rn:Michael Albert: What’s Going On?


Jan Slakov

Date: Sat, 29 Sep 2001 20:11:14 -0700
From: CyberBrook <•••@••.•••>
Subject: Michael Albert: What's Going On

>What's Going On?
>By Michael Albert, www.zmag.org
>The U.S. response to September 11 seeks to benefit elites in the U.S.,
>and, to a lesser degree, around the world. There are various goals.
>-->     Destroy the bin Laden network
>-->     Topple the Taliban
>-->     Build a coalition fighting selected terrorists internationally
>in exchange for trade and foreign aid benefits and the right of
>coalition partners to pursue their own dissidents locally
>-->     Channel fear and anger to cut education, social services, health
>care, and other socially desirable expenditures
>-->     Expand military spending
>-->     Enlarge police and surveillance budgets
>-->     Curb civil rights
>-->     Deny and even aggravate just grievances around the world when
>doing so serves corporate interests even if it also fuels the despair
>that breeds terrorism
>-->     Ignore international legality to curb notions that the U.S.
>ought to obey international law
>-->     Avoid defining terrorism as any attack on civilians for
>political ends, to avoid indicting the U.S. and its allies.
>But if you are Bush, how do you juggle so many goals simultaneously? How
>do you neutralize bin Laden, topple the Taliban, and strengthen regimes
>supportive of U.S. interests, yet avoid destabilizing others we want to
>maintain? How do you create a domestic dynamic that expands police and
>military powers and that redistributes wealth upward by gutting social
>programs and enhancing regressive taxes, yet retain popular support? And
>what about dissent...how does that impact your choices?
>The good news is that I don't think it can all be done, supposing
>dissidents react with sufficient vigor and clarity. The campaign to
>elaborate an anti-terrorism war into national policy is ill-conceived.
>That last little proviso -- that they must avoid clearly defining
>terrorism -- is the Achilles heal of the entire undertaking. With
>sufficient resistance, the campaign will succumb to its own obvious
>hypocrisy. U.S. policy makers are terrorists too. There are numerous
>indicators that activists will have the room to mount the needed
>resistance and help communicate the towering hypocrisy. In the past
>thirty years I have rarely addressed an audience too big to fit in a
>large auditorium - but in the last two days I was on a national radio
>call-in with two million listeners for two hours, and I was on NPR,
>again nationally, for an hour. Demonstrations and gatherings are
>occurring locally all over the country, with education and solidarity
>resulting. Many feel this is the worst of times for leftists.but while
>it is certainly a time of great grief and fear, and a time of immense
>danger, and while it is certainly a time of widespread confusion and
>nationalism, nonetheless, regarding communicating with previously
>apolitical people, there are many more openings than closings of
>opportunity occurring, both on the local and on the national scale.
>So, again, if you were Bush, what would be your preferred agenda, if you
>could have your way? Here is my best guess...at the moment, with
>admittedly little information available.
>First, you would elicit fear and nationalism. Second, you would convince
>populaces worldwide that there is a long-term war we must fight (the
>same war that was at the core of Reagan's foreign policy twenty years
>ago), which requires a massive allotment of resources and energy, plus
>lock-step patriotism. Third, after saber-rattling sufficiently to arouse
>fear and passion, you would ratchet down the rhetoric in accord with the
>necessity to avoid actual military losses or risking destabilizing
>friendly regimes, and to avoid appearing to want to punish civilians.
>Fourth, to have a good shot at getting rid of the Taliban, you would
>close the borders of Afghanistan, starve the country, and hope that
>Taliban members start to defect and that the country rises up in anguish
>and despair. Fifth, to fill the ensuing power vacuum, you would support
>Afghanistan's Northern alliance. Most important, sixth, to diminish the
>groundswell of anti-war opposition to your combating terror with even
>greater terror, you would send food to Afghanistan's borders, and
>perhaps even drop food from planes inland. But, if you could have your
>way, not too much food, of course. Indeed, if you remained free to do
>so, you would provide only a pittance compared to the need generated by
>closing the borders in the first place and by removing larger sources of
>aid. Your goal would be to induce starvation sufficient to topple the
>Taliban. It would not deter you that such behavior is precisely the
>definition of terrorism -- attacking civilians for political aims -
>because seventh, you would blame the ensuing starvation, caused by your
>closing the borders, on the Taliban itself. Finally, you would claim,
>eighth, that we are humanely seeking to avoid innocent suffering, even
>as the starved bodies pile up.
>Assuming Bush and his advisors can overcome some internal opposition
>from their right and reign in the momentum to shoot someone that all the
>troop and missile movements have unleashed, I think they will pursue
>more or less the above agenda. This is not the worst set of policies the
>U.S. government could adopt -- that would be nukes and the like -- but
>it would be horrendous in its cynical exploitation of pain and
>suffering, and in its expansion of each, and it must therefore be
>opposed with as much energy as people of good will can muster. If we do
>our job well enough and fast enough here in the U.S., and if others
>throughout the world do so too, then the pressure on Bush may be great
>enough that the borders will reopen, the food shipments will become more
>than opportunistic and marginal, and massive new tragedy will be largely
>averted. If we are slower, more people will suffer. The same holds for
>the more long-term aims of revamping laws, budgets, and alliances on
>behalf of militarism, profit-seeking, and right-wing repression. The
>degree these are limited or reversed will reflect the extent of our
>organizing and opposition.
>On September 11, I wrote:
>"In coming weeks we may suffer a kind of celebration in America, a
>celebration of security and of power, a celebration of surreptitious
>information retrieval, a celebration of arms growth, and perhaps of
>assassination, all described as virtuous goals rather than uncivil
>abominations, all touted as if the terror victims will be honored rather
>than defiled by our preparing to entomb still more innocent people
>around the world. Normal good-hearted Americans will weep for the
>suffering that today's events exacted and hope to create a world in
>which such hate and callousness disappears. But I fear that America's
>leaders will cynically bulk up their ammo belts while seeking to make
>ubiquitous their listening devices-trying to relegate public freedoms to
>an incinerator. In this environment, people of good will must explain as
>often as necessary that terrorism is horrific and insane, but so to is
>capitalist business as usual. And we must not step back from dissent,
>but must instead work harder to oppose all kinds of injustice with
>massive public demonstrations and civil disobedience."
>Events are unfolding as indicated, and my view is essentially unchanged.
>For the government, the answer to terrorism shouldn't be reciprocal
>terrorism - whether by bombing or by starving civilians. The answer to
>fundamentalism shouldn't be to mount a military crusade abroad and to
>curb civil liberties at home. The answer to hypocritical inhumanity
>shouldn't be to opportunistically exploit fear. The government should
>not use the excuse of a battered economy to enrich the rich and empower
>the powerful while gutting social programs to hurt the poor and weak.
>And for the left, the answer to entreaties that we should forgo dissent
>shouldn't be passive obedience, but, active disobedience. We should
>mount our peace movement against the terror war, organize our
>humanitarian opposition to starvation tactics, renew our resistance to
>the embargo of Iraq, intensify our rejection of Israeli and U.S.
>rejectionism regarding Palestinian rights, and finally enlarge our
>anti-globalization movement to not only demand just and equitable
>institutional successors to the IMF, World Bank and WTO, but also
>improved adherence to international law and binding General Assembly
>adjudication of disputes among nations.
>Some will call us un-American. Some will call us callous. Some will cry
>treason. Some will threaten us. So?
>At the same time as many opponents of change are very angry and vocal,
>millions upon millions of far less noisy Americans are trying to
>understand recent events and the broader context in which they have
>occurred and are approaching the matter with considerable openness. This
>is not a time to hunker down in subdued silence. It is a time to go out
>and organize. To talk, talk, and talk.to demonstrate, to activate, to
>use the knowledge and access that we have.
>Forget about hating Bush and Powell and the rest. Yes, these people give
>the orders. They hand out the bombs. They withhold the food. But
>institutions create the pressures that mold them. Those institutions and
>associated policies must be our focus.
>But what to do?
>Handing out leaflets, arguing against war with a co-worker, urging a
>relative to think twice about our own role in international terrorism,
>going to a demonstration, sitting in, doing civil disobedience, or even
>building movements to do all these things collectively, may all seem
>momentarily insignificant in light of the calamity that could befall
>Afghanistan and the world in coming weeks. But the fact is, these are
>the acts that can accumulate into a firestorm of informed protest that
>curtails Afghani starvation, that derails the war on terrorism, and that
>even raises the cost of profiteering so high that the institutions
>breeding such behavior start to buckle.
>War, whether it is waged with kamikaze planes, fleets of missiles and
>bombers, or starvation food policies, is a horrendous crime against
>humanity. It invariably rends apart life and justice and civility. It
>benefits no one other than the Masters of War. War in all its forms is
>an orchestrated atrocity that mandates our militant, unswerving
>opposition. But we should also remember that even after we curb Bush's
>rush to violence and forestall his starvation scenarios, the on-going
>day-to day grievances and injustices of our world will still need
>attention. Ultimately, our opposition must transcend current events.
>Alienation, poverty, disease, starvation, death squads, and terror-these
>and other atrocities stem from basic institutions. The institutions must
>become our lasting target.

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