by Jim Travis
Endless war. E-n-d-l-e-s-s . . . w-a-r . . . .
(Swans - November 15, 2010) Commander in Chief Obama has shifted the fighting in Iraq onto mercenaries and local soldiers, transferred a surge of US troops to Afghanistan, and increased our air strikes in Pakistan. His military strategy for the future expands the use of proxies and drones to kill those pesky foreigners who resist our will. The peace candidate has morphed into a war president.
Outraged by this political swindle, despairing over the prospect of endless war, a new group of radical peace activists has moved beyond demonstrations and petitions into direct action, defying the government's laws and impeding its capacity for mass murder. They are convinced the only way to bring peace now is to bring the system down. They are helping soldiers to desert, destroying computer systems, trashing recruiting offices, burning military equipment, and sabotaging defense contractors. These criminals for peace are defying the Patriot Act and working underground in secret cells to undermine the US military empire.
A new book, RADICAL PEACE: Refusing War, takes us into the lives of these domestic insurgents and discusses how their sedition, subversion, and sabotage may impact our society.
One of the dissidents interviewed is Trucker, the code name of a man who burns military vehicles. He classifies his sabotage as nonviolent because it doesn't harm human beings, only things. He states, "It's only because our culture worships property that we see destroying war machines as violence. What I'm doing is depriving the military of their tools of violence. I'm decreasing their ability to harm people. Since they refuse to disarm, I'm doing it for them. I'd never set fire to a building because someone might be inside. I even look inside the trucks to make sure no one is sleeping there."
RADICAL PEACE also profiles a janitor who has destroyed computers at a defense contractor with electrical surges. "I'm sure the lost work and equipment has set back the war effort," he states, "and I'm looking forward to my next surge for peace." The chapter is published in Swans.
A college student relates how she threw a rock through the window of an army recruiter after her friend returned from Iraq crippled. She plans to do it again but says, "I wouldn't throw a rock at the recruiter. I don't have anything against him as a person."
Other militants are cutting electrical and phone wires into recruiting offices, slashing their tires, painting over their billboards. At universities they are attacking military research projects and ROTC offices, stealing their mail, squirting glue into their door locks, hacking into their computers. An autonome tossed a log under the wheels of an arms train and derailed it, but he was careful to do it in the middle of the train so no one would be injured.
The author of the book and spokesperson for the group, William T. Hathaway, is a Special Forces combat veteran turned peace activist. He left the USA to avoid arrest. I interviewed him at his home in Germany, where he is an adjunct professor of American studies at the University of Oldenburg.
"Our resistance needs to be nonviolent, not injure living creatures," he stated. He added:
Setting bombs and burning buildings where people could be inside can't achieve anything worthwhile. It just reproduces the same mentality we're trying to change.
Rather than randomly smashing windows and torching autos, we restrict our activities to institutions that support or profit from the war. Our goal is to make the war too expensive to continue, to convince the politicians they don't have enough money to conquer Iraq and Afghanistan. A few acts of sabotage won't do that, but thousands can. Government and corporate resources are limited. Taxes and the deficit are already so high they're crippling the economy. Every dollar the government has to spend keeping things running at home is one they can't spend killing people overseas.
I asked him if these efforts to weaken the US military wouldn't just lead to a victory of the terrorists.
"They probably will take over, and that's unfortunate," he replied.
But the USA created these terrorists. We trained and armed bin Laden and the Taliban to kill communists in Afghanistan. The war we sponsored there killed two million people and brutalized a whole generation of Afghans. We turned these fanatics into the most powerful force in the country, so of course they took over the government. And we didn't object to them at all until they refused to let us build a pipeline through the country. Only then did the corporate media start portraying them as these terrible monsters who need to be destroyed.
In Iraq we helped Saddam Hussein come to power and supported him militarily, until he started opposing us. In Iran we overthrew their government in the 1950s because they planned to nationalize the oil industry. We installed the Shah and kept him in power as one of the most brutal dictators in the world. In Libya right after al-Gaddafi came to power as a socialist and nationalized the oil industry, we started economic warfare against him, undermining his government and trying to overthrow him. We turned him into an enemy. The list goes on and on. In every country where we now have anti-American terrorism, the USA first did terrible things. That's why they hate us. Now we're paying the price for our aggression.
In the USA we blank out this history. But people in those countries are very aware of it. And they're not putting up with it anymore. What we call terrorists are really just people fighting back with the only weapons they have.
Considering the atrocities of US foreign policy, America needs to lose this war -- for its own sake and for the sake of the world. We have to stop dominating other countries.
But if the fundamentalists take over again, I want to know, won't they keep attacking us at home?
Our government tries very hard to make us believe that. There's a huge PR campaign to convince us that the Taliban and al Qaeda want to destroy us, conquer America, force us all to become Muslims. They are portrayed as insane mad-dog killers that we need to exterminate. But that's nonsense. Their actual demands are never published in the Western media because they're so reasonable. Basically they come down to, "Go home and leave us alone. Pull your soldiers, your CIA agents, your missionaries, your corporations out of Muslim territory. If you do that, we'll stop attacking you." Nothing about destroying the West or forcing it to become Islamic. Just that the West should stay in the West.
I asked Hathaway if he wasn't afraid that the tactics of his group will result in a government crackdown that will make life more unpleasant in the USA.
"The crackdown is happening already," he replied.
Life is already more unpleasant. For working people it's been declining for 30 years now. Young workers are earning less than their parents did. Conditions are getting inexorably worse in the USA. The "have a nice life" days are over. Americans are beginning to get the same treatment as people in the client states.
That's the consolidation stage of capitalism we're in. It swallows up small businesses and independent contractors and turns almost everyone into a wage worker. The Libertarians and Tea Partiers are mad as hell about that because they're losing their privileged position. They want to turn the clock back to the old competitive stage of capitalism, when they still had a chance to make it big. But that's a nostalgic illusion -- those days are gone. Even independent landlords, that bastion of American wealth, are being squeezed out by corporations -- which then get taken over by bigger corporations.
The liberals have their own nostalgic illusion -- that we can turn the clock back to Keynesian capitalism. Back then, from the 1950s through the '70s, wage increases were permitted because they stimulated consumption. But that was only true as long as the primary market for products was the home country. Now the market is global, so low price is more important, which means wages have to be held down. The international workforce is being leveled, and we're on our way to a globalized proletariat. The challenge of capitalism then is going to be to keep us separated.
Our declining situation -- working long hours for low pay, living in a deteriorating society, raising children amid fear and hostility -- is caused by the same forces that drove us to war. Capitalism now manifests as invasion in Iraq and Afghanistan, as privatization and impoverishment in Latin America, and as the destruction of the middle class in the industrial nations. It's the same system operating in different environments.
Rather than sheepishly obeying in hopes of avoiding more punishment, we need to actively resist and take back the power that's been usurped from us. This struggle won't be comfortable, but it will be meaningful. To go along with the system in hopes of having it easier is collaboration, a living death. Better to have a vivid life of opposition. Rebelling is revitalizing.
America doesn't need to live by dominating other countries. In fact we can't live that way anymore. We have to change. And that means taking our government back from the corporations that now run it and restructuring them both to serve human needs instead of private profits. Until that happens we don't have a chance for lasting peace.
Chapters of RADICAL PEACE are posted on the publisher's Web site.
For a selection of Hathaway's other writing: http://www.peacewriter.org.
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About the Author
Jim Travis is a freelance writer on peace issues who lives in Lennox, Massachusetts. (back)