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(en) Learning the Lessons of George the First's First Gulf War - Turning The Tide, Vol. 15, #4

From Mick <mickblack47@yahoo.com>
Date Mon, 23 Dec 2002 14:40:16 -0500 (EST)

      A - I N F O S  N E W S  S E R V I C E

> From: ara-la@antiracistaction.us
Here's the lead editorial from the latest issue of "Turning the Tide: 
Journal of Anti-Racist Action, Research & Education," Volume 15 #4, Winter

2003. For a free sample copy of the entire issue, email 
ara-la@antiracistaction.us, or write to the address at the bottom of the 
articles. Paid subscriptions are always welcome.

Learning the Lessons of George the First's First Gulf War
by Michael Novick, Anti-Racist Action-LA/People Against Racist Terror

Malcolm X said that of all studies, history best rewards our diligent 
efforts, because of the light it casts on our current reality. With that
in mind, a look back at the previous U.S. war in Iraq, and the opposition
to it, will pay dividends in dealing with the current Bush administration
plan to launch a renewed military assault in the on-going US war against
Iraq. Unless we want to repeat the failures of that previous effort, we
must understand why we were not capable of derailing Desert Shield and
Desert Storm in the early 1990's, or doing much to materially impede the
decade of war that has followed. What were the key weaknesses of our
organizing and resistance efforts? What were the main strategies of the
U.S. ruling elite in building its international coalition and support base
within the U.S.? How can we overcome those weaknesses, and undermine those
strategies, in the current period?

How can we expose to people in the US, whose consent is still pivotal to 
the ability of the US regime to wage such wars, what its real costs are? 
Not by seeking a level of opposition that will minimize people's
discomfort level, but by exposing the system that produces war.

We can identify four key weaknesses of the anti-war movement in that 
earlier period.

The most obvious and basic weakness was that the movement against the war 
flat-lined once the war began.

People are talking excitedly today about how the current growing
opposition to the war is much greater than at a comparable period in the
development of the Vietnam War and the anti-war movement of the 60's. But
they are forgetting that most of the protest and opposition to the first
Bush war in Iraq came during the build-up of Bush's international
coalition and the massing of US and "allied" forces in Saudi Arabia and
elsewhere in preparation for the invasion.

Once Congress voted to approve Bush Sr.'s proposed use of armed force, and

troops went in, the anti-war movement pretty much collapsed. The litany of

"We have to support our boys" became predominant. the Democrats fell 
loyally in line behind the President once the vote was taken. That's 
because they ultimately represent the same class and colonial interests as

the Republicans.

Vietnam an Exception to the Pattern of Acquiescence to War

This is in fact the general pattern in U.S. history, to which the Vietnam 
War was a striking exception, because the Vietnamese were able to 
effectively apply a strategy of protracted people's war. Combined with US 
over-extension and weakness, this allowed the war's impact to be 
experienced first-hand by a conscript army, and seen as a prospect by 
millions more facing conscription. The rulers of the US learned two key 
lessons, which mean such a process is unlikely to be repeated. First, they

abandoned the legal draft, obligatory military service, in favor of a 
poverty draft and a professional, high tech army. Second, they abandoned 
"escalation" (slow incremental increase in US military forces). Instead 
they opted for a combination of "low-intensity warfare" (covert military 
actions fought mainly under CIA control via puppet soldiers from the 
colonies) as in Nicaragua, Guatemala, El Salvador and Afghanistan in the 
80's; and nazi-style "blitzkrieg" (lightning war) as in Granada, Panama, 
Iraq and Kosovo/Yugoslavia.

Remember that there was opposition to the US war with Mexico in 1846. 
Abraham Lincoln, in Congress, actually voted against a declaration of war.

People like to quote him now from that speech about the dangers of 
executive power. But they neglect to mention that once the declaration 
passed, he along with the rest of Congress voted to "support our boys" and

pass the appropriations bills necessary to fight that war of aggression. 
Congress later approved the annexation of the additional territories 
conquered in that war (including California), as they had approved the 
annexation of Texas, which precipitated the war.

There is no reason to expect that a war in Iraq will be protracted, once 
launched. Remember that people made dire predictions to the effect that 
Afghanistan would be a snare for the U.S. because of its long history of 
protracted, bloody battles against foreign invaders, and the fact that
they had bogged down the Russians for almost a decade. Yet neither the
Afghan winter, nor its mountains, nor its clans, proved to be any
substantial impediment to the US military operations. (This is not to say
the US operation was a success, either on its own terms or from the
perspective of the Afghan people, who are now suffering under a new set of
mujaheddin warlords.)

Iraq, in comparison, has almost no natural protection from invasion in 
terms of terrain, and only a little in terms of weather. Its army and 
people have been weakened by over a decade of warfare by the US and 
Britain. It will no doubt pay a horrible price if Bush succeeds in once 
again sending in troops and launching a full-scale air war on Baghdad.

But we cannot expect that the course of the war will provide opportunities

for an incremental growth of opposition and anti-war organizing based on 
the costs of the war for the U.S. in conventional terms. It is racist to 
assume that a massive deadly toll in Iraq will do our organizing for us.
We must do it now -- the building, the extending, and the engaging of
people in a critical dialogue that will deepen their questioning of the
whole sick system.

It's an Empire, not a Policy

A second related weakness of the anti-war movement a decade ago was that
it fell into the trap of a "foreign policy" debate. Seeking the lowest
common denominator, people focused on the need for using diplomatic means
to achieve US goals, rather than on exposing and opposing the US empire. 
Forces that did present a supposedly "anti-imperialist" analysis mostly 
tried to portray Saddam Hussein as a bulwark of anti-capitalist 
development. The connection between the war and the totality of the 
imperialist system, including the way it functions inside the U.S. itself,

was not dealt with.

Recall that once the war was launched, there was in fact a massive, 
jingoistic outpouring of support, especially to hail the conquering
heroes. Yellow ribbons appeared everywhere and in cities across the US
there were victory parades greeting the returning troops with crowds far
larger than any opposition march had been. Anti-war organizing must take
on, head-on, this identification with the empire. It must challenge both
the costs that the empire extracts from, and the inducements it offers to,
people in this country. Without this key element, simply trying to expose
how Saddam used to be the CIA's man does little to motivate people to the
sacrifices necessary to really confront the war machine. The anti-war
movement cannot perpetuate illusions about democratic decision making in
Congress or Democratic opposition to war. The Congressional vote this
year, like that in 1990, came to a foregone conclusion. Enough Democrats
vote 'no,' once passage is assured, to preserve the illusion of debate and
'loyal opposition.' The war must be fought through forms of direct action,
resistance, education, and the development of the social and political
forces that can stop it. These lie outside of Congress and the political
parties of the rulers. We must take into account that the empire began
here, in the territories and among the people of America, and it is here
that it will ultimately be ended.

Racism, Police Brutality, and the War at Home

Even more critically, the anti-war movement against Desert Storm failed to

deal with the central issue of racism. This had several manifestations. 
Here in Los Angeles, for example, the struggle over the war practically 
coincided with the widely publicized police beating of Rodney King. Yet
the peace movement was invisible on the issue of this manifestation of a
"war at home." Although there was some significant Black participation in
peace rallies in L.A., including several Black war resisters in the ranks
of the military, there was minimal white involvement in the justice
struggle to end police brutality.

More than 5000 people marched on the LAPD's Parker Center on Mother's Day 
1991 to protest the King beating and demand a house-cleaning with top to 
bottom change at the LAPD, but the folks from "Another Mother for Peace"
or other white, west-side and student based peace groups were not there.
It was mostly a "Black thing."

The fall-out from this failure of the peace movement to connect to the 
issue of police abuse was profound for both issues and movements. The 
white-dominated peace movement failed to make connections or sink roots by

linking the issue of militarism at home and abroad, despite lip service to

the theme of "peace and justice." It failed to add its force to a push for

radical social transformation and community empowerment. As a result, the 
powers-that-be were able to install a few minor cosmetic changes at LAPD, 
allowing Chief Gates to stay in power for another year or more and for the

cops who beat King to be acquitted. Warren Christopher went from brokering

a deal for phony "reforms" in the LAPD to charting the course of the
empire as a king-maker and Secretary of State for Bill Clinton. And the
peace movement condemned itself to irrelevance.

Compare that to the high water mark and lasting impact of the anti-war, 
anti-imperialist struggle at the time of the Vietnam War, which was in
many ways led and pushed by Black, Chicano and Asian liberation forces in
this country. Even a figure like Martin Luther King, Jr. was clear that
the struggle for justice and against war were one and the same. He
declared that the struggle against the war in Vietnam had to be a struggle
against the system that produced war or we would simply be fighting a
rear-guard action against another war in short order. It was the Black
Power movement that coined the slogan, "Hell No! We Won't Go!" which set a
standard of resistance that galvanized anti-draft and anti-war protests.
It was Muhammad Ali who said, "No Viet Cong ever called me nigger." It was
the Chicano Moratorium that seared into people's consciousness the
visceral connection between racist police brutality and imperialist war.

The anti-war movement today must follow that earlier example and overcome 
the weaknesses of the movement against the first Gulf War in this regard, 
or it is doomed to irrelevance.

In the USA PATRIOT law and the Homeland Security Department, in the 
anti-immigrant crackdown and Operation Tarmac, and in LA police chief 
William Bratton's definition of supposed gang violence as a 'national 
security problem,' police repression and brutality are tightly connected
to the drive towards endless colonial wars around the globe. The empire 
becomes ever more seamless. The "peace movement" must address the needs, 
issues and leadership of the "peace makers," the gang truce activists who 
are trying to bring peace to their own communities, and assert community 
control over abusive police. And clearly, anti-war activists must get 
ourselves organized to protect ourselves from and defend against police 
abuse and repression of political dissidents.

War and Fascism

The fourth and final aspect of a failure by the peace movement of the
early 90's to deal with racism and the nature of the system is two-fold,
and we are still seeing its repercussions. It has to do with a failure to
deal with fascist activity in the U.S. On the one hand, racist and fascist

elements seized on the war to present themselves as opponents of the 
government and the Bush "New World Order," and thereby sought to
infiltrate and recruit from the anti-war movement. In Seattle, a member of
the Lyndon LaRouche fascist network took a position of leadership in the
main anti-war coalition. In many cities the John Birch Society as well as
openly anti-Semitic forces hiding behind Pat Buchanan, attempted to worm
into peace rallies. White Aryan Resistance leader Tom Metzger sent racist 
propaganda to US soldiers in the Gulf. At the same time a wave of bigoted 
violence broke out within the US, directed at both Arabs and Jews. These 
twin phenomena have continued unabated to this day, in fact on a far
larger scale. They must be high-priority areas for the peace movement to
act, particularly in defense of immigrants targeted as scapegoats by both
the state and out-front racists. If the anti-war movement clearly opposes
the totality of the empire, defends the human rights and needs of
oppressed people around the world and inside the US, and struggles for
justice against racism and police abuse, it will clearly demarcate
opposition to the war based on a commitment to human liberation, from the
propagandistic posturing and racist scapegoating carried out in war time
by fascist forces. Neo-nazi groups in substantial numbers are presenting
themselves as opponents of the US war drive in order to recruit
disaffected young whites to their ranks. The anti-war, anti-imperialist
forces must be explicitly anti-racist, and also explicitly
revolutionary-minded, to effectively out-organize such nazi formations.

We offer this analysis as a contribution to building a more powerful, more

effective and more revolutionary movement against the latest phases in 
Bush's "endless war." We invite feedback and criticism, and hope that by 
understanding and debating this history, we can overcome the problems that

hamstrung the anti-war efforts a decade ago. Please respond to:

Lead editorial from "Turning the Tide: Journal of Anti-Racist Action, 
Research and Education" Volume 15, Number 4, Winter 2002-2003
Anti-Racist Action/People Against Racist Terror (ARA/PART)
PO Box 1055
Culver City CA 90232


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