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Stop Bush’s Killing

The clowns in Washington seem determined to have a war, cheered on by corporate media who have abandoned even the pretense of objectivity. (The “news” on television considers with ponderous seriousness whether failing to support Bush’s proposed bombing campaign is treason.) There is now one paramount practical question: How can they be stopped?

As James Connolly pointed out at the beginning of the 20th century, the bloodiest in history, one great source of the strength of the ruling elite, here and elsewhere, is their willingness to order killing. In just the decade 1991-2001, the leaders of the US have sponsored massacres — from Colombia to Turkey — that killed many more people than died in the September 11 atrocities _at the rate of at least one per year_. We manage to ignore these murders, as we could not ignore the murders in New York, but the rest of the world has noticed them. And they also notice that the US is intending to do it again, in reprisal for the September 11 attacks.

American killing has in fact already begun, even while the “Bush team,” Congressionally plenipotent, temporized on exactly whom to bomb. The _New York Times_ reported on September 16 that the US demanded that Pakistan end the convoys that provide much of the food from the UN and NGOs to Afghanistan’s civilian population. With Afghans starving after a three-year drought, the US is by this action simply killing many of them. The casual murder of Iraqi children (“worth the price,” according to Clinton’s Secretary of State) is being repeated here, without comment in the US — but it’s noticed in the rest of the world.

There’s a sense in which the war that Washington wants is an extension to the world at large of those domestic wars, the War on Crime and the War on Drugs. They were primarily ways to criminalize and incarcerate dangerous classes. The policy has worked at home — we imprison far more of our fellow citizens proportionately than any other country in the world — and now we’re extending it to dissident populations abroad. “Either you are with us, or you are with the terrorists.”

It seems clear that we can’t count on political liberals to stop this war. I’ve rarely seen a more sickening sight than that of brave liberal spirits fawning over Bush after his speech to the Congress. They leapt to their feet, clapped, and sat in unison. It looked like archive film of a legislature in a communist state circa 1950. And then they surged forward to be chucked under the chin by George. Disgusting.

We might take a lesson from how, after horrendous killing, the US was forced to stop the war in Vietnam. There were three principal reasons: [1] the courageous resistance of the Vietnamese people; [2] the revolt of the American military in Vietnam; and [3] the slow but effective growth of awareness of the nature of the war and opposition to it in the US. By the end of the war, 80% of the US public agreed in polls that the war was not simply mistaken but immoral, not a blunder but a crime.

In this case, tragically, we can count on reason [1]. A major assault on the Middle East by the US is nothing short of the answer to Bin Laden’s prayers. It will produce resistance from those whom the US has oppressed and exploited throughout the region.

But [2] will not be much of a factor. The US learnt in Southeast Asia (as the French had learnt there before) that a colonial war can’t be run for long with conscript troops. For every Phoenix-program terrorist like ex-senator Bob Kerrey, slitting the throats of non-combatants, there were a dozen American draftees that refused to go into the jungle. This was the army that invented “fragging” (rolling a fragmentation grenade under the bunk of a gung-ho officer) and finally had to be withdrawn. So the US went to a “volunteer” military (an economic draft, to be sure). And then we have the “Powell Doctrine” — a war crime as stated — “Only attack weak enemies and do it from the air, targeting civilians and infrastructure, so you don’t lose troops.” Under these conditions, the US military is “reliable,” as it wasn’t in Vietnam thirty years ago.

So it comes down to [3] — telling the truth and shaming the devil, as Hotspur says. The Pentagon and the putative president have announced that this will be the most secret war ever. It won’t be secret from those whom the US attacks, but, yes, it has to be secret from those our government fears most — the US public. Our opposition to Bush’s killing can be constructed around the fact that people are not fools. As in Vietnam, when the American people come to know what is being done in their name, they are horrified. CP