Anarchists for Peace

It costs 50 million dollars to kill each Taliban, but when dead he becomes a martyred hero to recruit new replacements, so the numbers of Taliban are increasing. In Iraq the terror our invasion unleashed still rages unabated, with hired mercenaries and local soldiers unable to stop it, as our troops before them were unable to. Yet we continue the fighting, and Obama the peace candidate has morphed into a war president. We are trapped in endless war.

To break out of this death trap, anarchists have turned to radical tactics. They’ve moved beyond demonstrations and petitions into direct action, defying the government’s laws and impeding its capacity for mass murder. Some of them have become domestic insurgents, helping soldiers to desert, destroying computer systems, trashing recruiting offices, burning military equipment, and sabotaging defense contractors. As criminals for peace, they are defying the Patriot Act and working underground in secret cells to undermine the US military empire. They are convinced the only way to bring peace now is to bring the system down.

They tell their first-person experiences in a new book, Radical Peace: People Refusing War, just published by Trine Day. Noam Chomsky called it, “A book that captures such complexities and depths of human existence, even apart from the immediate message.”

The book profiles several saboteurs. Trucker is the code name of a man who burns military vehicles. He sees his sabotage as nonviolent because it doesn’t harm human beings, only things. He states, “It’s only because our culture worships property that we see destroying war machines as violence. What I’m doing is depriving the military of their tools of violence. I’m decreasing their ability to harm people. Since they refuse to disarm, I’m doing it for them. I’d never set fire to a building because someone might be inside. I even look inside the trucks to make sure no one is sleeping there.”

Radical Peace also profiles a janitor who has destroyed computers at a defense contractor with electrical surges. “I’m sure the lost work and equipment has set back the war effort,” he states, “and I’m looking forward to my next surge for peace.”

A college student relates how she threw a rock through the window of an army recruiter after her friend returned from Iraq crippled. She plans to do it again but says, “I wouldn’t throw a rock at the recruiter. I don’t have anything against him as a person.”

Other domestic insurgents are cutting phone and electricity wires into recruiting offices, slashing their tires, painting over their billboards. At universities they are attacking military research projects and ROTC offices: stealing their mail, squirting glue into their door locks, hacking into their computers. An autonome tossed a log under the wheels of an arms train and derailed it, but he was careful to do it in the middle of the train so no one would be injured.

The anarchists in the book agree that such resistance must be nonviolent, that it not injure living creatures. Setting bombs and burning buildings where people could be inside can’t achieve anything worthwhile. It just reproduces the same mentality that we’re trying to change.

Rather than randomly smashing windows and torching autos, they restrict their activities to institutions that support or profit from the war. Their goal is to make the war too expensive to continue. A few acts of sabotage won’t do that, but thousands can. Government and corporate resources are limited. Taxes and the deficit are already so high that they’re crippling the economy. Every dollar the government has to spend keeping things running here is one they can’t spend killing people overseas.

The militants believe that direct actions like these aren’t a substitute for traditional organizing, but in critical situations like the present they can supplement it. Sabotage won’t build a new society, but it can help weaken the old one so the new one can be built.

Chapters of Radical Peace are posted on the publisher’s website .

William T. Hathaway is an adjunct professor of American studies at the University of Oldenburg in Germany. His latest book, Wellsprings, concerns the environmental crisis. He is a member of the Freedom Socialist Party, a red feminist organization. A selection of his writing is available at www.peacewriter.org. Read other articles by William.