Washington Times headline said it all: "Hysteria
runs riot; networks fuel the fear." London’s
Heathrow airport is surrounded by what one UK newspaper
ring of steel, and anti-aircraft
missiles are in position around Washington to defend
against a terrorist attack CIA director George Tenet
avers could come this week. And the Department of Homeland
Defense is doing its part to jack up the panic level
by telling Americans to stock
up on duct tape and plastic sheeting: the idea is
to seal up your house or apartment so that biological
agents can’t get through.
bad we can’t find a substance impervious to war propaganda.
That duct tape, in any case, is put to better use plugging
up the speaking orifices of our public officials.
It is pure coincidence, of course, that
all this hysteria is being generated by the same governments
that are ratcheting up the war rhetoric. At the very
moment Colin Powell assures us that Al Qaeda and Iraq
are one and the same, and the ghostly voice of Bin Laden
rises out of the ether, we go to "code orange."
Stampeded into war, we’re too scared out of our wits
to utter a bleat of protest. Or so they hope.
Americans are not easily intimidated. Resentment against
this administration’s rush to war has been building
in the country for months, and this weekend’s antiwar
protest – Saturday in New York, Sunday in San Francisco
– promises to be the largest and the loudest yet. In
the Big Rotten Apple, where Mayor Benito Bloomberg has
just declared victory in his
jihad against smokers, antiwar protesters are next
on the list: Saturday’s
march has been banned. As if to symbolize the image
of a citizenry frozen in fear, the protest organizers
have been told they must hold a completely stationary
By confining the demonstration to a
relatively small area, Dag
Hammarskjold Plaza, Bloomberg and his friends over
at the New York Sun are hoping to keep the numbers
down. As the Sun editorialized:
"Mayor Bloomberg and Police
Commissioner Kelly are doing the people of New York
and the people of Iraq a great service by delaying and
obstructing the anti-war protest planned for February
15. The longer they delay in granting the protesters
a permit, the less time the organizers have to get their
turnout organized, and the smaller the crowd is likely
it is unlikely that the Mayor and his cops will take
up the Sun’s suggestion to
"Allow the protest and send
two witnesses along for each participant, with an eye
toward preserving at least the possibility of an eventual
treason prosecution. Thus fully respecting not just
some, but all of the constitutional principles at stake."
This plan, while ingenious – in the
sense of "evil genius"—is just not practical.
Since well over 100,000 are expected to jam the plaza
and spill out into adjoining streets, this Saturday,
the cops would need twice that number to take names
and social security numbers. Would they take advantage
of the "Patriot" Act’s gutting of the Posse
Comitatus law and call up the Army, or hope to make
do with the National Guard?
But there was no need to call in the
feds, since they showed up at the permit hearing on
their own initiative. As
Jimmy Breslin reports:
a break, I went up to one severely dressed young man
and he identified himself as Andrew O’Toole of the United
States Attorney’s office. He was there to make a statement
or file something to remind the court that the UN was
the responsibility of the city. He was pleasant. The
people who sent him over did not tell him to say ‘Ashcroft.’
He didn’t have to. He was at the city’s table and a
United States Marshal who had arrived with him and was
holding a hand radio stood at the door."
chief Rocco Esposito, in explaining why it was impossible
to hold a march in Manhattan, said several times:
don’t know who is coming here for the march. We don’t
know who they are."
To which march organizer Leslie Cagan
"Since when in free speech do
you have to say who’s coming to an event? Do you have
to give the names?"
Sure you do. Just ask the editors of
the New York Sun.
spite of the
claim that all political protests have been banned in
Manhattan since 9/11/01, two very political
demonstrations were allowed to proceed in 2002 without
so much as a peep from Bloomberg: the Gay
Freedom Day Parade and the
Israel Day march. Can anyone picture a more likely
target for a terrorist attack than the latter? But just
try to imagine the uproar if City Hall had tried to
atmosphere of intimidation in which this weekend’s protests
are taking place is not just limited to obstructionist
legal tactics by the authorities and calls for censorship
in wartime: we are also witnessing a sustained assault
on the politics of the march by ostensibly "antiwar"
figures. Rabbi Michael Lerner, Hillary
Clinton’s touchy-feely guru of "the politics of
meaning" fame, is accusing the march organizers
of anti-Semitism because, he claims, he has been "banned"
from speaking. This is a canard that the War Party has
frantically peddled to anyone who will listen.
Lerner was only one of 300-plus speakers
considered. Many other Jewish speakers are scheduled.
His group, Tikkun, has no more than a few dozen supporters
here in the Bay Area (judging from the minuscule size
of their contingent at the January 18 mobilization).
But never mind all that: we are supposed to believe
that Lerner is not being given a full fifteen minutes
in which to bloviate due to the organizers’ bigotry.
Lerner was offered three minutes to speak on January
18, but refused: "You can’ t say much in three
minutes," he complained. Yes, it’s true, it would
be hard for him to explain – in three hours, let alone
three minutes—why he believes Israel ought to be admitted
to NATO (to take the place of France, perhaps?).
David Corn, a columnist for The Nation,
up Lerner’s crusade to smear the antiwar movement
with the tar-brush of anti-Semitism, with the same alacrity
with which he
red-baited them. From his perch at what used to
be the country’s premier magazine of left-liberal opinion,
Corn cites Lerner’s January 18 lament:
my view, the organizers of this demonstration have allowed
far too many speakers who believe that this war is being
done because Israel wants the war, far too few who share
my view that this war is not in the best interests of
either Israel or of the United States.’ Yet Lerner didn’t
let his differences with ANSWER trump his opposition
to the war; he encouraged people to attend the rally.
After that protest, he told The New York Times,
‘There are good reasons to oppose the war and Saddam.
Still, it feels that we are being manipulated when subjected
to mindless speeches and slogans whose knee-jerk anti-imperialism
rarely articulates the deep reasons we should oppose
the ditzy Lerner is in denial. The present Israeli government
is pining for this war. Major political and military
figures openly declare that the end of the war will
bright morning" for Israel, notably Israeli
chief of staff Lieutenant-General Moshe
Yaalon, and Ephraim
Halevy, formerly in charge of the Mossad spy agency,
and now Prime Minister Ariel Sharon’s top national security
advisor. Says Yaalon:
"After [the war], I believe
there will be a new balance in the region, a new structure.
A successful American offensive will...strengthen all
of the pragmatic parties in the region."
The elected rulers of Israel want this
war for ideological reasons. It will give these radical
Likudniks the opportunity to "transfer" (i.e.
ethnically cleanse) the Palestinian population of the
occupied territories and realize their party’s longstanding
dream of a "Greater Israel" – which would
be an accomplished fact before the dust clears. Contra
Lerner, it is possible to agree with this analysis and
also believe that such a course is not in Israel’s
best interests – no more than empire-building is a good
idea for the Americans.
is a bloated windbag, whose ego is far larger than any
following he might have, and one wonders why we are
supposed to humor him. Why must we cave in to
the demands of political correctness and prove that
we aren’t "anti-Semites" by kowtowing to the
say nyet! Corn cites Lerner’s victimological
whining, as if we are supposed to cringe and capitulate
as the Rabbi hauls out every official victim group and
complains of unequal treatment:
do not believe that had ANSWER been criticized by a
major feminist or gay leader and then vetoed that leader
to speak at a demonstration that the other coalition
partners would go along with that. So why should
criticism of anti-Semitism and Israel-bashing be treated
differently?....So why should our voice of critique
of ANSWER’s anti-Israel policy serve as justification
for excluding our rabbi from speaking?"
I’m a member of an ideological minority within
the peace movement – Reactionaries Against the War (RAW!)
How come I don’t get to whine because the organizers
of the SF rally somehow neglected to give me fifteen
minutes in which to pour out my black reactionary heart
to the crowd? And, hey, I’m also gay, although
"gay leader" – whatever that may mean
– is pushing it.
claims a point of unity among the four groups that cooperated
to put on this weekend’s events is that any one of them
can exercise veto power over a rally speaker who has
criticized any of the coalition’s components. By that
standard, I, too, would be disqualified, having been
a vocal critic of the Workers World Party-controlled
front groups since the onset of the Kosovo war.
Not that I, or anyone to the right of
Jesse Jackson, was even considered as a speaker. In
spite of the
growing antiwar contingent among conservatives and
the reality that this is too much of an emergency to
allow the Left its traditional monopoly has yet to sink
in. Perhaps it will take the onset of hostilities to
get us that far.
the meantime, I’m not complaining about my absence from
the speakers platform – hey, it’s their loss!
– and I’m sure not circulating petitions chastising
the organizers for refusing to recognize my star quality
(those bastards!) . I’m just going to bring my
umbrella (hey, it’s pouring here!) and some Chinese
take-out, and get my butt down to Market
Street by the Embarcadero
this Sunday. Because it’s going to be another San
Francisco Moment, just like the last one.
What’s this world coming to when the
antiwar movement has to capitulate to whiners, and fakes,
who want the peace movement to supply them with a platform
from which to smear the sponsors (and, by implication,
everyone in the crowd) as neo-Nazis? Even good old Alex
Cockburn has gone soft on the question of how to deal
with this horsefly. He
initial reaction was to say to Jeffrey St Clair that
any move to keep Lerner from pouring out his usual freshets
of idiocy is sound by definition [Editor: Hear! Hear!],
but on mature consideration I counsel the organizers
of the San Francisco rally to slot Lerner in at some
point in the proceedings. I’m quite prepared to believe
that Lerner, a relentless self-promoter, has managed
to piss off everybody with egocentric posturing and
unity-wrecking maneuvers, and maybe his plan from the
start has been to engineer a situation in which he can
howl that Jew-haters have laid him low. But let the
guy speak anyway. Mostly people don’t listen to speeches,
and if you suddenly hear Lerner’s voice disturbing the
harmony of the great convergence, move into a drumming
circle and blot the guy out."
giving in to Lerner’s blackmail would be – dare
I say it? – nothing less than a shameful act of appeasement,
and one, furthermore, that will not shut down the War
Party’s smear campaign but only feed into it.
smear-mongering, and warmongering all go hand-in-hand.
The War Party is using every weapon in its arsenal,
not just on the Iraqis but on us. The barrage
of propaganda that we are being subjected to is the
storm before the calm – the calm of the grave, that
is, for untold thousands of Iraqis and god knows how
many Americans. In the name of a national "emergency,"
cabal of neoconservatives has just about seized
control of the government and is now preparing
the "legal" rationale for a police state.
The peace movement is faced with the prospect of a wartime
If we don’t stand up to it, we are doomed.
It’s as simple as that.
The attempt to limit the size and visibility
of the New York City rally is a deliberate provocation,
and one that is bound to end in violence and arrests.
I predict trouble on the East Coast. As the Village
"Many of these groups are planning
to hold ‘feeder marches’ to the main rally site on First
Avenue. How that will play out with the NYPD’s new dictum
banning protest marches from the streets remains unclear.
‘We’re trying to negotiate a permit, but if not we’ll
stick to the sidewalks,’ says Michael Letwin of New
York City Labor Against War, which is organizing a march
of more than 5000 union members from Columbus Circle.
‘For many of us, it’s unimaginable that the city would
deny our right to march. We have to march.’"
who believes the NYPD’s reaction to open defiance of
the city’s ban on marches is going to be "unclear"
is seriously deluded. Bloomberg's City Hall gang and
his Republican cohorts in Washington have done everything
possible to derail the event from the very beginning:
if it ends in violence, surely the editors of the New
York Sun won’t be alone in saying I-told-you-so
– and taking full advantage of the opportunity to link
the antiwar movement to "terrorism."
that this possibility ought to deter anyone from attending.
As Ayn Rand once put it: "I’m not brave enough
to be a coward – I see the consequences too clearly."
Now is the time to stand up and say "No!"
to the fear-mongers. Use that duct tape to make placards,
this weekend, instead of cowering in terror in your
plastic-covered abode. All out this weekend!
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