Resisting the Bush Administration’s Global Military Crusade
Asia Peace Assembly Manila, August 2002
“I want to thank the conference organizers for the opportunity to participate in the founding of the Asia Peace Assembly. More, I want to appreciate your creating the bonds of solidarity and this structure for international collaboration for peace with justice. Similar bonds and structures played essential roles in helping to end the Vietnam war, and in the 1980s struggle to, at least temporarily, halt the nuclear arms race.”
Nearly a year after the terrorist attacks that claimed three thousand U.S. lives, a forceful national debate over U.S. military and foreign policy – especially over Bush and company’s threatened preemptive war against Iraq – has finally emerged in the U.S. Unfortunately, the debate is over means and not ends – with too many agreeing that a preemptive “regime change” war against Iraq would be a good thing, if it can be shown that Saddam Hussein’s military poses a clear and present danger, if it can be fought with the cover of an international coalition instead of unilaterally, if a credible post-Saddam vision for Iraq can be articulated, if it will not disrupt the so-called “war on terrorism”, and if President Bush, himself makes a compelling case for what could be a very costly war for the U.S. people, for Iraqis, and for the rest of humanity.
This is not good, but after this year’s long night of “United We Stand” patriotism, when government and media inspired neo-fascist fear and conformity severely limited people’s ability to think, we now have openings. This is space in which people can be encouraged to think, to talk, and to challenge dangerous and illegitimate power. In April we brought 100,000 people into the streets of Washington to call for an end to the war and to the Bush Administration’s global military crusade and its assault on our constitutionally guaranteed civil liberties. Now, with Establishment voices as varied as the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the elder Bush’s National Security Advisor Brent Scowcroft, militarist Republican Senator Chuck Hagel, Republican majority leader Dick Armey, Former Secretary of State James Baker, and patrician Democratic war veteran Senator John Kerry publicly raising questions that echo our critique, we have the democratic opening that was so painfully lacking for most of this past year. The era of “United We Stand” enforced unity is now, thankfully, past.
But this is hardly enough. As Jeremy Brecher wrote in an appeal to the world during the darkest of periods this past winter, our peace movement cannot do it alone. We remain in desperate need of the insights, critiques, popular and diplomatic pressure, and nonviolent resistance of other nations to save the United States and the world from Washington’s exploitation of the September 11 attacks, from its efforts to impose what Vice President Dick Cheney calls “the arrangement [for] the twenty-first century,” and from the assault on what remain of the foundations of constitutional democracy within the U.S. Your work here and in the weeks, months, and I am afraid to say, years ahead are fundamentally important.
I want to briefly summarize my understanding of the U.S. peace movement’s analysis of what has been happening this past year – recognizing, of course, that its roots extend far into history, well before the imperialist war of conquest of the Philippines more than a century ago. Then I will describe some of the ways that our movement has responded.
Although we could not precisely describe where the recklessly ambitious, militarist, and imperialist Bush Administration would lead, before September 11 some of us were speaking of the urgency of “resistance in dark times.” It was clear that these Cold War retreads were planning for a dangerous period of imperial reconsolidation, aggression and possible nuclear war to impose “the arrangement for the 21st century.” The scope of their ambition was clear as they named their muses: Theodore Roosevelt, Admiral Mahan, and Henry Cabot Lodge: men who, more than a century ago, envisioned and then created the military forces and the political environment necessary for the United States to become the dominating global power. Essential to their ambition is the continued development of overwhelming and unrivaled military power, including first-strike nuclear capabilities, monopolization of the militarization of space, and the demonstration of its will to use its arsenal of mass murder and intimidation so that others will, as Paul Wolfowitz says, fear us. It also includes, as we see in Central Asia, the reconsolidation of U.S. control over the world’s energy supplies, especially oil, the jugular vein f global capitalism. And, it requires the mobilization of the U.S. people for a war without end.
Then came the criminal, indiscriminate, and terrorizing September 11 attacks.
The U.S. has, of course, visited incomparable death and destruction on other nations. It has decimated human lives and communities from Manila to the Middle East and from Hiroshima to Hanoi, and since the atomic bombing of Nagasaki, it has threatened to initiate cataclysmic nuclear war on more than twenty occasions. Bush and company’s doctrine of “preemptive attack” is thus different only in degree to what preceded it. Yet, the September 11 attacks did mark a turning point. As Noam Chomsky wrote, what was new was that, for the first time, the violence had been turned against the hegemon. Muto Ichiyo has pointed to a second major change: a fundamental internal shift at the apex of the world’s hierarchy of power as the U.S. moves to unilteralism, preemptive attack, and contempt for international law.
The losses, shock and vulnerability resulting from the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon have also led to a national identity crisis in the U.S. For nearly 200 years the vastness of the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans protected US people from significant attacks on our national territory. (Hawaii was a colony at the time of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor.) Yes, we knew during the Cold War that the oceans could not protect us from missile attacks, but there is a different kind of knowledge after a nation experiences deadly attacks from across the sea by men committed “to the destruction of the United States.”
With considerable skill, the Bush Administration has harnessed the sympathy, fear, disorientation, and anger that followed the 9-11 attacks to, as Colin Powell put it, “set the reset button” on U.S. foreign and military policies. Instead of relying on legal, diplomatic, police and intelligence means to bring those responsible to justice, the Bush Administration launched its war against Afghanistan, killing at least 5,000 civilians and restoring Afghanistan’s brutal warlords to power. As we know, that war has literally bled into Pakistan, Kashmir and even India. The Bush government has been clear that what it has described as World War III will be fought, overtly and covertly, in as many as eighty countries, with Iraq next on the list after the Philippines.
As with most foreign military interventions, the reintroduction of U.S. forces to the Philippines under cover of the so-called “Visiting Forces Agreement” and the need to stop the kidnapping campaign of a tiny band of Abu Sayaff bandits serves more than one goal. It seeks to totally reverse your great victory in forcing the withdrawal of U.S. military bases by deepening and expanding the reintroduction of U.S. forces across this country. It opens the possibility of expanded fighting against Islamic and communist forces here. It prepositions U.S. forces for logistical support and possible intervention into Indonesia. And, for the longer term, it reinforces the encirclement of China, which many in the U.S. elite see as a potential regional rival several decades in the future.
Condoleeza Rice, President Bush’s National Security Advisor, tells us that this period is analogous 1945- 47, when Washington (with Stalin’s help,) created the Cold War. In fact, not since the so-called “Spanish-American War” in 1898, have U.S. leaders and the mainstream media spoken so freely about the U.S. and its global sphere as an empire. Even the N.Y. Times reminds us that not since the Roman empire has a single nation enjoyed such superiority. But Rome was limited to one region of the world, while Washington’s empire is global, and penetrates and subverts other cultures more deeply and radically.
The post 9-11 trauma and the government and media inspired “United We Stand” patriotism provided the Bush Administration with the political and diplomatic cover needed to withdraw from the ABM Treaty, to increase the U.S. military budget by nearly one-third to $400 billion – more than the world’s 25 next largest military spenders combined! – to further breach the Vietnam Syndrome, to expand discredited alliances and to create new ones, to enlarge its global network of foreign military bases – especially in oil and gas-rich Central Asia, to adopt its frightening Nuclear Posture Review, and to abandon and subvert international law, including the U.N. Charter and the International Criminal Court.
Now, even as the President insists that he is a “patient man”, his Administration is recklessly preparing for war – even nuclear war – against Iraq in what we are told will be “the most momentous use of force by the United States since the Vietnam war.”
Within the U.S. we are also dealing with an almost unprecedented assault on our constitutionally guaranteed civil rights and liberties. Just as the Bush Administration insists that the world’s nations must be “with us or against us,” the country’s chief law enforcement officer, Attorney General Ashcroft, has warned that criticism “gives ammunition to America’s enemies, and pause to America’s friends.” The government is preparing to review 125 year-old legislation that prohibits the military from law enforcement within the United States. Its TIPS program is designed to encourage millions of U.S. Americans to spy and report on their neighbors, giving Stalin a long dreaded victory from the other side of the grave. A new Cabinet ministry for “Homeland Security” has been created, and the military is in the process of putting its new “northern Command” into place with a mandate to defend the U.S. and to “provide assistance to civil authorities.” Many Arab-Americans, and to a lesser degree South Asian-Americans live in fear as they face daily doses of discrimination, and in some cases abuse and violence.
For the first time in more than a century, U.S. citizens are being jailed and held indefinitely without formal legal charges. And, although it is being used on a very limited basis, a presidential order now makes 20 million immigrants vulnerable to secret military tribunals, where evidence can be withheld from the defendant who, in the most extreme cases, will face the threat of execution, with no right of appeal.
There is some hopeful news on this front. Over the last several weeks, a number of U.S. courts have ruled against these policies, and one explicitly warned that they are endangering the foundations of U.S. democracy.
On the nuclear front, the recent three-page U.S.-Russia agreement was more of a propaganda exercise than a disarmament initiative. Neither country committed itself to destroy a single nuclear warhead. And, with its abrogation of the ABM Treaty, with the Nuclear Policy Review (NPR,) and with the planned fusion of the military’s strategic (nuclear) and space commands, we see a U.S. recommitment to nuclear terrorism and first-strike nuclear warfighting. The Bush Administration has also embraced what has become the pattern in recent routine U.S. warfighting. As it prepares to go to war, Washington threatens nuclear attack to ensure that the governments it is targeting are not tempted to defend themselves with weapons of mass destruction. . Just as Bush the elder threatened nuclear attack before the 1991 Desert Storm War, this Bush Administration communicated nuclear threats to Al Qaeda and the Taliban, and it has announced its doctrine of preemptive and first strike nuclear warfare as is prepares for a “regime change” war against Iraq.
In one of the most widely reported critiques of the Nuclear Posture Review, the Natural Resources Defense Council was clear that the Bush Administration is infatuated with nuclear weapons and is “faking nuclear restraint” Even the New York Times editorialized that the U.S. has become a nuclear “rogue.”
The new doctrine threatens first-strike preemptive nuclear attacks, even against non-nuclear nations. In addition to explicitly identifying Iraq, Iran, North Korea, Syria, Libya, China and Russia as its most likely nuclear targets, the Bush Government is reinforcing the “Full Spectrum Dominance” doctrine with a “New Triad” of nuclear and conventional weapons, with so-called missile defenses, and with a technologically more sophisticated nuclear weapons infrastructure. It has also been clear that nuclear weapons will remain the cornerstone of U.S. military power for the next fifty years. And, even as the Pentagon moves to honor the START II treaty and the recent agreement with Russia, it is actually planning to retain the ability to deploy as many as 15,000 nuclear warheads.
We are resisting, but as I said when I began, we desperately need your help.
Consistent with our culture, the U.S. peace movement is anything but unified. It is decentralized, persistent, and is generally pulling in more or less the same direction.
On September 11 and 12 we began organizing the first new community based coalitions. We organized vigils in cities and towns across the country to communicate four fundamental points: 1) our grief at the loss of human life, 2) the need to bring those responsible for the terrorist attacks to justice by legal means, and that war is not the answer, 3) the importance of protecting endangered communities and our constitutionally guaranteed civil liberties, and 4) the necessity of addressing the root causes of the September 11 attacks. In my home town, more than 700 people joined a vigil on September 12 on only four hours notice. I should also add that many of us have ceased using the Bush Administration’s advertising slogan of “war against terrorism” in our organizing. It is an Orwellian “war is peace” slogan. Almost everyone opposes terrorism, and every time we use it, we give the Bush Administration and its allies a victory. Instead, we are playing on their language, calling the post-9-11 war a global military crusade.
In the first months after September 11, and under the assault of the “United We Stand” popular mobilization for war, many people were (and to a decreasing extent sill are) afraid to speak to their friends, family, neighbors and co-workers about their doubts or opposition to war. It was the worst that I have seen in the U.S. in my lifetime. Our first priorities has thus been to break the silence and to lay the foundations for a powerful, community based, peace movement that can resist and help end the Bush-Cheney-Rumsfeld military crusade. The American Friends Service Committee, which has long served as resource and infrastructure for U.S. peace movements, responded with our “No More Victims – Anywhere!” campaign. We organized vigils, demonstrations, teach-ins and conferences across the country, and we circulated signature advertisements that appeared in the New York Times, the Washington Post, the Boston Globe, and other newspapers. (There will be similar advertisements on the anniversary of the September 11 attacks.)
Our organization and others provided material assistance to September 11 families and food and medicine to people in Afghanistan. We helped create and to maintain the coalition of coalitions that organized the April 20 demonstration that brought 100,000 people to Washington, D.C. to protest the war. That was a major event that put U.S. officials and the world on notice that we exist, that we are angry, and that we want peace with justice.
Along the way, many of us have spoken in hundreds of community, academic, and religious settings. We have developed alternative media, like AFSC’s “Peacework” and the new “War Times” newspaper. We have used our e-mail lists and web pages; sold thousands of peace buttons and stickers, and we have been encouraged as we found ways to work in greater solidarity with movements across Europe and Asia.
Individuals and small groups have found ways to make their voices heard. In Boston, a small progressive print shop printed 20,000 flyers calling for “Justice Not War” with the speech by Barbara Lee, the one member of Congress who voted against the war, printed on the back. You can now find them in people’s home and car windows competing with the “United We Stand” bumper stickers and the flags that have been as omnipresent as swastikas were in Nazi Germany.
In one of the most encouraging developments, morally courageous family members of September 11 victims organized September 11 Families for Peaceful Tomorrows. They have participated in vigils, demonstrations and conferences with the message that their grief is not a cause for war. They have sent delegations to Afghanistan to meet with family members of victims of the U.S. air war. They have had considerable access to the mainstream media, they are working with the AFSC in organizing a nation-wide speaking tour in the coming weeks to challenge the exploitation of the anniversary of the September 11 attacks. In addition to Families for Peaceful Tomorrows members, the tour will include Amirah Ali Lidasan of the Moro Christian People’s Alliance, as well as Afghan, Palestinian, Israeli, Iraqi family members, and a Hiroshima A-Bomb survivor.
I want to be careful not to overstate what we have done, but we are making limited progress. In one of our true victories, organizers in the state of Rhode Island generated hundreds of phone calls and faxes to their Senator who we knew would be casting the deciding vote on funding research and development for the new earth-penetrating, bunker-busting battlefield nuclear weapon. We won his vote and were successful in defeating funding for this new nuclear weapon, but the Bush Administration is working to reverse our victory.
Two important models have been developed in religious communities. In Connecticut, we helped to organize a new state-wide peace organization of religious leaders. They announced their existence and opposition to the war in May, when more than sixty clergy members marched to the state capital in full religious regalia. In my community, members of a Protestant church invited fellow parishioners to join them in a study group on the war. That led to the church adopting a resolution calling for security through diplomatic and legal means, not war, They then brought their resolution to the annual state-wide conference of the United Church of Christ, where it was adopted and now serves as an inspiration for others.
There is also the “Urgent Call To End the Nuclear Danger” which was launched at a mass meeting this spring in New York. It makes four demands on Washington: 1) “Renounce first use of nuclear weapons,” 2) Permanently end the development, testing and production of nuclear warheads”, 3) “Seek agreement with Russia on the mutual and verified destruction of nuclear weapons withdrawn under treaties…” and 4) ratify the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty.
The Call’s authors hope to secure a million signatures this year and ten million before the 2004 U.S. presidential elections.
And, in October, several days after what we expect will be the largest conference of U.S. peace activists this year, the Mayor of Hiroshima will be speaking in several major U.S. cities. The peace declaration that he promulgated this year on the anniversary of the first atomic bombing was exceptional in its unsparing criticism of the Bush Administration’s exploitation of the September 11 attacks.
In the coming months, we see our most urgent task as preventing the threatened, and possibly nuclear, war against Iraq. The AFSC, Voices in the Wilderness, and other organizations are sending delegations to Iraq to challenge the economic sanctions that have claimed the lives of at least a half million children. As these activists return, they are joining with others to educate, organize and lobby Congress to prevent the threatened preemptive war.
We have come a long ways since last fall, but our movement is not yet strong enough to stop the Bush Administration’s global war or to bring U.S. troops home. The initiatives I have described should not obscure the fact that extraordinarily dangerous times, in which hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of lives lie in the balance. We are doing all that we can to reverse the deadly tide, but we cannot do it alone. I urge you to recognize and to respond as fully as you possibly can to stop the Bush administration’s global war, and to rise to our moral and historic responsibilities.
Joseph Gerson is Director of Programs and Director of the Peace and Economic Security Program of the American Friends Service Committee in New England.
Contact Information: AFSC, 2161 Massachusetts Ave., Cambridge, Mass. 02140 USA Phone: 617-661-6130 617-661-6130 , Fax: 617-354-2832 E-Mail: JGerson@afsc.org Web Page: www.afsc.org/pes.htm
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The date posted here is due to our website rebuild, it does not reflect the original date this article was posted. This article was originally posted in Yonip in 2002