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ANTI-WAR ACTIVISM: "Do you want that strategic or strategy-free?"

Hundreds of rural activists attend Iraq Town Halls in Congressional Districts across the state. Will this launch a new 'strategic' anti-war movement?
'Strategy-free activism' is a term coined by the late-great activist Judy Bari. The worst example of 'strategy-free activism' I have ever seen was provided by a band of mask-wearing 'revolutionaries' carrying a 'F the Troops' banner in a big Portland peace march.

By contrast, the best recent example of 'strategic' activism was Cindy Sheehan's protest outside of Bush's Crawford dude-ranch. Before a national press corps stuck covering the President's summer vacation, she contrasted her condition as the grieving mother of a soldier-son killed in Iraq with Bush's feckless month-long West Texas siesta. Her example galvanized peace vigils across the country, re-launched the anti-war movement, linking it to the suffering of soldiers and their families.

The wave of peace vigils and local anti-war activities inspired by Cindy Sheehan has rolled on for over 80 weeks, though you'd never know about it from the mainstream media. The Rural Organizing Project compiled a list of over forty vigils happening regularly in rural Oregon alone - who knows what the number is nationally?

A year ago Rural Organizing Project activists began thinking about how to leverage the local peace work happening in small towns across the state. How could these individual actions combine to create a bigger effect, and what was the most appropriate target for activism? Out of many discussions came the ROP's Cost of War campaign.

We decided to include a common demand in our local activities: that our Congress people and Senators give an accounting of the real costs of the Iraq occupation. We reasoned that elected federal officials had the means and a duty to make sure all their constituents understood how much the war has cost, and what services were sacrificed to pay for it. As part of the Cost of War campaign we called on our Congress people to hold Iraq Town Halls in their districts. We made this demand via petition, and also in person whenever we could attend a meeting with a Representative or Senator.

We soon noticed that, while none of the Congressional delegation agreed to hold special Iraq Town Halls, they did became more vocal on the occupation and began to include the term 'cost of war' in their public statements.

However, by August of '06 we were tired of waiting for the politicians to act. The ROP staff formally invited the Congressional delegation to Iraq Town Halls that we would organize ourselves in each Congressional District. In December, after elections that brought Democrats to power in DC on a wave of anti-war sentiment, we set Town Hall dates for the February Congressional recess, anticipating the upcoming vote on a massive $240 billion appropriation to continue the Iraq occupation. No Representative or Senator agreed to attend, but Reps David Wu, Darlene Hooley, and Peter DeFazio committed to send staff.



Town Halls happened in four of five Congressional districts between February 16 and 24:

In Redmond (Rep Greg Walden, District 2), 175 people crowded into the Redmond Community Center. In Lincoln City (Rep Darlene Hooley, District 5) 125 people attended. In Roseburg, 125 people turned out (Peter DeFazio, District 4). At all the meetings, military families and returning vets spoke, including the mother of Suzanne Swift, who refused orders to return to Iraq.


I attended the Forest Grove Town Hall (Rep David Wu, District 1), where 150 people filled Taylor Auditorium on the Pacific University campus. Former Air Force photographer Tina Bean, recently returned from Iraq and suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome addressed the crowd:
"I haven't seen a single one of my friends since I've been home, because I don't want them to see me like this," she said, fighting tears. "I can't look at myself in the mirror without feeling disgusted.
"I feel like I'm broken into a million pieces. I'll never be the person I was."

By organizing these assemblies we achieved the first goal of the campaign: to bring local anti-war groups together in coalitions centered in Congressional Districts and focused on community outreach as a means to pressure elected officials.
Each Town Hall was organized by the local ROP Human Dignity Groups and allies. Testimonies were solicited from within the communities where we live. This met our second goal: to expand the outreach of local groups and highlight the cost of war for our neighbors, bringing in new people.
Did we meet our third goal of influencing our Congress people and Senators to vote against the Iraq appropriation, and to take the lead in explaining the cost of war to their constituents? None of them attended. Some held their own pre-screened events to coincide with our grassroots assemblies.
On the other hand, all Representatives and Senators are now aware that anti-war activists are creating coalitions in each Congressional District, that we are including into our protests the type of targeted political action that has historically succeeded in re-shaping the political landscape, whether to the left or the right. We are in for a long struggle to get Congress people and Senators to vote down funding for the occupation - a vote that will effectively end the war. We will need to be imaginative. The goal should be to create a relentless, non-violent political force capable of rewarding friends and punishing enemies. As someone explained to me during the Town Hall in Rep Wu's District: "If David Wu is a ship at sea, we need to be the rocks on the shore that make it impossible for him to tack to the right."

homepage: homepage: http://www.rop.org


Movement imply's progress. Did Todd Gitlin write this? 04.Mar.2007 13:19

Michael b.

Why do you find it relevant to promote an us versus them mentality with radical youth? It's bad enough when they do it. But really, what value is age and experience if we don't learn from our mistakes?

The way I see it there's two ways to build organizational power:

1)Through solidarity

2)Through polarization

Both these means have a place in the movement. The question is what are your ends? What goals you are trying to achieve through contrasting your strengths with the perceived weaknesses of radical youth?

If your goals are simply:

-"By organizing these assemblies we achieved the first goal of the campaign: to bring local anti-war groups together in coalitions centered in Congressional Districts and focused on community outreach as a means to pressure elected officials."

-"anti-war activists are creating coalitions in each Congressional District, that we are including into our protests the type of targeted political action that has historically succeeded in re-shaping the political landscape, whether to the left or the right."

-"The goal should be to create a relentless, non-violent political force capable of rewarding friends and punishing enemies."

Does your response via this article help you meet your stated goals? Are all your goals mutually exclusive with the goals of radical youth? Do you even understand to what degree they are and aren't? How can you without dialog?

Do you understand the consequences of turning against radical youth? Against that energy?

Ask World Can't Wait..

Is your response in this article any different really? The radical youth say fuck the troops. A fair summary of this article would be: fuck the radical youth. Who does this infighting serve? So much for the Ghandian response..


What you don't see is that the masked up banner waiving folks you hate on here, are involved in local coalitions for peace. While you've brought 100 or 2 folks to a congressional delegation they've feeder marches with attendance of anywhere from 60 to 2000 people. Recently they did targeted home demonstrations in solidarity with a local campaign for police accountability and together we've won some concrete changes. A number of them were involved in the first Day X, and shutting the city down to protest the war. No small contribution.

I am involved in local organizing. Movement elders I respect suggested that I contact you regarding events we're doing in the near future.

Will I have the soul force to look past this petty and unstrategic polarization of your own community and see your inner worth?

To perceive the spark of value in your other works and reach out to you?

Please don't pee in the well. We all drink from it.

In common struggle,
Michael b.

On "Fuck the Troops" 04.Mar.2007 13:34

oldanarchist

Mike Edera: "Did we meet our third goal of influencing our Congress people and Senators to vote against the Iraq appropriation, and to take the lead in explaining the cost of war to their constituents?"


Before you diss the brave people who carried the Fuck the Troops banner, you should acknowledge that nothing you or I have done has changed the bipartisan policy of US hegemony and international corporatism that has led to the deaths of millions of innocents. I would not carry such a banner, because I believe that most of our troops are victims, but I see the utility of communicating to the public that not all of us worship militarism. By targeting the taboo of speaking ill of the agents of fascism, those masked revolutionaries caused a a broader range of options to be discussed among the anti-occupation community.

Our Congresspeople and Senators are overwhelmingly pro-empire. Even when they now speak of the "cost" of war, they mean "cost to us", and rarely discuss the hundreds of thousands of lost Iraqi lives. That they are now prepared to give Bush-Cheney another $100 billion "to support the troops" is a primary example of why some other message must be delivered to the American people, some other message that communicates both the rage and the hope that we feel.

How about some evidence? 04.Mar.2007 18:37

Mike Edera

I'm trying to figure out how carrying a 'Fuck the Troops' sign does anything except create an eco-system for cops . I would welcome some evidence - which a different thing than just asserting that this is a 'brave act'. Stupid activity should be pointed out (and we have all done dumb things, myself in particular). If that hurts you feelings,maybe politics is not for you.
In our town halls we were surprised to find returning vets stepping up to speak out, these were folks outside of our organizing circles. I'm sure 'Fuck the Troops' is just the message they were looking for.
To say you can create change through 'polarization' is completely vague. Polarize your enemies, unite with your friends.
Here's what Sun Tzu says:
"Don't do what you would most like to do. Do what your adversary least wants you to do." I can't think of a single revolution that succeeded without at least a part of the military going over to the revolutionaries.

the fuck the troops stuff was addressed in the past 04.Mar.2007 19:29

.

read it here:
 http://portland.indymedia.org/en/2007/01/351709.shtml

Also worth a read (published before the invasion of Iraq):
 http://portland.indymedia.org/en/2003/03/52488.shtml

perhaps you're already aware of the evidence 04.Mar.2007 19:43

questioner

"I can't think of a single revolution that succeeded without at least a part of the military going over to the revolutionaries."

I would agree with that. Now would you agree that telling the troops that you support them is a sure-fire way to not have them switch sides? Did the Britsh "troop support" end British colonialism? Did the US "troop support" end the US occupation of Vietname? Did the German "troop support" end World War II? How do occupations usually end anyway? Is it when the occupying troops get sick of fighting? What would cause them to get more sick of fighting: a population that tells them how great they are or a population that tells them that what they're doing is wrong and they're committing war crimes?

And no offense to Sheehan, whom I admire, but her activism isn't particularly strategic either. The only strategic anti-occupation efforts are being conducted by the Iraqis. They're killing soldiers so that soldiers don't want to go on missions anymore, and making it harder for the US military to recruit soldiers. That's effective strategy. We shouldn't feel guilty because occupations are always ended by the occupied, never the occupiers. What's happening in Iraq doesn't mean enough to anyone in this country to take effective action. So the Iraqis will end the US occupation of their country, just as the Vietnamese did over 30 years ago.

Work where you are 04.Mar.2007 21:25

mike e

I'm sure the Iraqis would not turn down a little assist from here - the Vietnamese certainly were clear about the need for an anti-war movement. The idea that the alternative to 'fuck the troops' is 'support the troops' is a straw-man argument.
What would be interesting is a discussion about how the movement can reach out to returning, pissed off and/or damaged vets. Many of these very young people are returning to alienated suburban zones with no one to talk to, no way to deal with this society. Seems like this would be a good project for 'radical youth' who have created some elements of mutual aid - the kind of thing anarchism at its best was famous for.
People should study the period right after WW1, 1918-19, particularly what happened in Italy where there was a huge wave to the left after armistice. Demobilized soldiers were clamoring for radical change, but the left movements were incapable of reaching out to them or bringing off what needed to be done. The result was a lurch to the right, because Mussolini made these vets central to his fascist movement. The journalistic stuff that Antonio Gramsci wrote during that period would be well worth anyone's time to read.

everything "works"...even violence. 04.Mar.2007 21:50

Xman

Mike....
Nothing works if everyone keeps expecting everyone to march to "their" drum.
We all hear different drum music.
Do you honestly have the expectation that the anti-war movement will and should all march in lock step like a uniformed army?
If you do...and if there are enough of you who feel that way, then we are a long way from getting anything done.
The only way to "win" is to accept everyone who is opposed to the war and accept their motivations.

I guess I have the advantage of some who post here in that I am a child of the 60's.
Trust me, there wasn't a lot of lockstep back then. But when there were peaceful protests, they were generally not covered by the media.
What got covered is the "conflict" on the streets. Violence gets coverage. With coverage you can get your message out....however crudely....you get it out!
"Fuck the Troops" is a form of violence in that it pisses people off and can provoke "action".

The mistake we made was as we got the mainstream on our side, we allowed the "suits" to run to the front of the parade and then take the lead...so it was still the same guys in charge...once we were done. Get it?

So, you don't dig "Fuck the Troops?" The ones who are doing the actual killing? The ones who are raping? The ones who are shooting civilians? The ones who are brainwashed?
Well then how the fuck do you expect to wake them up and get them to stop killing?
How do you expect to get them to re-examine what they are doing?
The answer is to support all troops who resist, and make life unpleasant for those who don't.

I used to be a "troop". I got drafted. I walked right past all the anti-war kids outside the induction center in oakland california, took the oath and stepped forward. When I was asked where I wanted to go, I said Viet Nam. My mind was putty and someone knew it and somehow I was convinced it was honorable to become a killing machine.

You know what woke me up? Jane Fonda.
An obviously brilliant woman who just made sense. More sense than any leader I had heard up to that point. She got me to listen to the people who were yelling "Fuck the Troops" (or similar). It just made sense that people who were so passionate that they would suffer the blows of clubs, bullets and gas and come back and do it again the next day...had something I needed to hear.
I knew I could learn from them.
Jane got my attention by doing and saying things that were the complete opposite of my comfort zone. She pissed me off! But, I had to respect her brain.

But, she was just a part of the anti-war machine. Every part was important and necessary.
Mike, the "Fuck the Troops" kids are our family. And as all families, are made up of different personalities, you should do as you feel the need. BUT, allow others the same. Otherwise YOU are the "polarizer" in your own house.
I'm sure Sun Tzu would agree.
And yes, because of the outrageous actions of many anti-war activists, hundreds of thousands of troops became anti-war. You want to polarize the enemy? It's already happening man.
Xman

How about? 05.Mar.2007 11:42

fireweed

How about, instead of "Fuck the Troops", "Fuck the War"?

"Fuck the Troops" may indeed serve as a wake-up call for some...but in general, if the message is "Fuck you/Join us!" how many will come?

Idea: run a poll of veterans already against the war, come up with some stats. Anyone?

A panel discussion supporting troops against the war? 05.Mar.2007 14:29

Michael b.

I'm very busy doing my bit for a month of activist workshops this april. Unfortunately I don't have time to put the energy that something like this deserves. After April I will.

I recently heard Imiri Baraka give an incredible speech that addressed a lot of these issues. I heard it on alternative radio. It was recorded July 13th in Boulder Colorado. It would be great to contact him about this panel. Maybe some folks from 60's SDS? The block? And whoever you want?

Keep in touch.

In common struggle,
Michael b.

Frag your comander? No blood for profit? 05.Mar.2007 15:35

!Heckno!

>>"Don't do what you would most like to do. Do what your adversary least wants you to do."

Seriously Mike, do you honestly think that the bosses over at the Chambers of Commerce don't want you to act with the same kind of attitude that you dissagree with? That they wouldn't rather that you direct your anger at some pissed off activist youth, than at them?

As far as I'm concerned the bloc isn't "guilty" of having the wrong message. They're message just isn't clear. This applys to us no less than most groups or affinities including your own.

To the extent that we're angry at voluntary participation in a fucked up crusade for oil and power (aka land and labor) "Fuck The Troops" is a moral position.

To the extent that we all have a duty to build a common movement for real change, revolutionary change? Turning on each other, turning on veterans that share a lot of your goals, isn't strategic. Back in the day a number of veterans joined groups like the BLA, and SDS. The same kind of folks that would be sporting "Fuck the Troops" banners.

I've seen "hearts and minds," I've seen "The war at home." I get it. When soldiers stop wanting to fight wars grind to a halt. There's more than one way to get there though.

Appealing to folks flag waiving nationalism may stop "this" war. But it won't stop war for profit. It doesn't address the economic motivations behind the war. It's a question of trading one war for countless wars.

If your motivation is to make a power grab under the current system. This would make sense.

If your motivation is to bring the war home, and stop future wars. It doesn't.

To the extent that veterans are interested in confronting capitalism and the imperialist ambitions of this nation, there's a lot of room for solidarity. To the extent that veterans are interested in confronting the structures behind this war, and ending this nations ability to make war there's a lot of room for solidarity.

It's going to take work on both sides. It aint a one way street. Appeals to national unity come off as insults, plain and simple. Unity with facism? No fucking way.

On the other hand, there's a shit tonne of Defense contractors around here just begging for a shake down. If you're game.

"Fuck the Troops"?

Maybee "Frag your CO!" is more to the point.


Any more banner and chant ideas?

yes, fuck the troops 06.Mar.2007 02:36

and fuck you if you don't like it

> I'm trying to figure out how carrying a 'Fuck the Troops'
> sign does anything except create an eco-system for cops

It communicates, for instance to Mr. E, the otherwise invisible reality that not everybody in America cares more about our precious heroic killing machines than about the people they're killing, halfway around the world, for no sane reason.

(And for that matter, what is he saying here ... does he have a problem with "cops" but not "troops"?)

"Scott Ritter, the ex-weapons inspector, spoke on the danger of a new war against Iran, saying that both Republicans and Democrats were pushing for such a war as a means of recouping the losses suffered in Iraq and Lebanon. Such a war, he predicted, is inevitable 'unless we find a way to reinvigorate Congress, get Congress to act in accordance with the Constitution.' Ritter dismissed polls showing 62 percent of Americans against the war in Iraq. 'So what?' he said. 'They are only against it now because of the reverses. Sixty-two percent of Americans aren't against war; they're against losing.'"

 http://www.wsws.org/articles/2006/aug2006/bvan-a29.shtml

Acts that started the American Civil War? The end of antibellum slavery? 06.Mar.2007 19:54

Mb

John Browns army's violent defense of free towns, and raids on racist strong holds led to the American civil war. The racist mainstream media at the time accredited Browns army with forcing Lincoln to stand against the south. More specifically the attack on the Federal reserve at harpers ferry, and subsequent hanging of John Brown made him a hero in the north. A martyr of sorts. This led to the racist militias of the south uniting as the confederate army. Some boils will fester and consume you, if they aren't "lanced." To illustrate polarizing effect that the armed raid on Harpers had on america you should check out the history of to this tune "John Browns Body" otherwise known as "Solidarity Forever." A popular "union" song.

This account of the rebellions confronting slavery, including Nat Turner's, and the numerous slave rebellions is by no means complete. The intended purpose of this post is to give a rough account of times in this countries history where political violence led to gains for the movement towards justice and equality.

 http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Brown%27s_Body

<a href=" http://photobucket.com" target="_blank"><img src=" http://i111.photobucket.com/albums/n154/flashfloodmagazine/johnbrownmaster1.jpg" border="0" alt="Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting"></a>

Another account of politically relevant "violence" was the Attica prison rebellion. Which galvanized the formation of movements for racial equality, and drives to organize prisons.

<a href=" http://photobucket.com" target="_blank"><img src=" http://i111.photobucket.com/albums/n154/flashfloodmagazine/T-SHIRTFRONTcopy.jpg" border="0" alt="Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting"></a>

 http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Attica_uprising

The Wikipedia article above isn't very accurate. It wholesale adopts police accounts of the rebellion over first hand accounts by inmates that survived.
What can you expect from a post that repeatedly sites Public Broadcasting Services. For a more accurate portrayal of the rebellion you should watch the documentary, "Attica."

Here's a review:
 http://movies2.nytimes.com/gst/movies/movie.html?v_id=155688

It's hard to find but can be checked out at Laughing Horses video lending library. At 10th and Burnside.

or check out:

 http://www.freedomarchives.org/struggleinsideSept.html

for audio-

Some pacifists consider the very notion of self defense as "violence." This belief has been rebutted by the anti-imperialist movement from about the sixties on. A concise rebuttal of this theory was illustrated in George Jackson's book "Blood in my eye."

An example of self defense, being portrayed by the government and it's sympathizers as a "riot," or senseless political violence is the Stonewall Rebellion.

 http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stonewall_riots

Which was a galvanizing watershed for the gay rights movement.

I could go on about the heroic efforts of anti-racists in this town, and the drive in the early nineties to clean out the nazi gangs of Portland.

I could go on. But honestly, the examples of politically relevant "violence" in america are many. Outside this country, they are as common as anything else.

Check out the movie "Amandala" sometime.

Basically history has shown that no single tactic is a strategy. Believing that one is, plays right into our enemies hands.

I am no "violentist," and radicals are no cliche. I support a diversity of tactics, struggles, and connections between struggles. There is a time and place for peace, and a time and place for conflict.

Portraying a contentious banner as violent, is the moral equivalent of equating Daniel Berigans draft card raid, and burning with -> violence. Basically silly, and probably dangerous. Why? Because when the movement adopts the governments terms, against itself "riot, terrorist, violent, irrational display of violence" we criminalize our neighbors and comrades-
and normalize repression against our entire community.

For example: I remember when leaders from groups like Portland Peace full Response Coalition used to call radical youth terrorists.

Then they protested the Chamber of Commerces attack on their city council resolution to declare Portland's opposition to the war (A worthy goal.) The police cracked down on them, and beat their peace full protest down with the same kind of force that they regularly apply to us.

Further more: The violence against peace full demonstrations by radical youth at Schumacer Furs was precipitated by a letter to the city council from Portland's Bosses at that's right... The Chamber of Commerce (PBA.) Further demonstration that like it or not, we're in this together.

The label of "violence" is often applied to direct action or sabotage.

In the words of Elizabeth Gurly Flinn:

"I am not going to attempt to justify sabotage on any moral ground. If the workers consider that sabotage is necessary, that in itself makes sabotage moral. Its necessity is its excuse for existence. And for us to discuss the morality of sabotage would be as absurd as to discuss the morality of the strike or the morality of the class struggle itself."

 http://www.postworldindustries.com/library_text/library_praxis/sabotage.html

In common struggle,
Michael b.

Violent struggle gave us the world we live in (and it's great, right?). 07.Mar.2007 23:44

Mike E

People have made valid comments about self-defense. Sometimes people need to fight to survive. Unfortunately, the outcomes of the struggles cited in the above posts have been tragic. The Civil War immediately led to over a century of racist terrorism against African Americans. Over 3 million Indochinese people were slaughtered in the Vietnam war. Today, former People's Army cadres are commanding battalions of sweatshop workers in Nike contract factories. World War 2 created a new world hot-wired with nuclear weapons, and a constant state of warfare in which more people have perished since 1945 than during the war. We are literally poised at the brink of extinction, and if you don't believe it you do not understand the level of weaponry that is currently deployed in the Persian Gulf.
Does this mean that the African-American slaves who took up arms in the Union army were wrong, or the Vietnamese resistance, or my Dad and millions of others fighting fascism in WW2? NO - they did what they had to do in terrible circumstances. As did the Attica prisoners, and Comrade George and many others with their backs to the wall.
But Dr King was prophetic when he said that "we are faced with the choice of non-violence or non-existance."
Violent struggle as a tactic for social change has reached a dead-end, as devastated societies across the globe attest.
We can be smarter, and here, in the US, we have a duty to use all our best thinking and organizing to build the most powerfull non-violent force we can. That means thinking clearly and creatvely.And seeing things as they really are, not through the eyes of propaganda and whishful thinking. George Orwell, who know something about armed struggle having fought in the Spanish Civil war wrote the following about politcal language and its relation to thought process:
"Political language - and with variations this is true of all political parties, from Conservatives to Anarchists - is designed to make lies sound truthful, and murder respectable, and give a appearance of solidity to pure wind".