Sunday, May 07, 2006

Fear-Mongering and War-Mongering Go Hand-In-Hand

A Short-Term Antidote May Be A General Strike

Bob Burnett asks today,
What Can We Do About Iraq and Iran? He begins by rhetorically repeating a key question I have seen asked on a number pundits, including conservatives'.
It's important to ask why has the resistance to the war in Iraq been ineffective?
Part of the reason, commonly offered, parallels what I have come to call as Pekka's Complaint:
...that even in a war you are not really in it the way the rest of the world's population finds itself during a war.

Enemy for you is somebody on the other side of the world who's existence you weren't even aware before hostilities broke out. Your civilians don't have to run to shelters because of bombing of your cities. You can keep on living exactly the way you did before the war and you don't have to cut back on stuffing your guts with plentiful of food that else where disappears sometimes for years. Outside the military families, there hardly seem to be any sacrifices that are demanded of you. Correct me if I am wrong, but you even got some tax breaks lately. Well, I am not 100% sure but this must be the first time in the recorded history. Wars made easy, wouldn't you agree?
It's hard not to agree; it's universally acknowledged that the burden of this Iraqi war has not been generally born by our population as a whole, i.e. by the institution of higher taxes and military conscription.

But what has been widely and deeply disseminated throughout our national community is fear. As Burnett says,

The answer is fear. Before the invasion, Americans were recovering from collective post-traumatic-stress disorder. We'd had the beejeebers frightened out of us by 9/11. The Bush Administration played on this anxiety. The White House propaganda machine convinced a majority of Americans that Saddam Hussein was allied with Osama bin Laden, was responsible for the attacks, and was an imminent threat to attack again. Over time this false impression eroded. Today, Americans are not as fearful as they were in 2003. And, George Bush is no longer the trusted leader he was at the time he beat the drums for war in Iraq.

Indeed, there has been such a shift against the war in Iraq that it seems unlikely that Bush can play the fear card again.
Except for the fact that he appears to be trying to do just that. The Bush-Cheney-Rumsfeld regime appears to be bent on persuading (in Burnett's words),
a majority of Americans that an attack on Iran is a good idea, particularly if that attack involves the use of nuclear weapons.
An increasingly progressive Democratic party is - we hope and trust - uniting behind candidates which can clearly offer independent voters a clear choice and opportunity to rip the control of Congress from the hands of the war-mongering and corrupting Republicans. All we have to do is make it to this November? Burnett:
The next six months loom as a pivotal period in US history. We'll have an election to determine whether or not the Bush juggernaut rolls on unimpeded.
But what happens if Rove and Cheney decide Bush's best legacy bet is to stampede the electorate again? What if they decide to freak us all out by bombing Iran this October?

Burnett's proposal is to weigh the possibilities for a general strike.


This is not a wild and wide-eyed idea as it might seem. The political consciousness of Americans seems to be awakening. As Burnett points out, anger about gasoline prices has been set in motion for a boycott on Exxon-Mobil. And the whole nation was surprised by the recent instantaneous combustion over immigration reform. The polarizing quality of this issue alarmed many; but what I find intriguing is that it crossed the great divide between Democrats and Republicans. The words "boycott" and "mass demonstration" are not as alien to our fellow citizens as they were a year ago.

Burnett says one more word needs to be introduced, Strike:

In the past few decades, strikes have been relatively rare in the US. They've usually been local actions associated with trade-union wage and benefit issues. Historically, the general strike has been an effective vehicle for protest, "widespread stoppage of workers in an attempt to bring the economic life of a given area to a more or less complete standstill in order to achieve certain desired objectives." There hasn't been a general strike in the US for more than fifty years. However, within the last decade, there have been effective general strikes in other countries. November 1, 2004, there was such a strike in the Ukraine, protesting election fraud, the "Orange Revolution." And there've been numerous examples in France, most recently a general strike protesting a proposed change in the country's youth employment laws.
And consider this carefully:

Several conditions combine to produce an effective general strike: a widespread perception that the government, or an industry, has acted unfairly; a broad-based coalition that includes workers as well as activists; and an action focus.

In France, that focus has typically been the transportation system. In December 2005, there was a three-day transit strike in New York City affecting millions of commuters and thousands of businesses.

What could arouse our so-called conservative American culture?

....if President Bush were to do something outrageous, such as use nuclear weapons against Iran, this could become the spark that ignites a general strike. There would be a widespread perception that the White House had acted irrationally, against the common good. This could produce a broad-based coalition that unites workers, activists, and groups aggrieved by the Administration, such as immigrants. All that would be needed is an action focus.

A logical target for a general strike would be commercial transportation, particularly the boat, rail, and truck lines that handle cargo containers. America is a "just-in-time" society, where many businesses depend upon an uninterrupted steam of deliveries. Even a two-day disruption in the national transportation network would have huge consequences for the economy. Impact that would be noticed not only by the White House and the national media, but also by the commercial power elite. A general strike might goad Wall Street to rein in the White House and produce significant change.

In these perilous times, it's important to send a clear message to the Bush gang: Americans value democracy and are prepared to defend it. Sending this message means getting out of our living rooms and into the streets.

Boys and girls, I sense we are on the cusp of a palpable and propitious volatility in our nation.

3 Moderated Comments:

Blogger Malfrat said...

I think it is important to emphasize that Burnett is not alluding to Georges Sorel's use of the myth of the general strike as some kind of path to the destruction of the current capitalist order, leading to socialism or some other notion of utopia. Burnett's meaning, as I read him, is a last-minute, stop-gap measure to deter Bushies from promulgating a stampede of the electorate by bombing Iran and becoming a war-time president, thrice-over.

As Vigil says, just to get us to November.

5/08/2006 09:29:00 AM  
Blogger the WIZARD, fkap said...

You've posted a thought provoking and thoughtful re-enterpretation of Burnett's essay.

Your words end up making much more sense than Burnett's own suggestions. You give him much more credit than he deserves.

And thank you for reading and commenting on my blog which tangentally addressed the same Burnett essay.

5/18/2006 11:02:00 PM  
Blogger Vigilante said...

Thanks for the read!

5/19/2006 07:04:00 AM  

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