The Accidental Communist

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While researching FBI surveillance of environmental groups today, I came across this passage in a December 2005 New York Times Article:

'One F.B.I. document indicates that agents in Indianapolis planned to conduct surveillance as part of a ''Vegan Community Project.'' Another document talks of the Catholic Workers group's ''semi-communistic ideology.'' A third indicates the bureau's interest in determining the location of a protest over llama fur planned by People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals.'

While llama fur has never put me in Big Brother's sights, the notion of attracting attention due to "semi-communistic ideology" gave me pause. I noted yesterday how this type of surveillance can start with a germ of misperception and spiral out of control, and, well, naive about the draconian period of U.S. history we were entering, I may have inadvertently branded myself a Communist. A Red. A Bathroom Bolshevik Breeder.

In 2002, during that surreal march toward the Iraq invasion, it wasn't just the Bush administration's constant (and now verified) lies that were maddening. The protest movement felt like some sort of bizarre neo-sixties fantasy desperately out of touch with most of the U.S. public. For many at protests in L.A. and San Francisco, shimmying body-painted breasts on top of a VW van seemed more important than trying to reach those who weren't already horrified. There was no strategy to attach to beyond hoping the war wouldn't happen. (I don't have a lot of room to complain -- I still cringe when remembering my own "performance art" protest, but we'll save that one for another day.)  

Frank Smyth's LA Weekly article made a refreshing antidote back in February of 2003. He pointed out that the American Left was not listening to the Iraqi Left, which happened to be the Communist Party:

'Today, Iraqi leftists play an important oppositional role against Saddam. Foremost among them is the Iraqi Communist Party, which at one time was that country’s biggest and broadest leftist mass movement, touching the lives of literally millions. Even before Iraq’s short-lived, British-imposed monarchy was overthrown in 1958, the Communist Party was organizing trade unions and other civic groups.

The leftist party has also long been Iraq’s most diverse political movement, cutting across traditional population lines to incorporate many disenfranchised majority Shias and minority Kurds. Even though tens of thousands of Communists and other leftists have perished in Saddam’s gulags and are still actively targeted by the ruling Ba’athist regime, the Iraqi CP today maintains a clandestine network across Iraq that experts deem to be of significant scale and political potential.'

Sounds like a group we all should have been listening to, right? It didn't matter to me what they called themselves, only that they were a diverse network of people organizing in opposition to their brutal dictator. Weren't we at least somewhat obliged to advocate for them? Smyth continued:

'Today, Iraqi Communists, and most Iraqi leftists, firmly oppose the Bush administration’s war plans — but not necessarily war itself. Unlike many of their American counterparts, Iraqi leftists offer a policy alternative other than a vague call for “peace.” Instead of a unilateral U.S. invasion, Iraqi leftists want the international community to back an Iraqi-led military uprising against Saddam.

Short of that, Iraqi leftists would most likely support a multilateral military intervention that would not only overthrow Saddam but also hand him over to an international tribunal that would try him on charges of crimes against humanity.

Iraqi leftist groups also favor other positions routinely ignored by most American leftists, including vigorous U.N. human-rights monitoring inside Iraq. Most American anti-war activists also downplay another issue that Iraqi leftists are most worried about. What might a post-Saddam Iraq look like?'

True, in the U.S. we seemed fixated on opposing the war rather than offering alternatives that might have caught the attention of the U.S. public at large: assisting with an uprising or conducting an invasion that Iraqis would have wanted. Since these issues seemed to get so little play, I posted about them on my own anti-war web site. I believe the headline read, "The U.S. Left Must Listen to Iraqi Communists" and the text also called for advocacy of something other than the puppet government the administration was floating at the time. 

Like most average people (and apparently everyone in the Bush Administration) I was not an Iraq expert. As an employee at the RAND Corporation I could sit in on un-classified policy seminars. The experts were not recommending Bush's favored future Iraq leader, Ahmed Chalabi, so neither did I.  I'm not ashamed of having glommed onto nuggets of information from mainstream policy professionals, or for having rooted for the Communists after reading a single LA Weekly article. Neither am I ashamed of joining the email lists of Iraqi Communists and women's groups living both in that country and as expats in London.

In this age of "evildoer" broad brush strokes, imagining what conclusions the watchers draw about everyone from peaceful Muslims to earnest protesters is unsettling. Many of us do find ourselves wondering, was THAT what got me on the list? Was THAT it? 

That is, when we're not lying awake in the wee hours, dreading the insidious proliferation of the Catholic Worker.

~~ LA Weekly: Iraq: Telling the Left from the Right
     NY Times: FBI Watched Activist Groups, New Files Show 

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Six Hours A Week Is:

A coping strategy, advocacy outlet, and form of protection. My life has been nearly destroyed by the unconstitutional practices of politically/socially-motivated private intelligence contractors and the corruption and cronyism that allow them. Apparently because I speak out in ways that prioritize the little guy and human and environmental health above gargantuan profit margins, and believe that facts are as important as PR spin, I was someone who had to be completely discredited. In 2007, after a few months of a surreal and relentless invasion of privacy and dignity, I started to spend six hours each week researching, communicating about, and advocating legal and ethical responses to assaults on our shared democratic and republican ideals. For most of that time I was writing from the perspective of someone whose life was manipulated into a constant state of terror and emergency. In 2010, many of the array of entrapment attempts seem to have failed and it seems no longer possible to get away with such excessive, obvious harassment and overt interference. As we take more practical steps to address what has been allowed to happen to my family, we do expect to see some more harassment and intimidation. But I should be able to chronicle it from a more measured perspective, rather than that of someone in constant fear. Part of me would like to go back and delete earlier posts, because even I find them hard to relate to in some ways. But this blog has been one of our only forms of protection as everyone in any official capacity ignored the truth and tried to spin and frame us into the troublemakers and perpetrators of one form or another. So I leave it up as a form of protection, a record of what has occurred, and (with luck) the account of our way back to credibility and some form of legitimate justice. All content on this site is property of Kyeann Sayer. All rights reserved.

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This page contains a single entry by Kyeann published on November 4, 2007 1:47 AM.

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