From Iraq to the Pacific: Confronting US imperialism

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Re-energizing the U.S. peace and justice movement requires both responding to immediate crises and pursuing a long-haul strategy. Today's crisis: Iraq is in immediate headline-grabbing danger of U.S. military intervention. The long haul: Washington has made it a strategic, defense-of-empire priority to stop China from becoming a "peer competitor."

The next Abyss
My War Times colleague Felicia Gustin drove home the reasons another round of U.S. militarism in Iraq is a terrible idea: "Bombs will make the situation worse... More war is no way to honor U.S. soldiers.... Iraq needs reconciliation and reconstruction, not the rebooting of war". Urgent action is needed to prevent Washington from pursuing its third unjust and destructive intervention in that country a quarter-century.

Gustin's three key points on why war in Iraq is a dead-end are vivid, immediate examples of Sarah Lazare's insistence in War Times May Month in Review that:
"To take on gendered and racialized violence in the world, it is necessary to look at the whole picture-from the interpersonal social fabric of society to the underpinnings of U.S. empire."
Calling for "movements for rehumanization, solidarity, and resistance," Lazare gives a shout out to all those working for peace against difficult odds. She doesn't flinch from noting that if you're an empire, breaking up is hard to do. She points to what it will take to make a breakthrough in our efforts; here are the terms:

"A real end to war in the 21st Century will come from a vibrant feminist movement without borders that stands together in declaring Black African girls' lives matter and should not be used as propaganda for U.S. military intervention. That affirms that Palestinian children should not be shot in the street and Iraqi civilians not barrel bombed from the sky. That pulls the veil off of the covert and insidious creep of U.S. military presence and calls a war what it is...."

History does not wait
Can "we happy few" put together a movement strong enough to turn Lazare's vision into reality? It will have to happen relatively soon though. History does not usually wait for people of goodwill to "get it right." Are we already plunging headlong into yet another abyss, and then one after that? At the risk of disturbing some readers and alienating others, let me stare into the abyss and speculate about a frightening scenario of what the world could look like in a decade.
United States imperialism, so used to settling things by speaking its first language -violence - already finds it is increasingly unable to control populations or events in this manner. Ten years down the road this will be even more apparent, as devotees of the Wahabbist strand of Islamic Fundamentalism - that 18th century driver of much 21st century terrorism - fill the resistance space once occupied by a now-decimated left in much of the Middle East. They may even succeed in establishing their long-sought Caliphate and exercise sovereignty over much of what today is Iraq, Syria and Lebanon. The Crusader State of Israel, Turkey and, perhaps a new Kurdish State, in an alliance of convenience with the European Union and Russia, will emerge as a countervailing force to this Caliphate. The U.S., even if it attempts new rounds of military intervention, will not be able to halt this process, in part because Washington has had to shift its shrinking resources elsewhere. Africa will rise higher on the U.S. priority list, as using the excuse of 'fighting terrorism" Washington will try to entrench its AFRICOM-led presence militaire to secure control of precious metals and other resources. And if recent events in Mali, Nigeria, Kenya and Somalia point to anything, it is Washington's future inability to militarily protect U.S. interests in situations of gross inequality, colonial history and groups willing to employ terrorism.

Russia, feeling under assault both from the U.S.- note the provocations in recent months to draw that nation into compromised political and military positions, as regards the Syrian civil war, and the negotiations concerning Iranian nuclear power...and the most extreme elements of political Islam in its own terrorist insurgencies in Chechen, and the establishment of a fascist regime in the Ukraine under the guise of economic reform. Russia will be especially disturbed when after 2016, U.S. departs from Afghanistan. Washington may well give an eyewink to the Taliban as they continue their project, interrupted in 2001. The Taliban may also be able to weaken, if not overthrow, the Pakistani government. And a resurgent Taliban, in alliance with their reactionary theocratic brethren in the Caliphate, then surround the Shiite-dominated Iranian Republic. It is a small step from there to envision jihadist efforts to isolate and destabilize that country, probably with U.S and Israeli assistance.

By this time the conflicts in Xinxiang Province, People's Republic of China - ethnic tensions, inequality and again some elements turning to terrorism - may have spread to other parts of Central Asia. This will undermine Chinese, Russian and Central Asian states' ability to develop a 21st century silk-road consisting of trade in energy projects all the way to Europe, new forms of industrialization and more.

If it's been said once, it's been said a thousand times, and it is as true as ever: working and poor people across the globe... and women and children in the first instance... pay the highest price for all of these power-seeking/retaining maneuvers by imperial guardians, imperial wannabes, and other reactionaries. The inequalities, violence, sectarian hatreds, racist xenophobia, forced migration, and the extremes of weather suffered by all due to the roller-coaster rides of climate the above scenario, these will be the lot of the majority of the world's peoples. As I write, the people of Gaza are undergoing yet another military holocaust. Is President Netanyahu determined not to be outdone by General Stroop, SS commander at the destruction of the Warsaw Ghetto, 1943?

No scenario is inevitable
I am back to where we're at today. In real time: focusing on Iraq, Syria and Palestine; increased concern about Africa; occasional glance at the Pacific Ocean and what is brewing there.

If what I have described above holds water, then the goings-on in the Pacific deserve to be given more attention and sharper focus. Washington insists its "Asia pivot" is not about a forthcoming confrontation with the world's second economic power. But that is exactly what it's about. China is seen by Washington as the U.S.'s only possible global competitor. The Pentagon and all its Humpty Dumpty's intelligence agencies are using hard power on the high seas and cyber-technology behind the scenes to head off an increasingly successful "peaceful rise" by the Chinese. A central focus of U.S. maneuvers are the spats between Japan, China, Vietnam and the Philippines over various island chains, which taken together form a "toll booth" between the Western Pacific and Indian Oceans. Along the way there are feints and mixed signals: just in the past two months the U.S. accuses China of cyber-espionage, then their Defense Chiefs hold friendly diplomatic visits, meanwhile Russia and China hold joint naval maneuvers.

We are about movement-building, not passively waiting for others to determine the future. We can affect events. If I have taken the reader on this whirlwind global tour it is because to do so we need to be about building a movement that can do a lot more than respond to crises staring us right in the face. We may be small and feel weak today, but let's recall the difference we've made over the last ten-plus years. With mixed results, we expanded the migrant rights movement, we expanded the ecology and environment movements, tens of thousands of workers have joined trade unions, and unions and other workers organizations are discovering their commonalities and moving away from their differences.

Finally, (and here's where I get in trouble but so what?!!) we elected this country's first Black president in 2008, and reelected him in 2012 to drive the point home. And we can argue the value of this historic event until the cows come home. The point is that all of these activities kept a lot of us from staying home and sulking. With introspection about what we can do better we can move toward rapid resurrection and expansion once more and again. We have been learning the hard but rich way that peace and justice are two sides of the same coin. Success - especially in a period where racial and economic justice battles are the main focus of most progressives in this country - demands that we deal in the full scope of that coinage.

Trade unions at all levels are working with immigrant rights, domestic workers, day laborers and other workers who not long ago organized labor would have been written off. Community-based organizations of color and women's organizations are increasingly linking the violence in their everyday lives and experiences to the militarization of police regimes in our cities. That militarization would have been impossible without the transfer of Pentagon technology and practices to police usage. (A must-read: Cities Under Siege: The New Military Urbanism, by Stephen Graham)

So we have many struggles to build on and many strands to weave together. A lot of ordinary people are doing extraordinary things; they can keep our rebuilt movement from dealing in counterfeit coinage. But we need a scaffolding of fighters who, while in the immediate mix, are always on the lookout for what's coming down the pike, a collective of people who are skilled at treating gender, race, class issues and questions as tools to offset the disunity that these distinctions engender when wielded by the present powers-that-be. We need a collective Mark Twain steamboat pilot: we spend long periods looking at the entire Mississippi River, every bend, every sandbar. And then one day the sandbar shifts and we all have to be on top of this shift in 48 hours. Then we can act accordingly, following the advice that's right there in Huckleberry Finn:
"I do not wish any reward but to know I have done the right thing."

A version of this article originally was posted as the Month in Review Op Ed of War Times, an online publication concerned with questions of class, race, and gender in building the movement for peace and justice. Gary Hicks is a member of the War Times collective.

Photo     Demonstration against the Iraq war, Washington DC January 2007.    Ben Sears/ PA

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  • The New Imperialism:
    Building a peace and justice movement is certainly an important way to confront U.S imperialism. Even more so because post-Cold War imperialism, the new imperialism, is more virulent and violence prone than Cold War imperialism. The Soviet Union was a powerful restraining influence on U.S. imperialism during the Cold War years. The Soviet Union helped to ‘contain’ imperialism by its political, economic, and military support for anti-colonial and national liberation movements. The demise of the Soviet Union has meant that American and European imperialism are free to intervene unopposed in any area of the world. But interventions, regime changes and so-called nation building have not been totally unopposed. With the demise of the Soviet Union, nationalities have gravitated towards ethnic, racial, and religious identities to assert their freedoms from imperialism. But that only makes it easier to divide and conquer colonial peoples. In the Middle East, it is about pitting Shia against Sunni Islam. The costly toll of post-Cold War imperialism is even more evident at home as the ruling capitalist elites impose austerity economics and attempt to end the welfare state. They are also building a national security police state that is highly militarized and ready to criminalize and squash any dissent. The Right-Wing will also use divide and conquer tactics to keep the working classes disunited and fragmented. Cold War imperialism involved class collaboration as the working classes received good wages, benefits, and secure pensions as their reward for helping to contain communism at home and abroad. Under the new imperialism and economic austerity, the working classes and unions are being kicked to the curb as they are no longer needed. The challenge to the new imperialism will have to come from people’s power, i.e. peace and justice movements. To maintain global hegemony and control, the Western imperial powers will have to exercise greater violence abroad while increasing militarization and police state tactics at home. Ruling capitalist elites have nothing more to offer the masses to keep them pacified in this age of heartless austerity economics. As they pursue, secure, and compete for the markets and raw materials of the world, the imperial powers face either revolution at home, imperial wars abroad, or both. They face a truly threatening and inevitable dilemma. NT

    Posted by Nat Turner, 09/01/2014 8:07am (8 years ago)

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