Tag Archive for barack obama

Goodbye, Bill of Rights / By Philip Giraldi

Hello, Hypocrisy, Paranoia and the Terror State

Obama’s repated instances of political cowardice and opportunism constitute a serious betrayal of his campaign promises and a huge disservice to the actual security of American citizens.

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Obama and the Democrats have shown little desire to toss out the Patriot Act. This is to be expected from a party whose leadership is almost entirely beholden to the the international plutocracy.

 

Those who hoped that the change promised by candidate Barack Obama would include repeal of the various acts that have stripped Americans of their constitutional rights should be disappointed. Benjamin Franklin supposedly wrote, “Those who would give up essential liberty to purchase a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety.” The citation is likely apocryphal, at least in terms of its attribution to Franklin, but it is useful shorthand for the unfortunate abandonment of many of the liberties guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution as a consequence of 9/11. The trauma of 9/11 created an opportunity for those seeking to centralize executive power, an objective of recent presidents from both political parties. Many Americans initially accepted that there had to be some abridgment of fundamental liberties while fighting a multi-faceted and unconventional war against terrorism, but few realize just how much the constitutional rights that all citizens take for granted have been eroded. History also teaches us that once a right is suspended, in all likelihood it is gone forever.

The Uniting and Strengthening America by Providing Appropriate Tools Required to Intercept and Obstruct Terrorism Act of 2001 might well be described as one of history’s more spectacular euphemisms employed to gut a constitution, somewhat akin to Hitler’s “emergency act” in the wake of the Reichstag fire of 1933. It is better known as PATRIOT Act I. PATRIOT Act I became law six weeks after the fall of the Twin Towers and was followed by PATRIOT Act II in 2006. The two laws together diminish constitutional guarantees of free speech, freedom of association, freedom from illegal search, the right to habeas corpus, prohibition of cruel and unusual punishment, and prohibition of the illegal seizure of private property. The First, Fourth, Fifth, Sixth, and Eighth Amendments in the Bill of Rights have all been discarded or abridged in the rush to make it easier to investigate, torture, and jail both foreigners and American citizens. The PATRIOT Act also incorporates the Financial Anti-Terrorism Act of Oct. 17, 2001, which permits the freezing of assets and investigation of individuals suspected of being financial supporters of terrorism. “Suspected” is the key word, as there is no oversight or appeal in the process.

The Military Commission Act of 2006 (MCA) followed the PATRIOT Acts, creating military tribunals for the trying of “unlawful enemy combatants,” including American citizens. Unlike a civil or criminal court, the accused needs only a two-thirds vote by the commission members present to be convicted. The act permits the indefinite jailing of suspects in a military prison without being charged with a crime or given access to a lawyer. The government is not required to produce any normally admissible evidence at a commission hearing and can rely on hearsay or even information obtained overseas during torture to make its case. Detainees do not have access to any classified information used against them and cannot cross-examine or even know the identity of witnesses. The MCA suspends habeas corpus for anyone charged and forbids the application of the Geneva Conventions to mitigate conditions of confinement or to challenge the judicial process or verdict. The Geneva Conventions also cannot be invoked if the accused subsequently claims he was tortured or otherwise abused, protecting overly zealous interrogators from later charges of “war crimes.” The act was also designed to cover all cases that were pending, meaning that it was retroactive.

An executive order issued on July 17, 2007, which is still in effect, authorized the president to seize the property of anyone who “threatens stabilization efforts in Iraq.” As the administration’s own Justice Department decides what constitutes “threatening stabilization efforts,” the order can be used to go after any critic of the government. Most disturbing, the order does not permit a challenge to the information the seizure is based on, and it also permits the confiscation of the property of anyone who comes to the assistance of the suspected de-stabilizer.

The threat to civil liberties is real. Under the authority of the PATRIOT Act, the FBI requested more than 30,000 national security letters in 2007, and the number was surely higher in 2008. The letters enable the FBI to look at anyone’s personal information without any judicial oversight or showing of cause. Anyone who is presented with a letter and compelled to cooperate to provide information on a suspect cannot reveal that the letter has been received. Are there 30,000 terrorists roaming the United States? If there were, the country would surely be a bombed-out ruin by now. The government is instead using the security letters and the other tools provided by the PATRIOT Act legislation to look at people who are completely innocent of any wrongdoing, because it is convenient to be able to do so without the bother of having to go to a judge for a search warrant.

Sen. Barack Obama opposed the MCA and voted against it. He was not in the Senate when the first PATRIOT Act was passed, but he criticized the second version for its abuse of civil liberties before voting for an amended version.  Candidate Obama ran on his record of opposition to the various pieces of legislation, noting consistently that they had authorized the abuse of authority by law enforcement and had abridged the rights of every American. Unfortunately, President Obama appears to have forgotten the principled positions he took as a senator and presidential candidate. After his inauguration, he moved quickly to publicly ban the CIA’s use of torture, a meaningless gesture in that the Agency had already abandoned the practice, but it now appears that he will do nothing to revoke Bush-era legislation like the MCA that he once strongly criticized. There is every indication that he will also endorse renewal of the PATRIOT Act when it expires at the end of the year, afraid that if he does not do so and there is a terrorist attack he will pay a significant political price. The Obama administration has also been silent about the National Security Agency’s warrantless wiretaps and has invoked the “state-secrets privilege” in connection with a lawsuit by the Islamic charity al-Haramain in an apparent bid to prevent disclosure of the warrantless wiretap procedure.

President Obama is not just contradicting his progressive campaign promises and betraying many of the people who voted for him. As a lawyer, he surely understands that protecting the government’s questionable legal “rights” to monitor citizens completely subverts the rule of law, because it guarantees that there will be no accountability. Currently, judges who rule on the state-secrets issue are not themselves allowed to see the alleged classified information, meaning that there is absolutely no transparency to the process in which the government is asserting an extralegal privilege that is surely unconstitutional.

If the Obama administration is beginning to sound like the Bush White House, it should. To be sure, the new president is relying on the advice of many Bush administration holdovers like FBI Director Robert Mueller. Mueller asserts, without providing any evidence, that the tools provided by the PATRIOT Act have been effective in preventing terrorism, just as Bush-era intelligence chiefs claimed that torture and extraordinary rendition were essential to meet the terrorist threat. All such claims should be viewed with extreme skepticism, particularly as they are rarely backed up by any evidence. The government also often lies when it wants to make a case for some illegal action. Claims made in 2008 that the waterboarding of Abu Zubaida produced a flood of information that frustrated terrorist plots are now revealed to have been false. Zubaida confused his interrogators and sent them off on wild goose chases with information that was either deliberately deceptive or flat-out wrong. In reality, the government cannot cite a single instance where the use of draconian new legislation or illegal procedures like torture has either prevented a terrorist incident or led to the arrest of anyone who was ready, willing, and able to carry out a violent act.

Obama would have been wiser to ignore the experts and sit back and consider the broader picture. Does the creation of a monstrous Department of Homeland Security supported by a bloated defense and intelligence establishment really make sense in light of the threat that the U.S. actually faces? How did we arrive at a 400,000-name no-fly list and an NSA that has conducted hundreds of millions of interceptions of telephone calls without any oversight? That a small group of terrorists holed up in an isolated and backward part of the world got lucky against an unsuspecting America on 9/11 is clear, but the odds of them repeating that spectacular success are minimal. More than seven years later, the actual vulnerability of international terrorism should be completely clear and the government should be telling the people the good news, that al-Qaeda is on its last legs and that the other Salafist terrorist groups that have a similar philosophy have been hounded and contained all around the world. There has been no successful terrorist action within the United States, and the appeal of jihadist terrorism is on the wane everywhere else. Its moment has passed.

In spite of the reduced threat, under Obama the business of fighting terrorism goes on with a change in the rhetoric but not in the policy, buttressed by an enlarged military budget to spread the cheer to Afghanistan and increased spending on intelligence. And there is no sign that the liberties that Americans have bartered away are about to be returned. Having an amorphous foreign threat hanging around is always good politics, as it can be used to divert attention from more serious problems at home. Having the mechanisms at hand to investigate an American citizen can also be useful when the critics become too loud. Those who feared that George W. Bush would give his successors unconstitutional tools that they would be reluctant to relinquish have apparently been vindicated.

Philip Giraldi is a former officer of the United States Central Intelligence Agency.  His work has appeared at The American Conservative, Asia Times, Antiwar.com and numerous other periodicals and websites.

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The Cost of Running a Global Empire / By James Quinn

Politics / US Economy

Dateline: Mar 31, 2009 – 02:50 AM

Generals gathered in their masses

Just like witches at black masses

Evil minds that plot destruction

Sorcerers of deaths construction

In the fields the bodies burning

As the war machine keeps turning

Death and hatred to mankind

Poisoning their brainwashed minds, oh lord yeah!

—Black Sabbath – War Pigs

bradleycherbourg_1944_s191143b

Gen. Bradley receives information from Maj. Gen. Lawton Collins on the taking of Cherbourg (1944). Omar Bradley and Dwight Eisenhower had the kind of moral caliber that's largely missing among contemporary leaders.

YOU KNOW CIVILIZATION IS IN DANGER when I find more wisdom in the words of Ozzy Osbourne than in the words of any elected U.S. official. The U.S. war machine keeps turning. As we enforce our will on foreign countries, we produce more people who hate us. Just when you think the U.S. government is beginning to make sense by withdrawing troops from Iraq, they make the terrible decision to shuttle 21,000 more troops into the Afghan calamity. At a cost of $3.2 billion per month, we will throw another $38 billion down a rat hole in a country that has no vital strategic importance to the United States. Barack Obama is doing this to prove that he is a true statesman. The Soviet Union killed over 1 million Afghans, while driving another 5 million out of the country and left bankrupted and defeated after ten years. Young Americans will continue to die for who? for what? Our foreign policy during the last eight years can be summed up in one military term, SNAFU – Situation Normal All Fouled Up. These foreign interventions are a smoke screen for what is really going on in this country. When a government has unsolvable domestic problems, they try to distract the public by creating foreign conflicts. General Douglas MacArthur understood the danger.

“ I am concerned for the security of our great Nation; not so much because of any threat from without, but because of the insidious forces working from within.”

Economic Opportunity Cost

“You can’t say civilization don’t advance… in every war they kill you in a new way.” Will Rogers

Any doubt that the Military Industrial Complex is as strong as ever should be removed after examining Obama’s 2010 budget just put forth. It calls for 26% more in spending on Defense than President Bush spent in 2006. The Soviet Union collapsed in 1989, leaving the United States as the only remaining superpower on earth. Since 1990, the United States has depleted the U.S. Treasury of $7 trillion for spending on Defense. With no military on earth capable of challenging us why would there be a need to spend this much on the military? Over this same time frame the U.S. spent $360 billion on science, space & technology and $52 billion on energy, a mere 6% of the spending on killing machines. Military expenditures benefit humanity in no way. If these trillions had been invested by the private sector or devoted to energy and scientific research, our economy might not be a hollowed out shell dependent on China and oil exporting countries. Nationalists argue that the Defense industry employs millions and benefits the country. These companies employ brilliant engineers and scientists who spend their days developing things that kill people more efficiently. If they had been employed developing electric cars, solar power, wind power, nuclear power, an efficient electric grid, infrastructure upgrades, or finding a cure for Alzheimer’s, would the United States be better off today?

The National Debt in 1990 was $3.2 trillion. Today, it is $11 trillion. This is a 343% increase in nineteen years. What benefit has $7 trillion of spending on Defense produced for the United States or the world? In 2001, spending on Defense was 17% of total governmental spending. In 2008, Defense, Homeland Security, and war spending accounted for 26% of government spending. In the meantime, major cities have had blackouts due to an overloaded electrical grid, our 156,000 structurally deficient bridges crumble, one hundred year old water pipes burst under our streets every day, and we send $500 billion per year to foreign countries for oil. The 19 terrorist hijackers who implanted their plan with knives spent less than $500,000 to pull off their 9/11 acts of terror. The United States has spent over $1 trillion in response, without capturing the mastermind of the attacks.

You would think we must be trying to keep up with our enemies by spending $765 billion per year on the Military. But one look at the charts reveals that the United States is spending as much as the rest of the world combined. The two countries considered potential rivals, Russia and China, spent $192 billion combined in 2008. This is 27% of U.S. spending. From a foreign perspective, one must wonder why the U.S. is spending such vast quantities on our military. They can only conclude that it is for offensive intentions rather than defensive. The United States soil has not been attacked by a foreign power since December 7, 1941. Prior to that surprise attack, a foreign power hadn’t attacked the U.S. since the War of 1812. With this level of spending, our leaders feel compelled to interfere in the business of sovereign nations.

Other countries, such as China and Russia, feel they have no choice but to increase their expenditures on the military. On a percentage basis, they have more than doubled their expenditures in the last ten years, and still are a drop in the ocean compared to the American Empire spending. The fact is that the U.S. , China and Russia all have enough nuclear weapons to obliterate the world – mutually assured destruction. The United States could realistically protect itself with the 18 ballistic missile nuclear submarines that we have in commission.

The U.S. has borrowed $609 billion from China, Japan and oil exporting countries to wage a war in Iraq that was based on false pretenses. None of the terrorist hijackers on 9/11 were Iraqis, they had no links to Al Qaeda, and they had no weapons of mass destruction. Historian Barbara Tuchman described “w ar as the unfolding of miscalculations.” In 2002, Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld estimated the costs of the war in the range of $50 to $60 billion, a portion of which he believed would be financed by other countries. The United States invaded Iraq to secure the 115 billion barrels of oil reserves, pure and simple. We’ve traded the blood of young Americans for oil because we chose to not develop a cohesive logical energy policy in the last 30 years. Americans, not in the military, have sacrificed nothing in the last 7 years of war. We bought SUVs, McMansions, flat screen HDTVs, Blackberrys, iPods, and Rolexes while Americans died and the cost is passed to future generations.

“Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired, signifies in the final sense a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed.” —Dwight D. Eisenhower

As we spend $765 billion per year on weapons, 37 million Americans live in poverty, with 46 million uninsured. There are 3 to 4 million people homeless in any given year. Military Veterans, who make up 13% of the population, account for 23% of the homeless. This is another example of government using Americans and then tossing them away like a piece of garbage. Now, with the recession deepening, tent cities of homeless are popping up across the nation. We pour billions into killing technology while American families are forced to live on the streets.

As the world spends $1.5 trillion per year on new methods of killing, millions die the old fashioned way.

  • 13 million people per year die from starvation in the world.
  • The FAO says that 854 million people worldwide are undernourished .
  • The World Bank has estimated that there were an estimated 982 million poor people in developing countries who live on $1 a day or less.
  • For the price of one missile, a school full of hungry children could eat lunch every day for 5 years.
  • Poor nutrition plays a role in at least half of the 10.9 million child deaths each year–six million deaths.
  • 1 child dies every 5 seconds as a result of hunger – 700 every hour – 16 000 each day – 6 million each year – 60% of all child deaths (2002-2008 estimates)

What kind of a civilized society allocates 44% of the taxes taken from its people to war? Only 2.5% of your taxes go to science, energy, and environment. Only 2.2% of your taxes go to education and jobs. With a population of 304 million, the U.S. spends $59 billion ($194 per person) annually on education. Saudi Arabia , with a population of 28 million, spends $33 billion ($1,179 per person) on education. You produce the results that you would expect from your investments. A full 15% of our population doesn’t have a high school diploma (20% of African Americans & 43% of Latinos) and only 27% have a college degree. How do we expect to lead the world in technology and research with these figures?

Human Cost

Politicians hide themselves away
They only started the war
Why should they go out to fight?
They leave that role to the poor

Time will tell on their power minds
Making war just for fun
Treating people just like pawns in chess
Wait till their judgment day comes, yeah!

Black Sabbath – War Pigs

George Bush, Dick Cheney, and Donald Rumsfeld were politicians who never had the “pleasure” of coming under fire in battle. The brilliant anti-war novel Catch-22 describes these men perfectly .

“Some men are born mediocre, some men achieve mediocrity, and some men have mediocrity thrust upon them. With Major Major it had been all three.”

The world was a huge game of Risk for these men , with young Americans as the game pieces. Instead of conquering Kamchatka in a board game, these three non-veterans sent 4,261 Americans to their deaths in Iraq for a false cause. Their neo-con ideology convinced them they could change the world.

“In modern war… you will die like a dog for no good reason.” Ernest Hemingway

Another 45,583 Americans have been badly wounded in Iraq . We’ve lost 673 more Americans in Afghanistan without coming close to finding Osama bin Laden. These three disgraced politicians will now write their memoirs, raking in millions for telling lies and half truths. The 4,934 dead Americans won’t have a chance to write their memoirs. These three men will receive their reward on their judgment day.

As National Guard troops are deployed over and over again to Iraq , they must realize that Catch-22 is alive and well in today’s military.

“There was only one catch and that was Catch-22, which specified that a concern for one’s own safety in the face of dangers that were real and immediate was the process of a rational mind. Orr was crazy and could be grounded. All he had to do was ask; and as soon as he did, he would no longer be crazy and would have to fly more missions. Orr would be crazy to fly more missions and sane if he didn’t, but if he was sane he had to fly them. If he flew them he was crazy and didn’t have to; but if he didn’t want to he was sane and had to. Yossarian was moved very deeply by the absolute simplicity of this clause of Catch-22 and let out a respectful whistle.”  ”That’s some catch, that catch-22,” he observed.  ”It’s the best there is,” Doc Daneeka agreed

American soldiers who have completed their duty to country have been lied to and had the rules of the game changed during the game. Their politician leaders have reneged on their promises by sending men and women back to the war zone or not letting them come home on the timeline that was agreed to. Meanwhile, their families are going bankrupt, losing their houses, and seeing their marriages dissolve. Politicians started this war and are too cowardly to declare failure.

“The military don’t start wars. Politicians start wars.” William Westmoreland

Many more will die needlessly now that Barack Obama has chosen to double down in Afghanistan. Another man who has never been under fire is going to prove his manliness to other world leaders. He should study the words of former Presidents who have been under fire.

“ I hate war as only a soldier who has lived it can, only as one who has seen its brutality, its futility, its stupidity.” Dwight D. Eisenhower

“My first wish is to see this plague of mankind, war, banished from the earth.” George Washington

President Obama follows the standard Presidential game plan and dutifully gives patriotic speeches at a military base proclaiming the bravery and sacrifice of our troops. These are the words of politicians. The brutal reality for troops is much different. Representative Ron Paul in November 2003 described the early mistreatment of our soldiers.

•  Fort Stewart , Georgia, housed hundreds of injured reserve and National Guard soldiers in deplorable conditions who were forced to wait months just to see a doctor. These soldiers made huge sacrifices, leaving their families and jobs to fight in Iraq . They found themselves living in hot, crowded, unsanitary barracks and waiting far too long to see overworked doctors. This was hardly the heroes’ welcome they might have expected. Only an exposé in a major newspaper brought attention to their plight, prompting an embarrassed Defense department to rush additional doctors to the base.

•  Some wounded soldiers convalescing at Walter Reed hospital in Washington were forced to pay for hospital meals from their own pockets. Other soldiers returning stateside for a two-week liberty had to buy their own airfare home from the east coast. Still others paid for desert boots, night vision goggles, and other military necessities with personal funds.

•  Existing federal rules forced disabled veterans to give up their military retirement pay in order to receive VA disability benefits. This meant that every VA disability dollar paid to a veteran was deducted from his retirement pay, effectively creating a “disabled veterans tax.” No other group of federal employees is subject to this unfair standard; in every other case disability pay is viewed as distinct from standard retirement pay.

The Humvees that soldiers were forced to drive did not have enough protective armor. In December 2004, Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld was giving one of his usual inspirational speeches when Army Spc. Thomas Wilson of the 278 th Regimental Combat Team, a unit that consisted mainly of reservists from the Tennessee Army National Guard asked him a question:

“Why do we soldiers have to dig through local landfills for pieces of scrap metal and compromised ballistic glass to up-armor our vehicles?” Wilson asked, setting off what the AP described as “a big cheer” from his comrades in arms. Rumsfeld paused, asked Wilson to repeat the question, then finally replied, “You go to war with the army you have.” Besides, he added, “You can have all the armor in the world on a tank and it can be blown up.” I’m glad Donald Rumsfeld has a clear conscience. History will not be kind to this man.

Rumsfeld also sent Americans into battle without protective body armor. Only after bad publicity did the proper protection reach the troops. The blood of many dead soldiers is on Rumsfeld’s hands. While President Bush sacrificed by not golfing, terribly wounded soldiers were sent to Walter Reed Hospital to recover. Instead they entered hell on earth. Outpatient mistreatment was reported in 2004, but nothing was done. In 2004 and 2005, articles appeared in the Washington Post and in Salon interviewing First Lt. Julian Goodrum about his court martial for seeking medical care elsewhere due to poor conditions at WRAMC. A Washington Post expose in 2007 finally revealed the horrible mistreatment of our brave wounded soldiers. These reporters uncovered the following conditions:

•  WRAMC’s Building 18 is described in the article as rat- and cockroach-infested, with stained carpets, cheap mattresses, and black mold, with no heat and water reported by some soldiers at the facility. The unmonitored entrance created security problems, including reports of drug dealers in front of the facility. Injured soldiers stated they are forced to “pull guard duty” to obtain a level of security.

•  The typical soldier was required to file 22 documents with eight different commands – most of them off-post – to enter and exit the medical processing world, according to government investigators. Sixteen different information systems were used to process the forms, but few of them could communicate with one another. This complicated system has required some soldiers to prove they were in the Iraq War or the War in Afghanistan in order to obtain medical treatment and benefits because Walter Reed employees were unable to locate their records.

Salon recently reported about the tremendous surge in suicides by soldiers who have been pushed beyond their limits:

  • Last year the Army had its highest suicide rate on record — 140 soldiers. But new data from the Army on Wednesday showed the number jumping even higher. Forty-eight soldiers have already killed themselves so far this year. If that rate keeps up, nearly 225 Army soldiers will be dead by their own hand by the end of 2009.
  • Soldiers returning from long tours in Iraq or Afghanistan suffering from combat stress were sometimes met with scorn from their superiors and something bordering on neglect from some medical officials. As their largely untreated problems deteriorated, their marriages unraveled under the strain. They turned to alcohol and drugs and in some cases saw no other way out than suicide.
  • Healthcare officials at various installations who are struggling to help say they’re overwhelmed by huge numbers of troops returning from two, three or even four deployments with acute mental problems from combat.

Nearly 20 percent of military service members who have returned from Iraq and Afghanistan — 300,000 in all — report symptoms of post traumatic stress disorder or major depression, yet only slightly more than half have sought treatment, according to a new RAND Corporation report. Many service members said they do not seek treatment for psychological illnesses because they fear it will harm their careers. But even among those who do seek help for PTSD or major depression, only about half receive treatment that researchers consider “minimally adequate” for their illnesses.

For all the glory and accolades of dying for Dick Cheney, enlisted soldiers make between $15,000 and $30,000 per year. The military evidently does not prepare them well for the outside world as their unemployment rate is 11.2% versus the national rate of 8.1%. A country can be measured by how well it treats its veterans. Our leaders talk a good game, but their actions prove they don’t care about the human costs of war. They are busy planning their next move in their game of Risk .

Moral Cost

Now in darkness, world stops turning
As the war machine keeps burning
No more war pigs of the power
Hand of God has struck the hour
Day of Judgment, God is calling
On their knees, the war pigs crawling
Begging mercy for their sins
Satan, laughing, spreads his wings
All right now!

Black Sabbath – War Pigs

Omar Bradley, the last five star General in the U.S. military, was known as the “soldier’s general” during World War II. He was portrayed by Karl Malden in the movie Patton as a thoughtful man who cared about his troops. He was one of the key architects of the Normandy invasion and led the 12 th Army Group consisting of 900,000 men until the end of the war. After the war, Bradley headed the Veterans Administration for two years. He is credited with doing much to improve its health care system and with helping veterans receive their educational benefits under the G.I. Bill of Rights. He ultimately rose to Chairman of the Joint Chiefs. Contrast the words of the fictional Colonel Kilgore from the movie Apocalypse Now, with the words of General Bradley.

Kilgore: I love the smell of napalm in the morning. You know, one time we had a hill bombed, for 12 hours. When it was all over, I walked up. We didn’t find one of ‘em, not one stinkin’ dink body. The smell, you know that gasoline smell, the whole hill. Smelled like
[
sniffing, pondering ]
victory. Someday this war’s gonna end…
[
suddenly walks off ]

“The world has achieved brilliance without wisdom, power without conscience. Ours is a world of nuclear giants and ethical infants. We know more about war than we know about peace, more about killing than we know about living.” Omar Bradley

We need men like Omar Bradley and Dwight D. Eisenhower in control of our country today. These men knew the horrors of war and didn’t act like it was a game of chess. There are brilliant men in power today. There are no wise men with a conscience in power today. Only those without a conscience are able to gain power in today’s world. General Bradley understood that morality was ultimately more important than power and strength in the progress of a country. His words are those of someone who knew we had failed in our moral duty:

“ We have grasped the mystery of the atom and rejected the Sermon on the Mount.”

  • Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
  • Blessed are the meek: for they shall possess the land.
  • Blessed are they who mourn: for they shall be comforted.
  • Blessed are they that hunger and thirst after justice: for they shall have their fill.
  • Blessed are the merciful: for they shall obtain mercy.
  • Blessed are the clean of heart: for they shall see God.
  • Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God.
  • Blessed are they that suffer persecution for justice sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

Peacemakers are ridiculed and shunned in today’s world. Old men who care more about their own power than the human race are willing to sacrifice the blood of young people for oil, phony nationalism, strategic interests or philosophical agendas. The world is a game for these old men. They care about legacy and ideology. War and militarism are a failure of passion over reason. Albert Einstein, whose discovery brought about the age of potential world destruction, had no love for blind warriors.

“He who joyfully marches to music in rank and file has already earned my contempt. He has been given a large brain by mistake, since for him the spinal cord would suffice.”

The overwhelming cost of maintaining a global empire eventually bankrupted Rome and Great Britain . Treasures were wasted, young men were needlessly sacrificed in the name of the flag, and the morality of leaders sank to unprecedented levels. The U.S. has advanced financially and technologically, but continues to decline morally. How far will we decline before the American people revolt?

I’m reminded of the movie Planet of the Apes. The apes are divided into a strict class system: the gorillas as police, military, and hunters; the orangutans as administrators, politicians and lawyers; and the chimpanzees as intellectuals and scientists. Humans, who cannot talk, are considered feral vermin and are hunted and used for scientific experimentation. The United States is now in the control of gorillas and orangutans. If we continue down the current path of financial and moral decay, allowing the Military Industrial Complex and corrupt leaders to push us into further world conflicts we will experience the shock and horror that George Taylor, played by Charlton Heston, displayed in the final scene of Planet of the Apes .

George Taylor: Oh my God. I’m back. I’m home. All the time, it was… We finally really did it.
[ screaming ]
You Maniacs! You blew it up! Ah, damn you! God damn you all to hell!

If you are seeking the truth, join me at www.TheBurningPlatform.com .

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

quinnadvisors@comcast.net

James Quinn is a senior director of strategic planning for a major university. James has held financial positions with a retailer, homebuilder and university in his 22-year career. Those positions included treasurer, controller, and head of strategic planning. He is married with three boys and is writing these articles because he cares about their future. He earned a BS in accounting from Drexel University and an MBA from Villanova University. He is a certified public accountant and a certified cash manager.

These articles reflect the personal views of James Quinn. They do not necessarily represent the views of his employer, and are not sponsored or endorsed by his employer.

© 2009 Copyright James Quinn – All Rights Reserved

Disclaimer: The above is a matter of opinion provided for general information purposes only and is not intended as investment advice. Information and analysis above are derived from sources and utilising methods believed to be reliable, but we cannot accept responsibility for any losses you may incur as a result of this analysis. Individuals should consult with their personal financial advisors.


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Time to ask: How long must the Obama "honeymoon" last?

April 2, 2009

Give Obama a Chance to Do What?

By Kevin Gosztola

So far the best demagogue the system can buy. Granter of small favors in aspects the system can afford to change, but immutable in regard to the real roots of the problem.

IF IT WEREN’T FOR ALL THE EXCUSES BEING MADE for Obama’s and his administration’s actions, I would feel a whole lot better. I think others who suffered under the Bush Regime would too.

The populist anger across America is refreshing. People are angry and getting into it over issues that need to be deliberated over.

For all the problems America faces, its citizens do not have the time to give Obama a chance. 

Americans should not just trust that Obama knows what he is doing. Political dithering should not be accepted on the basis that he eventually will get done what needs to be done. There are plans and policy proposals out there for doing what needs to be done now.

It does not make sense to give any president or leader no matter who he or she is a chance especially when giving that chance means letting a president or leader placate a public with wishful thinking, especially when it means brushing aside and hushing the populist rage that is currently inescapable in America.

When one says give Obama a chance, it means tens of thousands more troops deploy to the Middle East for wars of choice, not necessity. It means thousands redeploy for third and fourth tours of duty. It means maybe a million more brown people die, maybe trillions of more dollars are looted… and maybe some more no-bid contracts are given to dirty rotten private contractors.

When one says give Obama a chance, it means one more day where others have to listen to excuses on why America cannot investigate and prosecute the war criminals for torture, crimes against humanity, or war crimes. It means one more day when others have to deal with the reality that a constitutional law professor-in-chief lacks the moral fortitude to do what Jonathan Turley, a constitutional law professor at George Washington University, has the moral fortitude to do.

When one says give Obama a chance, it means allowing climate change, mountaintop removal  mining, environmental racism, and an addiction to oil, coal, nuclear power continues unchallenged. It means further political manipulation of science so corporations can make profit at the expense of Mother Earth and the biological material which populates it.

When one says give Obama a chance, it means ICE raids. It means government secrecy and lack of transparency. It means a vicious erosion of civil liberties and constitutional rights continues.

When one says give Obama a chance, it means there will be one more online town hall meeting where the legalization of marijuana is a top question and it means that one more town hall meeting will be another time when Obama scoffs and patronizes tens of thousands of Americans. It means the war on drugs continues.

When one says give Obama a chance, it means our nation’s “pay or die” health care system continues and it means politicians consider instituting a hybrid of it instead of single-payer health care.

When one says give Obama a chance, it means more weeks where schools suffer under the No Child Left Behind Act. It means over-emphasis on standardized testing continues. It means militarization and corporatization of learning continues unchallenged by liberal intelligentsia and academic institutions nationwide.

When one says give Obama a chance, it means look out for Monsanto. It means “concentrated animal feeding operations” carry on. It means support for biotech and genetically modified or engineered food goes unchallenged.

When one says give Obama a chance, it means NAFTA and WTO keep on keeping on. It means unions fight for an Employee Free Choice Act because they know corporate dominance and bigotry toward unionization is unbeatable. It means more days of clocking in for a minimum wage instead of a living wage.

And, finally, giving Obama a chance means corporate criminals especially banksters on Wall Street get bailouts while corporations like GM, which makes cars with union jobs bear consequences Goldman Sachs and Citigroup will never face even though their schemes have been just as detrimental to the American people as GM or Chrysler’s have been. It means the Federal Reserve continues doing whatever it’s doing no questions asked.

What do those who wish to give Obama a chance cling to? What intangible change do they dream will take place?

Is it a withdrawal from Iraq or Afghanistan?

Obama chose to not vote on that on December 18, 2007, when there was a bill on the Senate floor dealing with redeployment of troops and training of Iraqi Security Forces. He also chose to not vote on May 22, 2008, when funding for operations in Iraq and Afghanistan came up for a vote. And, on September 20, 2007, he chose to not vote on the bill expressing support for General Petraeus and the Armed Forces.

Is it the development of alternative energy?

Obama chose to not vote on that on April 10, 2008, when a bill to extend tax credits to develop alternative energy came to the floor. He also chose to not vote on the Energy Act of 2007, which was a bill for increasing alternative fuel production and the alternative fuel economy.

Is it to end torture?

Obama chose to not vote on that on July 19, 2007, when a provision on the movement of Guantanamo detainees came up for a vote.

Is it to improve education?

On July 31, 2008, Obama chose to not vote on the Higher Education Amendment Act, which was a bill to increase the availability and amount of Pell grants.

Each of these pressing issues (the wars, energy independence, education, torture and U.S. violations of civil liberties) were issues Obama chose to not take a stance on while he was out running for president. Obama chose to take positions of political safety instead of positions of integrity.

Martin Luther King Jr said, “A genuine leader is not a searcher for consensus but a molder of consensus.” Why is Obama reluctant to mold consensuses? 

Left or right, who cares. Positions need to be taken on issues that will solve dire problems this country faces. 

Obama cannot bring change to Washington without being a challenging and transformative personality.

Obama cannot give us the change we need if every decision he makes is going to be dictated by what conventional wisdom deems to be the middle (and by conventional wisdom I mean those just slightly left of the hosts of “Fox & Friends”).

Obama cannot deliver if the people who elected him to office are reluctant to vigilantly offer constructive criticism, skepticism, and dismay as he tiptoes through the tulips—and by tulips, I mean, conservative Democrats and Republicans.

How can anyone demand people give Obama a chance and stand by as he creates gridlock in government by bending over backwards to look bipartisan?

Trying to bring people who were defeated at the polls in November along with him so those people can obstruct, decry, and veto Obama’s policies is lunatic. When one wins an election, he or she should run the damn country especially when the policy changes on the table are changes that were campaigned on during the election.

Unfortunately, much of what Obama is doing was done by Bush during his presidency. Obama is choosing continuity over controversy (“No Drama” Obama). It may have something to do with his background with the Democratic machine in Chicago.

So, why not be angry and critical toward Obama when he sends troops to continue the “war on terror” in Afghanistan like Obama supporters would have been when Bush was in power?

Why not fight for some kind of accountability and responsibility? It may be a lost cause with this cast and crew running the show, but without the uproar toward corporations and government officials suspected of crimes and misdemeanors, this country will make the institutionalization of lawlessness permanent. (It’s already temporarily taken hold).

This unity and support, which so many fervently call for—I don’t like it. It makes Obama into an authoritarian figure that I think subverts key tenets and principles of democracy.

So, if you want unity and a public that supports him unconditionally, I suggest you consider relocating to another less free, less democratic nation.

There’s no, “Can’t we all just get along?”

We who organized around “Yes We Can” deserve to be angry when we feel like we are being slapped silly by a presidency of “No, We Won’t.”

To echo Bill Maher, it’s time to be loyal to principles and not loyal to people.

Healthy skepticism and cynicism are necessary. The price of gullibility is far too steep.

Obama didn’t run for student council president. He ran for the President of the United States of America.

He will have to answer for all the decisions made now and also answer for the unchecked movements and trends that have been ongoing for decades and years. He will have to answer for the Clinton retreads he chooses to populate his administration.

When a president squanders political capital during a valuable opportunity to radically revitalize and re-envision a society spiraling downward, that president deserves to be criticized.

Until 2012, he’s responsible for the operations of the biggest empire on Earth. 

Author’s Bio: Kevin Gosztola goes to Columbia College in Chicago where he is studying film. He is a YP4 2009 Fellow and is interested in becoming more involved in progressive leadership and using media for social change. Kevin Gosztola is a documentary filmmaker and also an At-Large Senator for the Student Government Association at Columbia College. On Columbia College’s campus, he is working to create a Student Civic Collective and increase funding and resources for political and social student organizations on campus. He is working to show students how they can use arts & media for social change and is the leader of Students for Media Reform at Columbia College (SMRCC).

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"Left’ Obamites Prefer Kool-Aid to Struggle / By Glen Ford

Rift on the Left

obamagenuine

A segment of the Left refuses to take Obama at his word, and probably with good reason.

 

BAR executive editor Glen Ford answers Linda Burnham’s recent assault on the non-Obamite Left, whom she sneeringly refers to as victims of “Left ‘anticipatory disillusionment’” and assorted other “psycho-babble.” Burnham sets up Left straw men, to knock them down, all in an attempt to justify her cohort’s capitulation to Power. “One great tragedy of the current episode,” writes Ford, “is that the [economic] crisis occurred at a moment when the remnants of the Left and Black movements in the U.S. have been neutralized by imperialism’s Black champion.” Hilariously, Burnham credits Obama with having “wrenched the Democratic Party out of the clammy grip of Clintonian centrism” when, in actuality, “Obama’s government IS Clintonian. And the new president is as skilled and ruthless a triangulator as Bill ever was.”

“Burnham’s definition of ‘motion’ does not involve confronting Power, but rather, attaching oneself to it.”

LOTS OF FOLKS ON THE LEFT, it is now apparent, no longer seek anything more than to bask in the sunshine of Barack Obama’s smile. No matter how much national treasure their champion transfers to the bankster class, and despite his exceeding George W. Bush in military spending, so-called progressives for Obama continue to celebrate their imagined emergence as players in the national political saga. Having in practice foresworn resistance to Power, they relish in bashing the non-Obamite Left.

In tone and substance, Linda Burnham’s recent, widely circulated piece, “Notes on an Orientation to the Obama Presidency” is several cuts above last summer’s vicious rant by Amiri Baraka, “The Parade of Anti-Obama Rascals.” But both assaults on Left critics of Obama are based on the same false assumptions and willful illogic, and although no one can trump Baraka in argumentative foul play and sheer nastiness, Burnham’s article is nonetheless littered with sneers at those who “are stranded on Dogma Beach…flipping out over every appointment and policy move [Obama] makes.” 

Burnham launches immediately into a denigration of non-Obamites, claiming Obama’s election “occasioned some disorientation and confusion” among those on the Left who “have become so used to confronting the dismal electoral choice between the lesser of two evils that they couldn’t figure out how to relate to a political figure who held out the possibility of substantive change.”

Burnham’s method is to invent straw men and then place words and thoughts in their fictitious mouths and brains. Certainly, we at Black Agenda Report were anything but “confused” by either Obama’s political conduct or his extraordinary popularity, having placed the young upstart under intense scrutiny beginning in the early Summer of 2003, while he was still a low-ranked candidate for the Democratic senatorial nomination in Illinois. Obama’s phenomenal talents, hitched to a transparently corporatist, imperial worldview – and a practiced dishonesty about his rightist alliances – made Obama a person worth watching. The BAR team, then operating out of Black Commentator, had Obama pegged as a potential vector of confusion in Black and progressive ranks long before his worldwide debut at the 2004 Democratic National Convention. And we were right. It is in Burnham’s political neighborhood that confusion reigns, not ours. 

Burnham claims that many on the Left “were taken by surprise at how wide and deep ran the current for change.” Either she’s talking about herself, or she hangs around a very cloistered crowd. Or, more likely, Burnham is conflating the word “change” with “Obama” – an effect of drinking too much Kool-Aid. In either case, none of it applies to folks like us at BAR – and there are a number of others on the Left – who more than five years ago understood both Obama’s mass appeal and the mass desire for real change, and feared that one would thwart the other.

Left critics of Obama, according to Burnham, fail to recognize that he is not the “lesser of two evils,” but rather holds out the “possibility of substantive change.” This is a core position, central to the “progressive” Obamite argument. Beyond the fact of having broken the presidential color bar, which in the American context is a positive development on its face, Obama is near-identical to Hillary Clinton on virtually every policy issue, as became evident in the primaries. Their compatibility was revealed as something closer to political intimacy when Obama erected his Cabinet – a house as Clintonian as anything Bill ever built, with plenty of room reserved for friends from the Bush gang. Color aside, whatever kind of “evil” Hillary and Bill are, Obama is.

Burnham outlines what she says is the “active conversation on the left about what can be expected of an Obama administration and what the orientation of the left should be towards it.” We will have to take her word for it, although her mischaracterization of Left Obama critics (certainly those at BAR) makes us less than confident that the “conversation” is as she describes. Below are the “two conflicting views” on Obama, on the Left:

“First, that Obama represents a substantial, principally positive political shift and that, while the left should criticize and resist policies that pull away from the interests of working people, its main orientation should be to actively engage with the political motion that’s underway.

“Second, that Obama is, in essence, just another steward of capitalism, more attractive than most, but not an agent of fundamental change. He should be regarded with caution and is bound to disappoint. The basic orientation is to criticize every move the administration makes and to remain disengaged from mainstream politics.”

The first viewpoint is no doubt held by Burnham. It is essentially mooted by the reality that most Left Obamites only weakly “criticize” and virtually never “resist” Obama’s rightist policies and appointments in the crucial military and economic arenas – which was, first, the fear and, later, the main complaint of the non-Obamite Left. The Obama Effect is to neutralize Blacks and the Left (Blacks being the main electoral base of the American Left) by capturing their enthusiasm for Obama’s own corporate purposes. Obama and his Democratic Leadership Council allies (and their corporate masters) monopolize the “motion,” all the while shutting out even mildly Left voices (as in the recent White House Forum on Health, from which single payer health care advocates were initially barred). Blacks and the Left have not been in any kind of effective forward “motion” since Election Day. As we shall see, Burnham’s definition of “motion” does not involve confronting Power, but rather, attaching oneself to it.

“Whatever kind of “evil” Hillary and Bill are, Obama is.”

Policy-wise, Obama no more “represents a substantial, principally positive political shift” than his political twin, Hillary – again, color aside. 

The second viewpoint is supposedly held by the opposition, and partially reflects the views of the BAR team. Yes, Obama is “just another steward of capitalism, more attractive than most, but not an agent of fundamental change.”  This has been easily observed, since Blacks and the Left have allowed Obama to act upon his corporate and imperial instincts, unimpeded by even the mildest counter-pressures. His presidency takes shape to the Right of Democratic congressional leaders, who have made more noise over Obama’s Iraq trickle-out and his clear threats to Social Security and other “entitlements,” than have many Left Obamites. 

Obama is not simply “bound to disappoint” – he has already been cause for great disappointment, even among those of us who scoped his essential corporatist nature years ago. Who would have predicted that he would play the most eager Gunga Din for the bizarre Bush/Paulson bank bailout decree, last year? Who would have foreseen that Obama would retain the loathsome international criminal Robert Gates as Secretary of Defense? That he would continue Bush’s policies on Africa – Zimbabwe, Sudan, Somalia, AFRICOM – without missing a beat? That he would so quickly offer to put Social Security “on the table” for “reform” (in the Republican sense of the term)? 

bush_and_barack_obama_meet_in_oval_office

Many believe that Bush and Obama's policies are antipodal, but in substantive questions such as war and corporate power, the confluence is clear and irrefutable.

But Burnham would have you believe the Left opposition are nothing but nitpickers, inflating executive pinpricks into major assaults. Thus, she seeks to make the opposition look silly, as if we “criticize every move the administration makes.” In truth, her argument is designed to excuse her and her Left allies failure to “resist” or confront Obama in any meaningful way. 

Like many of her cohorts, Burnham is quick to grant that Obama “is a steward of capitalism,” but maintains that “his election has opened up the potential for substantive reform in the interests of working people and that his election to office is a democratic win worthy of being fiercely defended.” 

Again, if Obama’s election opened up the “potential” for reform, so would have Hillary’s. They were (and remain) political brother and sister under the skin. The Obamites would be utterly helpless if unable to deploy (and abuse) the term “potential,” given the actuality of Obama’s presidency. Conveniently, “potential” lives in the future, where it can’t be pinned down. That’s why Obama’s “potential” is a central theme of his Left camp followers – it allows them to claim that the opposition’s critiques of their hero might harm the “potential” good he might do in the future. 

At any rate, the Obamite Left can claim no credit for Obama’s progressive “potential,” since they did little or nothing that might have caused him to abandon his relentless rightward drift.

“Burnham’s argument is designed to excuse her and her allies failure to “resist” or confront Obama in any meaningful way.”

Burnham & Co. want us to accept Obama’s corporate orientation as “what he was elected to do.” Burnham urges us to be “clear” about Obama’s “job description”: “Obama’s job is to salvage and stabilize the U.S. capitalist system and to perform whatever triage is necessary to restore the core institutions of finance and industry to profitability.”

That is certainly what Obama and his big campaign funders believe his job is, but a progressive’s task is to cause him to serve the people – an assignment that I am not convinced Burnham and her allies have accepted. 

On the international scene (i.e., The Empire), Obama’s job – as Burnham says should be clear to “us” – is “to salvage the reputation of the U.S. in the world; repair the international ties shredded by eight years of cowboy unilateralism; and adjust U.S. positioning on the world stage [so far, so good, but here Burnham slips down the proverbial slope] on the basis of a rational assessment of the strengths and weaknesses of the changed and changing centers of global political, economic and military power – rather than on the basis of a simple-minded ideological commitment to unchallenged world dominance.”

Obama’s military budget, bigger than Bush’s, his escalation in Afghanistan/Pakistan, the unraveling of his Iraq “withdrawal” promises, and his provocations in Africa all signal that this president has no intention of relinquishing the goal of global U.S. hegemony. To paraphrase his famous statement on war, “I’m not opposed to imperialism, just dumb imperialism.” 

Burnham should bring herself to admit that Obama is, indeed, merely a more charming face pasted on the imperial monster – with the same teeth (weapons), appetite and ambitions. In an indirect way, she does offer a version of the truth, packaged in what sounds like genuine, praiseful admiration:

“Obama has been on the job for only a month but has not wasted a moment in going after his double bottom line with gusto, panache and high intelligence. In point of fact, the capitalists of the world – or at least the U.S. branch – ought to be building altars to the man and lighting candles. They have chosen an uncommonly steady hand to pull their sizzling fat from the fire.”

Burnham then sets up the Left straw men, so as to knock them down. These one-note Charlies, real or imagined, are incapable of sophisticated thought and analysis:

“For the anti-capitalist left that is grounded in Trotskyism, anarcho-horizontalism, or various forms of third-party-as-a-point-of-principleism, the only change worthy of the name is change that hits directly at the kneecaps of capitalism and cripples it decisively. All else is trifling with minor reforms or, even worse, capitulating to the power elite. From this point of view the stance towards Obama is self-evident: criticize relentlessly, disabuse others of their presidential infatuation, and denounce anything that remotely smacks of mainstream politics.”

Such people may exist, but they don’t resemble BAR or any of our allies and correspondents. Burnham is employing the cheapest trick of argumentation: she picks (or invents) the weakest, most unreasonable, narrow opponent, and savages him. I know of no serious activist that believes “the only change worthy of the name is change that hits directly at the kneecaps of capitalism and cripples it decisively.”  If that were so, then such activists would have nothing to do for most of their lives, since chances to “cripple” capitalism “decisively” are few and very far between.

“Obama is, indeed, merely a more charming face pasted on the imperial monster – with the same teeth (weapons), appetite and ambitions.”

But crises of capitalism do occur, and we are living through one of them. Capitulationists are also real, and reveal themselves at the worst possible junctures. One great tragedy of the current episode is that the crisis occurred at a moment when the remnants of the Left and Black movements in the U.S. have been neutralized by the “uncommonly steady hand” of imperialism’s Black champion, to whom Burnham and countless others have, yes, capitulated. 

In order to defend the capitulation, the Burnhams of the Left must credit Obama with achievements he has not made, plus the amorphous “potential” achievements to which he has “opened the door” and which will magically occur even in the absence of organized people making a demand. A hilarious Burnham example of an Obama feat: He has “wrenched the Democratic Party out of the clammy grip of Clintonian centrism. (Although he himself often leads from the center, Obama’s center is a couple of notches to the left of the Clinton administration’s triangulation strategies)….” 

Ha! Burnham imagines “notches” that aren’t there. Obama’s government IS Clintonian. And the new president is as skilled and ruthless a triangulator as Bill ever was, consistently finding a position to the Right of whatever passes for Left on Capitol Hill, but nestled near to the corporate bosom. 

Burnham spends additional pages working the same themes of Left “anticipatory disillusionment” and other psycho-babble to mask her own cohort’s capitulation. Many Obama critics did anticipate his center-right behavior, and we were correct – but never disillusioned. Political groupies, however, are fated to suffer disillusion and betrayal.  

 “The new president is as skilled and ruthless a triangulator as Bill ever was.”

Burnham reveals inklings of her own emotional state when she gratuitously urges “those who missed interacting with the motion of millions against the right, against the white racial monopoly on the executive branch, and for substantive change,” to re-examine their political orientation. In addition to her condescending tone, which seems to assume that her targets have no experience with the “motion of millions” in actual political movements, rather than a corporate-shaped and funded presidential election campaign, Burnham appears to think of the non-Obamite Left as people who didn’t RSVP for the best party of the year, and are now resentful. 

In the last hundred words of the piece, we discover that her idea of “building the left” requires folding up the tent in or near the Obama camp. Examine this extraordinary passage:

 “The current political alignment provides an opportunity to break out of isolation, marginalization and the habits of self-marginalization accumulated during the neo-conservative ascendancy. It provides the opportunity to initiate and/or strengthen substantive relationships with political actors in government, in the Democratic Party, and in independent sectors, as well as within the left itself – relationships to be built upon long after the Obama presidency has come to an end. It provides the opportunity to accumulate lessons about political actors, alignments and centers of power likewise relevant well beyond this administration. And it provides the opportunity for the immersion of the leaders, members and constituencies of left formations in a highly accelerated, real world poli-sci class.”

This sounds uncannily like Obamite Prof. Leonard Jeffries’ admonition that all Black folks “study Obama-ism.” Burnham’s gushings are remarkable for their abject surrender, not just to Obama’s persona and mystique, but to the institutional trappings and annexes of corporate-tethered rule. She wants us all to take lessons from the corporate-bought structures – to better serve the people? No. Burnham is telling us that now that she’s seen the Big Party, she doesn’t want to leave. She’s tasted that vintage wine, drank the good stuff, and is determined not to go back to movement rations. 

I do agree that Burnham can use some political education. “For the anti-capitalist left,” she writes, “this is a period of experimentation. There is no roadmap; there are no recipes.” Maybe, but there are abiding truths that she has willfully forgotten: “Power concedes nothing without a demand.” 

Those elements that refuse to make demands of Power ought to stop calling themselves part of the Left. Unless the Left is in power, it is a contradiction in terms.

BAR executive editor Glen Ford can be contacted at Glen.Ford@BlackAgendaReport.com.

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WHO IS REALLY "WINNING" AMERICA'S IMPERIALIST, MIDDLE EAST WARS? / By Gareth Porter

Special to Cyrano’s Showcase

iraqichildAnalysis by Gareth Porter 

WASHINGTON, Mar 5 (IPS) – The arguments for maintaining a major U.S. combat force in Iraq at least through 2011, escalating U.S. military involvement in Afghanistan and assuming a confrontational stance toward Iran, appear to assume that the United States remains the dominant military power in the region.

But the pattern of recent history and current developments in the region have not supported that assumption. Not only has the United States been unable to prevail over stubborn nationalist and sectarian forces determined to resist U.S. influence, but it has not been able to use its military supremacy to wage successful coercive diplomacy against Iran.

Furthermore, even the ability of the United States to maintain troops in Iraq and Afghanistan turns out to be dependent on regimes which are by no means aligned with the United States.

Six years ago, after the United States had removed the Taliban regime in Afghanistan and Saddam Hussein in Iraq, the U.S. appeared to be militarily dominant in the region. Apart from its nearly 200,000 troops in Iraq and Afghanistan, the United States had surrounded Iran with a network of airbases scattered across the region from the Persian Gulf sheikdoms through Iraq and Afghanistan to the Central Asian republics of Kyrgystan and Uzbekistan, along with aircraft on U.S. ships in the Persian Gulf.

Since 2003, however, events in the region have dealt a series of blows to the assumption that the U.S. military presence in general and ground forces in particular confer real power in the region. The first blow was the U.S. failure to subdue the Sunni insurgency in Iraq. By mid-2005, U.S. commanders in Iraq were admitting publicly that the U.S. military occupation was generating more resistance than it was eliminating.

The next blow was the Sunni-Shi’a civil war in Baghdad in 2006, which U.S. troops were unable to prevent or stop, even after the Bush “surge” of additional troops. The “cleansing” of Sunni neighbourhoods in Baghdad by Shi’a militias with the tacit support of the government ended only after a large swath of Sunni neighbourhoods in the capital had been taken over. That fact contradicts the later boast by Gen. Ray Odierno, the top U.S. commander in Iraq, that “coalition forces” had “broken the cycle of sectarian violence in Iraq.”

The decision by Sunni insurgents to cooperate with the U.S. military in 2006 and 2007 was not the result of U.S. military prowess but of their defeat at the hands of Shi’a militias and the realisation that the Sunnis could not oppose three enemies (the U.S., the Shi’a militias and al Qaeda) simultaneously.

It also enabled the Shi’a government of Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki, which had close ties to Iran, to consolidate its power and to achieve a crucial degree of independence from the United States.

The George W. Bush administration and the U.S. military command continued to assume that it would be able to keep its Iraqi bases indefinitely. In mid-2007, Defence Secretary Robert Gates invoked the Korean model – a decades-long garrisoning of tens of thousands of U.S. troops – as the plan for Iraq.

But in July 2008, the al-Maliki government began demanding that all U.S. troops leave the country by the end of 2010. After initially refusing to believe that the troop withdrawal demand was serious, the Bush administration was forced eventually to agree to withdraw all U.S. troops by the end of 2011.

The evolution of Iraqi politics belies the popular narrative that Gen. David Petraeus miraculously rescued the U.S. war from a bad strategy and ultimately prevailed over U.S. “enemies,” including Iran

In its conflict with Iran over its nuclear program, the Bush administration tried to intimidate Tehran by seizing Iranians in Iraq and wielding indirectly the threat of attack against its nuclear facilities. But coercive diplomacy did not work, largely because Iran could credibly threaten to respond to a U.S. or Israeli attack with unconventional attacks against U.S. bases and troops – and possibly even warships – in the Persian Gulf region.

Meanwhile, in Afghanistan, where the United States had appeared to be in control from 2001 to 2005, the Taliban and other insurgent groups have grown rapidly since then and become the de facto government in large parts of the Pashtun region of the country. The U.S. military presence has been unable to slow the rise of the insurgents in those rural areas.

The most recent blow to the image of U.S. military dominance in the region has been the revelation that the United States lacks a reliable access route for supply of its troops in Afghanistan. The U.S. military has long relied on the route through the Khyber Pass in Pakistan to transport about 80 percent of all supplies for Afghanistan.

But in 2008, allies of the Taliban began disrupting the U.S. logistics route through the Khyber Pass so effectively that it could no longer be counted on to supply U.S. forces. That meant that the United States had to find another access route for supplying its troops in Afghanistan.

David Petraeus, the new CENTCOM commander, traveled to Central Asia to secure promises of a new route into Afghanistan from Russian ports overland to Kazakhstan and then through Uzbekistan to northern Afghanistan.

But this alternative scheme would rely on Russian cooperation, giving a rival for power in Central and Southwest Asia a veto power over US military presence in the region. The Kyrgyz president announced during a trip to Moscow in early February that he was ending the agreement on US use of the air base at Manas. That was a signal that Russia would cooperate with the U.S. military only insofar as it was consistent with Russian dominance in Central Asia.

Relying on Uzbekistan for transit of NATO supplies for Afghanistan was another highly tenuous feature of the Petraeus plan. The Karimov regime, notorious for its abuse of human rights, faces an Islamist insurgency that could well disrupt supply routes through the country.

A much shorter and far more secure route into Afghanistan would be from the Iranian port of Chabahar through the Western Afghan city of Herat to the Ring Highway which serves all major Afghan cities. NATO’s top commander in Afghanistan said on Feb. 3 that NATO would “not oppose” bilateral deals with Iran for supplying troops through that country.

Significantly, the Pentagon has made contingency plans for the use of the Iranian route, according to one well-informed former U.S. official. That suggests that the Russian-Central Asian route was regarded as far from certain.

On the other hand, the U.S. military is not likely to regard reliance on its regional rival for power in the Middle East as a solid basis for its military presence in Afghanistan.

Obama administration officials are still talking about Middle East policy as though the U.S. military presence has conferred decisive influence over developments in the region. However, the events of the past six years have shown that to be a costly myth. They have underlined a truth that few in Washington find palatable: geography and local socio-political dynamics have trumped U.S. military power – and are very likely to continue to do so in the future.

Gareth Porter is an investigative historian and journalist specializing in US national security policy. The paperback edition of his latest book, “Perils of Dominance: Imbalance of Power and the Road to War in Vietnam,” was published in 2006.  A resporter for Inter Press Service News Agency, his work appears at Cyrano’s Showcase, Antiwar.com, CounterPunch, Dissident Voice and other fine websites. 

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Obama vs. Clinton: Neither Experience nor Change Will Overcome Politics as Usual

By Nomi Prins // Dateline: February 15, 2008 // Originally published by THE WIP [Women's International Perspective]

DEPENDING ON THE MEASURE of ‘liberalness’ used to evaluate past voting records, there is next to no difference between Clinton and Obama. In fact, with all her emphasis on ‘experience’ and his on ‘change,’ their voting patterns are almost identical. Both follow the party line, 97.1% of the time for Clinton, 96.5% for Obama – which doesn’t particularly highlight unique experience nor change. Read more

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Barack Obama & the “End” of Racism

This is a simulpost with our sister blog area, Thomas Paine’s Corner, all within Cyrano’s Journal Online.

By Juan Santos

2/12/08

“What life has taught me
I would like to share with
Those who want to learn…

Until the philosophy which hold one race
Superior and another inferior
Is finally and permanently discredited and abandoned
Everywhere is war, me say war

That until there are no longer first class
And second class citizens of any nation
Until the colour of a man’s skin
Is of no more significance than the colour of his eyes
Me say war

That until the basic human rights are equally
Guaranteed to all, without regard to race
Dis a war

That until that day
The dream of lasting peace, world citizenship
Rule of international morality
Will remain in but a fleeting illusion
To be pursued, but never attained
Now everywhere is war, war

And until the ignoble and unhappy regimes
that hold our brothers in Angola, in Mozambique,
South Africa sub-human bondage
Have been toppled, utterly destroyed
Well, everywhere is war, me say war”

- Bob Marley - Read more

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