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Vive la Difference
by Zbignew Zingh
August 24, 2004

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Najaf. Where have we seen this before?

American tanks surround the holy site of a religious sect. Troop commanders and government officials issue bombastic orders to an inferior, out-gunned, faith-fueled adversary to surrender or die. The guardians of the site are armed and determined to fight rather than surrender their charismatic leader. The pusillanimous press obediently label the surrounded ones as dangerous fanatics led by a fiery rebel. The Americans claim that the rebels have rigged the holy site to burn it to the ground. The soldiers demand that the rebels surrender, disarm and submit to “an arrest warrant.”

Is this Najaf... or is it Waco?


Not that David Koresh and the Branch Davidians would have appreciated the comparison to Moqtada Al-Sadr and his Mehdi Militia, but the mad dog reaction of the United States is very similar. The difference is that in Waco, the U.S. Government was hellbent to slaughter American resisters and in Najaf it is hellbent to wipe out the Shi'a resisters.

This author does not share any particular intersection with the Branch Davidians or with the Shi'a. Nor does this author wear a Libertarian or Liberal or Progressive label, for each creed has its merits and its deficiencies, and no single suit of political clothing is good for every season. The common point of interest between Waco and Najaf, however, is the American cultural and political reaction to The Resistance. Any Resistance.

In fact, regardless who has been in power, America's historical reaction to any form of organized resistance has been violent, overwhelming, bloody, head-cracking violence. Contrary to common belief, America does not countenance anything except docility, meekness and submissiveness. The country that mythologizes pluralism, has a tradition of intolerance toward resistance.

Think Ruby Ridge and the FBI's murder of Randy Weaver's wife and son. Remember Mayor Richard Daly and the 1968 Democratic Convention. Recall the 1916 Wobbly Massacre in Everett, Washington. Think 1890 and the massacre of Native Americans at Wounded Knee. The Tulsa Massacre of Black Americans in 1921. The coalfield labor slaughter of 1914 in Ludlow, Colorado. The genocide committed by the American military on the Philippine people in the Insurrection of 1899 – 1902. Henry Kissinger's carpet bombing obliteration of millions of Cambodians between 1969 – 1973. The American attack and destabilization of the elected government of Guatemala, 1954. And Vietnam, Haiti, Chile, Panama. It is not a pretty history we have.

Notwithstanding our mythology, Americans do not stand up for the underdog. We are Top Dogs. We eat underdogs for breakfast. We chew them up and spit out their bones. In short, we are Bullies. Muscle beach, thick-skulled, in-your-face-sand-kicking closed-minded bullies. Our economic system rewards Bullies. Our political and cultural systems encourage Bullies. Our history confirms that we have been, and we continue to think and act like Bullies.

However, lest we unduly criticize America, let us remember that no civilization to date has ever done anything differently. All big, powerful empires have been bullies, and we are no different. In big and small societies, those who have power will, if necessary, beat the weak into the pavement to preserve that power. It even happens on the micro level of the father who abuses his wife or children because They Disobey Him. It is a common theme of the Angry God who corporally punishes his rebellious backsliders. Everywhere, Disobedience and Resistance are severely beaten down by the strong and insecure. It is a very ugly human trait. But it is not uniquely American.

The French government slaughtered the under-armed thousands who rebelled and barricaded the Paris Commune in 1848. Again, in 1954-62, the French violently oppressed the Algerians who fought a guerrilla war of independence. The Chinese keep a tight noose on the Tibetans and are squeezing the life out of their culture. The Turks committed genocide against the Armenians in 1915 and millions died. The Soviets crushed the Hungarians in 1956. The Israelis decimate the Palestinians who resist their hegemony. The Spanish fascists, with American and British help, annihilated the Republican resistance in the Spanish Civil War. The British have spread death and cultural disintegration as a matter of policy wherever they went ever since The Hundred Years War with France in the 13th -14th Centuries. In 1994, the Hutu in Rwanda slaughtered the Tutsi by the hundreds of thousands. During the Second World War, the Nazis exterminated as many as a million Roma and six million Jews throughout Europe in an orgy of “race purification”. The Japanese raped China in 1937-38. The Dutch wasted Indonesia in 1947 in a “police action” to put down a rebellion for independence. In 1965-66, the Indonesians, with America's blessing, murdered millions of Indonesian “communists” and later, beginning in 1975 (and again with America's blessing) they wiped out much of the population of East Timor. The Vatican exterminated the Cathars in the 13th Century in what is now southern France, and the Crusaders killed anyone and everything in Europe and the Middle East from 1095 to about 1300.

Polish rebels in Warsaw rose up in rebellion in 1944. The Germans, with Russian, British and American acquiescence, jackbooted the Warsaw resistance fighters and killed them by the thousands and thousands.

Warsaw. Falluja. Warsaw. Wounded Knee. Falluja. Gaza. Jakarta. Warsaw. Waco. Najaf. Warsaw. Warsaw. Warsaw. Powerful Humans always have and always will try to squash resistance because if one act of resistance succeeds, then it will encourage other acts of resistance which will, ultimately, lead to the overthrow of those who Wield the Power. That is the brutal reality of how People in Power retain their Power. They mercilessly squash you if you resist. They squash you mercilessly to demonstrate to other wannabe rebels that they, too, will be mercilessly squashed if they utter a peep of dissent. Those who have attained the pinnacles of power in their world – in Washington, D.C., in Moscow, in London, in Riyadh, in Jerusalem, in Islamabad, in Baghdad, in Australia, and in Rome - not only know this rule, but they have proved themselves quite willing to apply it.

It is not completely dismal, however. On this brutal globe, in our blood-stained world history of the progression of bullies, America does stand out as someplace special, notwithstanding its sordid past. The problem is that most Americans, and certainly the majority of American political, religious and business leaders completely misunderstand why.

Ours is not a land more beautiful than any other. Other lands, too, have forests, mountains, gorges and lakes. Our difference is certainly NOT our capitalism for, in reality, our economic strength depends exclusively on our ruthless exploitation of mineral and energy resources that are not inexhaustible and that will soon peak. What makes us special is certainly NOT our political system because it has historically sought to strangle every infant political movement in its crib. We are definitely no better or different because of our Judeo-Christian heritage – in fact, America in the 21st Century more strongly resembles today's Iran or yesterday's Afghanistan or medieval Europe before the Enlightenment.

We are not better because of our multi-cultural heritage because, as any minority in America knows, multiculturalism is tolerated in America only on reservations, in ghettos, in museums and in movies. We are, generally speaking, a Culture of Sameness. From sea to shining sea, we are the same television shows, the same baseball stadiums, the same Gap and McDonald's and Walmart and Starbucks and Krispy Kremes, the same cars, the same clothes, the same radio talk shows, the same, the same and more of the same. And we punish, ridicule and beat those who resist that culture of Sameness.

America is, in short, just like every other place on earth, no better and no worse. Except in one respect.

We have a few pieces of paper: the Declaration of Independence; the Constitution; the Bill of Rights; and a few short documents like the Gettysburg Address.

The Constitution is a flawed document. It was written by land-owning slave-holding white men determined to preserve their power. However, it also contains the kernel of a principle of good governance: a strong system of checks and balances intended to restrain unbridled power. The Constitution also contains the essence of a free society – it describes a militia of the people rather than a standing army; it includes basic and necessary restrictions on the power to declare war, limitations on intellectual property and prohibitions on the creation of an aristocracy.

The two bookends around the Constitution are much more radical and enlightened documents: The Declaration of Independence and the Bill of Rights. You should read these documents again. And again. They are revolutionary. They are the types of writings which, if proclaimed by any Lesser People in the world today, we Americans would grind them mercilessly into the ground.

One bookend, The Declaration of Independence, was the trumpet call for the American Revolution. It is an unequivocal Declaration of Resistance. It is not a “progressive” document; it is not a “liberal” document. It is a radical, In-Your-Face, Finger-In-Your-Eye King George, revolutionary, incendiary manifesto. It holds that whenever the Government tends to destroy the Peoples' inalienable rights of Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness, then the People have the right to Rise Up and Abolish the Government. Imagine! Our Founders actually encouraged the People to rise up in revolt and abolish the Government that oppressed them! Perhaps Maqtada Al-Sadr had similar thoughts, and for thinking which the PNAC Government of the 21st Century United States determined to crush him.

The other bookend to the Constitution is the Bill of Rights. It links to the Declaration of Independence in that the Bill of Rights specifies the the People's inalienable rights. It is very clear. Number One: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion... or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.” In short, the First Amendment stands opposed to everything George Bush and his cohorts and the buy-partisan Congress have shoved down our throats, and it prohibits the restraints on freedom of speech and freedom of assembly that the two parties seem so determined to gag us with. A Government that violates the First Amendment invites the remedy ordained by the Declaration of Independence.

Amendment Number Two is the teeth for the First. It is a historically necessary companion to the Declaration of Independence that asserts the People's right to abolish an unjust government: “A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.” Curiously, Mr. Al-Sadr would understand this amendment to our own Constitution, as would those who stormed the Bastille in Revolutionary France. Even as the Iraqi resistance struggles to throw off its occupiers, by force of its own arms and the sacrifice of their own lives, our own citizens lose the thread of the argument of the Second Amendment, as we debate absolute non-violence versus absolute gunophilia, and fail to appreciate the political implication of the Amendment's words.

The Third, the Fourth, the Fifth, the Sixth, the Seventh, the Eight, the Ninth and the Tenth Amendments to the Constitution, to a greater or lesser degree, all serve to strengthen the liberties proclaimed by the Declaration of Independence and reinforce the people's defenses against the aggregation of Power.

In 1863, on the Battlefield of Gettysburg, Abraham Lincoln reminded us that the United States was “a new nation, conceived in liberty and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.” Lincoln further told us that we were then engaged in a great war, “testing whether that nation or any nation so conceived and so dedicated can long endure.” It was for us, Abraham Lincoln said, to resolve “that this nation shall have a new birth of freedom, and that government of the people, by the people, and for the people shall not perish from the earth.” Lincoln was talking as much to his generation as to ours. The test of our resolve is the same now as it was for the people in the midst of the Civil War.

These few documents, therefore, vestiges of an 18th Century Enlightenment, are the only things that mark The United States of America as anything better or different than any other bully empire that has ruled before us. These documents and ideas alone mark us as “different” from all others - not our capitalism, not muscular Judeo-Christianity, not our resources or our culture or our laws or our two party political system, They are truly remarkable documents. They contain very powerful ideas. These ideas mark the United States of America as someplace different from any other nation on earth, but only so long as they remain potent, living ideas. They are the things that make this country worth fighting for. The only things. Without them, America is no different than any other nation on earth.

May they survive this administration and both political parties.

May they survive Us and our bullying ways.

May they survive Warsaw. Falluja. Wounded Knee. Gaza. Jakarta. Haiti. Waco. Tulsa. Najaf.

May we continue to sustain the difference that is America. Vive la difference.

Zbignew Zingh can be reached at This Article is CopyLeft, and free to distribute, reprint, repost, sing at a recital, spray paint, scribble in a toilet stall, etc. to your heart’s content, with proper author citation. Find out more about Copyleft and read other great articles at

Other Articles by Zbignew Zingh

* New Dogs for the New American Century
* Dennis, We Hardly Knew You
* The 2004 Political All-Star Game
* George Bush, Destroyer of the Faith
* Zbignew's Inferno
* The Statue of Liberty is Missing
* Monuments To The New American Century
* What Are We Trying To Achieve?
* Bush Administration Relents: American Style Elections Promised for Iraq
* E.U. Researchers Publish Findings of Widespread Mad Cow Infection
* The Declassified Ads

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