Kashmir and Anti-Imperialism

Recently, Prime Minister Modi of India decided to abrogate Articles 370 and 35A of the Indian Constitution and fully annex Jammu and Kashmir. This article from inside Kashmir talks about police- and military-enforced curfews, internet and phones being blocked, and a general sense of oppression.

Defenders will point to Pakistan’s decades-long policy of interfering in Indian-controlled parts of Jammu and Kashmir. This, in its own right, is a form of imperialism and must be opposed. However, this is no excuse for Indian imperialism.

This whole thing is complicated, right? Because there are two conflicting desires.

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Divestment, Israel, and Apartheid

Before you read further, I want you, the reader, to head over to this comment on Reddit which details, with nauseating clarity, just how many times unarmed Palestinians have been killed by the IDF, Israeli police officers, or other agents of the state (with sources). Go ahead, I’ll wait.

It has always been clear to me that the Israeli government actively wants to kill and displace Palestinians and that they have treated them as second-class citizens. Archbishop Desmond Tutu said:

I have been to the Occupied Palestinian Territory, and I have witnessed the racially segregated roads and housing that reminded me so much of the conditions we experienced in South Africa under the racist system of Apartheid. I have witnessed the humiliation of Palestinian men, women, and children made to wait hours at Israeli military checkpoints routinely when trying to make the most basic of trips to visit relatives or attend school or college, and this humiliation is familiar to me and the many black South Africans who were corralled and regularly insulted by the security forces of the Apartheid government. It is not with rancor that we criticize the Israeli government, but with hope, a hope that a better future can be made for both Israelis and Palestinians.

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Venezuela, Maduro, and Guaidó

I implore my friends, especially my liberal ones, to stop and consider the possible implications a US-backed coup in Venezuela. Yes, Maduro is awful, No doubt about that. But a US-backed coup would most likely lead to a civil war, massive civilian casualties, and possibly a right-wing authoritarian government (e.g. a military dictatorship) — the US is great at getting those kinds of governments installed. Just. Look. At. History. Were y’all the same people who wanted to invade Iraq on a humanitarian basis? Serious question.

It’s been terrifying seeing so many of my friends latch onto imperialist rhetoric, and I understand the impulse to want to do something. As Cody says, there are non-military options that include brokering diplomatic negotiations, actual humanitarian aid (rather than political destabilization masquerading as humanitarian aid), and possibly getting Maduro to agree to new elections held by the UN.

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Family separations

Let’s talk family separation for a second. Yes, it’s very clear that what’s happening now is unprecedented. Yes, it’s true that Trump created the policy (not the Democrats). Yes, it’s true that we should be agitating to end it once and for all (somehow I don’t trust that the executive order actually did anything).

But let’s not kid ourselves. We were doing inhumane, awful things to undocumented immigrants at the border well before Trump. And the kinds of stuff Trump says could very easily have been said by a Democrat. Hell, they were. Trump (or rather, Sessions) said that the purpose of separating families was to send a message. When asked what the policy should be regarding children seeking asylum from Central American countries, Clinton is clearly on the record stating that we need to send them back to send a message to their parents. Obama, too, has defended his actions regarding family detention, saying that we need to send the parents a message. I could go back further, but hopefully this is sufficient to show that this kind of dubious rationale is not only not new, but also bipartisan.

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Western countries and democracy

Western countries only like democracies when they can chose the people running them. Western countries only like democracies when they allow companies from those countries to go in, exploit people, and plunder resources. Western countries only like democracies when they don’t serve the people, but rather the elites and the corporations. Otherwise, those same countries who wax eloquently about the dangers of dictatorships and the need for democracy will launch an invasion on some pretext (real or made-up) and replace that democracy with a puppet state. Or, they ensure a stable state never forms in the first place. And, of course, this is tied in with capitalism and the ownership of our government by (big) corporations.

Don’t be distracted. What Donald Trump said today is not an anomaly — it is implicitly or explicitly believed by at the very least a large minority of the population. The reason these nations are getting screwed over is that companies and governments from all around the world are ensuring that either those governments are obsequious to other governments and corporations (and not actually working for their people) or that those governments don’t exist in the first place. Fixing this requires deconstructing the paradigm that we have built.

Military spending

The most depressing news for me from the last couple of days was the $700 billion increase in military spending over the next 10 years.

If you take a look at the vote distribution, you’ll see that the vast majority of both major parties voted for the bill. The same damn people who insisted (and sometimes still insist) that single-payer is too expensive, that tuition-free college is too expensive, that we can’t afford to build our infrastructure — those same goddamn people had the nerve to vote for this bill. The same people who deride Sanders and other progressives as pie-in-the-sky idealists who don’t know how to make actual policy vote for an increase in the military budget that would more than cover providing tuition-free college.

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I think one thing many people miss when it comes to “terrorism” is how the word is defined versus how it’s used. Here’s the dictionary definition:

Terrorism: the systematic use of terror especially as a means of coercion (from Merriam-Webster)

Terrorism: the use of violence or the threat of violence, especially against civilians, in the pursuit of political goals. (from The Free Dictionary)

So this definition says nothing about who is doing the violence. But consider how it is (almost) always used: it is used to describe a violent act carried out by a non-state actor, usually a group of like-minded individuals with a specific political goal. But why is the use limited to non-state actors such as “terrorist groups” or individuals such as James Fields Jr? When we use drone strikes to remotely target people we call terrorists and end up killing civilians instead (90% of people killed by drone strikes were not intended targets during one 5 month span, for example), why would that not count as terrorism? When we rain death and destruction almost continuously on 7 different countries simultaneously or take out heads of state, why is that not considered terrorism? In those cases, we are most certainly using violence (often against civilians in the case of the drone strikes) to achieve political ends (a change of government and the establishment of a more friendly regime, for example). So this fits the definitions given above, but “terrorism” is almost never used to describe it.

This, of course, begs the question: Why would we not call this terrorism? Well, it’s obvious. Calling what we terrorism would mean that we would be the #1 terrorist threat, not ISIS or Al Qaeda. Calling what we do terrorism would make the military contractors, the CIA, and the military itself complicit in that terrorism, which is unacceptable to those people. But fundamentally, calling what we do terrorism would imply that our actions aren’t automatically legitimate, which is what truly frightens many people. The dogma of American Exceptionalism (and of the legitimacy of the state more generally) requires that everything the state does must be legitimate. And the world recognizes terrorism as illegitimate, which means calling what we do terrorism would mean our government (and countless others) is doing something illegitimate. But the fundamental fact remains that what we are doing is terrorism.

Philando Castille

I think the lesson of the #PhilandoCastille murder and the subsequent verdict is that if you are a POC, you should literally never reach for anything, even if you’re asked to do so. Simply existing and complying with the officer’s order (to produce an ID) was enough to get him shot. Instead, indicate where the ID is and ask the officer to reach in and get it themselves.

Seriously. I’m not even sure what else the options are at this point if you’re a POC, especially a (young?) black male (but this also applies to (young?) brown males like myself). Don’t run away from the officer. Don’t run towards the officer. Don’t “look suspicious”. Don’t own a gun (since declaring it while being a POC will heighten tensions). Don’t be disrespectful. Don’t get angry (no matter what). Don’t talk back to the officer. Comply with everything the officer says. None of this helped Mr. Castille. He was still shot. Except wait…he owned a gun. Oh, but it was registered and he declared it to the officer as is required by law. This whole thing is sickening because he did everything the officer asked him to, got shot anyway, and then the jury acquitted the officer of all charges. They watched the video filmed right after the officer murdered Mr. Castille and said “eh”. They watched the dashcam video (that was newly released after the trial) and said “There’s still probable cause for the officer to have been afraid for his life”. My only question is: what could he have done? If what Philando did — following the rules, declaring the firearm he was licensed to carry as per the law, remaining calm, and reaching for his ID — was enough to get him murdered, what could he have done to prevent the officer from shooting him? I think changing his skin color would have helped. And that is the sickening reality of racism in America today.