Saturday, March 16, 2019

CRISES IN THE PEACE MOVEMENT?THE NEED TO MAKE OUR VOICES HEARD MORE! (revised and edited from a June 25, 2016 essay)

The United States will revoke or deny visas to International Criminal Court personnel seeking to investigate alleged war crimes and other abuses committed by U.S. forces in Afghanistan or elsewhere, and may do the same with those who seek action against Israel, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Friday (Matthew Lee, “US Bars Entry to International Investigators,” Associated Press, March 16, 2019).

Harry Targ
Historian, Michael Stanley, in an essay entitled “‘We are Not Denmark’: Hillary Clinton and Liberal American Exceptionalism,” (Common Dreams, February 26, 2016) points to the ideological glue that is used by foreign policy elites, liberal and conservative, to justify the pursuit of neoliberal globalization and militarism; that is the reintroduction of the old idea of American Exceptionalism, which in various forms has been used by elites since the foundation of the Republic. 

The modern version, borne in the context of continental and global expansion, serves to justify an imperial US role in the world. Along with posturing that the United States is somehow special and has much to offer the world, American Exceptionalism presumes the world has little to offer the United States. The only difference between Democrats and Republicans on foreign policy is whether the exceptionalism still exists and must be maintained or has dissipated requiring the need to “make America great again.” Leaders of both parties, however, support the national security state, high military expenditures, and a global presence—military, economic, political, and cultural.
Techniques of Empire Today 

Although the imperial agenda, and the ideological precepts justifying it, has remained the same for two hundred years the techniques of empire have changed as growing resistance at home and abroad and new technologies dictate. Changes in warfare, other violence, and imperial expansion include the following:
-Wars are internal much more than international and casualties are overwhelmingly civilian rather than military.

-The global presence of some form of the United States military is ubiquitous-between 700-and 1,000 military bases, in anywhere from 40 to 120 countries

- US military operations have been privatized. A 2010 Washington Post report found 1,911 intelligence contracting firms doing top secret work for 1,271 government organizations at over 10,000 sites. Ninety percent of such work is being done by 110 contractors.

-More “Unmanned Aerial Vehicles” have been used to kill alleged enemies over the last eight years as the entire prior period of US military operations. Drones have come home as their use by the Dallas police recently showed.
-US agencies, such as the CIA, have been engaged in the increased use of assassinations and efforts to undermine governments. One report indicated that there are 13,000 assassination commandoes operating around the world.

-So-called “humanitarian assistance” is used to support United States policies in the Middle East, Africa, and Latin America. For example, a New York Times story reported that at least 40 American groups received $200 million in tax-deductible gifts for Jewish settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem over the last decade.
Some generalizations we can draw from the new techniques of war are the following:

-Imperial rule has become global.
-The Military/industrial complex has expanded beyond President Eisenhower’s wildest nightmares. Large sectors of military operations—from cooking and cleaning to killing—have been privatized.

-Military operations continue and expand without “boots on the ground.” Empires can kill with impunity.
Recently, Nick Turse and colleagues reported on data indicating that the United States has been engaged in secret military training of personnel in many countries, what they called ‘a shadowy network of U.S. programs that every year provides instruction and assistance to approximately 200,000 foreign soldiers, police, and other personnel.”  (Douglas Gillison, Nick Turse,  Moiz Syed, “How the U.S. Trains Killers Worldwide,” Portside, July 13, 2016).

Their report is worth further quoting:

“The data show training at no fewer than 471 locations in 120 countries...involving on the U.S. side, 150 defense agencies, civilian agencies, armed forces colleges, defense training centers, military units, private companies, and NGOs, as well as the National Guard forces of five states.” Perhaps most important for the peace movement is the following: Despite the fact that the Department of Defense alone has poured some $122 billion into such programs since 9/11, the breadth and content of this training network remain virtually unknown to most Americans.”
Impacts of 21st Century Imperialism

By any measure the pain and suffering brought by 21st century imperialism is staggering. US Labor Against the War recently reported that sources estimate 1.3 million people, mostly in the Middle East and South Asia, have died due to the war on terrorism initiated in 2001. They quote a research report that estimates that one million Iraqis have died since 2003 and an additional 220,000 citizens of Afghanistan and 80,000 from Pakistan. Other sources claim these figures are too conservative and remind us of the untold thousands upon thousands who have died directly from war and violence in Libya, Syria, Yemen, Bahrain, and elsewhere in the Middle East, South Asia, and North Africa.
These figures, of course, address deaths directly attributed to war and terrorism but do not include economic sanctions, massive flight of peoples from war zones, persecution by authoritarian regimes, environmental devastation and drone strikes and assassinations. Large areas of the globe, centered in the Middle East and North Africa, are ungovernable with foreign intervention and anomic domestic violence on the rise. In a troubling essay by Patrick Cockburn the author asserts that:

“We live in an age of disintegration. Nowhere is this more evident than in the Greater Middle East and Africa. Across the vast swath of territory between Pakistan and Nigeria, there are at least seven ongoing wars-in Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, Yemen, Libya, Somalia, and South Sudan. These conflicts are extraordinarily destructive. They are tearing apart the countries in which they are taking place in ways that make it doubtful they will ever recover.” (Patrick Cockburn, “The Age of Disintegration: Neoliberalism, Interventionism, the Resource Curse, and a Fragmenting World,” The Unz Review: Mobile, June 28, 2016).
Cockburn suggests that this fragmentation has core features: no winners and losers, deconstruction of states, massive population upheavals and migrations, religious fundamentalism   replacing socialist and/or nationalist politics, and outside interventions. The Global South project Vijay Prashad described so well in The Darker Nations has been superseded by competing fundamentalist projects.

Recent Specific Cases
NATO/Ukraine/New Cold War

Leaders of the 28 NATO countries met in summit in Poland in 2016 to reaffirm their commitment to the military alliance that was established in 1949 for the sole purpose of protecting the European continent from any possible Soviet military intervention. With the collapse of the former Soviet Union, rather than dissolving, NATO took on the task of policing the world for neoliberal globalization and the states ‘victorious” in the Cold War. NATO was the official operational arm of military operations in the former Yugoslavia in the 1990s and the military force that would destroy the Gaddafi regime in Libya. 
After the collapse of the Soviet Bloc, NATO incorporated the states in Eastern Europe that had been affiliated with it. Now Poland, Hungary, and the Baltic States, many with neo-Fascist governments, are the frontline in the ongoing hostilities with Russia. They and western financiers from Ukraine, with substantial assistance from the United States, engineered the coup that ousted a corrupt but elected President in Ukraine. This set off an ongoing civil war between those in the population who wanted to continue ties to Russia and others who wanted Ukraine to join the European Union and NATO. The instability in Kiev was orchestrated by high US state department officials who advocate a New Cold War with Russia.

At the NATO summit it was agreed to establish four battalion-sized “battle groups” in Poland and the Baltic states. To use the language of the Cold War, this small force could serve as a “trip wire” that could precipitate an “incident” and a major war with Russia. NATO agreed to bolster the Ukraine military. The alliance would commit to establishing a controversial missile defense system in Eastern Europe.  And NATO countries promised to spend two percent of their budgets on the military. The continued commitment of the United States was affirmed by then President Obama.
The Asian Pivot

In 2011, US spokespersons announced that the country would shift resources and attention to Asia from the Middle East, an area with demanding security and economic interests. Although US/Chinese dialogue continues the United States has criticized China’s repositioning of what it regards as its possessions in the South China Sea. The United States has expanded military relations with Vietnam, reestablished military bases in the Philippines, and has generally avoided criticizing efforts by ruling Japanese politicians to revise their constitution to allow for a full-scale remilitarization. Despite recent attempts at negotiations between North and South Korea and the United States tensions on the peninsula remain. And most mainstream U.S. politicians and pundits have resisted Trump’s outreach to the North Koreans. On the economic front the United States was instrumental in building support for the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) to challenge Chinese economic hegemony in the region. Although President Trump rebuffed the TPP, with a continued US presence in the region, the possibility of a New Cold War in Asia remains.
The Middle East

Most American politicians express their belief that the US must maintain a special relationship with the state of Israel. One of the few active mobilizations for peace today is the worldwide campaign to demand governments, corporations, and other institutions boycott, and divest holdings in what is regarded as an apartheid state, Israel, which oppresses its Arab population and those living in the Occupied Territories. The campaign is so effective that along with national politicians, governors and state legislatures have taken stands against the BDS campaign.
Next to the historic US ties to Israel, most analysts see the deconstruction of the Middle East that Cockburn wrote about as a direct result of the Iraq war initiated in 2003. Over the next decade, Syria, Libya, Yemen and other countries have been torn apart by civil war fueled by western, primarily US, intervention, continuing US support of Saudi Arabian militarism, and the fractionalization of states in the region, most recently Turkey. 

This ten-year war on the Middle East has created a growing terrorist response directed at western targets and an ideological campaign, including calls to violence, against all the traditional imperial powers who dominated the region for one hundred years. As Cockburn suggested, with the successful United States and European war on radical nationalism in the region since the onset of the Cold War, secularism has been replaced by religious fundamentalism as the dominant ideological force in the region.
With this as a backdrop, the United States response to violence is stepped up high-tech killing justified by a public campaign that demonizes Muslim people in the United States and everywhere in the world.

Nick Turse reported on the growing US military presence on the African continent. A special command structure, AFRICOM, was established in 2008 to oversee US security interests on the continent. Initially, the Pentagon claimed that it had one larger base, Camp Lemonnier in Djibouti. But enterprising researchers discovered that the US military has a dense network of “cooperative security outposts,” bases and other sites of military presence, at least 60 across the continent, in 34 countries. The US has defense attaches in 38 countries. 

An Oxford researcher was quoted by Turse on the new oversite of the African continent.
“AFRICOM, as a new command, is basically a laboratory for a different kind of warfare and a different way of posturing forces...Apart from Djibouti, there’s no significant stockpiling of troops, equipment, or even aircraft. There are a myriad of ‘lily pads’ or small forward operating bases…so you can spread out even a small number of forces over a very large area and concentrate those forces quite quickly when necessary” (Nick Turse, “America’s Empire of African Bases,” November 17, 2015).

Latin America
United States foreign policy toward Latin America has taken a variety of forms since the onset of the 21st century. The United States, in the older mold, encouraged and assisted in the failed military coup against Hugo Chavez in 2002 and gave at least quiescent support to the military overthrow of Honduran President Zelaya in 2009. At the same time the United States has curried the favor of upper-class opponents of the regimes transformed by the Bolivarian Revolution: Venezuela, Bolivia, Ecuador, Paraguay, and Uruguay. Two larger countries Argentina and Brazil have experienced domestic political turmoil in recent years, to some extent driven by internecine politics and corruption. The United States, in all these cases has networked with opposition political forces, sometimes encouraging countries like Brazil and Venezuela to launch votes of no confidence or impeachment proceedings against governments that have stood against the US neoliberal economic agenda. Some have referred to the new US strategy in the region as one of creating “silent coups.”

For a time the influence of the United States weakened as a result of the onset of the Bolivarian Revolution and the distain Latin Americans hold toward the United States because of its long-standing efforts to isolate Cuba. President Obama in collaboration with President Castro announced a new opening of relations between the two countries in December, 2014 and US economic constraints on travel, trade, and investment were reduced (although the blockade continued). What remained similar to past US policy toward Cuba, however, was the stated aims of the new relationship: the promotion of democracy and markets. It was no mere coincidence that President Obama visited Cuba in March, 2016 and then flew to Argentina to negotiate with the newly elected neoliberal President Macri of Argentina.  However, since Trump came in office, and particularly now with his diplomatic team of John Bolton and Mike Pompeo, improving United States/Cuban relations have been reversed.
So Where Does the Peace Movement Go From Here?

Analyses of what is wrong are easier to develop than thinking through ways to respond. Today’s peace movement is just beginning to revitalize itself. As suggested above, the foreign policy elites have a hegemonic vision of the role of the United States in the world today and tomorrow. And they have at their disposal 21st century military technologies to maintain their power in the world. The consequences of force and intervention have been horrific for billions of people. 

Approaches to rebuilding the peace movement in 2019 should include the following:
1.Develop a theory, a conceptual scheme about the multiplicity of connected issues that affect people’s lives linking economics, politics, militarism, and culture. Think about a diamond shaped figure. At the base is an economic system, at this point in time, finance capitalism. Above the base at the two side points are militarism on one side and racism and sexism on the other. At the top add destruction of nature. Conceptualizing the war problem in this way we begin to see the connections between the 21st century state of capitalism as a global system and war, racism, sexism, and environmental destruction.

2.Use the theory or schema to develop an educational program that begins with efforts to understand the fundamentals of the war system (direct and structural violence as peace researchers put it). Use the schema as programs on specific issues are prepared. Always relate the specific issue at hand: Israel/Palestine, Ukraine, undermining regimes in Latin America for example, to the diamond.
3.Participate in grassroots organizing in solidarity with others, always linking issues to the war/peace paradigm. One error participants in the various Moral Mondays campaigns of 2014 made was to accede to the idea that Moral Mondays should only be about state legislative issues, not national or international ones. However, the New Poor Peoples Campaign, launched in 2018, has drawn on Dr. King’s conceptualization of the inextricable connection between three evils: poverty, racism, and militarism.

4.Engage in global solidarity. The analysis above has emphasized the forces of global hegemony, or imperialism. It is critical to be aware of and support the grassroots ferment that is occurring all across the globe; from Arab Spring; to the Bolivarian Revolution; to anti-austerity campaigns in Greece, Spain, Quebec, and elsewhere, and the broadening climate change movement that encompasses the globe.
The tasks of a 21st century peace movement are not different from those of the past. They involve education, organization, and agitation. With the growth of worldwide resistance to neoliberal globalization, austerity, racism, sexism, and destruction of nature, it seems natural to incorporate concerns for peace and the right to national and personal self-determination to the budding radical movements of our day.

And with the even more brutal extension of 21st century imperialism today, including starving the Venezuelan people, supporting neo-Fascist governments such as Saudi Arabia as it slaughters citizens of Yemen, and rejecting the most vital of international institutions such as the International Criminal Court, the peace movement must move from protest, to politics, to resistance.

Tuesday, March 12, 2019


Harry Targ

There is a time when the operation of the machine becomes so odious, makes you so sick at heart, that you can't take part. You can't even passively take part! And you've got to put your bodies upon the gears and upon the wheels, upon the levers, upon all the apparatus, and you've got to make it stop!

Mario Savio, Sproul Hall, University of California, Berkeley (1964-12-02).

The United States has launched a blockade of Venezuela that is designed to starve the people into surrender. That has been the policy toward Cuba since 1962, Chile from 1970 to 1973, and was the policy of the United States toward Nicaragua in the 1980s. This campaign of slow but steady starvation has been designed to force the people, because of the sapping of their physical energies, to surrender to United States demands that include accepting a new leadership which collaborates with United States economic and political interests.
The policies are so cruel that they have to be sanitized and reconceptualized to secure quiescent support from the US people. Here the mainstream media steps in. The political narrative, from the White House, to the Department of Defense, to the State Department, to corporate-funded think tanks projects both a demonic story about the “enemy,” and an altruistic story about United States goals.

The targeted countries, whether they were/are Cuba, Chile under Salvador Allende, Nicaragua under Sandinista rule, or today the Maduro government of Venezuela are characterized in the following ways. As to economics, these regimes have failed to provide for the material needs of their people. The alleged history of them has been of unmitigated disaster: never mind the redistribution of wealth, the provisioning of education and healthcare to the vast majorities, the distribution of modest but adequate food for all. These policies, the official narrative says, are the cause of the problems citizens face, not the solutions.
As to politics, the regimes the United States wishes to undermine are dictatorships. Never mind elections, the creation of local popular assemblies, support for mass organizations; authoritarianism prevails (of course, contrary to regimes such as Brazil, or Colombia where violence, intimidation, and inordinate power are in the hands of tiny ruling classes). If there are no elections, no more needs to be said. If there are elections, their authenticity must be questioned. If voice is given to people in barrios, trade unions, women’s organizations, and rural and urban neighborhoods at the expense of tiny wealthy classes, the country is by definition anti-democratic (in Orwellian terms, democracy is dictatorship and dictatorship is democracy).

In response to despotism, the United States, the indispensable nation, the exceptional nation, the icon of democracy must step in to right the wrongs. Unfortunately, creating democracy requires alliances with other states (who on their own could be demonized). Unfortunate but necessary policies might require military interventions, covert operations, economic sanctions and boycotts, and international campaigns to ostracize and isolate the transgressor nations.
And this history has been repeated over and over again. The Spanish/Cuban/American war provided the United States with the opportunity to defeat competing colonial powers in the Western Hemisphere and to establish a regional and global presence (including taking the Philippines and slaughtering thousands of its own citizens who thought they would at last control their own destinies). A two-ocean navy was followed by building a war machine in the twentieth century that was second to none. After occupying Cuba and Puerto Rico perpetual Marine interventions and occupations of countries in the Caribbean and Latin America ensued over the next century. But this history is conveniently left out of the prevailing narratives about demonic states and US altruism.

Ken Kesey wrote in One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest about a “fog machine” that clouded the vision and rationality of the inmates of the insane asylum. As we read the daily reports on United States policy toward Venezuela, we can see how we in the United States are all inmates in an insane asylum.