What will it take to end the wars?
There can no longer be any doubt about the character of the wars being waged by the U.S. government in Iraq and Afghanistan.
They are not just Bush-Cheney wars, although these mass murderers should not be left off the hook.
They represent more than a mistaken policy or a particularly brutal group of politicians in the pockets of the oil companies.
These wars flow from the economic system that prevails in the United States. The class that sits atop this vast capitalist economy is never satisfied. Millionaires have become billionaires largely on the super-profits wrung from their worldwide empire.
The imperialists cannot be reasoned with, made to see the error of their ways, or appealed to on a humanitarian basis. The all-mighty profit motive is too strong for that. They will not concede that their ambition to control the world — over the dead bodies of Iraqis, Afghans and U.S. soldiers — is impossible to achieve. Not until they are confronted with rebellion at home as well as abroad will they reconsider their course of action, as finally happened with the Vietnam War.
This explains why the current wars seem to go on endlessly, why the invasion of Iraq has lasted seven years and the assault on Afghanistan even longer.
It explains why a Democratic administration, elected very largely on the hope that it would bring home the soldiers and National Guard, still has 98,000 troops in Iraq, plus an equal number of mercenaries; why this administration has escalated the war in Afghanistan, is attacking Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia, and shows no sign of pulling back from the area.
The class character of these wars also explains why the war makers are vulnerable.
The system that spawned the wars is bringing unemployment and extreme poverty to tens of millions inside the United States itself. The wars grow increasingly unpopular as the public treasury is looted to pay for them. Workers’ taxes provide not only the hundreds of billions for current wars but billions in interest on the debt incurred by past wars. Every public service is being cut back — but not the military or the interest payments to the banks. While the military-financial-industrial complex wallows in cost-plus contracts, returning veterans run into a wall of unemployment and foreclosures, not the welcoming jobs they had hoped for.
Something has to give. So much long-term misery for the working class cannot be contained within the present social fabric.
That’s why the class orientation of the anti-war movement is so important. Struggles are breaking out all over for jobs, decent wages, pensions, health care, to stop foreclosures and evictions, budget cuts and layoffs. These struggles can only grow as the economic crisis becomes ever more intractable.
In these pages we have written for several months about the importance of the anti-war demonstrations on March 20 and encouraged our readers to be there. At the same time, Workers World has helped to build the national actions to save education that brought out hundreds of thousands on March 4 and the upcoming May Day demonstrations that will unite elements of the labor movement with the immigrant community.
In unity, there is strength. Uniting the struggles of the workers and the oppressed communities with the struggle against imperialist war is the only way to defeat the war makers. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. knew that. So did Malcolm X, Huey Newton and Muhammad Ali.
The turning point in the Vietnam War came when the communities of color in the U.S. refused to be used as cannon fodder any longer and recognized the Vietnamese not as their enemies but as people oppressed by the same slave masters. That’s when U.S. soldiers began refusing to go to battle against them.
Inherent in the economic crisis of today is the possibility that the working class as a whole — Black, Latino/a, Native, Arab and white — will actively turn against these wars, not just at the ballot box but in the streets, as the cost of unbridled militarism becomes unbearable.
But it can’t happen without leadership. The number one task of anti-war activists is to help build the bridges that can bring about such unity.
The demands of the workers and the oppressed for jobs, schools, union wages and an end to racism, sexism and homophobia must also be the demands of the anti-war movement, because they challenge the exploiting class of profiteers that is addicted to war. The struggle against the “chain of command” in the factory or the office is also a challenge to the military chain of command that allows officers to order young workers to kill or die on the battlefield in the interests of the boss class.
Disruption of this deadly status quo is the task of all who want peace and social justice.