For the Labor Fightback Network, the key question regarding whether the U.S. should intervene in Ukraine is this: Should the U.S. labor movement and our allies support the government’s policy of providing money and other forms of assistance to the anti-working class regime that emerged following the overthrow of the one in Ukraine?
To answer this question, the starting point should be to define the basic goal of U.S. foreign policy. Washington claims that its aim is to promote human rights, democracy, and national self-determination in other countries. But the evidence clearly shows that the real goal is to support governments abroad that protect American investors by ensuring a low-paid and repressed workforce that can guarantee maximum profits for American corporations.
Toward that end, the U.S. provides military equipment, advisers, intelligence, other forms of aid and sometimes large numbers of American troops to bolster these regimes while at the same time expanding the U.S. empire. Consider the following four examples — among countless others that could be cited — that make that point loud and clear.
The U.S. officially waged war against the Vietnamese people from 1965 to 1975, propping up a series of dictatorships during this period whose only virtue in Washington’s eyes was their willingness to subordinate themselves to American control and exploitation. The result of U.S. interventionism was 58,151 service members killed and 303,616 wounded (according to conservative estimates), which number was dwarfed by the far larger number of deaths and injuries sustained by the Vietnamese, not to mention the severe losses to others in Indochina as a whole. This war cost U.S. taxpayers an estimated $350 billion to $900 billion, which includes veterans’ benefits, interest, etc. The U.S. spent $168,000 to kill each “enemy” soldier.
During his entire 30-year tenure as president of Egypt, dictator Hosni Mubarak was a steadfast ally of the U.S.
In 1991, Egypt was the first among the Arab states to join the U.S. in attacking Iraq. In appreciation, Washington forgave 50% of Egypt’s foreign debt.
Mubarak exercised tight control over Egypt’s unions, specifically denying the right of free association. Despite this, the U.S. initially held back in endorsing the revolution to overthrow Mubarak’s rule but only did so when the 18 days of massive demonstrations in 2011 were well on the way to driving the dictator from power.
Washington did not attempt to justify its partnership with Mubarak as part of its fight against “communism,” as it had in relation to Vietnam; rather, it argued that he had to be supported because of concern over the consequences of a power vacuum affecting the stability of Egypt and the oil interests. This trumped all claims of supporting human rights.
Another dictator the U.S. government embraced was Ferdinand Marcos, who ruled the Philippines from 1965 to 1986, when he was deposed by gigantic demonstrations. Yet the U.S. government backed him every step along the way until virtually the last moment, when the Reagan White House openly called for him to resign.
Marcos ruled by consolidating all power in his hands. This was achieved by assassinations, suspension of human rights and the Philippines parliament, imposing martial law, detaining his enemies (when he did not murder them), bribery, and corruption.
All of this and the U.S. government treated Marcos like royalty when he visited Washington.
Another U.S. ally, at least for a while, was one of the world’s most ruthless dictators, Saddam Hussein.
Support from the U.S. for Iraq was not a secret and was frequently discussed in open session of the Senate and House of Representatives. On June 9, 1992, Ted Koppel reported on ABC’s Nightline that the “Reagan/Bush administrations permitted — and frequently encouraged — the flow of money, agricultural credits, dual-use technology, chemicals, and weapons to Iraq.” In fact, in 1980, Hussein became an honorary citizen of Detroit.
To be sure, at that time Iraq was at war against Iran, and the U.S. intervened to support Iraq. The interests of U.S. and Iraq, as the two governments saw it, converged, so U.S. government officials turned a blind eye to Saddam’s repressive policies, which included prohibiting unions in the public sector.
Years later, when Saddam demonstrated independence from Washington’s control, he became Public Enemy Number One, a prelude to the disastrous war that the Bush administration unleashed against Iraq in 2003. A majority of Democrats in Congress voted with the Republicans to give Bush the latitude to launch the war.
So Where Has All the Money Gone?
When we ask whether the U.S. should intervene now in the Ukraine confrontation, we have to ask whether the working class majority here at home has a stake that would justify such intervention.
Let’s keep in mind that the U.S. has already spent over $5 trillion waging war on Iraq and Afghanistan, and the costs keep increasing by the day.
When Obama threatened to bomb Syria, it touched off a firestorm of protest among the population and Obama was forced to pull back.
On March 14, the Wall Street Journal carried a lengthy article summarizing findings of the WSJ/NBC poll on a number of issues, including foreign interventions. Here is the article’s concluding paragraph:
“One area of agreement among respondents was on whether the U.S. should reassert itself on the world stage. Adults surveyed were less likely to support a candidate who wants to see the U.S. assume an expanded role in policing foreign conflicts and more likely to support one who doesn’t. Republicans, Democrats and independents showed more agreement on those questions than many others.”
The American people have made it abundantly clear that we don’t want additional wars abroad or even threats of war. We need to be alert to the dangers of new U.S. escalations with regard to Ukraine.
Such dangers are real. On March 12, Bloomberg reported: “Earlier today, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Martin Dempsey, stated that in the case of an escalation of unrest in Crimea, the U.S. Army is ready to back up Ukraine and its allies in Europe with military actions.”
On March 13, The Guardian of London reported: “The U.S. has already effectively taken operational control of the military activities of Ukraine’s neighbors, launching joint exercises with Poland, Romania, Latvia, Estonia and Lithuania and dispatching Airborne Warning and Control System (AWACS) jets from airbases in Geilenkirchen, Germany and Waddington in Britain. The AWACS flights were recommended by NATO’s top military commander, US Air Force General Philip Breedlove.”
A statement by the U.S. Peace Council on March 14, posted to the website of US Labor Against the War, noted that the U.S. spent $5 billion to instill Koch brothers democracy in Ukraine.
This figure was first disclosed on December 16, 2013, by the Strategic Forecasting Inc., or Stratfor, an agency linked to the CIA, in a report on a conference held three days earlier in Washington, D.C., attended by Victoria Nuland, U.S. Deputy Secretary of State, “during which it was reported that $5 billion had been invested in funding the ‘democratic opposition’ in the Ukraine.”
The Labor Fightback Network does not endorse Putin’s repressive regime in Russia or approve of many of his actions there and elsewhere. But whatever the conflicts are in the region, the U.S. is not part of it and the people of the region need to settle their own destiny, free of U.S. involvement.
And as far as a potential further involvement in Ukraine is concerned, remember the kind of right-wing, anti-labor forces in other countries that the U.S. has chosen to ally with time after time. We have detailed four examples above, a small fraction of the number that could be cited. As for the new Ukraine leadership that has emerged, serious questions have been raised regarding the influence of neo-Nazis and fascists in and out of the country’s government, who are already carrying out anti-working class policies. Yet this government has already been given $1 billion by the U.S. with potentially much more in the pipeline.
When it comes to intervening in other countries affairs, the U.S. has seemingly inexhaustible resources. But the same cannot be said when it comes to funding food stamps here at home, with a bipartisan congress having voted to cut $8.6 billion over ten years; or legislating a full-blown jobs program that will guarantee employment for all; or repairing our crumbling infrastructure; or maintaining and improving our cherished safety net programs, especially Social Security, Medicare, and Medicare; or allocating billions for critically needed education programs; and the list goes on.
Our taxpayer money should be spent on these programs, not on more pro-corporate foreign interventions. Enough is enough!