William Hathaway

Sabotage

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Published on the Doomstead Diner on April 28, 2016

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Discuss this article at the Collapse Narratives Table inside the Diner

 

 

Here at the Diner we're discussing the Collapse of Industrial Civilization from a variety of perspectives: survivalists, socialists, anarchists, and wildists share their approaches to the future. The following interview presents an anarchist view.

 

Saboteur

An interview with a domestic insurgent

 

From the book

RADICAL PEACE: People Refusing War

By William T. Hathaway

 

I first met the man we'll call Trucker in 1970 at a rally against the Vietnam War. Our demo was going to start on the Berkeley campus and continue with a march down Telegraph Avenue. This was shortly after the National Guard and police had murdered six demonstrators at Kent State and Jackson State, so the mood was extremely tense. The Berkeley city government had denied us a permit to march and called in police reinforcements from Oakland. The Oakland cops had a reputation for brutality (based on their treatment of the black population), and we were expecting an ugly and possibly violent confrontation. Out of fear, many people decided not to march, but others of us argued that marching was now more important than ever. We needed to defy the government's attempts to scare us into silence.

 

After speeches and music in front of Sproul Hall, we marched off the campus and were met by a wall of police sealing off Telegraph Avenue. Some of our hard-cores in front tried to break through the barrier but were clubbed down. Cops began firing what looked liked shotguns, and people started screaming and running in panic, but it turned out to be tear gas.

 

A demonstrator wearing a biker helmet, swim goggles, and a cloth around his face picked up a gas canister with gloved hands and hurled it back at the police — a classic scene of a brave individual defying tyranny. Inspired, I pulled off my old green beret that I'd been wearing and used it to protect my hands as I scooped up a hot canister and threw it back where it came from. I thought about all the grenades I'd thrown in Vietnam and felt much better about this one.

 

The first line of cops, those who were firing, wore gas masks, but those behind didn't, and I felt a surge of triumph seeing them run from their own gas. But the ones in masks kept advancing and firing, looking like robots.

 

The peace marchers fell back, fleeing down side streets. Agonized from the tear gas, I sank to my knees, hacking convulsively. My eyes were seared, nose and throat raw, skin burning. Through the tears I saw the guy in the biker helmet approaching. He helped me off the street into a doorway and pulled out a first-aid kit. From a squeeze bottle he squirted glycerin water into my eyes and nose, helped me rinse my mouth and throat with regular water from a canteen, then rubbed moist baking soda under my eyes. He was firm but gentle, like a good combat medic. I saw the cloth around his face was a towel wet with vinegar to absorb some of the gas. This man was equipped.

 

As soon as I could walk better, we straggled away from the scene. The police strategy had worked: the march was broken up, scattered in all directions. We walked down to People's Park, angry, bitter, exhausted.

 

The park was full, and no cops dared to show, although they and other agents were probably there undercover. Joints were being passed around, and we got high. Smoking grass back then had an innocence to it that it hasn't had since. Cannabis helped us to abandon the death world we saw around us and resurrect our child-selves. Stoned people were learning to play again, singing, blowing giant iridescent soap bubbles, juggling pine cones, tossing Frisbees back and forth. But under it seethed a mood of defiance and rebellion. A statement in Ramparts magazine summed up our feelings: "Alienation is when your country is at war and you want the other side to win." But I would have spelled it a-lie-nation. A group of conga drummers were playing, and their furious, insistent beat seemed to herald a rising tidal wave of protest that would sweep the militarists out of power.

 

We didn't realize it at the time, but this wasn't the beginning of the wave but its crest, and in the next years it would dwindle down. But this was better than no wave at all. It didn't sink the ship of state, but it did slosh over the deck. And now a new one is rising that may go even higher.

 

The events of the day bonded Trucker and me as friends, and although our lives took different directions after that, we stayed in touch. Years ago he went totally underground, changing his identity and location, and since then all I've had for him is a webmail address, through which we held the following interview.

 

Hathaway: Why don't you start by telling us why you became a saboteur.

 

Trucker: Well, like Jerry Garcia said, "What a long, strange trip it's been." After you went back to New York I joined an anarchist affinity group, and we worked with the Weather Underground to move demos in the direction of revolt — trashing the headquarters of war corporations, barricading the entrance to the Oakland Army Terminal, throwing rocks at the cops. By then the fuzz had refined their tactics and had special squads that would target the activists, rush into the crowd and grab the hard-cores. They clubbed me, kicked me, punched me, then charged me with assaulting a police officer. I did four months in the Alameda County Jail. Later I found out our group had been infiltrated. One guy who was always pushing us to be more violent was actually an agent. He gave them all our plans, even photos of us he'd made with a hidden camera.

 

After that I gave up on groups and since then have focused on individual guerrilla insurrection, autonome actions, monkeywrenching the machine. Especially now with the Patriot Act, that's become the safest way to work. There's a good book, Leaderless Resistance, on how to organize that without getting smashed. You can't totally prevent being infiltrated, but you can prevent the agents from knowing much.

 

Hathaway: I remember back then you were complaining about all the infiltration, and I thought you were paranoid, but it turned out you were right.

 

Trucker: Yeah, the government took our threat very seriously and did everything they could to smash us. But they couldn't.

 

Once the war was finally over, I and lots of other people were totally burnt out. We needed a break, to depressurize. But after a while exhaustion turned to apathy, and many people lost interest in the ongoing struggle.

 

I remember when Nixon violated the Paris Peace Agreement by refusing to pay the reparations we'd promised to help Vietnam rebuild their infrastructure and buy medical supplies. Refusing this humanitarian aid was an outrageous, criminal act, and some of us tried to organize a mass protest. We ended up with a hundred people on the steps of the San Francisco County Courthouse. The momentum was gone.

 

I too began to focus more on my personal life. I'd met a woman I wanted to build a future with. We were both tired of being poor. Living on the fringe is a struggle, it wears you down. Neither of us wanted to work for the Man and go the yuppie route, and we wanted something with a bit of adventure to it.

 

I'd done a little dealing before, but now we got into it in a big way. Just grass and hash, though — natural plants. I never liked hard drugs. Went to Mexico and spent a long time in Michoacán finding a good connection. Not just price and quality, but also good personal vibes.

 

We moved to San Diego, and I cut my hair and shaved my beard. Customs was using dogs on the border by then, but we came up with a way to beat that. Formed a little company called Baha Divers, stenciled this on the sides of a van. I'd drive south across the border about every other day with the van full of scuba tanks and gear, supposedly to give diving lessons to the tourists at Rosarito Beach. The US border guards thought of course American tourists would rather learn to dive from an American. In Mexico we sealed the stuff inside the tanks. We filled them with hash because it's more concentrated. I had cut the tanks in the middle and had an airtight way to reseal them. Then we would wash them off with ammonia, to get rid of any smell. The first couple of times I was totally nervous and was afraid the guards would pick up on that, but they didn't. Pretty dull bunch. After a while they didn't even bother to put the dog in the van, just waved me through.

 

People I'd known in the Bay area were now spread all over the West Coast, so before long we were supplying all the way up to Vancouver.

 

But one day the border guards flagged me into the inspection lane. They knew exactly what they were looking for, took the tanks apart and handcuffed me. It turned out that one of our guys on the Mexican side had got busted by the Federales, and he traded his way into a lower sentence by ratting me out.

 

It looked bad, like I'd be going back to the Bay area — all the way to San Quentin. But we hired a very good, VERY expensive lawyer, and he got me off. I had to plead guilty as part of a plea bargain but ended up with a suspended sentence.

 

I decided to get out of the business. By then our savings were enough to buy a spread of land with an old farmhouse in Oregon. We settled down, went back to college, got involved in local issues and environmental organizing.

 

Then it all exploded in our faces. We let a guy, friend of a friend, stay with us for a couple of weeks. He was going through hard times and needed some peace and quiet out in the country. He was active in the Black Panthers, and so of course the cops were hassling him, but what we didn't know was that they had warrants on him for the armed robbery of three supermarkets. They tracked him out to our farm and arrested everybody there, charged us all with the robberies. He had some of the loot with him, and he'd given us some bills that turned out to be marked, so that tied us in. Cops found a few pot plants in our garden and added drug charges. They could tell we were radicals, so they wanted to send us away for as long as they could. Considering the other busts, I was looking at major time as a repeat offender.

 

We decided to scram. Sold the house and land. Our forfeited bail took a huge chunk of that, but since we weren't going to pay taxes, we came out OK. With the help of some of our old contacts, we transferred the money off shore, then followed it and kept moving, got passports under new names. We thought about staying overseas and becoming ex-pats, but we both missed the USA. The thing is, we like the country. We just don't like the people running it.

 

We had some facial surgery — my wife loves her new nose — and after a couple of years came back as different people. We haven't been back to the West Coast, though, don't want to push our luck. And we're super law-abiding, except of course for the small matter of burning military vehicles.

 

Cutting ties was hard. Both our are families are conservative and had shut us out a long time ago, so that part wasn't so difficult. That was pain we'd already gone through. But we had to let go of a lot of friendships. We have webmail with a few close and trusted folks like you, but none of them know where we live or our names.

 

Hathaway: Thanks for including me on your list.

 

Trucker: Well, we go back a long time. And those were very formative times.

 

But by the time we came back, the country was deep into the Big Chill. Straight and retro. Women were abandoning feminism and returning to femininity, joining the Fascinating Womanhood movement. Guys were majoring in business and wearing suits with suspenders like their grandfathers. Bill Gates replaced John Lennon as the generational hero. Disgusting.

 

Maybe as part of our trying to fit into the mainstream, we became tamer ourselves. Got married, in church yet. Stopped smoking dope … pretty much at least.

 

Politically, we started thinking that the way to bring change was through the Democrats, gradual reforms. Now we see that was a trap.

 

We turned radical again when Clinton ignored the chance for disarmament that the collapse of the Soviet Union offered. He could've turned the end of the Cold War into a new era of peace. Instead he saw the chance for empire and went for it. Modernized the military with high-tech weapons, clamped sanctions on Iraq that led to millions of children dying from lack of medicine, bombed Yugoslavia and built a huge base there. Rather than communists, the people who opposed the empire were now called terrorists.

 

Domestically he declared war on welfare. Thanks to his policies, millions of single mothers were forced away from their children and into crummy, low-paying jobs. Their kids grew up just as poor but much more neglected.

 

Underneath the big smile, Clinton was just a loyal servant of the corporations and the military. Both Clintons are masters of giving the impression of working for real change, but it's just show. And Obama is even better at that show than they are.

 

The Democratic Party leadership serves the interests of the mercantile side of the business establishment. They support slightly higher wages and unemployment benefits so people will have money to keeping buy stuff. There's nothing wrong with that, but it doesn't go any farther than that. The basic injustice of the system is never challenged. The Democrats just bring mildly expansionist policies to stimulate the economy.

 

The Republicans bring mildly contractive policies that serve the interests of the fiscal side of business. They keep wages low, which holds costs and inflation down and thus preserves the value of capital.

 

Although these two tendencies conflict, they're two complementary ways that corporations maintain their control over us, two sides of the same gold coin. Both are necessary for them, and trading the power back and forth keeps things running in a wobbly balance.

 

The goal of both parties is to continue this system with little changes here and there, fine tuning. Neither one is going to take it apart and rebuild it, which is what we need. And both parties support an aggressive foreign policy to force US economic and military power into other countries, which is what nobody needs except the corporations they represent.

 

Although there's little difference in their policies, there's a great deal of difference in how the parties are marketed to us. Liberal candidates are sold as figures of great hope. We're supposed to think, Finally someone who'll change things. But their changes turn out to be trivial. The system stays mostly the same, and we slump back into disappointment. As the disappointment builds to mass discontent, another fresh liberal face is presented to us with new slogans. But they're all tied to the system. The only candidates that have a chance of getting nominated are those supported by business. They're in their pockets. That's the price of their coming to power.

 

Look back in the past. The only major changes to come out of congress have been the New Deal in the 1930s, passed to stave off a total economic collapse, and the Civil Rights Act in the 1960s, passed under the threat of armed insurrection. And congress has been whittling away at them ever since.

 

We have to take the power away from both parties, close down their whole show. Or else we'll keep on being their vassals.

 

We fall for their shell game because we have a desperate need to believe the USA is a great country and our personal lives will turn out well. So we ignore what our leaders are doing in the rest of the world and cling to their mirage of a better future. That's comforting. But things are not improving, they're declining. And that'll continue until we get rid of this corporation government, both parties. We can't build a new system until we break the power of the current one.

 

Hathaway: How are you trying to do that?

 

Trucker: After Bush & Co invaded Afghanistan and Iraq, I knew I couldn't just sign petitions and march in demonstrations anymore. That wasn't going to have any effect on these guys. I had to do what I could to keep them from waging war, to take away their equipment, to bankrupt them. The people running the show are just businessmen. If they see it's costing them more than they can get out of it, they'll stop. So I decided to start destroying expensive military items.

 

I took off in a pickup truck with a camper and a dirt bike to become a domestic insurgent. Slept in the camper so I didn't leave records at motels. Showered at truck stops. I used the bike to scout out targets and escape routes.

 

I found out that security around the big bases was tight, so I started checking out National Guard branches. I liked the idea of taking revenge on the Guard for Kent State. I found a unit that had all their trucks and humvees locked in the motor pool behind a chainlink fence, but someone had left a staff car parked behind the building. I guess the colonel didn't want to have to walk very far.

 

I decided to go for it, but this first time was damn near my last. I set myself on fire. I made the mistake of starting at the top. I poured gasoline over the trunk of the car above the gas tank, and then more under the tank. But without my knowing it, the gas ran down onto the sleeve of my coat. When I flicked the lighter, my whole arm caught fire. The car did too, of course, and I had to run away from it with a blazing arm. By the time I got the coat off, I had third degree burns. Hurt like hell but I couldn't scream. Scared to.

 

But it was great seeing the car go up. When the vapor in the gas tank gets hot enough, it explodes, not a huge explosion, but enough to set off the whole tank, which erupts into a fireball that swallows the car. You can feel the concussion and a blast of heat. Everything is flames. It's quite a scene, a real charge.

 

Getting away, I could hardly steer the bike, my arm hurt so much. I didn't sleep that night because of the pain. Terrible oozing blisters, skin peeling off. I'd brought a first-aid kit with salve and stuff, but this was way past that.

 

I was afraid to go to the emergency room because they might call the cops — a guy comes in with burns right after an arson fire. But next morning I headed for the down side of downtown.

 

I had tried heroin once years ago and didn't like its down, shut-off feeling. But now I needed it. I went to the bus station, knowing that's a good place to score in most cities. I could pick up on dealer vibes, having been one myself, so I talked to this guy who was hanging out there, standing and looking around rather than just sitting and waiting for a bus. At first he was suspicious, but he sensed I wasn't a cop. A dealer has to have that instinct or he won't last long.

 

I probably paid twice as much as his regular customers, but I got a balloon. Mixed a quarter spoonful with orange juice, drank it down. Bitter. I threw up and had to take some more. But a half hour later I was fine.

 

I bought the newspaper and read about "Arsonist Torches National Guard" with a picture of the burned-out car. I felt great. I knew that the money it was going to take to replace that car couldn't be used to bomb Afghanistan. This had a lot more impact than writing a congressman or shouting slogans in a protest march. It made a bottom-line difference. I wanted to save the newspaper, but it could've connected me, so I threw it away.

 

By then I was getting woozy. Went back to the truck and passed out. Pain woke me up in a few hours, I took some more smack and nodded out again.

 

I've still got the scars, patches of turkey skin.

 

Hathaway: That didn't make you stop?

 

Trucker: No, it made me realize what all the people who've been hit by US napalm and white phosphorous are going through. Right this moment men, women, and children are crying in agony because of our bombing. And they don't have the luxury of pain killers.

 

It's worse for the kids. They have a lifetime of pain ahead of them, because the scars don't grow. As the skin around them grows, that stretches the scars. The tissue becomes very thin and sensitive. It hurts for the rest of their lives.

 

Hundreds of thousands of people in Vietnam and Cambodia are still living with this on a daily basis. And now Iraqi and Afghan children are facing this future.

 

My pain gave me just a taste of what they are suffering. It also made me aware how terrible it would be if someone got caught in one of my fires. I'd never torch a building. Just vehicles. I even look in those to make sure no one's sleeping in the back.

 

My burns made me see that what I was doing was important, trying to stop this war machine.

 

If Americans knew, I mean really opened our hearts to the mass suffering we're inflicting on Iraq and Afghanistan at this moment, we'd overthrow this government. Not to mention what we did in El Salvador, Nicaragua, Chile, Indonesia, the Congo, Iran, and so many more. But we don't want to know. We turn it off — it's a long ways away. And the media sure don't want us to tell about it. Their job is to distract us from it with all sorts of nonsense.

 

We close our eyes to the killing because it conflicts with the patriotic fantasies about America we learned as children. Reality is too disturbing, so we deny it. Our love of country has blinded us.

 

But deep down we do know. We push it away, but it sinks into our subconscious and festers there and pops out in sick ways. That's why we have so many crazy shootings.

 

We're convinced our society is good, because that's what we were taught. But good societies don't kill millions of people. Pathological ones do that. And you don't cure pathology with reforms. It needs major surgery.

 

Hathaway: What do you see as your greatest triumph?

 

Trucker: The Air National Guard watches their planes pretty carefully, but I found one parked at an unguarded airstrip. This was in the middle of the day, and I was hoping it would still be there at night. It was, and no one around. I needed more gas because the flames had to reach higher, and I wasn't sure where the tanks were. I soaked some boards with gas and laid them against the fuselage and on the wings. The plane went up fine. A beautiful sight. Had a different smell because of the kerosene.

 

Hathaway: Are you going to get more planes?

 

Trucker: I hope so, but the vehicles are easier to find. My favorite are the deuce-and-a-halves, those big trucks with canvas covers. They make a huge fireball, and they're expensive. That's what this game is about — make the war too expensive, so it becomes bad economics. There's lots of ways to do that, and this is my way.

 

A couple of times a year, but not in any regular pattern, I take off and look for targets of opportunity. My wife keeps the home fires burning while I go out and set a fire. I follow the basic principles of guerrilla warfare — pick the time and place to attack, make it quick, and get out before the enemy can react.

 

Once I almost got caught. I always pick Guard units of the edge of town, somewhat isolated. Those are less likely to be patrolled by the police, and they offer quicker access to escape routes, trails where only the bike can go. This place looked good, and they'd left a truck out. Right after it erupted in flames, though, I heard a siren and saw flashing lights. A patrol car must've been cruising nearby.

 

He was between me and my escape route, so I had to take off on the bike in the other direction. He saw me, even though I was running without lights. I was hoping he'd first go to the fire, but no such luck — he charged after me. The bike is fast, but so was he. I kept turning corners because I could do that faster than he could, but he caught up on the straights. I zigzagged back onto the main road towards the escape trail, but by then other sirens were approaching from different directions.

 

He was right behind me as I got to the trail. I was afraid he was going to run me over and claim it was an accident. As I slowed down to turn left onto the trail, he swung beside me into the oncoming lane and blocked me off. I couldn't turn, just had to keep going.

 

Up ahead was an intersection. I sprinted towards it and swung a wide U-turn in the middle of it, so I could get back to the trail. But he turned his car sideways to block the road. His front tires covered the right shoulder I wanted to drive on, and I couldn't turn sharp enough to get behind him.

 

I was still going fast and had only a split second to react. I plunged the bike down into the drainage channel next to the shoulder of the road, right in front of his headlights. I could barely hold it stable. I skidded on the wet bottom of the channel, almost laid it down, but kicked out with my foot and managed to stay up. Then I hit an old tire and lost control. The bike bounced up and keeled over, and I scraped through the mud, wrenching my leg and banging my knee, and finally stopped, front wheel still spinning. I was hurting and covered with dreck.

 

The patrol car was backing around to get me. My engine had stalled, but it started again on the first kick. I roared up the side of the channel at an angle, back onto the pavement.

 

The cop was closing fast, and I moved onto the shoulder so he couldn't cut me off from the trail again. Another patrol car was speeding from town, red lights flashing, siren blaring, but he wasn't close yet. Approaching the trail, I slowed just enough to slue through the turn. As I careened down the trail away from the road, I imagined the cop swearing at me in frustration.

 

I was on a tractor path leading into a big area of cornfields, and the tall corn swallowed me up in a second, friendly and protective. It was dark in there, but I kept my lights off so they wouldn't reflect off the stalks and show my position. I slowed down and laughed out loud in the warm, fragrant September night.

 

The fields ran for miles, gridded with other tractor paths, and I was sure they couldn't find me here in the dark. The feed corn was so dense that even with a helicopter they'd have to be right above me before they could spot me. I was safe here until dawn.

 

This was my territory now, but the streets were enemy territory, and I was going to have trouble getting out of here. When I had to try, my best bet would be a road with lots of traffic, so I could blend in. The cops couldn't be everywhere.

 

A state highway ran north of town, and I headed for it, now pushing the bike so they couldn't tell my direction from its sound. It took hours. I had to cross a couple of gravel roads, first waiting out of sight until it felt safe, then running across. Finally I could hear the highway ahead. It was almost dawn, but I wanted to wait until rush-hour traffic, so I lay down and tried to sleep. The ground was cold, I was hungry, my knee hurt, and a field mouse scampered over me, but I managed to doze.

 

About 7:30 I crept up towards the highway, peering out from my tractor path, afraid again. To my relief, there were enough motorcycles on the road that I figured the cops couldn't stop them all. I waited until I felt lucky, then started the bike, accelerated along the shoulder, and joined the stream between two big trucks. I saw one cop, but he was going the other way. I kept expecting a patrol car to pull beside me with a shotgun leveled out the window, but it didn't happen.

 

I stopped in the next town and hid the bike near a shopping center. I was covered with mud, so I bought new clothes, cleaned up as best I could and changed, then ate a big farmer's breakfast of steak and eggs, grits, and three cups of coffee. It was the sort of place where cops might stop for doughnuts, but none came in. Poor guys must've all had to work overtime.

 

I took a cab back to near where my truck was parked, drove back to the bike and loaded it in, drove a hundred more miles, and collapsed into the bunk. My body was still clogged with fear, my leg was swollen and aching, I had a nervous tic in my cheek, but I was almost glowing with bliss as I sank into sleep.

 

It was a long time before I went on another sabotage mission, though.

 

Once I had a close call at what looked like a perfect set up — a humvee parked behind a Guard admin building, secluded, dark, no one around. As usual I waited an hour after the bars closed, so the streets would be emptier. Also it was a regular work night, so fewer late partygoers. But as soon as I took the lid off the gas can, this car pulls in and two guys get out, drunk. They were fumbling at their zippers to piss when they noticed me by the humvee. They shouted at me — probably thought I was trying to steal it. Seeing their chance to become heroes, they forgot about their bladders and started towards me. One of them pulled out a knife.

 

Part of me wanted to throw the gas can at them and light it, but I couldn't do that. I know what burns are like. Instead I threw the can at an angle between us. The gas spewed out in a long trail, and when I lit it, the flames leaped up, high enough to reach their zippers if they'd tried to get through. That stopped their charge long enough for me to take off on the bike while they were shaking their fists and swearing at me.

 

Never did get that humvee. Went back a year later and everything was locked up.

 

Once I found two humvees and a truck parked together. What a blaze they made! Someday I'm hoping to get a whole motor pool … or a squadron of planes.

 

Hathaway: Some people would call that violence.

 

Trucker: Violence means harming living beings. I'm very careful not to do that. It's only because our culture worships property that we see destroying war machines as violence. What I'm doing is depriving the military of their tools of violence. I'm decreasing their ability to harm people. Since they refuse to disarm, I'm doing it for them.

 

But I admit I've got some psychological quirks. I like fire — the huge eruption of flames is magnificent. Torching is an adrenaline high … like dealing. Apparently I need that. Maybe that makes me neurotic, but if so, I've managed to channel my neurosis into a socially useful activity — destroying war machines. The real crazies are those who go along with this system and think they're sane.

 

It's probably true that certain personality traits make people more likely to oppose their society. But conservatives use that to discount the rebels' objections by branding them abnormal. They say radicals have psychological problems, they're not well adjusted, they have a bad relationship with their father.

 

But what does it mean to be well adjusted to a society like this? It means you've accepted and internalized its values. If you think about what those values really are, it's insane to do that. The people who do are normal only in the sense that they're the majority.

 

And since most fathers are the spear carriers of patriarchy, since they are the power structure, how can we not oppose them? That kind of authority needs to be defied.

 

Having a "good" relationship with your father isn't necessarily good. It tends to make people support the powers that be, to want to please them. Kids who need their father's approval turn into toadies. That's the only way to please a patriarch. If we want to build a new kind of person, we have to become different from the old kind, and that usually means displeasing them.

 

Hathaway: Would you prefer matriarchy?

 

Trucker: I'd prefer no-archy. No group should have power over another group. That's what anarchy means.

 

Conservatives conveniently forget that they're supporting this culture because of their own personality traits. And look at those — the desire to placate authority rather than defy it, to actually become the authority and have power over others, to preserve with violence if necessary an unjust economic system that denies the majority of humanity the basics of a secure life. Those are conservatives. And if you put them under pressure, they become fascists, as we're seeing.

 

Hathaway: You're in your sixties now. Do you have a protégé, someone to, so to speak, pass the torch on to?

 

Trucker: No. This business is too risky. I'd feel terrible if something happened to them. Also there's the security issue. With all the government surveillance and infiltration, this sort of work has to be done alone. No one knows what I do except my wife, and they can't make her testify against me.

 

Hathaway: Why tell me?

 

Trucker: I know you won't turn me in. And if they waterboarded you — always a possibility these days — well, you don't know where I live or what my name is now. All you have is a webmail address.

 

But it is a calculated risk. I want to go public in an anonymous way to let people know what's happening with the resistance movement. The government is hushing up about all the sabotage that's going on. It's not just me. I'm just a small part of it. There's a growing movement to undermine the machine from within. People are trashing recruiters' offices, slashing their tires, cutting their phone wires, grafittiing-out their billboards. In universities they're squirting glue into the locks of ROTC departments, stealing their mail, hacking into their computers. The government and corporations have had to set up internal security units to catch their own people who are sabotaging them — leaking secret memos, destroying equipment, zapping computer files. An autonome threw a log under the wheels of an arms train and derailed it. It's only a matter of time before a vet sets up a mortar outside an air base and starts blowing up Stealth bombers.

 

The war is coming home where it belongs. But this is just starting, and the government doesn't want people to know. They're scared it'll spread.

 

Hathaway: Do you want it to spread?

 

Trucker: Yes. I'm convinced that's the only way to stop these wars. Make it too costly for the USA to extend its empire. We need to lame the beast so it can't attack anymore. We have to maximize chaos on all fronts, a thousand different kinds of uprisings so the country becomes ungovernable. That's the only way to break their hold and build something new.

 

Hathaway: That's going to make things tougher at home.

 

Trucker: Yep, it will … for a while. And that's why a lot of people are against it. They don't want to lose their comfort level. That's more important to them than the lives of millions of people overseas … and the lives of their own grandchildren.

 

You can't blame people for wanting to have a pleasant life, but in times like these that turns them into accomplices with the system. The only way life can stay pleasant now is if you play along. The punishments for opposition are getting increasing unpleasant.

 

But rebelling is invigorating. It's an authentic life, not the superficial pleasantries of a lackey life.

 

Even the lackeys are going to lose their precious comfort level before long. Things are getting worse and worse here because that's the nature of the system. It devours everything.

 

The country is run by corporate robots. They're squeezing the people at home and strangling them overseas. And the military is their enforcer. It's become a monster rampaging out of control, fighting enemies that it itself created, like Saddam Hussein, Osama bin Laden, the Taliban. This beast knows only to kill, and it does that reflexively, mechanically, massively. The leaders elected to stop it end up serving it. Amerika is running amok in a mania of unconscious killing. Amerika is a berserker battling the universe, a gut-shot hyena devouring its own entrails.

 

We have to stop doing this … and we can. We don't need to live this way, by bombing and killing.

 

I want people to know there's a movement here to resist militarism. It's rolling. They can be part of it … in many ways.

 

Hathaway: Would you recommend that people burn trucks?

 

Trucker: I would not. It's very dangerous.

 

Hathaway: What would you recommend that people do?

 

Trucker: That's a question only they can answer.

 

Hathaway: What if you get caught? Would you shoot it out?

 

Trucker: No, I don't have any weapons. I don't believe in killing people for peace. And cops are still people.

 

I'd probably spend the rest of my life as a prisoner of war in Guantánamo West, that new supermax in Colorado.

 

Hathaway: Doesn't that scare you?

 

Trucker: You bet it does. But even if that happens, my life will have meant something. I'll have done what I could to stop this monster from invading more countries and murdering more people.

 

But I don't think it will happen. I'm very careful. I want to continue the struggle. As Ed Sanders said, "Resist and Survive."

 

*

"Saboteur" is a chapter of Radical Peace: People Refusing War, which presents the experiences of activists who have become criminals for peace, defying the government's laws and impeding its capacity to kill: http://media.trineday.com/radicalpeace. William T. Hathaway is an adjunct professor of American studies at the University of Oldenburg in Germany. His new book, Lila, the Revolutionary, is a fable for adults about an eight-year-old Indian girl who sparks a world revolution for social justice. Chapters are posted on www.amazon.com/dp/1897455844. A selection of his writing is available at www.peacewriter.org.

 

 

The Real War Heroes

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Published on the Doomstead Diner on April 12, 2016

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The Real War Heroes

 

Chapter 1 of the book

RADICAL PEACE: People Refusing War

By William T. Hathaway

 

"That must be them." Petra took one hand off the steering wheel and pointed to a group of soldiers about two hundred meters away, standing along our road next to a high chainlink fence topped with barbed wire.

 

Traffic was light, but Petra said, "I don't want any other cars around." She pulled off the road and stopped. "Get everything ready."

 

I crawled into the back of the car and opened the rear hatch to give access to the interior and to raise the license plate out of sight. We wore caps and sunglasses to be less recognizable.

 

When the road was empty, she started driving again. We approached the soldiers, who were walking in the grass, stopping often to pick things off the ground and put them in sacks they were dragging.

 

"There's Rick." Petra slowed and drove along the shoulder. A man turned his head at the sound of our car crunching gravel, dropped his bag, and ran towards us with a slight limp. While the guards shouted for him to stop, I thrust my arm out, grabbed Rick's hand, and pulled. He lunged forward and dived into the open hatch, banging his leg on the edge. A guard was swearing and groping at the holster on his belt. Rick scrambled in, knocking off his glasses, and Petra floored the gas. Our spinning tires hurled gravel behind us then squealed over the pavement. The car slid halfway across the road before Petra brought it under control, and we sped away.

 

One guard was waving his pistol at us but not aiming it, and the other was punching buttons on a cell phone. Some of the detention soldiers were clapping and shouting in envious congratulations, others just stood staring.

 

I closed the hatch as Petra rounded a corner and headed for the autobahn. Rick lay on the floor trembling and gasping, holding his leg in pain. I gripped him on the shoulder to steady him. "Way to go! You're on your way out of the army."

 

His tension exploded into laughter, then tears. "Thanks, thanks," he spluttered.

 

"It's not over yet," Petra said.

 

Rick breathed deeply, scrinched his eyes to block the tears, and clenched his fists. "Not going back."

 

I tried to calm my own tremors.

 

Petra drove away from the base through a section of fast-food franchises and striptease bars that bordered it. Rick put his glasses back on; bent at the bow, they sat crookedly on his nose. We put up the rear seat so we could sit without attracting attention, then waited at the stoplight by the autobahn entrance for thirty seconds that seemed like ten minutes, surrounded by other cars full of American soldiers and German civilians, none of whom noticed us. Finally Petra roared up the onramp. German autobahns have no speed limits, and soon the Volkswagen was going flat out at 160 kilometers per hour.

 

From a small suitcase I pulled out civilian clothes for Rick, and he started stripping off his uniform. "Last time I'll ever wear this thing."

 

As he took off his shirt, I got a whiff of the sour stench of fear, which I knew well from my own time in the military. He stuffed the fatigues into a trash bag, then put on corduroy pants and a cotton sweater. Now he looked like a young German, but with the buzz cut hair, almost like a neo-Nazi. I set my cap on his head.

 

At the first rest stop we pulled in and parked beside a van. I gave him the suitcase and a wallet with a thousand euros in it. We shook hands, then hugged. I clapped him on the back. He got out of the car and kissed Petra on the cheek, crying again as he thanked us. With a combination of a glare and a grin, he pushed the bag with his uniform into a garbage can. I got into the front seat of the VW; Rick got into the back of the van, giving us a V sign. The van pulled away, headed for Sweden, where Rick would apply for asylum.

 

Petra re-entered the autobahn, much slower now because she too was crying, quietly, on a resolute face. "He's out of the war," she said in her throaty German accent. "No one's going to kill him, and he's not going to kill anybody." She took the next exit, then wended back over country roads towards her home. "Now I'm exhausted."

 

"Me too, all of a sudden," I said. "This one was hairy. We broke more laws than usual."

 

"Good. Such laws need to be broken. I'll make us some coffee."

 

Petra had been the first of our group to meet with Rick. She worked in Caritas, the German Catholic social agency, and a priest had brought him to her office. Rick was absent without leave, AWOL, from the army, determined not to go back, but didn't know what to do. He'd heard from another soldier that the Catholic Church sometimes helped, so he went there.

 

The priest was in too public a position to personally do much, but he introduced him to Petra because she was active in Pax Christi, the Catholic peace movement. The priest and the social worker had a tacit "don't ask, don't tell" agreement about her counseling work with soldiers. She didn't volunteer information, and he didn't pry.

 

Petra had various approaches to freeing soldiers. She could help them apply for conscientious objector status, but these days CO applications were usually turned down by the military. She had a degree in clinical psychology and was skilled at teaching GIs how to get psychological discharges, to act the right amount of crazy and handle the trick questions the military shrinks would throw at them. But now those too were usually denied. The military needed bodies, didn't care if they were crazy.

 

If neither of these methods worked, and if the soldiers were desperate to get out, she would help them desert, a drastic step because it risked years in prison for them and major hassles for her.

 

Petra has never been arrested, but based on experiences of others in our group, she could expect to be charged with accessory to military desertion and with aiding and abetting a fugitive. The court process would be a severe drain on the energy and finances of both her and our group, but it was unlikely that she'd actually go to prison. With public opinion already so opposed to this war, the German government wouldn't want to risk the protests. But she'd probably get a year on probation, lose her job, and have trouble finding another one.

 

Why did she take the risk? Petra's grandfather had been an SS trooper, the kind of Christian who unquestioningly supports authority. His children reacted by becoming atheists. Petra became the kind of Christian who opposed authority, including the church hierarchy. She felt stopping war was more important than her personal security.

 

When she met Rick, she was impressed by his sincerity and also his desperation. He told her he'd got married after high school to a co-worker at a restaurant, an illegal immigrant from El Salvador who was a few years older. They wanted to have children but couldn't raise them on minimum wage. He wanted to become an electrical engineer but couldn't afford college. The army's offer of tuition aid and electronics training was better than life at Pizza Hut, so he enlisted in 2001.

 

The plan was that she'd work in the towns where he was stationed. After his four-year hitch, he'd go to college while she continued to work, and after college when he had a good job, they'd have kids. Eight years seemed like a long time to get started in life, but by then he'd have a real career.

 

After 9-11, the army needed infantry troops more than electronic specialists, so they took away his needle-nosed pliers, gave him an M-16, and flew him to Afghanistan. First they made him excavate corpses from the collapsed caves of Tora Bora, full of the reek of rotting meat, hoping to find bin Laden's. Then they sent him on night ambush missions along the Pakistan border: staring out from a machine gun bunker with goggles that made everything glow green and yellow, shooting anything that moved after dark, shipping the bodies out in the morning on the supply helicopter, still hoping to find bin Laden. Finally he was assigned to round up men from the villages around Kandahar and send them to interrogation camps. But there weren't many men in the villages. They were either dead or in the mountains, and the army didn't have enough troops to comb the mountains.

 

After eight months his wife divorced him.

 

In one of the villages an old woman walked by them with her goat. The goat wore a pack basket. The woman reached down, patted the goat, and blew them all up.

 

Rick woke up lying in a helicopter surrounded by dead and wounded friends. He felt he'd become one of his ambush victims being shipped out. The army would be disappointed to find out he wasn't bin Laden.

 

It turned out later the woman was the mother of two sons who had been killed by the Americans.

 

With shrapnel wounds, a fractured leg, and a twisted spine, Rick was evacuated to the US hospital in Landstuhl, Germany, where after five months of treatment he was pronounced fit for active duty and given orders for Iraq. By then he'd heard about Iraq from other patients. He panicked, went AWOL, then met Petra.

 

She helped him clarify his options. He could apply for conscientious objector status or a psychological discharge, but with orders into a combat zone, his chances of success were nil. But if he deserted, there was a good chance that Sweden would accept his application for asylum.

 

Rick told Petra later that what finally settled his decision to desert was learning that in Sweden the state helps pay college expenses. You don't have to join the military and kill people just to get an education.

 

But before our group could make arrangements, Rick got arrested for AWOL and assigned to the detention barracks. If they'd known he was planning to desert, they would've locked him in the stockade, but simple AWOL has become too widespread for that. He was busted down two ranks and assigned to sixty days hard labor, at the end of which he'd be sent to Iraq still under detention.

 

After visiting him in the detention barracks, Petra told us he seemed like a man on death row. His psychological condition was deteriorating so rapidly that she was afraid he would kill himself rather than go back to war. He begged her to try to get him out.

 

The current work detail for the detention soldiers was twelve hours a day of picking up trash along the fence at the boundary of the base. They'd finished inside the base and had just started working on the outside, a group of ten detainees with two guards.

 

Petra and I wouldn't have risked the snatch inside the base, but we were pretty sure the guards wouldn't fire their pistols outside the base for fear of "collateral damage." Shooting the local population is bad for public relations.

 

I alerted our sanctuary network in Germany and Sweden and arranged the logistics to get Rick into a new life.

 

Since I'm a US citizen, if I got arrested for helping soldiers desert, I'd be sent back to the homeland for trial and probably to prison. It's worth the risk to me, though.

 

I do this work because my past is similar to Petra's grandfather's. I served in the US Special Forces in Panama and Vietnam. I'd joined the Green Berets to write a book about war. During our search and destroy operations, I kept telling myself, "I'm just here gathering material for a novel." But our deeds have consequences that affect us and others regardless of why we do them. I'm still dealing with the repercussions from my involvement, and my work in the military resistance movement is a way of atoning for it.

 

I've met many veterans who never saw combat but still feel a burden of guilt. Just being part of an invading force and abusing another country pollutes the soul. Under the hyperbole, there's some truth in Kurt Tucholsky's statement, "All soldiers are murderers." The military exists to kill people, and everyone in it contributes to that. Even as civilians, we finance it.

 

Having got medals for combat, I know that the real heroes are the people like Rick who refuse to go, who stand up to the military and say no. If they're caught, the government punishes them viciously because they're such a threat to its power. Deserters and refusers are choosing peace at great danger to themselves. I wish I'd been that morally aware and that brave.

 

When this book is published, I'll have to stop actively participating in desertions and will have to break off direct contact with our group. Once I go public, my e-mails and phone calls will probably be routed through Langley, Virginia, and that would endanger our whole operation.

 

Ironically enough, when I left the Special Forces, the CIA offered me a job. If I had accepted it, I could now be that G-13 civil servant who is perusing the messages of dissidents, trying to find ways to neutralize us. The road not taken.

 

Now living in Germany, I can see how important it is to resist such things in their early stages. In the 1930s many Germans were afraid to oppose their government as it became increasingly vicious, hoping it wouldn't get too bad, hoping they'd be spared, hoping it would end soon, but then bitterly regretted their passivity after it was too late.

 

Better to go down resisting. Better yet to change it while we still can. It's clear now that neither major political party will make the necessary changes, so we must do it ourselves.

 

#

"The Real War Heroes" is the first chapter of Radical Peace: People Refusing War, which presents the experiences of activists who have become criminals for peace, defying the government's laws and impeding its capacity to kill: http://media.trineday.com/radicalpeace. William T. Hathaway is an adjunct professor of American studies at the University of Oldenburg in Germany. His new book, Lila, the Revolutionary, is a fable for adults about an eight-year-old Indian girl who sparks a world revolution for social justice. Chapters are posted on www.amazon.com/dp/1897455844. A selection of his writing is available at www.peacewriter.org.

 

Sedition, Subversion, Sabotage

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Published on the Doomstead Diner on March 17, 2016

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A Long-War Strategy for the Left

 

As the viciousness of capitalism engulfs ever more of us, our yearnings for change are approaching desperation. The system's current leader, Barack Obama, has shown us that the only change we can believe in is what we ourselves create.

 

To do that, we need to know what is possible in our times and what isn't. The bitter probability is that none of us will see a society in which we'd actually want to live. Even the youngest of us will most likely have to endure an increasingly unpleasant form of capitalism. Despite its recurring crises, this system is still too strong, too adaptable, and has too many supporters in all classes for it to be overthrown any time soon. We're probably not going to be the ones to create a new society.

 

But we can now lay the groundwork for that, first by exposing the hoax that liberal reforms will lead to basic changes. People need to see that the purpose of liberalism is to defuse discontent with promises of the future and thus prevent mass opposition from coalescing. It diverts potentially revolutionary energy into superficial dead ends. Bernie Sanders' "long game" campaign is really only a game similar to that of his reformist predecessor, Dennis Kucinich, designed to keep us in the "big tent" of the Democratic Party. Capitalism, although resilient, is willing to change only in ways that shore it up, so before anything truly different can be built, we have to bring it down.

 

What we are experiencing now is the long war the ruling elite is fighting to maintain its grip on the world. The current phase began with the collapse of Keynesian capitalism, which flourished from the 1950s into the '70s, when the primary consumer market was in the capitalist headquarter countries of North America and Western Europe. Corporations were able to stimulate domestic consumption and quell worker discontent there by acceding to labor's demands for better wages and conditions. That led to a 30-year bubble of improvement for unionized workers, predominantly male and white, that began to collapse in the '80s as capitalism gradually became globalized.

 

Then to maintain dominance Western corporations had to reduce labor costs in order to compete against emerging competition in low-wage countries such as China, India, Russia, and Brazil. Also international consumer markets became more important than the home market, but reaching them required low prices. So capitalist leaders reversed hard-won reforms, forcing paychecks and working conditions in the West down. And they tried to keep control of crucial Mideast oil resources by tightening their neo-imperialist hold on that region: overthrowing governments, installing dictators, undermining economies.

 

This aggression generated armed resistance: jihadist attacks against the West. Our response has been the current holy war against terror. All of this horrible suffering is just one campaign in capitalism's long war for hegemony. Any dominator system — including capitalism, patriarchy, and religious fundamentalism — generates violence.

 

Since we are all products of such systems, the path out of them will include conflict and strife. Insisting on only peaceful tactics and ruling out armed self defense against a ruling elite that has repeatedly slaughtered millions of people is naïve, actually a way of preventing basic change. The pacifist idealism so prevalent among the petty-bourgeoisie conceals their class interest: no revolution, just reform. But until capitalism and its military are collapsing, it would be suicidal to attack them directly with force.

 

What we can do now as radicals is weaken capitalism and build organizations that will pass our knowledge and experience on to future generations. If we do that well enough, our great grandchildren (not really so far away) can lead a revolution. If we don't do it, our descendants will remain corporate chattel.

 

Our generational assignment — should we decide to accept it — is sedition, subversion, sabotage: a program on which socialists and anarchists can work together.

 

Sedition — advocating or attempting the overthrow of the government — is illegal only if it calls for or uses violence. Our most important job — educating and organizing people around a revolutionary program — is legal sedition, as is much of our writing here on Dandelion Salad.

 

For subversion we could, for example, focus on institutions and rituals that instill patriotism in young people. School spirit, scouts, competitive team sports, and pledges of allegiance all create in children an emotional bond to larger social units of school, city, and nation.

 

Kids are indoctrinated to feel these are extensions of their family and to respect and fear the authorities as they would their parents, more specifically their fathers, because this is a patriarchal chain being forged. It causes us even as adults to react to criticism of the country as an attack on our family. This hurts our feelings on a deep level, so we reject it, convinced it can't be true. It's too threatening to us.

 

This linkage is also the basis of the all-American trick of substituting personal emotion for political thought.

 

Breaking this emotional identification is crucial to reducing the widespread support this system still enjoys. Whatever we can do to show how ridiculous these institutions and rituals are will help undermine them.

 

For instance, teachers could refuse to lead the pledge of allegiance, or they could follow it with historical facts that would cause the students to question their indoctrination. When a teacher gets fired, the resulting legal battle can taint the whole sacrosanct ritual and challenge the way history is taught in the schools.

 

Subversive parenting means raising children who won't go along with the dominant culture and have the skills to live outside it as much as possible.

 

Much feminist activism is profoundly subversive. That's why it's opposed so vehemently by many women as well as men.

 

Spiritually, whatever undercuts the concept of God as daddy in the sky will help break down patriarchal conditioning and free us for new visions of the Divine.

 

Sabotage is more problematic. It calls to mind bombing and shooting, which at this point won't achieve anything worthwhile. But sabotage doesn't need to harm living creatures; systems can be obstructed in many ways, which I can't discuss more specifically because of the police state under which we currently live. They are described in my book Radical Peace (http://www.amazon.com/Radical-Peace-People-Refusing-War/dp/0979988691).

 

We'll be most successful by using both legal and illegal tactics but keeping the two forms separate. Illegal direct action is sometimes necessary to impair the system, impede its functioning, break it in a few places, open up points of vulnerability for coming generations to exploit. This doesn't require finely nuanced theory or total agreement on ideology, just a recognition of the overriding necessity of weakening this monster, of reducing its economic and military power. It does require secrecy, though, so it's best done individually with no one else knowing.

 

As groups we should do only legal resistance. Since we have to assume we are infiltrated and our communications are monitored, illegal acts must be done alone or in small cells without links to the group. Security is essential. Police may have the identity of everyone in the group, but if members are arrested and interrogated, their knowledge will be very limited. The principles of leaderless resistance (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Leaderless_resistance) provide the most effective defense for militants.

 

Using these tactics, we can slow down this behemoth, curtail its expansion, make it a less effective murderer. The government will of course try to crush this resistance. But that very response can eventually seal its doom because it increases polarization and sparks more outrage. People will see the rich have not only taken away our possibility for a decent life, but now they are taking away our freedom. Then the masses revolt.

 

When the police and military have to attack their own people, their loyalty begins to waver. They realize they too are oppressed workers, and they start disobeying their masters. The power structure grinds down, falters, and falls. At this point the revolution can succeed, hopefully with a minimum of violence. Then the people of that generation, with the knowledge and experience we have passed on to them, can build a new society.

 

This is not a pleasant path of action, and those whose first priority is pleasantness are repelled by it. That's why reformism is so popular: it's an illusion that appeals to cowards. But when their backs are to the wall, which will inevitably happen, even they will fight back. And there's something glorious in that revolutionary fight even in its present stage — much more vivid and worthwhile than the life of a lackey.

 

#

William T. Hathaway is an adjunct professor of American studies at the University of Oldenburg in Germany. His new book, Lila, the Revolutionary, is a fable for adults about an eight-year-old Indian girl who sparks a world revolution for social justice. Chapters are posted on www.amazon.com/dp/1897455844. A selection of his writing is available at www.peacewriter.org.

 

Patriotism’s Game

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Published on the Doomstead Diner on March 17, 2016

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Once again in election season the drums of patriotism are being beaten. Politicians on the stump and their Madison Avenue flacks are exhorting us to rally around the tattered flag. Their drumming sounds feeble and hollow, though, like cheerleaders trying to rouse the fans while our military team goes down to defeat, bringing the economy with it.

 

The drummers persist because their patriotic noise drowns out the voices of those asking disturbing questions: Why are we playing this losing game to begin with? Why are we bankrupting the country with endless war? How can we love a nation that slaughters millions of our fellow human beings? These questions endanger the game, and the game must go on.

 

Patriotism keeps us in the game. It's an instrument of control that's cultivated in us as children through emotional rituals designed to make us identify our nation with our family and with some higher power. These rituals create a bond of feeling linking God the Father, the Founding Fathers, and our own fathers into a patriarchal hierarchy that rewards us if we're obedient and punishes us if we're rebellious. It's a tool for keeping us in our place.

 

Patriotism exploits the love we have for our parents by projecting it onto the nation. We love our country, so we react to criticism of it as an attack on our family. This criticism hurts our feelings on a deep personal level, so we reject it. It's too threatening to us. The emotionality of patriotism keeps us from thinking about what the USA is actually doing in the world: dominating other countries through economic, political, and military aggression.

 

Patriotism gives us the illusion that we're part of the system rather than victims of it. It helps us feel good about ourselves, a defense against the low self-esteem that this hypercompetitive society instills in us. Instead of personal pride, we are offered national pride, and we cling to that because it's all we've got. That's one reason poor whites are often so aggressively patriotic. They're desperate to feel like winners. The poor minorities know better.

 

If we can see that patriotism has been indoctrinated into us, we'll be a step closer to reclaiming our minds and freeing ourselves from these internalized control mechanisms that make us subservient to the corporate state and its owners. We will no longer be their loyal and obedient populace generating profits for them. When we finally evict them from their positions of power in our minds and in the world, we'll then be able to build a country we really could be proud of.

 

#

William T. Hathaway is an adjunct professor of American studies at the University of Oldenburg in Germany. His new novel, Lila, the Revolutionary, is a fable for adults about an eight-year-old Indian girl who sparks a world revolution for social justice. Chapters are posted at www.amazon.com/dp/1897455844. A selection of his writing is available at www.peacewriter.org.

The Karma of Terror

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Published on the Doomstead Diner on February 6, 2016

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With this article the Diner welcomes William T. Hathaway to the Diner pantheon of cross posting authors.  From his time as a Green Beret in the jungle of Vietnam to his to his succeding years as an activist for peace, William Hathaway speaks with clear voice the Diner is proud to feature. -RE

From Countercurrents.org:

"It took me years to overcome the warrior indoctrination I got in the Special Forces. It was very deeply ingrained. What finally brought me out of it was meditation and my wife's persistent love," says author William T. Hathaway. "Now I look back and ask, How could I have fallen for that military nonsense?"

A Special Forces combat veteran, Hathaway has answered that question in two novels about what attracts men to war and how they can be healed of the pathology of patriarchal machismo.

His first novel, A WORLD OF HURT, won a Rinehart Foundation Award for its portrayal of the blocked sexuality and the need for paternal approval that draw men to the military.

"I was trying to uncover the psychological roots of war, the forces that so persistently drive our species to slaughter," says Hathaway. "Our culture has degraded masculinity into a deadly toxin. It's poisoned us all. Men have to confront this part of themselves before men and women together can heal it."

He is active in a group offering support and shelter to soldiers who have refused to be sent to Iraq and Afghanistan. "The real heroes in the military are the deserters," says Hathaway. He wrote the introduction to AMERICA SPEAKS OUT: Collected Essays from Dissident Writers and has published numerous shorter pieces, including "Sedition, Subversion, Sabotage" in CounterCurrents.

His writing won him a Fulbright professorship at universities in Germany, where he currently lives.

Hathaway sees spirituality as an essential component of a more peaceful world. "My military experience convinced me that to prevent war we need to raise human consciousness. A look at the history of revolutions shows that switching economic and political systems isn't enough. The same aggressive personality types take over and start another army. We have to change the basic unit, the individual.

"Many of my leftist colleagues ignore this because they see the individual as the product of social and material forces. But I think the human heart is deeper than that and can be changed.

"I've found Eastern meditation to be the most effective way to change people. Unlike prayer, it works on the physiological level, altering the brain waves and metabolism. It refines the nervous system and expands the awareness so that the unity of all human beings becomes a living reality, not just an idealistic concept.

"After a while of meditation people stop wanting to consume things that increase aggression, such as meat, alcohol, and violent entertainment. They become more peaceful."

 

 

Terrible terrorists are killing our soldiers in their countries and killing us here at home. How can we stop them?

 

https://s-media-cache-ak0.pinimg.com/564x/14/2a/60/142a6094dc186be517742cda6445c0fa.jpgThe answer is simple: Stop terrorizing them. We started this war. What we do to others comes back on us.

 

In addition to centuries of crusades and imperial conquest, the past 100 years show a clear pattern of Western aggression in the region. During World War One the British persuaded the Arabs to fight on their side by promising them independence. Thousands of them died in battle for the Brits because of this promise of freedom. But after the victory Britain refused to leave; it maintained control by installing puppet kings — Faisal in Iraq and Ibn Saud in Saudi Arabia — to rule in its interest.

 

After World War Two the USA and Britain pressured the United Nations into confiscating Arab land to form the state of Israel, making the Arabs pay for the crimes of the Germans. They wanted Israel as a forward base for dominating the resources of the Middle East.

 

In the early 1950s the USA and Britain overthrew the government of Iran because it tried to nationalize its oil industry, which was under Western control. We installed the Shah as dictator, and he promptly gave the oil back to us. Then he began a 25 year reign of terror against his own people. His secret police jailed, tortured, or killed hundreds of thousands of Iranians who opposed him. Since they knew he was kept in power only by American military aid, they began hating the USA.

 

In the mid 1950s Egypt decided to nationalize the Suez Canal and use the income from it to help their people out of poverty. They were willing to pay its British and French owners the full market value for their shares, but Western governments and Israel responded violently, invading and bombing Egypt into submission.

 

Countries have the right to nationalize their resources as long as they pay a fair compensation, so what Iran and Egypt wanted to do was legal. The Western response, though, was illegal aggression in violation of international law and the United Nations charter. It roused in its victims a deep resolve for revenge.

 

The West has committed similar atrocities in Syria, Libya, Afghanistan, Iraq, Lebanon, and Indonesia. We've overthrown their governments, installed dictators, undermined their economies — all to strengthen our business interests. In every nation where we now have terrorism, we had first assaulted them. We under attack only because we are on the attack. It's no wonder they hate us. Imagine how we would feel if a foreign country was doing this to us. We'd be fighting back any way we could.

 

Since they don't have our military power, they're resorting to guerrilla warfare. As Mike Davis wrote, "The car bomb is the poor man's air force." The rich have Stealth bombers, the poor have Toyota Corollas, both filled with explosives. The bombers are much bigger and kill many more people. Since 9-11 the USA has killed over 300,000 — 100 times more than died in the World Trade Center. The overwhelming majority have been civilians. We are the top terrorist, armed to the teeth with weapons of mass destruction. As Martin Luther King stated: "The greatest purveyor of violence in the world today is my own government."

 

Our politicians and media have created an image of fiendish terrorists who "hate us for our freedom." But they really hate us for subjugating them. Since we started the aggression, the attacks won't end until we leave their countries.

 

Even fanatics like al-Qaeda and ISIS are fighting defensively to force us out. The Western media never publish their demands because they are so reasonable. They basically come down to, "Go home and leave us alone. Pull your soldiers, your CIA agents, your missionaries, your corporations out of Muslim territory. If you do that, we'll stop attacking you." Nothing about destroying the West or forcing it to become Islamic. Just that the West should stay in the West.

 

If people knew this — knew how easy it would be to stop terrorism — they wouldn't want to fight this war. That's why the media ignore the fundamentalist's demands. Western leaders don't want people to see that the war's real purpose isn't to stop terrorism but to control the resources and markets of this region. They actually want the terrorism because that gives them the excuse they need — the threat of an evil enemy.

 

As Hermann Goering, Hitler's assistant, declared: "Naturally the common people don't want war…. But…it is always a simple matter to drag the people along, whether it is a democracy, a fascist dictatorship, or a parliament, or a communist dictatorship…. All you have to do is to tell them they are being attacked, and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger. It works the same in any country."

 

Goering was right about the democracies that existed both then and now. In these, the people's influence in politics is limited to ensure that only pro-capitalist parties have a chance. Corporate financing, winner-take-all elections, ballot-access laws, and slanted media coverage effectively exclude alternatives. Democracy means power is in the hands of the people. But the real power in our society — economic power — remains firmly in the hands of the rich elite, enabling them to control politics — and us — to a large degree.

 

Capitalism is always at war. The violence, though, is often abstract: forcing us either to accept low-paying, exhausting jobs or starve; denying us adequate health care, education, and economic security; convincing us that human beings are basically isolated, autonomous units seeking self gratification. But when this doesn't suffice to keep their profits growing, the violence becomes physical, the cannons roar, and the elite rally us to war to defend "our" country and destroy the fiendish enemy. Motivating us to kill and die for them requires a massive propaganda campaign — "The West is under attack!" — which we absorb whenever we turn on their media.

 

Why do they do this? Are they monsters?

 

No, they're not. They're just human beings who are products of an inhuman system which they have chosen to serve rather than change. Capitalism is inherently predatory, so predatory personalities rise to the top. Since it demands aggressive growth, they must either dominate or go under.

 

The drive for domination is the root cause of war, and until we eliminate it, we're going to continue killing one another. Eliminating it requires a global struggle to bring down capitalism and replace it with socialism. Political democracy must be expanded and extended into the economic sphere. We, the people of the world, have to take control of the forces that shape our lives. This is the basis for building a society in which we can all fully develop as human beings. Once we achieve this, we'll have a real chance for lasting peace.

 

We can do this! It's no more difficult than other evolutionary challenges humanity has mastered.


William T. Hathaway is an adjunct professor of American studies at the University of Oldenburg in Germany. His new book, Lila, the Revolutionary, is a fable for adults about an eight-year-old Indian girl who sparks a world revolution for social justice. Chapters are posted on www.amazon.com/dp/1897455844. He is a member of the Freedom Socialist Party (www.socialism.com), and a selection of his writing is available at www.peacewriter.org.

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