Torque the System Towards Radical Action!
In the immediate aftermath of the US war against Iraq, some folks who oppose a global US military empire are feeling discouraged and isolated. This is a big mistake — in this unsettled period, there are tremendous opportunities to advance the struggle against capitalism and its military empires.
The period leading up to the war brought millions of people around the world out into the streets against the war. Bush didn’t seem to care, and the war went ahead anyway. Big fucking deal! The point here isn’t that the war happened in spite of massive protest — the point is the massive protest, and that millions of people have learned a crucial lesson — that the political system is just going to ignore their polite protests.
The disappointment of millions of people who were unsuccessful in stopping the war using polite protest can lead in two directions: either people will be pushed into apathy and silence, or they’ll get radicalized and start to realize that the only way to stop the system’s drive towards mass murder is to figure out how to disrupt, resist and fight the system. If the system won’t listen to the people, the people will have to tear the system down as an act of self-defense.
The war, the disunity over the war amongst the capitalist powers, the crisis at the UN, and the global popular resistance to the war all disrupted the previous political balance. Like a balloon that was over-inflated and burst, all of the pieces of the game have been briefly tossed into the air.
Such an historical rupture can open the way for massive social change. The direction of that change is unknown, with all parties hoping to seize the moment and promote their own agenda. It’s up to the anti-war movement, and particularly radicals and anti-authoritarians within the anti-war movement, to make sure that the change in this unstable period is positive, not negative.
Now is a crucial time to organize, continue the struggle, emphasize lessons learned, and transform the organizations and people mobilized by the war from the reactive anti-war effort to a struggle for something new. It’s essential in the aftermath of the war to describe what we’re for — and move beyond what we’re against.
Our alternative vision is of a world organized around freedom, self-determination, cooperation and meeting human needs — not domination, violence, coercion and profit. Most people realize that naked might shouldn’t make right. Its easy to confuse Bush’s inevitable military victory with a political victory — with winning the peace. The anti-war movement may have a better chance of discrediting military solutions after the war than it did preventing the war.
The anti-war struggle has radicalized portions of an entire generation. People who have been through the experience of optimistically marching and rallying — only to be dismissed and attacked — have become critical towards many social institutions. In particular the media, which normally serves to promote political and social stability and hegemony, has been discredited.
For millions of people in the US, the United States government is no longer “their” government — it is a hostile, repressive force that endangers them. For most people around the world, it has become clear that the greatest threat to peace and freedom is the US government operating as an unchallenged, unaccountable, nuclear-armed mono-power.
We are Citizens of the Earth
What tangible actions can people take to use the aftermath of the war against Bush’s drive to forge an American empire?
It has been inspiring to see the creativity and courage of the Iraq people’s resistance to Iraq’s occupation by US forces. Bush touted the invasion as an effort to bring “freedom” and liberation to Iraq. But within just a few days after US troops crushed military resistance, thousands of Iraqis began peacefully marching in the streets — with English language banners — demanding “Yankee Go Home.”
The Iraqi anti-occupation movement has generally not been pro-Saddam. Participants are happy to be rid of a dictatorship, but don’t want to see it replaced by an authoritarian American client state. Here in the United States, anti-war activists should do everything we can to support Iraqi resistance to the occupation. American soldiers have been shooting into peaceful crowds, killing dozens of civilian demonstrators. The American anti-imperialist movement should make clear that the blood shed in Iraq is our brothers’ and sisters’ blood, and we will hold the US military regime accountable.
We can have solidarity with the Iraqis — while advancing our own domestic goals — by keeping news of Iraqi resistance in the headlines. The US media, after initial reporting about anti-American protest in Iraq, has largely gone silent on this topic. Does this mean that protests have stopped in Iraq? It seems unlikely. Perhaps it’s time to get a few independent media sources and civilian observers to Iraq.
As this article is being written, the American occupiers are quickly organizing a “new” regime to control Iraq. Not surprisingly, this involves merely recycling the old regime. Police and other officials under the former “evil” Baathist regime have now been rehired to be police and officials for the new “free” regime.
The difference is that now the leaders are American generals and Iraqi puppets of the Americans. Ordinary Iraqis are nervous to see their former oppressors re-armed, but Bush’s version of “freedom” doesn’t have much to do with the lives of ordinary people. As usual, the American rulers’ idea of “freedom” is freedom for American corporations to do business in Iraq. None of this is a surprise — western imperialism has always used local elites to control the local population.
Saddam’s regime was brutal, using summary execution, torture and a whole host of police state tactics. Unfortunately, the US commonly tolerates or promotes human rights violations in regimes it installs in countries it has “liberated.” Repressive conditions are common in countries supported by the US. Many of the countries that provided bases for the war against Iraq have horrible records of dictatorship, torture and repression. Agitating against US support for human rights violations can provide the American opposition opportunities to criticize the rush towards a larger US empire.
Before the war, a popular slogan was “no blood for oil.” It has been astonishing how quickly and boldly the American occupiers have made clear that dominance over oil was a primary goal of the war. As we go to press, the UN is poised to give the American occupiers direct control over the money generated by Iraqi oil sales. The money will supposedly be used for humanitarian aid and rebuilding Iraq.
The reality is that reconstruction will be carried out by huge American corporations with close ties to the Bush Administration. Bechtel was awarded — without competitive bidding — a $680 million contract for rebuilding only days after the fighting stopped. Vice-president Cheney’s old company Halliburton quietly obtained a contract that could be worth up to $7 billion (but may now “only” amount to $500 million) for rebuilding. The rush to war makes a bit more sense when one realizes that Bush’s close advisors and allies stand to make millions of dollars off Iraqi oil in the aftermath of the war. It is crucial that American radicals publicize these connections in the aftermath of the war.
The contradictions, lies and brutality pointed out above are just a few of the results of the war against Iraq. Now is the time for US activists to struggle to win the political war, and seize on the political instability in the aftermath of the war to promote an alternative vision for the future. We need to build on the anti-war mobilization and expand the base of people opposed to a US global military empire. Preventing future contemplated wars against Syria, Iran, North Korea, Sudan, Libya (and interventions in the Philippines, Indonesia, Colombia, Venezuela, etc.) is part of the picture, but isn’t enough. The American opposition has to be for something, not just against everything.
Just as Seattle and the globalization movement brought together environmentalists and labor / sweatshop activists, the resistance movement in the wake of the war must bring together the lessons and ideas of the anti-globalization activists with a new internationalism based on the anti-war movement. There are exciting opportunities to unite the US resistance movement with movements around the world who are struggling to resist US domination.
In the wake of the war against Iraq, there is no time to retreat into silence, apathy and defeatism. Like Joe Hill said, don’t mourn — ORGANIZE!!