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No Oil For Blood:
A Post-War Boycott In The Making

by Paul Rockwell
Oakland, California

San Diego protest (3-23-2003)
People in San Diego protest (3-23-2003) the U.S./British invasion of Iraq. Photo by Nic Paget-Clarke.
Along with anti-war marches, demonstrations, acts of civil disobedience, and street battles with U.S.-backed police, spontaneous boycotts against U.S. and British goods are taking place in cities throughout the world, from South Africa to Pakistan. The impact of an international consumer boycott against the invading powers -- a post-war as well as anti-war boycott -- could be massive.

A coalition of anti-war groups in Pakistan, where fast-foods are popular, launched a boycott against McDonald's and Kentucky Fried Chicken. In Australia, where tens of thousands of demonstrators brought Melbourne to a standstill, "Not-in-Our-Name" activists called for an international shutdown of U.S. business. One spokesperson said: "As the Anglo-American blitzkrieg is now under way, all those people worldwide who are opposed to the invasion have been asked to boycott all trade with the aggressor countries. Select products and services from countries that are in favor of peace."

South African protesters in Cape Town called for a boycott of all American and British goods. Demonstrators also demanded that Denel, a South African contractor, cancel all contracts that supply military components to the U.K. and the U.S. Similar calls for economic action have been issued in Egypt, Belgium, Saudi Arabia, Indonesia, Thailand, Brazil, Chile, and the U.K.

Targeting consumer-dependent industries and companies heavily involved in the military-industrial complex, South Africa Indymedia recently called on the world to "take aim at the only thing that can bring Bush to his knees: the American economy."

Like Gandhi's historic boycott of British textiles, when the people of India manufactured their own clothing, today's boycotts are promoting creativity and self-reliance in the Mideast. Sales of Pepsi and Coca Cola are plummeting as Islamic nations create alternative cola drinks called Zam Zam and Mecca Cola. Local manufacturers cannot keep pace with the demand from Saudi Arabia and other Gulf states. Mecca Colas have already turned up in Britain. Recently peace groups distributed 36,000 bottles of Mecca Cola at Hyde Park in London. The Iranian government has banned ads for U.S.-manufactured goods.

No Oil for Blood: The post-war boycott begins

USS Constellation
On the flight deck of the aircraft carrier USS Constellation. Based in San Diego (site of this photo), the Constellation was deployed to the Persian Gulf for the U.S./British invasion. Photo by Nic Paget-Clarke.

Boycotts will not subside with the end of the war on Iraq, whatever its outcome. On the contrary, the old slogan, "No blood for oil," is turning into a post-war slogan: "No oil for blood." The emerging boycott is aimed at the pro-war corporations that stand to benefit from U.S.-British conquest of Iraq.

"Fermiamo La Guerre," a huge coalition of peace groups in Italy, has called for a boycott of "American interests," targeting corporations that stand to gain from the war. The boycott began against Esso (Exxon in the U.S.) and will be extended to other oil companies -- Mobil, Chevron, and Texaco. Greenpeace has already launched a boycott against Exxon-Esso and Mobil. The economic boycott is based on the view that U.S. and Britain should be denied the spoils of war.

Bechtel, a corporate Goliath that did business with Saddam Hussein when he was committing war crimes against Iranians and Iraqis, recently accepted a contract for the post-war reconstruction. As a result, Bechtel became the object of militant demonstrations at its headquarters in San Francisco.

Since imperialism -- an economic system of world domination -- is the main source of violence and terror in the world today, anti-war boycotts are, by their very nature, anti-imperialist. That is why the emerging international boycott will endure long after the war ends. In a post-war situation, a boycott is one of the ways to punish the war profiteers for their crimes against peace and humanity.

The Power of Boycotts

In combination with demonstrations, mass education, and civil disobedience, boycotts can change the world. The American revolution began with a boycott -- the Boston Tea Party. The non-violent movement that brought down the British empire, included Gandhi's boycott against British textiles. The Montgomery Bus boycott launched the civil rights movement. Led by Cesar Chavez, the United Farm Workers were unionized through arduous national boycotts of lettuce and grapes. The burgeoning international boycott against U.S. imperialism, against the corporations preparing to feast on the spoils of war, may well match the scope of the historic boycott of South African apartheid. In fact the current anti-war boycott is a continuation of the worldwide struggle against Anglo domination and white supremacy.

The end of the war will be a turning point for the peace movement. Emotions rise and fall. Unless the peace movement finds creative, economic ways to punish the war profiteers, feelings of helplessness and despondency may prevail. The U.S. will consolidate one conquest and prepare for another.

Cockpit of an F-117 stealth fighter-bomber in a hangar at the Miramar base near San Diego. Photo by Nic Paget-Clarke.
A boycott is a common way to harness popular energy before it dissipates, a way to broaden mass participation in the peace movement. For every five thousand protesters battling U.S.-backed cops in the streets, there are millions of bystanders who seek non-violent ways to express their abhorrence of war and empire. The boycott is the widest gateway to the peace movement. Even those who lack purchasing power willingly join pickets and lend support. While the international boycott of U.S. industries requires endurance and sacrifice, the dislocation and inconvenience of the boycott is minor compared to the horrors of war and empire.

The international boycott puts the people of the world, not shaky governments, not wavering officials influenced by U.S. bribes and blackmail, in the forefront of peace and disarmament. A boycott can become an early form of economic empowerment. CEOs who treat world opinion with contempt go berserk when their sacred profits shrink.

Erupting like dormant volcanoes, the world's boycotts are still spontaneous and have yet to be coordinated on an international scale. The current boycott is a grassroots movement, and the targets and strategies are diverse. Some groups refuse to purchase any U.S. and British goods. Others target the companies that profit from conquest and war. All over the world, symbols of U.S. culture are under attack: Coca Cola, Starbucks, McDonald's, the big oil companies.

Leaders of the peace movement already realize that, in absence of economic action, it may be impossible to reverse the march of empire.

It is naive to believe that the most violent system on earth, a country that exports more weapons than all countries combined, whose arms merchants profit from death and human suffering, will change its profitable and bellicose ways without strong economic pressure.

News headlines
News headlines four days into the war. Photo by Nic Paget-Clarke.
All empires rule through fear, propaganda and violence. But no empire is invincible. The Bush regime is a military Goliath, but a Goliath with economic feet of clay. In the end, it is the U.S. that really depends on the people of the world -- on their land, their oil and water, their resources, their labor and ingenuity, and on their buying power -- not the people of the world who depend on the U.S. Cut off the flow of money -- the only thing that is sacred in corporate America -- and the empire will begin to shake.The growing boycott not only expresses worldwide abhorrence at the premeditated bombing of Baghdad -- the "birthplace of civilization" between the Tigris and Euphrates rivers -- the boycott also sends a message about the dedication and endurance of the peace movement. No matter how long it takes to humble Bush and the corporations that own him, the new centurions will no longer commit their crimes against peace with impunity. The economic payment has already begun. We are committed to peace, not for weeks, nor months, but for a lifetime -- for the long haul.

In the midst of the hardship of the Montgomery Bus boycott against U.S. segregation, when the days of civil rights were still dark, Dr. King said: "The arc of the universe is long, but bends toward justice." Time is on the side of the people. Let the boycott begin.

Paul Rockwell is a writer in the Bay Area

Published in In Motion Magazine March 30, 2003.

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