Demonstrators in 50 cities invoke King’s legacy in denouncing U.S. war machine
It has been a year of nearly unprecedented war hysteria—remarkable in a country that has been gripped in continuous war hysteria for generations. The memories of mainstream media publishing major exposures of U.S. war crimes—like the 1969 My Lai massacre in Vietnam and the infamous Pentagon Papers that blew the lid off Washington’s hopeless misadventures—are faded blips on a distant radar screen.
But they are crucial reminders of the power of an aroused flood of anti-war protest that swept American society during the U.S. war in Vietnam. It was powerful enough to force all sectors in the country to take notice, and ultimately helped the Vietnamese force the government to stop the war. It fostered the “Vietnam syndrome,” a mass revulsion to war and war propaganda that put brakes on the war machine, at least for a while.
That can happen again, and it needs to. Over the week marking Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s birthday, January 13-22, protests surged across the country to “Stop U.S. Wars.” Major national coalitions joined forces to hit the streets of New York and more than 50 other cities.
John Parker, former Peace and Freedom candidate for the California State Senate, and national leader of the Socialist Unity Party, gave eyewitness testimony from the Donbas, where he visited last May. He said U.S.-funded Ukrainian fascists committed war crimes that were later blamed on Russia by Western media. He pointed to a direct connection between the Ukrainian fascists and the May 14 mass shooting of ten Black people in Buffalo, New York. The killer described himself as a supporter of white supremacy, inspired by Ukraine’s neo-Nazi Azov Battalion.
Sara Flounders, a co-founder of the United National Antiwar Coalition (UNAC) and the International Action Center, said UNAC had called for demonstrations in more than 50 cities.
“Across the country people are beginning to mobilize and speak out against the billions and billions for a new war. Just weeks after [the U.S.] got out of Afghanistan they had a new war prepared, and that war was years in the planning—long before the 2014 fascist coup. It was for one reason only: to bring in a fascist grouping to threaten Russia, to bomb Russia and the Russian population of Ukraine, to expand NATO. Now they’re doing the same thing against China… Japan has just doubled its military budget. It will soon be the third largest military power, in alliance with the U.S. for war on China.”
In these wars the Democratic and Republican parties are together–there is a single war party. It is only people’s movements from below—the grassroots movement—that are going to stop them.
So NO TO NATO – STOP ALL US WARS!
The New York march ended with a teach-in at the People’s Forum, where Eugene Puryear of BreakThrough News said that, when the government and liberals blame Russia for the war in Ukraine, “it marginalized any resistance to U.S. and NATO actions by setting up a framework that puts any anti-escalation of anti-sanctions arguments on the back foot by framing Russia as the aggressor.”
See teach-in below.
Brian Becker, Director of the ANSWER Coalition, said at the People’s Forum teach-in that:
“It’s quite clear the U.S. is not going to stop the war. It has no intention of negotiating a deal with Russia. But Russia is determined not to lose, because this is an existential war—if it were to lose it would be broken up, like Yugoslavia and the USSR. The U.S. would like to break up Russia and China so they won’t have to face great powers. The current Russian escalation—against infrastructure and electric grids—is designed to drive Ukraine to the negotiating table. The U.S. doesn’t want that, and they’re insisting through their puppet Zelensky they won’t talk.”
Becker said: “When Biden et al. talk about a Green New Deal, their actual policy is the opposite, because they need to produce more oil both in the U.S. and abroad. So if you care about climate change, this is another reason to oppose this war…If you care about the human family you need to oppose this war…We’re in the beginning of a very big project. When Rosa Parks didn’t give up her seat [in the mid-1950s], she didn’t know she was launching the civil rights movement.”
He added that militant anti-war struggle won in the face of far-right electoral victories in 1968, when Wallace won five states and Nixon 35. It was the intensity of the anti-war and civil rights movements that forced the government to concede in spite of far-right electoral victories.
“I cannot be silent”
The government learned important lessons from its failure to suppress the historic movements of the Sixties—despite massive repression—and it gradually revived the traditional American war spirit. Ronald Reagan famously declared “America’s back!” following the glorious 1983 invasion of tiny Grenada to stop a red revolution in “our back yard.” (Joe Biden used the same words on his first post-election victory lap to Europe in early 2021.) In March 1991, after terror-bombing Iraq, George H.W. Bush declared, “By God, we’ve kicked the Vietnam syndrome once and for all!”
Twelve years later Bush Junior declared “Mission Accomplished” after his theatrical landing on the aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln on May 1, 2003. The specter of Iraq’s fabled “weapons of mass destruction” had been vanquished in an orgy of mass self-delusion.
The secret of success for the war planners was mass deceit—brazen use of the Big Lie to cover the true nature of the government’s misadventure, and harness mass consent. It is now the weapon of choice for Biden and his neo-cons in waging the proxy war in Ukraine against Russia. But deceit is not enough. It is combined with a war against truth, designed to suppress anything but the official narrative. Inspired by the torture and imprisonment of whistleblowers like Chelsea Manning and Julian Assange, this war makes it a crime to tell the truth. The whistleblowers have been condemned as “terrorists,” with the resulting terror effectively silencing journalists across the Western mainstream media. An important by-product is self-censorship among anti-warriors, with a substantial sector denouncing vocal criticism of the official narrative.
Last October progressives in Congress quietly retracted a mild letter to Biden suggesting negotiations to stop the war. Instead, progressive congressional leader Pramila Jayapal (D-WA) met with Biden at the White House on October 18.
Protesters are called “Putin pimps” for highlighting the dominant presence of U.S.-backed neo-Nazis in Ukraine. But it has been impossible to suppress memories of the State Department’s Victoria Nuland blurting “Fuck the EU,” while hand-picking the U.S. choice for president of Ukraine in early 2014, on orders from then-Vice President Biden. And Nazi insignia worn by Ukraine’s nationalist troops speak for themselves.
Protests in Europe
The Western European NATO allies and their populations have become the major victims—along with Ukrainians—of this proxy war against Russia. The blizzard of brutal sanctions intended to “reduce the ruble to rubble,” as Biden delicately phrased it, has led to near-depression conditions for Europe. Working people have taken to the streets across Europe in protest, pressuring their leaders to stop doing Washington’s bidding. News of these actions has been suppressed in the U.S. media, but the protests have not gone away. Striking workers have halted public transportation, government services, and even Britain’s National Health Service, demanding wages must rise in sync with galloping inflation. A June meeting of NATO ministers in Madrid, was confronted with a massive protest saying NO TO NATO! Two British prime ministers have been toppled along with an Italian president, and the future of “NATO unity” is an open question.
So far very few of these organizing efforts—with the notable exception of the West Coast longshore workers—have linked their struggles to war protests. But nearly all of them demand wage hikes in sync with inflation, echoing their cousins in Europe. The war is a major trigger for the inflation. It is possible people will begin to connect the dots. If they do, they could become a force in stopping the war machine.
U.S. soldiers were a major factor in stopping the U.S. war machine during the Vietnam era. A Marine colonel wrote at the time that the U.S. military had “broken down” in Vietnam, as soldiers refused to fight and combat veterans marched in protest after coming home. Sailors shut down ships that had been ordered to the war zone. Bomber crews refused to go on raids into Vietnam, after witnessing at least thirty giant B-52s crash after they were shot down.
Units of the Army’s 101st Airborne Division are now stationed in Poland and Romania, alongside about 70,000 active duty U.S. troops in the rest of Europe. To date there have been no reports of U.S. troops deserting or refusing duty in Europe, or of European anti-war groups reaching out to them. Such activity was common during the Vietnam era, and also during recent “endless wars” in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Today about 375,000 U.S. military personnel are stationed in East Asia, or on warships patrolling the South and East China Seas. The largest concentrations are in Okinawa and in South Korea. They are bolstered by more than 600,000 regular South Korean Army forces and a suddenly resurgent Japanese military force. U.S. nuclear missile batteries are stationed in both countries, targeting China and Russia. There is constant civilian protest against these forces in both Japan and Korea. Anti-war groups there often reach out to U.S. military personnel, encouraging them to demand to be sent home. Roughly 100,000 soldiers and family members are stationed in Hawaii, which is frequently used as a transit point between the U.S. mainland and the Asian theater.
In 1969 there was a large and significant sanctuary struggle in Honolulu. Soldiers demanded a “bill of rights,” and sought sanctuary in local churches. The protest impacted the war planners, the soldiers themselves and their civilian supporters. Key organizers were the American Servicemen’s Union (ASU), and religious anti-war activists, similar to the GI resistance movement in mainland USA. There were hundreds of GI resistance “coffee houses” near bases across the U.S., in Europe and Asia. Many of these support centers developed their own “underground” presses, publishing leaflets and newspapers encouraging active duty people to resist.
Worldwide chorus urgently calling for peace in Ukraine
Medea Benjamin and Nicholas Davies reported in late October on calls for peace from UN Secretary-General António Guterres, Pope Francis and leaders of 66 countries speaking at the UN General Assembly in September, representing the majority of the world’s population. They also highlighted former U.S. Ambassador to the Soviet Union Jack Matlock, who wrote an October 17 article in Responsible Statecraft titled “Why the U.S. must press for a ceasefire in Ukraine.” The Ambassador said the United States “is obligated to help find a way out” of this crisis. The article concluded, “Until…the fighting stops, and serious negotiations get under way, the world is headed for an outcome where we all are losers.”
Last March President Biden said “this battle will not be won in days or months…We need to steel ourselves for the long fight ahead.” In May he said he is “doing everything within my power” to address “Putin price hikes.” Margaret Kimberley, editor of Black Agenda Report, says “Joe Biden and his foreign policy team of incompetent ideologues hope to convince Americans to accept food shortages, rising gas prices, and the risk of a hot war…The game is up if the people begin to question what they are being told…The average person may not be well versed in the history of U.S. policy towards Russia, but they know when things don’t add up…Rambling, incoherent speeches punctuated by shouts of ‘war criminal’ and ‘genocide’ don’t cut it when working people can barely afford to put gas in the tank.”
On June 1, 2022, Biden issued a message crafted as an op-ed in The New York Times. “We do not want to prolong the war just to inflict pain on Russia,” he insisted. Instead, he said the flood of new weapons, ammunition, and billions of dollars, is meant to help Ukraine “be in the strongest possible position at the negotiating table.” But, he added, “I will not pressure the Ukrainian government—in private or public—to make any territorial concessions.” He did not say if the U.S. would exert pressure against such concessions, which would surely be required for talks to start.
Ukrainian President Zelensky insists on a status quo ante, meaning Russian troops leaving all the areas they have occupied. Neither the Russian government nor the people of the Donbas, Crimea and nearby areas can be expected to give up the gains achieved in the war.
Back in April 2022, Ukraine negotiated a 15-point peace plan for a cease-fire, a Russian withdrawal and a peaceful future as a neutral country. But the U.S. and UK refused to provide Ukraine with the security guarantees considered critical for the agreement. On April 9, Britain’s then-Prime Minister Boris Johnson flew to Kyiv to tell Zelensky the “collective West” was “in it for the long run” but “wanted no part in any agreement between Ukraine and Russia.” Since then, Zelensky has been adamant against any concessions to Russia.
A Path to Protracted Conflict
Retired Colonel Douglas MacGregor wrote in December 2022 that the U.S. “refusal to acknowledge Russia’s legitimate security interests in Ukraine and negotiate an end to this war is the path to protracted conflict and human suffering…Inside the Biden administration, there is growing concern that the Ukrainian war effort will collapse under the weight of a Russian offensive.” He cited an Economist interview in which Ukraine’s armed forces chief General Valery Zaluzhny admitted “Russian mobilization and tactics are working…” and “Ukrainian forces might be unable to withstand the coming Russian onslaught.”
“The Biden administration’s unconditional support for the Zelensky regime in Kyiv is reaching a strategic inflection point not unlike the one LBJ reached in 1965,” MacGregor says. “Just as LBJ suddenly determined in 1964 that peace and security in Southeast Asia was a vital U.S. strategic interest, the Biden administration is making a similar argument now for Ukraine. Like South Vietnam in the 1960s, Ukraine is losing its war with Russia.” Faced with this grim scenario, MacGregor predicts “Biden will soon repeat LBJ’s performance in 1965,” proposing not a NATO attack on Russia, but a U.S.-led “coalition of the willing” to “establish the ground equivalent of a ‘no-fly zone.’”
But, MacGregor says, “NATO’s governments are divided in their thinking about the war in Ukraine. Except for Poland and, possibly, Romania, none of NATO’s members are in a rush to mobilize their forces for a long, grueling war of attrition with Russia in Ukraine. No one in London, Paris or Berlin wants to run the risk of a nuclear war with Moscow. Americans do not support going to war with Russia, and those few who do are ideologues, shallow political opportunists, or greedy defense contractors.”
Patriot Missiles and Tanks
The New York Times reported January 13 that “Western officials increasingly fear that Ukraine has only a narrow window to prepare to repel an anticipated Russian springtime offensive, and are moving fast to give the Ukrainians sophisticated weapons they had earlier refused to send for fear of provoking Moscow.” In late December the U.S. agreed to send a Patriot air-defense system. “That was followed by a German commitment…to provide a Patriot missile battery, and in the span of hours, France, Germany and the United States each promised to send armored fighting vehicles to Ukraine’s battlefields for the first time.”
Next up: tanks. The British and Polish governments committed to sending a small number. They then pressured the U.S. and Germany to follow. The Times reports “there are an estimated 2,000 German-made Leopard tanks in more than a dozen militaries across Europe. Some could be shipped quickly to Ukraine if Berlin approved.”
German leader Olaf Scholz wants “to keep a relationship with Russia and with Putin for the future, and thinks that if he gives Ukraine the best Germany has, Russia will perceive this as breaking a special relationship,” German foreign policy expert Norbert Röttgen told the Times. Scholz feels pressure for peace from his people, and aggression from NATO allies.
The former NATO assistant secretary general for defense investment, Camille Grand, told the Times the tanks could give Ukrainian forces “some sort of a decisive victory that would force peace on the Russians, or at least…achieve such significant progress that any negotiated settlement would be more on their terms than on Russian terms.” The Russian military has destroyed hundreds of Ukrainian tanks in battles over the past year.
The flood of weapons shows Ukraine has “already become a de facto member of the NATO alliance,” as Defense Minister Oleksii Reznikov said recently in an interview with a Ukrainian TV station. “We are carrying out NATO’s mission today. They aren’t shedding their blood. We’re shedding ours. That’s why they’re required to supply us with weapons,” Reznikov said. He added that Kyiv is constantly reminded by its “Western partners” that it, “like a real shield, is defending the entire civilized world, the entire West,” from the Russians.
Russian Security Council Secretary Nikolai Patrushev confirmed this view: “The events in Ukraine are not a clash between Moscow and Kyiv—this is a military confrontation between Russia and NATO, and above all the United States and Britain,” Patrushev said. “The Westerners’ plans are to continue to pull Russia apart, and eventually just erase it from the political map of the world.”
“It’s an investment”
When Zelensky addressed the U.S. Congress on December 21, he declared “your money is not charity, it’s an investment.” He was greeted with repeated standing ovations. Congress approved $45 billion in additional aid to Ukraine, bringing the total for 2022 to $113 billion. That’s on top of “the $400+ [billion] in investment options” Zelensky offered September 9 when he appeared at the New York Stock Exchange via video stream to symbolically ring the opening bell.
Economist Michael Hudson compared Ukraine’s new emergency anti-labor laws to the neo-liberal policies implemented by Chile’s far-right Pinochet dictatorship after a CIA-backed coup in 1973. “It’s jaw dropping,” Hudson told Multipolarista. “This is exactly what [French President] Macron said when he announced the ‘end of abundance.’ The Ukrainian labor force has just experienced the end of affluence, neo-liberal style…Ukraine is the poorest country in Europe, but Zelensky said it’s not poor enough…He said ‘wait until our new law takes effect.’” Hudson added: “It’ll also be the richest country in Europe for the one percent!”
Ukraine’s Parliament starts 2023 with tribute to Bandera
On January 1, 2023, the Ukrainian Parliament and army leadership celebrated the 114th anniversary of the birth of Stepan Bandera, the founding leader of Ukrainian fascism. During World War II, the Bandera-led Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists (OUN-B) and its paramilitary wing, the Ukrainian Insurgent Army (UPA), participated in the Nazi-led genocide of hundreds of thousands of Jews in what is now Ukraine and Poland, and massacres of 70,000 to 100,000 Poles.
Margaret Kimberley of Black Agenda Report issued the following report on January 9: “Two years ago the neo-Nazi Ukrainian National Resistance organization staged a march in which the words ‘White Lives Matter’ appeared in English, with the name of the organization in small type beneath. The words in the pink graphic on the video read, “On the march of UPA Nazis carefully burned the poster of BLM [Black Lives Matter].” The National Resistance organization is known for its racist, anti-Russian, anti-LGBTQ, and anti-Communist beliefs.
Jeffrey Sachs: ‘on the edge of nuclear catastrophe’
“The world is on the edge of nuclear catastrophe…because of the failure of Western political leaders to be forthright about the causes of the escalating global conflicts,” declared Jeffrey Sachs, renowned Columbia University professor and President of the UN Sustainable Development Solutions Network. “The relentless Western narrative that the West is noble while Russia and China are evil is simple-minded and extraordinarily dangerous. It is an attempt to manipulate public opinion, not to deal with very real and pressing diplomacy.”
“There is only one country whose self-declared fantasy is to be the world’s dominant power,” Sachs said. “It’s past time the U.S. recognized the true sources of security: internal social cohesion and responsible cooperation with the rest of the world, rather than the illusion of hegemony. With such a revised foreign policy, the U.S. and its allies would avoid war with China and Russia, and enable the world to face its myriad environment, energy, food and social crises.”
Additionally, Sachs said, “European leaders should pursue the true source of European security: not U.S. hegemony, but European security arrangements that respect the legitimate security interests of all European nations, certainly including Ukraine, but also including Russia…Europe should reflect on the fact that the non-enlargement of NATO and the implementation of the Minsk II agreements would have averted this awful war in Ukraine.”
The fundamental question is what will it take to get the U.S. government to stop pouring the means of war—money, weapons, mercenaries, and its NATO allies—into Ukraine. An all-sided and massive anti-war movement that does not depend merely on moral suasion or the enlightened words of illustrious sages will be required. Only if there is a gigantic upsurge of opposition determined to stop “business as usual,” will it be realistically possible to bring peace. Anti-war forces must directly challenge the official “Big Lie” narrative, and unite with all who want to save the planet and oppose the onset of fascism.
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About the Author
Dee Knight is a member of the DSA International Committee’s Anti-War Subcommittee.
He is the author of My Whirlwind Lives: Navigating Decades of Storms, soon to be published by Guernica World Editions.
Dee can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org.