from the pages of ../


Shut It Down

Michael Albert


George Bush, the White House, the Pentagon, the House, the Senate, the New York Times, the Washington Post, ABC, NBC, CBS, the mainstream national media, corporate capital, patriarchs, and racists have together unleashed a rain of destruction on the people of Iraq, and, before it's over, perhaps on people throughout the Middle East. Of course they have brought economic hardship and therefore widespread death to the disadvantaged throughout the world all along. Peace and prosperity for the rich, war and deprivation for the poor. Business as usual.

Admit the ugly truth. Bush, the White House, the Congress, and the mass media do not care about the lives of U.S. troops except insofar as loss of their lives might fuel resistance and thereby thwart war aims.

They do not calculate for one micro-second the human suffering their policies unleash on the people of Iraq, except insofar as that travail might provoke further resistance in the U.S.

They do not respect national sovereignty or they would have opposed Iraq's war against Iran instead of supporting it, opposed Israel's violations of Lebanon's sovereignty instead of supporting it, opposed Turkey's violations of Cyprus instead of supporting it, opposed Indonesia's genocidal assaults on East Timor instead of providing aid. National self-determination obviously means nothing to those who invaded Grenada and Panama and mined Nicaragua's harbors in open defiance of international law.

They do not care about democracy or removing a violent, oppressive dictator or they would not have supported Hussein before August 2, just as they would not have supported Pinochet, Somoza, Marcos, the Shah of Iran, and Noriega, and just as they would not now be trying desperately to replace Violeta Chammoro with a someone better able to reconstitute death squads to stamp out the legacy of Sandinismo. Murderousness and an aversion to justice are the best credentials for obtaining U.S. support. Murderers like Hussein fall out of favor with the U.S. only when they disobey "our" will.

They do not care about preventing the spread of weapons of mass destruction or they wouldn't produce them, wouldn't use them, and wouldn't obstruct all international efforts, including in the Middle East, to eliminate them.

They only care about enlarging their own power and wealth, and about that, there are no buts allowed.

The money going to war could go to ending hunger. Bush doesn't care. Stephen Solarz doesn't care. For that matter, not more than a handful of Congresspeople care.

"Don't be silly," they would say if they had the courage to speak openly, "If we didn't use the wealth in war we certainly wouldn't use it to eliminate hunger. That would aid the poor. That would shorten the `stick' we use to get the poor to do our bidding. It would reduce our relative advantage. It would be worse than war." These are the people we're dealing with. This is not rhetoric. Understand these truths and while each new affront will nauseate you, it will not sidetrack your activism.

Capitalism is theft. It is also brutality, corruption, lying, cheating, killing, all coupled to an almost infinite capacity for egoism. NBC worries about a terrorist attack somewhere in the U.S., perhaps in some subway train or office building. Meanwhile the U.S. Air Force rains terror on a whole country. Capitalism is hypocrisy. It is not "surgical war" but "surgical morality" that applies whenever, wherever, and however the U.S. wants, which means never when moral accounting would interfere with the interests of U.S. elites. Don't let capitalism destroy your will to resist. Shut it down.

Patriarchy is male domination. And it is also repression of human sentiment to preserve gender hierarchy. It is macho posturing built on violence against women and engendering a military mindset that celebrates destruction, enjoys obliterating defenseless opponents, and identifies courage with mindless obedience to anyone wearing more metal and ribbons on their chest. Don't let patriarchy destroy your will to resist. Shut it down.

Racism is mental and physical lynching with rules, words, money, culture, law, and clubs. And it is also elevation of self over others culminating in a nationalist crescendo that consigns people to a subhuman status to justify destroying them to save them. Don't let racism destroy your will to resist. Shut it down.

The state is the armed might of a society hell-bent on domination. Bush is a surgeon who will calmly remove beating hearts, sunder healthy limbs, and sacrifice working minds. He will limit carnage only to diminish dissent. We can end his violence. Don't let the power of the state deter your will to resist. Shut it down.

The mass media is a product of capitalism, sexism, and racism, subject to oversight by the state. The government has put restraints on the media's access to the battlefield, driving them away from the sights and sounds of war because reporters who smell fame in the throes of battle may let their hunger for Pulitzer Prizes interfere with their skill at obscuring truth. But here at home no such restraint is required. For the most part the media knows it is not their place to report on hundreds of thousands of antiwar demonstrators shutting down bridges, occupying post offices, stopping traffic, marching, teaching, setting up peace and justice centers. But since they must admit something is going on, their role is to pan in on a few vigils, some scenes of hippie protesters mulling about, and a barrage of interviews with relatives of soldiers supporting the war juxtaposed with frequent shots of Young Americans for Freedom counter-demonstrating. This is the media's role. Subservience. Don't let the mass media destroy your will to resist. Shut it down.

Don't direct your anger at a young woman just out of high school going to the Middle East to fight. Support her by bringing her home alive and unscarred by the experience of killing, wounding, and maiming her fellow human beings. Be angry at her role, imposed by oppressive institutions. Don't direct your anger at a construction worker or mail carrier who wears a flag and shouts for victory. For the institutions that produced these misguided sentiments, feel anger, yes. For the person, feel a commitment to communicate, to organize.

However, for anyone who has enjoyed relative luxury, who has had the benefit of substantial education, who has enjoyed the relative freedom of a well paying and secure job, and who nonetheless mouths idiotic, racist, jingoist bullshit, feel righteous anger. And let it show.

And for the folks who claim moral outrage and opposition but go on litigating, prescribing, bossing, and teaching as usual, feel anger. These people have no excuse not to give their resources, time, money, and energy to stop this war. They have freedom from oversight and financial want as well as access to the truth. They have the opportunity to act with near impunity. To say they are against the war and do nothing is the worst kind of hypocrisy.

Finally, the Congresspeople, like Ted and Joe Kennedy, who voted against the war and 48 hours later voted to "support the President," deserve a special place in Hell. The only behavior sicker than their's comes from financiers whose reaction to war is the same as their reaction to all of human life—wondering what will be the effect on their stocks, bonds, and currencies.

As I write, just days after the U.S. attack on Iraq began, people are demonstrating all across the country. Actions range from teach-ins to vigils, marches, civil disobedience, and blocking traffic, to taking over buildings and institutions. Participants come from every imaginable constituency.

While Bush and Co. cannot and will not hear our analyses or moral pleas, they do hear the threat of increasing and diversifying opposition. Though our opposition was not enough to prevent war from starting, it can prevent the war's enlargement, prevent nuclear assault, end the war, curtail the further militarization of our society, and win conversion. We must talk, organize, teach-in, rally, march, sit-in, occupy, and disrupt targets ranging from federal buildings and recruitment centers, to radio and TV stations, ROTC offices and research facilities, dilapidated drug rehabilitation centers, rape crisis centers, soup kitchens, and housing agencies, and to the White House. Shut down what should not be permitted, and fund what we need.

The Berlin Wall was taken down by massive movements and then by average folks wielding crowbars. Next target: The Pentagon. Shut it down.

Hussein is a thug but the Iraqi people are as innocent as civilians in any war. That their deaths should not be in vain, that the deaths of citizens in the Third World suffering economic calamity should not be in vain, and that the deaths of U.S. GIs should not be in vain, we have to end the war and go on to end militarism.

It can be done. And we must do it. It will not be easy or quick. But the alternative is too deadly to permit. Shut it down.