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Anti-Washington versus Anti-Empire…

On Alternet, some members of Code Pink report on their recent attempt to survey members of a recent TEA Party demonstration to see if there is some common ground between the tax resistors movement and the peace movement.

On Tax Day, my CODEPINK colleagues and I conducted 50 interviews with Tea Party members about the cost of war and empire. With military spending eating up 20 percent of the federal budget and half of all discretionary spending, we figured that any serious effort to shrink government would have to deal with this bull in the china shop.

While a recent New York Times/CBS poll showed the Tea Partiers to be relatively homogenous group of older, white, mostly males, we found that this group certainly doesn’t speak with the same tongue when it comes to the U.S. role in the world. On one side are the neocon interventionists who think the United States is God’s gift to the world. On the other side are non-interventionists who want to slay the warfare state. The extreme fissure is bound to upset the tea cart as more Tea Party leaders are forced to articulate their foreign policy positions.

Not surprising, they encountered a great deal of hostility to the cause of demilitarization – even to the point of being spat upon by at least one person – and about 70 percent support for present US military policy:

In our very small, unscientific sample, the hawks — many of whom were retired military or have close family in the military — outweighed the doves. Take the first question about the 800-plus bases the U.S. military maintains at a cost of over $100 billion a year. Thirty-five of the 50 respondents wanted to keep the bases. “We need those bases to maintain stability in the world. Nature abhors a vacuum, and if we weren’t there, the Islamists or the Chinese would jump in,” said Bruce Welker, a retired law enforcement officer from Pittsburgh. “I’d hate to see what would happen to the world without our military presence.”

The 15 people who wanted to dismantle the web of foreign military bases included Josh Little, a college student from Alexandria, Virginia. Josh said that his grandfather helped overthrow Hitler, but that was 60 years ago and it was high time for us to leave Germany. “I’d say the same for Japan, Korea and all of Europe. They can take care of themselves.”

The Code Pink activists found support for the idea of an alliance between left and right among those who did not support present US military policy. The common effort of Representatives Dennis Kucinich and Ron Paul has some resonance within the group. Of the latter, the Code Pink activists note that Ron Paul’s “anti-empire message may be catching on” among these conservatives:

Cong. Ron Paul’s message of cutting the welfare/warfare state has attracted an enthusiastic following within the Tea Party. While progressives are turned off by his call for ending all kinds of domestic social programs, his anti-war and anti-empire message and consistent votes against war funding is a refreshing turn from liberal Democrats who decry war but always vote to fund it.

At the Tea Party Tax Day gathering, Cong. Ron Paul was one of the last to take the stage at the evening rally. He began by chastising liberals for their social spending, and then took on the conservatives for wanting to be the policemen of the world. “We’re stretched too far with all this government spending overseas,” he said to fans who had waited all day to hear him. “We should just mind our own business.”

Even Glen Beck was forced to give some lip service to this tendency in the TEA Party movement. The writer senses a great deal of tension within the TEA Party movement over the issue of Empire:

Tea Party leaders have been trying to keep this huge division between supporters of republic and empire under wraps. Aside from Ron Paul, you’ll rarely here them mention the raging wars or bulging military coffers. Their new Tea Party Contract from America, which talks about a limited government and an end to budget deficits, doesn’t mention military spending.

But you can’t have small government with a humongous military traipsing all over the world. Sooner or later, Tea Party leaders and manifestos will have to articulate their foreign policy positions.

Perhaps, what disappointed us after reading this very interesting report, was the writer’s apparent ignorance of the intellectual contradiction that also exists within the thinking of progressives: can you have big government without an equally “humongous military traipsing all over the world”? As one particularly astute young TEA Partier stated, “The hawks represent the old guard — so do both the Republican and the Democratic parties. With a few exceptions, they all love war and empire. But a small-government movement worth its salt can’t just be anti-Washington, it has to be anti-empire. If not, I’m outta here.”

The writer misses an important opportunity to ask: If you can’t be anti-Washington without also being anti-Empire, is it possible to be anti-Empire, without also being anti-Washington? Is the European Social compact worth the cost of an American Empire? Or, does the cost of the Empire make the compact not a prize but a burden, since the compact relies not on export surpluses, as in Germany, but on the ability to draw in massive surpluses produced abroad, i.e., since the American social safety net relies on the Empire?

Clearly, the division between the TEA Party and Libertarians on the one hand, and, progressives and Socialists on the other comes down to this!

  1. April 25, 2010 at 9:14 am

    Why do we need to dispatch our military at the drop of a feather? We just had to swarm into Haiti to pass out hershey bars and water bottles? Why can’t we just stay home, and go back to spening all our money on social welfare? Prez B.O. said we don’t need to be a superpower, so why is our military stilll in Japan, Germany, South Korea, Canada, and Yugoslavia? What the heck are we wasting money and our people all over the world? We can ask Iran and China to protect the world as we disarm and just go to Walmart.

    • charley2u
      April 25, 2010 at 9:28 am

      And, just as important as your questions, how do we force Washington do this, or anything else we demand? We have many ideas on what should be done, but we have no control over Washington to make them do it!

  2. April 25, 2010 at 10:36 am

    That is why we have citizens wandering around Washington and state capitals with signs and protests. None of our “public servants” think we are smart enough to listen to our opinion. They must figure we were dumb enough to elect them, so why should they listen to us! TEA is not a political organized group. It represents average people who may not be powerbrokers or bigwigs in politics. The average US citizen is fed up, and wants our elected officials to listen to us. November is our only time to get their attention. I already infomred some of my representatives that I will support anybody running against them.

  3. charley2u
    April 25, 2010 at 11:03 am

    We have had many protests, many elections where the governing party was swept decsively out of power – we have even had some elected officials like Kucinich and Paul who have introduced various bills to address our grievances, but still nothing changes. That is the question I raised in my earlier post, “It is about time we figured out why all these efforts (and more) to end the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan failed?”

    Nothing seems to move Washington or end the corruption and disdain of that city for the rest of the country. No matter who is elected, which party is in power, and which ideology is ascendant, the problems with Washington continue.

    So we have to begin to think about another way of getting our point across. And for this, we have to use our own power to break Washington finally, and bring them to heel.

  4. April 25, 2010 at 11:15 am

    Washington DC respects power which is a combination of fundraising and voting blocks. The other thing respected by Washington DC is a high profile news item in commercial news media. That means in some ways, television and radio reporters can do more for us than just concerned citizens alone. One example that has no power are the unemployed. We got 8 million people out of work (at least) and you can’t find any story or discussion on this problem. (Oh yeah maybe 425,000 filed for out of work benefits last week, but hey it could have been 450,000 so that’s good?) But what if we asked in our town or city to hold a rally for the unemployed who want to work? Instead of donating billions to Haiti, maybe we can use a few bucks to help our own folks get back on their feet?

    • charley2u
      April 25, 2010 at 11:28 am

      I am going to post a piece that says we have a lot of untapped power. We have not used this power, because we didn’t know we had it. But, I can promise you, we have such power in our hands you can’t even imagine. And, Washington/Empire will not survive if we use it. The politicians will be reduced to just ordinary public employees. And the lobbyists will be flushed into the Potomac.

      • April 27, 2010 at 4:14 am

        can’t wait to read that post. Charlie!
        And to hoboduke: I sure don’t know what you mean when you say let Iran or China protect the world while we [the US] disarm. That makes as much sense as the Old Teamen demanding smaller government while maintaining our genocidal Zionist empire. I don’t know, maybe it’s “whiteman” logic.

      • charley2u
        April 27, 2010 at 6:16 pm

        It’s up now

  5. April 28, 2010 at 10:35 pm

    Seems interesting illegal immigrants from Mexico are favored or singled out for protection. Sorry I wasn’t born a Mexican. They got it better than I do.

    • charley2u
      April 28, 2010 at 10:48 pm

      An interesting observation, Duke. Please expand on it. How are they favored or protected?

  6. April 29, 2010 at 5:54 pm

    Okey, just because they are on our border, why should we be going the extra mile for hispanic immigrants? What about the boat people from Cuba? What about the container people from China? It seems everyone is mad that we are singling out hispanics to discriminate. We are singling out hispanics for favored treatment over Cuban, Chinese, etc. So if the argument is don’t discriminate, then why do hispanics get the special deal?

    • charley2u
      April 29, 2010 at 7:49 pm

      The only persons of such origin (fitting your description) who have right to enter the United States are citizens of Cuba, who are automatically granted legal resident status by Congress. Puerto Ricans, are, of course, citizens of the United States.

      On the other hand, I do note that people are being actively recruited by Perdue and Tyson to come to the DelMarVa penninsula to work in the chicken factories. Who is recruiting them – I do not know. But, I figure it must be agents of those companies. I would imagine that Mexicans are being actively drawn into the US by corporate interests intent on pushing down wages here. Being illegal actually helps the companies, since they are easily intimidated and reluctant to make waves – things like asking to be paid properly, join a union, etc.

      It is a difficult question to resolve unless we are willing to go beyond the nonsense in Washington from both parties. Singling out Mexicans and other illegals migrant workers for protection or anger will not fix this. Employment in my own industry (tech) has been hurt very much by H1Bs and there is a lot of anger among them.

      The real solution is not to get angry, but to force Washington to reduce hours of work. If we don’t do this, we will be pushed into some real bad shit – the kind Threecrow hinted at in his post.

  7. April 29, 2010 at 8:23 pm

    We have a new category of slavery convenient for the US. We don’t have the slave markets, but we do have immigrant merchants locking in sex slaves, piece work prison shops, and the migrant workers that can get by until they can’t work anymore. It seems the liberal agenda is creating a permanent class of slave labor by pretending to look out for illegal immigrants. If we blocked illegal immigration, we would see labor hourly rates paid to support the work needing to be done in USA.

    • charley2u
      April 29, 2010 at 9:23 pm

      We would still have to deal with the problem of companies exporting manufacturing. WalMart has 700 factories in China. And Washington has quietly supported the shift of jobs overseas.

      It all leads back to Washington, Duke. Unless we deal with them, nothing gets solved. Hating on Mexicans will not fix this. NAFTA shredded their economy, just as many people predicted.

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