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