War and Why We Should Resist It
By Nic Eaton
It’s time to reignite the anti-war movement. Despite what we hear from elected officials and the media, the War on Terror is far from over, and it’s far more than a single war. As drone bombings and night raids terrorize innocent civilians in dozens of countries, the culture of fear has allowed militarization to seep into our everyday lives.
A creative and vibrant anti-war movement holds the promise of successfully ending the War on Terror, curbing military spending, restoring our lost civil liberties, and spawning new movements and coalitions. The experience of a successful mass movement for peace will deepen ties, expand networks, and inspire other movements. Furthermore, the growth of a movement opposed to the agenda of the Obama administration opens the door to shifting the attitudes of supporters of the Democratic Party – producing a political realignment around new principles and values that more closely resemble that of the Left.
U.S. global dominance relies on an intricate network of oppressions in order to maintain a certain minimum degree of support, and to police any and all opposition. These oppressions – racism, sexism, homophobia, etc. – affect and are affected by a foreign policy designed to establish and maintain U.S. global hegemony. While it may be easy to compartmentalize our views of foreign and domestic policy, things are not all that black and white. It stands to reason that a successful foreign policy requires a complementary domestic policy, and vice versa. The War on Terror is not only the harbinger of death and destruction for the rest of the world, it has also poisoned the United States. Fear of a decentralized and faceless fictional enemy has created ripe conditions for the unprecedented militarization of civil society. From the recent discovery of intimate collaboration between the CIA and the NYPD to widespread domestic surveillance, it’s clear that as long as there is a so-called War on Terror there will be justification for every injustice here at home.
Wars are often imagined as two groups of soldiers killing each other relentlessly. For most, the understanding of war doesn’t go beyond that. The fact of the matter is that war incorporates an endless torrent of misery and oppression that mirrors the injustices we see every day:
- The prevalence of rape, sexual harassment, sexism, homophobia, and transphobia within the military and the use of them as tools of war against the people of Iraq and Afghanistan mirror gender and sexual oppression in the United States. Even feminism has been co-opted, as war hawks tout the liberation of Muslim women as a direct benefit of U.S. imperialism.
- The racialized language and motives of the war complement the white supremacy of the institutions and culture of the United States. When referencing the mass incarceration, extra-judicial assassination, detainment, and harassment of people of color it becomes necessary to ask: “here or abroad?”
- The crypto-Christian narrative of these wars as a “crusade” paired with extreme ignorance of and bigotry toward those perceived as Muslim in war-torn countries is inextricably linked to the incessant Puritanical assault on women and queer people here at home.
- The neverending wars against terror have constructed a climate of fear and hostility that has been used to justify the unprecedented expansion of state power, the elimination of civil liberties, the use of comprehensive and invasive domestic spying activities, the investigation and harassment of various groups on the Left including peace organizations, pro-Palestine groups, and environmental activists, and horribly racist and nationalistic immigration and documentation policies.
- These wars and the spectre of terrorism have also been used to seal the activities of elected officials away from public oversight – terminating any semblance of a free and independent press or public accountability. The vigorous persecution of whistleblowers has exposed the government’s desperate attempt to maintain utter secrecy and to, ultimately, continue making unilateral, undemocratic decisions.
- Despite claims to the contrary, drone attacks and night raids are not “targeted” in order to prevent unnecessary “collateral damage”. Instead, individuals who have participated in these raids have expressed considerable doubt as to whether the lists of targets they receive have been vetted. Drones and night raids appear to be “targeted” only insofar as they have a target. Victims are classified, post-mortem, as “enemy combatants” if they are male and of military-age.
These are just a handful of the various elements of the United States’ principles and values that are currently manifested in the War on Terror. There are many more examples, and they all point to the same conclusion: each and every one of us has a stake in mobilizing to end war. We all stand to gain significantly by dismantling the war machine.
As the Left in the United States regroups – as it has been for, arguably, many years – we will continue to draw on lessons from the past and the context in which we struggle. More and more, the idea of a network of oppressions operating as a total system has become a popular framework for understanding the world. This framework doesn’t just allow us to observe the world we live in as a more sophisticated system of systems, but also raises new possibilities for resistance.
As an example, members of a handful of organizations are collaborating through Witness Against Torture to shut down Guantanamo Bay. They have banded together to not only close down the notorious torture and rendition site, but also the various institutions and policies upon which it rests. It is a joint project that seeks to draw ties between torture black sites, the mass incarceration of people of color here in the United States, endless war, and white supremacy – building connections between different organizations to collaborate toward a common goal.
It seems that the Left in the United States is exiting an era of walking narrow paths to single destinations to walking many wide and interconnected paths to many destinations, together. A galaxy of movements and issues that can and should be addressed in relation to one another. While we certainly couldn’t argue that we are seeing the final era of single-issue organizing, it seems that the Left is making a healthy shift toward solidarity organizing and incorporating a holistic understanding of oppression into their grassroots work. The next step is to continue to experiment along these lines and develop new, bold, and powerful models of organizing. An each/and anti-war movement is not only possible, but may be the single best way to mobilize a sufficient number of people to overwhelm the U.S. war machine and repurpose its budget and resources toward more noble ends.
Nic Eaton is a labor organizer and member of the Organization for a Free Society. Follow him on Twitter @TalkLabor.