Dissident Voice, CA
Aug 24 2004
Vive la Difference
by Zbignew Zingh
Najaf. Where have we seen this before?
American tanks surround the holy site of a religious sect. Troop
commanders and government officials issue bombastic orders to an
inferior, out-gunned, faith-fueled adversary to surrender or die. The
guardians of the site are armed and determined to fight rather than
surrender their charismatic leader. The pusillanimous press
obediently label the surrounded ones as dangerous fanatics led by a
fiery rebel. The Americans claim that the rebels have rigged the holy
site to burn it to the ground. The soldiers demand that the rebels
surrender, disarm and submit to `an arrest warrant.’
Is this Najaf… or is it Waco?
Not that David Koresh and the Branch Davidians would have appreciated
the comparison to Moqtada Al-Sadr and his Mehdi Militia, but the mad
dog reaction of the United States is very similar. The difference is
that in Waco, the U.S. Government was hellbent to slaughter American
resisters and in Najaf it is hellbent to wipe out the Shi’a
This author does not share any particular intersection with the
Branch Davidians or with the Shi’a. Nor does this author wear a
Libertarian or Liberal or Progressive label, for each creed has its
merits and its deficiencies, and no single suit of political clothing
is good for every season. The common point of interest between Waco
and Najaf, however, is the American cultural and political reaction
to The Resistance. Any Resistance.
In fact, regardless who has been in power, America’s historical
reaction to any form of organized resistance has been violent,
overwhelming, bloody, head-cracking violence. Contrary to common
belief, America does not countenance anything except docility,
meekness and submissiveness. The country that mythologizes pluralism,
has a tradition of intolerance toward resistance.
Think Ruby Ridge and the FBI’s murder of Randy Weaver’s wife and son.
Remember Mayor Richard Daly and the 1968 Democratic Convention.
Recall the 1916 Wobbly Massacre in Everett, Washington. Think 1890
and the massacre of Native Americans at Wounded Knee. The Tulsa
Massacre of Black Americans in 1921. The coalfield labor slaughter of
1914 in Ludlow, Colorado. The genocide committed by the American
military on the Philippine people in the Insurrection of 1899 – 1902.
Henry Kissinger’s carpet bombing obliteration of millions of
Cambodians between 1969 – 1973. The American attack and
destabilization of the elected government of Guatemala, 1954. And
Vietnam, Haiti, Chile, Panama. It is not a pretty history we have.
Notwithstanding our mythology, Americans do not stand up for the
underdog. We are Top Dogs. We eat underdogs for breakfast. We chew
them up and spit out their bones. In short, we are Bullies. Muscle
beach, thick-skulled, in-your-face-sand-kicking closed-minded
bullies. Our economic system rewards Bullies. Our political and
cultural systems encourage Bullies. Our history confirms that we have
been, and we continue to think and act like Bullies.
However, lest we unduly criticize America, let us remember that no
civilization to date has ever done anything differently. All big,
powerful empires have been bullies, and we are no different. In big
and small societies, those who have power will, if necessary, beat
the weak into the pavement to preserve that power. It even happens on
the micro level of the father who abuses his wife or children because
They Disobey Him. It is a common theme of the Angry God who
corporally punishes his rebellious backsliders. Everywhere,
Disobedience and Resistance are severely beaten down by the strong
and insecure. It is a very ugly human trait. But it is not uniquely
The French government slaughtered the under-armed thousands who
rebelled and barricaded the Paris Commune in 1848. Again, in 1954-62,
the French violently oppressed the Algerians who fought a guerrilla
war of independence. The Chinese keep a tight noose on the Tibetans
and are squeezing the life out of their culture. The Turks committed
genocide against the Armenians in 1915 and millions died. The Soviets
crushed the Hungarians in 1956. The Israelis decimate the
Palestinians who resist their hegemony. The Spanish fascists, with
American and British help, annihilated the Republican resistance in
the Spanish Civil War. The British have spread death and cultural
disintegration as a matter of policy wherever they went ever since
The Hundred Years War with France in the 13th -14th Centuries. In
1994, the Hutu in Rwanda slaughtered the Tutsi by the hundreds of
thousands. During the Second World War, the Nazis exterminated as
many as a million Roma and six million Jews throughout Europe in an
orgy of `race purification’. The Japanese raped China in 1937-38. The
Dutch wasted Indonesia in 1947 in a `police action’ to put down a
rebellion for independence. In 1965-66, the Indonesians, with
America’s blessing, murdered millions of Indonesian `communists’ and
later, beginning in 1975 (and again with America’s blessing) they
wiped out much of the population of East Timor. The Vatican
exterminated the Cathars in the 13th Century in what is now southern
France, and the Crusaders killed anyone and everything in Europe and
the Middle East from 1095 to about 1300.
Polish rebels in Warsaw rose up in rebellion in 1944. The Germans,
with Russian, British and American acquiescence, jackbooted the
Warsaw resistance fighters and killed them by the thousands and
Warsaw. Falluja. Warsaw. Wounded Knee. Falluja. Gaza. Jakarta.
Warsaw. Waco. Najaf. Warsaw. Warsaw. Warsaw. Powerful Humans always
have and always will try to squash resistance because if one act of
resistance succeeds, then it will encourage other acts of resistance
which will, ultimately, lead to the overthrow of those who Wield the
Power. That is the brutal reality of how People in Power retain their
Power. They mercilessly squash you if you resist. They squash you
mercilessly to demonstrate to other wannabe rebels that they, too,
will be mercilessly squashed if they utter a peep of dissent. Those
who have attained the pinnacles of power in their world – in
Washington, D.C., in Moscow, in London, in Riyadh, in Jerusalem, in
Islamabad, in Baghdad, in Australia, and in Rome – not only know this
rule, but they have proved themselves quite willing to apply it.
It is not completely dismal, however. On this brutal globe, in our
blood-stained world history of the progression of bullies, America
does stand out as someplace special, notwithstanding its sordid past.
The problem is that most Americans, and certainly the majority of
American political, religious and business leaders completely
Ours is not a land more beautiful than any other. Other lands, too,
have forests, mountains, gorges and lakes. Our difference is
certainly NOT our capitalism for, in reality, our economic strength
depends exclusively on our ruthless exploitation of mineral and
energy resources that are not inexhaustible and that will soon peak.
What makes us special is certainly NOT our political system because
it has historically sought to strangle every infant political
movement in its crib. We are definitely no better or different
because of our Judeo-Christian heritage – in fact, America in the
21st Century more strongly resembles today’s Iran or yesterday’s
Afghanistan or medieval Europe before the Enlightenment.
We are not better because of our multi-cultural heritage because, as
any minority in America knows, multiculturalism is tolerated in
America only on reservations, in ghettos, in museums and in movies.
We are, generally speaking, a Culture of Sameness. From sea to
shining sea, we are the same television shows, the same baseball
stadiums, the same Gap and McDonald’s and Walmart and Starbucks and
Krispy Kremes, the same cars, the same clothes, the same radio talk
shows, the same, the same and more of the same. And we punish,
ridicule and beat those who resist that culture of Sameness.
America is, in short, just like every other place on earth, no better
and no worse. Except in one respect.
We have a few pieces of paper: the Declaration of Independence; the
Constitution; the Bill of Rights; and a few short documents like the
The Constitution is a flawed document. It was written by land-owning
slave-holding white men determined to preserve their power. However,
it also contains the kernel of a principle of good governance: a
strong system of checks and balances intended to restrain unbridled
power. The Constitution also contains the essence of a free society –
it describes a militia of the people rather than a standing army; it
includes basic and necessary restrictions on the power to declare
war, limitations on intellectual property and prohibitions on the
creation of an aristocracy.
The two bookends around the Constitution are much more radical and
enlightened documents: The Declaration of Independence and the Bill
of Rights. You should read these documents again. And again. They are
revolutionary. They are the types of writings which, if proclaimed by
any Lesser People in the world today, we Americans would grind them
mercilessly into the ground.
One bookend, The Declaration of Independence, was the trumpet call
for the American Revolution. It is an unequivocal Declaration of
Resistance. It is not a `progressive’ document; it is not a `liberal’
document. It is a radical, In-Your-Face, Finger-In-Your-Eye King
George, revolutionary, incendiary manifesto. It holds that whenever
the Government tends to destroy the Peoples’ inalienable rights of
Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness, then the People have the
right to Rise Up and Abolish the Government. Imagine! Our Founders
actually encouraged the People to rise up in revolt and abolish the
Government that oppressed them! Perhaps Maqtada Al-Sadr had similar
thoughts, and for thinking which the PNAC Government of the 21st
Century United States determined to crush him.
The other bookend to the Constitution is the Bill of Rights. It links
to the Declaration of Independence in that the Bill of Rights
specifies the the People’s inalienable rights. It is very clear.
Number One: `Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment
of religion… or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press;
or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the
government for a redress of grievances.’ In short, the First
Amendment stands opposed to everything George Bush and his cohorts
and the buy-partisan Congress have shoved down our throats, and it
prohibits the restraints on freedom of speech and freedom of assembly
that the two parties seem so determined to gag us with. A Government
that violates the First Amendment invites the remedy ordained by the
Declaration of Independence.
Amendment Number Two is the teeth for the First. It is a historically
necessary companion to the Declaration of Independence that asserts
the People’s right to abolish an unjust government: `A well regulated
Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right
of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.’
Curiously, Mr. Al-Sadr would understand this amendment to our own
Constitution, as would those who stormed the Bastille in
Revolutionary France. Even as the Iraqi resistance struggles to throw
off its occupiers, by force of its own arms and the sacrifice of
their own lives, our own citizens lose the thread of the argument of
the Second Amendment, as we debate absolute non-violence versus
absolute gunophilia, and fail to appreciate the political implication
of the Amendment’s words.
The Third, the Fourth, the Fifth, the Sixth, the Seventh, the Eight,
the Ninth and the Tenth Amendments to the Constitution, to a greater
or lesser degree, all serve to strengthen the liberties proclaimed by
the Declaration of Independence and reinforce the people’s defenses
against the aggregation of Power.
In 1863, on the Battlefield of Gettysburg, Abraham Lincoln reminded
us that the United States was `a new nation, conceived in liberty and
dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.’ Lincoln
further told us that we were then engaged in a great war, `testing
whether that nation or any nation so conceived and so dedicated can
long endure.’ It was for us, Abraham Lincoln said, to resolve `that
this nation shall have a new birth of freedom, and that government of
the people, by the people, and for the people shall not perish from
the earth.’ Lincoln was talking as much to his generation as to ours.
The test of our resolve is the same now as it was for the people in
the midst of the Civil War.
These few documents, therefore, vestiges of an 18th Century
Enlightenment, are the only things that mark The United States of
America as anything better or different than any other bully empire
that has ruled before us. These documents and ideas alone mark us as
`different’ from all others – not our capitalism, not muscular
Judeo-Christianity, not our resources or our culture or our laws or
our two party political system, They are truly remarkable documents.
They contain very powerful ideas. These ideas mark the United States
of America as someplace different from any other nation on earth, but
only so long as they remain potent, living ideas. They are the things
that make this country worth fighting for. The only things. Without
them, America is no different than any other nation on earth.
May they survive this administration and both political parties.
May they survive Us and our bullying ways.
May they survive Warsaw. Falluja. Wounded Knee. Gaza. Jakarta. Haiti.
Waco. Tulsa. Najaf.
May we continue to sustain the difference that is America. Vive la
Zbignew Zingh can be reached at [email protected] This Article is
CopyLeft, and free to distribute, reprint, repost, sing at a recital,
spray paint, scribble in a toilet stall, etc. to your heart’s
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