Editors’ note: The following remarks from Andy Zee were in answer to a question from Sunsara Taylor at a Refuse Fascism webinar on January 8. This question followed questions and answers about the intense struggle in the U.S. ruling class focused now on the pending impeachment trial and the mission of Refuse Fascism and #OUTNOW! in that context. These remarks focused on the fascist nature of Trump’s remarks.
Since this January 8 interview, the Trump/Pence regime has engaged in even more of the gangster-fascist behavior as discussed below toward the Iranian government, the Democratic (and now a few Republican) opponents, and toward the Iraqi government. At the same time, the Iranian government has admitted that in the course of firing missiles at U.S. military bases in response to the U.S. assassination of Qassim Soleimani, they also mistakenly brought down a Ukrainian civilian jet, killing 176 people; and it has also come to light that the U.S. also tried but failed to assassinate another Iraqi military figure in Yemen at the same time as they assassinated Soleimani. The Trump regime has continued U.S. military aid to its Saudi Arabian ally in the reactionary genocidal war against Yemen, and had this second assassination attempt succeeded, it would have been a significant aid to that war. In short, far from averting war, the situation remains highly volatile. Andy Zee slightly edited these remarks for publication to provide some context and clarity.
Sunsara Taylor: It would be good to hear your thoughts on what has developed with the U.S. and Iran and how this relates to the urgency of driving out the Trump/Pence regime.
Andy Zee: Well, look, it’s extremely serious. It’s extremely dangerous. Michelle Goldberg in the New York Times said: the nightmare we’ve all been worried about since the very beginning is now here. She’s right about that, OK—that nightmare is here. And it has not been alleviated by the Iranians taking a measured response today and then Trump’s speech saying: “that’s good” and we’re prepared to pull back a little bit. It’s not been alleviated by this.
And there’s many things in this Iran attack that indicate the fascist nature of this. It started, of course, when he ripped up the Iran agreement that was negotiated under the Obama administration. That agreement also didn’t alleviate the crisis with Iran. But, it certainly did contain it for a period of time and set some parameters for it. But Trump’s shredding of this was a really important first step in totally upending what’s been done in the Middle East. It’s been a long-term aspiration of some forces in the ruling class, forces in the ruling class mostly grouped around Trump, to go to war with Iran for regime change. When the Obama Iran deal came up, Pompeo at that time (I guess he was a congressperson at that point) said that we should send 2,000 missiles to attack Iran, that’s what we should have done. He’s been opposed to this agreement for some time.
Today’s speech by Trump was a gangster speech—in response to the Iranians sending 22 missiles towards the airbases where the U.S. has troops, but nobody was killed and the Iranian leadership just said this is a slap in the face and it’s not the main thing we’re going to do. It was just a slap in the face and then Trump turns around and says to them: OK, here’s what you have to do. But let’s look at a couple of quick things here that indicate the ripping up of the norms besides ripping up the Iran agreement.
One, in assassinating—this was an assassination by drone of a leader of a sovereign state. Soleimani was the number 2 or number 3 person in Iran. You know, somebody wrote today: imagine if they had assassinated a vice president of the U.S. or chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff in America. Can you imagine what would be going on here?! Can you just imagine the response? Then, we might actually be in World War 3 right away. This assassination [of Soleimani] is a breaking of international law and protocol. Now it’s true that Obama, following George W. Bush, went wild assassinating people all around the world. But these were ostensibly terrorists—people he branded as terrorists—and non-state actors, even as one was a citizen of the United States, which needs to be noted. But it’s still not the same thing as this. And this was done in another sovereign country without even asking them for permission. So that’s a very serious move, and it’s a shot across the bow of the entire world, including anybody who’s in opposition to the U.S.—because let’s be clear, the U.S. was working with Soleimani in Iraq against ISIS. And they’d been working with him—at different times and through various means as they work with all these actors, like they worked with Osama bin Laden for years in the war in Afghanistan. So this is a signal to anybody—whoever works with the U.S.: if you cross us we’re going to take you out. You’re not safe anywhere from these people.
And guess who gets to decide? The führer, Mein Trumpf—that’s who gets to decide. They didn’t consult with Congress. Now, I’m not saying that Congress wouldn’t have given a rubber stamp to it—I don’t know that. But the fact that Trump didn’t do that is actually a change in the form of rule. It’s part of what fascism is—it’s a change in the form of rule, saying all those decisions are exclusively made by people who are fascists. Trump is an instinctual fascist—we could spend all night talking about his history. But it’s also important to recognize that the people in his administration who have been pushing for this—Pompeo and Pence, in particular—are what we call Christian Fascists, part of a political form of Christianity that believes in end times. These two people believe in end times; they don’t actually care if the world goes up because they’re going to be raptured up to heaven. This is extremely dangerous and they do believe this, OK—they’ve written about it, they’ve spoken about it. And these are the people who are now running the country, trying to remake the country domestically and internationally for a different [ruling class] consensus. They’re opposed to multiculturalism and diversity within America, looking for a white supremacist, a white America. And they’re opposed to multilateralism internationally.
And this speech… just two more elements about it. One, is Trump went and overtly blamed everything that Iran has done on his predecessor. That is a move that is akin to and a step beyond “Lock Her Up”—which is what he said about and continues to say at rallies about Hillary Clinton. That has to be really grasped, what that really means and the implications of that within the ruling class itself. And at this point I don’t know what the response of the Democrats is, exactly, to this speech. I know that the pundits in the papers said: Oh, phew, we stepped back from the brink and the stock market’s going up again. But this is not resolved. This was a gangster speech, though. And he threatened not only that, but the allies of the U.S. in NATO, who he’s dissed continually. But then here he’s saying to them: You’ve got to break off your relations from Iran—when they’re actually involved with them in various ways in alliances with them and in commercial dealings. So this is very serious and it indicates the fascist nature of the regime…. And it does remind one of (I guess for more recent generations) Tony Soprano … But I hope some people sometime watch The Godfather. Because back in 2006, Bob Avakian gave a speech called Bringing Forward Another Way that is available in a pamphlet and online at revcom.us where he quotes Ted Koppel, who was a newscaster who made his business on ABC around the original Iran hostage crisis—including that’s where Trump came up with this “we’re going to bomb 52 sites.”[i] And Ted Koppel wrote an article that what Bush was saying at that time was what Marlon Brando, who was playing Don Corleone going to a meeting of the mafia, was saying: OK, you can have your nukes, but if Iran, one, hits anybody else then we’re going to wipe you off the face of the earth. And he was making this akin to Corleone saying [to the other mob bosses]: OK, I’ll make peace with you but if a hair on the head of my son is touched then all bets are off. I would say… and this is in that pamphlet Bringing Forward Another Way,[ii] which is very important because it’s in this pamphlet that Avakian talks about: that what we see (and this is only part of the world situation), what we see in contention between the U.S. and Iran and in the Middle East is the contradiction and the contention between a reactionary ruling class of an oppressed nation up against a reactionary ruling class of… an outmoded (and he used the word outmoded in both cases) ruling class of a dominant nation. And that if you support either one in this crisis you actually fuel the whole dynamic between the two of them and the one that does the most damage in the situation, in that case, and more determinate still, is the U.S. So anyway, it’s worth going back… I just want to give people the recommendation to go back and take a look at that pamphlet. It is both prescient (which means it sees ahead into the future) and also, in that, it’s quite relevant to today.
So I think people should not let down their guard on the danger of war, and it does then impact back to impeachment—because, again, only with struggle of the masses of people demanding the whole regime go, and in that context demanding no war on Iran. And if some people come at it through the other way—no war in Iran, therefore we have to drive out the regime—that’s fine too. But they do have to be linked.
[i] Trump threatened that he would order the destruction of 52 sites in Iran—52 being the number of American hostages during the takeover of the U.S. embassy in Tehran by Iranian students in 1979.
Recently Ted Koppel wrote a whole article about this, explicitly invoking the “Godfather”—the movie Godfather I. You see, some of these artistic works have a certain universality, although different classes view them differently. And, speaking from the standpoint of the U.S. imperialist ruling class, Koppel invoked the scene in Godfather I after Mafia Godfather Don Vito Corleone’s oldest son, Sonny, has been killed, in the context of war between different Mafia families. Finally, after this has gone on for awhile, these Mafia families have a “sit-down,” to try to negotiate an end to this warfare. And Don Vito Corleone (played by Marlon Brando) has real largeness of mind, in terms of the relations and interests among these Mafia families. He says:
“For the sake of our larger interests and peace among us, I will forgive the death of my older son. But what I will not forgive is if anything happens to my son Michael. If a car accident should happen to him…” —he goes on to list a bunch of different things that are apparent accidents, and he says: “If any of those things happen to my son Michael, I’m going to blame some people in this room, and that I will not forgive.”…