Blessed be the killers, Part II

November 15-22, 2004

this page is at http://site.www.umb.edu/faculty/salzman_g/Strate/Discus/2004-11-22.htm

Part II of what I initially thought would be a two-part piece, but
which I now realize may contain more than two parts.

First they came for the Communists, and I didn’t speak up,
because I wasn’t a Communist.
Then they came for the Jews, and I didn’t speak up,
because I wasn’t a Jew.
Then they came for the Catholics, and I didn’t speak up,
because I was a Protestant.
Then they came for me, and by that time there
was no one left to speak up for me.

― by Rev. Martin Niemöller, 1945 1

      In the first part of Blessed be the killers,2 I emphasized the absolute horror of the U.S. military assault on Falluja, where, the French Press Agency reported an almost surreal scene of U.S. “Evangelical Marines Prepar[ing] to Battle Barbarians.” While compiling evidence of this gruesome tale


Picture in The Union-Tribune (San Diego, California) of Nov 18, 2004. The caption reads: PATRICK BAZ/AFP/Getty Images. U.S. Marines ride Humvees through a devastated downtown Fallujah. Thirty-eight U.S. troops and more than 1,100 Iraqis have died in the attack on the city.

of state-imposed terror,3 and of the counter-terror of some of the fighters trying to drive out the invading Americans, I was also aware of many good things happening in the world, as well as within the U.S., and so I ended with the short section:

With anguish, hope, determination, and love

      We, the world’s people, are at what must be one of the lowest points in human history. If we love life, as we surely do, then we must strive to turn history around, onto a different path, one that is humane, in which we can all live without fear, without oppression, with justice, secure in the fulfillment of our basic needs, with joy and personal dignity.

      In Part II I will offer my thoughts on what we must do in order to make these goals not just utopian dreams but realities. I want to acknowledge and thank many good friends who have been inundating me with information about and proposals for resolving the major problems we face at the moment. Because of the intensity, severity and urgency of the problems, I expect to increase somewhat the frequency of my e-mail distributions.

A few of the major problems challenging us
(in no particular order)

1. poverty of billions of people, increasing gaps between rich and poor
2. the dominant culture (capitalism) of exploiting everything for profit
3. the almost total control of popular consciousness by corporate media
4. the U.S. government’s imperial drive (bipartisan) to rule the world
5. destruction of the biosphere: deforestation, pollution, global warming
6. infrastructure collapse as accessable renewable energy sources dwindle
7. interminable wars for control of all resources: oil, gas, water, and so on
8. dogma of all kinds: religious, political, ideological, faith in irrationality

      All these problems are of course inter-related in many ways with each other. They must therefore be solved not peacemeal but all together, in tandem, an incredibly impossible-seeming task. No individual’s consciousness can even encompass more than a tiny fraction of the vast number of problems embedded in the reality of contemporary exixtence. How then can we grapple with the challenges that finding their solution poses?

      It seems clear that only a vast effort, encompassing millions or even billions of people, has any chance of succeeding. No small so-called think-tank , regardless of how brilliant the individuals might be, can even begin to assess what needs to be done, let alone prescribe a path to pursue. No turning to elite experts for grand solutions can be useful. The process of reconstituting the world to allow for a true global civilization ― one worthy of the name ― to flourish, a civilization of many civilizations, as the Zapatistas might say, has got to be the work of ordinary, everyday people. We must be the ‘architects’ of the process, we who do not live the lives of privileged elites. And we must do it cooperatively, not focussed on our individual private gains but on making the world better for everyone. We must shun competition, except perhaps in games that are really just for fun and amusement, never for profit.

The creativity of cooperation

      Often we are told how creative and productive the capitalist system is, how it motivates people to do all kinds of things, for example to work on finding new medical drugs. To its advocates, only a competitive system, oriented by the profit motive, can provide the initiative for so much invention and technical innovation. Why would people drive themselves to do these things if they were not to benefit from the work? This is part of the overall ideology of capitalism, which assumes that people hate to work, are naturally lazy, and would just lie around if they were not forced by economic need to work.

      An instructive counter-example to this still largely-dominant viewpoint is the emergence of so-called freeware, computer software with open code which is not produced for private profit. It flies in the face of those who defend the need for intellectual private property rights. Thus the Microsoft Corporation’s near monoply on much PC software is gradually being eroded, especially now as freeware programmers continue to develop more ‘user-friendly’ interfaces that ordinary non-computer buffs can easily use.4 This remarkable development is the result of truly international cooperation among probably some thousands or tens of thousands of computer programmers, who do this unpaid ‘work’ because they want to. The resulting software is superior to what Microsoft gets from its paid programmers, and the quality gap will only get larger, though Microsoft may be forced to reduce the price gap.

The rebuilding of our world is underway:
ordinary people are doing extraordinary things

      In order to educate ourselves and each other we need to have a system of communication. On a local level, that is within a small community, it can be very simple. The mutual education is largely face-to-face, and much of it happens through working together in common efforts. A space for schooling, e.g. teaching literacy, with a board to write on and paper and pencils might suffice, as it does in some rural communities in poorer regions of the world.

      On a global level the communication system must be technologically much more sophisticated. However, within the last generation technology adequate to support grassroots global communication has become available, and popular organizations are putting it to use in many parts of the world. A stunning example of this occurred in the months prior to the attack on Iraq, which began on March 20, 2003. In an essay that April, I wrote: 5

      “The mobilizations against the assault on Iraq are a historical watershed. Never before has such a massive, universal effort been mounted to try to prevent a threatened war. Its immediate failure ― our loss of this particular battle ― is a clear signal to the many millions of us who tried to stop the attack that we must rethink our means of struggle. Our goal, of course, remains unchanged: a world where everyone lives with dignity and in peace, unthreatened.”

      “First, we should recognize the extent of our success in bringing together and being a part of a global struggle for a decent world. This means, at the moment, that there are, I would estimate, literally hundreds of millions if not billions of the world's people who are adamantly opposed to the U.S. government's drive for global military and economic domination. Gaining this degree of unanimity was no negligible achievement. The role of non-corporate media was essential. Without the internet, popular community radio and all forms of rapid, non-commercially controlled communication, the mobilization of world public opinion could not have happened. But it did happen. We ought to take heart from that success, a giant step towards remaking the world as it should be, and not according to the dreamers of empire in Washington.”

Three elections, good news and bad news

      We Americans tend to focus, naturally enough, on events in the U.S. November 2nd became, for many of us, a day of abysmal failure - of despair and resignation - when we ‘learned’ the next day that all the exit polls and predictions saying that Kerry would gain the presidency were wrong. Immediately Bush took his supposed victory as a mandate to proceed with the lethal attack on Falluja. Of course that bloody drama largely pre-empted our attention, drawing it away from the instant and mounting evidence of largescale electoral fraud.

      By way of contrast, the enormously significant elections just two days earlier in Uruguay and Venezuela received relatively brief notice in the U.S. corporate media. Both of those elections in Latin America signalled further movement away from U.S. dominance throughout Latin America. Both represented enormous victories for the poor people of those two nations, direct rebuffs to all the efforts of the U.S. government to have in place ‘friendly’ administrations compliant with U.S. neo-liberal policy. In an item written on Nov 2 I remarked on this development,

      “These have been an enormously encouraging few days. The elections in Uruguay and Venezuela were breathtaking in their significance for Latin America’s shaking off the control that the U.S. has for so long exercised over this hemisphere. Their long-term impact will, I think, be more significant than the U.S. election today, whether or not the Bush fascists emerge in control. Even if Kerry is the victor, he will try to maintain U.S. dominance in the world, but that dominance is clearly coming to an end.” 6

The key difference in the U.S., Uruguayan
and Venezuelan elections

      Honest information that was readily and widely available - that was the essential factor - it was evidentally available in the Latin American countries; in the U.S. I know it was not. I am too unfamiliar with conditions in Uruguay to know about the availability of honest information there, but I assume it was. The Venezuelan elections on Sunday Oct 31, 2004 marked the fourth time in the past two and a half years that the overwhelming majority of ordinary people of Venezuela rose up to defeat a U.S.-supported (and perhaps initiated) effort to overturn or weaken their popular government, headed by Hugo Chávez Frías. The first of those occasions was the bloody, attempted coup d’etat in April 2002, about which I wrote 7

      “The New York Times was eating crow the day after it editorially welcomed Pedro Carmona, the wealthy coup-installed dictator-for-a-day of Venezuela in early April, 2002. Al [Giordano of NarcoNews] had previously reported what was really going on, hidden and lied about in mainstream pseudo-coverage. He told how the poor people were coming down from the hills to seize back their country from ‘los golpistas’ - the military engaged in the coup.”

      According to Giordano, in a December 20, 2002 interview he gave to the San Francisco Independent Media Center 8

      “. . . we (and that ‘we’ includes IndyMedia) have an enormous network of friends and allies on the ground there who are the ones Venezuelans proudly call Community Journalists. The independent media movement in Venezuela is the most advanced in the hemisphere, probably in the world. There are 25 Community TV and Radio stations in Venezuela, many of which began as ‘pirate stations,’ one dating back to the 1960s, that were legalized under the Bolivarian Constitution of 1999. Their movement also includes important print and Internet publications. (emphasis added - G.S.)

      “The Popular Revolutionary Assembly has one of the best online centers of information I've ever seen. It's at http://www.aporrea.org . . . Anyone who has been reading the Aporrea site for the past two weeks has witnessed, time and time again, how the people from the grassroots are leading and pushing Chávez to resist the coup, not vice versa.”

      In Venezuela, as in the United States, commercial media is owned predominantly by wealthy capitalists or giant corporations. Their control of how people understand reality is consistently used to distort and hide the truth. In Venezuela during the attempted coup, commercial media deliberately refused to report news of popular resistance. In the United States, decades of right-wing propaganda disseminated by much of the media influenced many Americans to support the so-called wars (first against Communism, then against drugs, and now against international terrorism) and to vote a second term for Bush. But apparently even that was not enough to insure Republican victory, and almost unquestionably, I believe, mammoth fraud and outright theft was added to their plans to capture the presidency.

      Right now the effort by so-called mainstream media to control how we Americans comprehend reality, and thus to shape our future, is ongoing. For example, the page for Google News - U.S. lists 20 ‘top’ news items (Nov 21, 8:20 am Central Standard Time), of which only the 6th and 7th even refer to the Nov 2 elections. The 6th item, from the Tacoma News Tribune (Washington State)9 is about a recount in the close gubernatorial race in that state, not about the presidential contest. The 7th item, referring to the national contest, is an opinion piece in the San Francisco Chronicle 10 about how post-election commentary mistakenly focussed on so-called ‘moral values’. There’s not even a hint of the fierce controversy over what is becoming more and more evident to those of us who look beyond mainstream media, the almost unavoidable conclusion of probable outright theft of the national election by extreme right-wing Republicans.

      Where mainstream media has even touched on this national contest for the truth, its focus has been on getting a correct count of the ballots cast, not on all the manipulations that preceded November 2 and continued right through the voting and on into the next morning. The theme, in any report on a recount, is that we should be assured that every vote will be counted and we can remain calm; even with all the corrections, Bush will remain the winner. Yes, they say, some wrong things may have been done and some errors made, and there are some uncorrected structural problems, but they were not sufficient to swing the result from Kerry to Bush. We, the American people, are supposed to believe that. While the American empire prepares to strike Iran. Of course, we are not so stupid, and the contest is not yet concluded, thanks to the non-stop activity of the grassroots communications infrastructure and the basic decency of most Americans (as of most other human beings).

      Our most essential task, in America and the rest of the world, is

Building the grassroots-based popular
communications network.

That is a long-term effort that we must pursue for our own survival in a global society worthy of being termed a ‘civilization’. But the question remains, What can we do right now to avert the ongoing catastrophic consequences of the alleged Republican electoral victory?

Prevent Bush’s second inauguration
unless and until we are satisfied he was truly
the American people's choice

      By “we” I mean a clear majority of the American people. As I earlier wrote,11

      “. . . I don't know whether ― if there had been a fair election with no intimidation and/or disenfranchisement of potential legitimate voters, and with a scrupulously honest count of the votes ― whether Kerry or Bush would have captured the electoral vote needed for the presidency. I believe it might well have been Kerry. My personal position is simply that if there had been a fair election and if Bush had won another four years, I would accept the result, believing that we, the American people, had made an enormous, disastrous mistake for which we and the rest of the world's people would pay dearly.

      “But I know it was not an honest election, and am unwilling to accept the idea that it reflects our will. It is our right to reject the 'official' result, and to insist upon invalidating the election wherever it was fraudulent because of all the coercive tactics employed and/or technical tricks with the actual counting.

      “We are THE supreme court, not those political appointees clothed in black dishonesty. We won't have another Warren Commission lying to us, like the one led by that 'chief justice' telling us that in their learned judgment John F. Kennedy had been the victim of a single bullet.”

Whistling in the wind?

      Is it madness to think it possible to stop the machinery of the nation-state, with it’s scheduled electoral college vote12 only 3 weeks away (Dec 13th), and the inauguration set for January 20th? That depends on the temperament, beliefs, organizational ability and commitment of that large part (possibly a majority) of the American people who voted against a second term for Bush. If we, or enough of us, are determined to know before an inauguration (of Bush or Kerry) if the election would legitimately have gone to Bush, which is what they want us to believe, we might be able to prevail. Certainly the government and the corporate press will do everything possible to prevent us from forcing a fair reckoning.

      I have plenty of rage, but no strategy to suggest. There are, I know, various groups, such as the War Tax Resisters (I’m on their e-mail distribution list) that are planning to protest. Protesting is valuable as far as it goes, but it doesn’t envision real success, i.e. it’s goal is merely to express its opinion, hope the state doesn’t engage in its accustomed violence and that the corporate media give a modicum of fair reporting (almost always a vain hope). A mode of struggle for justice that’s more effective is civil disobedience, which requires a greater degree of commitment and courage than protest, although of course it implicitly includes protest as part of its strategy and tactics.

      Civil disobedience is not to be confused with pacifism. Those who practice it, like pacifists, abhor violence. They anticipate that the repressive forces of the state will use violence against them. Their strategy and tactics take that into account, seeking to minimize and withstand the violence and to prevail (non-violently) in the struggle against state oppression. An inspiring discussion of the use of civil disobedience, with examples of successes and failures analyzed, is given by George Lakey in his essay, “Strategizing for a Living Revolution”.13 We need a great deal of creativity and cooperation to change the course of the United States. And that will be so whether Bush or Kerry becomes the next president.

Notes
1 Martin Niemöller was a German pastor during the Nazi period, the Germany of the Third Reich. The following is from the website http://www.hoboes.com/html/FireBlade/Politics/niemoller.shtml:
      . . . the words come from a man who also declared that he “would rather burn his church to the ground, than to preach the Nazi trinity of ‘race, blood, and soil.’”
      Niemoller was tainted. He had been a U-boat captain in WW I prior to becoming a pastor. And he supported Hitler prior to his taking power. Indeed, initially the Nazi press held him up as a model ... for his service in WW I. [Newsweek, July 10, 1937, pg. 32] But Niemoller broke very early with the Nazis. In 1933, he organized the Pastor’s Emergency League to protect Lutheran pastors from the police. In 1934, he was one of the leading organizers at the Barmen Synod, which produced the theological basis for the Confessing Church, which despite its persecution became an enduring symbol of German resistance to Hitler.
      From 1933 to 1937, Niemoller consistantly trashed everything the Nazis stood for.

2 At http://site.www.umb.edu/faculty/salzman_g/Strate/Discus/2004-11-13.htm

3 The chillingly honest article, unusual for the U.S. corporate media, is at http://www.signonsandiego.com/uniontrib/20041118/news_z1e18golds.html. Titled “Death, destruction and elections”, author James O. Goldsborough tells it like he sees it.

4 Washington Post article, “Firefox Leaves No Reason to Endure Internet Explorer”, by Rob Pegoraro, Sunday, November 14, 2004; Page F07, at http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A47146-2004Nov13.html.

5 Article “After Iraq, What now?”, essay 10 of the series Building a Global Grassroots Infrastructure, April 28, 2003. At http://site.www.umb.edu/faculty/salzman_g/Grass/Infra/Infra-10.htm.

6 Full statement is in the Science for the People archives at http://list.uvm.edu/archives/science-for-the-people.html, under my name, Nov 2, 2004.

7 The article, “A way with words, and Al Giordano”, is at http://site.www.umb.edu/faculty/salzman_g/Strate/Salz/2003-10-21.htm.

8 The interview is at http://site.www.umb.edu/faculty/salzman_g/Strate/Discus/2002-12-20Giordano.htm.

9 Article at http://www.thenewstribune.com/news/election2004/local/story/4209013p-4000517c.html.

10 By Morris P. Fiorina, identified as “the Wendt Family professor of political science at Stanford University and a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution.” The Hoover Institute, housed at Stanford University, is well-known for supporting the work of right-wing intellectuals. The article is at http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?file=/chronicle/archive/2004/11/21/EDG549TD5K1.DTL.

11 In the note, “Was the 2004 presidential election stolen???”, at http://site.www.umb.edu/faculty/salzman_g/Strate/Salz/2004-11-18.htm.

12 Details from the website http://www.democrats.com/. “[T]he election process is a little slower ― and has one more major loophole ― than is generally known. It begins on December 7th, the date ‘when you essentially certify your electors … it gives a presumption to the legitimacy to your votes. And then, on the 13th, the electors actually vote.’”

13 Strategizing for a Living Revolution, at http://site.www.umb.edu/faculty/salzman_g/Strate/Discus/2002-06-00Lakey.htm.

― George, November 22, 2004

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Last update of this page: November 22, 2004