Real Risks

| Federal Income Tax, National

Yesterday on Facebook, friend and fellow activist Sam Diener shared an article out of Afghanistan with me, “Afghan Taliban Reportedly Kill 20 Civilians Over ‘War Tax’.” The short article sourced from Radio Free Europe Radio Liberty/Radio Free Afghanistan reported:

An Afghan official said Taliban militants have killed 20 civilians who refused to pay them “war tax” in northern Kunduz Province. Kunduz police spokesman Sayed Sarwar Hussaini said on August 11 that the Taliban also shot and wounded 10 others over their refusal to pay the militant group.

I am immediately reminded of what minimal risks I face (and most of us in the U.S.) with my own war tax resistance. I hope I would be strong enough to say no to militarism under those circumstances too, but it’s impossible for me to really imagine that moment for those 30. I am awed at their refusal, which does not lessen the sadness at such news for lives lost in the name of endless war and killing.

Sam responded, “If secular pacifists honored murdered conscientious objectors as martyrs, it sounds like these 20 would qualify.” He wonders “if there might be a way to honor the 10 wounded survivors. Certainly, Malala Yousafzai has been a powerful voice for girls education, forgiveness, and nonviolent resistance.”

So many people who look into war tax resistance decide not to do it because of the risks, risks to bank accounts, salaries, relationships maybe. Hardly a risk of jail, but that one seems to loom large in people’s minds anyway.

Can we end this endless violence without risks? What will it take? Sam notes the courage of a young girl who went to school in the face of unimaginable danger and continues to speak out for a better world.

We admire so many other risk takers: Edward Snowden and Chelsea Manning. Today there are Israelis who refuse to take part in the assault on Gaza or the occupations and can expect a prison sentence. The organization Courage to Resist has a page of more than 115 profiles of U.S. military servicepersons who found the courage to risk court martial, prison, their careers, and say no to unjust war. NWTRCC also keeps a page of profiles of war tax resisters.

I believe war tax resistance can be a stronger force in opposition to war. If the government had to take more notice the risks would increase. It seems the least we in the U.S. can do to honor those unnamed civilians in Afghanistan is to find ways to strengthen our resistance and worry less about risks.

—Ruth Benn