It is rare that a U.S. politician reveals any important fact. It is especially rare to reveal one that exposes U.S. propaganda when it is being used to justify a new war of aggression.
Vice President Joe Biden opened his mouth last week, let out some facts, and almost immediately had to apologize. In a speech at Harvard, Biden called out Turkey, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates for supplying unconditional aid and logistical support to Washington’s current Enemy No. 1: the organization now calling itself the Islamic State, also called ISIS or ISIL, as part of their attempt to overturn Bashar al-Assad in Syria.
His apology was to Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdoðan, who Biden quoted as having admitted that too many fighters were crossing Turkey’s border. Thus Erdoðan lied and got Biden to swear to it. They re-established the normal role of imperialist diplomacy: never deviate from the Big Lie used as a pretext for war.
Biden got off easy, at least so far. In June 2010 German President Horst Köhler admitted publicly that German troops were in Afghanistan because that was the price of sitting at the table with the other imperialists and getting a piece of the world’s plunder. For telling the truth, Köhler was forced to resign.
What Biden omitted from his otherwise frank revelation was the role of Washington’s West European allies, like French and British imperialism, and that of the U.S.’s own support for anyone attacking Assad.
U.S. imperialism has for decades had an ambivalent position toward al-Qaida, the al-Nusra Front and other organizations like ISIS that hold a rigid, fundamentalist and pre-capitalist ideology that is also sectarian. The CIA armed and funded these groups against a progressive Afghan government and its Soviet allies in the 1980s, calling them “freedom fighters.”
The Pentagon also gave air support to similar groups in Libya in 2011 against President Moammar Gadhafi, and until recently it allowed their growth in Syria against Assad. Meanwhile, in Somalia, Yemen, Pakistan and Nigeria, U.S. propagandists denounced the same political current as “genocidal terrorists” and used their presence as a pretext for the Pentagon’s military intervention there.
But by taking over the opposition in Syria and threatening the oil-rich Kurdish region in Iraq, ISIS became more of a problem than a solution for U.S. imperialism and its clients. The response was President Barack Obama’s new war and coalition. What effect this has on ISIS is still to be seen. But this new war also threatens the Syrian government and people as well as the Iraqis — whom the U.S. has already massacred over the last 24 years.
Erdoðan must have been especially angry at Biden because the Turkish Parliament has just given him a green light to join Obama’s “War on ISIS.” Like U.S. imperialism, the Turkish state faces many contradictions with this war. The main defenders of the Kurdish regions of Syria and Iraq have been the Kurdistan Workers Party or PKK — an organization fighting for self-determination of Turkish Kurdistan — and a similar Kurdish guerrilla group inside Syria known as the YPG — the People’s Protection Units. Turkey considers these groups major enemies, and the U.S. also defines both as “terrorist.” These are also the groups now defending Kurdish and other civilians in the town of Kobani in Syria near the Turkish border, under heavy attack from ISIS.
The only others fighting ISIS on the ground in Syria are Syrian government troops — whom the U.S. has demonized for three years — and the guerrillas of Hezbollah, a liberation organization based in Lebanon, which the U.S. also calls “terrorist.”
The lesson from Biden is that the only way we can learn important truths from imperialist spokespeople is when they have to immediately apologize for opening their mouths.