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Strike for Peace
Activist Brian Bogart asked himself: "Our top industry has been the manufacture and sale of weapons-and we're a peace-loving nation?" Inspired by this paradox, Bogart created Strike for Peace...described on its website as an attempt "to highlight for everyone's sake the dominant role of the military industry in America's economy. We stand for a future of shared resources instead of a future of resource wars. The weapons we help the Pentagon develop in our schools will be used in such wars unless we step away from the microscope to see the macro view and change America's priority from war-industry profit to the Founding vision of prosperity for all."
"The action I'm taking is not about political parties," Brian declares. "It's about deadly priorities that have been ruining this country for 55 years and causing a world of suffering, even here at home, and even to our soldiers abroad."
I interviewed Brian Bogart via e-mail:
MZ: What was the spark for "Strike for Peace"?
BB: I took seriously what I was taught about the founding vision: that America is a peace-loving nation run by servants who operate by the consent of the governed (the people), and that American citizens have a duty to monitor their governing body very closely. We are often told we have a government of by and for the people, and the Declaration of Independence states more than once that the people have a duty to alter or abolish any government that threatens their future security. All of this means we are supposed to be responsible, to participate; not just by voting, but by knowing exactly what's really going on in government every minute of every day.
MZ: In other words, take control? In America?
BB: Obviously, Americans have lost control of America, or possibly never really had control. Most people are too overwhelmed to even talk about the mess we have today in Washington DC. But, in my career, and then in my first three years of independent research as University of Oregon's only graduate student in Peace Studies, I learned something we don't learn enough of in schools: that the American people were ripped off in 1950, that without the knowledge and consent of the American people, the office of President Harry Truman-a Democrat-decided to adopt a weapons-for-profit-based economy and launch the Cold War against the Soviet Union.
MZ: What's been the fallout of the rip-off you describe? BB: Since 1950, our nation has been dependent on conflict-and the world has suffered more than 200 wars. Our factories that made trains and buses and other necessities for public use were converted for military purposes, and that technology was shipped overseas-so today we import these things and do not have the ability to produce them. Since 1950, our top industry has been the manufacture and sale of weapons-and we're a peace-loving nation? Our economic-aid packages to developing countries are filled with weapons, and any loans we provide come with terms that allow us to control and perpetuate their internal strife.
MZ: In other words, the U.S. taxpayer is funding war and knows very little about it.
BB: I slowly saw this in my career when I was making parts for televisions in Silicon Valley, when suddenly our companies were saturated with weapons contracts coming from the Pentagon. I saw so much of our hard-earned taxes being spent on weapons that benefited only top executives. Even more wasteful contracts were justified as necessary for the Cold War. For example, I saw trillions of taxpayer dollars going to waste on President Reagan's "Star Wars" missile defense system, which was never deployed. Servants in power today say "Star Wars" was necessary to frighten the Soviet Union into spending all of its wealth on weapons. "Star Wars" was, therefore, never intended to be deployed. But if we won the Cold War, why are we today wasting even more of the people's money making even deadlier weapons? And doesn't spending our wealth on weapons take us down the same path as the Soviet Union? The answer is our leaders are addicted to profit, and serve a war-for-profit machine adopted in 1950.
MZ: This machine requires an enemy.
BB: When we won the Cold War, our leaders were faced with a loss-of-profit crisis called "peace." So, the Pentagon outsourced its weapons projects and supply requirements to our companies and schools. The Army used to make its own tuna sandwiches, but today Bumble Bee has a lucrative Pentagon contract, and therefore a stake in conflict and a good reason not to speak out against war. The Navy used to make its own soup, but today Campbell's has a Pentagon contract, and therefore a stake in conflict and a good reason not to speak out against war. The Base Realignment and Closure hearings were not only designed to deploy our forces and bases around the world-and that's made very clear in the Pentagon's National Defense Strategy-but the sentiments stirred up among workers here who want to keep their jobs create that many more reasons for Americans not to speak out against war. Today more than 300,000 companies have Pentagon contracts. Some 400 colleges develop combat programs on campus to make up for the diversion of state funds to the so-called "war on terror."
MZ: Why do you think there isn't more outrage over this system of corporate welfare?
BB: Americans are not learning these basic facts about their country, but they are being hired and trained as cogs in our war machine, paid to be silent workers and accomplices, paid to participate in the industry of war while being influenced to ignore the violence and wastefulness of war. Nearly all of our problems, nearly all threats to the future, bleed from this wound in American history, and only an outcry of popular demand can change it. Dissent is the highest form of patriotism, so it is right that we stop to learn what's really happening, and it is right that we stand up and speak out. But we must do it together or our servants will continue to steal everything we have, including our lives.
MZ: Assuming more Americans became aware, what do you see as a way to channel this awareness?
BB: History's greatest lesson tells us to take the profit out of war, and until we do that, we will increasingly suffer from the misdirection of our advancing technology. Both major parties have sustained the war industry for 55 years; both are rife with corruption. Changing administrations or ending the war in Iraq without changing our national priority will neither alter our course nor banish perpetual conflict. I realized this after the third year of my graduate program, and decided to spend my final year striking for peace, camped across from the administration building at University of Oregon to-with the assistance of other caring students-bring attention to the root cause of the world's (and America's) problems. The purpose of the CampU.S. Strike for Peace Campaign is to unite people against this priority of weapons profit over human prosperity, because it is killing any chance of success for equal rights, a clean environment, fair elections, a balanced media, a just world, and a peaceful and meaningful future. Filling the world with weapons is not reasonable and will never deliver security and prosperity for all. We must take the profit out of war or war will take the life out of us.
MZ: How's it going so far?
BB: In just three weeks, we have succeeded in prompting our faculty senate to address the issue of Pentagon-funded research (we have nineteen future-combat related projects underway at UO, ten more than last year). We have also been invited by members of Parliament as delegates to the December 2005 International Peace Conference in London, so we at strikeforpeace.org are seeking funding assistance.
MZ: What can readers do to learn more and/or get involved?
BB: Go to http://www.StrikeForPeace.org and then contact us. --posted October 21, 2005
"Karl Rove isn't the only monster out there"
No sooner had George W. Bush won (sic) re-election did the jockeying for position begin for 2008. Will Hillary run? Which Republican will step up? Can the law be changed to allow Ah-nuld a shot? It's never too early, so it seems, to lay the groundwork for the spectacle of a presidential campaign. (If only the rest of us were so forward thinking.) After eight years of Dubya, will progressives yet again hold their noses and vote Democrat?
"Backing the lesser-evil, like the majority of liberals and lefties did in 2004, keeps the whole political pendulum in the US swinging to the right," says Josh Frank, author of "Left Out: How Liberals Helped Reelect George W. Bush.” "It derails social movements, helps elect the opposition, and undermines democracy. This backwards logic allows the Democrats and Republicans to control the discourse of American politics and silences any voices that may be calling for genuine change."
For more on our alleged two-party system, do not miss Josh Frank's book. To get an idea of what else he has on his mind, I asked him a mixed bag of questions:
Mickey Z: Lots of hang-wringing lately, re: Karl Rove. Should we believe Rove is singularly repellent or is he just another in a long line of Roves? Is there a Democrat version waiting in the wings for 2008?
Joshua Frank: Well, Rove is certainly repellent, but this whole Plame affair is being looked at in the totally wrong context. You'd think the left would have cheered Rove (if it really was Rove) for outing a CIA operative. Another thing that has been totally lost in the media translation of this mess, is that the White House didn't out Plame just to get back at her husband Joseph Wilson - they were really going after the CIA more generally, as the Agency was countering some of the rhetoric coming out of the Bush PR machine - i.e. Rove and Scooter Libby - about Saddam's potential WMD threats.
Is there a Democrat version of Rove waiting in the wings? Absolutely. His name is Al From, who is every bit as hawkish and sinister as Karl Rove. The Democratic Leadership Council, which From, the founder and current CEO, parrots virtually every neo-conservative and neo-liberal axiom that traverses down the pipeline. Just take a glance at their repulsive magazine, Blueprint. In the past few issues alone they've called for a pro-longed occupation of Iraq. They've chastised colleges that don't allow military recruiters. They have embraced CAFTA. What a joke. Too bad the punch-line isn't all that funny. The same crap churning out of the "brains" behind the DLC could just as easily be writing the garbage that David Horowitz espouses over at FrontPagMag.com. Same trash, different dump. And if Hillary Clinton runs '08, you can be sure From will be a very close advisor to her campaign as he was to her husbands in '92. Karl Rove isn't the only monster out there looking for a power grab.
MZ: The resignation of Justice O'Connor has resulted in her potential replacement John Roberts being labeled as "moderate." How accurate is that label?
JF: Ha, moderate! Right. And Howard Dean is a commie and Judith Miller a martyr. Roberts is certainly not a moderate, he's a right-wing activist with an agenda. He despises the rule of law, and has noted that he'd like to see the executive branch of government enjoy more power. So much for checks and balances. Repeatedly over his career he has gone after minorities. He's had an iron-fist approach to justice. He recommended against expanding the 1965 Voting Rights Act, because, as he wrote, the extension would "not simply extend the existing and effective Voting Rights Act, but would dramatically change it ... It's not broken so there's no need to fix it," he claimed. He also has attacked affirmative action, as I noted in a recent article, in Robert's opinion it was "obvious" that the minorities recruited under affirmative action policies were, by definition, "inadequately prepared candidates." In other words, it wasn't possible for black and Latino applicants to be anything but "inadequately prepared." That's pretty damned bigoted. And if bigotry is considered "moderate" these days, I'd hate to see what "conservative" looks like. He's also a whore for the corporate elite and has sides with their interests on most every occasion. After his stint as Solicitor General's he took a gig with the National Mining Association and hence his ruling against environmentalists when they challenged development practices that were impeding on an endangered species. The list goes on. Moderate Justice? My ass. Too bad the Democrats are going to rubber stamp this creep.
MZ: U.S. Capitol Police Chief Terrance W. Gainer recently called Israel the "Harvard of antiterrorism." Considering the Ivy League's role in maintaining America's status quo, is this characterization as insane as it initially sounds?
JF: Of course it's insane as it sounds. Harvard plays a large part is upholding the status quo and they've turned out a lot of monsters that have gone on to be high ranking officers and presidents. To their credit, however, much to the DLC's chagrin, Harvard does not allow the ROTC and other military recruiters on campus. But I think there is a much larger issue here with Gainer's statement, and that has to do with our little client state in the Middle East.
Israel, like the US, can do no wrong. Their policies aren't terrorist polices, but the actions of Palestinians are. The only reason that Israel is doing what it's doing, say it's avid supporters, building a wall and bulldozing olive groves (yes, it's still going on, despite the settler "pull out"), is to protect themselves from those terrorist Palestinians - or so the rhetoric goes. Same goes for the United States and our actions. Invading a country illegally, killing countless civilians, and then occupying them while US corporations loot the place isn't terrorism, they say. But resistance fighters blowing themselves up in response is. It's a very twisted logic and it's clear that most looking at the horrific situation are not analyzing the asymmetry of the conflict. Who has the power and who doesn't? Tanks vs. suicide bombers. Nuclear weapons vs. stones. It's pretty clear that the US and Israel have the bigger guns here. And I'll take my chances and say they are also the bigger terrorists.
MZ: I know you spend a fair amount of time in the Big Apple. Will you feel safer thanks to the random bag searches on the subway?
JF: Safer? No. I think it's a bit silly, these "random" checks. More like "racist" checks - as it's clear that the NYPD has targeted Latinos and blacks during this whole heightened "war on drugs" effort - what's to change now? We've even got a story in a recent issue of the Washington Post where a Democrat is calling for racial profiling on the subway system. I guess they don't remember who bombed Oklahoma City. The bigger issue is really being lost in all of this and it has to do with your previous question I think. What's causing all of this? Or at least exacerbating it? It's easy to say that the terrorist activity is a result of a few crazy fundamentalists. Sure, that is true in some respect. But leaving it there totally ignores why so many are targeting the US and our allies. Could it be our unconditional support for Israel? How about our invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq? How about our profligate use of their natural resources? I don't think anybody should feel safer because of these "random" checks. We should only safer when the US gets the hell out of the Middle East and supports Palestine with the same vigor it defends Israel.
MZ: August 2 is 15 years since Iraq invaded Kuwait, August 6 is 50 years since the bombing of Hiroshima, August 7 is 41 years since the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution. What's up with early August?
JF: Maybe it's easier to pull the wool over the people's eyes when they are on vacation. August is a big vacation month ya know. I myself am off to Utah next week and I am looking forward to missing a little news as I hike around the state. In all seriousness, though, this quite possibly could be a motivating factor here. The Washington PR machines all know that Friday, for example, is the best day to slip out the dirty linens in the news run. Saturdays are not big days for news. And August may be one big Saturday to military and political strategists.
MZ: German scientists recently unearthed a stone dildo estimated to be around 28,000 years old (insert Strom Thurmond joke here). Is this the end of the world as we know it?
JF: I've never been asked that one before! Sounds like the beginning of civilization to me. We've come a long way since the stone dildo. That's had to be cold. I am a huge fan of the Rabbit, which even comes with a remote control now. It's not cheap, but it packs a punch. I'm glad to know my ancestors where enjoying themselves back in the day. I'm proud to say that I come from a long line of masturbaters.
MZ: Why should readers buy your book, "Left Out: How Liberals Helped Reelect George W. Bush"?
JF: I'm hesitant to say people should "buy" it. I more interested in people "reading" it and understanding it. I'd like to see people out there discussing “Left Out!” passing copies around to friends and family. I don't think progressives and others in the US can ever gain any sort of legitimate power if we continue to capitulate our ideals during election seasons. And we consistently do that by embracing whatever dreadful pro-war Democrat who comes our way. In 2004 we ("we" meaning the majority of lefties and progressives) endorsed Kerry without asking anything of his candidacy. We hated Bush so much that many supported Kerry sans specific demands. That was a losing move and Bush said "king me".
If our issues are important issues, we should be defending them. We should be out cheerleading those beliefs because we know they are the right issues to be championing. Like real universal health-care, or a living-wage, or an end to the Iraq war. Why are we so afraid to pull the Democrats in this direction? Why are we so afraid to support candidates that do support these things? Well, as so many said in 2004, "it'll help get that awful Bush our of office!" Well, I hate to tell ya, but it didn't work. So we better start figuring out what will get the pro-war politicians tossed out on their asses. I'm afraid supporting Democrats isn't going to do it. So this is why I think “Left Out!” is an important book - as it raises these issues and hopefully makes people think about what to do in the future when we are offered some mundane lesser-evil alternative. posted August 7, 2005
Josh Frank can be found on the Web at: http://www.brickburner.org
Mickey Z. is the author of several books including the soon-to-be-released "50 American Revolutions You're Not Supposed to Know: Reclaiming American Patriotism" (Disinformation Books) and "There is No Good War: The Myths of World War II" (Vox Pop). He can be found on the Web at http://www.mickeyz.net.
Politics and the Playing Field
It's fashionable on the Left to look down one's nose at the world of sports. To do so, according to Dave Zirin, would be to miss a chance at both inspiration and solidarity. Zirin's new book, "What's My Name Fool? Sports and Resistance in the United States" creates a much-needed bridge between the political and the playing field. I interviewed my fellow sports fan/subversive via e-mail.
MZ: Were you a sports fan before you were a radical? How did you come to meld the two?
DZ: I have been a sports fan as long as I remember breathing. My father grew up in Brooklyn and raised me with stories about Jackie Robinson dancing off of first base and trading in bottle refunds for tickets to Ebbets Field. I became a "radical" by very non-radical means. Being in High School during both the first Gulf War and the 1992 Rodney King Verdict/LA Rebellion led me to believe that there was something very wrong with the structure of the United States. For a long period, I thought that being a sports fan was contradictory with fighting for a better world. I thought I had to treat sports the way a vegan would treat a McRib. I went several years in the 1990s with this monastic approach to Pro Athletics. Two events changed my thinking: one was the heroic and doomed response to Mahmoud Abdul Rauf and the book "Redemption Song: Muhammad Ali and the Spirit of the 60s" by Mike Marqusee.
MZ: I only recently read "Redemption Song" and I agree. It put sports and politics into proper context. Since your book takes it title and cover image from the amazing life of Muhammad Ali, talk to me about how The Greatest's radical stances have been sanitized.
DZ: Ali is a terrific and terrible example of how one's political teeth can be extracted with extreme prejudice. A common analysis of the Black Power movement of the 1960s is that one wing was co-opted and one was destroyed. Ali in some respects in the physical representation of that process. He has certainly been co-opted. Louisville, the city that once renounced him through a city council decree, now as a highway named in his honor. He was used to "sell" the war on terror to the Muslim world by the state department. His image hawks everything from Sprite to Microsoft. That said, he was also destroyed. The stripping of his title, meant that when Ali returned to the ring after his many year absence, he was slower and had to rely on his ability to take a punch. This no doubt led to his current medical condition.
MZ: Forty years after Ali created that stir, Pat Tillman is the standard by which athletes are measured, vis-à-vis politics and patriotism. I know I took some hits for my challenging of the Tillman-as-hero motif, what kind of response did you get?
DZ: I wrote two rounds of articles on Tillman. The first was about how his death was being exploited in a manner that Tillman himself would have been repulsed by. I wrote that to the Pentagon, Tillman was far more useful dead than alive. This got me everything from death threats to profanity laced tirades, to legitimate thank you's from people, including one man who played in high school with Pat Tillman. When the recent story emerged that Tillman was killed by Friendly Fire and his parents and family were LIED TO by the government so they could have a feel good hero's funeral, I wrote about Tillman again. This time the haters, crackpots, and chickenhawks didn't have the guts in the face of the sick and sorry truth: that Tillman's death was exploited for the aims of this war. This is an obscenity and we should call it out as such.
MZ: Do you think if Tillman had talked with Charles Barkley, Etan Thomas, or Toni Smith (all featured in Zirin's book) before he enlisted, he might have stayed home and found other ways to fight for justice?
DZ: Who can say? I know that Pat Tillman - like many people around the world - was shocked and outraged by the events of September 11th and saw joining the Army Rangers as an appropriate response. I think it's less about other athletic figures talking him out of enlisting, than his parents Mary and Pat senior, who knowing what they know now, would have - I believed - moved heaven and earth to keep him home.
MZ: Is it more likely that your book can lead the ESPN crowd to examine their political convictions (or lack thereof) or inspire lefties to appreciate the complex world of sports? Would one please you more than the other?
DZ: Honestly, that is my goal and I view them of equal import. I want to see activists take the nexus of sports and politics more seriously. Last week I was at a poetry reading by Wizards back up Power Forward Etan Thomas - poems about the war in Iraq, the death penalty, and political corruption, and there was no one from the DC "left" there. That to me is a problem. I also want the book to be a way for sports fans who love sports but are just sick of the way they are packaged, to not only have an outlet but a recognition that there is a tradition of people just like them: both on the field and in the stands. --posted July 23, 2005
Dave Zirin's new book, "What's My Name Fool? Sports and Resistance in the United States," is now in stores. You can receive his column Edge of Sports, every week by e-mailing firstname.lastname@example.org. Contact him at email@example.com.
Mickey Z. is the author of several books, including the soon-to-be-released "50 American Revolutions You're Not Supposed to Know: Reclaiming American Patriotism" (Disinformation Books). He can be found on the Web at http://www.mickeyz.net.
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