought-protected rights of free speech and freedom of the press. Commercial newspapers change their advocacy ad rates for dissenting opinions; the Columbia University Spectator refuses to run World Can’t Wait ads during Bush’s UN visit!
This is a moment in time when people are going to respond with either cowardice or courage. How we respond will go to deciding the future of dissent and the prospects of a resistance that can actually stop an unjust war and the whole fascist direction being nailed down and handed onto the next administration--whether we bow down and accept endless war and a nazification of all the realms of public opinion.
If Bush and the U.S. Senate can put beyond the pale an ad that asserted that “General Petraeus is a military man constantly at war with the facts” by manipulating a public polarization that has nothing to do with whether that is even true, then we are a significant step deeper into hell. This whole sorry affair has also stipulated another requirement for acceptable public discourse: that any idea or opinion is invalid if anything you say calls into question the legitimacy of the U.S. military. The confinement and enforcement as a code of public dialogue and conduct that you have to bestow honor and respect on the institution that is raining bombs on people for no good reason, that is unjustly occupying a country and attempting to win its submission by training and ordering soldiers day after day to knock down doors and terrorize the families behind them, that trains the troops to carry out war crimes while claiming to be above international conventions. That you cannot criticize the institution that -- under the protection of laws passed by the U.S. Congress -- is detaining and torturing people with no right to due process, that considers rape a natural trophy of war and murder with impunity an acceptable sideline; that sends the young people fed into the war machine home with broken minds that cannot square being ordered to run over children who can’t get out of the road fast enough. Or that routinely shoot down civilians at checkpoints. To show honor to THAT is to have the morality befitting a good German.
Attacking the MoveOn ad, the Wall Street Journal and former Reagan speech writer Peggy Noonan claimed that "No one--no normal American--thinks a U.S. Army four-star came back from Iraq to damage our democracy by telling lies." But according to a Fox News poll only 35 % of the people polled after Patraeus’s testimony thought he was being truthful. Students got activated across the country in response to the tasering of Andrew Meyer in Florida and students at the University of Florida sat in to show their outrage and to oppose the war in Iraq. In the days after the MoveOn ad people sent them an unprecedented half million dollars with notes pleading with them not to back down. There is an abundance of evidence that the regime and all the powers complicit in its actions have lied to people repeatedly--covered it up and, when exposed, changed the subject and kept on lying. Now the regime is running out a whole new cavalcade of war propaganda and mis-information in the service of building public consent for bombing Iran--preparing people to shut up and go along with military action condoned in advance by the Democrats and every viable presidential candidate. What they really want and need is a big chill to cripple mass protest and resistance. The sudden swelling of mass dissent on the eve of the Iraq war seriously impacted their freedom to conduct the war, and there is a need to put a lid over the reservoir of mass discontent threatening to spill over the banks that have held it back.
The MoveOn ad was not even raising the legitimacy of the troop surge--only its effectiveness. MoveOn has refused to call for an immediate end to the war, instead demanding only some kind of timetable for withdrawal. It has refused to call for Bush's impeachment. And it has pinned people's hopes on getting Democrats elected in 2008 as the means to make political change, when these same Democrats refuse to demand an immediate end to the war and have passed every piece of repressive legislation Bush has demanded. MoveOn is hardly radical--but by doing something that seemed to challenge a representative of the institution that the ruling class as a whole holds sacred--the armed forces of state power that back up the system and its imperialist expansion around the world--a point is being driven home. You can, as Bush has said all along, criticize as long as it’s within the framework of how we win the war--but speech that goes to why it is unjust and intolerable will not be allowed--and especially people with authority and prestige who go beyond it--will have to weigh business, careers and reputations--if you want to play you will play by these new rules. You can have free speech as long as you are willing to parrot platitudes and the terms deemed acceptable to bourgeois debate. And by clamping down on the most timid of protest they are trying to batten down the hatches and put a chill into a society full of discontent but still gripped with passivity on the part of people who hate what’s going on have resigned themselves to the excuse of “there’s nothing you can do.”
But there is something people can do--from students who rise up, to people with positions of prominence and authority who use their voices and whatever clout they may have on the behalf of people here and around the world,who want to see the Bush regime stopped and the whole direction reversed can make a decisive difference--especially in moments like the present one. It’s high past time people put something real on the line--that’s what it takes and that’s what people of conscience do when history calls--even if you didn’t think it was going to call on you. Do we owe the people of Iraq, our children or the future of humans on this planet anything less?
As the World Can’t Wait call puts it: “History is full of examples where people who had right on their side and fought against tremendous odds and were victorious. And it is also full of examples of people passively hoping to wait it out, only to get swallowed up by a horror beyond what they ever imagined.”
Revolution #103, October 7, 2007
New York, Sept. 25—Hundreds took to the streets to protest President Bush's appearance at the United Nations. The march was spearheaded by college and high school youth. Prior to the march, people gathered in the plaza across from the UN to express their fury and opposition to the Bush regime's moves toward war on Iran and to the entire reactionary Bush agenda.
At the beginning of the rally, a group of youth and others marched into the plaza wearing the orange jumpsuits and black hoods that prisoners at Guantánamo are forced to wear. Written on the back of their jumpsuits was “Silence + Torture = Complicity.” Many others in the crowd had orange clothing, bandanas, or ribbons, answering World Can’t Wßait's call: “Don't Want An Endless War? Declare It Now and Wear Orange!” During the rally, 14 members of the NYC Stops Bush September 25 coalition were arrested for a civil disobedience action, along with 3 youths who came to their defense.
Among the speakers at the rally was Sunsara Taylor, member of the World Can’t Wait advisory board and a writer for Revolution, who said, “In this country and in the world today, we’re being told you have to pick between U.S. imperialist crusades, like George Bush’s wars, or Islamic fundamentalism. And we are saying we refuse to choose between McWorld and Jihad. These are not the only choices. Humanity needs another way.
Revolution #103, October 7 2007
From A World to Win News Service
September 10, 2007. A World to Win News Service. This week marks the thirtieth anniversary of the murder of anti-apartheid leader Steve Biko at the hands of the South African police, on September 12, 1977. In honor of that hero, a group of 266 medical doctors chose the occasion to launch an unprecedented criticism of the “U.S. medical establishment” for complicity in the torture and murder of prisoners in Guantánamo and elsewhere, citing “strong parallels between the Biko case and the ongoing role of U.S. military doctors in Guantánamo Bay and the War on Terror.”
In particular, the open letter published in the latest issue of the UK-based international medical journal The Lancet highlights the force-feeding of hunger strikers at Guantánamo and says that the physicians involved should be disciplined by their professional organizations. International guidelines hold that such involuntary procedures are unethical. According to reports it cites, prisoners protesting mistreatment and the lack of any perspective of release after as much as six years of illegal imprisonment without charges have been subjected to deliberate torture under the guise of medical treatment: “they are strapped into restraint chairs in uncomfortably cold isolation cells to force them off their hunger strike.” Other reports say that metal tubes are forcefully thrust down prisoners’ throats and into their stomachs--with no lubrication or medication--and then jerked out again, several times a day, in order to cause maximum pain.
The letter details even worse crimes, including “fraudulent record keeping on detainees who have died as a result of failed interrogations.” This is emphasized with the parallel made with the Biko case, where two doctors, one of whom later repented and described his role, signed medical forms covering up the fact that Biko was killed by a police beating and instead suggested he had died as the result of a hunger strike. It pointedly notes: “there has been no formal report on the three alleged suicides in Guantánamo that took place in June, 2006.”
The letter, signed by physicians from 17 countries, especially the UK and South Africa, recalls that in the face of the South African government cover-up, “it was only grass-roots efforts by doctors that led, almost eight years later” to one of the doctors “being found guilty of improper and disgraceful conduct and being struck off the medical register” (that is, no longer allowed to practice). After the fall of the apartheid regime, in seeking reinstatement, that doctor said he had let himself “become too closely identified with the organs of the State, especially the Police force.” The 266 doctors who signed the letter asked that the American Medical Association take action against the former hospital director at Guantánamo, John Edmondson, who was awarded a medal by the U.S. military for his “inspiring leadership” at that medical facility.
The leader of the current protest letter, David Nicholl, a consultant neurologist in Birmingham, UK, brought charges against Edmondson a year and a half ago. The case against him seemed clear-cut: the American authorities have boasted of force-feeding about a hundred prisoners to break a mass protest in 2005. The World Medical Association, of which the American Medical Association is a member, specifically prohibits the procedure.
In his own defense, Edmondson wrote in an affidavit that “the involuntary feeding was authorized through a lawful order of a higher military authority.” The Lancet letter points out that this is the “Nuremberg defense”--named after the leading Nazi war criminals tried by the U.S. in Nuremberg, Germany after the war, who argued that in exterminating Jews they were only following orders. The U.S., at that time, declared “I was only following orders” an invalid line of defense, concluding that everyone is responsible for their own actions, and hung the men.
Nothing has come of the Guantánamo charges so far because the American Medical Association has simply ignored them and local medical authorities in the U.S. claim they have no jurisdiction. While the Royal College of Physicians in the UK wrote of the force-feeding “in England, this would be a criminal act,” the British government has refused a request from the British Medical Association to allow “a group of independent doctors to assess the detainees.”
In a related development, on August 30, an American military court acquitted Lieutenant-Colonel Steven Jordan, the only officer to face criminal charges in regard to the abuse and torture of prisoners shown in the photos from Abu Ghraib in Iraq.
An earlier article in The Lancet written by an American doctor, published August 21, 2004, lists, among other acts of torture performed at Abu Ghraib with the complicity of medical personnel, a man who was beaten on his broken leg with his crutch, a prisoner suspended from a badly injured shoulder, a doctor letting an untrained guard sew up a prisoner’s wounds, the use of mind-altering and other drugs during interrogations, doctors reviving unconscious prisoners for further torture, and a doctor inserting a catheter (tube) into the body of a prisoner who died under torture so it could be claimed that he was alive when brought to the hospital. The death certificate for a prisoner beaten to death said he had had a heart attack. For another whose skull had been crushed and his feet burned, doctors wrote that he had “died of natural causes…in his sleep.”
The article recalls that although Amnesty International and the International Committee of the Red Cross reported similar incidents at Abu Ghraib to the authorities throughout 2002--two years before the scandal provoked by the release of the photos--the U.S. government and military conducted no investigations. Instead, in retaliation, the ICRC was denied access to prisoners, a grave and rare violation of international law.
Ten ordinary soldiers have been convicted for what they are seen doing in the Abu Ghraib photos, and several of those featured carrying out barbaric and criminal acts have been sent to prison. Jordan, found innocent of responsibility for the actions of the men and women under his direct leadership, was convicted, ironically, of breaking an order not to discuss the case, for which he was reprimanded.
This decision is all the more shocking because Jordan figured prominently in the report of the official investigation of Abu Ghraib written by U.S. Army Major General Antonio Taguba. As a punishment for what he wrote, Taguba was ordered to retire from the Army. Later, in an interview with investigative journalist Seymour Hersh in The New Yorker magazine (June 25, 2007), he said that the intelligence officer Jordan seemed to be intimately involved with and probably leading the interrogation of the prisoners that guards had been told to “soften up” through torture. Taguba also told Hersh that the Army commander in Iraq, Lieutenant General Sanchez, “knew exactly what was going on,” and that the procedures for torturing prisoners at Abu Ghraib had been worked out by Major General Geoffrey Miller, the commander at Guantánamo, who was brought to Abu Ghraib in 2004 to “Gitmo [Guantánamo]-ize” the American prison system in Iraq.
In line with the allegations in The Lancet letter, Taguba recounts crimes even more hideous than seen in the released photos. In addition to scenes of extreme sexual humiliation involving a father and son and others showing a woman prisoner exhibited naked for the camera, he says in the interview that photos and videos that the American authorities managed to cover up showed U.S. soldiers raping Iraqi men and women prisoners. Some photos from the same set published by the Australian media purport to show the bodies of men beaten and shot to death.
Hersh pursues the question of deaths in custody in his article about Taguba. He records cases of Army doctors changing their medical reports to remove mention of signs of rape and torture on the bodies of prisoners “found” dead at Guantánamo. “For lack of a camera, you could have seen in Guantánamo what was seen in Abu Ghraib,” an Air Force Lieutenant General who investigated charges about conditions in Guantánamo under Miller’s command told Hersh. He said that the report issued by the government bore little relation to the draft he submitted. He, too, has been retired from the military.
An unnamed “former senior intelligence official” told Hersh that in dealing with the crisis created when the Abu Ghraib photos were released, the “basic strategy was ‘prosecute the kids in the photographs but protect the big picture.’”
The soldier who brought the photos to light fears for his life and lives in secrecy ever since former U.S. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld personally made his name public. Rumsfeld also personally tried to intimidate Taguba. Hersh partly attributes Taguba’s refusal to whitewash Abu Ghraib to his mother’s stories of atrocities at a Japanese prisoner of war camp in the Philippines, the country where he was born.
Abu Ghraib is no longer a U.S. installation, but the U.S. armed forces hold tens of thousands of Iraqi prisoners now, far more than before. There are about 355 prisoners still in Guantánamo. The number and names of the prisoners first became known when a Naval human rights lawyer, Lieutenant Commander Matthew Diaz, mailed them out hidden in a Valentine’s Day card during the final days of his service there in 2005. He was recently sentenced to six months in prison for that act.
This coming October, the U.S. Supreme Court is to rule on the constitutionality of a law passed by Congress that Guantánamo prisoners may not appeal to civilian courts. As of now, the men (some of them children when captured or kidnapped) are to be tried by military tribunals, and on each case a doctor must certify that they are fit for trial.
The Lancet article hails “physicians in Chile, Egypt, Turkey and other nations [who] have taken great personal risks to expose state-sponsored torture.” But, as for “physicians, physicians’ assistants, nurses, medics… and various command and administrative staff” who, on the contrary take part in such acts, directly or by helping to cover them up, their actions “do not merely fall short of medical ideals; some constitute grave breaches of international or U.S. law” and they should be held accountable for their crimes.
Yet another article in The Lancet, August 16, 2003, addresses doctors and medical staff at Guantánamo and other such places directly. Drawing lessons from apartheid South Africa and the role of doctors in repression there, it says that after prisoners have suffered years of illegal imprisonment, abuse and often torture, physicians at Guantánamo have no choice, morally, but to declare that none of them are fit for trial, and that medical associations should support doctors in taking this stand.(See www.thelancet.com)
Revolution #103, October 7, 2007
Readers Correspond… Challenge Others to Take Up the Revolution $500,000 Expansion and Fund Drive
Statement from Father Luis Barrios
Revolution newspaper is a vehicle in English and Spanish, educating about the real issues. Take the example of immigration issue—it does critical analysis, why people come here, how they came, interdependence between struggle here and countries people come from, connections with class struggle, xenophobia and immigration control laws.
Revolution newspaper challenges people: It asks you what are you going to do about it? It points to revolutionary solutions. Why subscribe? It is a revolutionary investment. Subscribe, my friend, it's important. Subscribing is a revolutionary act.
Some of us have the ability to contribute more—donate so other can get this newspaper.
Like I always say, 'Knowledge is power'—we need to empower people for the revolution.
As a religious person, I see spirituality connected to the search for the truth. This newspaper brings truth to the people. This newspaper is an important vehicle for revolution.
I make photocopies of articles for students in my classes. A lot of the articles relate to classes I teach, such as "Latinos/Latinas in the U.S. Prison System". These are powerful articles that mean a lot to my students.
Statement read at the LA Fund Drive Kick-off signed by “3 generations of Black People living in Watts:
We are donating to the Revolution Newspaper half million dollar fund drive. We are raising money to get Spanish translators because the Spanish papers need to get out to people who speak Spanish every week. We are all brothers and sisters and we need to be able to communicate with each other. We can do this through the pages of the newspaper. We can get to know about each others lives.
We need this so people could have a broader understanding of a revolutionary communist way of life. So all of us could think in the same direction for the cause of revolution. Which would make a better life for the whole of humanity. As brothers and sisters we won’t be fighting against each other, we’ll be fighting for each other and for the betterment of humanity.
Testimonial read at New York Kick Off and translated into English:
Comrades and Proletarians throughout the world,
First of all, I'd like to speak of the kind of world in which we live under this Yankee imperialist beast, around the world and right here in the U.S. Under the boot of Police Brutality murdering the youth, imprisoning people indefinitely and torturing them in their concentration camps in Guantánamo and Abu Ghraib. Abandoning thousands of Blacks on the edge of death in New Orleans, invading countries with unjust wars and imposing borders, like that between Mexico/U.S., forcing thousands of immigrants to leave their countries and cross deserts to seek a better quality of life or die in the attempt, and if this wasn't enough, the White House plans to invade Iran with threats of nuclear war ...
Due to these and other atrocities, from here and forward we must prevent this from continuing. We must push forward this campaign more widely and broadly than ever, putting thousands of copies of Revolution in the hands of everyone, arousing others to become part of this campaign, distributing and contributing, so that Revolution is read in all the barrios, projects, schools, work zones, etc., and to unmask the truth of this system and prepare the masses for revolution in this country and in this way construct a new and different society from that which exists today.
Unite - Organize - Contribute. We can achieve this, and I believe that we are the hope of all those who are oppressed by this government…
The future is unwritten, and our fate depends on ourselves...
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