Connect the Anti-War and Occupy Movement
Building Power from Below, Talk at Event in Olympia, WA October 7, 2012
Talk at the Event, Celebrating the One Year Anniversary of the Occupy Movement, and Against the Continuing U.S. War Against Afghanistan; Localization Not Globalization.
“The Afghanistan War and the Occupy Movement are Not Over; Connect the Movements!”
By Peter Bohmer, October 7, 2012
Sylvester Park, Olympia Washington
Thank you for coming! I want to thank the organizers of this well-planned event. A lot of hard work and thought went into it. The U.S. went to war against the Afghani people 11 years ago today. This war is not over!
I remember exactly one year ago today being at Sylvester Park on a Friday evening. It was the beginning of Occupy Olympia Movement. There was an open mike and I mentioned that the war against the Afghani people had begun 10 years ago and that we should continue to oppose it as part of Occupy Olympia and our activism. There was little reaction to my comment. There are protests against this continuing war, small, but happening all over the United States today. We are part of movements in the U.S. and beyond that are standing up, that are saying that we will not let this war in Afghanistan be invisible. Not in our name!
This war, the so-called war on terror led by the United States continues to kill and injure many, many people in Afghanistan and Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia, Iraq, Bahrain, and U.S. soldiers. The war in Iraq is supposedly over but there is no peace or justice in Iraq. The human and economic costs of the war to the people of the U.S. are also astronomical. Another cost of the war is the growing racism and repression against Arab and Muslim people in the United States. Let us resist that as part of our anti-war movement and in our daily lives. Over 2 million U.S. soldiers have been stationed and fought in Iraq and Afghanistan over the last 11 years. Besides the 7000 soldiers that have died in these wars, how many more are wounded psychologically and physically, how many more have committed suicide?
What kind of society do the U.S. soldiers come back to? One that you would not know about if you watched the Obama- Romney Presidential debate last Wednesday, one where over 100 million people are poor or near-poor, and where almost ½ of all Black and Latino children are below the official poverty line, where more than 50 million people don’t have any health insurance, over 2 million people are in prison, ½ of whom are African-American, and millions have lost their homes. Most soldiers are from working class families, many who enlisted had the alternative of unemployment if they didn’t enlist, and then face unemployment when they leave the military. There was no mention of poverty or poor or working class people by Obama or Romney in their debate; it was as if all of the U.S. is middle class and all who pay income taxes own small businesses. I said at a talk a few years ago outside of Ft. Lewis that the best way to support U.S. troops and their families is to end the U.S. wars and occupations, and to build a society where there quality health care for all, full employment and living wage jobs, strong labor unions, free education thorough college, a healthy environment, free childcare and more generally economic and social justice. Most troops become civilians and this would help a lot more than waving the U.S. flag and increasing the military budget.
Economically these changes are feasible and possible. The challenge of course is creating the political power and strength to win these changes. Joseph Stiglitz and other economists have estimated the direct and indirect costs of the U.S. wars since October 7th 2001 at over 3 trillion dollars, that is 12 zeros. The military budget is over $720 billion dollars a year. If we took five months of that, about $300 billion, the U.S. would still be spending $420 billion per year on the military, as much as next nine countries together. That $300 billion reduction in the military, five months of military spending could finance free tuition for all- post-secondary education-technical school, community college and college through Ph.D. It could include five million more people in college who might go if there was free tuition. So it is clear that money is there, we need to organize to use it to fund human needs not war, present and future.
In thinking ahead, let us not allow a war again Iran to happen. The propaganda against Iran is building just like the lies did against Iraq 10-12 years ago up to and including the attack in March, 2003. Supposedly Iran is creating materials that could be used in the future to build an atomic bomb. Israel is threatening to attack Iran and is asking for U.S. military support for this aggression. I don’t know whether Iran is building an atomic bomb but notice the total hypocrisy and double standard of the United States and Israel. Israel has at least 200 atomic bombs and probably more; the U.S. has thousands of atomic and hydrogen bombs enough to destroy the world many times over. Our so-called liberal President says he will bomb Iran if they are actually building a bomb that he will not allow it. So Iran does not have the same right as Israel or the United States. Who is the only country that has ever used atomic weapons? Iran and many other countries have proposed a nuclear weapon free Middle East. But that is not considered even a possibility by the masters of war in D.C. Israel cannot attack Iran without U.S. support or permission. Let us strongly oppose the lies about Iran and the ongoing U.S. aggression and work against an escalation to a full-scale war and not wait until the bombing starts.
So economic justice and equality at home; opposing U.S. present and future wars and supporting those who were or are in the military are connected. Let us connect them better than we are doing.
In rebuilding the Occupy Movement let us oppose U.S. aggression and wars abroad. For example, the growing use of drones in Pakistan and other countries where the Obama administration is judge, jury and executioner and lying about the number of civilians killed is a war crime. We need to make this war by drones more public, and make clear that the issue is more than U.S. deaths—that all deaths are equal, that the lives of Pakistanis are as valuable as ours. I want to thank and salute the brave people including some from Olympia and other peace activists who are right now going to the border between Afghanistan and Pakistan to put their bodies on the line to oppose these murderous drone attacks.
The Occupy Wall Street and Occupy Olympia are a year old. We have brought forward and made more visible the obscene and growing inequality of income and wealth in this country. Today, the top 1% have incomes on the average more than 40 times the income of the bottom 90%. 30 years ago it was still unacceptable but then the top 1% had 14 rather than 42 times the income of 90% off the population. The Occupy Movement has been somewhat quiet the last few months although consciousness about Wall Street and the 1% and economic injustice have been awakened. Movements ebb and flow; let us help make this one flow more strongly.
Many of who were active in Occupy Wall Street and the many who heard us and our message feel powerless—others are focusing instead on the elections. With regards to the elections—Presidential, Governor, U.S. Senate and House, Washington State representatives, etc.---in general the Democrats are not quite as reactionary as the Republicans. There are some differences. But what I would like to stress is that politics is about a lot more than voting and electing the lesser of two evils. It is about building power from below, through protesting, organizing, building organizations and movements where we can connect the issues, build principled unity, fight the power, educate each other and struggle to revolutionize and transform this society. If we build this power from below, we can win short run reforms from those in power while understanding reforms will always be limited in a capitalist society. So I would suggest voting in Washington State for gay and lesbian marriage, for marriage equality; for legalizing marijuana, against Charter Schools, for Proposition 1 that will create municipal power and end the privatization of electricity and gas heating in Thurston County; and for allowing a majority of the legislature to raise taxes. All of this matters but what matters more is building ongoing organizations and institutions so that the Occupy and similar movements can grow in vision, numbers, power, organizational capacity, and become more welcoming and inclusive. It is not over. Voting is but a small part of a real democracy.
As people and movements committed to liberation and economic and social justice, it is a necessity that we remember our history and support political prisoners and challenge repression as part of our daily lives and movements. Today, in Seattle, there is a march for Indigenous People’s Day. Right on! The land we are on right now was stolen from Native people of the Pacific Northwest. The march in Seattle is commemorating this ongoing struggle for self-determination and dignity of Native people. It is also calling for the freedom of Leonard Peltier, an inspiring leader of the American Indiana Movement, who has been in prison for over 36 years for protecting Lakota people against the FBI and the multinational corporations who want their land and resources. Free Leonard Peltier and all political prisoners!
There is also a Federal grand jury that is now meeting in Seattle that is a direct attack on the Occupy Movement and all of us. There are already two Olympia residents who are being held in a Federal Prison in Seatac, Matt Duran and Katie O. This Federal grand jury is criminalizing people for being anarchist. The way it works is that you are subpoenaed and when you refuse to testify against others, you are given contempt of court and sentenced to prison, without any trial. You can be imprisoned for the length of the grand jury. These courageous grand jury resisters are in there for us. Let us be out here for them. If the federal government gets away with this, repression will grow even more. Similar grand jury attacks on activists have been going on in Chicago, Minneapolis. Support the grand jury resisters by writing letters to newspapers, publicizing what is going on, attending rallies and benefits on their behalf, and demanding their release.
Also close to home is the Northwest Detention Center in Tacoma where over 1500 immigrants are being held, most of whom will be deported to Mexico and Central America. There crime for the most part is coming to the United states to get work after having to leave their countries because global capitalism or U.S. supported wars and intervention in their country have created conditions so they could not survive in their countries of origin. Let us push for amnesty for immigrants. Let us close this monstrosity of a private prison run by the Geo Corporation that makes millions of the suffering off undocumented immigrants.
In closing, we are living in an economy where over 20 million people are unemployed and this is likely to continue for years, where climate change is endangering this planet and its people, particularly in the global South. We can say or feel we cannot do anything about this crisis and related injustice. Cynicism and feelings of powerlessness are conscious tools of those in power. Let us instead act in our daily lives in ways small and big, and connect the movements and people and issues to each other, and see ourselves as long distance runners for creating a humane society, one without racism and sexism and homophobia, not a society based on profit and exploitation-- so we can live in harmony with each other and the natural environment. Act in solidarity with those globally struggling for justice. Let us educate each other and build ongoing institutions that do not fall part. Persistence pays off! So does being bold and courageous and taking risks! Rebuild Occupy and other movements; fight U.S. aggression at home and abroad, overthrow capitalism and create a new society. Our humanity and future is at stake.
An Injury to One is an Injury to All!
Tell No Lies, Claims No Easy Victories!
Power to the People!