Letter to Sam Farr

September 1, 2001

"If one starts to play the role of God one cannot avoid playing the role of the devil as well."

–K.M. Abenheimer,
"Shakespeare’s ‘Tempest’: A Psychological Analysis,"
Psychoanalytic Review, 33
(October 1946), p. 405

"…orthodoxy in the full sense demands a control over one’s own mental processes as complete as that of a contortionist over his body…This demands a continuous alteration of the past, made possible by the system of thought which really embraces all the rest, and which is known in newspeak as doublethink…The party member, like the proletarian, tolerates present-day conditions partly because he has no standards for comparison…The past is whatever the Party chooses to make it…It will be seen that the control of the past depends above all on the training of memory."

–George Orwell, Nineteen Eighty-Four, 1949

FROM: S. Brian Willson

TO: The Honorable Sam Farr
United States House of Representatives

Dear Congressman Farr:

This letter is directed to you, my Congressperson, to convey my alarm at the rapidly convened bi-partisan support for President Bush’s war of "good versus evil" in waging a world battle against "terrorism." But more than that, this letter requests advice from your office as to how I, and others who vigorously but nonviolently oppose the nature and spirit of this war of "good versus evil," might preserve our safety and civil liberties amidst the growing fear and consequent expansion of legal and administrative mechanisms intending to detect and eliminate "terrorists."

This is no academic question. Though I share in the grief and anger at the horrific acts directed against the United States, and the tragic loss of innocent life, President Bush’s edict that nations, organizations, and individuals are either with him, or against his plan for eliminating "terrorism," is a scary proposition. In the 1980s, I, along with a number of other law-abiding U.S. citizens active in nonviolently opposing president Reagan’s lawless and brutal policies against popular movements and/or governments in Central America, were identified by the President’s anti-terrorism task force (headed by Buck Revell of the FBI and Vice President George Bush) as domestic "terrorist" suspects. In my case it led to my nearly being killed, losing my legs and suffering a serious skull fracture and brain injury during a peaceful protest of shipment of lethal weapons from California to El Salvador. My mail was often intercepted and my phones tapped without a court order due to the "terrorist" label. An FBI agent of 22 years service was fired for refusing to investigate as "terrorists" six nonviolent activists including myself. This enabled us to learn much more about the government’s siege state of mind and the policies associated with that mentality. In my case, they had imagined that I was a potential hijacker of arms shipments, a shockingly paranoid state of mind for U.S. government servants. [SEE "FBI Probe of Willson Reported," San Francisco Chronicle, Dec. 12, 1987; "The Cost of a Fired FBI Agent’s Journey to Catholic Nonviolence," National Catholic Reporter, Nov. 27, 1987.] Your fellow Democratic peers George Miller and Nancy Pelosi know my case well, as does U.S. Senator Barbara Boxer.

In my case this "terrorist" label was apparently first applied to the four members of the Veterans Fast For Life, of which I was one. We were participating in a water-only fast on the steps of the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C. in September-October 1986 with no pre-determined date for its termination, in protest of U.S. policies supporting the Contra "terrorists" in Nicaragua who had been created, funded, armed, and trained by the CIA. This was no secret! [SEE "Rudman Likens Fasting Veterans To Terrorists," The Boston Globe, Oct. 11, 1986.] You may recall that this was also a bi-partisan policy of overthrowing a sovereign government, in violation of international law and a decision of the World Court. The Democrats were more in favor of a policy of inflicting fear through terror from a tight embargo and consequent food shortages and slow starvation, confirmed in a meeting with the political counselor at the U.S. Embassy in Managua in January 1986. The Republicans were more in favor of an explicit policy of inflicting terror through arson, murder and pillaging of civilian targets in Nicaragua. But both parties openly supported the overthrow of the Nicaraguan government by instilling fear of daily loss of life through bullets and/or starvation. William Casey, CIA director at the time, was reported to have said about Nicaraguans, "Make the bastards sweat." [SEE Bob Woodward, The Veil, p. 281.]

Use of terror is no stranger to the United States. George Washington demanded of his generals that "terror" be used against the "beasts of prey," referring to thousands of Indigenous civilians in the colonies. Terror was an explicit policy against the popular movement in the Philippines during the "Spanish-American" War. "Low Intensity Warfare" is a euphemism for terror, the mainstay of U.S. policies following the Vietnam war. That we may now be the victims of our own toxic policies abroad should cause us to reflect deeply about who we are and what are sustaining values in a world of 210 nations and 6.2 billion people.

I, like you, was born on July 4 (1941). I remember carrying the U.S. American flag during holiday parades in my small, New York State agricultural town. I was a National Honor Society student and a star athlete. As you served the United States as a Peace Corps volunteer in Colombia, I served as an Air Force officer for four years. In 1969, I was a first lieutenant in charge of a combat security unit of forty men at a Vietnamese airbase 100 miles south of Saigon in the Mekong Delta. It was there that my trust and faith in the U.S. American system of government was first placed in question. I witnessed the after effects of continued bombings of numerous Vietnamese villages where only civilians were mercilessly murdered. I began to protest the nature of the war. Of course, my views were not welcomed and it was a very troubled time for me personally. Nonetheless, in 1970 I honorably left the military in the rank of captain. Subsequently I became a lawyer and was admitted to the Bar in Washington, D.C.

During the 1980s I served first as a legislative aide to the Massachusetts legislature, then became director of a Vietnam veterans outreach center in rural Massachusetts where I received a special commendation for my efforts from then Governor Michael Dukakis. I also served on Dukakis’ homeless veterans and Agent Orange task forces. In 1984 I volunteered in support of John Kerry’s first Senatorial campaign in 1984, and served on his veterans advisory board when he was a junior Senator.

But mostly what I have done since I separated from the U.S. military has been to study the nature and effects of U.S. policies on "Third World" people and their cultures. I have been to nearly two dozen countries, including Colombia, and have written extensively about the devastating pattern of U.S. foreign policy. Naturally, my experiences have guided development of a more comprehensive view of the world then I held as a younger man. I think it imperative for U.S. Americans to know a much more authentic history of how our policies have destroyed the aspirations and lives of multiple millions of impoverished people in the continents in Latin America, Africa, the Middle East and Asia. Many times I have wondered when and where this long history of inflicting demonic policies on other people in order to maintain the disproportionately privileged American Way Of Life (AWOL) was going to haunt us. Unfortunately, the inevitable "blowback"
has begun.

It would behoove our nation to seriously ask why so many people in the world are so enraged at the U.S. that they would carry out these desperate acts. My belief is that these acts of what I call "retail" terrorism are carried out in response to our long pattern of "wholesale" terrorism. The fact is that for international peace to become a reality, world resources must be equitably distributed. Currently the U.S. comprises 4.5 percent of the world’s population, but consumes anywhere from 25 percent to nearly half the world’s resources, involuntarily squeezing the 75 percent of the people in the "Third World" with but 15 percent of the resources. This cannot be maintained either ecologically or morally.

This latest crime against U.S. humanity is best treated by submitting the cases to while cooperating with Interpol (to which at one time I was a member) and the United Nations, legitimate international institutions intended to collectively solve serious problems such as this. However, a much more substantial U.S. diplomatic approach is needed in order to genuinely understand the bases for numerous, historical grievances against the United States in particular, and the West in general, as experienced by a majority of the world’s impoverished population. No amount of military and security vigilance can offer U.S. people a long-term feeling of security amidst this vast sea of rage which will continue to seek relief, even if in acts of desperation, from the repression and double standards to which they have been involuntarily inflicted. Security will come from reparations and a serious attempt to establish relationships with the rest of the world based on justice. This will require a humility replacing our dangerous arrogance.

From all my experiences studying the effects of U.S. policies around the world, I believe the bi-partisan war on terrorism is destined to completely miss addressing the causes of rage, and will, ironically, intensify that very rage which will endanger evermore the lives of U.S. Americans.

I do not know the course of nonviolent action that I and others will take at this critical juncture in U.S. and world history. But I need to know from you how personal security and civil liberties are to be protected as many of us, myself included, plan to oppose the current course of action as outlined by president Bush and supported by virtually the entire Congress. Dissent is a fundamental right under our so-called Constitutional democracy. President Bush on September 20 declared that those nations that are not with him will be considered with the "terrorists" and will consequently feel the full wrath of the U.S. Government. The Joint Resolution of Congress on September 14 authorized the President to use all necessary and appropriate force against those nations, organizations, or persons he determines are involved in "terrorist" acts. This is unlimited war with no time limit, no clearly identified enemy except a few named individuals, and with unlimited military force. This is madness on top of madness. Is this the United States that I served?

The seriousness of your answer (or failure to answer) will contribute to my discernment as to how to exercise my free speech rights and obligations. I pray that by writing this letter I will not bring inadvertent state response. I worry that a number of conscientious U.S. citizens are going to face a period of severe repression, especially if the U.S. government continues its bully, arrogant approach to the world, viewing dissenters from within as accessories to "terrorists." As I have stated earlier in this letter, I know from personal experience how easy these terms can be abused by the government which does not want to ask more profound questions.

Thanking you in advance, I am


S. Brian Willson


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