Beyond Troops Out Now

What can radicals do to resist the US occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan aside from making vague demands of “Troops Out Now”? The occupations are dragging on and on, gradually fading from the media spotlight and becoming just one more unpleasant but routine aspect of “business as usual.”

Let’s start an Iraq and Afghanistan solidarity movement in the United States, reminiscent of the solidarity movement US citizens built in the 1980s with the people of El Salvador and Nicaragua. Solidarity movements help keep public attention focused on the occupations and their failures, making it more difficult for the government to push a new war against Iran or Syria until the current mess gets resolved. Maybe it could help prevent the US from making any more messes.

A radical solidarity movement would focus on proactive alternative visions for Iraq and Afghanistan developed by the Iraqi and Afghan people themselves. In attempting to justify the war, Bush has repeatedly claimed he has “liberated” the Iraqi people and told the world that decisions about Iraq will be made by Iraqis. We need to call him on this lie — Bush’s policies have given power to US corporations and a tiny clique of hand-picked US operatives.

While Iraqi society is highly complex and fractured, two things have become clear: the Iraqis want the occupation to end, and they want direct elections to determine their own future, not the US transition plan which is designed to enhance US control. Under the US plan, caucuses in Iraq’s 18 provinces will select a transitional assembly. The transitional assembly will then select an interim government in June, which will draft an Iraqi constitution.

American solidarity activists could help oppose the US plan here in the belly of the beast, while advocating for more participatory and democratic alternatives.

A solidarity movement will undermine US military policy by humanizing the “enemy” and making human and cultural contacts. For instance, folks can do education about Iraqi and Afghani geography, music, culture, film, crafts, and food. Maybe there are even some Iraqi punk bands?! Activists can push sister city declarations between American cities and occupied cities in Afghanistan and Iraq. We need to avoid the pitfalls of trivialization: this isn’t about middle class folks buying a few exotic crafts and a few trust-fund kids going on radical vacations to Baghdad. The key is figuring out how to make grass-roots contacts between Iraqi individuals and civil society groups and American activists and organizations.

Bush is trying to shove privatization, corporate globalization, consumerism, fake democracy and social conservatism down Iraq and Afghanistan’s throats. The US also hopes it can use both Iraq and Afghanistan as military bases in their respective regions. Most Americans don’t know this is happening because there is far too little independent contact between people in the US and people in the nations the US is occupying. At the moment, corporate media outlets and the largest non-governmental organizations are almost the only “independent” eyes in Iraq and Afghanistan. It is crucial that members of American civil society also find ways to independently monitor — and oppose — what is going on.

Regular Iraqis and Afghanis need to have advocates in the US so that they don’t face the American military machine alone. Similarly, American activists opposed to the occupation and the trend towards a global American military empire need contacts with the military’s most direct victims so we can figure out what we can do that will be most helpful.

Bush and his ilk are politically vulnerable on the occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan if we keep these occupations in the public’s eye. Troops are getting killed and wounded on an almost daily basis, gradually wearing down morale amongst the troops and military families. Troops had their tour of duty in Iraq extended, and many reservists have faced extreme disruption to their private lives, jobs and businesses as the Iraqi insurgents have forced Bush to maintain over 100,000 troops in Iraq. When Bush requested $87 billion in additional occupation spending, it was clear most Americans were unhappy about shouldering such a heavy financial burden and felt the money should be used to meet domestic human needs.

And for what? The war appears to have been pointless. Iraq was not an imminent threat to US security, nor related to September 11. Despite spending hundreds of millions of dollars searching, US troops have been unable to find any weapons of mass destruction. The rush to war was based on a calculated intelligence manipulation and falsification.

If we let the US get away with these occupations with no opposition, their hands will be even freer to start their next war and expand US military colonization abroad. We need to go beyond demanding “Troops Out Now” — because that is a demand the US government already wants to accomplish for its own reasons, so it can use the troops elsewhere. Instead, let’s figure out how to join with our Iraqi and Afghan brothers and sisters and people around the world to block the United State’s military ambitions.