Noam Chomksy on Kosovo (FWD)

Apsken at Apsken at
Tue Mar 30 15:33:27 PST 1999

Others have answered Max's principal slurs directed toward me, for which I'm grateful, given the three-post daily limit. However, one point deserves a bit of elaboration. Maz wrote:

"Here's a news flash for anyone too young to have been around then [during the U.S. War in Vitnam]: it wasn't that bad. You could be actively anti-war and not worry too much about getting shipped off to an internment camp, though the possibility was periodically discussed, often with the aid of pharmaceutical enhancers."

Deserters from the U.S. armed forces -- the specific subject of my paragraph about cowards and heroes -- were sentenced to, and served, long prison terms if captured. We assisted all who came to us, usually after reading our publications, which were illegal for GIs to possess, regardless of their motivations. Other forms of resistance faced lesser, but sometimes severe, punishment. White draft resisters were treated fairly gently, often being given Conscientious Objector status and alternative service, although quite a few members of Chicago Area Draft Resisters went to prison. Black draft resisters were denied the CO option, ostensibly because they could not legitimately claim religious opposition to war, and were routinely sentenced to long prison terms, well documented in my 1970 pamphlet, "30 Years of Selective Service Racism," published and distributed by National Black Draft Counselors. Perhaps Max was too befogged by smoke to have concerned himself with the suffering of Cleve Sellers, Fred Brooks, Raymond DuVernay, Eddie Oquendo, Mike Simmons, Muhammad Ali, Walter Collins, and many other SNCC "Hell no, we won't go!" resisters. In fact, so massive was African American resistance that Selective Service DID scheme to put them in "work force camps" (located in "favorable judicial districts") -- as they admitted in public after my pamphlet was distributed at the White House Conference on Youth. In an article I wrote for The Nation (June 28, 1980, issue), I quoted their internal documents, which worried that these would justly be regarded as "concentration camps." The authors of that plan afterward said that it was our "premature" publication of their intentions, and organized Black protests that ensued, which forced them to drop the idea and hasten the switch to an all- volunteer force. The specific rationale for the plan was that prison space was inadequate to hold the enormous numbers of Blacks who were refusing to be drafted.

Later in the same post, Max attempted to change the subject of debate from my stance toward imperialist war to my attitude on domestic enforcement of civil rights laws. I'm not shy about that issue, but I'll postpone discussion of it until the current war emergency is past.

In a subsequent post Max wrote, "So I will apologize to Ken for use of the word lunatic if he apologizes for saying anyone on the other side of the debate is simply interested in justifying a renunciation of progressive activism."

That isn't what I wrote, nor what I think. I believe that (nearly all, not 100 percent of) pro-war liberals, progressives, and ex-socialists sincerely believe the arguments they advance, but that they have given up. No longer believing that the bourgeois colossus can be overthrown, or effectively opposed -- or in many cases simply being weary of struggle and burned out -- their vision has narrowed to the point where their future course is predictable, following the examples I listed. The only kind of counter-example I can think of is the Vicar of Bray, who will be one of us after we overthrow capitalism, but not before. I wish it were not so, as I wrote.

Ken Lawrence

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