by Danny Haiphong
“The same set of conditions that drove Donald Trump’s rise to the presidency are linked to Barbara Lee and Tulsi Gabbard’s right-wing turn.”
The House recently voted to enforce sanctions against Russia, Iran, and the DPRK. Congress included an unprecedented provision in the bill to restrict the President from amending the sanctions without approval from Congress. Despite vocal opposition, the Trump Administration was forced to sign the bill in the face of near unanimous support. All three in Congress who voted against the sanctions were Republicans. Bernie Sanders and Rand Paul were the only Senators to vote down the bill. Also missing from the opposition’s short list was Democratic Party representatives Barbara Lee and Tulsi Gabbard.
Lee and Gabbard’s absence from Washington’s minuscule opposition to sanctions is significant because both representatives have a record of using their vote to curtail US war designs. Lee was the only elected official to vote against the invasion of Afghanistan in 2001. She opposed the invasion of Iraq two years later. One of the few Black Congressional Caucus members with a consistent track record against foreign intervention, Lee also opposed President Barack Obama’s violation of the War Powers Act when he led the NATO invasion of Libya in 2011.
Representative Gabbard developed her own track record against US meddling abroad when she vocally opposed US support for “rebels” in Syria beginning in 2013. In December of 2016, she went a step further by presenting a bill to the House called the Stop Arming Terrorists Act. This act would have effectively ended all aid to US-backed “rebels.” US-backed “rebels” in Syria have long been verified as nothing more than jihadist terrorists seeking to destabilize the region at the behest of the US, Saudi Arabia, Israel, Turkey, Jordan, and NATO (to name a few). The Act received little support from Congress, but did receive co-sponsorship from none other than Representative Barbara Lee.
Lee and Gabbard have always been small fish in the War Party’s big pond. Both political parties in Washington have been fully committed to global annihilation in service of Wall Street profits for decades. Indeed, a recent Pentagon study on military strategy in a “post primacy world” admitted that the never ending quest for US hegemony abroad is based on conditions of imperial desperation. The study concluded that the US “clings to significant political, economic, and military leverage” but laments that such leverage is “increasingly exhibiting less reach, durability, and endurance.” In other words, US military domination is an indispensable yet unstable component of profit accumulation for the rich, and few politicians are willing to lose their donors over the issue.
The same study labels the “economic nationalism” of the current Administration as a stress on US hegemony. However, Trump’s so-called “populism” is not the cause of US imperialism’s woes. It is a product of them. The same set of conditions that drove Donald Trump’s rise to the presidency are linked to Barbara Lee and Tulsi Gabbard’s right-wing turn. US imperialism is in crisis and cannot allow any insurgent politicians into the War Party, let alone insurgent positions.
Gabbard and Lee appear to have succumbed to the pressure of the War Party. Now led by the Democrats, The War Party must fulfill the wishes of its capitalist masters or die. It immediately saw the Trump Administration as ideologically and politically unfit to contain the rising powers to the East. Trump’s electoral victory added insult to injury to the War Party’s constant escalations toward nuclear annihilation. This prompted the ruling class to further unite the Democratic and Republican Parties toward a confrontation with China and Russia. And it has been the Democratic Party that has taken the lead in the project of endless war.
The US bill to extend sanctions against Iran, Russia, and the DPRK is but another extension of this project. Sanctions are internationally recognized as tools of war. Sanctions are meant to starve a nation into submission. Sanctions commit mass murder through the forced restriction of medical supplies, food, and other items of basic necessity. Sanctions killed over 500,000 children in Iraq and have sent untold numbers more to an early death wherever they have been enforced.
The US sees sanctions as the most fail-safe method to regain the ground lost to Russia and China in the post-Obama era. The Obama Administration’s eight years of rule failed to weaken the influence of its Russian and Chinese competitors. President Obama never once hesitated to authorize bloody imperialist proxy wars meant to wrestle back US control over large regions of the world looking in other directions for development. He did so with the utmost of arrogance. However, the results of his efforts offered little to be arrogant about. Libya, Syria, and the Ukraine were thrown into chaos. Millions died from Obama era proxy wars, drone wars, and sanctions regimes.
Uncontrolled chaos in the Eurasian region has only weakened US imperialism’s sphere of influence. Syria is a case in point. The Syrian Arab Army has made the most significant gains in the last year after spending over six years fighting tens of thousands of foreign-sponsored terrorists invading the country. These gains, such as the liberation of Aleppo, were made in part because of the heroism of the Syrian people. However, the Trump Administration’s decision to end the CIA’s supposedly covert aid to terrorists was also heavily influenced by the weakened state of the US empire.
A more fragile, vulnerable US empire is cause for celebration. But the dangers of US empire do not evaporate just because the system is in crisis. Tulsi Gabbard and Barbara Lee have cosigned the US empire’s desperate attempt to destroy independent nations by way of starvation. They, like the entire ruling class, should be held to account for their actions. Real demands on power must be brought to bear. Black people, oppressed people, and working people generally need a common program that opposes war and fights for an end to gentrification, police brutality, mass incarceration, and poverty wages. Neither corporate party has any interest in hearing these demands, let alone fulfilling them. That means the power of the people is the only solution to the crisis before us. It is well past the time that a discussion takes place among “movement” activists, leftists, and organizers on how to strengthen the power of the people. This conversation is just as absent in the era of Trump as it was in the era of Obama.