Daniel McGowan
Daniel McGowan
Daniel McGowan
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Archive for August, 2007

There are Alternatives to Marching Against the War(s)

Sunday, August 26th, 2007

My indictment and subsequent arrest in December 2005 disrupted many things in my life: my schooling, employment, relationships with my family & friends, and my activism. At the time I was working on a budding counter-recruitment campaign in New York City– one that ultimately ceased to exist as everyone working on it threw themselves into legal and other support activity for me. After a lot of trial and error with anti-war activity– trying to push for more militant and less rigid anarchist contingents at mainstream marches to insane amounts of pre-Iraq war stickering and outreach to a totally unsuccessful effort to block streets the day after the bombing commenced, I was frustrated.

Coming home every day to my collective house, I would see a military recruiter always hanging around the huge high school on my block. Like any predator, he was there right before school got out and undoubtedly made conversation and appointments with high school kids later on. I wondered why this school– a fairly progressive one at that, would let recruiters in and expose their children to their marketing tactics. I knew enough about the issue, or so I thought. Further research informed me of the No Child Left Behind Act, signed by Bush, which forced parents to “opt out” of military recruitment contact lists. Essentially, high school students’ information was in the hands of recruiters– people who are legally allowed to lie to get recruits to sign a contract that is not binding on the military but is on the recruit.

This research along with the fact that I now saw recruiters everywhere–street fairs, subway stations, their posters and brochures at bodegas–led a friend and me to try to kickstart a campaign of counter-recruitment that we hoped would grow city-wide.

Why Counter-recruitment?
I saw counter-recruitment as a useful tactic not only for potentially starving the military of recruits– always a laudable goal for an anarchist opposed to war, but also to engage in dynamic activism that deviated from the predictable “big march, donate to us, go home” marches of the mainstream liberal/anti-war coalitions. With counter-recruitment, we picked the times and place and with so many public faces to the military, that was easy. It was also an idea that put us in potentially uncomfortable positions– outreach to communities of color that in some ways may share more in common with the recruiters in their neighborhood than with young, white anarchists. This, to me, was an exciting challenge and who can argue with talking to young folks about the choices potentially available to them– and how recruiters want to diminish those choices so as to better recruit them. Finally, the idea of a steady but unpredictable presence at my local recruitment center coupled with outreach to local high schools seemed to be a solid alternative to what was happening at the time.

I wish I could write about more than one actual protest. Sadly, that is all we pulled off, but it was successful. The use of the word anarchist in our press statement brought the gates down, an NYPD squad car on the sidewalk, and a gaggle of recruiters and cops waiting for potential mayhem. The “mayhem” was about 40 people holding banners, distributing pamphlets with some street theater and an unannounced trip to the Army National Guard office a half mile away. That day I thought to myself, “It’s a good start.” Of course, a few days later I got arrested and well, you may know that story. It ends with me here at MDC Brooklyn contemplating resistance, my own actions, and the usefulness of counter-recruitment as a tactic in the anti-war movement.

More than anything, I see post-9/11 counter-recruitment as representing an opportunity to break out of the bonds of boring, predictable and ritualistic anti-war activity into less chartered waters. In that way, it feels like what many called the “anti-globalization” movement to me because of the sense of dynamism, a refusal to wait for leaders to tell us what to do, and because, generally speaking, counter-recruitment makes sense and people get it.

We have a military that accepts people over 40, people convicted of crimes, those with neck and arm tattoos, and those who get “Ds” on the aptitude test to enlist. Of course, I’m not passing judgment on those people (how could I being a felon with a tattoo!), but it shows how desperate the military has become. This doesn’t even cover “stop loss” where folks are being sent back second and third times over in Iraq and Afghanistan. Counter-recruitment is a strong “no” not only to the wars the United States is currently engaged in, but also future wars and the 100+ U.S. military bases all over the world.


War Resisters League (WRL)
This organization had an influx of new staff members who are shaking up the organization and doing good work. I hear they have a new website and their newspaper is now called “Win” and its content and design is much improved.

DMZ Guide
This guide put out by the youth and counter-recruitment department of WRL (now sliding scale!) is the guide to counter-recruitment for students and a useful resource. It even features photos of our December 2005 counter-recruitment protest.

Pittsburgh Organizing Group (POG)
This radical and community-based group runs a consistent and vigilant counter-recruitment campaign. They also do support for anti-war political prisoners like David Segal (released!) and Brendan Walsh– write him

Brendan Walsh
FCI Allenwood Low
Post Office Box 1000
White Deer, Pennsylvania 17887

American Friends Service Committee (AFSC)
Great flyers you can download and order.

Central Committee for Conscientious Objectors (CCCO)
This group has excellent counter-recruitment resources and runs the GI Rights Hotline. They also publish “AWOL.”

Military Free Zone

The Project on Youth and Non-military Opportunities (Project YANO)

Eugene Peaceworks Committee for Countering Military Recruitment

The New Yorkers’ Guide to Military Recruitment
These guides are most useful to New Yorkers, but have great information
for anyone and are FREE.

D.C. Anti-War Network’s (DAWN) Counter Recruitment Working Group

Code Pink’s Counter-recruitment Working Group
Includes their Youth Ally Guide and other useful ideas and resources

Why Write?

Tuesday, August 21st, 2007

It’s a question I have been pondering the last two months since I reported to prison and the clock started ticking. Why, indeed? What do I have to say that is new or fresh? Will I bore people with repetitive tomes about my case or the Green Scare? Do people want to read what I write? All these questions haunt me as I put pen to paper attempting to deal with a ton of unexpressed thoughts and emotions made worse by a self-imposed silence during my legal proceedings. Where do I even begin? I doubt at times whether I can handle the release of these emotions—anger, frustration, betrayal, profound sadness. . . I fear that there won’t be a lesson or a neat and clean conclusion to what I write about—that you’ll get to the end and ask, “So yeah, that sucked—what am I supposed to do?” The idea that anyone might think I know also freaks me out.

As in all things though, you learn by doing. You start the journey with that first step, you are that much closer to leaving prison after the first day or month or year. I’m in prison so what sense is there in not trying to make sense of it all, to not risk failing or looking stupid or being wrong. So, I’ve decided to write—to not wring my hands endlessly, scared to release my writings. I’ve even figured out some damn good reasons to write too—I’m going to write because we need to be more flexible in our approach and if I can’t be on the streets fighting my ass off for a better world, well, at least I can speak my truth on these pages. Because we live in a world where people who abuse women rarely go to prison and when they do, go in for a few years while people who destroy the inanimate property of multi-national corporations go in for longer, Because silence is complicity and I won’t be bullied or silenced by prosecutors who brag that I was forced to self-report early because of my website and speaking on Democracy Now, Because I’ve lost some friends and comrades these past years and they can’t, Because I never for a second will accept the label of “terrorist” for trying to call attention to what our species is doing to our planet, and because maybe we can all learn from mistakes I have made.

See, there really are some good reasons to write despite my fears after all. I don’t know what this path of exploration will look like but I’ll do my best to keep digging and fighting.

My friend Jonathan Paul

Wednesday, August 8th, 2007

My time at MDC continues with little access to stamps and envelopes so I think these little entries on my blog can help me be in touch with as many of you as possible. Forgive me if I don’t have new things to say about where I’m at – it’s quite mundane and really, I have a tremendous backlog, so to speak, of things to write about. On that note…

I didn’t meet Jonathan Paul until the Spring of 2006 – some 5 months after my arrest – a fact some may find amusing when you consider the government’s propaganda about “the Family” (the name they love to use for dramatic impact in the media…and courts). Having lived in the Northwest, I couldn’t help but know of Jonathan being lucky enough to have mutual friends and hear campfire tales of resistance to grand juries, advocacy for what they call “fur animals” and integrity through it all. On some level, the government was right – we were both involved in trying to protect ecosystems and animals in the Northwest and thus, part of a big family. This family though wasn’t (isn’t?) the sensationalized image the government used in our prosecution but a community that valued life over property, compassion over greed and integrity over cooperation.

This is something not well known about the plea negotiations undertaken by the hard-working lawyers of the non-cooperating defendants in the “Operation Backfire” case. The plea was an all or nothing deal – either all of us took it or the deal was gone. Jonathan, unlike myself, Sadie (s/n: Joyanna Zacher) and Exile (s/n: Nathan Block) did not have the dreaded and absurd 924c counts (use of a destructive device). He was facing one conspiracy count and one arson count for his role in the arson of the Cavel West horse slaughterhouse meaning he could have gone to trial and conceivably faced 5 years. Myself, Exile and Sadie were facing life plus an insane number of years due to the all too typical over-charging by the feds. Jonathan could have gone to trial. He could have rolled the die and possibly won, but he didn’t. He refused to let us hang and lose the plea deal and for that I am eternally grateful to him.

These are the untold stories of this case – how ordinary people facing massive time can still act with honor. There is nothing unique or special about any of us and, in fact, I am constantly shaking my head at my mistakes I have made in life and with this case (Can you say wiretap?!)

My point is simple – Jonathan Paul is an excellent person and he deserves your support even though he won’t ever ask for it. He got sentenced to a 51 month sentence last week and will be reporting to prison in 2 months. Please make sure he is supported and do not forget the principled manner in which he conducted himself.

Finally, I want to thank the overzealous, Green scare-ing prosecutors and federal agents running the farce known as “Operation Backfire” for introducing me to Jonathan Paul. Our families and wives have been supportive of each other and I’m happy to have finally met Jonathan.

Jonathan’s info:

Friends of Jonathan Paul
PMB 267
2305 Ashland Street, Ste. C
Ashland, OR 97520


PS – It’s a wonderful postscript to this case that horse slaughtering has finally been banned and places such as Cavel West can no longer legally operate in the US.