We must resist attempts to silence our voices on Police Violence

The state will use the attacks in Dallas to attempt to silence the voices of those who continue to oppose the systematic  slaughter of black and brown people by the police across the country. Barack Obama, the hypocrite in chief who cold-bloodily decides who lives and dies every Tuesday in his illegal drone war, proclaims that we need more love and peace. He uses this incident to increase his calls to disarm the people in the form of gun control.  But Obama and all of those who make gratuitous declarations of commitments to “love,” non-violence and rule of law when police are killed, strangely don’t seem to have the same level of moral indignation in response to the almost weekly stories of a black woman or man being murdered by a cop, even when the murder is caught on video.

So we are not confused.

We know that if Obama and the general public in the U.S. really believed that all lives had equal value that belief would be reflected in behavior. For example, moral consistency would compel Obama to take a position in opposition to the Israelis who kill and maim Palestinians on a daily basis.

And for those in the general public who pretend to oppose violence and call for gun control, they would also have to condemn the arms merchants from the U.S. who make the U.S. the number one arms dealer on earth.  They would have to oppose war and demand peaceful negotiations to end the loss of innocent life in conflicts that their government created around the world. They would have demanded long ago that the Department of Justice become more aggressive in demonstrating that police officers who kill unarmed black and brown folks would face some kind of “justice.”

But we know that Obama, the Black Mis-Leadership Class, the majority of the U.S. public really does not believe in the equal value of all life, and certainly not in the value of poor, working class black life. That is why there is such a small anti-war and peace movement and why the state finds it so easy to align public support – even among “radicals” – for its imperialist violence across the globe.

What this means is that the lives of poor and working class black and brown people have to mean something – to us. While strategically we continue to make demands on the state for “justice” we cannot afford any illusions regarding the nature of the state, the role of its police forces and the impossibility of a racist, capitalist state to render justice to a captive, colonized population.

We have to be prepared to defend the value of our lives. If the state attempts to use this incident to further erode our fundamental human rights, they must know that we will resist. That is the human right that we claim.

We are a peaceful people who only want to be free to develop ourselves, our communities, to see our children grow up without the fear of  being killed by some mindless individual who happens to be wearing a uniform.

Yes we are a peaceful people.

We have not asked for the war that is being waged against us. But like all people being subjected to aggression, we have the right to create the conditions in which the war is not a one-sided war.

Black Lives Matter, like all lives, and it is up to us to protect ourselves – and we will.

We have faced moments like this before. We will not be intimidated and we will not be silenced.

Struggle, resist, win, that is our historic task.

Ajamu Baraka

Paris, Orlando and Turkey: Displacing the Narrative of Western Innocence

What is clear is that there is a context – no matter how painful to admit – of U.S. and Western complicity in creating the very forces that now terrorize the imagination of publics in the West. Just a cursory glance of that sordid history reveals the baselessness of the assumption of innocence that makes up the dominate narrative being pushed by the corporate press in the U.S. and inculcated as a part of Western commonsense.

Zbigniew Brzezinski, President Carter’s national security advisor, congratulated himself on his brilliant strategy to create the “Soviet Union’s Vietnam” by bogging it down militarily in Afghanistan with the creation of an international corps of right-wing Islamists ready to fight the godless Soviets. Like all colonialist calculations, the Pentagon thought that these elements could be weaponized to do the bidding of U.S. and Western imperialism. They mistakenly believed that once the mission was completed that they could conveniently toss them aside like the Hmong in Vietnam, the Gurkhas from Nepal, the black Buffalo soldiers in the West of the U.S. – the list goes on. With direct logistical support from the Pakistani ISI, the Mujahedeen performed marvelously, destroying a secular nationalist government with Marxist leanings and plunging the nation into the chaos that led to the establishment of the Taliban who created their 8th century version of an Islamic state.

When Brzezinski formulated his plan, critics of this strategy, including some elements of the U.S. and British intelligence agencies, warned that the U.S. was playing a dangerous game by empowering what had always been the lunatic fringe of Islam, but colonial hubris inoculated those decision makers in 1979 and in both the Bush and Obama administrations from those more critical reassessments. They operated instead from a historic perspective in which the use of right-wing Islamists had yielded positive results not only in Afghanistan in the 1980’s but before that during the immediate post world-war years to undercut support for left and left nationalist forces in the so-called Middle-East.

These kinds of cynical calculations have always been a cornerstone of colonial “divide and rule” politics. However, what Brzezinski and others didn’t understand was the subjective factor that they were dealing with. Unlike the slimy comprador and mercenary types traditionally used to advance Western interests in various parts of the world, the religious fervor and commitment of these Islamic elements could not be turned on and off.

By concentrating these forces in Afghanistan, U.S. policy gave them an opportunity to gain valuable training, fighting experience, and some degree of prestige along with more effective post-conflict networking among themselves. They created a force in which the tail would eventually wag the dog, with the al-Qaeda network was just one of the networks of radical Islamists that emerged from that period.

This was evident when the Bush administration and then the Obama administration decided to re-empower these radical jihadists as part of their strategy to put pressure on the al-Maliki government in Iraq and effect governmental change in Syria. In short, they encouraged a jihadist invasion and then framed it as a “civil war.” Western governments pretended not to notice and certainly didn’t seem to care in the early days of the war that more and more of their nationals were traveling to Turkey to enter the conflict zone in Syria.

Why this lack of concern?

U.S. propagandists knew that the so-called Free Syrian Army (FSA) was their public relations myth. Many analysts in the U.S. intelligence agencies concluded early on that if the Assad government was going to be toppled it would come about as result of the Jihadist forces being created internally and pouring into the country from abroad.

In a moment of unusual candor, President Obama revealed that he thought it was a fantasy that the FSA could overthrow the Syrian government and the Baath institutional apparatus. Many critics of Obama’s strategies in Syria thought that this was an insult to the “moderates” and critiqued the Obama administration’s reluctance to provide support to the FSA. But instead of that comment reflecting the bogus narrative of non-support for the forces fighting to overthrow the Syrian government by the U.S., it revealed instead what was really in place – a strategy to bolster Islamic jihadist forces working with and through Turkey, the Saudi’s, and the other Gulf monarchs and repressive states in the region, including Israel.

With the CIA fully involved in training and equipping what was referred to as the “rebel” forces and with the assurances from Saudi Prince Bander that they had the jihadists fully under their control, the Administration didn’t appear to be too concerned when ISIS broke off from al-Qaeda and began to establish its own independent economic base once it captured the oil fields in Syria. It all seemed like part of the plan, especially when it became clear that NATO member Turkey was being used to get the Syrian oil to world markets.

Michael Flynn, the frustrated head of the Defense Intelligence Agency ( DIA ) who naively thought that the U.S. was concerned about “Islamic terrorism,” revealed recently that after the DIA submitted analysis in 2012 that U.S. policies in Syria were enhancing the power of Islamic forces and leading to the establishment of a “Salafist principality” not only was that analysis ignored, it became clear to him that the Obama administration had made a “willful decision to do what they were doing.”

But this Frankensteinian strategy turned farce into disaster when ISIS double-crossed their benefactors by breaking the rules and attacking the “good Kurds” in Iraq. The strategy appeared to be more concerned with holding territory in Iraq and Syria than carrying out their assignment to overthrow the Assad government and completing the dismemberment of the Syrian state – the strategic objective of U.S. and Israeli policy to counter the regional power of the Iranians.

With the categorical transformation of jihadist forces in Syria into “moderates” and their military enhancement with U.S. supplied anti-tank weapons and better military and political coordination, the stage was set by the summer of 2015 for the last push after a no-fly zone was established. This move would have allowed coordinated ground operations with air power provided by the U.S., with symbolic participation from France and Britain to give the operation its NATO credentials. Under this configuration and shift in the balance of forces, ISIS had outlived its utility for U.S. interests and became an obstacle because of its independent agenda. So it had to be cut down to size – not destroyed – at least not at that point.

But the rhetorical commitment to eliminate ISIS created a political/ideological opening for the Russians to be invited in by the Syrian government to “counter” ISIS. The result was to completely undermine the no-fly zone plan and the plan to support a final push on to Damascus by the newly concentrated Islamic forces in the form of the Jaish al-Fatah or the “Army of Conquest,” as the new “moderates.”

With the combined attacks by the Russians and U.S., the ISIS caliphate has constricted in size. In particular, some of the combatants from the West have left the battlefield and slowly tricked back to the West. Battled hardened and still committed to the cause, the strategic shift appears to be focused on taking the battle to the West, something that Abu Baka al- Baghdadi, the former CIA asset and subsequent leader of ISIS, warned would happen if they were targeted.

The series of attacks in Paris, Brussels, Turkey, and Orlando reflect what Malcolm called the “chickens coming home to roost.” Innocent human beings are the ones that suffer the consequences of imperial policy. From the tens of thousands of displaced Syrians who found themselves as political pawns in the manufactured “refugee crisis” in Europe to the Puerto Rican patrons of Pulse nightclub in Orlando, it is the people who suffer when these destructive forces unleashed on the world by their Western governments double back on their masters and bring the terror “home.”

This “blowback” theory is controversial especially among some who view all of these attacks as part of some grand design to manipulate public opinion to support the permanent war strategy being operationalized across the planet in the name of fighting terrorism. While the forces of domination can tactically take advantage of these attacks to further that agenda, the position that this is all part of a grand plan gives those forces a ubiquity and level of competence among the people making policy that the evidence of how policy is developed and executed does not support.

There are already calls being made in some quarters for a more forceful intervention into Syria to crush ISIS in response to the attack in Turkey. Erdogan, the neo-Ottoman maniac who leads Turkey, declared with a straight face and not a hint of irony that the world must double its effort to defeat international terrorism.

Not supporting terrorism was precisely the demand that many Turkish citizens made to Erdogan before this attack. And like many of the innocents in the U.S. who have died from 9/11 to Orlando who probably opposed U.S. state terrorism, I am sure that many of the Turkish citizens who were murdered or wounded in that airport probably also opposed the immoral and fundamentally dangerous policies of their government in Syria. Their families and all of the people of Turkey should be outraged. As should the people of the U.S. whose government is now seen by so many people of the world as the greatest threat to world peace and as Dr. King declared the “greatest purveyor of violence” on the planet.

Ajamu is an Associate Fellow at the Institute for Policy Studies (IPS) in Washington, D.C. and editor and contributing columnist for the Black Agenda Report. He is also a contributing writer for Dissident voice, Counterpunch, Black Commentator, Commondreams, Global Research and Pambazaka.




Muhammad Ali and Dylann Roof: Contested Meanings and Contested Lies

The announcement by the United States Department of Justice that it would prosecute and pursue the death penalty against Dylann Roof, the White nationalist who murdered nine African Americans in Charleston, South Carolina and the death of Muhammad Ali are two events that appear on the surface to be completely disconnected. Yet – in the ongoing ideological struggle by the state and capitalist institutions to shape and control mass consciousness – both are intimately intertwined.  

When Loretta Lynch, the African American Attorney General in charge of the Department of Justice, announced that the state would pursue a death sentence against Dylann Roof, some in the African American community applauded the decision as an appropriate response that would lead to something they defined as “justice.” However, for many other African Americans, justice for a racialized and colonized people is an impossibility in a colonial state in which racial and class dominance, violence, and systemic de-humanization represents its internal logic and core values.

The decision by the DOJ to pursue a death sentence for Roof should be seen as no more than another tactical move by the state as part of the last phase of the counterinsurgency launched against the black liberation movement almost five decades ago. The ideological component of this counterinsurgency strategy had and still has one primary objective – to cement the psychological identification of oppressed African Americans with the colonialist, white supremacist state and the white supremacist, capitalist system that it upholds. By appealing to African Americans, the group in the country most consistently opposed to the death penalty, state propagandists saw this as a perfect opportunity to undermine opposition to capital punishment and facilitate the process of psychological incorporation.  

Lynch claimed that it was the nature of the crime and the “harm” it created that compelled her department to pursue a death sentence. This of course begs the question as to what constitutes “harm” and who is harmed.

The implication of Lynch’s statement is that societal harm is the measurement that guides decisions by the DOJ to intervene or not. But if harm to the society or groups in the society was really the measurement, how then does the state measure the harm produced by police beatings, choking, and shootings of African Americans? Apparently, the overwhelming amount of video evidence and testimony of anti-black state police violence does not rise to the level of a collective harm that compels the state to act in the form of prosecutorial actions.  

The racist pandering and ideological character of the DOJ’s announcement is even more apparent by the fact that it is premised on the assumed success of the state’s efforts to distort critical consciousness. The presupposition of this position is reflected in the arrogant assumption that no one is going to notice that while the DOJ moved to impose the death penalty on a young white nationalist, that same DOJ only brought one indictment against the slew of killer cops involved in the murders of young African men and women across the U.S. over the last eight years under two black Attorney Generals and a black president.  

And while both black Attorney Generals offered elaborate justifications for why the Federal government could not intervene in those state level cases, the black public is not supposed to notice that the DOJ did not hesitate to interject itself on the state level to bring the full weight of the Federal government down on four young members of the black working class who are now serving or facing years in prison for their activities during the Baltimore uprisings. In a telling statement of the importance attached to property over black lives, U.S. Attorney Rod J. Rosenstein explained that “The rule of law must be upheld, and criminals who destroy property and jeopardize lives must be held accountable.”

The “King-ification” of Muhammad Ali

With the passing of Muhammad Ali, we are witnessing a phenomenon similar to what we saw with Dr. King when the family allowed the state to define the meaning of Dr. Kings’ activism and the movement that created him. The announcement that Bill Clinton, the rapist and petty opportunist politician, had been chosen to deliver the eulogy at Ali’s funeral suggests that his family is heading down that same path. And while it has been important to see all of the references to Ali’s early anti-war positions again circulating in social media, it was no surprise that few direct contemporary connections were made by the ex-president of the U.S. empire and most of the speakers

Passing references to his courage and principles in his early life were made, but it is already clear that the focus of the state and corporate propagandists have already shifted to the period of his life when he was involved in some dubious political projects before his inability to communicate. In this rendition of Ali’s life the prodigal son has come home. Lighting the Olympic torch and “transcending race” and religion will be the narrative of “national” reconciliation that supposedly characterized his post-1970s life. The implication that he might oppose the state’s strategy of permanent war to maintain U.S. and Western dominance will not be a part of the official story of his life.    

These two events demonstrate that nothing is innocent; including the death of a cultural icon like Muhammad Ali or an announcement that justice would be done by pursuing capital punishment. Like the civil rights, women’s and even the anti-war movement, the state attempts to de-politicize and co-opt movements and individuals by reinscribing the meanings of nominally oppositional social movements and individuals and re-incorporating them into the grand narrative of “America’s” striving for a more “perfect union.”

That narrative is a death narrative for Africans/black people because the price for inclusion requires the ideological, psychological, ethical and cultural erasure of black people and any claims for black self-determination.

But unlike Barack Obama, Loretta Lynch and the other members of the black petit-bourgeoisie who have become the living embodiments of the partial success of the state’s attempt to colonize the consciousness of Africans/black people, the life of Muhammad Ali and the black liberation movement that he was a part of in his early years and our movement’s moral positions on state violence in the form of the death penalty stands as counter-narratives to those attempts by the state to “Americanize” the Africans in the territory called the U.S.     


Ajamu Baraka is an Associate Fellow at the Institute for Policy Studies (IPS) in Washington, D.C. and editor and contributing columnist for the Black Agenda Report. His latest publications include contributions to” Killing Trayvons: An Anthology of American Violence” (Counterpunch Books, 2014), “Imagine: Living in a Socialist USA” (Harper Collins, 2014) and “Claim No Easy Victories: The Legacy of Amilcar Cabral” (CODESRIA, 2013). He can be reached at www.AjamuBaraka.com