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But for this mailing, below you will find, first, an essay by David
Smith-Ferri on the legal machinations of the government vis a vis Voices
in the Wilderness. Second, we also include a book interview with Bob
Jensen about "The Heart of Whiteness: Confronting Race, Racism and White

Indeed, every so often a regular ZNet writer publishes a new book, and
we try to make the work known to our users. Here is what the City Lights
(the books' publisher) says about Jensen's book.

      An honest look at U.S. racism, and the liberal 
      platitudes that attempt to conceal it

      In The Souls of Black Folk, W.E.B. DuBois wrote 
      that the real question whites wanted to ask him, 
      but were afraid to, was: "How does it feel to be a problem?" 
      In The Heart of Whiteness, Robert Jensen writes that 
      it is time for white America to self-consciously reverse 
      the direction of that question at the heart of color. 
      It's time for white people to fully acknowledge that 
      in the racial arena, they are the problem.

      While some whites would like to think that we have 
      reached "the end of racism," in the U.S., and others 
      would like to celebrate diversity but remain oblivious 
      to the political, economic, and social consequences 
      of a nation founded on a system of white supremacy, 
      Jensen proposes a different approach. He sets his sights 
      not only on the racism that can't be hidden, but also 
      on the liberal platitudes that sometimes conceal the 
      depths of that racism in American "polite society."

      This book offers an honest and rigorous exploration 
      of what Jensen refers to as the depraved nature of 
      whiteness in the United States. Mixing personal 
      experience with data and theory, Jensen faces down 
      the difficult realities of race, racism, and white privilege. 
      He argues that any system that denies non-white people 
      their full humanity also keeps white people from fully 
      accessing their own.

      This book is both a cautionary tale for those white 
      people who believe that they have transcended racism, 
      and also an expression of the hope for genuine 

And here is what Tim Wise had to say about the book:

      "Very few white writers have been able to point out 
      the pathological nature of white privilege and supremacy 
      with the eloquence of Robert Jensen. In 
      The Heart of Whiteness, Jensen demonstrates not only 
      immense wisdom on the issue of race, but does so in 
      the kind of direct and accessible fashion that separates 
      him from virtually any other academic scholar, or 
      journalist, writing on these subjects today." 
                                -Tim Wise, author, 
                                White Like Me: Reflections on 
                                Race from a Privileged Son


The Law of the Land
Judge John Bates upholds $20,000 fine against Voices in the Wilderness
by David Smith-Ferri  
In a thinly disguised effort to minimize political damage from growing
disillusion with the vortiginous war in Iraq, the Bush administration
has begun to "scale back" its predictions of what is actually achievable
under the U.S. occupation. Put on a pair of sunglasses and grab onto
your seat: U.S. officials are now saying they "no longer expect to see a
model new democracy, a self-supporting oil industry, or a society in
which the majority of people are free from serious security or economic
challenges" (Washington Post, 8/14/05
1300853.html). They might have included a functioning health care
system, the widespread availability of potable water, and a
rehabilitated electrical grid, since these seem equally "unrealistic"
under foreign occupation. Still, we should commend them for their
forthrightness, and acknowledge that perhaps they are withholding these
other admissions for future revisionings.

Had U.S. officials been sleeping better lately and had the moon been in
a different house, they might have similarly revised the domestic
forecast, admitting that a free society in the US isn't any more likely
in the foreseeable future. In this case, by a "free society" I mean one
which is fired by renewable sources of energy, demonstrably committed to
civil liberties, including the right to dissent, and disentangled from
the global web of violence woven by trade in arms and strengthened by
war. Fresh and convincing evidence that we are in fact moving away from
such a society came to us on Friday, August 12th, when Federal Judge
John Bates ruled in the U.S. Treasury Department's case against Voices
in the Wilderness (VitW), the Chicago-based campaign to end the war and
sanctions against Iraq. Ruling in favor of the plaintiff, Judge Bates
upheld the Treasury Department's $20,000 fine against VitW, a fine
imposed for transporting "medicine and toys" to Iraq "absent specific
license or other authorization" (DOT letter to VitW, 11/04/02

We now live in a society where the law of the land asserts that
delivering aspirin and antibiotics to a pediatrics ward where children
are dying from diarrhea is a criminal offense. Likewise handing a
plastic harmonica to a child suffering from leukemia. And there are
federal judges who will bring the gavel down and sign on the dotted

The Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) is the quaint locale at the
US DOT seized with responsibility for enforcing compliance with U.S.
sanctions laws. Never heard of OFAC? According to its Director, Richard
Newcomb, OFAC's "primary mission is administering and enforcing economic
sanctions against targeted foreign countries, and groups and
individuals, including terrorists and terrorist organizations and
narcotic traffickers, which pose a threat to the national security,
foreign policy or economy of the United States...OFAC currently
administers and enforces 27 economic sanctions programs" (Senate hearing
statement, 4/29/04). Though one may wonder how the collection of
medicine and toys and their delivery to needy hospitals and clinics in
Iraq constitutes a "threat" to U.S. "national security," it's not so
farfetched that these actions were considered a "threat" to U.S.
"foreign policy" in Iraq. 

>From its inception, Voices in the Wilderness has had a rocky
relationship with OFAC. On January 15, 1996, in a letter to then-U.S.
District Attorney Janet Reno, VitW founders announced their intention to
bring medical supplies to Iraq in opposition to the economic embargo and
its cruel consequences. "We the undersigned intend to deliberately
violate the UN/US sanctions against the people of Iraq...We can no
longer be party to this slaughter in the desert." They went on to invite
Ms. Reno in her "capacity as guardian of justice in the United States,
and in [her] concern for children who are the primary victims of the
embargo, to join us in demanding that the U.S. government lift this
embargo, which in its real effects is immoral and unjust"

Janet Reno never responded to the letter, and to my knowledge never
accepted the invitation to oppose the embargo, but a week later, on
January 22, VitW received a letter by fax from OFAC. OFAC enforces laws
promulgated under the International Emergency Economic Powers Act, which
asserts, in part: "It is the policy of the United States, that upon the
use of the Armed Forces of the United States to engage in hostilities
against any foreign country, the President shall, as appropriate - (1)
seek the establishment of a multinational economic embargo against such
country; and (2) seek the seizure of its foreign financial assets"
(Chapter 50, Title 35, Section 1707
000-.html). Executive Order 12722, signed by George H.W. Bush on August
2, 1990, did just that, and on January 18, 1991, the day after U.S.
forces launched the Gulf War, OFAC published the Iraqi Sanctions
Regulations, which detailed and codified the entire package of
prohibitions with regard to Iraq, the required licensing process for
exceptions, and the penalties for violations.

OFAC's January 22nd letter to VitW articulated the pertinent details of
the Iraqi Sanctions Regulations: namely, the prohibition on "travel" and
on exports of "goods, services, or technology to Iraq." Exceptions, it
noted, were allowed on a case by cases basis for "donated medical
supplies," approved and licensed in advance. Noting it had no
application on file, OFAC warned VitW to "refrain from engaging in any
unauthorized transactions related to the exportation of medical supplies
and travel to Iraq." As an incentive for such compliance and to be
perfectly clear and upfront, it stipulated the "Criminal penalties for
violating the Regulations range up to 12 years in prison and $1 million
in fines. Civil penalties of up to $250,000 per violation may be imposed
administratively by OFAC." 

If this "warning" was intended to unplug VitW, it failed. Between 1996
and March, 2003, VitW organized over seventy separate delegations to
Iraq, each one violating the sanctions. In sum, this was an attempt to
organize actions commensurate with the suffering in Iraq. It fell far
short, of course, but each delegation did witness and document
conditions on the ground in Iraq, exporting out of the country reports,
stories, photos, art, music, and other representations of the
consequences of war and sanctions. It sought, on the one hand, to build
bridges with ordinary Iraqis, and on the other to help build the case
against the execrable sanctions.

On December 3, 1998, OFAC sent VitW a "Pre-Penalty" notice, specifying
the dates and violations of the Iraqi Sanctions Regulations, and
proposing a penalty of $120,000. The case then fell into a coma for
nearly four years, until, during the turbulent run-up to the invasion of
Iraq, OFAC imposed an actual penalty against VitW on November 4, 2002,
reducing the fine to $20,000 because it was concerned about a statute of
limitations defense against several 1996 travel violations. Nine days
earlier, VitW had played a prominent role in organizing the nationwide
protests against the build-up to war. Members of VitW interpreted the
sudden awakening of the case as an attempt to stifle dissent. 

In its response to OFAC, VitW stated "We don't have to ask our
government's permission to visit and care for the sick, no matter where
they live, any more than women have to ask permission of men for the
right to vote, or African Americans have to ask permission of Whites for
equal protection under the law." As in its previous correspondence, VitW
noted relevant reports of widespread suffering and death due to economic
sanctions, and attached documents elaborating relevant international law
defining and prohibiting genocide and mass punishment. VitW also
included, "as payment of the fine," 6,750 Iraqi dinars, contraband from
various trips to Iraq, the rough equivalent of $20,000 US valued at
pre-sanctions exchange rates, but worth only $3.33 at the time. 

None of this made an impression on the OFAC dray horse, which, bit in
mouth and blindered, pulled blandly in line with the letter of the law.
A reading of the OFAC documents (the quicker the better) is a sure
solution for insomnia. The court case, as directed by Judge Bates, was
no more enlightening. International law and the effects of the sanctions
on ordinary Iraqis were barred from the proceedings. Bates essentially
boxed himself in, and his verdict upholding the $20,000 penalty comes as
no surprise: "...the record demonstrates that the defendant is being
fined not for its views, but for the willful and knowing violation of
statutes, executive orders and regulations enacted by elected political
representatives" (Ruling, 8/12/05). 

Perhaps most interesting in Bates' decision is a reference, in the last
paragraph of his 16-page ruling, to Martin Luther King, Jr.: "The same
system of laws that protects Voices' right to peacefully protest
government policies and petition for their change also demands that
Voices submit to the penalties that attach under law when it chooses to
violate those policies. One who breaks an unjust law must do so openly,
lovingly, and with a willingness to accept the penalty. Rev. Martin
Luther King, Letter from Birmingham Jail (Apr. 16, 1963). Because Voices
has presented no credible evidence that OFAC's civil enforcement action
was anything other than lawful, it must bear the burden of the monetary
fine as a cost of protesting administration and U.N. policies in the
manner it chose to employ."

Bates is clearly scolding here, summoning Martin Luther King to assert
that VitW go docilely to the slaughterhouse. But King was commending a
spirit of action - one that should infuse civil disobedience - not a
spirit of compliance. As Kathy Kelly, co-founder of VitW, put it when
she read Bates' opinion, "Hmmm. Hard to imagine that if King had been
fined in Birmingham instead of jailed, he would have said, 'OK' and
written a check. If Judge Bates decides to send one or more of us to
jail, I feel almost certain we will go openly and lovingly. But we won't
turn over one dime to help these war criminals in their attacks against
Iraq or their imperial seizure of Iraqi oil assets."

At a time when sanity - to say nothing of moral leadership - is absent
from the political stage, Bates had an opportunity to condemn a law
which contributed to suffering and death on a massive scale in Iraq and
for over twelve years prohibited US citizens from responding to that
crisis. He could have ruled on the basis of international law, which
rightly prohibits mass punishment and genocide. Such a ruling would not
only have set a delicious precedent, it would have been a direct legal
challenge to US imperialist policies. Instead, Bates defined himself as
one more tooth in the grinding mouth of U.S. militarism. His words ring
out, for anyone who is listening, as another knock against civil
liberties in the U.S., and a clear nod to current energy policies and
the reign of imperialism in U.S. foreign policy.


Interviewing Bob Jensen about his new book, The Heart of Whiteness

1. Can you tell ZNet, please, what your new book, "The Heart of
Whiteness: Confronting Race, Racism and White Privilege," is about? What
is it trying to communicate?
If white people are to make a meaningful contribution to ending white
supremacy, I think we have to be willing to be harsh in our assessment
of ourselves personally, while at the same time staying focused on the
importance of a larger system of power. That is, we have to go deeply
into ourselves and simultaneously connect to a larger political analysis
and movement. That can be difficult to balance.
So, I wrote the book to try to think through that problem and, I hope,
model what a successful struggle with that could look like. Part of the
book is very personal, recounting some of my efforts to deal with being
white in a white-supremacist world. And part of the book is analytical,
puzzling through how to understand race historically and theoretically. 
It's a short book, only about 100 pages. I'm not trying to write the
definitive book on race from a white person's perspective. Rather, I
wanted to engage the subject as honestly as I could in the hopes that it
would spark others to want to take up a similar project.  
2. Can you tell ZNet something about writing the book? Where does the
content come from? What went into making the book what it is?
A few years ago when my campus was embroiled in debate over affirmative
action, I wrote an essay about white privilege, challenging white people
to recognize that even when we struggle to be anti-racist we walk
through the world with enormous privilege. I was surprised by the
reaction -- both hostile and supportive -- to that piece from around the
country. It seemed to provoke people in ways I would not have predicted.

For several years after that, in essays and talks, I pursued the
question of how white people deal with race. I found audiences were
eager to deal with these difficult subjects, which pushed me to
challenge myself, personally and intellectually. I don't consider myself
a scholar of race in any technical sense. Instead, this is a book that
comes out of my personal and political work.
Parts of the book will certainly anger white people who want to believe
we have a "level playing field" in this country. Parts of the book --
such as the section explaining why Thomas Jefferson was a rapist -- will
likely anger a wide range of people. And in other parts of the book, I
try to push liberals and leftists to challenge some of the assumptions
and practices we have grown comfortable with. I suppose it's a book
designed to piss off everyone in some fashion, I hope for the sake of
deepening our understanding.

3. What are your hopes for "The Heart of Whiteness"? What do you hope it
will contribute or achieve, politically? Given the effort and
aspirations you have for the book, what will you deem to be a success?
What would leave you happy about the whole undertaking? What would leave
you wondering if it was worth all the time and effort?
In one sense, it was worth the time and effort for me simply because I
had to confront some of my own failures in the course of writing the
book. I like to think I'm a better person -- and will be more
effectively politically -- for having written the book. But beyond that
I hope that people will read it and feel that my attempt at honesty is
worthwhile. So much of the discussion around race in this country is
saturated with fear; certainly many white people are afraid to talk
openly about their real feelings and ideas. If this book helps break
down some of that fear, I would feel as if I had accomplished something.
"The Heart of Whiteness: Confronting Race, Racism and White Privilege"
by Robert Jensen, forthcoming from City Lights, September 2005.  More
information at: http://www.citylights.com/CLpub4th.html#4499

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