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Building an anti-war movement

by Kim Scipes Wednesday, Sep. 19, 2001 at 4:42 AM
sscipe1@icarus.cc.uic.edu

Let us understand one thing out of what is going on: no matter how righteous the cause may seem to some, the very reality is that the US Government is prepared to and is planning to kill a lot more people. Period. Full stop.

Dear Folks--

In the aftermath of last Tuesday's (Sept. 11) attacks, there has been

a tremendous amount of material come across my e-mail address, as I

suppose it has for many of us. There is no question that those

attacks were atrocities, and horrible--I cannot even imagine what

those people who were not killed immediately were to go through

before dying, and I cannot give thanks enough that me or my loved

ones (as far as I know) were not in any of those attacks. I also

feel for all those who were not so lucky as me.

I am angry at those who perpetrated those attacks--they cannot be

excused. But my anger is, I must say, somewhat attenuated because I

understand (at least somewhat) what is behind them. The fact is that

the United States government (including the CIA, the military, the

Treasury Department, etc.) and its allies around the world, have been

carrying out these and other atrocities against peoples throughout

the "developing" world for a very long time--since, at very least,

the last part of World War II. The US HAS been at war with many

peoples of the world for a long time, and not in the war that Bush,

et. al., are talking about it: whether we want to talk about the

bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki AFTER the Japanese government had

begun seeking to end the war, Korea, the Philippines, Indonesia, Viet

Nam ... (ah, the list is too long, and I don't have the time to go

look up all the details, but suffice it to say, these

operations--from invasions, war, to overthrowing governments, to

launching and/or supporting right wing coups and dictatorships, etc.,

etc.--have taken place in many, many countries around the world. The

US HAS killed a lot more people--directly and indirectly--than were

killed in the US on September 11th (incidentally, on the anniversary

that the US supported the coup in Chile in 1973 against the

democratically-elected and constitutionally-supported government of

Salvador Allende). I can understand why this might have pissed off

some people, and that they might have decided to strike back.

But I'm even more angry at the politicians and newspaper pundits,

etc., who are trying to stir the US public to go to war against

"terrorism." Here the US has attacked people across the world, and

now we're supposed to go to war because they just happened to strike

back.

Let us understand one thing out of what is going on: no matter how

righteous the cause may seem to some, the very reality is that the US

Government is prepared to and is planning to kill a lot more people.

Period. Full stop.

And we all know the US Government has prior convictions for doing

this, so only someone who has their head buried very deeply in the

sand can doubt this. And this looks quite clear at this point that

the scene of the crimes will take place in Southwestern Asia in

particular--i.e., Afghanistan and probably Pakistan--but probably

elsewhere as well.

Well, there's a contradiction here, needless to say. As Holly Near

put it in a song about the death penalty--and I hope my memory is

correct here--she asked, "Why do we kill people who have killed

people to show that killing people is wrong?"



THERE ARE THREE MAJOR CONTRADICTIONS (at least) IN THE MOVE TOWARD WAR

(1) As pointed out above, the US Government is planning to kill

people to show that killing people is wrong. Not only that, but the

overwhelming odds are that they will kill innocent people in their

efforts, people themselves who are probably opposed to the attacks.

This will happen if the US launches missiles, rockets, air strikes,

etc., to try to kill the "terrorists." When the US Government talks

about "collateral damage," think September 11--there was a lot of

collateral damage done that day in efforts to strike both the heart

of the US war machine--I refuse to call it the "defense"

department--and the heart of the financial system. Collateral damage

means non-combatants. And there is about a snowball's chance in hell

that there will not be any collateral damage to a military attack.

If Bush decides to try to invade Afghanistan--and ironically, if

anyone fights against that, it will be US military leaders, although

they'll lie down at the end--then there will be even more people

killed, both Afghanis and American military personnel, as well as

many, many civilians. But there is no guarantee that even if Bush

were to invade that the US would succeed in "rooting out terrorism,"

because it is not in the land that there is the desire for revenge,

but in the hearts of real living human beings who can move around.

Even if the US were to invade Afghanistan and occupy the entire

country--just even speaking that possibility shows the impossibility

of the idea--there is no certainty that the US would end "terrorism."

And that's if the US military won--and as the Soviet military can

testify, that's not a sure bet!

To invade and fight in Afghanistan--which would cause turmoil around

the world and many volunteers from around the world would come to

fight the "attack on Islam"--would take almost all US military

forces, and that would tie down the Empire's goon squads, so they

would be unable to respond to perceived crises elsewhere. Not to

mention that, for better or worse, there are a lot of Afghanis who

are experienced fighters, whose last war ended in a victory against

another superpower, and who would be fighting to defend their

homelands AND their religion (despite that Islam does not support

"terrorism)." On the US side, you have troops that have not engaged

in serious warfare really since at least 1973--they were prepared to

do so in the Gulf War, but the Iraqi army collapsed on them, denying

most US troops of the "experience," and probably most of the military

that faced any combat at all in the Gulf has already left the

military. Air power and high technology can be helpful, but at the

end of the day, it's the grunt on the ground that has to win the

war--and anyone who believes otherwise knows not what they are

talking about. THERE IS ABSOLUTELY NO WAY THAT THE US CAN INVADE

AFGHANISTAN WITHOUT TAKING LARGE NUMBERS OF DEAD AND WOUNDED--AND

MENTALLY MESSED UP--AND THAT'S EVEN IF THEY WERE TO "WIN."

(2) Tied in with this, the whole US trip is based on overlooking a

small detail, which I've seen come out in e-mail messages, but

haven't seen in the press: assuming Osama bin Laden and his

organizations are behind the attacks, who trained them? No less than

the CIA. In official parlance, this is known as "blowback," where

something you created turns against you. (Haven't I read about this

somewhere else?)

(3) The other contradiction is that, from what I can see, this

demand for revenge is being media- and government-driven. Yes, there

are ordinary people who would like to kill bin Laden, and that's not

surprising. But I don't think this is very deep. I live in

Chicago--the supposed "heartland" of this country--and in my travels

around the city, and to the zoo with my kids since the attacks, I'm

not seeing many people that are seething to seek revenge: hell, I've

seen much more emotion when the Bulls won their NBA championships!

(And much scarier then--I can remember feeling ill at ease when I

didn't show sufficient enthusiasm to other celebrants for such

success!)



TO COIN A PHRASE, WHAT IS TO BE DONE?

As I read e-mail--and no, there's a lot I have not had time to read,

and I don't pretend to have read it all or know all--I get the sense

of people being upset about Bush's efforts to lead the country into

war, and a great deal of information is flowing back and forth to

those on our similar lists. But I also get the sense that people are

feelilng that there is little chance of stopping a train that's

picking up speed....

I think we need to look at things from another perspective. I don't

think there is a lot of solid support for war, although the Bushies

and their buddies in the Democratic Party are trying to build this,

and they are aided and abetted by the moral nematodes in the media,

such as William Saffire and many others. There are a lot of people

who want to send 17-18-19 year olds to get killed. (And where was

Mr. Saffire during Viet Nam--I can't ever recall him speaking of

military service during those years....)

I think there is a LOT that can be done, that this isn't as much as a

"sure thing" as Bush, etc., would like us to believe.

First, and because of the simplicity of it, I think it often gets

overlooked: we've got to challenge the media. How we do it is up to

ourselves. Certainly, alternative news networks are important, and

should be used extensively. But I STRONGLY believe that we have to

challenge the mass media on its own ground--we cannot concede that

terrain and struggle to them! Many more things can be done, but the

very least must be efforts to write letters to the editor and call

and talk with journalists. Even in the Chicago Tribune--which I think

is a terrible rag--I've already seen a letter asking is our support

for Israel is worth the damage of September 11th? Yes, that was only

one letter, and there haven't been many others, but the mass media

gets to too many people to leave it unchallenged. Even if they don't

publish our letters, THEY know that a lot of people are looking over

their shoulders at their coverage, and this tends to smooth off some

of the rough, go to war, edges. We cannot overlook this simple act,

while trying to do more: write letters to the editors! (And since

most TV coverage pulls from the morning newspaper in an area, focus

on the morning newspapers especially but not exclusively.)

Second, the moral nematodes in the US Senate and Congress need to be

challenged and condemned for giving in to their emotional response to

the events of September 11th. Write them and let them know what you

think of their votes. And Barbara Lee, Democratic Representative of

Berkeley/Oakland gets my utmost respect for her unwillingness to go

against the tide--she was the only one in two houses of congress that

had the heart to go on the record opposing Bush's war plans.

Third, we need to think strategically about what we can do. A

technique I've always found useful is to think of human groups as

consisting of three parts: one part in favor of something, one part

against something, and one part not sure and able to go in either

direction. I don't know what the respective strengths of the three

parts are today, and it really doesn't matter. If those of us who

are against Bush's war want to act, here's my suggestion of the way

to think about mobilization: (1) we need to solidify our own forces,

through communication, sharing of information (which seems to be

already taking place), and organizing ourselves to act; (2) we need

to move those in the middle into our "camp"; and, when possible, we

need to move those who are against us--i.e., for the war--into the

middle camp.

How we do this is up to people and how much time and energy they have

and/or can put into these efforts. No effort is too small or

insignificant. But we also must treat people with respect: even if

they don't agree with us now, if we treat them respectfully, they may

come over to our side in the future. Our goal must be to build an

anti-war movement in this country that is too big, and too strong,

and too willing to disrupt the government's efforts for them to

ignore us: we must stop Bush from attacking other countries in his

Ahab-like ambition to stop terrorism by military means. We have to

seek political solutions, not military ones.

I'm not a Leninist, but I have always liked the thrust behind Lenin's

slogan during World War I of "Turn the imperialist war into a civil

war." No, I am not calling for a civil war in the US--in fact, I'd

oppose it. But what I am calling for is for us on the left NOT to

lay down and concede inevitability, but to use this opportunity to

reach out to Americans across the country, and across every racial

and ethnic group, every gender/sexual identity group, every class,

every college and high school campus, and raise the issue of US

foreign policy and what the US is doing in the world. I think, if

utilized intelligently, we have the opportunity to challenge our

"leaders" on these and related issues about how we want the US to act

in the world--and don't forget the slogan, "Challenge

authority--verify answers"!

In solidarity--

Kim Scipes

Chicago

Former Sergeant, US Marine Corps

Please feel free to pass on widely!



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