The Tropes of Anti-Anti Imperialism, Part 2: False Regionalisms
Part I can be read here.
In “The Enemy at Home: U.S. Imperialism in Syria” I essentially argue against what I regard as a deeply liberal approach to the war on Syria that atomizes history. What does this mean? The atomizing of history refers to the attempt to shear the events in Syria away from a wider Arab context of struggle against colonialism and imperialism, supplemented by the attempt to forget or suppress memory around the wider patterns of US imperialism across the world and in the Arab world specifically. In atomized history, the US can promote war in a single region for over half a century, and Arab nationalist republics can conspicuously burn while monarchies remain stable, with only an extended series of “isolated incidents” to show for it all. As expected, there has been backlash against my article in some quarters. Most of it is just noise. Nonetheless, the anti-anti imperialist tropes at work in some of that noise have become endemic, so I will address them in a series of posts, in a way that hopefully transcends controversy around a single article and speaks to the wider issues of war and peace today. At the same time, in order to keep matters grounded and for points of clarity, I will occasionally refer back to the only formally written reply I’ve received, an attack that contains all the hallmarks of anti-anti-imperialism: aggressive and arrogant, to be sure, but also specious.
II. False Regionalisms
One means by which anti-anti imperialists deny the existence of a US war on the Syrian Arab Republic is to suggest that the US does not have a larger strategy in West Asia. Instead, there exist a number of “multi-polar” conflicts in which the US may or may not play a significant role. Within these conflicts, US actions are largely contradictory, confused, or improvised. This being the case, categorizing US wars in the region together under a general theory amounts to a series of apples-to-oranges comparisons. Thus, to invoke joint struggle against an apparently non-existent US project does rank injustice to internal relations within Arab states.
One more specific way an anti-anti imperialist may contest arguments about a US project is to rely on a broad principle: as every Marxist knows, the nation-state cannot be a unitary actor because it is a site of political and class struggle. On this premise, those who see a US project at work may be dismissed on grounds of “tankie conspiracism” or whatever other catchy dismissal is sweeping social media. The problem with this trope is that it abuses a true-enough banal abstraction to make a virtue out of unpreparedness. Adopt this line of thinking and you will always be desperately lost and confused. You will always fall behind and you will never catch up. When a state acts with its military, with concrete actions, you will scratch your head without a counter-strategy of your own. You will miss the forms of unity (concrete diplomatic and military actions) that emerge amid contradictions (whatever internal debates produced those actions), for even the most intense tactical debates within imperialism occur within set boundaries.
In Israel, for example, we know that there are always so-called “hardliners” screaming for “Greater Israel.” We know that their sadistic dream has not yet been realized in full. But we also know that Israel as an entity rushes to occupy and colonize when the objective conditions permit, and that armed and popular resistance is the equalizer that compels Israel to retreat. And we know, as both leaks and public policy papers demonstrate, that Zionist state managers draw up long-term contingency plans. Advocates for the atomization of history could never have been prepared for what the objective conditions known as “the Syrian war” have an allowed Israel to pursue: a settler expansion into occupied territories of Syria. Likewise, anti-anti imperialists will continue to flounder when confronted with the question of why US imperialism continues to destroy certain nations (that is, when they are able to acknowledge the destruction at all, of course), and not others.
For the sheer magnitude of this history of US aggression, of which we are witnessing an especially ugly episode, it is worth returning to the pattern of war in West Asia that voices like the blogger “Cautiously Pessimistic” insist people keep compartmentalized: the Black September War of 1970; the October War of 1973; the Lebanese War of the 1970s and 1980s; the Iran-Iraq War of the 1980s; the First Gulf War of 1991; the Second Gulf War of 2003; the July 2006 War on Lebanon; and the 2011-and-after wars on Libya, Syria, and Yemen. In some of these wars, the US provided military aid: to the Jordanian monarchy (against the PLO and allied Arab republics), Israel (against the Egyptian and Syrian states), the Phalangist-led Lebanese state (against the PLO and allied Lebanese National Movement), both Iran and Iraq against each other, Israel again, rebel movements against Arab republics, and Saudi Arabia, respectively. Throughout these wars, the US and its proxies consistently attacked not only revolutionary organizations, but also the populations sympathetic to them. And needless to say, in some of these cases, the US intervened directly with its own military.
That is one extensive list of events. How many lives did those wars destroy, taken together? We have before us a region subjected to constant war, with the US making the violence possible. (And this list is limited, leaving off the prior wars—in Syria 1920, Palestine 1936 and 1948, and the Six Day War of 1967—brought about by the US’s colonial forebears, France and Britain.) One wonders what kind of advisor cautions against recognizing any kind pattern and claims only to see isolated incidents. Better yet, one wonders what kind of observer misses the significance of what that half a century of military aggression has provided for the US in terms of geopolitical control and military hegemony in the year 2018: a new military base in Israel (described by a comrade as a “military base inside of a bigger military base”), doubtlessly installed for use in a coming regional war; an underreported military base in Lebanon; 8,992 troops stationed in Iraq; and several bases hosting US personnel in Saudi Arabia.
This list is not exhaustive. It is nonetheless a list that proves accurate the statement, supplemented as it is by a qualifier, that, “although the United States’ tactical alliances have varied from this pattern at particular conjunctures, and while there have been and continue to exist major tactical disagreements within the U.S. empire about policy in West Asia,” the “general strategic trend” that sees close relations between US and monarchies on the one hand and US military assaults on revolutionary movements on the other holds true. (Elsewhere I have written: “Taken together, the cases of Egypt and Iran demonstrate that the US is not opposed to Arab nationalism per se, but to any and all attempts at independence from its global grip.”) Deliberately ignoring my caveat to launch a bad-faith attack, “Cautiously Pessimistic” writes, “A canny observer may spot an interesting omission from [the list of retrograde monarchies close to the US]–what about Qatar?” Of course, Qatar’s diplomatic isolation is nothing like what faces Syria, Libya, Yemen, and Iraq. It has been neither invaded nor occupied. But if we grant that there have been recent diplomatic affronts to Qatar, does engaging more closely with the “tactical exceptions” of US policy, like Qatar at the present moment, tell us anything about the general rule?
Because I present straightforwardly that there have been moments of tactical exception within this well-established pattern of strategic pursuit, it is worth asking what makes these instances exceptions rather than the rule. Why are certain countries burning, and not others? Statements about differing internal political situations and “civil war” will only get you so far. There may be, in just about every country in the world, people who wish to wage an armed rebellion against the central government. But the desire and intent for such thing on behalf of relatively powerless non-state actors does not mean the conditions exist for it to become a reality. For a wide-scale war to transpire against a central government, there needs to be sources of guns and wages for fighters from those who produce or possess large weapons caches and purses. Does there exist, in a given situation, the will and desire of more powerful external actors to bankroll a major war?
In what follows, I will examine two “exceptions” to the rule, Qatar and Egypt. I’ll then conclude with a revision to popular conceptions of the war on Yemen that reduce the US to a mere “supporting role.” In all three cases, I’ll ask what connects them, as component parts of a more generalized US onslaught against the region and its people. Before I do proceed, another caveat: I don’t assume that the strategic project of US imperialism as it stands now–to empower monarchies and Israel as a means to seize resources and geostrategic locations while fomenting permanent war and liquidating all resistance–will last forever. I really can imagine a Vietnam scenario in West Asia, wherein regional revolution and attendant “security breakdowns” produce a mass escape rush of trembling spooks, their ties flopping and shoes slipping and legs dangling as they crawl onto the last choppers from Baghdad with scattered half-shredded embassy documents drifting through the winds behind them. But the Jordanian torture chambers, the Saudi bombings, the US invasions, the very existence of Israel–all point to an ongoing, aggressive, as-yet-undefeated US-led project of destruction-for-profit.
Qatar. It is telling that the blogger “Cautiously Pessimistic” does not mention two monumental interrelated reasons for Qatar’s isolation: its continued relations with Iran and Palestine. It must be emphasized that the Qatari state’s intersection with Palestine is much different from Syria’s. Whereas the latter state is the product of a long series of anti-colonial struggles and founded on explicit anti-Zionist ideology, Qatar’s contact came by way of a vacillating Palestinian faction amid inter-regional jockeying and competition. The resulting relationship, however, is no less “material,” even if the support in question is much smaller in scale.
To understand why the connection to Palestinian resistance exists, one must understand some unique qualities of its point of contact, Hamas. The organization began formally in 1987 as the Palestinian wing of the Muslim Brotherhood. Its arrival came in the twilight years of the PLO as a nationally representative institution. There is good reason the Muslim Brotherhood did not gain a popular base in those preceding decades of revolutionary fervor. In the immediate wake of the Nakba, the Muslim Brotherhood emphasized piety to a refugee people demanding national struggle. An amusing account offered by ‘Abd al Qadir gives some perspective: after a massive act of Israeli aggression in 1953, he turned to his organization seeking a plan, only to hear the head of his Muslim Brotherhood branch insist that the proper response was to “pray and give alms.” Al Qadir subsequently left the Brotherhood and joined the Communist Party.
Other Palestinian members of the Muslim Brotherhood found national struggle later on in Fateh, with the most famous instance being the trajectory of Yasser Arafat’s right-hand man, Khalil al-Wazir. After decades of exodus and marginalization, the Muslim Brotherhood sought to re-establish itself as a major political force in Palestine as late as 1987, and it did so as a resistance party—an “Islamic resistance” at the same time beholden to nationalist Palestinian struggle. As PLO fell apart and Fateh lost legitimacy following Oslo, Hamas gained for itself a wide base of support, ranging from pious Muslims to Palestinians more broadly insistent on a resistance platform. This duality in many way shapes the precarious place in which the organization finds itself today.
Before the outbreak of protests in 2011, Hamas leadership was based in Damascus, receiving myriad support from the Syrian Arab Republic. It increased relations with Qatar at a time when the latter was boosting its relation with the Muslim Brotherhood more broadly as an asset for interregional competition, primarily against Saudi Arabia, its main competitive partner in weapons-funneling to anti-government militias into Syria. (It must be noted about Hamas’s relationship to the Muslim Brotherhood: “Hamas recently distanced itself from the international Brotherhood movement, but its leader affirmed that it remains part of the Brotherhood’s ‘intellectual school…’”) In 2012, Hamas relocated from Damascus to Doha, as the Muslim Brotherhood was then playing a prominent role in the opposition (including armed opposition) to the Syrian Arab Republic, as it had done historically well before 2011. The move just so happened to come before some conciliatory language towards Israel in a revised charter, implicitly sanctioning the existence of Israel in a two-state solution bearing “a fully sovereign and independent Palestinian state, with Jerusalem as its capital along the lines of the 4th of June 1967.” Whatever the internal reasons for Hamas’s language, it appeared as political moderation following political realignment towards a Gulf monarchy.
Still nonetheless accountable to supporters who expect resistance to Israeli colonialism, Hamas as recently as February of 2018 sent a warm congratulatory message to the Syrian government for shooting down an Israeli F-16. Once again, the duality of Hamas’s commitments—to both the wider Muslim Brotherhood and to Palestine—produced not only its current balancing act, but also the networks through which it nurtured a changing relationship with Qatar. Among the demands issued to Qatar by Saudi Arabia for an end to the blockade, whose leadership is currently pressuring the PA to concede Palestinian national claims after establishing an open alliance with Israel and receiving a visit from Trump, was to cut its ties to Hamas. Even in this “exception,” the Palestinian issue (especially in its links to Iran, with which Qatar maintained relations) remains paramount.
Egypt. I could do anti-anti imperialist critics one better and mention the case of Egypt. As is well known, Egypt under the leadership of Gamal Abdel Nasser was the beacon of Pan-Arabist hopes for the reunification of Arab peoples under a single socialist state and regional independence from colonialism and imperialism. Today its head of state, General Abdel Fattah Sisi, invites Israeli bombings in Egyptian territory of the Sinai. This is a case of neocolonialism par excellence. The reasons for how this happened is not actually dissimilar to what occurred with the hallowing out of the Palestine Liberation Organization during the Oslo Accords, in order to supplement the creation of another neocolonial entity, the Palestinian Authority. Both cases depended on a conjunction of “external” and “internal” factors.
How does a resistant national formation morph into a consolidated neocolonial regime? Let me start with a framework and then move to specifics. We may note that a hostile external entity, say the United States and/or Israel, sufficiently pummels, through war as one reliable means, the whole of the confrontational entity—national institutions of a resistant entity in all of their variety—in order to weaken the target’s bargaining power, which may be expressed in a number of ways, from unique access to vital commodities to military strength. The resort to war is particularly effective because it mires in violence the one entity capable of holding a given state to account for popular demands: the people.
Once this process of weakening has reached an advanced enough stage, it becomes easy to induce aspiring neocolonial entrepreneurs inside the targeted periphery state with financial prizes and security packages, producing a dependence of the refashioned national bourgeoisie on imperialist powers for both capital (self-enrichment) and guns (increased protection against the poor). The masses of workers are thereafter left scrambling for undignified forms of labor, only to face the brunt of US-made or Israeli-supplied weapons if they get out of line.
Each of these traits were present in the trajectory of the Arab Republic of Egypt from its revolutionary high point between 1956 and 1967, to its subsequent Thermidor culminating in the Camp David Accords of 1979. That period of revolutionary ascent notably began with a major anti-imperialist victory over France, Britain, and Israel upon the successful reclamation of the Suez Canal. It ended with a massive military defeat to Israel in the Six-Day War. In hindsight, it is certainly easy to make critiques of Egyptian leadership by noting how the 1956 victory was attained through the mobilization of popular militias, standing on guard to defend the Egyptian homeland against imperialist invasion, while the 1967 defeat lacked a strategic resort on behalf of the periphery nation to People’s War.
Be that as it may, the 1967 war produced an outcome with long-term political implications that would be compounded by another war in 1973. Together, these wars eroded popular morale enough to aggravate cracks in the ideological hegemony of Arab nationalism. The overall value losses were immense as well. After Egyptian leadership had diverted societal resources to confront a better-equipped perpetual colonial threat in the State of Israel, the Egyptian state encountered a balance-of-payment crisis that bourgeois leadership (Sadat), in taking advantage of weakened resistance nationalism, sought to remedy through new channels of foreign aid. As the Camp David Accords demonstrate to this day, that aid came with political stipulations. While those stipulations carried relatively few consequences for the Egyptian bourgeoisie, they continue to exact a price on both the Egyptian and Palestinian masses.
For the Egyptian masses, the Camp David Accords ushered in a new era of pauperization: decreased or eliminated social services, fewer jobs, and a better-equipped police state. These reflect the wider worldwide trends of neocolonial states following the US’s decision, undertaken during the height of the Vietnam War, to de-link the US dollar from gold, which thereby undercut a global rush to gold and instead forced the world to accept an unlimited flow of US dollars. In Egypt, this process began before the Camp David Accords—it even helped to develop the very bourgeoisie that signed the accords. Ali Kadri writes: “In the early stages of the intifah [“opening up”], remittances from the Gulf exchanged on the black market had a much higher purchasing power and created a work model of earning without effort. In 1976, the dollar black market rate exchanged for five times the official rate.”
The influx of these dollars frustrated the dual exchange rate and “national money creation rose to meet the conversion demands drawn on the black market in favour of foreign wage earners and importers.” As the Egyptian bourgeoisie, including “vast sections of the regime’s bureaucracy,” turned towards those financial markets, they naturally turned away from the prior social pact between society and society that Nasser sought, regardless of the limitations of his rule, to mediate through service programs such as jobs, health, and education. In 1979, as part of the Camp David deal, the US began to deliver an annual aid package of around $2 billion that would help to protect the neocolonial authorities from popular recrimination. The terms of that aid are designed to benefit US weapons manufacturers. As noted by James Gelvin, “The United States does not give money to Egypt for military equipment; it gives the Egyptian military a list of equipment the American government will purchase on its behalf in the United States.” A one time resistance front that Israel once sought to destabilize through war, Egypt has now become a war asset that the US and Israel hope to keep stable.
The price of the Camp David Accords for Palestinians, especially those living in Gaza, remains extreme. The terms of the agreement set down in the course of 1978 ensured that Israel, for its “part” in pretending to give the Sinai over to Egypt, would be granted an increased military edge underwritten by the United States in the form of two additional military bases at Eitam and Etzion in the Negev. (These terms were consecrated in a letter from Ezer Weisman, then Israeli Minister of Defense, signed by US Secretary of Defense Harold Brown.) Furthermore, the agreements called for a solution to Palestinian statelessness while conspicuously sidestepping mention of the PLO.
The Palestine National Council, the legislative branch of the PLO, instantly saw the writing on the wall. At its 14th Session in Damascus in 1979, the PNC declared that the Camp David Accords “violate Palestinian, Arab and international legitimacy and pave the way for tighter imperialist and Zionist control over our Arab region and Africa, employing the Egyptian regime, in the context of its alliance with imperialism and Zionism, as a tool for the repression of the Arab and African national liberation movements.” In keeping with acknowledgement of its role linking Southwest Asia to Africa, Ali Kadri argues that the incorporation of Egypt into the imperialist order, the effective elimination of its capacities to resist imperialist and Zionist plots, even enabled “the Congo holocaust” in addition to recent US and Israeli wars on Lebanon and Iraq.
Where lies the common origin between the pauperization of the Egyptian masses and the Palestinian prisoners of Gaza? What is to be gained between Egyptians and Palestinians by ignoring the obvious common link of US support for Egyptian neocolonialism and Israeli settler-colonialism, respectively? Between the agonizing poverty confronting Egyptian society and the barricades surrounding the Palestinians of Gaza, the common denominator is US imperialism.
To reiterate the main point: Sadat’s surrender came after a period of mobilization and struggle. It was a surrender elicited by imperialist war. As Max Ajl has written, US aid offered to Egypt in the Nasser period was initially offered as an inducement to “bridle Egyptian radical nationalism.” Where that did not work for the US and Israel, “war was a means – a successful one – to prevent neighbouring or nearby nations from neutralizing Israeli freedom of action.” Ajl refers to Guy Laron’s quotation of Yizthak Rabin on the eve of the 1967 War to give this tactic clear articulation: “…it is in our mutual interest to deal with [Iraq, Syria, and Egypt]. We should contain Nasser in the southern Arab peninsula, neutralize the Iraqis and screw the Syrians.” Thus, “For Israel, taking land and preventing development were two sides of one coin.” Ajl adds an additional note helpful to our purposes: “Ideology and colonial state-formation provide the parameters within which political actors act.” This explains succinctly how an Arab nationalist ideology alone does not guarantee the substance of what the US establishment (and of course Israel) desires to prevent: independence and resistance.
Yemen: A Brief Revision. Where I have highlighted patterns of US state behavior outside of its borders in general and in West Asia in particular, anti-anti imperialist critics such as the blogger “Cautiously Pessimistic” highlight differences, writing: “Iraq, certainly, is a place where the US started a war by invading, and it’s unarguable that, if the US hadn’t invaded in 2003, Iraq would not have been at war then. Libya and Syria, where the US intervened in existing internal conflicts that had already escalated into civil wars, are less clear-cut cases, and in Yemen, the main outside intervention has come from the Saudi military, with the US playing much more of a supporting role.”
There is little need to dwell on the case of Libya. That war was won by the US in the form of regime change. The rebel successes in Benghazi were made possible by an air intervention after NATO, a Cold War creation of the United States, predictably trespassed the bounds of an already-imperialist UN Resolution 1973. Libyan society has since been so profoundly degraded that markets now auction off Black Africans for chattel slavery. Meanwhile, the United States’ AFRICOM project has gained a bridge from the Mediterranean North to West and Central Africa.
When it comes to Yemen, my concern about the propagandistic reduction of the US role compels me to back up slightly and take a longer view. The US was promoting war in Yemen well before its drones arrived. I would therefore like to begin before 2011 and consider the Yemen of yesteryear, namely the People’s Democratic Republic of Yemen—Yemen as the groundswell for the Arab world’s sole Marxist government and the base area for region-wide revolution. There is a larger story to be told about that project, which has since been lost to counterrevolution and war. Between 1967, the year the People’s Republic of South Yemen began upon British withdrawal, and the end of the PDRY in 1990, this beautiful peninsula province and Indian Ocean post—origin coast of the common coffee culture today taken for granted the world over—provided almost unconditional sanctuary to countless Arab revolutionaries. George Habash had a particularly deep affection for it, for throughout the brutal Lebanon war years of the 1980s and spiraling rounds of brutal factional disputes, the PLO found for a time a safe zone in Aden in which to mediate disputes and draft agreements. Unsurprisingly, the United States did not share Habash’s affection.
As Fred Halliday wrote in his dissertation about the foreign policy of the PDRY, “while the pattern of east-west conflict in Arabia had, up to 1967, been dominated by the Egyptian-British clash in the south-west corner of the Peninsula, the post-1967 independent regime in Aden now found itself increasingly confronting not Britain but the major power that replaced it in Arabia, namely the USA.” Halliday’s work furthermore gives an account of how the US held a number of strategic initiatives in the Arabian Gulf thwarted by the PDRY’s anti-imperialism, including the presence of its oil monopolies in Saudi Arabia and Bahrain and its relationship with Saudi Arabia, staked on oil and anticommunism, made ironclad through the 1957 Eisenhower Doctrine. Over the years, the US grew further irritated by a number of initiatives undertaken by the PDRY leadership in revolutionary solidarity across the region, from their decision to assist Egypt by blockading crucial Red Sea passage points during the 1973 war to their training camps provided to the PFLP, of which a CIA National Foreign Assessment Center report complained in 1981.
As is typically the case when confronted with recalcitrance, the US crafted reactionary alliances and pursued destabilization of the PDRY. As Salim Rubbiya ‘Ali, President of South Yemen between 1969 and 1978, relayed to US Congressman Paul Findley: “Now, the belief is held by the people of my country that all suffering, all damage caused by subversives is the work of the US government… All military equipment we capture is US equipment, and this makes the people feel the US is behind the attack.” When the PDRY lent support to Egypt in 1973, the US sent it threats in the form of aircraft carriers off the Southern Yemen coast that it kept in place for about a year. A major US escalation came under the Carter Administration, which in 1978 initiated plans to sell the Yemen Arab Republic (North Yemen) $400 million worth of weapons for a war with the PDRY. Through Saudi Arabia baggage services, the US temporarily withheld and then increased arms supply to YAR, headed at this point by the now deceased Ali Abdullah Saleh, in 1980 once Saleh foreswore off pursuing the objective announced in the first foreign policy statement of newly independent South Yemen by Qahtan Muhammad al-Shaabi in 1969: reunification of Yemen.
The article “The Silent Demise of Democracy: The Role of the Clinton Administration in the 1994 Yemeni Civil War,” written by Carlos A. Parodi and Elizabeth Rexford, provides a window into the US role in Yemen in the 1990s. After Yemeni reunification finally succeeded for a time in May 1990, the new state entity continued to pay the price for any deviation from the US’s vision for the region, particularly when its leadership openly opposed US troop invasions following the 1990 Iraqi invasion of Kuwait, and instead advocated an “Arab solution.” When war broke out in 1994 between “Northern” and “Southern” factions of the Yemeni state, US President Bill Clinton and his Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs Robert H. Pelletreau gave full diplomatic support to Saleh’s Northern faction, which had started the war after a Parliamentary session in 1993, carrying out political assassinations against members of the Yemeni Socialist Party, the successor organization of the National Liberation Front that had formed the ruling party of the PDRY until reunification. This support was not accidental. It was in line with the US vision for Yemen: if reunification would happen, it would happen on the condition of the destruction of the remains of the YSP and its radical pro-Palestinian Pan-Arabism. Consistent themes emerge again.
It is worth jumping ahead to the post-2011 war to glimpse how anti-anti imperialists, upon forgetting the premises of a half-century of US intrusion into the Arabian Peninsula, conceptualize the current horrors. The US is playing a “supporting” role in the war on Yemen, we are told. Here is a clear consequence of atomizing history, a dubious description of US operations that reads as if it were ripped straight from a CNN headline. If true, the US still remains culpable for the destruction of Yemen. But one problem among several with this buzz phrase, “supporting role,” is that it says little about why the US is involved at all. At the very best, we are left with the impression that the US, which boasts of the largest military in the world, is led into major famine-inducing and cholera-spreading wars by smaller regional powers. This thinking is not all that much different the way apologists for US imperial aggression in Vietnam have tended to insist was the case with Ngô Đình Diệm and the Republic of Vietnam, or for that matter that the US is dragged into “unnecessary” wars by Israel.
As an explanation, it will not do. Even if the absurd premise of the haplessly misguided behemoth is granted for the sake of argument, it can only be forwarded with an underestimation, whether deliberate or ignorant, of the US contribution. If US involvement in Yemen were a mere matter of happenstance, rather than one of directed strategy, why has the US stepped in, as Stephen Gowans emphasizes, to bomb Yemeni targets directly whenever it has deemed the Saudi Air Force unfit for the task? Why does it go so far as to run the command and control logistics of the war, including providing target locations and training to the Saudi bomber pilots? I suggest instead glancing back at my arguments about the destructive corollary of a national US economy structured on war and then considering that “the Obama administration went ahead with a $1.3 billion arms sale to Saudi Arabia last year despite warnings from some officials that the United States could be implicated in war crimes for supporting a Saudi-led air campaign in Yemen that has killed thousands of civilians.” True to imperial form, US planners knowingly deem it in their interests to pursue acts that destroy human life on a grand scale.
That at least two major US markets subsidized by the US federal government, arms and mercenary firms, as well as the ability of financial firms to bet on the bonds tied to the private corporations that produce them, depend on instability should provide some disturbing clarity about, as I wrote before, “the extent to which this destruction is intrinsic to the entire U.S. imperialist enterprise: that as long as the United States is an empire, there will be smaller and weaker nations reduced to rubble and flames.” If we add to that the fact that the targets of the recent US bombings in question—fighters from Ansar Allah—have made overtures to other anti-Zionist resistance factions across the region and , it is evident once again how “the political imperatives as well as the capital accumulation circuits of the war…remain deeply intertwined.”
The masses of Yemeni people who have declared their solidarity with Palestine with massive street protests in Sana’a amid starvation, disease, and bombs, have apparently not received word that Palestine is a far-off country without major implications for “struggles in their own [country],” as per the blogger “Cautiously Pessimistic.” No—it is more accurate to say that they are building on traditions of solidarity, firmly established in their own country’s radical history. I’ll turn to US Congressman Findley’s report-back from a meeting with Foreign Minister Mohammed Salih Mutiyya’ of the PDRY in the 1970s, again quoted in Halliday’s work. Mutiyya’ explicated to Findley the PDRY’s objections the US (as well as his belief that the US had attempted regime change against it):
“He [Mutiyya’] said it was necessary to view the question in context of the whole Arab world. The reason for severance was the Israeli attack on the Beirut airport. Without US support, he said, the attack could not have occurred. Nor could the Israeli occupation of Arab lands and the denial of Palestinian rights to their lands.”
Mutiyya’s words were a repudiation of what the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine came to refer to as “false regionalisms.” A hallmark of US strategy, the DFLP argued, was to promote the impression that Arab peoples divided by colonial borders were distinctly Palestinian, Jordanian, Syrian, Egyptian, Iraqi, etc. If the US could bring about this impression, struggling peoples of the region would become preoccupied with narrow nationalisms. Arab peoples’ problems would have uncommon roots, isolated and self-contained. As some commentators appear to be baffled as to what the liberation of Palestine has to do with events in Syria, it would appear that this benchmark of US strategy has borne some major successes. Some further addendum of the centrality of the Palestinian issue is required next.
I’ll try and do a full response to this when it’s finished/when I get around to it, but in the meantime, I’d just like to suggest a few bits and pieces of reading that might be helpful for you when trying to understand the relationship between Syria and Palestine:
[…] examined before as a case study of a particularly distorted US-centric perspective, is now running a new series of articles intended at least in part as a response to my criticisms*. Since they are at least in part addressed to me, it seems only fair to read them and provide some […]
[…] of an ongoing discussion about leftist “anti-imperialist”/anti-American narratives. This is a response to an article called “False Regionalisms”, which is in turn partly a response to an earlier piece I’d written, and so […]
Also, by the way: you refer to my earlier piece as the only formally written reply you’ve received to the Viewpoint article. I’d not seen it until now, but it turns out Louis Proyect also wrote a through-going over of that piece: https://louisproyect.org/2018/02/05/fact-checking-the-latest-propaganda-rolling-off-the-assadist-assembly-line/
[…] Part II can be read here. […]