The Spark

“The emancipation of the working class will only be achieved by the working class itself.” — Karl Marx

Issue no. 785 — October 30 - November 13, 2006

Editorial:
Elections 2006:
When your only choice is between arsenic and strychnine, don’t drink

Oct 30, 2006

Elections are supposed to allow the population to express itself on the record of those who held office – or so the politicians tell us.

So, what kind of record have the Republicans made over the last six years, when they held the presidency, the Congress and the majority of state governors?

Responsible for the disaster of two wars, one in Afghanistan, one in Iraq.

Responsible for shifting more money from the federal and state budgets into the pockets of the wealthy and of the corporations they own.

Responsible for the reduction of public services for the population.

Responsible for the reduction in public supported medical care.

Responsible for the restriction of unemployment benefits, disability payments and other social programs.

Pandering to a reactionary political base, they have further restricted women’s access to abortion and to birth control.

They have maneuvered to shift funding for public schools to private schools.

They have carried out a demagogic campaign against immigrants, designed to hide their own responsibility for the rotten situation the whole working class faces today.

In short, the Republicans stand for everything the working class should oppose.

It’s almost enough to make you vote for the Democrats – until you look at the Democrats’ record!

Oh, yes, the Democrats criticize the Republicans. But every time it really counted, they handed their votes over to support these same measures. Sometimes, the vast majority of the Democrats even voted with the Republicans – as they did on the wars, or as Senate Democrats did over this xenophobic, symbolic wall at the border.

They let the nominations pass for two super-reactionary judges to the Supreme Court, when they could have easily blocked them, opening the door to much bigger restrictions on abortion and more attacks on union rights.

At every level – federal, state and local – the Democrats voted to restrict funding for education, social programs and public services. They pretended they had no other choice given the budget deficit, a deficit they helped create by giving so many tax breaks to the wealthy.

They smiled in our faces, then stabbed us in the back.

The records of both parties show they competed with each other to serve the interests of the wealthy classes – by attacking us.

When neither party serves the interest of working people, who can workers vote for?

No one!

If someone told you to choose between strychnine and arsenic, would you gulp down the one you thought was the least worse? Not unless you wanted to commit suicide, you wouldn’t.

Choose between Democrats and Republicans? Not unless you’re ready to commit political suicide.

When we vote for either party, we tell them we approve of the job they did. But the job both did was to attack us. Voting for either party only encourages them to continue.

In some cities and states, candidates are on the ballot who make it clear they take the workers’ side on every issue and in every conflict. Where we can vote for such candidates, we can register a vote against the record of both big parties.

Other places, there are no such candidates. But regardless of who is on the ballot, we can refuse to vote for the two big parties that represent only one class, the capitalist class. Refusing to vote for either Democrat or Republican – this is the only way not to throw our votes away.

Pages 2-3

Got health care coverage?

Oct 30, 2006

Have you got $200,000 saved up?

Consumer Reports just published a chart on health care expenses for those retiring at age 65. The source was the Employee Benefit Research Institute, which explained how much savings a retired person would need JUST for health care costs.

That $200,000 would last only 15 years, assuming you used it to pay the cost of the premium, plus Medicare Part B and other out-of-pocket expenses like tests or doctors’ visits. If you lived 20 years past retirement, you would need $300,000. If you lived 25 years, you would need $400,000 in savings.

These figures are NOT for living expenses. They only are for part of health care costs.

Employers certainly know the majority can’t afford anywhere close to that amount. They may tell us to drop dead after we retire, but we don’t intend to!

Oil companies claim to be victims of their own war

Oct 30, 2006

While Iraqi citizens lack electricity, food, water, and security, oil companies are being paid “damages” with money taken from sales of Iraqi oil!

The UN Compensation Commission still pays compensation to governments and oil companies who alleged they were “victims” of damages in Kuwait when Saddam Hussein invaded in 1990.

The fund has paid off individuals who claimed damages and is now paying “corporations, international organizations and governments!” The Commission said it has so far approved a total of 52 billion dollars; many more payments will be made in the next several years.

When you’re Big Oil, you can bully your way into other people’s countries, get the world’s biggest government to start a couple of wars on your behalf, twiddle your thumbs while a whole country and its population are devastated – and then claim to be a victim and collect damages!

Chicago:
22% electric rate increase ahead

Oct 30, 2006

ComEd, which supplies electricity to the Chicago area, wants to charge consumers 22% more starting in January. When an uproar developed, ComEd latched onto a game that’s become quite popular with steel companies and airlines: it threatened bankruptcy if it didn’t get its rate increase.

ComEd is owned by Exelon, which had a 2.1 billion-dollar profit last year. It was the most profitable electric utility in the country. Its rate of profit on its stockholders’ investment was 21%, double the national average. Exelon’s CEO, John W. Rowe, got 27 million dollars in pay last year, and the top five executives together got 47 million dollars.

Is this kind of bankruptcy legal for everyone?

Get a college degree to get a job
– but first you need to get a job to pay for it

Oct 30, 2006

In this rough time period, when thousands of workers are losing their jobs, the message to displaced workers is that you have to get a college degree in order to meet the requirements of the current job market.

There is, however, a problem with this mandate to get a college degree: higher education is priced out of reach for the working class AND sections of the middle class.

For years, the children of the working class had to go into huge debt to go to college. Now even that’s not enough.

The College Board’s latest annual report on student aid and college pricing found that over the past five years, tuition has gone up 35% at public four-year universities.

If you don’t already have access to money, where are you supposed to get the $6,000 to $20,000 a year just to pay for tuition, let alone books, transportation money and living expenses? Don’t look for government aid – the government at every level is cutting back.

The real future for the working class is not in working three jobs to get a college degree. It is in fighting for a society where people can have good jobs, and also have the time to pursue education throughout their entire lives, as a right, not a privilege.

Michigan Proposal 2:
Turning clock back on a movement that benefitted many

Oct 30, 2006

Proposal 2 on the ballot in Michigan would amend the state constitution to ban affirmative action programs by state and local governments in public employment, contracting and education.

Supporters of the proposal got it onto the ballot by outright fraud, calling it the “Michigan Civil Rights Initiative” and not stating clearly that it called for a ban on affirmative action programs.

The supporters of the proposal are obviously not for equal rights or equal access to education or jobs. If they were, they wouldn’t have had to trick people to get this proposal on the ballot. They would have been pushing for equal access decades ago when black people and women were being systematically excluded from schools, jobs and government contracts.

And they would be pushing now to make sure no one was denied access to education for lack of money.

No – the only aim of these people is to try to divide working people, pushing them to compete with each other for the few decent jobs or the few chances to go on to school.

We don’t win by fighting each other. We win by fighting those in power.

Affirmative action came out of such a fight, the black movement of the ‘fifties, ‘sixties, and ‘seventies.

Not that affirmative action has compensated for previous centuries of discrimination. Anyone who says it has is lying. It mostly touches middle class people more than it does working class people.

But it was won by a mobilization. That mobilization improved the situation for black people, and it did not hurt the white working class population in doing so. It led to greater access to education, social services, workers’ compensation, and unemployment insurance for all working people. It brought about Medicare for the elderly and Medicaid for working class families.

When there is a social movement in which different parts of the working class are not counterposed against one another, the ruling class can be forced to open things up for everyone.

Vote against the supporters of Proposal 2 and all the others who would divide us.

Maryland:
Some health benefits restored

Oct 30, 2006

The Maryland state government’s plan to direct more of the budget to the wealthy by taking benefits from the poor was just dealt a temporary setback.

In 2005, Maryland Governor Robert Ehrlich cut seven million dollars from a Medicaid program providing health care for 4000 low-income pregnant women and their children. A recent court decision reversed the decision.

In order to cut off some of these families from the program, the state government used various excuses. One attack was against immigrant families with legal status who had not yet been here for five years. It’s outrageous that any child is denied needed medical care because of “legal” status. As they smile and pose for photo opportunities, state officials taking away Medicaid benefits are willing to condemn children to death if their families cannot afford health coverage.

But the Republican governor of Maryland was hardly alone in cutting the budget at the expense of the poor. In fact, Ehrlich was in line with a majority of governors, Democrats and Republicans, who took their cue from Democrat Bill Clinton. In the 1996 Welfare Reform Act, there was a provision preventing Medicaid funds from covering health care for legal immigrants who had lived in the U.S. for less than five years. The bill was full of dirty tricks, singling out the most vulnerable people – poor women and children. Immigrants were only one of a multitude of categories cut off – leading the way to wider attacks on all the unemployed poor and working mothers thrown off welfare benefits.

In Maryland, there are currently 788,000 people – one of every seven in one of the wealthiest states in the country – with no health insurance.

It makes no difference who these people are, of whatever age, sex, race or place of birth. Every single person needs health care as a right – not only when they can afford to pay for it.

Some immigrant rights groups went to court against this blatant attack and have apparently gotten this law thrown out. More people need to fight back and not just in the courts. What the courts decide can be undecided if there aren’t people making their anger felt.

Business ups campaign money to Democrats

Oct 30, 2006

In October, businesses greatly increased their campaign money going to Democrats, just when it looked like the Democrats might take over the House. It marked the greatest share of corporate money going to the Democrats since the Republicans took over the Congress in 1994.

In the first half of October, the giant pharmaceutical company Pfizer gave the Democrats 59% of Pfizer’s political donations. Lockheed Martin, the very big military contractor, gave the party 60% of its donations.

Apparently the real masters have decided that the Democratic puppydogs might be more appealing to voters this time around than the Republican mutts. But the holder of the leash will not change!

Pages 4-5

“STAND UP FOR OURSELVES AND AGAINST OUR ENEMIES!”

Oct 30, 2006

The following is a text of a forum given at the October Spark public meeting in Detroit.

Over the past 10 months, promises that were made to Ford retirees have been ripped up. Retirees are now forced to pay premiums, co-pays and deductibles for their health care and are left to figure how to afford their retirement. Active Ford workers have lost wage and cost-of-living increases that they were counting on. They will be losing at least $2,000 per year. Local union contracts are being changed to get rid of the better jobs and make the remaining workers work harder than ever. The company is re-organizing production to put more work on some workers, so the company can more easily close other plants.

In the midst of this, Ford and many UAW leaders are running a scare campaign designed to get Ford workers to accept buy-outs and give up their jobs. In most cases, the amount of money in the buy-outs does not come close to making up what the workers will lose by giving up their jobs. The bosses want to scare the Ford workers into taking buy-outs, so they can bring in thousands of lower-wage workers to replace them. In other words, Ford expects that the next generation of auto workers, our children and grandchildren, will work for a lot less money and have a much lower standard of living than we have had.

What is happening today at Ford is repeating exactly what has happened at GM and Delphi over the past year. And if the auto companies have their way, the same scenario will be played out at Chrysler in the coming year.

The media says that the UAW leadership is doing the best it can do under difficult circumstances. Some union leaders tell workers that the companies are really hurting today. They say we have no choice but to help out the bosses in order to save our jobs.

We beg to differ!

First of all, we are being told a lie when UAW leaders tell us that the bosses are hurting. Just look at Ford, for example. If you believed the headlines, you would think that the company is about to go broke and that the Ford family is about to be standing in the welfare line. But Ford’s own financial report admitted that the company had more than 40 billion dollars in cash and marketable securities as of June 30, 2006. Ford made 55 billion dollars in profit over the last 20 years. Even counting years where they declared a loss, Ford still averaged a profit of 2.67 billion dollars a year since 1986. Where did all those profits go? Into the pockets and the bank accounts of the Ford family and the other big stockholders. But most outrageously, Ford has the nerve to cry poor and then, right in front of our face, they hire a new CEO and pay him somewhere around 100 million dollars, just for his first year!

Ford’s claims of poverty are almost word for word what GM was saying last year in order to convince workers to take concessions and buy-outs. And now that the buy-outs are almost done at GM, suddenly GM says that “Oh, our profits aren’t looking that bad.” And now we see Chrysler, after years of big profits, and after the Chrysler workers made it clear that they would not give up the same concessions as Ford and GM, suddenly Chrysler decides they are losing money, too.

What a charade they are putting on.

All the Capitalists are Getting Wealthier by Robbing Us

What is happening to the auto workers today is part of a wider attack on the whole working class. First, it was the steel workers and then the airline workers who went through the scam where the bankruptcy laws were used to tear up union contracts, get rid of the pension plans and drive down wages. Companies like IBM are getting rid of their pension plans, and companies like Wal-Mart are replacing full-time workers with part-time workers.

At each company where we work, the bosses try to convince us to give back our wages and benefits by claiming poverty and lack of profits. What is amazing is this – if all these corporations are really hurting and doing so badly today, then why are the people who own the corporations, who get their wealth from owning these corporations, why are these capitalists actually richer than ever?

Whether we work at Ford, or GM, or Chrysler, or Blue Cross, or Exxon, or Ameritech or McDonald’s we are all working for the same wealthy class of people. These corporations are not owned by one person. The wealthy person who owns millions of shares of GM might also own part of Dow Chemical and Chase Bank and Boeing, etc.

The facts show that the rich in this country have never been richer. The disparity between the rich and the rest of us has never been greater.

In 1967, the CEO for a major corporation was paid, on average, 75 times more than an average worker in his corporation. Today, a CEO makes 411 times more than an average worker. In 1967, the richest one% of the U.S. population got 10% of all the income. Today, the richest one% gets 20% of all income. A few weeks ago, Forbes magazine had their annual Forbes 400 list. This is a list of the 400 richest Americans. For the first time ever, every person on the Forbes 400 list was worth at least one billion dollars, and there were more billionaires who didn’t even make the list.

The rich today are richer than ever. Their cries of poverty and claims of bankruptcy are outrageous lies. The wealthy people in this country, the Forbes 400 and others – they make their money, they accumulate their wealth, by owning the very companies that they tell us are hurting. So if these companies are really hurting, where are the people who own them getting all this money from? They are not getting it by robbing banks, they are getting it by robbing us.

The Bosses Are Not Hurting – and They’re Not Our Partners

It is outrageous for anyone to try to tell us that the capitalists are hurting today.

But behind this one lie there is another, more devious lie that we are being told – that the workers have to become partners with the bosses of whatever company we are working for; that the workers must sacrifice so that the company will do better; and that if the company does better, the workers will benefit.

If the workers are partners with the bosses, then why are the bosses doing so well today, while the workers are doing so badly?

The workers and the bosses are not partners! In fact, the exact opposite is true. The way the capitalist system functions, the bosses make their profits by exploiting our labor. They increase their profits by trying to get rid of some workers and making the rest of the workers work harder and harder. And they increase their profits by paying us less – lower wages, fewer benefits, smaller pensions. The better off the capitalists and their companies are, the worse off the workers are. What is happening today shows that the idea of the bosses and workers being partners is nothing but a lie, and a trick to keep us from defending ourselves.

History Puts a Lie to the “Partnership”

The history of the union movement itself shows that this partnership is a lie. The major unions themselves were not built by workers who were in a partnership with their enemies, but by fights the workers made against them.

The history of the UAW itself shows the same thing. In the past, auto workers made some gains and improved their lives, not by being partners with the companies, not by helping the bosses, but rather by helping themselves by deciding to fight against the auto bosses. Of all the basic benefits that auto workers have had until recently – regular wage increases, cost-of-living increases, pensions, 30 and Out, paid health care, vacations, SUB pay – none of these were just given to the auto workers by the companies. The workers had to fight for them. Chrysler workers struck for 104 days in 1950. GM workers struck for 67 days in 1970. Ford workers struck for eight weeks in 1967 and for four weeks in 1976. Because the auto workers were willing to strike, there were other times when the auto companies gave the auto workers small gains to keep them from striking.

If the bosses were truly partners with the workers, then the auto workers would not have had to strike for 56 days, and 67 days and 104 days, in order to get something basic like decent wages and benefits. Just like today, the auto bosses back then could easily afford to give things like yearly raises, pensions and health care. And yet the workers had to make hard sacrifices and strike for weeks to get these things. The bosses have never treated the workers as partners. They only treat us as enemies.

We need to return the favor. Our past history shows that workers can only improve their lives when they decide to fight.

Where Do We Start?

But for the workers who agree with this, where do we start? When it seems like no workers are fighting back today, what can we do?

The first thing we can do is to start with the other workers around us, at work, in our neighborhood, in our families. If we understand the situation that workers face today, then we must say the truth to the other workers around us and keep saying it. And for those people who say to us that workers won’t fight back, we have to insist what the consequences will be if we don’t fight back.

Next, wherever we work, we have to take every opportunity to organize any kind of fight, at whatever level, when workers are ready to speak up or fight back.

Many people say that other workers are apathetic and not ready to do anything.

Of course, they say this applies to other people, not themselves. But more people are ready to do something today than we realize.

At Ford, the bosses have come with concessions twice in less than a year, once on the national contract and again on a local contract. At some plants, workers organized against these concessions and voted down the concessions. The concessions were reported to be passed because workers in other plants voted in favor. Workers in the other Ford plants who voted “Yes” were not any different than the workers who voted “No.” The difference was that workers were more organized in a few plants. In fact, the vote on the national Ford contract was probably a “No” vote nationwide, but workers were not yet organized enough to make sure the votes were counted right.

What conclusion can we draw? A lot of workers don’t like what is going on today, but we have to get better organized, and have more links with each other. We are in a situation today, much like workers were at times in the past, where some workers need to take the first steps. We need to be ready for the time when many workers will be ready to make the fight that is needed.

As workers, we produce the wealth for the capitalists. And this gives us the power we have as workers. We can stop producing their wealth. We can use this power to stop the concessions and to fight for a decent life for our families. We can learn to do what earlier generations of workers learned to do. Stand up for ourselves and against our enemies.

Will DCX sell Chrysler?
Is the sky falling, Chicken Little?

Oct 30, 2006

Faster than you can say “Follow the Leader,” DaimlerChrysler Corporation (DCX) forecast a 1.2-billion-dollar “loss,” for 2006, then generated big newspaper headlines speculating whether DCX would “spin off” its Chrysler Group.

DCX’s official spokesmen, laughing up their sleeves, coyly told reporters “no comment.” But the story is as phony as a three-dollar bill. Every official financial statement by Germany-based DCX makes quite clear that its North American operations – that is, its Chrysler Group – is a cash cow being happily milked all day, every day by DCX’s big stockholders.

Trying to deceive workers into giving concessions, DCX simply moves its profits off of the manufacturing books and onto the books of its “finance arm.” Thus, even though Chrysler Financial made profits at a rate approximately ten times that of DCX’s German unit, DCX can say – almost with a straight face – that Chrysler Group lost money. This is basically saying that Chrysler Group builds the cars but Chrysler Financial makes the money!

It’s easier to see through DCX’s game because workers have already seen GM and Ford play it.

GM orchestrated a long-drawn-out “poverty” soap opera until it got workers to vote OK on wage, health-care and retiree concessions. Then suddenly GM rocketed back to good health, its allegations of ten-billion-dollar deficits forgotten, its stock price zooming to a 52-week high.

When Ford tried to follow GM’s ploy, workers were suspicious enough to vote against it. What the real result of that vote was no one knows – since there were no controls of the voting. Ford continues to cry “broke” today while pressuring its higher-paid workforce to take buy-outs and allow Ford to hire new lower paid workers. Ford’s GM-style “recovery” will appear as soon as they have taken all they can get from their workers.

At DaimlerChrysler, workers have watched the previous charades and are very suspicious. The UAW read the tea leaves and did not even try to make workers vote on the same wage cuts and retiree concessions as at GM and Ford.

Nevertheless, for the sake of its stock price, DCX cannot afford to be seen as lagging behind. The phony “losses” and the scare story about “selling off” Chrysler Group are only the first salvos in a new campaign of attacks. DCX workers can expect much more of the same psychological warfare.

To keep their grip on reality, workers only need recall how the corporate game plans played out at GM and Ford – and then make a different game plan for themselves.

Pages 6-7

California:
A 16-BILLION-DOLLAR gift to the bosses

Oct 30, 2006

Two years ago California “reformed” its workers’ comp program. Among other things, the law made it easier for insurers to reject portions of treatment plans; fees paid to clinics and pharmacies were capped; services available to injured workers were reduced; temporary disability payments were limited to two years; and permanent disability payments were cut by as much as 55%.

Of course, workers don’t need any clarification as to where this kind of “reform” leads to. But a recent study by the Los Angeles Times provides figures too: in two years, what employers pay into workers’ comp has been cut almost in half, saving them at least 8 billion dollars, while another 8 billion has gone to insurance companies as extra profits.

That’s an extra 16 BILLION DOLLARS for the bosses!

We all know who pays for it: workers who not only get injured on the job but also get denied proper treatment.

Another shining example of what politicians mean when they say “reform”: lining the bosses pockets!

Trust your feelings, not the government

Oct 30, 2006

The government recently announced that the 53 million people receiving Social Security and SSI benefits in the country will get a 3.3% cost-of-living increase for 2007. This is smaller than the 4.1% increase last January. Yet it seems to most people like inflation has picked up, not slowed down, and that prices are increasing much faster overall.

In fact, they are. Over the years, the government has changed the way the CPI, or Consumer Price Index, is calculated so that today it seriously underestimates real increases in the cost of living.

For example – what the government calls “substitution.” If the price of porterhouse steak goes up, the government says more people will start eating cheaper rib eye steaks. That’s true! But the government uses that to say prices didn’t go up! What?

John Williams, an economic consultant to Fortune 500 companies, says that inflation has actually gone up about eight% last year, not just a little more than three%.

If the CPI were accurate, what would that mean? Retirees getting Social Security and SSI benefits would be getting a cost of living increase two and a half times as big. So would auto workers and anyone else who has automatic COLA built into their contracts.

So if you feel like your personal finances aren’t in as good shape as the government claims they should be, trust your feelings. Like everything else, the government is manipulating its statistics to increase the profits of the bosses at the expense of everyone else.

A workers’ skirmish that got some rare publicity

Oct 30, 2006

About a hundred Wal-Mart workers in a Florida store held a one-hour lunchtime protest on October 15, against their hours being cut back and their schedules jerked around.

This type of skirmish with management is not particularly unusual. Workers across the country, around the world, engage in all kinds of resistance against their exploitation, against their misuse and abuse by managements set on one more penny of profit.

If these workers’ protest got some publicity, it’s only because Wal-Mart is in the national spotlight, singled out for political focus these days.

The national spotlight may have pushed Wal-Mart management into public damage control, claiming that the store manager made a “mistake.” Every worker understands that as soon as the spotlight is off, management will simply resume their attack in a different way – and workers will have to respond again. And again.

Small-scale battles are a fact of life in every workplace.

If the bosses’ newspapers would print every story of workers’ on-the-job organization and resistance, there would be room for nothing else in the papers! So of course, they are ignored.

Nevertheless – behind the scenes – the skirmishes go on.

Layoff threat in the Detroit Public Schools

Oct 30, 2006

The Detroit Public Schools administration and the Detroit media have started a new campaign against the Detroit teachers who went on strike last September.

The district sent out layoff notices to 430 teachers and counselors last week. The Detroit news media was quick to jump on the case, blaming the layoffs on the two-week strike, which, they said, added to a drop in student enrollment in the district this year.

There are a number of holes in this story.

The biggest one is that this layoff notice happens EVERY SEMESTER. Many teachers with lower seniority are used to receiving layoff notices every six months. Sometimes those notices get cancelled a few weeks later; sometimes the teachers get moved from one position to another, following shifts in student enrollment. It’s business as usual in this large school district.

There’s absolutely nothing new in this new layoff notice, except maybe the number of teachers receiving the layoff notices. But those numbers are clearly pumped up, to send the message that the teachers were wrong to fight.

It’s a cynical game, played by cynical administrators, helped along by a cynical news media.

No doubt the teachers who saw through the district’s earlier games will see through this ploy as well.

Page 8

Active duty soldiers say:
Bring the troops home now!

Oct 30, 2006

A group of active duty soldiers has put out a call, asking their comrades to express opposition to the war in Iraq. This is the first time since Vietnam that a group of soldiers has publicly voiced opposition to a war.

The group, the Active Duty Military Project, has posted online an “appeal for redress” calling for the troops to be brought home. Active duty soldiers can go to the website, www.appealforreddress.org, and sign their names to the appeal.

In just a few days, the number of soldiers who had signed the appeal had gone from 65 to more than 650. The group plans to present the appeal, with all the names of its signers, to Congress on Martin Luther King Day in January.

In theory, soldiers who do this are protected. But as any soldier knows, there are always consequences for those who speak out.

It’s why the numbers who sign the appeal signify a much larger sentiment in the military. The number of names on the appeal is just the tip of the iceberg of active troops who op1pose this war.

Pat Tillman’s brother speaks out against Iraq war

Oct 30, 2006

Kevin Tillman, the brother of former professional football star Pat Tillman, is speaking out against the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Pat Tillman was killed while serving as an Army Ranger in Afghanistan. Kevin Tillman served in the same unit with his brother when he was killed.

Kevin Tillman explains that the two brothers joined the military because they believed they were fighting for national security, against weapons of mass destruction, or to establish democracy.

When Pat Tillman gave up a multi-million-dollar-per-year NFL contract to go to fight in Afghanistan, the media and the politicians portrayed him as a war hero, ready to sacrifice everything for his country. When he died, the military tried to say that he gave his life in combat with enemy soldiers. Eventually, it turned out that he was killed by “friendly fire.” Now, it turns out that he and his brother both came to oppose the war.

Kevin Tillman now protests, “Somehow America has become a country that projects everything that it is not and condemns everything that it is. Somehow our elected leaders were subverting international law and humanity by setting up secret prisons around the world, secretly kidnaping people, secretly holding them indefinitely, secretly not charging them with anything, secretly torturing them. Somehow that overt policy of torture became the fault of a few ‘bad apples’ in the military.... Somehow the more soldiers die, the more legitimate the illegal invasion becomes.”

The ruling class thought they could use Pat Tillman as a recruitment poster boy for their so-called “war on terror.” Instead the real conditions of this war caused Pat and Kevin Tillman, like many others, to oppose the war.

U.S. “exit strategy” in Iraq:
Even more violence on the population

Oct 30, 2006

It is becoming clear that the U.S. ruling class is looking for an “exit strategy” to get out of the mess the U.S. has created in Iraq. A bipartisan commission led by former Secretary of State James Baker, set up to “assess the Iraq war and recommend a new course,” is to publish its report after ... (you guessed it!) the upcoming Congressional elections.

After November 7, the Bush administration and Congress, whether it has a Republican or Democratic majority, will probably tell us that, “Yes, the U.S. will pull out of Iraq,” BUT that first the U.S. must “fix” Iraq before getting out. Newspapers have already reported that the Baker commission’s recommendation for Bush, dubbed “Stability First,” calls for setting up a more stable Iraqi government before pulling the troops out.

But that’s what the U.S. has already been trying to do in Iraq! And what this has meant for the Iraqi people can be judged by the number of Iraqis who have lost their lives.

Based on a door-to-door survey of Iraqi households published recently in the British medical journal The Lancet, it is estimated that more than 650,000 Iraqis have lost their lives as a result of the U.S. invasion and occupation. A similar survey in September 2004 had produced a figure of 100,000. In other words, in the past two years alone, the U.S. occupation of Iraq has caused more than HALF A MILLION civilian deaths, whether as a result of U.S. military “operations,” malnutrition, untreated illness, or the crime and sectarian violence unleashed by the U.S. invasion and occupation.

In fact, the events of the past few weeks show that this new U.S. push at stabilizing Iraq’s government will bring only more fighting and more death.

The U.S. is trying to stop the ongoing infighting among Iraqi militias, by disarming some of them, and propping up the remaining ones to act as the Iraqi army. But none of the militias can afford to disarm if the politicians behind them want to stay alive. So the infighting has gotten even worse – as the recent battle between two Shiite militias over the control of the southern city of Amara shows.

Besides, a U.S. attempt at disarming militias requires more troops on the ground, which is exactly what the head of the U.S. forces in Iraq, Gen. George Casey, suggested in a press conference on October 24. In fact, the U.S. has already been quietly increasing the number of troops. And that, too, inevitably brings more violence on the population – as the October 25 bombing of Sadr City, the densely populated neighborhood of Baghdad inhabited by 2.5 million working-class and poor Shiites, shows. This point was certainly not lost on Sadr City residents who saw their houses, roads and an electric power generator being bombed by U.S. aircraft, and power transmission wires cut by U.S. troops.

And what will happen after the U.S. eventually pulls out of Iraq? One of the suggestions of the Baker commission is to “open dialogue” with Syria and Iran. The commission calls for using the influence of these two neighboring dictatorships to “stabilize Iraq,” that is, to impose a stronger dictatorship under some of the already existing militias – or possibly two dictatorships, one in the Kurdish area in the North, and one in the South.

So what awaits the Iraqi population is even more violence and another brutal dictatorship like Saddam Hussein’s regime – in fact an even worse one. And in the South, it will be a dictatorship run by religious fundamentalists who are against many aspects of a modern, secular society, starting with women’s rights.

The greed of the U.S. ruling class for Iraq’s oil and greater control of the Middle East led to this horrible war. The war, however, ended up destabilizing not only Iraq but the whole region, making it impossible to even pump the Iraqi oil. Now the U.S. ruling class wants to stabilize Iraq, using more violence and establishing another dictatorship, so that it can pump the Iraqi oil again.

Every day that the U.S. military stays in Iraq means not only a continuation but an escalation of this barbaric war, at the cost of countless lives and enormous human suffering – with the end goal of controlling the people of Iraq and stealing the country’s oil wealth.

U.S. troops out of Iraq NOW!