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US-West Asia Wars: Social Opposition and Political Impotence

While 60 per cent of the US people favour the withdrawal of US troops from Iraq, the domestic peace movement against the war has failed. The collapse of the peace movement, the lack of credibility of most of its leaders and the demoralisation of many activists can be traced to strategic political failures such as the unwillingness to identify and confront the real pro-war movement and the inability to create a political alternative to the Democratic Party.

US-West Asia Wars: Social Opposition andPolitical Impotence

While 60 per cent of the US people favour the withdrawal of US troops from Iraq, the domestic peace movement against the war has failed. The collapse of the peace movement, the lack of credibility of most of its leaders and the demoralisation of many activists can be traced to strategic political failures such as the unwillingness to identify and confront the real pro-war movement and the inability to create a political alternative to the Democratic Party.

JAMES PETRAS

You cannot win the peace unless you knowthe enemy at home and abroad,

E
– US Marine Colonel from Tennessee. verywhere I visit from Copenhagen to Istanbul, Patagonia to Mexico City, journalists and academics, trade unionists and businesspeople, as well as ordinary citizens, inevitably ask me why the US public tolerates the killing of over a million Iraqis over the last two decades, and thousands of Afghans since 2001? Why, they ask, is a public, which opinion polls reveal as over 60 per cent in favour of withdrawing US troops from Iraq, so politically impotent? A journalist from a leading business journal in India asked me what is preventing the US government from ending its aggression against Iran, if almost all of the world’s major oil companies, including the US multinationals are eager to strike oil deals with Teheran? The anti-war advocates in Europe, Asia and Latin America ask me at large public forums what has happened to the US peace movement in the face of the consensus between the Republican White House and the Democratic Party-dominated Congress to continue funding the slaughter of Iraqis, supporting Israeli starvation, killing and occupation of Palestine and destruction of Lebanon?

Just prior to the US invasion of Iraq in March 2003, over one million US citizens demonstrated against the war. Since then there have been few and smaller protests even as the slaughter of Iraqis escalates, the US casualties mount and a new war with Iran looms on the horizon. The demise of the peace movement is largely the result of the major peace organisations’ decision to shift from independent social mobilisations to electoral politics, namely, channelling activists into working for the election of Democratic candidates – most of whom have supported the war. The rationale offered by these “peace leaders” was that, once elected, the Democrats would respond to the anti-war voters who put them in office. Of course, practical experience and history should have taught the peace movement otherwise. The Democrats in Congress voted every military budget since the US invaded Iraq and Afghanistan. The total capitulation of the newly elected Democratic majority has had a major demoralising effect on the disoriented peace activists and has discredited many of its leaders.

As David Brooks (La Jornada, July 2, 2007) correctly reported at the US Social Forum, there is no coherent national social movement in the US. Instead, we have a collection of fragmented “identity groups” each embedded in narrow sets of (identity) interests, and totally incapable of building a national movement against the war. The proliferation of these sectarian “nongovernmental” “identity” “groups” is based on their structure, financing and leadership. Many depend on private foundations and public agencies for their financing, which precludes them from taking political positions. At best, they operate as “lobbies” simply pressuring the elite politicians of both parties. Their leaders depend on maintaining a separate existence in order to justify their salaries and secure future advances in government agencies.

The trade unions are virtually nonexistent in more than half of the US. They represent less than 9 per cent of the private sector and 12 per cent of the total labour force. Most national, regional and citywide trade union officials receive salaries comparable to senior business executives: between $ 3,00,000 and $ 5,00,000 a year. Almost 90 per cent of the top trade union bureaucrats finance and support pro-war Democrats and have supported Bush and the congressional war budgets, bought Israel bonds ($ 25 billion) and the slaughter of Palestinians and the Israeli bombing of Lebanon.

The Unopposed War Lobby

The US is the only country in the world where the peace movement is unwilling to recognise, publically condemn or oppose the major influential political and social institutions consistently supporting and promoting the US wars in west Asia. The political power of the pro-Israel power configuration, led by the American Israel Political Affairs Committee (AIPAC), supported within the government by highly placed pro-Israel congressional leaders and the White House and Pentagon officials has been well-documented in books and articles by leading journalists, scholars and former president Jimmy Carter. The Zionist Power Configuration (ZPC) has over 2,000 full-time functionaries, more than 2,50,000 activists, over a thousand billionaire and multi-millionaire political donors who contribute funds both political parties. The ZPC secures 20 per cent of the US foreign military aid budget for Israel, over 95 per cent congressional support for Israel’s boycott and armed incursions in Gaza, invasion of Lebanon and pre-emptive military option against Iran.

The US invasion and occupation policy in Iraq, including the fabricated evidence justifying the invasion, was deeply influenced by top officials with long-standing loyalties and ties to Israel. Wolfowitz and Feith, numbers 2 and 3 in the Pentagon, are life-long Zionists. Vice-president Cheney’s chief foreign policy adviser in the planning of the Iraq invasion was Irving Lewis Liebowitz (“Scooter Libby”). He is a protégé and long-time collaborator of Wolfowitz and a convicted felon. Libby-Liebowitz committed perjury, defending the White House’s complicity in punishing officials critical of its Iraq war

Economic and Political Weekly July 28, 2007 propaganda. Libby-Liebowitz received powerful political and financial support from the pro-Israel lobby during his trial. No sooner did he lose his appeal on his conviction on five counts of perjury, obstructing justice and lying, than the ZPC convinced Bush to “commute” his prison sentence, in effect freeing him from a 30-month prison sentence before he had served a day. While the Democratic politicians and some peace leaders criticised Bush, none dared hold responsible the pro-Israel lobby which pressured the White House.

The Presidents of the Major American Jewish Organisations (PMAJO) – numbering 52 – and their regional and local affiliates are the leading forces transmitting Israel’s war agenda against Iran. The PMAJO, working closely with US-Israeli congressman Rahm Emmanuel and leading Zionist senators Charles Schumer and Joseph Lieberman, succeeded in eliminating a clause in the budget appropriation setting a date for the withdrawal of US troops from Iraq.

In contrast to the successful vast propaganda, congressional and media campaigns, organised and funded by the pro-Israel lobbies for the war policies, there is no public record of the big oil companies supporting the Iraq war, the Israeli invasion of Lebanon or the military threats of preemptive attacks on Iran. Interviews with investment bankers, oil company executives and a thorough review of the major petroleum institute publications over the past seven years provide a conclusive evidence that “Big Oil” was deeply interested in negotiating oil agreements with Saddam Hussein and the Iranian Islamic government. Big Oil perceives the US-west Asia wars as a threat to their long-standing profitable relations with all the conservative Arab oil states in the Gulf. Despite the strategic position in the US economy and their great wealth Big Oil was totally incapable of countering their political power and organised influence of the pro-Israel lobby. In fact, Big Oil was totally marginalised by the White House national security advisor for west Asia, Elliot Abrams, a fanatical Zionist and militarist.

Despite the massive and sustained prowar activity of the leading Zionist organisations inside and outside of the government and despite the absence of any overt or covert pro-war campaign by Big Oil, the leaders of the US peace movement have refused to attack the pro-Israel war lobby and continue to mouth unfounded clichés about the role of Big Oil in west Asia conflicts.

The apparently “radical” slogans against the oil industry by some leading intellectual critics of the war have served as a “cover” to avoid the much more challenging task of taking on the powerful, Zionist lobby. There are several reasons for the failure of the leaders of the peace movement to confront the militant Zionist lobby. One is the fear of the powerful propaganda and smear campaign which the pro-Israel lobby is expert at mounting, with its aggressive accusations of “anti-Semitism” and its capacity to blacklist critics, leading to job loss, career destruction, public abuse and death threats.

The second reason that peace leaders fail to criticise the leading pro-war lobby is because of the influence of pro-Israel “progressives” in the movement. These progressives condition their support of “peace in Iraq” only if the movement does not criticise the pro-war Israel lobby in and outside the US government, the role of Israel as a belligerent partner to the US in Lebanon, Palestine and Kurdish Northern Iraq. A movement claiming to be in favour of peace, which refuses to attack the main proponents of war, is pursuing irrelevance: it deflects attention from the pro-Israel high officials in the government and the lobbyists in congress who back the war and set the White House’s west Asia agenda. By focusing attention exclusively on Bush, the peace leaders failed to confront the majority pro-Israel Democratic congress people who fund Bush’s war, back his escalation of troops and give unconditional support to Israel’s military option for Iran.

The collapse of the US peace movement, the lack of credibility of most of its leaders and the demoralisation of many activists can be traced to strategic political failures: the unwillingness to identify and confront the real pro-war movements and the inability to create a political alternative to the bellicose Democratic Party. The political failure of the leaders of the peace movement is all the more dramatic in the face of the large majority of passive Americans who oppose the war, and are not led in tow by either the pro-Israel lobby or their intellectual apologists within progressive circles.

The word to anti-war critics of the world is that over 60 per cent of the US public opposes the war but our streets are empty because our peace movement leaders are spineless and politically impotent.

EPW

Email: jpetras@binghamton.edu

Indian Institute of Dalit Studies

Q-3, Green Park Extension New Delhi - 110016

Position of Director

Applications are invited for the post of Director from scholars having record of research in any discipline of Social Sciences. Candidates with research work particularly on the marginalized groups, issue of inequality, poverty, discrimination and similar issues is desirable. The candidate should have sufficient published research work. The candidate should have 15 years of experience in teaching and/or research, and Administration, at University/ national level Institutions/Government. The candidate shall be responsible to lead, support, and guide the entire administration, research and other work of the Institute.

The Director post is of the Professor level on the UGC scale: Rs. 16400450-20500-500-22400 plus allowances. The appointment shall be for a period of three years with further renewal.

Interested candidates may send their application with a copy of their CV to the Administrative Coordinator, on the e-mail address admin@dalitstudies.org.in within three weeks from the date of advertisement.

Economic and Political Weekly July 28, 2007

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