In Defense of Anti-Imperialism: Letters to The Nation

Both the letters below are derived from full responses that The Nation refused to print unless they were cut to 300 word letters to the editor. [jb]

Letter from United National AntiWar Coalition:

Gilbert Achcar’s article, “How to Avoid the ‘Anti-Imperialism’ of Fools,” argues that the peace movement has changed over time. In his opinion, it was correct to oppose the Vietnam War, however the peace movement today is wrong to oppose U.S. interventions in Syria, Libya and other countries.  He specifically attacks two U.S. organizations, the United National Antiwar Coalition and the U.S. Peace Council.  Both include leaders who have been active in the peace movement from the time of the Vietnam War and have remained consistent in condemning all U.S. military interventions ever since.  This, while Archar himself has supported U.S interventions such as “no fly zones” as in Libya, which helped destroy that country.  He even helps train British military personnel.

Achcar believes that “defense of democratic rights” should be the “paramount principle of the left” and the U.S. can help with “humanitarian interventions.” Defense of democratic rights is the exact rational the U.S. always uses when they invade a county.

The U.S. today is by far the primary imperialist power in the world.  It’s military budget comes close to equaling the total of all other countries combined.  It has the most nuclear weapons. It is building a new multi-billion-dollar Space Force. The U.S. has troops in 172 countries 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 antiwar movement and oppose all U.S. military interventions.

The role of Gilbert Achcar and others who call themselves socialists but support U.S. interventions around the world, is to weaken and undermine our movement.  They lend “left cover” to U.S. interventions and their arguments bolster the false idea that the U.S. intervenes anywhere for humanitarian reasons.

Joe Lombardo
Coordinator, United National Antiwar Coalition (UNAC)

Letter from U.S. Peace Council:

Gilbert Achcar’s essay “How to Avoid the Anti-Imperialism of Fools” attacks the US Peace Council and the United National AntiWar Coalition for being “focused exclusively on Western powers in the name of a peculiar one-sided ‘anti-imperialism’” [, April 6].

By saying that our approach to imperialism is “peculiar,” Achcar obscures the fact of a world disorder managed by the US government, on behalf of key wealthy countries. The US has the largest military footprint in the world. We accept Noam Chomsky’s view that the US is a “leading terrorist state.” No other state comes close to playing as destabilizing a role as the US.

In 2011, Achcar expressed an expectation that the US/NATO would merely conduct a “no-fly zone” in Libya and not seek regime change. Coming after the US invasion of Iraq in 2003, there was no evidence that NATO would not intervene to overthrow the government. Libya remains in a desperate state, a battlefield for regional ambitions. At no point has Achcar returned to settle accounts for his role in providing propaganda for the destruction of Libya.

Achcar’s “complexity” paradigm, a plague on all houses, is a formula for inaction by progressives because no side in international conflicts meets his lofty litmus test of perfection. He assumes a false equivalency between the global “full spectrum” dominance of the US and independent states that dare to assert their sovereignty.

Achcar’s “complexity” leads him to support war and occupation. We, in the US Peace Council and UNAC, oppose on principle the imposition of war and occupation. Yes, we are in a camp. We are in the camp of peace and anti-imperialism.

Bahman Azad
Executive Secretary, US Peace Council

*Featured Image: Members of UNAC and Syria Solidarity Movement and US Peace Council with friends at a Labor Conference to oppose sanctions in Damascus in September 2019  This photo was on the original letter that Gilbert Achcar circulated for signatures before publishing the article in The Nation.

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