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Friday, March 18, 2005

Tom Hayden, Rendition, and the Sadism of the GOP

When the House voted yesterday to approve $82 billion more for the War in Iraq, two Democratic Reps -- Earl Blumenauer (OR) and Ed Markey (MA) -- authored an amendment prohibiting the use of federal funds both for the torture of detainees in American custody, and for shipping them to countries that do allow torture (rendition). The good news? The motion passed overwhelmingly, 420 to 2. The bad new? Two crazy bastards actually voted to fund torture -- Republican Reps. Robin Hayes of North Carolina and Mark Souder of Indiana. If either of these men happen to be your Reps -- well, I'd tell you to write them, but if it was me I'd probably move first.

Our military experience-free Preznit also reaffirmed the need for rendition in a press conference on Wednesday, and CIA Chief Porter Goss warbled in support of it yesterday before the Senate Armed Services Committee. (Said Sen. Pat Roberts (R-Kan.), who sits on the committee and is also the chairman of the Senate intelligence panel: "I have to tell you I am losing a little patience with what appears to me to be an almost pathological obsession with calling into question the actions of men and women who are on the front lines of the war on terror.")

The psychopathic attachment of the mouth breathers to this sadism continues.

All of this comes on the eve of the second anniversary of the War in Iraq on Saturday. I recently came across the blog of Tom Hayden, veteran of the Civil Rights movement, SDS, the 1968 Democratic Convention, the Chicago Seven and other landmark events that the rest of us just watched on TV. He argues that there is no more important issue for the left to be pressing at the moment than the fact that our tax dollars are being used to finance torture:
So where are we? Wars are inherently unpredictable, but here are some observations:

1. The insurgency will continue, undermining the capacity of the Iraqi security forces that liberals and conservatives say are crucial to the US exit strategy.

2. The US has no exit strategy, because the US never has, and never will, plan to exit. Its strategy is to secure a permanent military outpost in the Middle East, dominate the politics of oil, and join with the Israelis in pressuring Syria, Iran and other countries.

3. However, the US can be forced to exit, to retreat from its neo-conservative dream, if the war in Iraq becomes a quagmire and no longer cost-effective in terms of money, troops, the US global image, and domestic opposition.

4. The Iraqi elections were fixed, and our media fell for it.

5. Nevertheless, the Iraqi elections were real, and many (most?) Iraqis who voted are in favor of the near-term withdrawal of US troops (69 percent of Shiites, 80 percent of Sunnis, according to January polling). The Iraqi electoral process will continue throughout the year, with many ups and downs.

6. The fact of the Iraqi elections should shift the focus of the broad anti-war movement, instead of the present attitudes of either denial or rosy optimism. The anti-war movement should consider calling for peace negotiations among all Iraqi parties, including the resistance, with a concrete promise of the US withdrawing its troops and ending the occupation as an incentive.

7. The fact that so many Democrats are opportunistic and retrograde is an opportunity for the anti-war movement to reach out to the Democratic rank-and-file and build pressure on the Democratic establishment, which is essential for maintaining public criticism of the Bush policies and for eventually ending funding for the war. When people say that political pressure is a waste of time, remind them of how pleased they were when Barbara Boxer and others challenged the nomination of Condoleeza Rice – due in part to the anti-war movement’s impact on public opinion.

7. Calls for defending the “heroic Iraqi resistance” are diversionary from the goals of ending the war and occupation. Calls for “out now” need to be reframed (not eliminated), because they do not address the confusion of the fence-sitting moderates who think the war is a mistake. The arguments for withdrawal and ending the privatization/occupation need to be argued in every possible forum, starting with hundreds of thousands of Move.on members.

8. Anti-war movements, on their largest scale, are short-term opportunities for Americans to learn something about the real nature of our country. Anti-war movements are a real opportunity for activists to build a long-term movement with a democratic, anti-Empire politics. So the anti-war movement really needs to ground itself in coalitions with working class military families, the working poor of the inner cities, labor households, draft-age youth, environmentalists concerned about renewable resources, etc. The anti-war movement completes domestic movements by putting everything about America in a global perspective.

9. The anti-war movement must awaken moral feelings, including shame and guilt, among millions of Americans if we are to succeed in ending the conflict and building a progressive movement. There is no more important moral issue to raise, therefore, than our tax dollars going for torture at Abu Ghraeb, Guantanamo, Afghanistan, the “extraordinary renditions”, etc.It is vital to American stability – on all levels - that our people are led to believe that the torturers are a few “bad apples”. The truth, which we must fight to being out, is that America’s global policies apparently cannot be carried out unless there are hidden torture chambers and totalitarian compartments in our national security institutions. It was true of the “Phoenix program” in South Vietnam, the “Operation Condor” in Latin America, and it is true today. For activists looking for an unconventional way to pressure Congress, one possibility would be to build Abu Ghraeb-style cages in front of their offices while leafleting for “no taxes for torture”.

10. Remember that 40 million Americans favor withdrawal and over twice that number think the war is unwarranted. This is no time for isolation, but a time for steady expansion.

Perhaps one has to be Irish, or another victim of the colonial experience, to understand that US policy in Iraq is a continuation of British policy in Iraq, policies of dominance that arise from the arrogance of empire, and depend on both military might and programmed amnesia for success. We are fighting against the military occupation of Iraq but also the Empire’s occupation of our minds.
(emphasis mine, paragraph numbering his)

You can read the rest of his post here.

I don't think Hayden has ever received full credit for being the profound thinker and eloquent writer that he deserves -- his book Reunion is one of the most provocative and influential books I have read, and I recommend it highly to anyone. I think the experience he speaks from offers us both wisdom and hope as we gird ourselves for the long battle to put an end to this war and the ahistorical political insanity that continues to inflict suffering on so many.