On February 11th, President Obama gave a speech demanding that Congress take action by waging a wider war – once again, against terrorism. This time the target is the so-called terrorist group ISIS, the Islamic State in Syria and Iraq. ISIS has made headlines as it seizes territory in Northern Iraq and in Syria. In dramatic and theatrical acts of violence, ISIS has killed Western journalists, putting the grisly images on the internet. To combat this evil, Obama has demanded the power to wage war against ISIS in any country it operates in. The U.S. has already been carrying out a bombing campaign in Syria since September. The latest vote by the Senate enables the Obama administration to arm and train Syrian rebels, and extend U.S. military strikes into any country which ISIS is supposedly operating out of. The majority of the Senate voted in favor of these measures, applauding Obama for fighting the evil of ISIS.
What is wrong with this picture? First, the United States government is and has been at war with the people of the Middle East as well as Africa and other countries for decades. The U.S. military has been engaged in uninterrupted attacks on Iraq since 1991, and has devastated the country over the course of two wars.
The U.S. has carried out drone and missile strikes in Somalia, Yemen, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Sudan, Syria, Libya, and many other countries. In the government’s weekly counter-terrorism meeting, Obama authorizes American drones to carry out targeted assassinations worldwide, including against U.S. citizens. In the last five years, the U.S. military has carried out 2,400 drone strikes.
Both Democratic and Republican administrations have carried on this brutality of endless war, costing millions of lives while Congress has voted continuously to supply, fund and authorize this global war. The vote in Congress last month was just one more step in an ongoing war.
There was no ISIS before the so-called “War on Terror.” The U.S. war against Iraq devastated that country. Over a million people have died since 2003 from violence or disease and malnutrition. The infrastructure of the country has been shattered, and power handed to corrupt politicians from ultra-religious political parties. It is insane to look at that history and demand more violence and war as a solution.
ISIS grew up in Iraq after the U.S. invasion and spread to Syria after the population began to revolt against the government of Bashar Al-Assad. Even though ISIS is a brutal force, it still attracts support because in some regions it is able to pose as the only force which fights the U.S. occupation and the corrupt politicians who support it.
At the same as it condemns the violence of ISIS, the U.S. supports regimes whose brutality is much worse than ISIS, even if they don’t broadcast their violence on the internet. Saudi Arabia is one of the most brutal dictatorships in the world. Saudi Arabia is a monarchy with not even a shred of democracy. Women face the most severe repression, unable to drive or leave the home without a male escort. Political opponents of the regime are brutally whipped in public. In 2014 over sixty people were publicly executed by beheading for crimes ranging from drug use to “sorcery.” The dead bodies of the executed are displayed in public and broadcast on television. But this regime is an ally of the U.S. so it is never criticized. When Saudi King Abdullah died earlier this year, what did Obama have to say about him? Obama said that he was a great leader, devoted to “the education of his people and to greater engagement with the world.” Really?! – an education in the art of brutality and oppression.
What is really at stake here for the Obama administration, the U.S. government, and the wealthy banks and corporations they serve? They want to extend and deepen their control of the world. U.S. banks and corporations rely on the U.S. military to guarantee their domination of the world economy. To maintain that domination, the U.S. military has been in constant motion since World War II, carrying out attacks, assassinations, and wars in Latin America, the Middle East, and Asia. Nothing has changed about this after Obama’s speech and the latest vote by Congress.
Poor and working people in the United States have no interest in supporting or paying for the wars that are carried out in our name. The same banks and corporations who profit from war are degrading our lives here in the U.S. We have every interest in saying “NO” to war, and calling out Congress and the President for what they really are – lying, hypocritical servants of the one percent – the banks and corporations and their entire capitalist system.