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The Moral Imperative

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Message Charles Sullivan
The master’s tools will never dismantle the master’s house.

--Andre Lorde

It should surprise no one that the United States invasion and occupation of Iraq four years ago was based upon lies and fabricated evidence. Other wars instigated by the U.S. were begun in the same way, but we never seem to learn the lessons that history could teach us. The purpose of the U.S. invasion was not to free the Iraqi people or to spread democracy (when has the government ever done that?); it was to privatize the natural wealth of the region and to transfer ownership from the Iraqi pubic domain to the coffers of U.S. corporations. We have a long and shameful history of imperial invasions and occupations, and no experience building democracies.

The United States Middle East policy is also intended to suppress the enemies of radical Zionism and to extend Zionist control of the region, as well as to prop up the sagging U.S. dollar against the strengthening euro. It is the continuation of Manifest Destiny; the foolish but stubborn believe that Americans are superior to everyone else; what historian Howard Zinn refers to as American exceptionalism.

Manifest Destiny and the spread of capitalism go hand in hand. The growth of the military industrial complex requires imperial conquests and continuous expansion—an impossibility on a finite planet. We have yet to learn that wherever reality clashes with economic myth, reality prevails.

The Pentagon, which is the iron fist of American capitalism, requires enemies in order to justify its vast expenditures to an unquestioning public, even if it has to invent them. In the past those enemies were the spread of communism and socialism, which were a threat only to Plutocratic rule, not to the American people themselves. Now the danger is as cryptic and ubiquitous as state propaganda—the exaggerated threat of Islamic terrorism.

I do not contend that there is no real threat of terrorism against U.S. citizens. I do, however, assert that those threats remain small and are a direct response to unjust U.S. foreign policy, including the Israeli occupation of Palestine.

It is important to understand that the interest of the people and the government are always in conflict. The will of the people has never mattered to the ruling clique, as evidenced by the ongoing occupation of Iraq, despite overwhelming public opposition. What matters to America’s rulers is the acquisition of private wealth through war and expansionism. The ruling elite have never hesitated to sacrifice the lives of our soldiers and workers for imperial ambitions, or to sanction the deliberate killing of innocent civilians in unknowable numbers.

It is equally important to understand that imperial wars are a product of capitalism. A core element of capitalism is the unequal distribution of wealth and political power in which a small cadre of owners can literally purchase political power. The very wealthy are never satiated. They never have enough. They have ambition. They are driven. They want more. They want it all. Their dream is to rule the world and privatize its wealth. To aid them in their quest the language of patriotism and religion are evoked to stir the public emotions and to inspire hatred and contempt. The people will be told that we are under siege by the forces of evil, even as terror emanates from the nation’s capital like spokes radiating from the center of a wheel.

America’s imperial wars will continue until capitalism is abolished and replaced by a more just and equitable system—a for use, rather than for profit economy.

The architects of the invasion of Iraq would have us believe that U.S. Middle East policy is a complex matter that is best left to high minded experts. In fact, it is a fantastically simple matter that can easily be understood by anyone having a conscience, a sense of justice; a moral compass. What it boils down to is simple right and wrong. A five year old child can understand that but imperial presidents and their cohorts in congress and industry cannot.

A thing is wrong when its purpose is anything other than a desire for justice. We need not make things more complicated than that. A nation founded upon injustice will have a history of ethnic cleansing, genocide, chattel slavery, racism, inequality, class divisions, sexism, a suppressed work force, murder, and war—a history very much like our own. Indeed, our history.

Injustice breeds fierce resistance that can never lead to peace, as we are witnessing throughout the Middle East. The United States will fail in Iraq because the government’s policies are not driven by a desire for justice. Its purpose is not honorable or principled; therefore, it will ultimately fail. It is wrong to impose our will on other people. It is wrong to murder innocent civilians. It is wrong to steal their wealth. It is wrong to subjugate people and to exploit them as cheap labor.

Eventually Israel will be expelled from Palestine for the same reasons—its cause (ethnic cleansing) is not only unjust—it is immoral and criminal.

Will governments ever learn that it is not the physically strongest who prevail, but the just? Were these not the teachings of Dr. Martin Luther King, Henry Thoreau, and Gandhi?

Justice and morality do not enter into the economic equation of capitalism. Neither does compassion, the rights of other people to exist unmolested in their own belief systems, or equality. There can be no peace without justice; no reckoning without a high regard for truth. Our past speaks volumes about the probable future.

We need not look very far into the past to realize what the future holds. A better future demands that we act justly in the present. Otherwise, the patterns of history will continue to repeat themselves in endless cycles of death and violence, disparity and suffering. We must stop putting our faith in politicians who serve the plutocracy by exploiting the people, and a system that from its inception was created to serve the wealthy and privileged.

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Charles Sullivan is a photographer, social activist and free lance writer residing in the hinterland of West Virgina.
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