ACT ON IRAQ – AND REMEMBER THE ASIA PIVOT

By Gary Hicks
June, 2014

Gary Hicks calls for urgent action to prevent U.S. re-intervention in Iraq while stressing the need to keep the long view and global picture in mind.

Re-energizing the U.S. peace movement requires both responding to immediate crises and pursuing a long-haul strategy.  

Today's crisis: Iraq is in immediate headline-grabbing danger of U.S. military intervention.

The long haul: Washington has made it a strategic, defense-of-empire priority to stop China from becoming a "peer competitor."

THE NEXT ABYSS

My War Times colleague Felicia Gustin drove home the reasons another round of U.S. militarism in Iraq is a terrible idea: "Bombs will make the situation worse… More war is no way to honor U.S. soldiers… Iraq needs reconciliation and reconstruction, not the rebooting of war". Urgent action is needed to prevent Washington from pursuing its third unjust and destructive intervention in that country a quarter-century. 

Gustin's three key points on why war in Iraq is a dead-end are vivid, immediate examples of Sarah Lazare's insistence in War Times May Month in Review that:

"To take on gendered and racialized violence in the world, it is necessary to look at the whole picture—from the interpersonal social fabric of society to the underpinnings of U.S. empire."

Calling for "movements for rehumanization, solidarity, and resistance," Lazare gives a shout out to all those working for peace against difficult odds. She doesn't flinch from noting that if you're an empire, breaking up is hard to do. She points to what it will take to make a breakthrough in our efforts; here are the terms:
 

"A real end to war in the 21st Century will come from a vibrant feminist movement without borders that stands together in declaring Black African girls’ lives matter and should not be used as propaganda for U.S. military intervention. That affirms that Palestinian children should not be shot in the street and Iraqi civilians not barrel bombed from the sky. That pulls the veil off of the covert and insidious creep of U.S. military presence and calls a war what it is…."

HISTORY DOES NOT WAIT

Can "we happy few" put together a movement strong enough to turn Lazare's vision into reality? It will have to happen relatively soon though. History does not usually wait for people of goodwill to "get it right." Already, we're plunging headlong into yet another abyss, and then one after that. At the risk of disturbing some readers, alienating others, and cause still others to worry about my sanity, let me stare into the abyss and speculate about a frightening scenario of what the world could look like in a decade.

United States imperialism, so used to settling things by speaking its first language –violence – already finds it is increasingly unable to control populations or events in this manner. Ten years down the road this will be even more apparent, as devotees of the Wahabbist strand of Islamic Fundamentalism - that 18th century driver of much 21st century terrorism – fill the resistance space once occupied by a now-decimated left in much of the Middle East. They may even succeed in establishing their long-sought Caliphate and exercise sovereignty over much of what today is Iraq, Syria and Lebanon. The Crusader State of Israel, Turkey and, perhaps a new Kurdish State, in an alliance of convenience with the European Union and Russia, will emerge as a countervailing force to this Caliphate. The U.S., even if it attempts new rounds of military intervention, will not be able to halt this process, in part because Washington has had to shift its shrinking resources elsewhere. Africa will rise higher on the U.S. priority list, as using the excuse of 'fighting terrorism" Washington will try to entrench its AFRICOM-led presence militaire to secure control of precious metals and other resources. And if recent events in Mali, Nigeria, Kenya and Somalia point to anything, it is Washington's future inability to militarily protect U.S. interests in situations of gross inequality, colonial history and groups willing to employ terrorism.

Russia, feeling under assault both from the U.S. and the most extreme elements of political Islam, will be especially disturbed if things develop in this fashion. Imagine the post-2016 U.S. departure from Afghanistan. Washington may well switch sides again, give an eyewink to the Taliban as they continue their project, interrupted in 2001. The Taliban may also be able to weaken, if not overthrow, the Pakistani government. And a resurgent Taliban, in alliance with their reactionary theocratic brethren in the Caliphate, then surround the Shiite-dominated Iranian Republic. A small step from there to envision jihadist efforts to isolate and destabilize that country, probably with U.S and Israeli assistance.

By this time the conflicts in Xinxiang Province, People's Republic of China - ethnic tensions, inequality and again some elements turning to terrorism – may have spread to other parts of Central Asia. This will undermine Chinese, Russian and Central Asian states' ability to develop a 21st century silk-road consisting of trade in energy projects all the way to Europe, new forms of industrialization and more.

India is already embarked on a series of case-by-case collusions and contentions with Russia, China and the U.S. So the emergence of a BRICS "bloc" (some kind of cooperative economic and political project among Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa) is put on hold, or at least carefully recalibrated.

If it's been said once, it's been said a thousand times, it is true as ever: working and poor people across the globe... and women and children in the first instance…  pay the highest price for all of these power-seeking/retaining maneuvers by imperial guardians, imperial wannabes, and other reactionaries. The inequalities, violence, sectarian hatreds, racist xenophobia, forced migration, and the extremes of weather suffered by all due to the roller-coaster rides of climate change.... in the above scenario, these will be the lot of the majority of the world's peoples.

NO SCENARIO IS INEVITABLE

I am back to where we're at today. In real time: focusing on Iraq, Syria and Palestine; increased concern about Africa; occasional glance at the Pacific Ocean and what is brewing there.

If what I have described above holds water, then the goings-on in the Pacific deserve to be given more attention and sharper focus. Washington insists its "Asia pivot" is not about a forthcoming confrontation with the world's second economic power. But that is exactly what it's about. China is seen by Washington as the U.S.'s only possible global competitor. The Pentagon and all its Humpty Dumpty's intelligence agencies are using hard power on the high seas and cyber-technology behind the scenes to head off an increasingly successful "peaceful rise" by the Chinese. A central focus of U.S. maneuvers are the spats between Japan, China, Vietnam and the Philippines over various island chains, which taken together form a "toll booth" between the Western Pacific and Indian Oceans. Along the way there are feints and mixed signals: just in the past two months the U.S. accuses China of cyber-espionage, then their Defense Chiefs hold friendly diplomatic visits, meanwhile Russia and China hold joint naval maneuvers. 

We are about movement-building, not passively waiting for others to determine the future. We can affect events. If I have taken the reader on this whirlwind global tour it is because to do so we need to be about building a movement that can do a lot more than respond to crises staring us right in the face. We may be small and feel weak today, but let's recall the difference we've made over the last ten-plus years. With introspection about what we can do better we can move toward rapid resurrection.

Peace and justice are two sides of the same coin. Success – especially in a period where racial and economic justice battles are the main focus of most progressives in this country – demands that we deal in the full scope of that coinage.

Trade unions at all levels are working with immigrant rights, domestic workers, day laborers and other workers who not long ago organized labor would have been written off. Community-based organizations of color and women's organizations are increasingly linking the violence in their everyday lives and experiences to the militarization of police regimes in our cities. That militarization would have been impossible without the transfer of Pentagon technology and practices to police usage. (A must-read: Cities Under Siege: The New Military Urbanism, by Stephen Graham)

So we have many struggles to build on and many strands to weave together. A lot of ordinary people are doing extraordinary things; they can keep our rebuilt movement from dealing in counterfeit coinage. But we need a scaffolding of fighters who, while in the immediate mix, are always on the lookout for what's coming down the pike. A collective of people who are skilled at treating gender, race, class issues and questions as tools to offset the disunity that these distinctions engender when wielded by the present powers-that-be.

We need a collective Mark Twain steamboat pilot: we spend long periods looking at the entire Mississippi River, every bend, every sandbar. And then one day the sandbar shifts and we all have to be on top of this shift in 48 hours. Then we can act accordingly, following the advice that's right there in Huckleberry Finn:

“I do not wish any reward but to know I have done the right thing.”

The views expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of the entire War Times project

Gary Hicks reads and writes/publishes poetry, runs a venue in Berkeley, where he resides. He is also involved in researching materials on Peoples Republic of China, and particularly that country's growing relations with the African continent. Finally, he is slowly getting involved in housing issues in Berkeley.

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