Long-time readers of The Picket Line will know that I
don’t have many encouraging things to say about
the “tax protester”
movement in its various forms (see, for instance
can’t seem to resist the temptation to go after them in a heavy-handed and
ham-fisted manner, which leads to
courtroom victories by the tax protesters — each one of which cancels out
a thousand defeats in their eyes:
The verdict stirred concerns that it would encourage more Americans to refuse
to pay taxes, which the Treasury,
and the Justice Department have all acknowledged is a growing problem. The
problem has prompted a renewed effort to seek civil injunctions against
promoters like Mr. Banister and in some cases
prosecutions of both tax protesters and their professional advisers.
“This is going to encourage thousands more people who were on the fence, who
were paying taxes only because they were afraid they would be criminally
prosecuted,” said J.J. MacNab, a Maryland
insurance analyst. She is writing a book about people who deny the legitimacy
of the tax laws and attended the trial, which began
“If too many people do this, the tax system will collapse because it is based
on people voluntarily complying” with the law, Ms. MacNab said.
If you look at the tax protester arguments, they’re largely absurd, and those
that aren’t are incorrect. But if you see the movement as a
box” whose inputs are taxpayers and whose outputs are people who stop
paying their taxes, well, it’s hard to argue with that when it is successful,
which it often seems to be.
A profound sense of disappointment with the American people greeted me here
in Istanbul where the final session of the World Tribunal on Iraq,
investigating and documenting war crimes in Iraq, modeled on the
Vietnam War Tribunal of , is convening.
The mood is the opposite of what I encountered here and elsewhere after the
anti-war demonstrations of .
Back then, enormous sympathy for victims of
, and respect for a people who took to
the streets to try to stop their government from committing acts of
aggression before the invasion had even begun, had generated admiration and
warmth toward Americans, if not their government. After all, people said,
Bush stole the election. And, look, they
would point out, Americans are trying to stop him. Americans are good people
with a bad government — just like everywhere else — they would declare, and
curse Bin Laden and Bush in one swift, contemptuous breath.
Now, however, I get confused looks, pained questions, and heads shaking
quietly in disbelief and disappointment. Don’t the American people know, I am
asked, again and again. Explain please, they persist, how, after the
publication of pictures from Abu Ghraib, Bush got re-elected? Don’t the
American people watch the news from Iraq? Where did the protests, the
outrage, the uproar go?
This is not just a sad turn of events; it is a profoundly dangerous situation
for the American people. Mass murder of civilians is rarely the work of
lonesome nuts operating totally outside of societal norms and beliefs. On the
contrary, scratch the surface of most of the horrors of
, and you will find a
cold, cruel belief that the victims brought it upon themselves. Everyone
shakes their head and loudly condemns the atrocity once the bodies are cold
and deep under the earth; however, a close examination of the events as they
occurred often reveals that there was an implicit and explicit turning of
hearts and faces away from the people who ended up slaughtered. The
perception of indifference and complicity of the American people to the
crimes committed by their government is obviously not a good development.…
At first I tried explain my questioners about the corporate control of media
and the lack of grassroots organizations, but, honestly, it all rings a bit
hollow. In the shops, on the buses and the ferries, and among the
participants of the Tribunal, everywhere, people persist: don’t they have
Internet; don’t they have alternative media; is nothing reported about Iraq
at all? What on earth is up? I also tried to tell people about the stubborn
remains of the anti-war movement, of the many people who oppose the war and
find it hard to find a way to register their opposition, of the disregard for
public opinion this administration has shown, the attempts at alternative
media, organizing, congressional hearings… It was clear from the way my
comments were received that it all sounded like I was making excuses for a
people who indeed, at least for the moment, seem to have shut out the
systematic torture and the brutal occupation out of their minds and hearts.
I realized I needed to do something else. I needed to talk about things apart
from the general positive things you can say about most any country — that
there are people who remain committed to justice and peace, even during the
hardest of times. I needed to explain that are almost-singularly and deeply
American challenges to the shameful acts of this administration. That what we
are witnessing is also a struggle between different American values, and the
results are far from certain.…
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