Glen Ford: Expectations of the Black Anti-Imperialist

Keynote remarks by the late Glen Ford on the occasion of the Black Alliance for Peace’s second anniversary on April 4, 2019.

Jaribu Hill: Glen Ford is a long time human rights defender and activist and revolutionary journalist. See, we ain’t talking about no Don Lemon. Okay. We ain’t talking. Huh? Huh? Or Van Jones. Or Van Jones. You’re breaking my heart, Van. You’re breaking my heart. Huh? Huh? We talking about a revolutionary journalist. And see, the beautiful thing about owning your own stuff, you can just do your disclaimer. This ain’t back talking right now, this is Jaribu. So when you go out and start quoting about what Jaribu said about this or that, make sure you get it right and make sure you assign it to me, because I’ll take it, I’ll own it. We want to bring up Brother Glen, because he’s always had words for us, in furtherance of the cause of liberation. In furtherance of the cause of dismantling the system that dragged our people through an act of kidnapping that murdered native people that causes us now not to understand who the real enemy is. This brother speaks it to us and we’re pleased and honored to bring up Brother Glen. 

Glen Ford: Power To The People!  It’s good to be in a house of peace where the pastor is of a congregation that believes in racial justice and gave us our invitation.

The Black Alliance for Peace sees the anti war movement and the social justice movement as  inseparable. There can be no peace without justice and no justice in the absence of peace. We’re here on the anniversary of the day the world turned in Black America. The day they killed Dr. King. On the day before that cataclysmic event in April of 1968, I was a young paratrooper with the 82nd Airborne Division.

I was out in the field doing exercises with my unit, the 82nd Airborne Division, in Fort Bragg, North Carolina. My unit’s duty on that day was to guard the division’s headquarters, tents. All that Wednesday company commanders and executive officers filed into those tents, and they were studying maps  of Washington, D.C. So that the division would know how to deploy its troops if we had to occupy the city in case of an insurrection. 

The very next day, on Thursday. Dr. King was killed, and we were airlifted to Washington to pacify the city. That city was burning, as were a hundred other cities across the country. I didn’t know what the commanding officers thought their mission was, but the Black soldiers of the 82nd Airborne Division knew what our assignment had to be. As far as we were concerned, our mission came from Dr. King and from Malcolm. 

At that time, the 82nd Airborne Division was 60 percent Black, and the Black troops on that day were united in the mission of ensuring that the white soldiers didn’t harm one head in Washington, D.C. All of us were aware of what had happened in Newark, New Jersey just a year before. That’s when a lily white unit of the National Guard was called in to put down a four- day rebellion against police brutality in Newark. The guardsmen rode up and down Springfield Avenue, that’s a major thoroughfare in Black Newark, and they were shooting off their weapons like drunken cowboys.

They made special targets of the stores that displayed “soul brother”, or “Black owned” signs. Twenty- six brothers and sisters and children were killed in Newark. The Black troops of the 82nd Airborne Division swore that the racist occupation of Newark would not be repeated on our watch, not in D. C. after they had killed Dr. King. And nobody was harmed by the occupying 82nd Airborne Division in 1968  because the Black soldiers would not stand for it. And that is not just an anecdote, brothers and sisters. That was the beginning of the end of the draft in the United States. 

The U. S. military discovered that it couldn’t control a black ghetto army. That these heavily black units saw themselves as guardians of the Black population and not as occupiers. And that meant that the elite units of the U. S. Army could not be depended on to carry out counterinsurgency duty in U. S. cities. And that, in turn, meant the militarization of the police would have to be accelerated.

I want you to understand the connection there. 

That Black ghetto army was also not cooperating with the war managers in Vietnam, either. They refused to offer themselves up as cannon fodder. And when they filled up the military prisons in Vietnam with Black soldiers, the Black soldiers burned the prisons down. 

I’m telling you these stories because that’s the usefulness of elders, we remember things. The anti war movement of that era thinks that they defeated the draft, and certainly the civilian mass movement was a huge factor in getting rid of mass conscription. But after 1968, the Joint Chiefs of the U. S. Armed Forces were already despairing about the usefulness of a draft army that wound up filling elite units like my 82nd Airborne Division with majorities of Black soldiers. Young Black men with guns who refused to be counterinsurgency killers either at home or abroad. That would just not do. They had to make that change.

If you tried to reinstate the draft today, it would be the top military brass that would be the most vocal opponents of the draft. They love the all volunteer army. Ashton Carter, who was  Obama’s defense secretary, said they love the all volunteer military because “they get to pick who serves in it.” 

And today, my old paratrooper unit, the 82nd, which was 60% black back in 1968, is the whitest unit in the whole US Army. That is by design. Blacks still make up a disproportionate share of the army, about 20 percent, but they’re clustered in support units, driving trucks, supply units, things like that. They keep them away as much as possible from the combat arms.

The super elite troops of the Special Operations Command are overwhelmingly white. And that is by design. Those troops now number 80,000 strong. And that’s almost as large as the entire French Army. Those are the mobile killers that the U. S. deploys around the world to snuff out insurgency against the Empire.

Those are the units that have swarmed all across the African continent, largely in secret, killing people in countries that they can’t even locate on a map and can’t even pronounce the names of. And when they are killed, it’s a surprise to the folks back home who didn’t even know that the U. S. had troops in Niger until four special forces soldiers got killed there. 

How many Africans these killer elites slaughter is a secret. Except, of course, to the Africans themselves, their families and friends who know full well that the United States is waging multiple wars on the African continent, all of them in secret.

It’s also a secret to the Congressional Black Caucus, because the Congressional Black Caucus does not want to know. This is a corpus that calls itself the conscience of the Congress, but has hardly raised a peep over the last 25 years as six million Congolese have been slaughtered. It is the greatest genocide since World War II,  and it gets bigger every day. It is still ongoing. In raw numbers, it now surpasses the murder of Jews by Hitler in World War II. 

And these six million have died because of invasions of the Congo by regimes that have been armed to the teeth by the United States. I’m talking about Rwanda and Uganda. After 25 years of genocide, one can only conclude that these killers are doing the bidding of the United States, which finances them and gives them their guns and their bullets, and also protects them with the United Nations. But, the Congressional Black Caucus has taken no effective position on the Congo genocide. They’ve had 25 years to do so and they have said nothing. Why? Because the U. S. government wants them to be silent. 

They can talk about Darfur and the repression of folks in South Sudan before independence because the U.S. opposed the Sudanese government. So that’s alright for the Congressional Black Caucus to talk about, but they will not condemn genocidal regimes in Rwanda and Uganda because those are U. S. allies and six million Congolese mean nothing to that caucus. For that and a host of reasons, that’s why the Black Alliance for Peace gathered thousands of signatures on a petition demanding: 1) complete withdrawal of U. S. forces from Africa. 2) the demilitarization of the African continent. 3) the closure of U. S. bases throughout the world, not just in Africa, but everywhere, and 4) demand that the Black Caucus oppose AFRICOM and that it conduct hearings into AFRICOM’s impact on the African continent. 

We shall see what impact that petition has on the black members of Congress. There are now more than 50 of them. But it seems that the more there are, the worse they get. It’s true. It’s true. Back in 2011, after President Obama had been bombing Libya for nearly half a year, killing tens of thousands of people, a bill was moved through Congress to halt that bombing and to recognize the authority of the War Powers Act, which was enforced. Half of the Congressional Black Caucus voted to continue the bombing. Even an unprovoked attack on an African nation is not enough to move the Congressional Black Caucus.

Obama said that the War Powers Act was not relevant. Because the attack on Libya was not a war at all. And it was not a war at all because no Americans had been killed. And so, the first Black president made history with a new doctrine. An Obama doctrine. And that doctrine says that wars only exist when Americans are killed, and if the U. S. can kill thousands of people with bombs and with drones without suffering any of its own casualties, then that’s not a war at all. That’s not even hostilities. And the Congressional Black Caucus let him get away with that. So much for international law. Long before there was a Donald Trump in the White House, the United States has claimed immunity from international law. 

But international law is also United States law. That is the law. All treaties that have been ratified by the U. S. Congress have the force of law in the United States. And Obama was snubbing that law, the War Powers Act. Therefore, it is U. S. lawmakers that should have been most upset at the snubbing of law. And Black lawmakers should have been even more angry at the attack on an African nation. But that didn’t faze them. By the summer of 2011, the NATO war against Libya was already Destabilizing the whole northern tier of the African continent. But the Black Caucus, which calls itself the conscience of the Congress, continued with business as usual. 

Most of us have no illusions about politicians of the two corporate parties. But what about the Black masses? That’s what we ought to be thinking about. Why do they allow their representatives to embrace war and to ignore the genocide of Africans? Aren’t Black Americans historically the most left leaning anti- war constituency in the country? Many of us have been saying that for a very long time. And it is true. They are the most left leaning anti- war constituency in the country. Every poll has shown this. And they’ve shown this ever since Black people have been counted in the polls. Black people have historically opposed U. S. military adventures overseas.

And they have especially opposed U. S. military adventures in countries of darker peoples. And the reason is because Black folks have always been skeptical of the motives of the United States because we know what evil this country is capable of. And we know it because  it’s done all those evils to us. 

Just as importantly, Black Americans see the victims of U. S. foreign policy as people in ways that it appears most white Americans do not. And I’m going to give you the best example that I have to show this. In the weeks before the U. S. invaded Iraq back in 2003, the Zogby polling organization did a survey of public opinion. And they found that only 23 percent of Blacks supported an invasion of Iraq, versus 62 percent of whites. 64 percent of Black folks said that they were strongly opposed to an attack on Iraq. And those are impressive anti-war figures. But then, Zogby asked another question, and it went like this, “ Would you support an invasion of Iraq if it would result in the death of thousands of civilians?”  Only 7 percent of black folks said yes. And that is amazing. Only single digits of Black America wanted to pursue a war that would kill thousands of civilians. That, I think, is a Black consensus for peace that was registered right before the Iraq War. 

But a solid majority of white men said, yes, I don’t mind the deaths of Iraqi civilians. And about a third of white women said that they were okay with that, too. Only about 16 percent of Hispanics were thirsty for Iraqi civilian blood. Those numbers from 2003 show that there is a world of difference, a world view of difference between Black and white America on issues of peace. Virtually nobody Black wanted to kill Iraqi civilians. 

Black people really are fundamentally anti war. But then Obama happened and Black people were suddenly more tolerant of war under a Black commander in chief  in August of 2013. President Obama was threatening to bomb Syria, supposedly in retaliation for a poison gas attack. Subsequent investigations show that the Syrian military could not have carried out that attack. But Obama had already drawn what people were calling a line in the sand, so he was preparing to attack. The Washington Post and ABC conducted a poll in the week before that planned attack and that poll found that 40 percent of Black people supported Obama’s threat of airstrikes against Syria. Only 38 percent of whites supported bombing Syria.

And just 31 percent of Hispanics felt that way. That is, Blacks were 2% more in favor of bombing than white people were. Now majorities of all Americans at that time, during that week were opposed to bombing and Obama then was forced to call off his attack. Only minorities of all ethnicities were in favor of bombing. I wanna make that clear, but this still was the first time in polling history that blacks were more in favor of war than whites were. This is Obama time. 

And that tells us something about the imperative to Black unity. The imperative to Black unity has served us well through most of our history in the United States. But under certain circumstances that imperative can make us as dangerous to the world as white Americans are dangerous to the world if we extend that unity to warmongering Black politicians, the Congressional Black Caucus certainly has no solidarity with Black people, but it does love the cops and it loves the Pentagon’s weapons.

And I’ll show you how: In 2014, just two months before Mike Brown was shot down in Ferguson, Missouri, the U. S. Congress had a chance to vote on a bill that would have halted the Pentagon’s infamous 1033 program —- that’s the program that funnels billions of battlefield grade weapons and military gear into local police departments. When the Grayson Amendment came up for a vote,  80% of the Congressional Black Caucus voted against it. That means four out of every five Black Congress persons voted for continued militarization of the police. They did so because Obama loved it, and Obama multiplied the 1033’s funneling of weapons to local police 27 times, 2700 percent.

Not long after that vote, Ferguson went up in flames and the Black Lives Matter movement emerged. It was a national phenomenon. The first blush of a mass movement, Back mass movement, in two generations, and you would think that such a phenomenon would have an effect on the Congressional Black Caucus. I know it had an effect of a kind on the Democratic Party because they tried to co-opt it. But, in terms of the caucus, last year,  75 percent of the caucus, that’s three out of four of them, voted to make the police a protecting class. That means if you hit a policeman, it is treated as a hate crime with extra time in prison added.

And we all know when police kick your ass, they charge you with hitting them. So on top of all the other impunities bestowed on the cops they are now given protected class status with the overwhelming assent of the Congressional Black Caucus, which has no conscience and no loyalty to the Black community. 

So what is our job in the Black Alliance for Peace? It is not primarily just to darken up those two white anti-war marches, although there is a need to darken up those two white anti-war marches. But what we must do is tap into the historical and real pro- peace sentiments of our people and help them disentangle themselves from false leaders and giant politicians that care more for the police and the pentagon than for their own people and who are unmoved by the story of six-million Africans. Such people are unworthy of us. So we are going to embarrass them first and then move them out of office with all deliberate speech. The people of Congo demand it. Power to the people!