On this past December 31, 2019, I decided that in this New Year, new decade, I was going to focus on hope.
I’ve had so little hope since the election of Donald Trump. Sure, roll your eyes, but it is true. My country willfully, freely elected as president a man who represented to me everything racism, misogyny, warmongering, discrimination against the disabled, loathing for the poor, rape-culture, hatred of immigrants and refugees, and glorification of the corrupt rich and powerful. As Alexandra Occasio Cortez highlights, this loss of hope has much less to do with Trump as an individual (a terrifyingly powerful individual who seems utterly inept to handle the power he has been handed) and much more to do with loss of hope in my fellow Americans who could so easily look past the crimes and horrors of this man’s personal decisions and choose to vote for him anyway.
I could care less about Trump. What sickens me each day is the idea of so many Americans wholeheartedly supporting the debauchery, hatred, abuse, and vileness he embodies.
So, I’d decided to focus resolutely on renewing my hope this year. It is 2020. The impeachment is progressing and, after surviving 3 years of this mess, we can look forward to a new presidential election.
And then Trump decided to assassinate the Iranian leader Qasem Soleimani.
As a historian friend of mine pointed out, this move on Trump’s part makes sense politically. Throughout history, when a nation’s leader begins to lose popularity, he starts a war. Look at the way 9-11 endeared Bush Jr. to the American people.
Now my friends are terrified that we may well be on the brink of World War III. One of them texted me last night, wondering if we would both be in jail by the end of this year for refusing the draft as conscientious objectors. And I sit here grieving for the deaths of innocent Iranian civilians that are certain to follow this senseless act of our glorified president.
When I was in high school, I read the nonfiction memoir The Dressmaker of Khair Khana, a story of a woman from Afghanistan who supported her family against all odds during the rise of the Taliban. I was raised staunchly Republican-Conservative during the 2000s and had only known about our country’s hatred and fear of Muslim people. This book showed me that the citizens of the Middle Eastern countries were the first victims of those extremist regimes. In college I read Reading Lolita in Tehran and recognized this fact even further. These nations that had been progressive, where women had taught in universities and painted their toenails, were flung into chaos and the oppression of totalitarian regimes.
Eventually, in Honors class in college, I learned that it was our fault. Ours, the Americans, the international superheroes who were supposed to be protecting these innocent citizens. We had caused this by our selfish, oil-obsessed political machinations. Our meddling in Afghanistan created a power vacuum that the Taliban was only too happy to fill. When we destroyed the Taliban, Al-Quaeda followed, and when we removed them from power, Isis was only too happy to take over.
And now, a friend I asked for fact-checking help for this article just sent me an article explaining the ways that George HW Bush, Sr., essentially groomed Saddam Hussein to take power in Iraq. So, that’s cool. Oh, and he also committed war crimes, groped women, and use racist ads in his campaign. Yay. Nor is it just the Republicans at fault, either. Both Bill Clinton and Barack Obama have much to answer for when it comes to American actions in foreign wars.
The assasination of Soleimani is only the latest event in the U.S. pattern of creating power vacuums in the Middle East for stronger, more terrifying extremist groups to fill—which leads to more civilian bloodshed, more starving refugees, and more of America pretending to be some kind of savior rather than the instigator that it is.
Ryan Cooper wrote about this yesterday in The Week:
The truth is that Soleimani was not all that different from any of about five dozen current and former American politicians and bureaucrats — if anything, he was considerably more restrained about the use of force. Yes, he was involved in a lot of bloody wars — but so was every American president since 2000, and besides half the wars he fought in were started or fueled by the United States. It’s just another instance of America’s gigantic hypocrisy when it comes to war. . . .
So yes, Soleimani has fueled a lot of nasty conflicts and killed a lot of people, directly or indirectly, many of them American soldiers — though it’s worth noting also that much of his recent effort has been dedicated to fighting ISIS (with great effectiveness, by all accounts) in a tacit uneasy alliance with U.S. forces.
Yet even the worst of Soleimani’s record pales in comparison with the most blood-drenched American warmongers. If Soleimani deserves condemnation for arming Iraqi insurgents, then George W. Bush and Dick Cheney deserve 10 times as much for starting the war in the first place. It was a pointless, illegal war of aggression sold on lies that obliterated Iraqi society and killed perhaps half a million people, almost all of them innocent civilians. (Our own Soleimani, General David Petraeus, was connected to the operation of Iraqi torture dungeons and paramilitary death squads during the fight against the insurgency.)
Indeed, the Quds Force itself was originally created during the Iran-Iraq War, which was started by a heavily U.S.-backed Saddam Hussein in 1980. A million Iranians died in the grueling eight-year conflict. And the reason the Islamic Republic exists in the first place is because the United States and Britain toppled Iran’s fledgling democracy in 1953 and installed a brutal dictator.
It is not exactly hard to understand why Iran — like about every other country in the Middle East — keeps some brutal, hard people like Soleimani around. It’s a violent, unstable neighborhood, and war is an unavoidable reality. And no country is more responsible for that fact than the United States.
—Ryan Cooper, “America is guilty of everything we accuse Iran of doing”
In Honors class my senior year of college, we read the pacifist, but fierce, speeches of Martin Luther King, Jr., followed immediately with the speeches of Winston Churchill. I knew little about Churchill before reading his speeches other than that he had helped the Allies win the Second World War. Reading his speeches . . . I hated him. He was a violent, war-mongering, evil man. He should be viewed with as much revulsion and fear as any other genocidal leader of the 20th century. Instead, we glorify him, because he won, and history is written by the victors.
The world does not need another war. The world cannot survive another war. And today, as I watch the U.S.A. flirt with more violence, more killing, more war . . .
I’m ashamed to be an American.
But, somehow, I’m desperately clinging to hope anyway.
Image Credit: https://www.pexels.com/photo/dilylive-war-child-city-syria-kieds-1226980/