three weeks beginning October 14, say sources at Fairness and Accuracy in
Reporting, the assault on Falluja was pure PSYOPS, a mere announcement of
assault, designed to provoke "the opposition" into premature response. The
lie worked pretty well. "The opposition" abandoned their so-called safe
havens and "melted into the night." For this reason, many residents of the
city expected the PSYOPS theater to let out early, too.
One hapless doctor, Hakim Mirzoev, says he expected the Americans to
surround the city, fire a few shots, and declare victory. He didn't realize
that a greater PSYOPS scheme was in the making, a plan to flatten Falluja
under boot and mortar so that the City of Mosques could be rebuilt by
Christian Soldiers into a
Pasadena by the Euphrates. With this world-historical Crusade in mind,
Falluja was crushed, thousands were killed and wounded, hundreds of
thousands displaced, so that America could perceive itself great in the gaze
of the world.
So who made Falluja possible? Who enabled budgets to be filled with imperial
plans? American taxpayers did. The moral tracer on this funding leads to me
and you, the co-investors who backed this pre-holiday discount on the lives
of Fallujans, thousands of lives, forever lost and unlived. To pay for this
moral bankruptcy, we got up in the morning, worked all day, and sent money
to the war machine. Ask not who bankrolled Falluja.
Texas school teacher Shirley Smith made the connection between her tax
dollars and the war in Iraq during the first week of the invasion. It was
March 27, 2003, and she was listening to Bitta Mostofi speak at the
of Texas campus at Austin. Mostofi had been to Iraq with Voices in the
Wilderness, serving witness to sufferings caused by USA-supported sanctions.
It was right after the invasion and only a few weeks before the tax
deadline, recalls Smith. Mostofi said it would be an effective protest
against the war if everyone refused to pay taxes. And that's when the light
went on. Right away, Smith submitted a new W-4 form, so that no taxes would
be withheld. No more money would go from her to the war. On April 15, 2003,
Smith joined an annual protest at the downtown Austin post office. Camera
crews captured her image as she helped to pass out leaflets. The next day a
couple of colleagues spoke to her about seeing pictures on the local news.
One colleague got excited.
"She told me she would like to stop paying her taxes, too," recalls Smith.
"So I explained to her that we re-direct our tax money into groups that work
for peace. And then she wasn't quite as interested. I think it's important
to stress that we're not in this for personal gain." Like many war tax
resisters, Smith sends her tax money to an escrow fund, where interest gets
applied to peace work.
When tax day rolled around this year, Smith enclosed a letter with her tax
form, explaining why she would not send money. In August she received her
first reply from the Internal Revenue Service. On November 16, she received
her third. It arrived by certified mail, warning Smith that the IRS would
begin looking for property or other assets to attach.
IRS Public Affairs officer Ken Vargas of the Austin office explains that the
collections office sends out "soft notices" first, followed by "harder
notices" later. Vargas says the IRS doesn't keep a handy record of war tax
resisters, and he insists that "normal collection procedures" apply to all
subjects, regardless of whether they write letters stating their war tax
In fact, the tax reform act of 1998 makes it illegal for the IRS to
designate tax protesters as a special class. A June 2004 audit by the
Treasury Inspector General reported "233 isolated instances" where subjects
had been identified as tax protesters nevertheless. The only time the IRS
can justify this practice, warned the IG, is when case notes reflect what
subjects say about themselves. The IRS office most likely to abuse its
classification of tax resisters was the office of Chief Counsel.
Andy McKenna, who began his war tax resistance after the First Gulf War,
says that the three letters sent to Smith this year may serve as one example
of more aggressive collections. In a press release, prepared for
distribution this week, McKenna joined with other war tax resisters to warn
of increased enforcement in the Austin area. At a mid-November meeting of
the Austin Conscientious Objectors to Military Taxation (ACOMT), members
shared their impressions that a long season of relative neglect by the IRS
is now being followed by a spate of collection activities. In mid-October,
McKenna himself was hit up for his first wage garnishment, which left him
only $330.00 per paycheck, twice a month.
Anecdotal evidence from
does not yet support a finding that there is a nationwide crackdown on war
tax resisters. From a few dozen emails sent to war tax resisters elsewhere,
only Mary Loehr, former national coordinator for the National War Tax
Resistance Coordinating Committee (NWTRCC), responded with news of fresh
garnishment attempts in Ithaca, Albuquerque, and Chicago. Co-director of
Peace and Justice Studies at
Larry Rosenwald, says that computer technology has helped to speed up the
IRS over the past five years, "increasing ability to locate wtrs [war tax
resisters] and their bank accounts by way of computerized records." Ruth
Benn, current coordinator for NWTRCC, reports in the group's latest
newsletter that, "It is still not clear if there is more actual collection
Back in Austin,
Susan Van Haitsma, a war tax resister since 1985, feels that her fellow
ACOMT members have good reasons to report their experiences, even if no
broader trend emerges. "The fact that several in our local group are
experiencing collection efforts at the same time is probably just a
coincidence," writes Van Haitsma via email, "and the reason we are seeking
to publicize it is just that, in the midst of war, it's a concrete example
of resistance that is of more interest to the general public (it seems) when
we are actually engaged in the legal push and pull of collections."
Which brings us back to Falluja and the claim made by Bitta Mostofi that
massive tax resistance would work. Anyone interested in cutting ties to this
war can stop paying taxes. Yet, as Kathy Kelly noted in a recent essay, a
great deterrent to war tax resistance, besides irrational fear of the IRS,
is fear of family reactions, especially from spouses. Significantly, neither
McKenna, Smith, nor Van Haitsma is married.
Smith says that her daughter was immediately afraid that mom was going to
prison. But prison is not a likely outcome, says Smith, as long as war tax
resisters remain honest about where their money is. Smith's father is
retired from military service. When she told him about her conversion to war
tax resistance, he joked that she didn't want to pay for his retirement. And
that was the worst thing he's ever said about her decision. Supportive is
the word Smith uses to describe her parents.
War tax resistance affects people in different ways. Van Haitsma lives a
lifestyle at poverty level, taking care to earn too little to tax. McKenna
is starting a new job, different from the one where he was garnished. Smith,
the school teacher, on the other hand, is adamant about her work commitment.
"I feel like teaching is a calling," says Smith. Conscience demands that she
keep teaching, even if the IRS garnishes her wages. Smith teaches English as
a Second Language and she works with middle school students who are making
good grades but who have no family history of college. The program is called
AVID or Achievement Via Individual Determination. Smith spends her days
helping students to fight voices that would discourage rising classes. She
is always volunteering for after-hours events. And the district wants to pay
her more money. She pleads, no, don't pay me any more money!
Speaking via cell phone, school teacher Smith lists all the charities where
she sends money, to keep her taxable income down. Then she asks a final
question before saying goodbye: "Have you heard the quote by Alexander Haig?
'Let them march all they want, as long as they continue to pay their
Keep buying, and keep buying in. Soon after Sept. 11, Forbes magazine urged
Bush to get the American people back into the shopping malls. Soon enough,
"shopping" was included in the president's short list of things that count
for daily life in
America. Now that
Falluja has been rubbleized and stained in blood, freedom loving people
everywhere will be sick with curiosity: are the plans long ready, Mr. Bush,
to build a Falluja-Euphrates Mall?
The Falluja assault is an egregious blunder, even by the awful standards set
by President Bush. Until Falluja, there was a tattered moral argument that
Bush's illegal invasion had at least toppled a bad guy from power. But
Falluja is a campaign of, by, and for the sheer effect of terror. As a
demoralized peace movement looks to Falluja with dread, Kathy Kelly reminds
us, there is one thing that any taxpayer of conscience can do.
Greg Moses is editor of the
Texas Civil Rights Review and author of Revolution of Conscience:
Martin Luther King, Jr. and the Philosophy of Nonviolence. His chapter
on civil rights under Clinton and Bush appears in Dimes Worth of
Difference, edited by Alexander Cockburn and Jeffrey St. Clair.
He can be reached at:
firstname.lastname@example.org. Visit his Peacefile weblog at:
NOTES & LINKS:
This is first in a series of articles about war tax resistance, based on
meetings and interviews with Austin Conscientious Objectors to Military
Third Battle of Falluja:
Voices in the Wilderness
Other Articles by Greg Moses
One-Two Punch of Racism: Whitewashing the Voter Fraud Issue