The antiwar movement in the United States is severely divided at present. Even discounting the people who have drunk the Kool-Aid of the MSM or take at face value the pronouncements of US officials on foreign policy, there is much discussion around what divides the antiwar movement and how can it be reformulated in a broader context.
There are some who have said that as revolutionary socialists they don’t always agree with’pacifists’. I guess that is one guideline, but ‘revolution’ is different things to different people, and if you have ever gone to a nonviolence training you might have learned that the same is true of ‘pacifism’. I consider myself both nonviolent and a revolutionary thinker. There is a broad stroke that reflects the widest division of the antiwar movement as I see it. That is the division between those who ‘buy’ U.S. hegemony and those who don’t ‘buy’ it.
Recently, Phyllis Bennis, maven of the antiwar movement, wrote an article headlined ‘7 Ways to Deal with ISIS‘ which I found highly problematic. I listened to Bennis’ interview on The Real News and I liked most of her suggestions in that context, but, unfortunately, the ways in which she elaborated them for this article seemed to exemplify this divide between those who are seeking radical change and those who want a softer status quo.
Here are her 7 points:
1) Freeze the bank accounts of ISIS funders.
2) Negotiate partnerships with villages where oil pipelines run to cut ISIS oil revenues.
3) Work with partners in Europe and Turkey to stem the flow of Western recruits.
4) In Syria, convene rebel groups, the regime, civil society activists, and regional players like Turkey, Iran, Russia, and the Gulf States to restart negotiations for a political solution to the war.
5) In Iraq, condition all further assistance on the development of a more inclusive political order that protects the country’s minorities.
6) Link nuclear negotiations with Iran to a pledge from Tehran to rein in the Iranian-backed militias most likely to sow sectarian discord in Iraq.
7) Dramatically increase support for the United Nations’ badly underfunded humanitarian assistance programs for both Syrian and Iraqi refugees.
I don’t think that Phyllis is any more of a ‘pacifist’ than I am. But she seems to buy the status quo of U.S. hegemony and asserts guidelines for a more responsible use of this assumed power. I don’t ‘buy’ U.S. hegemony but I have some overlap with her points. However she doesn’t honor a boundary of where our power should end and other countries’ right to sovereignty and self determination begin.
In that light,I agree with points 1 and 3. The United States has a great deal of control over the global banking apparatus and is allied with many of those funding ISIS. So, freezing their accounts should be eminently doable and create an effective barrier to their operations. Stemming the flow of Western recruits might be a little more difficult. However, there are some obvious options available to diminish the interest of young people in the U.S. and Europe in joining ISIS. Stop the government propaganda that builds up ISIS so as to increase military spending and to diminish the regional countries that there is an interest in dismantling.
- Call a spade a spade.
- Stop speaking with awe about ISIS atrocities and perversities.
- Instead of glorying over how much ISIS has stolen, call them out as thieves. Note instances where their thievery might not have gained all that was advertised – for instance, the fotune in Iraqi dinar in the Mosul bank was most likely of limited value outside of iraq.
- Instead of eggagerating their conquests, and calling them ‘religious’ extremists, call them out as the murders and criminals they are.
- Acknowledge the significant aid they get from international sources; the fact that the people they govern fear them; that the seductive power they have over adolescent boys is a Peter Pan syndome, while luring them into military service violates international law and is a crime little different from pedophelia.
- U.S. corporations control much of the social media universe.
- Close their twitter accounts and lock them out of facebook. I had a Facebook account closed because I was allowing a prisoner to speak through it and tell his story.
- Take ISIS disgusting violent videos off youtube and wherever. You do it all the time for any video that offends a Zionist or violates a copyright. Why not get rid of those sexy beheadings and immolations? Quenton Tarantino fans may find them attractive, but this isn’t a fantasy we want to encourage.
- Don’t wallow in the atrocities that affect small numbers of people. Mention them in the news and move on to more important topics like Saudi bombing raids that kill in the tens and hundreds at a time and the Saudi execution of 100 people so far this year by beheading them in a public square; Israeli assaults on Gaza with heavy weapons that tear apart thousands of men women and children, and destroy the homes of hundreds of thousands more.
Point 2 is total B*S* because ISIS is using convoys of trucks to ship their oil into Turkey where it is sold through middlemen. And where are those villages she is referring to? In Turkey? in Kurdistan? If so, these are US allies and the negotiations should be at the national level. In fact, there is good reason to believe this oil is going to southern European countries where it is desperately needed because of the ongoing EU campaign of ‘austerity’ for economic laggards and sanctions on Russia.. Shortly after ISIS acquired its first oil wells in Eastern Syria, the EU lifted the embargo on Syrian oil. This hardly seems like an accident. ISIS oil is also going to ‘rebel held’ areas in Syria,held by those members of the opposition who are vetted by the United States and Western allies. Where else would they get fuel? One would imagine that this oil is paid for by theirs and ISIS mentors in the Gulf Cooperation Council, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Kuwait, et. al.
Point 4 almost cuts the muster, but it implies that the U.S. the right to organize a political solution to a proxy war in Syria that suits external players. The Syrian government is already talking to any internal force that will negotiate with it. Point 5 says that the US should demand a reorganization of Iraqi society as a precondition to helping them defend themselves against a force that the US has armed and facilitated over the course of a decade. Point 6 says that the US should, has the right to, control the outcome of the proxy war using threats and bribes to restrain the forces of a regional power, Iran, because they don’t want them to gain any advantage from a war they didn’t start though they clearly have an interest in the outcome. Specifically, if ISIS wins in Syria and Iraq, it will be positioned on their border.
And by the way, Point 7 says we should better support UN aid, which seems to be a clearly correct position. But, the UN aid, which really is severely underfunded by the shameless Western hegemon, is also not going to the majority of the Syrian people, who are inside the perimeter of security established by the Syrian state, which is actually burdened with UN sanctions. So, before we tell the UN what to do, we pay our share. Next we should end the sanctions and find a neutral stance that will honor the sovereignty of the Syrian government and the Syrian people. By allow the people of Syriato resolve their own differences in a functioning political context, we strengthen the most effective and motivated force on the ground fighting ISIS.
So, though Bennis’ recommendations appear to be ‘nonviolent’ most of them directly violate the sovereignty of the named states in the region, Iran, Iraq, Syria, while supporting the agendas of other regional states who are currently prosecuting a covert (in the west) war against them, but suggesting other (less violent?) means. This is an agenda I can’t support.
If we leave the regional leaders to solve this crisis on their own, it is true that the violence will not end immediately. Like the Kurds of Northern Iraq, some forces will fight until they are exhausted before they will awaken to their best interest, to the possibility of peace and justice. During Saddam Hussein’s vicious assaults on the Kurds in Northern Iraq, the leadership allied themselves with different regional forces, including Saddam himself. After these devastating assaults ended, the Iraqi Kurds fought a vicious civil war for a few years. And then, they saw the light. The opposing parties formed a political accomodation, and the region began to prosper. Even now, the Kurds of Northern Iraq, though they are far too close to the West to be safe, are open to social justice and diversity of religion and ethnicity within their borders. They were allowed to develop on their own. That is the key.
The population of the Middle East region was not divided into hostile sectarian sectors ready to fight to the death until the United States destroyed the fabric of their societies, imposed our bias on them, and provided unlimited resources for warmaking while insisting on austerity or sanctions on the basic necessities of life. For centuries various sects of Christianity were at war, killing thousands while attempting to erase other religions completely from societies they encountered. During the same period, the Muslim world lived in peace, addressing religious differences through social accomodation and intellectual discussion. They will find their way if only we will leave them the space to do so. We do not have a right to usurp the sovereignty of the people ofthe Middle East and there is no advantage to them in our doing so.
American Imperialism is just this sort of hegemonic thinking where even peace and justice activists assume that there can be no resolution anywhere without us; that our western values are the only ones that can accomodate peace and dustice. This is a mindset that empowers the worst violators of human rights, and intenational peace, because it blinds us to their destructive agendas and and provides them with excuses for violent, self serving interventions. It also blinds us to the innate dignity and relevance of people and cultures outside our own. U.S. hegemony in the Middle East must end.