Volume 21, Number 5
March of the Dead
Direct Action Changes
Winter Soldier Rules of Engagement
Gabriel San román
If the Left Debated the Campaign Issues
Radar, Star Wars, & the Czech Republic
A Dutch Letterbox
"Good News," Iraq & Beyond, Part II
Roberto j. González
Karen Nadder Lago
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The March of the Dead
Protesters leaving Arlington Cemetery, crossing Memorial Bridge—photo from IsisImagery.com
Thirty-four people were arrested on the grounds of the Capitol building on March 19 during a silent march mourning those Iraqis, Afghanis, and U.S. soldiers who have been killed during the U.S. occupation of Iraq and Afghanistan. Dressed in black with white plaster masks and placards with the names of the victims, the marchers proceeded from Arlington National Cemetery starting at 9:30 AM. The procession silently haunted the city throughout the day, pausing at the Vietnam War Memorial, the State Department, and other sites around the city to read aloud the names of the dead before culminating in a final march of 200-300 across the Capitol grounds late in the afternoon. At around 5:30 PM 34 people froze in a silent "endless war memorial" in the middle of the intersection of First Street and Independence Avenue. Capitol police immediately surrounded the protesters and began mass arrests after ten minutes of non-compliance with the order to disperse.
Participants and spectators say the march sent a powerful message about the effects of war. Lucas Guilkey, who came to DC as part of a large contingent from Wesleyan University in Connecticut, carried the name of 12-year-old Muhammad Taba Abbas, killed in Iraq on March 30, 2003. Guilkey commented that "the unity of the blank masks, the names of the dead, and the silence of the march represented the silent suffering that the people of Iraq and Afghanistan have endured—more so than any speech or chants could have." According to Ann Shirazi, an activist from New York City, the march created a powerful spectacle of "people standing and bearing witness to the murderous policies" of the government. Guilkey adds that "the real criminals remain un-prosecuted and for this reason the dead remain egregiously disrespected."
The March of the Dead was planned and organized by the New York-based Activist Response Team (ART), whose members specialize in designing "creative direct actions" that drive home the effects of war and violence. Laurie Arbeiter, an organizer with ART, says the march was an effort "to imagine what would happen if the dead returned to Washington to seek justice." The "endless war memorial" at the end, she explains, reflects a concept that ART has developed and practiced many times in recent years. "War memorials are usually created after the war is over," says Arbeiter, but the current occupations and the so-called war on terror "will go on and on unless people take a stand." Arbeiter believes the march was a success, but that it gave only a hint of "the potential that we have," given the level of dis-content in this country.
The march took place in the midst of at least half a dozen other direct actions in the nation's capital on the fifth anniversary of the illegal U.S. invasion of Iraq. These included:
- an early-morning blockade of the IRS by the War Resisters League
where 31 were arrested
- a series of actions targeting the American Petroleum Institute and various war profiteers for supporting the occupation and opposing clean energy alternatives
- a large veterans' march outside the National Archives sponsored by Veterans For Peace and Iraq Veterans Against the War
- and numerous street blockades set up throughout the city
At least 66 peaceful demonstrators were arrested in the capital, with about 140 arrested elsewhere around the country.
The organizers and participants of the March 19 actions sought to go beyond more traditional modes of protest. There is a strong sense among many peace organizers that citizen protests must more directly confront the "pillars of war"—including corporate war profiteers, politicians who fund the occupation, and a war-based federal budget that allocates around half of taxpayer money for war while severely neglecting human needs at home and abroad. Many activists say that "direct action"—meaning nonviolent civil disobedience—may be the most appropriate strategy for the peace movement at this stage. Jenny Heinz, an activist from New York City, notes the public's fatigue after five years of war in Iraq and says that many people now question the effectiveness of large demonstrations. The peace movement must encourage people fed up with war "to really push the envelope.... That means inconveniencing ourselves, risking arrest, and targeting those who are responsible." Laurie Arbeiter adds that direct action means "not just getting arrested for the sake of getting arrested," but being "physically present and taking the risks necessary to restore law, justice, and peace by our presence."
Direct actions tend to require a greater degree of personal sacrifice. Since March 19 was a business day, hundreds of high school and college students from Connecticut, New York, Oregon, California, Kentucky, Oklahoma, Kansas, and elsewhere missed classes or gave up their spring breaks to travel to DC. Heinz took a week of unpaid vacation in order to attend the events. Justifying her decision, she says, "I can't not do it— that's the bottom line."
Not surprisingly, most of the mainstream press ignored or downplayed these events and their message. The March of the Dead was virtually absent from March 20 reports in the New York Times, Washington Post, and Boston Globe, and articles in all of these papers neglected to mention the 34 arrests there. The total number of arrests for the day was given as between 30 and 33 in the Times and Post, which in reality reflected only those arrests at the first action of the day at the IRS. Like other media outlets, the Post focused most of its March 20 Iraq reportage on the words and actions of President Bush and the three leading presidential candidates. Instead of reporting on the massive opposition to the occupation within both Iraq and the United States, the Post and others framed the fifth anniversary of the invasion as a moment of honest debate among elites over the appropriate course of action in Iraq. The effect, deliberate or not, is to discourage citizens from taking independent action by perpetuating the notion that only high-level politicians have the power or moral authority to change policy.
Other acts of popular protest throughout the previous week and a half were also diligently suppressed or ignored in U.S. media coverage. These events included "Stop-Loss Congress" on March 10-12, in which several dozen people, including a number of veterans, were arrested while delivering symbolic stop-loss notices to members of Congress prohibiting them from going on recess while U.S. troops remained in Iraq. This event deviated from the standard narrative that portrays antiwar activists as "anti-troops" and hostile toward veterans. This narrative is obviously absurd and has little or no historical basis, but it continues to pervade much media and commentary.
In line with past precedent, the large number of U.S. veterans who have helped spearhead the peace movement seldom appear in press accounts—a fact that has angered and frustrated many of those veterans. As Iraq veteran Corporal Matt Howard bitterly comments, "When the troops speak out against this horrific war, their voices are silenced by blatant omissions from the mainstream media." Accordingly, the historic Winter Soldier hearings that took place from March 13-16, 2008, in which over 50 Iraq and Afghanistan vets testified about their personal experi- ences with war, were given scant attention.
If Not Now, When?
Fed up with government bureaucracy and corporate-beholden politicians, a growing number of activists are finding new and creative ways to get their message across." Direct actions like the March of the Dead (which, of course, is not really "new," but out-of-fashion in recent decades) have sought to disrupt business-as-usual while exposing the real-life consequences of war. By bringing the effects of war and militarism out into the open, these actions are targeted disruptions of everyday routine and educational tools in themselves.
In a very promising development, the peace movement has expanded to include large numbers of students, unionized workers, feminists, religious leaders, and, perhaps most significantly, hundreds of courageous veterans. That many of these people made sacrifices to protest is "a sign of hope and renewal" for the peace movement, says Ann Shirazi. The success of this coalition will require many more creative direct actions. These actions hold great promise and the need for them is urgent. ART's Laurie Arbeiter says that what happened on March 19 "has to be done over and over" and "will only happen by virtue of a collective effort." To repeat a question that Shirazi, Jenny Heinz, and other activists have all asked, "If not now, when?"
Kevin Young is a graduate student in Latin American history at Stony Brook University.
Z Magazine Archive
AnnouncementsLABOR - May 1 is May Day. Workers of the world will celebrate the 124th anniversary of International Worker’s Day. Born out of a call for an 8-hour workday in the United States, this day is an opportunity for all workers to show their solidarity with one another, as well as to renew the call for labor rights.
FARM CONFERENCE - The Farm Conference on Community and Sustainability will be held May 24-26 in Summertown, TN, in partnership with the Fellowship of Intentional Communities. Tour green homes, see sustainable food production, learn about solar installations, alternative education, midwifery, and more.
Contact: Douglas@thefarmcommunity.com; http://www.thefarmcommunity.com/.
PALESTINE - The Conference of the Palestinian Shatat in North American will be held June 3-5 in Vancouver. The conference will examine the future of the Palestinian liberation movement.
Contact: email@example.com; http://www.palestinianconference.org/.
LABOR - The Pacific Northwest Labor History Association’s 45th annual conference will be held May 3-5, in Portland, OR. This year’s theme is Labor Under Attack: Learning from the Past and Preparing for the Future. A call for presentations, workshops and papers is currently underway.
Contact: PNLHA, 27920 68th Ave. East, Graham, WA 98338; 206-406-2604; PNLHA1@aol.com; http://www3.telus.net.
MARIJUANA - On the first Saturday of May marijuana legalization activists will hold informational and educational events, rallies and marches in over 300 cities around the world.
ECONOMICS - The Union For Radical Political Economics will hold its 39th annual conference May 9-11 in New York City.
RECLAIM THE DREAM - The 2013 Poor People’s Campaign & March from Baltimore to Washington D.C. will be May 11. Communities, schools and unions interested in participating are encouraged to contact the Baltimore People’s Assembly.
Contact: 410-500-2168; 410-218-4835; BaltimorePeoplesAssembly@gmail.com; Southern Christian Leadership Conference of Baltimore and the Baltimore Peoples Power Assembly, 2011 N. Charles St., Baltimore, MD 21218.
MOTHER’S DAY - The 17th Annual Mother’s Day Walk For Peace will be May 12th, in Dorchester, MA. The walk began in 1996 for families who had lost children to violence. The day has become a way for thousands of people to financially support the work of the Louis Brown Peace Institute.
Contact: http://www.ldbpeaceinstitute.org/; http://mothersdaywalk4peace.org/.
NATO 5 - An International Week of Solidarity with the NATO 5 has been called for May 16-21. Supports call on supporters to raise awareness of the NATO 5 and support funds for the defendants on the one-year anniversary of their preemptive arrests.
Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org; https://nato5support.wordpress.com.
MOUNTAINTOP - The 2013 Mountain Justice Summer Activist Training Camp will be held May 19-27 in Damascus, VA. It will be a week of workshops, field trips to view Mountain Top Removal coal mines, direct actions, and service project.
FEMINIST SCI-FI - The feminist science fiction convention WisCon 37 is scheduled for May 24-27 in Madison, WI.
Contact: WisCon, ? SF3, PO Box 1624, Madison, WI 53701; email@example.com; http://www.wiscon.info/.
ANARCHY FEST - A month-long Festival of Anarchy is scheduled for May in Montreal. The festival includes The Montreal Anarchist Bookfair (May 19-20).
Contact: http://www.anarchistbookfair.ca/; http://www.radicalmontreal.com/.
LABOR - The International Labor Rights Forum will present: Down the Supply Chain, Driving Corporate Accountability, on May 22 in Washington, DC. The Labor Rights Awards Ceremony and Reception will honor pioneers in supply chain worker organizing, working solidarity and international labor rights policy.
MULTICULTURE - The 26th annual National Conference on Race & Ethnicity in American Higher Education (NCORE) will take place May 28-June 1, in New Orleans.
Contact: SWCHRS, 3200 Marshall Avenue, Suite 290, Norman, OK 73072; 405-325-3694; firstname.lastname@example.org; www.ncore.ou.edu.
MEDIA - The 2013 Alliance for Community Media Annual Conference will be held May 29-31, in San Francisco, CA. Participants will include educators, community leaders, media professionals, journalists, nonprofit leaders, policymakers and students.
RADIO - The 38th Annual Community Radio Conference is schedule for May 29-June 1, in San Francisco, CA, with discussions and workshops.
Contact: 1101 Pennsylvania Ave. NW, Suite 600, Washington, DC 20004; 202-756-2268; email@example.com; http://www.nfcb.org/.
BRADLEY MANNING - On June 1, a rally will be held at Fort Meade in support of Bradley Manning.
BIKES - Bikes Not Bombs is holding its 24th annual Bike-A-Thon and Green Roots Festival in Boston, MA on June 3, with several bike rides scheduled, music, exhibitors and more.
Contact: Bikes Not Bombs, 284 Amory St., Jamaica Plain, MA 02130; 617-522-0222; firstname.lastname@example.org; www.bikesnotbombs.org.
LEFT FORUM - The 2013 Left Forum will be held June 7-9, at Pace University in New York City.
Contact: 365 Fifth Avenue, CUNY Graduated Center, ? Sociology Dept., New York, NY 10016; http://www.leftforum.org/.
VEGAN FEST - Mad City Vegan Fest will be held in Madison, WI, June 8. The annual event features food, speakers, and exhibitors.
Contact: 122 State Street, Suite 405 B, Madison, WI 53701; email@example.com; http://veganfest.org/.
ADC CONFERENCE - The American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC) holds its annual conference June 13-16, in Washington, DC, with panel discussions and workshops on civil rights, media and other topics.
Contact: 1990 M Street, Suite 610, Washington, DC, 20036; 202-244-2990; firstname.lastname@example.org http://convention.adc.org/.
CUBA/SOCIALISM - A Cuban-North American Dialog on Socialist Renewal and Global Capitalist Crisis will be held in Havana, Cuba, June 16-30. There will be a 5 day Seminar at University of Havana, plus visits to a cooperative, urban garden, community development project, social research centers, and educational & medical institutions.
Contact: email@example.com; http://www.globaljusticecenter.org/.
NETROOTS - The 8th Annual Netroots Nation conference will take place June 20-23 in San Jose, CA. The event features panels, trainings, networking, screenings, and keynotes.
Contact: 164 Robles Way, #276, Vallejo, CA 94591; firstname.lastname@example.org; http://www.netrootsnation.org/.
MEDIA - The 15th annual Allied Media Conference will be held June 20-23, in Detroit.
Contact: 4126 Third Street, Detroit, MI 48201; http://alliedmedia.org/.
GRASSROOTS - The United We Stand Festival will be hosted by Free & Equal, June 22 in Little Rock, Arkansas. The festival aims to reform the electoral process throughout the U.S.
SOCIALISM - The Socialism 2013 Conference is scheduled for June 27-30 in Chicago, featuring talks and panel discussions.
Contact: email@example.com; http://www.socialismconference.org.
LITERACY - The National Association for Media Literacy Education (NAMLE) will hold its conference July 12-13 in Los Angeles under the heading, Intersections: Teaching and Learning Across Media.
Contact: 10 Laurel Hill Drive, Cherry Hill, NJ 08003; http://namle.net/conference/.
IWW - The North American Work People’s College will take place July 12-16 at Mesaba Co-op Park in northern Minnesota. The event will bring together Wobblies from branches across the continent to learn new skills and build One Big Union.
PEACESTOCK - On July 13th, the 11th Annual Peacestock: A Gathering for Peace, will take place at Windbeam Farm in Hager City, WI. The event is a mixture of music, speakers and community for peace. Sponsored by Veterans for Peace.
Contact: Bill Habedank, 1913 Grandview Ave., Red Wing, MN 55066; 651-388-7733; firstname.lastname@example.org; http://www.peacestockvfp.org.
CHILDREN’S DEFENSE - July 15-19, join clergy, seminarians, Christian educators, young adult leaders and other faith-based advocates for children at CDF Haley Farm in Clinton, Tennessee, for five days of spiritual renewal, networking, movement building workshops, and continuing education about the urgent needs of children at the 19th annual Proctor Institute for Child Advocacy Ministry.
Contact: email@example.com; http://www.childrensdefense.org.
ACTIVIST CAMP - Youth Empowered Action (YEA) Camp will have sessions in July and August in Ben Lomond, CA; Portland, OR; Charlton, MA. YEA Camp is designed for activists 12-17 years old who want to make a difference in the world.
Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org; http://yeacamp.org/.
LA RAZA - The annual National Council of La Raza (NCLR) Conference is scheduled for July 18-19 in New Orleans, with workshops, presentations and panel discussions.
Contact: NCLR Headquarters Office, Raul Yzaguirre Building, 1126 16th Street, NW, Washington, DC 20036; 202-785-1670; www.nclr.org.
LABOR - The Eastern Conference For Workplace Democracy: Growing Our Cooperatives, Growing Our Communities, will be held at Drexel University in Philadelphia, PA, July 26-28.
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WOMEN/LYNNE STEWART- Radical Women is asking for support letters and cards to be sent to Lynne Stewart. Stewart is a civil rights attorney and political prisoner who is currently in jail. She has breast cancer and authorities have denied her request for transfer from her Texas prison to the New York City hospital where she received medical attention during a prior bout of breast cancer. Send messages and cards to: Lynne Stewart 53504-054, Federal Medical Center Carswell, P.O. Box 27137, Fort Worth, TX 76127.
Contact: 747 Polk Street, San Francisco, CA 94109; 415-864-1278; RadicalWomenUS@gmail.com; http://lynnestewart.org/; http://www.radicalwomen.org/.
HAITI/WOMEN - Haiti’s government is considering a legal reform measure that would prohibit and punish all sexual assault, including marital rape. MADRE and the International Campaign to Stop Rape & Gender Violence in Conflict are launching a petition to raise international support for this push to address violence against women in Haiti.
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SYRIA/MIDDLE EAST - The Middle East Children’s Alliance (MECA) is currently seeking funds to assist more than 200,000 refugees fleeing violence in Syria.
FOLK FESTIVAL - The Falcon Ridge Folk Festival will be held August 2-4, in the Berkshires, NY.
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WAR RESISTERS - The War Resisters League will hold its 90th anniversary conference, Revolutionary Nonviolence: Building Bridges Across Generations and Communities, August 1-4, at Georgetown University. The event will focus on the U.S.’ long history of antimilitarism.
Contact: 339 Lafayette Street, New York, NY 10012; 212-228-0450; firstname.lastname@example.org; http://www.warresisters.org.
POPULAR ECONOMICS - The Center for Popular Economics is holding its 2013 Summer Institute August 4-9 at Hampshire College in Amherst, MA. No background in economics is needed for this intensive training. This year’s theme is, The Care Economy: Building a Just Economy with a Heart.
Contact: Center for Popular Economics, PO Box 785 Amherst, MA 01004; 413-545-0743; email@example.com; www.populareconomics.org.
VETERANS - Veterans for Peace is holding the 28th annual convention August 6-11 in Madison, WI. This year’s theme is, Power To The Peaceful.
DEMOCRACY - The Democracy Convention will take place August 7-11 in Madison, WI. The convention brings together nine conferences including topics such as media, education, defense, race, environment and others.
MEN - The 38th National Conference on Men & Masculinity: Forging Justice: Creating Safe, Equal and Accountable Communities, presented in partnership with HAVEN, will be held in Detroit, MI, August 8-10.
Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org; http://www.nomas.org/.
OCCUPY - An Occupy National Gathering will be held in Kalamazoo, MI, August 21-25.
Contact: email@example.com; http://occupynationalgathering.net/.
COMMUNITIES - The Communities Conference is a networking and learning opportunity for co-operative or communal lifestyles, with workshops, events and entertainment; scheduled for August 30-September 2 at the Twin Oaks Community in Louisa, Virginia.
LABOR DAY - The 29th annual Bread and Roses Festival, a celebration of the ethnic diversity and labor history of Lawrence, MA, will be held September 2, in honor of the 1912 Bread and Roses Strike. There will be music, dance, poetry, drama, ethnic food, historical demonstrations, walking & trolley tours.
Contact: PO Box 1137, Lawrence, MA 01842; 978-794-1655; http://www.breadandrosesheritage.org/.
OCCUPY WALL STREET - September 17 is the two-year anniversary of the Occupy Wall Street movement. Events are planned in New York City and worldwide.
TEACHERS - The 13th Annual Conference, “Teaching for Social Justice: The Politics of Pedagogy,” will be held October 12 in San Francisco, CA. The free event features workshops, resources, and free childcare.
Contact: 415-676-7844; firstname.lastname@example.org; http://www.t4sj.org/.
HAITI - International Action, which brings clean water and chlorinators to Haiti, seeks office space capable of housing up to six people and their office equipment.
Contact: Zach Bremer, Zbrehmer@haitiwater.org; 202-488-0735; http://www.haitiwater.org/.
MEDIA - The Union for Democratic Communications and Project Censored are sponsoring a joint conference on media democracy, media activism and social justice to be held November 1-3 at the University of San Francisco. Proposals for presentations, workshops and panels from activists and critical scholars are invited.