The Return Of The World's Policeman
by David L. Wilson
The Nicaragua solidarity movement must recognize the Gulf crisis for what it
really is--a continuation of the same long war of which Nicaragua was an
The pretexts offered by George Bush and the mainstream media are simply not
worth our attention. The US government's war moves are in reality just the
latest phase of a decade-long campaign to overcome the Vietnam syndrome and to
re-establish the United States' position as "the world's policeman." This is a
campaign we've watched develop through the Iran hostage crisis, the Lebanon
crisis, the Grenada invasion, the Libyan airstrike, the innumerable contra
wars, Panama. We've experienced it ourselves--and fought it--in Central
America. We know the human reality behind the fine phrases.
And we've watched the pace of this campaign pick up under the Bush
administration. We've monitored the more and more bellicose pronouncements
coming from Washington since the Panama invasion. Right up to August this
administration seemed to be an intervention waiting to happen: Colombia, Peru
and Bolivia were threatened with the "war on drugs," Haiti with the "guarantee
of free elections," Liberia with "saving American lives." And in mid-July, at
the height of Nicaraguan general strike, there were plausible reports of plans
for US military action--reports that now seem only more plausible.
Today the intervention is in the Middle East, but we mustn't imagine that the
danger to Latin America has diminished. On the contrary, the Gulf crisis
increases the threat of US military intervention in this hemisphere as well.
If the administration already seemed prone to using military might to enforce
its policies in Latin America, what can we expect now, in the midst of a war
hysteria not seen since the Vietnam era? The first major escalation of the
Vietnam war came in February of 1965; the US invaded the Dominican Republic
The Nicaragua solidarity movement must take a leading role in opposing US
military intervention in the Gulf, just as we oppose it in Central America and
throughout the world. Right now the defense of Nicaragua starts with the Gulf.
But we must be clear on the sort of role we should play. In the disorientation
following the Sandinistas' electoral defeat, we may have lost sight of our real
strengths and weaknesses as a movement. Recently we've focused on the
weaknesses, but now we have to remember the strengths: our special experience
in organizing petition drives, leafletings, community forums; in maintaining a
flow of accurate and timely information from the people of a distant country;
in focusing local attention on an international issue.
Above all, our strength has been in "people to people diplomacy," using tours,
sister city projects, and work brigades to bring the Nicaraguan reality home to
communities in this country. We mustn't forget that despite Reagan's speeches,
the media's innumerable distortions--the whole array of forces against us, the
contra war ended with 60 percent of the US population opposed to Washington's
We need to respond to the new crisis with the same sort of grassroots
organizing and informational work that we've done in the past. In New York,
for example, we're working with a local coalition on a weekly vigil and an
event hotline, we've helped write and translate leaflets and we've printed
postcards that activists have used throughout the city. We plan to start
street theater and tabling in the near future (see box for local activities).
At the same time, this doesn't mean that we would be "dropping Nicaragua."
In fact, international solidarity groups can make their major contribution to
the new antiwar movement precisely by broadening its focus. The new crisis
points up the need to go beyond single issues and country-by-country actions--
the Gulf this week, Nicaragua next week. Over the summer, a number of
solidarity groups in New York discussed coordinating around several points of
common purpose: opposition to all US military intervention; respect for
national sovereignty and self-determination; reinvestment of the military
budget in social programs and socially useful development projects, both here
and abroad. An ongoing movement needs to organize around this type of
program-- an alternative foreign policy, a foreign policy in the real "national
interests" of the people of the United States.
PERSIAN GULF, GULF OF TONKIN
For the moment, we are witnessing the replay of an earlier gulf crisis--the
false Gulf of Tonkin incident that the government used as a cover for its
escalations in Vietnam. Now as then public opinion rallies around the
president; the media beat the drums of war; the liberal Democrats--this time,
Jesse Jackson, Pat Schroeder and Ted Weiss--trip over each other in their haste
to endorse the potential bloodbath.
But this time the antiwar movement has formed more quickly. The new war danger
comes in the midst of a recession, and it comes to a population already angry
over the S & L fraud and all the other frauds and scandals emanating from
Washington. And ten years of solidarity work, with Nicaragua, El Salvador,
Angola, Palestine, Cambodia, has helped undermine blind acceptance of US
The Vietnam war ended with Johnson and Nixon driven from office in disgrace.
This time we have the chance to achieve far more: to counter "the world's
policeman" with a foreign policy based on respect for national sovereignty and
on peaceful development. This doesn't depend on outside events in a distant
land; it depends on us and our willingness to act quickly, decisively and with
a clear sense of the possibilities.
* * *
DID BUSH ASK SADDAM HUSSEIN TO INVADE?
Iraq's invasion of Kuwait on August 2 has proven very convenient for many
powerful interests: the "peace dividend" vanishes, gasoline prices rise,
there's a villain to blame for the US recession, unpleasant subjects like the
Intifada and the S & L scandal drop from public view.
The invasion seems to be just what the doctor ordered. The question then is:
did the doctor in fact order it?
In the week before the invasion, the administration studiously ignored CIA
warnings about the Iraqi troop buildup on the Kuwait border. On July 24 State
Department mouthpiece Margaret Tutweiler was asked whether the US would defend
Kuwait. "We do not have any defense treaties with Kuwait," Tutweiler said,
"and there are no special defense or security commitments to Kuwait."
And on July 25 the US ambassador to Iraq, April Glaspie, met with Saddam
Hussein to tell him: "[W]e have no opinion on the Arab- Arab conflicts, like
your border disagreement with Kuwait.... [T]he issue is not associated with
America. James Baker has directed our official spokesmen to emphasize this
instruction." (New York Times, 9/23/90)
Translated from diplomatese, this means simply: go ahead and invade. Saddam
Hussein just made the common error of reading George Bush's lips.
* * *
carnet.nicanews 6:01 pm Sep 26, 1990