Target U.S. State Terrorism
Voice of Revolution condemns the recent mass shooting at the Pulse Club in Orlando Florida, which targeted Latinos and the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer (LGBTQ) community. Fifty people died, including the shooter, and more than 50 were injured, some critically, the majority young men. Those killed were mainly Puerto Ricans, with undocumented immigrants and Cubans also among those who died. We extend our condolences to the families and friends of all those killed and injured and all those involved. We join people nationwide in mourning these losses. And we salute all the first responders and doctors and nurses who rushed to scene and to the hospital to assist the injured.
Now is a time for sadness, for mourning. It is also a time for anger with the level of violence generated by U.S. society. It is a time for serious discussion about the sources of violence in society and the role of the government in fomenting such violence. In this regard, it is useful to look at how the people are responding, with many mass vigils to unite all concerned and with discussion about the need to defend rights and oppose discrimination based on sexual orientation or identity or racism — and how the government is responding.
New York Governor Cuomo, for example, immediately responded with a show of force by police and National Guard at transportation hubs and “large public gatherings.” He said, “While there is no specific intelligence that suggests any link between the attacks that occurred in Orlando with New York, out of an abundance of caution, I have directed additional security measures at key points around the state as a precaution.”
These measures included “increased patrols and checks of bags, buses, trucks and trains,” and a “surge in patrols, increased step-on/step-off patrols of trains, and random bag checks at various locations.” There was also a “stepped up presence of uniformed and plainclothes” police for the NYC subway and “police canine teams and units with heavy weapons.” That is, more use of force, more targeting of individuals who have committed no crime, more efforts to frighten people with the prospect of an attack. And efforts to make it “normal” for there to be such armed forces in public spaces and random bag and ID checks without cause — often done on the basis of racist and religious police profiling.
At the federal level, President Obama called for increased attacks abroad and called for everyone to support him in doing this: “Now, if we’re honest with ourselves, if, in fact, we want to show the best of our humanity, then we're all going to have to work together at every level of government, across political lines, to do more to stop killers who want to terrorize us. We will continue to be relentless against terrorist groups like ISIL and al Qaeda. We are going to destroy them. We are going to disrupt their networks, and their financing, and the flow of fighters in and out of war theaters. We're going to disrupt their propaganda that poisons so many minds around the world.”
More than 12,000 bombings have already been carried out against Iraq and Syria, commonly massacring civilians, many women and children. Yet Obama states the “best of our humanity” can be shown with yet more violence and terrorism. He undoubtedly will use more bombings, drones, assassinations, more use of special forces “in and out of war theaters,” more FBI and CIA spying and repression abroad and at home. Already the U.S. has decided to keep 10,000 troops in Afghanistan.
All of these attacks are state terrorism by the U.S., are illegal aggression and, as the whole “war on terror” has shown, do nothing to solve the problem of terrorism, do nothing to provide security, at home or abroad.
The “good-cop,” “bad-cop” for U.S. empire routine of Clinton and Trump followed the same pattern and if anything called for even more mass killings abroad. Clinton said, “Whatever we learn about this killer and his motives in the days ahead, we know already the barbarity we face from radical jihadists is profound,” She added, “The attack in Orlando makes it even more clear we can not contain this threat. We must defeat it.” She called for “ramping up the air campaign,” against Iraq and Syria. Trump said, “We have generals that feel we can win this thing so fast and so strong, but we have to be furious for a short period of time, and we’re not doing it!” He again called for banning Muslims and people from other countries.
Clinton also said, referencing George W. Bush and the post-9/ll period that, “It is time to get back to the spirit of those days.” That spirit, of combined presidential and Congressional action, was to widely use torture and indefinite detention at Guantánamo for no crime; launch the war against Afghanistan; and pass legislation like the Patriot Act that sanctioned widespread spying and repression against those standing up for rights, along with impunity for government officials.
All of which have also solved no problem. It all does show that the aim of the rulers is not eliminating violence and terrorizing of civilians, but using incidents like the Orlando shooting to justify inflicting U.S. state terrorism and violence against the peoples on a much broader scale. Days following the shooting, Congress voted to increase funding for the FBI for “terrorism” investigations while also voting down an amendment that would have blocked FBI spying in the U.S. without warrants and forcing companies to give the FBI “backdoor” entrance to encrypted phones and other electronic devices.
Focus on Individual Diverts from Government Responsibility
Brutal violence, assassinations, massacres of children — such as in Iraq, Afghanistan, Yemen, Pakistan, Palestine — are the norm for the monopolies and their state. They stop at nothing to their striving for world empire. That individuals then act in a similar manner is not a surprise, rather a reflection of the violence of the U.S. state. Yet that is not to be discussed.
Government officials and the monopoly media instead divert attention to the individual and every detail of his life and possible motivations. We are to accept that the individual involved, and others like him, are a threat that merits far more violence and mass killings abroad. Gun control focuses not on controlling and eliminating U.S. use of weapons of mass destruction, like drones, but on individuals.
Those in power have abandoned political solutions and are using violence as the weapon of choice to avoid providing economic, political, cultural and social problems with solutions that serve the people. That is what is to blame for mass shootings by individuals.
An alternative is to demand the U.S. lead by example and call a halt to all violence and killings by the government and its policing agencies, abroad and at home. End U.S. aggression and state-organized racism and discrimination and stop the use of violence and force — that would contribute to peace and security. Join with those across the country who are defending rights and demanding the government do the same.
Let discussion focus not on speculation about the individual shooter and the individual incident, but on the role of the government in fomenting violence — and on changing that government. Let us discuss organizing for an anti-war government as an aim that can contribute to security, abroad and at home. Let our sadness and anger be directed at the racist and terrorist U.S. state, not the people.
No to the Use of Violence to Sort Out Conflicts at Home and Abroad! [TOP]
The Orlando shooting, with 50 killed, has been widely and repeatedly promoted as the “worst mass shooting in American history.” There are many known facts to dispute this claim, so what is the aim in promoting it? What is its connection to the broad promotion of fear in the name of potential “terrorist” attacks and the silence concerning the many massacres by the U.S. government, both present and past?
In the present these government massacres are primarily abroad but certainly part of American history.
The Granai massacre is where U.S. bombers killed 86 to 147 Afghan civilians, 93 of them children, on May 4, 2009, in the village of Granai, Afghanistan. The Deh Bala wedding party on July 6, 2008, where 47 Afghan civilians, mostly women and children, were killed. The bombing of the Wech Baghtu wedding party killed 63 people including 23 children, in November 2008. The bombing of the village of Azizabad in August 2008 killed an estimated 78 to 92 civilians, mostly children. In Yemen, a wedding party was hit by a drone strike killing at least 12 civilians, in December 2013. Many civilians have also been massacred by drones in Pakistan.
There are also the many hundreds of thousands of people slaughtered when the U.S. used nuclear weapons to bomb Hiroshima and Nagasaki and the more than a million impacted; the many massacres of hundreds of civilians in U.S. wars against Korea and Viet Nam; the millions of children who have died in Iraq and elsewhere as a result of U.S. bombings and sanctions, and more.
Then there are also the many massacres of native peoples and African Americans, also part of modern history. To name just a few, against native peoples:
• 1840, Rangers under Colonel Moore massacred 140 Comanches (men, women and children) in their village on the Colorado River;
• 1846, Captain Frémont’s men attacked a peaceful band of Indians on the Sacramento River in California, killing between 120 and 200 people;
• 1855, the Harney Massacre where U.S. troops killed 86 Sioux, men, women and children at Blue Water Creek, in present-day Nebraska;
• 1864, the Sand Creek massacre where 70 – 180 Cheyenne and Arapaho were killed, about two-thirds women and children;
• 1890, Wounded Knee where some 300 men, women and children were massacred.
In addition there are the many massacres against African Americans:
• 1873, Colfax massacre in Louisiana, between 83-153 African Americans killed defending the courthouse and after being taken prisoner, in an elections dispute, during efforts to block African Americans from being elected;
• 1917, East St. Louis massacre, an estimated 100-150 African Americans killed by National Guard and organized racist gangs;
• 1919, Helena and Phillips, Arkansas. Descendents of former slaveholders attacked the African American community after sharecroppers met to form a union and demand their rights. The sharecroppers were armed and resisted, but outnumbered and a massacred ensued. By the end of the attacks, an estimated 854 African Americans were killed.
• 1921, Tulsa, Oklahoma, fomented by the state and their racist gangs, the Greenwood District, then the wealthiest black community in the U.S, was burned to the ground. An estimated 55-300 were killed, 6,000 arrested and detained and about 10,000 black people were left homeless,
The promotion of Orlando as the “worst shooting” is done to deny and divert from the role of the U.S. state in terrorizing and killing the peoples, abroad and at home, today and in the past. It is to contribute to whipping up fear. However, those participating in vigils and other actions bring out that they will not rely on government officials, who claim concern while calling for more violence and doing nothing to guarantee rights, for the LGBTQ community, for Puerto Ricans, for immigrants, for all.
Late June 16, the U.S. House of Representatives blocked an amendment that would have prohibited warrantless surveillance of Americans' electronic communications and banned the government from forcing technology companies to install backdoors to encrypted devices.
The amendment to the House's annual military spending bill, introduced by Representatives Thomas Massie (R-Kentucky) and Zoe Lofgren (D-California), failed by a vote of 198-222.
The vote signals a notable turnaround for the House, which has previously passed the measure in a landslide — twice — with bipartisan support, before progress was stymied by U.S. Senate leadership.
It was a painful loss for privacy advocates ranging from members of Congress to civil liberties groups like the ACLU, the Center for Democracy and Technology (CDT), and the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF).
Massie and Lofgren noted that under Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA), Americans' private electronic communications are swept up without warrants or probable cause by law enforcement agencies investigating terrorist links overseas—violating their Constitutional rights.
"I think our citizens are fed up with being spied on by the government," Massie said.
Lofgren added, "This amendment is the most meaningful step Congress can take to end warrantless bulk collection of U.S. persons' communications data, as well as protect that data from malicious hackers and bad actors."
On June 16, lawmakers who voted against the bill tied their opposition to Sunday's nightclub massacre in Orlando, claiming that the measure would prevent intelligence agencies from searching through the communications of shooter Omar Mateen, who was an American citizen. Republicans on the Intelligence Committee sent an open letter to colleagues in the days before the vote petitioning them to "give our Intelligence Community all of the authorities it needs to detect and stop terrorist attacks."
But supporters countered that the amendment would not hamper law enforcement investigations. Massie warned that "Congress should not abandon the Constitution in the face of terrorism."
"This doesn't take any tools away from those that want to investigate what happened in Orlando, none whatsoever," he said. "You obviously can get a warrant on the perpetrator of this crime."
Lofgren said, "With threats to America, we should not endanger the security of our digital environment by weakening encryption that protects everything from the power grid to air traffic control."
Kevin Bankston, digital rights attorney and director of the Open Technology Institute at New America, responded to the vote, "With Orlando fresh in everyone's minds, members of Congress appear to be voting based on fear rather than on reason."
Thursday's arguments cover similar ground as the debate after the San Bernardino attacks, as anti-privacy lawmakers and the intelligence community called for impeding civil liberties in the name of national security—notably, by attempting to force Apple to unlock the encrypted iPhone of suspected San Bernardino shooter Syed Farook.
But as Bankston explained Thursday, "There's no reason to think that mandating backdoors into American companies' encrypted products, or allowing warrantless searches of Americans' private data, would've prevented this weekend's horrible tragedy. But that hasn't stopped security hawks from exploiting the Orlando shooting to defeat this amendment."
Elected representatives have once again been scared away from "standing up for Americans' civil liberties," Bankston said. (Common Dreams)
How do we even talk about the horrific killings in Orlando, which left at least 50 LGBTQ revelers dead and more than 50 more injured in the middle of pride month? First we mourn. Then we rage. Then we hug our loved ones, especially our LGBTQ friends, comrades, and family members.
Then we look again, and we see the horror — that this murderer was licensed to carry guns and had no trouble buying incredibly powerful military-style weapons. So casually. So legally. So common, across our country. That is when we start to rage again.
More troubling still, Omar Mateen worked for a company that was perpetrating systemic violence against vulnerable people long before he took up arms against his LGBTQ neighbors. For nine years Mateen worked for G4S Security, a British-based corporation that contracts with the U.S. and Israeli governments for work that often violates human rights on a massive scale.
G4S, which brags about having 600 staffers on the southern border, has contracts with U.S. immigration authorities to detain and deport people back to Mexico, as well as to run private juvenile detention facilities. In Israel, meanwhile, G4S profits from providing equipment and services in Israeli prisons and interrogation centers where Palestinians are routinely tortured. It is also involved in running Israeli military checkpoints in the occupied Palestinian territories.
Incidentally, G4S is the company that trained Mateen to work as an armed security guard, which licensed him to carry and use weapons. And although his coworkers told supervisors that Mateen “frequently made homophobic and racial comments,” the company did nothing. It kept him on board — and kept him armed.
Should this company continue to profit from multi-million-dollar contracts with the U.S. government?
Since 2012, there has been a major campaign against G4S, resulting in decisions by major mainstream institutions — like the … Methodist Church, numerous European universities, important charities in South Africa and the Netherlands, UN agencies in the Middle East, and more — to divest from G4S holdings, or to cancel or not renew service contracts. G4S is profiting from anti-Arab and anti-Latino racism, Islamophobia, and xenophobia…
If the early reports are accurate, G4S’s long-serving employee is responsible for the worst mass shooting in recent U.S. history.
And here let us continue to be careful with our numbers. As people have been pointing out, our nation’s origins are grounded in genocide and slavery. Earlier history has to take into account things like the 1890 massacre at Wounded Knee, when between 150 and 300 children, women, and men were gunned down. That mass shooting is part of our history, too.
But our nation’s history also includes the great movements that have risen against war, racism, sexism, homophobia, and more. The party at Orlando’s Pulse club was part of a month-long Gay Pride celebration rooted in the movement that grew out of the 1969 Stonewall revolt, when bar patrons fought back against police brutality toward gay men and lesbians.
June 12, the night of the massacre, happened to be Latin Night at the Pulse. Reverend William Barber, a leader of the Moral Mondays movement in North Carolina, reminded me that June 12 is also the anniversary of the 1963 Mississippi assassination of the civil rights leader Medgar Evers.
One more link between our movements — from Stonewall to Orlando, and Mississippi to Palestine. (Foreign Policy In Focus)
An Attack Engendered by the Racist U.S. State
(June 17 marks the one year anniversary of the brutal racist attack, in a church, in Charleston, South Carolina. The people, in Charleston and across the country, responded with actions defending their rights and demanding equality. We reprint below an article published in Voice of Revolution, July 3, 2015 addressing these issues and calling for a democracy of our own making, with a constitution that guarantees equal rights for all.)
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On June 17, 2015 a horrific racist attack took the lives of nine African Americans in a church, in Charleston, South Carolina. While a young white man carried out the attack, it occurred in the context of the long-standing violence and racism of the U.S. state. This includes the many police killings of unarmed African Americans already this year and the genocide of racist mass incarceration. It was an attack engendered by the racist U.S. state, its support and protection of Nazis and groups like the KKK — and its refusal to guarantee the equal rights of all. Such a guarantee is a minimum required for a wealthy productive country like the U.S. But conditions today, and the entire history of the U.S. shows it cannot provide equality, cannot provide even the most basic rights of education, housing, healthcare and a livelihood. It cannot eliminate its racism, as it is a necessary weapon for repression and exploitation, during slavery and today.
This attack also occurred in the context of growing resistance to racist state violence, as evident in the many “Stand with Charleston” actions that took place and the continuing resistance in Ferguson, Baltimore, Cleveland and elsewhere. Racist state violence is used to terrorize and divide those resisting and standing up for rights.
Charleston itself is an example of this. Denmark Vesey, a founder of the Mother Emanuel Church, where the recent attack occurred, was also an organizer for a broad insurrection in 1822, uniting African Americans enslaved on the plantations and free in the city and with the support of whites. This effort to arm and free slaves was met by state terrorism against those who resisted, including executing Vesey and burning the church to the ground. But efforts then and now have persisted in uniting all to stand as one against such state racism and violence, as could be seen in the united march in Charleston and elsewhere June 21.
For July 4, people were greeted with yet another show of force by police at airports and train stations, supposedly in response to a “terrorist” threat. The FBI and homeland security repeatedly issue such threats, but more than 40 such “high alert” warnings have occurred with no such threats materializing. It is evident that they are used to justify yet more U.S. terrorism abroad and more police repression at home. New York State, for example, recently hosted a joint “terrorism” exercise that brought together first responders, policing agencies from all levels and the military to prepare for potential “emergencies.” First responders, like firefighters and healthcare workers have long opposed being used as a repressive force against the people, integrated into the police machinery. These exercises are a means to eliminate that resistance and create an integrated policing force, commanded by the military, for use against the people.
The failure of the “war on terrorism” to solve any problem and the increasing inequality, racism and terrorism of the U.S. state indicates that the existing rulers have no solutions. The U.S. Constitution has not prevented the inequality and terrorism of the U.S. state and cannot do so — that is what experience has shown.
Far from modernizing democracy, including a new constitution that enshrines rights, the U.S. state is going backward. It is increasingly concentrating power in the executive, especially the president but also Governors, while eliminating elected governance, such as local school boards. This too is no solution.
The times demand a modern democracy of our own making. It demands a new constitution that puts rights at the center, guaranteeing them and making it a government crime to fail to provide equal rights for all. It is time to discuss what such a modern democracy looks like, what elections and legislatures should look like, and join in efforts to begin creating such a democracy today. Such efforts include organizing to be decision makers in our collectives, at work, in schools, in organizations, in our united actions. The issue of Who Decides? and the people’s answer We Decide! is something on the agenda in every battle against state racism and for rights. It is a guide to action to persist in. Decision making cannot be handed over to others but kept in our hands as we advance our program and initiatives. This is our society, these are our rights and We Decide!