And Real Criminals Go Unpunished

Michigan State University student Ahlam Mohsen is in jail with bail set at $250,000. She faces up to five years in prison. She was arrested for throwing an apple pie at US Senator Carl Levin’s face.

The “Support Ahlam Mohsen” Facebook group says that Levin was chosen for the insult because he chairs the Senate Armed Services Committee, and thereby holds significant influence over United States military policy.

US military policy has destroyed many thousands of lives in pursuit of power for Washington policy-makers. estimates more than 1.3 million Iraqi deaths due to the US occupation. Fallujah has seen dramatic increases in birth defects and cancers since the 2004 US invasion. Attacks by unmanned aircraft frequently kill civilians in Pakistan. The US military covers up shootings of civilians and puts whistleblowers like Bradley Manning in cages.

This, after decades of covert and overt interventions to project United States power around the world, and all the death, misery, poverty, and tyranny they entail. Those responsible for these crimes suffer no punishment, while a person who threw a pie at a member of the ruling elite is sent to prison.

The parallels of Mohsen and her pie to Muntadhar al-Zaidi, an Iraqi journalist who threw his shoes at George W. Bush (a president who rode a wave of bigotry to lie America into war) are obvious. Al-Zaidi was imprisoned and Bush retired to his ranch.

Insults like hurled shoes and pies don’t exactly mimic the effect of a wooden shoe (a “sabot”) dropped into the gears of the war machine (“sabotage”). But they can be an effective statement of dissent.

A prominent display of disrespect demonstrates that not everyone is with the program, that not everything is under control. It is a public refusal to show reverence for the higher-ups as they direct the focus of oppression. It can also be used to point out individuals who should be held accountable for the actions they’ve taken or ordered taken. There is no single person who is to blame for a war, and all the politicians who would rather sign off on murder than risk losing their precious political power should be implicated.

Showing support for those who insult authority figures shows disapproval for what the authorities are doing. Those who would condemn a pie-thrower for being disrespectful ought to explain why the targets deserve respect in the first place.

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