We're fired up! Won't make no war!

"Keep the heat on!" said Barbara Lee, the fighting Black Congresswoman from Oakland, speaking to a crowd of at least 50,000, in San Francisco.

"Pre-emptive, one-bullet diplomacy, we cannot resort to that," Rev. Jesse Jackson told a rally of 100,000 at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, in Washington. "This is going to be an ugly, unnecessary fight. Most of the world is saying 'no' to it."

"No Proof, No War," "Bush Sucks," and "Pre-emptive Impeachment," read the placards of the people drawn to rallies on both coasts by A.N.S.W.E.R., Act Now to Stop War & End Racism.

Not until 1967 did a previous generation mount such large demonstrations against the Vietnam War - a full three years after passage of the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution, the congressional mandate built on lies no more nor less fantastic than those told by George Bush every time he opens his mouth. President Lyndon Johnson used the resolution to land Marines in Danang in 1965, the first large-scale U.S. troop movement into Vietnam, and to begin massive bombing of the North.

The Gulf of Tonkin Resolution passed with only two dissenting votes in the Senate and one in the House. 58,000 Americans and 3 million Vietnamese died.

This time around, with U.S. troop supplies and armaments in place throughout the Middle East, Central Asia and the Indian Ocean, two-thirds of Democrats in the House said "No" to Bush, and an antiwar movement is up and running.

There is another historical comparison to be made, here. Black youth were among the earliest opponents of the Vietnam War, most notably the troops of SNCC, the Student Non-violent Coordinating Committee. Older voices counseled against raising the war issue, claiming it would expose the movement to charges of foreign influence and lack of patriotism. Black people could not struggle on two fronts, much of the old guard cautioned. They embraced Johnson and his war, hoping to be embraced back. In the process, the elders of the National Urban League, the NAACP and the backward elements of the clergy lost the respect of a generation of Black youth, who would be transformed by the war abroad and militant struggle at home.

SNCC communications director Julian Bond turned the civil rights-only argument on its head: If you cannot speak Truth to Power, why struggle for the trappings of power? Elected to the Georgia legislature in 1965, at age 25, Bond was ejected for his and SNCC's stand against the draft:

We recoil with horror at the inconsistency of a supposedly 'free' society where responsibility to freedom is equated with the responsibility to lend oneself to military aggression. We take note of the fact that 16 per cent of the draftees of this country are Negroes called on to stifle the liberation of Viet Nam, to preserve a 'democracy' which does not exist for them at home.

The Black voters of Atlanta re-elected Bond, and the U.S. Supreme Court forced state lawmakers to seat him.

Since Reconstruction, Blacks had been denied representation in the Georgia legislature. Bond was among the first African Americans to return to those chambers. He owed his constituents and ancestors his full vote, not just the mere presence of a compromised seat-warmer. His victory was one of the finest hours in Black American electoral politics.

On October 10, four members of the Congressional Black Caucus soiled the proud Black legacy of struggle for peace and justice. Representatives Harold Ford, Jr. (D-TN), Albert Wynn (D-MD), William Jefferson (D-LA) and Sanford Bishop (D-GA) joined hands with the forces of permanent war. They gave George Bush his Gulf of Tonkin resolution; it dirties the mind to speculate on the terms of whatever bargain was struck. Possibly, these men had a dialogue between only themselves and their own cowardice, or avarice, or stupidity. But they will surely be repudiated by history - and soon; events are moving far faster than four decades ago.

NAACP opposes Bush on Iraq

The NAACP's board of directors has placed the organization in firm opposition to George Bush's war plans. In a dramatic departure from its historic, self-imposed isolation from non-African foreign policy issues, the NAACP's board of directors unanimously endorsed a resolution of its Youth and College Division board, calling on the nation's oldest civil rights group to "express its opposition to armed conflict against the country of Iraq without our exercising all options, including but not limited to United Nations arms inspections."

The Youth board, representing members under age 25, noted the U.S. Congress's failure to pass Oakland Rep. Barbara Lee's "reasonable" resolution to Advance Peace and Security in Iraq through cooperation with the UN. Most of the Congressional Black Caucus and the non-Black members of the Progressive Congressional Caucus backed Lee's bill. Thus, the NAACP's October 19 action brings the group in line with the growing national peace movement - in stark contrast to its shameful behavior towards peace activists during the Vietnam War.

"[T]he President of the United States has not made a conclusive case for the use of deadly force in the case of Iraq," said the leaders of the youth wing. They pointed out that "African-American and other minority youth and young adults" enrolled in the military "serve at disproportionate rates to defend this country and her honor" and, "African-American and other minority youth disproportionately serve as lower ranking officers and thereby function as field soldiers, continually placed in harms way in the front lines of war efforts."

NAACP youth plan to "host town hall meetings on campuses across the country to gauge and express student sentiment regarding armed conflict with the country of Iraq."

As one highly-place, older NAACP figure remarked to BC, "We are slow, but sure."

Murder's mental womb

The DC snipers' pathological, race-neutral murders should carry only one political message: the insanity of gun availability in the U.S. Yet the Bush men can probably count on many delusional Americans to link one African American Muslim's derangement to both his race and religion. In this perverse sense, the popular American psyche is as contorted as that of the sniper's. Simmering, collective insecurities distill into oozing hatred. White America is, in general, hallucinatory, inhabiting a world of perceived insults, assaults, tormentors - and targets. People who are afflicted by such demons want desperately to feel that they are in control. They lash out at the innocent in "self-defense."

Racist murderers in camouflage patrol the border areas of Arizona, death squads under benign names like "Ranch Rescue." Two uniformed men attacked a dozen illegal aliens in the desert near Ed Rock, in mid-October, killing two migrants with automatic weapons fire and wounding a third. Nine other illegals are unaccounted for. The surviving witness swears the group was assaulted by soldiers.

Local law enforcement pretends that people-smugglers, called "coyotes," may be to blame for the Ed Rock killings and the execution-style murders of at least six Mexicans in the desert west of Phoenix, over the course of the summer. Yet coyotes dress to match the migrants in their charge; the camouflage wearers belong to armed civilian groups like the "American Border Patrol," which seizes every Mexican unable to give a satisfactory reason for being on this side of the border. American Border Patrol founder Glenn Spencer operates with impunity. "I'm not interested in enforcing the law," he brags.

Fellow vigilante Roger Barnett - owner of a 22,000-acre ranch - claims that he and his brother Donald have detained 8,000 illegal immigrants over the past four and a half years. His "Ranch Rescue" gang portrays itself as the patriotic first line of defense against "these invasions from Mexico."

Barnett distributes brochures inviting citizens from across the U.S. to "come and stay at the ranches and help keep trespassers from destroying private property."

Mexican hunting is in season all year long.

Murder, kidnapping and assault - in self-defense, of course. Rich men in full battle gear, claiming to be terrified of those they terrorize. All this is somehow rational, reasonable behavior to many American minds, firm in the belief that the darker races of mankind are criminal, and that they are the victims.

Follow their logic and you will find the true citadel of the "terror" that haunts their imaginations: Mexico. One day, men like Barnett and Spencer will cause the fulfillment of their own prophecies. The America that condones savage murder of poor people in the desert will feel victimized, yet again.

The terrorist network called the Aryan Brotherhood specializes in murder, drug dealing, prostitution, extortion - every crime under the sun. It has close ties with armed White Christians who rob banks for a living, periodically go on maim-and-murder sprees targeting non-whites, and occasionally bomb buildings. Timothy McVeigh ran with this crowd, which numbers in the tens of thousands; has operated for decades in broad, bold daylight from rural outposts known to even the passing tourist; openly vows to destroy the U.S. government by force; and preaches genocide against fellow American citizens.

On October 18, federal prosecutors in Los Angeles patted themselves on the back for indicting 40 Aryans for at least 16 murders and numerous attempted murders and assaults, directed from behind bars. The Brotherhood virtually rules the white populations of many prisons, but the wealth of this criminal enterprise is generated outside the walls. In short, the Aryan Brotherhood and its associates constitute a criminal and political network with tentacles that spread mayhem and death across the nation. Its victims are the American public, their laws, property and institutions: our "way of life."

However, the Aryan Brotherhood, which strikes terror in many hearts, is not "terrorist" - by the reckoning of people like Attorney General John Ashcroft and George Bush. Rather, the threat from the Aryan Brotherhood and various white, Christian outlaws is confronted by "normal" means, through the slow and cumbersome processes sanctioned by the U.S. Constitution. It took years of investigation to arrive at the October indictments of 40 brazen, tattooed, white American warlords, any of whom would find good company and a round of beers among the vigilantes of Arizona's American Border Patrol and Ranch Rescue. Eight of the Aryans are fugitives; they might be hanging at the ranch, right now.

Recent U.S. history - not conspiracy theory - tells us that lists are being compiled and updated, designating individuals, organizations and vague "associations" for surveillance, detention and more, in the event of a terror-related "national emergency." Constitutional norms will not apply; history has taught us that, as well.

We also know with reasonable certainty that the fugitive Aryans will not be on any of these lists. Nor will their ideological and racial brethren among the militias, klans and assorted racist networks.

No plea for mercy is intended in pointing out the obvious fact that John Allen Williams Muhammad is mentally ill, a psychopath with a juvenile sidekick, who represents only his own, sick self. Yet, to many American minds, this central reality is immaterial. Williams became Muhammad and protected Farrakhan. That is enough to launch a million white nightmares, and justify future atrocities in the looming, domestic War on Terror.

African Americans and Muslims had every right to shudder when the sniper suspects' pictures flashed across TV screens. Surname and color count for everything in the United Delusional States.

Media compassion for Iraqi prisoners

The corporate media showed rare compassion for prisoners half a world away, as Saddam Hussein emptied his jails in a general amnesty. Television outlets that have not explored an American prison since the Attica rebellion of 1971 were aghast at conditions inside Saddam's "gulag." Reporters inflected the numbers "150,000" - unnamed "human rights" group estimates of the Iraqi prison population - as if that were a horrifically outsized mass of captive humanity for a nation of 22 million. The ethnic composition of the Iraqi inmate population was cause for grave concern among the corporate press. Kurds and Shi'ite Muslims suffered disproportionately at the hands of Hussein's Sunnis, the media lamented, without providing figures.

If Hussein's prisoners did, indeed, number 150,000, Iraq's incarceration rate was one out of every 147 Iraqi men, women and children. At any given time, 1.3 million Americans are behind bars - by far the highest rate in the industrial world. However, 6.6 million Americans are either imprisoned or otherwise under supervision by the correctional system, most of them on probation or parole. And of those on parole, 40% will go back to prison for violations. More than half of those on probation have been convicted of felonies.

The American "gulag" dwarfs Hussein's: one out of every 44 Americans of all ages and races is under some kind of correctional supervision, more than three times the Iraqi incarceration rate. (Iraq does not have a probation or parole system.)

Blacks are five times more likely to be in jail than whites, and twice as likely as Hispanics. We can only hope that, relatively speaking, Kurds and Shi'ites were not as badly treated by the Iraqi criminal justice system.

None of these facts matter to the U.S. corporate media, who have as little interest in Americans in prison as they do Iraqis of whatever ethnicity.

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Issue Number 15
November 4, 2002





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Other commentaries in this issue:

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution’s Bogus Election "Study"
Black Majette vote grossly inflated, analysis reveals By Bruce A. Dixon, Associate Editor

Guest Commentary 1
Harvard Professor Lambasts THE CRISIS Editor
Martin Kilson says magazine bolsters NAACP foe

Guest Commentary 2
Land Struggles and Democracy in Zimbabwe
by Chris Lowe

Wellstone: The best of them all

Politics Trumps Religion:
Bush’s Faith-Based Initiative
By Barbara Miner

Belafonte’s courage
Race and war hysteria
Baraka’s verse
Unpaid debt in Zimbabwe

Commentaries in Issue 14 October 17 , 2002:

Permanent War: Permanent State of Emergency

Trojan Horse Watch: Bob Johnson’s message invades Black radio...Rep. Harold Ford: mess of the blue dog...The Trojan Horse TV show

Briefs:The Four Eunuchs of War...The most dangerous game...Smack, Blow, and Blowback...Lethally stupid and more...

IRAQ, WAR & COLOR RACISM: By Dr. David Graham Du Bois, Guest Commentator

A Jewish Peace Activist on Baraka’s Poem: Urban Legends by Rachael Kamel, Guest Commentator

e-MailBox: The Real Rosa Parks...NAACP challenged on war...Plato and the Emperor George...Deceitful billionaire busted...Anglo-Saxon alarmed

RE-PRINT: Harry Belafonte on Colin Powell...CNN Larry King Live Interview with Belafonte

Interview: Educate and Advocate - Henry Nicholas on social justice in America

You can read any past issue of The Black Commentator in its entirety by going to the Past Issues page.