Peaceful Assault on the Epicenter of Evil
Peaceful Assault on the Epicenter of Evil
“The White House and the Pentagon look so innocuous, yet behind their innocent facades lurk sinister forces which have unleashed much misery and suffering upon the world,” I thought as I scrutinized each of them armed with an insight gleaned from many hours of study.
I arrived home on Sunday from the peace and social justice rally in Washington DC and began reflecting. As my mind sifted through the barrage of information which came at me over the course of the weekend, and the information I absorbed while reading on the plane, I began to reach some conclusions and to connect some dots.
Your Master is Calling….
My first conclusion was that their weak coverage of an event of this magnitude deepened my belief that the mainstream media is merely an instrument of its corporate masters and of the obscenely corrupt US government. The Washington Post under-estimated the number of people at the demonstration and provided relatively limited coverage. The Washington Times relegated their coverage to the bottom of the front page and grossly exaggerated the impact of the pro-Bush counter-demonstrators. And this was an event that happened in their city! I felt even more disgusted by The Kansas City Star article which awaited me when I returned home. It consisted of about ten short paragraphs on page two of the front page section. They included one small photograph. Beyond the print media, I struggled to find minor mention of the event on television news.
Obviously these "sacred purveyors of the truth" and members of the Fourth Estate determined that the best way to frame this political issue was to minimize the fact that hundreds of thousands of people descended upon Washington DC to protest the illegal US occupation of Iraq and to demand social justice. The mainstream press could not summon the courage to provide a realistic amount of coverage to a significant challenge to their corporate masters and the Bush regime.
Perspective of a Participant
I was there for the march on 9/24. Based on what I observed and experienced, the Washington DC police chief's estimate of 150,000 people was extremely low. My wife and I marched at the end of the procession, which followed a 1.4 mile course, including a pass in front of the White House. We carried our mock coffin draped with an American flag. (Ours was one of about 150 other mock coffins which enabled the American public to finally see at least see a representation of the Americans who have died in Iraq). It took us six hours to complete the march. We moved quite slowly due the number of people joining the procession along the way. The people leading the march actually got to the White House before we even started to move. Along the route, I saw throngs of thousands of supporters lining the streets. The Ellipse, the area surrounding the Washington Monument, and several adjacent parks were filled with demonstrators, before, during and after the march. ANSWER, one of the demonstration's organizers, estimated that there were 300,000 participants. Truthout.org put the number closer to 500,000. Based on what I witnessed, I estimate the number fell somewhere between the two.
As for counter-protestors, I saw a mere handful. To state there were over two hundred would be a very generous estimate. Yet ironically, their signs (and shouted rhetoric) indicated that they were "the majority". I struggled to determine how they arrived at that conclusion. On 9/25, the pro-Bush, pro-war faction staged their own demonstration in DC, which involved about 400 people. It boggles the mind contemplating how they could truly believe themselves to be in the majority.
A diverse crowd, which included the elderly, the disabled, minorities, military veterans, families of military personnel in Iraq, social activists, Methodists, Quakers, Buddhists, people of Middle Eastern descent, and many other groups comprised the multitude on Saturday. Joan Baez, Cindy Sheehan, Al Sharpton, Jesse Jackson, and two Congresswomen spoke and marched. On the flight home, I met Congressman Emanuel Cleaver, who represents a district in Kansas City. He told me that he had not participated in the demonstration, but that he was part of an anti-war coalition in Congress. A broad spectrum of Americans want peace and social justice, and are eager to see Bush and the corrupt who dominate the US government out of office.
One of the articles I read in the mainstream media stated that there were no police wearing riot gear at the demonstration. I beg to differ. I counted at least seven men wearing black pants, white, generic-looking shirts with what appeared to be cloth gold badges stitched to them, and military boots. They each had riot helmets with visors, riot shields which were marked "Police" (yet their uniforms bore virtually no resemblance to those of the DC police), and they were equipped with truncheons. As I marched by them, I wondered if they were some of the Blackwater security people, hired mercenaries whom the Bush administration has used in Iraq and now in New Orleans.
Despite his absence, Bush's fortress was heavily defended by police on the street and by snipers on the roof of the White House and surrounding buildings. Bush exhibited his usual spinelessness. He spent part of the day in Colorado, where he would not have to face the hundreds of thousands of his constituency who were calling for peace, social justice and his impeachment. He was also well out of potential harm from Hurricane Rita. Later in the day he did find the nerve to travel to San Antonio, but even there he was still well out of harm's way.
Before the march began, I spoke with a woman with the Friends Committee on National Legislation and signed a petition to lobby members of Congress to pass a resolution for the US military to withdraw from Iraq. This group is not asking for a specific time-table. The Friends Committee simply wants a commitment that our multi-trillion dollar war machine will leave Iraq once the situation there has stabilized. I agree with those who have stated that it would be irresponsible for the US to pull out of Iraq immediately and leave the country in a chaos that our military industrial complex created. However, Iraq is a sovereign nation, and at some point in the not too distant future, the US needs to withdraw. I gladly carried a sign on behalf of this Quaker organization as I bore my half of the mock coffin adorned with the American flag.
As we passed the US Treasury a man riding a bicycle was using a portable PA system. What was his message?
“Pay no attention to this building. It is the treasury. It is empty. It has been looted.”
With the volume of money flowing into the coffers of corporations with incestuous ties to the Bush regime and a $7.5 trillion deficit, it would be difficult to dispute his contention.
Saturday's march for peace and social justice and against corporate dominance, imperialism and tyranny was powerful for several reasons. The sheer number of 300,000 who participated in the demonstration reveals that many in the United States have made al wathbah, or "the leap". In Bush in Babylon,Tariq Ali wrote about “the leap” of mass consciousness the Iraqi people made in 1948 as they realized that their puppet leaders sold out their interests to British imperialists. Slowly, many Americans are overcoming the lies they have been "programmed" to believe since they were able to fashion conscious, coherent thoughts.
While the 300,000 demonstrators represent a small minority of the US population, Bush's abysmal approval rating provides evidence that the 300,000 were but a fraction of those in the US ready to dissent against the perverse regime "leading" the nation. Ali called the British proxies who ruled Iraq during the early and mid Twentieth Century "An Oligarchy of Racketeers". America's lackeys in the newly formed Iraqi government are more than capable of assuming that "glorious" mantle.
Speakers at the rally called for increased rights for blacks, women, gays, Hispanics, and other minorities. They decried the US military's use of torture and indefinite imprisonment of suspected "terrorists" with no legitimate trial. They decried the excessive power of US corporations here and abroad, and called for renewed government restraints to squelch their excesses and abuses. Several made strident demands to end the blatant racism and US government neglect of the poor highlighted by events in Katrina.
They called for support of Hugo Chavez and Castro. Bush may not have been listening, but his constituents were talking to him in large numbers, and will continue to do so. If he and the US aristocracy continue to ignore the will of We the People, things will not end well for them. In the non-violent tradition of Martin Luther King and Gandhi, We the People will take our government back from the plutocracy. The wealthiest nation in the world has moral obligations to be a world leader (rather than a bully) and to care for its poor, and if the incumbent administration is not willing to fulfill these obligations, it needs to be replaced.
Frequently throughout the march, I heard and read the slogan "power of the people". The unfortunate reality is that for now, the ultimate power in the US rests in the hands of a select few aristocrats, and has in varying degrees since our nation's founding. I saw ample evidence of that fact as my wife and I toured the Smithsonian’s American History Museum the day before the march. The decadence in which many of the presidents and first ladies engaged was truly disgusting to see. I saw the outrageously expensive clothing, china, jewelry, art, and White House furnishings and realized that I was witnessing evidence that the US is as much an aristocracy as the monarchy from which our founding fathers severed themselves. Further fueling my nausea, I saw that Barbara and Laura Bush were enshrined in the section of First Ladies who have made significant contributions to social justice in the United States. The Bush wives honored alongside Eleanor Roosevelt, a giant in the pantheon of those who have advanced social justice? The Smithsonian curators have a very sick sense of humor.
Mr. Bush, good luck selling your fairy tale of democracy and equality to the victims of Katrina, to many others in America, and to the rest of the world. Your criminal neglect of New Orleans and the poor in general, your lies, your theft of the 2000 election, your numerous violations of the public trust, your cronyism leading to incompetents like Michael Brown causing thousands to suffer or die, and your war profiteering combine to make you the biggest felon to serve as President of the United States (Note to Bush: as an "elected" official, you are merely a public servant, not a monarch. You belong in one of the many penitentiaries which are a part of the prison industrial complex).
In skimming my 120 emails I received while I was away for the weekend, I discovered that ANSWER, one of the demonstration’s organizers, has apparently been accused of being Maoist Communists who are virulently anti-US and who advocate supporting any group which opposes the US government (i.e. Hamas, Hezbollah, and the Khmer Rouge). My response to that is that I do not care. United for Peace also sponsored the event, and to my knowledge, they have not been targeted as “anti-American”. I am not a member of either group and regardless of how extreme their positions may be, this event served a valuable purpose. It demonstrated the strength of the movement in the United States for peace and social justice, and the depth of the desire amongst Americans to remove the avaricious, tyrannical, and criminal Bush regime from power.
“Terrorism” Cuts Both Ways and Imperialist Acts Have Consequences
Going out on a limb (as I usually do), I am going to state that while I do not condone terrorism (which I am defining as the act of killing innocent civilians to achieve a political purpose), I understand the viewpoint of some of the groups whom the US mainstream media and the Bush regime have labeled as terrorists. Bush and his ilk, and many of their predecessors (including Clinton via Kosovo, Bush I via Iraq, Reagan via Central America, and Nixon and Johnson via Vietnam.) have engaged in the most lethal state terrorism imaginable, killing millions they label (and labeled) as "collateral damage". The US government also has a nasty habit of supporting ruthless dictators (when they support US corporate interests) who kill tens of thousands of their own people. I do not support violent acts committed by either side, but the US government is no nobler than those they have labeled as "terrorists” because they have dared to resist US supremacy by fighting back.
On the plane trip home from DC, I started reading Tariq Ali's Bush in Babylon: the Recolonization of Iraq, and started to see the Arab point of view more clearly. I discovered that Iraq is a nation/region which has been subservient to foreign powers in some fashion since the 13th Century. Coupling the predatory intentions of the US government with Iraq’s history, I can fully appreciate the front cover picture on Ali's book which shows an Iraqi child urinating on one of his US occupiers. To the Iraqis, the US is another in a long line of tyrants, no better than the British, Turks, or their predecessors.
The US is attempting to implement "democracy-at gun-point” in a nation embroiled with ethnic and religious tensions. The Iraqi people know why the US government is killing their people and destroying their cities, which makes their resistance quite logical. They realize that a cruel and greedy imperialist government needed to assert its military might on what they anticipated would be a weak target so it could begin implementing the Bush Doctrine and the Project for the New American Century. Halliburton, Bechtel, Lockheed Martin, and many other cogs in the military industrial complex were itching to see their profits skyrocket, and Iraq appeared to be a ripe plum for the picking. Most importantly, oil was too valuable of a commodity for a self-respecting Twenty-First Century world power bent on global domination to leave in the hands of "mere Arabs". Why wouldn’t the Iraqis feel enraged and resist invaders, plunderers, and thieves?
US troops in Iraq number over 140,000. The occupation started in March, 2003. The Bush tyranny continues to refuse to commit to an eventual withdrawal of US forces. Bush and his minions lied to Congress to launch the invasion, defied the UN and international law, and, according to John Pike of GlobalSecurities.org, are establishing 12 of what the Pentagon propagandists call "enduring bases" in Iraq. To translate from “Pentagonese” to English, an “enduring base” is a permanent base. Despite the hollow propaganda of spreading freedom and liberty, the US government's actions smack of those of a tyrant intent on colonizing the sovereign nation of Iraq.
Your True Colors are Showing
The disguise is slipping as the US government has slaughtered tens of thousands of innocent Iraqi civilians. Hurricane Katrina revealed the hypocrisy behind their “noble cause” of spreading freedom and liberty. Those abstract concepts exist in the US on a very limited basis. The US government has been, and is increasingly dominated by a select few plutocrats and aristocrats who are groomed for public office from birth. The elites of America place their carefully prepared candidates before an American voting public rendered apathetic by the mainstream media and years of government corruption. The Democratic/Republican Duopoly ensures that only two candidates have a real chance of winning public office in virtually every election, and each candidate is beholden to corporations and the US aristocracy. Sometimes decent people sneak into Congress and the Judiciary, but there are few real choices for middle and working class Americans, particularly when one factors in the stolen Presidential election of 2000. Jimmy Carter, one of the few former Presidents known for his honesty, recently publicly stated his certainty that Gore won the 2000 election.
For more, click on: http://rawstory.com/news/2005/Carter_says_Gore_won_2000_el_0922.html
The flood-waters of Katrina unmasked the depraved engineers of the runaway train called the United States. Bush, Rove, Rumsfeld and Cheney have been exposed to the world as malevolent profit seekers who regard humanity simply as a means to enhance their wealth and power. I need only look at the T-shirt I bought at the march on Saturday as a reminder. My shirt is emblazoned with a picture of a suffering, elderly Black American woman in New Orleans who has bundled herself in the American flag for warmth. Bush and his war-mongers have perverted the meaning of a once sacred symbol of the ideals of a true republic to one of hatred, criminality, brutality, and imperialism. I hope it served her well as a blanket. Some members of Congress want a Constitutional amendment to prevent flag desecration. Too late! The criminal acts of the Bush administration have already grossly defiled the American flag.
Resisting the Path of Violence
Many readers have emailed me with their opinions that non-violent movements are ineffective. I disagree. While non-violent movements generally involve significantly more time and will-power than violent revolutions, they can be effective. I cite the examples of Martin Luther King, whose peaceful movement significantly advanced civil rights in the US and of Gandhi’s non-violent revolution, which led to India’s freedom from its imperial oppressor, Great Britain.
For more evidence on the efficacy of non-violent movements or Velvet Revolutions, see Timothy Garton Ash’s article about the bloodless rebellions which brought Communist tyranny to an end in Eastern Europe. He makes a very convincing argument against armed rebellion:
What Are Some Potential Aspects of a Velvet Revolution in the US?
1. If enough Americans become conscious to the inhumanity of our leaders and join a non-violent movement comprised of the poor, the working class, the middle class, minorities, intellectuals, those in the government who are not a part of the corruption, and artists, sheer numbers of people demanding change could overwhelm the ruling plutocracy, who are clearly a numerical minority.
2. We the People need to form a third political party of the people which will have the support of enough Americans that it can rival the corporate-controlled Democrats and Republicans. This party will need to base its principles on the needs and desires of the common people rather than on those of corporations and the elite.
3. Unions need to fight to regain the strength they enjoyed during the Twentieth Century. This will unite workers and restore their power in negotiating with giant corporations. Despite what they would have America's citizens believe, corporations are not "kinder and gentler" entities with the interests of their workers and customers at heart. They are merely wolves who have donned sheep’s clothing to make it appear so. They are motivated by profit and the fear of lawsuits. The will of the people imposed through organized labor needs to motivate corporations to take a deeper interest in the welfare of employees and customers.
4. We the People need to push for passage of the ERA and an equal rights amendment for gays.
5. We need to work for permanent implementation of the Voting Rights Act.
6. Writers with a social conscience need to continue to publish books and essays advocating social justice, spreading truth, and dissenting against our corrupt oligarchy by any means we can find.
7. Christian Churches need to spend less time and money squabbling over seemingly eternal and irresolvable issues like abortion and focus their efforts on demanding the social justice Jesus Christ would have insisted upon.
8. Educators need to stop teaching the white-washed history of the United States, which virtually ignores the genocide of Native Americans, barely scratches the surface of the depth of the cruelty and immorality of slavery, maintains silence on the topic of the American apartheid system which Katrina brought into the spot-light, and which glorifies an imperialistic, war-mongering government. It is incumbent upon educators to teach their students the truth about America, past and present.
9. We the People need to boycott major corporations like Wal-mart and McDonalds as frequently as possible by shopping at local businesses owned by individual entrepreneurs. Hit the insatiably greedy corporatacracy where it hurts them the most: in their wallets. My wife and I have not spent a penny at Wal-Mart or McDonald’s for over a year.
10. Progressive taxes on the rich and on corporations need to be increased while regressive taxes on the poor and working class need to be decreased to move the US toward a society with a more equitable distribution of wealth.
11. The US government spends $600 billion per year on defense, including funding for the Iraqi Occupation and money for ancillary functions. It is time to truly bring the troops home from Iraq (over a period of time to allow stabilization to occur) and from the 700 military bases in over 56 countries around the world. We will save $64 billion over twenty years by closing 33 domestic bases under Donald Rumsfeld's plan. Imagine the money we would save (besides the $5 billion per month from ending the occupation of Iraq) in closing 700 bases. To my knowledge, there are no foreign military bases on US soil. If We the People are intent upon retooling the US into a nation focused on the needs of its people with enough military simply to defend our nation rather than enough to dominate the world, it is time to remove the US military from foreign soil. Removing US military bases from their nations is one of the legitimate demands of those the US government has labeled as “terrorists”.
12. The US needs to relegate the notion of repealing the estate taxed to the dustbin of history, where it belongs. Eliminating the estate tax would further ensure the perpetuation of the American Aristocracy and virtually eradicate the already extremely slim chance that a poor American can realize the Horatio Alger dream.
13. We "Commoners" need to demand a system of national health care (or implement it once our third political party has become a power capable of rivaling the existing Duopoly). The US holds the shameful distinction of being the only industrialized nation without a guarantee of healthcare to each of its citizens. What a dubious distinction for the wealthiest nation in the world! With money derived from cuts in defense spending and increased taxes on the wealthy and corporations, the US could readily implement a national health care system comprised of a synthesis of the best features of the systems of other nations. To make the system affordable, those Americans whose income exceeded a particular thresh-hold would pay premiums based on a percentage of their income.
14. We need to demand that the US government cut Israel’s umbilical cord. Israelis have received more than enough money and weapons from the US to stand on their own. US support of Israel, which, like its benefactor, often engages in state terrorism and has committed acts of genocide against the Palestinians, continues to infuriate Arabs throughout the Middle East. The US has a moral obligation to let Israel fend for itself and to see to the establishment of a legitimate homeland for the Palestinians. There is also the pragmatic consideration that as long as the US supports Israel’s abuse of the Palestinians, it will continue to feed the rage of many Arabs.
15. We the People need to find and elect a populist leader like Hugo Chavez, who will place the needs of the poor over the desires of the wealthy elite.
16. The US government needs to respect international law, treaties, human rights, and the autonomy of sovereign nations, and to participate fairly in the UN.
17. The public education system needs to be restructured in such a way that students across the nation attend schools with comparable facilities, teachers, and textbooks.
18. Americans with a social conscience need to insist the US pass and enforce restrictions on corporations to protect the environment. Ending the charade that global warming is a hoax and signing the Kyoto Treaty would be a tremendous start.
19. Besides the creation of a powerful political party, boycotts, labor strikes, marches, providing better education to all American children, dissident writing, staying informed, demanding accountability of public officials through the avenues which are still available, joining groups advocating civil rights and humanity, We the People have another non-violent weapon at our disposal. When it is warranted, civil disobedience is a powerful tool to evoke change. For example, while conscription is not yet a reality, if I am confronted with a call from the US government to participate in one of their imperialist conquests, I will follow the fine example of Kevin Benderman and refuse, even if it means prison. If enough people engage in civil disobedience, the plutocracy will not have the capacity to punish all of us, and will lack the manpower to grease the wheels of their money-making machines.
The rally and protest on 9/24 was simply a high water mark for a movement which has steadily been gaining momentum over the last few years. As one of the participants shouted to the group:
“Don’t let this end today. This is only a beginning. When you leave here, continue what we started today!”
While my brief outline of a velvet revolution is not comprehensive and represents a simple sketch which would require a great deal more study and development, it presents a framework of viable alternatives with which to counter the agenda of the elitist and hegemonist regime which some Americans still believe is a democracy. With the will, commitment, and wide participation of We the People in a non-violent, velvet revolution, the US can become a nation with a soul rather than the hollow, inhumane, gluttonous, and bellicose entity it is now. The ugly face of America represents a minority of its populace. It is time for the majority to impose their will and show the world that the US is a nation capable of engaging in truly noble causes.
Jason Miller is a 38 year old activist writer with a degree in liberal arts. He works in the transportation industry, and is a husband and a father to three boys. His affiliations include Amnesty International, the ACLU and the Americans United for Separation of Church and State. He welcomes responses at email@example.com or comments on his blog at http://civillibertarian.blogspot.com/.