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Sabotage On The Rise

By William T. Hathaway

02 November, 2010

Militant activists in the USA are turning to sabotage in the struggle
for social change. Outraged by the Democrats continuing the war they
had pledged to stop, a growing number of domestic insurgents have
moved beyond demonstrations and petitions into direct action, defying
the government's laws and impeding its capacity for mass murder.
Despairing over the prospect of endless war, they are convinced the
only way to bring peace now is to bring the system down, and sabotage
is one way to do that.

My new book, RADICAL PEACE: People Refusing War, interviews several
saboteurs. Trucker is the code name of a man who burns military
vehicles. He considers his sabotage to be nonviolent because it
doesn't harm human beings, only things. He states, "It's only because
our culture worships property that we see destroying war machines as
violence. What I'm doing is depriving the military of their tools of
violence. I'm decreasing their ability to harm people. Since they
refuse to disarm, I'm doing it for them. I'd never set fire to a
building because someone might be inside. I even look inside the
trucks to make sure no one is sleeping there."

RADICAL PEACE also profiles a janitor who has destroyed computers at a
defense contractor with electrical surges. "I'm sure the lost work and
equipment has set back the war effort," he states, "and I'm looking
forward to my next surge for peace."

A college student relates how she threw a rock through the window of
an army recruiter after her friend returned from Iraq crippled. She
plans to do it again but says, "I wouldn't throw a rock at the
recruiter. I don't have anything against him as a person."

Other domestic insurgents are cutting electrical and phone wires into
recruiting offices, slashing their tires, painting over their
billboards. At universities they are attacking military research
projects and ROTC offices: stealing their mail, squirting glue into
their door locks, hacking into their computers. An autonome tossed a
log under the wheels of an arms train and derailed it, but he was
careful to do it in the middle of the train so no one would be injured.

The saboteurs in the book agree that such resistance must be
nonviolent, that it not injure living creatures. Setting bombs and
burning buildings where people could be inside can't achieve anything
worthwhile. It just reproduces the same mentality they're trying to

Rather than randomly smashing windows and torching autos, they
restrict their activities to institutions that support or profit from
the war. Their goal is to make the war too expensive to continue, to
convince the politicians they don't have enough money to conquer Iraq
and Afghanistan. A few acts of sabotage won't do that, but thousands
can. Government and corporate resources are limited. Taxes and the
deficit are already so high that they're crippling the economy. Every
dollar the government has to spend keeping things running here is one
they can't spend killing people overseas.

The militants believe that direct actions like these aren't a
substitute for traditional organizing, but in critical situations like
the present they can supplement it. Sabotage won't build a new
society, but it can help weaken the old one so the new one can be built.

This is only one point of view on a very controversial issue, though,
and critical discussion about it is needed. Many other opinions on
possible negative side effects should be heard. One of the fine things
about CounterCurrents is that it provides a forum for such discussion,
so please post your comments.

Several chapters of RADICAL PEACE: People Refusing War are posted on
CounterCurrents and on the publisher's website at
For a selection of the author's other writing: www.peacewriter.org.

William T. Hathaway is an adjunct professor of American studies at the
University of Oldenburg in Germany. His other books include A WORLD OF
HURT (Rinehart Foundation Award), CD-RING, and SUMMER SNOW.