This article appeared in the Fall 2019 issue of the Massachusetts Peace Action newsletter
October 7th marked the 18th anniversary of the war in Afghanistan, the longest in American history. It is now possible for young men and women to fight and die in this war who were not alive when the conflict began. The so called “war on terror” that began in 2001 has since spread across the Middle East and Africa. The United States military is now at war in Iraq, Somalia, Libya, Syria, Yemen, Pakistan, Afghanistan, and elsewhere. Our interventions have destabilized the entire region, killing hundreds of thousands. The violence has forced millions from their homes, creating the worst refugee crisis since World War II. We should make use of this somber anniversary to take stock.
The war in Yemen, now in its fifth year, continues to rage. Over half of the population of this impoverished nation, some 14 million people, is now living on the brink of starvation. Over one million cases of cholera have been reported. The coalition led by Saudi Arabia and the UAE is using famine and disease as weapons of war by deliberately targeting food production and water treatment facilities. The world’s worst humanitarian crisis is being perpetrated with bombs made in the US, by the Raytheon Company based here in Massachusetts.
Mass. Peace Action and our allies have continued the Raytheon Anti-War Campaign we launched more than a year ago, to raise public awareness about the US role in Yemen. Raytheon, expected to double in size after its pending merger with United Technologies, has massive political influence. The new Secretary of Defense, Mark Esper, was the top lobbyist for Raytheon before joining the Trump Administration. We have continued to demonstrate at Raytheon’s facilities, campus recruiting fairs and PR events. Public pressure on elected officials across the country is beginning to take effect. Congress has invoked the War Powers Resolution to challenge President Trump’s continued military aid to the Saudis to wage the war. To date, 4 of the 5 vetoes signed by Trump are about Yemen and Saudi arms sales.
Meanwhile, the threat of a new conflict with Iran looms. When the downing of an American drone led the President to order, then cancel, airstrikes on Iran, we immediately responded with a rally on Boston Common and urged our Congressional representatives to restrict Trump’s ability to make unconstitutional war. Provisions that forbid an executive war with Iran and end our participation in the war in Yemen have now been passed in the House version of the National Defense Appropriation Act, a bill that would be almost impossible for Trump to veto.
In response to Trump’s “maximum pressure” campaign of economic sanctions against Iran, MAPA and our allies held a recent forum at Boston University featuring Professor Michael Klare and Mojgan Haji, a representative of the National Iranian American Council. As they explained, while sanctions are often portrayed as a peaceful alternative to military intervention, their actual effect severely harms ordinary citizens, especially poor and working people. US policy is making medicine and even basic items, such as baby formula, difficult to purchase. The sanctions enhance the influence of the more militant members of the Iranian government and increase the chances of an American war with Iran.
The recent drone attacks on two Saudi Arabian oil installations, which the Houthis have claimed responsibility for but the US blames on Iran, have heightened tensions in the region. Some analysts say the strikes have shifted strategic thinking about the Middle East, since it seems that less powerful countries now have more leverage. The sophisticated drones were able to fly hundreds of kilometers, elude detection, and strike their targets with great precision, taking out 5.7 million barrels per day, or 50% of Saudi oil production. The success of the strikes might make the Saudis and their allies think twice about going to war, realizing that Iran would be decimated but in the process could inflict enormous damage on the Saudi oil supply. Of course, the conflict likely would not have intensified if the US had not violated the Iran nuclear deal in the first place. Mass. Peace Action and our allies in the peace movement will continue to press for the US to reenter that agreement.
—Brian Garvey is Mass. Peace Action’s full-time organizer.