How much of your tax payment this year would you like to allocate for waterboarding in Iraq or an invasion of Iran? Around the world, people are puzzled as to why the U.S. public allows the Bush administration to wage illegal wars and usurp our power. Why do we tolerate it and continue to pay for it?
Over the past year, millions of U.S. citizens have voted, lobbied, marched, and taken direct action to end the war in Iraq. Courageous soldiers, such as members of Iraq Veterans Against the War, have taken the risk to speak out. Yet Congress continues to appropriate billions of dollars for the war.
How do we up the ante of resistance? It is time for taxpayers who oppose this war to join together in nonviolent civil disobedience and show Congress how to cut off the funds for this war and redirect resources to the pressing needs of people. Chris Hedges wrote in The Nation, "I will not pay my income tax if we go to war with Iran... I will go to court to challenge the legality of the war."
On this anniversary of the Boston Tea Party, a coalition of anti-war activists is calling on individuals to sign a pledge to resist payment of a portion of their taxes. Our pledge states, "When I am joined by 100,000 other U.S. taxpayers, I will join in an act of mass civil disobedience and refuse to the portion of my taxes that pays the U.S. military occupation of Iraq and Afghanistan." We are aiming for April 15th.
Former Secretary of State Alexander Haig once said, "Let them march all they want, as long as they pay their taxes." And he was right. We can march all we want, but if we cooperate with the funding of the war, we are culpable. There is a great tradition of war tax resistance in the United States. During the Mexican-American War that began in 1846, Henry David Thoreau refused payment of war taxes and called on others to join him in resistance. "If a thousand people were not to pay their tax bills this year, that would not be a violent and bloody measure, as it would be to pay them, and enable the State to commit violence and shed innocent blood."
When Ralph Waldo Emerson visited Thoreau in jail, he asked the author of Walden, "Henry, what are doing in there?" Thoreau responded, "Ralph, what are you doing out there?"
Our statement is not against taxation or government. Many of us will continue to pay a portion of our taxes that support the vital functions of government. But we will hold in escrow or redirect the portion of our war taxes to humanitarian aid projects and projects such as those providing relief to survivors of Hurricane Katrina or supporting the Iraqi refugees who are victims of our disastrous war.
Some might suspect that tax resistance is symbolic and futile. But we want to purposely put a cog in the machine of war tax collection. We believe it will lead to a deepening of opposition as tens of thousands of people say, "I can no longer in good conscience pay for these acts by my government." Mass war tax resistance, on the scale proposed, has never been done in the U.S. The tradition of civil disobedience involves breaking a law in favor of a higher law. It is a statement of non-cooperation with illegitimate authority. There are people for whom this will not be an option or an appropriate expression of resistance. We hope that each of us will consider what additional action and sacrifice we will make to end this war.
As Chris Hedges explained his reasons for tax refusal, "I have friends in Tehran, Gaza, Beirut, Baghdad, Jerusalem and Cairo. They will endure far greater suffering and deprivation. I want to be able, once the slaughter is over, to at least earn the right to ask for their forgiveness." The world and history will judge us by how vigorously we resist the illegal and immoral war tactics of the Bush Administration. My husband, friends and I have decided we can't pay for war anymore. What are you doing out there?
Jodie Evans is co-founder CODEPINK: Women for Peace. They are launching this campaign on the anniversary of the Boston Tea Party. To learn more about the campaign and view the pledge, visit: www.dontbuybushswar.org