Category Archives: Resistance

Ending Militarization Of Our Communities

From Stop The Militarization of Police Facebook page

In recent weeks Popular Resistance has focused on the escalation of US militarism around the world, especially in the Middle East with the assassination of General Soleimani, US troops staying in Syria to take their oil and the US refusing to leave Iraq despite being asked to leave. The US is in the midst of a potential escalation toward full-scale war in the Middle East once again.

However, militarism abroad is mirrored by militarism at home, especially in poor, black and brown communities. There is a long history of attacks on these communities. Now, the Department of Justice’s new Operation Relentless Pursuit threatens seven cities with more militarized police who view people in these communities as the enemy. This escalation of the war at home must be stopped and people are offering positive alternatives to militarization.

Join us at the conference of the United National Antiwar Coalition,
“Rise Against Militarism, Racism and the Climate Crisis Building Power Together”
February 21, 22, 23, at the People’s Forum in New York City

Trump Administration’s ‘Relentless Pursuit’ Will Ignite New Era Of Mass Incarceration

The US Department of Justice announced a new $71 million program, Operation Relentless Pursuit, which will escalate law enforcement in seven cities focusing on poor, black and brown communities. In addition to increased spending, the DOJ will bring enforcement personnel from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobaccos, and Firearms, the Drug Enforcement Agency, the FBI, and US Marshals to Albuquerque, Baltimore, Cleveland, Detroit, Kansas City, Memphis, and Milwaukee.

These types of federal enforcement programs have a long history dating back to the Law Enforcement Assistance Administration that existed from 1968 to 1982, to the Weed and Seed program that began in 1997 under the Clinton Administration with $28.5 million and continues today. There are numerous similar programs and federal-state law enforcement task forces. They have resulted in increased arrests and mass incarceration without investing in communities or solving the root causes of crime.

In the graph below, the Sentencing Project shows how the number of people in prison in the United States took off starting in the late 1960s and early 1970s. Mass incarceration is a direct result of changes in policy governing law enforcement and the judicial system such as the war on drugs and mandatory minimums for sentencing. It is also driven by the privatization of prisons. Prison corporations sign contracts with governments that guarantee a certain level of occupancy creating an obligation by the state to incarcerate people.

More Police In Communities Means More Deaths

The United States is the “greatest purveyor of violence,” as Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. said, both abroad and at home. Just as the US openly killed the foreign military leader of a country we are not at war with, in the US, police brazenly kill on average more than 1,000 people per year or about three people per day. Black men are three times more likely to be killed by police than white men. Latino men’s risk of being killed by police is about 40 percent higher than the risk faced by white men. Men are 10 times more likely to be killed by police than women. Racial inequality in risk extends across gender.

In fact, the total number of civilians killed by police in the United States greatly surpasses the number of US troops killed in Afghanistan and Iraq where 39 soldiers were killed in 2019 and 48 in 2018.  China, whose population is 4.5 times the size of the United States, recorded 3 killings by law enforcement officers in 2018 and 2019 combined. Police in the US kills citizens at over 70 times the rate of other first-world nations.

Many people in heavily-policed communities do not feel safer when they see police in their neighborhoods. Too many feel like the police are an occupying force that gets away with murder. The violence of police leading to the death of civilians has become more widely known and understood as people developed the ability to report them through social media. Well-known killings such as Mike Brown in Ferguson, MO, Eric Garner in New York City, Freddie Gray in Baltimore, MD and so many others have resulted in large nationwide protests.

In response, residents of some cities have elected prosecutors who seek to control police violence but they are running up against a system that thwarts their efforts. The Circuit Attorney in St. Louis, Kimberly Gardener, is suing the city, the police union and others using a law designed for the KKK for a “racist conspiracy to stop her from doing her job.” She is being attacked personally and her efforts to hold people accountable and reopen corrupt convictions are being blocked. In many cities where prosecutors are trying to reform the system, police unions are retaliating against them.

Ending Police Violence

Communities are organizing to rein in abuse by police. There is a growing campaign for community control of the police in which residents would decide who polices their communities and how they do so. They would be able to fire police who are abusive, racist or violent and make sure police are trained to ‘protect and serve.’ People are seeking to put in place  Civilian Police Accountability Councils that give broad powers to a democratically-elected council. This would replace the charade of civilian police review boards, which are appointed and often do more to protect the police than to hold them accountable.

There are many solutions to police violence. The Police Use of Force Project proposes common-sense limits on the use of force that are proven to reduce violence. These include requiring officers to de-escalate situations, prohibiting officers from choking or strangling civilians, requiring officers to intervene to stop excessive force by another officer, restricting officers from shooting at moving vehicles, developing a continuum of force that limits the types of force and weapons used, requiring the exhaustion of all reasonable alternatives to deadly force, requiring police to give a verbal warning before shooting and requiring officers to report each time they use or threaten the use of force.

The project finds that these basic procedures are not widely used and that “the average police department would have 54 percent fewer killings and a police department with none of these policies currently in place would have 72 percent fewer killings by implementing all eight of these policies.” They also find those police departments with these policies have less likelihood of police being killed, assaulted or sustaining an injury. Restricting police violence has not lead to an increase in violent crime.

Invest in the Poor, Not Police, and End the Drug War

Jacqueline Luqman, whom we interviewed on Clearing the FOG, points to basic solutions that would reduce crime by investing in poor communities instead of investing in more police. In our city, Baltimore, the police receive more resources from the city government than the health department and schools combined. Luqman says:

There are some pretty common-sense responses. Provide people jobs. Stop taking people’s homes. Make sure that people have affordable places to live. Increase the number of truly affordable housing and provide some type of tax benefit for working people so that they can keep their homes. Definitely invest in public schools. Provide resources and programs for kids and recreation centers. Restore the recreation centers that were closed especially in places, like Baltimore. Provide subsidized mental health treatment and substance abuse treatment for people who need it. If we do those things, crime will go down.

Listen to our interview about Operation Relentless Pursuit with Jacqueline Luqman here:

New Federal Police Surge Targets Poor And Black Communities.

Luqman highlights that another driving force in crime is the illegality of drugs. Drug use has been treated as a police issue for many decades, resulting in mass arrests and mass incarceration with a racially disproportionate impact on black and brown communities. Police are not equipped to solve the health and social problems of drug abuse.

Rather than continuing to use the same mistaken policies, the US needs a new approach to drug issues. So far eleven states have legalized adult use of marijuana and prosecutors in some cities are no longer prosecuting low-level marijuana offenders. The Atlanta Police Department is disbanding its special Narcotics Unit and reassigning officers to other units to address violent crime. Homicides in Atlanta for 2019 were up 9 percent over 2018, and 19 percent over 2017.

In addition to refocusing police resources on violent crime, positive programs to deal with drug abuse are needed. The US needs to move from zero tolerance and mass arrests to harm reduction programs that use a public health approach to reduce the damage from drug abuse. There is a wide range of harm reduction programs that reduce deaths from drugs, the spread of disease and crime.

Legal access to heroin or public injection facilities as well as controlled access to heroin have had dramatic impacts on crime and health. Studies conducted in six countries – Switzerland, the Netherlands, Spain, Germany,  Canada, and England – show many positive benefits. These programs have reduced crime related to the acquisition of drugs, reduced drug markets, and public drug use, lowered the cost of health care and criminal justice as well as promoted employment and family life. Where people can purchase legal heroin for 10 percent of the cost of illegal heroin, it resulted in a 50 percent reduction in crime for those in the program as well as reductions of homelessness, unemployment and drug use.  As a result of people stabilizing their lives and forming positive relationships, people stopped their heroin use so this approach is now called Heroin Assisted Treatment.

With the United States imprisoning almost twenty-five percent of all people imprisoned in the world, even though we only have 5% of the world’s population, it is time to demand these commonsense, effective and humane approaches. Programs such as Operation Relentless Pursuit pour more money into a failed approach that terrorizes oppressed communities, breaks families apart and murders residents. We need to recognize that a country that recklessly murders people abroad will do the same at home. We need to end all wars by investing in programs that provide for people’s basic necessities instead of investing in programs that are designed to kill.

RCMP are Now Blocking Access to Wet’suwet’en Territory

RCMP are now blocking access to Wet’suwet’en territory, and only allowing hereditary chiefs that THEY approve to enter our own unceded lands. Our Wet’suwet’en people and family members are being blocked off the territory, while RCMP say that they are in a position to decide who is and who isn’t a chief.

Police have blocked media and supplies out, and they are enforcing a modern day pass system — forcing people to identify themselves in order to come and go from our own unceded lands.

Wet’suwet’en lands are unceded, untreatied, and unsurrendered. We maintain full jurisdiction, and the right to decide what happens on our lands. Our chiefs have unanimously asked RCMP to pack up and leave their remote detachment, but instead RCMP are increasing their presence — in anticipation of using violence against our people to force their way onto our lands.

Call to action: https://www.yintahaccess.com/

Wet’suwet’en Hereditary Chiefs Grant CGL One-Time Access to Shut Down Man Camp

Under the supervision of Lihkt’samisyu Chief Dsta’hyl, and following the eviction of Coastal Gaslink from unceded Wet’suwet’en territory, Wet’suwet’en Hereditary Chiefs granted Coastal Gaslink one-time access to Dark House yintah to winterize Site 9A. The Eviction Order we signed as Dinï ze’ and Ts’akë ze’ of these territories remains in effect, and Coastal Gaslink (CGL) will not be authorized to build the pipeline on unceded Wet’suwet’en territory.

This limited access was offered in good faith as a demonstration of wiggus or respect by us as Dinï ze’ and Ts’akë ze’ in our dealings with CGL, despite the lack of consent for CGL’s property and pre-construction activities on our unceded territory.

We remain steadfast in our position that no pipeline will be built on unceded Wet’suwet’en territory. As Hereditary Chiefs, we will continue to uphold Wet’suwet’en law on these lands and ensure that our eviction order stands.

Canada’s Cops Were Ready to Shoot Indigenous Anti-Pipeline Activists

RCMP officers were instructed to use as much violence as they wanted at the blockade of the Coastal Gaslink Pipeline. Kanahus Manuel, an Indigenous activist in British Columbia, said it’s part of Canada’s long colonial legacy.

Coastal Gaslink Evicted from Unist’ot’en Territory

All Coastal Gaslink workers have now been peacefully evicted from Unist’ot’en and Gidimt’en territories.

Under the authority of Anuk nu’at’en (Wet’suwet’en law), and with support of the Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs of all five clans, the Wet’suwet’en are standing up for the last of our lands and we need you to stand with us.

We will honour the instructions of our ancestors, and continue to protect our lands from trespassers.

  • See also “Canada’s Respect for the Rule of Law and Its Sacred Obligation to First Nations.”
  • A New Year and a New Trump Foreign Policy Blunder in Iraq

    It’s a new year, and the U.S. has found a new enemy—an Iraqi militia called Kata’ib Hezbollah. How tragically predictable was that? So who or what is Kata’ib Hezbollah? Why are U.S. forces attacking it? And where will this lead?

    Kata’ib Hezbollah is one of the Popular Mobilization Units (PMU) that were recruited to fight the Islamic State after the Iraqi armed forces collapsed and Mosul, Iraq’s second-largest city, fell to IS in June 2014. The first six PMUs were formed by five Shiite militias that all received support from Iran, plus Muqtada al-Sadr’s Iraqi nationalist Peace Company, the reincarnation of his anti-occupation Mahdi Army militia, which he had previously disarmed in 2008 under an agreement with the Iraqi government.

    Kata’ib Hezbollah was one of those five original Shiite militias and it existed long before the fight against IS. It was a small Shiite group founded before the U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003, and was part of the Iraqi Resistance throughout the U.S. occupation. In 2011, it reportedly had 1,000 fighters, who were paid $300 to $500 per month, probably mainly funded by Iran. It fought fiercely until the last U.S. occupation forces were withdrawn in December 2011, and claimed responsibility for a rocket attack that killed 5 U.S. soldiers in Baghdad in June 2011. Since forming a PMU in 2014, its leader, Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, has been the overall military commander of the PMUs, reporting directly to the National Security Adviser in the Prime Minister’s office.

    In the fight against IS, the PMUs proliferated quickly. Most political parties in Iraq responded to a fatwa by Grand Ayatollah al-Sistani to form and join these units by forming their own. At the peak of the war with IS, the PMUs comprised about 60 brigades with hundreds of thousands of Shia fighters, and even included up to 40,000 Sunni Iraqis.

    In the context of the war against the Islamic State, the U.S. and Iran have both provided  a great deal of military support to the PMU and other Iraqi forces, and the Iraqi Kurdish peshmerga have also received support from Iran. Secretary of State John Kerry met with Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Zarif in New York in September 2014 to discuss the crisis, and U.S. Ambassador Stuart Jones said in December 2014, “Let’s face it, Iran is an important neighbor to Iraq. There has to be cooperation between Iran and Iraq. The Iranians are talking to the Iraqi security forces and we’re talking to Iraqi security forces… We’re relying on them to do the deconfliction.”

    U.S. officials and corporate media are falsely painting Kata’ib Hezbollah and the PMUs as independent, renegade Iranian-backed militias in Iraq but they are really an official part of the Iraq security forces. As a statement from the Iraqi prime minister’s office made clear, the U.S. airstrikes were an “American attack on the Iraqi armed forces.”  And these were not just any Iraqi military forces, but forces that have borne the brunt of some of the fiercest fighting against the Islamic State.

    Open hostility between U.S. forces and Kata’ib Hezbollah began six months ago, when the U.S. allowed Israel to use U.S. bases in Iraq and/or Syria to launch drone strikes against Kata’ib Hezbollah and other PMU forces in Iraq. There are conflicting reports on exactly where the Israeli drones were launched from, but the U.S. had effective control of Iraqi airspace and was clearly complicit in the drone strikes. This led to a campaign by Shia cleric/politician Muqtada al-Sadr and other anti-occupation parties and politicians in the Iraqi National Assembly to once again call for the expulsion of U.S. forces from Iraq, as they successfully did in 2011, and the U.S. was forced to accept new restrictions on its use of Iraqi airspace.

    Then, at the end of October, U.S. bases and the Green Zone in Baghdad came under a new wave of rocket and mortar attacks. While previous attacks were blamed on the Islamic State, the U.S. blamed the new round of attacks on Kata’ib Hezbollah. After a sharp increase in rocket attacks on U.S. bases in December, including one that killed a U.S. military contractor on December 27, the Trump administration launched air strikes on December 29 that killed 25 members of Kata’ib Hezbollah and wounded 55. Prime Minister Abdul-Mahdi called the strikes a violation of Iraqi sovereignty and declared three national days of mourning for the Iraqi troops that U.S. forces killed.

    The U.S. attacks also led to massive protests that besieged the U.S. Embassy and former U.S. occupation headquarters in the Green Zone in Baghdad. U.S. forces at the embassy reportedly used tear gas and stun grenades against the protesters, leaving 62 militiamen and civilians wounded. After the siege, the Trump administration announced that it would send more troops to the Middle East. Approximately 750 troops are expected to be sent as a result of the embassy attack and another 3,000 could be deployed in the next few days.

    The U.S. retaliation was bound to inflame tensions with the Iraqi government and increase popular pressure to close U.S. bases in Iraq. In fact, if Kata’ib Hezbollah is indeed responsible for the rocket and mortar attacks, this is probably exactly the chain of events they intended to provoke. Incensed at the Trump administration’s blatant disregard for Iraqi sovereignty and worried about Iraq being dragged into a U.S. proxy war with Iran that will spiral out of control, a broad swath of Iraqi political leaders are now calling for a withdrawal of U.S. troops.

    The U.S. military presence in Iraq was reestablished in 2014 as part of the campaign against the Islamic State, but that campaign has wound down substantially since the near destruction and reoccupation of Mosul, Iraq’s second largest city, in 2017. The number of attacks and terrorist incidents linked to the Islamic State in Iraq has declined steadily since then, from 239 in March 2018 to 51 in November 2019, according to Iraq researcher Joel Wing. Wing’s data makes it clear that IS is a vastly diminished force in Iraq.

    The real crisis facing Iraq is not a growing IS but the massive public protests, starting in October, that have exposed the dysfunction of the Iraqi government itself. Months of street protests have forced Prime Minister Abdul-Mahdi to submit his resignation–he is now simply acting as a caretaker pending new elections. Severe repression by government forces left over 400 protesters dead, but this has only fuelled even greater public outrage.

    These demonstrations are not just directed against individual Iraqi politicians or against Iranian influence in Iraq but against the entire post-2003 political regime established by the U.S. occupation. Protesters blame the government’s  sectarianism, its corruption and the enduring foreign influence of both Iran and the U.S. for the failure to invest Iraq’s oil wealth in rebuilding Iraq and improving the lives of a new generation of young Iraqis.

    The recent attack on Kata’ib Hezbollah has actually worked in favor of Iran, turning Iraqi public opinion and Iraqi leaders more solidly against the U.S. military presence. So why has the U.S. jeopardized what influence it still has in Iraq by launching airstrikes against Iraqi forces? And why is the U.S. maintaining a reported 5,200 U.S. troops in Iraq, at Al-Asad airbase in Anbar province and smaller bases across Iraq? It already has nearly 70,000 troops in other countries in the region, not least 13,000 in neighboring Kuwait, its largest permanent foreign base after Germany, Japan and South Korea.

    While the Pentagon continues to insist that the U.S. troop presence is solely to help Iraq fight ISIS, Trump himself has defined its mission as “also to watch over Iran.” He told that to U.S. servicemen in Iraq in a December 2018 Christmas visit and reiterated it in a February 2019 CBS interview. Iraqi Prime Minister Abdul-Mahdi has made clear that the U.S. does not have permission to use Iraq as a base from which to confront Iran. Such a mission would be patently illegal under Iraq’s 2005 constitution, drafted with the help of the United States, which forbids using the country’s territory to harm its neighbors.

    Under the 2008 Strategic Framework Agreement between the U.S. and Iraq, U.S. forces may only remain in Iraq at the “request and invitation” of the Iraqi government. If that invitation is withdrawn, they must leave, as they were forced to do in 2011. The U.S. presence in Iraq is now almost universally unpopular, especially in the wake of U.S. attacks on the very Iraqi armed forces they are supposedly there to support.

    Trump’s effort to blame Iran for this crisis is simply a ploy to divert attention from his own bungled policy. In reality, the blame for the present crisis should be placed squarely on the doorstep of the White House itself. The Trump administration’s reckless decision to withdraw from the 2015 nuclear deal with Iran and revert to the U.S. policy of threats and sanctions that never worked before is backfiring as badly as the rest of the world predicted it would, and Trump has only himself to blame for it — and maybe John Bolton.

    So will 2020 be the year when Donald Trump is finally forced to fulfill his endless promises to bring U.S. troops home from at least one of its endless wars and military occupations?  Or will Trump’s penchant for doubling down on brutal and counterproductive policies only lead us deeper into his pet quagmire of ever-escalating conflict with Iran, with the U.S.’s beleaguered forces in Iraq as pawns in yet another unwinnable war?

    We hope that 2020 will be the year when the American public finally looks at the fateful choice between war and peace with 20/20 vision, and that we will start severely punishing Trump and every other U.S. politician who opts for threats over diplomacy, coercion over cooperation and war over peace.

    Who is Archbishop Atallah Hanna, and why Israel hates him

    “They will run and not grow weary,” is a quote from the Bible (Isaiah, 40:41) that adorns the homepage of Kairos Palestine. This important document, which parallels a similar initiative emanating from South Africa during the anti-apartheid struggle years, has come to represent the unified voice of the Palestinian Christian community everywhere. One of the main advocates of Kairos Palestine is Archbishop Atallah Hanna.

    Hanna has served as the Head of the Sebastia Diocese of the Greek Orthodox Church in Jerusalem since 2005. Since then, he has used his leadership position to advocate for Palestinian unity in all of its manifestations. Expectedly, Hanna has been on Israel’s radar for many years, as this kind of leadership is problematic from the viewpoint of a hegemonic political and military power that requires utter and absolute submission.

    So when Archbishop Hanna was hospitalized on December 18 as a result of what was reported to be Israeli “poisoning”, Palestinians were very concerned. A few days later, Hanna was found to be at a Jordanian hospital receiving urgent medical treatment for what was described, by Hanna himself, as “poisoning by chemical substance”. Whatever that substance may have been, it was reportedly discharged from an Israeli army gas canister, lobbed at Hanna’s Church in Jerusalem.

    “The Christians of Palestine are one family of Jordanians and Palestinians,” he told journalists from his hospital bed, where he also said that “Israeli occupation may have attempted to assassinate him or keep him sick all his life, indicating that the substance has very serious effects, especially on the nervous system”.

    Those familiar with Hanna’s discourse would know precisely what the rebellious Christian leader was aiming at when he spoke about the oneness of Palestinian Christians in Jordan and Palestine: unity which, sadly, has eluded Palestinians for a long time. Indeed, wherever the man may be, standing tall at a rally in Jerusalem in defence of Palestinian rights or from a hospital bed, he advocates unity among Palestinians and for the sake of Palestine.

    The Kairos document is itself an act of unity among Palestinian Christian churches and organizations. “This means for us, here and now, in this land in particular, that God created us not so that we might engage in strife and conflict but rather that we might come and know and love one another, and together build up the land in love and mutual respect,” the document, championed by Hanna and many others, states.

    Even before claiming his current leadership position, Hanna was a target of Israel. During the Second Intifada, the uprising of 2005, Hanna emerged on the scene as an advocate, not of Palestinian Christian rights but the rights of all Palestinians. He actively pursued the World Council of Churches to use its credibility and outreach to speak out against the Israeli occupation of Palestine and for an independent Palestinian state.

    In August 2002, Hanna was detained by the Israeli police in front of his home in Jerusalem’s Old City. On the orders of the Israeli Attorney General, he was charged with ‘suspicion of relations with terrorist organizations’, a concocted charge that allowed the Israeli government to confiscate the Palestinian leader’s Israeli and Vatican passports.

    Despite the fact that Palestinian Christians undergo the same experience of military occupation, oppression, and ethnic cleansing as their Muslim brethren, Israel has laboured to propagate an erroneous narrative that presents the “conflict” as one between Israel and Muslim fundamentalists. Hanna is particularly troubling for Israel because his political language demolishes Israeli hasbara at its very foundations.

    “We intend to conduct special prayers inside the Church of the Nativity for the sake of our martyrs,” he declared on October 10, 2001, when he joined Christian and Muslim leaders in their march from Jerusalem to Bethlehem, to challenge Israel’s targeting of Palestinian religious sites.

    In an interview with ‘Russia Today’ on January 30, 2015, Hanna refused to even concede the language battle to those who ignorantly – or purposely – ascribe Muslim terminology to terrorism. “Allahu Akbar” – God is great in Arabic – is as much Christian as it is a Muslim phrase, he argued.

    “We Christians also say Allahu Akbar. This is an expression of our understanding that the Creator is great. We don’t want this phrase to be related to terrorism and crimes,” he said.

    “We speak against using this phrase in this context. Those who do, they insult our religion and our religious values,” he added, again, thoughtfully linking all religious values through faith, not politics.

    “The city of Jerusalem is the city of the three Abrahamic religions,” Hanna recently said at Istanbul’s “First Global Conference on Israeli Apartheid”. Tirelessly and consistently, the Archbishop announced that “Christian and Muslim Palestinians living in Jerusalem suffer from the occupation, suffer from repression, tyranny, and oppression.”

    Although born in Ramah in Palestine’s upper Galilee region, Hanna’s true love was, and remains, Jerusalem. It was there that his spirituality deepened and his political ideas formulated. His advocacy for the Palestinian Arab Muslim and Christian identity of the city stands at the core of all of his activities.

    “Everything Palestinian in Jerusalem is targeted by Israeli occupation,” Hanna said last January during a meeting with a Doctors without Borders delegation. “The Islamic and Christian holy sites and endowments are targeted in order to change our city, hide its identity and marginalize our Arabic and Palestinian existence,” the Archbishop lamented.

    In fact, Israel has been doing exactly that, efforts that have accelerated since Donald Trump’s advent to the White House, and the US’ subsequent recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.

    Archbishop Hanna is one of the strongest and most articulate Palestinian Christian voices in Jerusalem. His relentless work and leadership have irked Israeli authorities for many years. Now that Israel is finalizing its takeover of the illegally occupied city, Hanna, and like-minded Christian and Muslim leaders, are becoming more than mere irritants but real hurdles in the face of the Israeli military machine.

    I met Abouna – Father – Hanna at a California Conference a few years ago. I heard him speak, his thunderous voice is that of a proud Palestinian Arab. He urged unity, as he always does. I chatted with him later, in the hotel lobby, as he was ready to go out for a walk with his close friend, the Mufti of Jerusalem. He was gentle and polite, and extremely funny.

    As I watched them both walk outside, I felt hopeful that unity for the sake of Palestine is very much possible.

    The Coup in Bolivia: Lessons for our Movement

    The US engineered another coup, this time Bolivia, and again our movement could not effectively counter pro-coup propaganda the US was selling to the public, let alone taking any action to stop it.

    There is an imperative need for much greater long-term cooperative work to combat US interventions. Needed is a qualitatively higher level of unity of action among our networks to combat imperialism. Lenin, one of the most effective leaders of the struggles against the ruling classes, emphasized that “The proletariat has no other weapon in the fight for power except organization.

    The divisiveness among ourselves and our alliances is a secondary issue. We often pursue political work while poorly trained in the lessons our predecessors learned from their experiences in combating the corporate elite’s repressive actions at home and abroad. The movement against ruling class brutality has accumulated over the centuries a valuable heritage of struggle and an invaluable body of experience about effective and ineffective strategies and tactics under the given conditions. No school or clearing house collects and teaches this heritage, so we have to relearn these lessons almost from scratch each generation. We also usually must recreate a national network to implement our collective anti-imperialist struggle each generation.

    Here, the ruling class and their government have significant advantages over us. They have their own legacy of experience in maintaining their rule, and they maintain a series of institutions devoted to gathering and passing down their methods of regime change (coups, color revolutions, wars), political disruption, and media disinformation campaigns. These ruling class institutions include universities, think tanks, and government agencies like the CIA, DIA, and FBI. The ruling class has the capacity to manufacture and implement a coup or a domestic wave of political repression almost off-the-shelf. On this score, they are light years ahead of us, while we are often reduced to the level of having to learn how to control and use fire each generation.

    Another reason for our lack of effective anti-imperialist organization is our lack of confidence that a serious challenge to US imperial power is even possible, which certainly seems understandable given the above. Nevertheless, we must also recognize that their system of corporate imperial rule is not stable, as the major economic crises and climate catastrophe in the coming years will show us. The rulers’ “solution” to these issues will only antagonize the majority of humanity and make them fight corporate domination of human life.

    Role of US Government Disruption

    Another cause of our weakness is the government disruption of our movements, something we gloss over. Defending Rights and Dissent just reported on FBI spying over the last ten years in >Still Spying on Dissent, showing how the FBI goes far beyond just spying to include break-ins, disruptions, political frame-ups, stings, murder, blackmail, and drug-dealing.

    These operations have escalated with Obama signing NDAA 2017, which lifted restrictions on the CIA and other organs of the national security state feeding fake news to the US population. The NDAA established “an executive branch interagency committee to counter active measures by the Russian Federation to exert covert influence over peoples and governments… through front groups, covert broadcasting, media manipulation, disinformation or forgeries, funding agents of influence, incitement, offensive counterintelligence, assassinations, or terrorist acts.”

    Senator Portman, one of the chief authors of the law, stated its intent is to “improve the ability of the United States to counter foreign propaganda and disinformation from our enemies by establishing an interagency center housed at the State Department to coordinate and synchronize counter-propaganda efforts throughout the U.S. government. To support these efforts, the bill also creates a grant program for NGOs, think tanks, civil society and other experts outside government.” NGOs and civil society can receive grants to paint voices of the anti-war movement as spreading Russian “disinformation.” This may shed light on the origin of the story that those opposed to the regime change operation on Syria are “Putinists” and “Assadists.”

    Lack of Popular Participation in Social Movements

    Our movement’s weakness must be seen as a result of the people’s insufficient participation in the fight against US wars and the military budget, even though both rob us of the wealth we need to counter our worsening quality of life. This lack of participation, lack of sustained mobilization, is hardly unique to the anti-war struggle. At present this characterizes the spectrum of social movements: the women’s movement, immigrant rights, Black Lives Matter, and so on. And even while the movement against climate change recently could rally four million, with 600,000 in the US, Greta Thornberg acknowledged the movement has not stopped carbon emissions from continuing to increase.

    Almost everyone is aware of the looming climate catastrophe around the corner, but people are generally expecting someone else to do something about it. They do not understand that the ruling class plans to do nothing, that nothing will be accomplished until we mobilize in the many millions.

    Partly a result of seeming a more viable alternative to movement building and partly a result of political naivete, people still look for solutions by investing their time and money in Democratic and Republican campaigns. For now, the movements that bring large numbers out into the streets are those contained by these two parties. This undermines our building forces independent of these two corporate parties, who serve to snuff out the movements that represent the interests of the 99%.

    The present non-existence of massive anti-intervention protests is partly a response to the failure of our major mobilizations of hundreds of thousands in 2002-2003 demanding a halt to the planned war on Iraq.  In 2011 the Occupy movement spread like wildfire, only to be snuffed out by government repression, and  again, very little changed. People do not struggle and fight for a goal if we feel our time and effort won’t pay off and make it worthwhile.  This combined with the disillusion from the unfulfilled hopes of the Obama era has left many today feeling ripped off, powerless and demoralized.

    When people feel this way, they shrink their lives into a small safe zone and pursue their private lives in a little bubble where they find some measure of comfort. The coming economic crisis and climate disaster will pop many a bubble and people will be pushed into active political opposition to the 1%. Once some important victories for us have been won, many thousands and then millions will be inspired to again awaken and fight for our demands.

    Mistakes of our Bolivian allies and Lessons for us

    1. The State as Armed Bodies of Men

    Lenin wrote in State and Revolution that the state consists of special bodies of armed men, and those who controlled these special bodies controlled the state. With the coup in Bolivia we were given a reminder. Luis Alfonso Mena S. wrote, entirely correctly, “The most important lesson from what happened on Sunday, November 10, 2019 in Bolivia is that a revolution is vulnerable when it relies on armed forces from bourgeois institutions. That is why Hugo Chavez transformed his country’s armed forces, gave them a popular and class character, turned them into defenders of the Venezuelan revolution and its people, and today they constitute one of the fundamental supports of the Bolivarian process, since they have never yielded to offers, blackmail or threats from U.S. imperialism and its lackeys on the continent.”

    Moreover, as Nino Pagliccia pointed out, “Venezuela has developed a strong civic-military union supported my thousands of voluntary militias that has been the bastion against which the Hybrid War has failed despite the numerous attempts to break that union.”

    A people’s militia in Bolivia could have maintained order in most of the country after the police forces declared they would not interfere against anti-Evo violence and before the military chiefs told Evo to resign. Fidel Castro said right after the coup against Allende in Chile, “If every worker, if every laborer, had had a rifle in his hands, the fascist coup in Chile would not have happened.” However, the MAS government never built a popular militia, and did not fill the military command structure with loyal defenders of the constitution.

    Marxists often state that as long as a socialist government does not destroy the old capitalist state and create a new system of governing, including a new military and police force to replace that inherited from previous regimes, the price for this error will be a counter-revolutionary coup by the old military hierarchy. This is often true but oversimplified.

    Nicaragua’s military high command is not loyal to the capitalist class because it was reconstituted after the 1979 Sandinista revolution. With the return to power of the capitalist class with Violetta Chamarro in 1990, the Nicaraguan military remained under the Sandinista high command of Humberto Ortega. Change in the military leadership continued to remain largely under its own control: to replace a current military chief, the military limits the president’s options to three names it submits to the president to choose among. The military today is committed to the constitution and to not repressing the people. In Nicaragua’s 2018 protests and violence, the military stayed in their barracks.

    Venezuela is another case of a pro-socialist government presiding over a capitalist economic system, with the military loyal to the Chavez-era Bolivarian constitution. Venezuela’s military was somewhat restructured by nationalistic officers back in the early 1970s, and later received a much more progressive education. Venezuela had no military caste as in Argentina or Chile, with many senior officers coming from poor urban and peasant families.

    One of Chavez’ first decisions after assuming the presidency was the creation of Plan Bolivar, sending the troops to the barrios to help clean up, paint buildings, distribute food, provide medical care, and attend to the people. The failed coup attempts since 2002 enabled the government to remove right-wingers from the military. Chavez opened the Military Academy to low income Venezuelans so they could rise up in the officer corps.  He also created an efficient intelligence service, which enabled the government to unmask coup-plotters. Today the Venezuelan military defends the revolutionary nationalist process.

    1. Importance of mobilizing and educating the people

    Diosdado Cabello, president of Venezuela’s National Constituent Assembly, hit upon another mistake of Evo when he spoke right after the right-wing coup in Bolivia. The main antidote against fascism is popular mobilization. Under Evo Morales long presidency this lesson was neglected. MAS also did not lead a nationwide effort to protest the coup as it was unfolding, rather it compromised and sought “peace.”  Cabello added, “we [in Venezuela] are going to the streets to reject the violence of imperialism…We are not surprised by the actions of the right, here in Venezuela they tried the same thing, we already know them.” Venezuela is well-prepared and experienced in mobilizing the people to combat attempted coups.

    Over the years, MAS had become an electoral party, ill-equipped to respond to the right-wing’s abrupt switch from electoral politics to street violence.  Evo and his circle did not place sufficient emphasis on political education of the masses, nor on their self-organization, nor on building a national network of political activists committed to mobilizing people in defense of The Process of Change. In contrast, Fidel’s Cuba understood these measures were needed to survive under the relentless US imperial pressure, and Cuba made itself impenetrable to regime change.

    The Bolivian military coup against an elected progressive head of state provides lessons for Bernie Sanders campaign supporters. In the US, the two-party system has developed many tools to make sure figures like Bernie never becomes the candidate, such as rigging the primaries and engaging in corporate media smear campaigns. Nor is electing such a seeming progressive leader, like we saw in 2008, close to the end of the battle. The leader’s initiatives could be blocked by Congress, by in the courts, by in the federal bureaucracy.  A genuinely progressive president could be removed from office on unwarranted charges, as with Dilma and Lula in Brazil, or here, as the Democrats seek to do with the isolationist Donald Trump.

    The national security state has a vast array of tools developed from its extensive experience in wars, coups, and disruptions that it can employ at home to terminate a progressive president’s tenure or neutralize any progressive movement. Unfortunately, most people still suffer from the naive delusion that we live in a uniquely free and democratic country, that we are exempt from coups and similar methods the US routinely uses abroad.

    Evo Morales made other errors during the coup process, such as calling for the OAS to verify the votes, even though he had repeatedly denounced the OAS as a tool of the US. For instance, in 2017 he said “I offer to free brother [OAS General Secretary] Luis Almagro from submission to the North American empire. All for the dignity and sovereignty of our peoples.”  Yet he invited in this US tool, which then found the election had “irregularities.”

    Corporate Media Disinformation and Building a People’s Alternative

    Another agent, the corporate media, as Alfredo Serrano Mancilla noted, “are never absent in each coup. They are keys to building the frame of reference before, during and after…This medium was always the maximum exponent of the fraud scenario, before and after, defending the lack of knowledge of the results from the beginning and quickly emerging to endorse the undemocratic transition.”

    Corporate control of the media complements control of the armed forces in creating regime change. The media can monopolize access to information, are able to effectively present disinformation as news, seen so well in the 2002 coup against Chavez, in Nicaragua in 2018, Libya in 2011, and Syria for years. Creating a popular mass media widely read both locally and internationally that is a mouthpiece for the 99% is necessary yet difficult task, something even Chavista Venezuela still has not accomplished successfully.

    Our Responsibility in the Imperial Core

    A serious analysis of what is happening in a Third World country, progressive or not, must start with the role Western imperialism has played, including the role of Western NGOs. Otherwise, analysis does not put in perspective the problems the country faces, and indirectly gives cover to imperialism’s role. 

    Alison Bodine and Ali Yerevani, writing on the US war against Venezuela, sum up well our responsibilities:

    At the root of all conflicts and battles of imperialist countries against independent countries, including colonial and semi-colonial countries, is the drive to deny them their sovereignty and self-rule. Everything else is secondary…. The best way to contribute to the struggle of Venezuelan people against the reactionary pro-imperialist right-wing opposition inside Venezuela and against the constant attack, sanctions, and interventions of imperialism, is to build a strong antiwar, anti-imperialist movement that also focuses on building a Venezuela solidarity movement in defense of self-determination for the Venezuelan people.

    This must include combating regime change disinformation, which aims to delegitimize governments not submitting to imperial dictates, justifying coups, murderous economic sanctions, proxy wars and “humanitarian” invasions. The corporate media can be a more sophisticated tool for regime change than the military, permitting Washington to take advantage of the story that anything short of outright US troop invasion is not intervention nor regime change.

    Many liberal and  faux “left” websites and groups have become transmission belts for this regime change propaganda into the progressive movement, sometimes even taking NED funding. This has been countered from an anti-imperialist stance by our “tribunes of the people”. Examples include Alan Macleod on Venezuela, AFGJ on Nicaragua, The Grayzone on China, Eva Bartlett and Vanessa Beeley on Syria, Dissident Voice and Popular Resistance on Hong Kong, Consortium News and Stephen Cohen on Russiagate, 21stcenturywire.com on Libya, Dan Kovalik, Phil Wilayto on Iran.

    Besides working to build a more united mass anti-imperialist movement, necessary tasks for us today include continuing to educate the public about, one, widespread corporate media disinformation, two, the need to respect the sovereignty of other nations, and three, unmasking the faux left which behaves like amateur soft agents of the US intelligence services.

    The Police are Bad for Your Health

    Police are bad for our health. It is up to all those who strive to improve societal well being to oppose the violence the institution of “law enforcement “continues to perpetrate on us all.

    APHA members rally in front of the conference center before the APHA vote on the policy statement (Image from Medium)

    I was recently starting an overnight hospital shift, when I received a text from a medical colleague working in a hospital in New York:  “The NYPD are here harassing a gunshot wound victim who is a minor with no family present […] So much so that the family of the patient next door came to us complaining about how they were manipulating [the patient] and twisting his words.”

    What are police officers—members of a racist, murderous institution founded on the legacy of slave patrols—doing anywhere near an institution whose one, singularly proposed, job is ostensibly to be addressing the health and well-being of an individual? I am a physician who went into the medical field to better the well being of the public. As I see increasing police presence in our hospitals, health clinics, schools, subways, it leads me to ask the question: Are the police good for our health? 

    In New York City, Governor Andrew Cuomo’s recent hiring of 500 new police officers to fix “quality of life” issues on the subway is juxtaposed with multiple horrendous episodes of police brutality. This is combined with the police recent harassment and arrest of subway vendors selling churros or candy. We are continually told the police make us safer, but their presence often creates or escalates violence.

    Direct Violence

    Police threaten the health of communities—particularly black and brown communities—in a multitude of ways. Open up the computer or turn on the TV and there is no shortage of cases from which to choose. Recently, Atatiana Jefferson was shot and killed— by a police officer called by a neighbor to do a “wellness check”— while playing video games with her nephew inside of her own home. Botham Jean was recently murdered inside of his own apartment when off-duty officer, Amber Guyger, “mistook” his apartment for hers. The murders of Sandra Bland, Tamir Rice, Michael Brown, Michael Stewart, Rekia Boyd, Eric Garner, Alton Sterling, Quintonio LeGrier, Philando Castile and countless others prove time and again that police are a threat to the literal living existence of black and brown people throughout the U.S. New studies confirm the risk police officers pose to the lives of black and brown people showing “in the U.S., African Americans are 2.5 times more likely to be killed by police than white people. For black women, the rate is 1.4 times more likely.”

    While police officers’ use of excessive force disproportionately affects people of color, their excessive use of force threatens the lives of us all. As reported by MintPressNew’s John Whitehead:

    In recent years, Americans have been killed by police merely for standing in a “shooting stance,” holding a cell phone, behaving oddly and holding a baseball bat, opening the front door, running in an aggressive manner holding a tree branch, crawling around naked, hunching over in a defensive posture, wearing dark pants and a basketball jersey, driving while deaf, being homeless, brandishing a shoehorn, holding a garden hose, and peeing outdoors.

    Unfortunately, examples of police directly killing individuals only touches the tip of the iceberg. It is virtually impossible to cover even a significant percentage of nonlethal police violence perpetrated on the public. Cases such as that of a 15-year-old quadruple amputee tackled and pinned to the ground by a Sheriff’s Deputy in Arizona show officers truly have no limit to the violence they will exact on the public.

    The Less Discussed Health Effects of Being Policed

    Police officers also serve as a conduit for the country’s ever growing prison industrial complex, again most severely affecting black and brown communities. The U.S. now has the world’s largest prison population per capita, with more than 2 million people incarcerated. Since 1970, the number of individuals in jails or prisons has risen by 700% largely as a result of a racist war on drugs and three strikes laws. This system leads to direct violence and various other forms of trauma for those in prison, while also destroying family and social ties. Regardless of whether a person enters jail or prison, contact with the criminal justice system can affect a person’s employment, housing, and parental rights leading to negative health outcomes. According to New York City Health Commissioner, Dr. Oxiris Barbot, “the data show that involvement with the criminal justice system — even brief contact with the police or indirect exposure — is associated with lasting harm to people’s physical and mental health.”

    Studies have shown there are various health effects of mass incarceration spilling over into communities. For example, a 2015 study by Schnittker et al. showed “US states that incarcerate a larger number of people show declines in overall access to and quality of care, rooted in high levels of uninsurance and relatively poor health of former inmates.” Other studies show correlations between aggressive police tactics and negative effects on the mental health of young men.

    Furthermore, the trauma and chronic stress that comes with having a loved one abused or killed at the hands of police violence cannot be ignored. Atatiana Jefferson’s father, Marquis Jefferson, died of a fatal heart attack just weeks after his daughter’s killing by the police. After his death, a family spokesman said “I can only sum it up as a broken heart.” Soon after Eric Garner was killed by police his daughter Erica Garner also died of a heart attack at the age of 27.

    As medical research has shown, grief-related stress can increase blood pressure and heart rate, while raising blood levels of the stress hormone cortisol, leading to constriction of blood vessels and disruption of cholesterol plaques that line arteries. This leaves individuals at risk for heart attack and other conditions. There is even a medical condition called Takotsubo cardiomyopathy aka broken-heart syndrome where increased stress causes the heart to pump inappropriately. When the police kill or physically harm one member of a community, they are hurting more than just the individual. In the cases of Atatiana Jefferson and Eric Garner, it could be said the police killed two people in each instance.

    An Increasingly Militarized Police

    In the U.S. in particular, police forces have become more militarized which poses health implications of their own. In 1990, faced with a bloated military budget, Congress passed the  National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA). Section 1208—later replaced with the current section 1033 in 1996—of the NDAA allowed the Secretary of Defense to

    transfer to Federal and State agencies personal property of the Department of Defense, including small arms and ammunition, that the Secretary determines is— (A) suitable for use by such agencies in counter-drug activities; and (B) excess to the needs of the Department of Defense.

    One of the driving ideas behind this program was a crackdown on illegal drug use in the U.S. There was an idea that if the U.S. wanted its police to act like “drug warriors,” it should equip them like warriors. The program encourages police to employ military weapons and military tactics in communities throughout the US. In their 2017 study, “Militarization and police violence: The case of the 1033 program,” researchers showed that more militarized law enforcement agencies were associated with more police violence and more civilians killed by police each year. The study even found communities with increased militarization have increased numbers of pets killed by police.

    Why are Physicians Still Calling Police for “Help”?

    the disconnect? This comes partly from the relative position of privilege physicians comes from in the U.S. Physicians tend to come from upper-middle or upper class sectors of society. This makes them less likely to have had the negative interactions with police officers that other communities experience. Physicians are therefore more likely to associate police with their positive experiences even if they have some understanding of the prison industrial complex or mass policing. There is a widespread idea that the police are present “to protect,” so why wouldn’t one call an officer if he feels the need for “protection”?

    To Serve and Protect?

    For many communities, the police do not exist to “protect and serve.” Instead their presence is associated with terror and violence. Contrary to popular belief, the police officers in the U.S. do not even have the required job of “protecting” the public. The Supreme Court has repeatedly ruled, most recently in 2005, that police do not have a constitutional duty to protect the public from harm. Furthermore officers are in no way trained to appropriately respond to calls for help, even if that was their true desire, as evidenced by their continual violent and punitive responses to requests for help by those experiencing mental crisis.

    This begs the question: if the police do not exist to protect the public and continue to threaten the health of communities throughout the country, why do we continue to spend millions of dollars in taxpayer money on police forces? Focusing again on the history of policing can be helpful in answering this question. As Alex Vitale writes in his book “The End of Policing,” police forces were not created to protect the public. Instead, they were organized by propertied classes to maintain control over the “dangerous classes,” i.e. slaves, the poor, or political dissidents. Police today exist to protect the wealthy at the expense of the health and well being of the rest of us, period. The record of “Law enforcement” whether it be the FBI or local police, has shown time after time that this is true. During the 1960s and 1970s, various law enforcement groups through programs such as COINTELPRO targeted left-wing groups such as the Black Panther Party and assassinated community leaders throughout the U.S. More recently, local law enforcement, state governments, and federal agencies coordinated to destroy Occupy encampments nationwide. Civil rights groups like Black Lives Matter were categorized as “security threats” by law enforcement groups in the US.

    These dangerous classes Vitale references are any organizations that challenge the power of the corporate elite. This is an often unseen way the police negatively impact the health of the public. By working to subvert, co-opt, and destroy popular movements of individuals coming together to challenge corporate power, the police allow for, and even facilitate, the continued capitalist onslaught in every social area of our society.

    The People are Rising

    Fortunately, the public is waking up to police terror’s direct and indirect negative effects on public health. Recent mobilizations of communities throughout New York City to resist racist police terror on the subways are just one example. People are rising and stating openly that the police do not, “serve and protect” and instead are a threat to public health. This phenomenon is extending to countries around the world, where communities are resisting militarized law enforcement agencies that serve only to protect the rich and powerful.

    In health care, the role of the physician is to diagnose the source of a patient’s disease and then to combat that source. It is clear that ongoing terror and violence perpetrated by law enforcement agencies is a societal disease hurting us all. Police are clearly bad for our health. The only solution is to eliminate the disease and abolish the police and the racist structures from which they come.