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Date: Thu, 11 Oct 2001 14:04:18 -0700
From: radtimes <email@example.com>
Subject: Anti-war actions...continued (8)
An Anti-authoritarian Response to the War Efforts
September 21, 2001
We are living through scary times. Clearly the US Government and its allies
believe they have a grand opportunity to realign domestic and international
relationships in their interest. This is frightening: major shifts in the
political landscape threaten to tear the ground from beneath our feet.
However, these glacial shifts in the political scene also offer
anti-authoritarians a unique opportunity to obtain a new, more secure
footing in our struggle against economic exploitation, political hierarchy,
and cultural domination. Political conditions are changing radically and, if
we respond correctly, we have the chance to advance our movement to a much
First of all, we must not be cowed by present circumstances, as disturbing
as they are. On the contrary: recent events call upon us to exercise
political leadership in the best, most principled and visionary sense of the
term. This is our challenge, and one that we can meet with an
anti-authoritarian vision and politics.
We believe it is imperative that anti-authoritarians formulate a coherent
response to the war buildup and their role within the growing peace
movement. We must not allow our perspective to be subsumed under more
prominent but less radical tendencies in the left. Also, the peace movement
is presently defining its politics and structures and we have a great
opportunity - at this moment - to engage the movement and push it in the
most radical direction.
This purpose of this letter is to explore the contours of an
anti-authoritarian position on recent events. We encourage you to discuss
this letter with your friends and comrades and to prepare for broader
discussions that we intend to initiate in the near future (we will send more
We want to address three important issues in this letter: structure,
politics, and the future.
We anticipate that the anti-war movement will experience divisions similar
to those that beset the peace movement during the Gulf War. In other words,
national organizing efforts will be split into two organizations: one will
be pacifist and more libertarian in character, and the other will be more
militant and Stalinist. Both will be top-down mobilizations, built around
well-known "leaders", and awash with a moralism that would turn off even the
most open-minded citizens and activists.
Thus, we think our immediate challenge is to ensure that the anti-war
mobilizations are decentralized and democratic in structure: specifically,
that those doing the work make the decisions in these organizations. We
recommend the model of assemblies, spokescouncils, or other horizontal
networks of small, decentralized groups that are unified around an
anti-authoritarian vision of social change. This will assure that those at
the base hold decision-making power and thus that the mobilization reflects
the political consciousness of the base, which is typically more radical and
sane than that held by the leadership. It will still be possible for
sectarian groups to infiltrate the base, but much harder for them to seize
control. We believe that instituting such a decentralized structure is
consistent with a principled commitment to democracy and should be our first
act of defense against the party building hacks and the omnipresent
Decentralized political structures have little significance unless
complemented by a decentralized, radically democratic politics. We need to
have radically democratic goals as well as methods, anti-authoritarian means
and ends. Our response to the war must be concrete, immediately
comprehensible, and one that gives political content to our democratic
Presently we are aware of two positions on the war:
The rightwing position asserts that the US is entitled to take unilateral
military action against whomever. This position is not reasoned, just
retaliatory, and is thus utterly barbaric. The argument crumbles when faced
with questions of social justice.
The liberal-left position condones military action against Osama Bin Laden
if - and only if - the UN or some pre-existing international legal body
decides that such action is required and determines its nature. This appears
to be Z Magazine's position, as well as many others.
This position is inadequate because it appeals to the political authority of
the UN (and/or similar bodies). This is untenable because the UN is an
illegitimate political body and thus incapable of determining a just or
unjust response to the terror attacks. The UN is illegitimate because a) it
presupposes the nation-state, which is inherently anti-democratic and b)
because the US has veto power over many of the UN's most important
decision-making bodies, such as the Security Council.
The anti-authoritarian position must obviously be much more radical than the
liberal-left position. We believe that anti-authoritarians should advance
the following demands:
First, all war criminals must be brought to justice (and judged by an
international people's tribunal). Osama Bin Laden, Augusto Pinochet, Henry
Kissinger, and those who have committed acts of terror and violence must be
held accountable for their actions and dealt with accordingly.
Second, there should be an international grass roots
assembly/plebiscite/encuentro/assembly/truth and reconciliation commission
on global terror. This assembly will define the terms of terror and the
appropriate responses to it. There are existing decentralized, grassroots
networks and organizations that could provide basis for such an initiative.
Third, we must oppose military action against Osama Bin Laden,
Afghanistan, or anyone else until these first two conditions are met.
We believe that anti-authoritarians should work to radicalize the anti-war
movement. We should ensure that it is democratic and decentralized in
structure, that its demands are anti-authoritarian in content, and that we
use this movement to build cooperative relationships with the oppressed and
enraged throughout the world who share our horror at the US's impeding
military action and the world it seeks to create.
We believe there is a great potential to create a radically democratic and
deeply oppositional movement against the war. We believe this movement could
sustain the accomplishments of the struggle against global capital and bring
our movement to a new level of engagement, diversity, and radicalism.
Another world is possible,
Marina Sitrin (active with the Direct Action Network) & Chuck Morse (active
with the Institute for Anarchist Studies)
Why we oppose the war in Afghanistan
Statement of the WSWS Editorial Board
9 October 2001
The World Socialist Web Site condemns the American military assault on
Afghanistan. We reject the dishonest claims of the Bush administration that
this is a war for justice and the security of the American people against
The hijack-bombings of September 11 were politically criminal attacks on
innocent civilians. Whoever perpetrated this crime must be condemned as
enemies of the American and international working class. The fact that no
one has claimed responsibility only underscores the profoundly reactionary
character of these attacks.
But while the events of September 11 have served as the catalyst for the
assault on Afghanistan, the cause is far deeper. The nature of this or any
war, its progressive or reactionary character, is determined not by the
immediate events that preceded it, but rather by the class structures,
economic foundations and international roles of the states that are
involved. From this decisive standpoint, the present action by the United
States is an imperialist war.
The US government initiated the war in pursuit of far-reaching
international interests of the American ruling elite. What is the main
purpose of the war? The collapse of the Soviet Union a decade ago created a
political vacuum in Central Asia, which is home to the second largest
deposit of proven reserves of petroleum and natural gas in the world.
The Caspian Sea region, to which Afghanistan provides strategic access,
harbors approximately 270 billion barrels of oil, some 20 percent of the
world's proven reserves. It also contains 665 trillion cubic feet of
natural gas, approximately one-eighth of the planet's gas reserves.
These critical resources are located in the world's most politically
unstable region. By attacking Afghanistan, setting up a client regime and
moving vast military forces into the region, the US aims to establish a new
political framework within which it will exert hegemonic control.
These are the real considerations that motivate the present war. The
official version, that the entire American military has been mobilized
because of one individual, Osama bin Laden, is ludicrous. Bin Laden's brand
of ultra-nationalist and religious obscurantist politics is utterly
reactionary, a fact that is underscored by his glorification of the
destruction of the World Trade Center and murder of nearly 6,000 civilians.
But the US government's depiction of bin Laden as an evil demiurge serves a
cynical purpose, to conceal the actual aims and significance of the present
The demonization of bin Laden is of a piece with the modus operandi of
every war waged by the US over the past two decades, in each of which,
whether against the Panamanian "drug lord" Manuel Noriega, the Somalian
"war lord" Mohamed Farrah Aidid, or the modern-day "Hitlers" Saddam Hussein
and Slobodan Milosevic, the American government and the media have sought
to manipulate public opinion by portraying the targeted leader as the
personification of evil.
In an October 8 op-ed column in the New York Times, Fawaz A. Gerges, a
professor at Sarah Lawrence College, pointed to the real aims that motivate
the US war drive. Describing a conference of Arab and Muslim organizations
held a week ago in Beirut, Gerges wrote:
"Most participants claimed that the United States aims at far more than
destroying Osama bin Laden's Al Qaeda organization and toppling the Taliban
regime. These representatives of the Muslim world were almost unanimously
suspicious of America's intentions, believing that the United States has an
overarching strategy which includes control of the oil and gas resources in
Central Asia, encroachment on Chinese and Russian spheres of influence,
destruction of the Iraqi regime, and consolidation of America's grip on the
oil-producing Persian Gulf regimes.
"Many Muslims suspected the Bush administration of hoping to exploit this
tragedy to settle old scores and assert American hegemony in the world."
These suspicions are entirely legitimate. Were the US to oust the Taliban,
capture or kill bin Laden and wipe out what Washington calls his terrorist
training camps, the realization of these aims would not be followed by the
withdrawal of American forces. Rather, the outcome would be the permanent
placement of US military forces to establish the US as the exclusive
arbiter of the region's natural resources. In these strategic aims lie the
seeds of future and even more bloody conflicts.
This warning is substantiated by a review of recent history. America's wars
of the past two decades have invariably arisen from the consequences of
previous US policies. There is a chain of continuity, in which yesterday's
US ally has become today's enemy.
The list includes the one-time CIA asset Noriega, the former Persian Gulf
ally Saddam Hussein, and yesterday's American protg Milosevic. Bin Laden
and the Taliban are the latest in the chain of US assets transformed into
targets for destruction.
In the case of Iraq, the US supported Saddam Hussein in the 1980s as an
ally against the Khomeini regime in Iran. But when the Iraqi regime
threatened US oil interests in the Persian Gulf, Saddam Hussein was
transformed into a demon and war was launched against Baghdad. The main
purpose of the Gulf War was to establish a permanent US military presence
in the Persian Gulf, a presence that remains in place more than a decade later.
Even more tragic is the outcome of US sponsorship of bin Laden and the
Taliban. They are products of the US policy, begun in the late 1970s and
continued throughout the 1980s, of inciting Islamic fundamentalism to
weaken the Soviet Union and undermine its influence in Central Asia. Bin
Laden and other Islamic fundamentalists were recruited by the CIA to wage
war against the USSR and destabilize Central Asia.
In the chaos and mass destruction that followed, the Taliban was helped
along and brought to power with the blessings of the American government.
Those who make US policy believed the Taliban would be useful in
stabilizing Afghanistan after nearly two decades of civil war.
American policy-makers saw in this ultra-reactionary sect an instrument for
furthering US aims in the Caspian basin and Persian Gulf, and placing
increasing pressure on China and Russia. If, as the Bush administration
claims, the hijack-bombing of the World Trade Center was the work of bin
Laden and his Taliban protectors, then, in the most profound and direct
sense, the political responsibility for this terrible loss of life rests
with the American ruling elite itself.
The rise of Islamic fundamentalist movements, infused with anti-American
passions, can be traced not only to US support for the Mujahedin in
Afghanistan and Pakistan, but also to American assaults on the Arab world.
At the same time that the CIA was arming the fundamentalists in
Afghanistan, it was supporting the Israeli invasion of Lebanon. This was
followed in 1983 by the US bombing of Beirut, in which the battleship New
Jersey lobbed 2,000-pound shells into civilian neighborhoods. This criminal
action led directly to retribution in the form of the bombing of the US
barracks in Beirut, which took the lives of 242 American soldiers.
The entire phenomenon associated with the figure of Osama bin Laden has its
roots, moreover, in Washington's alliance with Saudi Arabia. The US has for
decades propped up this feudalist autocracy, which has promoted its own
brand of Islamic fundamentalism as a means of maintaining its grip on power.
All of these twists and turns, with their disastrous repercussions, arise
from the nature of US foreign policy, which is not determined on the basis
of democratic principles or formulated in open discussion and public
debate. Rather, it is drawn up in pursuit of economic interests that are
concealed from the American people.
When the US government speaks of a war against terrorism, it is thoroughly
hypocritical, not only because yesterday's terrorist is today's ally, and
vice versa, but because American policy has produced a social catastrophe
that provides the breeding ground for recruits to terrorist organizations.
Nowhere are the results of American imperialism's predatory role more
evident than in the indescribable poverty and backwardness that afflict the
people of Afghanistan.
What are the future prospects arising from the latest eruption of American
militarism? Even if the US achieves its immediate objectives, there is no
reason to believe that the social and political tinderbox in Central Asia
will be any less explosive.
US talk of "nation-building" in Afghanistan is predicated on its alliance
with the anti-Taliban Northern Alliance, with whom the Pentagon is
coordinating its military strikes. Just as Washington used the Albanian
terrorist Kosovo Liberation Army as its proxy in Kosovo, so now it utilizes
the gang of war lords centered in the northeast of Afghanistan as its cat's
paw in Central Asia.
Since the Northern Alliance will now be portrayed as the champion of
freedom and humanitarianism, it is instructive to note recent articles in
the New York Times and elsewhere reporting that the vast bulk of the Afghan
opium trade comes from the meager territory controlled by the Alliance. The
military satraps of the Northern Alliance are, moreover, notorious for
killing thousands of civilians by indiscriminately firing rockets into
Kabul in the early 1990s.
The sordid and illusory basis upon which the US proposes to "rebuild"
Afghanistan, once it is finished pummeling the country, was suggested in a
New York Times article on the onset of the war. "The Pentagon's hope,"
wrote the Times, "is that the combination of the psychological shock of the
air strike, bribes to anti-Taliban forces in Afghanistan covertly supported
by Washington and sheer opportunism will lead many of the Taliban's
fighters to put down their arms and defect."
Given the nature of the region, with its vast stores of critical resources,
it is, moreover, self-evident that none of the powers in Central Asia will
long accept a settlement in which the US is the sole arbiter. Russia, Iran,
China, Pakistan and India all have their own interests, and they will seek
to pursue them. Furthermore, the US presence will inevitably conflict with
the interests of the emerging bourgeois regimes, in the lesser states in
the region, that have been carved out of the former Soviet Union.
At each stage in the eruption of American militarism, the scale of the
resulting disasters becomes greater and greater. Now the US has embarked on
an adventure in a region that has long been the focus of intrigue between
the Great Powers, a part of the world, moreover, that is bristling with
nuclear weapons and riven by social, political, ethnic and religious
tensions that are compounded by abject poverty.
The New York Times, in a rare moment of lucidity, described the dangers
implicit in the US war drive in an October 2 article headlined "In
Pakistan, a Shaky Ally." The author wrote: "By drafting this fragile and
fractious nation into a central role in the 'war on terrorism,' America
runs the danger of setting off a cataclysm in a place where civil violence
is a likely bet and nuclear weapons exist."
Neither in the proclamations of the US government, nor in the reportage of
the media, is there any serious examination of the real economic and
geo-strategic aims motivating the military assault. Nor is there any
indication that the US political establishment has seriously considered the
far-reaching and potentially catastrophic consequences of the course upon
which it has embarked.
Despite a relentless media campaign to whip up chauvinism and militarism,
the mood of the American people is not one of gung-ho support for the war.
At most, it is a passive acceptance that war is the only means to fight
terrorism, a mood that owes a great deal to the efforts of a thoroughly
dishonest media that serves as an arm of the state. Beneath the reluctant
endorsement of military action is a profound sense of unease and
skepticism. Tens of millions sense that nothing good can come of this
latest eruption of American militarism.
The United States stands at a turning point. The government admits it has
embarked on a war of indefinite scale and duration. What is taking place is
the militarization of American society under conditions of a deepening
The war will profoundly affect the conditions of the American and
international working class. Imperialism threatens mankind at the beginning
of the twenty-first century with a repetition on a more horrific scale of
the tragedies of the twentieth. More than ever, imperialism and its
depredations raise the necessity for the international unity of the working
class and the struggle for socialism.
September Eleventh Peace Coalition rejects war on terrorism
by Bruce Cheadle
Tribune (Welland) Canada
Sat 06 Oct 2001
OTTAWA - Canadians should reject both racial stereotyping and a military
response to the devastating terrorist attacks on the United States, a group
of labour, peace, social and student groups said Friday.
The newly formed September Eleventh Peace Coalition said it speaks for
``tens of thousands'' of
peace-loving Canadians who fear the reaction to suicide hijacking attacks on
New York, Washington and Pennsylvania will serve to continue the cycle of
The group is seeking ``a resolution to the present chaos and horror through
the framework of law and the equality of people -- and not the framework of
war and racism,'' Deborah Bourque of the Canadian Union of Postal Workers
told a news conference on Parliament Hill.
The coalition was not alone Friday in speaking out against discrimination
targeting Canadian Arab communities and individuals since the Sept. 11
Conservative Leader Joe Clark, B.C. MP Chuck Strahl and Ontario Agriculture
Minister Brian Coburn visited an Ottawa mosque Friday to show support for
the Muslim community.
``Let's be clear about who the terrorists are,'' Clark told the faithful.
``Whatever their background, whatever their origins, their identity is as
terrorists ... We have a common cause in ensuring that our response to these
terrible and unacceptable acts does not create new victims.''
The spiritual leader of the mosque, Imam Gamal Solaiman, created a local
furor last week after Prime Minister Jean Chretien had paid a visit to the
Solaiman was quoted saying the U.S. attacks were ``beyond all Muslim
``Definitely this is the work of some very sophisticated group of
knowledgeable and trained people, not the Taliban,'' he said, adding U.S.
evidence of links to Islamic groups ``does not convince me in the least.''
Abdul Waheed Syed, president of the Ottawa Muslim Association, used Clark's
visit Friday to say the imam had been misunderstood and taken out of
Solaiman did not address the matter directly, but called terrorism a
``heinous, irrational act.''
``All of us call for reason and call for justice and call for peace.''
It was a similar message to that of the September Eleventh Peace Coalition.
Steve Staples of the Council of Canadians said security ``does not come from
the barrel of a gun.''
He equated a military campaign to create security with ``the same logic that
says that a handgun in your home will make your family more safe. Canadians
do not believe this.''
War of Lies
by Rahul Mahajan and Robert Jensen
A war that is supposed to help feed the desperate people of Afghanistan
will in fact help starve them.
A war supposedly brought on by Taliban intransigence was actually provoked
by our own government.
A war that the majority of the American people believe is about their
grief, anger and desire for revenge is really about the cold-blooded
calculations of a small elite seeking to extend its power.
And a war that is supposed to make us safer has put us in far greater
danger by increasing the likelihood of further terrorist attacks.
Lets take those points in order.
Our undeclared war on Afghanistan is the culmination of a decade of U.S.
aggression with a humanitarian faade.
Once the natural sympathies of the American people were touched by the
plight of the long-suffering Afghan people, public opinion swung toward
helping them. In response to this, the administration concocted the most
shameless and cynical cover story for military strikes in recent memory.
The idea, leaked last Thursday, went like this:
-- The Afghan people are starving, so we need to do food drops. (Never mind
that all those experienced in humanitarian aid programs are opposed to food
drops because they are dangerous and wasteful, and, most important,
preclude setting up the on-the-ground distribution networks necessary to
making aid effective.)
-- We need to destroy the Talibans air defenses before doing food drops.
-- The transport planes may be endangered by the Stinger anti-aircraft
missiles that the United States supplied the mujaheddin in the 1980s when
they were fighting the Soviet Union, and some of which ended up in the
-- We have to destroy the Talibans air defense. Because so much of it is
mobile, we have to bomb all over.
The bombing will seriously hinder existing aid efforts. The World Food
Program operates a bakery in Kabul on which thousands of families depend,
as well as many other programs. A number of United Nations organizations
have been mounting a major new coordinated humanitarian campaign. These
efforts were not endangered by the Taliban before, but the chaos and
violence created by this bombing -- combined with a projected assault by
the Northern Alliance -- will likely force UN personnel to withdraw, with
disastrous effects for the Afghan people.
To add insult to injury, in the first day the United States dropped only
37,500 packaged meals, far below the daily needs of even a single large
refugee camp. With 7.5 million people on the brink of death and existing
programs disrupted, this is a drop in the bucket compared to the damage
caused by this new war.
Those who starve or freeze will not be the only innocents to die. It should
finally be clear to all that surgical strikes are a myth. In the Gulf
War, only 7 percent of the munitions used were smart, and those missed
the target roughly half the time. One of those surgical strikes destroyed
the Amiriyah bomb shelter, killing somewhere from 400 to 1,500 women and
children. In Operation Infinite Reach, the 1998 attacks on Afghanistan,
some of the cruise missiles went astray and hit Pakistan. Military
officials have already admitted that not all of the ordnance being used is
smart, and even the current generation of smart weapons hit their target
only 70 to 80 percent of the time.
Contrary to U.S. propaganda, civilian targets are always on the list. There
are already reports that Mullah Omar, the leader of the Taliban, was
targeted for assassination, and the Defense Ministry in Kabul -- surely no
more military a target than the Pentagon -- and located in the middle of
the city, has been destroyed.
This is standard U.S. practice. In the Gulf War, virtually every power
station in Iraq was destroyed, with untold effects on civilians. A
correspondent for al-Jazeera TV reported that power went out in Kabul when
the bombing started, although it was restored in some places within hours.
Targeting of any pitiful remnants of civilian infrastructure in Afghanistan
would be consistent with past U.S. policy.
George Bush said we are not at war with the Afghan people -- just as we
were not at war with the Iraqi people or the Serbian people. The hundreds
of thousands of Afghans who fled the cities knew better.
Military analysts suggest that the timing of the strikes had to do with the
weather. Another possible interpretation is that the Talibans
recently-expressed willingness to negotiate posed too great a danger that
peace might break out. The Orwellian use of the term diplomacy to
describe the consistent U.S. policy of no negotiations -- accept our
peremptory demands or else -- helps to mask the fact that the
administration always intended to launch this war.
The same tactic was used against Serbia; at the Rambouillet negotiations in
March 1999, demands were pitched just high enough that the Serbian
government could not go along.
In this case, the Talibans offer to detain bin Laden and try him before an
Islamic court, while unacceptable, was a serious initial negotiating
position and would have merited a serious counteroffer -- unless one had
already decided to go to war.
The administration has many reasons for this war.
-- The policy of imperial credibility, carried to such destructive extremes
in Vietnam. In perhaps the last five years of direct U.S. involvement
there, the goal was not to win, but to inflict such a price on Vietnam
that other nations would not think of crossing the United States.
-- The oil and natural gas of central Asia, the next Middle East.
Afghanistans location between the Caspian basin and huge markets in Japan,
China and the Indian subcontinent gives it critical importance. A
U.S-controlled client state in Afghanistan, presumably under the exiled
octogenarian former king, Zahir Shah, would give U.S. corporations great
leverage over those resources. Just as in the Middle East, the United
States does not seek to own all those resources, but it wants to dictate
the manner in which the wells and pipelines are developed and used.
-- The potential to push a radical right-wing domestic agenda. War makes it
easier to expand police powers, restrict civil liberties, and increase the
This war is about the extension of U.S. power. It has little to do with
bringing the terrorists to justice, or with vengeance. Judging from initial
polls, the war has been popular as the administration trades on peoples
desire for revenge -- but we should hardly confuse the emotional reaction
of the public with the motivation of the administration. Governments do not
This war will not make us more secure. For weeks, many in the antiwar
movement -- and some careful commentators in more mainstream circles --
have been saying that military action was playing into the hands of Osama
bin Laden, who may have been hoping for such an attack to spark the flames
of anti-American feeling in the Muslim world. Bin Ladens pre-taped speech,
broadcast on al-Jazeera television after the bombing started, vindicates
Either you are with us or you are with the terrorists, Bush said on Sept.
20. Bin Ladens appeal to the ummah, the whole Islamic world, echoed this
logic: The world is divided into two sides -- the side of faith and the
side of infidelity.
The American jihad may yet be matched by a widely expanded Islamic one,
something unlikely had we not bombed. Remember, we have seen only the
opening shots of what many officials are calling a long-term, multi-front
war in which the secretary of defense has told us there will be no silver
bullet. The administration has clearly been preparing the American people
to accept an extended conflict.
Bin Ladens world is Bushs, in some strangely distorted mirror. A world
divided as they seem to want would have no place in it for those of us who
want peace with justice.
All is not yet lost. The first step is for us to send a message, not just
to our government but to the whole world, saying, This action done in our
name was not done by our will. We are against the killing of innocents
anywhere in the world.
The next step is for us to build a movement that can change our
governments barbaric and self-destructive policy.
If we dont act now to build a new world, we may just be left with no world.
Rahul Mahajan serves on the National Board of Peace Action. Robert Jensen
is a professor of journalism at the University of Texas. Both are members
of the Nowar Collective (www.nowarcollective.com). They can be reached at
Many Americans are having second thoughts about the war hysteria gripping
the US, writes Jihan Alaily from Washington
Americans are beginning to ponder the rationale behind fighting a war in
which the outcome is not only uncertain, but guaranteed to see many
innocent lives taken. Many did not find solace in US President George W
Bush's statement to Congress in which he warned that "the course of this
conflict is unknown, yet its outcome is certain."
On Saturday and Sunday thousands took to the streets in Washington DC in
peace marches and rallies that brought together a mlange of ordinary
Americans, political activists, students, local human rights organisations
and anarchists. They were protesting the coming war and heightened
anti-Arab and anti-Muslim sentiments in the wake of the 11 September
attacks on New York and Washington.
Banners and signs read "Don't dishonor the dead by killing in their name"
and "An eye for an eye makes the world blind". The demonstrations were the
biggest so far of many protest gatherings across the country that have
increasingly reflected a concern over the ethics and morality of the coming
war. Some speakers and protesters at the rallies questioned not only Bush's
management of the crisis but his legitimacy to govern.
"Both want war, both unelected" one poster read alongside pictures of Bush
and Osama Bin Laden. As thousands marched toward Capital Hill on Saturday,
many were chanting "No War in our name, Islam is not to blame". Many
speakers denounced the racial profiling of Arabs, Muslims and Asians that
gained added legitimacy after the 11 September attacks. One African
American speaker noted how "There was no racial profiling of white guys
with crew cuts after the Oklahoma City bombing," a reference to convicted
bomber Timothy McVeigh.
Other speakers warned against the trampling over of the Bill of Rights and
other civil liberties on the path to increased security. Policy analyst
Phyllis Bennis explained increasing vocal outcry against the war as the
result of the lack of any transition period between grief and war. "The
people are beginning to resent not being given time to mourn," she said.
"We were rushed through the mourning into a war build-up" she said.
Coverage of the weekend rallies and other anti-war gatherings, vigils and
student activism on campuses across the country have largely been ignored
by the drum-beating mainstream media, or buried in obscure places inside
newspapers. The participation of anarchists who advocate the destruction of
the capitalist system was highlighted in media coverage in an effort to
drown the legitimate concerns of the many more ordinary Americans.
Similarly, TV footage gave prominence to the marginal incidents of violence
involving the anarchists at the rally on Saturday.
Public opinion polls indicating that 90 per cent of Americans surveyed
support the coming war have been extensively quoted by media voices in
newspapers and on TV. Mary Lou Greenburg, a self- declared communist and
feminist who came from New York to attend the DC peace demonstrations,
acknowledged that the findings represent some sentiments among the public,
but cautioned against sweeping generalisations. "The message of those polls
is generally to tell the people what they should be thinking."
Citing the writings of philosopher and linguist Noam Chomsky, Greenburg
talked about the role of the corporate media in the US in "controlling the
public mind" and mobilising community opinion in favour of vapid, empty
concepts, like Americanism.
The national media watch group FAIR has criticised what it sees as the many
media voices that have enlisted in the administration's push towards war.
FAIR founder Jeff Cohen noted that CBS anchor Dan Rather seemed "more
soldier than reporter" on a popular late-night talk show when he endorsed
the war drive.
Appallingly little attention has been devoted in the mainstream media to
obtaining justice through international law and UN sanctioned processes.
Many experts of international law insist that the Bush administration has
yet to present evidence to substantiate its claim that this is an act of
war -- not a crime against humanity.
Francis Boyle, the renowned professor of international law at the
University of Illinois College of Law, said: "Even if the Bush
administration were to publicly provide clear and convincing evidence that
Mr Bin Laden and his organisation were somehow behind the terrorist
bombings in New York and Washington, the United States government would
still have no valid justification or excuse for committing acts of war
against Afghanistan. Both the United Nations Charter of 1945 and the
Kellogg-Briand Pact of 1928 absolutely require the United States to exhaust
all means for the peaceful resolution of this dispute. So far the Bush
administration has not even begun this legally mandated process."
Boyle, who helped resolve the dispute between the US, the UK and Libya over
the handling of the Libyan suspects in the Lockerbie bombing case, believes
that the 1971 Montreal Sabotage Convention, which was invoked in the
Lockerbie crisis, is directly relevant in the current crisis. The same
convention, he says, "provides a comprehensive framework for dealing with
the current dispute between Afghanistan and the United States."
Clearly, Professor Boyle's views are not common. An appearance on the Fox
News Channel with the right-wing pundit Bill O'Reilly on 13 September seems
to have branded Boyle an undesirable guest. After the show, in which he
argued for presentation of evidence, for authorisation from the Security
Council and for adherence to the rule of law, Boyle has not been invited
again to speak on any prime-time news programmes.
Pleas for nonviolence have largely been dismissed as pacifist claptrap.
Among those cautioning against the war is the African American Reverend
Graylan Hagler, pastor of the Plymouth congregation of the United Christ
Church in DC. Reverend Hagler has led many pro- peace and interfaith
meetings and has spoken out against what he calls "a US foreign policy
organised around a need to dominate [rather] than to cooperate." The
reverend believes that the message he is getting from his parishioners is
one calling for tolerance and peace. "This is not reflected in the media,"
he says, adding, "The media has editorialised, ideologised and has
conditioned the people into blind hysteria."
The voices of dissent are growing by the day. It is not clear, however, to
what extent they can impact the course of the war as American aircraft
carriers continue to arrive in the Persian Gulf. As the anticipated war
fails to discriminate between the alleged terrorists and the innocent, it
will be even harder for those Americans I saw at the anti-war rallies to
make sense of what they inscribed earlier on their signs: "I would like to
be able to love my country and justice at the same time."
Peace groups protest against strikes on Afghanistan
Mon, 8 Oct 2001
As the US-led coalition against terrorism began strikes on Afghanistan,
small groups of protesters have condemned the violence.
In Melbourne, a coalition of anti-war groups held a peace vigil in City Square.
The church, environment and peace groups are calling for an end to the
military strikes, which they say could provoke further terrorist retribution.
About 300 protesters attended the vigil, saying while they condemn the
attack on the US, any strikes against Afghanistan will only see civilian
They are calling for negotiations, not war between the United States and
In Sydney, another coalition of peace and environment groups protested in
The protesters described the attacks as a "racist war".
"What do we say to war? No," they chanted.
Spontaneous demonstrations also took place in numerous German cities.
At Cologne, about 100 pacifists and leftists lit candles in front of the
American cultural centre.
About 100 more gathered in Hamburg, another 100 in Bonn, 50 in Muenster and
50 at Dresden.
In the capital Berlin, more than 120 leftists lit candles at the large
square of Alexanderplatz, the traditional site of demonstrations on the
east side of the city, before marching to the Brandenburg Gate.
In NYC, Thousands Rally & March for Peace
by Bill Koehnlein
New York, October 7 (NY Transfer)--Thousands of anti-war
demonstrators marched in New York City on Sunday in a protest made
more timely and urgent by the US bombing of Afghanistan that started
The demonstration, which began barely two hours after the first bombs
were dropped, was organized by a broad coalition of peace, labor,
religious, political and social justice organizations that came
together just days after the attack on the World Trade Center to
discuss left and progressive responses to the impending threats of
war, racist backlashes against Arab Americans, and the erosion of
The demonstrators, who reflected the diversity of New York City,
assembled at Union Square Park in lower Manhattan, barely two miles
from the site of the World Trade Center, for a march to Times Square.
Within a couple of days of the September 11 attack, Union Square had
become transformed into a memorial shrine to the Trade Center
victims, and its south plaza grew into an altar where people left
candles, flowers, photographs of missing friends or family members,
and signs and posters expressing their feelings about what had
happened. Since that time, the park has become the focal point for
many of New York's ongoing peace activities.
Some of the demonstrators were seasoned activists, and a contingent
from Veterans of the Abraham Lincoln Brigade--US volunteers who
fought against fascism in Spain in the 1930s--received cheers as they
made their way towards Times Square. For others, this was their first
demonstration, and the feelings of many were summed up by a young
woman who said, "I don't know all the issues involved, or who's right
or wrong, but I know that war is no solution. It will only make
things worse, and I'm afraid."
While the focus of the demonstration was on peace generally--one of
the slogans of the day was "Our grief is not a cry for war"--many of
the people who turned out blamed United States foreign policy for the
crisis. "The American people have not been silenced," said Imam
Abdul-Baqi of the Islamic Leadership Council of New York. "They are
saying clearly to the president, 'We're against your policies. Stop
the arrogance and respect people and their rights.' America is a
great country, but it needs to change. Today it is Muslims who are
victimized," he continued, "tomorrow it will be communists, and after
that it will be everyone else."
The need to find solutions through international law, where bodies
such as the United Nations or the International Court of Justice
would play a prominent role, was a concern to many of the people on
the march. Numerous banners demanded "Peace through social justice"
or proclaimed that "War is not the answer." Person after person
expressed the fear that unilateral military actions by the United
States would only increase the threat of terrorism, and cause the
death and suffering of many innocent people in the US and
Afghanistan. "The Bush administration has made a horrendous mistake,"
said Charlene Mitchell, co-chair of the Committees of Correspondence
for Democracy and Socialism. "This action gives us a false sense of
security. Think of the eventual death toll. This will only heighten
terrorism. We have to negotiate. We have to use international law."
Local peace and social justice groups see today's demonstration as
the beginning of a new movement for change. While many people
expressed anger at both the attack on the World Trade Center and the
response of US policy makers, and some expressed fear about what
might happen in the future, others were confident that such a
movement could affect lasting change.
As Esperanza Martell, a long-time Puerto Rican activist in New York,
made her way through the crowd and gave out flowers, she paused for a
moment to say, "On the anniversary of the death of Che Guevara we
stand for peace with justice in our time. Siempre hasta la victoria!"
Anti-war protestors gather in London
ANTI-WAR protesters gathered outside the gates to Downing Street as Prime
Minister Tony Blair announced Britain's involvement in the US-led strikes
Extra police were deployed to maintain security less than 100 metres from
Blair's No.10 office today, as the noisy crowd of about 100 people shouted
slogans and called for an end to the military action against the Afghan
regime that harbors terrorist suspect Osama bin Laden.
Chants of "welfare not warfare!" and "we don't want this war!" blared
"Stop the war, feed the poor!" they shouted.
"I am opposed to a war because it is going to cause more problems than it
will solve," said 55-year-old Londoner Jamie Ritchie.
"We have had these wars in the past and they create more terrorism than
they prevent. I would like to see a big change in the policies of what they
call the international community."
Kate Hudson, vice-chairman of peace movement Campaign for Nuclear
Disarmament, described the military attack as "rash".
"I am very concerned that innocent civilians will be killed or injured,"
she said. "We are not aware that due procedure has been carried
out through the United Nations Security Council."
Peace protesters hit street to denounce air strikes
EUGENE TONG, Associated Press Writer
Sunday, October 7, 2001
Within hours of the bombing of Afghanistan, peace protesters hit the
streets Sunday, waving signs at passing motorists reading "Don't turn
tragedy into a war" and "Stop U.S. state terror."
More than 100 people gathered outside the Federal Building in Westwood for
a peaceful demonstration watched by a handful of federal security officers
and FBI agents.
"The horrible events that occurred at the World Trade Center and the
Pentagon simply can't be corrected by killing more people and dropping more
bombs," said Walter Lippmann, 57, of Los Angeles.
It was the latest of many demonstrations held throughout the state since
President Bush first vowed to take military action against the Taliban
regime following the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.
A small group of about six or seven people waved Israeli and American flags
as they staged a counter-demonstration outside the Federal Building.
The group, which was separated from peace protesters by police tape, has
been staging pro-Israel rallies every Sunday for more than a year, said
organizer Suzanne Davidson.
"I believe in justice for America," Davidson said. "I don't want to see
anybody die ... but if there's going to be a war, there's going to be a war."
About 200 pro-peace demonstrators rallied in downtown San Francisco on
Sunday with some holding American flags that had white peace signs
replacing the stars. They also carried signs that read "Peace Talks Now"
and "Violence started it. Solidarity can end it." [Being personally among
them, I can attest to the fact that there were in excess of 3000, but let's
not quibble over crowd estimates when it comes to slanting the news!!!!!]
Last week, 15,000 protesters gathered in the city to oppose U.S. military
"I support justice instead of vengeance," said Margaret House of Oakland.
"You can't get terrorists with bombing. They hide among the civilians. Any
kind of bombing would create civilian casualties."
At a mosque in south Los Angeles, about 100 people gathered to pray for
peace during an interfaith service that included leaders of the Islam,
Jewish and Christian faiths.
"War takes the best in human life, the best in this nation," said Rev.
George Regas, one of the organizers of the interfaith service. "I hate war
Assault On Liberty
By Judy Rebick
We are not even at war yet and the most important freedom in a
democracy, freedom of speech, is already under assault.
Sunera Thobani, a private citizen, a university professor and the former
leader of the Canadian National Action Committee on the Status of
Women is suffering the most ferocious attack in Parliament, and in the
media for something she said. The media in Canada rarely covers the
activities of women's groups, yet Thobani's speech made the front page of
several newspapers and was covered on the national news.
She was speaking to 500 activists who work in the prison system, the
anti-violence movement and with poor women, Thobani expressed anger
against U.S. foreign policy. She explained that if we want to understand
the terrible events of September 11, we have to understand the raging
anger against the U.S. in the Middle East.
Thobani, who is an immigrant of South Asian descent, is a dramatic and
passionate speaker. She was speaking to an enthusiastic audience most
of whom was glad to hear an alternative point of view so she used
"U.S. foreign policy is soaked in blood," she said. You may not like the
formulation but the truth of the statement is unassailable. In Iraq alone,
500,000 children under five have died according to UNICEF since the Gulf
War due to ongoing bombing and sanctions. There is a long list of bloody
coups, civil wars and repressive dictators in Latin America and the Middle
East over the last decades paid for by the United States to protect what
they saw as American interest.
She also suggested that women's rights would be further ahead without
the domination of the United States around the world. Here there may be
room for argument but there is no question that the strength of
fundamentalists in the Middle East is directly due to U.S. support in the
war against the Soviet Union in Afghanistan. The U.S. props us autocratic
regimes like Saudi Arabia, where women don't even have the right to drive.
What she said has been shamelessly distorted by the right-wing media
who seems to see an opportunity here to batter the women's movement
as well as to create war hysteria. More than one mainstream columnist
used the occasion to attack the leadership of the women's movement for
insisting that advocacy is just as important as service in agencies working
with marginalized women.
The contrast between the reaction of the audience at one of the most
successful women's conferences held in quite a while and the media and
politicians gives us a glimpse of the possibility of the danger further
isolation of an already seriously weakened women's movement in the
context of war.
Thobani is not the only one saying these things. Just last week, I heard
British novelist Tariq Ali speak in Toronto. He was saying many of the
same things. You can read similar arguments in alternative media in
North America and in the European mainstream press every day.
So why the ferocious attack against Thobani? While others may be saying
the same thing, no-one has said it with as much passion, at least not in
public. I have heard the same anger in meetings coming from people who
have suffered at the hands of U.S. foreign policy, Palestinians, and
survivors of the U.S. backed coup in Chile, for example.
The ferocity of the attack on Thobani is not the only problem. Both British
Columbia Premier Gordon Campbell and the Globe and Mail's editorial
cartoonist suggest that her views put Thobani, who lives in B.C., in the
camp of the Taliban. This smacks of a new kind of McCarthyism.
In his war speech, President George W. Bush said "You are either with us
or you are with the terrorists." Ms Thobani and many who share her
critique of American foreign policy are with neither.
A few days after Thobani's speech, the World Women's March put out a
statement against war that the media ignored. A broad coalition including
unions, peace groups, and anti-globalization groups issued a statement
for global justice and peace and it too was ignored. At a grass roots level,
there is a growing anti-war movement that has already taken to the streets
in several cities. More actions are planned for October 20.
Public opinion in Canada is much more divided than in the United States.
There is little question that the attacks on Thobani are meant to put a
chill on a growing anti-war movement.
Thobani has always enraged the chattering classes for her refusal to play
the submissive role they expect from immigrant women of colour. There
she stood railing against the U.S. in defiance of the agreed upon rules of
debate set by the ruling elite, dressed in the traditional dress of her
people. I know a lot of people of Arabic or South Asian descent who feel
the same way she does but they are afraid to say it. Now we know why.
Central Committee for Conscientious Objectors
CCCO SUPPORTS AND PROMOTES INDIVIDUAL AND COLLECTIVE RESISTANCE TO WAR AND
PREPARATIONS FOR WAR. http://www.objector.org/
The tragic events of September 11 and beyond have pushed CCCO to the
breaking point. Our telephones are ringing off their hooks at both offices.
Staff has been coming in earlier than usual, working even later than usual
and spending even more weekends in the offices.
Those who are contacting us are people needing information, solace,
compassion and support. They may be young women and men tricked into the
military who are frightened about being sent into a war they do not
understand. They may be Conscientious Objectors, either within or without
of the military. They may be community activists needing support against
the rising tide of jingoism. They may be worried parents, scared of what
could happen to their children. They may be young people bewildered and
confused by the false promises of recruiters and the current war frenzy.
Socialist Party Statement on Bombing of Afghanistan
The Socialist Party U.S.A. stands in complete outrage at the actions of the
US Government to bomb Kabul and other cities and towns in Afghanistan.
This retribution is not and cannot be just. Instead this military aggression
will only lead to more violence; endless cycles of retribution and war will
again be in all our lives; innocent people will die; and we will be no
better than the September 11 hijackers. Never in history has peace been
obtained through war.
We are sorely disappointed, though hardly surprised, that the U.S.
government's campaign of so-called "Infinite Justice" has not and probably
will not be conducted in a court of international law. To do so would open
the possibility of true justice, where all crimes against humanity - those
conducted against the U.S.A. and those conducted by it - are prosecuted
We join socialists, anti-war and peace organizations, labor unions and all
others worldwide in declaring our firm and passionate opposition to
policies and actions that lead to war. The people of Afghanistan have
never been, and will never be, our enemy.
National Action Committee
Socialist Party USA
339 Lafayette Street, #303
New York, NY 10012
Nothing anti-American about opposing the drive to war
Thursday October 4, 2001
Reading the fulminations against the alleged anti-
Americanism of those opposed to the current drive to
war, I feel I've come full circle. As an American
teenager protesting against the butchery in Vietnam, I
became accustomed to being attacked by some fellow
citizens as anti-American. It always seemed
frustratingly unfair. After all, we were Americans too,
and so were the GIs we wanted to bring home, and wasn't
being American all about the right to entertain diverse
views on our government's policies?
Now, after 30 years abroad, I find myself in the dock
once again for the thought-crime of "anti-Americanism".
This time, the charge is levelled not by US citizens,
but by British liberals, including adoptive Americans
such as Chris Hitchens and Salman Rushdie. I wonder
what they would have said to Mahatma Gandhi, who told
the people of the United States that their country was
governed "by a few capitalist owners" whose "holdings
cannot be sustained except by violence, veiled if not
open" and that therefore "your wars will never ensure
safety for democracy". Or to Gandhi's American
disciple, Martin Luther King, who described the US
government as "the greatest purveyor of violence in the
The logic of the anti-American accusation remains as
curious as ever. There is no rational basis for
equating opposition to the demonstrably murderous
policies pursued across the globe by the US government
with hostility to the people of the United States. In
my experience, the current anti-war protesters are
motivated by a deep response to the suffering in New
York and Washington. Surely it's the politicians and
commercial interests exploiting that suffering to
promote their own long-standing agendas whose respect
for the dead ought to be questioned.
In some quarters, the purpose of the anti-American jibe
is simply to cast aspersions on the motives of
dissenters in order to evade their arguments.
Elsewhere, the impulses are different. People from many
lands have long engaged in a passionate romance with
America. This society of extraordinary wealth and
diversity, with its contradictions, beauties and
savageries, exerts a powerful fascination. What
disturbs me in recent effusions (including Tony Blair's
invocation of the Statue of Liberty) is the
glorification of the US as some kind of unique and
sacrosanct human achievement, whose flaws are merely
incidental, and of no relevance to our collective
response to the September 11 atrocities.
This is an overseas variant of the aggressive
boosterism that has for so long disfigured American
political discourse and disarmed the American people in
their own democratic arena. Too many British
commentators seem intoxicated by America's affluence,
and too few evince any real knowledge or concern about
the conditions in which most Americans actually live.
What Americans need now is a realistic understanding of
their nation's place in the world, not the self-serving
myths peddled by a corporate-sponsored political elite.
Since September 11 I've been in constant communication
with friends and family in New York and Washington and
overwhelmingly they oppose their government's response
to the terror attacks. They may be in a minority but
they are as American as anyone else. I've also been in
contact with friends in the peace movement across
What has struck me is that so many of these people have
sought refreshment at the well-springs of American
popular culture, from soul music to Star Trek, and
found inspiration in American social movements, from
civil rights to gay liberation. Like the baseball
lovers in Cuba and Nicaragua, they have no trouble
distinguishing between a people's culture and its
government. They share an understanding that there is
no monolithic America that one can reasonably be "pro"
or "anti". They reject the dangerous assumption that
there is a single essence that defines a particular
society, nation or culture. That delusion is the common
ground between Bush, Bin Laden and the knee-jerk
commentators who have fallen back on the charge of
Recent events have sent me scuttling back to one of my
boyhood heroes, the peculiarly American writer Henry
David Thoreau. In 1845, in protest against the US's war
with Mexico - a war of conquest driven by greed and
jingoism - Thoreau refused to pay taxes and spent a
night in jail. He explained his action in an essay
entitled Civil Disobedience (it influenced both Gandhi
and King). Thoreau urged America to "cherish its wise
minority". And argued that when "a whole country is
unjustly overrun and conquered by a foreign army, and
subjected to military law, I think it is not too soon
for honest men to rebel and revolutionise. What makes
this duty the more urgent is the fact that the country
so overrun is not our own, but ours is the invading
Mike Marqusee is author of Redemption Song: Muhammad
Ali and the Spirit of the Sixties (Verso)
Ad Hoc Committee: 'On Poitical Strategy'
October 5, 2001
As we immersed ourselves in the fightback to Bush's war against terrorism,
we felt the need to get our political bearings as leftists. So we organized
a discussion attended by 27 diverse left activists in the San Francisco Bay
Area on Sept. 30, the main points of which we share here.
We are interested to hear your comments and to find ways to move this
discussion forward together. You can contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org. If you
wish, we can send you the file as a Word attachment also containing
presentations by Bob Wing and Max Elbaum.
Ad Hoc Committee: Elizabeth (Betita) Martinez, Cindy Wiesner, Max Elbaum,
Edget Betru, Harmony Goldberg, Clarissa Rojas, John Trinkl, Roxanne Dunbar
Ortiz, Hany Khalil, Bob Wing
1. September 11, and the Bush administration's reaction to it, is a
defining historical moment, ushering in a new and dangerous period in
international politics. Washington's agenda is to entrench the national
security state and a new level of international dominance on the basis of a
permanent war on terrorism--bringing the "new world order" to fruition.
2. The defining political axis of this new period is Washington's
international war on terrorism--and the fight against it. This is similar
to the central political role the Cold War played in earlier times. Other
struggles will certainly continue, even taking center stage from time to
time, but they will be reshaped and connected by the war danger. The
political and ideological balance of forces, demands, and outcomes of all
struggles will be affected by this central issue, to one degree or another.
3. Given this, the fight for peace should be the central demand for the
people's movements. The fight for peace can unite very broad and diverse
layers of the population. However, peace is not a centrist, liberal demand,
but in fact is central to an anti-imperialist agenda. Its main content is
that of staying the hand of imperialist war and fighting US militarism in
all its forms.
4. War and racism are the sharpest expressions of Washington's agenda in
this period. They are the principal features of the Bush program of
permanent war against terrorism at home and abroad, and the key
particularities of U.S. capitalism and American politics. The intersection
or relationship between war and racism, and between war and racism and all
other issues needs to be clarified in order to strategically guide ongoing
political work on all issues in the new period, and to link them together
into a powerful opposition to Bush's war drive.
5. The pressing need is for broad coalitions of everyone who is for peace
and freedom, against the racist war drive, the attacks on civil liberties,
democracy and social programs. To be most effective and lasting, these
broad fronts should be anchored by fighting organizations based in
communities of color, labor, women, lesbians/gays, and other oppressed
sectors. Movements among students, youth, seniors, and religious folk will
also be critical in this period, and may even run ahead of some of the
6. The U.S. left is politically endangered and ill-prepared for this new
situation, but has a critical role to play. We are challenged to reorient
ourselves to the mass politics of the current political situation, break
out of narrow strongholds and historically outdated fights, and build left
unity in the course of working in the broader fronts.
Rage against the war machine
BY EVELYN McDONNELL email@example.com
Published Sunday, October 7, 2001
When Ani DiFranco took the stage in Missoula, Mont., nine days ago, for her
first show since Sept. 11, the outspoken artist found herself
uncharacteristically searching for words.
"I didn't know what I was going to say," the 31-year-old singer, guitarist,
and songwriter explained the next day. "I've been working on a long poem
about the current state of affairs, but it's not done. It's not that my
thoughts aren't formed; it's just that I'm very particular about my
writing. I want to get it right.
"Then again, I relish the challenge of speaking off the cuff on stage. In
true folk-singer tradition, once I got up there, I found I had plenty to say."
What DiFranco had to say would not make President Bush happy.
"I'm wary of the hypocritical reaction of, 'How could one human being do
this to another?'that pie-eyed American innocence," DiFranco said,
recounting her onstage remarks. "Where was that question before this
happened? Americans have been perpetrating that kind of violence for years,
especially in the Middle East.
"The battle cry for retribution is criminal, especially when we're standing
here as a nation, looking retribution in the eye."
When the United States was at war in Vietnam, musicians helped lead the
opposition at home with protest songs such as Blowing in the Wind, Give
Peace a Chance and War. And now, with the nation gearing up for what will
most likely be its biggest military operation since Vietnam, some current
artists are starting to meet the noise of the war machine note for note.
Protests of the attack on America are morphing into protests of attacks
from America. A remake of Marvin Gaye's What's Going On by 36 pop stars was
originally recorded to raise awareness and money to combat AIDS in Africa.
But since Sept. 11, Gaye's words -- "There's too many of us dying . . .
only love can conquer hate" have taken on new significance, and some funds
raised from that effort are now being funneled to victims of the attacks in
New York and Washington.
In the wake of so many deaths so close to home, many performers are finding
they must find a way to express grief before they can articulate a
response. Interviews with several musicians who have been politically
active in the past revealed that most are finding messages of healing to be
more resonant than cries of outrage.
And within those healing messages, artists are drawing direct connections
between the violence perpetrated on America and violence elsewhere in the
world, meeting complex political realities with their own educational missions.
"I think it is very important that we as Americans understand that people
all over the world have suffered similar horror and humiliation," says
Patti Smith in an e-mail interview. "This is not a time for indignant
nationalism. This is a time to educate ourselves and to enter the world view."
Adds Tom Morello, guitarist for the band Rage Against the Machine:
"The lesson we should take from this terrible loss of human life is it must
never be allowed whether the victims are Americans or the victims are
outside of our borders."
Like most people, musicians reacted to the events of Sept. 11 with
disbelief, horror, fear and sadness.
"There's 6,000 bodies 15 blocks from my house," says Kathleen Hanna of the
New York punk band Le Tigre. "I can't stop thinking about that."
"I had the wind knocked out of me," says Michael Franti of the Bay Area
group Spearhead. "The first couple days I was listening to radio and
watching TV a lot. Instantly I heard everyone politicizing the events, so I
stopped watching and listening.
"I felt to politicize things so early, we would lose our sense of humanity.
It's important to stop and mourn and go through pain and sadness, so we
would be guided by that voice of humanity and compassion."
So Franti meditated. Morello gave blood and money. Hanna and DiFranco
turned to song.
"I'm trying to write my feelings about it," says Hanna, who in the '90s
fronted the pioneering "riot grrrl" band Bikini Kill. "The way to honor
people is to keep on living, to totally appreciate the gift of being
alive. I also want to write things about taking care of yourself and not
Feelings of powerlessness were widespread, which only furthered the aims of
the terrorists to frighten people into inaction. Those feelings can become
tangled up with survivor's guilt: How can I go on doing what I'm doing when
so many others can't?
"As an artist, I admit that I have to motivate myself and hold on to the
belief that art is significant in times of tragedy," Smith says. "But when
I re-examine the role of art and music and literature throughout history,
as a respite, as a rallying force, and as a source of inspiration and
healing, I am forced to marshal my energies and get back to work."
Getting back to work is both balm and directive, and several musicians
spoke of their renewed commitment to combining activism with artistry.
"Crisis fuels my will to work," DiFranco admits. "I'm out here yelling my
head off anyway. It feels very important to be out touring. I'm looking
forward to tapping into what this country is feeling. I had been feeling
The wave of emotion and humanitarianism that has swept the United States is
encouraging to artist-activists such as DiFranco, who sees it as a sign
that the country can get serious about the role it plays in world events.
"We are a slightly more educated populace than the people who reacted to
Pearl Harbor," DiFranco says. "We are drawing wonderful lessons from this:
We are one people. Races dissolve into faces."
Others, however, fear a slide from national concern to nationalism, from
patriotism to jingoism.
"There are two things to take away from this," Morello says.
"There's a tremendous feeling of unity and empathy for the
victims. Suffering has been made real; this isn't a flood in Pakistan
buried on page 38. There's never been more goodness coming to the surface.
"On the other hand, there's this barbarian bloodlust: 'We must soak our
flag in blood to avenge this.' It is crucially important for there to be
open and honest discussion of things going on in the world. There's a
cycle of violence that America should not be part of."
Still, getting their message heard may be the protest singers' most
difficult task since most of these artists operate outside the parameters
of the mainstream music industry.
DiFranco sells hundreds of thousands of records on her Righteous Babe
label, but she's not getting played on radio. Rage Against the Machine has
enjoyed stunning success for a band with overt politics, yet after Sept.
11, it was singled out in an internal memo by the Clear Channel radio chain
as an act program directors were warned about playing.
"That's one of the dangers of times like this; this horrible tragedy is
being used as a pretext to silence dissident voices," Morello says.
Since its existence was made public, Clear Channel has backed away from the
blacklist, in sometimes Orwellian fashion.
A spokeswoman at the company's radio headquarters in Tennessee at first
said there was "an in-house suggestive" to "use your discretion," then said
"there was no list." After describing the directive as "verbal," she then
said "nothing was said. There was nothing there."
Still, there are some "redemption songs," as Bob Marley called them, making
the airwaves. They're being sung not just by the usual activist figures,
but by such pop stars as Britney Spears, Nelly and Fred Durst.
Proceeds from the remake of What's Going On, which was recorded Sept. 5 and
7, were originally intended to help fight AIDS in Africa but after the
terrorist attack on America, project coordinators Leigh Blake and Bono of
the group U2 decided to earmark half the funds to the United Way's relief
efforts; the artists agreed.
Now, what Blake calls "one of the most antiwar songs ever written" has been
getting regular airplay at the same time the United States and its allies
are preparing to go to war.
"I don't think any artistic person wants war," says Blake, who has also
supervised musical fundraisers with the Red Hot organization. "Who of that
generation [many of the artists on the record are of draft age] wants war?
They want life. I interpret this song as: What is going on? What kind of
world are we living in today?"
Come Together, a star-studded tribute to John Lennon at Radio City Music
Hall that aired on TBS last week, is another event planned long ago that,
in light of recent events, has taken a new meaning.
"It is obvious to me that Give Peace a Chance is more applicable than
ever," Smith says.
More radical activists see these benefit shows and records as feeding the
war machine. Boots Riley of the self-professed Communist rap group The Coup
criticizes the very nature of fundraisers. (The original album art for The
Coup's new CD was changed after Sept. 11: It showed the band members
blowing up the World Trade Center using a guitar tuner as a detonator.)
"Who should be paying for the relief of the victims? Insurance companies.
Working-class people are being told we have to pay for this," says Riley,
the son of a Black Panther lawyer.
Riley also criticizes the singing of America the Beautiful and the fact
that the MTV-made video for What's Going On features American flags.
"The flag is being used to rally people for war. They're turning that
[song] into a commercial for war," he says.
"That's probably an argument coming from a cynic who feels very powerless,"
answers Blake. "People need a kind of camaraderie in these times.
Friendship, patriotism, kindness and compassion are extremely important."
The hyperbolic rhetoric of activists such as Riley, who barely tempers his
wide-ranging diatribe against America with expressions of sympathy for
Americans killed, are pushing some listeners away.
Tristin Laughter is a publicist for Lookout! Records in Berkeley, a
punk-rock label based in the lap of the American left. She lost a close
friend Sept. 11 and the unsympathetic words of left-leaning writers such as
Susan Sontag and Noam Chomsky have only added to her upset.
"I have never felt more clearly my alienation from political movements in
this country than I do now," she wrote in an e-mail to colleagues last
week. "To analyze the causation of the terrorists' actions is to accept
their violence as a legitimate political expression. I do not."
"I am also not into wrapping a stars-and-stripes bandanna around my head
Willie Nelson-style and honking in unison with 10,000 Durangos while the
Lynyrd Skynyrd/W. remix plays from my radio. I am sad, and I am lost."
In the past three weeks, some artists have become more sensitive than ever
to the delicacy of the task of coalition building.
"As a communicator, I feel I have to be very aware of people's thoughts and
feelings and where their political knowledge is at," Franti says. "If the
goal is to move people toward peace, we can't push them off by showing
hatred toward people who might think differently. It's hard when our nerves
are so frayed and close to the surface. We must be mindful and
compassionate for everyone."
Activists hope to learn from the mistakes of the '60s, when the
war-resistance movement was seen as elitist.
"I don't want to see a duality happen where college-educated people are
casting anyone who's waving a flag as a backwoods redneck, which is a
totally classist way of thinking," says Hanna. "People are allowed to have
different opinions. We need to have dialogue. The people who go over there
to fight are going to have different opinions of what to do strategically.
I don't see a lot of rich lefty liberals signing up for service."
The need for voices that speak to people's pain and confusion, instead of
at them, may be greater than ever. While the artists interviewed at times
slipped into the conventional lefty tropes slamming the media, blaming
capitalism, generally, they spoke eloquently to the fears and uncertainties
gripping the world.
"Protest songs at their best give voice to alternative responses to complex
and painful subjects," Smith says. "Often, they reflect the more
compassionate and humanistic viewpoints and provide people with the words
to express the best within them instead of the most reactive within them."
Adds Blake: "We should be able to look to politicians at times like this,
but we don't seem able to. Instead we turn to celebrities, who seem to
speak our own language."
IF THIS IS PATRIOTISM, KEEP IT
Bush and Company's Grab for a Blank Check
Wednesday September 26, 2001
By Ted Rall
NEW YORK -- We've been treated to some astonishingly vile images over the
last two weeks: office workers hurling themselves into a hundred-floor-high
abyss. A gaping, smouldering hole in the financial center of our greatest
city. George W. Bush passing himself off as a patriot, even as he
disassembles the Constitution with the voracious glee of piranha
skeletonizing a cow.
"There is no opposition party," Republican congressional leader Trent Lott
chillingly announced as Democratic counterpart Tom Daschle watched in
silent, cowed assent after Bush's speech to a joint session of Congress. And
even if it's mainly the result of our pathetic desire to follow someone --
anyone -- in the aftermath of Sept. 11, there's little opposition out in the
cities and towns across our vast continent: Bush's job-approval rating is
hovering up there with puppies and sunny days.
It may have seemed meaningless at the time, but now we know why 7,000 people
sacrificed their lives -- so that we'd all forget how Bush stole a
presidential election. And as it turns out, national amnesia was only the
"War" was declared against America Sept. 11, Bush told us, and we're
declaring "war" right back. War against whom? Afghanistan (news - web
sites)? Iraq? Canada? You declare war against a nation-state, not against
terrorists living inside a country. You can ask a foreign government to
extradite accused terrorists for trial, but you're not likely to get very
far if you don't share good diplomatic relations. According to the
Constitution, the president doesn't declare war -- Congress does.
Without so much as an invocation of the Constitution-bending War Powers
Act -- which would allow the president to commit troops for a limited
time -- here we are at "war." Troops are being mobilized and allies are
being gathered to fight ... whomever. Whatever. Wherever. Wallowing in a
level of cynicism unseen since Lyndon Johnson conned Congress into the
Vietnam War based on a Tonkin Gulf incident that never happened, Bush has
capitalized on a nation's grief, confusion and anger to extort a political
blank check payable in young American blood.
Oh, right. First we have to "get" -- read, murder -- alleged terrorist
mastermind and perennial bugaboo Osama bin Laden (news - web sites). "We
rule out the possibility of his handover to America without substantial
evidence," Taliban spokesman Abdul Hai Mutmaen said Sept. 24. This demand is
nothing more than any country, not least the United States, would insist
upon before extradition; the Bushies call this adherence to basic
international law "a stalling tactic." But even if you don't believe that
the Afghan government deserves this courtesy after all they've done
(whatever that is), how about us? After all, we live -- or lived, before the
Supreme Court subverted it last December -- in a democracy. Aren't we
entitled to see some definitive proof tying bin Laden and/or the Taliban to
the hijack attacks before we send our sons and daughters off to die in the
JFK showed us surveillance photos of Soviet missiles in Cuba. TV cameras
followed troops into battle in Vietnam. But according to an anonymous
defense official quoted by Reuters, "There is a new way of doing business
here, and it's not in the sunshine." And the "war" itself will be waged far
away from prying journalists. "It may include dramatic strikes visible on TV
and covert operations -- secret even in success," smirks Bush.
We're at war with whoever Bush decides is our enemy. Not only won't he tell
us how or why they're our enemies, he won't tell us how or why we're
attacking them or how or why our citizens are getting killed trying to do
it. Welcome to 'cause-I-said-so-ocracy. "Operations like those mounted by
special forces are played out in the shadows," Edward Turzanski, a LaSalle
University national security analyst, told Reuters. "It is not even clear
that operations in which troops might be killed will be disclosed, at least
"It's important as this war progresses that the American people understand
we make decisions based upon classified information, and we will not
jeopardize the sources," Bush arrogantly announced Sept. 24. "We will not
make the war more difficult to win by publicly disclosing classified
For a man who hired goons to physically threaten Florida election officials,
Bush is asking an awful lot of us in his one-man war against the world.
Let's get this straight: We're supposed to believe this guy's account of
"classified" information -- even while he tells us that, from now on, he'll
be lying to us for our own good?
If ever there was a classic naked-emperor moment, it was the morning after
Bush's address to Congress. A competently delivered, committee-written hack
job was breathlessly equated by liberals and conservatives alike to FDR's
and Churchill's soaring oratorical highlights. Such is our craving for
leadership that we're annointing a doltish daddy's-boy who still won't come
clean about his DWI record with the mandate of heaven.
Pacificism is no way to run a superpower. If concrete proof can be presented
that a group or individual directly participated in the massacre of
thousands of New Yorkers and Washingtonians, those people deserve to be
brought to justice or killed in the attempt to apprehend them. I, for one,
would shed no tears for the inhumane scum who caused so much misery to so
many. But the memories of our dead will be poorly served if we let
right-wing extremists bring about the imperial presidency Bush is shoving
down our throats. Blank-check democracy, if you stop to think about it, is
no democracy at all.
(Ted Rall, a syndicated cartoonist for Universal Press Syndicate, is author
of the new books "2024" and "Search and Destroy.")
Gandhian Response to the Current Crisis:
Thoughts on Gandhi Jayanti
October 2, 2001
by Romesh Diwan
I have written many papers on Gandhian Economics; completed
a book manuscript on "Gandhian Economics: Relevance. Theory.
Policies; "and coordinate International Society for Gandhian
Studies. Many friends have asked me: what would be a
Gandhian response to the current situation caused by the
horrifying events on September 11,2001?
Intellectually there have been two different reactions to
these attacks. Those who support the war effort have
concentrated on the mass murder aspect of this attack. For
them there is something evil in a person or/and an ideology
that encourages murder of innocent people. They have argued
that this evil need to be fought and eradicated since a
modern society cannot co exist with such evil. They have
minimized, even condemned, the suicidal part of these mass
murders. In their view, this is an ideological issue. For
them the ideology of suicide-murder is a grave threat to
their civilization; materialism, democracy, freedom, etc.,
as they understand it.
People who question the legitimacy of war and violence to
solve any problems brush aside the mass murder and
concentrate on the motives of suicidal acts of these
murders. They ask how and why would educated and
well-trained persons commit suicide? They find the cause for
the anger of suicide-murders in injustices their people have
suffered at the hands of US over the last few decades. They
talk of atrocities of the Jewish State of Israel and wish it
to wither away. They are looking for other solutions than
In terms of Gandhian analysis, both these perspectives are
deficient because each of these two misses major part of the
reality. The major problem arises out of the fact that both
these analyses are Euro centric. Both concentrate only on
the actions and reactions to mass murder in the US. Those
who are now angered by the attacks have never paid attention
to similar murders elsewhere, albeit on a smaller scale but
on a longer period. Jews in Israel have suffered such
attacks since the last 50 years. India has lost more than
50,000 Hindu lives; e.g. murder of innocent Hindu pilgrims
going to their temple; murder of innocent Hindus celebrating
a marriage, Hindus separated from other bus passengers and
shot on the spot. Similar murders take place on regular
intervals in many other countries such as Philippines,
Nigeria Since these are the non white Europeans, their
murders are not news fit for the New York Times or The
Nation or Z. Such ignorance and arrogance has kept
Westerners uninformed about this serious threat. When it
arrived, it sounded sudden and shocking.
First and foremost, Gandhian analysis looks at the whole
picture and not a part of it. Suicide-murder is not a new
phenomenon. It has caught attention of the West today
because it has large victims in the US. It is not an
economic issue though economics is a part of it. To place it
within the construct of economic and political
discrimination is to miss reality by miles. Missing reality
does not provide any meaningful solutions. Yet economics is
a part of the problem. It is not only ideology. Though there
is some relationship between the ideology and economics;
it's not complete. Treating it only as an ideology also
misses a good deal of reality and thus does not offer a
A meaningful solution requires first recognition of these
two different problem sets. The policies and strategies to
deal with the two are different and may even be in conflict
with each other. Gandhi's life offers an example. To him
British imperialism was a serious issue; it was the economic
problem per se. However, he also wanted to solve the
ideological problem, which came about in India in the form
of a "two-nation" theory. There is something similar in the
current situation. He spent a lot of his energy in trying to
unite Hindus and Muslims. Being a votary of truth, he
advised the Muslims to respect the wishes of the Hindu
majority who has been humiliated by the Muslim rule with its
and large scale destructions of Hindu temples, murder of
Hindus and their conversion in large scale. To maintain
Hindu Muslim unity he requested Muslims to voluntary give up
all the places where temples were converted to mosques.
Muslim did not accept this part of his advice. On the
contrary he was stabbed a number of times by Muslims whom he
regularly forgave In the end he succeed in solving the
imperialist economic problem in the form of political
freedom from the British imperialist rule but failed to
solve the "two-nation" problem which has become more serious
in India in the past two decades in the form of "Islamic
If one applies this message from his life today, it would
seem that the peace loving people in the West as well as
their government should work on two fronts: (i) eliminate
exploitation of the weak by the strong; and (ii)
delegitimize the suicide-murder ideology. There is thus a
need for satyagrah at both these fronts. People following
Gandhian principles of justice and searching for peaceful
alternatives to war therefore need to join the growing
"protest" movement working towards the reductions in
exploitation. They also need to address to the
deligitimization of the suicide-murder ideology. For this
latter objective they need to go to the Muslim ruled
countries and peacefully protest against the suicide-murder
ideology being propagated there. This is a hard struggle. It
involves risk to one's life and welfare. Gandhian principles
of ahimsa - non-violence - were not for the cowards but for
those who have the courage of their convictions. Satyagrahi
puts his/her life on the line because s/he takes the
responsibility for these horrifying events on
himself/herself in the form of a capacity to persuade the
suicide-murders that they are wrong.
One thing is very clear that the current thinking and lack
of responsibility by those who are talking of peaceful
alternatives to war will not go anywhere till they also
follow Gandhi's principles; take responsibility and put
their lives on line to stop the ideology of suicide-murders.
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