Archive for February, 2011
New York City: I went on the very fast Walk that zoomed up Broadway from Foley Square, around Washington Square Park and back down in a little over an hour. There were 101 people — I counted, with 2 older than me, and about 70% women under 25, a few younger guys. They wanted to walk & scream with their home made signs. They did really loud whoops under awnings that got attention, and generally favorable comments. People wanted to talk to me about my sign, but we didn’t have time to stop and talk to anyone if we wanted to keep up. The main chants they did were “We Have A Choice! We Have a Voice!” and “What do you want? Choice! When do you want it? Now!”
Lots of spontaneous energy. I would say the dominant sentiment was outrage — they can’t do this; we won’t let them. A lot was attributed to Republicans being in power. Those in the lead said they heard about it on tumblr. I didn’t know anyone from that 100.
When we returned from the Walk, THE Planned Parenthood started. About 4,000 people came, mostly younger women. Some of the union activists
and leftists from the “Save the American Dream” rally a few blocks away, which was also several thousand, joined in. Most of the speakers were politicians, local, state and national.
The message was don’t cut funding for women’s health, Title X and PPFA. Kathleen Turner spoke, but I missed her. Kathleen Hanna from Bikini Kill talked about getting care at PP in Chicago in 1989. Amanda Marcotte talked about her #thanksPPFA campaign on Twitter.
My sign (written by Richie M) was well received — probably 200 people took photos. Memo to Congress, advertisers, and so-called pro “life”ers:
The most DANGEROUS place for a WOMAN is a country without ABORTION and BIRTH CONTROL. worldcantwait.net
Reports from other areas:
Chicago: I estimated 400 to 500 people, overwhelmingly under 30 years of age, very unapologetic. The weather was awful, snow and cold, and got worse as the afternoon went on. I know several of my older friends couldn’t come because of it. Lina can describe the one older woman who tried to tell them they shouldn’t say “abortion” – keep the rhetoric at “choice” – they weren’t buying it!
One woman, about 30 years old, made her sign, “Planned Parenthood saved my life.” She said she was 20 years old; her Christian fundamentalist father drove her to the clinic, paid for her abortion, while her mother still hasn’t forgiven her. She told me that one middle aged woman who was watching from the sidelines, came up to her, pointed to her sign, said “me too” and walked away.
Many creative signs, including one that said, “You screw us, we’ll multiply, and you’ll be in real trouble.” Another young woman made this sign; it looked like a cartoon cell, with a woman in a bathing suit coming out of a body of water, with words, “I’m tired of swimming in a patriarchal sea.” The two banners – Abortion Providers Save Women’s Lives and Abortion on Demand & Without Apology – brought by World Can’t Wait were the backdrop for the rally.
There were young women dressed for the occasion in bright orange, some with flowing skirts over their jeans, and this contributed to the mood of joyous determination. Another woman had an outrageous huge wig of many colors, shaped like the hair of a pharoah — she said in honor of the Egyptian people.
A number of young women I spoke with thanked us veterans for continuing the battle for reproductive rights.
At the rally, one of the loudest cheers went up for the contingent from Medical Students for Choice from the medical school at U of I-Chicago. One of the female medical students told the crowd of her abortion 3 weeks ago that was safe, with proper pain medication, and support from her pro-choice friends. She pointed out that she became pregnant when she was using an IUD.
[from another report] I was most struck by was the young people in the march. It was overwhelmingly young and they were not afraid to say exactly how they felt, whereas I felt some of the older people were too tempered or bothered by the frankness of the youth.
Seeing the youth among the crowd made me think of how hard we have worked to get youth to take the lead of a movement of resistance. I really saw the potential in this today…not just with standing up for Women’s Rights to abortion and birth control but, really taking the lead in demanding an end to wars/occupations and torture…so when I had the opportunity, I tied the oppression of women into the overall oppression of humanity in the wars/occupations and torture. Many of the crowd were I think acutely aware of the need for consistent visible resistance and when Lina and I spoke of Egypt and Libya and all the countries that are rising up against oppression they understood it…still though there was a tendency among some of the crowd to put the blame solely on the right wing fascist rather than looking at the fact that the Democrats don’t act in the interest of women either when they seek to find common ground with the antis…but we addressed this over and over and emphasized this why people had to take responsibility for fighting these viscous onslaughts and when we did most of the crowd got it and agreed. It was a really great day!
Champaign-Urbana, IL: We also had a Walk for Choice yesterday! Like the other walks, ours was also mostly all young women. On Monday, I met with the Gender Action Network (student organizers at the University of Illinois who have feminist student groups, such as NOW, Feminist Majority, etc.), and they said it was too late to get a Walk for Choice organized. However, I launched a Facebook invite on Tuesday and we did it!
On Friday evening, four young women (three who were sophomores from a sorority on campus) joined me in making banners and signs in the basement of the English Building on campus. The “sisters” shared that they didn’t talk politics in their sorority because it was too controversial, but they each
identified as liberal, had very progressive moms, and were concerned about Planned Parenthood.
The day of the walk, about 20 people came out – all women students (+two guys) plus two young non-students and one woman who was a counselor on campus who worked with students on sexuality issues. We met at Planned Parenthood on the sidewalk (which is located one block from campus). We read aloud summaries of each of the bills (HR358, HR3, HR217, South Dakota HB1171, and Georgia HB1). I thought this would be helpful to us in learning exactly what these bills said. We did a ceremonial “boooo” after each one. We also read a list of all the services PP provides and cheered.
We walked around Champaign, through the restaurant and bar district, over to campus, and back to PP again and chanted from a list of rally chants I found online (there were about 20 good ones!) About half-way through, I gave the megaphone over to the president of NOW and this gal did an amazing job! This was also my first time with a bullhorn, so I was a bit nervous (but the old high school cheerleader in me kicked in!) We had lots of waves and supportive honks during the walk!
At the end, we stood in front of PP and formally introduced ourselves and described how we could keep in touch (names of student groups, organizations we work with, etc.) The overall feeling was – YES! Let’s keep doing this!!! If we weren’t standing out in the cold, we could have hung out a while and chatted. There was the feeling of, is it over already!? So, it was a lingering departure.
Also, Planned Parenthood of Champaign recently put up a banner on their building reading “Stand with Planned Parenthood” and a number to text a message. I thought this was pretty interesting! Good for them, it’s time to bring it local and I think they are changing their tune.
Honolulu: Two organizations called for protests on Saturday noon at the State Capitol. One, a rally and march to support the protests in Wisconsin was called by MoveOn. A second rally and march was called by Planned Parenthood as part of the national “Walk for Choice.”
World Can’t Wait responded to the call made by Planned Parenthood and came to the Capitol with lots of Pro-Choice signs and banners It was a good thing we did, because many Pro-Choice supporters hadn’t made their own signs, and picked up one of ours. We have often brought banners and signs saying “Abortion on Demand, and Without Apology” to events, and people have generally backed off from carrying them – and have often expressed their disagreement with the slogan. This time the slogan was welcomed. The Planned Parenthood CEO gave us a thumbs-up as soon as she saw it. Two youth who had never met us before picked up another.
More than 150 people came to support the unions; about 50 to support a women’s right to choose. The two groups merged the rallies, first one person from one group taking the mic, and then someone from the other group. Liz Rees, spokesperson for World Can’t Wait-Hawai`i, gave one of the three talks supporting reproductive rights and received repeated applause. She was the only one to boldly speak out for abortion, and to link the “Walk for Choice” with national events to defend the right to abortion. Her call to be bold, and to refuse to compromise on a women’s right to choose was met with resounding approval. For those who had come to support the unions, this may have been the first time they’d heard such a talk, and many people approached Liz after the rally to thank her.
The march was even more confusing than the rally, with pro-choice signs mixed in with a variety of signs reading everying from “Defend the American Dream” to “Defend Unions” and “Kill the Bill”. A passer-by along the way obviously understood the pro-choice signs, but then asked why we were marching for civil unions, when the governor had signed the bill granting civil unions last week. While the merging of the two groups was confusing to some, others linked the tea party attacks against both organized labor and choice.
In spite of the confusion, getting out more than 200 people on the Honolulu streets with less than 3 days notice was remarkable, and there seemed to be a renewed sense that the need for resistance is more urgent now than ever.
Seattle: Good day in Seattle! About 600 people, mostly young women, college students, came out. We held a speakout on-stage. Some of the chants were “abortion on demand and without apology, without this basic right, women can’t be free!” and “a woman should decide her fate, not the church and not state!”
The speakout was very powerful. We called on women to share their stories of having an abortion. Some other people said that we shouldn’t talk about abortion and that we should just stick to talking about “choice”. One older woman was saying that she was so happy she was able to have had an abortion, that she felt relieved because she didn’t have to take care of child she wasn’t ready for. There was another women who said that people shouldn’t feel shame about taking care of their bodies.
A woman talked about how on the march she had started to cry once she saw all the women on the sidelines who were clapping their hands and cheering, and when she saw their faces light up when they saw us coming down the street. People traveled from all parts of the state to come and the feeling of empowerment was really electric.
After the older woman started to speak about their experience, girls as young as 17 told their stories. One young girl said that she had a really cruel boyfriend, she got pregnant and was able to have an abortion. If she didn’t have the ability to do that, she would be in a really bad situation and she was glad that she has the life she has today. Some women were crying in hearing these stories.
It was very heartening to people who have been continuously fighting for abortion rights and the liberation of women to see women in the streets after years of being afraid, put on the defensive and kept out of the streets. Older people were also inspired by the young women that came out to show that they are not ashamed to talk about reproductive issues, birth control or abortion.
Philadelphia: About 200 walked, joined in with a rally for union rights.
Greensboro, NC: Between 70 and 80 people from various parts of North Carolina participated in protests today in Greensboro in support of abortion rights, and against the attacks against women’s rights in Congress and in state governments.Initiated by a blogger in Chicago and coordinated by a spontaneous network of volunteers on sites like tumblr and facebook, the walk for Choice took place in more than 50 cities in the US, with others occurring in Canada and the UK.
Women, mostly 25 and under, made up the majority of participants in Greensboro, which also had significant participation of women who were brought into activism in the days before Roe v. Wade. Several men also participated, coming in with friends from Charlotte, Raleigh, and Winston-Salem. Drummers from the Cakalak Thunder Radical Drum Corps provided the beats along the march, which took place up the main downtown strip. All the placards were handwritten, with messages like “May the baby you save be gay,” “Abortion on demand without apology,” “I’m a woman, not a womb”, and a bright orange banner painted with the words, “Abortion providers are heroes: A fetus is not a baby, abortion is not murder, women are not incubators!”
On returning to the park where the march began, several marchers took part in an open mic and reflected on the serious situation we’re now confronting. A 60-year old marcher who had broad experience with women seeking abortion in the days before Roe told several stories of the horrors women faced and warned of the very real danger of going back to those days if we don’t oppose the rash of laws being put forward. A young woman told the crowd that she was going to be moving to Kansas soon, in spite of (or really because of) the fact that Kansas has been the site of massive anti-abortion activity, and that she is going to commit herself fully to the pro-choice movement there.
The organizer of the march, for whom this was the first protest that she had ever organized, talked about the attcks on Planned Parenthood, and emphasized the importance of taking action, even if you have no experience organizing or mobilizing people. Se added that social networking sites have become a very powerful tool in the hands of activists.
Another activist who supports the Revolutionary Communist Party emphasized the importance of fighting the lies of anti-choice forces with scientific understanding, adding that it’s crucial not to be afraid of using the word “abortion”, nor to apologize for being in support of full equality for women. Oranigzers with World Can’t Wait distributed the leaflet, “Stand up for women’s Right to Abortion and Birth Control in 2011!” and made the connection between the attacks on women and the fascist trajectory in the US, which includes the demonization of Muslims and immigrants, as well as the ongoing wars.
Los Angeles: 250-300 people gathered at Pershing Square in Downtown L.A. Men and Women, students, families; splattering of orange. I spoke to students who came from over an hour’s drive to participate. Many of them representing community colleges, universities. People took the World Can’t Wait Abortion Statement readily and Abortion on Demand, without Apology. Of the 30+ people I spoke with, only one had heard of Dr. Sue Wicklund and loved the book. All said they would check out the website, the book and the DVD with Sunsara and Sue.
No one had heard of World Can’t Wait and when I said WCW wears orange to stand against torture and to rally people to stand against Crimes of this Government; there was lots of agreement. Asked people to join in the streets on March 19th Against the War. The majority were unaware of the march.
1 2 3 4 Open up the Clinic Door
5 6 7 8 You can’t make us Procreate!
and the standard:
When Women’s Rights
Are Under Attack,
What do we Do?
Stand Up Fight Back!
The political terrain is changing hourly in the Middle East, with governments responding to the peoples’ uprising in different ways. But we’re seeing one constant: the U.S. at every point pushes its own interests, regardless of the status of the peoples’ rights.
World Can’t Wait exists to “stop the crimes of our government.” So we should be vigilant. We’ve pointed out Washington’s deep and long support for repressive regimes across the region, including Egypt, Yemen, Jordan, Saudi Arabia & Bahrain, and also the huge amount of military and political support given to Israel by successive U.S. administrations. In Bahrain, where the U.S. has a strategic base, Hillary Clinton weakly, and hypocritically, defended the protesters’ rights (only days after witnessing prominent anti-war veteran Ray McGovern brutalized during a speech of hers in the US). As if she and the government she has long represented was unaware of what these regimes do to their people!
In Egypt, protesters showed the lethal tear gas canisters used against them by the government – labeled “Made in the USA.” These were just a small fraction of the overall budget of military aid given to Egypt by the US.
In Libya hundreds of people are being slaughtered in the streets by mercenaries. Though Qaddafi’s government has appeared more oppositional to the U.S., the U.S. reestablished full diplomatic relations with Libya, under pressure from U.S. oil companies. Military aid followed. But in the wake of the absolutely righteous upsurge of the people against Qaddafi’s repression, will the U.S. take the opportunity to install a more compliant government to its own interests? U.S. military intervention will do no more good in Libya than it’s done elsewhere… which is to say: it will be a disaster for the people, but good for U.S. interests in holding onto strategic oil and territory.
In Pakistan, there’s news of the first drone strike in a month, this one killing civilians: US Drone Strikes Kill 15 in Pakistan.
The Washington Post reported yesterday on the last years of U.S. drone bombings:
Despite a major escalation in the number of unmanned Predator strikes being carried out under the Obama administration, data from government and independent sources indicate that the number of high-ranking militants being killed as a result has either slipped or barely increased. Even more generous counts – which indicate that the CIA killed as many as 13 “high-value targets” – suggest that the drone program is hitting senior operatives only a fraction of the time.
While the CIA contends they’ve killed just 2 civilians, the article goes on to say:
The New America Foundation estimates that at least 607 people were killed in 2010, which would mean that a single year has accounted for nearly half of the number of deaths since 2004, when the program began. Overall, the foundation estimates that 32 of those killed could be considered “militant leaders” of al-Qaeda or the Taliban, or about 2 percent.
Glenn Greenwald looks at the CIA’s role in Pakistan. In This week in winning hearts and minds, he describes Raymond Davis, the ex-Special Forces, current CIA operative held in Pakistan for personally killing 4 Pakistanis in an incident on the street, and:
The State Department first said he worked for the consulate, not the embassy, which would make him subject to weaker immunity rights than diplomats enjoy (State now says that its original claim was a “mistake” and that Davis worked for the embassy). President Obama then publicly demanded the release of what he absurdly called ”our diplomat in Pakistan”; when he was arrested, Davis ”was carrying a 9mm gun and 75 bullets, bolt cutters, a GPS unit, an infrared light, telescope, a digital camera, an air ticket, two mobile phones and a blank cheque.”
There’s a major diplomatic crisis over Davis between Pakistan, and competing forces within its government, and the U.S. government. Greenwald describes the complexity for the U.S.:
There’s the gross hypocrisy of the U.S. State Department invoking lofty “rule-of-law” and diplomacy principles under the 1961 Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations — the very same State Department that just got caught systematically violating that convention when WikiLeaks cables revealed that U.S. “diplomats” were ordered to spy on U.N. officials and officials in other countries. Then there’s the delusional notion — heard mostly from progressives with romanticized images of the State Department — that WikiLeaks’ release of diplomatic cables was terrible because it’s wrong to undermine “diplomacy” with leaks, since the State Department (unlike the Big, Bad Pentagon) is devoted to Good, Humane causes of facilitating peace. As this episode illustrates, there’s no separation among the various arms of the U.S. Government; they all are devoted to the same end and simply use different means to accomplish it (when the U.S. Government is devoted to war, “diplomatic” functions are used to bolster the war, as Colin Powell can tell you).
These crises can help sort out the interests of the governments from the interests of the people. In supporting the courageous people across the Middle East who are fighting repression, we are challenged to look at our own government. I come back to the Not in Our Name Pledge of Resistance:
…Not in our name
will you wage endless war
there can be no more deaths
no more transfusions
of blood for oil…
Last week, I posted this photo of masses of Egyptians in Tahrir Square in late January 2011 with the question, “Now do you know what we were talking about?”
I sent the message to tens of thousands of supporters of World Can’t Wait, established in 2005 as The World Can’t Wait – Drive Out the Bush Regime. The photo and one line got a lot of response.
Almost half the response amounted to “yes — we knew what you meant then, and we’re with you!” Some people didn’t recognize the photo, or guessed that I was calling for a new movement to “drive out” the current president. One, who signed the Call to Drive out the Bush Regime online in 2007, announced she is Republican, and wanted no more mail from me.
So, for you all to whom the message was not clear, here’s what that photo is about:
Early 2005 was a time when people in this country who cared about basic justice and rights of the people were thinking of leaving because George W. had been selected as president, again. Why should 4 more long years have to pass with him as president, when that was so clearly against the interests of people in this country, not to mention the rest of the world?
About 40,000 people signed the Call to Drive Out the Bush Regime online. Clearly, the idea was appealing. But people asked, what does “drive out” mean? Some asserted that World Can’t Wait really, covertly, meant there had to be an all-out revolution to force Bush from office; that being impossible, they argued, we weren’t going to succeed. Others could only conceptualize a movement utilizing the mechanism of impeachment, gaining critical mass in the Congress by winning over Democrats to lead it.
Here’s what we said in the Call to Drive Out the Bush Regime:
There is a way. We are talking about something on a scale that can really make a huge change in this country and in the world. We need more than fighting Bush’s outrages one at a time, constantly losing ground to the whole onslaught. We must, and can, aim to create a political situation where the Bush regime’s program is repudiated, where Bush himself is driven from office, and where the whole direction he has been taking society is reversed. We, in our millions, must and can take responsibility to change the course of history.
Driving out Bush & Cheney would not have been easy. Clearly, it ended up being beyond the capacity of a great many honest, determined people who had right on our side. But the idea of a mass movement of people independent of the Republican & Democratic parties, would have begun with people taking to the streets, and staying there for a prolonged period, with growing momentum.
World Can’t Wait and many anti-war leaders, including Cindy Sheehan, organized for several of the Bush years to get that sort of thing started. We tried to find all those people who had been in the street, especially on February 15, 2003, when 15 million around the world — including probably one million in New York City — massed against the coming invasion of Iraq. We knew that one day of protest was not enough, and also that what can happen once, could happen again.
Last week, as mass protests moved to Yemen, Jordan, Bahrain, Libya and now Wisconsin, I think a great many people are thinking more deeply about what good street protest does. It’s really the only thing that’s ever made a government take notice, back off, re-think its actions. It’s the only thing that brings out the true nature of a government. And of course, yes, as in the case of Libya right now, unleash desperate brutality toward the people.
But that visible protest is a necessary factor for change.
Chris Floyd has been thinking about this. Worldcantwait.net often posts his thoughtful blog pieces from Empire Burlesque. This one, Kairos in Cairo: Seizing the Moment of Moral Courage goes back to February 15, 2003, and considers what might have kept the U.S./U.K. alliance from being able to attack Iraq. It’s worth reading as a whole. To whet your appetite:
What if we, like the Egyptians, had gotten in the way of business as usual, and brought more and more pressure to bear on the system, forcing the issue of aggressive war on the public consciousness, unavoidably, day after day — and by this, as in Egypt, forcing officials of the system to declare where they stood?
So, where do we stand now?
Watching the delirious celebrations in Egypt, and spreading to cities across the region, and the world, you’ve got to feel the joy. A hated dictator, who until a month or so ago held unchallengeable power, is gone, relatively quickly, through the action of people in the streets. Standing up to the police state, the open on-the-street killing of protesters, the jailing and torture of 10,000 political prisoners as S.O.P., Egyptian youth have opened something up which is doubtless making other repressive governments nervous.
Where this all will go we can’t know. But never tell me, again, that protest “doesn’t do any good.” People used to ask, when we began World Can’t Wait – Drive Out the Bush Regime, “what does that mean? drive out?” The last 3 weeks provide a stunning example. Received via Twitter: “ya’ll know we could have done this w/ Pres Bush right?? it’s not too late to end the war & torture. world can’t wait.”
Our responsibility to stop the crimes of our own government is really acute now. The Egyptian military is now in charge. Exactly the problem! As World Can’t Wait posted today:
The Mubarak regime was “Made in the U.S.A.” Since 1979, the U.S. has given the regime $35 billion, $1.3 billion per year in military support. Because of this, Egypt has a large military, and the world’s 4th largest fleet of F-16 fighter planes. Egyptian police who have held 10,000 political prisoners receive training from the U.S. military. Even the tear gas fired on demonstrators is “Made in the U.S.A.”
Despite decades of torture, disappearing political opponents, and the most open brutality against its own citizens, neither Republican or Democrat leaders plan to reduce military aid to Egypt (LA Times 2/9/11).
The Army was under the control of and trained under the Mubarak regime, and successive U.S. administrations which showered it with money, while the country was a police-state dictatorship for decades. Wolf Blitzer on CNN just now:
“I’m sure the U.S. leaders are relieved that the Egyptian military is in charge, because they have a strong relationship with them.”
Will the U.S. stop its “rendition” relationship with state torture in Egypt? Mubarak’s man, Omar Suleiman, who seems to be out along with Mubarak, was also the CIA’s man. According to Stephen Soldz of Psychologists for Social Responsibility:
Each rendition was authorized at the very top levels of both governments….The long-serving chief of the Egyptian central intelligence agency, Omar Suleiman, negotiated directly with top Agency officials. [Former U.S. Ambassador to Egypt] Walker described the Egyptian counterpart, Suleiman, as “very bright, very realistic,” adding that he was cognizant that there was a downside to “some of the negative things that the Egyptians engaged in, of torture and so on. But he was not squeamish, by the way” (pp. 113).
Stephen Hendricks, in his fascinating 2010 book, “A Kidnapping in Milan: The CIA on Trial “ traces the CIA – Egypt relationship back 60 years:
One of the earliest recipients of the CIA’s training was Egypt. The trainers were former Nazi commanders from Germany who were recruited by the CIA not long after the Second World War, probably because the agency was then inexperienced in brutality and wanted men of expertise.”
Hendricks goes on to describe, in gruesome detail, the torture of Abu Omar (Osama Mustafa Hassan Masri), a suspected member of the Muslim Brotherhood who fled Egypt. He was kidnapped by a CIA team in Milan, and “rendered” back to Egypt, where he was tortured for over a year, and released for 23 days, long enough to tell his story. When the Egyptian State Security Service notified him to return and pick up his identification papers, without which he could not move about, he returned to the prison, only to disappear completely, never to be heard from in the last 7 years.
That’s the legacy of the Egyptian torture state, paid for and used by the United States.
That’s the legacy we have to learn about, resist, and stop.
Recently, during a snowy travel delay, a relative gave me John Irving’s A Prayer for Owen Meany, her favorite, for stand-by reading. I did not intend to write about it, but with all the hype around the centenary of Reagan’s birth, I noticed a passage where the protagonist, a Vietnam war resister who settled in Canada, brought the terrible Reagan years back for me:
Just the day before yesterday–January 28, 1987–the front page of The Globe and Mail gave us a full account of President Ronald Wilson Reagan’s State of the Union Message. Will I ever learn? …After almost twenty years in Canada, there are certain American lunatics who still fascinate me.
”There must be no Soviet beachhead in Central America,” President Reagan said. He also insisted that he would not sacrifice his proposed nuclear missiles in space–his beloved Star Wars plan–to a nuclear arms agreement with the Soviet Union. He even said that ‘a key element of the U.S. Soviet agenda is ‘more responsible Soviet conduct around the world’–as if the United States were a bastion of ‘responsible conduct around the world.’
I believe that President Reagan can say these things only because he knows that the American people will never hold him accountable for what he says; it is history that holds you accountable.
Irving’s character goes on to detail the uprising of protest against Vietnam, as a participant:
Was twenty years ago so long for Americans?…Ronald Reagan had not yet numbed the United States. But he had put California to sleep; he described the Vietnam protests as ‘giving aid and comfort to the enemy.’
We called him Ronnie Ray-gun. The 80′s was a terrible decade, beginning with Ronald Reagan’s election as the president to repudiate “the 60′s.” Carl Dix, a real-life resister of the Vietnam War, wrote in 1985:
The United States of America appears to have gone totally mad. It screams that its `hesitancies’ and `self doubts’ left over from Vietnam are dispelled. `We won’t be pushed around any more!’ Official America brims with unapologetic self-love. Amid a reborn worship of `free enterprise,’ the proletarian, the poor, the non-white are openly scorned as `losers’ who have somehow personally failed to take advantage of the `limitless opportunities’ in the `land of the free.’ Classic American know-nothingism is back in vogue. `Traditional social roles,’ especially for women and youth, are exalted and increasingly enforced. Backwater religious fanatics are handed respectability and influence. Submissiveness, motherhood, unthinking obedience are watchwords of the times.
The overwhelming Reagan defeat of Jimmy Carter was engineered by intense intrigue and the secret Republican plan to block the release of U.S. hostages held in Iran until after the presidential election. Robert Parry, who’s done as much research on Reagan as anyone, recounts the story in The October Surprise archives on his site. Reagan’s presidency was marked by U.S. interventions over much of the world and the placement of hundreds of missiles in Europe, threatening nuclear war with the Soviet Union.
Reagan sent millions of dollars, secretly, to the pro-U.S. “contras” working to overthrow the Nicaraguan government, through a complicated deal in which Israel supplied weapons to forces in Iran, producing the money Reagan secretly sent to the “contras” to avoid Congressional restrictions. This was later known as the “Iran-Contra” affair. It’s worth reviewing.
There were hearings, and a few people like Oliver North did a little time, but impeachment and charges against those high up in the government were suppressed, providing an example for a later compliant Congress to fail to challenge the George W. Bush regime, even as Bush appointed key players from Iran-Contra such as John Negroponte and Elliot Abrams.
Parry, whose reporting at the time uncovered a lot about Iran-Contra, considers the October Surprise / Iran Contra scandals to be:
the missing link in a larger American political narrative covering the sweep of several decades, explaining how the United States shifted away from a nation grappling with epochal problems, from energy dependence and environmental degradation to bloated military budgets and an obsession with empire.
Interviewed here on Reagan’s legacy, he writes this week in Ronald Reagan, Enabler of Atrocities of the decade “many atrocities in Latin America and elsewhere that Reagan aided, covered up or shrugged off in his inimitable ‘aw shucks’ manner.”
Amid all the extravagant hoopla and teary tributes to the late president, perhaps some Americans will stop and think of all the decent people in Latin America and elsewhere who died horrible and unnecessary deaths as Ronald Reagan cheerily defended their murderers.
There are other things we can never forget nor forgive:
When thousands were dying of AIDS, Reagan would not say the word until 1987, after 21,000 Americans had died of it, and lowered the federal budget to fight it.
“My fellow Americans, I’m pleased to tell you today that I’ve signed legislation that will outlaw Russia forever. We begin bombing in five minutes.” Reagan’s chilling “joke,” before a radio broadcast, August 11, 1984
In 1974 Governor Reagan bitterly denounced huge crowds of poor people who excitedly showed up to get free food that the Hearst Corporation had been forced to distribute by the SLA kidnapping of Patty Hearst. Reagan said: ‘It’s just too bad we can’t have an epidemic of botulism.’ see The Crimes and Times of Ronald Reagan.
After getting the nomination in 1980 he praised ‘states rights’ in his first speech–made in Philadelphia, Mississippi, known for the 1964 Klan murder of three young civil rights workers.
Anyone paying attention has been aware that the outrages of U.S. aggression didn’t begin with the Bushes, but it’s important to remind people now that Poppa Bush’s immediate predecessor in the White House has plenty of war crimes to account for, posthumously.
A final fitting tribute to Reagan is Bob Dylan’s song, written well before Reagan’s presidency.
Masters of War
A song by Bob Dylan
You that never done nothin’
But build to destroy
You play with my world
Like it’s your little toy
You put a gun in my hand
And you hide from my eyes
And you turn and run farther
When the fast bullets fly
Like Judas of old
You lie and deceive
A world war can be won
You want me to believe
But I see through your eyes
And I see through your brain
Like I see through the water
That runs down my drain.
And I hope that you die
And your death’ll come soon
I will follow your casket
In the pale afternoon
And I’ll watch while you’re lowered
Down to your deathbed
And I’ll stand o’er your grave
‘Til I’m sure that you’re dead.
See Robert Parry’s three-book set: Lost History, Secrecy & Privilege and Neck Deep: Let’s Get the Truth Out on the Bushes, and Ronald Reagan.
From the Center for Constitutional Rights comes good news… G.W. Bush has been forced to cancel a speaking trip in Switzerland next week to avoid being charged in a torture case:
“CCR, with the Berlin-based European Center for Constitutional and Human Rights (ECCHR) and Paris-based International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH), have spent weeks preparing a 2,500 page torture case against Bush that would have been filed on Monday, February 7 – the anniversary of the day, nine years ago, when Bush decided the Geneva Conventions didn’t apply to ‘enemy combatants.’ Bush was due to be in Geneva on the 12th, and his presence on Swiss territory is required for the prosecutor to take action.
“The complaint, brought under the Convention Against Torture with the support of 50 NGOs, two former UN Special Rapporteurs on Torture and two Nobel Prize winners, was on behalf of two torture victims, one who is still at Guantánamo.
“Whatever Bush or his hosts say, we have no doubt he cancelled his trip to avoid our case. The message from civil society is clear – If you’re a torturer, be careful in your travel plans. It’s a slow process for accountability, but we keep going.”
In the Guardian UK today:
The visit would have been Bush’s first to Europe since he admitted in his autobiography, Decision Points, in November that he had authorised the use of waterboarding – simulated drowning – on detainees at Guantánamo accused of links with al-Qaida. Whether out of concern over the protests or the arrest warrant, it is an extraordinary development for a former US president to have his travel plans curtailed in this way, and amounts to a victory for human rights campaigners.
Reuters reports today in Bush’s Swiss visit off after complaints on torture:
Bush, in his “Decision Points” memoirs on his 2001-2009 presidency, strongly defends the use of waterboarding as key to preventing a repeat of the September 11 attacks on the United States.
Most human rights experts consider the practice a form of torture, banned by the Convention on Torture, an international pact prohibiting torture and other cruel, inhumane or degrading treatment or punishment. Switzerland and the United States are among 147 countries to have ratified the 1987 treaty.
Bush was to speak at a Jewish charity function. McClatchy newspapers report:
“Protest organizers told participants to bring an extra shoe, prompting fears that someone might re-enact an Iraqi journalist’s 2008 assault on President Bush in Baghdad. The reporter hurled his own footwear as a sign of contempt.”
Whether the threat of prosecution or the threat of determined mass protest caused the cancellation of Bush’s visit, it’s a sign that people are paying attention, and acting on the necessity of holding Bush accountable for war crimes.