Thursday, March 29, 2007

NJ Occupation Project on BlueJersey

I've been working with the NJ Occupation Project a little bit, planning for the actions Tuesday and today around Senators Lautenbergs and Menendez' votes on the war funding.

Five activists were arrested at the Gateway Center on Tuesday. More likely to be arrested today. The link goes to a post at BlueJersey called "Don't Free the Newark Five."

My response, posted there and here:


I participated in several of the organizing meetings for the New Jersey Occupation Project, aka the Newark Five, and loaned them one of the bells they've used to punctuate their readings of the names of the dead, but I'm not writing on behalf of the group. These are my personal views.
I fully support what the group is doing, although when push came to shove I decided not to risk arrest, for both personal and political reasons.

During planning several purposes were discussed. Also,the planned series of events is not over. It began with delivery of the pledges to vote against further funding to both offices about 10 days ago, to be followed by Tuesday's visit to Lautenberg's office to insist upon a signed pledge, followed by a second visit tomorrow to Menendez' office for a similar sit-in action.

One purpose for the action is the hope - which almost all the NJ folks admit is far-fetched - that the Senators' awareness that people are willing to risk arrest to make the point that the war must end, might change the Senators' views and votes on the war and the funding of the war.
I think this view is espoused most passionately and articulately by the members of the Occupation group who represent Military Families Speak Out: large groups of MFSO people have already met with both Senators repeatedly and been given hollow assurances to "just trust me," while their loved ones have spent time in, are in, or may soon go back to, the bloody mess in Iraq. Their patience has run out.

A second purpose for the action is to broaden public awareness of 1) the brutal failure of the war, 2) Democratic ownership of the war, now that they have refused to filibuster (with 41 Senators) to end the war or stop funding the war with language like the Lee Amendment (CounterPunch has done good pieces on these options), and 3) the presence of a large and frustrated American majority who want the war and occupation and privatization stopped immediately and the troops brought home, not funding for another year or two, or three.

This public awareness is to be achieved in two ways: the actual visible and audible presence of the protestors in public places related to the Senators, and the generation of press coverage by the arrests.

One of my main concerns about the passage of last week's House bill - full funding with non-binding, unenforceable timetables and readiness provisions that can be overcome with a waiver - is that President Bush might not veto it after all, and then he'll have a whole lot more money to kill a whole lot more people and broaden the mess inside and beyond Iraq and Afghanistan PLUS expanded Democratic complicity; to me, it makes no sense to rely on the assurances of a crazy person - legislators who want the war over should vote to cut off the funding, period.

Another, strategic concern is that the media is just as vested in the continuation of the war as most of the Congress (although, as an aside, I think a real push to end the war and impeach Bush may bubble up from the Republican ranks sooner than from the Dems, because it's far more in the Republican's interest to cut the madman loose and begin rebuilding the party).

The problem, in the end, is that the media is so large and so intertwined with Congress that there appears to be no way for citizens to intervene in government policy-making and no way for citizens to go around the context and critical analysis blackout of the mainstream press. TomDispatch had a good essay on this the other day - the difference between the ultimately persuasive Vietnam activism, which still provides many of the models and participants for today's anti-war actions, and the current bipartisan political class's utter imperviousness to criticism and pressure from outside its own ideological fortress.

The Occupation Project is an authentic effort to chip away at both edifices, and as such, it's worthwhile. It's a part of the incesssant, persistent drip-drip-drip we all need to be dropping, in every imaginable way old AND new, to eat away at the foundations of both until they are either pushed in a far more accountable direction, or washed away through the convening of a new Constitutional convention or some other major nation-shaking event.


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