Thursday, December 20, 2007

*We Need A Different Strategy To End This Damn War, Part II

Click on the title to link to an "Under The Hood" (Fort Hood G.I. Coffeehouse)Web site online article about the "Oleo Strut" Coffeehouse, an important development in the anti-Vietnam War struggle. Hats off to those bygone anti-war fighters.


I commented on the need to change strategies in the fight against the war in Iraq on this site in September during the lead up to the Petreaus/Crocker reports. That was also a time when it had become clear that the various parliamentary maneuvers linking war appropriation approval to timetabled withdrawals by the Democratic-led Congress had fizzled. This week as Congress winds up its sorry session the same comments seem as appropriate as ever. Sad to say, I need merely update that commentary here as the main points still apply. That said, the song remains the same- U. S. Out of Iraq and Afghanistan Now.



It is very nice to be able to periodically run old George W. Bush through with a rhetoric spear and Thursday night's speech to the nation (referring to the speech Bush made in September in response to the Petreaus/Crocker reports- Markin 12/20) has once again taken us nicely down ‘neo-con’ memory lane with a certain flourish. Some things no matter how one packages them defy changing. I will admit I will miss the ‘old boy’ as a target when he is gone. Not as much as I miss his puppet master, Karl Rove, but I will miss him nevertheless. After almost seven years George Bush, however, is just too ‘soft’ a target and it is no longer ‘clever’ as sign of political sophistication to make hay from that source in order to end this damn war. Christ, my mother, a life long ‘bleeding heart’ conservative Catholic Republican, is taking potshots at him. If one is looking for parliamentary targets as obstacles in the struggle to immediately end this war the Congressional Democrats are more tempting. (Their okaying 70 billion dollars for Iraq this week, the week of December 18th, without a whimper only painfully highlights that impotence). They deserve it because in the end they knew, or should have known, better than to go along with the Bush agenda in Iraq in the early days.

However, after all the parliamentary wrangling and bleeding over the floor of Congress this spring on the war budget it is almost no longer fun to rip the establishment Democrats for their weak-kneed policy either. Even if Senator Reed, in response, last night (the Democratic answer to Bush’s September speech) made the right parliamentary points the sad reality is those policies on not funding the war are not going to happen. Moreover, here is the hard reality. A Democratic Party consensus appears to be forming that in the likelihood of a Democratic presidential victory in 2008 (most likely by a centrist) troop limits will not drop off significantly under that presidency and will remain in Iraq for ….. (Fill in the blank). In capsule form there are three prongs to that strategy 1. Avoid genocide and ‘ethnic cleansing’ in Iraq; 2. Cut off safe havens for Al Queda in the region 3. Counter and contain Iranian influence in the region. That, my friends, is realpolitik, Democratic style. To these eyes that means many troops for many years. End of story. (Lately, in the frenzy of the presidential campaign leading up to next months Iowa caucuses, Iraq as an issue has fallen beneath the newspaper fold).

Well, where the hell does that leave serious anti-war militants? Our slogan is for Immediate Unconditional Withdrawal. That means today (if not yesterday). Does anything said recently by any politician of note even touch on that? They are all backpedaling using the huge logistical problems to, in practice, negate the impact of that slogan. We need another strategy if we are to win this battle against the war. The long and short of it is looking for parliamentary solutions and depending on the ‘good graces’ of anti-war Democrats has had its day. I have been advocating for over a year on my blog site American Left History that we change the axis of our political struggle and form anti-war soldiers and sailors solidarity committees in order to link up with the rank and file troops and lead us to an end of the war. A couple of years ago that would have seemed somewhat far- fetched, and may strike some readers here as far too radical today, however it comes closer to political wisdom for the left than those tired old parliamentary maneuvers we have witnessed all this year. Let me make one historical point in defense of my position. When the deal goes down on the question of war and peace the only time that war stops in the ‘people’s’ interest is when the soldiers themselves put down their arms. In modern times I would refer the reader to World War I, the Russian Revolution and the American experience in the latter parts of the Vietnam War. Give some thought to this proposition. (Even my proposition has lost some of its potential as American casualty levels and the smell of ‘victory’ in Baghdad have made the troops less receptive to anti-war efforts-Markin 12/20.) More, much more on this later.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

*The Streets Were Not for Dreaming, Part II- The Struggle Against The Nixon Juggernaut

Click on the headline to link to a "Wikipedia" entry for the Chicago democratic Convention in 1968.


Nixon Agonistes: The Crisis of the Self-Made Man, Garry Wills, New American Library, New York, 1969

The English poet and Cromwellian revolutionary John Milton had his Samson struggling against forces that he did not understand and that in the end he was unable to overcome. Professor Wills in his seminal contemporaneous study of the career through his successful run in 1968, up close and personal, of one Richard Milhous Nixon, former President of the United, common criminal and currently resident of one of Dante’s Circles of Hell tries to place the same spin on the vices and virtues of this modern “Everyman”.

Wills takes us through Nixon’s hard scrabble childhood, the formative Quaker background in sunny California, the post World War II start of Nixon’s rapidly advancing hard anti-communist political career, his defeats for president in 1960 by John Kennedy and for California governor in 1962 by Pat Brown and his resurrection in 1968 against Democrat Hubert H. Humphrey. And through his discourse, as is his habit, Professor Wills seemingly writes about every possible interpretation of his rise to power and what Nixon symbolized on the American political landscape. If one has a criticism of Wills it is exactly this sociological overkill to make a point but make your own judgment on this one as you read through this tract.

However, as well written and well researched as this exposition is it will just not wash. Nixon knew what the score was at all times and in all places so that unlike old Samson there was no question of his not understanding. As Wills points out Nixon had an exceptional grasp of the ‘dark side’ of the American spirit in the middle third of the 20th century and he pumped that knowledge for all it was worth. Moreover, rather than cry over his self-imposed fate one should understand that Nixon liked it that way. There is no victim here of overwhelming and arbitrary circumstances clouding his fate.

It is perhaps hard for those who were not around then, or older folks who have forgotten, just what Nixon meant as a villainous political target to those of us of the Generation of 68 for all that was wrong with American political life (although one Lyndon Johnson gave him a run for his money as demon-in-chief). Robert Kennedy had it very eloquently right, as he did on many occasions, when he said that Richard Nixon represented the ‘dark side of the American spirit’. For those who believe that all political evil started with the current President George W. Bush, think again. Nixon was the ‘godfather’ of the current ilk. Some have argued that in retrospect compared to today’s ravenous beasts that Nixon’s reign was benign. Believe that at your peril. Just to be on the safe side let’s put another stake through his heart. And read this book to get an idea of what a representative of a previous generation of political evil looked like.

Although the Nixon saga is the central story that drives this book Professor Wills, as is his wont, has a lot more to say about the nature of those times. He takes some interesting side trips into earlier days in California where Nixon grew up. He draws a direct line on the various other personalities like Nelson Rockefeller, George Romney (Mitt’s father) and a younger Ronald Reagan who fought Nixon for the Republican presidential nomination in 1968. He gives an interesting overview of the state of liberal and radical thought during 1968 and how the tensions between them were fought out at the Democratic Convention and in the streets of Chicago.

Wills also tries to draw out the meaning of the virulent George Wallace independent third party campaign and how that kept everyone on their toes on the question of law and order the code word then, and today, for race. In short, Professor Wills has enclosed the Nixon story in a hug sociological and political survey of the times. Some of his observations had momentary importance; some have a more lasting value. Others seem rather beside the point. Collectively, however, they give a helpful history of the key year 1968 in America. The proof is in the pudding. The ‘culture wars’ on the nature of personal rights, political expression and lifestyle choices that we have been fighting for the past forty years have their genesis in this time. Give this book a good, hard look if you want to know what that was all about by someone who covered many of the events closely.

Victory to the Kurdish Workers Party (PKK)!

As I write this commentary the Turks are already bombing and sending foot soldiers over the border to Iraq in pursuit of PKK militants. It is the duty of every leftist to stand in solidarity with the PKK and call for their military victory over Turkey. Below I have republished a commentary from earlier this fall that highlights the central question at issue. I would add one supplementary note to the commentary below that would change our attitude a liitle toward the Iraqi Kurds in the present situation. To the extent that they militarily support and defend the PKK in Northern Iraq we call for their defense against the Turks as well. That position might change if American troops intervene directly in the north.



The minute one enters into the murky waters of Middle East politics one is immediately confronted with words like, insolvable, daunting, and hopeless. If there is one area of the world that cries out for a multi-nationally derived socialist solution it is this benighted area. Practically speaking, however, that prospect is music for the future. Nevertheless some programmatic points can be put forth today that will cut across the racial, ethnic and religious divides that lead one to use the above-mentioned words of despair. One such point is not even a socialist point per se- the question of a nation’s right to self determination. Yes, that question is off the table for those nations that have already established their right to it by force of arms, or otherwise. However, in the case of the interpenetrated peoples of the Middle East some real nations have been left on the sidelines. In no case is this clearer than with the Kurds, the largest coherent population without a state of their own.

Recent headlines have highlighted this question point blank as Turkey, one of the four nations along with Syria, Iraq and Iran in the region that have significant Kurdish populations, has attempted to solve its Kurdish ‘problem’, as in the past, by militarily annihilating various guerilla operations wherever they crop up- here across the border in neighboring Iraq. I make no pretense that this solves all the questions of this area in regard to the Kurdish situation, for example, militants do not today raise the right of national self-determination for Kurds in Iraq who have consciously subordinated themselves to American imperialism but the beginning of wisdom today is to defend those guerilla forces, mainly the Kurdish Workers Party, in their fight against their national oppressor-Turkey. More, much more on this situation as it unfolds but for now the prospective slogan is –For the right to national self-determination for the Kurds in Turkey. For the future- A United Kurdistan.

The Second Amendment- The Right To Revolution


A few weeks ago the United States Supreme Court decided to take a case, to be heard in the spring of 2008, involving the question of interpretation of the Second Amendment right to bear arms. Despite the continuing overwhelming proliferation of guns and other armament in individual hands in this country the question of the meaning of the ambiguously phrased amendment has not faced much federal litigation in the lower courts and very, very seldom at the Supremes, the last case being heard in the late 1930’s over machine guns. The issue to be decided, if it is, is whether the amendment confers an individual right to bear arms, with or without restrictions, or whether it is a collective right to security by the maintenance of armed forces, in this case, citizen militias. The early betting is that the conservative court will hold that the right is individual but that like other amendments in the Bill of Rights, such as those that guarantee free speech and assembly, the government has the right to make reasonable restrictions on that right. Thus a whole new field of litigation will be opened up until somewhere down the road there is settled law on the issue.

That this issue was helped along through the judicial pipeline by the well greased efforts of a right wing businessman who wanted to test the waters only adds intrigue the question and demonstrates once again the proposition that when it comes to American justice you better have good lawyers and plenty of ready cash. Despite the source of the case’s origin, despite the probable outcome of the case and despite the ravings of the National Rifle Association and other gun aficiados socialists would welcome a legal interpretation that establishes an individual right to bear arms. However, like many issues that are not necessarily of our own making we have our own distinct rationale for our position. We see the issue in the context of the right to revolution. As the case develops I will have additional commentary from this angle as the arguments are heard and the decision made next year.