I would say when I look around that the world today is actually defined by ongoing and expanding US-led wars and occupations. US sanctions, bombings, invasions, covert military actions are the reality of life for the majority of people on this planet, and that includes people in the US and Canada, except they do not realize it.
In Mobilization Against War and Occupation in Vancouver, Canada we call this period the new era of war and occupation and see it as beginning in 2001 with the war and occupation of Afghanistan, which is of course today, now the longest war in US history and Trump is sending more troops.
Then there is:
- The 2003 invasion of Iraq, the United States use of chemical weapons and white phosphorus today in that country;
- Libya, as we have discussed today, completely destroyed, turned into a failed state, which I think is an example of what the US in trying to create across the Middle East and North Africa. No longer are they satisfied with just a puppet government, they would rather see the country in complete and utter chaos and destruction.
- Syria is also beginning to be another example of this, though the Syrian government is standing very strong against the full might of US imperialism. We have six years of a US fomented civil war that has resulted in more than 400,000 people killed and nearly half of the country's population has had to flee their homes.
- In Yemen, there has been a two0-year bombing campaign that has been backed by the United States that has resulted in 12,000 civilian deaths, and starvation as we heard this morning.
- Then there is US aggressions in Latin America, especially with sanctions, threats and covert operations in Venezuela, a US-backed coup in Ukraine, interventions throughout Africa and the build-up of NATO forces in Eastern Europe on the border with Russia.
The refugee crisis I think is the clearest example of fact that this new era of war and occupation is not ending. 65.3 million people would not flee homes, risk their lives in the Mediterranean or to cross the Sahara desert, or even the dangerous journey through Latin America, if they had any hope that their situation was going to change. People in Syria fled Syria because they do not see an end to the war that had been imposed on them by the United States.
Now, there is Trump, which of course we could talk about him forever. However, I think that it has been significant that Trump has not been a focus of this conference. That we see, as people that are organizing with UNAC and its allies around the world, that Trump is only a continuation of a policy of wars and occupations. That he is not somehow changing US foreign policy. His words are inline with US foreign policy, whether it is the racism or the build-up towards more wars and occupations.
On May 19, we have US President Trump on his first international trip, telling us everything about his plans for more wars and occupations through where he chose to visit, Saudi Arabia, Israel, and Europe, all countries that will help him in his further wars. The reality is that Trump didn't go to these countries because he is concerned about the well being of people in the Middle East and Africa, he did it to seal a $110 billion weapons deal with Saudi Arabia and also to get them on board for the continuing wars and occupations of the US.
Then, there is also the expanding US military budget.
This is all related to the war at home, another theme of this conference. We have heard from many speakers making the connection between the war at home and abroad, but I think that sometimes there are things that we miss and that I do want to emphasize.
I want to say that racism and Islamophobia, which I know is a campaign by Vets for Peace that we have been inspired from in Vancouver, is not isolated from the wars abroad, they are fundamentally linked. And I don’t mean just to say that the US government practices racism both at home and abroad, but they need to use racism and Islamophobia at home in order to successfully carry out their wars and occupations in the Middle East and Africa. They need to convince people in the United States that it’s okay to kill millions of people that don’t look like them because there are different. They need to convince people here in the United States not to unite and rise up in defense of Black communities, because that’s how their economic system operates and that’s how they continue their wars and exploitation abroad.
At home, when it comes to the Black nation or to Indigenous nations here in the United States, or equally in Canada, or abroad when we talk about the countries that they are invading and occupying and exploiting. They are attacking countries both abroad; and also at the same time imposing the same destruction and poverty here at home. It’s the same battle as Dr. Martin Luther King said 50 years ago. Unfortunately, this is the reality that we face, but this is a very important time we are living in.
Now, we are all here because we are interested in building a stronger and more effective antiwar movement, and I will add to that, across borders, because as I said I think is important. We are here because of this, but I think we need to talk more about what it means. To me it means that we need urgent and serious political and organizational preparation for these continued wars.
They are constantly campaigning for their wars, and we therefore have to constantly campaign; to the best of our abilities and our capacities, but that cannot be a few days a year activity. Endless war calls for a consistent, creative and coordinated antiwar movement and also an unwavering and clear antiwar message.
In Mobilization Against War and Occupation we have been attempting working towards this for the last 14 years, and building, but we have a lot to learn and a lot more to do towards working with other groups.
We need to make sure that our antiwar positions make sense and do not waver because we cannot afford to be confusing to people. I know that what’s what many of you here face with the Democratic party constantly, through of it’s machinations and organizations. We have similar organizations in Canada, telling us for example, that Canada is a peace-keeping country. It is big thing to fight against, but I do think that we can fight against it, like I said, be campaigning on self-determination for oppressed nations, by really linking the connection between war at home and war abroad and challenging the austerity budgets and war expenditure more then we do.
Part of what else we need to is work more and connect with movements that are growing in the US and Canada, we have to keep focusing, though, on the antiwar campaign. What I mean is that when we go to Black Lives Matter demonstrations, or when we go to Standing Rock, or we join the Occupy movement, we have to go to them with an antiwar message. We cannot just fully immerse ourselves in the politics of the war at home, we have to maintain our solidarity with the people of Yemen, Iraq, Afghanistan. We have to really get people on our side for an anti-imperialist movement against war and occupation abroad. Of course, we need to do this through the connection to the war at home, but we cannot stop campaigning against wars and occupations abroad.
There is also more analysis to be done of the 2002-2003 time. That is, as I said, when I got involved and it is also when we had in Vancouver, Canada 40,000 people marching on the streets, in Colorado Springs, Colorado, I think there were 20,000, there were millions in other places. There are still very important lessons to be gained form that kind of mass mobilization which is still the largest mobilization for peace that the planet has ever seen. It is not that long ago, and there are lots of people like me, for whom it was probably one of their first demonstrations. It is time to remind people of that.
We need to address what has been a lack of consistency and continuity of antiwar campaigning. It cannot be a fashionable or “en mode” thing, or a casual approach. Unfortunately, we are fighting against a gigantic machine, and we have to have consistency.
In Mobilization Against War and Occupation we organize a monthly demonstration where we engage with people, we test our politics and we ask people to sign petitions, not because we think that petitions alone, even in the thousands will change the policy of the Canadian or US government, but because we need to have those conversations. We need to politicize people against war. If there is one thing that the culture that has been imposed in the US and Canada is, besides racist, misogynist and bigoted in every way, it is anti-politics. People are told politics isn’t your issue, you are not going to change anything; so we have to fight against that and constantly campaign.
MAWO also does our work through newsletters and other literature. There are some examples out here on the chairs, that I will also pass around. We also regularly issue statement and press releases. I want to encourage everyone here, for every action that you organize to try and send a press release. It is grueling to have to contact mainstream media and never hear back, but sometimes you do and that is significant.
We had a Hands Off Syria rally in Vancouver after the US government directly bombed Syria in April and the mainstream media came out that time. They filmed us and aired 15 seconds, and in that 15 seconds people saw signs that said “Hands Off Syria” and it went to tens of thousands of people that would not have seen it otherwise. These are numbers that we cannot really match. Be it good or bad, they will use your words how they will, but at least we are planting the seed of critical thinking with people that watch it.
MAWO has also tried to adapt a creative approach, and work with different communities. Working with the Muslim community on certain events, working with different oppressed communities on other events, and always opening space for them in our organizing. We are starting up forums with poetry readings and cultural expression, to try and politicize the artistic community, which is struggling to survive, but we need to bring politics to them, and introduce them to antiwar politics.
In Vancouver, MAWO has organized a Hip-Hop Festival 4 Peace nine times, a Film Festival for Peace also for nine consecutive years, and these events are critically important to our work.
I also want to emphasize that unity is also important. UNAC is smaller, most organizations are smaller than they used to be a few years ago, let alone in the 1970’s. The world is a different place, people are involved in different things but I have to say that being here in Virginia, although it is my first time still fells different than it did a few years ago, being back in the US, and I know that you all have been experiencing it, but things are rumbling and building in ways that we haven’t seen in a long time and we have to take advantage of that in the antiwar movement. As I said, I believe that war is the most critical issue and is what defines the world that we live in today.
There is other important work, like reaching out to the labour movement, it is difficult but critical work.
I think that when it comes to unity, UNAC is a good example of this, a great example of this. We have to do more to connect across borders. One of our jobs here at the conference is to trade information, to get to know each other, and to commit to staying contact through all of our work, as well as committing to united actions, which is why I think that the discussion tomorrow is so important.
We need to build a united front against wars and occupations across borders, and we in Vancouver are ready to work with everyone here at the UNAC conference to do this; to building international and national cooperation and coordination. This means international days of action, conferences like this, things that take resources and energy but are critically important to the world today.
As progressive, antiwar and human loving people, I think that we need to stop forward and unite to resist and fightback against this new criminal and bloody war drive by the US government and their puppet governments and allies, we need to have a clear and unwavering antiwar position, and we need to organize consistently, and not on an occasional basis, and we always need to be working to unite different groups locally, nationally, and importantly internationally. This workshop between Mobilization Against War and Occupation and Veterans for Peace, is one good example which can turn into long-term collaboration in our work together.
Let’s do this. Let’s build a united front against wars and occupations.
Follow Alison Bodine on Twitter: @Alisoncolette
Back to Article Listing