Peyton Raybon

Dismayed, not surprised

Dismayed, not surprised.

That’s my reaction to the Iran crisis. The United States is poised on the brink of war with Iran for what must be the fourth time in a year, and I’m having serious 2003 deja vu right now. This time around we’ve come closer than any time before — missiles have been traded between the two countries and threats of total destruction made.

It’s an exercise in human stupidity and miscommunication. However, it’s mostly on our part rather than that of the Islamic fundamentalist regime. The Iranian regime is showing remarkable restraint for a country that just had one of its top generals extrajudicially assassinated by a foreign power. All-out wars have been started right away for far less.

I don’t care if this gets me put in some internment camp when the war starts — I believe in saying what’s right and needs to be said. But this isn’t Trump’s fault. I’m not going to try and make this yet another “orange man bad” piece. The fact that he is completely inept at negotiation or any kind of subtlety and has threatened to commit war crimes by destroying Iranian cultural sites hasn’t helped things at all — but this is the result of decades of bad foreign policy; a national obsession with being the “policeman of the world” to maintain our control over its markets.

From both the conservative right and liberal left, I see the same rhetoric that lead up to the mistakes that were the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. Anyone who opposes war is denounced as unpatriotic, treasonous and a terrorist sympathizer. The government we’re about to go to war with is painted as a terrorist entity that must be destroyed if our freedom and way of life is to survive. The mentality is “you’re with them or you’re with us.”

The cycle repeats itself. Qassem Soleimani, the Iranian general assassinated by the United States, did not have one single tweet mentioning him from 2006 to the day before his death.
But now, he is the orchestrator of dozens of terrorist attacks and responsible for the deaths of hundreds of American troops — even planning the 9/11 attacks if Mike Pence is to be believed.

The black and white narrative continues with Trump’s accusations against Soleimani at his rallies. He was a “sadistic mass murderer” who “planned to blow up U.S. Embassies” and should have been killed “long ago.” General Soleimani was not a saint, far from it. There can be no doubt about that. He led the Iranian efforts at achieving regional dominance and funded militant groups active in Syria, Iraq and other Mideastern countries.

But the villainization of him by the Trump administration crosses into the realm of conjecture and absurdity. This is used to reinforce witch hunt accusations of terrorist sympathies against anyone who questions the assassinations, and — should it come to it — war against Iran. It heavily mirrors the accusations of tyranny, human rights abuses and possession of chemical weapons by Saddam Hussein’s Iraq, which turned out to be mostly false or exaggerated.

Eighteen years later and we’re still in both those countries. Most of us agree now that both invasions were wrong, and the recently leaked Afghanistan Papers only confirms that by proving the war was nothing but a racket. Neither our politicians, nor our generals, nor our troops knew why they were there or what they were there to do.

What do we have to show for it? Five thousand dead Americans and countless more maimed or mentally scarred and left to fend for themselves by our inadequate and underfunded veterans’ affairs department. Almost $6 trillion of government funds spent on war and our failed attempts at nation-building in Iraq and Afghanistan.

What do Iraq and Afghanistan, the people whose governments we toppled to liberate and bring American-style freedom to them, have to show for it? Two failed states beset by constant rebellion and terrorist activity with poverty rates far above what they were when they were invaded. In Iraq alone, over 200,000 citizens are dead because of the war and the complete collapse of the social infrastructure. Countless more have fled the country as refugees.

The United States has done more for the legacy of Saddam Hussein than any of his propaganda ever could have. Because at least under him, the Iraqi people did not have to worry about their very survival. The reasons the United States went to war with Iraq are just as much a sham as those for which we went to Afghanistan. Saddam never had any chemical weapons. But of course, if you said otherwise just before the invasion, you were a propaganda tool for the enemy.

So who does America going to war with Iraq, Afghanistan and now Iran benefit? Look no further than the stock market. In light of this recent news of the possibility of war, the stocks of Northrop-Grumman, General Dynamics and Raytheon have all soared, all defense contractors who influence Congress through lobbyists to buy more guns, missiles and tanks. A good amount of that $6 trillion spent in our wars this century has gone straight into their pockets.

The media benefits from it too. War makes a good story and keeps people’s eyes on the television. Even just the prospect of war has kept many people I know more interested in what’s airing on CNN or FOX than ever. And once it’s begun, the non-stop broadcasts of combat footage will guarantee record-breaking viewership.

Now more than ever, American wars are fought for the interest of a concentrated wealthy elite. They’re fought for profit rather than nationalism or ideology. It doesn’t matter to the board of directors of these defense and media companies how many American or Arabic sons must die, just that they get their dividends. So they will sponsor and give platforms to the jingoist rhetoric. People who question the war are shut down and have the cameras turned away from them. They don’t do this because they’re evil. They do it because they’re obsessed with their own self-preservation above all else.

So the reason Donald Trump is so controversial when he tweets that America has spent $2 trillion on new military equipment to fight Iran is not the fact that America under Trump spent $2 trillion on military equipment. It’s that he’s honest about his government neglecting the welfare of Americans for the benefit of the elite class. You could not expect the same level of openness from Obama, Bush or any other president we’ve had in the past few decades. They and Congress would just quietly move money from the budgets for healthcare or education to the Department of Defense and say nothing about it. We’re expected to stay complacent and obey because if we do protest, then we’re traitors.

Every American president since Eisenhower has been the same in the way that they handle the military-industrial complex by submitting to its will. Trump breaks the mold by being open with the entire world about it. Something was always off to me about him and his presidency compared to past ones. I could not put my finger on it until I realized that.

The beautiful irony present in Trump’s promise to commit a war crime by bombing 52 Iranian cultural sites in retaliation for the 52 American hostages taken in the Iranian Hostage Crisis of 1979 really strikes me. Because the revolution that turned Iran into the theocracy that it is today and sparked that crisis was a reaction by the Iranian people and religious leaders to 30 years living under the boot of the American-backed Shah and his autocratic government that silenced and tortured thousands of dissidents. He came to power through a CIA-orchestrated coup deposed Iran’s prime minister, Mohammad Mosaddegh, who sought to establish a secular liberal democracy in his country.

The submission of our government “of the people” to corporate interests is one piece of the “why go to war puzzle.” The other is American imperialism, the preservation of our global hegemony.

Another bit of transparency from Trump that I’m thankful for is his recent speech made when the Iraqi parliament voted to expel American troops from the country. He threatened to charge them with sanctions “like they’ve never seen before” and demanded payment for a U.S.-built airbase in the country. Seizure of Iraqi financial assets in the United States has also been threatened.

When we invade a country on false pretenses, destroy its infrastructure and government, kill 200,000 of their citizens, occupy it with our military for 18 years while giving weapons and funds to the radical fundamentalist militants that terrorize them and then stick them with a massive bill and sanctions when they ask us to leave so we don’t turn them into a battlefield once again, how can we claim to be different from any imperialist power?

Conservative commentator Nick Fuentes recently posted on his telegram account: “We make the rules, we’re America. International law is what we say it is and the rest of the world will have to live with it… For me it’s always a question of the national interest: Is this good for our country? Does this advance our interests? All these concerns about sovereignty and international law and so on are tertiary at best.”

While the American government would never publish a statement so brazen, to me this represents what our policy towards other countries has been since 1945. All means to an end. The liberal fears of our allies in NATO turning their backs on this is not a fear that we will cause them to do so, but that Trump’s actions will cause them to realize what has been true all along. This is what the Kurds discovered when they were abandoned for us to be invaded by Turkey. The Iraqi government is just now being forced to learn it. It’s the entire reason why Iran has its repressive theocratic government because we feared a secular and democratic Iran would align itself away from us and possibly towards our Soviet enemies.

The justification of Soleimani’s assassination and potential war with Iran with the reason that they sponsor terrorism is especially hypocritical when you consider that the United States has been doing the exact same in the Middle East for decades now. America has given its full support to the genocidal Saudi blockade of Yemen, which has resulted in mass famine for that country, the oppression of the Palestinian people by the Israeli apartheid state and we have directly aided the ISIS-linked Free Syrian Army with the intent of destabilizing that country. In countless other countries we have committed similar acts.

Our intent was never to “free” any citizens of the countries we’ve invaded or backed rebellions in since 2000. It’s always been about ensuring that resources are reliably extracted from those countries to be put onto our market to service the demands of the stock market and of corporations. For us to call Iran a sponsor of terrorism that neglects the well-being of its own citizens is a pot-calling-the-kettle-black situation.

It seems as of late that cooler heads are indeed prevailing. The Iranian missile strike against a U.S. base in Iraq resulted in no casualties — probably pre-planned so as to just make it a symbolic show of strength — and the U.S. has only applied more sanctions against Iran. Tensions remain high, but there is no open conflict between the two countries immediately foreseeable. But citizens of both countries must stay vigilant.

Neither our own government nor the government of Iran serve the will of their people. In America it is the self-serving interests of the corporate and banking elite, and in Iran it is the self-serving interests of the radical clergy that comes first for government. While this crisis may not have escalated into open war, the mere threat of it was enough to justify the continued military buildup and neglect of public welfare for both countries exemplified by the spike in defense contractor stocks.

It’s only us who can keep the interests of the elite in check and prevent more of our nation’s sons and daughters from going off to die for them.

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