The United States reached a new height of recklessness on January 3 when the military assassinated Iranian General Qassem Soleimani and Iraqi commander Abu Mahdi al-Muhandes in Iraq, igniting major mobilizations throughout Iraq and Iran of mourning and rage. We spoke with Ajamu Baraka of Black Alliance for Peace shortly after we learned of the murders. He describes what they mean, how to counter the militarists’ messages in support of war and next steps for the anti-war, anti-imperialist movement. We also bring you clips from the national day of action in the United States on January 4 when people took the streets in protest in more than 80 cities and 38 states. And we discuss what really happened at the Venezuelan National Assembly on Sunday.
Ajamu Baraka is a human rights defender whose experience spans four decades of domestic and international education and activism, Ajamu Baraka is a veteran grassroots organizer whose roots are in the Black Liberation Movement and anti-apartheid and Central American solidarity struggles.
Baraka is an internationally recognized leader of the emerging human rights movement in the U.S. and has been at the forefront of efforts to apply the international human rights framework to social justice advocacy in the U.S. for more than 25 years. As such, he has provided human rights trainings for grassroots activists across the country, briefings on human rights to the U.S. Congress, and appeared before and provided statements to various United Nations agencies, including the UN Human Rights Commission (precursor to the current UN Human Rights Council). He was the Green Party candidate for vice president in 2016. He is the national coordinator of the Black Alliance for Peace.
TRANSCRIPT IN PROGRESS:
Margaret Flowers (MF): You’re listening to Clearing the FOG, speaking truth to expose the forces of greed with Margaret Flowers…
Kevin Zeese (KZ): and Kevin Zeese.
MF: And Clearing the FOG is a project of Popular Resistance dot o– r– g. You can subscribe to us on iTunes, SoundCloud, Mixcloud, Stitcher and Google Play. You can also find us at Popular Resistance dot-org and while you’re there check out the Popular Resistance store where you’ll find Clearing the FOG bumper stickers, water bottles, tote bags and t-shirts. So today we interviewed Ajamu Baraka or actually we interviewed him a few days ago.
KZ: That’s right. And that’s important because we’ll be talking about what’s happened since the interview. Ajamu is a longtime ally and close friend of Popular Resistance. We work very closely with him on anti-imperialist issues, anti-war issues and on Black Liberation.
MF: And so basically we interviewed Ajamu Baraka very shortly after we learned about the assassinations by the United States in Iraq of the Iranian General Qasem Soleimani and the Iraqi Commander Abu Mahdi al-Muhandes. Our discussion with Ajamu is really about that initial reaction to what is going on and what it means for the peace movement. We’re going to mix things up a little bit by starting with that interview and then later in the show we’ll talk about what we’ve learned since then and what the peace movement did and what it’s going to be doing. But before we do that, let’s talk about Venezuela because there was a very interesting day in Venezuela on Sunday.
KZ: That Venezuelan failed coup, failed, failed, failed. It was the sixth time or so. That failed coup is just getting more comical and the US political and media reaction is getting more and more disappointing.
KZ: Ridiculous. People are being lied to so much about Venezuela. It’s just hard to imagine they can even see the truth.
MF: Well even it was difficult for us watching events unfold yesterday to figure out what actually happened. It took us about the whole day to figure that out. But basically according to the Venezuelan Constitution, every January 5th the National Assembly, sometimes they call it their Parliament, votes to elect a new president of that body. Juan Guido who was chosen, he’s a member of the Popular Will Party, last January declared himself the president of Venezuela and then was immediately recognized by the United States and its allies in right-wing countries in South America but Juan Guaido never actually took power. As you said, he kept trying coup after coup backed by the United States, backed with millions of dollars from the United States and still could never successfully conduct a coup.
KZ: And those coups get actually weaker. Now, with this vote in the National Assembly, the opposition showed it is divided. 30 opposition party members voted against Guaido as the president of the National Assembly, so he can’t even win in the minority opposition in Venezuela politically. So he’s getting weaker and weaker. And it’s also important know that even when he was first chosen a year ago, he was not supposed to be the one in line. They put him in line because they thought he’d be a better face for the coup. He has a good-looking family. He’s young guy. So the coup plotters picked Guaido who comes from a tiny party from the second smallest state, who only got twenty percent of the vote when he ran for the legislature, came in second place, which is enough to get in. So he’s already a weak person. He’s getting weaker and weaker politically.
MF: It was interesting what happened yesterday because there was what the corporate media was saying and then this whole kind of social media very sophisticated social media operation that was going on giving out false information. So Juan Guaido knew that he didn’t have the votes to win the presidency in the National Assembly and actually technically there’s not supposed to be the same person. It’s supposed to be a different person every year but he kind of pushed through some new rule to change that. So he knew he didn’t have the votes. There were a few deputies that were not allowed to go in because they were convicted of crimes and there were alternatives that were supposed to be there in their place. And so he decided instead of going in to stay outside with the five deputies that were not allowed in.
KZ: And there’s video though, there’s video showing him coming to the entrance. They say come on in and he says no he’s staying out with the five who can’t come in.
MF: He said only if the others can come in.
KZ: And so he didn’t come in because he didn’t have the votes and he didn’t want to be in there and lose face inside the assembly.
MF: What was really funny and we learned that it sounds like this actually happened before the vote because some of the deputies involved in this kind of stunt that he did were present outside for the stunt and then they were also present inside before the vote. So it looks like maybe earlier in the morning, he did this thing where he tried to climb over the fence of the National Assembly to make it look like they’re keeping him out and he had to break in and of course the police were not letting him climb over the fence. They’re like pushing him back.
KZ: Use the entrance.
MF: But then they did this whole show where they made it look like oh the dictator Maduro is repressing us, but that was all a stunt.
KZ: And it’s gotten so much attention that video. It’s a beautifully choreographed play act.
MF: Yeah I think maybe his next gig could be in Hollywood.
KZ: And he did a good job faking like he was trying to get in when he could have walked through the entrance and but it got attention everywhere. All the networks carried it, social media carried it. It really looked like they were keeping him out and they were just keeping him from going over the fence while trying to invite him in through the door.
MF: And so then what Juan Guaido did next is he and his I don’t know, we don’t even know who went…
KZ: There’s no list.
MF: They went to the offices of El Nacional, which is a very right-wing media outlet in Venezuela and they held their own parliamentary session where they voted their own vote. Again we don’t know who voted or how many or anything.
KZ: They claimed it was a hundred sixty people and a hundred voted for Guaido. This makes no sense. Were all of Maduro’s party people there? Did they go to that El Nacional fake assembly?
MF: I don’t think so. So anyway, then he proclaims that oh we held our own extra special session of the parliament and voted again and this time, you know, we voted for me to be the person and then of course immediately the United States says yes Juan Guaido continues to be the president of the National Assembly.
KZ: And some of the media outlets like Reuters were like congratulations to Juan Guaido for winning.
MF: The Hill. The Washington Post.
KZ: The Hill. I was going to say they all fell for this but it’s such an obvious lie, I don’t think they fell for it. They’re participating in the propaganda ploy.
MF: Exactly. This is all part of supporting the US’ imperial interests. And so the US imperial media outlets of course are going along with that story. So anyway, the summary is that there’s a new president of the National Assembly democratically-elected, Luis Parra, and then…
KZ: A former opposition party person.
MF: Yeah, and they voted, it’s four positions in all. They have two vice presidents. And then I think a secretary is the fourth one, so they have all new people in there, but now Juan Guaido is claiming that he’s had to set up his own alternative parliament, which he’s the president of and so he’s still the president of Venezuela. I mean, it’s just kind of like this very sad pathetic situation where he’s like no, no, but I really am the president of Venezuela.
KZ: I really am the President of the parliament. And I mean, it’s pathetic. It’s sad but it’s pathetic that the US government recognizes this puppet of theirs who’s lost and lost and lost and I mean he has no credibility and that means the US has no credibility.
MF: Right and he lost the support of his own opposition folks.
KZ: Unfortunately, I’m not sure the truth is going to help us in our Embassy Defenders case. If people want to find out about that go to Defend Embassy Protectors dot org, but we go to federal trial in February. And you know if Maduro was seen as the president in the US courts, we wouldn’t be facing charges. It’s only because the courts take this nonsense that Guaido is President and that’s the only reason why we’re facing any charges.
MF: Yeah again, it’s this whole like reality versus like what the government is saying. It makes you think that this government is really sometimes in this kind of make-believe world that doesn’t actually exist like oh hey, we can just go to Iraq and kill the general of Iran and bomb inside of Iraq, even though we’re not at war with either country.
KZ: And then we can say he was planning to attack the US citizens when in fact he was in Iraq on a peace mission, which we’ll talk about later.
MF: Yeah, let’s get to our interview with Ajamu Baraka and then we’ll come back and talk more about this. And now we turn to our guest Ajamu Baraka. Ajamu is a long-time human rights defender focused on people-centered human rights. He was the former Green Party vice presidential candidate in 2016 and is currently the national coordinator of the Black Alliance for Peace. Thank you for taking time to join us Ajamu.
Ajamu Baraka (AB): It’s my pleasure.
KZ: So we were going to start 2020 with a discussion of where we go from here in 2020, the new year and new decade, but with the decision by President Trump to assassinate Major General Soleimani in Iraq, the Iranian leader of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards, that kind of changes the topic. So let’s start with that assassination ordered by Trump and carried out by the Pentagon in Iraq. What’s your reaction to that, what do you think it means?
AB: Well, it’s a very dangerous escalation that continues the rogue state activities of this administration and previous administrations. But this is particularly dangerous in that the consequences of it are unknown. It’s interesting to hear people praying this as something that will destabilize the so-called Middle East. Well, that process started with the invasion of Afghanistan and then the invasion of Iraq almost 20 years ago. So the so-called Middle East has been destabilized This situation with the assassination is an escalation in that now it will be another direct confrontation between two states. Since the invasions you had a series of proxy wars in the Middle East, but now there’s a real possibility of a direct confrontation between the US and Iran because this assassination cannot be seen in any other terms, but an act of war. So it is a very dangerous escalation that has both political implications for the Middle East but interestingly enough also political implications for the US domestic politics in that we have seen that as everyone’s waiting with bated breath for Congress to reconvene so that this impeachment spectacle could continue. Guess what the whole conversation is all about today and for the next few days.
MF: And let’s get a little bit into the context of who General Soleimani is because he is somebody who is very well respected and loved in Iran.
KZ: I think it was like an 80% approval rating.
MF: Yeah more than 80 percent approval rating. He is someone who has been working to defeat ISIS in the region and also working to build networks in that region of the Middle East and so he was a very important figure. Past presidents have actually talked about assassinating him – President Obama President Bush – but they felt that that was going too far. What do you think of Trump’s decision to do this in terms of you know, is this something that he did unilaterally do you think in the Pentagon was just following through or how do you think that that went down?
AB: I know that what is emerging is sort of a line that says that this is another example of the precipitous nature of Trump’s decision making but I don’t think that really was the case. The way I’m looking at what has unfolded over the last couple of weeks there in Iraq, I see this as a very cynical manipulation on the part of the US intelligence agencies along with Israel to create the pretext for a strike against Iran. The back and forth between the various proxy forces with the US strikes last week that really galvanized opposition to the US but also created the conditions for the US to claim an imminent threat and self-defense in order to strike at Soleimani. So while one can argue that the consequences are such that they can be seen as counterproductive to longer-term US interests, it appears that there was some degree of thinking that this was something that would be to the US’ strategic advantage. But what that really means in terms of how the US can remain in Iraq without another situation where they just decided to completely flaunt international law and decide that they’re going to remain in Iraq even after they are or they may be asked to leave that is something that could be one of the possible consequences of this strike. It makes no sense in terms of their longest strategic objectives making the strike at this time. So Soleimani was someone respected but we know that there is some powerful forces in the US state that have been advocating for a conflict between the US and Iran for quite some time. This move may be reflective of the ascendancy of that element in the foreign policy decision-making community.
KZ: It’s so hard to think about the US’ action and try to say give some kind of rationale for it. It really is a reckless action and it to me, it looks like the flailing of a failing Empire. The US lost in Syria to the Syrian government, the Russian government, the Iranian government. Interestingly, Trump said Iran never won a war, well they just won a war in Syria against the United States. The US is failing in Yemen with Saudi Arabia. The US is being pushed out of Iraq by the Iraqi government and the Iraqi people. It’s been unable to really confront Iran in any successful way despite its maximum pressure strategy. So it’s really a failing Empire and one of the strange comment I’ve seen in the New York Times and other outlets is how important it is to get rid of Soleimani. Iran is not a one-person government. Iran is a deep government and they’ve already replaced Soleimani. Also Soleimani, I don’t want to underestimate him, he’s like a combination of the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the head of the CIA and a potential presidential candidate for the country. So he’s an important person but he is replaceable in their system and already has been replaced. This is not going to change that and so I have a hard time giving any sense to this. I don’t see it as a short-term benefit or long-term benefit for the United States and I think I see it as part of a downward spiral in a failed foreign policy.
AB: Well, I think that your comments are correct in terms of one way of looking at this is not the consequence of a US state that is riding high like it did 20 years ago in terms of unquestioned global hegemony, but a state that is, in fact, feeling the pressures of the emergence of other states, regional powers that have been actively challenging US hegemony. And so the response has been more dependence on the use of military force, jettisoning international law, using sanctions to try to maintain its economic dominance. So yeah all of these elements are interconnected and are reflective of a state in decline but a state with enormous capacity to inflict damage and suffering on millions of people. So it is those elements Kevin and Margaret, but there is some thinking involved in this. The objective is to try to maintain their control of that region. The issue is that in trying to realize those objectives, they are making some dangerous strategic choices that are counterproductive to their objectives. And this is one of those moves that can only enhance the power of Iran, which they claim to be opposed to. It has now a consolidated domestic opposition to the US in Iraq where just a few weeks ago there were significant fractures in the Iraqi culture as it relates to the Iraqi government. But now those forces have come together in a unified voice in demanding that the US be ejected from Iraq. So this to me is a continuation of the kinds of amateurism that we’ve seen emanating from the US’ foreign policy community for quite some time, engaging in actions that are objectively counterproductive. It appears to me, it’s my opinion that the last group of competent pro-imperialist decision-makers in the US state was under the first George Bush regime. Since then, the US has basically, their foreign policy community has been basically almost clueless in terms of how to take advantage of their newfound hegemony in the 1990s and how to maintain that hegemony in the 2000s.
MF: That incompetence really does reflect foreign policy for quite a long time and the Afghanistan Papers really bore that out showing how the Pentagon really didn’t know what it was doing, didn’t really have a plan, was misleading everybody about what was happening in Afghanistan. There was some as you said division with people in Iraq just wanting foreign influence out of their country completely whether it’s Iran or the United States, but now with this action, which blatantly violates the sovereignty of Iraq, I mean the whole justification the US was saying that a US contractor, an unnamed contractor, was killed. We don’t know any details of that. Well, if that’s the situation then that needs to be resolved through a process in Iraq not by just coming in and bombing, you know Iraqi military forces. So just as you said this shows a real degree of incompetence and disregard I think for the consequences or as you said, maybe those are the consequences the US is seeking out. What do you think about the fact that Iran and China and Russia just concluded military exercises? How do you think that this is going to impact the global power dynamics as events unfold over the next few days?
AB: I think that those maneuvers were great theater, but they have no major impact on what might unfold in any kind of military way in the so-called Middle East and in the Mediterranean. Neither the Russians nor the Chinese are going to allow themselves to be pulled into any kind of conflict between the US and Iran. So that was theater. I think the main objective for anti-war and anti-imperialist forces is for us to aggressively advocate for peaceful resolutions of these issues, for non-intervention, respect for international law and upholding human rights, including the right to self-determination and national sovereignty. That has to be our role and it has to be something that emanates from the bottom up and primarily in the imperialist countries both the US and throughout Western Europe. So very dangerous times and the only way in which we’re going to be able to put significant pressure on the US state’s warmongering is for it to be a public opposition. We cannot depend on any other state taking that kind of role because these states are cautious and they’re not going to jeopardize their national interests even though they may be seeing how reckless the US is and that ultimately they’re going to be forced to act. At this point, in my opinion, they are not going to jeopardize their national interests by being pulled into this conflict between the US and Iran and what they could do and should do is they should call for an emergency session of the UN Security Council because this is a threat to international peace. This scenario has to be addressed by the international community and the only body that can authoritatively comment on this is in fact, the Security Council.
KZ: Yeah, that’s one of the sad things about this world situation is that you talk about the rule of law is what should predominate, of course it should. And if we had a strong international law system, then people would be held accountable for these kinds of decisions, people like President Trump ordering this assassination and the people who carried out the order. Carrying out illegal orders is a crime as well. They should be all held accountable. They won’t be and Iran is now in a situation where if they don’t respond, that looks weak. If they do respond, it has to lead to escalation. I know the Iranian government is very cautious. They have lots of checks and balances in the government to figure these issues out but it’s hard to imagine them taking a step that’s not going to escalate. And so that puts the peace movement in the United States in a difficult position because you know we just went through this absurd impeachment process. We spent two years on Russia gate and now they just approved very quickly and quietly this massive record-setting military budget continuing the AUMF, giving permission for these kinds of actions in Middle East. I mean, we spent all this time on these partisan divides rather than focusing on the real issues. And so what does the peace movement do now, where should we put our emphasis to try to reduce the tensions in this situation?
AB: You know we have to be able to strategically recognize when we have opportunities to advance the peace agenda and I really believe that this is one of those historical moments. There is among the public, there is a growing weariness to the ongoing wars and the idea of another major escalation or another major war. The polls indicate that the public does not have the stomach for it. So there’s a real disconnect between the policymakers in the Congress and the public and we need to seize upon that. This should be the moment that we aggressively advocate for an expansion of the anti-war movement for advocating again for international law and for respect for human rights. These are some of the I think ideological agitation points that we need to aggressively raise. We need to put pressure on these politicians, in particular the ones who are running for the Democratic nomination, that they have a clear and definitive stance on where they are with US lawlessness and US imperialism. So the ideological struggle, in my opinion, is one in which there are some advantages that we could glean from this if we recognize that and begin to move aggressively toward exploiting these mistakes that the US state is making.
MF: Yeah, this is absolutely an opportunity. It’s interesting. Ting that the evening after the attack, on the assassination of General Solomon one of the most common searches online was the draft requirements or the draft age in the United States. People are obviously concerned about where this is going to go and already the US military is having trouble recruiting enough people to fight, you know to serve in the military or serve is a weird word and you know also the United States has recognized that we don’t have the resources to fight a great power conflict. So this is really an opportunity for us to say look, let’s look at the reality. You know that this approach of the United States has not served anyone’s interests. Well, except maybe the weapons industry and those who profited from it, but in terms of creating any kind of security or sustainability for the world, the US’ foreign policy has been really quite disastrous. And so this I think is the time to be telling Congress, we need to repeal the Authorization for the Use of Military Force. We need to create some real checks on the ability of the executive office to wage these conflicts. We need to demand respect for international law and I think that there is some real energy there as you said to start getting the peace movement mobilized and activated again. Can you tell us a little bit about Black Alliance For Peace for our listeners and what kinds of things Black Alliance For Peace is doing?
AB: Well, we are part of the anti-war movement, the anti-imperialist movement in the US and we are advocating that we take advantage of this moment. We are encouraging everyone to join the national mobilizations that are taking place this Saturday demanding that there’s no war with Iran and that all US troops should be taken out of Iraq. We say that all US troops should be taken out of the entire Middle East and that the region should be a region of peace, complete and total demilitarization. So, you know, we are pushing that notion. We are pushing the idea that we need to build the anti-war movement. We’re suggesting to elements in the anti-war movement that beyond this Saturday that we begin to push out the absolute necessity for the public to be organized into an anti-war bloc and that all of us should be pushing for people to join organizations. I’m suggesting that UNAC take the lead in that because it is the coalition that is the anti-war voice, the anti-imperialist voice and that we should be pushing for people to be organized because we can’t do it by ourselves. We can’t do it as individuals. So that is what the Black Alliance for Peace as part of the broader anti-war movement is doing. Specifically though, we are connecting up this increase, this uptick in militarism on the part of the US state with the increase or the surge that was announced by the Trump administration domestically. The Trump Administration said they wanted to have a surge to combat a so-called crime. And we know that what that really means is a surge that is targeting the black and brown working class and poor communities in the US and they announced the seven cities that they are for the first phase of their search cities included cities like Baltimore and Detroit and four of the seven cities have majority black populations. So we are connecting that to the ongoing and intensifying war against the black and brown communities by the US state. We are making those connections and we are also demanding the closure of AFRICOM and all of the US bases abroad. So all of this is in the context of what needs to be done in terms of building a more effective and visible anti-war movement. And we think that strategically this misstep by these amateurs in DC allows us to take full advantage of that by pushing the more definitive open clear anti-war position that I think will resonate with the population.
KZ: Well, you know, in fact Pew came out with a poll that said that veterans and the US public believe that the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq were a waste of resources and poor decisions. So the public is against us, that in fact President Trump got elected attacking these stupid Middle East War as he called them and how we were wasting trillions of dollars and getting nothing when he’s just taken a step that is going to escalate those stupid Middle East Wars. And you know, it’s interesting, so with that kind of public opinion, you also have at the same time, public opinion that talks about support for the Green New Deal and wanting to confront climate change and and take you know, all sorts of actions to move in that direction. Of course, a war economy is inconsistent with confronting climate change. So there seems a real opportunity in this next decade as US Empire is failing, a real opportunity for putting forward a totally different vision. I mean, I agree with everything you said. We work on those issues with you, AFRICOM, ending NATO bases, US out of the Middle East. We work on all those issues. I think we need to put forward a totally new vision of what a peace economy would look like, what the benefits of that would be to the people of the United States, how would it affect other issues like our urban areas, rather than investing in police investing in economic development and building those communities that have been neglected for decades, for generations. I know you mentioned Baltimore, that’s where we are, there’s been inadequate attention to the black and brown communities in Baltimore for generations. And so this is true across the country. I think it’s a real opportunity for major transformational change not just on ending this record military budget, but toward a really totally, a peace economy that invests in communities that have been neglected and puts in place a whole new energy system that is sustainable and clean.
AB: I think Kevin you are absolutely right. What you described though is the tasks and responsibilities for the movement. What we have to do is narrow those tasks and responsibilities down to clear and simple messages that correspond to where we see the consciousness of the people today and take full advantage of the strategic opportunity to talk about how the public’s resources are being squandered in support of the ruling class’ military agenda. It’s a desperate attempt to try to maintain this global hegemony to the detriment of the vast majority of the people in this country and globally. So, you know intensifying the understanding of the class war that these policies represent is really where we need to be focusing our attention. It’s a process. Right now we take advantage of the fact that people are concerned about a possible war and we connect that to this obscene budget that was passed by the US Congress. We connect that to the lack of opposition from Republicans and Democrats to the US war agenda, and we remind the people that the interests of the ruling class aren’t necessarily the same interests of the vast majority of working-class and poor people and middle class people here in this country.
MF: Right. And I think it’s going to be really important for us to, because we’re going to be hearing in the corporate media, we’re already hearing it, all sorts of messages and even from you know candidates that are running for president that oh General Soleimani was a dangerous man, and so it was good to kill him, but we don’t actually want to escalate a war with Iran. And so I think it’s going to be really critical for people in the United States to not fall for that kind of paradigm or construct or way of thinking because it’s not you know, we don’t want really anybody to be murdered especially in violation of international law, especially in violation of the sovereignty of a country. You know, if the if the US had a problem with what happened in Iraq, that’s something to be dealt with, you know with Iraq and with the Iraqis not unilaterally by the United States. So what is kind of your advice to our listeners in terms of what they’re going to be hearing and how they can best get information and respond to that?
AB: For the listeners of this program, we want them to be reminded not to fall for for the line that says that this individual deserved to be murdered and that the only issue to be considered is what the strategic consequences may be for this assassination. We have to support the idea that the planet has to be governed by some objective international rules, that the US has no moral or political or legal right to engage in this kind of conduct, that this assassination is in fact, an act of war just like the sanctions are acts of war and that they have real consequences not only for the individuals that are targeted but for masses of people in these various states and that if we’re going to have any kind of global governance that is based on justice and if there’s going to be any possibility for peace, we’ve got to reinvigorate a commitment to multilateralism and to international law and the standards and processes connected to that. We’ve got to oppose US unilateralism and rogue-statism if we’re going to avoid the possibility of a global conflict that could end life as we know it on this planet. That has to be our position. Don’tengage in any long-term conversation about the nature of this individual or even to the government in Iran. Our responsibilities as citizens of Empire is to oppose intervention and to oppose US militarism any place on this planet.
KZ: That’s the work that’s cut out for us and you know we’ll continue to be at Popular Resistance, we’ve been working in close contact with UNAC as well as Black Alliance for Peace and other peace groups.
MF: And UNAC is the United National Antiwar Coalition for our listeners.
KZ: That’s right, UNAC brings all of us together. And so I think you laid out the orders for the movement, working toward de-escalation immediately and in the long-term working toward a new kind of approach to foreign policy.
MF: Ajamu, thank you so much for taking time to speak with us today. We urge our listeners to check out the Black Alliance for Peace and get involved.
AB: Thank you so much.
MF: All right before we start our next discussion and why don’t we take a short musical break and we’ll be right back.
MF: You’re listening to Clearing the FOG, speaking truth to expose the forces of greed with Margaret Flowers.
KZ: And Kevin Zeese.
MF: And let’s follow up on the interview that we just heard. So you and Ajamu were talking about the United National Anti-war Coalition, which is kind of an umbrella group of peace organizations in the United States and UNAC, which we’re part of, has its major yearly conference coming up in February in New York City.
KZ: That’s right and we’ll be both participating in that as will Ajamu and many other leading peace activists. So the UNAC conference will be at the People’s Forum on February 21st and 22nd and 23rd. So please plan on coming. Check the UNAC website for more information. We’ll be publicizing it on Popular Resistance dot-org as well.
MF: Right. And that website is UNAC, U N A C, Peace dot-org. Let’s talk about what’s happened since the assassination of Soleimani and al-Muhandes. There was a huge reaction in Iran, in Iraq of just real horror that the United States and I think by other world leaders that the United States would go to this extreme step of violating the sovereignty of Iraq and killing a general of another country that we’re not even at war with.
KZ: Yeah and a general who was critical in defeating ISIS, defeating al-Nusra, which is another Islamic extremist, and even Al-Qaeda. So he’s been a major player in fighting terrorism in the Middle East. He even has partnered with the United States on some of those efforts and the alternative of course, in the alternative world of the US media and US politics, he’s an evil tyrant, “the most dangerous person in the world, most dangerous terrorist in the world.” I mean it’s just a nonsensical lie. This is guy is such a respected person in Iran. He has been for years fighting all of the major evils Iran has faced. It began when he volunteered in his 20s fighting the war between Saddam Hussein’s Iraq and Iran…
MF: Which was a US-backed effort to destabilize Iran after the revolution where the US pushed Iraq to attack and also provided intelligence and chemical weapons to Iraq.
KZ: That’s right. And he was a key, a young soldier in that war and he quickly rose in the ranks. And then since then he’s fought ISIS and he has fought the United States. I mean his major efforts in Syria were two things: one, stop ISIS and second, stop the US effort to remove the president of Syria. And he also brought Russia into that effort and so with Russia, Syria and Iran supporting the government, the United States was stopped, ISIS was stopped and Syria is on the road to recovery. The US is still there, unfortunately, trying to steal their oil but he was critical in that. So he’s fought US. He’s fought ISIS and he’s fought Saddam Hussein. That’s why he’s a hero.
MF: That’s probably also why the US is not a fan of his although as you said the US did work with him and he helped to train some of the popular mobilization units in Iraq that actually are the most effective fighting forces against ISIS in that region. The US-trained ones, unfortunately, we understand, have been used mostly to serve the US’ agenda and not necessarily always to fight ISIS.
KZ: And you can see, there’s actually evidence that the US was using ISIS for its own purposes in that war in Syria to try to topple President Assad.
MF: Well, that’s our MO is to try to create chaos. So the United States a few months ago declared that the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corp’s Elite Quds Force of which Soleimani was the commander, was a terrorist group and this is kind of another tactic that the United States uses when it tries to demonize another entity, you know, it’ll call Venezuela a threat to national security, the Iranian military is a terrorist organization. And that’s what kind of the United States is trying to use to rationalize, you know why it was okay to assassinate General Soleimani.
KZ: So that’s an act of war to attack another country. And you’re attacking an official, a commander, a general of another country on foreign soil. That is an act of war. The only thing that justifies an act of war other than the UN Security Council giving you permission is if you are facing an imminent threat and the reality was now we know since this occurred we know that in fact Soleimani came to Baghdad to meet with their prime minister to discuss a peace effort between Saudi Arabia and Iraq and Iran.
MF: To defuse tension in the Middle East.
KZ: So he was actually doing the opposite of what the US claims. He was not an imminent threat and Donald Trump knew he was going to that meeting and still went ahead and killed him illegally, and now the reaction I mean you look at the incredible funeral processions in Iraq a million people in every city, in Iran millions of people.
MF: The biggest they’ve ever seen in Iran.
KZ: 15 million people in Tehran. This is the biggest funeral in the history of the world and it shows that he was loved by the people of Iran despite what the US tries to tell us through the corporate media. The facts are he was not an enemy of the people. He was loved by the people and you can see it in the outpouring from his death.
MF: I think we also have to question this whole narrative that the United States had that trying to blame the militias that Iran-supported for killing a US contractor in Iraq. And this was supposedly the US’ justification to then in Iraq bomb five different of the popular mobilization unit force’s, like training bases. What it’s looking like is that actually that never happened, if there even was a military contractor. We still don’t know who that contractor is, what their name is, what actually happened. But that it doesn’t sound like it had anything to do with the popular mobilization units or Soleimani, but that was used to kill 25 of the popular mobilization unit members wound 51 of them and then Iraqis in response to that stormed the US Embassy in Baghdad out of anger for this illegal action of bombing Iraq. It would be like if a contractor from China was here in the United States and got killed and China decided to come over and just bomb five of our military bases.
KZ: Well, yeah, I mean that contractor story has never been given any details and just makes no sense.
MF: As I guess one would expect, the Iraqi Parliament had an emergency session this past weekend and voted to expel the United States from Iraq. We understand that the US military or Pentagon is saying that they’re not planning to leave. And in fact, I think President Trump said that Iraq needs to pay the US money for the huge military, I mean the huge Embassy that the US has there in Iraq.
KZ: And he’s also a saying that if Iraq pushes the US out, there will be severe sanctions, more severe than what is already going on in Iran in trying to destroy that country. And it’s not surprising that the Iraqis are telling the US to leave. They were already angry. The Prime Minister criticized the attack that killed 25 Iraqi’s as part of their popular mobilization forces. They were already criticizing for that and then they went around and did the assassinations. It just, the outrage, the lack of respect for an independent sovereign nation is just incredible. So it’s not surprising that this has unified people in Iraq against the United States. The US is saying they’re not leaving so the US is now becoming another occupying country again.
MF: And then in Iran, not unexpected, the US withdrew from the nuclear agreement and now Iran is saying we’re done with it too. We now believe we have the right to do whatever we want. The US is out and now the US has taken this step and if we want to enrich uranium, we will. They’re saying they don’t have plans at this time to create nuclear weapons, but they want to keep that door open. They might need it with the US’ reckless actions.
KZ: This has turned into a lose-lose situation for the United States. The fear is this escalates. Iran has said, they said they will respond. We don’t know what that response will be. We are worried that it’ll be an escalation. Whatever the Iran does, the US will use it as an excuse to escalate. If it escalates, it becomes a tit-for-tat a quagmire that’s getting deeper and more difficult to get out of and more bloody. So that is the potential future that we’re hoping to avoid. It would be a disaster for Iraq, for Iran and the United States to have another trillion-dollar never-ending war.
MF: Right, in that whole region. But fortunately people in the United States mobilized very quickly. This was great to see that there had already been a call put out earlier last week for actions because of what was happening in Iraq…
KZ: Before the assassinations.
MF: Right, and then after the assassinations that just took off and there on Saturday where protests in 38 states at least over 80 cities…
MF: 90 cities.
KZ: There were protests in 90 cities in 38 States, and that was just on a few days organizing. Before the killing of Soleimani, we had about nine events planned but very quickly, it’s hard to keep up as people kept going. And so we need to keep building on that.
MF: Yes, absolutely. And it was and they were large. I mean in San Francisco and Boston and Los Angeles, New York, Washington, there were thousands of people out taking the streets. Lots of young people, lots of really strong and clear messages and we’ll play some clips from those in a little bit. But before we do that, let’s talk about what are some of the next steps that are coming up to try to stop the US from having more war on Iran.
KZ: Well an international day of action has been called for January 25th. That’s a Saturday. Popular Resistance has the call on its home page. Please check that out. Again it’s a large coalition of organizations coming together to do that. We hope with this amount of time we’ll be able to organize an even bigger anti-war event. This is a real opportunity for the anti-war movement to dominate the 2020 election cycle and make opposition to war a critical issue. It would be great potential because now even Democrats who got pretty quiet when Obama was making war but now that Trump is running for re-election, even Democrats will rejoin the anti-war movement.
MF: You mean the war party Democrats are opposing War. That’s great.
KZ: Well some of the war party Democrat, members of the Democratic party, I’m not sure that the war party leadership is there so it’s going to be a push to push both the Democrats and Republicans to not escalate this this catastrophe in the Middle East.
MF: Right and Congress returns to office in Washington DC on Tuesday, January 7th. And so also on Popular Resistance, we have a call-in tool. We’re urging people across the country to call their Members of Congress and tell them no war on Iran. No more sanctions. We need to stop the sanctions because that’s actually the way that we can get Iran to the negotiating table. Right now they’re saying we’re not talking to you, the United States at all. And with good reason. They can’t trust the United States. But if we showed good faith by stopping the sanctions against them, then we could pursue a peaceful resolution to this situation, which is I think what the people of Iran and the people of the United States want.
KZ: So go to that Popular Resistance dot org website and use that call-in tool. It’s one of the sliders on the top of the page. The call-in tool, you just put your address in they will call your senators and your member of the House Representatives. There’ll be talking points you can look at to consider what you’re going to say. We make it really easy for you. But we need to create a flood of phone calls into Congress to show there’s a strong anti-war viewpoint among the people of the United States.
MF: Right. And then the third demand I was going to say is the US out of Iraq. So yeah, so let’s start calling on Tuesday. Let’s keep calling throughout the week. It doesn’t hurt if you call your member of Congress more than once if you don’t get a response from them or the response you want, you can keep calling them, keep pushing them and don’t let them push back at you. Our demands are very clear: US stop the war with Iran, stop the sanctions, out of Iraq. They need to figure out how they do that. We make the demand for them to do that. So I guess what we’d like to do now is to play some clips from the protest in Washington DC on Saturday. Here’s a clip of you speaking and a clip of a message that we did as a group to the Iranian people.
Sean Blackmon, host of DC protest: So right about now, I’m going to bring up a seasoned peace activist, someone who was on the front lines during the Embassy effort. Some of you may remember not long ago when we were protecting the Venezuelan Embassy, which this government was trying to support a coup in the country on Venezuela that ultimately failed. So right now I am going to bring up Kevin Zeese from Popular Resistance.
KZ: Thank you all for being out here. Thanks to those who supported us as we face federal charges for protecting the Venezuelan Embassy. We really appreciate it. Our trial will be coming up in February. We have a number of Embassy Protectors here today and so thank you all for being part of that effort. It was a group effort. It was a collective. I want to thank Jane Fonda for uniting the peace movement with the climate movement. Uniting these movements will create transformational change, transformational change. This is the decade that we will face up to the climate, we will face up to the Pentagon. We will put in place a peace economy based on clean, renewable and sustainable energy. That is the future that we are developing. The reckless attack, the reckless assassination by Donald Trump against the commander of the Iranian forces is living in the past. That is a war for oil. We don’t need any wars for oil. That era is over. The era of United States causing chaos in the Middle East needs to end. Not only do we want to stop the war on Iran, we want the United States out of the Middle East. Since 2003, since the United States attacked and occupied Iraq, since then the US has destroyed Libya. Obama started the war in Syria, still going on. We have caused chaos throughout their region. Yemen is being slaughtered by the United States and Saudi Arabia and what we’re seeing now, we’re starting to come into focus on the reality, we are in a global world war right now. The Middle East is the battleground for that war, but that battleground will shift and expand. We see already the escalation between the US and North Korea. We see this last week in Venezuela, Brazil tried to attack Venezuela from the south. There were supposed to be simultaneous attacks from Colombia and from the Pacific, three attacks at the same time. Only one occurred and that was stopped by the Venezuelan government. So global war is with us. We already see Russia involved in the Middle East. We saw last week China and Russia joining with Iran to show the United States that there’s unity against US imperialism. We see the United States reaching out to Saudi Arabia and Israel to expand this regional war that’s escalating out of control. This already is a world war. We just haven’t faced it and during this world war, we see incredible weapons races between the US and Russia and China and other nations. The nuclear weapons race started under Obama with a trillion-dollar 10-year plan to improve and expand our nuclear capacity. It’s continuing expanding under Donald Trump, the nuclear weapons race. And now we see a space weapons race developing. That weapons race will make all the previous weapons contractors wealthier and the weapons race will be larger than we have ever seen in history when the outer space becomes the new battleground. So what we are here now in the beginning of 2020 is a critical year. It’s a critical year for us to show both parties that militarism and war are no longer supported by the people in the United States. Elizabeth Warren starts her comments on the illegal assassination by saying what a bad guy, he was he should have died, that’s unacceptable. Only Bernie Sanders said the right thing: the Iraq war was a mistake and he said that the assassination was a mistake and escalation is a mistake. That’s exactly right. Donald Trump ran on a campaign claiming the wars in the Middle East were a mistake. We’re wasting trillions of dollars. And here he is escalating those wars. We need to make it clear to those who support Donald Trump that he was a con man. That he lied to them. We know Hillary Clinton was a warmonger. We know that. But Donald Trump pretended to be opposed to Middle East wars and here he is violating international law and escalating those wars. So it’s time for us in 2020 to build a peace movement that cannot be ignored. This, you here today, you here today are on the cutting edge of that new movement. This movement can expand this year to tens of thousands, to hundreds of thousands. This is just the beginning. Today more than 80 cities in 38 states are having protests to say no to the war in Iraq, to say US out of the Middle East. We are going to accomplish these objectives. We’re going to create a new world. The peace economy is our future. Thank you all for being here.
MF: Mic check.
Crowd: Mic check.
MF: Dear people of Iran.
Crowd: Dear people of Iran.
MF: We have a message for you (crowd repeats).
MF: We say no war (crowd repeats).
MF: We will fight to stop war (crowd repeats).
MF: We say US out of the Middle East (crowd repeats).
MF: And stop the sanctions now (crowd repeats).
MF: We love you (crowd repeats).
MF: We are in solidarity with you(crowd repeats).
MF: And we look for the day (crowd repeats).
MF: When we will travel (crowd repeats).
MF: Freely between our countries (crowd repeats).
MF: And share our knowledge (crowd repeats).
MF: And share our cultures (crowd repeats).
MF: And we will stand with you and fight for that (crowd repeats).
MF: Until we win (crowd repeats).
MF: We love you (crowd repeats).
MF: Thank you. This is another higher level of recklessness, assassinating an Iranian leader in the sovereign country of Iraq. We have to recognize that this machine is off tracks and it will not stop until we stop it so thank you for being out today. Let’s keep fighting.
Sean Blackmon: No justice. No peace. US out of the Middle East.
MF: So one of the reasons that I felt like it was really important to do that group message to the people of Iran is that we actually traveled to Iran last February and March and met with a lot of Iranians. We’ve continued to stay in touch with them and they’re saying right now that they’re extremely…
KZ: Petrified is the word one friend used. We were in Iran with a peace delegation. We met with a whole range of people. We were in fact met with people who are victims of the Iran-Iraq war, crippled from the chemical and other injuries. And we went to the grave sites for the people who died in that war. It was just an amazing experience.
MF: Amazing because it’s what was it about a million people that were killed in…
KZ: Every family was impacted.
MF: A huge Cemetery outside of Tehran and people have photographs on the tombstones of their loved ones. This is something that even though it ended in what 1988 people still have a memory of that war. That was an attack on Iran. Iran did not initiate that and it was brutal with chemical weapons that the United States gave to Iraq that were used against the Iranians, caused injuries that people continue to live with today.
KZ: And now because of the economic war, the economic sanctions, they can’t get the medicine to treat those injuries. I mean we felt a real obligation coming back from Iran to stand in solidarity with those people. That’s why people-to-people diplomacy so important.
MF: Well, it shows you that no matter where you go in the world people are basically pretty much the same. We have the same worries about our children, the same desires for a place to live and a job that we like and having some fun.
KZ: Remember that school we went to in the poor Community where a lot of the kids were migrants who had escaped the war in Afghanistan?
MF: Right? This was a school for street kids and the kids go to school part of the day so that they can go out and do their work. Unfortunately, there is extreme poverty there.
KZ: Which is essentially selling flowers in the street.
MF: What I really liked about that school is the way the program was designed to really give the children a sense of dignity, respect, ways that they can constructively express their feelings. It was a school that had an incredible number of staff because they really have a very intensive program to make sure that those kids are getting their needs met even though they’re living in such dire circumstances.
KZ: And Tehran and other cities are beautiful cities, the mountains around Tehran. It’s just beautiful.
MF: It reminded me a little bit of Salt Lake City because it’s kind of surrounded by these snowy mountains.
KZ: And then to hear or read Trump in his tweets saying he’s going to bomb historical and cultural sites mean. I mean, what a savage.
MF: And not only is that a war crime, Iran has a history that goes back over 2,000 years. We visited Isfahan. We went to the Imam Square there, one of the largest squares in the world. It was built at the end of the 16th century and just these beautiful mosques, beautiful tile work.
KZ: Such history and they’ve you know, they were an empire before we were even thought of. This continent was indigenous people thousands of years ago and they were an empire then for a long time. So they’ve gone through the empire thing. They know what that’s like. So they and they seem really deep in their thinking as far as governments and government’s role are always lots of problems. I’m not whitewashing around Iran. There’s problems. They’re like in every country, but I think it’s important for us to stand up for the people of Iran there basically being attacked because they declared their independence from the United States in 1979. The US regime change in 1953 destroyed their early stages of democracy, then they’re stuck with the Shah for 20 years until 1979 and we immediately have sanctions in place. Then we have the Iraq-Iran war that the US encourages. Then we have more sanctions just because they are independent.
MF: Well, that’s a common theme with any country in the world that wants to be independent of the US. Let’s quickly mention. There was a leaked letter from that was signed by the general…
KZ: It’s too embarrassing.
MF: In charge of the Joint Task Force in Iraq that basically said we will leave Iraq because we respect your sovereignty and if you tell us to leave, we’ll leave and then what happened?
KZ: They said because of that vote we’re going, the United States and the forces will leave the country.
MF: But they said we respect your sovereignty.
KZ: We respect your sovereignty, and then what happens?
MF: Then Mark Esper says oh no, no, no, that was a poorly worded draft and that is poorly worded because we’re not actually leaving.
KZ: We’re actually increasing the troops they were saying to Iraq. So this is a serious problem. Please come to the next protests planned for January 25th.
MF: That call to action is just going out. So we’ll be listing it on Popular Resistance. And if you are planning an action, please get in touch with us at info at Popular Resistance dot-org so we can put yours down. That’s January 25th.
KZ: And also the UNAC conference, remind people of that one more time.
MF: Right. So I want to quickly mention the call-in day. Go to Popular Resistance and start calling this week to your members of Congress. And then the United National Anti-war Coalition Conference is at the People’s Forum in New York City. That’s February 21st to the 23rd. The theme is climate change, racism and militarism. We want to make the connections between all of these issues. There’s going to be excellent panels on that specific topic as well as on defending our movement, on sanctions, on organizing around elections.
KZ: And if those issues unite – racism, climate and anti-war – that will be the dominant political force in the United States. If we can unite those movements, that will be more powerful than either political party and will dominate the direction of the country. So we are trying to build that movement.
MF: Well, that’s all for today. Let’s go out with a song by Junkyard Empire. It’s called “We Want” because the people organized can build the kind of future we want.