Iran has been subject to crippling U.S. sanctions and military provocations in recent weeks. The most recent U.S. escalation began in mid-July when the U.K., through its territory of Gibraltar, seized an Iranian oil tanker accused of violating E.U.-imposed sanctions against Syria. Iran has since taken three “foreign” tankers into custody and placed seventeen Iranians accused of spying for the CIA under arrest. Meanwhile, in the U.S., the 2020 election buzz has been temporarily drowned out by the deaths of over thirty people in three mass shootings. From Iran to Ohio, the U.S. empire is in a state of decay.
Iran is responding to U.S. imperial decay by defending itself on behalf of the former colonial world, much of which is still under the thumb of neocolonial and imperialist exploitation. The Islamic Republic has been under a state of siege by the imperialist world for over half of a century. Iran’s democratically elected Prime Minister Mohammed Mosaddegh was overthrown in 1953 with the help of the CIA. This placed Iran under the autocratic puppet rule of the Shah. The Shah used a secret police force, the SAVAK, to murder, kidnap, and torture of tens of thousands of Iranians. All of this occurred under the supervision of the U.S. and U.K.
The Iranian people overthrew the Shah and re-nationalized the nation’s vast oil reserves in 1979. Washington never forgave Iran for refusing to bow down to its imperial dictates. Iran maintains sovereignty on several fronts. On the domestic front, Iran has developed an advanced military infrastructure capable of defending the country from foreign invasion. On the international front, the Islamic Republic has developed firm ties with Russia, China, Syria, and a litany of nations which has allowed it to modernize its economy. U.S. sanctions have kept Iran’s people without key medical and other resources necessary for survival, but this hasn’t stopped them from defending the self-determination of Iran and allied nations.
When Iran stands up to the U.S. and its imperial allies, it isn’t merely defending itself. Iran is defending the rest of the world’s peoples. Iran has given critical aid to the Syrian government in its righteous fight against foreign-sponsored “jihadist” mercenaries. Iran has also been a key ally of Venezuela; which, like Iran, has suffered gravely because of U.S. sanctions. Iran’s seizure of foreign oil tankers and CIA agents shows that it is not afraid of the U.S. or its allies. U.S. imperialism is in decay and cannot assert hegemony in the old way. There are no CIA-backed coups in the cards and a full-scale attack on Iran would be political suicide not just for Trump, but for the entire U.S. and E.U. political establishment which has rapidly seen its political legitimacy dwindle over the last several decades.
Just as the U.S. is unable to operate in the same way around the world, mass shootings in the U.S. represent a domestic example of a militarized, racist Empire in decay. White America has historically acted as the foot soldiers in the Empire’s system of racialized social control dating back to the original sin of slavery. Slave patrols, lynch mobs, and their modern manifestations in the American police and prison state are historical byproducts of a ruthless system of profit rooted in the white supremacist dehumanization of Africans in America. For several centuries, most white Americans relished in the benefits conferred to them by a system that placed Black and anyone else deemed a sub-human race to the bottom of the class structure. Only in the last forty to fifty years since Black Americans forced concessions upon the state has it been distasteful to publicly rejoice in the fruits of white supremacy.
Mass shootings demonstrate the U.S.’ descent into barbarism. In 2017, in response to the mass shooting in Las Vegas, Democratic Party presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg remarked on Twitter that “I did not carry assault weapons around a foreign country so I could come home and see them used to massacre my countrymen.” Democratic Party representative Steve Cohen deleted a similar tweet not long after the most recent string of mass shootings in California, Ohio, and El Paso “You want to shoot an assault weapon? Go to Afghanistan or Iraq. Enlist!” Such responses to white violence in the U.S. reveal the double standard inherent in the logic of white superiority and imperial violence. Mass shootings that disrupt the mythical tranquility of white society represent a crisis worthy of response while institutionalized mass murder in the form of military intervention is characterized as a necessary and heroic act.
A social system predicated on white supremacy, empire, and a declining capitalist economy inevitably brings about conditions of depravity like those seen in the recent mass shootings. Fascism festers when capitalism forces those who have become comfortable with certain conditions, such as the presence of (white) jobs, into a state of precarity. That’s why the El Paso shooter’s manifesto can simultaneously condemn both U.S. political parties and automation while taking out murderous rage on undocumented immigrants. Economic and political violence is supposed to be reserved for subhuman “savages” such as indigenous peoples, undocumented migrants, and Black Americans. The chickens have come home to roost in White America and it should come as no surprise in an alienated, heavily surveilled society that one of the responses is violence at the barrel of the gun.
Much of the world, including large sections of the U.S. population, is no stranger to U.S. imperial violence. Black Americans and indigenous peoples native to what is now the U.S. mainland are murdered by law enforcement nearly every day in the United States. Iraq lost over one million people during the U.S. invasion beginning in 2003. Iran lost one million itself in the war two decades prior when the U.S. supplied Iraq with chemical weapons to invade the Islamic Republic post-revolution. An empire in decay only becomes more violent and ruthless in its attempt to maintain hegemony. The U.S. has killed over 40,000 Venezuelans in one year’s worth of sanctions. And with China and Russia labeled the greatest threat to U.S. “national security,” the threat of a global war of nuclear proportions looms over humanity like a storm cloud.
The U.S. has long been on the path to barbarism. Iran’s resistance to U.S. imperialism provides an international example of heroism and is a continuation of the anti-colonial struggle of the 20th century. Mass shootings and global provocations are a sign of an empire that is even more dangerous because it is dying. Only by joining in this struggle can exploited and oppressed sections of the U.S. population achieve true peace and justice in our lifetime. Without mass resistance to white supremacy and war, the U.S. empire threatens to devour itself alive and will no doubt attempt to take the rest of us with it.