Follow the Soapbox
by Debra Sweet, Executive Director, The World Can't Wait

This seems like a good time to sort out what's true in the public discourse over Iraq and Syria, and what's not. The United States, apparently with some significant level of public support, is embarking on an extremely dangerous and provocative war, possibly with the help of allies in NATO, and certainly with an alliance of countries targeted by protesters during the "Arab Spring."  We can't spend enough time understanding the dynamics, in order to better challenge the lies, and lead people to stand up for the interests of humanity. Which, as we've noted many times, do not equal the interests of any particular government in power in the United States. 

First, what has the U.S. done in the Middle East lately?

In World's Number One War Criminal Declares He's Ready to Lead, Larry Everest reviews Obama's speech at the United Nations, pointing out that the U.S. already leads in “aggression, extremism, and environmental devastation.” Obama accused other nations of being the problem this nation is obligated to confront, while lecturing on non-violence. Everest writes:

There's no force too reactionary, backward, or depraved for the U.S. to ally with when it suits its interests. In the 1980s, it armed and funded Osama bin Laden and other reactionary jihadists in Afghanistan. Since the 1940s, the U.S. has backed Saudi Arabia's fundamentalist monarchs, who routinely carry out public executions including beheadings. Now the U.S. is considering dealing with the blood-drenched mullahs ruling Iran. It declares whatever collection of gangsters it has pulled together as representing the “Free World.”

Thanks, again, to Mr. Fish for his perspective:
Then there is the matter of the Islamic State forces, and what the U.S. is attempting to stop them. Dennis Loo says “what is being done in our name as Americans by the US government is a towering crime,” in Bombing ISIS to Destroy It is Like Drowning a Fire With Gasoline:

What Obama is doing in ordering relentless airstrikes in Syria and Iraq is fueling ISIS, not damaging it... The desperate measures being undertaken by Obama et al are generating a deeply unstable, profoundly unjust, exceedingly dangerous, and capriciously unpredictable world. They are desperate because the crucial Middle Eastern region is threatening to get out of their imperialist control, something that the Empire cannot allow if it is to continue to be the Empire. The Bush Regime invaded in order that the US could dictate the terms and bar any rivals from emerging. It has not worked out according to their plans.

The bombing announcement on September 22 was accompanied by allegations that a previously unknown group was threating the U.S.  In The Fake Terror Threat Used to Justify Bombing Syria, Glenn Greenwald and Murtaza Hussain have challenged the Obama administration's claim that the "Khorasan Group" was a threat to the U.S., and even that it ever existed:

There are serious questions about whether the Khorasan Group even exists in any meaningful or identifiable manner.

What happened here is all-too-familiar. The Obama administration needed propagandistic and legal rationale for bombing
yet another predominantly Muslim country. While emotions over the ISIS beheading videos were high, they were not enough to sustain a lengthy new war.

So after spending weeks promoting ISIS as Worse Than Al Qaeda™, they unveiled a new, never-before-heard-of group that was Worse Than ISIS™. Overnight, as the first bombs on Syria fell, the endlessly helpful U.S. media mindlessly circulated the script they were given: this new group was composed of “hardened terrorists,” posed an “imminent” threat to the U.S. homeland, was in the “final stages” of plots to take down U.S. civilian aircraft, and could “launch more-coordinated and larger attacks on the West in the style of the 9/11 attacks from 2001.”

Hussain said on Democracy Now September 29:

The Khorasan group itself, which we had been hearing about in the media was a new enemy and was a definable threat against the United States, did not really exist per se; it was simply a group of people whom the U.S. designated within a Syrian opposition faction as being ready to be struck.

We saw an interesting piece in a letter to the editor to the Daily Mail in the U.K. which may have been drawn from the words of Richard Jones, a British blogger:

Yes, we understand this is an utterly illegitimate, unjust, immoral war that is based on lies and that it's our responsibility to get out the truth.
PictureCartoon by Mr. Fish
World Can't Wait
by Debra Sweet

The most frequently asked question I'm hearing, including among people who have been active in opposing U.S. wars, is “but, don't we have to do something about ISIS?”

Yes, “we” do.  We — people living in this country -- do have to send a loud message to the rest of the world that we are completely against the killing, theft of resources, subjugation of women and denial of peoples’ rights in the region by the forces responsible. The Islamic State (ISIS or ISIL) is both a response to U.S. occupation of the region, and also literally, in some cases, was created by torture in U.S. prisons in Iraq; by billions of dollars in U.S. arms strewn about the region; and funded by close U.S. allies Saudi Arabia, Turkey and Qatar, societies where people also have scarcely any rights.  The Islamic State offers a disastrous future for the people, and is no damn good.

But U.S. occupations, bombs, economic exploitation, and support of every reactionary regime in the region have done more damage
, by far, than any Islamic fundamentalist group in Iraq and Afghanistan.  It was the Bush regime that sold the wars on Afghanistan and Iraq — countries which never attacked the U.S. — on the basis of defeating the Taliban and al Qaeda, only to have strengthened the basis on which they operate.

“This is a vision of the world in which might makes right, a world in which one nation’s borders can be redrawn by another.”  President Obama said this at the UN yesterday, in his long lecture to the world's nations about violence and justice.  Of course, his criticism was directed only at countries with which the US is currently at war, not to his current allies in the war of terror in the region.  But certainly this accurately describes the U.S. method for holding on to empire.

Needed now: a powerful anti-war movement in the world's most dangerous country.  That would be the one expanding its nuclear arsenal, according to Monday's New York Times.

Monday, the United States began a bombing campaign in Syria, months after it began 200 airstrikes on Iraq.  We are told that the strikes targeted ISIS bases in at least four provinces of Syria, and a newly-identified “terrorist organization.”  Pretense under Bush, as now under Obama, of “humanitarian aid” fails to disguise the true nature of U.S. aggression — attempting to strengthen U.S. domination of the region.

Once again, from the most powerful military in world history, protecting the largest-ever economy, bombs.  As in 24 years of bombing Iraq, 13 of  Afghanistan, like Libya, Somalia and Yemen.  Has this done anything to liberate anyone or save lives?  These illegitimate, unjust immoral wars of aggression have not.

If by “we,” you mean the U.S. government and its military, NO.  The U.S. military cannot do anything to stop the violence of ISIS.  It can only continue creating the conditions on which it grows: 9/11's all over the region.

Obama owns this ultimate war crime — invasion of a sovereign nation that poses no imminent threat to the aggressor. “We” did not ask for or approve this war.  U.S. attacks always lead to civilian casualties and are fueling — not “degrading” — the spread of groups like ISIS.

NOTHING good can come from U.S. bombing, and we need to say so immediately and widely.  We began Tuesday in NYC, and Wednesday in Chicago and San Francisco.

Are you in?  Write me!

World Can't Wait
by Debra Sweet

Apparent United States policy on beheadings:

If “brutal” enemies do the beheading, start bombing whole regions, as Henry Kissinger said on Sunday, and respond disproportionately, in a way that “you would not analyze in terms of a normal response.”

If authoritarian “friendly” governments do the beheading, as Saudi Arabia has done 26 times since August 4, 2014 (mostly to non-Saudis and political dissidents) say and do nothing. Human Rights Watch says the U.S. maintains a “deafening silence” on human rights violations by Saudi Arabia, its key ally in the region.

National Security Advisor Susan E. Rice explained her government's take on “advancing” human rights while maintaining friendships with torturers last December: “Let’s be honest: at times, as a result, we do business with governments that do not respect the rights we hold most dear. We make tough choices.”

The beheadings of two journalists from the United States by the Islamic State in Iraq & Syria were horrifying, deliberately so. The executions, for drug trafficking, inciting protest, or at the whim of a judge in Saudi Arabia's Islamic court, where there is no civil procedure, are also outrageous. But even more outrageous are the air wars by the powerful military machines of NATO and the United States, which inevitably kill civilians, and have so far done far more damage to people

A World to Win News Service said Monday, "The Islamists beheaded the journalist Foley for political ends and to send a political message. The U.S., like the world's imperialist and other reactionary governments, kills for the same reasons, abroad and at home. No violent act is beyond them – the only question is what, at a given moment, suits their exploitative interests and their oppressive political power."

Glenn Greenwald wrote on American fear of ISIS in The Intercept:

“It’s easy to understand why beheading videos provoke such intense emotion: they’re savage and horrific to watch, by design. But are they more brutal than the constant, ongoing killing of civilians, including children, that the U.S. and its closest allies have been continuously perpetrating?

“...for instance, Pakistani teenager Tariq [Khan] attended an anti-drone meeting, and then days later,
was “decapitated” by a U.S. missile — the high-tech version of beheading — and his 12 year old cousin was also killed by that drone. Whether “intent” is one difference is quite debatable... but the brutality is no less. It’s true that we usually don’t see that carnage, but the fact that it’s kept from the U.S. population doesn’t mean it disappears or becomes more palatable or less savage.

It's really key to understand that the U.S. war and occupation created the ground on which Islamic fundamentalism spread.  David Swanson, today in Warning to War Supporters:

If you want to bomb a country every time an evil group murders people in a gruesome manner, you'll have to bomb a lot of countries including our own.  ISIS draws its strength in Iraq from resentment of the Iraqi government, which bombs its own cities using U.S. weapons, and which beheads people, albeit in grainier footage with lower production values.  Allies in the region, including allies that support ISIS, including allies armed by the United States (some of which arms end up in the hands of ISIS), themselves behead people regularly. But is that worse than other types of killing?

We will learn more tonight from President Obama about his plans for retaliation against the Islamic State in Iraq, and likely in Syria as well.  We're told he will predict that a 3 year war will dismantle ISIS.

It's already begun. Centcom tweets its videos of 131 US bombing attacks on Iraq this year. Of course you don't see who gets killed. So far we know nothing specific about the use of drones, save for reports of flights and a few photos.

Nick Mottern, coordinator of, wrote today about the similarity between U.S. and Israeli use of drones:

“In its drone use against IS in the Iraqi cities of Mosul and Fallujah and other urban areas, the US will almost certainly use Israeli procedures developed for drone use over Gaza, where drones harass the population, assassinate and direct bombing by piloted aircraft.

“The use of drones now underway in Iraq and envisioned for Syria takes US drone use beyond assassination and relatively narrow use in ground support that has occurred in Afghanistan and Libya, into wide-ranging, systematic use as a key component of US war fighting against people who have no modern air defenses. This follows the lead of Israel in drone use, and is predicated on ignoring the rights to privacy of hundreds of thousands of civilians as well as their right to freedom from fear and right to life.”
(Continue reading...)

Whether by airstrike or dronestrike, U.S. attacks on Iraq and Syria won't increase the safety of the people. But the fear-mongering continues, leading people to think that ISIS plans an attack on the U.S.  Democratic Senator Bill Nelson made these claims about ISIS in arguing for war:

“This is a terrorist group the likes of which we haven’t seen before, and we better stop them now... It ought to be pretty clear when they start cutting off the heads of journalists and say they’re going to fly the black flag of ISIS over the White House that ISIS is a clear and present danger.”

The biggest danger is that people living in the U.S. will once again get bamboozled into supporting an unjust war to strengthen the U.S. empire in the name of "stopping" Islamic fundamentalism.

How is that working in Afghanistan, 13 years later?

Monday, I participated in a discussion led by Alan Goodman of (Revolution Newspaper), whose most recent article on the bombing of a schoolyard in Gaza last weekend, where 16 children were killed, concludes:

If systematically murdering desperate women, children, and other refugees who have taken shelter at UN schools isn’t a war crime, what is?!

The whole world is watching.

Last week, I wrote: “There is a basic question of right and wrong here. Everyone needs to be challenged to confront reality and struggle to stop the “incremental genocide” and ongoing ethnic cleansing being implemented in an extreme way right now against the Palestinian people in Gaza.”

The Israeli assault on Gaza must STOP NOW! 


Alan described the conditions the Nazis created in 1943 in the Warsaw ghetto where Jews were locked in, systematically killed, and most critically, where the world's governments, mostly, said and did nothing to stop it. Many people see a strong historical parallel with Gaza now, most importantly, people living there, including children.

Even NBC News has featured the live tweets of 16 year old Farah Baker on the bombardment breaking windows and injuring her mother in her house opposite al-Shifa Hospital in Gaza.

Monday, 150 international law experts, including Richard Falk, released a statement drawing it out further, citing the Geneva Convention on warfare in their Joint Declaration by International Law Experts on Israel’s Gaza Offensive:

The indiscriminate and disproportionate attacks, the targeting of objectives providing no effective military advantage, and the intentional targeting of civilians and civilian houses have been persistent features of Israel’s long-standing policy of punishing the entire population of the Gaza Strip, which, for over seven years, has been virtually imprisoned by Israeli imposed closure. Such a regime amounts to a form of collective punishment, which violates the unconditional prohibition set forth in Article 33 of the Fourth Geneva Convention and has been internationally condemned for its illegality. However, far from being effectively opposed international actors, Israel’s illegal policy of absolute closure imposed on the Gaza Strip has relentlessly continued, under the complicit gaze of the international community of States.

Cheers to Jewish Voice for Peace for producing the video #GazaNames where prominent voices — and everyone — can post a photo memorializing names of those killed.

Protests against the "Protective Edge" attack on Gaza have been large around the world; and not large enough here in the U.S.  IF YOU NEED assistance organizing a presence, write us.

If you're attending the Saturday, August 2 protest at The White House, 1pm, We are co-sponsoring and calling people to join however you can.

DOWNLOAD and PRINT fliers and posters.

Debra Sweet is the Director of World Can't Wait.