Backtalk, September 2

Kerry: Unwavering Support of Israel

As a wounded WWII U.S.M.C. combat machine gunner, 2 years in combat, 19 island landings, Okinawa the last, and a voting Democrat, I think Kerry is nuts with his support of Israel and their atrocities against the Palestinians.

Kerry should be a Republican and run against that jerk Bush. I am going to, this time, write in Dennis Kucinich’s name for president.

~ Former Sgt. Albert Mezzetti

The Silent Majority Is Ours

Damn stupid. How would anyone know whether you and the other non-voters were protesting or were just lazy or apathetic? …

~ Paul W., California voter

Dave Stratman (Editor, New Democracy) replies:

Already about 50% of eligible voters do not vote. It’s silly to ascribe this to apathy, since surely, if people thought that they could actually make their lives better by voting, they would do it. A more likely explanation is that people have learned from experience that politicians lie, that the government does not represent them, and that voting changes nothing.

We aren’t calling on people just to refuse to vote, but to announce publicly why they are not voting – by handing out literature at polling places, writing letters to the editor, talking to family and friends, and anything else they can think of.

I can agree with much of the article except the non-vote portion. The fact is only half of Americans that are able to vote are registered. Of that half only about half of them actually vote, so 25% of the people are electing the government.

Now of that 25% how many are party loyalists who make their living through the party? Instead of not voting at all advocate voting for any third-party candidate. Both parties must be destroyed – that is the goal. Boycott the TV and print news media that are being puppets for the NWO.

Demonstrations are needed to show the American people that they are not alone in their feelings of dislike for what is going on….

~ Tom Scopelliti

Dave Stratman replies:

I‘m not opposed to demonstrations but to demonstrations organized around a narrow liberal agenda. Demonstrations for now have reached the limits of their usefulness, because the organizers are wed to an agenda that excludes the majority of people who oppose the war. If we are to succeed, we have to change the character of the organized antiwar movement. The way to do this, I think, is to stop demonstrating and instead go out to the communities, to the people, enlist them, mobilize them, listen to them and learn from them what they are concerned about.

And how is anyone going to tell the difference between people refusing to vote and the 40+% who will not vote anyhow, because they never vote, not to mention the 30+% of African-American young men in some states who are disenfranchised because of contact with the legal system?

Refusing to vote is not a solution.

Voting Libertarian, or Green, or for some readers Constitution is a solution, because it makes your numbers visible. Refusing to vote makes you indistinguishable from the great plurality of all Americans who in 2000 voted by not voting that they were the doormats over which the Democratic-Republican parties would trod.

By the way, if the Democrats did not care about the Kucinich delegates, who were there in front of them, why will they care more about people who simply stay home and leave them alone to continue their war on the Iraqi people?

~ George Phillies

Dave Stratman replies:

Refusing to vote” is not intended as a solution but as a step in building a much broader movement than what we now have. To build that movement, we need tactics in which millions can engage in a coordinated fashion, which make strong political statements at little individual risk, and which reach out way beyond the circle of political activists. Mass Refusal to vote in the presidential election 2004 would be just such a tactic. It is conceived only as an initial step – after all, the election will soon be behind us – to be followed by other, similar refusals designed to unite people against Empire in their workplaces and communities.

Do you have any idea of what you are suggesting? Apathy is what the Republicrats want. Apathy is what brought Hitler, Lenin, Mussolini and their kind to power. Their are “second” parties whose platforms include the principles America was founded on and are flying in the face of the Empire builders. Do you mean to ignore them as if they didn’t exist? To ignore people, like the patriots at Bunker Hill and the remnant that signed the Declaration of Independence? It was not a majority of the colonists that wanted to take on their tyrannical government, England.

Refuse to vote? I cannot believe any American would think like that. Refuse to support the tyranny of the Republicrats? I cannot believe an American would not support that?

~ Wildey Moore

Dave Stratman replies:

Apathy” means not caring. I’m not proposing apathy. I’m proposing a more effective way of organizing against the war than voting for a pro-war candidate or for a candidate with absolutely no chance of winning.

Mr. Stratman can’t seriously be suggesting that the way to change things in a democracy is NOT to vote. From my viewpoint, given that half of the electorate already do not vote, it would only reinforce the current duopoly (thanks Ralph). I am afraid you have misinterpreted the lessons learned during protests of the Vietnam war. The members of the “silent majority” were not the ones that changed our course. It was the loud, in-the-streets, resistance that forced the issue. The shame of it is that people, like Kerry, have forgotten what they stood for. Maybe they have just passed the age of thirty and thus everything the say and think should be suspect.

Mr. Stratman, think! Currently 96 to 98% of the likely voters are willing to support a war candidate. It is only part of the remaining 4-6% that are willing to find someone else to vote for. Face it, we had a non-progressive antiwar candidate – in Dean – and the Democrats offed him. The people seem to be saying very loudly, “WE LIKE IT THIS WAY.” (USA, USA, USA, we’re number 1.)

Sorry for the rant. I guess I’m just a sour grapes progressive.

~ Mike Irving

Dave Stratman replies:

Mike Irving’s letter displays much that is wrong-headed about clinging to the electoral process.

Irving says, “Mr. Stratman can’t seriously be suggesting that the way to change things in a democracy is NOT to vote.” The fact is, however, that we do not live in a democracy. In a democracy, the government would fully inform the citizenry, not systematically lie to it, especially in matters of war and peace. In a democracy, the direction of society would reflect the values, the decency, and the best interests of the great majority, not the brutality and greed of the military-industrial elite. In a democracy, the candidates would represent meaningful policy alternatives.

The illusion that we have a democracy is perhaps the chief means by which the ruling elite controls the great mass of people. Politicians are only front men for the real powers in our society – the financial and corporate elites and masters of great wealth – who remain behind the scenes and use the electoral process to veil their power from public view. The electoral process perpetuates the illusion of democracy, draws strict limits on the range of permissible debate, limits the extent of change which seems possible, divides the citizenry, and discourages people from engaging in mass direct action – the only strategy that has ever changed things in the U.S.

As Mike Irving points out, it was mass protest in the U.S. and the growing refusal of U.S. soldiers in the field to fight (as well as the courageous resistance of the Vietnamese themselves) that ended the war in Vietnam – not voting for so-called peace candidates. The industrial labor movement went nowhere until thousands of auto workers occupied the plants in the Great Flint Sit-Down Strike of 1936-37. Black people won civil rights and the end of Jim Crow only through a mass movement that involved millions of courageous people standing up for the rights at lunch counters, on buses, in the streets.

Irving’s letter also reveals the most poisonous effect of the electoral process in this fake democracy of ours: it is profoundly demoralizing. Irving writes, “Currently 96 to 98% of the likely voters are willing to support a war candidate. … The people seem to be saying very loudly, ‘WE LIKE IT THIS WAY.'” The reality is that people do not feel they have any other choice, because both candidates with a chance of winning are pro-war and the people see no way out of the electoral trap. A survey done by the Boston Globe before the Democratic Convention got under way revealed that 95% of the delegates were opposed to the war – yet “their” candidate is aggressively pro-war and “reporting for duty.” Whichever candidate wins, the election will be trumpeted by the corporate media as an endorsement of the war – which will make the millions opposed to the war feel isolated and demoralized, even though they are the majority. The fraudulent electoral process will give the stamp of democratic legitimacy to the profoundly undemocratic direction our rulers are taking us.

To change the course of Empire, we need to break out of the illusion of democracy and the illusion that some politician is going to change things for us. Mass refusal to vote for president in 2004, and proclaiming as widely as we can our reasons for doing so, will be a liberating first step in building a powerful movement for real democracy.

I‘ve been asking myself: “whom do I vote for in this election?” And I’ve answered, “No one” – here, at last, is a commonsense approach. Both candidates are pro-war and pro-empire, apparently.

I’ll spread the word.

~ Alma J.

Dave Stratman replies:

Thanks, Alma. Please do spread the word.

Bonkers Bolton Threatens Iran

In light of the latest story about the spy in the DOD does this have a familiar ring to it? When Wolfowitz, Pearl, Feith, etc. were named to posts we had to know what was going to happen.

~ Mild Red

Gordon Prather replies:

You’re right but the real scandal is that Rumsfeld-Wolfowitz-Feith-Cambone et al have been allowed by Congress to usurp the role of the secretary of state and the director of Central Intelligence. Congress has allowed the Pentagon to wag the U.S. foreign policy dog. Colin Powell is responsible for keeping Bonkers Bolton in his cage, but Congress is responsible for keeping Rumsfeld-Wolfowitz-Feith-Cambone in theirs. When Rumsfeld-Wolfowitz-Feith-Cambone testify before Congressional committees (that are supposed to be providing “oversight” over the expenditure of appropriated funds) the correct response by committee members ought frequently to be “Who the hell authorized you to do that”?

A Waste of Blood

The Charley Reese article “A Waste of Blood,” while generally correct in its summary of the stupidity and waste of the war on Iraq, falls into an error which, while all too easy to espouse, is divorced from the facts. He unthinkingly demonizes the Iraqi people when he writes: “The Iraqis don’t want us in their country.”

While it is true the Iraqi people did not greet us with the flower petals and rice so beloved of neocon imagery, it is worthwhile to keep a few facts in mind. The Iraqis did not hate us reflexively, and were certainly aware of the tremendous resources the U.S. could bring to Iraq. I’m sure they could have stifled any distaste they felt for the Americans, if only to benefit from the reconstruction they were promised, or the civil order which is the obligation of an occupying power. Remember, it took a year before the resistance became generalized. And we all know what happened in that year: the looting, the failure to keep order, the rip-off reconstruction, and the complete disregard for the welfare of Iraqis, culminating in the torture at Abu Ghraib, where 60-90% of the prisoners were simply rounded up without anything resembling due process.

The Iraqis are not primitive, unthinking people. Most Iraqis took a wait-and-see attitude towards the Americans, and many, indeed, were happy to get rid of Saddam. They are not stupid either; no matter what the media told us about “the schools,” they knew what was happening to their country. Americans earned the hatred of Iraqis. A better outcome for the occupation was a possibility had the intent of Americans been to bring freedom, order, and prosperity to the Iraqi people. It wasn’t.

~ Derbig Mooser

The Abu Ghraib Prison Photos

I found the photo spread that you put together on the Abu Ghraib complex rather disturbing, but informative. I really had not seen the photographs, because I had been deployed for the last year, and have not really had continuous access to news. If you are trying to send an antiwar message, might I also suggest interviewing a person (if you can find one that is still alive) that has been in the custody of the Iraqi militants for any amount of time. Or put the video of the contractor Nicolas Berg getting his head cut off on your website; I know the first time that I saw that (I was in Iraq), I wasn’t very enthusiastic about being there either.

~ Spc. Joel Foister, 2/3 INF SBCT, U.S. Army

A Reverse Cold War

Just to correct some info on the this article in about China and Russia’s view on Iran.

“…(A) Chinese company, Zhuhai Zhenrong Corporation, has just signed a long-term agreement with the current Iranian regime to buy $20 billion worth of liquefied natural gas. Zhenrong also imported 12.4 million tons of crude oil from Iran last year and expects to complete deals soon to develop three Iranian oil fields.”

LNG contracts are always over 20 years at least and the headline amount always sounds big. $1b/y of gas would be, at current prices 8bcm/y (billion cubic meters). For reference, U.S. production is around 500bcm/y; total LNG trade is around 120bcm/y. Iran has been trying to do LNG for several years now, but they still have not admitted to themselves that they need Western technology to do that, and must offer something in return (a small piece of the pie), so the projects are going nowhere. The contract with China is more a promise to sell gas eventually than an actual contract, at that stage.

“As for Sudan, it is also oil rich, and the holder of the biggest oil development concession from the current regime is China.”

True (although the sale of Sudanese oil production should not be exaggerated, it’s a small player). China has indeed been trying to court several oil-rich African countries, in order to diversify their oil supplies.

“How about Russia? Well, Russia would vigorously oppose a preemptive attack by Bush-Kerry or the Israelis on the zillion-dollar nuclear power complex the Russians are building at Bushehr.”

Officially, probably. Unofficially, they probably would not mind selling the reactor a second time to the Iranians.

“As for Iran’s oil, Russia doesn’t need it. But Russia does depend upon oil ‘swaps’ with Iran to get much of her Caspian region oil to market.”

False. It’s not Russia that could take advantage of oil swaps with Iran, it’s the “oilistans”: Turkmenistan (already doing it for small volumes, 10,000b/d) and Kazakhstan (thinking about it, and waiting for Iran to increase the capacity of the pipeline form the coast to Tehran). Russia is quite opposed to such swaps as they create an alternative (i.e., not going through Russia) export route for these otherwise landlocked producers. These oil swaps actually make a lot of economic sense, as Iranian uses its oil in the North, and produces it in the south. So if you provide (close by) Caspian oil in the North, you do not need to pump oil from the south up north, and you can instead export it (and additional advantage for Iran is that it is a way for them to increase their oil exports without falling foul of OPEC production quotas). There are some limits to these swaps: the capacity of Iran’s northern refineries is 800,000 b/d, which would be the absolute cap; and additionally they are not perfectly suited to the technical specs of Caspian oil, so would require some investments to use it.

The more interesting dynamic between Russia and Iran is on the natural gas side. Russia has 40% of world reserves, and Iran 30%. Russia is the largest gas producer in the world, and has pretty much cornered the European gas market. Iran produces almost no gas, has no market for it (no transport infrastructure), and its biggest asset, the south Pars/ North Field it shares with Qatar, is busily being exploited by Qatar while they dither. Russia is quite happy to keep them in this state of hesitation, powerlessness and “marketlessness” while pretending to help them.

Both Russia and China expect Iran to be a big customer for their armaments.

Now, if Kerry-Bush want to change the regimes of other members of the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC) – such as Cameroon, Chad, Gambia, Guinea, Guyana, Mali, Mozambique, Niger, Nigeria, Somalia, and Uganda – neither Russia or China are likely to object.

Cameroon, Chad, (Equatorial) Guinea, Nigeria have (a lot of) oil. Niger has yellowcake.

~ Guillet

Gordon Prather replies:

According to a report in today’s Tehran Times, Gholamreza Shafei, Iran’s Ambassador to Russia, said “the annual value of oil swap between Moscow and Tehran is about one billion dollars and this would herald a promising future between Iran and Caspian Sea littoral states in this regard. So far, Iran has imported about 500 million dollars oil from Russia in the Caspian Sea.”

In the swap deal, Iran imports oil from Russia for domestic consumption and exports the same amount of Iranian oil through the Persian Gulf.


Where can I get info about the statistic of USA bases all over the world?

~ Louis Horvath

Matthew Barganier replies:

Some helpful links: “US Military Troops and Bases Around the World” and “US military bases world wide 2001-2.”

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