By the United National Antiwar Coalition (UNAC)
Recently, there have been increased attacks on the peace movement from “progressives” for our consistent opposition to U.S. intervention in other countries. A recent sign-on letter was produced with hundreds of signatures attacking our opposition to outside intervention in Syria. UNAC answered that letter with our own sign-on letter explaining our position on Syria. Our letter got over 1300 individual and organizational co-signers from 50 different countries. That letter can be seen here.
Now, The Nation has published an attack piece by Professor Gilbert Achcar, who considers himself a socialist. Achcar’s article singles out 3 organizations, the United National Antiwar Coalition (UNAC) and the US Peace Council from the United States, and the Stop the War Coalition from Britain, for criticism. Below is a statement from UNAC answering this attack.
These attacks do not happen in a vacuum. Since the Biden election, there has been increased activity on the part of the US administration in Syria, increased propaganda aimed at China and Russia and a continuation of Trump’s policies against Cuba, Venezuela, Iran, and other countries as well as unconditional support for Israel and its horrific attacks on the Palestinian people. The article in The Nation and other outlets give left cover to the imperialists. It is in the interest of the new Democratic administration to silence the peace movement. But, we have no intention of being silent.
We are the Camp of Peace and Anti-Imperialism
Gilbert Achcar’s article in The Nation entitled, “How to Avoid the ‘Anti-Imperialism’ of Fools,” argues that the anti-imperialism of the peace movement has changed over time. During the time of the Vietnam War, he contends, we all opposed U.S. imperialism’s involvement, but today is different. The peace movement today is wrong to oppose U.S. imperialist interventions in Syria, Libya and other countries, in Achcar’s opinion. In his attack piece, he specifically condemns three organizations, the United National Antiwar Coalition (UNAC) and the U.S. Peace Council, both based in the United States, and the Stop the Wars Coalition from Britain. All three include leaders who have been active in the peace movement from the Vietnam War era to the present. All three have remained consistent in condemning U.S. imperialism’s wars around the world, including its drone wars, sanction wars, CIA Special Operation wars, privatized mercenary army wars and embargo/blockade wars.
It is not the trajectory of the anti-imperialists that has been inconsistent and needs to be examined but the journey of Achcar himself, from his opposition to the Vietnam War to his support to U.S. and British imperialism, which even includes training British military personnel. (1)(2)
Supporting UN/U.S. “No Fly Zones”
Achcar believes that “defense of democratic rights” should be the “paramount principle of the left,” not the struggle against imperialism. In this pursuit of “democratic rights,” he believes imperialist powers such as the United States and Britain can play a positive role through “humanitarian” interventions such as No Fly Zones. For example, Achcar supported the UN Security Council “No Fly Zone” resolution on Libya that helped destroy that nation. Achcar proudly asserted that “It took very few days for NATO to deprive [President Muammar] Gadhafi of much of his air force and tanks.” Tragically, the U.S. “humanitarian” pretext for the saturation bombing of Libya, as with the “weapons of mass destruction” pretext employed to devastate Iraq, proved to be a CIA invention.
Achcar correctly stated that much of the anti-imperialist left opposed the UN Security Council No Fly Zone resolution that paved the way for Libya’s destruction. Today, Libya has been reduced to a failed state with the U.S. military backing the faction of a local dictator intent on securing control of Libya’s oil for imperialist exploitation.
U.S. pretext in defending “democratic rights”
When Achcar talks about “defense of democratic rights,” he is using the same rational that the imperialist countries always employ when they bomb, invade, sanction or organize coups against poor nations, whether they be Venezuela, Nicaragua, Cuba, Iran, Iraq, Yemen, Libya or Syria. If the imperialists succeed, the governments that follow are never democratic. Instead, they are installed to serve the interest of Washington and Wall Street.
We in the antiwar movement believe that whenever the U.S. intervenes to overthrow the government of a poor and oppressed nation it is a violation of that nation’s fundamental right of self-determination. We reject the reactionary notion of U.S. imperialism as the world cop. We state this unequivocally, whether we agree or disagree with the policies of the country under U.S. attack.
The right to self-determination
Our support to the right of poor and oppressed nations to self-determination, that is, to be free from U.S. imperialist war and intervention is unconditional. When Syria is attacked and devastated by the combined forces engaged in a U.S./NATO orchestrated war including Israel, Turkey and the Gulf State monarchies, who finance and deploy tens of thousands of mercenaries, we stand 100 percent opposed. We demand U.S. Out Now! U.S., Hands Off! And we support Syria’s right to defend itself, including to seek help from its allies, Iran and Russia.
U.S. troops and their proxies now occupy the Northeast oil producing area of Syria and Syrian oil is being sold by them. They have destroyed and occupied much the grain producing area and they have imposed harsh sanctions. U.S. weapons are in the hands of terrorist forces in Syria, including the Al Nusra Front which was the Al Qaeda affiliate in that country. The U.S. has been involved in the training of anti-Assad forces; they and their allies like Israel and NATO countries have bombed Syria and have facilitated tens of thousands of foreign mercenaries entering the country to bring down the Syrian government. Yet Achcar contends the U.S. role in Syria is minor.
No to all U.S. imperialist wars!
The U.S. today is by far the main imperialist power in the world. At $1 trillion annually, its military budget comes close to equaling the total of all other nations combined. It has the most nuclear weapons. It has started a new arena for war by creating the multi-billion-dollar Space Force. The U.S. has troops in some 172 countries(3) and about 20 times the number of foreign military bases as all other countries combined. Therefore, we in the United States, in the belly of the beast, have a special obligation to build a strong anti-imperialist, antiwar movement and oppose all U.S. military interventions. Gilbert Achcar and The Nation seem to take us to task for that. The role of Gilbert Achcar and others who call themselves socialists but support U.S. and Western intervention around the world, is to weaken and undermine our movement. They lend “left cover” to U.S. interventions; their arguments bolster the false idea that the U.S. intervenes anywhere for humanitarian reasons.
We call upon our movement to reject the arguments of Gilbert Achcar and others like him and to continue to oppose U.S. interventions around the world.
United National Antiwar Coalition (UNAC)