President Obama is still dithering over the war in Afghanistan, but his hard-Left base has increasingly decided to break with the administration to cheer for American defeat overseas.
The latest sign of the Left’s defection over the war comes from the Los Angeles chapter of the anti-war group International A.N.S.W.E.R. On Sunday, ANSWER sponsored an antiwar “teach-in” on Afghanistan at Los Angeles City College. The event was the group’s latest “local action” in its self-described “struggle” against alleged U.S. imperialism in “Afghanistan, Iraq, Palestine, the Philippines, Latin America and beyond.” All this is standard fare for the radical group, with one notable exception: It now considers the Obama administration the enemy.
To that end, ANSWER is accelerating its calls for grassroots resistance to the administration. In particular, ANSWER organizers claim they are seeking to block U.S. Gen. Stanley McChrystal’s recent request for an additional 40,000 troops. But ANSWER’s ultimate goal is to support the insurgency seeking to topple the Hamid Karzai government in Kabul. According to Richard Becker, ANSWER’s West Coast Regional Director, and a keynote speaker at this weekend’s teach-in, a defeat for the current American mission in Afghanistan would strike a blow to the American “empire” in South Asia.
ANSWER’s anti-American agenda was well-represented by organizers and activists at this weekend’s teach-in in Los Angeles.
The first speaker was Muna Coobtee. An organizer with the National Council of Arab Americans (an ANSWER front group), she was emcee for the organization’s recent Westwood protest marking the 8th anniversary of the war. Coobtee claimed that the Afghan mission was in fact a doomed neo-colonial war. Denouncing the “occupation,” she claimed that American military goals are exclusively to “avoid defeat … or to avoid the perception of defeat.” Following the script in ANSWER’s communist pamphlet, “Afghanistan and Iraq Will NEVER Accept U.S. Colonialism,” she implored activists to mobilize against the war. Pentagon warmongers can’t tell new recruits the truth about their mission, Coobtee insisted, since “then more soldiers and marines and their families would hesitate to continue to act as bait and cannon fodder.”
Coobtee was followed by ANSWER’s Peta Lindsay and Blase Bonpane (of the Office of the Americas and KPFK Los Angeles). Lindsay had just returned from a mission to Japan. She attacked the U.S. military presence there, conspiratorially denouncing nuclear-powered warships for widespread radioactive “contamination.” She also decried American sailors, who she claimed were “murdering Japanese women and taxi drivers.” In turn, Bonpane, who is something of an alternative media-celebrity, excoriated American neo-imperialism and argued that “the art of revolution is the art of organizing the majority of Americans to end the warfare state.”
An especially militant talk was delivered by Corporal Michael David Prysner, an Iraq war veteran and radar specialist who was honorably discharged from service June 15, 2005. Prysner is a key organizer for ANSWER’S military resistance cell, March Forward! According to his personal statement at the website:
I left this Army with a new understanding of the system under which we all live, and the nature of U.S. foreign policy. But, I still had the same drive to fight for freedom, justice and equality as I did when I joined, and I understood that fighting for those things meant fighting against the U.S. government, not on behalf of it.
During his talk, Prysner parroted the March Forward! talking points. For instance, he charged that American servicemen are being sent to further “the domination of U.S. corporations over other nations.” As for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, they “serve only the interests of the rich.” And while the extensive and expensive nation building campaigns in both countries would suggest otherwise, Prysner assured his audience that American troops are being “sent over and over to repress people who have the right to determine their own destiny.”
This was not even Prysner at his most extreme. In the past, he has advocated insubordination and mutiny in the military’s ranks. Enlisted personnel should “fight the system” from the inside to sabotage the U.S. military’s neo-imperialist global campaign, according to Prysner. He has also urged disaffected G.I.s to join with the “entire nation” to repudiate the “criminal” deployments launched to fill the coffers of the hegemonic U.S. multinational corporations.
Where many of the speakers merely alluded to their hopes for a U.S. military defeat in Afghanistan, Richard Becker, ANSWER’s West Coast Representative, made it the main theme of his keynote address. Becker is a longtime U.S. communist hardliner. According to Discoverthenetworks, “Becker detests America and has written, ‘No one in the world … has a worse human rights record than the United States’.”
His lecture reflected these biases. Becker offered an extremely twisted defense of the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in 1979. Based on a single source (a 1998 interview with Carter NSA chief Zbigniew Brzezinski), Becker argued that the Soviet incursion was a strategic counter-thrust to U.S. imperial influence in Kabul. That is, the CIA had plans on tap for a U.S. colonial outpost in Afghanistan. The ultimate goal was, allegedly, to consolidate U.S. control over Caspian crude and to establish an oil pipeline to the Arabian Sea and the waiting arms of global capitalism’s “Big Oil” multinational tanker fleet. The Bush administration has exited the scene, but the “blood-for-oil” smear remains alive and well on the far Left.
As does its commitment to a U.S. military defeat. In his remarks, Becker explained that defeating the current American forces under General Stanley McChrystal would strike a blow to America’s neo-colonial project. A U.S. withdrawal from the region would strike at the heart of “empire” in South Asia. “Every empire falls, and this empire will fall as well,” Becker declared. The audience erupted in applause at Becker’s appeal for American losses.
ANSWER man: Richard Becker calls for the defeat of the American “empire.”
It’s worth noting that, in addition to American defeat, the ANSWER event was also promoting Becker’s new book, Palestine, Israel and the U.S. Empire. In the book, Becker writes that “The Palestinian struggle is a struggle against Western colonialism.” Perhaps this is why, as the Anti-Defamation League indicates, “ANSWER events, which often attract protestors by the tens of thousands, have openly supported terror groups targeting Israelis, as well as the ‘resistance’ fighting American forces in Iraq.”
While its membership is small, ANSWER should not be dismissed as insignificant. It’s becoming increasingly clear that the Obama administration is stalling on Gen. McChrystal’s troop-surge request. And the president’s delay reflects in no small measure the influence of the antiwar Left. Interestingly, netroots bloggers are backing socialist candidates in primary challenges against Democratic congressional incumbents in 2010. The administration can’t be indifferent to these trends politically, and of course electoral imperatives may well give safe-cover for the president to adopt a cut-and-run position on Afghanistan.
The greater strategic danger is not so much that Afghan redeployment risks a “blow to empire,” but that a precipitous withdrawal from the South Asian theater of the war will embolden America’s enemies on the ground, destabilize additional allies like India and Pakistan, and mark another surrender to the global forces of contemporary totalitarianism. In other words, it could fulfill every wish on International ANSWER’s extremist agenda.