LeiLani Dowell, WW managing editor, at the Workers World Forum in NYC, July 22, 2010.
Imperialism at home and abroad: Policy or system of exploitation? | Workers.org
On imperialism: ‘It’s imperative for us to fight’
by LeiLani Dowell
Jul 23, 2010
Following are excerpts from a talk given by LeiLani Dowell, Fight Imperialism, Stand Together and Bail Out the People Movement organizer, at a July 17 Operation POWER meeting in Brooklyn, N.Y.
There’s an old labor song called, “Which side are you on?” Well, while the election of a Black president may have been a historical moment of significance, Obama’s policies have shown that, the head of the empire must always be on the side of the empire, no matter his or her background.
When it comes to war in general, Obama’s policies have represented not only an extension of Bush’s policies, but even an augmentation. I want to read a little from a Washington Post article entitled, “U.S. ‘secret war’ expands globally as Special Operations forces take larger role.”
“Beneath its commitment to soft-spoken diplomacy and beyond the combat zones of Afghanistan and Iraq, the Obama administration has significantly expanded a largely secret U.S. war against al-Qaeda and other radical groups, according to senior military and administration officials.
“Special Operations forces have grown both in number and budget, and are deployed in 75 countries, compared with about 60 at the beginning of last year. In addition to units that have spent years in the Philippines and Colombia, teams are operating in Yemen and elsewhere in the Middle East, Africa and Central Asia.
“Commanders are developing plans for increasing the use of such forces in Somalia. … Plans exist for preemptive or retaliatory strikes in numerous places around the world. … Obama, one senior military official said, has allowed ‘things that the previous administration did not’. …
“The clearest public description of the secret-war aspects of the doctrine came from White House counterterrorism director John O. Brennan. He said … that the rhetoric is not much different than Bush’s pledge to ‘take the battle to the enemy … and confront the worst threats before they emerge’. …
“Bush era clashes between the Defense and State departments over Special Operations deployments have all but ceased.” (June 4)
In addition, under Obama the United States Africa Command, or AFRICOM, has received additional funding. In 2008 the U.S. conducted a war games exercise in Pennsylvania that simulated a military response to “piracy” and insurgency in Somalia, as well as the collapse of the Nigerian government.
On Oct. 28 of last year, Obama signed the largest military budget in U.S. history, the 2010 Defense Authorization Act. It’s the world’s largest military budget — in fact, at $680 billion, it’s larger than the military expenditures of the whole rest of the world combined.
And actually, if you look at the military expenditures that they conveniently leave out of the budget — but still spend, of course — it’s more than twice as large. The War Resisters League put real 2009 military expenditures at $1,449 billion.
The military budget has grown so large that it now threatens to overwhelm and devour all social funding — and we should see it that way. They always want us to keep these things separate — the war funding is over here, the social funding is over here — when really, it’s the same money being divided up and passed around.
One of the more insidious tactics of the government is the attempt to get us to endorse war spending by linking progressive legislation to war funding. So a bill on collective bargaining for public safety employees, which recently went before the Congress, was tacked to a bill for funding for the Afghanistan war. Similarly, the repeal of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell was tacked on to the Defense Department’s annual, massive spending bill. Of course, we don’t want anybody in the military, LGBT or straight. But we support the right of LGBT people to serve in the military free of discrimination — particularly when the economic draft forces them to enlist.
The sheer weight of war spending is squeezing out funding for every human need. U.S. cities are collapsing. Every year the American Society of Civil Engineers puts out a report card on U.S. infrastructure. In 2009, the overall Grade Point Average for everything from bridges and dams to drinking water, levees, hazardous waste and more was a D.
Meanwhile, unemployment is officially reaching 10 percent and is in reality double that amount. Black and Latino/a youth unemployment is closer to 50 percent. Fourteen million children in the U.S. live in households below the poverty level.
In the middle of an economic crisis that’s wreaking havoc on working people, this huge subsidy to some of the largest U.S. corporations — the ones who contract for military and weapons systems — is passed with barely any discussion. According to the Office of Management and Budget, 55 percent of the total 2010 U.S. budget will go to the military.
While the military budget, going forward, is expected to grow by 5 to 10 percent a year, federal funding to states and cities is shrinking by 10 to 15 percent annually, leading to the deficit crises we’re seeing in so many cities.
It shows the wild, irrational extremes that imperialism will go to to get profits.
Imperialism is the expansion of capitalism throughout the world. The main goal of capitalism is to extract profits — by any means necessary. Under imperialism, the capitalists reach their tentacles out around the world, attempting to exploit as many peoples, natural resources and countries as possible.
Yet this constant need to squeeze out every bit of profit can make the capitalists shortsighted and irrational, even to the preservation of their own system. So while at one point, the government may have been able to revive the capitalist economy through war spending, it’s no longer enough to solve the problem.
The military budget doesn’t create jobs, nor do bank bailouts nor, quite frankly, do “incentives” to businesses to create jobs. All these things are artificial stimuli that may keep the stock markets ticking, but will ultimately fall flat. But the capitalists can’t help themselves — they will always choose immediate superprofit handouts, even over their long-term survival.
It also keeps them constantly seeking out new places on the map to conquer and/or subdue so that they will be able to extract more resources, exploit more cheap labor, and sell their products — often forcing the demise of a country’s indigenous products and the Indigenous people who produced them.
It’s why they wage war in the Middle East; it’s why they set up a military command in Africa. It’s why a tiny island, socialist Cuba, is such a big threat — an island that is closed to their markets, and an island that reveals the potential of a society that cares for the people of the world more than profits.
Of course, there’s the war at home as well, which certainly hasn’t stopped. The banks continue to get bailed out; the people continue to get laid off. People of color continue to be murdered by the cops with absolute impunity.
It’s no coincidence that the country with the largest military machine also has the world’s largest prison population. As U.S. capitalism becomes less and less willing to provide jobs, job training or education, the only options offered are prisons or the military. The prison population also represents yet another pool of exploitable labor for the imperialists, and in fact the prison industrial complex is the only growth industry right now.
It’s imperative for us to fight all this. The great thing is that while they have power, imperialism’s shortsightedness will create more folks like us who are learning their strength and organizing to fight back. It’s been happening around the world, where despite all the Pentagon’s fancy, high-tech weapons, the U.S. geopolitical position is slipping year after year.
Around the world, people are resisting with the determination to control their own futures. And that will ultimately — not today or tomorrow, but ultimately — lead to imperialism’s demise.
Articles copyright 1995-2010 Workers World. Verbatim copying and distribution of this entire article is permitted in any medium without royalty provided this notice is preserved.
[DS added the video]
Which Side Are You On — Pete Seeger
Spadecaller on Mar 15, 2008
In the mountains of Kentucky in 1931, the coal miners of Harlan County went on strike. Officers hired by the mining company roamed the countryside hunting for the union leaders. The independent coal miners fought back gallantly against the hired company deputies and blood was spilled on both sides. “Which Side Are You On,” was written by Florence Reece, the wife of Sam Reece, a union leader who had escaped into the Kentucky mountains for safety. Class warfare continues in the United States and in most nations throughout the world. Woody Guthrie, Pete Seeger, Lee Hays, and Millard Lampell of the Almanac Singers made this song famous in 1941. – Spadecaller