Thursday, January 11, 2007

The Stench of Politics as Usual...and the Anger from Below

By Sunsara Taylor

The triumph of the new Democratic Congress on their first day and their promises of a “new direction” offered all the refreshment of Lysol dressing up the stench of rotting homes of New Orleans’ Ninth Ward, of human waste and blood in the secret C.I.A. torture dungeons, and of the mangled bodies that are being chewed by dogs in the streets of Baghdad.

Nancy Pelosi’s much touted agenda for the first 100 hours of the new Congress made no mention of ending the war on Iraq, repealing the Military Commissions Act which legalizes torture and rips up habeas corpus, rebuilding New Orleans, or—for all the talk of her chairmanship as a “great advance” for women—taking on the assault on women’s reproductive rights and basic equality.

Throughout their painstakingly choreographed first day in Congress, the horrors that the Democrats are working with the Bush Regime to push out of the public eye and the deep and widespread disgust of millions with these horrors kept bubbling up.

On January 4, millions of readers woke up to articles in the New York Times, Washington Post, New York Post and elsewhere with the exhilarating news of Cindy Sheehan seizing the microphone after Democratic Caucus Chairman Rahm Emanuel fled the disruption of his press conference by anti-war protesters. Emmanuel’s smug arrogance about his “success” in turning the Democratic Party into one that is even less distinguishable from the Republicans—by recruiting pro-war, anti-abortion, anti-gay candidates—was challenged before his new Congress was even sworn in.

At noon, just as Nancy “impeachment-off-the-table” Pelosi was being sworn in, hundreds gathered near the Capital beneath a banner that read: “Impeach George Bush for War Crimes.” Several dozen people crouched in the bright orange jumpsuits that are the signature of Guantánamo detainees with black hoods over their heads. They were a living portrayal of some of the Bush Regime’s crimes against humanity: the illegal detention and torture that this regime has institutionalized and that this Congress won’t even speak about.

People of all ages had traveled from Illinois, Georgia, Michigan, New York and elsewhere, some abandoning at the last minute their plans to see their congresspeople get sworn in—choosing instead to protest for impeachment. An active duty Marine blended into the crowd in his street clothes. While most people had come out of opposition to the war, it was striking how strongly the crowd responded when people from the stage spoke against the Bush regime’s handling of Hurricane Katrina as well as the brutal killing of Sean Bell by the New York Police Department’s 50 shots, particularly the fists of anger and defiance that shot up from among the Black folks in the crowd.

Military mother Elaine Brower, former CIA analyst Ray McGovern, Green Party co-chair Steve Cramer, Paul Magno of the Torture Abolition Coalition, Kevin Zeese of Democracy Rising and others took turns at the mic. Some expressed their hope that the new Congress will listen and respond to the demands of the people to get out of the brutal war in Iraq.

Cindy Sheehan was greeted with enthusiasm as she spoke movingly about the cost of the Iraq war in the lives of Iraqi people and the need for people to hold the new Congress’ feet to the fire to impeach Bush and end the war in Iraq. Reverend Lennox Yearwood of the Hip Hop Caucus delivered a stirring challenge to the audience to cross traditional color lines and bring together the streams of outrage around U.S. immigration policy, against the treatment of people in New Orleans, and against the war into a unified movement against a regime that is endangering us all. I spoke for World Can’t Wait, focusing on the complicity of the Democrats in accepting and promoting the whole logic of Bush’s so-called “War on Terror” and the need for people to rise up in massive political upheaval to bring this whole direction to a halt.

As the rally came to a close, a recording of Pink’s scathing “Dear Mr. President” filled the air. And protesters in Guantánamo orange jumpsuits lined up on the street, each with a four-foot-tall letter spelling out “The World Can’t Wait - Drive Out the Bush Regime!” and then marched towards the capital, drawing support from many people on the street who raised concerns ranging from stem cell research to the discarding of the Geneva Conventions.

Meanwhile, the Senate building was being redecorated with immense, truth-telling banners. One that hung 30 by 10 feet and proclaimed: “War, Lies, Torture—We Will Not Be Silent,” was flashed on several major news programs. Senators came out with their eyes wide and jaws open while federal workers gathered to admire and appreciate this message.

That evening, 300 people crowded in to the National Press Club to listen to Michael Ratner, Cindy Sheehan, John Nichols, Daniel Ellsberg, myself and a video message from Gore Vidal in a program emceed by David Swanson of After Downing Street. Together we laid out the crimes of the Bush regime, from the war of aggression against Iraq and legalization of torture which constitute war crimes and crimes against humanity, to the frontal assault on women’s reproductive rights and the rights of gay people, the danger to the environment, the suppression of science and critical thought, the official promotion of Christian fundamentalism, and the criminal response to Hurricane Katrina.....


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