(A review of the new book entitled This Country Must Change: Essays on the Necessity of Revolution in the USA, edited by Craig Rosebraugh, Arissa Media Group, 2009)
From 1997 to 2001, Craig Rosebraugh acted as a public spokesperson for the Earth Liberation Front (ELF), a self-described "international, underground movement consisting of autonomous groups of people who carry out direct action in defense of the planet." On February 12, 2002, Rosebraugh was made to testify against his will before the US Congress' House Subcommittee on Forests and Forest Health. The FBI had recently declared the ELF the #1 domestic terrorist threat, and Congress had subpoenaed Rosebraugh demanding he help them investigate "eco-terrorism." Rosebraugh had already received seven grand jury subpoenas from various federal investigations, but had always refused to cooperate. After he rejected this particular Subcommittee's offer to voluntarily testify, they seemed to think that intimidation might help. They were wrong.
Rosebraugh invoked his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination 54 times that day, instead issuing his now-famous 11-page statement declaring that "the US government by far has been the most extreme terrorist organization in planetary history," He cited a long list of crimes, beginning with the history of Black chattel slavery and the genocide of indigenous peoples, and concluding with a long list of US military interventions since WWII. He argued that it was hypocritical to label the ELF "terrorist," since all ELF actions had been directed towards corporate property, and had never injured anyone: "This noble pursuit does not constitute terrorism, but rather seeks to abolish it."
Rosebraugh has since continued his public advocacy of direct action and has edited a new book entitled This Country Must Change: Essays on the Necessity of Revolution in the USA. This collection of twelve essays, most written by current and former political prisoners, discusses the many problems with today's corporate state and why the contributors believe a fundamental revolution is the only practical solution. Furthermore, Rosebraugh writes that "it is literally impossible to create fundamental political and social change by strictly adhering to only those methods approved by the government."
Many of these writers were imprisoned for their actions with the ELF or with other groups that have used extreme direct action tactics, such as sabotage. These tactics will doubtless remain controversial, but This Country Must Change makes clear how important it is that activists reject the state's vilification of those who use unlawful tactics. Their voices reveal that they are not "agent provocateurs," but well-intentioned, thoughtful individuals who felt limited by lawful protest tactics. Therefore, even if many in the activist community do not agree with authors' more radical tactics, this should not be a reason to ostracize political prisoners who badly need our support.
Jeff "Free" Luers was one of the first targeted in the recent "Green Scare" repression wave against environmental activists. He received a 23-year sentence in 2001 after he admitted setting fire to several SUVs at a Eugene, Oregon car dealership. He was also convicted of putting an incendiary device on an oil delivery truck, but he has always repudiated this charge. In 2009, his sentence was reduced and he was released this past December. In his essay here, Luers defends his actions: "when faced with the degree our own government has colluded to cover up global warming, dismantle the endangered species act, give industry loopholes around the Clean Air and Clean Water Acts, and in general put corporate interests before the interests of its own people, the use of extreme direct action, such as sabotage or arson, against government and corporate institutions or their agents is justified."