Student cellphone insurgency

Between the hyperventilated coverage of Anna Nicole’s autopsy today, a peculiar news story squeezed in as filler. YouTube is posting videos, taken with cell phones by students, of teachers in public school classrooms having violent, abusive outbursts. I saw this on MSNBC while I was dusting blinds, and it stopped me in my tracks.

The most remarkable thing about it, aside from the extremely brief flashes of raging teachers smashing students’ phones on the floor, was what the news personality had to say about it. She wondered aloud if this meant schools should ban cell phones.

That was it.

Setting aside the issue of cell phones, there was not even a cursory mention of the behavior of the teachers which was abusive as hell and showing students that the way to reassert control is to act like a raging asshole (links below). The physically violent teachers, by the way, were men.

So what the news personality, or her editor, or MSNBC decided to omit in its coverage of this story, established a baseline. Here are the issues this story raises, period… there are no others. That the students were being subjected to abuse was off the table.

This is the way the media pre-conforms us. They use their constructed authoritative position to establish what is axiomatic. Discourse that wiggles under the fence is automatically de-legitimated. How many times have we seen this with the war, with free trade agreements, with coverage of Venezuela, et al?

As it happens, the night prior, I had been by Internationalist Books at Chapel Hill to hear a too-brief talk by writer, cultural materialist, and intentional communitarian Alexis Zeigler. Alexis was talking about peak oil, the history of technology, ecology, and culture. One of his main points, and also a strong point in his book, Culture Change, is that the primary function of schools as a public institution – is not to teach us to be smarter, but contrariwise to teach us how to conform and be obedient, productive worker bees.

Ivan Illich, who we have featured here as our first New Canon author, says much the same thing – which runs counter to a lot of left orthodoxy that sees fighting for public schools as a key step in establishing the workers’ paradise some fine day.

There are so many issues we could raise in violating this taboo against questioning school and schooling that one hardly knows where to begin. Begin with hierarchy imposed on children because of their dependency… the infantilization of women as part of combining dependency with obedience… the institutionalization and construction of knowledge… the similarities between schools and prisons… off we could go. And there are the complexities, like the fact that schools and universities and even ruling class institutions are also places where we can act out our subversions when we are in a position of inferior social power. There are subversive teachers, subversive schools, and universities have more than once transformed themselves into platforms of resistance (the reason tenure is under attack).

At any rate, I just had to remark on the delicious irony that consumer culture has foisted on us here… kids with cell phones have begun to use them as a weapon to defend themselves against the trainers and turnkeys for late capitalism in the United Consumers of Amerika.

Petition for LaVena Johnson

Help find the truth about the death of Pfc. LaVena Johnson

Once upon a time lived a young woman from a St. Louis suburb. She was an honor roll student, she played the violin, she donated blood and volunteered for American Heart Association walks. She elected to put off college for a while and joined the Army once out of school. At Fort Campbell, KY, she was assigned as a weapons supply manager to the 129th Corps Support Battalion.

She was LaVena Johnson, private first class, and she died near Balad, Iraq, on July 19, 2005, just eight days shy of her twentieth birthday. She was the first woman soldier from Missouri to die while serving in Iraq or Afghanistan.

The tragedy of her story begins there.

After an investigation, the Army declared LaVenas death a suicide, a finding refuted by the soldiers family. In an article in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Lavena’s father pointed to indications that his daughter had endured a physical struggle before she died – two loose front teeth, a busted lip that had to be reconstructed by the funeral home – suggesting that someone might have punched her in the mouth.

The military said that the matter was closed.

Little more on LaVenas death was said for many months until a recently televised report on KMOV in St. Louis disclosed troubling details not previously made public:

• Indications of physical abuse that went unremarked by the autopsy
• The absence of psychological indicators of suicidal thoughts; indeed, testimony that LaVena was happy and healthy prior to her death
• Indications, via residue tests, that LaVena may not even have handled the weapon that killed her
• A blood trail outside the tent where Lavenas body was found
• Indications that someone attempted to set LaVenas body on fire

And yet, the Army continues to resist calls by LaVena’s family and by local media to reopen its investigation.

We have seen with other military deaths that the Army has engaged in an insulting game of deny and delay when it comes to uncovering embarrassing facts. Only when public and official attention is brought to bear on the matter – as happened, eventually and with great effort, with the case of Army Ranger and former professional football player Cpl. Pat Tillman – do unpleasant truths come to light.

While it is possible to disagree generally over the war in Iraq, we are unified in our respect for the men and women who serve us in dangerous places, and in our concern for the families who give them up in our name. The very least we owe families of the fallen is an honest accounting of how their loved ones died.

The Armed Services Committees of the Senate and the House have funding authority and legislative oversight over the armed forces. The members of these committees can compel the Army to acknowledge the grief of the Johnson family and reopen its investigation of LaVena’s death. All that is needed is the political will. Help those legislators find that will by signing this petition.

The mother of Pat Tillman once put the matter in stark and honest terms:

This is how they treat a family of a high-profile individual, she said. How are they treating others?

In the case of Private First Class Johnson, we know the answer – but together we can make a better answer for LaVenas family, and for all the families of those in the military.
* * *

Help compel the Army to reopen the investigation of Pfc. LaVena Johnsons death.
[The petition site is here.]

This petition sponsored by Philip Barron, author of the blog Waveflux. Mr. Barron is not a representative of the Johnson family.

While were on Imus

here is Black Agenda Reports Richard Muhammad

Enabling Imus

American Life – Racism White Privilege
Wednesday, 11 April 2017

by Richard Muhammad

In a horrific display of racist solidarity, white media men have circled their wagons around Don Imus, the career broadcast bigot who called the Rutgers womens basketball team a bunch of nappy headed hos. All is forgiven, because Imus is us, say his defensemen. And they are right: Imus is them, irredeemably racist children of white privilege who believe their casual slandering of other races and genders are of no more concern than getting drunk at a frat party. The most important element of the tale is not Imus putrid outbursts, but the reflexive defense of him by his co-racists, who have outed themselves in the process.

Community Garden on Town Land

The Town of Carrboro, in North Carolina, is working with the Carrboro Community Garden Coalition to create a public garden at the Martin Luther King Jr. Park for at least the next few years. This is a great example of a small US town with real progressive values transforming how we live in America. (Slowly but significantly.) Lets hope the idea of community gardening spreads.

Collaborative gardening is certainly an activity that requires teamwork. Right now there are about 20 folks involved in Carrboros community garden effort and its increasing rapidly through word of mouth. McGreger said that many of the folks involved in this project had known each other before but have become much closer as theyve worked together on the garden, and that the community-building aspect of it is as exciting as the growth of the food itself.

The group is planning to do a lot of its work on Saturday mornings but as of yet has no regular schedule. If youre interested in getting involved you can e-mail [email protected] to be added to their electronic discussion group.

Hamm said that their vision is that the garden project will let people see that community gardens can be abundant, beautiful and doable, and inspire similar smaller projects throughout the rest of the town, state and world. For instance, hed like to see Carrboro move from this initial townwide garden to having small ones in each neighborhood all over the community, allowing folks to work in even smaller and locally oriented groups to produce food.

McGreger said another nice aspect of the process in getting the garden started has been the opportunity to learn how to participate in direct democracy.

Women’s Declaration on Food Sovereignty

Women’s Declaration on Food Sovereignty

We, women from more than 40 countries, from different indigenous peoples of Africa, the Americas, Europe, Asia and Oceania and from different sectors and social movements, have gathered together in Sélingué (Mali) at Nyéléni 2007 to participate in the creation of a new right: the right to food sovereignty. We reaffirm our will to act to change the capitalist and patriarchal world which puts the interests of the market before the rights of people.

Women, who throughout history have been the creators of knowledge about food and agriculture, who still produce up to 80% of the food in the world’s poorest countries and are today the principal guardians of biodiversity and agricultural seeds, are particularly affected by neo-liberal and sexist policies.

We suffer the dramatic consequences of these policies: poverty, inadequate access to resources, patents on living organisms, rural exodus and forced migration, war and all forms of physical and sexual violence. Monocultures, including those dedicated to agrofuels, and the widespread use of chemicals and genetically-modified organisms have a harmful effect on the environment and on human health, particularly reproductive health.

The industrial model and the transnationals threaten the very existence of peasant agriculture, small-scale fishing and herding, as well as the small-scale preparation and sale of food in both urban and rural environments, all sectors where women play a major role.

We want to see food and agriculture taken out of the WTO and out of free trade agreements. What is more, we reject the capitalist and patriarchal institutions that see food, water, land and traditional knowledge, as well as women’s bodies, as mere commodities.

Seeing our struggle as part of the fight for equality between the sexes, we are no longer prepared to submit to the oppression of traditional or modern society, nor to the oppression of the market. We want to seize this opportunity to leave behind all sexist prejudice and build a new vision of the world based on respect, equality, justice, solidarity, peace and freedom.

We are mobilized. We are fighting for access to land, to territory, to water and to seeds. We are fighting for access to finance and to agricultural tools. We are fighting for good working conditions. We are fighting for access to training and to information. We are fighting for our independence and for the right to decide for ourselves, and for our full participation in decision-making.

Under the watchful eye of Nyéléni, an African woman who defied discriminatory rules, who shone through her creativity and agricultural prowess, we will find the energy to give effect to food sovereignty and, thereby, the hope of building a different world. We will find this energy in our solidarity. We will take this message to women all over the world.

NEWS – Week 2 – March 2017

Chinas Fault

Some stories, such as corpse custody battles between sleazy lawyers and semi-literate Texas trailer trash et al, the US news media handle really well. On others, such as goings-on in the worlds financial markets, they dont have a clue.

Thus the media saw the big February 27 decline in the Chinese stock market followed by a big decline in the US and in other world financial markets that same day, and decided that being coincident equaling being causative was a concept that the US public could get its mind around pretty easily. Suddenly its all Chinas fault.

The Federation of Southern Cooperatives

Domestic or international? One of my most lasting memories from my visit with the Federation of Southern Cooperatives in Georgia last summer was a profound sense of commonality.

When I embarked on developing a Domestic Fair Trade program at Equal Exchange, some people questioned whether small farmers in our own country really experience the same struggles as coffee growers in the developing world. While I knew intellectually that rural communities around the world are being devastated by globalization in similar ways, I wasnt prepared for the degree to which this was confirmed during my visit with Federation of Southern Cooperatives.

What can I do?

In just a few years, sustainability has changed from a What? word to a buzzword. People are recognizing the threats to our resources water, air, soil, forests as evidenced by the tremendous public response to the recent documentary An Inconvenient Truth, which won an Oscar this week. We cant sustain our planet, much less ourselves, with current practices.

Its a common human response to a huge potential disaster to say, What can I do? Im only one person.

Ben Haggard, a master gardener, teacher and consultant in the Southwest whose 1993 book, Living Community: A Permaculture Case Study at Sol y Sombra, details his work on the garden of that name in Santa Fe, N.M.

Pedestrian-based intentional community

Some labels are content with modest periphery pursuits hosting a club night, printing some t-shirts, rallying a street team while a few have substantially grander designs.

Upping the ante set by Omahas Saddle Creek who, as reported in August, have a serious civic project in the works Athens, Georgias Elephant 6-affiliated Orange Twin imprint has just received the go-ahead from the city and surrounding countys mayor to embark on an ambitious community endeavor.

In the works for some time now, the Orange Twin Conservation Community will consist of a 155 acre pedestrian-based intentional community of homes and common spaces clustered in two villages amid farmland and forest just a few miles outside Athens.

Battering through generations

Experts say domestic violence is a learned behavior, batterers choose to be violent, and the abuse is passed on from generation to generation.

We talked to an abuser who the Vermont Department of Corrections did not want us to identify.

When I was in relationships, I viewed women as caretakers. Men were in charge, said James. Basically my partners were there to make me happy.

Age of narcissism

A little smug self-absorption might be a time-honored trait of at least some subsets of the under-30 crowd.

But over the past few decades the prevailing disposition among college students today labeled Generation Y or Millennials has slid into full-blown narcissism, according to a study released this week.

The all about me shift means much more than lots of traffic at self-revelatory Web sites such as YouTube and Facebook. It points, says the studys author, to a generations lack of empathy, its inability to form relationships and worse. http://www.alternet.org/story/48834/

The fantasy

State of Denial is the title of Bob Woodwards famous book on the Bush teams road to disaster in Iraq, but it would have served just as well for a description of their Latin America policy. This week President Bush heads South for a seven-day, five country, trip to Latin America to see if he can counter the populist political tide that has brought left governments to about half the population of the region.

Carrying vague promises of a joint effort on ethanol production but no offer to lower tariffs protecting the U.S. market President Bush hopes to entice Brazil into taking his side against his nemesis, President Hugo Chavez of Venezuela. This is a fantasy.

Rape

In 1992, while I was an undergraduate, I was raped by a fellow student while we were both drunk. He was not a date. I didnt even like him when we were sober. But we were at a party together, a party at which I tried too hard to keep up with my friends in the alcohol department and wound up far more drunk than I wanted to be. So I went back to my room. And he followed me. And then he raped me.

Looking back, I can imagine a number of social or institutional interventions which might have helped prevent this attack from happening. But none of them includes the approach that so many articles on this subject take, which is to raise awareness among young women that getting drunk in public puts them at greater risk of exploitation and sexual assault.

U.S. financial markets were rocked last week by worries about the soundness of the sub-primeor higher riskmortgage market.

Doris Douglas can tell you from personal experience what the jitters are about. The 55-year-old mother of three grown children signed her first mortgage without reading the fine print seven years ago.

I thought it was a 30-year mortgage, said Douglas, whose house is near Chattanooga, Tenn., in the Appalachians.

The hair thang

This past winter, I noticed something very unsettling while I was visiting my family in St. Louis.

Almost all the black women I encountered were sporting lavishly long hair weaves, fake locks that can add length and volume after being sewed or glued to the scalp. Weaves come in straight, curly and kinky textures. But most black women with weaves wear them to extend and straighten the appearance of their naturally coiled and nappy hair.

Everywhere I turned, from the church to the mall, black women suited up in this straight-hair uniform. Was I missing something? I thought. Would my close-cut Afro set me too far apart from other black women?

Natural, kinky hairwhich is most associated with blacknesshas also been tied to inferiority in the United States. We can thank entrepreneur Madam C.J. Walker, the late 19th century inventor of the hot pressing combliterally a comb-shaped ironfor the subsequent years of black women burning their disobedient hair into submission.

Anomolous numbers on petrloeum

Bartiromo asked Tillerson how Exxon could be expected to keep growing its reserves of oil and gas when $20 billion a year in capital spending through the rest of this decade will only result in an extra one million barrels a day in production volume, according to Exxon?s estimates.

Tillerson didn?t really answer the question, merely repeating his assertion that Exxon?s volumes will keep growing through the end of the decade. In a later exchange, he added that the world?s oil would not run out in his lifetime.

Oil, equity, finance capital

We also used to see a steep, sharp rise in the price of oil adversely affecting equities. Any oil shock, say, over a war, would mean higher costs passing through to companies, and therefore the market would sell off shares in anticipation of a downturn. Again this is no longer the case. There are several reasons.

Firstly, the market is not logical and those in the know realise this. It no longer sounds convincing to come out with grand resolute theories about the relationship between energy and equity. Instead technical plays and software are much more reliable, making money off of percentage bets, good old Tony Soprano skimming, placed by a computer. The whole process is far more successful. Time and time again we see software setting the pace and computers have their own logic which only studies the now, not the future or the past.

Subprime splash and bubbles

It was perfect example of a classical blow off. Unprecedented level of bad loans was made. The history never saw anything like this before since the collapse of Roman Empire The boom in bad subprime lending was fueled by the Wall Street banks and hedge funds.

The net effect was super bubble in real estate that Fed finally called a froth on the surface. The froth or bubble has finally blow off in a classic style. The homeowners just cannot make the payments. As these properties go on foreclosure, other properties are depressed. The able borrowers now decide to give up their properties because they are dealing with hefty monthly mortgage payments and negative equities in their homes.

Preparing to take back your land

Hold on to your assets. The deepest housing decline in 16 years is about to get worse.

As many as 1.5 million more Americans may lose their homes, another 100,000 people in housing-related industries could be fired, and an estimated 100 additional subprime mortgage companies that lend money to people with bad or limited credit may go under, according to realtors, economists, analysts and a Federal Reserve governor. Financial stocks also could extend their declines over mortgage default worries.

The spring buying season, when more than half of all U.S. home sales are made, has been so disappointing that the National Association of Home Builders in Washington now expects purchases to fall for the sixth consecutive quarter after it predicted a gain just last month.

What does Food Sovereignty mean to you?

Over on the World Changing website there is a report from Anna Lappé who attended the first International Forum on Food Sovereignty in Mali. It got me thinking about what food sovereignty means to Americans. As with many things, I think we can learn from non-Americans on the best way to precede. Here are a few answers to the question.

I’ve been asking every delegate I meet, from Thai fisherman to Senegalese peasant organizers, what food sovereignty means to them. As one delegate, a mayor from Norway (and probably the only mayor here) said: “For me, food sovereignty means we must support food producers in every country. Food, after all, is power, and we need to decide who has that power: food producers or large corporations.” Said an African delegate from Sierra Leone: “Food sovereignty is the ability for our people to be able to feed ourselves. Here in Africa, hunger is not a problem of production, it’s a problem of access and distribution. We need basic things like storage and food processing facilities. We need access to networks for sale and distribution. If we had these things, we could have food sovereignty in five years.”

THE 3,000 MILESTONE

The 3,000 Milestone is the most recent essay on the war by Stan Goff. It is written as US troop fatalities in Iraq have passed 2,950, and 3,000 will likely be reached by New Year’s Day or shortly after… before the Democrat-majority Congress is seated on January 20th. We want people to use it as they see fit throughout the alternative media to support and bolster the case for immediate and unilateral withdrawl of all US military forces from Iraq.

The 3,000 Milestone

by Stan Goff

As the grim milestone of the 3,000th American troop death approaches in Iraq, what can we say about the war that hasn’t been said before?

On September 7, 2005, I wrote a lengthy analysis-from-afar on political and military developments in Iraq, called The Danger of Iraqi Partition. On that same day, we were approaching the 2,000 US-dead-in-Iraq milestone, 1,892 to be exact. Just as today, in the United States these figures of US troop deaths garner the attention of the media, that still pretends the hundreds of thousands of Iraqis dead, wounded, and displaced are a mere footnote.

It reminds one of the old Tarzan novels of Edgar Rice Burroughs, where the entire world exists as a background within which a white European male protagonist can have an adventure about which white males can fantasize. The media in the US is still completely the captive of the White Man’s Burden narrative, even though the term, “White Man,” has now been supplanted by “American.” This is evident in the reflexive valorization of American life over the lives of dark foreigners — which, admittedly, is necessary to sustain circulation and political clout in a culture of national chauvinism. It is also evident in the seeming inability to visualize any “solution” to the whirlwind reaped by US policy in Iraq that does not require the continued employment of US troops to occupy Iraq.

While this milestone will be used — as it should be in my opinion — to mobilize emotional support for the redeployment of US troops back to the United States and the end of the US military occupation of Iraq, I am going to take this opportunity — which it is — to introduce a more clinical account of what is happening with this war. It is fairly obvious now that most Americans want to be rid of this war. In a sense, then, the campaign to build opposition has achieved momentum in a direction that seems unlikely to be reversed. The question that arises now, and the one for which there is little satisfaction in mainstream commercialized or Democratic Party discourse, is what do “we” do? How do “we” get out?

The principal reason there have been no satisfactory answers to that question is that the majority of people rely on professional pundits and news models to acquire the baseline impressions of what is actually happening in Iraq. The account that is being propagated is one that is shallow, simplistic, largely inaccurate, and widely believed by the pundits themselves. They themselves are the captives of their own chauvinist assumptions and of the cosmic vacuums in their heads where the politics of war should be.

In the article cited from September 2005, I wrote:

I, and others, have said for some time now that Muqtada al Sadr is not merely a complicating peculiarity in Iraq, but that he may end up being the canniest of all the current well-known Iraqi leaders – politically and militarily.

Furthermore, I said:

The Bush administration’s principal preoccupation ever since April 2004 has been the question of Iran. If Iraq breaks up, the US will be faced with Southern Iraq – including a huge fraction of its oil – becoming a protectorate of Iran. Meanwhile, the US has attempted to build its bases – which were always the primary goal of the invasion – in Ba’athist strongholds. This was partly the result of tactical necessity as the Anbar, Nineva, and Saladin provinces were consolidated as centers of nationalist resistance to the occupation. The US base at Mosul, along the Tigris River, has become almost a city unto itself with a 65-kilometer security perimeter and a giant airfield.

This base exists in a sea of hostility, surrounded by an increasingly sophisticated guerrilla resistance, adjacent to Kirkuk where the Kurds are attempting to establish their future national capital through a de-Arabization campaign. The headquarters for this base, however, is located in the Green Zone – Baghdad, and the only seaport to the entire country is in Basra Province, which would become part of a post-breakup Iranian protectorate…

I went on to describe the physical infrastructure of the only hope for any group in Iraq for the development capital required to conduct future reconstruction — and satisfy the restive popular bases of the many ethno-geographic divisions: oil.

…The primary forces remaining in the Iraqi “government” are semi-puppets. On the one hand, they are dependent on American military power for the time being to maintain the current balance of forces in their favor. On the other hand, they clearly have an agenda that is designed to consolidate that long-term power through a pact of some sort with Iran.

This has created a polarization between current direct participants in the Iraqi government and the minority – strategically located and well-armed – Sunnis/nationalists in the north. That is not a cultural polarization but a political one that further entrenches the Faustian alliance between the government and the US occupiers each day, though there is no inhering reason among the general populations – who have for years seen inter-ethnic and inter-denominational marriage, etc. – for any pressure to partition the country.

The so-called Iraqi government does not in fact exercise real governance over any but a fraction of Iraq, and the “city-state” phenomenon throughout the country is setting the stage for a universally unacceptableBalkanization of Iraq, at the same time that it is developing the probable (and yet largely unknown) future local leadership of Iraq.

At some point in the future, most of these actors will have to deal with one another politically.

The Shia interim government and the US have maneuvered themselves into the same corner with antagonistic goals if and when they ever find their way out. The Sunnis and nationalists of the north have no stake in partition, and with the withdrawal of occupying forces would be freer to negotiate a political settlement with the south. This leaves one hugely influential local leader in the most flexible position in Iraq right now – Muqtada al Sadr.

He is the man to watch in Iraq for now.

Since this article was written we have seen the resignations of Donald Rumsfeld and John Bolton, two of the bigger macho assholes of this administration (which is a tough distinction). The Republicans were swept out of the Congress on the issue of the war. And the putative Prime Minister of Iraq, Nouri al-Maliki, was just forced by Muqtada al Sadr to embarrass his patron Occupier-in-Chief, George W. Bush, by standing him up for a meeting for one day.

The point of reposting so much of this past article is not to exercise bragging rights about some mysterious prescience. It is to point out that this “prescience” is based on the rejection of those aforementioned mainstream assumptions that Iraq consists of three tidily demarcated ethnic groups who hate each other and need to be controlled by a poorly managed, but basically benevolent US occupation.

The reason it seems important now to take this clinical approach to a very sanguinary war is that the failure of the general US public to grasp the significance of what is unspoken in commercial and ruling class discourse is precisely what prevents that public from recognizing the perfidious current position of Democrats, their vulnerability between now and 2008, and the decisions that we have to extract from them, by force if necessary.

The establishment narrative is that Sadr is a pro-Iranian; he is not. The fact is his base is more like Hezbollah. Sadr has always endorsed Iraqi unification. Bush’s engagement beginning early December 2006 with Abdul Aziz al Hakim — practically an Iranian expatriate — who is the political commander of the former Badr Brigades, a 4-10,000 strong militia whose officers were trained in Iran, is an indication of how little the US understands about the real divisions inside Iraq. It is also an indication of the sense of desperation pervading the White House… and the US foreign policy establishment as a whole.

The balance of forces has changed dramatically in Iraq in favor of Sadr, whose popular base is approximately 3 million working class Iraqis living in a massive slum approximately three kilometers from the Green Zone, Iraq’s main US military installation, and the only safe haven for the so-called Iraq government of Maliki, the inheritor of the Prime Minster’s portfolio from fellow Da’waist Ibrahim al-Jaafari.

Maliki serves at the pleasure of Sadr, because without Sadr’s support to make a thin parliamentary majority (Maliki is part of the Nasiriya-based Da’wa Party), Hakim’s Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI) would control parliament as its largest faction. The Da’wa militia’s exact size is less than 2,000, and it is restricted to Nasiriya and is not populated or equipped to challenge either the SCIRI or Sadr’s Mehdi militia. Numbering 10-15,000 when its field leadership was bloodied in the fighting with the US in 2004, Sadr’s immense popularity since then is believed to have swelled the ranks of the Mehdi Army, though the various estimations are too broad to have any meaning. No one except the Mehdi commanders themselves knows.

While the pundits continually refer to Iraq’s “sectarian conflict” as a Sunni-Shia division, the most important divisions from the point of view of the US occupation forces and the US foreign policy establishment are inter-Shia. In November 2006, the decision was made to withdraw Marines from the highly nationalist and Sunni-majority Al Anbar Province, to reinforce Baghdad. What is seldom mentioned is what precisely they were reinforcing, and how.

Once we understand that one faction, led by one leader, who has consistently called for Iraqi national unity and the expulsion of the US military and US control over the development of Iraq’s post-occupation foreign affairs orientation… and that this same leader is harboring a militia that exceeds the size of the American occupation itself within the radius of Baghdad and environs… within a stone’s throw of the Green Zone… the answer to the question becomes blazingly clear.

Neither Hakim nor Maliki can afford to appear too cozy with the American occupation or the Bush regime, without risking wide scale abandonment by their respective popular bases. Stating that the American occupation is “unpopular” might be the understatement of the year. At the same time, neither Hakim nor Maliki has the power to control Baghdad, the symbolism and practical political value of which is inestimable, without the American occupation (They are, in fact, unable to do it with the occupation’s assistance.). SCIRI has its main offices located in Iraqi Kurdistan (in the north), with its popular base in the south along the Iranian border. Ayatollah al Hakim, then, does not even have a safe haven for his militias co-located with his zone of greatest geographic influence. The only thing they are co-located with are the American armed forces.

It is not surprising that the Badr Army (Hakim’s SCIRI militia), then, has largely operated jointly with Americans outside Shia areas (against Sunnis) often using the same modus operandias the former death squads of US proxies in Latin America. The facts on the ground, then, include that Muqtada al-Sadr now controls the only viably independent Iraqi armed force in Baghdad; and that force has popular support as well as massive home court advantages. It is, in a word, embedded.

What all Iraqi armed actors have in common is the relative inability to project their force far afield of their respective geographic bases. Sadr has no capacity to attack anyone in Samarra or Ramadi (though the Mehdi have ventured some distance from home in the south). The Da’wa has no capacity to leave the city limits of Nasiriya. SCIRI cannot move its troops without US escorts. The Sunni factions are limited to their areas of operations (and there are numerous reports that Sunni nationalists are engaged in occasional heavy fighting against a small but stubborn number of foreign Wahabbists). The only force in Iraq that has the mobility required to do more than defend ones own zones of influence and project very limited offensive operations beyond that… are the Anglo-American occupiers. The only way to move long distances across the country as an armed unit passing through multiple militia “jurisdictions,” is with helicopters, or heavily armed and armored convoys.

The current civil war is taking place not for Iraq, but for Baghdad, and the catalyst remains the US occupation.

Poor Maliki, called to an audience with his King George in Amman, is faced with Sadr’s threat to withdraw from the Parliamentary majority coalition with Da’wa if the meeting with the Occupier-in-Chief happens. The resistance is targeting Iraqi troops for collaboration, the Badr Army is fomenting a civil war with straightforward attacks on Sunnis and false flag operations against fellow Shias, and the US is demanding Iraqi troops assist them in attacking Sadr City.

One day, Maliki stands George Bush up to show his own people that he is not a puppet; the next, he has to go crawling back to Dubya, even as the infamous Hadley memo calling Maliki a dolt is released and replayed in the media again, and again, and again.

Seeing this as purely power politics, the mistake that got the administration to where they are now — disregarding the roles of the Iraqi masses themselves — Bush then turns to Hakim, thinking he has now split Sadr off from Maliki. Hakim himself is now trapped, faced with the same specter that haunts the Green Zone, possibly tens of thousands of combatants, embedded deeply in their own community near the heart of the second largest city in Southwest Asia, and the capital of Iraq… led by a leader whose popularity is increasing with the “Iraqi street” with each passing day.

That Bush would find himself turning to Iran’s strongest ally in Iraq in his hour of need, an ally who seeks the partition of Iraq against the wishes of the US, to subvert the growing power of the most powerful voice of Iraqi unification and independence outside of Anbar, alas, is a world class irony. Sadr has consistently held out one nationalist hand to the Sunni regions, be the resistance fighters secular or political-Islamists. A condominium between Sadr and the Sunni resistance — which has already tactically defeated the US occupation — would spell the end of Hakim’s power unless he joined the SCIRI with a generalized armed struggle to expel the Americans.

Those who posit conspiracy theories, by the way, about a US desire for civil war and partition, are the victims of their own compartmentalized thinking. Te very first thing that happens with partition is open war between Turkey and Kurdistan… an utter political disaster for the US. We hear little of this in the news or in official communiqués, but Turkey is already turning into the newest regional tinderbox of anti-Americanism, at a time when everything that could go wrong, as the irascible Murphy noted, has gone wrong… most significantly, the ascendancy of Iran.

None of the war’s planners, nor even those who sat nervously on the sidelines while the Feiths and Wolfowitzes fantasized, ever anticipated that they might transform Iran into the regional power.

US forces have already begun drawing down into Baghdad for their struggle with Sadr. As Baghdad becomes the Americans’ new Kabul — a one-city occupation in a vast country — Afghanistan promises to grow into a deadlier quagmire. This is the stillborn dream of George Bush’s mad mentors; and this is the power of Muqtada al Sadr.

In order to understand why Sadr is so dangerous to the US, and why there is consensus on this issue from Republican, Democrat, conservative, and liberal alike, as well as the capitalist media, cannot be understood properly without deconstructing two other tropes that define public discourse about the war: The Global War on Terror, and the protean “mission” of the invasion and occupation.

The Global War on Terror (GWOT) is a quantum juridical leap on the international scene; and whether or not it will put down any roots remains to be seen. Its basis is a radical departure from the foundations of Post WWII international and national jurisprudence and the corresponding norms of diplomacy. It is not merely an open-ended war against an ill-formed taxonomy, like the War on Drugs. That “war” was still constrained by geography and manipulation of existing legal norms. The GWOT, which it must be said is a term accepted by both Republicans and Democrats, is based on a unilateral declaration by the United States that the entire planet has now become an indefinite battlefield. This creates the basis for over-riding civil standards of law and international treaties with the tempo-task loosening of norms that, in the past, has exclusively applied to antagonists engaged presently and directly in combat.

The putative existence of such a “war”– which is under vigorous legal challenge — has formed the juridical predicate of the invasion of Iraq against the UN Charter. The fact that the GWOT has been widely adopted and accepted, as both a “fact” and a universalized rhetorical premise, is going to make backing away from this abyss incredibly difficult, even for Democrats. They have participated into conjuring this notion into the public perception. What they had not anticipated, given the limited attention spans of elected officials, is how this prevarication has created a kind of one-way ideational valve that, having passed through it, one cannot go back. Once you acknowledge a Global War of any kind, accompanied by enemies that have been revalidated again and again in the public imagination, then there is the expectation that someone will fight it.

The problem for even those who oppose this transformation of legal norms is that the taxonomies of power applied to the military prior to 9-11were already obsolete. There may not be a way to return to the good old days of technocratic administration for international relations.

The neocons mounted challenges to the past order that were a profound escalation of conflict and American unilateralism, but the uncomfortable fact is that they did so based on very real changes in international reality. That their prescription has failed does not make some of their points — admittedly contained inside the logic of empire — less valid.

Mohammed Atta, they point out, engaged in a military attack against the United States. Until boarding the plane, however, he did not meet any of the criteria we normally apply to the definition of “enemy combatant.” Aside from a box cutter, he was unarmed, dressed like a businessman, and traveling legally inside the United States. Regardless of the provocative etiology of such attacks (US support for Israel and the House of Saud, for example), the isolated fact is that there are people who are organized in ways that transcend international boundaries, and who cannot be directly associated with an existing state, who have the will and capacity to mount military attacks against the US and its military-diplomatic allies. It is true that existing criminal statutes, national and international, are probably adequate to address this issue after the fact. Like any criminal conspiracy, the perpetrators can be sought out, captured, and put on trial. Atta was already in violation of a host of laws before he boarded. We cannot escape the fact, however, that military operations (which 9-11 clearly and unequivocally was) can and will be mounted against states and societies, and the scale of the consequences can only be equated to “criminal” through the exercise of shocking disingenuousness. Bank robbers do not kill nearly three thousand people, and they have no political motive.

The only way forward in mounting a critique of the neocons’ logic on this count is to go outside the boundaries of general acceptability, and become a partisan of curtailing US global power. This is, in my view, a completely correct approach. From a pragmatic standpoint, however, which is the standpoint that electoral politics invariably takes, this is a conundrum. Liberals find themselves forced to argue for conclusions that differ from their opposition, but refuse to depart from the opposition’s premises. It is not the neocons who have bankrupted liberalism — and it is bankrupt — but the bankruptcy of unacknowledged imperial power itself. The conservatives have come to embrace that power openly, and left the liberals in a position to deny the obvious and confirm their essential nature as world-class equivocators.

There is a logic to this equivocation that everyday folks may not be able to unravel intellectually yet, but it also has a smell. They may not be able to deconstruct it, but by 2008 they are likely to vote with their noses.

The only way past this for the people, unfortunately, is the long hard slog of public persuasion; and for all the reasons just stated, we have to make the difficult case that US power is instrumental and not moral, and that this power is malignant.

This slog begins by unmasking the mission of the invasion and occupation.

The mission of the occupation — even as its public face has changed to mask serial setbacks — has never deviated. There may not be any such thing as predestination, but in global politics, the US attempt to implant a permanent military presence in this region as part of its post-Cold War reshuffle is about as close as we’ll get.

The mission is to accomplish the post-Cold War re-disposition of US imperial forces. Given that the chief competition is likely to be for strategic resources (nothing new there), and given that US power now flows out of its debtor and not creditor status, the shift to a more military emphasis within US foreign policy is the only alternative to accepting a long, slow decline in US global power, similar to what the United Kingdom experienced. The prior disposition of US imperial forces was designed primarily to contain the Soviet Union, which abruptly vanished. The irony that the re-disposition has generated a fresh US-Russia conflict was among the unintended consequences. Oil is not only a key resource, the fact that the swing fraction is located in one geographic region makes it theoretically susceptible to military control, especially by sea. (That is the reason overland pipelines — about which we hear next to nothing in the media — are the basis of numerous backroom diplomatic wars right now.) Iraq was seen as the place where the US could build its new bases; and the purpose of the invasion was just that: bases. Big, permanent ones.

When the Bush administration threw the dice, the Democrats happily went along with the program. All of them recognize the necessity — from the imperial standpoint — to re-situate the pieces on the grand chessboard after the last checkmate. This looked as good as anything. So they hooked up with some “advisors,” the Rendon Group and their Iraq Liberation Salesman, Ahmad Chalabi, and started the engines of war.

Rumsfeld, whose resignation recently rocked the Department of Defense, fully expected to draw down to 35,000 troops by August 2003, a permanent and bucolic garrison residing in a peaceful kingdom of grateful Iraqis, presided over by Chalabi. This would be accomplished by a swift and overwhelming victory — shock and awe — that would serve the dual purpose of installing an acquiescent Iraqi government and demonstrating the futility of fighting Americans. The neocon advisors had predicted what they called a “democratic domino theory,” wherein the establishment of toy democracies within the Washington Consensus would begin in Iraq and then sweep through adjacent countries — where the grateful brown children would embrace their new rulers along with McDonald’s and The Gap. The target of their bizarre theory was none other than Saudi Arabia, though reality has driven the US again back into the arms of the despotic Royal Family.

As this is written, December 2006, there are at least 25,000 mercenaries — almost Rumsfeld’s original prediction of troop levels for August 2003 — augmenting a US force exceeding 140,000.

Rumsfeld’s recently “leaked” memo attempts to salvage his reputation as a fighter and shift the blame for the defeat in Iraq to politicos.

Not only did the whole US political establishment purchase this snake oil, they all made the same error. They made grotesquely ill-informed assumptions about the people of Iraq. The fact that they have replaced former misapprehensions with new ones does not auger well for them. This is the basis of their underestimation of Muqtada al-Sadr. It is the basis of their failure to see the emerging world historic defeat of US military power, and the approaching obsolescence of conventional military power. And it is the basis of the inability of the US military or diplomatic establishment to keep pace with the shape-shifting battlefield they themselves had a big hand in creating.

One place the battlefield has shifted is to Beirut.

Hassan Nasrallah and Muqtada al Sadr have two things in common: (1) They are both genuine grassroots leaders, and (2) they are both capable of playing weak hands into strength. Lending credibility to this thesis, there are numerous reports that Sadrist militiamen have visited Lebanon where they have received training from Hezbollah fighters who recently delivered Israel a stunning tactical defeat.

As this is written, Hezbollah has achieved popularity across Lebanon, well beyond its southern Lebanese Shia base, and has spearheaded a campaign to topple the US-puppet government of Prime Minister Fouad al-Siniora. The actions of the Israelis — arguably the only country that has a stake in seeing a protracted Iraqi civil war — in destroying Lebanon during the conduct of their defeat at the hands of Hezbollah, has unified Lebanon beyond the dreams of any faction in the past. The gratuitous brutality of the Israelis valorizes anyone who successfully confronts them.

As always, the two-dimensional Bush administration analysis of everything led them to believe that anti-Syrian sentiment in Lebanon is as powerful as anti-Israeli sentiment — a wild miscalculation that has led to the definition of pro-American in Lebanon being “anti-Syrian.” Siniora followed his masters’ directives, appointing the majority of his cabinet based on enmity toward Syria, and summarily lost the support of a huge fraction of Lebanese Sunnis. He also sidelined Christians who seek continued ties with Damascus. (Oddly enough, Siniora served as Minister of Finance during the Syrian occupation.)

Siniora had shepherded through the resolutions to end the Syrian military presence in Beirut in 2005, in accordance with US desires, and had given assurances that this would increase Lebanon’s security. His American patrons, however, gladly supplied Israel with war materiel to shatter Lebanon in this summer’s horrific attacks across the whole country. Now it is the former anti-Hezbollah General Michel Aoun (a Christian) who is challenging Siniora for power, and he has clearly recognized Hezbollah’s clout, and welcomed cooperation with them in this task.

In early December’s anti-Siniora demonstrations in Beirut, numbering at times close to a million, it was not uncommon for women in Western garb with fully exposed hair to gleefully wave posters of political Islamist Hassan Nasrallah.

The only oil in great supply in Lebanon comes from olives. Yet it is now a crucial front in the Energy War of the United States, that same war to implant bases in Iraq as the key element in a post-Cold War imperial military re-disposition.

The country most nervously eyeing the ascendancy of Iran, via the Iraq occupation, and the increasing influence of Iranian ally Hezbollah on Israel’s doorstep, is Saudi Arabia, which as good reason to see these developments not only in geo-strategic terms, but in the simplified terms of Shia versus Sunni. Regionally, Saudi Arabia has always been the US Arab proxy, giving it tremendous leverage through the oil patch.

Internally, Saudi Arabia lives in perpetual fear of its own substantial and restive Shia population. They are only 5 percent of the overall population, but they are almost half a million strong, and concentrated in the oil-bloated Eastern Province.

The strengthened position of Iran and now Syria will force a more contrite American foreign policy establishment — after an appropriate period of macho bluster — to seek engagement with Tehran and Damascus. This will diminish Saudi influence, at a time when the Saudis’ domestic situation is growing daily more tense and their need of American favor has never been so great. For now, at least, the greatest overlap of Saudi-US interest is in Lebanon.

The expression of that linkage was the US-Saudi initiative to establish a tribunal to try the assassins of the anti-Syrian, former Lebanese premier Rafik Hariri. It was this tribunal, designed to go after Syria, which pushed Syria more decisively toward Iran, and mitigated toward Sunni-Shia alliance in the anti-Siniora campaign. Hezbollah, by the way, had also warned Siniora not to support the tribunal — which they see as an American political stunt (a fairly accurate account).

It is within this great-power struggle involving Washington, Tehran, and Riyahd that socially-embedded non-state actors like Nasrallah and Sadr — with their greater native agility, unencumbered by states of their own — are now positioning themselves to lead movements of their respective nations to chart a course independent of Washington in the future.

There is no sin, <>a href=”http://www.atimes.com/atimes/Middle_East/GJ07Ak01.html”>in the eyes of Washington, more mortal than independence.

That is the reason that US forces are now being concentrated to go after Sadr — who they accuse of being pro-Iranian — a preposterous bit of disinformation, which nonetheless is swallowed easily by a gullible US public unschooled in complexity. With the SCIRI (the genuinely Iranian-based movement) still dependent on the US occupation forces, and the Sunni provinces now being abandoned in a broad tactical retrenchment, the conquest of Sadr City, a slum with the population of Chicago, has become the latest strategic priority.

Sadr’s Mehdi militia was as bloodily ruthless as any actors in Iraq when they were attacked during the latest round of provocations, even occasionally fighting the SCIRI between bloodletting with the Sunnis. They have staked out their territory, and their defense of it will be furious and terrible. But Sadr is the lone voice among the Shia, and still the voice with the most popular appeal, calling between battles for a rapprochement… and for Iraqi unification against the occupation.

There is no single force among the Iraqis capable of conquering territory much beyond the city limits. Yet the infrastructure for the oil (and not just the wells) runs across the whole country. The Kurds and Shia sit atop the lakes of black gold, but the easements for the pipelines run across the borders between Syria, Turkey, and Iran.

The popular clamor once the occupation is ended, to all the leaders in all the city-states now emerging across Iraq, will be for reconstruction, and the oil is where the capital will come from. The Sunni will require a compact with a Shia unification advocate; and it seems likely that the Kurds will continue their cautious march to independence, yet remain dependent on southbound pipelines to get their product to market. Turkey is unlikely to assist the overland transport of independent Kurdish oil to the Istanbul Strait.

This resolution cannot begin, no matter how painful it may inevitably be for a period of time, until the US occupation ends. As long as the occupation force remains, some faction will be joined at the hip to it, and with them a popular base that will themselves become targets. We hear much about sectarian violence, but very little about collaboration violence. Yet collaboration with the occupation continues to exert a hugely distorting gravitational field in Iraqi politics, and is the ultimate source of inter-Iraqi violence.

At the end of the article cited (at the beginning of this one), I concluded that “the greatest impediment to a political solution to post-invasion Iraq is not some cauldron of inter-ethnic rivalry. It is the politico-military distortion produced by the American occupation.” I have no reason, more than a year later, to recant that conclusion.

I have good reason, unfortunately, to expect as much dissembling as possible by politicians of every hue, as well as the imperial US press, to cast about indefinitely for ever more elliptical reasons not to leave. The plain fact is, the stars of empire are inexorably aligning against the US; and there is no place left to go outside Southwest Asia to gain the leverage required to simultaneously employ the US military to geo-strategic advantage and support the US military-industrial-service contract economy that papers over the deep economic malaise that is settling in on the United States.

The other plain fact is that until 2009, there is no President who will stop the war, so the only established body that can stop it is Congress. That is the task before us, then, no matter how difficult it may seem. We have to begin now, at the milestone of 3,000 to see our mission as one of saving what lives we can, as quickly as we can, American and Iraqi, and doing so in the most instrumental terms. Denunciation and lamentation will get us nothing, and we don’t need more trips to the Washington DC mall for mass demonstrations. Every member of Congress has to be targeted, locally, in her or his own district; and the process is educate, recruit, and target that member of Congress for unrelenting and increasing pressure. How much? As much as we can.

The senseless report from the Iraq Study Group, that had the press and Congress (especially Democrats!) palpitating for the wisdom of bipartisan imperial saviors, did not even consider an immediate, unilateral withdrawal. That is why it was welcomed in such a bipartisan way. The ruling class in this country knows how serious the challenge presented by Iraqi resistance to American global power is.

Our job is to tell first our neighbors, then Congress, that we want to divest ourselves of that power, and reclaim our place in the whole human family.

35-Point Practical Guide for Action

Insurgent American is primarily an intelligence asset, a strategic resource to organize information to support and guide practical action ergo out self-identification as a practical strategic resource. In one analytical piece here, we explained that strategy, tactics, and intelligence are interfused. One cannot develop intelligence without some point of view about the kinds of action that are required to achieve strategic objectives.

Some readers have suggested we publish a of list of practical actions that people can take. While this is a slightly different take on our original conception of supporting practical activity with intelligence development, if we acknowledge the interfusion of action and intelligence, then it makes sense for us to state those kinds of actions that we see as practical insurgency.

Action requires more than doing what everyone can already do. It requires the development of particular practical skills. An organization may be able to organize a march of half a million people on the DC Mall and still not be able to grow a cabbage, fix a flat tire on a bicycle, or start a blog. Implicit in our core convictions is that the belief that practical independence from the dependence-creating structures of the current system is a precondition of revolution. That independence is predicated on the ever more widespread development of particular skills maybe even skills that we have to invent ourselves.

Other methods and theories of revolution have attached greater significance to having the correct ideas, the correct program, and the correct organization. These ideas and this practice have made inroads in places, but they inevitably run into the wall of their own dependence, in particular, their attachment to the industrial model of social organization, the orthodoxy of their ideas and the demand for ideological conformity as a membership gauntlet, and financial dependency on institutional structures like non-profits whose activities are circumscribed by government charters. We do not advocate wholesale abandonment efforts or even organizations that are already there and in motion. But we do believe that the voids, weaknesses, and blind spots of these models require remedies that reach people who cannot or will not operate within the constraints of these ideas, programs, or organizations.

New practices create new forms of consciousness; and here are a few ideas on some practices. Anyone can do one, two, or as many as are workable in present circumstances. The mental test we use in trying to determine the whats appropriate is woman-burb-hood. Is this something that can relate to the capacities of a woman who lives in either a suburb or an urban neighborhood?

The order does not correspond to any valuation or priority. Find the 35-Point Practical Guide for Action here.

Derick Jensens Endgame

is part of the New Canon.

Here is an excerpt that resonates with Insurgent American.

I just got home from talking to a new friend, another longtime activist. She told me of a campaign she participated in a few years ago to try to stop the government and transnational timber corporations from spraying Agent Orange, a potent defoliant and teratogen, in the forests of Oregon. Whenever activists learned a hillside was going to be sprayed,they assembled there, hoping their presence would stop the poisoning. But each time, like clockwork, helicopters appeared, and each time, like clockwork, helicopters dumped loads of Agent Orange onto the hillside and onto protesting activists. The campaign did not succeed.

“But, ”she said to me, “I’ll tell you what did. A bunch of Vietnam vets lived in those hills, and they sent messages to the Bureau of Land Management and to Weyerhaeuser, Boise Cascade, and the other timber companies saying, �?We know the names of your helicopter pilots, and we know their addresses.’”

I waited for her to finish.

“You know what happened next?” she asked.

“I think I do,” I responded.

“Exactly, ”she said. “The spraying stopped.”

Endgame (Two Volumes), Derrick Jensen

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