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Confronting empire

June 22, 2007 | Pages 8 to 12

John Pilger | Martín Sanchez | Dahlia Wasfi | Camilo Mejía | Jeremy Scahill | Rob Will | Joel Geier

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Joel Geier

Veteran of decades of political struggles in the U.S. and associate editor of the International Socialist Review.

THE EMPIRE tells us we're in a war on terrorism that's a generational conflict. Some of that sounds a little loony. The loony part is the war on terrorism. The rational part is the generational conflict. They can't really tell you what the war is about, but they have told you that we're involved in a generational conflict.

What it's really about, as we've said for some time, is oil. They made a rational, strategic decision some years back that we were at peak oil, or close to it, and facing the rise of what they call BRIC--Brazil, Russia, India, China, as well as others in the emerging world. That meant oil production had to double in the next 20 years, and instead of oil shocks, we would be involved in a permanent oil crisis.

What else to read

Haymarket Books is distributing audio CDs of all of the nearly 100 meetings at Socialism 2007. For a full list of meeting topics, see the schedule at the Socialism 2007 Web site. To order CDs of any of the talks, or for more information, call Haymarket at 773-583-7884 or e-mail [email protected].

You can also watch several presentations from Socialism 2007 by:

John Pilger

Jeremy Scahill


What do you do about that--a country that's dependent on that oil? They decided to take what was a weakness and turn it into an imperialist strategic advantage--to make the rest of the world dependent upon the United States and the American military as the guardians of the world oil supply and the channels of distribution for oil.

This has become the key strategic gain of American imperialism for this period--to use its military superpower for economic and political leverage, to gain the ability to turn off oil on potential rivals like China down the road, if necessary.

That's why this is a generational conflict, and why the United States will not walk away from the Middle East. It won't walk away from Iraq and from two-thirds of world oil supply.

This was a rational imperialist plan. So far, it's led to disaster. Because only a really sophisticated and refined American imperialist mentality could come with the idea that invasion, conquest, occupation and re-colonization would be greeted by Arabs as liberation and democracy.

The resistance of the Iraqi people has thrown the empire into crisis, and that crisis has destabilized the entire Middle East, opened up the possibility of deepening revolt throughout Latin America and drained the American army and its ability to intervene throughout the world.

And finally, it is opening up the political space in this country to organize a generational struggle against empire.

The right wing has been dominant in this country for over 30 years. They are being held responsible for this failure. And this has opened up a political space here that gives us the possibility of attempting to convince people of certain ideas.

One of them is that no nation that oppresses another nation can be free. The war on terror isn't about only Abu Ghraib and Guantánamo and renditions and kidnapping people off the street and holding them without charges or legal rights. It's also about the Patriot Act and spying here on everyone they want to and attempting to hold down civil liberties in this country.

It is also about attempts to cut the standard of living in this country to be able to pay for a generation of empire building--cutting health benefits and pension benefits, making sure wages don't go up, and keeping taxes firmly fixed on the working class.

The war on terror is also about a revival of racism, here inside the United States--against Arab Americans, against immigrants, and also against New Orleans, a majority Black city that this government doesn't seem to have the money to be able to do anything for two years after Katrina. It can be abandoned as far as this empire is concerned.

There's also something else. You have the election of a Congress in what was a referendum on the war--and that Congress then votes to fund the war.

What does that do? It helps us explain to people that, really, imperialism and democracy are contradictions in terms. Imperialism means you don't get to vote on the plans of the American ruling class to invade countries and occupy them. They lie about it--because you are the people who are supposed to pay for it, your kids are supposed to be killed and maimed.

So this isn't just the lie about weapons of mass destruction. It's all the lies about the nature of their system, and what its invasions are about.

Defeat clarifies the mind. There's an enormous shift going on among a lot of people in this country who were prepared to put up with the situation when the empire was winning. Defeat has opened them up to a different understanding, and they're looking for explanations.

One of the first things that we have to be able to say to them is that the enemy is here at home. The Iraqi people are not our enemy, the Syrian people aren't, the Iranians aren't, the Venezuelans aren't, the Bolivians aren't. We are allied with those people in building a resistance to empire, and this opening is an opportunity for us to build that resistance to empire here in the empire itself.

Some of the people here in this room are the first members of that resistance. We have here people who were soldiers for the empire who have become soldiers against empire. We have here people who will be playing a role in reviving an antiwar movement that stands on a principled basis of support for the resistance, for the right of every nation to self-determination, for immediate withdrawal and for no reliance on the two parties that support American imperialism.

We have the opportunity to start the process of building that resistance. But we shouldn't fool ourselves--we're a long way from a resistance that can bring down this empire.

We're at the start of a process, and that means we have to build a resistance that fights wherever it can--and ties the struggle against empire with the struggle of people here at home, because both are against the same enemy that controls the empire abroad and controls working people here at home.

We're a long way away right now, but this is what we've to set ourselves on doing--winning an antiwar movement to a conception that it is part of an international struggle against empire, and part of the class struggle here at home against the empire.

And we will be successful when this movement understands that we are allied with the Venezuelans and the Iraqis and the Iranians--and that it's prepared to raise on its banner the idea that animates us: Working people, of all countries, unite. You have only your chains to lose. You have a world to win.


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