On imperialism: ‘It’s imperative for us to fight’
Published Jul 23, 2010 7:42 AM
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.
WW photo: Monica Moorehead
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
“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
“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
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
It shows the wild, irrational extremes that imperialism will go to to get
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
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 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
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
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
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.
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