by Jeff Mackler, published on Socialist Action, January 16, 2020
The Trump administration’s January 3 drone missile assassination of Iran’s Maj. Gen. Qassim Suleimani just outside Iraq’s Baghdad airport brought the world to the brink of yet another catastrophic U.S. war. That the Iranian government would retaliate in a matter of days, if not hours, was unquestioned.
But Iran’s response stunned the world in its modesty and social power. Millions of Iranians, perhaps the largest funeral outpouring in world history, mobilized on January 6 in Tehran to honor Suleimani, the second-most revered figure in Iran next to Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. Suleimani headed the Quds Force of Iran’s formal military establishment, the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps. Iran’s forces in Iraq operate in the context of and with the formal agreement of the official Iraqi Army.
Designated by the U.S. as a “terrorist organization,” the Iranian military’s support to Iraq, Syria and Palestine, has been officially welcomed by the governments of these U.S.-oppressed nations while the illegal U.S. wars against them have been condemned worldwide.
Few Iranians are unaware of the history of U.S. aggression against their country, including the 1953 U.S. coup that installed a hated dictator for 26 years and the U.S.-orchestrated and funded Iran-Iraq War that took the lives of one million Iranians. The devastating consequences of today’s U.S. sanctions, which have contracted the Iranian economy by 9.5 percent annually, reduced Iran’s oil exports to zero, and boosted the inflation rate to 40 percent, are part of the daily lives of Iranian workers.
A day after Suleimani’s funeral, Iran responded again, this time with a barrage of some 20 missiles fired at two U.S. military bases in Iraq. Informed by Iran in advance of the attack through an Iranian-established diplomatic channel with Swiss diplomats, U.S. officials ordered the evacuation of the specified targets. No one was killed or injured; the damage was reported as inconsequential and Iran declared that the matter was ended – that there would be no further response.
Meanwhile, the Trump administration spewed out a torrent of lies to justify the assassination, centering on claimed intelligence reports that “proved without doubt” that General Suleimani was preparing a series of “imminent” terrorist attacks on four unnamed U.S. embassies, if not other U.S. facilities. Neither Trump nor any of his top officials offered the media—or even members of Congress, during a briefing—a single example of these “imminent planned attacks,” which are a prerequisite under the War Powers Act for the president to initiate military action without congressional approval. In the days that followed, Trump’s “imminent” attack assertions were exposed as outright lies when it was revealed that the U.S. had long ago planned a series of covert military attacks on Iran, including the Suleimani assassination and a simultaneous failed assassination attempt on a leading Iranian military official in Yemen. None of these now-disclosed U.S. plans referenced any “imminent” threat from Iran. When Secretary of Defense Mark Esper admitted days later on the CBS political talk show “Face The Nation” that he had not seen any U.S. intelligence reports that confirmed Trump’s charges, the issue was shelved, but not before Trump’s new war threats were repudiated around the world.
Rise of the U.S. antiwar movement
In the U.S. on one day’s notice, 100 antiwar protests were organized in 37 states, usually initiated by a broad range of national and local antiwar coalitions including the United National Antiwar Coalition (UNAC), the ANSWER Coalition (Act Now to Stop War and End Racism), CodePink, and scores of others. The San Francisco protest mobilized some 2,000 activists. Hundreds marched in Chicago, Philadelphia, Minneapolis, Los Angeles, Washington, D.C, and New York City. In sharp contrast to the relatively stayed antiwar protests of recent years, where the vast majority of participants were older and experienced activists, the January 4 actions saw an outpouring of young people – perhaps close to a majority of the participants.
Wary that the instantly-organized and spirited antiwar protests – that included wide-ranging opposition to the U.S. wars at home against working people and condemnation of the U.S. failure to address the fossil fuel-induced climate crisis – had the potential of developing into a permanent, independent and democratically organized united front mass action movement, various Democratic Party-oriented NGOs like MoveOn.org rushed to call their own “No War on Iran” protests on January 6. These signaled that the warmongering Democratic Party was preparing an instant shift to pose itself as an antiwar party with the prime objective of once again channeling mass antiwar sentiment into its “graveyard of social movements” clutches. Every leading Democratic Party presidential primary contender rushed to the media to condemn Trump’s blustering hyperbole and especially Republican Party accusations that Democrats were “coddling the enemy in questioning the commander in chief at a dangerous moment.” Indeed, one prominent Republican Party leader – not Trump to be sure – apologized for this slur.
Trump himself, so rapt with the notion that he could personally make war at will, that he could order the assassination of anyone, anywhere, that he could sanction any nation, that he could steal billions of dollars from their bank accounts and more, took almost two weeks to come down from his perceived throne and recognize that his powers were indeed limited by factors beyond his control. These included unprecedented mass mobilizations in Iran and Iraq against U.S. imperialist warmongering and the potential re-emergence of similar mass protests in the U.S.
House leader Nancy Pelosi, citing the War Powers Act, quickly assembled the congressional votes to approve a resolution to prevent Trump from launching further war moves without congressional approval. The House vote was 224 to 194, almost entirely along party lines. As with the Democrats’ Trump impeachment charade, however, their sudden anti-war talk is nothing more than a thin veneer. The 1973 War Powers Act is well known to contain so many loopholes that no president has ever been compelled to abide by its strictures. Nevertheless, the House vote represented a political blow to Trump’s warmongering threat that if Iran retaliated for his ordered assassination, he would launch no less than 52 attacks, including several on famed cultural sites of zero military significance.
Trump’s real objectives in Iraq
Amy Goodman’s recent Democracy Now interview with Retired U.S. Army Colonel Lawrence Wilkerson exposed a number of the real reasons behind the Trump-ordered assassinations. Wilkerson served as chief of staff to Secretary of State Colin Powell during the 2003 U.S. invasion of Iraq. These days, New York Times reporters openly state that this “weapons of mass destruction” war—as Iraqi President Saddam Hussein was supposedly preparing to use against the U.S.—was a U.S. policy “mistake,” comparable in magnitude to the U.S. war in Vietnam. This “mistake,” according to the NYT took the lives of “200,000” Iraqis. A few days later, during the January 14 Democratic Party presidential primary debates in Iowa, every candidate affirmed this “mistake.” We must add here that the actual number of Iraqis who were murdered during the U.S. war and sanctions has been estimated at 1.5 million.
Wilkerson, who characterized Trump’s threat to attack Iranian cultural sites as a “war crime,” told Democracy Now! that,
“The assassination [of General Qassim Suleimani] was intended to escalate America’s presence in Iraq to keep control of the region’s oil reserves, and to back Saudi Arabia’s Wahabi troops (ISIS, Al Qaeda in Iraq, Al Nusra [in Syria] and other divisions of what are actually America’s foreign legion), to support U.S. control of Near Eastern oil as a buttress of the U.S. dollar. That remains the key to understanding this policy, and why it is in the process of escalating, not dying down.”
Wilkerson’s rare truth-telling effectively crystalized U.S. policy, as opposed to the mountain of lies and obfuscation daily dished out by the corporate media and the twin parties of imperialist plunder.
Iraqi parliament demands U.S. leave
Perhaps the final and most decisive blow to Trump’s threats of immediate war was the unanimous vote of the Iraqi parliament demanding the withdrawal of all U.S. troops! Trump’s response shocked even his closest supporters, who had touted Iraq as a U.S. ally as opposed to a conquered and occupied nation since the 2003 “mistaken” U.S. war. The bully president threatened Iraq, should it seek to implement its demand for a U.S. withdrawal, with massive economic sanctions and with demands for financial remuneration for the multi-billion-dollar costs associated with the U.S. construction of military bases inside Iraq! In a matter of a single week, Trump unintentionally succeeded in exposing the myriad lies that have for three decades – beginning with the 1991 First Iraq War when the most intensive bombing in world history devastated Iraq’s cities and infrastructure – obfuscated U.S. imperial policy in the Middle East.
As we go to press, we have learned of ominous developments to deepen this obfuscation. Major media companies like Facebook and Google are banning positive or sympathetic references to Suleimani or Iran online. Facebook has removed Instagram posts by Iranians referencing Suleimani, claiming such censorship is part of its “compliance” with U.S. sanctions. Google has removed the YouTube account of Iranian news channel Press TV. This is an eerie warning for the period ahead.
U.S. Out Now! No War on Iran! Bring All the Troops Home Now!
*Featured Image: Funeral of Qasem Soleimani, Tehran, Iran on 6 January 2020. ~Maryam Kamyab, Mohammad Mohsenifar, MehrNews.com
Jeff Mackler is the national secretary of Socialist Action. He is also Socialist Action’s candidate for U.S. President in the 2020 elections and he was the Socialist Action candidate for President in 2016. Mackler founded Northern California Climate Mobilization, is a longtime teacher and union activist with the American Federation of Teachers in Hayward, California and is director of theMobilization to Free Mumia Abu-Jamal.