Bush’s obscene victory: recession, repression, reaction & ruin

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Twenty years after Vietnam, the U.S. Air Force finally got to bomb a Third World country back to the Stone Age. Iraq was blown to smithereens. Roads, bridges, farms, homes, hospitals, electricity, food warehouses, communications and sewage treatment facilities- wiped out. Between 100,000 and 200,000 Iraqi soldiers and civilians were blasted to shreds by the bombs. Dead mothers and children litter the cities and towns. Water supplies are glutted with poisons and cholera is now upping the body count.

Bush sure struck a blow for freedom, didn’t he? In the aftermath of Desert Storm, after Iraqi Kurds and Shiites rose up against Saddam at Washington’s prodding, the U.S. sat back and let Saddam massacre them all to hell. Bush wants Saddam out, and was willing that Kurds and Shiites be cats’ -paws in the effort to oust him. But Bush wants one of Saddam’s Ba’athist generals in the saddle after the smoke clears. Victorious Kurds in Iraq would mean restive Kurds also pressing their legitimate national demands in Turkey, home to the largest U.S. nuclear stockpile in Asia. Shiite gains would stir Islamic fundamentalists from Tehran to Cairo, sorely distressing Bush’s Saudi and Egyptian partners in crime.

Sort of smudges the patriotic afterglow, doesn’t it? All that high-minded garbage out of Washington about “stopping Saddam’s aggression”-and now these post-blitz atrocities. Oh well, as Henry Kissinger remarked after the U.S. betrayed the Kurds in the 1970s, U.S. foreign policy isn’t about “social work.” What it is about in the Mideast is retaining imperialist control of the oil. For this Bush needs compliant dictators, not democracy, in the region.

The hundreds of thousands of Kurdish refugees on Iraq’s northern borders awaiting starvation or slaughter by Saddam are proof of this.

Desert Storm: war for profit. The U.S. antiwar movement could not stop the slaughter that commenced on January 15. Cries for peace were drowned in the blitz. And oh what a blitz! The Pentagon barked, the media snapped to, and while horror rained on Baghdad a propagandistic carpet-bombing strafed and savaged the USA.

The boys in the international boardrooms needed this war, to make plain to a recalcitrant world that their rent-a-cop, the U.S. military, will level the earth to further the interests of Big Oil and the banks. Washington needed this war to rivet attention away from political time-bombs at home.

Big Oil, bankers, and brokers of arms are rich from this war. American workers, and workers abroad, will shoulder the billions it cost.

Prognosis: escalating conflict. Now what? More wars, in the Gulf, in Palestine, wherever investments are threatened, wherever gold can be gotten from the selling of guns.

And in the U.S., where debt, S&L ripoffs and racist drug wars eat at the future; where health, education and welfare are now all but trashed; and where the hemorrhage of jobs to the war machine brings class conflict closer, war will serve as the grand excuse to step up repression against all dissent.

Bush’s blueprint: recipe for chaos. Washington would have us believe that war is the gateway to peace in the Mideast and to world economic prosperity. A de-clawed Saddam is removed as a threat to Mideast stability. A pro-West Arab axis in Riyadh, Cairo and Damascus is being nailed in place. A new regional security is hailed as possible.

This would mean oil could resume flowing securely to Europe, Japan and the emerging Asian economies. Japan could continue to finance America’s spiraling debt. U.S. investments in overseas oil-run economies would be safe.

But don’t break out the champagne just yet, George.

Consider Iraq. Iraq is a mess. Everything there is destroyed. Iraqis are struggling for life, yet the basis for life can no longer be said to exist. The Kurdish and Shiite rebellions, now beaten back thanks to Bush’s double-cross, will continue to simmer and spark, not just in Iraq, but in Turkey, Iran, and the entire Mideast. The Iraqis remember who slaughtered their dead. And as famine and cholera sweep through their country, as refugees spill towards the borders in hordes, as hatreds and gunfire proliferate, how will the U.S. stay exempt from the chaos?

The cozy relations between the Gulf oligarchies and Western oil moguls were jeopardized by the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait. Now danger comes from a thousand directions. Most frightening to the oligarchs is the heinous legacy of this war—the mass U.S. slaughter of Arabs for oil. The Arab people will never forget at whose invitation the slaughter took place. And retribution is waiting in the chaos stalking the Gulf.

Also, peace between Israel and the Arab world is an impossibility.

Does Bush really think that the Palestinians are “discredited” among Arabs for their support for Iraq? Is he unaware of the anti-U.S. riots that punctuated the war from Morocco to Jordan?

Let the Israelis try to expel the Palestinians to Jordan as they plan. Let the Saudis, et al., pitch in with the Zionists. Then let them duck. Mubarek hangs by a political thread in Cairo. Pictures of Assad are being defaced all over Syria. And the Saudis are now desperately expelling their own Palestinian “guest” workers.

Bush knows an explosion awaits on the West Bank and throughout the Arab world the minute the Israelis give the expulsion orders. That, and profits, is why the U.S. is shipping its Mideast allies billions in weapons.

Quicksand for capitalism. Arms dealers will prosper in the New Mideast Order and so will the banks, for awhile. But oil prices will careen out of control. Since Gulf oil is much of the foundation of capitalist economy, world finance, production and trade face being shipwrecked.

The Pentagon and CNN can no longer sanitize the utter devastation that billows forth from the Mideast: the starving Kurds huddled on the borders of Turkey and Iran; the upheavals and riots and bloodshed; the economic destitution spreading worldwide; the incalculable environmental destruction.

The current domestic “victory” euphoria will melt like snow in the fifth pit of hell. All the horrors in the U.S. that the war put on hold will re-grip the nation. The war itself will sicken the U.S. public at last. A new mood will spark renewed protest against the war and the Washington warmakers.

Timidity hobbled antiwar leaders. The U.S. antiwar movement couldn’t stop Bush this last time around. He blitzed us too quick. He had to blitz quick or face disaster at home.

What else stood in the movement’s way besides time? A divided national movement: two coalitions when one was the ticket. Leaderships in each who were scared of democracy, especially of discussion openly condemning the war as a capitalist enterprise.

One coalition, the National Campaign for Peace in the Middle East, was led by groups such as CISPES who spent the 1980s telling people that congressional Democrats would halt the U.S. wars on El Salvador and Nicaragua. They hoped to pressure Congress to stop this war too, and because all of Congress is capitalist, they didn’t want out-front socialists on the scene to offend.

The Coalition to Stop U.S. Intervention in the Middle East was run by the Stalinist Workers World Party. Lo and behold, WWP didn’t want socialists “alienating popular forces” in its bailiwick, either.

What popular forces? Church people and progressive unionists spent a whole decade supporting radicals and socialists in Central America against the U.S. Twenty-five years ago many supported Vietnamese communists as well. Would they faint dead away if they heard an American socialist speak? Not likely. But the “popular forces” WWP and the Peace Campaign didn’t want to alienate were Bush’s supporters, the solidly pro-war Democrats and other redbaiters in the establishment, the media and the streets.

Liberals and Stalinists crave respectability. Open socialists and those who are drawn to radical ideas and action-people of color, women, youth, lesbians and gay men-are an unknown quantity and a potential embarrassment should their anger and frustration with the whole system be too directly or powerfully expressed.

That’s why those outside the political “mainstream” were effectively shut out in both coalitions. The leadership of those least likely to support the system was shortchanged; hence, any swift chance of bringing the war home was lost.

Most damaging is that, in kowtowing to mainstream opinion as defined by the flag-waving media, antiwar leaders allowed Bush to define the issues. For example, was protesting the war really a matter of “not supporting our troops,” as Bush insisted? No, it was a matter of defying the system that drafts the disadvantaged to fight and die for U.S. and Arab billionaires. Yet antiwar leaders defaulted to Bush on this question.

Campaign leaders waved Old Glory at rallies and called on the movement to “support our troops”-by bringing them home safely, to be sure, but somehow the distinction got lost.

The U.S. flag and the support-our-troops slogan belong, by definition, to Bush and Co., and no wishful liberal thinking can change that fact.

Movement shakeup. Currently there’s a shakeup in the antiwar movement. In the Bay Area, for example, both national coalitions have disbanded.

In Seattle in March, the People of Color Task Force withdrew from the Campaign-affiliated Seattle Coalition for Peace in the Middle East because of “repeated incidents of blatant racism and sexism in the SCPME.” The Task Force “will continue to meet and expand” and is “committed to linking the issues of global peace, and economic, racial and gender justice in the U.S.”

These are surely the issues the movement has to deal with. Yet the split was a setback for the Seattle movement, and all the reasons for it are not yet clear. While racism, sexism and redbaiting certainly played a role, the drive to disband was pushed by local Democratic Party/Rainbow Coalition folks who are noted these days primarily for the care they take not to offend the sensibilities of Seattle’s Democratic mayor, Norm Rice. Rice doesn’t want anyone raining on his scheduled day-long” Allied Victory” parade June 22. Could it be his antiwar buddies cynically used real issues which the movement must confront to disband the Campaign and head off a showdown with Rice?

The opera ain’t over … Possible motives behind the Seattle rift aside, the shakeups are but a prelude to a healthy reconstitution of the movement.

Even before the war started, a host of antiwar organizing efforts were springing up nationwide outside the aegis of the two national groups. Protests by people of color, women, and youth were daily events.

As Bay Area activist Tom Boot puts it, “Bush bit off more than he can chew; the initial mobilizations have kept people around, despite the blitz.”

Boot is a member of African Americans Against the War, a Black community group that seeks to end militarism abroad, educate on its effects at home, and support Black resisters in the military. The group, says Boot, “is very democratic” and “has no problem with open socialists.”

Socialists continue to organize and educate against the war. For example, the Freedom Socialist Party and Radical Women sponsor weekly Stop the War Coffeehouses in Seattle, New York and the Bay Area where activists can come and discuss and strategize on ways to end all wars.

One Seattle coffeehouse in April featured a talk and a video by Vietnam Veterans Against the War, Anti-Imperialist. The event disproved the revisionist notion that the ’60s antiwar movement had spit on returning Vietnam veterans, showing that vets joined the movement by the thousands, as leaders, when they got back. The following week’s coffeehouse, co-sponsored by Youth Against War, addressed the concerns and leadership of young people in today’s antiwar movement.

In the last Freedom Socialist we wrote about the Internationalist Brigades put together by FSP, RW, and other organizations and activists in the three above-mentioned cities. Their points of unity strongly linked the issues of the oppressed in both the U.S. and Mideast and addressed the critical questions of democracy in the antiwar movement itself. These are the issues that will reshape and rejuvenate the movement in the coming months.

Not a moment too soon: the U.S. won’t stop its aggressions; that means we have to. It means looking to the leadership of those outside the media’s “mainstream.” It means challenging the system that makes war abroad and at home. It means pinpointing the capitalist source of the war and uprooting it. That’s the job. Let’s get to it.

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