In the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks, some of us tried to raise questions of U.S. foreign policy. I got my mic cut on O’Reilly’s show. Others got far worse — a friend basically felt he had to move out of his neighborhood he was so reviled for criticizing the U.S.’s militarism. Oh, yeah, and hundreds of thousands of people got killed in Afghanistan, Iraq and elsewhere.
The root causes of the 9/11 attacks were hardly discussed — unless it was people deriding Pat Robertson and Jerry Falwell for blaming gay folks.
Now, there’s no meaningful peace movement. Partly as a result of that, we’re not having a serious discussion we should be about foreign policy after the Paris attacks: How U.S. — and Western — foreign policy manifests hatred and all that brings.
One might have thought that would be possible — the target of this attack was not the U.S., though it could be the next target. But that should give us some breathing room as well as a measure of urgency to think things through.
The major policy debate now is about Syrian refugees.
This is part of a political pattern: The two party establishment agrees on a series of issues and those issues are largely ignored. (Perpetual war.)
Then, there’s something they disagree on and that’s vociferously debated. (Refugees.)
Problem is, sometimes what they agree on (perpetual war) is what causes the other issue (refugees).
Right now, both the Democratic and Republican establishments both agree on a course of perpetual war. There’s virtually no remorse about having pushed for regime change in Syria and Libya and that leading to enormous human suffering that we’re mostly blind to.
When the Obama administration made an overt push for war in Syria in 2013, the left and right united and stopped it.
But ISIS threats gave the Obama administration the pretext it so seemed to desire to have a sustained bombing campaign, with thousands of strikes in Syria and Iraq the last year and a half — which is largely ignored such that now “critics” of U.S. policy suggest that the U.S. bomb Syria, as if it hasn’t been — and that could be the actual problem.
Now, Democratic Party politicos are talking about the humanity of Syrian refugees and ideals of the U.S. as a sanctuary. And Republican politicos are talking about alleged security concerns from letting refugees in. While I think we should let far more than a mere 10,000 refugees, which is what the Obama administration is talking about, I don’t think that’s the issue we really need to be talking about now.
The real issue is that the Democratic Party has participated in perpetual war policies that are leading to Syrians becoming refugees. The real issue is that the Republican Party has participated in perpetual war policies that are leading to greater insecurity for people in the U.S.
The issue of the refugees, while obvious real to real people is being seized on because it’s a wedge issue to keep the Democratic base and the Republican base shouting at each other rather than to examine the underlying issue: Perpetual war and the current set of U.S. colonial allies in the Mideast.
It’s the nightmare of the establishment that the left and right wake up to the fact that they are manipulated by the Democratic Party and Republican Party establishments.
A major issue is that the public is prone to scapegoating the vulnerable, like Syrian refugees, when no other cause of the problem is highlighted. There are obvious causes for the problems coming from the Mideast. But there’s a silence of conspiracy about them. At the top of the list is is the U.S. government’s backing of the authoritarian Saudi regime that has fostered Wahabism, a twisted from of Islam used by al-Qaeda and ISIS.
But even the most progressive Democrats are silent on this. Just this week, Barbara Lee — possibly the most left wing member of Congress — was asked on “Democracy Now” about U.S. arms to Saudi Arabia. She didn’t contemn it.
Bernie Sanders talks about refugees; he can bring a lump to every throat in the hall while talking about economic inequality in the U.S. But his solution for ISIS is to get the Saudis to “get their hands dirty.” Sorry, Bernie, but the Saudis hands are dirty enough as it is. They fostered jihadis like ISIS and al-Qaeda in Syria and are now bombing Yemen, ripping human beings apart.
So, at the CBS debate the day after the Paris attacks, Sanders didn’t even want to talk about foreign policy. It was tragic really. He could have laid into U.S. foreign policy, he could have said that by arming the Saudis we’ve fostered problems, it would have jolted the campaign and the public could have been engaged in foreign policy in a meaningful way.
But he didn’t.
The most he could do is criticize the invasion of Iraq, which is valid — no one who voted for the Iraq war is qualified for any title other than inmate — but 13 years later, totally inadequate. Whatever you have to say about economy (and even here I think Sanders could be better) will ultimately be trumped by the fact that you can’t articulate a path out of perpetual war. If you don’t show you’ve got a path out of perpetual war, the people will pick someone who they figure knows how to do perpetual war.
But someone is going to have to break with the backing of autocratic regimes and perpetual war, because I’ve got news for you: Perpetual war is going to cost you a lot. The Vietnam War helped undermine the war on poverty — Martin Luther King called it a “demonic suction tube.” Perpetual war is going to make you lose your soul. Perpetual war will make you an accomplice to murder many times over. Perpetual war will mean generations more of Muslim youth driven to madness against the U.S. Perpetual war is going to potentially lead to nuclear war. Perpetual war will mean an even more militarized police force. Perpetual war will likely mean more of a repressive state. Perpetual war will mean you can’t march against climate change — or anything else. Perpetual war will mean that refugees and other folks get treated like trash. Perpetual war means your kid can’t get a job in much of anything other than the military. Perpetual war means soldiers with PTSD coming home and beating the crap out of their wives and traumatizing their children. Perpetual war will mean at every public venue you’ve got to go through security so that you can scratch yourself without court approval.
There’s a hunger out there for another course.
Fact is, the Republican candidates leading in the polls are those — at least in public persona, whatever their faults may be — that are furthest away from the foreign policy establishment.
There was a group called Come Home America that aimed to bring the left and right together against Empire.
Part of the reason that didn’t take off is that elections are movement killers. People constantly being pushed — especially in election years — to focus on symptoms of policies gone wrong, like the Syrian refugees, without looking at the elephant in the room: Perpetual War, brought to you by the Democratic and Republican Parties and which ruined the refugees’ lives — and will ruin many more unless the left and right join to stop it.