Monday, March 31, 2008

Acts That Changed the Tide?

What kind of actions and what kind of protest would you expect to point to, while looking back after an unjust regime was toppled, and say, these were among the acts that turned the tide?

It is, of course, impossible to know what things are decisive looking forward. We only know these things for certain - or nearly for certain - in retrospect. We also know, from looking at history, that every single act of people of conscience who refuse to bow down to tyranny and the complacency of apathy matters because these acts all contribute to creating a critical mass of actions that broke the ice and marked the beginning of the tyrants' end.

Besides the righteous and powerful actions of predominately Berkeley High School students against the Berkeley recruiting center in February, I would nominate the following two events for actions that helped to turn the tide:

Posted at Revolution Newspaper's "Chicago: Easter Protest by Catholic Schoolgirls Against the War":

It was a routine Easter service in one of the most prestigious Catholic churches in Chicago. Moments into Cardinal George’s homily, voices called out, “The sixth commandment says thou shalt not kill…and yet more than a million Iraqis have been killed during the …invasion of Iraq.” In an aisle stood six young peace activists, who go under the name of Catholic Schoolgirls Against the War. Another activist shouted out, “On January 7, Cardinal George met for lunch with George W. Bush.” As they were quickly surrounded by ushers and church security, another protester let out a scream and collapsed to the floor in fake “blood,” beginning a very short-lived die-in on the church floor. They were quickly hustled out, chanting “even the pope calls for peace.” They were charged with felony destruction to property and battery, with possible jail time of up to 5 years if convicted. They are all currently out on bonds that range from $25,000 to $35,000, after funds were raised from those supporting the action.

The whole event lasted less than a minute. But as the protest was broadcast on the network news, it became a source of intense controversy in the city. The message coming through in the press was primarily a negative one. “It was shocking,” said a man whose pants and jacket had some spots of the fake blood used by the protesters. “You should all be ashamed of yourselves,” lectured one parishioner, while another accused the activists of scaring children. Cardinal George, who had first told the congregation that “we can be grateful to those who interrupted this holiday,” later denounced the action to the press as “an act of violence.” Even some anti-war activists considered the act well intentioned but counter-productive.

“Remarkable,” was how Kathy Kelly, co-coordinator of Voices for Creative Nonviolence and activist with Catholic Worker Movement, described the action. She told Revolution, “I’m kind of humbled by it really. I’ve been part of different groupings of people who’ve been experimenting with 30-day fasts, and cross country walks, and assembling peace teams in the war zones as the bombs were falling in various parts of Iraq, and nothing I’ve ever seen has accomplished so much outreach, if you will, and discussion as this 50-second activity inside Holy Name Cathedral.…

“I think the reason that so many people have said anything is because this is clearly something that the corporate media decided to report on. And so it’s a story that’s gone far and wide. And I think that I’ve mainly been in touch with people who’ve taken it to heart, as an occasion for some thoughtful consideration, and to ask some real questions—why are people in our country so readily disturbed by stage blood that sullies clothing and carpets and yet, really not so readily disturbed by the reality of bodies broken because of bombing and bullets, and inadequate health care now in Iraq today? Terrific bloodletting and bloodshed and suffering and bereavement and misery and impoverishment has gone on, and it hasn’t really awakened so much emotion in people, as the fact of within 50 seconds of stage blood squeezed out of a tube…by young people who felt that they simply couldn’t sit by without trying to do something, and so had decided to use the time [of] Easter Sunday, when they knew Christians would be gathering and celebrating inside the cathedral, as a time to really ask people to take a closer look at what was happening in terms of blood being shed in Iraq.”

Vets’ Testimonies Bring Home U.S. Horrors in Iraq and Afghanistan

The following letter is from Joe Urgo, a Vietnam vet:

I thought I knew about what the U.S. war and occupation of Iraq and Afghanistan has meant to these countries and their people. But the real horror of this was vividly brought home to me when I attended the March 13-16 Winter Soldier Investigation: Iraq and Afghanistan, organized by the Iraq Veterans Against the War. Over four days, almost 50 American veterans testified about what they had been trained to do and what they did to the people and land of Iraq and Afghanistan. These hearings were broadcast around the world over the Internet, television and radio, and could be seen by the troops on U.S. bases and ships all over the world. Interspersed throughout the testimony were videos of Iraqi men, women, and kids describing the terror of living under American military occupation.

The audience, about 350 people at any time, were mostly American veterans, military families, and parents whose children were killed in the war.

Those testifying tried to expose how the policies and orders came from the very top levels of their military chain of command, up to Gen. Petraeus and beyond. Some of the terms will be familiar to Vietnam veterans: “Free Fire Zones,” and “Recon By Fire”—both of which give you permission to fire on anyone you please without consequences. There was testimony about policies developed for these wars today, new counterinsurgency doctrine in urban situations like the massive number of home invasions, many in the middle of the night, and whole families are terrorized, beaten, living quarters ransacked, and the young men and boys carted off to jail and worse.

Some of the starkest testimony was on the Rules of Engagement panels. Jason Washburn testified, “We were allowed to shoot whatever we wanted. We opened fire on everything. There were no rules governing the amount of force we were allowed to use. This is what we were expected to do. We were told to fuck them up.” He described several incidents of killing civilians, that they were common and were encouraged. He and other vets also described how “with a wink and a nudge we were encouraged to carry ‘drop weapons’ or shovels. In case we accidentally did shoot a civilian, toss the weapon or shovel on the body to make them look like an insurgent.”

It was also on this panel that Jon Turner began his testimony by repeating one of the Marine Corps slogans, pausing and saying, “and then there is ‘fuck the apple, eat the Corps.’” Then he ripped his medals off his chest, threw them on the and floor and said, “I don’t work for you anymore!” In half a second, the entire audience was on their feet cheering Jon’s defiance of the Marines and their medals. He then went on to describe his senior officers commending him for his first kill, what it was like doing house raids at three in the morning, “kicking in doors and terrorizing families.” Trying to hold his emotions in check, Jon ended his testimony saying, “I am no longer the monster I once was.” The post traumatic stress among many of the vets as they tried to come to grips with what they had done to the people of Iraq and Afghanistan made it necessary to have a team of therapists on call during the conference.

As you listen to or read the testimony, a picture begins to emerge: These crimes are not mistakes, “misuse” of the Rules of Engagement, or “strategic incompetence.” This is the way imperialism and its military fight their wars. Kill the people; the only valuable lives are American lives. One vet started his testimony by saying, “To the people of the world ...We need to act with the courage and determination demanded by those people of the world—to put a stop to this.”

These vets, driven by guilt, anger, and a growing sense of betrayal that they had been lied to and used to commit a great crime against humanity, made powerful statements that need to be heard by all who are not yet convinced that these occupations are wrong, by those sitting on the fence, by those who, yes, like me, think they know what’s happening over there.


In future issues, Revolution will publish transcripts of testimony from the Winter Soldier Investigation: Iraq and Afghanistan. Readers can hear testimony at:

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Winter Soldier 2008: A Marine Mom’s Eyewitness Account of the Testimony

by Elaine Brower

I. I have spent the past seven-plus years as an activist against the policies of George W. Bush and his regime. Already, my son has completed 2 tours of duty as a U.S. Marine, first in Afghanistan and then in Iraq. So my life has been forever altered by the events of the past 7 years. Still, when I initially made plans to attend the Iraq Veterans Against the War (IVAW)’s Winter Soldier event, I intended to cover it from the perspective of an independent journalist.

However, after spending almost four days within the halls of the National Labor College in Silver Spring, Maryland, meeting new members of IVAW, as well as many old friends from Veterans For Peace, Vietnam Veterans Against the War, Military Families Speak Out and other anti-war groups, and listening to the testimony of Iraq and Afghanistan veterans, I realized I can no longer be an objective reporter. So I decided to write this story from the perspective of a Marine mom; one who is adamantly opposed to the so called “war on terror”, the occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan, and any other wars that this government is cooking up.

On Friday, Day 2, testimony began at 9 AM with a panel about the “Rules of Engagement”. Speakers from the Army and Marine Corps. — people that I have known for the last few years — recounted the atrocities that they not only witnessed but participated in. Anyone who is interested can listen online at But about halfway into that panel, I lost my objectivity. The stories they were telling about the rules of engagement they learned while training at boot camp, or on a military base “back home”, were the same as what I had heard from my son. I broke down sobbing. The photographs they were showing on the five viewing screens of bloodied bodies torn apart by close gunfire, 50-calibre Machine guns, rocket launchers, and every other damn weapon our great military industrial complex has created, were all too familiar to me. When my son returned home from both war zones, he was so eager to share his stories and pictures.

I could not fathom that my son, whom I raised to be a Catholic, whom I took to Sunday school, who received Communion and Confirmation, had not only been a participant in such horrors, but had pictures to prove it. I immediately told him that I would not listen to his stories or look at those pictures. He could speak with his father. My response may seem too many as being hard on my son, who only wanted to unload what he was feeling on his mother. But I couldn’t come to terms with it then — or now.

Watching and listening to the testimony made me very ill. Here were these young men and women, handsomely dressed, some wearing medals, talking about how they shot civilians who were holding nothing more threatening than a cell phone, groceries, a shovel, a white flag, or a pair of binoculars. Anyone deemed suspicious by the particular soldier or Marine on watch was fair game, subject to the orders, “Take ‘em out!” The Rules of Engagement, as stated by Garrett Rapenhagen were “a joke and disgrace, and ever changing.”

I knew that. I had heard it back home from my son. He told me he had to survive; he had to protect his buddies, so that they could all come home alive. They didn’t know who the enemy was, so they would just “blast them away.” The Marines are taught that. They shoot and don’t even ask questions. Their motto is “Kill ‘em all and let God sort them out!”

Camilo Mejia, who is the chair of IVAW, spoke about how soldiers were trained that dehumanizing the enemy is necessary to survival, and how they are taught to think of Iraqis as “hajjis”. In fact, all of the panel members said Iraqi citizens were repeatedly referred to as hajjis. I know that word all too well; I have heard my son talk about it, as well as other anti-Iraqi slurs such as “towel head,” and “sand nigger.” The expression “if you feel threatened, use your weapon” was also a familiar phrase to me. So, too, was the slogan, “Do what you need to do.” That meant that you use your rifle anytime, and you can crush whoever you want with your vehicle in the street.

Members on the panel recounted how, when they were bored, they blew up dogs and other animals to keep themselves entertained. All too well I had heard these stories, which gave me the creeps more than anything else. I also heard the testimony of former Cpl. Matt Childers, who said that after American soldiers had already beaten and starved detainees in their custody, one of them removed a hat from one of the detainees’ heads and smeared it with his own feces, before feeding it to one of the prisoners who was so hungry that he actually attempted to eat it.

One other Marine, whom I happened to interview personally — which produced a conversation I hope to describe more fully in a future article — was Bryan Casler. Casler was part of the initial invasion of Iraq in 2003. He described Marines taking their MRE’s (Meals Ready to Eat) which were in plastic bags, and defecating in them before tossing them out to Iraqi children on the side of the road. Those who picked them up would think they were food and attempt to eat the contents. Casler also said soldiers would urinate in bottles and throw them at children. They would also remove the chemical packets that were within the MREs (which helped heat the food) and hand them to children to eat. He said that when they went into Babylon, the marines would drive vehicles into mosques and historic ruins, and break off pieces to take home with them.

Some of the soldiers’ testimony was characterized by defiant anger. At the end of his testimony, former Marine Mike Totten ripped up the commendation he had received from General Petraeus, and threw it on the floor in front of him, to a huge applause. One day earlier, former Marine Jon Turner had taken a chest full of medals and thrown them into the audience. “I don’t work for you anymore!” Turner said. At the end of his heart-wrenching account of the atrocities he had witnessed or committed, Turner begged the Iraqi people for forgiveness.

All too well I know these stories, and have known them for years. So I kept crying and asking myself how these young men and women wound up in this position. How someone who joined the military out of a sense of “patriotism” wound up doing such horrible and heinous things that would make a mother sick to her stomach. How do we let our children do this? Casler, like my son, joined right out of high school. Many others do the same. And many don’t have to be recruited; they join voluntarily, out of a desire to serve their country. Many feel that doing so is what makes heroes.

So I spent three days listening to heart-wrenching, gut-wrenching stories, and continuously asked myself the same question: “Why?” More specifically, why do these soldiers and Marines, who represent a critical new breed of resisters, still feel so tied to the military that many of them espouse some variation of the sentiment, “I am proud of my service in the military. I am not proud of what I did.” For someone like me, I can clearly see that statement making sense. But then I had to ask myself why I thought it made sense.

How could you be proud to be in the military, and yet not like what you participated in while in the military? I have often asked my son this question. He says, “I love the Marine Corps. , but hate the government.” What a deep statement - one that conjures up very mixed, confusing emotions. So I have to examine not only the statements of love, but of loathing for war. War is a dirty business, forever has been and forever will be. So why do we encourage our citizens to think otherwise?

II. I had to get more to the root of my feelings about these questions. So, after spending time at this event, I went to downtown Washington, D.C. to visit monuments built to honor soldiers who fought in past wars. I had to make sense of how we keep making the same mistakes. We send an entire generation off to a foreign land to kill people. My father fought in WWII, and was in the Battle of Okinawa, where he was severely wounded. He was fortunate to come home and repair physically, but never mentally. He hated the Marine Corps. He never spoke about that war, but I always knew he was angry.

The first memorial I visited was that one, where my father’s picture is stored in a digital bank and you can enter the name and information surfaces on a computer screen. There he was, in his Pacific Alphas (green wool uniform ), with all his medals, smiling at the age of 27, when he was first drafted. The roiling emotions took over my entire body. I grew up seeing that photo, and loving my father for what he did to “protect” our freedom. Next to the monument are the infamous words “Freedom isn’t Free,” carved into the granite wall. My father eventually died from liver failure, which was caused by Hepatitis C, which he contracted on the battlefield through a blood transfusion from a Japanese soldier that they had taken prisoner.

So why do we do this as a country? I walked around to the Korean monument where they had life-size statues of a platoon on patrol, and faces carved into another granite wall hailing the suffering and sacrifice of those soldiers. For what? I asked myself. I saw bus loads of visitors from all over the U.S. taking pictures with the statues, wreaths in the background, and against the granite walls, smiling and awestruck at our “heroes.” A guide was repeating that freedom isn’t free and how our military is the most honorable and the best in the world. We should be proud of them, the guide said. Small children with their own cameras were taking photos and looking in wonderment at the soldiers standing in formation, their battle- hardened faces carved into metal.

I asked myself why these kids were there. How could this be such an attraction? So this is where it starts, I thought. Taking kids on bus trips to the nation’s capitol and looking at war monuments. They are being indoctrinated from the inception of their lives that America is brave and wonderful because of its military.

I started thinking what wars the U.S. had launched against other nations that actually served the interests of humanity. I thought about Hitler’s concentration camps in World War II, in which more than 6 million Jews were murdered in the cruelest ways imaginable. The U.S. had helped to liberate the concentration camps, defeat the Nazis, and free Europe from the death grip of a madman. That would seem to be a worthy cause, and an argument why we do need a military.

But was the real motive of the Americans in World War II to stop the genocide against Jewish people? It took this nation awhile to enter that war, and it did so only after the attack on Pearl Harbor, which led to my father-at age 27, the parent of a young son-being drafted. Then we dropped two atomic weapons on innocent Japanese civilians, incinerating hundreds of thousands instantly, and causing still hundreds of thousands more deaths in years to come due to radiation exposure.

Was that heroic? No, it was malicious and vengeful, and meant nothing to the security of our shores. People died at Pearl Harbor, the damage was done, so now it was time to pay back the Japanese one-thousand fold.

III. Our military might equals imperialism. Solidifying the U.S. position atop the imperialist ladder was the real motivation for American entry into World War II, and in fact it has essentially been the motivating factor for every war waged against other countries by this nation’s military. So when I asked myself what wars the U.S. had waged against other nations with the genuine motivation of serving humanity, the answer I arrived at is: None.

We train our soldiers and Marines to kill, and to be merciless. They have the best weapons that our money can buy, and are trained to use them on the enemy, whether they are innocent civilians or someone who is actually threatening their lives directly. It is indiscriminate killing at the behest of a government that is seeking to terrify the world into submission to American empire.

Indeed, the history of the U.S. Armed Forces is littered with war crimes in pursuit of a domestic and global “manifest destiny” to achieve greater lands and resources. Keep in mind that the United States as we know it today would not exist were it not for the military’s systematic decimation of first Native Americans, and then Mexicans, in the most unspeakable ways imaginable. During the Sand Creek Massacre in 1864, the U.S. Cavalry murdered hundreds of Native Americans — many of them women and children — in what is today Colorado.

Or consider a recent article in the New Yorker, entitled, “The Water Cure: Debating Torture and Counterinsurgency - A Century Ago.”

After helping free The Philippines from Spanish colonialism, the American conquerors unleashed their wrath on those whom they were supposedly liberating (sound familiar?) As the dawn of the 20th century approached, American troops slaughtered civilians, burned down entire villages, and –yes– waterboarded prisoners.

In 1950, during the Korean War, American soldiers murdered hundreds of Korean civilians — again, many of them women and children — under the bridge at No Gun Ri. The Associated Press won a Pulitzer Prize in 2000 for its series of articles exposing this crime against humanity; the pieces centered on interviews with former U.S. veterans who had carried out the slaughter.

During the Vietnam War, U.S. forces murdered more than one million Indochinese civilians, employing in the process horrific chemical weapons such as napalm and Agent Orange, which burnt the skin of its victims. During the first Winter Soldier hearings, Vietnam Veterans testified about routinely murdering, disemboweling, and raping Vietnamese civilians, throwing bound prisoners out of helicopters to their deaths, and torching villages.

In fact, the final day of Winter Soldier: Iraq and Afghanistan marked the 40th anniversary of one of the most infamous war crimes in U.S. history. On March 16, 1968, U.S. troops entered the village of My Lai and murdered hundreds of men, women, and children — young and old — raping some of the women and bayoneting elderly men.

The systematic crimes against humanity that are mentioned above represent only a small percentage of the atrocities committed by U.S. soldiers under the direct leadership of their Commander-in-Chiefs, and they do not even touch on the countless instances of war-crimes-by-proxy carried out throughout the globe by the CIA, and by various puppet regimes installed by the U.S. government.

Without question, the veterans who spoke out against the horrors the U.S. military is inflicting upon the Iraqi people are to be commended for providing tremendously critical exposure at time when the atrocities committed by U.S. soldiers in the Middle East has been rendered “off the table” by the mainstream media and political establishment. These veterans must be praised, as well, for demanding an immediate end to the Iraq and Afghanistan wars and occupations; their resistance can play a huge role in bringing these nightmares to an end.

However, denouncing these occupations in isolation from the history of repeated war crimes carried out by the U.S. military no more makes sense than examining one murder committed by a serial killer in isolation from the rest of his murders. In order to both understand, and most powerfully resist, the current manifestations of U.S. war criminality in Iraq and Afghanistan — and in order to prevent future occurrences of crimes against humanity — we must realize that the Iraq and Afghanistan Wars are symptomatic of the historic role of the United States military as an institution.

During last weekend’s Winter Soldier hearings, soldiers repeatedly testified that the crimes against humanity they described were not isolated incidents; that they were the rule, not the exception, of the U.S. occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan.

The further leap these veterans — and many others within the anti-war movement– must now make is to recognize that the occupations themselves, taken as whole, are hardly isolated incidents; they, too, represent the rule and not the exception of the U.S. military.

Elaine Brower is a member of Military Families Speak Out and is on the national steering committee of World Can’t Wait.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

An Election Without Meaning

By Peter Phillips

Will November 2008 bring a meaningful change to America? Will getting rid of George W. Bush and Richard Cheney without impeachment or indictment really make a difference? Will a 600 billion dollar war/defense budget be cut in half and used for desperately needed domestic spending? Will the ninety-three billion dollars profits in the private health insurance companies —those parasitic intermediates between you and your doctor—be used instead for full health care coverage for all? Will Habeas Corpus and Posse Comitatus be restored to the people? Will torture stop? Will all students in public universities be able to enroll for free? Will the US national security agencies stop mass spying on our personal communications? Will the neo-conservative agenda of total military domination of the world be reversed?

The answer to these questions in the context of the current billion dollar presidential campaign is an absolute no. Instead we have a campaign of personalities and platitudes. There is a race candidate, a gender candidate and a tortured veteran candidate, each talking about change in America, national security, freedom, and the American way. The candidates are running with support of political parties so deeply embedded with the military industrial complex, the health insurance companies, Wall Street, and corporate media that it is undeterminable where the board rooms separate from the state rooms.

The 2008 presidential race is a media entertainment spectacle with props, gossip, accusations, and public relations. It is impression management from a candidates’ perspective. How can we fool the most people into believing that we stand for something? It is billions of dollars of gravy for the media folks and continued profit maximunization for the war machine, Wall Street, and insurance companies no matter who is determined the winner in November.

We must face the fact that the US government’s primary mission is to protect the wealthy and insure capital expansion worldwide. The US military—spending more than the rest of the militaries of the world combined—is the muscle behind this protect-capital-at-all-costs agenda, and will be used against the American people if deemed necessary to support the mission.

Homeland Security, the North American Command, mass arrest practices with the FALCON raids, new detentions centers, and broadened “terrorism” laws to included interference with business profits are all now in place to insure domestic tranquility through extra judicial means if needed.

The two party corporate political system is having a HOMELAND presidential campaign—Hillary, Obama, McCain, Election, Lacking, Actual, National, Debate. It is time for real change, but it will only come with a social movement of reform in the tradition of the progressive, labor, civil rights, anti-war movements of the last century. We need to use all of our activist, legal, and political resources to reverse these threats to freedom. Naomi Wolf says it is not too late to prevent totalitarianism, but we have to act fast.

Peter Phillips is a Professor of Sociology at Sonoma State University and director of Project Censored. Access to verifying facts and analysis for the issues mentioned above is available at

Building an Activist Movement to End the Occupation of Iraq

Many, many good things well put in this speech.

Remarks at American University Teach-In on March 22, 2008
By David Swanson

Robert Dreyfuss's presentation that I now have to follow was tremendous and I learned a lot, but I disagree with his pessimism. I am fond of the saying "Let's save our pessimism for better times." It's a choice to be a pessimist, and it is a wrong one, always.

So, here we are again, a crowd dominated by old white people on a college campus in a black city. But on March 12th and 19th in this city I watched hundreds of college students and African Americans put their bodies in the way of arrest and abuse for peace. If I had to choose, I'd rather have people in the streets than in a teach-in.

Still, I think this all-too-typical turnout suggests how segregation and civic weakness in this country allows mass murder to occur in other countries. We have long term work to do assuming we live long enough to do it.

Today was billed as a dialogue on the war, and I want to speak first and if there's time have a dialogue or a multilogue, but not about a war. A war is a contest between two armies, and can be won or lost, can end in victory or defeat, and is understood as intended to have an end some day. What we have in Iraq is an occupation of a people by a single foreign military force. It can never be won or lost and is not intended to ever end. The movement we need to build cannot, I think, most easily succeed by using language that defines our success as defeat. Instead our success should be understood as getting tough on crime, as the American people reining in the abuse of power of the least popular president and vice president we have ever known.

I know you may want to tell me that certain allegedly mainstream Americans cannot possibly think of their president as a war criminal and would be more likely to support a responsible and slow redeployment of part of the occupying army to elsewhere in the empire if we don't use the word crime - except, perhaps, in blaming the Iraqis for how they've handled our genocidal charity mission to their country. But I think you would be underestimating a sufficient number of Americans to make that the wrong approach, that you should recycle your television as soon as possible, that it is their posture toward Bush more than toward Muslims that makes the Democrats look like wimps and makes Congress so unpopular, and that only a reversal of our imperialism can leave us a sustainable world, so there's no time like the present to start working on it. We don't need to win over every last American; we just need a significant minority of the majority that is already with us TO ACT.

CNN says that in a poll of 1,019 adults between March 14 and 16, 52 percent said that the United States' action in Iraq is not morally justified. That's not a bad response for a question that's rarely been polled or discussed in the media.

We're also, according to today's agenda, supposed to base our movement for withdrawal on an analysis of failed policies, but I'm not going to do that because I don't see any failed policies. The Cheney-Bush gang intended to install a permanent occupation of Iraq, enrich oil barons and arms makers and disaster capitalists, win or steal elections, eliminate civil rights at home, transfer wealth upward, and transfer power from Capitol Hill to the White House. We've just heard how ignorant they are, but they are ignorant of things they do not care about. They may have had dreams of quickly pacifying Iraq and moving on to the next victim in Iran, rather than empowering Iran as they have done, and we in the peace movement and the counter recruitment movement and the independent media can share credit with the Iraqi people for having slowed things down. But I don't see any fundamental failure. The forces against which we need to build a movement are succeeding. And that is unequivocally BAD news. Their goals are murder and theft. The last thing we should be doing is wishing them success or lamenting their "failed policies."

We succeeded over five years ago in denying our U.S. warmongers U.N. authorization of the invasion, although they now try to claim that the occupation is legal. We have succeeded in slowing recruitment, although they've responded by stop-lossing those they've already recruited. We succeeded in 2006 in turning congressional elections into a referendum on the occupation of Iraq and won the Democrats probably 50 new seats to use in bringing it to an end. But election fraud left them with only 30 new seats, and their leadership immediately decreed that they would keep the occupation going in order to run against it again in 2008. We even elected some anti-war activists, like Carol Shea Porter, to Congress who immediately signed onto the plan to keep the occupation going for two years.

We have succeeded in making the American public extremely aware of the dishonesty used in promoting the invasion of Iraq, and that awareness has helped forestall an attack on Iran. But we have been less successful in communicating the dishonesty involved in promoting the ongoing occupation and in communicating the murderous costs of the occupation. The primary reason for this is probably activists' subservience to a political party and that party's misguided fear of the absolutely nonsensical accusation of not "supporting the troops". We're also up against the corporate media's complete lack of interest in Iraqis' deaths.

And we have failed dramatically in communicating the fact that the Democrats in Congress have the power to cease funding the occupation right now, as well as the fact that the next 10 months exist, that contrary to popular belief we will not have a new president tomorrow, but rather must survive 10 more months under the reign of the Decider and the Dark Lord.

It's very hard to build an activist movement without hope of quick success, but it's impossible to build an activist movement without the belief that success is at least possible and the willingness to endure the ridicule of those wise souls who claim to support us while telling us that failure is guaranteed. We have to be willing to endure that, and we have to find ways to provide solidarity and fun and other compensations for the lack of hope.

Look around at all of the people in this room. Now imagine a few thousand of these rooms, all with the same number of people. Now imagine all of those people dying. That is the result that will come from Congress handing Bush another $100 billion in the coming weeks. Over the next 10 months, Iraqis will die because of the occupation, and people around the world will die for lack of the resources we are pouring into the corporations profiting from the occupation. And many who do not die will consider the dead the lucky ones. When anyone tells you that they want to end the occupation but can't do it until 2009 because they're too smart and know better, question their wisdom. And especially do so if they work for the corporate media. Write letters. Call talk shows. When you read that the Democrats are helpless as babies because they don't have 67 senators, do not let that lie spread unchallenged. Let every producer and editor know that we know that it takes 41 senators to block a funding bill, or a simple majority of House members, or simply the leadership of the so-called leadership. Pelosi has successfully badgered progressive Democrats to vote for funding in the past and badgered rightwing Democrats to oppose telecom immunity. She could cut off the money right now and spare all of those lives. She and Harry Reid prefer to portray themselves as critics of an occupation for which they are responsible.

A number of very well funded peace organizations that have tended to put Democratic partisanship ahead of peace have finally just launched a new effort to urge Congress to stop funding the occupation. You can find it at Stand Up Congress dot org. I find this highly encouraging. However, these organizations, some of which are dumping tens of millions of dollars into partisan election ads in the corporate media, are not investing a dime in this new campaign. The campaign involves no on-the-ground organizing, no events, no advertising, just a website to collect our Email addresses. (Unless the answers that Tom Andrews gave to me and Ray McGovern in this room earlier today were honest and some money is put behind this.) But that doesn't mean we shouldn't overwhelm it with success. It costs us nothing to sign on and to urge real action and serious funding. We have to lobby our potential allies among the grassroots and astroturf organizations as well as lobbying Congress directly.

If we are going to change the public discourse and apply the necessary pressure to force an end to the funding, it will take a fair amount of energy and focus from a great many people. We cannot waste time on other things. That starts by making the area around you an election-free zone. We have an election DAY, and on that day you can vote for the least bad candidate. We don't need an election eternity. So, when people start talking to you about whether it's sexist to consider a female candidate's male supporters' statements racist always or only if those supporters are Latino, tell them to get you a candidate who will filibuster the occupation funding and a nonpartisan public hand counting of your paper ballots, but tell them that in the meantime you have important work to do.

Elections may be the heart and soul of a republic, and we may have a handful of examples where election challenges, like Donna Edwards' challenge of Al Wynn, have reformed incumbent congress members. And Cynthis Papermaster's challenge led Pete Stark to sign onto impeachment, and now she's running against Zoe Lofgren, hoping for the same result. But elections in this country now serve primarily to dissuade activist organizations and individuals from lobbying elected officials. If we hadn't had any elections since 2003, we might have mobilized the public pressure to shut down this city and compel our government to end the occupation of Iraq. If no member of Congress belonged to any political party, we might have long since persuaded enough of them to listen to their constituents. One thing you can do is send checks to the campaigns of elected officials and challengers who get it right, and send photocopies of those checks to other key congress members, noting why they won't be receiving the same.

A serious movement to stop funding the occupation would include a filibuster strategy for the Senate and would think ahead to the next step following a refusal to fund by either the Senate or House. Almost certainly Bush would misappropriate funds to continue the occupation with a new level of illegality added. Congress would then have to impeach or whimper away with its tail between its legs. Taking the peace and impeachment movements in the opposite order might make more sense, however. Impeachment hearings might embolden congress members to end the funding, and Congress would be free to impeach for its top choice from the long list of Cheney's and Bush's impeachable offenses. There are nine Judiciary Committee members and dozens of other congress members urging John Conyers to hold hearings. Every one of you should phone John Conyers every morning to ask the same.

It only makes sense, of course, that an occupation we want to end involves actions we consider impeachable offenses. So we should be pushing for an end to the funding and a commencement of impeachment hearings. It is far from too late for either project. Impeachments and impeachment movements that accomplish worthy goals without reaching impeachment tend to happen late and to not take much time. The movements to impeach Truman and Hoover happened significantly later in their terms than where we are now with Bush and Cheney. Andrew Johnson fired Edwin Stanton on February 21, 1868. On March 2nd, ten days later, the House voted to impeach him for that action. No lengthy process is necessary.

Internet organizing, which is the only real organizing I do, is most effective if it inspires real world groups on the ground to take collective action and facilitates that action. Useful actions can be taken at any time, but can also gain strength through national coordination. One possibility that has been tossed around is to turn May First into a national strike day for peace, impeachment, and human rights. What if some funded organizations invested in that instead of in ads to fund the corporate media and make sure the last four people in the country know that John McCain likes wars?

As an individual, we can all take actions every day, including outreach to potential activists. Memorize (202) 224-3121 and phone your congress member and senators every day. Contact the corporate media and support honest independent media in some way every day. Work with local peace and justice groups in your area to plan fun and creative events to bring more people into the movement. Advertise your views on your clothing, start conversations, hand out flyers. Recruit people into local and national groups. Send them to or or any of a thousand websites where they can get connected to a movement.

Plan local events and activities that apply pressure to your congress member and senators. Do what it takes to disrupt and attract attention, but have a good-cop on your team as well. Talk to your elected officials, but be aware that most of their excuses are simply excuses. Refuting them will just be an annoyance. What you need to communicate is the electoral advantage of doing what you ask.

If the Democratic leadership believed, as I do, that there was more electoral risk in not ending the funding than in ending it, the funding would stop. If they believed failure to impeach to be a greater risk for them at the polls than impeaching, impeachment hearings would be happening. There is no reason we cannot change their thinking quickly in both regards. The Republicans won after impeaching Johnson and trying to impeach Truman. The Democrats won after trying to impeach Nixon, but lost after failing to pursue Reagan. The Republicans, against the public will, impeached Clinton for a private non-offense and still took both houses of Congress and the White House. For an impeachment movement to succeed in restoring justice and succeed electorally, it need never reach impeachment. Impeachment hearings now on torture, detentions, spying, rewriting laws, lying to the public and Congress, etc., would compel John McCain to defend each offense even while campaigning against it. Impeachment would be a gold mine for a political party capable of thinking offense rather than only defense.

If enough of us choose to act in very easy ways, we can change the US approach to the world over the next 10 months. But what if we don't? Then would we be better off to have worked on the elections? I don't think so. I think the best way to help Obama and other Democrats get elected is to push them toward stronger clearer positions for peace and justice. Were Obama to lead the way with a filibuster of the funding of the occupation, he would look stronger and more decisive, and his supporters would be energized. And the best way to put ourselves in a position to accomplish our goals in 2009, no matter who ends up in the White House and Congress, is to try to accomplish our goals in 2008. If we educate the American public now on the fact that Congress can end the funding of the occupation of Iraq, we will be in a better position to make that happen in 2009 should we not succeed this year. And succeeding this year is entirely possible. New scandals we don't know about will emerge to assist us. New wars not yet launched will enrage those not yet taking action. And awareness will begin to penetrate the Democratic Party that the failure to act is a liability. Important victories never look likely until they happen, but they do happen. Let's keep our republic. Thank you

Thursday, March 20, 2008

What Time is It?

San Francisco Chronicle Photo by Ken Komenich March 19, 2008
For other photos, see here.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

A Different Paradigm for Political Organizing

"The adversaries we face are extremely vulnerable because they are all-around bankrupt. They have no leg to stand on - no facts, no logic, and no moral reason to safeguard them from the people's righteous wrath.

Let future generations not ask what we were thinking, why we looked the other way, how we could have failed so ignominiously to act, when actions were desperately called for.

Let the winds blow. Let the waters rush forward. Let justice, so long delayed, be done."

See the rest of my article at OpEd News here.

Monday, March 17, 2008

“Supporting the Troops” = Supporting Imperialist War

By Kenneth J. Theisen March 6, 2008

In the recent political battle around the Marine recruiting station in Berkeley there has been much confusion around the concept or slogan of “supporting the troops,” but opposing the unjust wars of the Bush regime. Many who oppose the Bush Regime wars also say they “support the troops.” Let me say it straight out -- I do not support the troops and neither should you. It is impossible to support the troops of the imperialist military forces of the U.S. and at the same time oppose the wars in which they fight.

“Support for the troops” has become political cover to support the wars, and undermine the widespread opposition to them. In Congress, many of those who claim they oppose the wars, use “support of the troops” to vote for hundreds of millions of dollars to fund the wars. These politicians are political opportunists, but there are also people who genuinely oppose the war, but who also say “I support the troops.”


The U.S. has over 700 military bases or sites located in over 130 foreign countries. The hundreds of thousands of troops stationed in these countries are not there to preserve or foster freedom and democracy as the Bush regime would like to claim, but to maintain U.S. imperialist domination of the world. If you “support the troops” in Iraq, Afghanistan, and the other more than 100 countries in which they are located, you also support U.S. hegemony in the world. I believe that the vast majority of people who say they support the troops do not wish to support U.S. imperialism, but that is what they are really doing by putting forth the slogan of “support the troops.”

We need to oppose the recruitment of men and women into the military. We need to support resisters within the military who have realized what they are doing and now choose to resist the role of the U.S. military. This includes people such as Lt. Ehren Watada who refused to deploy to Iraq. Watada stated, “Never did I imagine my president would lie to go to war, condone torture, spy on Americans…” He was the first officer to refuse to go to Iraq and he was court-martialed. Another resister is Camilo Mejia. In 2004 Sergeant Mejia was sentenced to one year in prison when he was court-martialed for refusing to assist the military in Iraq. Mejia said, “I am only a regular person that got tired of being afraid to follow his own conscience. For far too long I allowed others to direct my actions even when I knew that they were wrong....”

We need to expose that those in the U.S. military are trained to be part of a “killing machine.” While not every member of the military is an individual murderer, they are all part of a system that commits war crimes, including aggressive wars, massacres, rape, and other crimes against humanity, all in the service of U.S. imperialism. The bottom line is that even if these people are relatives or friends, you can not support the troops without also supporting the objective role that these troops play in the imperialist system.

James Circello, who joined the Army after September 11 2001, and was sent to Iraq in March 2003 described his experience there : “We were told that we were giving these people Democracy. Unfortunately what I saw would best be described as martial law, or what we called "The Old West". Soldiers joked that "anything goes", which was true and still is….I never forgot what I did while in Iraq and what I saw happening: Other kids turning into animals. Some as young as 17, brutalizing, bullying and humiliating individuals sometimes old enough to be their grandparents, and sometimes young enough to be their children. And it wasn't just the men on the receiving end, suffering through illegal and tiresome searches of their homes and vehicles, simply for being brown skinned, but the same methods were applied to women and children as well.
No one was innocent.”

James Circello reached a point where he could no longer be part of this killing machine. At an anti war rally in New Orleans, he said “you will never get me to agree with or get me to support genocide against any group of people. Regardless of who they are. An American life is no more valuable than an Arab's life!”


U.S. troops are acting as destructive and murderous forces of invasion and occupation. The people of Iraq and Afghanistan see this on a daily basis. Hundreds of thousands have died as a direct result of the U.S. invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan. Millions are either internal or external refugees. Tens of thousands have been detained in prisons, with thousands of these tortured and scores murdered. Haditha, Iraq where 24 Iraqis were massacred is just the best known of the massacres. Women and children are described as “collateral damage” by military spokespersons when they are murdered in military operations.

But to decide whether U.S. troops deserve support you must analyze what they actually do in countries occupied by the U.S. The wars these troops are engaged in have the goal of maintaining and extending U.S. hegemony throughout the world. They are unjust, illegal, and immoral wars. Can you support the troops in these wars? Why is this any different from a German in World War 2 saying, “I oppose the wars launched by Hitler, but I support the troops of the German army which are making these wars possible.” When the Marines in Haditha massacred Iraqis, including women and children, would it have been correct to say I supported the Marines who killed those people, but not the massacre? This would be ridiculous, but no more so than supporting the troops engaged in the war that made the Haditha massacre possible in the first place.

In 1933 Marine Major General Smedley Butler clarified the role of the U.S. military. He stated, “War is just a racket…It is conducted for the benefit of the very few at the expense of the masses…I spent thirty- three years and four months in active military service as a member of this country's most agile military force, the Marine Corps…In short, I was a racketeer, a gangster for capitalism...”

Like Butler, Watada, and Mejia, those in the military today must take responsibility for what the military does. Just like the German soldiers of World War 2 could not hide behind the “I was just following orders” excuse, military personnel today also can not hide behind it. Those of us who oppose the unjust wars of the Bush regime must struggle with those in the military and those that support them to expose what role the troops objectively play. Supporting the troops engaged in making war against other nations and people on behalf of U.S. imperialism is not acceptable.

Ken Theisen is a veteran activist of movements opposing U.S. imperialism, its wars and domination of countries throughout the world, and an advocate against domestic violence in the San Francisco Bay Area.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Honolulu March Against the Iraq War

Saturday, March 15

It was 6pm on a Saturday night and Waikiki was packed with tourists, beachgoers and GI's. And then "Stop! Stop! Stop the War!!" "The World Can't Wait - Drive Out the Bush Regime!" filled the streets as drums kept a steady beat. People along the sidewalks stopped. Tourists rushed to high-rise balconies. Shopkeepers came to their doors. It seemed that everywhere people were clapping, giving a thumbs-up, and joining in the chants. Cameras, videos, and cellphones caught the action.

About 100 people began our three-mile route but our numbers quickly swelled to about 300 as tourists, youth, and surfers with their longboards joined in. The response was overwhelmingly positive. A young U.S. Marine running along the route and videoing the march on his cellphone said happily: "Wait til my buddies in the barracks see this! We need more of it!" He happily took the leaflet pointing him to Winter Soldier and said they'd check it out. An Indonesian journalist followed alongside the march for the entire route, jotting down notes, capturing images, and recording the sounds for his readers back home. An Australian tourist commented that they'd gotten rid of their warmonger and now it was our turn. A Filipino service worker at a bus stop wistfully said:"I wish I could join you, but my kids are waiting for me to cook dinner."

Here and there along the route people gave a negative shake of the head, or a thumbs down or middle finger. About 5 older guys had seemingly tried to pull together a counter-demonstration and held signs saying "Victory in Iraq" and "Traitors" but got little sympathy. A few soldiers said "we're just doing what we gotta do" but they were completely outnumbered by those showing their support. Leafletters passed out 1400 leaflets along the route before running out and the march was the top of the news on two mainstream TV channels Saturday evening.

As we had built for this march lots of people talked about the horror of the war, but few committed to coming out to protest. One activist commented only hours before that based on the responses he'd gotten, he didn't expect more than a dozen people. A young woman who came for the first time said she'd told hundreds of people and was really bummed out when none of them showed up. Lots of people had questioned what protesting could accomplish. Others said the horror of the Bush regime would be over soon so just kick back. Thinking about the war was "just such a downer."

The response from the people along the route really went up against all of this. Their faces filled with joy when they saw us. They clapped and swayed to the beat of the chants. They captured images of our march to share with their friends. The marchers gathered energy as it went along. One GI near the end commented: "This gives me some hope! Now just get us home!"

From the Indonesian reporter, the GI's along the route, the international tourists, and from many others, what we heard in many ways was: "You're what we've been waiting for!" People who participated in this march are going to have to really struggle with others to pull themselves out of their apathy and despair and help build the kind of movement of resistance that is both needed and WANTED!

What Bush Means When He Says Freedom and Liberty:

It's time for us to show what we mean.

This is the daily horror that our invasion and our occupation are causing.

Demonstrate - wherever you are, wherever you can get to - on Wednesday, March 19th, the fifth anniversary of this unjust war!

Wear orange daily - declare it now!

Shut down the recruiters!

From Winter Soldier

Winter Soldier: America Must Hear These Vets' Stories
By Penny Coleman

Saturday 15 March 2008

If America listens to what they say, the war would be over tomorrow.

I missed the Winter Soldier Investigation in 1971. At the time I was married to a vet who desperately wanted to put his war behind him - and he wanted me to help him do it. We were supposed to pretend it had never happened. It didn't work.

Daniel refused to talk about Vietnam. "Talk to your old lady? No fucking way," his friend Bobby Lanz shot back when I said I thought that maybe Daniel wouldn't have killed himself if I had been able to get him to talk about whatever it was that was causing him such pain. "With other vets, you can say, 'shit man, I did all this horrible stuff. You're not going to believe the stuff I did', and someone who has been there will say, 'Yeah, so did I, so did we all.' But with your woman? You start to talk about having fucked some folks up bad, doing awful things, killing people, maybe, and she starts to cry and you don't go there again. You think, Fuck me, man, I don't need to hurt her. This is psychological abuse, so I am going to shut up."

Maybe I wouldn't have understood. Completely. But not knowing was far worse. For decades, I took responsibility for his death. I thought it was my fault. And even if I hadn't been able to understand exactly what he was talking about, I would have understood that he was in a kind of lethal pain. Whether it was that he thought he deserved to die or that he deserved to be put out of his misery, either way, execution or euthanasia, I would have understood that he had been injured in the war. And I would have known where to focus my grief and my rage.

What I kept thinking today, listening to all those who testified at this new Winter Soldier investigation sponsored by Iraq Veterans Against the War at the National Labor College in Washington, DC, is that so much grief and pain for the past 30 years has been mis-directed, so much energy wasted, blaming ourselves and the soldiers we loved for the injuries that we couldn't see. Joyce Lucey, the mother of a soldier who took his own life after returning from Iraq, said that when he left he gave her a coin and told her to hold it like an amulet to keep him safe. She did, but she now understands that even though her son had been returned to her, his soul had been destroyed. "I should have been holding that coin after he came home."

But, she continued, "His voice is silenced. Ours is not." And she quoted Edmund Burke: "All that is necessary for the triumph of evil in America is for good men to do nothing."

Everything I heard today spoke to that challenge, to the challenge of channeling our combined grief and rage into a focused fight that will really, finally make a difference. Clifton Hicks began his testimony by saying that all of the men he served with in Iraq were there for love: love of country, of ideals, of comrades, and "for that they are beyond judgment. I am here," he added, "to judge the war itself."

One after another, veterans told conflicted stories, some with tears, some with rigid control, some with visible shakes, but all with hard-won moral courage and deep sorrow. John Michael Turner began his testimony by telling the audience that as far as he was concerned, "Once a Marine, Always a Marine" was history. For him it is now "Eat the apple and fuck the corps." Then he tossed his dog tags into the audience saying, "Fuck you, I don't work for you no more." Turner's first confirmed kill was on April 18, 2006. He shot an Iraqi boy in front of his father. It took a second shot to kill him. He had a photograph of the boy's open skull. Turner was personally congratulated by his commanding officer, who proceeded to offer a four day pass to anyone who got a kill by stabbing one of the enemy. Turner ended with, "I am sorry for the hate and destruction that I have inflicted on innocent people. I am sorry for the things I did. I am no longer the monster that I once was."

Hart Viges told of having an insurgent, armed with a rocket-propelled grenade, in his sights during a firefight and not being able to pull the trigger. He was frozen by awareness that the fear and confusion he saw on the Iraqi kid's face was exactly what he imagined was on his own.

Adam Kokesh enlisted in the Marines not because he agreed with the war, but because he "wanted to help clean up the mess." Instead of the schools and water facilities his President had promised he would be helping to build, he found himself policing a wanton project of human and social destruction. He manned "snap" check points where Marines in camouflage at dusk shot unsuspecting drivers who had failed to see them. He described feeling "funny" when he had to decide whether or not to pose with the trophy remains. "I wasn't the one who killed this guy." Kokesh was ordered to shoot at Iraqi police and firemen who were out after curfew putting out a fire that had been started by American rounds. That one he managed to stop with his "little bit of Arabic," but Kokesh wasn't optimistic about our prospects in Iraq. "We care so the American people don't have to. As soon as you choose looking good over doing right, you lose."

Clifton Hicks talked about free fire orders in city neighborhoods and the indiscriminate, often vengeful, targeting of cars and civilians, and about riding through the gates of their compound one night, aware that the humvee in front of his had run over a civilian. No one said anything because it had been a long hard day. They had all been in country long enough to feel that the bigger deal was "being separated from your cot" for the hours it would have taken to fill out the paperwork.

Jason Hurt, a medic from East Tennessee, said, "I am a peaceful person, and I drew down on an 80 year old woman. I hate guns. They should all be melted down into jewelry." And he added, if this were happening where he lives, if some foreign occupying force came into his part of the world, "every self-respecting citizen would come out of the hills with a shotgun to defend their country."

Vincent Emanuelli was appalled by the way American soldiers treated Iraqi dead. "Standard operating procedure was to run over them or take pictures."

Sergio Corrigan said that all an Iraqi needed was a heavy bag and a shovel to become a target. And looking back, with a "clear mind and not so much anger," he wanted to "apologize to the people of Iraq."

James Gilligan struggled to tell about the night he saw a flash on a mountainside and tried to call in for fire. But he took his compass reading too close to a machine gun and the heavy metal threw the reading off. An Afghani village was decimated and he will never be the same.

As Adam Kokesh put it, they were all struggling all the time because their morals were at odds with their survival instincts.

These new Winter Soldiers look so young to me. They are my son's age. My daughter's age as well. The last time young soldiers like these tried to get Americans to listen they were ignored. And that can't be allowed to happen again. The message of Iraq Veterans Against the War came through clearly in every tortured testimony. This is an illegal war. It has cost us our peace of mind. The longer we are there, the more of us will be injured. Bring our troops home now.

It is tempting to despair, but as Logan Laituri reminded the audience, Logan who had testified that his unit unknowingly used white phosphorous for training rounds and that it had "a significant impact on the surrounding communities, what Dr. King said in 1967 is equally true for us now. He said that he opposed the War, then in Vietnam, "because I love America. I speak out against this war not in anger but with anxiety and sorrow in my heart and above all with a passionate desire to see our beloved country stand as the moral example of the world."

The Winter Soldier Hearings can be viewed on satellite TV, streamed live over the internet or can be heard on select Pacifica Radio stations. For more information, visit Iraq Veterans Against the War.

Penny Coleman is the widow of a Vietnam Veteran who took his own life after coming home. Her latest book, Flashback: Posttraumatic Stress Disorder, Suicide and the Lessons of War, was released on Memorial Day, 2006. Her website is Flashback.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

A Leitmotif on Legitimacy

Groups, societies, and movements need leaders. This is a fact of life and of history.

The main or even overwhelming sentiment within the collective may be to do something, but if there is no leadership to turn this sentiment into a material reality, or the existing leadership is opposed to that sentiment, then it doesn't matter that the sentiment is widespread. It will remain diffuse and unrealized.

The mass sentiment that Bush and Cheney need to go - yesterday - remains blocked because the existing leadership in America - the two major political parties and the mainstream and right-wing media - refuse to entertain the idea of enforcing the law, abiding by the Constitution, or holding the executive branch accountable for crimes against humanity.

This puts the country and the people in most difficult straits.

On the one hand, and this is what many activists or activist sympathizers frequently say, Americans tend to be a relatively apolitical lot. There is not the rich tradition of mass demonstrations in the U.S. that you see in other countries. This is, of course, a real problem that mass movements in America confront. We are feeling this most acutely now. And one of the reasons for this apathy, in fact, the main reason for this apathy, is that there is a material basis for people to look the other way when confronted with the horrible underside reality of imperialism: plunder, domination and death. We live in the richest and most powerful imperialist power in human history which makes it all too easy to avoid looking at imperialism's grim reality.

On the other hand, there is also the problem of ignorance. Relatively few people realize what is really going on. You see this, for example, in comments made by people who have witnessed waterboarding demonstrations. Some of them say, the better informed ones, that they knew intellectually that torture was going on, but to see someone a few feet away from you gagging and choking, that hits you on a visceral level that makes it almost impossible to turn a blind eye anymore and makes you realize that you must act. Others, seeing this for the first time, and who didn't know that torture was routinely being practiced, are shocked and shaken. People who've read my book, Impeach the President, say similar things. They had no idea that all of these things were going on and that it was so much more terrible than they thought it was. You realize, as one reader put it, that this regime cannot be allowed to stay in power one more day.

While a significant fraction of the American people are thoroughly bought off by imperialism's goodies, the rest are not and they want to do the right thing. But they are mostly still unaware of the momentousness of what's going on, not yet acting upon their moral responsibility, and not (fully) cognizant of the impact their action has or the impact their inaction is having.

If you ask most people in America today if our government routinely tortures innocent people, most would say no. They would say that perhaps some of the interrogations get a little rough, but they would mostly say that when that happens, it's justified and it's not torture. A smaller segment would say - and are saying - that torture is going on, and it serves those bastards right. We have to protect Americans' lives, after all, they say. These kinds of people will tolerate anything - torture, murder, rape, you name it - as long as it's not done to them personally.

We need, as I've written about previously, to create a competing, legitimate leadership to contend openly and broadly throughout the society against the existing leadership class and to expose the immorality, inhumanity and illegitimacy of the existing leaders. This process has begun with individuals and elements from all classes stepping out and calling out the Bush regime and the rest of the leadership class for its crimes. That is the rationale underlying the wearing orange daily campaign - Declare It Now! - showing in your daily life a different way and taking a stand everywhere you go.

But we are obviously not where we need to be yet, far, far from it.

There are nonetheless hopeful signs and possible breakthroughs in the making. The orange ribbons and wristbands at the Oscars. Churches displaying "No Torture" Banners. The Winter Soldier testimony that began today in D.C. has the possibility of shaking things loose. Soldiers bring a tremendous amount of cred to the table. There are also the Stop Loss demonstrations of youth, joined by older folks. And there are the anti-military recruitment actions that so far have gone furthest in Berkeley.

On March 19th actions of diverse kinds including civil resistance are planned for Berkeley and San Francisco and in other cities, especially in D.C., on the fifth anniversary of the illegal, immoral, unjust war on Iraq. These actions could push the movement forward substantially. The reason why the Berkeley police and the right-wing have been so vociferous and so violent in attacking the anti-recruitment demonstrations is because they understand how this kind of action can spread and how politically dangerous this action is. They realize how vulnerable they are to the contagion of the people taking independent political action.

Vultures calling themselves military recruiters are preying on high school youth and the youth can see this everywhere they turn. Many youth are open to, and some have already begun to, move politically against the recruiters. Their actions and the actions of the Winter Soldiers and the activities over the next week could play a very important role in changing the political atmosphere and helping to uncork the mass sentiment against the Bush regime that is mostly latent and beneath the surface now.

The key question here for us is whether enough individuals will recognize the critical importance of their personally stepping forward. One person with courage can unleash very large forces. The task of creating a rival - and ultimately successful - alternative moral authority to the existing immoral leadership is an extraordinary one. But it is precisely what must be done. And it can be done.

The regime we are fighting is vicious, immoral, utterly bankrupt, and without a shred of legitimacy. They are only getting away with their monstrous and indefensible acts because the rest of the leadership class as a whole is colluding with them.

These are very hard, very dangerous, perilous times. They call for heroism from the people. They call for people one by one to make the decision that they will rise to the occasion, no matter what, to fight against reaction and tyranny.

Support the Truth/not the Troops

by Malcolm Shore 3-13-08

Here’s a story about Robin Long, a young American whose father, aunts and uncles, and cousins are all military veterans. When Bush, Cheney, Rice, Powell and the gang told him they needed to invade Iraq in order to destroy weapons of mass destruction and prevent further al-Qaeda attacks, it seemed to him only natural to answer their call; Long joined up in June of 2003. “I felt great about it,” Long would tell a radio interviewer years later. “I was finally doing something with my life. I was serving my country.”

But when Long began his basic training, he was shocked by what he saw and heard. Officers sang cadences about blood, death and destruction, and referred to the Iraqi people over and over again as “ragheads.” When Long raised objections to using these slurs, his superiors encouraged other soldiers to ostracize him. Eventually, he was sent to Fort Knox, Kentucky, and soon began hearing reports from soldiers coming back from Iraq on temporary leave. These soldiers proudly displayed photos of civilians they had run over with a truck, showed him pictures of the head of the first person they killed, and told war stories of watching human beings explode.

And then, one day, Long was given orders to report to Iraq on his 21st birthday. By that point, his opposition to the war had mounted steadily, but he knew there would be some steep consequences if he followed through on that opposition. “If I don’t go,” Long remembered thinking in that same interview with Courage to Resist, “my family’s going to disown me. I’m probably going to get a dishonorable discharge and have a hard time even getting a job at McDonald’s.”

Still, when the time came for Long to leave for Fort Carson, Colorado (where he was to briefly train before going to Iraq), he knew refusal was the only moral option. Long fled to Canada in June of 2005, where he has lived ever since. But now, the Canadian government is trying to deport Long, and if they are successful, he faces jail time and potentially a long separation from his Canadian-born son. The Courage to Resist interviewer asked Long if he had any regrets about his decision.

“I wouldn’t have it any other way,” Long said. “I made the best decision, I know that. And regardless of what hardships I go through, I could have easily put a family or someone else in that country into way more hardship.”

(Hear Robin Long’s interview here:

Is this the first time you are hearing the story of Robin Long? If so, why do you suppose that is?

“Support the troops, not the war.” By now, this phrase has been repeated so often inside the anti-war movement that it is the stuff of cliché. There are many reasons this slogan is misguided, and worse. One of the most immediately obvious of these reasons is that this position—regardless of the intent of the person advocating it—ultimately takes the suffering of the Iraqi and Afghani people out of the equation. A recent article in Revolution newspaper —“The Battle of Berkeley: This War Must Stop”—captured this point very well: “How can you ‘deeply respect and support the men and women in our armed forces?’ the article asked, “and at the same time support the Iraqi or Afghani people they are killing? This makes about as much sense as saying you ‘support the rapist and not the rape.’”

But there is another related, yet often-overlooked fundamental problem with the “support the troops” argument: the motto utterly discounts the many troops who do not support the war. Depending on who is articulating the refrain, it either inadvertently ignores or deliberately masks the reality that while all U.S. soldiers are brainwashed at the beginning of their service, they don’t all stay that way. Robin Long is not alone. Rather, he is part of a buried legacy of men and women who came face-to-face with the unspeakable atrocities the American government asked them to carry out, and said: “NO FUCKING WAY.”

The film “Winter Soldier” chronicles a January 1971 gathering in Detroit of more than 100 Vietnam Veterans whose conscience demanded not only that they personally refuse to commit war crimes, but that they expose these crimes to the world to in order to bring them to a halt. Yet, like Robin Long, when these soldiers first entered the military, they did so because they believed in their country strongly enough to die for it. “I was the average middle-class American,” said the last soldier pictured in the film. “It was just the thing to do.”

“I wanted to go into the service,” explained another, earlier in the film, “because I really believed the war was right and I think one of the main things was I wanted to see for myself if I was really a man or not.”

But then, much like Robin Long, these and many other soldiers were confronted quickly and brutally with the truth of their mission, and with the gap between that truth and the lies they had been told going into their service: Young women raped in front of their entire villages. Soldiers trading decapitated ears of Vietnamese civilians for beers from their commanding officers. Prisoners thrown out of helicopters to their deaths. Entire villages burned to the ground.

The film ends with the words of a soldier who describes reaching a threshold past which participation or complicity in these horrors was simply no longer an option. “All of the sudden I realized, ‘No, there is no justification, man’” he says. “What I have done is wrong. I have to face it, I have to admit what I’ve done is wrong, and now I have to try and tell other people before they make the same mistakes I made.”

Fast-forward more than thirty years, to horrific wars in Afghanistan and Iraq based on utterly-transparent bullshit the subservient major media nonetheless refused to look through. U.S. soldiers who enter the military steadfastly believing in the good of their country and the evil of the enemy again are given a quick dose of reality, which compels them to speak out and to resist. In July of 2007, the Nation published “Iraq Vets Bear Witness,” an article by Chris Hedges and Laila al-Arian in which more than fifty Iraq veterans spoke about witnessing and executing routine slaughter of Iraqi men, women, and children; and about terrorizing the people they were supposedly liberating through home raids. In the article, Sergeant John Bruns described a typical raid.

“You go up the stairs. You grab the man of the house. You rip him out of bed in front of his wife,” Bruhns said. “ You put him up against the wall. You have junior-level troops, PFCs [privates first class], specialists will run into the other rooms and grab the family, and you'll group them all together. Then you go into a room and you tear the room to shreds and you make sure there's no weapons or anything that they can use to attack us.”

Bruhns went on to say that these raids frequently uncovered nothing in the way of weapons or even anti-American literature. “So you’ve just humiliated this man in front of his entire family, and terrorized his family and you’ve destroyed his home,” Bruhns said. “And then you go right next door and do the same thing in a hundred homes.”

Another veteran interviewed in the article, Spc. Michael Harmon, described very vividly the moment at which he fully realized the horrors he was taking part in. “I’ll tell you the point where I really turned,” Harmon said, going on to describe witnessing a 2-year-old child with “cute pudgy legs” who had been shot by fellow U.S. soldiers. “And this baby looked at me, wasn’t crying, wasn’t anything, it just looked at me, like – I know she can’t speak.” Harmon continued. “It might sound crazy, but she was like asking me why. You know, why do I have a bullet in my leg? I was just like, this is – this is it. This is ridiculous.”

Soldiers who, like Michael Harmon, have witnessed up close the complete immorality of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan —and who have further embraced their responsibility to actively resist them—have formed organizations like Iraq Veterans Against the War (IVAW). According to the IVAW Web site, ( the organization has more than 800 members nationally and more than 40 chapters. From March 13-16, IVAW will draw on the inspiration of Vietnam Veterans’ groundbreaking testimony from 1971 and hold new Winter Soldier hearings, with soldiers testifying about the crimes against humanity they witnessed and carried out in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Groups like IVAW, soldiers like Robin Long, and veterans like those who spoke out against the Vietnam War in 1971, expose the crippling lie that military servicemen “don’t have a choice”—either to fight wars in the first place, or to carry out the orders once they arrive in the country their military is invading. Indeed, when confronted with the sadistic carnage of unjust war, every soldier—every human being—has a basic moral choice about whether or not to take part. And many more people than the media and government would like us to know about have made the right choice.

Of course, there is a reason the “support the troops” line persists so strongly. In an era when the architects and defenders of the Afghanistan and Iraq Wars have not been successful at molding majority opinion into supporting these wars outright, they instead have done their best to take the wind out of the opposition. Most recently, of course, we have seen powerful expression of this in the right-wing response to the courageous stand taken by the city council and citizens—particularly the youth—of Berkeley, and in the city council’s subsequent abandonment of language classifying military recruiters as “unwelcome intruders.”

As the aforementioned article in Revolution newspaper pointed out, the council explained its retreat by saying they “strongly opposed the war and the continued recruitment of young people into this war,” but also said they “deeply respect and support the men and women in our armed forces.”

The initial resolution, which also awarded a parking space in front of the recruiting station to Code Pink, touched off howls of outrage from those who are intent on seeing the American military follow through at any cost in its quest for empire, and who are therefore determined to declare true resistance to this quest off the table. It also generated an outpouring of hundreds of Berkeley high-school students who refused to be intimidated into silence.

But it is worth noting the terms on which the Berkeley City Council and anti-war protestors were attacked: even the most zealous right-wingers did not mainly blast the protestors for dissenting against the war per se—not openly, anyway . These right-wingers are, unfortunately, not that stupid, fully cognizant that even many within the American mainstream would not have their backs. Instead, they slapped the council and the protestors with the label of betraying U.S. soldiers, fully cognizant that even many within the progressive community would have their backs, or at least would be too fearful of being labeled “traitors” to speak out.

Michelle Malkin’s February 6 piece on begins: “The troop-bashers in Berkeley are at it once more.” Or consider the January 30 press release condemning the actions of the Berkeley City Council issued by Move America Forward, the thuggish organization who physically attacked teenage anti-war protestors in the name of “free speech” for recruiters (hmm…) While there is a reference to “hundreds of military men and women serving honorably overseas to protect our freedoms,” the release— tellingly-titled “Marines Attacked In Berkeley, CA” (not “War Attacked In Berkeley, CA) offers no specific refutation of criticisms against the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. In fact, the words “Iraq” and “Afghanistan” do not even appear in the release.

Ditto for Move America Forward’s petition against the Berkeley City Council:

Debra Saunders, in her February 5 editorial in the San Francisco Chronicle, even sought to appeal to the anti-war faction: “I know many Berkeley residents oppose the war,” Saunders wrote, “and still are embarrassed that Berzerkeley has once again gone over the top.”

Those not cursed with a short memory will remember the neocons and their Democratic buddies in Congress employed the very same strategy during their vicious censoring—errr, censuring— of’s “General Petraeus or General Betray Us” ad in the New York Times. And it is the need to “not abandon our troops” that a Democratic Congress repeatedly cites in justifying sending billions of dollars to a war it supposedly opposes.

Enter the critical role of those who actually do oppose the wars. As long as anti-war activists insist on “supporting the troops”—as if there is no difference between soldiers who commit war crimes and those who resist them—they are playing into the hands of those who want to continue the wars. Why? Because of the fact, well-established by history, that both resistance and complicity feed on themselves.

Every day, more and more American soldiers are exposed to the vicious realities of the duties they have been assigned, and face a basic moral choice as a result: To resist or to comply. Sending these soldiers the message that they will be supported no matter what guarantees an increase in those who choose the latter option. On the other hand, putting forth a bold and uncompromising demand for everyone—including soldiers—to resist crimes against humanity will inspire many more to do just that.

As just one small example, consider one final interview from the Winter Soldier film. One of the veterans is asked why he decided to testify. He replies that he probably wouldn’t have come forward had it not been for the fact that a fellow Lieutenant was speaking out; this soldier felt compelled to back up the Lieutenant’s testimony.

So a good question to ask when somebody says they support the troops is “which ones?” The soldiers who refuse to carry out heinous and despicable orders , or those who continue to do so? And “support them how?” By struggling with them to see the atrocities of what they are doing, saving them from committing further atrocities, and urging them to help others do the same?

Or by patting them on the back and telling them the 2-year-old child with a bullet in his leg or the girl raped in front of her parents isn’t their fault because they were just following orders?

Monday, March 10, 2008

Inviting Comments on the Situation Now and Post-Elections 2008

I would very much like to hear from readers about their thoughts on the following lines, from my book, Impeach the President, Chapter Five:

Even if somehow the Democrats miraculously win the next presidential election [the easily hacked electronic voting machines that about 90% of the people in this country now vote on and that allowed the theft of the last presidential election to Bush haven't been fixed], and even if, hypothetically, the Democratic president wishes to curb the radical right wing’s agenda, the radical right has entrenched itself so thoroughly and strategically in the government, in the military, in business and in the media that any moves to curb its power and its agenda will be met with the ferocity of a really pissed off vampire. Look at how angry and vituperative they are right now, and they have power! Remember how they succeeded in impeaching Clinton even though only 26% of the public supported the idea at the time.

Moreover, even if, for the sake of argument, the Democrats were to be alone in power and the GOP and their theocratic fascist minions were to disappear overnight in a rapture, consider what has been happening internationally over the last thirty years or so. Social democrats worldwide, who are far more left wing than our Democratic Party, have been moving to the right as they “adjust” to globalization’s dictates. Neoliberalism is ascendant worldwide and public order policies are the rule. In other words, the welfare state worldwide has been under fire and steadily being dismantled. Social democracy accepts the fundamental “rightness” of capitalism and seeks merely to ameliorate its worst effects. The solution to the issues of our day thus involves breaking decisively with things as they are and taking things in an entirely different direction.

During the 1960s’ Chinese Cultural Revolution revolutionaries had a slogan that applies to our situation today: “Cast Away Illusions, Prepare for Struggle!” As we stand here history shall judge us. Did we stick our heads in the sand while the theocratic fascists and imperialists proceeded in consolidating power and preventing any opportunity for opposition to arise, or did we recognize the signs, act decisively and without fear? We either drive this regime from power and repudiate the whole movement of which they are the titular head, something we cannot possibly achieve without also creating a wholly different political dynamic and bringing very large new forces into political motion and life here and around the world OR they get to bring down on our heads this heinous new world where truth is falsehood, science is the work of the devil, abortion is criminalized, women are forced back into their “place,” torture is the norm, war is peace and black is white.

This is a fight that must be engaged fully over the next several years and will decide our country’s future and very possibly the future of this planet.

"Ex-national security adviser warns that Bush is seeking a pretext to attack Iran"

From the horse's mouth, as they say.

Note especially Brzezinski's words - and wording - below about the kind of provocation that the Bush White House could use to justify an attack on Iran: "some provocation in Iraq or a terrorist act in the US blamed on Iran (boldfacing added)...."

A political bombshell from Zbigniew Brzezinski

By Barry Grey in Washington DC
2 February 2008

Testifying before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on Thursday, Zbigniew Brzezinski, the national security adviser in the Carter administration, delivered a scathing critique of the war in Iraq and warned that the Bush administration’s policy was leading inevitably to a war with Iran, with incalculable consequences for US imperialism in the Middle East and internationally.

Brzezinski, who opposed the March 2003 invasion and has publicly denounced the war as a colossal foreign policy blunder, began his remarks on what he called the “war of choice” in Iraq by characterizing it as “a historic, strategic and moral calamity.”

“Undertaken under false assumptions,” he continued, “it is undermining America’s global legitimacy. Its collateral civilian casualties as well as some abuses are tarnishing America’s moral credentials. Driven by Manichean principles and imperial hubris, it is intensifying regional instability.”

Brzezinski derided Bush’s talk of a “decisive ideological struggle” against radical Islam as “simplistic and demagogic,” and called it a “mythical historical narrative” employed to justify a “protracted and potentially expanding war.”

“To argue that America is already at war in the region with a wider Islamic threat, of which Iran is the epicenter, is to promote a self-fulfilling prophecy,” he said.

Most stunning and disturbing was his description of a “plausible scenario for a military collision with Iran.” It would, he suggested, involve “Iraqi failure to meet the benchmarks, followed by accusations of Iranian responsibility for the failure, then by some provocation in Iraq or a terrorist act in the US blamed on Iran, culminating in a ‘defensive’ US military action against Iran that plunges a lonely America into a spreading and deepening quagmire eventually ranging across Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan and Pakistan.” [Emphasis added].

This was an unmistakable warning to the US Congress, replete with quotation marks to discount the “defensive” nature of such military action, that the Bush administration is seeking a pretext for an attack on Iran. Although he did not explicitly say so, Brzezinski came close to suggesting that the White House was capable of manufacturing a provocation—including a possible terrorist attack within the US—to provide the casus belli for war.

That a man such as Brzezinski, with decades of experience in the top echelons of the US foreign policy establishment, a man who has the closest links to the military and to intelligence agencies, should issue such a warning at an open hearing of the US Senate has immense and grave significance.

Brzezinski knows whereof he speaks, having authored provocations of his own while serving as Jimmy Carter’s national security adviser. In that capacity, as he has since acknowledged in published writings, he drew up the covert plan at the end of the 1970s to mobilize Islamic fundamentalist mujaheddin to topple the pro-Soviet regime in Afghanistan and draw the Soviet Union into a ruinous war in that country.

Following his opening remarks, in response to questions from the senators, Brzezinski reiterated his warning of a provocation.

He called the senators’ attention to a March 27, 2006 report in the New York Times on “a private meeting between the president and Prime Minister Blair, two months before the war, based on a memorandum prepared by the British official present at this meeting.” In the article, Brzezinski said, “the president is cited as saying he is concerned that there may not be weapons of mass destruction found in Iraq, and that there must be some consideration given to finding a different basis for undertaking the action.”

He continued: “I’ll just read you what this memo allegedly says, according to the New York Times: ‘The memo states that the president and the prime minister acknowledged that no unconventional weapons had been found inside Iraq. Faced with the possibility of not finding any before the planned invasion, Mr. Bush talked about several ways to provoke a confrontation.’

“He described the several ways in which this could be done. I won’t go into that... the ways were quite sensational, at least one of them.

“If one is of the view that one is dealing with an implacable enemy that has to be removed, that course of action may under certain circumstances be appealing. I’m afraid that if this situation in Iraq continues to deteriorate, and if Iran is perceived as in some fashion involved or responsible, or a potential beneficiary, that temptation could arise.”

At another point Brzezinski remarked on the conspiratorial methods of the Bush administration and all but described it as a cabal. “I am perplexed,” he said, “by the fact that major strategic decisions seem to be made within a very narrow circle of individuals—just a few, probably a handful, perhaps not more than the fingers on my hand. And these are the individuals, all of whom but one, who made the original decision to go to war, and used the original justifications to go to war.”

None of the senators in attendance addressed themselves to the stark warning from Brzezinski. The Democrats in particular, flaccid, complacent and complicit in the war conspiracies of the Bush administration, said nothing about the danger of a provocation spelled out by the witness.

Following the hearing, this reporter asked Brzezinski directly if he was suggesting that the source of a possible provocation might be the US government itself. The former national security adviser was evasive.

The following exchange took place:

Q: Dr. Brzezinski, who do you think would be carrying out this possible provocation?

A: I have no idea. As I said, these things can never be predicted. It can be spontaneous.

Q: Are you suggesting there is a possibility it could originate within the US government itself?

A: I’m saying the whole situation can get out of hand and all sorts of calculations can produce a circumstance that would be very difficult to trace.