The New York Times Does a Hatchet Job on the Anti-War Movement

“On February 15, 2003, millions of people across over 600 cities worldwide took to the streets to protest the impending invasion of Iraq. In New York City, approximately 200,000 people gathered in the 25-degree weather to march to the United Nations building, where less than two weeks prior, Secretary of State Colin Powell falsely claimed that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction. In Europe, crowds were even larger: Some three million are said to have demonstrated in Rome and 750,000 in London. Anti-war organizers reported that the worldwide demonstrations collectively formed the largest peace protest since those opposing the Vietnam War.”

This is how the History web page described the organizing around the opposition to the war in Iraq.

The web posting went on to state,

“At the time, a New York Times analyst remarked of the demonstrations: “There may still be two superpowers on the planet: the United States and world public opinion.”

Efforts to harness the tools of the media to dominate world public opinion on US militarism has been a crucial question for the ruling elements in the United States over the last twenty years. After the studies of the Pentagon exposed the complete failures of the project of the Global War on Terror, the mainstream media went silent when the findings of the Costs of War project at Brown University revealed that 20 years of post-9/11 wars have cost the U.S. an estimated $8 trillion and have killed more than 900,000 people. The US ruling circles worked with the top journalists to ensure that these figures of US trillions and nearly one million dead did not enter the mainstream political campaigns.

The challenges for the ruling circles were brought home in the period of the fighting in Ukraine when the US wanted to mobilize public opinion on the Volodymyr Zelensky side of the war. Not even the presence of the Azov battalion and their Nazi-era symbolism and recruitment tactics disturbed some liberals in the United States. Numerous organized radical right-wing groups exist in Ukraine and their massive presence gave weight to the Vladimir Putin justification for the ‘special military operation’ in Ukraine. Though Putin has been a supporter of far-right forces across Europe, the war in Ukraine divided the peace and social justice forces.

It is in this context that the analysis of peace and social justice forces becomes relevant and crucial. In the town where I live, the vibrant Peace Council has been cowed by the rabid pro NATO stance of elements who have always been vociferous supporters of white supremacy. In Syracuse, home of the oldest peace organization in the United States, there cannot be in public a civil discussion on the roots of the Ukraine war and the full implications for humanity.

Code Pink and the war in Ukraine

Medea Benjamin, Phyllis Bennis, and Jodie Evans were veterans of the massive 2003 antiwar efforts who were not part of the Upper East Side set. That Upper East Side set that had joined the massive demonstrations against the war in Iraq, retreated from anti militarist campaigns after the Democratic brokers came to power in 2008. Then, the requirements of ending the war on terror created a stalemate among the peace forces. The NATO intervention in Libya created a further division within some sections of the peace and social justice movements. The Black Alliance for Peace, the Black Lives Matter Movement and the forces that supported self-determination in Palestine joined forces to oppose the destruction of Libya and the formation of the US Africa Command. For a short period, President Barack Obama and Jeh Johnson campaigned to turn the war on Terror into a police operation instead of an endless war on terror. The massive intellectual work exposing the failures in Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya diminished the US military and provided further evidence that the United States needed to change course.

It was in this period where foundations were crucial to supporting social justice causes. Bennis’ book Understanding ISIS and the New Global War on Terror along with the book by Patrick Cockburn, The Rise of Islamic State: ISIS and the New Sunni Revolution ensured that the Pentagon was on the defensive in the information war over terror and terrorism.

This was even more challenging for the spin masters of the Pentagon after the General Accounting Office (GAO) warned that right wing domestic terror groups posed a greater danger to US interests than Islamist terrorists. The FBI director, Christopher Wray, told Congress that the 6 January insurrection wasn’t an isolated event and “the problem of domestic terrorism has been metastasizing across the country for a number of years.” Wray added that white supremacists comprise “the biggest chunk of our domestic terrorism portfolio overall” and “have been responsible for the most lethal attacks over the last decade”.

Organs such as the Southern Poverty Law Center repeatedly warned of the dangers of labelling anti racist forces as ‘anarchistic and far left.’ Instead of the Justice Department taking the lead against home grown neo fascist forces, the Southern Poverty Law Center, and groups such as Code Pink provided crucial intellectual leadership against extremism at home and abroad. Code Pink continued with its antiwar work to expose the information war against US citizens. The Black Lives Matter movement, the anti-racist movement, the movement for reproductive health, the movement for reparative justice, the environmental justice movement along with the LGBTQ movement coalesced into a new political force within the United States. The organized labor movement became divided as the anti-immigrant and the racist wing of the labor movement was given oxygen by the policies of the Biden administration. The hardships on the working peoples were compounded by the interest rate policies of the Federal Reserve.

The principal beneficiaries of the Powell interest rate hikes were the MAGA elements and big banks as three of the largest US banks JPMorgan Chase, Citigroup and Wells Fargo collectively reported a surge in profits from charging more for loans, earning $49bn in net interest income, the difference between what the banks pay for deposits and earn from loans and other assets, in Q2 of this year. When a train derailment in East Palestine, Ohio took place in 2023 and spewed toxic chemicals, the Trump organization quickly rushed the Donald to the scene of the toxic dump to repeat the narrative to the poor of East Palestine that the Biden Administration does not care for workers. The price of food, health transportation and housing is imposing undue hardships on millions of ordinary working peoples.

In the absence of a vibrant anti-capitalist force to harness the energies of the social justice elements mainstream media such as the New York Times, The Wall Street Journal and the Washington Post maintain the support for the Pentagon and Israel instead of exposing the conjunctural crisis of the changes in the global systems since the financial crises (2002–2009, and continuing), COVID-19, the war in Ukraine, and the instability of the dollar. Global Warming and immiseration that face the people of the planet demand clear and sober understanding of the world in which we live.

The Germans under the Third Reich understood that those who want to dominate militarily must be able to dominate the information flows. Financial hegemony, military hegemony and information hegemony are three requirements of modern-day imperial domination. The twenty years crisis from 1919 to 1939 provide enough evidence of the slippery slope of military and information dominance in an era of economic insecurity for the majority of citizens. In Germany, the Fascists had gained a monopoly over information as the fascist forces silenced the left and progressive worker organizations. At present, the United States is seeking global hegemony without economic hegemony or hegemony over information flows.

The US ruling circles have treated the Rupert Murdoch organizations with the kind of permissiveness that one witnessed from the big capital in Germany in the period 1933-1939. However, for this domination to have popular support in the United States, the hegemony over information must be as complete as possible.

The global forces for peace and social justice in Palestine, Venezuela, Cuba, Africa, and Asia worked closely with the peace movement in the USA. For many in the military/information and financial circles this close relationship must be broken. The mainstream press is on a campaign to ensure that progressive peoples representatives do not focus more attention to the waste, destructiveness and corruption of the military contracting system. One can see that the mainstream is seeking to drive a wedge within the peace and social justice elements in the United States.

There were two questions that fractured the peace movement, these were the war in Ukraine and the future of Palestine.

Supporting Palestine and Antisemitism

As the influence of the peace movement grew internationally there also emerged a robust Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) campaign. The BDS movement promoted boycotts, divestments, and economic sanctions against Israel. The relative success of this movement could be gauged by the shift in international opinion in relation to the criminal acts of Israel in the occupied territories. Both the Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International declared that the state of Israel was an apartheid state

In its report, HRW pointed to Israeli restrictions on Palestinian movement and seizure of Palestinian-owned land for Jewish settlement in territory occupied in the 1967 Middle East war as examples of policies it said were crimes of apartheid and persecution.

Across Israel and the (Palestinian territories), Israeli authorities have pursued an intent to maintain domination over Palestinians by exercising control over land and demographics for the benefit of Jewish Israelis.

Amnesty International joined in exposing Israeli apartheid: “The state of Israel’s treatment of Palestinians is a crime against humanity and is illegal under international law, Amnesty International.” The rights group says Israel’s “oppression and domination” of Palestinians amounts to apartheid. Additionally, “[t]he Israeli government is committing the crime against humanity of apartheid against Palestinians and must be held accountable,” the organization said in its 280-page report.

Even the authors of the article “Can the Two-State Solution Be Saved? – Debating Israel’s One-State Reality” published in Foreign Affairs Magazine noted the following in response to reactions to their thesis: “As expected, our article generated strong feelings and deep disagreements. We argued that a one-state reality already exists; that it is akin to apartheid.”

The mainstream media cowed by AIPAC did not publicize these reports on Israeli apartheid. Instead, the Upper East side set (and their equivalent in major cities) collaborated with the intelligence elements that wanted to downplay evidence of Israeli apartheid and the strength of the peace and social justice forces. Recently, however, the brazenness of the far right threaten the cozy relationship between the far right in Israel and the US establishment moving the Times to warn,

“The new government is an alliance of settler activists, hard-line nationalists and ultraconservatives helmed by Benjamin Netanyahu, and its leaders variously seek to annex the West Bank, further ease the Israeli Army’s rules of engagement and entrench Israeli control over a sacred site in Jerusalem. All of that has already provoked a surge in Palestinian anger and made it harder for the remaining moderate forces in the Israeli government to defuse tensions.”

The New York Times had dithered while Jeffrey Epstein and the Institute for the Study of Global Antisemitism and Policy (ISGAP) worked hard with the far right and Netanyahu. ISGAP sought academic cover holding summer sessions in Oxford, UK and college campuses across the country, targeting HBCUs in the USA. These conservative and neo fascist forces in Israel work hand in glove with the far right in the USA. The mainstream media remain afraid that the robust divestment campaign against apartheid that had taken hold in the United States in the struggles against racism in South Africa will again take hold in the United States.

As one writer in CounterPunch noted,

“Christian fundamentalists represented an incipient fascist force. I think it’s fair to say that today’s Make America Great Again crew has inherited that mantle, successfully incorporating right-wing Christianity into a larger proto-fascist movement. All the elements of classic fascism now lurk there: adulation of the leader, subordination of the individual to the larger movement, an appeal to mythical past glories, a not-so-subtle embrace of white supremacy, and discomfort with anything or anyone threatening the “natural” order of men and women. You have only to watch a video of a Trump rally to see that his is a mass (even if not a majority) movement.”

The linkages between the far-right Zionists and the far-right Christian fundamentalists pose a real threat to US society. Yet, the editors of the New York Times have spent time and resources going after Roy Singham and Jodie Evans.

The hatchet job on Roy Singham is an indication of where the Times stand today.

Whether we agree or disagree with Roy Singham (and there is much to disagree with) we must wake up to this major attack on the left and progressive forces. The New York Times is accusing Roy Singham of being an agent for the Chinese state. The article is also part of the attack of some on the left on Vijay Prashad.

Vijay has been consistent in his opposition to US militarism and racism. He has taken on imperialism in a way that many in the academy have failed to do. Vijay has relocated to South America to coordinate Tricontinental: Institute for Social Research. Given the wide range of think tanks and research Institutes in the United States and Western Europe, why the focus on Tricontinental? Is it because even small, this research institute has been effective in breaking the dominant lines of arguments of NATO and the Pentagon?

Is this Times Hatchet Job a dress rehearsal for a broader attack on left and progressive organizations?

At a moment when the right and MAGA forces need to be exposed, the Times is going after the left. Those who have read about the breakdown of the Social Democratic front in Germany after 1933 ought to penetrate this kind of journalism to grasp its essential content, that of defending the militarist wing of Big Capital in the US.

Every progressive who works on peace will see what the Times is here seeking to do to Code Pink. Code Pink has not joined the charade of supporting the NATO war in Ukraine. Vijay Prashad has remained steadfast in opposition to the United States Africa Command and remains committed to the self-determination of the Palestinian peoples. The Tricontinental front has supported the peoples of Cuba and Venezuela against the US sanctions.

The source of this hatchet job is clearly aware of the isolation of the United States in the court of international public opinion over the continued sanctions on the peoples of Cuba. The US National Network on Cuba along with the forces that have supported Cuba in the US since the days when Malcolm X took Fidel Castro to Hotel Theresa in Harlem have a real social and political base in the USA. Hence, the Times know that they must walk gingerly over the Cuba question. Notwithstanding the rabid anti-Cuba position by Senators Robert Menendez, New Jersey Ted Cruz of Texas and governor Ron DeSantis in Florida, the larger capitalist block in the USA, especially in agriculture, finance, banking and telecommunications want to end the blockade on Cuba.

The Biden administration has been secretly negotiating with the Venezuelan government and recently ended the fiction of the recognition of Juan Gerardo Guaidó as President of Venezuela. It is from the peace and justice forces such as Jodie Evans and Vijay Prashad where the wider social justice community have followed the kidnapping of Alex Saab.

Ukraine War in Perspective

Neither the Washington Post nor the New York Times have caught up to the reality of the failures of the militarism and bullying of the United States and NATO. The appearance of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean Nations (CELAC), the ASEAN led RCEP along with BRICS formation provide the progressive bloc with a new window of policy space and Alternative Economic Frameworks to promote new forms of global socioeconomic cooperation to deal with the most fundamental crisis, that of global warming. Instead, the Pentagon rushes headlong in its plans for wars against Russia and China.

Many Peace organizations in the United States have been silenced by the rabid anti-Russian invective that comes from the mainstream media. The same broadside against China is communicated daily. One General of the US military has named a date when the US will go to war against the people of China.

The attack on China is also meant to silence those who refuse to go along with the anti-Chinese diatribe that is being produced by western news sources and conservative NGOs. In this Times attack on Roy Singham there was special attention paid to Africa.

The social conditions in Africa have produced a new alertness on the part of the grassroots forces. Roy Singham and Vijay Prashad have linked with the anti-militarist forces in Africa and contributed to the delegitimization of the US Africa Command. One does not have to be pro Chinese to oppose the US plans that have been laid out in the US Strategy for sub–Saharan Africa.

The policy makers of Washington are so locked into their supremacist world that they are not aware that when putting out a policy on Sub Saharan Africa they are insulting the very presence of the Africa Union that does not make such distinctions.

Is it because the US policies in Africa are so discredited that the author of this hatchet job specifically sought to denigrate the work of progressive nongovernmental elements in Africa? There is an explicit attack on the socialist and Pan African forces in Zambia and Ghana.

This Hatchet Job is one more lesson of why the left and progressive forces have to be circumspect in how differences are handled.

The progressive forces will need to pay close attention to this kind of attack on Roy Singham, Jodie Evans and Vijay Prashad. This is the signal for the cruder in the right and media to oppose the progressive forces and sow division among progressive groups. It is giving the go ahead for the less sophisticated to go on the offensive against peace, social justice, and anti-racist forces. World public opinion is now firmly against the weaponization of everything by the ruling class in the United States. There is a call for progressives to condemn the new McCarthyism that is being pushed by the New York Times.

Horace Campbell is Professor of African American Studies and Political Science, Syracuse University. He is the author of Global NATO and the Catastrophic Failure in Libya, Monthly Review Press, 2013.  Notes.