Photo: Syrian Nonviolence Movement
Wars in the Middle East are complex, devastating and hard to digest. Five years ago in Syria, citizens demanded President Assad step down from his now 16-year presidency. Since then, a civil war has ensued between those who are and are not loyal to his regime. Complicating things further, ISIL began fighting for territories in Syria. And to grossly oversimplify the issue, loyalists and rebels were fighting against each other and against ISIL at the same time. To try and defeat ISIL, the US, UK and Russia began launching airstrikes on Syria. And since then, nearly five million people have been displaced and nearly half a million have died, leading to the current refugee crisis in the region.
As of this week, there are 1 million people living under siege in Aleppo. The Syrian war has been described as a horrific, man-made disaster, and one of the worst humanitarian crises of our time.
Despite current rhetoric attempting to portray Muslims and Arabs as violent and deserving of this violence, a majority of those impacted by senseless drone attacks are civilians, displaced indigenous people, living in hyper-militarized and over-policed neighborhoods, subjected to state-sanctioned violence.
The easiest way to justify violence against a people is to perpetuate dehumanizing narratives about them in the collective consciousness. The same vehicles of mainstream media that target Muslims and work toward justifying military engagement in Arab/Muslim countries are employed in justifying the continued oppression of marginalized groups domestically.
This crisis is largely a result of global capitalism and The Military Industrial Complex. The Military Industrial Complex is defined as the alliance between a nation's military and the weapons industry that arms it. In order for the weapons industry to thrive, the nation must go to war, and in order for wars to occur, countries must be invaded and villains must be made out of anyone who looks and prays differently than you.
The Military Industrial Complex fuels a multi-billion dollar war industry that is not only promoting mass displacement, terror and murder globally, but is inextricably linked to the oppression of the black diaspora.
The United States spends nearly $600 billion a year in military and defense funding, which is an exponential number in comparison to most developed countries.
This misallocation of funds impacts black folks here domestically. Earlier this year, The Movement For Black Lives released a policy platform calling for a divestment from the Military Industrial Complex and investing those funds in black futures.
"The US military accounts for over 50 percent of discretionary federal spending, a total of 598.5 Billion dollars spent annually, as compared to 70 billion spent on education, 66 billion spent on healthcare, $63.2 billion spent on housing and 29.1 billion spent on social security and unemployment."
The President Elect’s rhetoric and policy platforms clearly display his willingness to strengthen and equip The Military Industrial Complex. The U.S. Defense Stock along with the Private Prison Stock surged in the days following Trump’s victory — two blatant indicators of a shift toward a militarized society that will not hesitate to use an iron fist, profiting as it pounds away.
Although Trump’s rhetoric around the Middle East/Muslims may feel far removed, nearly one-third of Muslims in the United States are black. African refugees make up a significant and growing population of the migrant crisis. And quite obviously, black people in America are the most likely to fall victim to militarized police forces and a growing private prison industry.
Oppression is global and intersectional. Remaining neutral in situations of injustice not only makes us complicit, but limits our ability to strategically dismantle systems of oppression that impact our futures. Stand in solidarity with Syria by expressing your discontent with the war, by having difficult conversations with people in your communities who may be Islamophobic or xenophobic, and by donating to organizations providing help on the ground.
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