Commentary

Palestine, Farming, U.S. Aid, and the Arab Spring: A Conversation with Rami Zurayk

If imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, then "#occupy" protesters around the world this weekend just gave the Arab Spring an Academy Award. Of course the chain of inspiration of freedom and justice seekers is unending in history, but there's no question that the Arab Spring opened a new chapter which is inspiring people to protest for justice worldwide.

No doubt at this historical moment many people in the U.S. will be preoccupied, as they should be, more with how #occupywallstreet is going than with how the Arab Spring is going. But we still have reason to pay some attention to the Arab Spring.

Drawing inspiration from outside our immediate environment sometimes allows us to leapfrog over the crusty preconceptions of our historical surroundings. One thing #occupywallstreet, like the Wisconsin uprising, has had in common with Cairo has been an explicit appeal for solidarity to the "security forces." In Cairo, they chanted: "The army and the people are one hand!" In Madison, the conduct of the mobilization for public employee rights defeated efforts of the Walker administration to split the police politically from other public employees. Today #occupy protesters are telling police, "You are the 99%!" You could look at the police as armed employees of the state who have to follow orders to "maintain public order," or you could look at them as public employees who are largely unionized members of the working class and who often have a lot of discretion in how they interpret their mandate to "maintain public order." Not arresting protesters is a perfectly legitimate tool for keeping the peace, and most police officers and officials know that well. As mom told us when we were little, honey usually beats vinegar.

Garamendi lays out areas where left-leaning budget hawks align w GOP & libertarian cost-cutters

This is an echo of a post by Jen DiMascio, which is here: http://t.co/rQFFUcMi

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"Convenient" Base Is Unexamined Excuse for U.S. Silence on Bahrain Crackdown

Pressure is building on the Obama administration to delay a proposed arms sale to Bahrain, which brutally suppressed its pro-democracy movement and continues to squash dissent, the Washington Post reports.

The Pentagon wants to sell $53 million worth of armored Humvees and anti-tank missiles to Bahrain, a plan slammed by human rights groups, who want the U.S. to end its silence on the crackdown in Bahrain.

This week, five Senators - Sens. Casey, Durbin, Cardin, Menendez, and Wyden - weighed in against the arms sale in a letter to Secretary of State Clinton:

Propaganda By Deed: 99% Protesters #Occupy the Senate

On Tuesday, protesters from #FreedomPlaza and #occupydc in Washington #occupied the Senate. In the morning, they #occupied the Senate Hart office building. The Hart office building has an atrium which is a great protest space. Protesters chanted, "End the Wars!"

This demand has widespread support. Sixty-two percent of Americans want U.S. troops out of Afghanistan in two years or less. Seventy Members of the House have written to the debt-reduction Supercommittee, asking it to end the wars as part of its deficit reduction plan. But the Pentagon is planning to keep U.S. troops in Afghanistan for another decade or more.

In this Guardian video, you can see that there was no way to be in the Hart building and not know that there was a protest going on demanding that the wars end.

 

In the afternoon, protesters #occupied the Senate Finance Committee, which was considering three trade deals being pushed by Wall Street: with Colombia, Korea and Panama.

An Iran Policy for the 99%: Yes to the Medical Nuke Deal

I marched through downtown Washington Saturday afternoon with the "#OccupyDC" folks. One of the most popular chants around me was: "How to end this deficit? End the wars, tax the rich!" Apparently the 99% in DC have no trouble talking about ending the wars and taxing the rich in the same breath. I hope that others will emulate them.

I take it as obvious that "end the wars" means not only that we should get all our troops out of Iraq and Afghanistan, but that we shouldn't start a new war with Iran. Don't you? Surely a key lesson of the last ten years is that once a war is started, it can be incredibly difficult to end it. This is one of the reasons that the neocons love starting wars. Starting a war allows them to create a long-term structural change in the political terrain - one that can long outlast their time in office - sucking resources and focus from the productive, domestic economy that employs and nourishes the 99% to the military economy that makes the military contractors rich but creates few jobs in the U.S. compared to domestic private and public spending.

And another key lesson of the last ten years is this: if we want to stop wars in the future, we can't wait to act until the war advocates have all their ducks in a row. We have to "disrupt their plots," to borrow a phrase. Millions marched worldwide a month before the start of the Iraq war. As an expression of popular clamor for peace, it was great. But as a means of stopping the war, it was too late. The war train had already left the station.

We, the 99%, Demand the End of the Wars Now

After ten years of war, now is a perfect time to act to end the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. The Friends Committee on National Legislation has set up a toll-free number for us to call Congress: 1-877-429-0678. A Congressional "Supercommittee" is charged with coming up with $1.5 trillion in reduced debt over ten years, and the wars and the bloated Pentagon budget dangle before the Supercommittee like overripe fruit.

A recent CBS poll shows how far out of step with the 99% the Pentagon's plans are. 62% want U.S. troops out within two years. But the Pentagon wants to stay for at least thirteen more years.

So what else is new, you may say. The Pentagon wants to stay everywhere forever.

Afghanistan 10th Anniversary Call-In

Report back here concerning your call to Congress on this the 10th anniversary of the invasion of Afghanistan.

Lee-Campbell Bipartisan Letter to Super Committee on Military Spending:

Lee-Campbell Bipartisan Letter to Super Committee on Military Spending:

Dear Colleague,

As the Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction, or the ‘Supercommittee’, seeks out savings and works to end wasteful spending throughout the federal budget, it is critical that all federal agencies, including the Department of Defense, are subject to the same level of scrutiny and consideration. Significant savings can be realized without compromising our national security.

One of the main drivers of our deficit is military spending and it must be on the table for the committee to consider as they seek to reduce our deficit.

Please join us in calling for the Supercommittee to consider savings opportunities throughout our defense spending.

Please note that the letter specifically rejects any cuts that would compromise the security of American troops in the field, as well as any cuts in services and increases in fees for our veterans and military retirees.

If you are interested in signing on or have any questions about the letter, please contact Teddy Miller in Congresswoman Lee’s office; or Christopher Bognanno in Rep. Campbell’s office.

Sincerely

Barbara Lee John Campbell
Member of Congress Member of Congress

Barney Frank Ron Paul
Member of Congress Member of Congress

Gwen Moore Rush Holt
Member of Congress Member of Congress

October __, 2011
Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction Chairman Mark Prater
Senator Patty Murray (Co-Chair)
Senator Max Baucus
Senator John Kerry
Senator Jon Kyl
Senator Pat Toomey
Senator Rob Portman
Representative Jeb Hersarling (Co-Chair)
Representative James Clyburn

Why Tax the Rich to Pay for More War?

Ordinarily, I think of myself as a card-carrying liberal. But lately, I'm getting the feeling that Liberal America had a meeting to decide on our current priorities and peace advocates weren't invited. I open my email and it's full of rallying cries about the urgency of taxing the rich. When was it decided that taxing the rich was the marquee demand of Liberal America at this juncture? Were peace advocates invited to this meeting? I see no evidence that we were.

 

In a different political juncture, I would be happy to march behind the banner of taxing the rich. But at this political juncture, when the war budget is half of federal discretionary spending, and when because of the Budget Control Act and the Supercommittee, we have a historic opportunity to cut the war budget - a much better prospect, at present, than our prospects for raising tax rates on rich people - I ain't marching for this dogwhistle anymore.

Suppose there were a massive government program to dump truckloads of dioxin in Lake Michigan. And suppose that - in addition to the direct effects of poisoning a major source of drinking water - this program were tremendously expensive in blood and treasure. Suppose that since October 7, 2001, more than five thousand American workers had been killed carrying out the Lake Michigan-poisoning project, with tens of thousands of American workers counted as wounded, and the real toll of wounded American workers many times higher. And suppose that the budgeted cost so far of the massive government program to dump poison in Lake Michigan were over a trillion dollars so far, with the real financial cost to society, when you count things like the future health costs of the poisoned American workers, much higher.

Would the marquee demand of Liberal America be to make Warren Buffett pay his fair share for the Lake Michigan-poisoning program? Or would the marquee demand of Liberal America be to stop dumping poison in Lake Michigan?

On October 6, Let's Make a National Clamor for Peace

On October 7, 2011, the United States will have been at war for ten years.

Let's mark the occasion by making a national clamor for peace so loud that Congress, the President, and big media will have to pay attention.

October 7 happens to fall on a Friday this year. If you get to choose, Friday is not necessarily the most strategic day to make a national clamor for peace, because 1) Congress will likely not be in session 2) Friday is, in general, a crummy day to try to get media attention and 3) even if these two things weren't true or relevant, Friday is not a great day to try to hold public attention. People's thoughts are turning to the weekend, and then the weekend erases the chalkboard.

Moreover, the press has to cover the anniversary of the war, but these stories are going to be largely written and produced before Friday. The default media narrative will be: America has lost interest in the wars, because of the economy and unemployment, because "the wars are already winding down," or some other story that journalists or editors will make up. We have to beat this default media narrative. To beat it, we need to get in front of it.

So let's mark the occasion on Thursday, October 6. Let's have a national, "ecumenical" day of action for peace: to end the wars and cut the military budget.