In December 2001, 110 of 112 revelers at a wedding died, thanks to a B-52 and two B-1B bombers using precision-guided weapons to essentially wipe out a village in Eastern Afghanistan (and then, in a second strike, to take out Afghans digging in the rubble). The incident got next to no attention here. It wasn't, after all, a case of American "violence," but a regrettable error. No one thought to suggest that the invasion of Afghanistan should be shut down because of it, nor was it discredited due to that mass killing.
It had been a mistake. As would be the case with those other weddings obliterated by U.S. air power in Iraq and Afghanistan in the years to come. As were the funerals and baby-naming rites blasted away in those later years. As have been, more recently, the more than 60 children killed by CIA drone strikes in the Pakistani tribal borderlands, the funerals hit by those same drones, and the recently documented secondary strikes -- as in that December 2001 attack -- on rescuers trying to pull the wounded out of the rubble.
None of this, of course, gets significant attention here. Despite the pleas of Afghan President Hamid Karzai, few here suggest shutting down U.S. and NATO air operations in that country because of violence against civilians. There are few cries of horror for the eight Afghan sheepherders, none out of their teens, one possibly as young as six, who were killed by a NATO air strike in Kapisa Province just the other day. There are no major editorials or front-page media stories calling for the U.S. and its allies to mend their violent ways or change their policies because of them. It's certainly not popular to suggest that such acts might discredit American policy abroad.
Yet, as TomDispatch regular Rebecca Solnit points out, "violence" within and by the Occupy movement in this country -- we're talking about several sexual assaults in Occupy camps, a suicide, drug use, and a small amount of property damage, bottles thrown, and the like by outliers at Occupy demonstrations -- has in certain quarters somehow been enough to discredit the movement, even in some cases to paint it as a kind of living nightmare. Such violence, minimal as it might have been, instantly discredited Occupy on the American landscape.
This, mind you, in a society in which 14,000 murders were committed in 2011, in which more than 30,000 people died in traffic accidents, in which a recent Pentagon report indicated that violent sexual crimes in the military have risen by 64% since 2006 (95% against women, even though they make up only 14% of the force's personnel). And yet somehow, neither weapons, nor cars, nor the U.S. military is discredited by such violence.
It would, in fact, be surprising to imagine that a movement whose camps actually welcomed, housed, and fed those essentially thrown away by this society would lack problems. In truth, Occupy should have been hailed for its assault on violence at every level in this society. Nothing could be more striking in Solnit's piece than the statistic she cites on the remarkably unnoticed drop in violence in Oakland, California, in the weeks before Occupy Oakland itself was violently assaulted by that city's police force. Tom
Mad, Passionate Love -- and Violence
Occupy Heads into the Spring
By Rebecca Solnit
When you fall in love, it's all about what you have in common, and you can hardly imagine that there are differences, let alone that you will quarrel over them, or weep about them, or be torn apart by them -- or if all goes well, struggle, learn, and bond more strongly because of, rather than despite, them. The Occupy movement had its glorious honeymoon when old and young, liberal and radical, comfortable and desperate, homeless and tenured all found that what they had in common was so compelling the differences hardly seemed to matter.
Until they did.
Revolutions are always like this: at first all men are brothers and anything is possible, and then, if you're lucky, the romance of that heady moment ripens into a relationship, instead of a breakup, an abusive marriage, or a murder-suicide. Occupy had its golden age, when those who never before imagined living side-by-side with homeless people found themselves in adjoining tents in public squares.
All sorts of other equalizing forces were present, not least the police brutality that battered the privileged the way that inner-city kids are used to being battered all the time. Part of what we had in common was what we were against: the current economy and the principle of insatiable greed that made it run, as well as the emotional and economic privatization that accompanied it.
This is a system that damages people, and its devastation was on display as never before in the early months of Occupy and related phenomena like the "We are the 99%" website. When it was people facing foreclosure, or who'd lost their jobs, or were thrashing around under avalanches of college or medical debt, they weren't hard to accept as us, and not them.
And then came the people who'd been damaged far more, the psychologically fragile, the marginal, and the homeless -- some of them endlessly needy and with a huge capacity for disruption. People who had come to fight the power found themselves staying on to figure out available mental-health resources, while others who had wanted to experience a democratic society on a grand scale found themselves trying to solve sanitation problems.
And then there was the violence.
The Faces of Violence