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Decolonize America

by Michael Novick Monday, Mar. 24, 2003 at 9:36 PM 310-495-0299 POB 1055, Culver City 90232

The war is not the responsibility of Bush alone, but deeply rooted in the capitalist-colonial nature of the US system.

The Velvet Glove Comes Off the Iron Fist:



Michael Novick, Anti-Racist Action-LA (ARA)/People Against Racist Terror (PART)

Editorial from the spring 2003 issue of "Turning the Tide" Vol 16 #1

It is possible that by the time you read this, George Bush has already

launched a war of aggression against Iraq, with a campaign called "Shock

and Awe." It is designed to break the will of the Iraqi people to resist

through massive bombing of Baghdad, a city of 5 million. This despite the

opposition of tens of millions of people in protests in the U.S. and every

corner of the globe, despite the opposition of many of his imperialist

allies, despite the opposition in the UN Security Council to authorizing

the attack. On the other hand, it may be that this unprecedented, concerted

opposition will deter Bush a while longer. Either way, we must fathom how

to strengthen and intensify our movement, how to build on our new-found

strengths, how to overcome our long-standing weaknesses, and how to deepen

the contradictions facing Bush and the Empire.

Bush has made it very clear that none of the current factors is capable of

deterring him for long. Despite some lip service to opposition,

Congressional and Senatorial Republicans and Democrats have fallen into

line with Bush's "endless war" strategy, and with its associated police

state powers. Most of the media lapdogs are cheerleaders for the war. Yet

Bush and his cabinet clearly under-estimated the strength and breadth of

the opposition. They have suffered real setbacks in Turkey's refusal to

allow US troops to use their territory for the invasion; in the refusal by

the Philippines to allow US troops to enter their country for

counter-insurgency warfare; in their repeated failures in efforts to

overthrow Chavez in Venezuela; and even in a possible inability of Britain

to commit troops to the invasion. Bush has been trapped in snares of his

own making because of the lies he has had to tell.

Why are the forces of the U.S. government and the corporate interests they

represent so dead set on waging this war -- and further wars simultaneously

with and subsequent to it? More important, given that dictatorial resolve,

what can we do to stop them, either before the war takes full form, or

after it has been launched?

Day by day, it becomes more obvious that this is not simply a policy

dispute. Unprovoked war against Iraq is immoral, costly in human lives, and

wastes resources better devoted to education, health care and retooling the

economy away from oil. It is risky in the way that imperial ventures always

are, of unifying and intensifying indigenous opposition to US domination of

the Middle East. It has also proven to be a school for a new generation, a

radicalizing exposure of the true nature of the system.

Arguments about the morality, the costs, the risks, the unpopularity or

even the efficacy of war against Iraq are important to make and discuss in

educating and organizing ourselves, but they carry no weight with our rulers.

That's because they ARE our rulers, and they base their calculations on a

set of interests which are not merely different from, but inherently

contradictory to those of the rest of us. They believe that war in Iraq

and beyond is vital to maintaining their power and their wealth. That has

always been so. They came to power and stay in power by waging class and

colonial war.

What is surprising is their current openness about using brutal aggression

and naked dictatorship to achieve their ends. Only the barest fig leaf of

pretense about "liberating the Iraqis" and "fighting terror" hides their

real aims.

They cannot acknowledge the real reasons for the war on Iraq, because to do

so would exposes their own true nature. So Bush spouts nonsense about

weapons of mass destruction while reserving the "right" to use nuclear

weapons on a first-strike basis. He declares his intention to bring

democracy and peace to the Middle East, and enforce UN resolutions, while

shredding international and domestic law and human rights. The rulers have

been forced into demonstrating their bloodthirsty, repressive nature in


We must understand that this is a measure of their desperation, and of the

unsolvable contradictions and crisis that plague them. They understand that

their power and wealth come from the people and lands they exploit and

oppress. They believe they must seize the moment provided by "sole

superpower" status to impose their will on the world, to gain control of

strategically vital resources and territories, and to plant their military

might in every region where a future threat might arise. They fear that if

they do not do so, their reign will come to a rapid and ignominious end.

Our job is to use the contradictions that thereby emerge in order to hasten

the political, social and economic upheaval they are trying to deter. If we

want to stop them, we must become the enemies of the state they see us as.


The simplest answer to the question everyone is asking about the war, "Why

now?" is: "Now's our chance." Bush and his strategists see an opportunity

to act decisively to capture control of resources and re-colonize large

sectors of the globe because nobody seems strong enough to stop them. They

think they will kill two birds with one stone, by forcing the Palestinians

to accept US/Israeli terms while simultaneously sending an object lesson to

any restive client states in the Arab or Muslim world about the price the

US is willing to impose to work its will.

Several risk factors coincide with this tempting imperial opportunity, also

driving them towards war.

First, petroleum production seems to have peaked, making control of Iraq's

reserves, and those in the rest of the Middle East, more important than ever.

Second, the old Soviet/Czarist empire is no more, creating a dangerous

power vacuum from the U.S. empire's point of view, one in which Iran or

China could emerge as major regional or even global powers.

Third, the US and Israel have found the very sword they used to fight

social revolutionary forces, Muslim fundamentalism, has turned in their

hands, and they seek to redraw boundaries in the Middle East to regain the

upper hand.

Fourth, although it needed a united Europe in its earlier strategic moves,

the US now sees the emerging EU and its euro-currency as a threat. Taking

Iraq for itself thus serves the dual purpose of taking it out of a European

sphere of influence.

Finally, and perhaps most important, capitalism is suffering through a

protracted and deepening crisis of falling profits and over-production.

Globalization has only made this worse! This intensifies US rivalry with

other capitalist powers for control of the loot.

Blowing up lots of capital (whether as weapons or as targets) looks very

attractive to the corporate elite. So does a prolonged occupation of Iraq's

resource rich, centrally-located territory. And this endless war serves as

the perfect rationale for the police state apparatus they feel is necessary

to crush dissent and resistance to their extraction of profits and "upward

redistribution of wealth" within the US itself.


Since power is the only thing our rulers care about or understand, and

since profits are all that matter to them, if we want to stop the war, we

must develop the power of the people. We must raise the costs of war until

they fear the consequences of continuing to wage the war more than those of

abandoning it. This means far more than threatening their re-election, or

even proposing their impeachment.

We must stop collaborating in our own oppression and exploitation. And we

must not be satisfied with stopping this war, but must once and for all

uproot the system of permanent class and colonial war of which war on Iraq

is only the latest and ugliest manifestation.

This means we must take what has been an unusually broad and widespread

global anti-war movement and transform it into something more -- deeper,

more intense, more challenging, more radical, more aware of reality and

what's at stake.

It means the movement must address not only the war in Iraq, but the war in

the Philippines, the war in Colombia, the war in Afghanistan, the so-called

"war against terror," and the war inside the borders of the U.S. The Bush

regime is teaching some important lessons, and we must take them to heart.

First and foremost, we must recognize that we are not dealing with "foreign

policy" and "domestic policy," but a single seamless empire. The CIA

operates inside the US, and the FBI outside. The army now has a command

directed internally. The "homeland" is simply one more battleground for

them. The police are being integrated not merely into Justice Department

operations but the military strategy.

The USA PATRIOT act and its proposed successors start by targeting

immigrants, but surely make clear that in an empire, there are no citizens,

only subjects. If the movement against the war is going to build a base

that will not back down, give up or cave in, it must be as class-conscious

and as aware of the empire as our rulers are. This means opposing the

militarization of the police along with opposing the use of the military as

"cops of the world." It means opposing mass incarceration, and mass

detentions of immigrants, along with opposing the use of the military to

turn millions in other countries into refugees. It means linking the demand

of "No Blood for Oil" to a vision of weaning the economy off oil and ending

the environmental and economic devastation of global warming.

It means opposing the racism and colonialism of war and military

occupation, not only in Iraq, but also in Puerto Rico and inside the

borders of the US itself, against indigenous people, Hawaiians, Africans,

Mexicans and other oppressed people. It means organizing the anti-war

struggle inside the military and the communities from which the military

recruits. It means organizing anti-war struggle on welfare lines, inside

the prisons, in workplaces and among the growing ranks of the unemployed

(as well as in the schools and colleges). Because it is poor and working

people, particularly people of color, who will pay the price in blood and

blighted opportunities for the war, just as they have paid for the "peace."


Right from the start, Bush has attempted to draw a line that says you're

with him or with "the terrorists." We need to define a different 'us' and

'them,' to draw a different line. This is not between good and evil, not

between Muslims and Christians or Jews, not between "America" and the

world, but between the exploiter and the exploited, between the oppressor

and the oppressed. The self-identified anti-war movement that has been

clogging up the Internet, and even spilling into the streets, has been

predominantly a white and middle class movement, although that is changing.

The illusions and organizing style rooted in that social base mean that the

peace movement as currently constituted may keep out the very people who

can make the movement capable of doing what it takes to stop the war.

Historically, white supremacy, settler colonialism and neo-colonialism in

the US have meant that the imperial rulers have a large population from

which to draw supporters and soldiers. Yet they are still trying to

overcome the so-called "Vietnam Syndrome." As they step up their military

efforts, their recruitment needs mean that the military is penetrating the

high schools and colleges, relying more than ever on people of color,

touching the lives of hundreds of thousands of reservists in unanticipated

ways. This opens up new arenas of struggle, and new possibilities of alliances.

To transcend the self-imposed limits created by racism and settlerism,

peace activists must self-critically transform ourselves, to break down our

identification with the rulers and oppressors, to build up our unity and

solidarity with the rest of the oppressed and exploited. Certain elements

within the peace movement, for example, still hope that the rulers can

"come to their senses." Jim Wallis and "Sojourners" are pushing a "third

way" plan that they have taken to Bush's poodle, Tony Blair; and there are

various other forces that seek mainly to convince some of the rulers that

they have a less costly, less risky strategy for winning the same goals or


Those of us who see the self-defeating error of such approaches should

probably not waste our breath on those who pursue them. They will only be

moved by the development of a more militant, more deeply-rooted, more

uncompromising and anti-imperialist wing in the anti-war movement. By this

I do not mean forming a group of people who split off from large, peaceful

anti-war marches to "fuck shit up." In the main, this is as rooted in class,

male and national privilege and romantic illusions, and as self-defeating as

the "loyal opposition" groups.

What I'm talking about is ORGANIZING among and with the poor and oppressed

-- the foot soldiers, welfare mothers, high schoolers Bush wants to dragoon

into JROTC and the infantry; immigrants, gang peace activists, prisoners;

veterans, GIs, the homeless, and unemployed; the organized and unorganized,

permanent and temporary workers who are a paycheck or two away from the


Because we need to understand that sectors of the US population identify

with and will fight for the empire, particularly the Christian right and

those they influence. Polls that show support for Bush are not all phony;

there are people who uphold Bush's imperial standard for material and

ideological reasons, and who will support or engage in repression of

dissidents. This includes people from many strata of US society, including

some people of color, poor and working people.

A crushing weight of cynicism and defeatism has held the people's

movement down since COINTELPRO and internal weaknesses of racism, sexism

and elitism devastated the movements of the 60s and 70s. But if we begin to

fight for a vision of a different world, to fight for social and economic

justice as well as peace, we have the opportunity of lifting it. People

will begin to hope again, and to struggle ever harder.

As we withdraw our consent and participation from this system, it will

begin to materially change the balance of power between the oppressor and

oppressed -- to weaken the oppressor and strengthen the efforts of the

oppressed to liberate themselves.

This editorial from the latest issue of "Turning the Tide: Journal of

Anti-Racist Action, Research & Education," Spring 2003, Volume 16 number 1,

is "copy-left:" permission to reprint in any not-for-profit medium is

hereby granted, so long as a credit line includes contact information for

Turning The Tide: ARA/PART, PO Box 1055, Culver City 90232, 310-495-0299;

For a free sample copy of the whole issue, contact us at the above

addresses, or call 310-495-0299, and give us your mailing address.

Subscriptions to "Turning the Tide" are a year for individuals in the

US, payable to Anti-Racist Action at the above address; US for

subscriptions in other countries or by libraries and other institutions.

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