When do we get to say we told you so?
What did we say?
We said that people like the Mujahedeen, the Contras, and UNITA were bad news, and would continue to be bad news long after the short term politics were forgotten. Supporting groups like that was akin to keeping a violent vicious guard dog that might kill someone. Sort of like the right wing that denies evolution and climate change or the police that shoot to kill as a policy. That dog can only be trusted the length the leash it will sooner or later get free of.
Who did we say it to?
Mostly we were talking to the people who were not making these decisions. We were telling the common public that it was time to oppose and object. It was on a long list of things we have been saying should be opposed and objected to. If we had a message to the less than one percent who really make the choices that govern our lives, that message was: stop! You are going too far, even for you who seem to not know the limits of decency or even the limits of the possible.
Who was 'we' to say it?
It was the left in all its forms. I was part of it, ridiculed in my youth for warning that Jimmy Carter was getting us into generational trouble and that the situation in Afghanistan was a nightmare that would continue long after the Soviet Union woke up and went home. It was only one of many warnings, about wealth, religious fanaticism, the environment, civil rights and many other international affairs.
I just wrote a blog saying that despite his great speech before congress, President Holland leads a government that is part of the problem. We had no peace, it gave people no justice and now we plan to fix that with more war and injustice?
And we have a world media that chokes on the word "imperialism".
Continuing a lifetime of working for some kind of alternative (and at times getting some of it) I find myself reading emails the break the heart.
One old leftist teacher writes me that she is overjoyed to see her native France join the US effort in Syria with airstrikes against ISIS. In her dry French way, I think she has told me that my blog ended our friendship of twenty years. Yet she was one of the people who once joined me putting out the warning that events like this were going to happen as a direct result of what the US and France was doing in North Africa and the Mid-East. If such a person can now get swept up in the logic of violence, I ask myself how well we learned the lessons we once gave and how well we understand what we should know full well by now. When are we going to face the realities of what our governments are doing?
Another email written in French, with a Moroccan accent, does not endorse the vicious circle, but instead tells of the death of a friend's son, a child he saw born and helped raise in one of the attacks last Friday in Paris. That young man was lost to a war that his parents and friends had committed themselves to keep from happening.
Other emails from kindred spirits range from talking about how France was ALREADY part of the (legal?) air strikes inside Syria against ISIS, about how it is not so great to be a Muslim in Europe and caring people who don't know that part of the world asking WTF? We tell each other we knew. Not exactly this, no, but we knew something like this would happen, yes. We tell each other that we told them so. There is no satisfaction in having been right.
I have one friend in Paris who is the child of Holocaust survivors. He and I met working in Nicaragua and have been in solidarity ever since. He writes me about anti-racism actions in France, supporting the people of Palestine and members of the Israeli Army who refuse to oppress. I write him about running for office as a Green, trying to get some control over the Oakland Police and my fight against a media that chokes on the word 'imperialism’.
In that time we have raised young men, little different from Amine, son of Taoufiq, lifelong friend of our buddy of my friend Youssef, who just died in a night club caught in the cross fire between two monsters.
We knew, we know and we told them so.
And we need to keep saying it.