Ochenski: Western front 

Oakland's wooden bullets bring the war home

The destruction of Baghdad continues unabated as images of gracefully arched buildings and waving palm trees being blown to smithereens pour through our TVs on a non-stop basis. When the star-bedecked generals backed by their corporate media lackeys tell us that the war in Iraq is “going well,” one has to wonder: “For whom?” Meanwhile, here at home we have our own ongoing war: war for freedom of speech and expression, war for our dwindling right to “peacefully assemble” to petition our own government, and war to find the money for butter when so much has already been spent on guns.

The latest development in the war at home finds peace demonstrators in California under fire from their own police. According to various eye-witness reports, the police attacked the demonstrators with wooden and rubber bullets, “flash-bang” grenades and “stinger” bombs that, like their deadly cousin “cluster bombs” being used in Iraq, indiscriminately fling projectiles in all directions. And, just like in Iraq, there was “collateral damage” to innocent bystanders, who happened in this case to be half a dozen longshoremen, blasted while standing nearby, waiting to go to work.

Of course, this is nothing new. Those of us who are old enough remember well the black day in Ohio when the war in Vietnam came home. That day ended with the National Guard killing four Kent State students who were demonstrating against the war. The unarmed students were gunned down with real bullets on a college campus for the simple act of opposing what we know now (and many knew then) to be a bogus war, for bogus reasons, fed to us by bogus politicians. If this sends a chill down your spine, it’s because it is all too much like what we are now seeing in Iraq.

In the Vietnam days, the baloney that was force-fed to the populace was based on a political construct called “the Domino Theory.” Under this hypothesis, unless the U.S. destroyed communism and “brought democracy” to Vietnam, one by one the other nations of Southeast Asia would topple like dominoes into the communist camp. Forty years later, after sacrificing 56,000 of our fine young men and women while mentally and physically crippling hundreds of thousands more, it is apparent that the Domino Theory was totally wrong.

Now, we are being force-fed political theories that require us to once again “bring democracy” to a foreign nation at the end of gun. This time, in bringing war, we are told that we are bringing peace. By preemptively attacking a nation on the other side of the globe, we are told that we are defending liberty here in the homeland. By throwing hundreds of millions of Muslims into paroxysms of hate, we are told that we are making future friends for America. The logical dichotomy being spun by President Bush and his various mouthpieces is not lost on those of us who have been down this road before.

But nowadays, woe be to those who would question such illogic. Recently Marc Racicot, our former governor turned D.C. lobbyist and top shill for the Republican National Committee, blasted U.S. Senator John Kerry for suggesting that what our country really needs is a “regime change” here at home. Racicot, in the imperious, chiding tone we saw so many times during his tenure as governor, berated Kerry saying: “Senator Kerry crossed a grave line when he dared to suggest the replacement of America’s commander in chief at a time when America is at war.”

Big words from Racicot, who continues to milk the war effort for every drop of Republican political benefit. But there’s just one problem: Even by the Republicans’ own stilted standard of free speech, Kerry, a decorated Vietnam War veteran, has “earned” the right to dissent. In fact, if “protecting our liberty” is the reason for this war, then Racicot should, by any standard of logic, be defending the rights of any and all—including non-veterans—to enjoy their Constitutionally guaranteed right of free speech without being condemned, derided, or, as in California, attacked by their own police.

Needless to say, that ain’t happening. Instead, we are told that we must “support our troops,” and that questioning the logic or veracity of those who sent them into harm’s way is somehow unpatriotic. Remembering Vietnam, however, it is clear that nothing could be further from the truth. It was the war at home, the nation-wide tearing of our social fabric, and the willingness of millions of Americans to rise up against sitting presidents (both Democrat and Republican), that finally stopped the slaughter in Southeast Asia. It was the people, not the politicians, who finally stopped that war. Our current dilemma is no less severe and, in all likelihood, it will be the people, not our mostly spineless politicians, who will bring Bush’s global aggression to a halt.

While promising to bring democracy to the Middle East, Bush and company are trampling democracy at home. While promising to rebuild roads, bridges, schools, and water treatment facilities in Iraq, Bush’s band of outlaws is beggaring the budget, crippling our economy, and ignoring these same pressing needs that beset cities, towns, and states across the U.S. The economic and social impacts will only get worse as nations around the globe ditch dollars for euros, dump American investments, and boycott American goods. And then there are the millions of young Muslims who, far from covering us in flowers and welcoming us as liberators, are growing their own black seeds of anger, frustration, and eventually, violence towards all things American.

Oakland City Council member Jane Bruner hit the nail on the head when she condemned the violent actions of the Oakland police toward the anti-war demonstrators: “They should not have been using wooden bullets,” she told reporters. “Given what’s happening in the world today, we’re going to be seeing more of this.”

She’s right. The war at home has just begun.

When not lobbying the Montana Legislature, George Ochenski is rattling the cage of the political establishment as a political analyst for the Missoula Independent.

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