Archive for September, 2011

Why is the U.S. war in Afghanistan such a central issue?

Standing at #OccupyWallStreet this week, we got a chance to talk with occupiers, supporters, and tourists about the upcoming 10th anniversary of the U.S. bombing and occupation of Afghanistan, and plans to protest it next week, particularly starting Thursday, October 6 at Freedom Plaza in Washington, D.C.

The great majority warmly embraced us, some literally, helping to write “Stop the War” in Arabic, Spanish, and French for our signs, or dropping donations in our bucket.  People stared a long time at a photo of Afghan civilians wounded by a U.S. bomb, and asked, “Is that war still going on?”  “Why hasn’t it been stopped, because we’re all against it?”  “I think the people there must hate us.”

A couple of Wall Street occupiers took issue, not with ending the war, but with making it a main focus.  One said that he is mainly worried about people in this country, whom he called “Americans.”  A friend of his accurately reminded him that this whole hemisphere is filled with Americans, but only in one country does the use of that term refer exclusively to citizens of the United States.

I read them one of my favorite one-liners from BAsics, the speeches and writings of Bob Avakian.

“American lives are not more important than other peoples’ lives.”

I said why it’s such an outrage that the richest country in history is destroying one of the poorest.  With more than 1,100 U.S. bases in countries around the world, U.S. power amounts to a world-wide empire, and the U.S. has a larger military budget than all other countries combined. Think about the destruction of the global environment caused by this military machine, the largest user of fossil fuels in the world, again, more than most countries.

They were kind of with me on that point.  “Think what could be done with all that money at home,” said the kid with peace sign tattoos.  ” I can see why you think it’s important to end the war. The U.S. really can’t afford the billions of dollars for war.”

But, in reality, the people who run this country can’t afford not to maintain an empire.  It’s how they dominate strategic parts of the world, especially the oil-rich Middle East, and keep other countries from controlling them.  War and the projection of military power is how they control globalized markets and production, which they would lose without the guns to back up their exploitation of people and resources.

Our opposition to U.S. wars of occupation is fundamentally based on morality.  They’re not fought in our interest, and certainly not in the interests of the people of the world.

Stopping the wars is so fundamental because they protect a system which hourly promotes a bigger gap between rich and poor, exploiters and exploited, on a world-wide basis.

Come out, protest, occupy, raise your voices against the 10 years of war in Afghanistan and against US domination of the globe.  That’s where the horrors start, and where we must put a stop to them.

Write me at debrasweet at worldcantwait.net for information on a conference call Thursday Sept. 29. 10pm Eastern/7pm Pacific discussing Why is the U.S. in Afghanistan and Iraq?  What is the effect on those societies?  When, if ever, will the U.S. leave?  Presenters Larry Everest, author of Oil, Power & Empire: Iraq and the U.S. Global Agenda, and Raed Jarrar, who blogs at RaedintheMiddle, and was born in Baghdad, will take your questions.

UPDATE: You can listen to the recorded conference call here.

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Occupying Wall Street & Resisting State Execution

Over the last few years, people have looked around at the movement for social justice and said, often, “Where are the youth?”  This past week, in NYC they have been out on the streets, crackling with frustration, outrage, energy, and some hope and joy at just standing against what they can’t bear to be a part of.

Mourning Troy Davis, Union Square, September 22, 2011

Monday through Thursday evenings last week in NYC, they turned out for rallies, vigils, and marches at Union Square, Columbia University, NYU, in Harlem, and down to Wall Street, against the “legal lynching” of Troy Davis.

Beginning last Saturday, hundreds of mostly young people, including students, have been occupying Zuccotti Park (Broadway & Liberty) as part of the Occupy Wall Street action.

Though they don’t have an organization, or a set of demands, they are organizing themselves into a structured effort to wake up the population to the vast disparity between wealth and poverty, saying that they speak for the “99%” who have no power in the society.  People are arriving to join in from around the U.S., and from around the globe.

Today, hundreds of mostly young people marched from lower Broadway to Union Square as part of Occupy Wall Street.  It was a loud, energetic, even boisterous, but peaceful crowd chanting “we are the 99% — and so are you!” and “join us!”

Marching up Church Street, NYC, September 24, 2011

Thousands of shoppers in SOHO and tourists and New Yorkers were snapping photos and waving thumbs up.  Cab drivers were honking in rhythm with the drummers.  Troy Davis was present via signs, as people refused to resign ourselves to his execution.

After we made it to Union Square with only about 6 arrests, the NYPD pulled out the orange plastic nets and pepper spray, and arrested upwards of 80 people, for nothing but being in the street, and in some cases, on the sidewalk.  They staged a mass arrest reminiscent of the police state atmosphere they created in 2004 at the Republican National Convention where George W. was crowned again.  It appears from video that people with cameras were specifically targeted for arrest, as they were in 2004.

The New York Times blog reports

Protest organizers estimated that about 85 people had been arrested and that about five were struck with pepper spray. Among those was Chelsea Elliott, 25, who said that she was sprayed after shouting “Why are you doing that?” as an officer arrested a protester at East 12th Street.

“I was on the ground sobbing and couldn’t breathe,” she said. The ongoing protests, against a financial system that participants say favors the rich and powerful over ordinary citizens, started last Saturday, and were coordinated by a New York group called the General Assembly.

The mass arrests are outrageous!  You can see more here, including live feed from Zuccotti Park, where people are feeding themselves and the homeless, playing music, talking to tourists, and working to free their arrested friends, with the help of the National Lawyers Guild.

As of this evening, up to 100 people remain in police custody.

The occupation of Wall Street will soon be joined by an occupation of Freedom Plaza in Washington D.C. on October 6.

In 10 days, it will be 10 years since the Bush regime began its bombing and invasion of Afghanistan; an illegitimate, unjust, immoral targeting of one of the poorest countries on earth.

Sign up to be part of World Can’t Wait’s dramatic visual antiwar presence at the Thursday, October 6 encampment October2011.org at Freedom Plaza, Washington DC.  See more at TenYearsandCounting and worldcantwait.net.

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Going on 10 years, the drone from Washington gets louder

It’s difficult to pick out the most disturbing feature of the Obama administration’s expanding use of unmanned drones in its continuing war on “terror” in at least 5 countries. Would it be that the pilots, sitting in Texas or Nebraska, “watch” targets across the world for hours or days, and then go home for dinner with the kids?  That their slang term for human beings they’ve hit is “squirter?”  That the C.I.A. minders of one of the U.S. drone programs claim “no” civilians are killed?  Or that there’s no oversight, no budget limit, no one in the upper levels of government who is even disturbed by this inhumanity?

I’d go for all of the above, and together, they are only one reason I’m calling you to protest on October 6, and in the days after, at the outrage of 10 years of aggressive war and occupation of Afghanistan by the United States.  See World Can’t Wait protest plans, October2011.org, and 10 Years and Counting.

In Washington, D.C. on Thursday, October 6, we will have replica Predator drones on Freedom Plaza. We’ll be talking to the public about how they’re used, and we’ve got the facts to fuel outrage.  Last month, the New York Times reported on a drone attack in Pakistan, and raised questions:

On May 6, a Central Intelligence Agency drone fired a volley of missiles at a pickup truck carrying nine militants and bomb materials through a desolate stretch of Pakistan near the Afghan border. It killed all the militants — a clean strike with no civilian casualties, extending what is now a yearlong perfect record of avoiding collateral deaths.

Or so goes the United States government’s version of the attack, from an American official briefed on the classified C.I.A. program. Here is another version, from a new report compiled by British and Pakistani journalists: The missiles hit a religious school, an adjoining restaurant and a house, killing 18 people — 12 militants, but also 6 civilians, known locally as Samad, Jamshed, Daraz, Iqbal, Noor Nawaz and Yousaf.

The Telegraph U.K. reported that at least 168 children killed in drone strikes in Pakistan since start of campaign, although all concerned know how difficult it is to count the victims of the secret drone campaign.

In the first seven months of the year, 51 U.S. drone strikes in Pakistan have killed at least 443 people, according to a report by Conflict Monitoring Center. The report showed that the two deadliest months were June and July, when 117 and 73 people were killed respectively. One of the deadliest attacks was carried out on July 11 and 12, when four air strikes killed 63 people, the report said.  Controversy has surrounded the drone strikes as local residents and officials have blamed them for killing innocent civilians and motivating young men to join the Taliban. Details about the alleged militants are usually not provided, and the U.S. government does not comment on the strikes.  The Bureau of Investigative Journalism found that 2,292 people had been killed by US missiles, including as many as 775 civilians.

Clive Stafford Smith, an attorney for Guantanamo prisoners, wrote more on the children and civilians killed by U.S.drones:

The CIA claims that there has been not one “non-combatant” killed in the past year. This claim always seemed to be biased advocacy rather than honest fact. Indeed, the Guardian recently published some of the pictures we have obtained of the aftermath of drone strikes. There were photos of a child called Naeem Ullah killed in Datta Khel and two kids in Piranho, both within the timeframe of the CIA’s dubious declaration.

Smith raises a challenge that “every time we read news of the latest drone strike in Pakistan, we need an honest assessment of the civilian casualties – and of whether we feel comfortable with an unaccountable spy agency carrying out killings on a military scale (the CIA’s strikes now outweigh the firepower used in the opening round of the Kosovo war).”

All of this, done in our name, must be stopped by people acting in this country who know that American lives are not more important than the lives of other people, and that this outrageous war is fundamentally against humanity’s interest.

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How & Why We Worked to Drive Out the Bush Regime

The World Can't Wait - Drive Out the Bush Regime

NYC, November 2005 - Photo by Fred Askew

In the summer of 2005, people were starting to come out of their 6 month long depression over the outcome of the 2004 election.  It was somewhat of a struggle to get people to stop blaming Bush voters, and grasp and grapple with the depravity of the Bush program, and the fact that two aggressive wars had been launched on the basis of lies.

Some of us already working to end the wars, torture, and in many other causes wrangled with the problem that, “fighting against each outrage and winning on important fronts — from immigrants rights to defending the right to due process, to defending abortion, evolution, against discrimination or to defend critical thinking on campus — is invaluable to making real change in a world that desperately needs it.  But we are fighting each and every one of these battles on losing ground – ground that is rapidly disappearing under our feet.”

The future is unwritten…

A better outcome for the world required a mass movement of people united in acting to drive George Bush, “Dick” Cheney, and their illegitimate regime from office, and repudiating and reversing the program which had become to be identified with them, especially after 9/11/01.  That movement needed to act independently and stop looking for a savior from the Democratic Party.  It needed a spirit, call, and direction, which World Can’t Wait supplied in the Call to Drive Out the Bush Regime.

The Call was quickly distributed hand to hand in about a million copies nationwide starting that summer, and published in several full page newspaper ads in The New York Times, many local papers, and USA Today, with 40,000 people ultimately signing it. While it aggravated some, the points outlined in it captured what was coming down from the heights of power in a belligerent way, and moved many to act:

Reading the Call to Drive Out the Bush Regime

Reading the Call to Drive Out the Bush Regime, Los Angeles 2005

YOUR GOVERNMENT, on the basis of outrageous lies, is waging a murderous and utterly illegitimate war in Iraq, with other countries in their sights.

YOUR GOVERNMENT is openly torturing people, and justifying it.

YOUR GOVERNMENT puts people in jail on the merest suspicion, refusing them lawyers, and either holding them indefinitely or deporting them in the dead of night.

YOUR GOVERNMENT is moving each day closer to a theocracy, where a narrow and hateful brand of Christian fundamentalism will rule.

YOUR GOVERNMENT suppresses the science that doesn’t fit its religious, political and economic agenda, forcing present and future generations to pay a terrible price.

YOUR GOVERNMENT is moving to deny women here, and all over the world, the right to birth control and abortion.

YOUR GOVERNMENT enforces a culture of greed, bigotry, intolerance and ignorance.

Protesting the government inaction in response to Katrina

Chicago, Fall 2005: Rescue Not Repression!

Over Labor Day weekend in 2005, as the waters of Katrina were covering New Orleans, 250 people gathered in New York City to found The World Can’t Wait – Drive Out the Bush Regime.  Sunsara Taylor and I chaired the discussions.  We took time out to march, with about 150 more joining us, around midtown, demanding, “rescue, not repression!” for New Orleans, which set a basic approach of immediate response to government action – or inaction.

Don’t Go to Work! Walk Out of School!

It was a bold call, and thousands followed it. On Thursday, November 2, 2005, on the year-anniversary of Bush’s re-election, tens of thousands marched around the U.S., inaugurating the effort to drive out Bush and Cheney, and reverse and repudiate the Bush program.  Older people heeded a message from Gore Vidal to:

“join together in a popular movement dedicated to ending pre-emptive wars and restoring the nation to its traditional tax base which repaired levees, educated the citizenry and at regular intervals repaired the wall that Thomas Jefferson wisely put in place to separate church from state.”

Youth protesting to drive out the Bush Regime
NYC November 2005 – Photo by Fred Askew

Howard Zinn issued a call to students.  High school students at more than 200 schools across the country left school and walked out, sometimes for miles, to join organized political protest in unprecedented ways.  Protests took place in more than 60  cities, and involved at least 40 college campuses, in addition to the high schools. The outpourings of people all over the country had many faces. Local office holders came out and spoke at New York, Chicago and San Francisco rallies with mothers of soldiers who died in Iraq. Prominent public intellectuals and Hollywood celebrities gave their support to this effort to actually drive out the Bush regime.

In San Francisco, Latino day laborers joined with thousands at the Civic Center as Cindy Sheehan, California State Senator Carol Midgden, and others spoke from the stage. Statements of support came from artists and figures such as Jane Fonda, Harold Pinter and Gore Vidal, who signed on to the Call to Drive Out the Bush Regime.

Drivers Wanted

Bush Step Down

NYC January 2006 - Photo by Fred Askew

In the dead of winter, as 2006 broke, and Bush gave his State of the Union address, people gathered in 68 cities to “drown out” the lies with street protests – then traveled to Washington, DC to protest in cold rain February 4, 2006, demanding Bush step down. The Bush Crimes Commission held hearings with testimony from people like former Brigadier General Janis Karpinsky and former UK ambassador Craig Murray on the crimes that the Bush regime was actively carrying out. In October of 2006 more than 200 cities across the country held mass protests of thousands. With heart and courage, thousands of us came together to make a powerful and precious political statement against a truly dangerous and repressive government. More on driving out a regime.

Next week: stopping torture as a key expression of the Bush program – spreading a culture of resistance through the Declare It Now: Wear Orange campaign and wearing orange jumpsuits.

The world still can’t wait for people in this country to take responsibility and STOP the crimes of your government.  World Can’t Wait, and its projects War Criminals Watch, Fire John Yoo, and We Are Not Your Soldiers, deserve and need your support.  Become a sustaining supporter here.

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TIME Surprises with 9/11 Victims Not Usually Seen

In a series of video interviews entitled [Beyond 9/11] Portraits of Resistance, TIME magazine includes the expected 9/11 survivors, first responders, family members of those who were killed.  They include those you’d have to classify as war criminals in the wake of 9/11, George Bush, Donald Rumsfeld, “Dick” Cheney and General Petraeus; other government and U.S. military personnel.

I found, out of the 40 people interviewed, 3 who are surprising, including two I consider friends and heroes.  They are:

Cindy Sheehan

Cindy Sheehan, 2011

Cindy Sheehan

Cindy Sheehan recounts her reaction to George Bush’s announcement that 12 Marines who died in Iraq in August 2005 had died “for a noble cause.”  She didn’t believe her son Casey, a reluctant soldier who was killed in Iraq in 2004, had been sacrificed for anything good.  Cindy’s actions in camping out in front of Bush’s ranch were such that millions cheered her on.

You can find her at Cindy Sheehan’s Soapbox.

James Yee

James Yee

James Yee, 2011

James was an Army Captain who became a chaplain for Muslim soldiers in early 2001.  When Rumsfeld opened Guantanamo to house men from dozens of countries as part of the “global war on terror,” James was assigned to be prison chaplain. The prisoners’ conditions, he says, were “not fit for animals.”

Soon, because he spoke up, he was disappeared into a brig in South Carolina, threatened with execution for speaking up against the conditions.  He fought his imprisonment, and eventually won an honorable discharge from the military.  James Yee is now the Executive Director of the New Jersey Chapter of CAIR, the Council on American Islamic Relations.

Ali Abbas

Ali Abbas

Ali Abbas, 2011

Ali was asleep on an Iraqi farm when bombs were dropped on his home by the American military in 2004.

“I lost my arms and my body is burned, and also my family is dead.  We were all asleep, 12 o’clock at night, and we heard the big noise.  The fire was all over us, I heard my family screaming.  I couldn’t see anything, but I could feel everything…I lost my father, mother and my brother, and 13 members of my family.”

Ali Abbas was resettled with a friend in England.

All of them are victims of the Bush regime’s “global war on terror” who have stood heroically against the abuses of illegitimate, immoral, unjust U.S. occupations.  I am glad they are recognized.

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Dennis Loo’s new book: “Globalization and the Demolition of Society”

My colleague on the Steering Committee of World Can’t Wait, Dr. Dennis Loo, has a new book on a huge topic, even for a sociologist, Globalization and the Demolition of Society. It’s really several books in one, and ambitious.  You wouldn’t expect less, since his last book was Impeach the President: The Case Against Bush & Cheney.

Dr. Loo does more than recount the destruction of the global environment on the altar of capitalism-imperialism. He goes after the fundamental flaws in the ideology of the people who run this country.  I can imagine students walking into his class with the typical mindset that, with all its flaws, “at least the United States has democracy and freedom.”  And, bam, suddenly those assumptions get challenged. Think of this book as that course, without the quizzes and homework, but with the back-up material.

This brother is brave, and he has not lost his 60’s roots. From the introductory pages, he criticizes postmodernism and religious fundamentalism, both Christian and Muslim, and goes on to show their philosophical affinity…to which I say, hallelujah.  Anyone with a university education in the last 20 years has to have been deeply influenced, and possibly paralyzed by postmodernism; even those who have no idea what the term means are infected with the idea that “reality is what you make it.”  Loo compares this to a religious view:

“Reason and science present obstacles—instead of indispensable tools—to literal textualists’ preferred agendas for the planet. Reality, to religious fundamentalists and postmodernists, is what you make it. Reality is what you (or God/Allah) will it to be and want it to be. Postmodernists believe that the notion of truth ‘is a contrived illusion, misused by people and special interest groups to gain power over others.’ Facts ‘are too limiting to determine anything.’”

In contrast to that philosophical framework that denies it’s possible to determine what’s objectively true, Dr. Loo argues that it is necessary, and possible, to understand and confront what is objectively true, an important distinction if we want to act to change the world.  That in itself is a huge contribution.  And that’s only the first book within his book.

Dr. Loo tackles the underlying why and how of these outrages which I call systematic crimes. If enough people read this book, it could help change the course of history.

For the rest of September, a portion of proceeds from the book’s sale will go to World Can’t Wait.  So please order, and ask your library to order one also.

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Long View of the Bush Regime: Replace “Dumb” with “Dangerous”

I credit The World Can’t Wait’s founding work to “drive out the Bush regime” in the summer of 2005 with helping to change public perception of George W. Bush from “dumb” to “dangerous.” As the former president will stand at the World Trade Center on Sunday memorializing those killed on 9/11/01, we should keep firmly in mind the truly massive crimes unleashed under the rubric of the “global war on terror.”

A million copies of the Call to Drive Out the Bush Regime went hand to hand that summer, six years ago. Tens of thousands signed it, grabbed by this: “The Bush regime is setting out to radically remake society very quickly, in a fascist way, and for generations to come. We must act now; the future is in the balance.”

November 2, 2005 Convergence to Drive Out the Bush Regime

November 2, 2005 Convergence to Drive Out the Bush Regime

On Thursday, November 2, 2005, on the year-anniversary of Bush’s election, tens of thousands marched around the U.S., inaugurating the effort to drive out Bush and Cheney, and reverse and repudiate the Bush program.

It was the overwhelming intensity with which high school students at more than 200 schools left school and walked out, sometimes for miles, to join organized political protest that stunned everyone.  Bronx kids who had never left the borough somehow made it to Union Square, covered in “drive out Bush” stickers, to march down 14th Street and up to Times Square.

Even then, the middle school students remembered only Bush as president, and only war since 9/11. And now at 18 they’re in the military occupations, or on the streets with not much to do;  some relative few are entering college.

Many more crimes were carried out during the Bush years.  They did indeed set in place a war they predicted would last “generations.”  By 2008, when much of the world heard the name “George W. Bush” they thought “war criminal.”  And this began to happen in the United States as well.

We didn’t succeed at driving out the regime.  Many people who could or should have heeded the call for mass visible protest independent of the Democratic Party did not, and chose instead to confine their actions to voting for Democrats in 2006, and even more in 2008.

So now the United States has a president who not only won’t “look back” at the war crimes and torture carried out by the Bush era officials now gathering in New York City, but who presides over aggressive U.S. wars in six countries.

The mission of World Can’t Wait, post-Bush, is “stopping the crimes of our government.”  Nothing can be more timely, or required, of people living in the United States.

I ask you to:

Become a sustaining supporter of World Can’t Wait

Protest the Bush era war criminals wherever they are

Memorialize the victims of the U.S. “Global war on terror”

Take action on the 10th anniversary of the US invasion of Afghanistan

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