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Right-To-Life Party, Christian, Anti-War, Pro-Life, Bible Fundamentalist, Egalitarian, Libertarian Left

Sunday, October 10, 2004

Afghan Election Fiasco

Afghan election fiasco as Karzai rivals pull out over fraud claims

Afghanistan's first democratic presidential election was plunged into chaos yesterday after all 15 remaining candidates challenging President Hamid Karzai pulled out, claiming that measures to prevent fraud had failed. Two other candidates had dropped out earlier in the week.

Opposition politicians said that the election - which cost more than £100 million to stage - was "not legitimate". They boycotted it and said they would not accept the results, threatening political turmoil. The row followed farcical scenes at polling stations where it emerged that the indelible ink used to mark voters' thumbs could be rubbed off.

Electoral officials said that the problem had affected only a minority of voters. Given the declaration of no confidence from Mr Karzai's rivals, however, the poll's credibility seemed doomed.

"Today's election is not a legitimate election. It should be stopped and we don't recognise the results," said Abdul Satar Sirat, one of the candidates and a former aide to Afghanistan's last king.

The United Nations-Afghan Joint Electoral Management Body (JEMB), which has overseen the elections, however said in a statement that the procedure was still valid and voting at the 25,000 polling stations should continue.

"Halting the voting at this point is unjustified and would deny individuals their fundamental right to vote," a spokesman said. Officials acknowledged, however, "some technical problems" and said candidates' complaints would be investigated.

The row ruined what should have been a momentous day in Afghanistan as the country's long-suffering population attempted to move on from decades of brutal warlordism, communism and religious extremism.

As thousands of voters queued outside polling stations set up in mosques, hospitals and schools, the much-feared attacks by Taliban and al-Qaeda militants largely failed to materialise.

Instead, the election was derailed by what initially seemed to be a trivial glitch over simple anti-fraud measures.

Electoral officials had hoped that the system of marking voters' fingers would solve the problem - previously acknowledged - that people had registered several times for polling cards.

During the day the estimated 10 million Afghans who had registered to vote had shown genuine excitement as they queued up to present their polling cards.

At a polling station set up in the bullet-scarred shell of the Setara schoolhouse in Kabul, Sayeed Zabihulla Sadat was waiting at 7am. "I got here early because I wanted to be the first in the queue to vote," the 33-year-old architect said. "This is a very exciting day when we get to choose our first government after 23 years of war."

On a monitoring visit at one polling station, Rosalind Marsden, the British Ambassador to Kabul, was almost swept away by an eager crowd. "Holding this election represents a major step towards long-term stability and democracy," she said, before the row over the ink broke out.

Within minutes of the polls opening, however, voters were beginning to remark on how easily the dark-blue ink could be removed. By mid-morning Mr Karzai's closest rival, the former education minister, Yunus Qanuni, said he would not cast his vote until the matter had been resolved.

Initially election officials ignored his comments, saying that the problems stemmed from a few staff in polling stations accidentally swapping indelible pens for those with washable ink supposed to be used to mark ballot papers.

The opposition candidates were unconvinced. At a lunchtime meeting held at Mr Sirat's house in Kabul, an apparently unanimous statement was issued calling for the vote to be halted. Massooda Jalal, the only female candidate, said she had been deluged with complaints from her constituents. "The ink that is being used can be rubbed off in a minute. Voters can vote 10 times," she said.

A fellow candidate, the ethnic Tajik newspaper editor Hafiz Mansoor, said: "This is a trick that is designed to clear the way for cheating."

The boycott is likely to infuriate American and British officials, who had placed considerable hopes in the election giving the country's fledgling post-Taliban government some legitimacy.

The vote has been one of the toughest to organise because of Afghanistan's mountainous terrain, illiterate population and continuing instability.

The security operation alone has involved 25,000 Nato and United States troops, supported by 75,000 Afghan police and soldiers who were trained for the task.

Given that none of the rival candidates stood a realistic chance of winning against Mr Karzai, the clear favourite, they are likely to face accusations that they pulled out simply to discredit him rather than over real concerns about the election's validity.

Election officials pointed out that in addition to indelible ink each voter had a photo polling card punched with a hole, limiting the opportunities for fraud.

Grant Kippen, of the National Democratic Institute for International Affairs, a Washington-based think tank that has been helping to train election officials, said the dispute was "extremely unfortunate".

He said: "Security-wise, the whole thing was coming off beautifully and it is unfortunate that it has been distilled down to a discussion over indelible ink." He added that election officials had spoken to some of the 50,000 party agents but none had reported problems.

He called on the rival candidates to provide hard evidence to back up their complaints. "We obviously need to investigate to see just how widespread any problems were, but I think it is incumbent on them to point out places where it has gone wrong," Mr Kippen said.

A Foreign Office spokesman in Kabul said that under electoral law, the candidates were not allowed to pull out once polling was under way. "If people want to boycott the election they have to drop out beforehand, but they are now trying to question the validity of the process," he said.

Mr Karzai, who when he voted rubbed his thumb in front of reporters to show that the ink could not be removed, said he would abide by the decision of election officials.

The officials conceded that pens could have been swapped deliberately to sabotage the voting process. "At one polling station I found that indelible markers did not exist," said Ghulam Farooq Wardak, of the JEMB. "This could be an attempt at sabotage. Some people might have issued their agents the wrong type of markers to defame the process."

Colin Freeman in Kabul
(Filed: 10/10/2004)

In Wartime, Critics Question Peace Prize for Environmentalism

OSLO, Oct. 9 - The decision by the five-member Nobel Committee to award this year's Nobel Peace Prize to an environmental activist prompted some prominent Norwegians to criticize the selection, saying the effectiveness of the prize in promoting peace, enhancing security and ending conflicts could be diluted.

In Norway's reserved and polite style of public debate, critics joined Prime Minister Kjell Magne Bondevik in congratulating and praising Wangari Maathai for receiving this year's prize, which includes a $1.36 million cash award, in recognition of her work in Africa fighting deforestation and her advocacy for democracy and women's rights.

But then some prominent voices here wondered whether giving the prize for environmental activism, while a laudable activity, in a time of global concerns about war in the Middle East, terrorism and nuclear proliferation was underplaying the potential of the prestigious award.

"I thought the intention of Alfred Nobel's will was to focus on a person or organization who had worked actively for peace," said Carl I. Hagen, leader of the Progress Party, whose senior political adviser, Inger-Marie Ytterhorn, is a member of the Nobel Committee. "It is odd that the committee has completely overlooked the unrest that the world is living with daily, and given the prize to an environmental activist," he told Norwegian state television on Friday.

Espen Barth Eide, a former deputy foreign minister, said: "The one thing the Nobel Committee does is define the topic of this epoch in the field of peace and security. If they widen it too much, they risk undermining the core function of the Peace Prize; you end up saying everything that is good is peace."

Nobel committee officials said Friday that they were further expanding the reach of the prize to recognize environmentalism as a critical global issue. Work in humanism and human rights activism has already been recognized.

"I know some people have said the committee is enlarging the peace vocabulary with this award," Mr. Hagen said, "but I think they should have gone the other way. It's fine to fight for human rights and the environment, but this is the Nobel Peace Prize."

But other prominent voices disagreed.

On Saturday morning, Aftenposten, Norway's most influential paper, admitted that it was possible to ask, "What does tree planting have to do with peace?"

But the answer, the newspaper replied, can be found in the Amazon, Haiti, China and Africa where deforestation, erosion and climate change "have changed the conditions of life for millions of people, led to hunger and need, created tensions between populations and countries."

Therefore, the newspaper concluded, "there is something untraditional and exciting with this award."

Former Prime Minister Kaare Willoch said in an interview that he, too, "would have expected that the Peace Prize would have dealt with nuclear proliferation, but I am in full agreement that there are good reasons for this prize, too."

He said environmental and development problems in the third world were "distantly related to terrorism" because they exposed the divide between wealthy and poor nations and thus engendered resentment, hatred and, eventually, threats to security.

"I will not participate with criticism of this prize," he said, "because it is intensely important to the Western world to understand what is going on in less advantaged countries and to contribute to the improvement of conditions."

Walter Gibbs contributed reporting for this article.

Northern Ireland is Still the Issue

A Conversation with Gerry Adams

Most news media will only cover a few issues in any meaningful depth, and a new "crisis" will soon crowd out what was until recently considered a grave situation. Darfur will crowd out Iraq, Iraq overshadowed Palestine, and so on. News editors will justify this by stating that the public suffers from an attention deficit; they suggest that the public can at most focus on two issues at a time, and only where a "crisis" has erupted. However, conflicts don't follow a media agenda, and injustice may persist even after the TV cameras have moved on. Compounding the problem is that once the spotlight moves elsewhere, politicians' interest will also wane. The next time the media focus will return is only when the "bang-bang" stuff reoccurs.

It is the news media that really suffers from an "attention deficit disorder", and as the recent war in Iraq attests, the news media has also lent itself to manipulate the public into silence. To understand what is happening in the world and to demonstrate true solidarity with people struggling for a modicum of justice, it is important to reject the news media determined agenda.

Solidarity with a peoples' demand for justice should not be determined by the fickle media agenda, but it should be constant. It is for this reason that it is important to discuss the ongoing developments in Northern Ireland. There may be a perception that "peace has broken out" in Northern Ireland, and there are enough politicians toasting champagne or slapping each other's backs to prove this point. However, deep divisions and significant tensions remain in that society, and many issues have not been addressed.

About Gerry Adams:
Gerry Adams is the president of Sinn Féin, a nationalist political party in Northern Ireland. He also served as a member of parliament for West Belfast from 1983 until 1992. In line with not recognizing the authority of the British parliament, he did not attend at the House of Commons.
Besides politics, Adams is a prolific writer. His latest two books are Before the Dawn: An Autobiography (Heinemann, London 1996). His latest book is Hope and History: Making Peace in Ireland (Brandon, 2004).

Paul de Rooij: Was anything substantive achieved at the recent talks at Leeds Castle?

Gerry Adams: The negotiations at Leeds Castle did see some progress made. However, there was progress towards a comprehensive agreement, I saw no sign of that as far as the DUP [Democratic Unionist Party] was concerned. In the weeks since then there has been no evidence to suggest that the DUP has changed its position. Yes, Mr. Paisley traveled to Dublin, and I welcome that, but the fact is that the DUP continues to put unrealistic demands aimed at changing the power sharing core of the Assembly and other fundamentals of the Agreement. It persists with its objectionable refusal to accept Sinn Féin's mandate or the rights of our electorate and the rights of citizens who support other parties.
Since Leeds Castle the Sinn Féin leadership has been involved in intense discussions with the governments in a bid to close the gaps which exist. That work is still ongoing.

PR: Some commentators [e.g., Harry Browne] were astonished that the key aspect of Sinn Féin concessions weren't noted in the British press or acknowledged by Tony Blair or Ahern. Is it the case that the British gov't or the unionist parties have not appreciated key moves by Sinn Fein?

Adams: You will not understand the nature of the conflict in Ireland unless you set it in the context of Britain's colonial involvement over many centuries, the partition of the island, and the ongoing British claim of jurisdiction over a part of the island.

So, while the British and Irish governments and indeed some unionists, do understand the efforts and risks Sinn Féin has taken to achieve a peace settlement, we each have our different conflicting goals; Sinn Féin wants and end to the union, an end to British jurisdiction over a part of Ireland; the British and the unionists want to retain that, although they may differ over the shape of that union. We are therefore at odds over the core cause of conflict -- which we see as continued British interference in Ireland -- and what needs to be done to resolve it.

PR: We know what unionist parties and the British government want in such negotiations. What were Sinn Fein's main demands, and have those issues been addressed?

Adams: Sinn Féin wants to see the full implementation of the Good Friday Agreement. That means the British government implementing with 'rigorous impartiality' its responsibilities in respect of equality and 'civil, political, social and cultural rights,' agreed under the terms of the Good Friday Agreement. It hasn't done this. Nor has it honored its commitments on issues like a new accountable, democratically controlled policing service or the demilitarization of our society.

Our position going into this negotiation is very straight forward ­ to insist that the British government implement, in good faith, all of those many commitments that it has so far broken.

PR: Has the British government exerted any pressure on unionist parties so that they would fulfill their obligations?

Adams: The Good Friday Agreement [GFA] is about fundamental constitutional, political, social change. It is about a process of sustainable change which ends inequalities and embraces citizens on the basis of equality. However, the experience of the past six years, since the GFA was agreed, is that the British approach to the implementation of the Agreement has in the main been dictated by matching progress to how much change unionist parties are prepared to accept. The rights and entitlements of citizens are being determined by how much of a row unionists will kick up.

The reality is that British policy tolerates and perpetuates institutionalized inequality and many in political unionism see no imperative to co-operate with their nationalist neighbors, or nationalist and republican representatives. This view is reinforced by the fact that the apparatus of government, the symbols, and senior management of the institutions of the state are predominantly unionist. British policy is also an obstacle to the practice and achieving of equality of treatment and parity of esteem.

The un-elected and unaccountable 'Northern Ireland Office' [NIO] is a particular example of the need for urgent change. The NIO runs the six-counties almost as a private fiefdom. British Direct Rule Ministers fly in for a few hours a week, very often simply to rubber stamp decisions pre-formulated by Senior NIO officials. And too often, those who work within and for the NIO, demonstrate an unapologetic devotion to the unionist cause. In addition the hundreds of unaccountable quangos [PR: see below] are filled to overflowing with those appointed by the NIO and deemed by that body to be safe hands. The manifestation of Unionist governance for the Unionist people is preserved.

[PR-explanation: A non-British audience may require some explanation. Quangos are quasi-governmental agencies. These bodies usually deliver government services, but their boards aren't elected, and usually stacked with the incumbent party's appointees. Most government services in the UK were either privatized or removed from democratic accountability during the Thatcher era.]

PR: Tony Blair is a discredited leader and most probably must be viewed as a "lame duck". Is this apparent during the negotiations?

Adams: However Tony Blair is viewed by others the fact is that he is the British Prime Minister. He will almost certainly still be the British Prime Minister after the next elections. Our responsibility is to work with him and persuade him to implement the Agreement. We also constantly raise with him the need for him to change British policy from one of supporting the union to one of ending the union.

PR: The Blair government has been notorious for the way it addressed the few issues it has chosen to pursue, e.g., the never-ending fox hunting saga. Have the issues of Northern Ireland been addressed more forcibly and decisively?

Adams: I think I have already given you a sense of our criticism of the way in which the British government has implemented the Agreement. It has failed to deliver in the terms agreed six years ago. Sometimes these failures are failures of focus or concentration but often they are the deliberate machinations of interests within the British system who remain deeply opposed to the peace process. Progress is most often made when Mr. Blair is focused on the issue. When his concentration shifts to other matters then the problems multiply.

PR: Until recently, walls have been built in Belfast. What has been done to integrate the societies to heal the distrust and enmity?

Adams: There have been ghettoes in Belfast since the town was first constructed and most clearly since the industrial revolution. The walls are a more recent manifestation of the divisions in our society which are a consequence of the colonial policies of past British and unionist governments. There are real efforts being made to build bridges across these divides and they have met with some success but there is no easy answer to sectarian divisions carefully fostered by governments and unionist political and business interests over many generations.

PR: Catholics and Protestants still go to separate schools, and it seems that the first time the communities meet is at university. Is the school system going to be integrated? And what are the impediments to such development?

Adams: It is important to realize that the existence of Catholic and Protestant and Irish medium or non-denominational schools are not in themselves bad things. Too often there is a simplistic view presented of this conflict as sectarian. While there is a sectarian element to it, its roots are firmly located in Britain's colonial presence in Ireland and the continued partition of our country.

Adams: While he was Minister for Education, my colleague Martin McGuinness allocated more funding to integrated schooling than any British Minister ever did. We understand its importance but we also have to take account of the society we live in and the desire for families to have their children taught in schools which reflect their values. However, as the peace process continues to develop, as our society comes to terms with its past and builds a new future, then the issue of education will become less about the religious or non-religious nature of the school but the standard of education taught.

PR: The recent census in Northern Ireland forced respondents to be categorized in about 20 different ways. Even if a person didn't want to be classified in the available categories, it was forced upon them. It seems that the divisions are forced upon the communities by government policy. Do you think this will eventually be phased out?

Adams: It is understandable that governments in trying to address the needs of society will seek to secure as much information as possible to allow decisions to be taken which are informed and the best interests of citizens. That's not a bad thing. But like all information, it can be used to discriminate, to oppress, to exclude. That is why the institutions, and the rights and entitlements of citizens accorded in the Good Friday Agreement are so important. It is why we have been pushing so hard for a Bill of Rights for the north.

PR: In some countries on the continent ethnic conflict was defused by finding some commonality among erstwhile antagonistic groups. For example, the adoption of a common European identity seems to have dampened the Walloon vs. Flemish ethnic tensions in Belgium. Has there been any discussion to do the same in Northern Ireland?

Adams: There have been some limited efforts to persuade people here to look at Europe as a point of commonality, others have tried to persuade citizens that instead of seeing themselves as either 'Irish' or 'British' they should seek to define their identity in terms of being 'northern Irish'. But none of this has had any real impact. My view is that instead of seeking to disguise or hide what we are or believe we are we should embrace our differences and see them as positives, and as strengths.

I may not agree with the Orange Order. I may oppose its efforts to hold triumphalist marches through nationalist areas where they are not wanted, but I do respect the Order's right to exist and I will defend their right to march. They have to learn to respect the right of other citizens to hold a contrary opinion. For that reason dialogue is very important. Regrettably, the various loyal institutions refuse to speak to Sinn Féin and most refuse to speak to nationalist residents. That remains an important piece of work in the time ahead.

PR: Sinn Féin has a branch of its party contesting elections in the Republic of Ireland. Is the issue of Northern Ireland of much concern there, and is this the key issue drawing Irish to vote for Sinn Féin there?

Adams: Sinn Féin is the only party organized throughout the whole island. Next year we celebrate our 100th birthday. In the recent elections in the south of Ireland, we made significant progress and achieved major breakthroughs in Dublin and other parts of the state. Instinctively most people in the south want to see a United Ireland. That is most obvious in the fact that increasingly political parties in that part of the island are also including the demand for a United Ireland as part of their manifesto platform.
PR: Sinn Féin purports to be a leftist party. Can you explain why you as leader of Sinn Féin attended the Bush-Blair war summit in Hillsborough in May 2003? What explains Sinn Féin failure to criticize the US and its recent wars? Why have you attended the World Economic Conference in New York but not the World Social Forum in Brazil?

Adams: Whatever else President Bush and Prime Minister Blair were talking about at Hillsborough they were also dealing with our peace process. So, we had an obligation to be there and to use that opportunity to talk about what is after all the most important issue for the people of Ireland. Nonetheless, I used the occasion to present both leaders with a letter outlining our total opposition to what was then the imminent invasion of Iraq. I told both that they should not invade and I have repeated that both to them and to their officials at every opportunity. Our criticism of the war has resulted in Sinn Féin being criticized by people in the USA. I am consequently somewhat puzzled by your question which suggests that we have not criticized the war in Iraq. And, by the way, while we did not receive an invite to attend the World Social Forum in Brazil I have been invited and will attend the European Social Forum in London next week.

PR: What is Sinn Fein's policy on migration into Ireland? And can you explain its position regarding citizenship in the recent referendum in the Republic of Ireland?

Adams: Sinn Féin wants to see a comprehensive immigration policy that is positive, compassionate, human rights compliant and anti-racist. That policy must fully recognize the positive contribution of immigrants to Irish society and to the Irish economy.

We oppose the Irish Government's policy of deporting Irish child citizens along with their non-national parents, and are calling not only for the deportation orders in such cases to be vacated, but also for the Government to introduce legislation affirming the equal right of all citizen children to remain in Ireland in the care and company of their parents regardless of the national or ethnic origin of their parents.

The only appropriate legacy for a nation scarred by emigration is a positive immigration policy that recognizes the dignity and rights of migrants, and that also recognizes that immigration is an enormously constructive social and economic force whose potential must be harnessed in the best interests of our future.

Sinn Féin vigorously opposed the recent Citizenship Referendum. The Government proposals stripped some Irish children of their rights on the basis of where their parents came from. The proposals were introduced to coincide with the recent local and EU elections in an attempt to divert attention away from the government's appalling record on housing, healthcare, and other matters. It was designed to exploit people's fears regarding immigrants and asylum seekers.

Statistics provided by the National Consultative Committee on Racism and Interculturalism (NCCRI) shows clearly that the volume of racist assaults are running well above the 'average' numbers normally reported. That there has been a sharp increase during and since the passing of the Citizenship Referendum should surprise no one. Sinn Féin, along with others, warned that the referendum would lead to an increase in racism, and unfortunately we have been proved right.

PR: During your recent lecture in London, a BBC journalist asked you a single question, i.e., if it was true that you were fond of PG Woodhouse. Has the BBC ever addressed the Northern Ireland issue in a more intelligent way than this, and how do you evaluate its coverage during the past few years?

Adams: With some honorable exceptions most British media coverage of the conflict and in particular of the British role in it, has been poor. British public opinion has been poorly served by a media which failed to tackle the real causes of conflict, address issues like collusion between state forces and loyalist death squads and much more.

PR: It is curious to an outsider to find that the nationalist community will wave the Palestinian flag, and adopt a sympathetic position vis-à-vis the Palestinians. At the same time, the unionists tend to wave the Israeli flag. What is the origin of this and are people aware of the situation in occupied Palestine?

Adams: In the course of three decades of conflict republicans and nationalists came to identify with other peoples engaged in struggle against oppression. This is true of the Palestinians, of the ANC and others. Over those years we built up solidarity links and today there are very active solidarity groups in Belfast and elsewhere helping the Palestinian people in whatever way they can.

Unionist politicians came to favor the Israeli side. DUP politicians like Peter Robinson visited Israel at the invitation of right wing politicians there. I don't know how well informed unionist opinion is on the conflict in Palestine, but nationalist and republican opinion is very well informed.

PR: You just published another book. What are the issues you are addressing this time?

Adams: Hope and History recounts the events around the birth of the peace process. It seeks to give an insiders account of developments, of the key people involved and of the practical steps which were necessary in order to make progress. It's not intended as a history book but for those interested in conflict resolution it would be a useful addition to their book shelf.

Paul de Rooij is an economist living in London.

Homeland Security: If Terror Strikes the Polls

A Qaeda attack is expected. So what happens if balloting is disrupted? The electoral chain of command

It's practically an article of faith among counterterrorism officials that Al Qaeda will try to hit the U.S. homeland in the run-up to the presidential election. As a result, federal authorities are at a heightened level of security not seen since the days after 9/11. On Sept. 24, Attorney General John Ashcroft issued an extraordinary emergency order to the FBI's 56 field offices, giving bureau officials the power to commandeer federal agents from across the government to respond to a terror threat. This week FBI agents are stepping up surveillance of suspected extremists and poring over millions of bits of intelligence in search of clues about a potential attack. And on Election Day, antiterror command centers at the FBI and Homeland Security headquarters will be running 24/7. "[Al Qaeda] wants to strike a blow against everything we hold dear," says one senior law-enforcement official. "What better way than to attack democracy itself? It's coming."

But if an attack does come, who would decide what to do about the election? There are nearly 200,000 polling places across the country. By tradition and law, U.S. elections have always been administered at the state and local levels. Right now, in the event of an attack on Nov. 2, the federal government would not have the power to step in and postpone voting. Only states, counties or even cities could freeze balloting. (New York, on its own, decided to postpone primary voting on September 11, 2001.) The system flows from our federalist principles; dictators halt elections, not American presidents.

But in the age of global terror and instant communications, some experts argue that the federal government should have the option to postpone. If a series of bombings in polling places across one key state shuts down voting, at least temporarily, that could alter the outcome of the national race. Even if balloting were rescheduled, those voters would know the results elsewhere, which could taint an election. And what if panic spread to polling places around the country? In addition, because there are no national standards to determine whether elections should be put off, those decisions are left to state officials who are often active partisans (think Katherine Harris). The patchwork of rules could create chaos. In the end, confidence in the contest's outcome could be fatally undermined, some experts worry.

The question is whether the federal government can play a more central role without provoking age-old fears of martial law. Under the Constitution, Congress does have authority to regulate national elections, including setting dates. Some have argued that Congress could establish a commission that would have the authority to reschedule federal elections in the event of a national emergency. But lawyers question whether such power could be delegated to a panel of individuals. For now, in any case, the debate is academic. When DeForest Soaries Jr., chairman of the U.S. Election Assistance Commission, wrote to Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge this summer urging contingency planning for the election in the event of an attack, he touched off a storm of outraged opposition. But Soaries does not regret raising the issue. "We have not had adequate discussions about 'what if' scenarios," Soaries says. Clearly the matter won't be settled before Nov. 2.

Daniel Klaidman
With Mark Hosenball
© 2004 Newsweek, Inc.

The Grand Refusal

The Ballot, The Bullet, and the Grand Refusal

"Counterterrorism officials" are talking of "postponing" the upcoming elections. Postponing the November elections, they say, might be necessary if there is a terrorist attack at election time. The option is being denied by Rice and other Bush administration officials, but Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge warned last week that Osama bin Laden's al-Qaeda network may attack within the USA to try to disrupt the elections.

Regardless, Homeland Security, and DeForest B. Soaries Jr., chairman of the U.S. Election Assistance Commission, have already disrupted the elections. Soaries, who was hired to help localities improve their voting systems, may be doing more to drive voters from the polls. Low voter turnout happens to be the formula for a Republican "victory." And, such terrorism warnings make us think more about terrorism than regime change. But let the adminstration take heed: we fear nothing more than this regime itself!

And we are really afraid that the potential loss by Bush may occasion an attack. We are not saying how the attack and the polls might be connected; we are not pointing fingers. But, as Republican strategists debate the possibility like something they themselves are considering for their party's success, we cannot help but wonder: just who, if anyone, is considering/planning/promoting this 'attack?'

Regardless, a postponed election, or the playing the fear factor for low voter turnout, are acts of terrorism in themselves. We are already being attacked. This warning is yet another in a series of attacks on our rights, on our democratic system, on our freedom, and on our self-determination.

A postponed election, or what is far more likely, one conducted under the surveillance of military and police posted at polling places and along routes to polling places, will amount to intimidation and the abrogation of voting rights, at the very least, and the complete loss of any semblance of democracy, at the worst.

Our Response?

In 1964, Malcolm X posed the question to the government: 'The Ballot or the Bullet."' Without representation, Malcolm roared, rather than "I have a dream," the racist, antidemocratic government might expect to hear instead, "I have a rifle!" Today, we might make the same clarion call to arms.

Yet, while purely passive resistance will be utterly ineffectual, the condition of red or orange 'alert' will allow resistance to be classified as 'terrorism,' with militants facing imprisonment without charges, or worse. Today, perhaps like yesterday, the call to arms would be sheer suicide.

Under such circumstances, should officials attempt to cancel or inject fear into the elections, the only possible solution is the Grand Refusal. The Grand Refusal was Herbert Marcuse's term for the complete rejection of the techno-military government and the whole gambit of repressive state and ideological apparatuses. Unlike other Frankfurt School theorists, Marcuse had a pragmatic side, and suggested, under inspiration from the sixties revolts, the notion of a complete refusal of the system.

The refusal would begin on the planned election day, and last for for as long as necessary. On election day, this would mean showing up at polling places ready to vote, and demanding access to the ballot. It would be demanding the vote with our feet, until the vote with the ballot is granted. It would mean, for many voters, intimidation, but a refusal to succumb to fear.

Thus, the Grand Refusal will be first and foremost a refusal of the election postponement or curtailment, and a demand to vote. This will be a decentralized refusal and demonstration by hundreds of millions of registered voters: Democrats, Greens, Independents, and Republicans alike. All are asked to refuse the fear tactics, and all are welcomed in the refusal. The election is not a partisan issue. It's the democratic process itself. Thus, all true patriots must thus take part in the voter turnout demonstration, and continue to refuse until the election is undertaken. This process will be a massive refusal, but also, it will be a great lesson in democracy and freedom.

The refusal will mean more than this if voters turn out for an election that does not take place. The Grand Refusal would then mean, among other things: massive walkouts, demonstrations, the refusal to participate in the system at large. It would mean the continual voting with our feet by refusing to participate in a politico-economic system that does not deem us worthy of representation, regardless of its appeals to our so-called 'safety.' The only way to affect the system will be a continuing refusal to work, to be 'entertained,' and to consume at 'normal' levels. We would live by our wits, have courage, and shut the system down that refuses us. In any case, the claims to protect us will be proven false by their police brutality against us, when we refuse to acknowledge a danger that has no known source, other than the government.

To you who listen to the fearmongers, and prefer your work and your "safety" to your freedom and democracy, I give you the words of Samuel Adams, who wrote in 1776:

If ye love wealth better than liberty, the tranquility of servitude better than the animating contest of freedom, go home from us in peace. We ask not your counsels or arms. Crouch down and lick the hands which feed you. May your chains set lightly upon you, and may posterity forget that ye were our countrymen.

But in any case, the claims to protect us will be betrayed by their brutality against us, and the wealth is all theirs in the end. We refuse to hear them and heed the call to abjure our rights. All who have courage will stand up, walk out, and refuse to listen to them, refuse their media, refuse their consolation prizes, refuse their guilt, refuse their lies, refuse their tyranny, and refuse their fake government!

So which will it be, oh "Homeland Security," police, election commissioner, Bush, Cheney, media mouthpieces, liars, one and all? Will it be the ballot, or the Grand Refusal (and the bullet)? All the bullets will be your own, not ours, although we paid for them. You may shoot us with the dollars you robbed from us, just as you have the Iraqis. You may kill us with our lost wages and services. But we will not be betrayed by a government supposedly intent on "protecting" us, and your slaughter of us will prove you to be complete liars. But even this lie we refuse.

Part 2:

"The Revolution Will Be Webcast!"

by Michael Rectenwald, CLG Founder and Chair

(with input from Lori Price, CLG General Manager, and several CLG Readers)

Now hear this: Any sign that the election has been stolen again, and we are calling for a complete walkout, civil disobedience, complete refusal and the shutting down of the system, per the Grand Refusal

What are the TRIGGERS, what "election" events will trigger the Grand Refusal? The following list is by no means exhaustive. The Bush regime may very well alter their approach to stealing the election this time. But, this is a list that will guide us.

If any of these events occur in great number or even if one occurs to a significant, result-altering effect, we are calling for a complete WALKOUT! That means, do not go to work, do not shop beyond what you need to survive (food, beverages, medicine, etc.), do not pay credit card bills, do not participate in consumer events or sporting events, avoid all mass media and stay tuned to the WEB to stay posted for sites for mass demonstrations during the Grand Refusal. The Revolution will NOT be TELEVISED, the Revolution will be WEBCAST! If the web goes down, report to city hall in whatever city or town you reside! Until then, watch the web, the webring of revolution sites, for news and tactical issues. This webring is under construction, but will be in place for the "election." The CLG will be a revolutionary ringleader!

If the following or similar events take place and the election is stolen because of it, the Revolution, the Grand Refusal, must take place. If we do not do it, they have nothing to fear from us, ever again. Our rights will be gone. This is a very pivotal situation for our system of Government. One more coup and we are done for!

1) Reports of significant amounts voters in key precincts and states having been purged unduly from the voting rolls.

2) Reports of voter intimidation, poll closures, changed or moving polling places.

3) Reports of 'butterfly-ballot-like' spoilage of votes.

4) Reports of over-vote spoilage (as in Florida's mostly Democratic counties in 2000).

5) Evidence or signs of Diebold or other vote-counting machine manipulation, tampering, fixing, etc.

6) Serious discrepancies between pre-election and/or exit polling and "election" results favoring Bush.

7) Disruptions in voting due to brownouts or blackouts in key Democratic areas relying on electronic voting technology.

8) Sudden turnarounds in results in favor of the Dictator (such as took place for Florida in 2000 when Bush's cousin John Ellis at Faux reversed networks' consensus and overturned their predictions).

9) Reports and evidence of "bourgeois riots" or other means of intimidation to disrupt voting, or vote counting (as in Miami Dade in 2000).

10) "Terrorist" warnings and threat level increases in key races to either prevent voters from voting or to reduce turnout (a formula for Republican "victory) as warnings by Ridge and other administration officials presage.

11) Bioterrorism threats or attacks (the forced vaccines are not approved by FDA and behoove drug companies tied to Republicans--likewise, the threats or attacks will be in all probability manufactured with the intent to instill fear and support of status quo Republican 'war on [of] terror').

12) Judicial interventions to stop vote counting, stop voting, stop the real results from being registered, tabulated or COUNTED (as in the Supreme Court decision of 2000).

13) Cancellation or "postponement" of the election (in general or in part).

14) Aviary, bovine, swine or any other mysterious flu epidemics that *happen* to appear (created by the now-dead 18 microbiologists?) as a *pretext* for the Bush dictatorship to restrict public gatherings and travel, close schools (voting booths), and implement quarantines --in order to suppress voter turnout. --Aug. 25, 2004 update, based on Associated Press article.

Any one or a combination of these and other events--resulting in a stolen, "postponed" or canceled election--will trigger the Revolution. By Revolution, we do not mean violence. We mean a TURNING OVER, a complete turning of the tables, a turnabout in terms of control. We go from ruled to rulers. We can show them how much they need us. Without us, they are nothing. "There is no king saved by the multitude of an host" (Psalms). The Real Revolution was against the people and the Constitution and took place in 2000 and continues to this day. The next Revolution must be a countercoup, and a recapturing, or a capturing for the first time, of our rights. How long will we stay out? As long as it takes to have a real election!!! or longer if we can and such a continued refusal brings even greater results...

All 9-11 activists please take note!!! All crimes of the former regime will be investigated upon gaining control of the state. Bush will be investigated and most likely tried for high crimes, including mass murders in the US and Iraq.

Stay tuned for more details and ideas. Most people who read this idea are for it. It is nonviolent, it is activist, it is workable. It worked in India for Gandhi and his followers, and it can work here. We have no other choice. Remember, as Bush himself said, "Fool me once, shame on...shame on me. Fool me...Won't Get Fooled again!"

Michael Rectenwald
July 21, 2004

Citizens For Legitimate Government