Iran has been at the forefront of conversation and political debate recently. While politicians bought by the military industrial complex make outlandish rationalizations, tensions between Tehran and Washington continue to swell. Recently, a statement from the Pentagon claimed 50 soldiers have been diagnosed with concussions and traumatic brain injury. These injuries are a result of Iranian retaliatory strikes following the assassination of Iranian General Qassim Soleimani. This comes after President Donald Trump claimed there were no casualties as a result of the strikes, then downplayed the Pentagon’s release, claiming the injuries were “not very serious.” In this medium, I simply don’t have the ability to go through every act of the past, but will focus on a few important ones and how the citizens of the United States, even Binghamton University students, are culpable in this militarism.
In relation to the Pentagon’s statement, I fear these claims are justifying military action. I’m not claiming no one was injured in the Iranian airstrikes. However, the U.S. government has lied in the past to justify offensive invasions and we must be vigilant to prevent it from happening again.
One piece of context often left out of discourse is the history of U.S. aggression. When the prime minister of Iran, Mohammed Mossadegh, intended to nationalize the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company, Great Britain and U.S. governments orchestrated a coup to empower Mohammed Reza Pahlavi, who would arguably be friendlier to Western companies. Pahlavi’s dictatorial rule led to the Iranian people overthrowing the monarchy under their new leader, Ayatollah Khomeini, who rallied against the Iranian government and its dependence on the United States. This shows how the U.S. government is not, and has never been, afraid to overthrow democratically elected governments to instate autocracies who are more likely to benefit U.S. corporate interests.
Deniers of our misconduct might say, ”But this was the past.” They think, “Surely, we’ve changed since the Cold War era.” But in 2003, the United States invaded Iraq on lies about weapons of mass destruction, pushed by a passive media and corrupt government for oil and geopolitical power. This disastrous decision caused chaos in the Middle East and the death of approximately 200,000 innocent civilians. If questioned on their culpability, many of the war criminals who planned this attack may have defended their actions as bringing “liberal values” and “democracy” to the Middle East. Military action in Iraq has not done much to advance these ideals, however, with the Iraqi Parliament recently voting to end the presence of foreign, particularly American, troops following the assassination of Soleimani.
If that isn’t enough, the current administration improperly sanctioned humanitarian aid. The International Court of Justice, the United Nations’ highest court, ruled the sanctioning in violation of an international agreement in 2018. In response, the United States pulled out of the treaty which the ruling was based on and continued to block humanitarian aid. How can we scold the Iranian government for being brutal to its people when we are blocking humanitarian aid, such as food and medicine?
Even during the current situation with Iran, the U.S. government isn’t being transparent. When questioned, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Soleimani was planning attacks against the United States without providing much evidence to support his claim. Are we supposed to simply believe him because of his high-ranking office? Pompeo and others have lied, shown their brutality in the past and faced no consequences, so what’s preventing them from doing that again in the future?
The last point I’d like to bring up is how we, as students at BU, are somewhat culpable in these actions. Our own University works with and invests in companies such as Lockheed Martin, a “defense” contractor. Looking at these companies, it is clear that we, as a University, have benefited enormously from increased tensions in places such as Iran. In the past year, defense companies Raytheon and Northrop Grumman stocks are up nearly 40 percent and Lockheed Martin is up by more than 50 percent. War makes a small minority exorbitantly rich while all others pay, some with their lives. Every time our dollars are invested in these companies and students are funneled to these companies is another time that we, as a University, contribute to the problem. DIVEST BING is a student coalition built around demanding transparency about where funds are being invested by encouraging divestment from harmful and immoral industries, such as the military industrial complex, and reinvestment in moral and sustainable initiatives. The work carried out by DIVEST BING, as well as other groups, is greatly needed on our campus to bring attention to our active participation in militarism.
The world is a big place. Iran is more than 6,000 miles away, but we are participating in imperialistic efforts from our own campus every single day. We must recognize how our government has a long and violent history. But our past doesn’t have to be our future. We must demand change: End regime turnover campaigns around the world. End the U.S. military industrial complex. End investment all around the country in companies that propagate these actions. It won’t happen overnight, but it starts here.
Seth Gully is a sophomore triple-majoring in philosophy, politics and law, economics and French and is a member of DIVEST BING.