Tuesday, 25 July 2017

Beauty of Our Weapons

“The Beauty of Our Weapons”(and the War in Yemen)

By George Capaccio

    O Lord our God, help us to tear their soldiers to bloody shreds with our shells; help us to cover their smiling fields with the pale forms of their patriot dead; help us to drown the thunder of the guns with the shrieks of their wounded, writhing in pain; help us to lay waste their humble homes with a hurricane of fire; help us to wring the hearts of their unoffending widows with unavailing grief; help us to turn them out roofless with their little children to wander unfriended the wastes of their desolated land in rags and hunger and thirst . . . . From“The War Prayer” by Mark Twain

Now in the summer of our love for the glory and greatness of the Republic, let us recall the soaring words of Mark Twain and his paean to war and its multitude of tender mercies. Let us give thanks to God and his various co-conspirators for making our nation an exceptional font of wisdom, wealth, and weapons. Let us praise the weapons makers with their bottomless thirst for profits and their pledge of allegiance to the continuation of war for which no price is too great to bear, no life too small to incinerate in the blessed pursuit of national security, global hegemony, and unchallenged control of the world’s most vital resources.
Let us bow down before the lords and ladies of the Pentagon and CIA, and their sovereign masters in the White House and legislature whose deep, uncompromising morality is clearly evident in their decision to provide billions of dollars worth of weapons to the enlightened despots of Saudi Arabia. God save King Salman and his ministers of state, presiding over shining seas of petroleum, that gooey lubricant that keeps our engines purring and our economy overflowing with the fruits of capitalist expansion and exploitation.
Now, as the world warms and the seas rise and the gods repose on cloudy cushions of greenhouse gas, let us salute our nation’s unbreakable bond of fealty to the House of Saud as the keeper of the flames that burn eternally from those precious repositories of oil in the heart of the desert. O Lord, keep those majestic wells pumping, keep the money flowing into the coffers of Raytheon, Textron, General Electric and their brothers in arms, keep our bombs and missiles falling like magical stars on the markets and mosques, villages, farms, and fields of ancient Yemen, the poorest country in the Middle East and Saudi Arabia’s next-door neighbor. God, give us the strength and resolve to continue to support the Saudi-led coalition in its no-holds-barred onslaught on the people of Yemen and the rebellious fighters in their midst.
Above all, keep our eyes fixed on the endlessly falling cascade of tweets anointing our hands and the phones we hold so dear and dare not lay aside lest we miss the latest chirp or expose ourselves to the bitter winds twisting around us, bearing news of a world of woe. Let us never waver from our sworn duty to pillory Donald Trump at every opportunity and hold his feet to the fire for the crime of colluding with the evil empire. Let us only hear the opprobrium hurled at Trump and his cronies from the high and mighty pulpits of MSNBC and their all-seeing pundits, who see under every rock and stone and in every crevice of the national security state a slimy trace of Russian intrusion.
Grant us, O Lord, the strength to seal our hearts against those who would weaken our resolve with the corrosive acid of compassion. Like brave Ulysses resisting the song of the Sirens, let us not be tempted to heed the cries of those in need in places like Yemen where our largess, our weapons, and our diplomatic support allow the Saudi-led coalition to continue bringing a “hurricane of fire” to this poor, tortured land.
Thy will be done, O Lord. Thou hast ordained all this suffering, this dying of the flesh and of the spirit, this deliberate infliction of unrelenting pain on the people of Yemen. Truly, what is unfolding in Yemen is the fulfillment of Thy Word, what Thou hast ordained as a sign of Thy presence in the world and of the grace that flows from Thy immaculate heart. Though the people of Yemen cry out for mercy. Though millions of families have lost their homes, their livelihood, their future, their faith in a better life to come. Though famine, pestilence and death stalk the land as the bombing grows more savage with every passing day, this is as it should be, as it was written in the book of time.
O Lord our God, help us to see and accept the absolute necessity of the part we play in delivering unto the people of Yemen the gifts of Thy omniscience, for You alone understand the ultimate rightness of the war and the devastation it has wrought—with the assistance of our Congress, our President and our military. Help us to set on the path of righteousness those misguided members of our own House of Representatives who have voted to end our participation in Yemen’s civil war and our support of Saudi Arabia and its God-fearing allies. Surely, these politicos have failed to take the larger view and to grasp the sublime logic behind Thy design for Yemen and the entire Middle East.
The weeping of orphaned children, the keening of widowed mothers—are these not harbingers of greater things to come, a time when peace and plenty shall reign supreme, and the people of Yemen, finally subdued, shall harvest the blessings of Thy bounty. As it was in Iraq, so shall it be in Yemen, Syria, Afghanistan, and every other nation in which our men and women in uniform have led the fight against tyranny and strewn the land with the priceless jewels of freedom and democracy.
Help us, O Lord, neither to oppose nor condemn our nation’s complicity in the destruction of Yemen and the creation of the world’s most severe humanitarian crisis. Help us to carry on with the burden of our daily lives and feel not even a twinge of concern for the innocent victims of our forward-thinking, strategy-minded leaders and their endless war on terror. Let us insteadpraise the “beauty of our weapons” and the nobility of our cause. With Thy help, O Lord, we shall succeed in employing the instruments of war to carry outThy holy plan for peace on Earth.
The biggest fools are those who cannot see the evidence of Thy love for humanity. The arms and munitions we provide for the inspired rulers of Saudi Arabia and their regional partners are most assuredly working to advance Your most beneficent vision of what our race is capable of achieving. Behold the little children in hospital beds ortheir mothers’ embrace, their paper-thin bodies shriveling up in the flames of hunger and disease, while planes overhead deliver load after load of pious bombs and shrieking villagers scour the countryside for whatever remains of their loved ones. Is this not proof of Thy sweeping immanence in the affairs of men?
O Lord our God, help us to remain silent in the face of so much suffering, to avert our eyes and pretend our insignificant lives are no match for the powers that be, though history has demonstrated otherwise, and prophets from time immemorial have called upon the people to open their hearts and hear the cries of their brothers and sisters, and do whatever is in their power to feed the hungry, heal the sick, shelter the homeless, and put an end to war. Help us, finally, to ignore the wisdom of the ages and the admonitions of those who would oppose Thy will and the will of Thy servants in every government on Earth that calculates its greatness on the number of corpses at its feet.

George Capaccio is a writer and activist living in Arlington, MA. During the years of U.S.- and UK-enforced sanctions against Iraq, he traveled there numerous times, bringing in banned items, befriending families in Baghdad, and deepening his understanding of how the sanctions were impacting civilians. His email is Georgecapaccio@verizon.net. He welcomes comments and invites readers to visit his website: www.georgecapaccio.com

Monday, 24 July 2017

Beyond Capitalism

Hamburg's G20 protests can provide immense inspiration, argues Marta Music

 “A… Anti… Anti-capitalista!”. “Staat, Nation, Kapital – Scheisse! [State, Nation, Capital – Shit!]”. 
Those chants shook the city of Hamburg from July 5-8, as tens of thousands of people gathered to protest against the G20 Summit.  Protesters from a wide variety of groups came from all over the world to disrupt, show presence and express their outrage against the neoliberal, unaccountable and undemocratic international forum during which the leaders of the 20 most powerful countries in the world set the global agenda behind closed doors, with no legitimacy or political mandate.
 Some of the biggest events which took place that week include:
July 5-6th: 
    The two day Global Solidarity Summit as a democratic, alternative platform to discuss world crises through panels, discussions and workshops
    The “Welcome to Hell” autonomous, anti-capitalist demonstration is attacked by police, but successfully marches through the city.
July 7th: 
    The Block G20 initiative begins on the first day of the summit, with several attempts to enter the red (restricted) zone from different parts of the city
    The “Shut Down the Logistics of Capital” occupation of the harbor
    The youth and student strike marches through the centre of the city
    Riots break out in the Schanze and Altona districts
July 8th: 
    The largest, general demonstration of the week “Solidarity Without Borders instead of G20” takes place, with reports of between 75,000-200,000 people in attendance.
    Police “clean” streets in Shanze and Neuer Pfedermarkt at night with force in large-scale operation.
    July 9th: The solidarity protest against the Gesa prison built specifically for the No G20 protests in support of the people arrested
This article does not deal in detail with these events or the discussions of the G20 charade. If you are looking for more information, both Crimethinc and Enough Is Enough had rolling coverage of protests, and Unicorn Riot  provides extensive footage. Instead, it will focus on two of the most dangerous institutions of the capitalist state apparatus and their roles throughout the No G20 protests – the mainstream media and the police – and presents the results of last week’s protests.    
A biased coverage of the G20 protest by the mainstream media
Those who took part in the No G20 could not agree more: the discrepancies between what actually happened last week and how the mainstream media depicts these events is shocking. The coverage of the G20 protests by the media is systematically biased.  It focused primarily on the looting of stores, cars set on fire and images of protesters throwing projectiles. By presenting looting as individual, independent acts committed by hooligans, it failed to address the underlying crises leading to such acts in a systemic way. The use of phrases such as “criminal violence”, “civil-war like situation in Hamburg" or “brutality of the protesters” all contribute to the scaremongering perpetrated by the media and the construction of an image of the “extremist protester” which both legitimizes police action and criminalizes dissent and peaceful protesting. While the number of police officers injured last week is usually reported, there are no accounts of how many protesters were hurt, and no reports of police attacks on members of the press and legal team or the beating of protesters.
Naturally, the structural violence of capitalism and its devastating economic, social and ecological consequences worldwide went completely unmentioned. The specific framing of the events of last week by the media and the failure to emphasise the manifestation of shared grievances against a global exploitative system demonstrates once more that the mainstream media is but another tool of the capitalist state apparatus, contributing to its resilience. 
Police violence during the G20
The structural violence of the state and the police are not comparable to that of burning cars and looting shops. For members of the radical left, this realisation is widely accepted. In that sense, Hamburg offers nothing new, but from a strategic perspective, there are still lessons to be learnt. The G20 protests were a struggle for emancipation, in two main ways. Firstly, they were about protecting an established autonomous space marked by anti-capitalistic social relations in the city and secondly, it was about tens of thousands of people coming together collectively to fight against a repressive system. It is with these two broad strategies in mind that we must consider last week’s events, and evaluate the struggle between the state, the police, and the protestors. 
Hamburg represents a new stage in the militarization of policing protests. The size of the operation was unprecedented, with 20,000 officers mobilized, equipped with water cannons, pepper spray, tear gas, batons and live weapons, while SWAT teams were called in, and the military waited in reserve outside the city. Tactically, the police used what we might call an ‘aggressively defensive’ strategy. As well as totally blocking the “red zone” of the meetings, an enormous “blue zone” was set-up covering the majority of central Hamburg, in which ‘assemblies’ (gatherings of three people or more) were forbidden. Any infringement of this was met with as much force as necessary. Anyone hoping to truly disrupt meetings with these sort of policing operations will need sophisticated communication strategies, and a clear way of nullifying some of the security apparatus.
 On top of this, the Polizei also used arbitrary provocation tactics to force escalation. Police officers raided the Welcome to Hell demonstration even after protesters had uncovered their faces as demanded by the authorities. In the evening of July 8th at the Rote Flora, a former theater in the Sternschanze quarter central to the squatting community, the police proceeded to arrest around 200 people in what many called “acts of revenge” and “retaliation” with the sole objective of filling the 400 places in the Gesa Prison set up specifically for the No G20 at a cost of 2 million euros. The lack of accountability for the police’s actions is another serious matter which the radical left must tackle in coming struggles. Indeed, while it is illegal for protesters to be masked, the police wore no identification numbers on their uniforms and covered up their faces entirely. The police decided how to demarcate the spaces in the city into accessible and inaccessible zones and did not hesitate to prevent peaceful protesters from exiting certain neighborhoods for hours by guarding each street. The actions of the police and the control they exercise over bodies and spaces are legitimized precisely because they are part of the state apparatus. The inherent violence of capital’s armed wing, and the fact that authorities do not protect people but the interests of capital is already an established fact. However, the G20 protests can be useful point of reflection  for future struggles, where we must prepare to fight for what we already have, and further develop offensive strategies and tactics for disrupting the oppressive machinery of capitalism.
A step towards moving beyond capitalism
A few victories of the No G20 should nevertheless be mentioned such as the retreating of the police from the Welcome to Hell demonstration which was supposed to be blocked, the delaying of summit on the first day by a group of protesters which succeeded in entering the red zone, the occupation of Hamburg’s harbor by a thousand people under the fervent cheering of the workers and the gathering of more than 100,000 people for Saturday’s general demonstration “Solidarity without Borders instead of G20”.
More importantly, last week’s events can be seen as one immense showing of solidarity from a diverse movement The G20 organising platform successfully brought together a wide range of different groups under one banner; united but autonomous. Where it may have been all too easy for the platform to disown or condemn more militant factions like Welcome to Hell, they stood strong.  The Black Bloc too was never an isolated component of the protests, and was always interspersed with, and supported by, nearby protesters.  Another major source of inspiration is the sheer size and depth of the movement. No G20 was not only about showing visibility and disrupting the G20. It was about tens of thousands of people coming together to fight against a repressive system and protect these autonomous spaces that are built collectively. The protests thrived on Hamburg’s extensive anti-capitalist infrastructure and community, with squats and social centers operating as major focal points. The 20,000 seater St Pauli stadium too hosted an alternative media forum, accommodation for protesters, and a pay what you can anti-fascist kitchen.  
The G20 protests give us proof of the strength of a vital social movement, and glimpses of the challenges ahead. This social movement is not a reformist one; it is anti-statist, anti-nationalist and anti-capitalist. Fighting for the right to protest and the right to assemble is not enough. What needs to be questioned are the laws put into place by the state. Accepting the state’s diktat on how, when and where to protest defies the very notion of protesting. The No G20 protests in Hamburg were a refusal of the legitimacy of the state to decide on people’s future, bodies and spaces. As the systemic crises inherent to capitalism multiply and intensify, people should look to ‘moments’ such as the G20 protests for inspiration and as a way to evaluate the current strength of the movement. All the while, however, we must keep constructing alternatives discourses and practices whilst working within, against and beyond the state.