Failures of The US Left

Members of Black Alliance For Peace at the “NO to NATO” March in Washington, DC

Over the last year, my membership with The Black Alliance For Peace (BAP), a radical Black Led anti- war organization, has sharpened my stance on anti- imperialism. This ultimately informed my anti- war position.

The “US Left” conveniently ignores that you can’t be a socialist and not also be anti- imperialist. It should be largely understood by the “US left” that fascism and capitalism rely on and support imperialism—- seeking out to exploit nations we’ve come to view as “Underdeveloped” for labor, benefiting only the most privileged few within the Western nations like the United States. The “US left must collectively denounce the US military and the long reach of the US military industrial complex which has caused detestation and displacement on a global scale.

On October 1, 2018, BAP launched it’s #USOutOfAfrica campaign. The campaign is a collective call for the US government to shut down US Africa Command (AFRICOM). It is designed to end what we see as an invasion of Africa by way of US military occupation. AFRICOM was established in the months before Barack Obama assumed office as president of the United States. However, In 2011, AFRICOM expanded massively following the Obama administration and NATO’s attack on Libya. That attack led to the murder of Libya’s leader, Muammer Gaddafi, and the destabilization of the nation. Today, there are 46 various forms of US military bases as well as military to military relations between 53 out of the 54 African countries and the US. 

A mass movement in the US to end the murderous police state, that results in our own Black deaths, can not be separated from the call to shut down AFRICOM.  This connection is is most evident with the 1033 program, which has been heightened around the start of AFRICOM. (Specifically between the years 2006-2015).

What is the 1033 program? 

The 1033 program is a program that “transfers excess military equipment to civilian law enforcement agencies.” In other words, it militarizes our community police forces. The 1033 program was and continues to be championed by the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC), who, obsessed with the optics of a Black President, followed right along with Obama’s warmongering and over- policing of our communities. SWAT teams and tanks in our neighborhoods post uprisings, like we’ve seen in Ferguson and Baltimore, are examples of its use. Also, the  school to prison pipeline trajectory found within our communities are accelerated through this program. 

In August 2014, The Baltimore Sun reported that the Pentagon issued local police departments in Maryland more than $12 million in excess military equipment through the 1033 program. With the SWAT team as main collectors of programs funds, Baltimore City has received well over $500,000 worth of military-style weapons, gear and vehicles since 2008. It should be noted that while nationally, statistics lack in the general use of SWAT, Maryland SWAT deployments are almost always used for search warrants. The half of a million dollars spent also includes issuing military- style weapons to Historically Black Universities, Coppin State and Morgan State. These campuses house Black students and are surrounded by Black communities. 

This program also includes the “deadly exchange”. US law enforcement train in Israel with Israeli police, military and the Shin Bet (an Israeli security agency). Thousands of cops have participated in security conferences and workshops with Israeli law enforcement, IDF and security officials here in the U.S. What this solidifies is a partnership between the U.S. and Israeli governments to exchange methods of state violence and control over civilians. This includes mass surveillance, racial profiling, and suppression of protest and dissent. This signifies the importance of the Black and Palestinian alliance.

The Normalization of War

In 2018, it cost $267 million to fund AFRICOM. Instead of spending towards our most basic needs, millions of dollars are funneled through the war machine, ultimately leaving our communities under- funded and under- resourced. This creates the exact conditions that leave us over- criminalized and thus over- policed. If we can understand that imperialism is “the highest stage of capitalism”, then we must understand that war is profitable. Because of that, war is normalized within our communities beyond recruiters in our children’s schools.

Over the last 5-8 years, there has been a concentrated effort to place a “feminist spin” on war manufacturing as well as making war “inclusive”. The recent alleged “feminist” wave in Congress has yet to interrogate the US’s role in occupying and destabilizing nations globally. They, instead, choose to grandstand over the aftermath and results of the US’ global aggression by making the border wall and refugees their cause and platform for re-election. They are “progressive liberal feminists”, some veterans, who blindly repeat rhetoric and terms such as “dictator” and “authoritarian” while they vote in favor of military budget increases as their marginalized constituents suffer under this system.

We are intertwined in this push for war through avenues not just limited to political seats, but also our children’s recreational activities. Weapons manufacturers are capitalizing on this moment and are using “diversity in STEM” recruitment as a way to whitewash the genocides and deaths that bankrolls their business. The military industrial complex IS big business.

Lockheed Martin Corporation has a partnership with ‘public’ schools, offering millions in STEM related scholarships. Raytheon, the defense contractor that tests missiles on the Gaza strip, develops STEM programs for Girl Scouts of America. These are two examples that further illuminate the reality of the intentional normalization of war.  Girl Scouts of America has publicly stated that its relationship with Raytheon is a STEM based partnership, going on to say, “STEM is a non political issue and championing girls in STEM is something everyone can support, regardless of party or ideology”.

Sounds reasonable enough—- except the heavy- handed mainstream media spin on “girls running the world” specifies an ideological significance on the military industrial complex now being headed by ALL (cis white) women. The intent of these partnerships is to “ the gender gap in STEM fields by preparing middle and high school girls to pursue careers in cybersecurity, artificial intelligence, and data science”. What we are expected to do is push our girls into these programs because these partnerships offer “opportunities”. More notably, we are expected to make no connection between the weapons sent to murder people who look like us in other nations, the weapons used here on us in our own communities and who is manufacturing them. 

The “US Left” is seemingly unaware of liberal feminism’s use of “Girls in STEM” and the use of inclusive language to soften the terror caused by the long imperialistic reach of the US military that is continuously expanding its global occupation of nations. If they are aware, they aren’t actively standing against it. Instead, the “US Left” concern themselves with placing progressives into a political seat without holding their feet to the fire about the necessity of ending global US occupation that replicates itself within our communities. 

Re- centering The Anti War Movement

Truly independent progressive, socialist and radical candidates stay out of the Democratic Party. They do not align with it. The “U.S Left” is embedded in a government controlled by the ruling class, refusing to struggle to build a people’s movement for power to defeat capitalism and its extensions, imperialism and colonialism. Anti-imperialism and anti- colonialism are not secondary issues in the struggle for our liberation and freedom as Africans in the US. They are the primary issues. If a candidate on any level does not agree then, principally, we can not endorse them. They should not get our support. It should be that simple. 

To address this “dereliction of public responsibility”, BAP recently launched a petition campaign and candidate pledge process to demand that these issues receive the critical attention they deserve.  BAP is asking that the public demand that their representatives and all candidates for office address these issues. In doing so, BAP adopted a set of demands that we believe represents a commitment to a “people(s)-centered human right framework.”

“The BAP petition is calling on the public and all endorsing and participating organizations to demand that every candidate running for elected office, at every level of government,  sign our candidate pledge form that commits them to:  

Support efforts to cut the military budget by 50% as a first step in reducing military spending, and reallocate government expenditures to fully fund social programs to realize individual and collective human rights in the areas of housing, education, healthcare, green jobs and public transportation;

Oppose the militarization of the police and specifically the Department of Defense 1033 program that transfers millions of dollars’ worth of military equipment to local police forces; 

Promote the closure of the more than 800 U.S. foreign military bases and the ending of U.S. participation in the white supremacist NATO military structure;

Call for and work to close the U.S. African Command (AFRICOM) and the withdrawal of all U.S. military personnel from Africa;

Demand that the Department of Justice document and investigate all instances of the use of lethal force by domestic police officers and agencies against non-white populations as demanded by various United Nations human rights treaty monitoring bodies;

Commit to passing resolutions at every level of government that commit the U.S. to uphold international law and the United Nations Charter, and to opposing all military, economic (including sanctions and blockades that are acts of war) and political interventions in the internal affairs of sovereign nations regardless of the political party controlling the office of the presidency; and

Sponsor legislation and/or resolutions at every level of government calling on the U.S. to support the United Nations resolution on the complete global abolishment of nuclear weapons passed by 122 nations in July 2017.”

While I am not particularly invested in elections, if the “US left” intends to be, this will reveal candidates who refuse to sign the pledge are complicit in upholding the U.S state as the premier interventionist of the global community. It will also reveal their refusal to “emancipate U.S. residents from militarized police states across the nation.”

The whole world must begin to see AFRICOM, the US military global occupation and the militarization of police departments as counterparts. 


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Erica Caines is a poet, writer and organizer in Baltimore and the DMV. She is an organizing committee member of the anti war coalition, the Black Alliance For Peace as well as an outreach member of the Black centered Ujima People’s Progress Party. Caines founded Liberation Through Reading in 2017 as a way to provide Black children with books that represent them and created the extension, a book club entitled Liberation Through Reading BC, to strengthen political education online and in our communities.