Recently I have noticed a lot of good sentiment all over social media around the need for people to take a stand against anti-Muslim bigotry. In the wake of the terrorist attacks in Paris and San Bernardino there has been a frightening rise in attacks against Muslims here in the U.S. and Europe. You can read for yourselves about this disturbing trend from a piece by Glenn Greenwald or in this piece on Alternet.
The rise in these attacks towards Muslims is helped in no small part to the fascist rhetoric of Republican Presidential candidate Donald Trump who recently declared there should be a ban on all Muslims coming into the United States. I have also seen deep concern over Syrian refugees and how they are being treated. People were particularly moved by the story of a 3 year old Syrian boy, Aylan Kurdi, whose body washed upon the shore of Turkey. The Guardian reported the pictures of Aylan’s limp and lifeless body went viral along with the hashtag #KiyiyaVuranInsanlik meaning humanity washed ashore.
While I have found these above mentioned sentiments and concerns heartening I also find myself fascinated. I wonder if people in their concern stop to think about why these things are happening to their fellow human beings and if they do are they looking at the larger picture. I wonder if people could see the larger picture would they act in ways that are commensurate with what is actually at the heart of these problems. So I’m going to attempt to give people a larger picture if not the whole picture.
If You Want to Stand Up to Anti-Muslim Bigotry Don’t Let Our Government Continue to Bomb Muslim Countries
While people are rightly horrified by the increase of attacks on Muslims do they stop to think about how the U.S. for over a decade now has been bombing the fuck out of Muslim countries? Some of the same people sickened by the attacks on Muslims are horrified by the terror carried out by ISIS. These are the same people who will say they don’t exactly like what the U.S. is doing in the world “but doesn’t the U.S. have to do something about ISIS?” They are shielded from the immense devastation and horror of the U.S. “war on terror” across the globe while mainstream media in the West provides them with story after story of beheadings of journalists or terror attacks inspired by ISIS. Larry Everest, writer for Revolution Newspaper points out,
After the horrific November 13 terrorist attack in Paris by ISIS, the rulers in the U.S., France, and other imperialist powers are again trying to line people up behind their war moves—including people who’ve opposed previous wars like the ones in Vietnam and Iraq. “We’re not perfect,” they say, “but at least we aren’t religious lunatics like ISIS, and right now we have to defeat ISIS. There won’t be any peace, and people will continue to suffer unless we defeat ISIS.”
Bullshit… on many levels.
The U.S. defeat in the Vietnam War weakened the empire militarily and limited its ability to invade or attack other countries for a number of years; and the U.S. defeat in Iraq and its difficulties in Afghanistan have prevented it from carrying out other large-scale invasions in the Middle East.
The U.S. and these other imperialists aren’t waging war to “stop terrorism.” They’re conducting wars, military interventions, and maneuvering diplomatically to preserve the system of global capitalist exploitation that they dominate, a system which grinds up, crushes, uproots, and casts off literally billions of people. So when the U.S. acts, they act in order to destroy whatever they happen to feel is in the way of their domination and/or to set up or protect oppressive relations and oppressive regimes which maintain this whole system—including Islamic fundamentalist forces when that serves their purposes.
Just to take the most recent examples:
The U.S. invaded Afghanistan in 2001 promising “liberation.” It then put in power a murderous cabal of feudal power brokers, warlords, and armed militias hated throughout Afghanistan. All stood for brutal traditional relations, including the patriarchal enslavement of women, religious fundamentalism, and the subordination of Afghanistan to imperialism. (The new U.S.-backed regime was named the “Islamic Republic of Afghanistan.”)
The U.S. promised liberation in Iraq too. But after the 2003 invasion, it tried to install a hand-picked collection of puppets and thugs committed to fully integrating Iraq into the U.S. empire. When that move failed, the U.S. turned to reactionary Shi’ite parties and militias, and then to traditional reactionary Sunni powers as well. All this fueled the rise of reactionary Islamic fundamentalism overall and ISIS in particular.
For the last four and-a-half years, the U.S. has fueled the savage Syrian civil war in order to protect the whole putrid, U.S.-dominated setup in the Middle East—including the barbaric settler-colonial state of Israel, and barbaric states like Turkey and fundamentalist Saudi Arabia (which is preparing to behead over 50 people). As part of these machinations, U.S. allies have directly supported ISIS and other jihadist forces. A recently released secret 2012 intelligence report exposes that the U.S. and its allies tolerated or supported the formation of jihadist enclaves in eastern Syria and western Iraq.
If You Want to Help the Refugees Don’t Let Our Government Create Any More Situations In Which People Have to Flee
While many people know that there is a civil war in Syria and that Syrian people are fleeing the terror of ISIS they don’t know or don’t think about the fact that they are also fleeing the terror of the U.S. bombings of that country. Troubling still is that people do not understand the role of the U.S. in the birth of the situation in Syria and that my friends pales in comparison to the horrors by ISIS. A September 7, 2015 article from A World To Win News Service posted in the September 14, 2015 issue of Revolution Newspaper put it this way:
The real answer is basically simple, although complex factors are involved: The Western powers have turned Syria into such a disaster that a huge portion of its 18 million people have been killed (250,000), displaced (at least 7.6 million in camps and other places of refuge in Syria) or driven abroad (more than 4 million).
Over the last decade, although the reactionary Bashar al-Assad government did its best to integrate the country into the Western-dominated world market, largely at the cost of its rural population, the U.S. sought political domination and did not tolerate the regime’s ties with Russia, an imperialist rival, or with Iran, whose power structure they also considered a political problem.
Under cover of the 2011 movement against the Assad regime, the U.S. used its money, arms and agents to kindle a war intended to replace Assad with other Syrian ruling class elements often referred to as “moderates” or “pro-Western.” In pursuit of this goal, the West and the countries that joined in this undertaking, including Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Turkey, each with their own reactionary political and ideological interests, financed and armed Islamist groups, setting into motion forces that are now mostly out of anyone’s control.
The rise of armed jihadis, especially Daesh (ISIS), is considered a problem for the monopoly capitalists who rule the U.S., but nothing more than that. At least so far, these imperialists have followed a policy of perpetuating the civil war to weaken the Assad regime while also trying to figure out how the Western powers themselves could eventually pick up the pieces and control a future Syrian regime while bringing the Islamists to heel.
The disastrous consequences of this policy were very predictable. But for the U.S. and its European allies, there was no crisis until hundreds of thousands of Syrians showed up on Europe’s doorstep.
How, today, are the Western powers reacting to this situation? By stepping up the civil war that brought all this into being in the first place! The problem, for them, is not what happens to Syrians but whether or not they can control Syria, as a key part of trying to control and reorder the Middle East and beyond. These are the same motives that drove the U.S.-led invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq, which set the Islamic world on fire in the first place.
If You Think You Need to Do Something Then You Should Resist and Oppose the Crimes Our Government
I’ve gotten into causes and conditions for the rise of anti-Muslim bigotry and the Syrian refugee crisis. Now I am asking you to consider this: Neither U.S. Imperialism and Islamic Fundamentalist Extremism has anything good to offer humanity and if you lend your support to one you reinforce the other and then humanity, like Aylan Kurdi, becomes washed ashore. The sources I’ve cited above illustrate for you the towering crimes of the U.S. around the world. This quote from Bob Avakian, chairman of the Revolutionary Party U.S.A best gets at the point I’m trying to make:
What we see in contention here with Jihad on the one hand and McWorld/McCrusade on the other hand, are historically outmoded strata among colonized and oppressed humanity up against historically outmoded ruling strata of the imperialist system. These two reactionary poles reinforce each other, even while opposing each other. If you side with either of these “outmodeds,” you end up strengthening both.
While this is a very important formulation and is crucial to understanding much of the dynamics driving things in the world in this period, at the same time we do have to be clear about which of these “historically outmodeds” has done the greater damage and poses the greater threat to humanity: It is the “historically outmoded ruling strata of the imperialist system,” and in particular the U.S. imperialists…
It is interesting, I recently heard about a comment that someone made relating to this, which I do think is correct and getting at something important. In relation to these “two historically outmodeds,” they made the point: “You could say that the Islamic fundamentalist forces in the world would be largely dormant if it weren’t for what the U.S. and its allies have done and are doing in the world—but you cannot say the opposite.” There is profound truth captured in that statement.
(From Bringing Forward Another Way, 2007)
If you understand this formulation and agree with it then there is no better way that you could show your concern for Muslim people or the Syrian refugees than by acting to stop the crimes of our government no matter who currently sits in the White House or come January 2017.
Jill McLaughlin is a member of the steering committee of World Can’t Wait.