Revolution #91, June 10, 2007

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Revolution #91, June 10, 2007

U.S. Imperialism, Islamic Fundamentalism…and the Need for Another Way

by Sunsara Taylor

As the U.S.'s crimes against humanity in the Middle East mount, it is of tremendous importance for people in the U.S. to honestly confront and rise to the profound challenges and responsibilities before us in bringing this to a halt. In this spirit, I welcomed the argument made by Hadas Thier and Aaron Hess in the Socialist Worker on April 20, 2007 entitled “Standing up to Islamophobia,” even while I find their central arguments to not only be wrong, but harmful.

I do not doubt that Thier and Hess want to oppose U.S. wars of aggression and their accompanying assault on Muslims, Arabs and South Asians living in the U. S. But they end up arguing for an approach that will neither meet the actual challenges of opposing the U.S. “crusade,” nor bring forward new, truly liberating possibilities here and around the world. They end up in this unfortunate place through the use of bad logic, flawed methodology, and a duck-from-unpleasant-realities epistemology (method for arriving at what is true).

Let's look at how this is so.

“Standing Up” quotes George Bush as arguing, “The war we fight today is more than a military conflict. It is the decisive ideological struggle of the 21st century. On one side are those who believe in the values of freedom and moderation, the right of all people to speak and worship and live in liberty. And on the other side are those driven by the values of tyranny and extremism.”

Then, they write, “Unfortunately, some voices on the left--even radical sections of the antiwar movement--accept these same terms.” They go on to quote from an article of mine: “Increasingly, humanity is being confronted with two intolerable choices: Bush's crusade for empire or a reactionary Islamic fundamentalist response… The Bush regime has committed crimes on a far greater scale and is by far the greater danger to humanity… but both are complete nightmares. Both reinforce and feed off each other, and as they grow, they suck up the air to breathe for secular and progressive forces in this country and around the world… People in their hundreds of millions--in this country and around the world--must be presented with a third option, an option that refuses to choose between crusading McWorld or reactionary Jihad.”

On their face, these two positions could not be any less the “same terms”; Bush is extolling U.S. imperialist aggression while I am calling for resistance powerful enough to stop it. But it is only by ignoring this glaring difference that Thier/Hess can, first, sloppily insist that my condemnation of Islamic fundamentalism accepts the same terms as those set by the Bush regime, and second, conveniently avoid having to distinguish between two very different kinds of opposition to the actions of the U.S. in the Middle East.

In the face of an unjust war on Iraq and Afghanistan, there are both the just demands of the broad masses of people who oppose the U.S. occupation and ambitions to control the whole region, as well as the reactionary, theocratic opposition that reflects the interests of outmoded strata within those countries. The need to support the just demands of the people should not be conflated with supporting the reactionary fundamentalist forces, nor should the ideology and program of these fundamentalists be equated with the interests of the broad masses in the region.

“Outmoded”: A Scientific Term, Not a Curse-word

To call these fundamentalist forces "outmoded" is not some swear word, nor a reflection of some kind of "prejudice," as implied by the Thier/Hess article. "Outmoded" and reactionary speaks to the content of their own specific version of a very oppressive program for the masses of people in these countries. And on another level, "outmoded strata" expresses the class relations involved. These forces represent old ruling strata in these societies--not the interests of the masses of the people.

These forces--and the program they advance (whatever their individual class origins)--reflect and advocate "traditional," largely "feudal based" class relations in these oppressed countries. Some of these clerics are directly tied to big semi-feudal landholding interests. (This was true, for example, in Iran, which is discussed more below.) But, in any case, their program is explicitly an appeal to, and a program for, the reinforcement of "traditional" relations of these societies. And the complex pattern we see of cooperation and conflict between these forces and the imperialists reflects, ultimately, the complex and contradictory relation of imperialist domination of these countries to feudalism. In short, the imperialists both depend on and "prop up" these old oppressive relations while at the same time they undermine them with new "modern" forms of exploitation which transform and disrupt those old relations.1

Thier/Hess argue against clumping all of fundamentalist Islam together and there are, indeed, some differences among the various Islamic trends. However, anyone seriously interested in understanding the region and the ideological factors that are shaping events there can not ignore the unpleasant fact that there is a common thrust to these trends. This ideology (fundamentalist religion) has taken the very concrete form of a theocratic program in countries around the region, despite some local variations and even conflicts within this broad trend. In this era, taking up religious literalism of any kind as a political program is taking up a program full of outmoded and oppressive content--content that came from the ancient societies out of which the religious texts emerged. In imposing it on the modern world what you get is what we’ve seen everywhere fundamentalism gets a foothold: vicious patriarchy and bigotry, religious warfare, “honor killings,” and the promotion of unscientific, superstitious ignorance. The treatment of women is one of the most fundamental questions among the oppressed themselves and a criteria of how any struggle for liberation should be judged. The fundamentalist outlook and agenda that says the literal interpretation of religious texts should be “law” or the “highest law”--whether it be Sharia law or Judeo-Christian biblical law--goes against fundamental rights of freedom of conscience and equality between people that have been fought for and are needed for a decent society in the 21st century. These things--whether they are being imposed by Sunnis in Saudi Arabia, by the Taliban in Afghanistan, by the state in Iran, or by “oppositional” movements--must be unequivocally rejected, not ignored, prettified, or tailed with identity politics.

The breadth of support for this reactionary fundamentalist program has grown in direct proportion to screamingly unjust imperialist attacks on the people of these countries. Today, the influence of very harmful and reactionary forms of Islamic fundamentalism have the initiative in the Middle East. The brutality of the U.S. occupation and the vacuum of legitimate authority has ignited sectarian religious violence and the rapid growth of opposition to the occupation that has a fundamentalist vision for the country. The U.S., despite all its talk about coming to the aid of women oppressed by the Taliban, has continued to back and install reactionary clerics and sectarian religious forces in the countries it has occupied. All of this complicates the tasks of secular, progressive, revolutionary, and communist movements in that region and demands a different way forward for the masses of people.

Religious Fundamentalism Does NOT Represent the Interests of the Masses

The dominant varieties of Islamic fundamentalism in the Middle East today, while their ideological roots trace back earlier, began to develop as a political force in the aftermath of World War 2 when the imperial powers forged new forms of semi-colonial and semi-feudal state structures in these countries that diminished the position of many clerics and other traditional feudal power relations. These forces took a major leap in the last couple decades, as many were consciously built up and promoted by the U.S. in opposition to the Soviet Union’s influence in the region. And this leap was greatly accelerated, too, by the effects of a post-Mao coup in China which ended China as an inspiring force for revolutionary change in the world, along with the end of the national liberation struggle in Vietnam. Islamic fundamentalism, in effect, stepped into a kind of secular nationalist, revolutionary, and communist "leadership vacuum" on a world level.

The U.S. has had a contradictory relationship with the Islamic Fundamentalist movements--backing them when it has served their interests and attempting to crush them when these same forces have turned on U.S. interests or come into conflict with it. The decline of British colonialism and the rise of neo-colonialism in this strategic region has often come wrapped in the garb of “modernity” imposed from above--with the free market driving millions of peasants off the land, hurling them into the urban shantytowns and refugee camps. The penetration of U.S. investment and neo-colonial control also disrupted and undermined the traditional semi-feudal power centers and the position of the clerics in these societies. The ripping up of the old social fabric and the chaos, impoverishment, and wrenching apart and refashioning of dependent economies pliable to more thorough and vicious exploitation and plunder of these countries also led to the development of ideological (and not just economic) responses to the imposition of imperialism from the “West.”

All this has fed the rise of Islamic parties and movements that have challenged the forms of rule and alliances that U.S. imperialism has struck in particular countries--and most often these political religious movements have reflected the interests of this outmoded strata of clerics and feudal forces whose position has been disrupted. Their reactionary ideology and political agendas do not represent the interests of the desperate and displaced peasantry and the impoverished and rebellious urban masses they have recruited as foot-soldiers, just as a Christian fascist like Pat Robertson does not represent the interests of the people in this country who follow him--many of them responding to the uncertainty and parasitism that imperialist globalization has visited on their own lives. Just because something has a big following among sections of the oppressed does not mean that it is a good thing.

Lessons from Iran that Should Be Learned from and Not Be Repeated

The Islamic Republic of Iran emerged out of a revolutionary struggle of millions against the U.S.-backed Shah in 1979 after which Khomeini, a reactionary Islamic fundamentalist Ayatollah, moved in stages to consolidate power. Thousands of genuinely anti-imperialist forces--especially communists but also other secular, nationalist, and even more liberal Islamic forces--were rounded up, tortured, and butchered and tens of thousands more were jailed and forced into exile. Women who refused to wear the hijab were whipped, beaten, and arrested and the legal system was changed so that the testimony of one man was equal to that of two women. In 1988 more than 10,000 political prisoners were systematically mass murdered by the Islamic state.

As part of coming to power in 1979, these theocratic forces presented themselves, and drew mass appeal, from an "anti-imperialist" pose. While they had real conflicts with a particular U.S. regime (the Shah of Iran), Khomeini and his forces were reactionary theocrats, not leaders of an anti-imperialist struggle. The real tragedy, and lesson, of the Iranian revolution was that revolutionary forces joined in spreading the illusion that these were anti-imperialist forces to be aligned with and tailed. For this, the masses of Iran have suffered disastrous consequences.

Blindness to the class basis and political content of Islamic movements--whose agenda is imposing theocratic rule and Sharia law--will leave people unprepared for the challenges of the war the Bush regime is actively plotting against Iran. Bush will again pose people’s options as standing with your country or the “terrorists,” with Christianity (or modernity, depending on his audience) or with Islamic rule.

Those opposing the Iraq war and Bush’s "War on Terror" have to firmly direct their main efforts at their own government and at stopping what is by far the greater reactionary force--that of U.S. imperialism. But that does NOT mean having to support the rise of reactionary clerics in Iraq or the theocrats presently ruling Iran. People can and must learn to differentiate between the just demands and struggle for national liberation and the reactionary and theocratic programs of outmoded forces posturing and pimping off the sentiments of broad sections of these societies for national liberation.

New-Democratic Revolution

In oppressed nations like Iran, the path to breaking the hold of imperialism and overcoming feudalism is new-democratic revolution which, unlike the democratic revolution of previous centuries, is led by the proletarian (working) class and its vanguard party. In the context of a new-democratic revolution, it is possible and generally correct to unite with other strata. This certainly includes the peasants in the countryside--along the vast numbers of displaced peasants who've been thrown into shantytown misery; and, further, it is generally possible to unite with sections of smaller capitalists who have real conflict with imperialism over the subordination of all national development to global imperial interests. And unity can even be built with non-theocratic religious forces. All this must be led as part of a program that radically breaks with all the structures of dependency on imperialism, and with enslaving feudalism--as the first stage of a revolutionary program for getting rid of all exploitation and oppression and the social relations this gives rise to.

This is totally different from the program of backward-looking theocratic, feudal and "traditional" forces. Among the first tasks of the new democratic revolutions that have taken place in places like China or Vietnam--before they came to an end--was to uproot forms of semi-feudalism that viciously exploited the peasantry. These genuine struggles for national liberation were fought with both goals and methods of warfare that are distinctly different than the methods of warfare being used in the Middle East today; they were people’s wars that relied on and united the people to fight imperialism. And even the way the wars were fought and the forces they relied on reflected the aims of these revolutions which included, for instance, the liberation of women.

On another level, the more that there is powerful resistance in this country--resistance that cannot be hidden from the people of the world, including in areas that are targets of U.S. aggression and justifiably hotbeds of hatred “against America”--the more that two things will happen. First, this will contribute to halting the unjust wars being waged in our names as well as creating more favorable conditions for revolution within the U.S. Second, this will be giving more "air to breathe" to the secular, progressive, and genuinely revolutionary forces who do exist in the Middle East, including in Iran.

Who’s Offended by the Truth About Tony Soprano’s House?

Thier/Hess then pick up on a statement from Bob Avakian, Chairman of the Revolutionary Communist Party: "living in the U.S. is a little bit like living in the house of Tony Soprano. You know, or you have a sense, that all the goodies that you've gotten have something to do with what the master of the house is doing out there in the world."

They quote a later passage from Avakian next: "But September 11 was a rude announcement that there's a price to be paid for living in Tony Soprano's house, for continuing to go along with these profoundly unequal relations in the world and the way that your government, and this system fundamentally, bludgeons people in the world into conditions of almost unspeakable suffering in order to keep this whole thing going, and in order, yes, for some 'goodies' to be handed out to sections of people in the 'house'."

Thier/Hess argue that, "Avakian's view that ordinary working Americans were sharing in the 'goodies' is false. Working-class people in the U.S. have also been forced to pay--with continuing cuts in social services, with shredded civil liberties, and with their lives, in the case of the soldiers used as cannon fodder in Iraq and Afghanistan--for U.S. wars." Thier & Hess can only make their argument by cutting out a critical part of Avakian’s argument that refutes the very point they are making--a point to which we’ll return later.

But first, let’s answer Thier/Hess's argument that working class people in this country aren't benefiting from U.S. imperialism with two words: clean water.

Look around the planet: thousands die each day due to lack of clean drinking water in the third world--clean water which is taken for granted in the U.S. But the disparities go far beyond just water. In this era of imperialism, there is a fundamental divide in the world between oppressed and oppressor nations. Both the economic advantage and the relative peace and stability enjoyed by large sections of people living in the oppressor nations depend on the wars being waged across the globe, the super-profits being sucked out of the labor of children and others, the natural resources being privatized and stolen, and the hundreds of millions of people being driven from their lands and hurled across the globe in an ever more desperate search to survive by being exploited even more ruthlessly as part of the globalized imperialist economy. All of which is propelled by capitalist accumulation and enforced by the military force of the U.S. and other imperialists.

The irony of Thier/Hess's position is that while they accuse me of accepting Bush's imperialist chauvinism, their argument both ignores this shocking divide between oppressed and oppressor nations and sells short the people of this country, including many who are objectively privileged because of this divide but who can be won to stand with the people of the world. These people can be won to a better position not by appealing merely to their economic interests (their loss of social services) or ignoring this imperialist divide in the world, but by telling people the truth about how the wealth of this country comes from its plunder of the world and challenging them to act against this world system of imperialism that is the common enemy of the vast majority of humanity whether they reside in the citadels of imperialism or in the vast areas of the world being plundered by imperialist globalization.

And it should be pointed out that the kind of "economist" reasoning argued here by Thier/Hess also goes with capitulationist political programs that downplay the danger of theocratic political movements that have gained powerful ruling class backing in the U.S. Christian fascist influence over public life is being accepted and accommodated in the name of political pragmatism ("let's ignore this and unite with people's economic interest”) and in the name of "respecting religious faith." Meanwhile abortion, science, and critical thought in education are under serious assault, and these forces are providing the ideological backing of biblical righteousness for a U.S. imperial crusade in the world. The fundamental interests of the majority of people in the U.S. do not lie in living in Tony Soprano’s house.

Many in this country already gravitate towards a kind of internationalism in their sentiment that American lives are not worth more than the lives of others. This should be built upon as well as deepened with the scientific understanding of proletarian internationalism, that is the scientific understanding that, as Avakian has put it, “The interests, objectives, and grand designs of the imperialists are not our interests--they are not the interests of the great majority of people in the U.S. nor of the overwhelmingly majority of people in the world as a whole. And the difficulties the imperialists have gotten themselves into in pursuit of these interests must be seen, and responded to, not from the point of view of the imperialists and their interests, but from the point of view of the great majority of humanity and the basic and urgent need of humanity for a different and better world, for another way.”

I encourage everyone to read the piece from which this was drawn (“Bringing Forward Another Way”) in its entirety as part of fulfilling the responsibility of people living in the United States to understand and bring to a halt the tremendous crimes being committed--and the even greater crimes being prepared--in our names.

As Bob Avakian went on to say in the passage Thier/Hess quoted from, “We need a different world than one where there are a few houses of Tony Soprano, surrounded by a seemingly endless sea of suffering and oppressed humanity, living in terrible squalor and under undisguised tyranny; where the power, wealth and privilege of the relative few depends on, and is grounded in, the exploitation and misery of the many (and where, even within ‘Tony Soprano's house’ itself, there are many who are treated little better than second-class members of the family, or as despised servants). This is a world that cannot, and should not, go on as it is.”

Sunsara Taylor writes for Revolution newspaper and sits on the Advisory Board of The World Can't Wait--Drive Out the Bush Regime


1. For example, the imperialists rely on the power of feudal forces in the countryside in many places to keep the masses there under control. (Right now in Iraq, the U.S. is "rediscovering" the great value of "traditional clans" and trying to strike deals to pry them away from the fundamentalist insurgency and help stabilize whole areas for the occupation government.) And, in most oppressed countries, the downtrodden and oppressed conditions of the masses in broad areas of the countryside, together with their close relations to agriculture, helps lower wages overall in these countries and increases the superprofits reaped there by the imperialists. At the same time, capitalist agriculture keeps penetrating into the countryside of these areas and undermines, as well as combines with, older feudal relations there. For more on the dynamics and forms of imperialist domination in the oppressed nations, see America in Decline, Raymond Lotta, pp. 98-112.   [back]


Note: The article “Standing up to Islamophobia” by Hadas Thier and Aaron Hess (from the Socialist Worker, April 20, 2007) is reprinted in full in this issue Revolution so that readers can follow the debate.

Standing up to Islamophobia

The following article by Hadas Thier and Aaron Hess appeared in the Socialist Worker on April 20, 2007.

At a recent antiwar panel discussion in New York City, Columbia University professor and antiwar activist Hamid Dabashi commented that whenever the U.S. goes to war, it projects an image of itself as the embattled underdog--an “army of Sparta,” rather than an aggressive superpower bent on conquest.

When the real underdogs resist, however, they are inevitably depicted by the U.S. political and media establishment as driven by an oppressive ideology, with the ultimate goal of undermining “Western values” of democracy and freedom.

Following the U.S. invasion of Cuba in 1898--at the dawn of the American empire--Theodore Roosevelt characterized the Cubans he helped to conquer as “moral degenerates.” In reality, as novelist Mark Twain pointed out, the U.S. imperialists were the “true savages.”

Since September 11, 2001, Islam has become the target of choice in U.S. ruling circles. “The war we fight today is more than a military conflict,” George Bush declared in a speech last year. “It is the decisive ideological struggle of the 21st century. On one side are those who believe in the values of freedom and moderation, the right of all people to speak and worship and live in liberty. And on the other side are those driven by the values of tyranny and extremism.”

If it were only Bush and the discredited neocons of his administration who used this rhetoric, that would be one thing. But Democratic Party politicians are also quick to denounce “Islamic extremism” and warn of the threat of “fundamentalist” countries like Iran.

Unfortunately, some voices on the left--even radical sections of the antiwar movement--accept these same terms. For example, Sunsara Taylor of the pro-impeachment group World Can’t Wait (WCW) and a member of the Revolutionary Communist Party (RCP), wrote recently of the “intolerable choice…between crusading McWorld or reactionary Jihad.”

It is important that the antiwar movement reject the distorted picture of Islam presented by pro-war conservatives, but partly echoed in comments like these. Our job is to oppose the entire project of the “war on terror,” including the racist dogma attached to it.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

OVER THE years, Islamophobia has been given an intellectual gloss by a whole industry of well-paid “experts” on Islam and the Arab world. Two of the most renowned examples are Bernard Lewis and Samuel Huntington.

At the core of their writings is the idea that Islam and the Arab world have produced a static, unchanging civilization averse to Enlightenment ideals that they claim are the sole province of the “West”--such as religious tolerance, women’s rights and democracy.

These views have little use for historical facts. For example, while Western Europe remained stuck for centuries in what historians call the “Dark Ages,” the Islamic world was the center of intellectual inquiry, preserving and advancing the scientific breakthroughs of the ancient world.

And when it comes to religious intolerance, the oppression of women and barbaric dictatorships, Christianity’s history stands out as especially bloody.

No matter: Huntington argues that the “East” and the “West” are headed for an inevitable "clash of civilizations"--the title of his book that became required reading for the neocons after 9/11.

Politicians and the corporate media adopted these ideas to justify the “war on terror.” In fact, with their claims about weapons of mass destruction and al-Qaeda exposed as frauds, the caricature of Muslims who “hate our freedoms” is one of the few justifications for war and occupation they can still turn to.

Of course, phrases like “Islamic fascism” aren’t used to describe the repressive, theocratic regimes bankrolled and backed by Washington--such as the Saudi monarchy or the military dictatorship in Pakistan. Only Washington’s enemies are branded with the “f”-word.

Unfortunately, significant voices on the left have accepted the core of the “clash of civilizations” idea.

Probably the worst example was an October 2005 article in The Progressive called “Our al-Qaeda Problem”--which was accompanied by a cover drawing of a menacing, turbaned man carrying a huge scimitar blade and towering over a cowering white figure.

Sunsara Taylor of WCW doesn’t employ this racist imagery. But she does accept the framework that the Progressive article shared with pro-war views.

“[I]ncreasingly, humanity is being confronted with two intolerable choices: Bush’s crusade for empire or a reactionary Islamic fundamentalist response,” Taylor wrote in the RCP’s Revolution newspaper. “The Bush regime has committed crimes on a far greater scale and is by far the greater danger to humanity…but both are complete nightmares. Both reinforce and feed off each other, and as they grow, they suck up the air to breath for secular and progressive forces in this country and around the world…

“People in their hundreds of millions--in this country and around the world--must be presented with a third option, an option that refuses to choose between crusading McWorld or reactionary Jihad.”

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

THE “JIHAD vs. McWorld” idea comes from the title of a book by Benjamin Barber, written in 1995.

While offering some critiques of U.S.-led “market fundamentalism,” Barber’s book takes more than a few pages straight out of the anti-Muslim playbook.

For example, a typically muddled passage reads: “[A]lthough it is clear that Islam is a complex religion that is by no means synonymous with Jihad, it is relatively inhospitable to democracy, and that inhospitality in turn nurtures conditions favorable to parochialism, anti-modernism, exclusiveness and hostility to ‘others’--the characteristics that constitute what I call Jihad.”

There are many problems with Barber’s understanding of Islam, as with the one Taylor adopts.

For one, it tends to lump together very different tendencies among Muslims, as well as contending Islamist organizations that regard one another as enemies.

It should go without saying that al-Qaeda, a rootless terrorist network initially formed with the collaboration of the CIA, has nothing in common with a mass movement like Hezbollah in Lebanon or Hamas in Palestine--nor is there any use in an understanding of Islam that makes no distinction between the Shia-dominated Iranian government and the Sunni Wahabists of Saudi Arabia.

The “Jihad vs. McWorld” view also fails to recognize how and why Islamist oppositional movements rose to prominence in the first place.

Initially encouraged in some cases by Western powers as a counterweight to Arab nationalism--the first “fundamentalist” state was Saudi Arabia, brought into being by Britain and the U.S. to secure the flow of oil from the Middle East--Islamists gained a mass base with the decline of secular nationalist movements.

Support for organizations like Hamas or Hezbollah isn’t primarily the result of a commitment to religious tenets, but because they represent a political alternative that has stood up against imperialism--chiefly, the U.S. and its main ally Israel.

To understand religiously based movements, the starting point for socialists is not the religious ideology, but the social and political forces such movements represent.

Of course, socialists have important criticisms to make of Islamist forces. As in all religions, elements of Islam are explicitly conservative--for example, the attitude that women are the inferiors of men. Such positions are barriers to building the most effective resistance to imperialism.

But the “Jihad vs. McWorld” view fails to recognize that Islamist organizations were able to gain a mass following by representing an alternative of resistance.

To promote such views can only disorient antiwar activism--especially at a time when the U.S. is threatening a war on Iran, a “reactionary Islamic fundamentalist response,” according to Taylor’s view.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

The RCP’s Chairman Bob Avakian gave voice to an even deeper confusion in an article that claimed living in America was “like living in the house of Tony Soprano”--where all the “goodies” have “something to do with what the master of the house is doing out there in the world.”

“But September 11,” he went on, “was a rude announcement that there’s a price to be paid for living in Tony Soprano’s house, for continuing to go along with these profoundly unequal relations in the world and the way that your government, and this system fundamentally, bludgeons people in the world into conditions of almost unspeakable suffering in order to keep this whole thing going, and in order, yes, for some ‘goodies’ to be handed out to sections of the population in the ‘house.’…

“All that is being shaken up now. Now, you don’t just get the goodies for ‘living in Tony Soprano’s house’--you get the ‘strangers’ out in the backyard at night.”

Leaving aside the “terrorists in our midst” tone so eerily reminiscent of post-September 11 fear-mongering, Avakian’s view that ordinary working Americans were sharing in the “goodies” is false.

Working-class people in the U.S. have also been forced to pay--with continuing cuts in social services, with shredded civil liberties, and with their lives, in the case of the soldiers used as cannon fodder in Iraq and Afghanistan--for U.S. wars.

Building the strongest possible movement for peace and justice requires clarity about who the victims are and who’s to blame.

It also requires completely rejecting the caricatures about Islam peddled by U.S. leaders to justify their war at home and abroad. If the antiwar movement fails to thoroughly expose the distortions and myths about “reactionary Islamic fundamentalism,” it allows American rulers to keep using one of their most powerful ideological weapons for continuing their wars.

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Revolution #91, June 10, 2007

This Is Not A Story About Cindy Sheehan

by Sunsara Taylor

This is not a story about a woman who raised four children, sent one off to war, and collapsed one day in a fit of screaming at the news that he was dead.

This is not a piece to describe how that woman tried to stay awake for the next three days so as not to have to scream like that again after waking and then remembering that news.

There will be no attempt in this piece to comprehend the maddening indecency of the overgrown frat-boy president who sent her son to kill and die for lies and still had the gall to call her “Mom” and sits day after day-- to this day --as the self-appointed, unrestrained king of the world.

This is not a piece about a woman who exposed her grief and her rawest nerves, who sacrificed a twenty-nine year marriage and time with her remaining children, to a country calloused to the daily loss of life and succeeded in stirring many to their feet, into the streets, and to the tops of their lungs.

This is not a piece about how this woman parked herself in the dusty heat of a ditch in Texas and said yes to enough speaking engagements and phone calls from soldiers and late nights with grieving parents to send her own life teetering near its edge because she couldn’t live with herself if she didn’t give everything she could to prevent another mother from having to experience the loss that she knew.

This piece is not even about how her loss and her grief were not confined to her son, but extended each day further, to include the hundreds of thousands of dead Iraqis, and further yet, to those cast in the impoverished margins of our planet--including the thousands of children dying each day from starvation--as the U.S. obscenely spends hundreds of billions on constructing and deploying the machinery of mass death.

Nor is this about the millions who learned this woman’s name, whose hearts broke with hers, but whose spirits were lifted and consciences were challenged by the way she seized the moral high ground and much of the spotlight from the world’s biggest liars and most pitiless killers because she was right and she was fearless--to hell with the odds.

This piece isn’t even simply about a culture that demonizes and attacks such a person, that makes their every word or slightest gesture grist for the dishonest mill of the small-minded bloggers, the jones for cruelty of the war-planners, and fascist propagandizing of the major media mouthpieces.

Nor is this about a society that props up mothers as “keepers of the flame,” a counter-balance meant to excuse the war-makers, only to turn on them and call them “whores,” should they dare to do more than weep silently.

This is not merely about this woman’s refusal to be corralled into “realistic” and empire-bound strategies like timetables or phased-redeployment, about her righteous refusal to excuse the funding of the war, about her simple and righteous insistence that the slaughter and torture of human beings stop right now.

And, no, this is not mainly about the many questions that she herself ran up against and has put straight up in front of the movement and that all too many don’t want to speak to. Like why the Democrats won’t bend to the will of the people, or what kind of system only allows for two sides of the pro-war position, or what to do about an American people who are well on their way to becoming Good Germans. Those questions are crucial and agonizing and there are answers to them that can be found or forged. And there is a need for a movement that encourages the debate to rage around these questions and insists on honestly and unsparingly confronting reality. A movement that insists on getting to, and telling the people, the truth.

No, throwing up your hands is never the right response. But to be perfectly honest, this piece is not about what Cindy Sheehan should be doing. Not when really there are 300 million other people in this country who each morning wake up with profound choices to make--and who make them every day, whether they know it or not.

So, no, this article is not about Cindy Sheehan.

This article is about you.

Reading on your computer screen. Smudging black ink off the newsprint in your hands. Breathing in and out, your chest rising even as the chests of other human beings who happen to have been born atop huge reservoirs of oil fall still, as their breath is stolen, as their land is ravaged, as their girls learn to fear their budding breasts and widening hips under the leer of the occupier’s eye, as their fathers lose their minds trying to comprehend the life-danger they’ve become to their own children for being of a different religion than their mother, as the psyche and politics and view of what kind of world is possible, as a whole country and region is forever marked by the apparent indifference of way too many Americans to their sustained destruction… as millions who are also heart-sick flirt with the devastating and impermissible comfort of throwing up their own hands and looking away from the war zone…

This article is about you--because frankly, there is not enough space and not enough time and not enough ink and not enough trees to make enough paper to hold all the ways that the roadblocks hit by a woman like Cindy are a sign of failure. Not of the failure of the possibility for change, nor the failure of those who put everything on the line to make all this stop, but the failure of a society that does not cherish and have room for a woman like her. And the failure of continuing on a course that does not fundamentally challenge the killing confines of the choices this system puts before us.

So, again, this is about you--whether you will hide behind and resign yourself because of the faltering of another or whether you will step into the breech.

This article is about what you think about and do when you wake up each morning. About whose lives you value and prioritize. About whether it is sufficient to register disapproval or whether you are responsible for stretching your limits, risking friendships and family if you must, confronting discomforting truths about this political system, and whether you will dare to inspire and challenge and set an example of living for and impacting something bigger than yourself.

This is about whether you know enough and have seen enough of other people’s sons and daughters dying in the service of empire to say without equivocation that all this must halt. This is about whether you will plunge into and confront the dead-ends that have led so many to disorientation--whether you will look deeper, consider radical solutions, even ones you might once have dismissed.

And, yes, it can seem at times like we are hurling our soft bodies and our embattled dreams up against cold rock, and like the forces aligned against us are made of impenetrable marble. But marble has fissures and faultlines and cracks deep beneath the surface and these can be located and the marble itself can be pried apart by the determined action of millions who dare. So I am struck again with the truth and the enormity of our choices captured in the final words of the World Can’t Wait Call: “History is full of examples where people who had right on their side 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. The future is unwritten. WHICH ONE WE GET IS UP TO US.”

The war is still wrong.

What are you going to do?

Send us your comments.

Revolution #91, June 10, 2007

The Ugly Logic Behind the Haditha Massacre

The essence of what exists in the U.S. is not democracy, but capitalism-imperialism and political structures to enforce that capitalism-imperialism.

What the U.S. spreads around the world is not democracy, but imperialism and political structures to enforce that imperialism.

by Bob Avakian, Chairman of the Revolutionary Communist Party, USA

In May, hearings to decide whether there is sufficient evidence to proceed with full court-martials were held for two of the seven U.S. Marines facing charges relating to the killings of Iraqis in Haditha, a city in western Iraq. To millions of people across the world who know the name, Haditha brings to mind the massacre of November 19, 2005, when U.S. Marines from Kilo Company went on a bloody rampage after a Marine was killed by a roadside bomb. The U.S. troops ordered young Iraqi men out of a taxi and summarily executed them. They killed whole families as they went house to house, tossing grenades and spraying rooms with machine gun fire. When it was over, 24 Iraqi men, women, and children lay dead. Victims ranged from small children to an elderly amputee in a wheelchair.

The Marines photographed the corpses and took them in body and trash bags to the local morgue. In a testimony at the May hearings, a Marine who had dropped off the bodies from Haditha at the morgue said that his orders were to deliver a warning to the Iraqis: "We were to explain to the Iraqis that the Marines were very sorry about this, but this is what happens when you allow terrorists to use homes to attack Marines." The next day, a Marine spokesperson claimed that 15 Iraqi civilians were killed by a roadside bomb and that afterwards, eight insurgents died in battle after firing on U.S. and Iraqi troops. Allegations of a massacre were dismissed by the Marines as enemy "propaganda." The squad commander, Sgt. Frank Wuterich was promoted.

The Marines launched no immediate investigations—the U.S. military considers civilian deaths as routine "collateral damage." Maj. Gen. Stephen T. Johnson, commanding general of the Marines in western Iraq, told military investigators, "It happened all the time," It was nearly three months after the massacre that the military began “investigations”--after an Iraqi video surfaced showing blood-stained and bullet-ridden walls inside homes and bodies lined up in the Haditha morgue, and after a Time magazine reporter began questioning officials about a massacre.

On December 21, 2006, more than a year after the massacre, charges were brought against eight Marines: four officers for failing to investigate or accurately report on the killings; and Staff Sergeant Frank D. Wuterich and three others for "unpremeditated" murder. In April of this year, the military granted immunity to Sgt. Dela Cruz, one of those charged with murder, in exchange for testifying in the case and dropped all charges against him. During May, hearings to determine if there is sufficient evidence for a court martial were held for Lieutenant Colonel Jeffrey Chessani and Captain Randy Stone.

When Bush administration and military officials could no longer simply ignore the truth of the mass killing in Haditha, they said that this does not reflect the actions of "99.9%" of their troops. At the same time, right-wing veteran groups and Christian fascist forces and organizations have rushed in to support what they call "“the Haditha 8." They are trying to turn Haditha from the scene of a war crime into a symbol of "“injustice"” against "heroic" American soldiers. Networks of blogs and websites sporting banners like "God Bless Our Troops and God Bless the United States of America!" have been soliciting funds and support for Wuterich and others. The right-wing freerepublic website said that the money raised has included $220,000 from the "Military Combat Defense Fund" for the defense of four of the Marines. Chessani's case has been taken up by the Thomas More Law Center, whose motto is "the sword and shield for people of faith." This Christian fundamentalist outfit’s legal battles include pushing for school prayer and opposing gay rights and abortion rights in the name of defending the "religious freedom of Christians." One of the center's founders is Tom Monaghan, the former CEO of Dominos Pizza and long-time financier of anti-abortion groups.

These Christian fundamentalist supporters of the U.S. troops involved in the Haditha massacre present themselves as being victimized by the military establishment. But, in fact, their campaign is about maintaining and rallying support for the war and the military, in the name of “supporting our troops.” And it is about increasing the already considerable Christian fascist influence in the U.S. military, including among top-ranking officers. In 2003, U.S. Lt. Gen. Jerry Boykin went around the country giving talks, dressed in his uniform, declaring that “We are hated because we are a Christian nation.” He said, “The enemy is a guy named Satan. Satan wants to destroy this nation. He wants to destroy us as a nation and he wants to destroy us as a Christian army. I’m here on a recruiting trip. I’m asking you to join this army.” Boykin also claimed that George Bush was “in the White House because God put him there for such a time as this.” After this, Boykin was promoted to the position of deputy undersecretary of defense.

The Christian fascist defenders of the accused Marines don’t deny that Iraqis were killed in Haditha. They do not dispute that most of the dead were women and children. They don't deny that it was American soldiers who killed them. What they are trying to do is to repackage a purposeful massacre into a military operation with “unintended” casualties, where “heroic” soldiers were trying to do their "jobs" and followed the "rules of engagement," and the dead were merely "collateral damage."

Think about what the government/military officials and these Christian fascist forces are saying:

What does it mean to say that "99.9%" of the soldiers are doing a good "job"--when even the military admits that U.S. troops kill Iraqi civilians “all the time”?

What kind of "job" is it that leaves two dozen innocent people lying in a pool of their own blood?

What kind of ideology and political outlook would consider such things justified actions and part of a “noble cause”?

The reality is that the “job” of U.S. troops in Iraq is to carry out a deeply unjust and oppressive occupation of a country and its people—as part of the U.S. imperialist moves to create an unchallenged and unchallengeable worldwide empire. After four years of air assaults, mass arrests, heavy bombardment of "hostile" cities and towns, the use of weapons such as depleted uranium and flesh-burning white phosphorus, there is widespread hatred of the U.S. occupiers among Iraqi people. In order to enforce U.S. rule over this hostile population, the American troops treat the masses of Iraqi people as potential enemies, “expendable,” and less than human.

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Revolution #91, June 10, 2007

Defending a War Crime: A War Criminal in His Own Words

The Marine who led the Haditha massacre, Staff Sgt Frank Wuterich, was interviewed on the CBS show 60 Minutes in March of this year. What he said in his own words, in defense of his actions, is very chilling and revealing about the nature of the U.S. military.

Witnesses--including an Iraqi soldier working with the Americans--have said that immediately after a roadside bomb killed a Marine, U.S. soldiers ordered five men from a taxi and killed them on the spot. Wuterich said that when he spotted a car 100 yards away from the blast, he assumed that the five "military-age" Iraqi men inside were possibly insurgents, a potential and legitimate threat. "Iraqis know the drill," said Wuterich. "Get down, hands up, and completely cooperate." These men tried to run, said Wuterich, "so I shot at them." In the back. Wuterich acknowledges the men had no weapons and made no threatening moves. They simply ran.

Wuterich claimed he heard two or three "sporadic shots" from another direction and called in backup. He got the OK to approach a house. Did Wuterich hear gunfire from the house? "Specifically, no." Did Wuterich see the gunfire from the home? "I did not see muzzle flashes coming from the house." Wuterich simply assumed there could be insurgents inside and led a group of Marines to the house. According to various witnesses, the U.S. soldiers broke in, shouting, tossing grenades, and shooting people point-blank. Nine-year old Emaan Waleed, one of the few survivors, explained in a news video, "I heard explosions by the door. The Americans came into the room where my father was praying and shot him. They went to my grandmother and killed her too. I heard an explosion. They threw a grenade under my grandfather’s bed." Emaan was struck by shrapnel, and her nine-year old brother shot in the shoulder.

Wuterich denied knowingly killing civilians and said that he and his men simply "cleared the rooms the way they were supposed to be cleared." When the 60 Minutes interviewer expressed concern that Wuterich and his men had no idea who they were targeting, he answered: "Well that's what we do. That's how our training goes." He continued the assault, even though he knew women and children lay dead, leading his unit to attack other houses. He said on 60 Minutes, "My responsibility as a squad leader is to make sure that none of the rest of my guys die or got killed, at that point we were still on the assault."

Wuterich insisted what happened at Haditha was not a massacre, which he said "is a large group of people being executed, being killed for absolutely no reason”—and, he said, “that’s absolutely not what happened here" Follow the logic here. To protect “my guys,” Iraqi families living in “suspect” homes were considered fair game for cold-blooded killing. It's not massacre, it's just good military training.

In 1968 U.S. soldiers committed a massacre in the hamlet of MyLai in Vietnam, killing over 500 people, mostly women, children, and elderly people. Women were raped. Bodies were dumped into ditches. This crime remained buried until a growing outrage forced the government to bring charges against a number of those involved. The exposure of the MyLai massacre opened many people’s eyes to the U.S. crimes in Vietnam and compelled them into political action. In the end, only one soldier, Lt. Calley, was convicted for what the U.S. military did at MyLai. Calley remained unapologetic, saying, “I carried out the orders I was given and I do not feel wrong in doing so.” Forty years later, the same reactionary outlook can be seen in the attempt to justify the Haditha massacre.

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Revolution #91, June 10, 2007

Civilian Deaths in Afghanistan:

The Brutal Terror of the U.S. Occupation

May 28, 2006, Helmand province in southern Afghanistan: A convoy of U.S. and NATO soldiers and Afghani police were hit by roadside bombs and came under fire. The official report from U.S./NATO occupation forces says what happened then was a ten-hour battle in which air strikes killed "an estimated two dozen enemy fighters" but that "no Afghan civilian injuries were reported."

But local villagers say this is a lie, that in fact many civilians were killed and injured.

Abdul Qudus, a villager from Helmand's Gereshk district, told The Associated Press: "They came and bombarded the houses of innocent people. Three houses were destroyed. Seven people--including women and children--were killed, and between 10 and 15 were wounded. Villagers are still searching for five missing people." Another villager said the air strikes struck dropped bombs 10 miles away from where the convoy came under fire.

Since the beginning of March, there are reports of hundreds of Afghan civilians being killed by U.S. and NATO forces in at least six separate incidents. The actual number of civilians killed could be much higher since many deaths go unreported.

This widespread killing of civilians says a lot about the nature of the U.S. occupation of Afghanistan.

Massacre on the Road to Jalalabad: On March 4, 2007 a convoy of U.S. Marine Corps Special Forces vehicles traveling on the road from Torkham to Jalalabad in Nangahar province was attacked by a car bomb. The driver of the attacking vehicle was killed instantly and at least one Marine suffered shrapnel injuries.

In retaliation, the Marine convoy unleashed a wave of destruction, killing at least 12 civilians and injuring many more along a 10-mile stretch of road. An investigative report on the incident by Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission (AIHRC) documented the incident, saying: “According to the reports of numerous witnesses and the Nangahar police several vehicles, including taxis, minibuses and a Coaster bus, as well as a number of pedestrians and bystanders, came under attack by the American convoy in at least six different locations… Several of the vehicles fired upon were stationary when they came under attack and the reports uniformly indicate that the targets were exclusively civilian in nature and that no kind of provocative or threatening behavior on their part preceded the attacks.”

Seven journalists complained that U.S. Marines and Afghan forces (working with the U.S.) confiscated their cameras and tape recorders and deleted any images. U.S. Marines expressly threatened journalists. One cameraman reported he was told to “delete the photographs or we will delete you” (AIHRC interview, 6 March 2007). Another journalist said a soldier told him through a translator that “if any of this incident is released or shown on any media then the reporter will face the consequences” (AIHRC interview, 5 March 2007).

Aerial bombardment in Jabar Village: On the same day as the attack in Jabaladad, NATO initiated air and artillery attacks against a residential compound in Jabar village in the Nijrab district of Kapisa province. According to residents interviewed by AIHRC, the attack was directed against one local man suspected of Taliban links. The bombing resulted in the death of nine civilian members of the family of the suspect. Those killed included a 90-year-old grandfather and 75-year-old grandmother as well as three women (two of them pregnant) and four children under five years old.

In a second attack later that day more bombs were dropped on an adjacent building, injuring five more people. According to AIHRC it is not clear whether the suspect who was targeted in the attack was really engaged in insurgent activities or whether he was even present in Jabar village on the day of the attack. In any case, AIHRC sums up that “It is clear though that even if the accusations against him were accurate he was of very limited importance and the military advantage of his possible elimination cannot justify the collateral killing of nine innocent civilians. The attack was thus carried out with excessive force and constitutes a violation of international humanitarian law.”

Anger in heart: On April 27 and 29, U.S. troops bombed villages in the province of Herat in Western Afghanistan. The United States military says it came under heavy fire from insurgents as it searched for a local tribal commander and weapons. But villagers, speaking to the New York Times, denied that any Taliban were in the area. These villagers said they had decided to fight the Americans themselves after the soldiers repeatedly raided houses in the village, arrested and tortured village leaders and shot one man dead.

The U.S. began raiding homes in the village in late April. Villagers told the Times that the American forces searched the tribal chief’s house and arrested two of his staff. One of those arrested, a watchman named Bahadullah said he had been handcuffed, covered with a hood and taken to the nearby American base at Shindand. He said he was strung up by his feet as American soldiers swung him about. When he was let down the soldiers kicked and beat him.

On the night of April 27, the first U.S. airstrikes were carried out. The Americans returned on April 29 for another round of bombing.

Husi, 35, was alone with her 10 children when the shooting started. Suddenly a plane bombed her five-room house. She said women and children were pouring out of the village to the river to cross it to safety. In the panic as they fled, Husi was separated from three of her children--Amina, 8, Tote, 5, and Fazli, 3--who are still missing. Two uncles and two cousins were killed when the house was bombed. She said, “We have nothing, it’s all finished.”

Fifty-seven people died during the two nights of aerial bombardment, including 17 children under ten10, ten women and 14 old men. Eight people are still missing. One hundred houses were destroyed and 1,600 people were left homeless.

Massacre at Sarwan Qala: On Tuesday May 8, U.S. airstrikes hit the village of Sarwan Qala. Afghan officials and the U.S. put the number killed at 21. However local residents who visited the village and helped bury the dead said three houses were destroyed and at least 56 civilians were killed.

The United States military claims it called in the airstrikes on Taliban insurgents. Villagers say this is a lie and on the day after the bombing, in order to expose the massacre, they brought the bodies of 21 people, mostly women and children, to the Sangin district center to show them to government officials.

Hajji Mahmud, a shopkeeper who lives near Sarwan Qala, said he was one of those who brought the bodies and said most of them were women and children. “Three houses were completely destroyed,” he said in a telephone interview with the New York Times. “One of the houses belonged to Faizullah. The family of seven is dead, the whole family. Still now they are digging out bodies from the rubble.”

NATO Fires on Civilians in Kandahar: On Tuesday May 15, NATO soldiers driving through Kandahar in Southern Afghanistan shot and wounded five civilians, local residents and police officials.

Residents said three people had been shot in the center of town and two more in the area near the hospital, a mile away, as a NATO military convoy moved through the town.

Qudrat Shah, a 15-year-old student, was shot through the thigh. “My brother and I were walking home and I.S.A.F. shot me in the thigh,” he told the NY Times from his hospital room, referring to NATO’s International Security Assistance Force. “The I.S.A.F. convoy was passing through, and I was walking on foot with my brother. I was not on the road, I was far from the road.” He said he also saw three other people who were shot, including a 10-year-old boy who was shot in the arm.


Unable to rely on the support of the people, the U.S./NATO forces must rely on terror and airstrikes. During the one-week period from March 3-9 there were a total of 330 airstrikes by occupation troops--an average of 47 per day. (The Secret Air Wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, Z Magazine June 1, 2007)

The U.S./NATO war and occupation has nothing to do with ‘liberating’ the people. They threw out the Islamic fundamentalist Taliban, who were widely hated in the country, and put in their place feudal warlords and other reactionaries and criminals. And the pro-U.S. Puppet regime has done nothing to change the horrific living conditions faced by the people. Kandahar, the second largest city only has enough electricity for 6 hours of power every 2 days. In the country as a whole, 39 percent of the children under five are malnourished. 61% of the population relies on untreated drinking water. 16 percent of babies don’t reach their first birthday. The average life expectancy is 43 years. (Times of London, 11/11/2006)

The atrocities committed by the U.S./NATO forces--and largely covered up and hidden from the public--are not isolated incidents, or the actions of rogue troops. They are the actions of a brutal occupying army that relies on terror in order to defend and expand the interests of U.S. Imperialism.

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Revolution #91, June 10, 2007

Part 8

Editors' Note: The following are excerpts from an edited version of a talk by Bob Avakian, Chairman of the Revolutionary Communist Party, USA, to a group of Party supporters, in the fall of last year (2006). This is the eighth in a series of excerpts we will be running in Revolution. Subheads and footnotes have been added for publication here. The entire talk is available online at

They Lied to Us… and Deceived Themselves

One thing we should really understand—-and I believe this is a slogan, or formulation, that could and should be popularized: If you look at what they did in Iraq, the way they justified it and what's happened there, you can capture a lot of this in the formulation They lied to us and deceived themselves. This is a big part of what happened. They actually believed their own propaganda. The way they were seeing the world—they really thought that's the way the world is. They really thought they could do what that Bush administration functionary said to Ron Suskind—that they could just continue to create their own reality on the ground, as if no other factors, and no other people, have anything to do with what reality is and how it develops.1

As I was listening to one of these imperialist spokespeople on the media recently, I couldn't help blurting out: "They don't understand how their own system works." This is important to grasp. They don't understand what the actual nature of U.S. society is and what it rests on fundamentally. They actually believe all this stuff about "free markets." Or, to a large degree, they believe this, because once again there is also a lot instrumentalism. But they do believe a lot of it, and they don't understand what their system and its operation around the world actually leads to and what it actually calls forth. They understand some of it—it would be wrong and way oversimplified to say that they don't understand any of it—but, in essential and fundamental terms, they don't understand how it actually functions, what the underlying dynamics are, and what it calls forth in different ways. So they believe they can go in and do this kind of thing in Iraq, and everybody's going to welcome it—you know, the flowers and all that kind of stuff. They believed that to a significant degree. And then sometimes they don't know what they believe and what they want you to believe. The two get very closely bound together and even become identical in their thinking. But, to a significant degree, they do believe their own propaganda: they actually deceive themselves, and they don't understand how their own system works.

They don't understand the lopsidedness in the world—the great disparity and acute polarization in the world, where tremendous wealth and power are concentrated in the hands of a small number of people, and in a handful of countries, while in most parts of the world, and in the world as a whole, the great majority struggle, often unsuccessfully, even to secure the basic necessities of life while being subjected to life-stealing exploitation and murderous oppression. Yes, the imperialists know this lopsidedness is there, and they make calculations based on it, yet they lack the intention, and the ability, to put an end to this lopsidedness. Along with that, they don't really understand what it flows from, what are the foundations of that lopsidedness, and why it is continually recreated, often in even more extreme terms.


1. The article by Ron Suskind, titled "Faith, Certainty and the Presidency of George W. Bush," appeared in the Oct. 17, 2004 issue of the New York Times Sunday Magazine. Suskind quotes a senior Bush aide who tells him, "We're an empire now, and when we act, we create our own reality. And while you're studying that reality--judiciously, as you will--we'll act again, creating other new realities, which you can study too, and that's how things will sort out. We're history's actors . . . and you, all of you, will be left to just study what we do." [back]

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Revolution #91, June 10, 2007

Special Screenings of the DVD Revolution in New York and Los Angeles

New York

Revolution Books and Chuck D, Rev. Earl Kooperkamp, St. Mary’s Chucrh*, reg e. gaines, Herb Boyd, Amsterdam News*, Michael Tarif Warren, Esq., Rev. Luis Barrios, John Jay College*, Phil Rice, M.D., David Zeiger, Sir, No Sir!, & Christopher McElroen, Classical Theatre of Harlem* invite you to

A special evening at:
Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture
515 Malcolm X Blvd. at 135th St.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007
7:00 PM

Screening of selections from the film:


A Film of a Talk by
Bob Avakian

Performances by: Staceyann Chin, poet; Michael Wimberly, jazz percussionist; Reggie Workman, bassist; James Spaulding, saxophonist; Roy Campbell, trumpeter, and special guests. Reception to follow.

* Organizations listed for identification purposes only

Tickets $15

Simultaneous translation in Spanish.

Tickets also available at: Café Veg, 2291 Adam Clayton Powell Blvd; Jumel Terrace Books, 426 W 160th; Labyrinth Books, 536 W 112th St.; Nicholas Variety, 2035 5th Ave.; Revolution Books, 9 W 19th St.; Sister’s Uptown Bookstore, 1942 Amsterdam Ave.; Strictly Roots, 2058 Adam Clayton Powell Blvd.

Sponsored by Revolution Books

Click here for PDF of ad for event


Los Angeles

Rev. Richard Meri Ka Ra Byrd, KRST Unity Center for African Spirituality, reg. e. gaines, director, Lucia Marano, actor and writer, Sonny Espinoza, professor, Dwight Trible, musician, D’Lo, performance artist, David Zeiger, director of Sir! No Sir! and Libros Revolución invite you to


A Film of a Talk by
Bob Avakian

A special evening at:
Magic Johnson Theatre at the Crenshaw Plaza
4030 Marlton, Los Angeles, CA

Thursday, June 14, 2007
7 pm

Program with cultural performances and excerpts of film.

Call 818-613-5748 for tickets, info, and for promotional materials to distribute in your school, neighborhood, workplace, church and club.

Tickets: $10. Group rates available. Simultaneous translation in Spanish.

Tickets available at: Libros Revolución, 312 W 8th St., L.A., 90014 and Zambezi Bazaar, 4334 Degnan Blvd., L.A., CA 90008

Click here for JPG of ad for event

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Revolution #91, June 10, 2007

Beginning in July: Revolution Newspaper's Six-Month Expansion and $500,000 Fund Drive!

Truth…in Preparation for Revolution!

At a moment when much of humanity finds itself in a living hell, when the horror of the U.S. occupation of Iraq threatens to escalate into a war against Iran, and when the future of the planet itself is threatened, Revolution newspaper must be out there much more boldly and much more broadly —exposing what is going on, revealing why, and pointing to a revolutionary solution in the interests of the vast majority of humanity.

Revolution brings truth, and a revolutionary perspective, to a uniquely diverse audience that includes prisoners, students, professors, youth in the housing projects, artists, immigrant workers, anti-war activists and scientists and others. Yet, there is a potential for far, far more people to read this paper .

Revolution is launching a six-month expansion drive, accompanied by a fund drive to raise $500,000.

This $500,000 will be a first step to realize the potential and rise to the challenge.

A core of dedicated people, including financial sustainers, currently allows Revolution to accomplish important things. But that core must expand, and become the base from which Revolution truly reaches into every corner of society. Your generous contribution to our six-month, $500,000 expansion and fundraising drive can make that possible. Much is at stake. If people are going to really understand what is going on, and if something good is to be pulled out of the current storms, a greatly expanded Revolution newspaper must be at the heart of that process.

Read, distribute, and contribute generously to Revolution!

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Revolution #91, June 10, 2007

The True Story of “The Great Gift Of The Christian Faith To The Peoples Of This Continent."

Click here for PDF

Latin America

"I would like to begin with words of thanksgiving and praise to God for the great gift of the Christian faith to the peoples of this continent."

-- Pope Benedict XVI, in a speech to Latin American bishops at Aparecida, Brazil, May 13, 2007

El Potosi, silver mine, Bolivia. From a seventeenth century engraving.

1) Columbus’ “discovery” of what came to be called the Americas fueled the development of capitalism in Europe. Indigenous people who survived the armies and diseases of the Europeans were forced to work in tomb-like conditions mining gold that fueled the growth of capitalism. Later slaves from Africa were exploited on the plantations and in the mines of the “new world.” Karl Marx wrote in Capital: “The colonial system ripened, like a hot-house, trade and navigation. The ‘societies Monopolia’ of Luther [early monopolies] were powerful levers for concentration of capital. The colonies secured a market for the budding manufactures, and, through the monopoly of the market, an increased accumulation. The treasures captured outside Europe by undisguised looting, enslavement, and murder, floated back to the mother-country and were there turned into capital.”

Spanish campaign of genocide against the population of Hispaniola (present-day Haiti and Dominican Republic) as illustrated by Fray Bartolome de las Casas.

New World slaves manufacturing sugar for export to Europe, from a seventeenth century book Historia Antipodum.

2) Christianity came to the “new world” as a weapon of conquest. Backed by guns and swords, Christian missionaries established systems that incorporated existing indigenous community organization to serve exploitation by European capital.

Indian slaves in the Yucatán haul supplies for the army of Cortés.

Aztecs dying of smallpox, (Aztec drawing transcribed by Fray Sahaguns, “The Florintine Codex”).

3) Many people in the Americas adopted “the great gift of the Christian faith” at the point of a gun or sword. Others turned themselves in to missionaries to be baptized, and accepted the rule of the colonizers and the church. The story of why people submitted to Christianity is yet a further indictment of the role of religion: The Europeans had developed immunities to the diseases they brought, diseases that spread very quickly among the peoples of the Americas who had not been exposed to them. In his book Disease, Depopulation, and Culture Change in Northwestern New Spain, 1518-1764, anthropologist Daniel Reff explains: “The Jesuits came well prepared with a belief system to explain why native people suffered from disease. The thrust of the Jesuit explanation was that the natives were being punished for their belief in false gods and for listening to the Jesuits' arch rivals, the hechiceros [shamans -- Revolution]. This message carried great weight inasmuch as the Jesuits generally went unscathed during epidemics, while native priests and shamans suffered along with other native peoples." Fearing the “god” who brought all this disease and death, indigenous peoples in many cases fled to Christian missions to be converted, hoping for protection from the Christians’ supposedly more powerful god. And so, through a combination of the conquistadors' swords, guns, and disease, and the myth of Christianity, the peoples of the Americas were enslaved in both literal and mental chains.

4) “ From the encounter between that faith and the indigenous peoples, there has emerged the rich Christian culture of this Continent, expressed in art, music, literature, and above all, in the religious traditions and in the peoples’ whole way of being, united as they are by a shared history and a shared creed that give rise to a great underlying harmony.” (Pope, Brazil, 2007). The “great underlying harmony,” brought by “Christian culture” (as a component of the enslavement by capitalism) manifests today in the teeming shantytowns and landless peasants, and all the inequality and oppression that stamps Latin America today.

5) Karl Marx wrote with bitter irony, “The discovery of gold and silver in America, the extirpation, enslavement and entombment in mines of the aboriginal population, the beginning of the conquest and looting of the East Indies, the turning of Africa into a warren for the commercial hunting of black-skins, signaled the rosy dawn of the era of capitalist production.”

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Revolution #91, June 10, 2007

The Chicano Struggle and Proletarian Revolution in the U.S.

Part 4: World War II and the Bracero Program

Revolution is running a series of excerpts from “The Chicano Struggle and Proletarian Revolution in the U.S.” This position paper, which originally appeared in June 2001, is by a writing group of the Revolutionary Communist Party, USA. The research and investigation that is reflected in this paper was part of producing the new Draft Programme of the RCP. (The Draft Programme and the full text of the position paper are available online at

Previous parts of this series appeared in issues #87, #89, and #90. We continue with another excerpt from the first section of the paper, “The History and Present Conditions of the Chicano People.”

World War II

Nearly 500,000 Chicanos served in the armed forces during World War II, and for many this meant breaking the rural isolation they had lived in, coming into contact with new ideas and different people, including Chicanos from other areas. The war also brought more Chicanos and Mexicanos into the industrial and agricultural proletariat.

Sent off in large numbers to fight and die for U.S. imperialist interests, "at home" Chicanos were still seen and treated like second-class citizens and faced many forms of discrimination. They went to segregated schools, and it was not uncommon for people of Mexican descent to be denied access to public swimming pools and theatres, or to be refused service in restaurants. In Texas los rinches, the Texas Rangers, made it their sole purpose to harass Chicanos and Mexicanos.

In 1943 bands of sailors, aided and encouraged by the police, rioted in L.A. attacking Chicano youth. The reactionary press called these the "Zoot Suit Riots," because of the style of dress of these urban Chicano youth, and newspapers launched a propaganda barrage about the "criminal nature" of the Chicano people. In fact the generation of the "Zoot Suiters" brought a new character to Chicano culture, particularly in the more urban areas--taking on racist attacks on Chicanos and defying the dominant Anglo culture.

Bracero Program

The war also caused a shortage of labor in the fields, as many Blacks, Chicanos and poor whites that had worked the fields during the depression went into the military. In need of a cheap labor supply, in 1942 the U.S. and Mexican governments set up the Bracero program. This program guaranteed a set number of Mexican workers who would come to the U.S. and work for a particular harvest and then would return to Mexico at the end of the season. (Not all Braceros worked in the fields; some ended up working for the railroads laying tracks, and others found their way to factories in the East Coast.) The agreement stated that Braceros could not be drafted by the U.S., they would not take jobs away from domestic workers, and there was to be no discrimination against them. In reality they were forced into jobs with low pay, bad working conditions, and with no right to organize or fight back. From 1942 to 1947, 220,000 Braceros were brought into the U.S. for farm labor, in a program that lasted until the early 1960s. (Recently it has been uncovered that hundreds of thousands of Braceros were robbed of tens of millions of dollars through mandatory payroll deductions into "savings accounts" that most Braceros never knew about, and that were never turned over to them after they were sent back to Mexico.)

In the 1950s the INS carried out what they called "Operation Wetback." Using midnight raids, street dragnets, and the use of schools as concentration camps to hold people awaiting deportation, they unleashed a reign of terror against immigrants and Chicanos, eventually deporting millions of people, citizen and non-citizen alike.

By the 1950s there was a large Chicano population and many had a similar history of being born or raised in the U.S. of parents who had migrated from Mexico. This was a different generation than the "Zoot suiters"--but many of these youth had heard stories about and respected those youth of the 1940s. There was anger at being cast aside, being treated as outsiders, hounded by the police, etc. The immigrant and Chicano population that had helped build the Southwest--helped lay the rails, build the bridges and roads, worked in the mines and the fields--was little valued. And little was known about or considered worth knowing about the country of Mexico they had come from--its whole history, culture, and society. In the schools, these youth found that the curriculum included almost nothing that taught students the history of the Chicano people, and in society at large there was little recognition of the contributions Chicanos had made to society. It was as though Chicanos had never existed as a people, as though they had never accomplished anything of worth. In the early '60s Chicanos at UCLA discovered that some of the professional schools had never graduated a single Chicano--in the city of Los Angeles, with its large Chicano population.

Out of all this a new sense of awareness of being an oppressed people within U.S. society emerged, along with a culture of resistance and new organizations reflecting this.

Next: The Farmworkers Struggle and the 1960s

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Revolution #91, June 10, 2007

“Organize anti-G8 actions and advance the people’s struggle!”

Revolution received the following leaflet from the A World to Win News Service (May 28, 2007). This leaflet was put out for the anti-G8 protests to take place near Rostock, Germany during the first week of June. Signatories include the Communist Party of Iran (MLM), the Maoist Communist Party (Turkey-Northern Kurdistan), Revolutionary Communists (Germany), the Communist (Maoist) Party of Afghanistan and supporters of TKP/ML (Maoist Party Centre).

Organise anti-G8 actions and advance the people’s struggle!

Stop the war for Empire – Promote the people’s struggle for genuine social emancipation!

Against the imperialists and reactionaries whether they fight or collaborate!

The drumbeats for the next war in the Middle East are getting louder by the day! The US war machine is fuelling up for a brutal attack against Iran. The US diplomatic corps is busy conducting secret negotiations with the regional reactionary regimes and even the Islamic fundamentalist reactionary forces to actively prepare the political ground for a new phase of war in the Middle East.

Taking the hideous anti-people September 11 attack as an opportunity, the US ruling class, rallied around its Christian fascist hard core, openly declared its goal of establishing a new world order. Under the guise of a “war on terror” they have started an unlimited war with the goal of establishing an unchallenged global empire.

The US rampage that is currently targeting the Middle East has a much wider scope, covering territory from Turkey to Indonesia, which serves its global strategic restructuring for building an unchallenged new empire. In short the aim is “full-scale dominance” in the Middle East.

No one should contemplate that this storm will blow over and the pendulum will swing back to “normalcy”. We have a long night ahead. Therefore, let us prepare ourselves and most of all get clear on the path of our struggle against this totally murderous war.

On this bloody empire-building road, the US feels compelled to remove its previous puppets, collaborators and the unstable political structures that are not suitable for the new economic and political requirements of its empire. This is what brings the US and the Islamic Republic of Iran face to face into a showdown. This should not cause confusion about the nature of this regime. Its current contradictions with the US can in no way be an excuse to cover up its reactionary character and crimes. It cannot be allowed to wash the blood from its hands with the blood the US has been and will be spilling.

Nobody should forget the history of the Iranian revolution. When in 1979 the people of Iran rose in revolution, the US and other Western imperialist powers thought it was smart to support the mullahs against the peoples of Iran. Thus began their mutual collaboration. They drowned the revolution in blood and killed a million people in the eight-year-long Iran-Iraq war. The mullahs ruling in Iran have always been more than willing to supply oil and political grease to the cogs and wheels of imperialist exploitation in the region. Their verbal skirmishes with the US and their Islamic fundamentalist ideology have been two thin veils to cover and mystify the real nature of the social relations of exploitation and oppression in Iran. The Islamic Republic of Iran is a theocratic regime that has turned women into slaves and made children the property of parents by restoring the 1,400 year-old Sharia laws. In 1988 this bloody regime hanged several thousand political prisoners in a matter of two weeks in order to “solve” the problem of political prisoners. Today big industrial projects of European oil and gas companies in Iran and other multi-national corporations are protected by the so-called Revolutionary Guards of the Iranian Hezbollah with orders to shoot the semi-slave workers if they rebel. Today, the people of Iran from all strata are bouncing back from that great defeat in order to make revolution once again. Their revolutionary struggle against the Islamic Republic of Iran must be supported and strengthened.

The crisis and showdown brewing between the US and the Islamic Republic of Iran must be used against both of them: the master and its long-time collaborator. Their strife must be turned into a gaping hole through which the independent historical initiative of the people can and must burst forth onto the historical stage, rupturing and reversing the reactionary hellish dynamic in the region. The logic of seeking protection under the wings of a reactionary side whenever two of them get into conflict for their anti-people interests is a deadly political trap for the oppressed masses of people and must be ended. The difficulties of the reactionaries can and must be utilized for their effective removal from the backs of the peoples, not for an excuse or opportunity to let one of them secure victory and renew the chains on the masses.

Tremendous suffering and destruction have been imposed on the people in the Middle East. And much more is in the making. There is no end to the escalating crimes of the apartheid state of Israel against the Palestinian people. The US and European occupation forces are running Afghanistan with the baton of their hi-tech armies and Islamic Sharia law! After four years of destructive war and the occupation of Iraq that has murdered more than half a million Iraqis and chased four million people into exile, there is no end in sight to this carnage and chaos. They set the agenda and we, the people, end up providing the victims. This must stop! They build empires; we dig graves for our loved ones. This must stop!

Neither can we ignore or forgive the complete complicity of the European imperialists, the Russian new capitalist Tsars and the Japanese imperialists, in the criminal war that the US is leading in the Middle East. These powers are increasingly troubled by the US drive for world dominance because they are envious of the US dominance in running modern-day wage slave plantations around the world. They move behind the US and try to get the best possible share of the globalised capitalist exploitation of the peoples of the world, but at the same time they pursue their own imperial dreams in the Middle East.

Today, the Islamic fundamentalist forces are occupying the political terrain as opponents of the US global drive. But in fact their aim is to achieve an accommodation within the world system ruled by the US and impose oppressive, age-old social relations on the peoples of the Middle East – a glaring example of which is slavery for women. The US is using the reactionary nature of its opponents to promote its own equally reactionary social relations and ideology as something progressive – as if its global drive were bringing freedom and development for the peoples of the Middle East. These two poles of reactionary and imperialist forces are indeed reinforcing each other at the expense of the people’s revolutionary aspirations and struggles for emancipation. This political and ideological polarization currently developing is dangerous because forces representing no good for the people are setting the terms of ideological and political confrontation, in order to trap people in one or the other pole. The US imperialists use this dynamic to make their crusade for empire seem like a justifiable violence against religious “fanatics and barbarians who hate democracy and freedom”, even while they are moving US society itself towards Bible-based theocratic fascism. On the other side, ideologically and politically reactionary Islamic forces seek to present their historically reactionary dreams and interests as “righteous jihad” against “occupying infidels”. We cannot allow this dynamic of mutually reinforcing reactionary mystification of the real class and social relations of oppression and exploitation in the world to continue.

A powerful movement of the people of the world is urgently needed to oppose and reverse the monopolization and polarization of the political atmosphere by the reactionary states and forces. It has been far too long that the political stage in the region of Middle East has been left to the initiative of the reactionaries.

Now there is a growing resentment, agonizing and rejection among broad sections of the population about the bloody crusade of the US and its reactionary opponents.

A truthful and clear vision representing the genuine interests and revolutionary aspirations of the peoples must lead and transform this growing sentiment into a politically and ideologically effective force on the political terrain. Such a political movement strongly voicing the fundamental and genuine interests and aspirations of the masses will give heart and provide a way forward out of the encirclement by imperialists and reactionary forces and agendas.

There is no denying that dark clouds are gathering on the horizon and these are dangerous times ahead.

The most advanced revolutionary forces must urgently move to unite with all progressive forces in order to launch independent historical action of the masses. This requires a farsighted revolutionary vision of radically transforming society while seeking sincerely to unite with all those who oppose the crimes of the imperialists and reactionaries. Such a movement will make the situation more favourable and create better conditions for a revolutionary struggle that aims at remaking the world for the people by the people – by collectively fighting for a radically different human society on this planet!

We must open our eyes and sense the gravity of the situation. Look how yesterday’s intolerable outrages are being presented as today’s reality to be accepted: Now they are talking about using nuclear bombs on the Iranian people. How could this be tolerated? Will it stop even there, if we allow this to happen? It has become ordinary to speak about the possibility of the end of human civilization as a result of ecological catastrophe. But people are not allowed to think of ending this capitalist-imperialist order through popular revolutions!

It is about time to put an end to these “Hausverbots” and “Denkverbots” (outlawed thoughts and actions). Yes, the world needs to be remade, but not by Bushes, Blairs, Merkels, Sarkozys, Putins, or by the local two-bit reactionaries running around in the Middle East. It must be remade collectively by the people of the world for the people of the world.

Stop imperialist occupation and war of aggression in the Middle East!

Promote revolutionary thinking, unity and struggles!

Against imperialism and reaction!

Peoples of the Middle East: join forces in internationalist unity and fight against the imperialists and all the reactionary states in the region!

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Revolution #91, June 10, 2007

Graduation Day Protest :

UMass Students Repudiate Bush's Right-Hand Man

On May 25, hundreds of students from the University of Massachusetts, Amherst graduating class of 2007, as well as faculty, refused to allow their school to honor a war criminal, Bush’s former White House Chief of Staff Andrew Card. The UMass protesters booed Card off the stage at the commencement ceremony where he was to have received an honorary degree. In the build-up to the Iraq war, Card was the director of the White House Iraq Group and was largely responsible for orchestrating and promoting the lies about WMDs that were used to justify the invasion and occupation of Iraq.

At the graduation ceremony, on a day when the focus of the university community is on them, the students held up giant banners reading “War Criminal” and signs saying “Honor Students, Dis-card” as Card took the stage. Boos drowned out remarks from the Chancellor, and Card was forced to return to his seat without addressing the crowd. Outside the commencement, a student in cap and gown commented to New England Cable News, "You've invited a man that lied to the country, lied the nation into an illegal and unnecessary war." (Video clips of the protest are on for "UMass" and "Card.")

When the university’s plans around Andrew Card became known, UMass students were outraged by this and acted with a petition that gathered 1,000 signatures. They organized a rally earlier in May where 300 to 400 students demanded that the university not honor Card with the degree. They marched to the administration office where they held a sit-in, playing drums, clapping, and chanting "Hey hey, ho ho, Andrew Card has got to go."

In an open letter to the Chancellor published in the May 14 issue of The Massachusetts Daily Collegian, one of the organizers, Jeff Napolitano, wrote: "Neither I, nor do the majority of students, staff and faculty who are appalled by this University's offer, believe that giving an honorary degree to George W. Bush's right-hand man is anything but political. Card was the Chief of Staff for the Bush administration, one of the primary actors in the White House Iraq Group (WHIG), which sold the war and invasion of Iraq to the American people, and was implicitly involved in the manipulation of such evidence. As the ‘gatekeeper’ to Bush, he certainly had a part to play in the criminally negligent response to Hurricane Katrina, as well as the reports from the intelligence agencies before 9/11.

“We don't care if Mr. Card is credited with helping you appropriate some funding for UMass projects--we don't care if tomorrow he were to dig into his own personal bank account and give a billion dollars to UMass. Getting money for this cash-strapped school does not wash off the blood of hundreds of thousands (perhaps millions) of people from his hands.…"

It’s important that those responsible for the war crimes and crimes against humanity continue to be called out wherever they go, and that students all over make it known that they refuse to accept the lies of the Bush regime and the ongoing war in Iraq.

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