Following the US assassination of a high-ranking Iranian commander
The assassination of Iranian Major General Qassem Suleimani on orders from President Donald Trump may or may not trigger open warfare. A Lebanese colleague said to me on Facebook shortly after the incident occurred last week, “It’ll just be the ongoing proxy war, man.” And I hope he’s right. But the surprise military action is reprehensible and probably illegal under both international and domestic law. And it has caused a country that has been on the verge of democratic reforms for years to now—at least temporarily—unite around the very old-guard leadership of the Islamic Republic of Iran that many of its citizens have been protesting until just a few days ago out of fear over what Trump will do next to their country and anger about the execution of an unusually popular figure. Someone widely viewed as a hero for leading the regional fight by Shi’a Muslims (the vast majority of Iranians and their government are Shi’a) and their allies against the so-called Islamic State—a Sunni Muslim fundamentalist terrorist militant group—often coordinating operations very closely with the American military.
Here in the US, it’s totally understandable that people who don’t normally work with the peace movement will now want to go out and engage in street protests against such cynical and dangerous maneuvers. Yet Trump’s assault must be understood as a feature of post-WWII American foreign policy in the Middle East, not an aberration. Policy which will not be changed just by carrying signs and shouting in parks. The hard work of making it more difficult for the US government to engage in latter-day gunboat diplomacy globally—often in the service of securing control of resources like oil, as is the case in the current dustup—requires working with established peace organizations like Code Pink (nationally) and Mass Peace Action (regionally) to permanently change our political system for the better. Being willing to play the long game, then, is essential. For many, participating in public demonstrations is the first step toward getting involved in anti-war activism. And that’s great and necessary, and anyone who does so is to be applauded. But it cannot be new activists’ last step if anything is really going to improve. Food for thought for those readers who are correctly interested in stopping this latest geopolitical insult from escalating into a full-blown conflict. Not to mention reversing our nation’s current disastrous course of slashing social spending to fund an unbelievably bloated military budget.
Plug into Code Pink here: codepink.org, and Mass Peace Action here: masspeaceaction.org. For excellent interviews with journalists, academics, military leaders, and politicians who really understand the history of US relations with Iran and Iraq, check out democracynow.org.
Executive editor and associate publisher, DigBoston. Executive director of Boston Institute for Nonprofit Journalism. Former founder and editor/publisher of Open Media Boston. 2018 & 2019 Association of Alternative Newsmedia Political Column Award Winner.