Category Archives: Winter 2003 (10/30/03)

Reject the Iraq Quagmire

Their Iraq war exposed, Bush and Co. are on the defensive: it’s time to hit them when they’re down

After two wars, a massive domestic crackdown, and so many other outrages over the past few years, a fresh political wind is finally blowing. Finally, as lie after lie is exposed, a segment of the public is waking up and pushing back a bit. Bush’s poll numbers are down, with almost half of Americans disapproving of his job performance in a recent CBS poll. According to the military newspaper Stars and Stripes, a third of soldiers serving in Iraq believe the war lacks definition and is of “little or no value.” Everyone is realizing that far from Saddam being an imminent threat to the “American homeland,” he didn’t have any weapons of mass destruction at all — it was all just a manipulative hoax. On point after point, those opposed to the reckless, militaristic, unilateral American course are being proven right.

As cracks in the facade develop, its up to radicals to widen the cracks, turn them into gaps and holes, and do our best to push the rotting structure over. With the rulers finally on the defensive a little bit, now isn’t the time to take a break, sit back and be thankful that we’re not protesting a third war against Iran or Syria.

Right now we have a unique opportunity not only to make sure those future military adventures never become reality, but to undermine consensus on the rest of the corporate capitalist program. In other words, by emphasizing and exploiting the darkening popular sentiment regarding Iraq, we may be able to expose other apparently unrelated lies about the environment, civil liberties, the war on terrorism, and the continuing economic war against the poor, workers and the middle class being waged by the ultra-elite.

If anything, now is the time to turn up the heat and the pressure, to hit the streets even more often and in even larger numbers. If millions of people can come out when it’s almost certain that the protest will fail and that Bush will order war anyway, now that the rulers are on the run, it should be easy to take the offensive and promote something positive for the future to replace the right wing agenda of war, greed and exploitation.

The war on Iraq was a turning point in our rulers’ fortunes. The war was a classic case of overreaching — the rulers mistakenly thought that they were so powerful that they could do anything they wanted. Right before the war, Bush and his advisors announced a new American “doctrine” of pre-emption — that the United States would reserve the unilateral right to invade any country that could even potentially pose a military threat, even in the absence of any hostile actions from the country to be invaded. This announcement was widely seen as a declaration of American empire, since it directly challenged established notions of international law, in which only those attacked may attack, and aggressor nations are isolated. The new doctrine of preemption mirrored right-wing ideological fantasies of exclusive American power described by think-tanks like the Project for the New American Century, which was set up in 1997 by many of those who would become the Bush Administration.

Bush’s pronouncements, in the context of massive US military superiority, were pretty scary stuff. But now, the chickens have come home to roost. Bush tried and failed to get international support for the invasion, and then decided to do it alone in the face of the largest peace movement in world history. But although the US military is large and the United States is a rich country, it can’t do anything its rulers may want and the aftermath of the war has proved this once and for all.

In the wake of the war, it has become clear that the go-it-alone invasion has led to a disaster. Not surprisingly, the Iraqi people did not welcome the invaders with flowers, but correctly perceived them as an occupying army. While pretty much everyone has happy to be rid of a brutal dictator, Iraqis quickly began to resent the inept American military and its lack of any realistic plan for a post-war Iraq. The war created an instant power vacuum that is now at risk of being filled by religious fundamentalists, bullies, and a new American-installed police force made up mostly of Saddam’s discredited police. The brutality of the occupation is undermining moderate Iraqis who are struggling to build a just society out of Saddam’s ashes.

Most people in Iraq are worse off than before the war, particularly Iraqi women who have been forced off the streets by religious zealots and the fear of rape and murder – not a priority for US occupation forces already stretched to the limit protecting their own skin.

No weapons of mass destruction were found, but millions of pounds of conventional weapons now lie all around Iraq, unguarded and at risk of falling into the hands of kooks and freedom fighters alike around the world. American soldiers are getting killed almost every day, not just by alleged “terrorists” and “Baath party loyalists” but by regular Iraqis who are outraged at the continued brutal occupation, which doesn’t seem to be accomplishing anything constructive.

The families of Iraqis mistakenly killed at US check-points by scared, non-Arabic speaking GIs aren’t just mourning — they’re nurturing a seething resentment. Some are starting to look for revenge.

Meanwhile, in the US, people are not too happy at the idea of pouring tens of billions of dollars into the occupation when so many domestic social programs are being slashed. The international community — who were ignored before the war — are justifiably unwilling to help with the occupation by sending either troops or money. Bush is left holding the bag.

This web of betrayal, lies, failure and disaster is the best possible news for opponents of an American global empire. We need to figure out numerous ways of emphasizing all of these failures and discrediting Bush and his policies as much as possible, while pushing policies to help the Iraqi people.

And we need to be clear that it is time for us to set the agenda and drive the political train now that the rulers are on the defensive. Radicals have grown accustomed to protesting and reacting and don’t know what to do when our rulers are weakened. It will be a tremendous missed opportunity if we fail to figure out what to do once momentum is on our side.

When the monster is down, its time to increase the ferocity of our attack and push our agenda. Following are some ideas to focus on:

Women have paid the highest price for Bush’s adventure in Iraq. Six months after Bush declared victory, few women are even able to leave their homes, much less participate in a free and liberated Iraq. Iraq was generally a secular nation before the war, with women permitted participation in the workforce and civil society. Before Saddam, Iraqi law protected employment, education and inheritance rights for women, and included a progressive marital act, according to the Iraqi Women’s League.

Since the war, religious fundamentalism has increased, with some sects maintaining that women should stay in the home, others requiring women to wear the hijab (veil) and others refusing to protect women who venture outside, according to the Iraqi Women’s Rights Coalition.

Safety from street crime has been an even more severe problem. Since the war, thousands of women have been raped and hundreds killed by gangs and individual criminals, according to the Common Dreams News Center. In September alone, the Baghdad Forensic Institute investigated 50 suspicious deaths of women who were victims of rape and murder or honor killings, according to the UK Guardian. There are reports that some women who have been raped are then killed by their families to avoid shame to the family, according to Nidal Husseini a nurse at the Institute.

All of this has forced women out of universities and jobs and off the streets. Numerous media reports mention how women have simply disappeared from Iraq’s streets. When the schools reopened October 4, few girls showed up. ”So far we have not seen any benefits from this war that the Americans said would liberate us,” Kowthar Ahmed, a Baghdad University student, told the Common Dreams News Center. ”If anything, things have become worse for us.” Iraqi women have consistently accused the US army of disrespecting women at check-points and during military raids on private houses and neighborhoods.

We must hold the US occupiers accountable for the ongoing disaster for Iraqi women.

We need to fight privatization of the Iraqi economy. The occupation is being used as a cover for expanding US corporate globalization policies that will transform Iraqi workers into cogs in a global industrial system, degrade Iraq’s environment and strip Iraq of its natural resources, with no return to Iraq’s people.

At the moment, the US is laying the foundation to sell off most Iraqi industry. If the history of privatization in other regions is any guide, this will mean ownership by multi-national corporations and degradation of the Iraqi economy. Privatization is a key tool in the West’s modern form of colonialism, in which people in developing nations have to toil in international factories and offer up raw materials for foreign consumption, and get nothing in return.

Radicals need to keep the human and economic cost of the war in the public eye. American soldiers are getting killed every day — let’s post the list in public places and keep track of the numbers. While we don’t know the names of Iraqis who are getting killed, we need to find ways of publicizing their deaths as well.

We should emphasize the class war aspects of the unfair burden on military families and reservists, who have been pulled out of their civilian lives and cast into constant danger for nothing. The only beneficiaries of the occupation are a few huge corporations.

We need to hold Bush and company totally responsible for alienating the entire international community, ensuring that no other nation will offer significant post-war assistance. Bush now expects American tax payers to shoulder the burden of the occupation and reconstruction almost alone, proposing spending $87 billion, or about $300 for every person in the US. This cost is his fault — let him and his rich friends pay it. We should emphasize that he intends to borrow the money against our future income, when he just cut taxes to the richest Americans. Most of the money is going to rip-off deals with major multi-national corporations.

We should expose the question of whether the UN or the US should occupy Iraq as a false colonialist shell game. Why should anyone other than the Iraqi people control their destiny?

Most of all, we must emphasize Bush’s broken promises and lies — he told the troops they would be home in a matter of months. Now, there is no end in site. He built a house of cards on weapons of mass destruction, and now he can’t find any, despite spending hundreds of millions of dollars looking. He said the invasion would bring freedom, but instead it has brought chaos, violence and domination.

As we attack the failures and lies surrounding Iraq, we can begin attacking the failures and lies that surround all of the rulers’ policies.

For more information and updates, check out www.occupationwatch

Femicide and Globalization in Juarez

Many people look at the murders in Ciudad Juárez and Chihuahua and they see a mystery. 370 femicides (murders of women) in ten years and up to 400 more disappeared; a rate that has increased from three a year to an average of three a month since 1994. Many of the bodies are found in the desert as unrecognizable corpses: bloated, burned, disfigured and all but decomposed. An undisclosed but probable majority have been raped and brutally tortured for days; often dragged, beaten, strangled and then hastily concealed in the desert sand. They are young women and girls, most between the ages of 14 and 25. High-school students last seen on their way home after school. Sweat-shop workers who have to walk miles alone through the desert at night after a 12 or 15 hour work-day. People ask: Who could be committing these horrendous crimes? How is it still possible after ten long years?

I think that calling the bordertown murders a “mystery” takes the potential power out of looking at the hideous truth. It assumes a riddle with a simple answer, something ugly but outside of our reality and our lives. The question of who committed the crimes is of course central if there is ever to be justice or safely for any woman living or dying in this bordertown region. It should be the driving force for anyone who believes in human rights, locally and internationally, especially those directly involved in investigating these crimes and attempting to protect more women from the same fate.

The question of who is central, yet considering the cover-ups, the scant and unreliable evidence, the question can easily be reduced to guess-work and speculation, which in turn often has the danger of being self-serving or a placating device. We want something to make us feel better, someone locked up, so that the illusion of safety and resolution will allow us to avert our attention from the horror and pain.

This is what many believe has happened in the case of the only convicted criminal for any of these crimes since they began in 1994, that of the Egyptian “outsider” Abdel Latif Sharif, who police tried to frame for a whole series of murders, many of which were actually committed while he was in custody (“executed from the inside”). Many believe Sharif has been used as an obvious scapegoat, a non-native with “evil eyes” meant to defer the problem and keep people from looking closer to home. Other suspects linked to the crimes by more compelling evidence have had to be released due to falsified evidence and/or signs of torture (cuts, bruises and burns) that may have lead to a forced confession.

Femicide is happening all over the planet and women are the casualties of every war against the body, spirit and mind. Yet on the U.S./Mexico bordertowns of Juárez and Chinuahua the epidemic has become extreme, condensed and in that sense site-specific. Though the situation is centered around the sweat-shop culture in this particular part of the world, it is in reality indicative and exemplary of global capitalism, of the consequences of free-trade and the extent to which the profit-driven world that we live in will go in its unaccountability and disregard for life. For these reasons, the question that involves and in some way implicates every human being is not only who are the perpetrators of these brutal crimes but, what made them, to what purpose and why ?

Almost exactly ten years ago NAFTA (the North American Free Trade Agreement) turned Juárez into a “free zone” for corporations (80% U.S. owned) looking for cheap labor and next to no environmental restrictions. Some of the over 300 maquilas (sweatshops) in Juárez, which together gross an average of $16 billion a year, are General Motors, General Electric, Ford, Dupont, Philips and Alcoa. As soon as the sweatshops began popping up, thousands of people began migrating from all over Mexico. Young women looking for jobs are preferred for factory work because they are “nimble,” along with being typically inexperienced with labor organizing and willing to work for less pay. As a result, 60% of the people employed in maquilas on the border are women making 4 to 5 dollars a day. Rapid and uncontrollable globalization has turned Juárez, and the entire U.S./Mexican border, into a kind of “free zone” for all sorts of crime, such as the drug and sex trades, along with total corporate exploitation. It is a model for the socio-economic structure that Eduardo Galleano writes, “scorns life and idolizes things.”

What is normal, what is acceptable? If you are a man or a woman living in a system that values your life and your labor as close to nothing, one unfortunate consequence is that you might start to believe what they tell you about yourself. The same tactics of social control that are used by the “powerful” to subjugate are internalized and self-perpetuated within oppressed communities. It follows that if you come to consider your own lives to be worthless, you will extend that assessment to the people around you.

Take, for example, the public blame placed on the women for their own murders. After stating the blatant and unfounded generalization that the murdered women dressed provocatively and went out to bars at night, Arturo Gonzales Rascón, attorney general of the state of Chihuahua under the jurisdiction of which both Juárez and Chihuahua fall, argued that “After all, it’s very hard to go out on the street when it’s raining and not get wet.” This kind of statement pretty much sets up the perpetrator for a murder without guilt, not to mention social or moral consequence. It states that killing is okay, as natural and as normal as rain. Women are forced to live under the socially accepted concept of their bodies as prey, their flesh as meat and accept that, in the eyes of their perpetrators, they are dressed for the kill.

This is exactly where the situation of epidemic femicide in Juárez, and recently Chihuahua City (the murders have only been happening in Chihuahua for the last three years) hits closest to home. In the United States and perhaps the majority of communities throughout the world, typically a woman is much more likely to be raped or killed by someone she knows. Yet, in these bordertowns, a very high percentage (at least one hundred cases to date) of the rapes and murders were committed by total strangers to the victims. Misogyny and male-domination exist everywhere; violent, angry and psychotic men are the result of that mentality.

Looking at the rate of these crimes in Juárez and Chihuahua City has brought me to ask what the difference is, what stops more men from randomly killing women with more frequency here, or in other places? Esther Chávez, founder of Casa Amiga, the only rape crisis center in Juárez, has come to the conclusion that many of the rapes and murders are copy-cats — individual or groups of men who enact violent fantasies against women simply because they have discovered that they can do so with impunity.

So, when a man tells me on the street that he would like to “bash my head in” or “shove his fist up my ass” I seriously consider the possibility that the only reason that he doesn’t act on these violent, sexual, murderous fantasies is that he does not have the confidence that he will get away with it. The purpose of this comparison is not to say that women have it so much easier here, it is to say that all of these factors, the sick mental cycle of blame, projection and rationalization of violence, are the same. It’s just that in certain social and economic situations of dire poverty, heightened gender tension (women in Juárez are resented by men because they have jobs that the men can’t get) and rampantly corrupt police and judicial systems, these crimes and this general reaction to women becomes permissible, legitimate and unpunished and thereby encouraged by the general social climate.

Social acceptance of rape and murder, the belief that on some level women elicit and deserve it, socially programs men to be murderers and rapists. Institutionalized acceptance encourages imitation and copy-cat crimes. In Ciudad Juárez, a mother was called in to identify the skeletal frame of a young woman dressed in the clothes that her daughter was wearing when she was last seen, which (due to physical characteristics such as a disproportionately small head with no dental work) could not possibly be her daughter’s body. Why would investigators dress one woman’s body in another woman’s clothes? If it was not the police that did this, who was it?

Typically, the police refuse to file complaints for days after someone is abducted (saying “she’s probably with her boyfriend”), therefore the kidnapping cannot be treated as a criminal case during that critical period. The media prints a front-page story saying that a disappeared woman has been seen with her boyfriend. The story is fabricated. The photo is not of her but the caption claims it is her. Evidence that local police have been involved, not only in covering-up, but in actually perpetrating these crimes, go ignored. One report says that police officials burned a thousand pounds of clothing and evidence collected over the years, which, if it is true, could only mean that there is a large, ongoing and insidious conspiracy in Juárez between the police, the murderers (which may, in many cases, be one and the same) and other undisclosed parties about which we can only speculate, except to say, as many have, that they must have some sort of connections to power and resources that, in a place like Juárez as in most places in the world, only come from very high up.

Due the very nature of corruption on a structural level, it is extremely hard to expose and investigate. One thing is for sure though — the Mexican government and police force in Juárez and Chihuahua, in their actions and their lack of action, are doing nothing to protect the lives of women. Their involvement and participation is grossly apparent and their negligence can only be said to encourage a social acceptance of these crimes, along with revealing a larger disdain and hatred towards the women themselves.

If Juárez is a place where the most violent and horrible potential in the (male) psyche is allowed to manifest, then the same can and does happen anywhere. Sexual homicide is motivated by tremendous rage against women and rape is an expression of that same hatred and willful intent to subjugate, silence and subdue. In Juárez, extreme poverty and racism factor in to the vulnerability of the victims and their families, as well as misogyny, corporate impunity and governmental corruption. Many believe that the women and girls are specifically selected because they have darker complexions and are poor (which in Mexico and much of the world amounts to the same thing). The threat of murder, along with 12 hr work days, cardboard houses and a toxic environment, becomes normal and tolerable for a woman. It becomes a part of what she expects to have to suffer in order to survive.

This is how violence against women and globalization work hand-in-hand to create a culture of powerlessness and fear. The fight in Juárez and Chihuahua, and all over the world, is a fight against the power of violence, along with the force of poverty, to silence, weaken and demoralize. The fight to find a voice, to lend your voice and to listen to the voices that have been suppressed. The deadly power of a silenced voice amounts to economic power in a corporate-owned world, a world without scruples. We all have threats held over our heads which keep us complacent and scared to act, the question is how and by what means to remove them.

In the words of Rosario Acosta, one of the amazing activists and organizers in Juárez, “We human beings can survive the worst tragedies, but we need them to be recognized and validated by others. When people upon whom we depend for our own survival discredit our sufferings by treating them as something trivial, or as something that is deserved, a resulting new layer of pain is added to the pain of the loss, which generates feelings of shame, blame, humiliation and absolute impotence. Under the circumstances, the only thing that can save us is our just indignation and the solidarity of our peers.”

Listening and responding to the voices of the women of Juárez and Chihuahua, looking at how they have been forced to live and die, is a way to learn about ourselves and to examine our own experiences. It is a part of the revolution that begins within and manifests in the ways that we treat each other and how we live our lives.

Chistianity and Empire

For 1700 years, the Christian church has been building the foundations for today’s global capitalism

Any critique of capitalism is incomplete without analysis of the Christian empire, its history, and its goals. From 300 CE on, empire and religion have intermixed in Europe and eventually the US with disastrous consequences. Many aspects of capitalism used to oppress today were instituted by Christianity, including emotional advertising, creation of markets through military conquest, and control of public services. Because of these features, we can consider the Christian church (in both Catholic and Protestant manifestations) the first multinational corporation.

First, Jesus

Christianity as a hierarchical religion didn’t congeal until three hundred years after Jesus’ death. He didn’t become “Christ”, an aspect of “god”, for more than 100 years. In fact, Jesus was born without much fanfare in 3 BCE (they got the calendar wrong!) to Jewish parents in the Middle Eastern Roman province of Judea. The earliest gospels make no mention of Christmas (his birth), and later, conjured accounts put it in a different season, because of the shepherd’s work. It’s commonly believed that Jesus had at least one brother, James, and the passage about his mother’s virginity actually referred in Aramaic to “maiden” — simply, a young woman. So, if you’re itching for a holiday in December, I recommend solstice.

Although officially a tolerated minority, the Jewish people were still oppressed by the Roman conquerors. Jesus grew up in a time of power splinters, with many sects competing for control of the temple and he was probably one of many wandering preachers with a philosophy and a following.

There is little reason to doubt Jesus’ actual life as a preacher. He traveled near his home for three years with a gender-inclusive collective, lived home-free and advocated collective property, not poverty. Although a “son of god”, he claimed that all people were children of god. Some scholars suggest he had a relationship with Mary Magdeleine, or even that he was polyamorous. He accompanied the sick (whether he cured them is your guess) and staged huge community picnic/revivals in the desert. The first symbol of Christianity was bread and fish — a testament to the priority of the apostle collective.

Jesus was dangerous enough to both his community and the local authorities to raise concern. He advocated the formation of a new church, which would create more division within the Jewish community and disregarded temporal authority as irrelevant. Preaching a life of communalism, minimalism, anti-authoritarian justice, and general righteousness didn’t attract bribe taking officials then any more than it does today. However, contrary to some anti-semitic stories, Jesus was crucified by the Roman Empire, not the Jewish community. Records of his condemnation are supposedly held by the Catholic Church.

Just like his birth, Jesus’ resurrection is largely myth. The earliest gospels don’t speak of a resurrection, though it’s likely that his body was removed from the tomb for burial preparation. Many humanist christians interpret Easter, the resurrection, as the spiritual rising of Jesus and not his physical reappearance.

Orthodoxy/Europe’s cultural genocide

In the three centuries following Jesus’ death, hundred of “Jesus cults” sprung up around the eastern Mediterranean. While the first followers were all Jewish, by the third generation, non-Jews were permitted to join. Male circumcision remained an issue for some time, and modern scholars have replaced circumcision with baptism in many New Testament passages as the rite of initiation to “solve” the problem.

Some early christians formed organized churches, but Gnostic cults emphasized direct communication with god and denounced mediators like priest. Other cults focused on Mary, Jesus’ mother (this made sense as goddess worship was still common) or a host of other connected figures or “prophets.” Until the superficial conversion of the Roman emperor Constantine, christians of all groups were persecuted and martyred. They were fodder for lions and made examples for those who considered converting.

After Constantine coopted Christianity, he began a process of consolidation to strengthen the flailing empire and permanently suppress non-hierarchical churches. In 381, leaders from 300 churches around the Mediterranean met to discuss an orthodoxy, literally, right opinion, for the new structure. Sects that had not deified Jesus or held him as secondary were excluded from the discussion and did not receive protection from the empire.

The council of Nicaea, like WTO meetings, was about supremacy and not humanity. The bishops fought over whether Jesus/Christ was god or like god. Although the majority believed and the emperor supported the second position, a fiery Egyptian bishop insisted on the former and denounced the few bishops who believed that Jesus/Christ was inferior to god. This victory for trinity (one god in three persons) separated Christianity from the earlier Pagan mythologies of the empire and has aptly been termed “one god, one empire”. Welcome to monoculture.

Waking up.

While the Roman Empire was busy imploding and the Church was establishing its stranglehold with feudal lords over most of Europe, other world cultures were philosophizing, painting, maintaining libraries, and making damn good food. If Islam, and a few Celtic monasteries, had not preserved the authors of pre-Christian Europe, we would know almost nothing about tribal identities before the conquest. As it is, Germanic tribes and peasant life remain opaque.

So, when Western Civ professors talk about the Renaissance, they’re really speaking of the Christian crusaders who sacked Muslim towns and stole the books the church had burned copies of centuries before.

Among the innovations the Knights brought home were banking (they figured out how to charge interest for land without being charged with usury), zero, spices, and architectural designs. Established as an order serving the pope, the Knights’ Templar established trade routes through Europe with tolls like Jersey and forced peasants to construct churches and forts. The infrastructure they laid made large scale trade possible, and the knights are considered predecessors to the Masons. When they became powerful enough to threaten the king of France, he ordered that they be captured and killed. Sixty were charged with blasphemy and homosexuality, and on Friday, October 13, 1307, they were burned. However, their treasure escaped with some who fled. What a bad day for capitalists.

Many groups not supported by the orthodoxy continued to practice during the Middle Ages, despite persecution and fear. Women’s orders, anti-authoritarian lay preachers, and Christian humanists all had a place in the underbelly of European domination. Peasant cultures, distinct from but coexisting with empire, continued to offer alternative stories about creation, the universe and morality. Until the Counter-Reform, peasants were made to adhere only in ritual — mass and some dietary restrictions. They maintained “tribal memory” of existence before the imposition of Christ that the Inquisition tried to erase. John Trudell has written great stuff about this stuff. I suggest it.

Reformation/Inquisitions

The official Protestant Reformation began with Martin Luther nailing his ideas to a church door in 1517. The printing press (1455) had made pamphlets and books easier to reproduce, and Europe was brimming with people who realized that their discontent was not isolated. However, the outcome was about as disappointing as a democrat in the White House. The Protestant Churches (Calvin, Luther, and the English) were all established with the help of local governments and had an even more damning orthodoxy. We’ll get there soon.

While Protestant groups persecuted radical sects, the Catholic Church held its inquisitions. These trials, ostensibly held to uproot those who threatened hegemony but often preying on wingnuts and freethinkers, exposed and attacked towns and people who held anti-authoritarian or humanist ideas. Herbalists, charged as witches, were exterminated as the Church endorsed early doctors after the end of indulgences. The Inquisitions instilled fear in the population that was not present before, and the choice between death and devotion created loyalty based on terror.

Colonialism and manifest destiny

While the Inquisition was perpetrating cultural genocide in Europe, both Catholic and Protestant colonists were acting out biological genocide in the Americas. The Spanish and Portuguese explorers in Central and South America slaughtered hundreds of thousands (if not more) indigenous people, but had one key difference in philosophy. They believed that native people had souls and could be converted and saved. This, of course, didn’t stop them from wiping out whole civilizations, but eventually aspects of native culture were tolerated, some communal land rights granted, and native movements have potential to reclaim their way of life. However, if FTAA and globalization perpetuate current trends, native cultures face an even larger risk to their survival.

The Protestant colonizers had fewer qualms about complete genocide in the lands that have become the US. Armed with Calvin’s doctrine of predestination (only 144,000 souls will be saved and they are ours, damnit), germs and weapons of mass destruction, settlers killed and displaced every tribe they contacted. Hundreds of broken treaties, several wars and thousands of squatters later, the US government and people had displaced or murdered the vast majority of native Americans. By 1850, the European-American Christians had sufficiently emptied the continent to start telling stories of an empty land waiting for “civilization”. Manifest destiny was fulfilled.

Calvin’s influence on the US didn’t stop with justifications to kill native people. His ideas form the cornerstone of the prison-industrial complex, by stressing the inherent nature of people and disregarding circumstance or the possibility of alternative justice. Coupled with compulsory education to indoctrinate the masses to the glories of capitalism and conquest, Calvin’s ideas formed the base for the self-righteousness of US politics and culture.

Eco destruction and end of the world.

The branch of Christianity which poses the greatest threat to existence today grew out of Southern Protestantism and engulfs the Bible Belt still. The man who sleeps in the White House and his posse mostly subscribe to this brand of fundamentalism, and it has proven a great tool for empire.

Perhaps the scariest aspect of fundamentalist Christianity is that its theologies predict an end to the earthly world which is welcomed and encouraged. Only when God has stricken the earth can the elite fully enjoy the kingdom described in Revelations (that’s something to trip on). Because this devastation is imminent, fundamentalists have little regard for the green movement or for the alleviation of suffering. In fact, one might even help it along by littering while driving a vehicle that gets 6 miles per gallon.

The ongoing destruction of native cultures worldwide through globalization is part of that vision. Colonialism was perhaps the first great ad campaign and the cross (salvation) its commodity. Making the switch from Christianity to capitalism isn’t difficult for a colonizer — there’s still an army waiting to subdue any dissenters. Especially when the exposure of lies doesn’t perturb the imperialists, understanding their motivations is even more important. As the US government and corporations pour money into drugs, arms and slaves, we need to drop the humanitarian pleas and fight back. They never had delusions about making this life bearable, just the desire to prove that they will be saved in the next one.

The twin perpetrators of monoculture in Europe and the US have been capitalism and Christianity. Until we confront them both, imperialism will expand, controlling food and minds. We must continue living out stories of just, earthly societies and telling creation stories that place us in nature to counter the dominant Christian mythologies that support empire and conquest.

Letters

Guerilla Journalism

About an hour before the sun rises, the smell of pepper gas lingers in the air. I’m not one of the intended recipients, but pepper gas doesn’t discriminate among its victims, like all the rationalized practices of prison and society.

The gas drifts from the solitary confinement cell block and assaults us as we march by, two-by-two, toward one of the many factories here on the Wynne Unit.

This morning, like almost every other in this institution, two themes are evident: the extreme control and segmentation of social roles and the violence employed against the non-compliant.

I work within the confines of the factory, but not in the factory proper. I write for The Echo, Texas’s sole “prisoner”” publication, aside from the occasional samizdat.

I work within the confines of the term “prisoner publication” loosely because The Echo is censored and fed information solely form the administration of the Texas Department of Criminal Justice. The term “prisoner publication” is true–I suppose–as the statement The Houston Chronicle is the “free press.”

The fact that Texas even has a prisoner newspaper is amazing. The trend of many prisoner publications in the punitive penological atmosphere of late has been that of the dodo. Texas, however, is no basis of liberal (whatever that means) penological practice.

The State, while being the home of the most reactionary, can often be anomalous. The TDCJ, for example, still retains and emphasizes education, offering up to Master’s level degree programs.

The paper is not the product of the liberal-minded prison administrators; it is an instrument of knowledge-control.

The knowledge TDCJ wants its population to know trickles down to me. For being a journalist, my information is rather scarce.

I can critique, too, provided the criticism is not of the TDCJ or of Texas–particularly in these prickly political times.

Under these circumstances, I am forced to wage guerrilla journalism. I peddle the TDCJ’s propaganda, but the inconsistencies in the information provided are obvious. I try to juxtapose those contradictions. I still critique, too, but my criticism must be highly abstract and carefully constructed.

I have help from comrades inside. They cull information and assist me with ideas. This is guerrilla journalism. My raison d’être in pushing my oppressor’s propaganda is the hope that we can educate this sea of warehouse humanity, awaken a consciousness.

There is much we lack, much we are unable to do. We need assistance from the outside, dialogue, information.

Prison, like the rest of society, is designed to alienate. The prisoner can be hard to reach, but could be a rich, revolutionary resource. We desperately need help of those who can helps inner pursuit.

Clifford Barnes #755504

Wynne Unit

Huntsville, TX 77349


Slingshot/Long Haul,

At this moment I’m stuck in a Texas prison and have been here for a little under three years. By now your probably wondering why I’m where I’m at. Well in my brilliance I was getting shwilly (nothing wrong with that) on some Guiness when a friend threw me some Xanax. This is my blackout:



When I came to three days later I was being charged with Burglary of a building. Now this is funny in a fucked up way. What I did was break into a McDonald’s and tore the place up. And so here I’ve sat for way too long.

Before I was fitted with a slave’s collar I’d been traveling and hopping trains (doin the squatter thing) for about eleven years. I’m from Amarillo, TX and our scene, at one time, was rock n’. Then Brian was murdered in a brawl with some jocks and the scene just died out (if you don’t know about this murder, check out www.briandeneke.com).

I’m also writing in hopes that you or someone you know might be willing to write and keep me informed with what’s going on in our scene.

I hope to hear from you. Stay safe, stay real, and always, keep rock n’.

Brad Walker # 1146948

998 County Rd. AA

Plainview, TX 79072


Dear Folks at Slingshot:

My name is Dee and I live in Montreal. Recently I picked up a free copy of your newspaper at the Alternative Bookshop and I mailed it to a prisoner I’ve been in contact with for quite some time. Unfortunately, I have been informed by Shicon, (the prisoner) who phoned me the other day from Auburn (a max. pen.) that they have put the Slingshot newspaper, your latest issue, I believe, in the “review board.” The info. that Shicon got (he has given me the OK to share this info. with you) is that they have a problem with “la pagina en espanol.” Supposedly they said they would have to decipher it before they would let him read it. Though, personally, I wouldn’t be surprised if it was for all the newspaper’s content. So hopefully he’ll receive your newspaper after the review board looks over it, although they told him they may just tear out the pages that they don’t want him to read!

Shicon is currently studying with Jalil Muntaqim, who teaches Black History and many other subjects of interest.

Shicon is a Black man and like so many others in prison he is a victim of the war on some drugs. He has spent close to 10 years locked up –you know how it is, once you’re inside you get other charges laid against you. He has always been honest, respectful….a downright good person. Although we have never met face to face, we have written to each other over the years (a lot when he was Upstate, the supermax., a.k.a. Hell on Earth) and we have spoken a few times on the phone. He wrote me a letter in regards to the recent lock down in Auburn, but I never received it. It is obvious to me that the authorities are destroying prisoners’ mail.

I have often read Slingshot and then mailed it to prisoners in the US (there is much more censorship in Canadian prisons and stuff like this doesn’t get in, we can’t even send books to prisoners, just to prison libraries). I would like to thank you all for the hard work that you put into your newspaper. It does not go unnoticed. Continue on the road that you are on, what you do is needed and much appreciated. Hats off to you all.

Dee LeComte

Slingshot Box

Slingshot is a quarterly, independent, radical newspaper published in the East Bay since 1988.

As the article deadline grew worrisomely closer, we wondered if this issue was going to contain articles with the breadth and insight we dreamed of. A big cause of our writers’ procrastination were the 15,000 Slingshot organizers sitting in the basement waiting to be sent to folks around the globe. Shipping all those books is a lot of work for an all volunteer collective.

Luckily, a ton of new amazing volunteers showed up from all over the world! Half the collective which made this issue were new to Slingshot. Our artistic minds were also inspired by the wonderful and glittery art and letters that people send with all their organizer orders, and an editing weekend full of Indian, Mexican and Ethiopian food. Layout happened on the hottest weekend ever in the Bay Area (thanks, Arnold!) and we roasted our brains in our barely ventilated loft.

The world is in so much pain right now with the death of thousands of faceless Iraqis, US soldiers, Johnny Cash, and almost 400 women in the Mexican Maquiladora town of Juárez. It can be hard to take sometimes, but it also inspires us to keep struggling by creating Slingshot and by doing all the other projects we’re involved with.

As we finished the paper, half the collective was downstairs putting on a benefit for the FTAA protest, while the other half was across town doing a benefit for a rape crisis center in Juárez. It’s so crucial to struggle on all of these different fronts at the same time so we can build a new world.

Slingshot is always on the lookout for writers, artists, editors, photographers, distributors and independent thinkers to help us make this paper. Right now we especially hope you’ll send us a print of your latest stencil or other artwork. If you send something written, please be open to editorial discussion.

Editorial decisions are made by the Slingshot collective, but not all the articles reflect the opinions of the collective members. We welcome debate, constructive criticism and discussion.

Thanks to everyone who helped create this issue!!! Thanks to everyone who ordered Organizers!!!

Slingshot New Volunteer Meeting

Volunteers interested in getting involved with Slingshot can come to the new volunteer meeting December 14 at 1 p.m. at the Long Haul in Berkeley (see below).

Article Deadline and Next Issue Date

Submit your articles for issue 80 by January 17, 2004 at 3 p.m.. We expect the next issue out in early February.

me 1, Number 80, Circulation 12,000

Printed October 30, 2003

Slingshot Newspaper

Sponsored by Long Haul

3124 Shattuck Ave. Berkeley, CA 94705

Phone: (510) 540-0751

slingshot@tao.ca

http://slingshot.tao.ca

NCOR Conference

The 7th annual National Conference on Organized Resistance — a space for radical discourse and collective empowerment — is scheduled for January 24-25, 2004 on the campus of American University in Washington, D.C. Last year’s conference featured nearly 70 workshops, panel discussions and skillshares, as well as tabling space for dozens of radical groups. During the weekend, D.C. also hosted political demonstrations, benefit concerts and radical parties. This year’s NCOR will be more of the same, plus whatever YOU want to bring to the table. Visit our website, www.organizedresistance.org, for more information or drop us a line at NCOR@mutualaid.org. Look forward to seeing everyone in January!

Organize Now Against the RNC!

Continue to Fight All Governement!

The Republicans will hold their party’s National Convention in New York City from August 28 to September 4, 2004. There have already begun mass preparations by many groups in opposition to the RNC. These groups are calling out the Republicans’ effort to further exploit the grief of the residents of NYC by planning the Convention a week before the three year anniversary of 9/11. It is not to early too start planning for the 2004 RNC protests right after we return from the November FTAA protests in Miami.

Mayor Bloomburg is excited to host the RNC in NYC, expecting the event to draw 50,000 visitors and generate about $150 million in economic activity. His decisions are clearly not in the interest of the city’s residents, but in the commercial profits being brought in from tourism. With NYC unemployment up from 4.9% in May, 2003 to 6.3% in October, 21% of NYC families living beneath the poverty line, and 70% of NYC eighth grade students below grade level reading skills due to inequitable funding between urban and suburban schools, Bloomburg should be handling the current economic crisis on his hands rather than co-chairing the NYC Host Committee’s Finance Committee. Other co-chairs include such corporate hotshots as John P. Costas of UBS Warburg, Henry A. McKinnel of Pfizer, Henry M. Paulson Jr. of Goldman Sachs, David Rockefeller, Jerry I. Speyer, a developer, Jonathen M. Tisch of Loews, and Stanford I. Will of Citigroup. Former Mayor, Rudolph Guliani, is the Committee’s Chairman. This Committee has donated $60 million to the $91 million 2004 RNC budget. Such an elite group of CEO’s and special interest lobbyists can only guarantee the type of corporate sympathy the Republicans represent and the influence they desire over NYC policies.

United for Peace and Justice, one of the main organizations planning demonstrations for the event, says that the Republicans are using the tragedy of 9/11 to further push right-wing reforms, such as slashing funding to healthcare and education. UFPJ calls for a mass global march on Thursday, September, 2, the official day of the nomination of Bush as the Republican presidential candidate. CounterConvention.org is a website organized to create an early dialogue to “increase the effectiveness of our demonstrations.” Their website has logistical information and lists of organizations demonstrating against the RNC. RNC Not Welcome is another group gearing up for the RNC by encouraging a diversity of tactics, fundraising with film screenings of Whispered Media’s We Interrupt This Empire at ABC No Rio and Walker Stage in NYC, hosting a civil liberties and immigrant detention panel discussion, and having a Reclaim the Streets in Brooklyn this past September. The SOA Watch, an organization that protests annually at the School of Americas in Fort Benning, GA, is calling for people of conscience to join the events that are being planned. They propose non-violent direct action to call attention to the double standard between the “War on Terrorism” and the terrorist tactics taught at the SOA supported by the Bush Administration . Food Not Bombs! in Richmond, VA is calling for in international FNB World Gathering 2004 in conjunction with the RNC protests to mobilize against the regressive right-wing reforms and discuss food-sharing and direct action.

There are a host of resources on counterconvention.org and rncnotwelcome.org from how to bring a corporation to its knees, Stop Huntingdon Animal Cruelty USA style, to how to form a black bloc. Affinity groups can organize to blockade the site of the RNC, Madison Square Garden, and take back other key sites swarming with Disney-endorsed tourism, such as Times Square, and the shopping mall, SoHo. Get your pirate radio transmitters up and running to keep media free and really inform the NYC resident’s what is happening. Take over the offices of the Convention’s sponsors, such as Pfizer and Loews. Some groups are responding with counter-discussion to RNC Not Welcome’s encouragement of diversity of tactics, a dialogue that should be kept open and healthy, considering methods that would not to alienate the work of Community Based Organizations. Other agendas that should be discussed when working with your group are race, gender, and class issues and organizing, and your groups needs, such as transportation, housing, and organizing space, and possibly, jail solidarity.

We can no longer stand back and allow the government to provide taxpayer money for the occupation, not just in Iraq, but in urban areas such as NYC, where protest has been deemed terrorism and the police have taken over the streets during the recent past anti-war, anti-Bush demonstrations. While the blatant atrocities executed by the Bush Administration brought many people into the streets to demonstrate, as anarchists, we need to outline our goals in ending all domination perpetuated by government, not just against the Republicans. Even if we succeed in bringing down the Bush Regime, US imperialism will still continue if the government holds power. Bush is not the only problem. he is simply the puppet with the corporate agenda’s hand up his ass. He just made many people finally realize the full and dangerous potential of government backed by profit-driven interests. The Republicans did out in the open what the government has been doing covertly since its inception, waging war against people who stand up to capitalist domination. Organize now against the 2004 RNC! Continue to build broad movements against all government!

Biodiesel Info

Biodiesel is fuel for diesel engines made primarily from urban waste — used vegetable oil. Biodiesel contains no petroleum, but it could be blended at any level with petroleum diesel to create a biodiesel blend. Most oil restaurants used for cooking and frying must be disposed of as a toxic waste, but any one who has tried to burn fat knows, there is a lot of potential energy stored in that dirty oil. What the petroleum companies don’t want you to know is that diesel engines were designed to run on vegetable oil . . . and still can!

The use of biodiesel in a conventional diesel engine results in substantial reduction of unburned hydrocarbons, carbon monoxide and particulate matter compared to emissions from diesel fuel.

Biodiesel helps mitigate “global warming” because the carbon dioxide released when biodiesel is burned is recycled by growing plants, which could later be processed into more fuel.

Biodiesel is available for sale at public fuels and biodiesel dealers. You can also manufacture your own biodiesel. It can cost up to twice as much at the pump as petroleum diesel. As an alternative fuel, biodiesel is very competitively priced.

If you need or want to know more, or if you want to know about purchasing biodiesel, producing your own or converting a vehicle to run on biodiesel, check out www.biodiesel.org, www.americanbiodiesel.org, www.biodiesel.com, www.ecologycenter.org.

Imagine . . . no more pollution, no more oil, no more war!

Opening the Iraqi Market – at the barrel of a gun

“War makes privatization easy: first you destroy the society and then you let the corporations rebuild it.” — Hacene Djeman, general secretary of the International Confederation of Arab Trade Unions

Although Iraqis and US troops alike are getting shot everyday in Iraq, the hand-picked US governing council in Iraq has already selected a finance minister who has announced a plan to privatize Iraqi state owned industries. The announcement makes clear that the war wasn’t just about oil — the war gives US authorities a chance to carry out dramatic economic restructuring in Iraq without the pesky local political opposition to such right-wing schemes that has been increasing everywhere else in the world. Apparently, the US government sees wars and global treaty negotiations to create “free” markets as two means to the same goal — economic domination by multinational corporations over everyone on earth.

The idea is simple. The US invades and sets up a puppet “interim” governing council during the transition period. During the interim period, the council lays the groundwork for economic privatization and large scale “free” market reform. US corporations are hired to reconstruct the country, ensuring foreign corporate control of the economy. After the economic restructuring is well underway and all of the important foundations and decisions are made, the US occupation force calls elections to ratify the results.

This appears to be what is currently happening in Iraq, although many Iraqis are resisting and attempting to delay crucial economic decisions until after elections.

Long before the invasion, right-wing think tanks were already excited about the possibility of trying their policies of economic restructuring, privatization and “free” markets without the opposition regular folks usually mount against these policies.

For instance, in a paper published in September, 2002, Ariel Cohen, the former Director of the Center for International Trade and Economics at the right-wing Heritage Foundation, suggests that a new regime in Iraq would privatize state industries (including especially the oil industry), seek to layoff workers, deregulate energy prices, keep taxes and tariffs low, apply to join the World Trade Organization, and liberalize trade policies. Cohen notes “During this time, the U.S. government and the IFIs [i.e. IMF/World Bank] would have to ensure that the political will for privatization remains intact.”

He also emphasizes the specifically ideological work to be done to ensure the Iraqi people would accept these measures: [the US should] “Educate and prepare the Iraqi population for structural reform and privatization through a public information campaign[.] Only when the public, including key stakeholders, elites, and the population at large, understand the goals of economic reform will they become more receptive to change and less likely to succumb to the anti-Western demagoguery that undoubtedly will emanate from the remnants of the discredited Ba’ath establishment and Islamic fundamentalists. The new Iraqi government will need to use the media and the educational system to explain the benefits of privatization and the changes to come in order to ensure broad public support.”

Kamel al-Keylanim, the finance minister appointed by the Governing Council in September, 2003 has already announced a plan to privatize state industries within two years. Although he notes that the government will “make sure the issue is acceptable to the Iraqi people” before privatization, he announced immediate plans to “lay the foundations” for privatization. Cohen conveniently lists some of these foundations: “creating government-held companies instead of ministries, issuing stock for these companies”, hiring foreign-trained consultants, “taking inventory of assets and liabilities; Exercising necessary efficiency-improvement steps, such as retraining and layoffs ; Introducing GAAP and other modern financial and management practices; Signing international conventions against nationalization of foreign investments . . . .”

Under Saddam’s regime, most important industries were government owned. Thus, privatizing these assets could put foreign investors and corporations in control of most economic activity in Iraq. Such dramatic privatization would mean massive layoffs and unemployment, while Iraq’s wealth would be siphoned out of the country. Proposals for low tariffs and free trade would have the same result — workers in Iraq would have to compete with the lowest paid workers around the world, and local environmental resources would be subject to global economic forces aimed at their extraction and destruction.

A particularly disturbing development is the US military’s hostility to independent political organization and protest during the “reconstruction” period. Already, the US has attacked protests organized by the unemployed and workers, arresting and shooting at the participants. International and US unions have protested the hostile environment for Iraqi workers under the occupation.

The records of corporate involvement in the reconstruction effort so far is also telling. Huge US corporations are making billions on reconstruction contracts, often bringing in low-wage foreigners in to do the work while millions of skilled Iraqi workers are unemployed. Contracts are being distributed as trophies to major corporate Bush supporters, often with no competitive bidding or any pretext that the contracts are for a fair price. For instance, it has come out that the US is paying corporations millions to rebuild bridges that could be rebuilt locally for a tenth of the cost.

And don’t misunderstand the situation and believe things would be much different if the United Nations, instead of the US military, were to step in and take over the situation. At the recent UN donors conference to seek financial grants and loans for Iraq reconstruction efforts, it was generally understood that corporations from nations which donated to the reconstruction would win reconstruction contracts. To the extent the international community increases its involvement and the US steps back, that will only mean Iraq will be privatized by a diverse group of international corporations, instead of primarily US based firms, as is now the case. Economic colonialism is still colonialism whether it is carried out by the US alone, or by the US, Europe and Japan, acting together under the cover of the UN.

Before and during the war, Bush talked a lot about democracy, elections, and giving power to the Iraqi people. People who opposed the war should demand that all decisions about Iraq’s economic system be made by Iraqis, not the US occupation authority controlled by right-wing free market promoters — or anyone else.