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Glen Ford: Americans should oppose US military interventions everywhere

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PAUL JAY, SENIOR EDITOR, TRNN: Welcome to The Real News Network. I’m Paul Jay in Washington.

Last weekend in Stamford, Connecticut, was the meeting of the United National Antiwar Coalition. And now joining us to talk about that meeting is Glen Ford. He is the executive editor of Thanks for joining us again, Glen.


JAY: So what were the headlines from this conference? And maybe for people that don’t know, you can give a little context about UNAC, why there is a UNAC.

FORD: UNAC is now the premier antiwar organization in the United States. What used to comprise the antiwar movement (if it could be called that) in the U.S. showed itself with the advent of the first black president to be really an anti-Republican movement. And so the antiwar forces had to reconstitute themselves into an organization that opposed all U.S. aggressive force and not just Republican wars, and that became the United National Antiwar Coalition, or UNAC.

This past weekend’s conference was, I think, very, very significant because UNAC adopted the position that the United States—calling on the United States not to intervene, to attack, to threaten, to coerce, to put sanctions or embargoes against both Iran and Syria. And we have to understand that what called itself the antiwar movement was quite ambivalent about the unprovoked U.S.-NATO war against Libya last year. And those same forces appear to be even more ambivalent about the pending attack against Syria and against Iran. So it was important that UNAC again, being true to its purpose, come down against U.S. aggressions in all their forms and not just when Republicans do them.

JAY: Well, I guess, before we talk about Libya and Syria, the war that’s now being called Obama’s war is the Afghan War. I assume you took a position on that.

FORD: Oh, of course. U.S. out of Afghanistan. U.S. out of Pakistan. U.S.—a halt to the U.S. war which has been going on for—oh, since late 2006 against Somalia. A halt to the militarization of Africa through AFRICOM’s aggressive activities there. A halt to the continued occupation of Haiti. We could go on and on and use up all of your time.

JAY: Especially if we get into any history—we would have no time at all for that. Talk a bit about the politics of this. You talked about how the antiwar movement, once there was a Democratic president, lost much of its steam, and when the antiwar movement wasn’t just targeting wars that—started by Republicans. To what extent does UNAC cross party lines? For example, there are libertarian Republicans, Ron Paul supporters and others, that would probably agree with you on a lot of this. Do you—are they represented in the UNAC?

FORD: I haven’t seen much trace of Tea Party types or libertarian types in UNAC, and probably it’s because even that strain of libertarianism that opposes U.S. wars abroad can’t use the word imperialism. And if you don’t understand that it is a system that is constantly seeking wars, seeking conflicts with other people with purpose of taking over their resources or giving getting rid of anything that stands in the way of U.S. domination of the world, then you’re not really coherent in terms of your antiwar policy.

JAY: Actually, Ron Paul does use the term imperialism and empire. I don’t know that he analyzes it the same way you might, but he does use the terms, to be fair.

FORD: Yeah. Well, certainly a lot of them use the term empire, but not imperialism, and one is not necessarily the same thing.

JAY: Okay. Well, let’s talk about Syria, ’cause that’s probably a good example of what’s being called humanitarian intervention, or others are calling humanitarian imperialism, where you have a very complicated situation. To the best of what I can assess of what’s going on there, you have, you know, oppositional forces that want to end a dictatorship. You have all kinds of forces being backed by external players like Saudi Arabia, Qatar, and United States. How do you parse this in terms of the rights of people to overthrow what they think is not a legitimate government, and the role outside intervention plays in fishing in troubled waters?

FORD: People have the right to overthrow their governments. The United States, of course, has not backed those people who have wanted to overthrow the governments that they had imposed or that they supported. So the United States doesn’t back the principle of people having a right to overthrow their own governments.

But I don’t think that that’s what we’re talking about here. We would not be talking about Syria and the crisis that now exists if there weren’t massive, massive intervention by other powers. And they include not just the United States and France and Britain. We know that there are hundreds, if not thousands, of Salafis from Libya there, the country that NATO made war against only last year. And we know that Saudi Arabia and Qatar have been giving material aid to the opposition in Syria, and that Turkey is maintaining on its border with Syria a safe haven for the so-called Free Syrian Army.

So the involvement of the so-called international community is no secret. It’s quite public. And the call for regime change is something that comes out of Hillary Clinton’s mouth in this instance just as it did with Libya. In fact, what the United States is trying to do is do a repeat of Libya with Syria.

And in the larger sense, what the Obama administration has done with its humanitarian military interventionist doctrine is to do an end run around international law, to make an exception to international law, which says you do not make war unless you are attacked, and even under those circumstances it is only as a last resort. Now you have a doctrine that says that some community of nations, that is, the United States and whatever partners it wants to enlist in the project, can decide that there is a higher calling, and that is to save designated civilians from attack by their own government. It basically is saying that a government does not have the right to a monopoly of the use of force within its own borders. And that means that the United States does not recognize the sovereignty of other countries that it declares to be behaving in a non-humanitarian way.

JAY: So, I mean, essentially transcends decades of international law is what you’re saying.

FORD: Decades of international law and centuries of evolving standards of international conduct.

JAY: Now, you do have situations—for example, South Africa was an example where there was certainly armed opposition to the apartheid regime. There was a call by South African resistance fighters for international sanctions. Certainly there was no call for outside military intervention. What do you see is in terms of what the international role or countries from outside other countries like a South Africa? [sic] ‘Cause it’s not always going to be an anti-American regime that’s—I mean, a regime that’s in contradiction with U.S. imperialism that’s going to be at issue here. What do you think is the proper way for these things to unfold?

FORD: Well, I think that the world considers the case of South Africa a case of white minority rule, a vestige of colonialism and white supremacy, to be a separate kind of case, that there is a consensus in the world that rule by racial right is beyond the kin, beyond the pale, and something to be abhorred by all the world’s people. This is what puts Israel in a very precarious position of legitimacy as well. And so I don’t think it’s correct to use the South African example as one that is a way to get at some kind of universal principle. We have universal principles, and they’re in the Geneva Conventions and the other elements of international law.

JAY: Well, I mean, it could be a Latin American country where people are waging an armed resistance against an American-backed dictatorship, for example. I mean, it wouldn’t be a stretch to see that in today’s world at some point Honduran resistance might become an armed resistance, given the level of armed repression of the Honduran resistance. What then do you think should be the role of outside countries?

FORD: You know, everybody has the right to give all kinds of moral support, and individuals to take their risks and give material support, to forces around the world with which they empathize. That means that Islamist forces can do so in those parts of the world where they want to establish Islamic regimes, and so on and so on.

The rights of people to support the forces around the world with which they feel solidarity is not what we’re talking about. We’re talking about nations that aggressively try to topple the regimes of other nations by using force, by transferring their arms to other people to be used against other nations. That’s quite a different story. That’s what the United States is doing. That’s how those Libyans who had fought the NATO side in the war of last year now wind up in Syria and brag about it. That’s U.S. intervention.

But, you know, we don’t have to get into the details of how those arms and other material support arrive. All we have to do is listen to the words of the State Department. And this is clearly an orchestrated campaign for regime change backed up by the threat of the use of more force. And if China and Russia had not vetoed the resolution before the UN Security Council that looked very much like the resolution that was put forward to justify the no-fly zone and subsequent attack on Libya, then we would be looking at a Libyan type situation right now.

JAY: What are UNAC’s plans? The people are talking about the new Occupy spring and a new wave of various kinds of protest. What has UNAC got in store?

FORD: Next month, UNAC’s big project is to go to Chicago to protest NATO’s meeting in Chicago. And there was going to be a simultaneous meeting of NATO and the G-8. But UNAC believes that all of the organizing activities, all the organizing to bring thousands of people to Chicago, scared the G-8 meeting to another location, to Camp David, I believe. And so they’re counting that as a victory there.

The mayor of Chicago, however, is going to make it very, very difficult for demonstrators not to break the law in carrying out their protests. And we have to point out that the U.S. Congress just recently passed a bill that made it a federal felony, a really serious crime, to trespass against a building or a tract of land on which a person who is guarded by the Secret Service is positioned, is in the building or on the grounds, even if the demonstrators who trespass somehow don’t know that this Secret Service-guarded person is there. And that could be a presidential candidate, it could be a number of government officials, but it could also be a foreign dignitary. Clearly, that law was passed with only three votes against it. One of them was Ron Paul. Clearly that was meant to create the biggest kind of chill against demonstrations like that which UNAC and a whole coalition of other organizations is planning in Chicago next month.

JAY: Yeah. That legislation’s very similar to legislation that was used during the G-20 in Toronto, something called the Public Works Protection Act, which even the ombudsman of Ontario later called not only the greatest threat to civil rights in the history of Canada, but he essentially called it a declaration of martial law. This is very similar, that you can essentially, if the—I mean, under this legislation, call a surrounding area where the person of note is—under this legislation is there, essentially creates a martial law.

FORD: A zone in which martial law exists. And the preventive detention law—and this is an historic achievement of the Obama administration that I don’t think any Republican administration could have pulled off—this preventive detention law, which basically outlaws due process no matter what the U.S. attorney general says—.

JAY: You’re talking the law under the NDAA,—

FORD: Yes, yes.

JAY: —which allows for an indefinite military detention of—including U.S. citizens.

FORD: And, you know, I don’t know why the distinction is made between military and civil. The outlaw—withdrawal of due process is the same whether it’s under military or civilian, and that means that you don’t have the rule of law in this country. It is a role or a law by decree.

And why are we seeing these kinds of measures? I believe—I’m not speaking for UNAC; I’m on the coordinating Council, but I don’t speak for UNAC. But I believe, and many in UNAC believe, that the United States is on a kind of go-for-broke military campaign, a real offensive, as big an offensive as George Bush tried to pull off with his attack on Iraq in 2003, an offensive that was blunted by the opposition in Iraq. And now Obama is on a roll with his humanitarian aggressions. And it’s understood that as the theaters of war widen and protest becomes deeper and wider, that there’s going to be a need to crack down domestically. And they’ve already laid the legal foundations for that.

JAY: Thanks for joining us, Glen.

FORD: Thank you.

JAY: Thank you for joining us on The Real News Network.


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Glen Ford is a distinguished radio-show host and commentator. In 1977, Ford co-launched, produced and hosted America's Black Forum, the first nationally syndicated Black news interview program on commercial television. In 1987, Ford launched Rap It Up, the first nationally syndicated Hip Hop music show, broadcast on 65 radio stations. Ford co-founded the Black Commentator in 2002 and in 2006 he launched the Black Agenda Report. Ford is also the author of The Big Lie: An Analysis of U.S. Media Coverage of the Grenada Invasion.