by Andrew Magee
On the cold winter evening of Jan. 9, more than 300 people marched in Cambridge calling for “No War with Iran!” and “US Troops Out of Iraq!” Part of a demonstration of outrage by citizens around the country and the world, they came together to protest the US’s reckless and incendiary assassination of Iranian Maj. Gen. Qassem Soleimani on Iraqi soil.
The protest was organized and facilitated by Mass. Peace Action, Arlington United for Justice with Peace, Refuse Fascism, United Against War and Militarism, and the ANSWER Coalition.
Despite the sub-freezing temperatures, the protesters gathered around the Harvard Square subway entrance, then marched down Mass. Ave. to the Cambridge Common, where many speakers addressed the disturbing actions of the US president and the systemic infrastructure that allowed him to act with impunity.
Speakers noted the connections between the war economy and student debt, between capitalism and war, and the vested interests of the state and of “defense” companies in the development of AI and other technologies to control the people and to advance the lethality of their weapons. All speakers stressed that we must continue the fight in the days, months, and years ahead – not just during crises or historical “moments” such as the current one.
—Andrew Magee is a recent graduate of UMass/Lowell and a member of Mass. Peace Action’s Middle East working group and the Raytheon Antiwar Campaign.
Following are excerpts from prepared remarks.
Massachusetts Peace Action’s Valentine Moghadam:
I want to begin by expressing my sadness over the tragic Ukrainian airplane crash. There’s much speculation as to how it happened; we need to wait until a definitive report is issued. But my sympathies go to the families of those who lost their lives.
My heart has been heavy over the past week because of the prospect of yet another U.S.-instigated war in the region. I was especially shocked when President Trump said Iran’s cultural heritage sites could be targeted. The idea that Isfahan or Shiraz or Persepolis could be targeted felt like a stab in the heart. This is beyond another violation of international laws and norms; it is profoundly immoral and unethical, and shows the extent of the president’s lack of respect for cultural heritage.
And then there is the deliberate assassination of General Ghassem Soleimani, who played such an important role in defeating ISIS in Iraq and Syria. Just imagine what would happen if Iran, or any other country, assassinated a top American general. The Trump administration’s sense of impunity is breathtaking. And yet the U.S. administration and its cronies in the media and political class can claim that the U.S. killed General Soleimani in “self-defense” and to prevent “an imminent threat”, and in doing so “saved lives”.
What are these statements other than utter falsehoods, reflecting the Trump administration’s arrogance and impunity? Since when does the U.S. exercise “self-defense” in the Middle East and “save lives”? Did the invasion and occupation of Iraq in 2003 save lives? Or did it take lives – the lives of countless Iraqis as well as American personnel? When the Obama administration decided in 2011 that “Ghaddafi must go” and “Assad must go”, and then supported armed rebels, did that “save lives”? Or did it result in a failed state in Libya, the rise and spread of ISIS, and a 9-year civil conflict in Syria that is finally winding down, thanks to the Syrian army, Russia, and Iran?
Yesterday’s briefing to lawmakers as to the legality and justification for the killing of General Soleimani has been described as “weak” and “thin” and even “insulting”. Or perhaps it’s a pack of lies. In that case, the Trump administration is re-enacting the Bush playbook. As such it may very well be a cynical ploy to ensure Trump’s re-election while also signaling to the world that the U.S. remains the global hegemon.
What is the U.S. doing in the Middle East? It has military bases in Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Qatar, Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates, Turkey, and Jordan. In other words, it is surrounding Iran militarily. The U.S. presence in the Middle East has always been aggressive, provocative, and utterly counter-productive. Does the U.S. military presence in the Middle East prevent conflict in the region? Or does it fan the flames of anger and resentment?
For the sake of peace in the region and stability in the world, we must insist that the U.S. get out of the Middle East. It must shut down its bases and remove its personnel, thus enabling the regional actors to resolve tensions on their own. The U.S. – and other arms peddlers – must also stop the arms flow to Saudi Arabia, which will compel the Saudis and their UAE allies to end their assault on Yemen and sit at the negotiating table. The U.S. must end the punitive sanctions against Iran, and it must revive the Iran nuclear deal. Only in this way will the U.S. be able to honestly say, “We are saving lives”.
MAPA’s Massoudeh Edmond:
In June of last year, Mike Pompeo said that ‘‘President Trump has done everything he can to avoid war”. Has he?
The way this Administration is planning its war on Iran resembles a shark planning an attack on its victim. Once a shark has tracked down its prey, it stalks it, and then stays away to size up the situation before moving in for the kill.
May 8th, 2018, the day that Trump pulled out of the Iran deal, marked the beginning of the war against Iran.
What happened, the Iran deal was a compromise for peace, moving away from the policy of confrontation. It was against a norm. In Unted States’ policy the norm is dominance: which is an unprovoked war with Iraq, and 19 years of war in Afghanistan. That is the norm.
Despite the strong objections of China, Russia, and the European countries, Trump unilaterally violated the nuclear deal, and imposed sanctions on Iran. Those sanctions are hurting the ordinary people, causing high unemployment, a decline in the currency’s value, shortages of many essential goods, and lack of access to medicine for serious diseases.
Sanctions kill. In Iraq, after the Gulf War, the US sanctions were responsible for half million deaths of children.
Now we have the assassination of Ghassem Soleimani, the commander of Iranian army, to justify that Trump called Soleimani a terrorist. Actually assassination of soldier in a foreign country, declaration of a unilateral war against a country with no provocation, threatening to destroy the cultural heritage of a civilization are the acts of terrorism. And above all, imposing sanctions on 81 million people is an act of terrorism.
As an Iranian American I am sandwiched between two different problems: In Iran, not only my relatives, but 81 million people are suffering under the US sanctions. And here in the US, I see the young men and women coming from war, in bodybags or with PTSD.
And as for Trump, he has threatened to destroy Iran. beware of the shark! It is about to move in, to attack its prey.
Arlington UJP’s Thea Paneth:
The new year, the new decade started with the reckless assassination by the US of a foreign general visiting a foreign nation and horrific news out of Australia – one billion animals dead in out of control wildfires…we human beings are in for a rough ride.
Last month, Congress appropriated 738 billion dollars for the Pentagon without a murmur, even though key provisions were stripped out of the bill in committee that peace activists worked hard all year to push our representatives to write and support: ending the sale of weapons to the Saudis used in Yemen where the people exist on the brink of starvation due to the Saudi war on them; and to explicitly state no war on Iran without congressional authorization. Stripping those provisions surely played a role created an opening for the assassination of an Iranian general.
These forever wars are part of a long history of wrongs, wrongs committed against indigenous populations to take the land across this continent, the short wars to control resources, longer wars when global alliances fractured or gave rise to terrible fascism, the war on Vietnam that divided our nation, the interventions all through Central and Latin American causing the immiseration and deaths of hundreds of thousands of people, all this history underlies the crude, wrongful attacks on Iraq and on Afghanistan nearly 20 years ago that have led to where we are now.
We’ve gathered many times in past years to oppose the forever wars that have caused the deaths of millions of people across the planet, have destroyed nations, great cities, water systems, fragile ecosystems and all kinds of regional and local economies. The decade we face holds many perils and challenges from climate change to a new nuclear arms race among all the nuclear nations.
We are likely to experience a serious fracturing of global systems that we take for granted because all world leaders have made such a spectacular botch of solving global problems in a way that meets the needs of the planet and all living beings.
These crises and dislocations could lead to the worst nightmare of all – a world war in which nuclear weapons are used.
Let us oppose any and all wars to our last breath. Let us not go quiet as those with too much power destroy life and beauty with reckless impunity.
It is always a joy of my life to stand with you in opposition to the terrible inhumanities that some of our fellow human beings are unfortunately so capable of and the criminal policies of our government.
It is the best we have in us, the best we are as a species and as true patriots, when we join together to say that the wars must end, that the US congress must act to cut off the money for the Pentagon-gone-mad, the stepping back from the brink we’ve seen over the past 24 hours is a good thing and I’m sure our immediate protests on Saturday and today across the country are a factor – so we have to keep protesting, keep calling our supine Congress-people, and be prepared to visit offices and military contractors with crime scene tape and sit in!
Never forget that bombs are dropped on people and other living things, never forget that…Stop the bombing and end the wars!