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Shamus Cooke: Israel Is Heavily Protected by the United States at the UN

Kourosh Ziabari
Reprinted from the Fars News Agency

TEHRAN (FNA) — Shamus Cooke, an American labor activist and writer, says that the United States heavily protects the Israeli regime in the United Nations and prevents any resolution against Tel Aviv from being adopted by the Security Council.

Following the 52-day onslaught on the Gaza Strip, which cost the lives of more than 2,100 Palestinians and destroyed a great deal of the urban infrastructure in the besieged territory, including the roads, bridges, hospitals, schools, universities and mosques, the global public opinion is now in a better position to judge the Israeli regime’s conduct, the international responses to it and the reasons why the United Nations didn’t take action to stop the Israeli atrocities.

“President Obama used the UN Security Council to give more time for Israel to complete its attack, as well as helping deflect international criticism. Of course the US would never allow the UN to implement sanctions against Israel, or to launch UN peacekeepers that would protect the Palestinians from Israelis,” said Shamus Cooke in an interview with Fars News Agency.

Noting that the UN has essentially become a “plaything for the United States foreign policy department”, Shamus Cook said that the UN is considered a joke by most of the world.

“Any semi-objective observer would argue that Israel’s disproportionate attack on Gaza constitutes several specific war crimes. A recent report also showed that Israel attacked 350+ factories in Gaza, which proves that the entire Gazan population was the target of the invasion, since the very base of their meager economy was attacked,” he said.

Shamus Cooke is a social service worker, trade unionist and writer for Workers Action whose articles about the Middle East current affairs have been featured by different online and print publications.

In an interview with FNA, Mr. Cooke expounded on his opinions about Israel’s deadly military operation in the Gaza Strip which it codenamed as the Operation Protective Edge and the US government’s support for it. The following is the text of the interview.

Q: As testified by many international observers, Israel has been committing serious war crimes during its massive 52-day-long onslaught on the Gaza Strip, including “collective punishment” and the violation of the principles of “necessity and proportionality” as defined by the Geneva Conventions. Why don’t those international bodies and individuals who set rules and put in place laws to consolidate global peace and security take action against these violations?

A: The UN becomes weaker as global political tensions increase. The most powerful body of the UN, the Security Council, has essentially been used by the United States to achieve its foreign policy goals, for example in Libya, when the US exploited a vaguely-worded UN resolution to implement regime change. And when the UN doesn’t do as the US requests, it is simply ignored, for example in the Iraq invasion.

Israel is heavily protected by the US at the UN, not only by the US’ veto power on the Security Council, but also by the US’ political influence over other UN nations. Israel is likewise protected by the US in the Arab League, which is dominated by US allies. Israel is again protected by the US at the European Union, due to the US’ dominant position in NATO. Without any of these regional bodies able to intervene in the conflict, the Israeli invasion was allowed to drag on, and the Israeli war criminals responsible will not face retribution for their actions.

Q: You wrote in a recent article that if the US President Barack Obama had adopted a firm stance on the Israeli incursion into Gaza from the beginning and threatened Tel Aviv with withdrawing its financial and military assistance in case that it refused to stop its airstrikes on Gaza, the situation would not have reached this critical point. However, there is one issue here. Does Barack Obama, or any other US president, have the sufficient authority and power to stand against Israel and demand it categorically to stop its genocidal policies? Will the influential Israeli lobby in Washington allow the US administration to adopt such a policy?

A: President Obama absolutely has the power to stand up to Israel, and he’s already proven himself capable. The best example of Obama shunning Israel was when he chose not to launch air strikes against the Syrian government in 2013. The Israeli lobby worked overtime to convince Obama and Congress to launch the strikes, but the lobby was ignored. There have been several times in US-Israeli relations where Israel’s priorities were ignored by Washington.

Obama’s ongoing negotiations with Iran have also angered the Israeli government, which fears that any rapprochement with Iran will weaken Israel’s position. The Israeli lobby is still very strong, however, as proved by the fact that all 100 US Senators voted in favor of a resolution supporting Israel in its savage attack on Gaza. But conflict is bound to reemerge between Israel and the United States, with Israel suffering as the weaker partner, since it is critically dependent on the US for financial, military, and political aid.

Q: Israel’s excuse for launching the air, ground and sea attacks on Gaza was the kidnapping and killing of three Jewish settlers that was allegedly committed by Hamas. Even if it’s true that Hamas kidnapped and killed the three teenagers, then would it be a proportionate and logical response to bombard all the civilian infrastructures of a besieged coastal enclave, kill some 2,100 people and even pound its hospitals with rockets and missiles, to simply retaliate the kidnapping of three young boys?

A: Any semi-objective observer would argue that Israel’s disproportionate attack on Gaza constitutes several specific war crimes. A recent report also showed that Israel attacked 350+ factories in Gaza, which proves that the entire Gazan population was the target of the invasion, since the very base of their meager economy was attacked. This new economic attack will heighten the humanitarian crisis caused by the invasion and ongoing blockade. No population should ever have to endure such suffering, similar to what the Jews suffered under Nazi Germany. But it is exactly this savageness that is quickly turning world opinion strongly against Israel, which will make it more difficult in the future for the US to offer any support to Israel during the next assault on Gaza, or Hezbollah, or Syria, etc.

Q: What do you think regarding the UN’s response to the war on Gaza and the mass killing of the Palestinian citizens in the besieged territory? The Security Council, which is purportedly in charge of maintaining global peace and security, simply expressed its “serious concern” over the civilian casualties “on both sides”, instead of issuing a resolution to call on Israel to halt its airstrikes that have seized hundreds of innocent lives. Why has the Security Council become so passive and submissive to Israel?

A: The Security Council is in a constant tug of war between the US and Europe on one side, versus Russia, China, Iran, and many other countries on the other. But the Security Council is dominated by US and European allies, and when US allied nations are directly involved in atrocities, like Israel was against Gaza, then the US uses the UN to limit international outcry, while preventing actions that could stop the attacks.

President Obama used the UN Security Council to give more time for Israel to complete its attack, as well as helping deflect international criticism. Of course the US would never allow the UN to implement sanctions against Israel, or to launch UN peacekeepers that would protect the Palestinians from Israelis. The UN has essentially become a plaything for the United States foreign policy department, which is why the UN is considered a joke by most of the world. As long as the US views itself as a colossal military power accountable to no one, the UN’s ability to intervene anywhere effectively is stunted, if not useless.

Q: Does the US public support the government’s policy towards the Israel-Palestinian conflict? There have been rallies and demonstrations in different US cities in condemnation of the Israeli atrocities; however, the US government cannot maintain its sponsorship of Israel without the moral support of its people. What do the opinion polls or the experimental observations say about the American public’s attitude toward the Israeli carnage in the Gaza Strip?

A: The Israeli attack on Gaza was a watershed moment in the United States, drastically changing public opinion against Israel. In Washington D.C. tens of thousands of people denounced Israel’s invasion, and cities across the United States held protests of thousands of people. Millions of Americans have watched videos on Facebook and other social media that show Israel’s crimes against the Palestinians. A recent US poll showed that the majority of young people in the United States blame Israel for the conflict, which is incredible since all of the coverage by US mainstream media is overwhelmingly pro-Israel.

Will this be enough to change future US government support for Israel? That is hard to say. The US government consistently ignores the attitudes of its citizens. For example, before the US invaded Iraq in 2003, hundreds of thousands of Americans protested in the streets against the invasion, and it happened anyway.

In fact, a Princeton University study proved that the US is not a democracy at all, but an oligarchy, dominated by a small group of very rich people. It therefore becomes increasingly difficult to find the opinions of Americans expressed in their government. Instead, we see only the priorities of the rich and big corporations reflected in government policy. When it comes to Israel, US public opinion faces an additional hurdle — on top of the barrier of AIPAC: Israel serves as a bastion of US power abroad, and the US military relies on Israel to take military actions that are politically unpopular in the United States, for example Israel’s many bombing incursions into Syria over the past year.

Q: A number of commentators, including yourself, have noted that the recent unity deal between the West Bank-based Fatah party and Hamas in the Gaza Strip was one of the main causes that provoked the Israeli aggression, as the Tel Aviv leaders find a coalition government in Palestine a serious threat to their plans for taking control over the entire Occupied Territories. What’s your take on that?

A: The brief unity between Hamas and Fatah was without question one of the triggering events of the war. As long as Israel can politically divide the West Bank from Gaza, dominating both becomes exponentially easier. Divide and rule has been Israel’s strategy for decades, having first succeeded in the Camp David Accords, when Israel achieved a much-wanted separate peace with Egypt that divided the pan-Arab movement. When Jordan also made a separate Israeli peace deal, the Palestinians were further isolated, since their fate had long been tied to the support they were given by regional powers.

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A New Push for Peace in Syria?

Why are there no serious peace talks to end the war in Syria? After robbing over 130,000 people of their lives, and evicting over 9 million refugees from their homes, the Syrian war has infected nearly every region of the Middle East. Yet among the U.S. and its regional allies there are no public discussions about a viable peace plan, only war talk.

It’s hard to talk peace when the United States is still maneuvering for war, having recently given $500 million to arm and train Syrian rebels, while also brokering a deal with Saudi Arabia to open a new Syrian rebel training camp, in addition to the one already functioning in Jordan. Instead of using Obama’s vast Middle East influence for peace he has used it to push war.

The brilliant failure of the U.S.-led Geneva peace talks on Syria was done without the seriousness demanded by the wholesale destruction of a nation. Obama used the talks to pursue “U.S. interests,” having purposely excluded Iran from the talks while trying to leverage disproportionate power for Obama’s “Free Syrian Army” rebels, who enjoy minuscule power on the ground while using the peace talks to make giant demands.

Obama played a passive role in the peace talks, allowing them to flounder instead of publicly putting forth serious proposals that reflected the situation on the ground. There have been no talks since January and Geneva III is yet unscheduled, while Obama seems committed to giving the rebels more bargaining power via more war, the logic being that if the rebels are armed and trained appropriately, they’ll eventually be able to win back enough land to force the Assad government to bargain on equal terms.

The giant void in the market for peace has opened up opportunities for Russia and Egypt, who reportedly are attempting to insert themselves as leaders in Middle East diplomacy, in part to expand their influence, in part to protect themselves from the conflagration of Islamic extremism the conflict is producing.

Mint Press reports on the still-developing story:

“Moscow and Cairo are preparing for a conference between the Syrian regime and the opposition in the hope of bringing them together in a transitional government that ‘fights terrorism’…the agenda of the conference to be held between the two sides includes establishing a transitional Syrian government with extensive powers while maintaining Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s authority over the army and security institutions.”

If such a proposal comes to fruition its merits must be seriously debated on the world stage, where Obama would very likely do his best to sabotage the peace. This is because Obama’s rebels on the ground in Syria — loosely organized under the “Free Syrian Army” banner — are powerless, and a Russia-led peace process would reveal this fact and apply it to a peace treaty, leaving little influence for the Obama administration in the new government. This is a peace deal Obama would rather kill.

Obama’s rebels are weak while the Syrian Government has made substantial military gains. Most notably a recent peace deal was won in Syria’s largest city Aleppo, modeled after the peace deal in Homs that allowed rebels to leave unarmed while giving de-facto control of the city to the government.

Interestingly, veteran Middle East journalist Robert Fisk recently questioned not only the relevance of Obama’s Free Syrian Army, but it’s very existence. Fisk explains:

“The Free Syrian Army I think drinks a lot of coffee in Istanbul. I have never come across it – except in the first months of the fighting, I’ve never come across even prisoners from the Free Syrian Army…You know, the FSA, in the eyes of the Syrians, doesn’t really exist. They’ve got al-Qaeda, Nusrah, various other Islamist groups, and now of course ISIS…But I don’t think they care very much about the Free Syrian Army. One officer told me that some have been accepted back into the Syrian Army, so they could go home. Others had been allowed to go home and they were not permitted to serve in the Syrian Army anymore. I think that the Free Syrian Army is a complete myth and I don’t believe it really exists and nor do the Syrians…”

Fisk’s analysis of the FSA punctuates the perspective of many who have long questioned whether the FSA had been totally absorbed by the Islamic extremist militias. At most the FSA exists in tiny irrelevant pockets, though Fisk thinks the FSA might be an Obama administration fantasy used to justify the ongoing Syrian war.

Aside from Obama’s weakness on the ground, there are broader geo-political reasons Obama would reject a Russia/Egypt-led peace. For one, the Obama Administration only recently made a long term investment in war, by giving the $500 billion to the Syrian rebels and training thousands more in Saudi Arabia, actions that effectively dismissed any meaningful reconciliation with Iran.

Obama chose instead to reinforce the close alliances with pariah states Saudi Arabia and Israel, and both are demanding that Syria be destroyed. By re-committing himself to Saudi Arabia, Turkey, and Israel, Obama has essentially abandoned peace with Syria and Iran, since Obama’s allies want Syria and Iran destroyed.

If Obama followed the lead of Russia and Egypt in the peace process, his allies would abandon him, since they’ve invested huge sums of money, arms, and their political livelihoods on making sure their governments and domestic companies profit off of the demise of the Syrian government.

This is the basis for the complete geo-political stalemate in the Middle East. Of course the giant U.S. corporations that benefit from Middle East dominance are applying maximum pressure to continue war. The stalemate has become so obvious and destructive in Syria that Russia and Egypt have inserted themselves as power brokers, which would act to bolster their political-economic leverage while pushing the U.S. out.

Regional power scrambling aside, if a rational peace deal were put forth —whether it’s brokered by Russia, Egypt, or whomever — the world must demand that peace be pursued, lest the Syrian catastrophe continue.

Obama and his regional allies have proven totally incapable of producing any realistic peace proposal — they’ve been too consumed with war. Obama has yet another chance to recognize the results of this failed proxy war and accept a peace that is a 100,000 lives overdue, or it can forge ahead to expand the killing. Stopping the war is as easy as acknowledging the reality, and to forge a treaty that reflects it.

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Behind the Media’s Assault on Seymour Hersh

He’s the most respected journalist in U.S. history, and for decades Seymour Hersh has consistently broken major international stories, winning him the Pulitzer Prize among other prestigious awards of journalism.

But the media establishment that once idealized him now seeks his destruction. Hersh is facing a coordinated attack from his former colleagues, each scrambling to drive in the next knife.

Hersh’s recent report on the killing of Osama Bin Laden and his prior investigation of Obama’s aborted 2013 bombing of Syria have attracted a synchronized media smear campaign.

But Hersh’s attackers are a clumsy bunch. The hysterics and uniformity of the attack says less about the victim than it does the perpetrators, who share a self-interest in shredding Hersh’s stellar reputation.

Hersh’s last two investigations exposed major lies of the Obama administration; but they also exposed the complete failure of the U.S. media, who’ve been willing captives to the sloppy narratives spun by the Obama administration.

For example, Hersh’s 2014 articles on Syria were a damning exposure of Obama’s lies to the U.S. public in his attempt to start a fresh war. The media responded to Hersh’s sensational Syria articles with collective silence. They simply ignored them and did no follow up, leaving the lies of the Obama administration unchallenged. The few bold enough to challenge Hersh mocked him as a “conspiracy theorist,” never bothering to address the allegations.

One of the biggest “conspiracies” that Hersh uncovered in Syria was that the Turkish government was secretly working with the extremist group al-Nusra Front to topple the Syrian government; this at the same time as the Obama administration was coordinating with Turkey toward the same goal. This “conspiracy” is now openly acknowledged, as Turkey and Saudi Arabia are publicly coordinating with the al Nusra Front and its sister extremist group, Ahrar al-Sham, under the umbrella group “Conquest Army.”

The media’s collective silence over Hersh’s Syria articles has now turned into a coordinated attack in response to Hersh’s revelations about Obama’s lie-ridden narrative of the death of Bin-Laden.

A pack mentality gripped the media, rabid and snarling; but the bites lacked teeth. They nipped at Hersh’s ankles and he scattered them with a laugh. He’s comfortable being in the crosshairs of power, having always emerged vindicated.

The sharpest allegation launched against Hersh was itself dull. He was lambasted for using anonymous sources, while other sources just weren’t good enough. Here’s the Wall Street Journal’s version of the most popular attack on Hersh:

“Mr. Hersh’s 10,356-word account is based nearly exclusively on a handful of unnamed sources  — which can’t be fact-checked — and mainly one retired U.S. intelligence official. One of the only named sources is Asad Durrani, a former director of Pakistani intelligence…”

Ironically, this quote — which purposely waters down the extent of the sources — helps Hersh, since It shows that he used more sources than the vast majority of stories written by the U.S. media on matters of foreign policy.

Typically the U.S. media relies on a single source: the Obama administration.

And very often this single source is anonymous, referred to as a “senior government official.” Facts aren’t checked and tough questions are never asked. What Obama says becomes “fact,” and if someone like Hersh challenges the narrative, the media skewers the challenger.

Anonymous sources are acceptable when the reporter believes the person they are talking to has access to knowledge about the situation being reported. If the story is especially controversial several sources are helpful to corroborate the report, as Hersh used in his last two major investigations.

A New York Times reporter is allowed to use anonymous sources because the publication is known to have access to those in power. Hersh has likewise earned the benefit of doubt regarding sources. No one has doubted — until now suddenly — that Hersh has access to high-ranking government figures, thanks to his international celebrity and spotless reporting record.

It’s unfortunate that many of Hersh’s sources must remain anonymous, but this is due, in part, to the blanket of fear that Obama used to suffocate truth, having prosecuted more whistleblowers than all previous administrations combined. The Bin Laden raid remains highly classified, and those who go on record publicly can expect long prison sentences, or possibly worse.

The secondary media attacks used against Hersh were even shallower, amounting to dozens of pathetic attempts to poke holes in his logic.

Asking probing questions is of course a key part of journalism. If only the media had been so eager to ask similar questions of the Obama administration’s version of Bin-Laden’s death.

Even after the Obama administration admitted that its initial versions of the Bin Laden assassination were false, the media immediately settled comfortably into the new version, not wondering about the motive behind the previous false story, nor curious about the flaws of logic in the new version.

Hersh’s version of Bin-Laden’s death is logically superior to that of the Obama administration’s. And it’s this logic that Hersh’s article is grounded in. For example Hersh’s opening paragraph:

“The White House’s story might have been written by Lewis Carroll: would bin Laden, target of a massive international manhunt, really decide that a resort town [with a large military facility] forty miles from Islamabad would be the safest place to live and command al-Qaida’s operations?”

The gaping holes of logic in the official story were there from the beginning. Hersh actually asked questions and explored them while the rest of the media were content with regurgitating White House press releases.

And when the White House’s narrative became an Oscar winning movie — made with help from the CIA — the myth was cemented in popular culture. Until Hersh shattered it.

Interestingly, a longtime Middle East correspondent, Carlotta Gall, said publicly that “my own reporting [on the death of Bin Laden] tracks with Hersh’s.” Reporters from NBC made similar statements. But individuals who spoke up were immediately shouted down by the choir.

The media have a self-interest in maintaining the Bin Laden fiction because they’ve been an important cog in the lie machine. Additionally, the media have a huge stake in maintaining cozy relations with the Obama administration, since the White House rewards the “good media” by leaking selective stories to “good reporters” via anonymous “senior government officials.”

Obama’s motive for lying about the death of Bin Laden is the real story here, hidden under the piles of slander against Hersh. Why would Obama lie about Bin Laden’s assassination?

The motive is obvious: the Bin Laden death narrative protects the tortures of the Bush administration while giving spectacular PR to the lynch pin of U.S. foreign policy — the so-called “war on terror.”

For example, the film Zero Dark Thirty is based on the White House’s narrative. The outcome of the film is essentially an Oscar winning state-sponsored propaganda film: the fictional drama showing how the CIA successfully hunted down Bin Laden with a combination of cunning, technology and torture.

Hersh’s article exploded this lie, humiliating everyone who took part in it.

After Hersh uncovered the tip of the torture iceberg with his Abu Ghraib reporting in 2004, people around the world howled for justice and demanded the torturers be prosecuted. Obama took no action, and the Bin Laden assassination lie has been used to protect the criminals.

More importantly, the White House-Zero Dark Thirty narrative gave a mighty PR boost to the “war on terror,” where the U.S. throws hundreds of billions of dollars into bombs, warplanes, and mass surveillance that has proved to be a miraculous failure. The war on terror has “succeeded” only in further destabilizing the Middle East that then fertilizes the ground for extremist groups like ISIS.

Ultimately, the bi-partisan attack on Hersh shows the complete media conformity on U.S. foreign policy, where Republicans, Democrats, and even “progressive” media have come to accept a governmental policy of never-ending war and mass surveillance. No questions asked.

When Bush was president, there were divisions in the establishment over the Iraq war, and the liberal media were given freedom to attack. But the liberal media have been co-opted under Obama.

And the right-wing media share Obama’s foreign policy vision too. Hersh opened a door for Fox News to attack Obama on Syria and Bin Laden, but Fox slammed it shut and instead attacked Hersh. Yes, the right wing media hate Obama, but they can’t attack him on foreign policy because they agree with him, aside from the occasional quip about Obama not being aggressive enough. This bipartisan agreement on foreign policy has given Obama tremendous freedom to launch drone wars in seven countries and lead a proxy war in Syria that Hersh helped expose last year.

When combined with the NSA spying program, Obama’s lies make previous presidential scandals — such as Watergate and Iran-Contra — look incredibly tame, while making the U.S. media look like accomplices instead of news reporters.

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Syrian War Set to Re-Explode

The Syrian war stalemate appears to be over. The regional powers surrounding Syria — especially Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Qatar, and Jordan — have re-ignited their war against the Syrian government. After over 200,000 dead and millions of refugees, the U.S. allies in the region recently re-committed to deepening the war, with incalculable consequences.

The new war pact was made between Obama’s regional darlings, Saudi Arabia and Turkey, who agreed to step up deeper military cooperation and establish a joint command in the occupied Syrian region of Idlib.

Turkey and Saudi Arabia are now openly backing Islamic extremists under the newly rebranded “Conquest Army.” The on-the-ground leadership of this “new” coalition consists of Jabhat al-Nusra — the “official” al-Qaeda affiliate — and Ahrar al-Sham, whose leader previously stated that his group was the “real al-Qaeda.”

The Huffington Post reports:

“The Turkish-Saudi agreement has led to a new joint command center in the northeastern Syrian province of Idlib. There, a coalition of groups — including Nusra and other Islamist brigades such as Ahrar al-Sham that Washington views as extremist — are progressively eroding Assad’s front. The rebel coalition also includes more moderate elements of the Free Syrian Army that have received U.S. support in the past.”

The article admits that the Free Syrian Army — that Obama previously labeled as “moderates” and gave cash and guns to — has been swallowed up by the extremist groups.

This dynamic has the potential to re-engulf the region in violence; deep Saudi pocketbooks, combined with reports of looming Turkish ground forces, are a catastrophe in the making.

Interestingly, the Saudi-Turkish alliance barely raised eyebrows in the U.S. media. President Obama didn’t think to comment on the subject, let alone condemn it.

The media was focused on an odd narrative of Obama reportedly being “concerned” about the alliance, but “disengaged” from what two of his close allies were doing in a region that the U.S. has micromanaged for decades.

It seems especially odd for the media to accept that Obama has a “hands off” approach in Syria when at the same time the media is reporting about a new U.S. program training Syrian rebels in Jordan, Saudi Arabia, and Turkey.

It’s inconceivable that Obama would coordinate deeply with Turkey to set up a Syrian rebel training camp on Turkish soil, while at the same time be “disengaged” from the Turkish-Saudi war coalition in Syria.

One possible motive behind the fake narrative of “non-cooperation” between Obama and his Turkish-Saudi allies is that the U.S. is supposed to be fighting a “war on terrorism.”

So when Turkey and Saudi Arabia announce that they’re closely coordinating with terrorists in Syria — like al-Nusra and Ahrar al-Sham — Obama needs an alibi to avoid being caught at the crime scene. He’s not an accomplice, simply “disengaged.”

This is likely the reason why Obama has insisted that his new “moderate” rebels being trained in Turkey will fight ISIS, not the Syrian government. But this claim too is ridiculous.

Is Obama really going to throw a couple hundred newly-trained “moderate” Syrian rebels at ISIS while his Turkish-Saudi allies focus all their fire on the Syrian Government? The question answers itself.

The media has made mention of this obvious conundrum, but never bothers to follow up, leaving Obama’s lame narrative unchallenged. For example, the LA Times reports:

“The White House wants the [U.S. trained rebel] proxy force to target Islamic State militants, while many of the Syrian rebels — and the four host nations [where Syrian rebels are being trained] — want to focus on ousting Syrian President Bashar Assad.”

The article simply shrugs its shoulders at the irreconcilable. The article also fails to mention that Obama’s “new” training camps aren’t new at all; he’s been arming and training Syrian rebels since at least 2012, the only difference being that the “new” training camps are supposedly meant to target ISIS, compared to the training camps that were openly used to target the Syrian government.

Here’s the LA Times in 2013:

“The covert U.S. training [of Syrian rebels] at bases in Jordan and Turkey began months before President Obama approved plans to begin directly arming the opposition to Syrian President Bashar Assad, according to U.S. officials and rebel commanders.

This is media amnesia at its worse. Recent events can’t be understood if the media doesn’t place events in context. In practice this “forgetfulness” provides political cover to the Obama administration, shielding his longstanding direct role in the Syrian war, allowing him to pretend to a “passive,” “hands off” approach.

When it was reported in 2012 that the Obama administration was funneling weapons to the Syrian rebels, the few media outlets that mentioned the story didn’t bother to do any follow up. It simply fell into the media memory hole. After the weapons funneling report came out, Obama incredulously stated that he was only supplying “non lethal” support to the rebels, and the media printed his words unchallenged.

Consequently, there was no public discussion about the consequences of the U.S. partaking in a multi-nation proxy war against Syria, a country that borders Iraq and which has already been shredded by U.S. foreign policy.

In 2013 when Obama announced that he would be bombing the Syrian government in response to a supposed gas attack, the U.S. media asked for no evidence of the allegation, and strove to buttress Obama’s argument for aggression.

And when Pulitzer Prize winner Seymour Hersh wrote an article exposing Obama’s lies over the aborted bombing mission, the article didn’t see the light of day in the U.S. media. Critically thoughtful voices were not welcome. They remain unwelcome.

In 2015 direct U.S. military intervention in Syria remains a real possibility. All the conditions that led to Obama’s decision to bomb Syria in 2013 remain in place.

In fact, a U.S. intervention is even more likely now that Turkey and Saudi Arabia are fighting openly against the Syrian government, since the Saudi-Turkish alliance might find itself in a key battle that demands the special assistance that only the U.S. air force can offer.

Unsurprisingly, there has been renewed discussion of a U.S. enforced “no fly zone” in Syria. ISIS doesn’t have an air force, so a no fly zone would be undeniably aimed at the Syrian government to destroy its air force. The new debate over a “no fly zone” is happening at the same time as a barrage of new allegations of “chemical weapons” are being made against the Syrian government.

If a no fly zone is eventually declared by the Obama Administration, it will be promoted as a “humanitarian intervention,” creating a “humanitarian corridor” to “protect civilians” — the same rhetoric that was used for a massive U.S.-led NATO bombing campaign in Libya that destroyed the country and continues to create a massive refugee crisis.

As the Syrian war creates fresh atrocities, the Obama administration will be pressured to openly support his Saudi-Turkish allies, just as he came out into the open in 2013 when he nearly bombed the Syrian government.

History is repeating itself. But this time the stakes are higher: the region has already been destabilized with the wars in Iraq, Libya, and Syria, and the regional conflicts have sharpened between U.S. allies on one hand, and Iran, Syria, Hezbollah and Russia on the other.

Such a volatile dynamic demands a media willing to explain the significance of these events. The truth is that Obama has been a proxy war president that has torn apart the Middle East as badly as his predecessor did, and if the U.S. public remains uninformed about current events, an even larger regional war is inevitable.

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Obama’s “Safe Zone” in Syria will Inflame the War Zone

The road to war is paved with a thousand lies. A fresh fib was tossed on the lie-cluttered warpath to Syria, when it was announced that the U.S. and Turkey would create a “safe zone” inside of Syria — supposedly to be aimed against ISIS.

This “safe zone” is a major escalation of war, but it was described in soft tones by the media, sounding almost cuddly. In reality, however, a “safe zone” is a “no-fly zone,” meaning that a nation is planning to implement military air superiority inside the boundaries of another nation. It’s long recognized by the international community and U.S. military personnel as a major act of war. In a war zone an area is made “safe” by destroying anything in it or around that appears threatening.

Turkey has been demanding this no-fly zone from Obama since the Syrian war started. It’s been discussed throughout the conflict and even in recent months, though the intended goal was always the Syrian government.

And suddenly the no-fly zone is happening — right where Turkey always wanted it — but it’s being labeled an “anti-ISIS” safe zone, instead of its proper name: “Anti Kurdish and anti-Syrian government” safe zone.

The U.S. media swallowed the name change without blinking, but many international media outlets knew better.

For instance, the International Business Times reported “ [the safe zone deal]…could mark the end of [Syrian President] Assad…”

And The Middle East Eye reported:

“…[the safe zone] marks a breakthrough for Turkey in its confrontation with the Bashar al-Assad government in Syria. If the no-fly zone does come into being it will be a body blow for Assad and his supporters”

Even U.S. media outlets acknowledged that the primary goal of Obama’s safe zone ally, Turkey, was defeating the Kurdish fighters and the Syrian government, both of whom have been the most effective fighters against ISIS.

Syrian regime change is also the goal of the ground troops who will be filling the void left by ISIS, who The New York Times labeled “relatively moderate Syrian insurgents,” a telling euphemism.

The New York Times confirmed the goals of the safe zone allies:

“…both the Turks and the Syrian insurgents see defeating President Bashar al-Assad of Syria as their first priority…”

If the Syrian government wasn’t the target of the safe zone, then Syrian government troops would be the ones to control the safe zone post ISIS, as they did before ISIS. And if regime change wasn’t the target, then the Syrian government would have been consulted and coordinated with to attack ISIS, since Syria is involved with heavy fighting against ISIS in the same region that the safe zone is being carved out.

These steps weren’t taken because the “safe zone” plan is much bigger than ISIS.

Obama hasn’t detailed who the “relatively moderate” fighters are that will control the safe zone, but it’s easy to guess. We only have to look at the Syrian rebels on the ground who are effective fighters and control nearby territory.

The most powerful non-ISIS group in the region recently re-branded itself as the “Conquest Army,” a coalition of Islamic extremists led by Jabhat al-Nusra — the official al-Qaeda affiliate — and the group Ahrar al-Sham, whose leader previously stated that his group was “the real al Qaeda.” The Conquest Army actively coordinates with Turkey and Saudi Arabia, and is also populated with U.S.-trained fighters.

These groups share the ideology and tactics of ISIS, the only difference being their willingness to work with the United States and Turkey. It’s entirely likely that once the “safe zone” operation starts, many ISIS troops will simply change shirts and join Jabhat al-Nusra, since there is no principled difference.

Obama knows that the foreign ground troops controlling the “safe zone” are targeting the Syrian government; consequently, U.S. military planes will be acting as the de-facto air force for Al-Qaeda against the Syrian government.

Thus, direct military confrontation with the Syrian government is inevitable. President Assad is already attacking ISIS in the area that the U.S.-Turkey alliance wants to make “safe” via its coordinated military operation. Syrian fighter jets will eventually be targeted, since the goal is to allow extremist groups a “safe zone” to continue their attacks on the Syrian government after ISIS is dealt with.

This danger was also acknowledged by The New York Times:

“Whatever the goal, the plan [safe zone] will put American and allied warplanes closer than ever to areas that Syrian aircraft regularly bomb, raising the question of what they will do if Syrian warplanes attack their partners [“relatively moderate rebels”] on the ground.”

The answer is obvious: U.S. and Turkish fighter jets will engage with Syrian aircraft, broadening and deepening the war until the intended aim of regime change has been accomplished.

This is exactly how events developed in Libya, when the U.S.-NATO led a “no-fly zone” that was supposedly created to allow a “humanitarian corridor,” but quickly snowballed into its real goal: regime change and assassination of Libya’s president. This epic war crime is still celebrated by Obama and Hillary Clinton as a “victory,” while Libyans drown in the Mediterranean to escape their once-modern but now obliterated country.

If Obama’s goal in Syria was actually defeating ISIS, this could have been achieved at any time, in a matter of weeks. It would simply take a serious and coordinated effort with U.S. regional allies, while coordinating with the non-allies already fighting ISIS: Syria, Iran, and Hezbollah.

If Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Israel, and Jordan were involved in the fight on ISIS it would be quickly strangled of cash, guns, and troops, and be massively out-powered. War over.

The only reason this hasn’t happened is that the U.S. and its allies have always viewed ISIS as a convenient proxy against Syria, Hezbollah, and Iran, not to mention leverage against the Iran-friendly government of Iraq.

Turkey remains the biggest obstacle to defeating ISIS, since it’s been helping it for years. ISIS has long used the Turkish border to escape Syrian government attacks, seek medical assistance, and get supplies and reinforcements. ISIS is so welcomed inside Turkey that ISIS promotes Turkey on social media as the international transit hub for jihadis wanting to join ISIS. Turkish immigration and customs looks the other way, as does the Turkish border control.

In discussing the “safe zone,” the U.S. media always ignore the concept of national sovereignty — the basis for international law. The boundaries of countries are sacred from the standpoint of international law. The only just war is a defensive one. When one country implements a no-fly zone in another country, national boundaries are violated and international law is broken by an act of war.

The Obama administration is aware of the above dynamics, but has again tossed caution to the wind as he did in 2013, during the ramp up to its aborted bombing campaign against the Syrian government.

A U.S.-Turkish no-fly zone will deepen an already regional war: Iran and Hezbollah have recently ramped up direct support of the Syrian government. As Turkish and the U.S. military enter the war space for the first time, confrontation is inevitable. Confrontation is the plan.

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Does Bernie Sanders’ Imperialism Matter?

Critiquing Bernie Sanders from the left can be a lonely project. There is a “hope”-powered hysteria surrounding his campaign, and bursting the “hope” bubble can produce a fierce backlash. The Sanders “hope” explosion is so fierce because capitalism has become a hopeless place.

Hope can be positive by pushing people into political action, but it’s also exploited by the establishment as shiny bait. Obama, for example, fished for votes using “hope” and reeled in the presidency.

He then clubbed “hope” senseless by betraying his promises, continuing war and maintaining the domestic policies of the 1%. Hope was so thoroughly thrashed that a new messiah of hope was needed to cure the Obama-fortified hopelessness.

Bernie’s version of hope is deeper than Obama’s shallow PR electoral campaign, but under capitalism real “hope” isn’t a simple recipe, and Bernie is missing some key ingredients, most notably “anti-imperialism,” which is exemplified in Bernie’s reactionary foreign policy positions.

Imperialism can be loosely defined as the multitude of actions that maintain the U.S. global empire. Americans don’t realize the true political depth of imperialism — or don’t even know they live in the largest empire in world history. This adds urgency to educating and organizing around this issue.

Some on the left would dismiss anti-imperialism as a “secondary” issue, accusing those who insist on its inclusion as “dogmatic” or “purist.” “Bernie is doing so many great things,” they insist, “that focusing on his weak points is counter-productive.”

It’s of course perfectly reasonable that many progressive/liberal and working class people would be attracted to many of Sanders’ platform points. But socialists/revolutionaries must have a broader perspective. Imperialism is, in some ways, the beating heart of U.S. capitalism: a central power of the “billionaire class” that stops progress abroad while blocking progress at home.

The rabidly pro-imperialist section of the establishment is the most powerful and class-conscious section of the ruling class, with deep roots in the military industrial-complex. It also has deep, racist roots in the South, where military enlistees remain vastly over-represented, and where many military bases are named after pro-slavery civil war heroes. This is the most hideously reactionary section of the establishment, who’d be the first to support fascism domestically, since they’ve already supported it in various forms abroad.

The U.S. pro-imperialist establishment helped create a network of global military alliances that funnel weapons globally while cash flows internationally into the hands of the 1% via the free trade agreements crafted by the pro-imperialist establishment.

Without imperialism the exports or markets of the largest U.S. corporations would suffer: the big banks, big oil, big health care/insurance corporations, defense contractors (the arms industry), agro-corporations, tech firms, etc.

Bernie’s failure to confront this specific, crucial power of the “billionaire class” isn’t a “blind spot” of his politics, since imperialism is like a tank parked in your living room, too big to ignore. By consciously allying with this imperialist-section of the establishment, Sanders has exposed himself as a push over, whenever the imperialists decide its push comes to shove about war.

This imperialist pressure to “fall in line” extends beyond war; Sanders helped write and gave crucial political support to Obamacare, betraying his longstanding “dedication” to universal health care.

Sanders knew that Obamacare was not “a step in the right direction,” but a decision to spend all of Obama’s political capital on a scheme that strengthens the health care/pharmaceutical corporations that act as the biggest barrier to universal health care. If elected, President Sanders would abandon much of his campaign promises and “fall in line” as quickly and ingloriously as Obama did.

Sanders surely knows that foreign policy cannot be separated from domestic policy. They are two sides of the same coin that directly affect each other. What happens abroad affects what is possible domestically, and vice versa.

For example, the U.S. imperialist project — via “defense” spending — drains the U.S. national budget (57% of discretionary spending), which could otherwise actually fund the things Bernie is proposing: universal health care and fully fund public schools, free college education, job creation, etc.

A Harvard study estimated that the full cost of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars alone will cost over $4 trillion, a number that is already increasing as the wars get indefinitely extended. This is a big reason why public schools are being shuttered and health insurance remains unaffordable or absent for tens of millions of people.

This kind of imperialist spending has effectively vetoed the job and social programs that people would enthusiastically vote for. This imperialist veto over domestic programs exemplifies how oppression abroad limits your freedoms at home. True freedom and economic security cannot be won in a bubble within an international economic system, especially within a U.S. imperialist system.

Imperialism also directly affects race relations in the United States. The U.S. establishment finds it acceptable to commit atrocities against people of color abroad because people of color at home live in dehumanized conditions and are treated as second-class citizens.

The imperialist actions abroad reinforce the oppression domestically, the most recent example being the Muslim people who are bombed overseas and then discriminated against at home. This racism is purposely exacerbated by politicians and the media, which serve to reinforce the position of the establishment by dividing working class people in both affected nations.

The same dynamic is used in Africa, where the underlying racism against African Americans is projected abroad, aiding and abetting the regimes that contained the Rwandan and Congo genocide. These U.S.-supported atrocities are then blamed on the “inexplicably savage” behavior of African tribalism, a racist lie used to legitimize the racism, mass incarceration, job discrimination, and crushing poverty experienced by African Americans.

It’s no exaggeration to say that U.S. imperialism is the most politically reactionary force in the world, directly and deeply shaping governments and militaries/police across the world that use these U.S. weapons against their own citizens.

For example, a recent article in Salon was named “35 Countries where the U.S. has supported Fascists, Drug Lords, and Terrorists.” The point is well made; U.S. imperialism artificially shoves governments across the globe far to the right, preventing these governments from becoming examples or allies for social movements within the United States.

The 700+ U.S. military bases across the globe directly affect the politics of every hosting nation, while U.S. imperialist political pressure is also applied via military alliances (NATO), arms sales, training military/police, supporting dictators, supporting military coups, proxy wars, direct military intervention, etc.

Supporting Bernie Sanders means ignoring — or minimizing — his imperialism, since political campaigns are won through cheerleading not criticism. And by ignoring Bernie’s foreign policy — because it might “hurt the campaign” — imperialism is reinforced through valuable political cover. The most powerful section of the U.S. establishment thus benefits.

Some Sanders supporters might respond: “at least his foreign policy is better than Hillary’s.” But Sanders himself has been unable to provide a real argument to support this claim during the ongoing debates.

When Sanders attempted to frame Hillary as “pro-regime change” in relation to the catastrophe she created in Libya, Hillary pointed out that Sanders voted “yes” to that regime change. As the war machine rolled into Libya, Sanders wasn’t a speed bump; he was a lubricant. Clinton and Sanders both have Libyan blood on their hands.

Sanders has Afghan blood on his hands too, having voted for the invasion of the now-endless Afghan war that triggered the beginning of the flurry of Middle East wars. And while Sanders brags about voting “no” for the 2003 Iraq war, his vote soon morphed into a “yes” by his several votes for the ongoing funding of the war/occupation.

Sanders also voted “yes” for the U.S.-led NATO destruction of Yugoslavia, and supports the brutal Israeli military regime that uses U.S. weapons to slaughter Palestinians.

When it was announced that Obama was choosing sides and funneling guns into the Syrian civil war — thus exacerbating and artificially extending the conflict — Bernie was completely silent, a silence that helped destroy Syria, leading to the biggest refugee crisis since World War II.

Sanders is consistently on the wrong side of history; he’s also been a direct accomplice to a series of massive war crimes.

Sanders often uses weak rhetoric to mitigate his imperialism. On his campaign website he says that the U.S. needs a “strong national defense infrastructure” and a “strong defense system,” but adds the caveat that he’s “concerned” about the military budget, and wants “accountability” for the enormous amounts that are spent. Obama the candidate spoke more clearly about war and peace than Sanders does.

Highlighting Sanders imperialism is especially important because the left has been repeatedly duped by imperialist wars in recent years, to the point that imperialism is becoming increasingly ignored, and consequently strengthened.

Large sections of the left were silent about the destruction of Yugoslavia, Libya, Afghanistan and Syria. They were blissfully ignorant of the ongoing imperialist adventures throughout Africa, most spectacularly in Rwanda, Sudan, Somalia and the Congo. The worst dictators in Africa — for example in Ethiopia, Uganda and Rwanda — are “good friends” of the United States.

By not giving adequate focus to the U.S. foreign military adventures, valuable political cover is given to allow these wars to continue. The U.S. anti-war movement was mostly silent about Obama’s imperialism while two historically important countries of the Middle East — Libya and Syria — were obliterated.

By not educating and organizing against imperialism, it’s impossible to make alliances with forces fighting imperialism abroad. Creating international alliances has a long tradition among the left among unions, Black liberation, and the socialist/communist movements.

There have also been powerful connections that helped curb apartheid South Africa, strengthen the Venezuelan revolution and empower Palestinians against the apartheid Israeli government.

However, the people on the ground in the Middle East who preferred that the U.S. not destroy their nations have had little solidarity with people in the United States. In fact, the United States in many of their eyes is the number one enemy, which in turn makes them think that terrorism against U.S. citizens is justified.

Ultimately, the nationalist demands of the Sanders’ campaign cannot be achieved while simultaneously allowing international imperialism to thrive. Imperialism is a bogeyman that haunts social progress, re-appearing in countless forms to keep resources flowing endlessly into wars abroad that stunt domestic spending and distract from working class demands. A new military “crisis” will always strive to take priority over domestic considerations.

It’s obligatory for the left to challenge imperialism by any means necessary, waging campaigns and raising demands to stop foreign aggression.

By lowering our voices in response to Bernie’s campaign, an opportunity is missed to amplify our voices in strategic interventions such as the successful Black Lives Matter actions at Sanders’ rallies. Silence on these issues always benefits imperialism at the expense of everybody else.

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The Labor Movement’s Pearl Harbor Moment

War can sneak up on you. And now unions are scrambling desperately for shelter, realizing they were in the crosshairs just as the Supreme Court was about to pull the trigger. After dreamily sleepwalking in denial, unions were shocked and awed awake by the Supreme Court’s hearing of “Friedrichs vs. California Teachers Association.”

If unions lose Friedrichs, the nuclear fallout might ruin unions for a generation, or more. Some unions seem shell shocked by the existential threat posed by Friedrichs, paralyzed by the Court’s intention to declare total class war. But war demands either surrender or a fight.

A red alert should be broadcasted across every union hall in the country and to the broader public, since Friedrichs is an attack on all working people. Union memberships must be educated about the dire urgency of Friedrichs, and be engaged in creating and implementing the strategy to defeat the enemy. By directly engaging members and publicly mobilizing BEFORE the decision in June, Friedrichs can be defeated.

Staying quiet about Friedrichs is a form of surrender. Some union leaders have already publicly surrendered, such as SEIU President Mary Kay Henry, who told David Axelrod in an interview that “by next summer, we’re [the labor movement ] going to lose another 2 million [members] because of a Supreme Court case…that means another chunk of the movement will be gone.”

Ms. Henry surely knows the Supreme Court is a political institution that is affected by political pressure. And SEIU members deserve a leadership willing to apply massive pressure, by any means necessary. An anti union Friedrichs decision is not inevitable.

The AFL-CIO leadership seems equally frozen by inaction. The AFL-CIO President, Richard Trumka, also went AWOL in the Friedrichs fight. Trumka released a short video of him denouncing Friedrichs and telling people that they could learn how to “fight back” by visiting the website America Works Together” (apparently he didn’t have the time to explain the strategy in the video).

The America Works Together website is bare bones, and uninspiring. The only thing resembling “fighting back” is a petition, directed against the anti-union group The Center For Individual Rights, which is providing the legal support for the Friedrichs case against the unions.

Of course, petitioning your enemy to stop attacking you isn’t very effective. And If the AFL-CIO is only using this tactic in the face of an advancing Friedrichs, their petition will be as useful a weapon as a white flag.

On the other side of the fight is the plaintiff, Rebecca Friedrichs, who has been 100 times more vocal in publicly opposing unions than the unions have been in publicly defending themselves. Ms. Friedrichs is all over the TV blasting away at unions, who steadfastly refuse to return fire.

Sure, Ms. Friedrichs uses half truths and lies in her attacks on unions, and yes she is backed by large corporate groups, but her tenacity is exactly what the union leaders are missing. While Ms. Friedrichs boldly denounces unions the union leaders seem ashamed to show their face in public to defend themselves, let alone lead a counter-attack.

Luckily, there is more to the union movement than its semi-celebrity leadership. The de-facto leaders of the national union movement are now the Chicago Teachers Union, and the various teacher unions who’ve copied the CTU model of engaging rank and file members and fighting back publicly against the attacks on teachers and public services.

This is the way forward. The example of the Chicago Teachers Union (CTU) should be mimicked by every union, and the book, “How to Jump-start Your Union” about their organizing tactics should be required reading for every union officer, activist, and staff member.

The Chicago teachers rebuilt the union with member engagement and participation, while successfully appealing to the broader public for support. Because of their successes, the CTU is less vulnerable to Friedrichs than other unions.

After a very public teachers’ strike in 2012 that shut down the Mayor’s anti-union proposals, the union is mobilizing again for another strike expressing the latent strength of all unions, as the Supreme Court is testing this strength with Friedrichs.

The twin strategy of building a fighting membership by defending their interests and rallying the public by defending their interests as well is the recipe for a strong union movement, while the top down, business as usual unionism is dead, since the disengaged membership it creates weakens unions, making them vulnerable to the Friedrichs assault.

Strong unions demand an active and engaged membership, where members play a significant role, have a strong voice, and are meaningfully engaged in other ways. This also requires a return to participatory democracy, where members actually feel that they are the union, instead of a small clique making all the decisions.

Long time labor organizer Jane McAlevey has been reinforcing the “member first” approach to union rejuvenation:

“The key strategic pivot we have to make is having a ton of faith in the capacities of ordinary rank-and-file workers and in the ordinary intelligence of workers. We have to prioritize our strategy on teaching, skilling up, and training tens of thousands of workers how to fight.”

This is what the Chicago teachers did; they engaged their members as part of a fight back; they put the important decision-making in the hands of the membership, while re-educating the labor movement about a critical lesson in power: “no justice, no peace.”

The teachers responded to injustice by shutting down the school system; the threats of the Chicago Mayor were trumped by the actions of the teachers. People thought the mayor’s attacks were “inevitable,” until the CTU mobilized and rallied the public. Friedrichs must be fought in the same manner.

Every historic victory of organized labor was won with “no justice, no peace” at its foundation, and every other organized group of oppressed people used the same approach to win power; women’s rights, civil rights, and LGBTQ rights required militant organizing that threatened “social peace” if justice wasn’t delivered.

This is the only way to fight Friedrich’s, since it was how unions won the decision that Friedrichs seeks to destroy. When unions won “Abood vs Detroit” in 1977, it was the culmination of years of mass strikes in the public sector, where public transportation grinded to a halt and teachers shut down school districts, demanding the dignity that comes with strong unions.

The pro-union Abood decision wasn’t a gift from the Court, but a recognition of the existing power that unions were actively expressing. The 1977 Supreme Court said publicly that the Abood decision was, in large part, motivated in order to deliver “social peace.” And after the Court gave the unions justice, the unions gave the government peace.

Unions are under attack now precisely because they aren’t viewed as a potential threat. But there is still time to show that the Court has misjudged union power. The Court will not decide Friedrichs till June, and until then labor remains on the battlefield; if unions engage and mobilize their memberships to strike preemptively, it may lessen the blow of Friedrichs, while a powerful strike could avoid the blow completely.

Such a preemptive strike was called for by The San Francisco Labor Council,which called on the AFL-CIO to organize “massive marches in Washington D.C. and on the west coast to defend public services and to call on the Supreme Court to rule against the plaintiffs in Friedrichs v. CTA…”

In Oregon SEIU 49 and Portland Jobs With Justice passed a similar resolution, as did the Northwest Oregon Labor Council, which specially called for May 1st to be the day of national action.

An “open letter to the labor movement” is now being circulated that calls for May 1st to be a national day of action against Friedrichs.

Mass mobilizations on May Day is entirely possible, if unions join with the immigrant rights groups and others who already are planning these rallies in most major cities. A massive show of force is possible before the Supreme Court decides Friedrichs. And if unions show up in force on May Day, they can use the platform to threaten even more aggressive actions if the Supreme Court decides against them.

Doing nothing, however, can have devastating effects. An army that loses a decisive battle without firing a shot can be permanently demoralized, since basic human dignity demands action in the face of injustice. If the union is projecting weakness, members will internalize these weaknesses. And nothing screams “weak” such as sitting idle while someone kicks your teeth in.

When the union acts powerfully, the members feel powerful; strong unions defend themselves. And they defend their community against corporate attacks. Just as the Chicago Teachers Union has been a powerful voice against the privatization and defunding of public education, so should all unions be a voice for the community in the ongoing fight against low wages, high rents, the poisoning of Flint’s water, and other issues that are devastating working class people across the country.

Ultimately, unions must be transformed back into the mobilizing and fighting organizations that earned them the rights the Court is now attempting to take away. May 1st could be known as the rebirth of the labor movement, or the Court’s decision in June may mark its terminal decline.

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Robert Reich’s Impossible Quest: To Save Capitalism for the Many

Robert Reich’s latest book, Saving Capitalism For the Many, Not the Few, graphically details how current U.S. capitalism operates in stark contrast to the post-World War II period of the 50s, 60s and 70s. For Reich, the earlier period represented almost an ideal state: “the rules of the game were basically fair.” The rules defined a system in which “widely shared prosperity generates more inclusive political institutions, which in turn organize the market in ways that further broaden the gains from growth and expand opportunity.”

In other words, inequality remained restricted, an expansive middle class thrived, the economy purported to function in the interests of the majority, and democracy seemed to operate more or less adequately.

Now, however, wealth is concentrated at the top, the middle class is shrinking, the poor are getting poorer, and the very wealthy unduly control the outcome of elections. His book aims at outlining policy changes that would allow us to return to the earlier, more virtuous state “once again.”

The philosophical premise of the book is significant. Like Marx and Hegel before him, Reich insists that capitalism’s structure is not the result of uncontrollable laws of nature like an earthquake or a volcano eruption but is the result of human decision-making. Humans create the rules that govern the economy, and these rules are consequently amenable to change.

In this way Reich demonstrates the incoherence and obfuscating role of the current debate between those who want big government and those who want a minimal government where the economy functions with little interference. In fact, he rightly emphasizes that there is no such thing as an economy outside and independent of government. Every economy exists according to a set of rules that has been enshrined into laws by government. Accordingly, the real debate should be framed according to which rules to adopt, not the size of government.

Reich supplies a wealth of information about how, during the past three decades, corporations, Wall Street, and rich individuals have changed the rules to enrich themselves, creating a vicious circle. Each change enhances their wealth and power, which allows them to change even more rules to their benefit, and the cycle keeps repeating. It is not surprising, he notes, that most people think the economy is rigged. It is.

Examples of policy changes that would take us back to a more democratic and egalitarian society include getting big money out of politics, eliminating corporate welfare, breaking up monopolies, providing everyone with a guaranteed minimal income, raising the minimum wage, shortening the lengths of patents and copyrights, restricting the size of banks, ensuring that the government spends equal amounts of money on students in rich and poor communities, legislating more progressive taxes, restricting CEO salaries, encouraging employee stock ownership and profit sharing, and the list goes on.

Surely, Reich is on a campaign to turn back the clock to the more preferable capitalist society of his youth. But is this a plausible undertaking?

In the first place, there is the question whether capitalism generally operates in the interests of the majority so that the current period would represent an aberration. In his Wealth of Nations, (1776) Adam Smith argued that it does. Convinced that people were basically self-interested, he observed that people are more productive when they “employ their capital” for their self-interest rather than for society as a whole. But even though “he intends only his own gain, he is in this, as in many other cases, led by an invisible hand to promote an end [the interest of society as a whole] which was no part of his intention” (Book IV, Chapter 2).

In other words, people are more motivated to work when they are working for themselves. When they do, everyone produces more, and everyone benefits from one another through the process of trade.

But Adam Smith’s argument is based on the premise that everyone is operating from a position of equality and can “employ his capital” as he chooses. Marx took up the argument about capitalism from a different angle and arrived at the opposite conclusion about the benefits for society as a whole.

Capitalism, of course, does not comprise business owners alone. Some have no capital and must sell their labor and work for others who are owners. But this relation produces an irreconcilable conflict, according to Marx. Because capitalists must compete with one another for customers, those who can sell their products cheaper without sacrificing quality will prevail. Consequently, there is an unremitting pressure on owners to reduce their expenses – particularly labor expenses – to remain competitive. Time and again in the past three decades, as international competition intensified, business owners went to their workforce and demanded (not asked for) concessions. Walmart, by paying workers rock-bottom wages, has succeeded in eliminating much of its competition.

For Marx, capitalism does not operate in the interests of the majority because with competition workers must continually sacrifice in order to keep businesses competitive. But working people constitute the vast majority.

At least Marx raised serious doubts about the universal benefits of capitalism. In looking back to the post-World War II period, perhaps that was the exception, not the rule, in part made possible by the widespread destruction during the war of some nations and their subsequent diminished ability to compete in the international market. And, of course, admiring the post World War II period here in the U.S would require overlooking the little economic opportunity available for African Americans, women, Latinos, the disabled, etc.

But a second argument could be raised in opposition to Reich’s project of turning back the clock. Reich has painted a bleak picture of our current predicament. We seem caught in an ever-worsening situation. The rich use their money to influence political decisions that allow them to accumulate ever-more money.

How can such a vicious cycle be reversed? Unfortunately, Reich’s book only contains vague references to possible approaches. At one point, for example, he cites Patagonia, “a company whose articles of incorporation require it to take into account the interests of workers, the community, and the environment, as well as shareholders” as a step in the right direction. But are there any grounds for believing many companies will follow Patagonia’s example? The evidence would suggest not.

Capitalism is not simply an economic system. It spawns a culture: a way of life, a world-view, and a specific type of human nature. It encourages people to compete against one another, seek one’s own self-interest, not the common good, and measure self-worth by material possessions. Workers must compete against one another for jobs, promotions, etc. Capitalists must compete for customers, raw materials, labor, etc. Capitalism does not exist because people are inherently selfish, competitive and materialistic. People are this way in large part because capitalism breeds it.

Recent studies show that those with the most wealth are the least likely to conduct themselves ethically and consider the common good. Paul Piff at U.C. Berkeley has conducted studies comparing the behavior of wealthy people with those with far less:

“Again and again, he’s found a common thread: Rich people are more likely to behave unethically even if they get very little benefit. They’re more likely to take candy from a jar labeled as just for kids, cheat at games and cut off pedestrians in crosswalks. They’re also more likely to say they’d do the same thing when told about somebody who accepts bribes, lies to customers, cheats on an exam or pockets the money when a clerk gives too much change.”

All of the above supports the conclusion that examples like Patagonia will remain relatively rare.

While his book does not adequately address the question of how to implement his ideal, one of Reich’s blog entries, “It Takes a Movement,” raises an important point. In the article he argues that presidents alone are not in a position to implement dramatic change. They are forced to compromise with powerful interests so that changes end up basically reinforcing the status quo. However, when a president is backed by a mobilized public, if a mass movement demands certain progressive changes, then the prospects are promising. Reich believed that such a movement was “at the heart of the Sanders’ campaign,” and for this reason he endorsed Sanders.

But powerful movements can only be sustained when controlled by the rank and file. Such control is the best insurance that the movement will reflect the interests of the members. The “movement” around Sanders is top-down. Sanders defined the platform, and his supporters were forced to take it or leave it. For this reason, as Sanders’ campaign winds down, the “movement” will evaporate.

In the U.K., however, a movement within the Labor Party has in fact grown up around Jeremy Corbyn, who has encouraged the expansion of democratic procedures to ensure that the members control the Party. Such formations unleash a new dynamic. Members come into constant contact, they discuss and debate polices, they benefit from one another’s opinion and educate each other, and they begin to think in terms of the good of the whole rather than their narrow self-interest.

Marx captured the essence of the transformation of human nature in such contexts when observing French socialist workers:

“When communist workmen associate with one another, theory, propaganda, etc., is their first end. But at the same time, as a result of this association, they acquire a new need – the need for society – and what appears as a means becomes an end. In this practical process the most splendid results are to be observed whenever French socialist workers are seen together. Such things as smoking, drinking, eating, etc., are no longer means of contact or means that bring them together. Association, society and conversation, which again has association as its end, are enough for them; the brotherhood of man is no mere phrase with them, but a fact of life, and the nobility of man shines upon us from their work-hardened bodies” (Economic and Philosophic Manuscripts of 1844).

In other words, democratic movements give birth to a new culture. Competition becomes subordinate to cooperation, members are mutually supportive, and the good of all is the common aim. Socialism, when entirely democratic, embodies these dynamics and represents a higher moral and social stage in human history. What would be the point of abandoning such a positive step forward that a movement creates for a capitalist system that encourages exploiting one’s fellow human beings, treating them as mere means to make a profit, not as ends in themselves, and consequently always harboring the potential of unleashing the worst in human nature?

Fortunately, more and more youth under the age of 30 are beginning to agree. In a recent poll 43 percent of respondents said they preferred socialism while only 32 percent preferred capitalism.

Capitalism has devastated humanity by ignoring entrenched poverty; it has spread economic insecurity and stress throughout the working population; and it has dragged us all to the edge of a catastrophic environmental disaster. Enough of saving capitalism. It is time to join with youth and insist a better world is possible with socialism.

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A Seismic Shift Toward Socialism in the U.K. Labour Party

Jeremy Corbyn’s unexpected 2015 rise to the leadership of the U.K. Labour Party and his recent resounding victory over the right-wing forces within the party that tried to dislodge him are sending shockwaves throughout Europe – waves that could reach the shores of the U.S. if events continue to unfold in the same direction.
During the past decade, the right wing of the Labour Party (i.e., Tony Blair and his followers) has fallen into disrepute for embracing similar, although less severe, austerity policies pushed by the conservative Tories. These unpopular, neoliberal policies include cutting back and privatizing government services, reducing labor protections, and lowering taxes on corporations, all of which translate into less security and a lower standard of living for the working class. Tony Blair’s eager and uncritical participation in the 2003 Iraq war only compounded his unpopularity.
Corbyn, in contrast, has been a steadfast opponent of war and austerity for decades, even though these positions until recently condemned him to political isolation within the Labour Party. He led an anti-war coalition for years, and as a socialist has championed strong labor rights, a generous government social safety net, and a reversal of privatizations.
The political narrative of the right wing of Labour, which has controlled the Party with a vice-grip, has attempted to maximize obfuscation. When Labour Party center-left candidate for prime minister Ed Miliband suffered a defeat to the Tories several years ago, the right wing argued his loss was due to excessive left-wing politics.
When political parties that claim to defend working people embrace policies that for the most part operate in the interests of corporations at the expense of workers, demoralization and resentment of politicians spread far and wide in the working class. Workers either become politically disengaged or begin to seek out more radical alternatives.
In this context Corbyn’s principled left-wing politics have served to galvanize, not just the left, but a broad swath of working people. Hundreds of thousands have joined the Labour Party since his 2015 election to the Party leadership, propelling it into the largest political party in Europe. Corbyn has served as a lightning rod, giving the working class that has suffered from austerity an alternative set of politics that for once defend and promote their interests.
Corbyn’s policies are not just different from those of the right-wing elite who have controlled the Labour Party for decades. They represent different class politics. If implemented, they would entail a significant redistribution of wealth from the rich to working people. Corbyn fights for the working class, while the right wing have made their peace with the corporations and embraced class collaboration by sacrificing working class interests in order to defend corporate profits. For them, supporting corporations means being “realistic” and “practical.” Accordingly, on the day that Corbyn first won the leadership position of the Labour Party in 2015, the right wing began plotting his removal.
However, they did not dare attack Corbyn’s policies directly, since these policies have proved to be unusually popular. Instead, they hid behind a torrent of personal abuse, painting Corbyn as incompetent and unelectable in a national election. They clamored for his resignation. It was a well-orchestrated campaign where criticisms were timed sequentially so that leading Labour Party members appeared to come to the same negative conclusion about Corbyn independently of each other.
When the country voted for Brexit, the right wing blamed Corbyn for the outcome, claiming that his campaign for remaining in the European Union was lackluster and unenthusiastic, and they now screamed for his resignation. Tony Blair himself initiated this attack, although it was hardly persuasive since most of Labour’s members voted to remain in the EU.
Then, when Corbyn refused to resign because of the overwhelming support he received from the Labour Party’s rank and file, the right wing shifted gears and formally challenged him by scheduling a second leadership election. They got behind Owen Smith, a former lobbyist for a pharmaceutical company whose politics hovered within the center-left spectrum and hence were palatable to the right wing.
But Corbyn’s opponents were clearly in a bind. Corbyn’s anti-austerity and anti-war politics were fueling his popularity with Labour members and inspiring even more to join, so opposing these policies would have been political suicide. Accordingly, Owen Smith claimed unconvincingly to have the same politics as Corbyn but with the added virtue of him being competent and electable.
When Corbyn’s rallies drew huge crowds while Smith’s attracted small numbers, the right wing became increasingly worried. In a state of panic they began disenfranchising their own Labour Party members. They ruled that members who joined during the last six months would be required to pay an additional  £25 in order to vote. In response to the frustrated outbursts of the rank and file, the right wing proceeded to ban from voting anyone who called them “scabs,” “scum,” “traitors,” or “Blairites,” even though no evidence was provided that these descriptions were inaccurate.
The right wing also banned Labour Party local constituency party meetings because the overwhelming support for Corbyn served only to intimidate and demoralize his opponents. In brief, the right wing did everything it could to suppress a pro-Corbyn vote, short of purging anyone who remotely indicated support for Corbyn.
Meanwhile, the mainstream media were doing everything they could to discredit Corbyn. The “liberal” Guardian ran repeated reports of ugly criticisms being raised by Corbyn’s opponents, without bothering to provide evidence for their truth or Corbyn’s responses. Researchers at the London School of Economics conducted a study that concluded 75 percent of press coverage “misrepresents” Corbyn. The media coverage was so bad that 51 percent of the British public believed that it was biased against Corbyn. In other words, the quantitative increase in negative reporting took a dialectical reversal. Instead of the media increasingly discrediting Corbyn, they ended up discrediting themselves.
Yet despite the avalanche of attacks from multiple directions, Corbyn won an even more resounding victory in this second leadership election, gaining 62 percent of the vote. The right wing was smashed.
Needless to say, the war is not over because in the background the relation of forces between classes is at stake. If Corbyn actually begins to look as if he has a chance to become prime minister in a national election, much of the capitalist class will rise up to oppose him. And if he should win, they will initiate economic sabotage with the hope of destabilizing his government.
While capitalists enjoy power because of their vast money, working people can only exercise power because of their numbers. After all, they represent the vast majority. But this power only exists when workers are organized and mobilized so they can act collectively, not when they remain atomized individuals. In order to establish collective action, Labour Party members must not only see the Labour Party as representing their interests, they themselves must have a direct role in defining its policies.
In fact, while the right wing of the Party views the membership as at best an annoyance that must be manipulated into silence or passive acclamation, Corbyn has been advocating increased rank and file role in the Party decision-making. He has proposed that members have the opportunity to vote on key Party positions as well as allowing them to elect which members of the Party become cabinet ministers. In this way the members can control its direction, and they become more invested for this reason.
Already Labour Party meetings are being transformed from staged performances where members have little-to-no input – much like many union meetings in the U.S. – to lively debates where members are eager to attend.
This democratic dimension has differentiated the Corbyn phenomenon from Bernie Sanders where Sanders ran a top-down organization and dictated policy positions to his supporters. For this reason, he never succeeded in creating a real movement, and what little existed has now evaporated.
But in addition to democracy, in order to win a national election, the Labour Party must inject itself directly into the British class struggle. When teachers or health care workers have gone out on strike, Corbyn has walked the picket line with them. Now Labour Party members will need to get out in force and join these picket lines in order to convince the working class in general that the Party is fighting for them. In this way Labour can become deeply rooted in the class that it purports to represent and at the same time draw more support from the workers. Fortunately, the organization Momentum, which was created outside the Labour Party in order to promote Corbyn and his politics, is filled with political activists who could take the first steps in getting Labour Party members involved in these struggles.
In a recent speech at a Labour Party conference John McDonnell, one of Corbyn’s closest allies and current Shadow Chancellor in Corbyn’s cabinet, concluded his speech by saying:
“Imagine the society that we can create. It’s a society that’s radically transformed, radically fairer, more equal and more democratic. Yes, based upon a prosperous economy but an economy that’s economically and environmentally sustainable and where that prosperity is shared by all. That’s our vision to rebuild and transform Britain.
“In this party you no longer have to whisper it, it’s called Socialism.”
This vision is shaking British politics to its foundation.
history, Politics,

Will the “Alt-Right” Hijack the Antiwar Movement?

Millions marched against Trump for fear he’d cause devastation at home and abroad. This resistance movement still remains a powerful social force, and recently one of the movement’s biggest fears — a new war — was fully realized when Trump bombed the Syrian government and expanded the Middle East wars, at a time of immense risk of confrontation with Russia.

Immediately after the Syrian bombing Trump sent battleships to North Korea, and threatened to strike “preemptively,” á la Iraq in 2003. Then Trump escalated the Afghanistan war by dropping the world’s biggest non-nuclear bomb, at 21,000 pounds, whose one-mile blast radius creates nuclear-style havoc without the pesky label. The message is clear: Trump has become a seriously dangerous war president, the snake shedding his “isolationist” skin.

Society reeled from the newest war, but the fertile soil for protest barely produced a sprout. The establishment “supported” the new war, either directly by cheerleading or indirectly via silence.

The rest of the left was against the war but they didn’t bother to organize a protest. The only notable group that did — the ANSWER coalition — found little help from other left groups. The few protests that were organized were small or denounced by others on the left as being “pro Assad.” Trump was certainly pleased by the non-opposition and division against his new war.

Into the giant antiwar void crept the neo-Nazi “alt-right” groups, including leading white supremacist Richard Spencer, who loudly broke his support of Trump by protesting the new Syria bombing in front of the White House. Other alt-right-associated individuals or organizations — including altright.com and Infowars — loudly denounced their former Fuhrer.

In some ways the white supremacists protested more loudly and militantly than the left, which declined to ring any alarm bells, opting to minimize the aggression by dismissing the strike as “symbolic,” or “routine.”

While much of the alt-right unconditionally denounced the bombing, some on the left gave partial legitimacy to it by focusing half of their post-bombing energy on denouncing Trump’s target, Assad, helping to put the American public back to bed instead of agitating them into the streets.

Trump apparently silenced his critics by doing what they feared most. How did this happen?

In the political realm theory and action are inseparable. For revolutionaries the point of political theory/analysis is to directly intervene most effectively through organizing/action. The “what” of theory must be tightly connected to the “how” of organizing, sometimes referred to as “praxis.”

When it comes to theory/analysis on imperialism and war, the point is not just about understanding the “who,” “what,” and “why” of the conflict, but “how” to directly intervene to stop it.

Ultimately the only place that U.S. residents can directly intervene against war is in their own country, which is why any revolutionary analysis of the Syrian conflict must be oriented to agitating the U.S. public into action against “their” government’s war actions. Anything less is either abstract commentary or ineffectual moralizing.

Because theory is meant to prepare the working class to take action, a flawed theory results in inaction and political paralysis in the face of war. Leon Trotsky once compared a flawed theory to a leaky umbrella, “useless precisely when it rains.”

It’s raining now and instead of mass protests we have a sedated left, the result of several years of flawed analysis about the situation in the Middle East, coming to fruition just as the bombs began to rain down against yet another government.

What was the error? With each uptick in U.S. military intervention in Syria the left ignored or minimized it. Instead of educating the public about how the U.S. was openly organizing a proxy war — the logic of which leads to direct military intervention — much of the left focused instead on how “monstrous” Syria’s President Assad was.

The left ignored the The New York Times reporting that Obama was working with regional allies to recruit, train and arm soldiers, while funding them to attack the Syrian government. In 2013 The New York Times revealed that the U.S. had been overseeing a regional “weapons pipeline” to arm fighters. But this news barely registered on the left’s radar.

Instead of demanding that this intervention stop, many on the left gave it the green light; some actually demanded that the U.S. militarize the conflict by further arming Syrian rebels, or echoing the demand of some rebels to impose a military “no fly zone” in Syria (an act that requires war).

The conflict would likely have ended several years ago without the direct intervention of the U.S., which not only gave guns and training but made regime change promises to allies, who were emboldened to go “all in” against the Syrian government by aiding the rebels, tearing the region apart in the process.

The majority of the left’s analysis focused on how awful Assad was, as if the U.S. public wasn’t already aware of the nonstop media coverage that turned him into a “monster,” a “butcher,” “Hitler,” etc.  The left now appears too confused to protest; the conflict appears “very complicated.” People hate Trump but they are told Assad is even worse, so why protest a new U.S. war if the target deserves death?

It’s this conclusion that the U.S. government hopes to produce in every war. Saddam was a “monster,” Gaddafi was a “monster,” the Taliban are “monsters,” Milosevic was a “monster,” the Vietnamese too. Every new enemy of the U.S. military is compared to Hitler, because it is “moral” to kill Hitler, an idea now rebranded as “humanitarian intervention.” Every war the U.S. has ever waged was labeled “humanitarian,” including “taming the savages” during the indigenous American genocide.

The left shouldn’t fall victim to dehumanizing the enemy of the U.S. It’s true that Assad is no prince, but he’s a problem the Syrians have to deal with, not us. We have our hands full with Trump. The vast majority of nations have awful leaders, and all capitalist nations would react similarly to Assad when faced with protests that morphed into an armed revolt: they’d use vicious repression.

Saddam was every bit as “tyrannical” as Assad, having drowned in blood every threat against him. But you’d be hard pressed to see any anti-Saddam protest signs in the streets during the massive anti-war protests in 2003. The demand was simple: “Don’t Attack Iraq” or “No War.” Nobody was accused of being “pro-Saddam.”

In the face of war with Syria many left groups have foregone demands entirely, focusing instead on “condemning” every party to the war. Each party is declared equally guilty, which partially absolves every individual party, since “if everyone is guilty nobody is guilty.” This is the surest road to ambivalence and inaction if an antiwar movement is the goal. This lack of prioritizing guarantees ineffectual organizing and empty streets. The urgency to mobilize against U.S. imperialism is effectively muted. A demand isn’t an abstract slogan, but an urgent call to mobilize.

People should be putting only one government on trial for the Syrian conflict: the one they live under. Syrians should focus on Syria and Russians on Russia. U.S. residents only have proper jurisdiction in their own nation, where they are empowered to directly charge, convict and punish the guilty party, their government, through organizing and mobilizing the broader community into action.

The U.S. working class can do very little to stop the Syrian government from doing anything, nor are there Syrian revolutionary groups of any substance for U.S. residents to offer direct support to (the exception being the Syrian Kurds in Rojava).

It’s only inside of the United States where the government can be directly challenged, and even brought down via revolution when necessary. This is why for decades anti-war movements globally have used a general strategy in relation to organizing against war, which can be summarized as “the main enemy is in your own country.” This is the only internationalist approach to anti-war work. Real power must be leveraged, now, to stop the further expansion of this war. The U.S. public can show real solidarity to the Syrian people by stopping the biggest imperialist power in the world from further intervening there.

Demands and Social Movements

Strategic demands are a special weapon for the working class. They are indispensable tools for organizing, and effective demands are ones that agitate the broader population into action.  Because most of the population will not unite over a litany of demands, the best demands are those that are limited, or singular, often referred to as “united front” demands, capable of uniting and rousing the population into action.

The most effective united front demand against U.S. imperialism has always been some variation of “Out Now,” or “Stop War” or “Hands Off Iraq” (or Afghanistan, Libya, Syria, etc.). One unifying demand that the working class can agree on, versus the laundry list of condemnations that cause confusion and disunity, resulting in passivity.

Demands are not a laundry list of opinions about whom you like or don’t like. The U.S. public doesn’t need to know “who” to support in this conflict, they need to know “how” to stop the war. No antiwar groups in any country waste their breath denouncing the target of the attack.

Several left groups combine their “demands,” such as “No Support for Trump or Assad.” Do the millions of people who marched against Trump — and hear daily anti-Assad media messages — need to be told “No Support for Trump or Assad”? Will this demand agitate them into action? The obvious answer is “no,” since you’re telling them what they already know while asking them to do nothing.

What people want to know is what to do now that their government has bombed yet another government. The public understands the matter is very serious, especially since Syria and Russia are tightly aligned and the situation is spiraling out of control.

Trump’s Dangerous Foreign Policy Shift

By not organizing protests against an expanded Syria war Trump is given a freer hand, and the neo-Nazi’s that call themselves “alt-right” are given an opportunity to gain further populist credentials by doing what the left used to do: unapologetically denounce U.S. foreign wars without condition.

The alt-right also seems to have a clearer analysis about what is happening in the White House. Trump’s election sidelined the section of the establishment that ran foreign policy for decades, often referred to as the “neocons.”   Trump stymied them by campaigning as an “isolationist” who sought rapprochement with Russia. This approach found expression in Trump’s appointing General Flynn and fascist Steve Bannon to positions of power where military decisions are made.

Trump proclaimed the end to the U.S. policy of “regime change” in Syria, and the peace process already in place — which effectively excluded the U.S. — would soon make concrete what everyone already knew: that Assad had won the war and would reclaim his “legitimacy” in global diplomacy.

Assad’s victory over Obama’s regime change strategy infuriated the neocons, who wanted to push Russia out of the Middle East and out of Eastern Europe, thereby maintaining the decades-long mastery of the U.S. over these regions.

Hillary Clinton was the candidate of the big banks and neocons, and consequently she campaigned on war with Syria, using the euphemism of a “no fly zone” to get rid of Assad. A big chunk of Trump’s populism was his being perceived as “antiwar” (with the exception of ISIS).

Post election the “neocons” waged an internal struggle with Trump which they’ve recently won, transforming Trump from an isolationist into the warmonger they wanted.  The proof is in the pudding: Trump’s isolationist General Flynn was taken down by internal media leaks, replaced by neocon-oriented General McMaster, who, according to the Washington Post, was responsible for pushing isolationist/fascist Steve Bannon off the National Security Council, only days before Trump bombed Syria, based on zero evidence of a gas attack (the alt-right asked for evidence of the gas attack, whereas much of the Left simply accepted Trump’s pretext for war).

The internal balance of power has shifted, and the dominant section of the U.S. establishment has reasserted itself over foreign policy. Trump has learned his place, and the rest of the world is a far more dangerous place as a consequence: tensions with North Korea have exploded at the same time while the military used its MOAB super-bomb in Afghanistan.

The “alt-right” will use Trump’s war to further their populist position, but they are too weak to lead any movement currently. If the left remains paralyzed on this issue the white supremacists will have space to grow.

There is immense revolutionary potential for a U.S. anti-war movement. The anti-Trump movement has prepared the population for the next steps; it’s up to the left to provide guidance at a time when Trump escalates his wars as the military budget starves the country.

It is the job of the U.S. left to unite the broader population around a united front demand, such as “No War With Syria” or a similar demand that focuses our energy into a powerful force that can push the anti-Trump movement to the next level, while exerting the revolutionary energy capable of stopping the war on Syria, Russia, North Korea, and beyond.