Many people see parallels between the anti-war movement of the 1960's and today's anti-war/anti-imperialist activists. So it is only logical that a tool from that era is being used today. Yesterday, I was in attendance at a teach-in at York(PA) College.
The first speaker was Paula Knudsen from the local American Civil Liberties Union, and her speech was on the attacks on civil liberties that are hidden in the Uniting and Strengthening America to Provide Appropiate Tools Required to Intercept and Obstruct Terror(USA-PATRIOT) Act. This legislation, passed only 45 days after September 11 and without being read or debated, is now being seen as not being a solution by many groups, including privacy advocated, immigrant groups and civil liberties groups.
According to Ms. Knudsen, there are several particularly problematic sections. Section 213, which broadens search powers, seems to suspend much of the 4th ammendment. Under this section, a law enforcement agent can search your premises without your knowledge, and also search a variety of personal records. This is also a permanent law.
Another section of the act, Section 218, is an extension of a 1970s law. Under this section, an agent can go to a special court, say they are investigating possible terrorist activity and a warrant must be issued. Of course, the definition of "Terrorist" has been expanded to the point where acts protected under the 1st Ammendement can be used to justify such a warrant. Now as you can guess, this has me a bit worried.
Perhaps the first section of this act to be challenged is Section 215. This is the section that allows for 3rd party searches; medical records, bank records, and even what library books you check out. Also, the holder of these records is under an infinite gag order.
There are other troublesome laws; among the the special registration and the CLEAR Act, both of which concern immigration.
The next person to speak was Abul Hasan, of the Council on American Islamic Relations and a professor at Penn State York. He basically laid out how the civil rights of Muslims have been under attack in the post 9-11 society. Among the concerns were; the PATRIOT Act, profiling of passengers, the detention of Muslims without formal charges, access to a lawyer and a presumtion of guilt, the shutting down of Muslim charities, the use of secret evidence, raids on charities, the interrogation of legal visa holders, the special registration program, and a scheme to count the number of mosques in the US. Perhaps the two areas that I found the most frightening were the incidents of Anti-Muslim speech, and increase in hate crimes against Muslims. There have been some victories though; a case in Michigan which ruled that closing some hearings was unconstitutional and a case where it was decided that the identies of the detainees must be revealed.
The second half of the event began with Alicia Luckstead, a representative of the Revolutionary Association of Women of Afghanistan. Who began by speaking a bit about how the focus in Afghainstan changed from capturing Bin Laden to the people as the search and capture proved futile. She also spoke of the coverings that seemed to be the symbol of the plight of Afghani Women, and how they may have helped in the taking and smuggling of many of the pictures etc that showed the plight of the people. She then proceeded to question the notion of liberation, mentioning that the country is still unsafe and corrupt.
But the main thrust of her speech was that the women of Afghanistan, under the Northern Alliance, the Taliban, and the Northern Alliance again, have not taken thier situtaion lying down. RAWA has been an active underground force since the late 1970's. They have promoted literacy, provided education, many times in secret, put people to work providing food and aid, organizing political events, documenting the conditions of citizens and other tasks. A recent success was the reconstruction of a canal that provides 40,000 people with water.
Her conclusion was a list of what RAWA wants to see; collaboration as opposed to rescue, an expansion of peacekeeping and the trial of some memebers of the transitional government for war crimes, and a recognition of women's rights as human rights. She also spoke of the dismay of RAWA at being called "Western".
I was also impressed that she and RAWA share my belief that the US played a role in creating the climate that led to the Taliban and to a point 9-11.
The time had come for the keynote speaker, Rahul Mahajan. After giving an overview of where he saw the anti-war movement at, he went into the thrust of his speech, the Israel-Palestine situation.
An explanation is in order here. This teach-in was to be in conjunction with a rally to protest the detention of immigrants at the York County Prison and Caterpillar's construction of the vehicles used in the destruction of Palestinian homes. The rally itself was cancelled, but the teach-in went on as planned.
In his speech, he spoke of how from the formation of Israel in 1948 until the 1967 war no real alliance existed. But that Israel's victory dealt a blow to Arab nationalism and that the US, in a quest to control the oil reserves, now saw Israel as an enforcer in that region. With the combination of the fall of Russia and the end of the first Gulf War, there was now no alternative for Arab states, the US now had a presence in the region and that the Palestinan Liberation Organization was now destroyed.
The Oslo Accords, according to Mr. Mahajan, put the PLO in charge of a client state to Israel, and cemented the occupation. At Camp David, while then Prime Minister Barak appeared to offer Arafat most of what he wanted, there were preconditions.
Finally he reached the current state, reminding us that the current intifada began with Sharon's visit to the Temple Mount, and that there have been three truces, each broken when Israel attacked a Hammas leader. But this has been part of a cycle of provocation and response that began at Oslo and the only end may be the destruction of Palestinian lives. He also criticized the "roadmap" and stated that he sees much of US policy as having the goal of re-occupying the Middle East to control the oil.
The day concluded with a panel discussion. I asked what has been a question that is the driving force behind this site; "Is this "War On Terror" an attempt to start a new Cold War". Mr. Mahajan said that there are parallels to the Truman Doctrine, but that the enemy nations lack the size or military technology of the former Soviet Union. I also asked about how the PATRIOT Act sounds like the COINTELPRO program of the 1970's, and Ms. Knudsen said that there were similarities. Another question about the PATRIOT Act lead to a discussion among the panelists themselves about how it seems that the system of checks and balances has failed.
One of the last questions asked was simply "What can we do?". And each member had different answers; Dr. Hasan focused on getting people registered to vote, Mr. Mahajan spoke of trying to make the occupation of Iraq and the PATRIOT Act a local issue through passing resolutions, Ms. Knudsen urged us to ask questions, and be active in the community, and Ms. Luckstead expressed what RAWA would like us to see.
I guess what bothers me a bit about all this is that we in the Anti-War/Anti-Imperialist movement haven't really formed into a political body that can elect candidates who will listen to us. This is a step I still see us needing to take. But I came home with some new ideas and a lot to think about.