Revolutionary Worker #1182, January 12, 2002, posted at http://rwor.org
We say NOT IN OUR NAME. We refuse to be party to these wars and we repudiate any inference that they are being waged in our name or for our welfare. We extend a hand to those around the world suffering from these policies; we will show our solidarity in word and deed."
From the "Not In Our Name Statement of Conscience"
In the first days after September 11, when President George W. Bush went to the smoking ruins of the World Trade Center and--in the name of the victims--declared a "new crusade";
When the politicians and media--in the name of justice--fanned the flames of vengeance;
When police--in the name of safety--pulled young Muslim men off of busses and trains, or raided their homes in the dead of night, and then held them in secret for months;
When Congressmen--in the name of freedom--rushed to pass laws which took away the people's rights;
When the deafening whine of the jets bombing Afghanistan--in the name of protection--drowned out the voices of questioning and critical thought;
At just that point, in those first crazy painful days, the parents of a young Puerto Rican man who perished in the towers spoke up, and said:
"Not in our name."
Very simple, it seemed. And yet...powerful. Powerful enough to take root and begin to spread, far beyond those first courageous relatives of the victims, far beyond the wounded ashen streets of New York City, far beyond even the United States.
Four words, and they stripped the cloak of legitimacy from the program of Bush & Co., revealing the naked grab for power that lay beneath it. They challenged the lie that this new program was in the interests of the American people. They reached out to the people of the world, signaling that "There is opposition, right here in America, to what is being done in our name, and we will rally and we will stop it."
A movement grew up around those four words.
A statement of conscience ran in newspapers around the country and around the world--a powerful call to resist the whole trajectory of war and repression. And the signatures of artists and intellectuals and clergy and activists were emblazoned on a bold background that spelled out... NOT IN OUR NAME.
A pledge of resistance was written--an anthem, almost -- and then it was taken up and recited in unison, in gatherings large and small around the country, and the refrain was... NOT IN OUR NAME.
A day of resistance was organized, when tens and tens of thousands gathered in cities across the country, kicking off a revitalized antiwar movement and linking it to opposing the repression against immigrants and the stripping away of rights. And here again the voices called out and the posters read... NOT IN OUR NAME.
A movement of opposition, to war and repression, had emerged. And its watchword was--and is-- NOT IN OUR NAME.
TIME TO STEP ASIDE?
But now some say that this slogan's time has come and gone. They say that if the movement really wants to move masses, if it really wants to succeed , it must take a different tack. In the words of an organizer for the Win Without War coalition, something is needed that will speak to "the millions of people who have concerns and fears but have not had an outlet for them"; something that will force Bush to "pause."*
In order to "build broad support," we are now told, the movement should "accept `the valid U.S. and UN objective of disarming Saddam Hussein,' " but should argue that a "preemptive military invasion of Iraq" is the wrong way to do that and that we should instead support "letting the UN inspectors do their jobs." And this new approach implicitly leaves open the question of support for a U.S. invasion of Iraq that has a UN endorsement.
So... does the movement need a new direction in order to speak to the "concerns and fears" of millions? Must it concede to Bush's stated goal of disarming Iraq? Will doing so enable us to form a movement that will prevent this war?
The first thing we must ask is whether, in fact, the basic premise of this new approach is true. Does the Saddam Hussein regime pose a special threat to the people of the world? Is this threat so grave that extraordinary measures must be taken to disarm his government--measures that already involve the slow death of thousands a month from sanctions and that, in the event of war, will cause the slaughter of tens of thousands more? Can intervention by the United States armed forces do anything positive for the people of Iraq?
Please. Everybody let's stop and think for one minute. There is but one government on this planet that wields more destructive power than all the rest of the world combined. There is but one government on this planet that has used nuclear weapons--not once, but twice. There is but one government on this planet that made "massive retaliation" with nuclear weapons its stated policy for war for decades, that has threatened to use such weapons in several different crises over the years, and that to this day claims the right to strike first against any country that threatens their interests. There is but one government on this planet that now threatens to use nuclear weapons in the context of a U.S.-Iraq war.
That government, of course, is the United States. Now this government claims that the greatest threat to the world's people comes from a vanquished prostrate nation that may be attempting to gain nuclear capability.
The whole notion turns reality on its head. Yet Bush has been trying to force this down the throat of the world in order to justify what will be a devastating war on Iraq and a brutal leap in the imposition of American power on the whole world. For people in the antiwar movement to give any credence at all to such a notion will only confuse the tens of millions who will be awakening to political life in the next few weeks and who, even if they initially support the war, will also have their questions.
Why is the U.S. power structure pressing for "regime change" in Iraq? The U.S. government is on a predatory mission--they are seeking to impose their political will and their control over the people and resources of Iraq--and to use that control as a springboard for recasting the Middle East and as a springboard to create more favorable conditions for exploiting the people and resources of the whole world. And no good can come of it.
It is an unjust, immoral and illegitimate mission. All their policies, scenarios, and fallback plans are predicated on the threat of massive force. All their talk of bringing "democracy" and "liberation" to Iraq is a lie. They will bring great destruction and suffering, and any alliances they make with forces in Iraq are for the sole purpose of carrying out this predatory agenda. And it will not stop with Iraq. A victory in Iraq will only embolden them to press ahead in other countries and regions of the world.
Certainly the antiwar movement must speak to millions. It must deal with the terms being used by the powers-that-be to justify the war. But that does not mean it should accept those terms. In the words of RCP Chairman Bob Avakian, "You get a hearing by telling the truth. You get a hearing by bringing out the reality as sharply as you can." We believe that the antiwar movement needs to address these terms--the hollow justifications and excuses--expose the fallacy at their base, and walk people through to see the real terms of things, and their real interests.
Because such an awful thing is shaping up, because the consequences will be horrific and events are unfolding rapidly--people from many political viewpoints are agonizing over how to reach millions of people, how to influence policy, and how to stop war.
People really need to think critically about the notion that we should rally people around "letting the UN inspectors do their jobs." Not only is this whole project a gross violation of the sovereignty of Iraq, but people need to understand that these inspections are designed to fail. The U.S. has insisted on terms so onerous and has brought so much pressure to bear on the inspectors themselves precisely in order to create a "failure" and provide a pretext for them to get international backing for their war.
What will happen if people are not prepared for this kind of "failure" of the inspections? If the U.S. suddenly manufactures "proof" (as it manufactured proof in the first Gulf war that "the Iraqi army had murdered babies in incubators in Kuwait"--only to have it revealed much later that the whole thing was a fabrication by a Republican-connected public relations outfit). Those who have accepted Bush's terms about the "threat of Saddam Hussein" will watch the unity they have built crumble in the face of an unjust war.
How will people be prepared to respond if some pro-U.S. coup d'etat "invites" U.S. troops to occupy Iraq?
In short, this new direction now being ballyhooed is not a road to preventing war but a wrong turn that will lead to a dead-end of silence, passivity and despair.
OR TIME TO STEP IT UP?
We cannot afford to go down that road. And we don't have to, either. In fact, one of the problems with this whole new approach is that it purports to fix something that was never broken in the first place.
To be blunt: it's a little bit weird to say that the NION approach does not speak to millions. Go to the Statement of Conscience web site, and look at the tens of thousands of signatures. Look at the recent publications of the ad in local papers in Seattle and Madison, Wisconsin--ads that feature scores and scores of local signers, joining the national signers and taking a very bold stand. Scroll down the list of the nearly 40 publications in which it's run, and the many many more in which it's been referenced. Remember the person who wrote in to say that this statement "provided me with a profound sense of validation and has given me the courage and vocabulary to express my views."
Think back to the response of the tens of thousands who took the pledge of resistance at the NION demonstrations in early October, to the student day in November, to the artistic creations and events sparked by this stand. Look at the people--the range of beliefs, of walks of life, of experience--that have found an umbrella and a foundation for action in this slogan.
Now tell us again--why is this slogan too narrow to rally millions more?
We understand that, at this point, those opposed to the war in the "mainstream" are influenced by the kind of thinking expressed in the "win without war" approach. But there is a minority of millions for whom the politics of "not in our name" expresses their heartfelt rejection of the warmongering agenda--and their desire to resist. And it is really crucial that this minority of millions now take the initiative, press ahead with independent political action, build a powerful movement of resistance, and reach out to win over millions more.
The truth is, NOT IN OUR NAME can speak to and rally millions. Moreover, the platform it provides is durable : it can give people the backbone to stand up to the pressure and intimidation that will come with war; the intellectual tools to cut through the lies and excuses and appeals to narrow interests; and the strength from which to aggressively rally the American people to make common cause with the people of the world.
The Statement of Conscience is a powerful indictment of the injustice that is being carried out, it is a measure of what's right and wrong, and a broad foundation for people to unite.
There are people from many points of view who have endorsed and actively taken up these "Not In Our Name" politics. And they do not all agree with our point of view, as expressed in this article. But "Not in Our Name" concentrates an important point of basic agreement that "people of conscience must take responsibility for what their own governments do--we must first of all oppose the injustice that is done in our own name." And we think this is all the more true when one lives in a country like this one, seeking to impose its will on the entire world.
The war now being planned and prepared is NOT in the interests of the people of the world, and it is not in the interests of the majority of people in the United States. It is this fundamental fact that enables us to reach out and speak to and mobilize the millions--including the many who will at first go along with the government.
How does it help people in this country to put tens of thousands of innocent Iraqis at risk for their lives by massive bombing, destruction of the infrastructure, and so on? How will it help the majority of American people if their country is viewed by the rest of the world as trying to grab up Iraq in order to control its oil? How will it help the majority of American people if their sons and daughters are sent to fight and die on a brutal and unjust mission? How will it benefit the majority of Americans if the whole world recoils at their government's stated willingness to use nuclear weapons in Iraq? If everyone sees their country as bullies who have no care for the human life of millions of Arab people? How "safe" will it be to live in a "New Roman Empire," even more hated --and hateful--than the old Roman Empire, and just as doomed to decline and fall? And how "free" will they be as the government grabs new powers to imprison people without trial, to tap their phones and computers, to track every detail of their lives? There is no need to be intimidated by George Bush's "high poll ratings" or to think that we have to give in to his terms. For, quiet as it's kept, this emperor really does have no clothes, and it is up to us to shout that out.
It is only by standing up and drawing a clear line between themselves and the injustices that are being carried out by their government, in their name--only by casting their lot with the people of the world--that the majority of Americans can have a future worth fighting for.
NOW LET'S UNITE AND STOP THIS THING!
We've been sharp in this article--but only because so very very much is at stake. We realize that a lot of folks have taken up different efforts precisely out of a deep desire to stop the war. They are searching for the best way to do that. A lot of folks think that anything that opposes Bush-- whether the Statement of Conscience, or the Win Without War petition--helps. We've tried here to outline what we think are some serious shortcomings and blind spots in that approach, and to underscore again the deep and abiding strengths of the "Not in Our Name" approach--but those differences don't mean that we can't unite in action, even as we talk things out.
Moreover, there is a need to do much more than has been done up to now. As promising as this new upsurge has been, it will not be enough to stop the war. It must grow. It must take action. And we think that everyone should be open to new ideas, new approaches, and new directions...which involves, of course, subjecting those ideas to analysis. The point is that all of this debate, discussion and analysis right now must serve taking action to stop the juggernaut.
There are challenging days ahead of us. As those days unfold, it is "especially important"--as we said last week--"that when the people of the world watch events, they see that here, in the U.S. itself, there are those who resist and hate this juggernaut, those who stand with them in the struggle to stop it--those who call out the injustices perpetrated by their own government and say `not in our name.' "
* Quotes are from articles promoting this approach: "The Antiwar Movement Goes Mainstream," by Michelle Goldberg in Salon.com, December 12, and "Mainstreaming the Antiwar Movement" by David Corn on The Nation website, and from the Win Without War petition.
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