Where have we seen this before?
American tanks surround the holy site of a religious sect. Troop commanders
and government officials issue bombastic orders to an inferior, out-gunned,
faith-fueled adversary to surrender or die. The guardians of the site are
armed and determined to fight rather than surrender their charismatic
leader. The pusillanimous press obediently label the surrounded ones as
dangerous fanatics led by a fiery rebel. The Americans claim that the rebels
have rigged the holy site to burn it to the ground. The soldiers demand that
the rebels surrender, disarm and submit to “an arrest warrant.”
Is this Najaf... or is it Waco?
Not that David Koresh and the Branch Davidians would have appreciated the
comparison to Moqtada Al-Sadr and his Mehdi Militia, but the mad dog
reaction of the United States is very similar. The difference is that in
Waco, the U.S. Government was hellbent to slaughter American resisters and
in Najaf it is hellbent to wipe out the Shi'a resisters.
This author does not share any particular intersection with the Branch
Davidians or with the Shi'a. Nor does this author wear a Libertarian or
Liberal or Progressive label, for each creed has its merits and its
deficiencies, and no single suit of political clothing is good for every
season. The common point of interest between Waco and Najaf, however, is the
American cultural and political reaction to The Resistance. Any Resistance.
In fact, regardless who has been in power, America's historical reaction to
any form of organized resistance has been violent, overwhelming, bloody,
head-cracking violence. Contrary to common belief, America does not
countenance anything except docility, meekness and submissiveness. The
country that mythologizes pluralism, has a tradition of intolerance toward
Think Ruby Ridge and the FBI's murder of Randy Weaver's wife and son.
Remember Mayor Richard Daly and the 1968 Democratic Convention. Recall the
1916 Wobbly Massacre in Everett, Washington. Think 1890 and the massacre of
Native Americans at Wounded Knee. The Tulsa Massacre of Black Americans in
1921. The coalfield labor slaughter of 1914 in Ludlow, Colorado. The
genocide committed by the American military on the Philippine people in the
Insurrection of 1899 – 1902. Henry Kissinger's carpet bombing obliteration
of millions of Cambodians between 1969 – 1973. The American attack and
destabilization of the elected government of Guatemala, 1954. And Vietnam,
Haiti, Chile, Panama. It is not a pretty history we have.
Notwithstanding our mythology, Americans do not stand up for the underdog.
We are Top Dogs. We eat underdogs for breakfast. We chew them up and spit
out their bones. In short, we are Bullies. Muscle beach, thick-skulled,
in-your-face-sand-kicking closed-minded bullies. Our economic system rewards
Bullies. Our political and cultural systems encourage Bullies. Our history
confirms that we have been, and we continue to think and act like Bullies.
However, lest we unduly criticize America, let us remember that no
civilization to date has ever done anything differently. All big, powerful
empires have been bullies, and we are no different. In big and small
societies, those who have power will, if necessary, beat the weak into the
pavement to preserve that power. It even happens on the micro level of the
father who abuses his wife or children because They Disobey Him. It is a
common theme of the Angry God who corporally punishes his rebellious
backsliders. Everywhere, Disobedience and Resistance are severely beaten
down by the strong and insecure. It is a very ugly human trait. But it is
not uniquely American.
The French government slaughtered the under-armed thousands who rebelled and
barricaded the Paris Commune in 1848. Again, in 1954-62, the French
violently oppressed the Algerians who fought a guerrilla war of
independence. The Chinese keep a tight noose on the Tibetans and are
squeezing the life out of their culture. The Turks committed genocide
against the Armenians in 1915 and millions died. The Soviets crushed the
Hungarians in 1956. The Israelis decimate the Palestinians who resist their
hegemony. The Spanish fascists, with American and British help, annihilated
the Republican resistance in the Spanish Civil War. The British have spread
death and cultural disintegration as a matter of policy wherever they went
ever since The Hundred Years War with France in the 13th -14th Centuries. In
1994, the Hutu in Rwanda slaughtered the Tutsi by the hundreds of thousands.
During the Second World War, the Nazis exterminated as many as a million
Roma and six million Jews throughout Europe in an orgy of “race
purification”. The Japanese raped China in 1937-38. The Dutch wasted
Indonesia in 1947 in a “police action” to put down a rebellion for
independence. In 1965-66, the Indonesians, with America's blessing, murdered
millions of Indonesian “communists” and later, beginning in 1975 (and again
with America's blessing) they wiped out much of the population of East
Timor. The Vatican exterminated the Cathars in the 13th Century in what is
now southern France, and the Crusaders killed anyone and everything in
Europe and the Middle East from 1095 to about 1300.
Polish rebels in Warsaw rose up in rebellion in 1944. The Germans, with
Russian, British and American acquiescence, jackbooted the Warsaw resistance
fighters and killed them by the thousands and thousands.
Warsaw. Falluja. Warsaw. Wounded Knee. Falluja. Gaza. Jakarta. Warsaw. Waco.
Najaf. Warsaw. Warsaw. Warsaw. Powerful Humans always have and always will
try to squash resistance because if one act of resistance succeeds, then it
will encourage other acts of resistance which will, ultimately, lead to the
overthrow of those who Wield the Power. That is the brutal reality of how
People in Power retain their Power. They mercilessly squash you if you
resist. They squash you mercilessly to demonstrate to other wannabe rebels
that they, too, will be mercilessly squashed if they utter a peep of
dissent. Those who have attained the pinnacles of power in their world – in
Washington, D.C., in Moscow, in London, in Riyadh, in Jerusalem, in
Islamabad, in Baghdad, in Australia, and in Rome - not only know this rule,
but they have proved themselves quite willing to apply it.
It is not completely dismal, however. On this brutal globe, in our
blood-stained world history of the progression of bullies, America does
stand out as someplace special, notwithstanding its sordid past. The problem
is that most Americans, and certainly the majority of American political,
religious and business leaders completely misunderstand why.
Ours is not a land more beautiful than any other. Other lands, too, have
forests, mountains, gorges and lakes. Our difference is certainly NOT our
capitalism for, in reality, our economic strength depends exclusively on our
ruthless exploitation of mineral and energy resources that are not
inexhaustible and that will soon peak. What makes us special is certainly
NOT our political system because it has historically sought to strangle
every infant political movement in its crib. We are definitely no better or
different because of our Judeo-Christian heritage – in fact, America in the
21st Century more strongly resembles today's Iran or yesterday's Afghanistan
or medieval Europe before the Enlightenment.
We are not better because of our multi-cultural heritage because, as any
minority in America knows, multiculturalism is tolerated in America only on
reservations, in ghettos, in museums and in movies. We are, generally
speaking, a Culture of Sameness. From sea to shining sea, we are the same
television shows, the same baseball stadiums, the same Gap and McDonald's
and Walmart and Starbucks and Krispy Kremes, the same cars, the same
clothes, the same radio talk shows, the same, the same and more of the same.
And we punish, ridicule and beat those who resist that culture of Sameness.
America is, in short, just like every other place on earth, no better and no
worse. Except in one respect.
We have a few pieces of paper: the Declaration of Independence; the
Constitution; the Bill of Rights; and a few short documents like the
The Constitution is a flawed document. It was written by land-owning
slave-holding white men determined to preserve their power. However, it also
contains the kernel of a principle of good governance: a strong system of
checks and balances intended to restrain unbridled power. The Constitution
also contains the essence of a free society – it describes a militia of the
people rather than a standing army; it includes basic and necessary
restrictions on the power to declare war, limitations on intellectual
property and prohibitions on the creation of an aristocracy.
The two bookends around the Constitution are much more radical and
enlightened documents: The Declaration of Independence and the Bill of
Rights. You should read these documents again. And again. They are
revolutionary. They are the types of writings which, if proclaimed by any
Lesser People in the world today, we Americans would grind them mercilessly
into the ground.
One bookend, The Declaration of Independence, was the trumpet call for the
American Revolution. It is an unequivocal Declaration of Resistance. It is
not a “progressive” document; it is not a “liberal” document. It is a
radical, In-Your-Face, Finger-In-Your-Eye King George, revolutionary,
incendiary manifesto. It holds that whenever the Government tends to destroy
the Peoples' inalienable rights of Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of
Happiness, then the People have the right to Rise Up and Abolish the
Government. Imagine! Our Founders actually encouraged the People to rise
up in revolt and abolish the Government that oppressed them! Perhaps
Maqtada Al-Sadr had similar thoughts, and for thinking which the PNAC
Government of the 21st Century United States determined to crush him.
The other bookend to the Constitution is the Bill of Rights. It links to the
Declaration of Independence in that the Bill of Rights specifies the the
People's inalienable rights. It is very clear. Number One: “Congress
shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion... or abridging
the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably
to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.”
In short, the First Amendment stands opposed to everything George Bush
and his cohorts and the buy-partisan Congress have shoved down our throats,
and it prohibits the restraints on freedom of speech and freedom of assembly
that the two parties seem so determined to gag us with. A Government that
violates the First Amendment invites the remedy ordained by the Declaration
Amendment Number Two is the teeth for the First. It is a historically
necessary companion to the Declaration of Independence that asserts the
People's right to abolish an unjust government: “A well regulated
Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the
people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.” Curiously, Mr.
Al-Sadr would understand this amendment to our own Constitution, as would
those who stormed the Bastille in Revolutionary France. Even as the Iraqi
resistance struggles to throw off its occupiers, by force of its own arms
and the sacrifice of their own lives, our own citizens lose the thread of
the argument of the Second Amendment, as we debate absolute non-violence
versus absolute gunophilia, and fail to appreciate the political implication
of the Amendment's words.
The Third, the Fourth, the Fifth, the Sixth, the Seventh, the Eight, the
Ninth and the Tenth Amendments to the Constitution, to a greater or lesser
degree, all serve to strengthen the liberties proclaimed by the Declaration
of Independence and reinforce the people's defenses against the aggregation
In 1863, on the Battlefield of Gettysburg, Abraham Lincoln reminded us that
the United States was “a new nation, conceived in liberty and dedicated
to the proposition that all men are created equal.” Lincoln further told
us that we were then engaged in a great war, “testing whether that nation
or any nation so conceived and so dedicated can long endure.” It was for
us, Abraham Lincoln said, to resolve “that this nation shall have a new
birth of freedom, and that government of the people, by the people, and for
the people shall not perish from the earth.” Lincoln was talking as much
to his generation as to ours. The test of our resolve is the same now as it
was for the people in the midst of the Civil War.
These few documents, therefore, vestiges of an 18th Century Enlightenment,
are the only things that mark The United States of America as anything
better or different than any other bully empire that has ruled before us.
These documents and ideas alone mark us as “different” from all others -
not our capitalism, not muscular Judeo-Christianity, not our resources or
our culture or our laws or our two party political system, They are truly
remarkable documents. They contain very powerful ideas. These ideas mark the
United States of America as someplace different from any other nation on
earth, but only so long as they remain potent, living ideas. They are the
things that make this country worth fighting for. The only things.
Without them, America is no different than any other nation on earth.
May they survive this administration and both political parties.
May they survive Us and our bullying ways.
May they survive Warsaw. Falluja. Wounded Knee. Gaza. Jakarta. Haiti. Waco.
May we continue to sustain the difference that is America. Vive la
Zbignew Zingh can be reached at
Zbig@ersarts.com. This Article is CopyLeft, and free to distribute,
reprint, repost, sing at a recital, spray paint, scribble in a toilet stall,
etc. to your heart’s content, with proper author citation. Find out more
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Articles by Zbignew Zingh
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