Americans have long had a love affair with France, and especially Paris – its culture, its cuisine (croissants!), its joie de vivre, and yes its revolutionary traditions – liberté, egalité, fraternité. So it is that last week’s terrorist attacks in Paris which killed at least 129 people and wounded some 350 others have struck a chord with Americans in a way that similar or worse attacks have not. We stand with all the people of France – its increasingly multiethnic mix – in sympathy and solidarity in the face of vicious terrorism. We stand with the families of the 224 killed by the terrorist bombing of a Russian plane over Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula on Oct. 31. So too, we stand with so many others around the world – Iraqi, Syrian, Lebanese, Nigerian, Afghani and more, many long-suffering victims of reactionary terror cloaked in pseudo-religious garb. And we stand with the sea of migrants fleeing terror and chaos in the Middle East – people of all faiths and none, seeking safe harbor in Europe and our own country.
Enough is enough.
Many, many people, Americans included, recognize that U.S. actions over the decades have, unfortunately, fueled and in fact abetted the rise of backward, violent terrorism. As a recent New York Times overview makes clear, the so-called Islamic State – variously known as ISIS, ISIL or Daesh – came out of three U.S. actions: the invasion/occupation of Iraq; aiding/abetting “rebels” in Syria; and regime change intervention in Libya. We have a terrible history of this: remember we created Osama bin-Laden and his al-Qaeda. Why? To advance the dominance of U.S. corporate interests across the globe.
Sen. Bernie Sanders pointed to this history during Saturday’s Democratic presidential candidate debate. “I would argue that the disastrous invasion of Iraq, something that I strongly opposed, has unraveled the region completely and led to the rise of Al-Qaeda and to ISIS,” Sanders said. “Now, in fact, what we have got to do – and I think there is widespread agreement here – is the United States cannot do it alone. What we need to do is lead an international coalition which includes very significantly the Muslim nations in that region who are going to have to fight and defend their way of life.”
But we cannot have a re-do of the fake “coalitions of the willing” that cloaked the disastrous U.S. military adventures that created these problems. President Obama in his news conference in Turkey yesterday was right when he said that defeating ISIS/ISIL “is going to require … an ending of the Syrian civil war.” And, he emphasized, “a political solution is the only way to end the war in Syria and unite the Syrian people and the world against ISIL.” He noted the importance of talks now under way with Russia and Iran to try to bring this about.
But he is under a lot of pressure, both from ignorant Republican warhawks, and from some within the Democratic Party who back a discredited “tough” unilateral military approach.
Americans who want to see an end to terror and global social injustice have to speak out now: To end terror, we must change our tune. We must say to Russia, now: “We need you. We want to cooperate to get peace in Syria.” We must include others too – not only Iran, but, along with France, Germany and the UK, also important countries like China and South Africa. We must stop “aiding” those shadowy shifting “rebels.” We must stop insisting on ousting Syrian President Bashar al-Assad as a precondition. We must stop enabling and aiding the reactionary Saudi monarchy that fuels so much of the violence.
Let your senators know. Let the White House know. Let the presidential candidates know. This is the only way forward.
Enough, enough, enough.
Photo: Paris at night. Wikimedia Commons