Axis of Logic
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Editor's Choice
The Marathon Bombing and the Anti-War Movement
By Noah Cohen writing from Boston. Axis of Logic Exclusive
Axis of Logic
Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Editor's Note: We are grateful to Noah Cohen for his aegis for the rights of all people to repel invading soldiers by force to defend their own countries. He exposes the state apparatus in the US that unjustly convicted Dr. Tarek Mehanna, sentencing him to over 17 years in a prison in Indiana; the US government's repression of dissent and how the "ritualistic parades of the anti-war movement" have been "integrated into the US war machine."

- Les Blough, Editor 

The most compelling argument for the necessity and inevitability of actions like the Marathon bombing has been made by the US government. This is not only because the US itself is the foremost example of mass bombings to achieve political ends, but, more importantly, because the US Department of Justice has done everything in its power to close the door to a meaningful opposition to US policies of mass murder by ruthlessly repressing serious domestic dissidents. What's more, the local face of the Department of Justice--the Massachusetts US Attorney's Office and the Boston branch of the FBI--have been in the forefront of this government repression.

A case in point would be the recent trial and imprisonment of Tarek Mehanna, a local Muslim who is now confined to a CMU in Terre Haute Indiana serving a 17.5 year sentence on charges of 'material support for terrorism.' His crime? Translating and posting on the internet texts that support the right of people in predominantly Muslim countries to defend themselves from military invasion.

Dr. Terek Mehanna, a practicing pharmicist in Boston is serving 17.5 year sentence in US prison
Tarek Mehanna's case is especially relevant in the current context because, immediately after his arrest, the US Attorney and the FBI splashed the news with sensational allegations that he had been plotting an attack on a shopping mall. These allegations never made their way into the indictment. In court, the government's own submissions of evidence demonstrated precisely the contrary: Mehanna had explicitly opposed such attacks, arguing at length that not everyone in the US or Europe supported the policies of their governments, and citing mass demonstrations against the war in Iraq as evidence of people of conscience. He argued instead that Muslim religious conceptions of jihad support the right to repel invading soldiers by force, including US soldiers fighting wars of aggression against Afghanistan and Iraq. As Mehanna himself put it in his widely published sentencing statement:

"...this trial was not about my position on Muslims killing American civilians. It was about my position on Americans killing Muslim civilians, which is that Muslims should defend their lands from foreign invaders - whether they are Soviets, Americans, or Martians. This is what I believe. It’s what I’ve always believed, and what I will always believe. This is not terrorism, and it’s not extremism. It’s the simple logic of self-defense. [...] If someone breaks into your home to rob you and harm your family, logic dictates that you do whatever it takes to expel that invader from your home. But when that home is a Muslim land, and that invader is the US military, for some reason the standards suddenly change. Common sense is renamed ‘terrorism’ and the people defending themselves against those who came to kill them from across the ocean become ‘the terrorists’ who are ‘killing Americans.’ "

Mehanna goes on to argue in the same statement that people in the US will look back on this period in their history the way current generations look back on crimes such as slavery, or the mass internment of the Japanese, and ask "What were we thinking?"

If there is a livable future ahead of us, Mehanna is unquestionably right that he and others who have been imprisoned for active resistance against global mass murder will be among the very few that history will absolve. But what will history make of the rest of us?

The anti-war movement

"Protest means saying that I'm against this or that. Resistance means acting to ensure that what I'm against no longer takes place."

- Ulrike Meinhof

Mehanna's arguments against actions such as the Marathon bombing, and his references to the anti-war movement in particular, should sit uncomfortably with those of us who have participated in that movement over the course of the past decade. Can the handful of peaceful demonstrations in Washington D.C., New York and Boston really be counted as resistance?

In the most famous mass demonstration against the war in Iraq in February of 2003 (touted as the largest anti-war demonstration in history, with simultaneous actions across the US and Europe), a new model of protest was developed that successfully removed any possibility for such demonstrations to inconvenience power. In New York, police, working together with the major anti-war organizations and city government, set up the infamous 'free speech zones:' demonstrators were channeled into corrals, behind police barracades, and their numbers rigidly controlled block by block to ensure that their numerical relationship to police forces would never allow things to get out of hand. Worse, the major anti-war organizations deployed their own 'parade martials' as a buffer between protesters and police--effectively doing the job of the state for it.

A 'free speech zone' cage set up by the state in NYC
to oppress protest against the government.

Under these circumstances, there is an eerie symmetry between the ritualistic parades of the anti-war movement and the patriotic demonstrations organized by the state: in the US at least, anti-war demonstrations have become part of the festivities. They are an opportunity for people who oppose war in theory to express themselves without significant sacrifice, and to celebrate themselves with carnivals and street theater (as the wave of subsequent 'anti-war street festivals' made increasingly clear). Like the yearly patriotic pro-war commemorations of September 11, the anti-war march has been integrated into the US war machine: it's just one more step in the way that America goes to war.


Like the 'war on drugs' the 'war on terror' is an open-ended war without borders or boundaries. It is the full fruition of a long project aimed at creating a system of state power in the hands of elites that is infinitely scalable, that can use any method necessary to suppress meaningful opposition to its policies. Meaningless opposition--scripted protests, running opposition candidates etc.--can be safely integrated. Physical interference of any kind is 'terrorism.' Ideological opposition, if it comes from people in communities that have a proven history of resistance, can be considered 'material support for terrorism,' and is not protected by the 1st Amendment. The mass of the US public has accepted these terms complacently.

Is it any surprise then that some people, watching the US commit mass murder around the globe, should feel at some point that anything that might break this complacency is justified? Whether people here who count ourselves part of a domestic opposition consider such tactics legitimate or not is significant only for the choices that we ourselves make. Unless those choices lead to a movement of real resistance--resistance that actually inteferes with the war machine and will therefore be condemned and prosecuted as 'terrorism,' whatever form it takes--there will be dedicated opponents to US policies of mass murder who see no better choice than to bring the consequences home to all of us.

More on Tarek Mehanna and his arrest and imprisonment

Jeffrey Auerhahn v. Tarek Mehanna: Suborning Perjury and Official Secrets

Government Moves to Prevent Tarek Mehanna from Presenting his Case to the Jury

Open Letter to US Attorney from Tarek Mehanna Support Committee