'Fill The Jails', Part II

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CommonDreams.org

'Fill The Jails', Part II

by
Sean Gonsalves

Part I of this essay was published on Saturday, May 19, 2007.

"Nonviolence is a universal principle and its operation is not limited by a hostile environment. Indeed, its efficacy can be tested only when it acts in the midst of an in spite of opposition. Our nonviolence would be a hollow thing and worth nothing, if it depended for its success on the goodwill of the authorities." - Gandhi

The GOP front runners gunning for the White House in '08 were trying to one-up each other on torture at a "debate" two weeks ago.

Former New York Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani said interrogators should use "any method they can think of," while former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney not only supported "enhanced interrogation techniques" - the contemporary euphemism for torture - he proposed doubling the size of the detention facility in Guantanamo Bay.

McCain's support for prolonging the illegitimate occupation of Iraq aside, he's the one torture hold out.

"When I was in Vietnam, one of the things that sustained us as we. . .underwent torture ourselves, is the knowledge that if we had our positions reversed and we were the captors, we would not impose that kind of treatment on them. It's not about the terrorists; it's about us. It's about what kind of country we are."

I suppose we should give McCain a little credit for his anti-torture stance, but, given his support for the "surge," which flies in the face of all the historical evidence that tells us there's NO military solution to guerrilla insurgencies, short of genocide, he's a far cry from USMC Maj. Smedley Butler who warned us in 1935 that "War Is a Racket."

Butler wrote about his 33 years of active military service, spending "most of (his) time as a high class muscle man for Big Business, for Wall Street and the bankers. In short, I was a racketeer, a gangster for capitalism."

High class muscle is what made Mexico "safe" for American oil interests in 1914. It made Haiti and Cuba "a decent place" for National City Bank to do business.

"I helped in the raping of half a dozen Central American republics for the benefit of Wall Street," Butler continued.

"I helped purify Nicaragua for the International Banking House of Brown Brothers in 1902-1912. I brought light to the Dominican Republic for the American sugar interests in 1916. I helped make Honduras right for the American fruit companies in 1903. In China in 1927 I helped see to it that Standard Oil went on its way unmolested."

You won't get that kind of candor in American politics today, including the Dems, save Kucinich.

A Democrat-controlled Congress "compromises" with no troop withdrawal and more money for an immoral and illegal occupation?!

As I was saying last week, you can't expect a chicken to produce a duck egg, which is why massive civil disobedience seems to be the only way to send the message the political ruling class should have got from the mid-term elections.

The nonviolent tactical question I raised was "fill the jails" - gum up the gears of the system to the point of gridlock.

I got tons of response from across the political spectrum and the responses affirmed two things:

1) Many, many people think our democratic system is broke and 2), we need an education curriculum that includes the long and successful history of nonviolent direct action because the ignorance of the basic philosophy, as preached and practiced by people most Americans either worship (Jesus) or say they admire (Thoreau, Tolstoy, Gandhi, and King), is astounding.

(Of course, I received a few unoriginal smart-ass responses suggesting I go to jail first, by myself. That would be cool and all except that it misses the point of massive direct action).

"Fill the jails" wouldn't work, I'm told, because the government, in partnership with the private prison industry, would just build more jails and do horrible things to those arrested.

I raised the prospect of filling the jails, not the prisons. Two completely different things. That said, a crack down on nonviolent direct action is pretty much the point. Nonviolent direct action usually does provoke the powers-that-be to respond with repression. You think those on the front lines of the Civil Rights Movement were having a tea party?

"First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win," is how Gandhi put it.

While repression is the predictable response of authorities, that's not an argument for why "fill the jails" would not be effective. It's an argument for why more courage is needed and a call for more than mere letter-writing, vigils and symbolic protests.

That's what Gandhi was talking about when he said "nonviolence and cowardice go ill together. I can imagine a fully armed man to be at heart a coward. Possession of arms implies an element of fear, if not cowardice. But true nonviolence is an impossibility without the possession of unadulterated fearlessness."

If America's true patriots aren't willing to organize on a massive scale, then we had better get used to business as usual.

Let's suppose a million-plus people - including women, children and the elderly - show up in the nation's capital or New York City and shut the entire place down with the stated intention of not leaving until the U.S. occupation of Iraq comes to an end.

While those brave folks necks would be on the line, think about the network of relationships (friends, family and acquaintances) tied to those million-plus demonstrators who WILL NOT just let their loved ones slip into some "enemy combatant" black hole.

The powers-that-be are forced to make a decision: either we capitulate to the demands or we go Tiananmen Square on our own countrymen and women and completely destroy whatever remaining moral legitimacy this government may have.

"Fill the jails" may not be the right tactic but nothing short of that level of commitment will make a difference.

If America's true patriots aren't willing to organize on a massive scale, then we had better get used to business as usual.

Sean Gonsalves is a Cape Cod Times staff writer and a syndicated columnist. E-mail him at sgonsalves@capecodonline.com.

© 2007 The Cape Cod Times

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