Wednesday, November 23, 2016

The U.S. Presidential Elections and Building the Antiwar Movement Today By Janine Solanki, Azza Rojbi and Alison Bodine



Today, anyone under the age of 15 has never known a world that is not at war. While there have been other times of war, the last 15 years have seen a sustained, increasing and deliberately planned war drive, with US imperialism leading the charge.

This new era of war and occupation started with the 2001 war and occupation of Afghanistan which still continues today and has even become more dangerous, with the United Nations reporting that 2015 was the deadliest year for Afghan civilians. In 2003, the invasion and occupation of Iraq began with the claims of "fighting terror" and "weapon of mass destruction," now it has become a new war with the excuse of fighting Islamic State or Daesh (also known as ISIS). Daesh, it must be noted, only existed and grew under the US occupation in Iraq and as a result of US funding and arming so-called “rebel” mercenaries in Syria. The 2011 war on Libya turned the country with the highest living standard in Africa to complete chaos and a failed state. Not to forget, the so-called “forgotten war” in Yemen has seen daily bombings for the last 18 months by the Saudi-led coalition against people of Yemen. Although the US government has tried to downplay their role in this brutal war and humanitarian crisis, the war is carried out with US surveillance and logistical support, as well as US arms deals and even US drone strikes. In Syria, the last 5 years of a US fomented civil war has resulted in more than 400,000 people killed and nearly half of the country's population has had to flee their homes.

This list could continue, from US aggressions in Latin America, especially with sanctions, threats and covert operations in Venezuela, to the US-backed coup in Ukraine, interventions throughout Africa and the build-up of NATO forces in Eastern Europe on the border with Russia.

Building Anti war Movement Is A Necessity Not An Option

This sustained and increasing new era of war and occupation has come at a human cost, with innocent people killed and countries and lives torn apart. We also have seen what happens after 15 years of war makes so many countries uninhabitable. Today the world is seeing the largest refugee crisis in history, as those fleeing war zones are making the perilous journey to arrive in Europe as refugees.

15 years of the new era of war and occupation has not only continued, it has persisted and expanded under both Republican and Democratic party administrations in the US. While the results of the upcoming US election remain to be decided on November 8th, we can be sure that either candidate, Republican or Democrat, Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton, will be a war president. 15 years of this war drive is enough to tell peace and justice loving people world-wide that we need an active, united and effective antiwar movement. So far, the antiwar movement has not been nearly active or large enough. As we are moving to an even more aggressive war president, whichever candidate that it may be, it is ever more vital to build the antiwar movement as our immediate task.

Looking at the Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton and Republican candidate Donald Trump, it is easy to see that war is a top agenda point for both candidates. With Clinton, unlike Trump, we have a track record to judge her from decades of political involvement and office. While with Trump his views on war shift from “I want to be unpredictable” to “I would bomb the s— out of ’em”.

Clinton and Trump, The Modern Ares and Enyo (goddess and god of war)

Although Hillary Clinton is trying to back-peddle on her opinion now, the facts are that Hillary Clinton did very well support, with her vote as senator of New York, the war on Iraq. As for Afghanistan, she has supported the war and in 2009 as Secretary of State she supported the troop surge that saw over 30,000 more US troops enter Afghanistan. She also supported President Obama's plan to keep a US troop presence in Afghanistan through the end of his term which, if she becomes president, leaves her with US troops still in Afghanistan.

Clinton's most famous military spotlight was in Libya, where she was the face for US involvement in the 2011 undeclared war on Libya. This included the extent of US Special Operations in Libya, backing the Libyan so-called rebels, orchestrating a massive demonization campaign of the former Libyan President Ghaddafi, conducting, with NATO, a no-fly zone which was effectively a massive bombing campaign against Libya, right down to the assassination of Ghaddafi. Her callus and war-hungry nature was famously caught on video when her reaction to news that Ghaddafi had been killed was to laugh and say "We came, we saw, he died!"

Clinton's next step, if she is to make it to the Presidency, is to implement a “no-fly zone” over Syria. That is, as we saw in Libya, not a no-one flies zone but an only US can fly zone… in other words, a way to escalate US airstrikes in Syria and create provocations with the Syrian government and Russia.

Donald Trump, besides being on the Republican ticket which has it's own deadly track record, also speaks to and activates the most dangerous underbelly of Republican Americans. Trump is a war monger demagogue, using fear mongering and appealing to racist, discriminatory and jingoist tendencies among the American public. While constantly changing his foreign policy statements, there is enough evidence to prove that one of his few consistencies is that he would most definitely be a war president, of unknown proportions.

Despite his assertions that he didn't mean what he said, there is more than enough proof (as in audio recordings) to show his support for the initial invasion of Iraq. However, there is much more current proof of his war mongering disposition, and it's not just his claim that "I'm really good at war". Regarding Libya, in a 2011 video blog post Trump proposed “we should go in” and suggested that those who "end up taking over the country eventually" will "appreciate" the US intervention and that "they should pay us back" for the military assistance with their oil. More succinctly, in an April 2011 interview with Wall Street Journal Trump said “I’m only interested in Libya if we take the oil. If we don’t take the oil, I’m not interested.” He did clarify his support for the assassination of former Libyan President Ghaddafi in a more recent June 5, 2016 CBS interview in which he said "It could have seen surgical, where you take out Gaddafi and his group. You do a surgical shot and you take him out.”

How to combat Daesh has been a major election position, Trump laid out his plan at a November 12, 2015 rally in Fort Dodge, Iowa. “I would bomb the s— out of ’em. I would just bomb those suckers. That’s right. I’d blow up the pipes. … I’d blow up every single inch. There would be nothing left.” A few months later during a March 10th, 2016 debate he said “We have to knock out ISIS," "I would listen to the generals, but I'm hearing numbers of 20,000 to 30,000." How and where, as in is this his prescription for Iraq, Syria or both, is not clear.

Trump has also laid out his plans to build up the US military, when during an NBC “Meet the Press” interview in October 2015 he said "I'm gonna build a military that's gonna be much stronger than it is right now. It's gonna be so strong, nobody's gonna mess with us.” Trump also called for increasing the number of ships, submarines and fighter jets, and to bolster the US's missile defense systems, including modernizing Navy cruiser ships.

Trump's preference for a hard line approach in matters of war abroad is echoed in his policies at home. He is well known for his inflammatory Islamophobic statements, which include a call to ban Muslims from the US. He even stated that he would send Syrian refugees accepted to the US back by saying, "I'm putting the people on notice that are coming here from Syria as part of this mass migration, that if I win, if I win, they're going back" at a September 30, 2015 event in Keene, NH.

We Need An Urgent and Serious Political and Organizational Preparation

The bottom line is: Trump and Clinton both are promoting a bigger military, tougher policing and more troops in Iraq. The antiwar movement needs to stand for our rights to protest and any attempts to take them away, and needs to do so by exercising them. The antiwar movement needs to prepare and start organizing now, not wait for what type of Trump-style attacks may be in store if he ends up as president.

While this article is a call to antiwar organizations and peace-loving people to come together in building the antiwar movement, the next question is, how? For an antiwar movement to be strong and effective it must have a clear and unwavering antiwar position, it must organize consistently and not on an occasional basis, and be always working to unite with different groups locally, nationally and ,very importantly, internationally.

In Mobilization Against War and Occupation (MAWO) in Vancouver, Canada, we recently marked 13 years of antiwar organizing. From the beginning to today, MAWO has been organizing on the basis of the principles prescribed above, and this has enabled us to grow to being the most active and consistant antiwar organization in Canada. It is with the experience of the last 13 years that we are taking on the new turn towards an escalated war drive that is sure to come with the election of the next US president.

In order to have any sort of legitimacy, our antiwar positions need to make sense and not waver, even if they may seem unpopular in the face of right-wing mainstream media spinning confusion and manipulating public opinion. The guiding line always comes back to self-determination for all oppressed nations. Those who have the most genuine interests at heart are the people of a particular nation, and certainly are not a foreign government crying crocodile tears while their track record shows that every foreign imperialist military intervention only resulted in more bloodshed. We must fight the amnesiac and uncritical attitude that mainstream media promotes, which looks at a given situation without any background or history, and remember that we have the truth on our side, we just need to make it heard. As Fidel Castro once said, “The truth must not be only the truth, it must be told.”

How to make the message against war and for peace heard is of course a difficult task when you don't have access to media outlets. So we must educate, organize and mobilize with consistency and creativity. The ruling classes, whether administered by Obama, Clinton or Trump, do not occasionally promote their war drive, or occasionally carry out military operations. It is day in, day out for them, and it must be day in day out for the antiwar movement if we are to be effective. Without the same kind of money or resources as the ruling class, we have to be creative in finding every way we can to promote antiwar politics. Needless to say that also to be successful we must become united. Unity in action is our secret to success.

As social media has advanced it has become an outlet and tool that antiwar organizations can utilize but by no means should it replace the importance of organizing and mobilizing on the streets.

In MAWO we know consistency through every monthly rally and petition campaign we hold, through our at least monthly public forums, and through newsletters and literature, statements and press releases. Creativity catches people's attention, for example when our rally includes a photo exhibit of the war on Yemen, or a forum opens with a poetry reading. Also, MAWO has held nine Hip Hop Festivals for Peace which have broadened the scope of antiwar politics to the Hip Hop community and especially towards youth. The festival has helped to promote the message that antiwar politics are for everyone, and artists and youth have an important role to play in the antiwar movement. MAWO's Film Festival for Peace has been held 10 times, and is truly a one of a kind example of how the medium of film can bring the brutality of war and occupation home for people and encourage them to get involved. These festivals, as well as MAWO’s regular antiwar cultural nights, are not just “using” art to bring forward an antiwar message, but recognizing that art reflects our human experiences which in today’s world include experiences of war, occupation and oppression.

Three Factors of Success: Unity, Unity & Unity

While we can do great work in one organization, it is no match for when we are united, coordinated and collaborating with other organizations in our own city, across the country and around the world. We cannot build a movement in just individual organizations, but when we join together we can become an effective and powerful movement. In MAWO we have worked to connect with communities in Vancouver, such as the Muslim and Middle Eastern communities, as well as the Indigenous and Latin American communities. We have established connections with students organizing on their campuses and with environmental activists, bridging the gaps of singular issues to build the understanding that antiwar and social justice issues are often fighting the same battles. We are much stronger when supporting each other and working together. This continues nationally and internationally, MAWO has hosted antiwar organizers and activists from across the US for events in Vancouver and in the last year alone has taken MAWO organizers to Montreal to participate in the World Social Forum and to London, England for an International Conference on Yemen.

We have now recently joined as a founding member to an important initiative called the Hands Off Syria Coalition. A basis of unity has been circulating worldwide, with currently 206 organizations signed on and 1183 individual signers. This is a great step forward for uniting social justice and antiwar organizations and individuals around the world to bring an end to the foreign intervention and sanctions against Syria. Today Syria is focal point for imperialists to advance their attack on us and oppressed people worldwide. We cannot afford to be defeated by imperialists in Syria, period. Humanity is at stake. More on this new coalition can be found at http://handsoffsyriacoalition.net

With the days counting down to the results of the US election, for antiwar activists we already know the result will be a war president. We must not hesitate or wait for the new president to move, but immediately increase our efforts to build a united and effective antiwar movement. After 15 years of the new era of war and occupation showing no signs of slowing down, building the antiwar movement is a vital task for not only antiwar and social justice activists but for all peace and justice loving people around the world. Let's join together to bring an end to the brutal wars killing our brothers and sisters, destructing humanity and civilization and work for a world without war and for peace. We are not just a dreamers, we are many, we are the majority.

No to war and occupation! Yes to self-determination!
US Hands Off Syria!
US/UK Saudi Arabia Hands Off Yemen!

* Janine Solanki, Azza Rojbi and Alison Bodine are central organizers and members of executive commitee of Mobilization Against War and Occupation (MAWO) in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada.


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