Saturday, December 06, 2008

PROGRESSIVES, IS IT TIME TO SAY THAT WE HAVE BEEN BAMBOOZLED?

Compliments of Jeremy Scahill at AlterNet, we have a reading of the New York Times and other news reports on the collective sigh of relief from the war hawks concerning Barack Obama's Iraq plans. He has no intention of a complete withdrawal from Iraq, not in 16 months, not in two years, maybe not in ten years. This makes a few people happy: It makes the Bush administration happy because it won't appear as if Obama is really that out of step with eight years of Bush. It makes the corporate producers of military equipment happy, as well as the private contractors who are still making billions of dollars on this occupation, this occupation that was based on lies, misinformation and the politics of fear to begin with.

The plans to stay in Iraq are NOT designed to make a couple of important constituents happy: There's no consideration here for the approximately 60% of the American public who is opposed to the occupation of Iraq. And even more offensive, there's zero consideration here for the millions of progressive, anti-war Americans who worked thousands of hours, proactively, to get Barack Obama elected president. You worked for him because he promised to end the policies of the Bush administration. His reward to you was Robert Gates. You worked for him because he blatantly said he would get the U.S. out of Iraq. His reward to you was to kiss the bum of the military industrial complex.

Thom Shanker of the New York Times News Service puts in in starker terms:
On the campaign trail, Sen. Barack Obama offered a pledge that electrified and motivated his liberal base, vowing to "end the war" in Iraq.
But as he moves closer to the White House, the president-elect is making clearer than ever that tens of thousands of American troops will be left behind in Iraq, even if he can make good on his campaign promise to pull all combat forces out within 16 months.

Bill Van Auken over at the World Socialist Web Site writes:
...Obama's anti-war rhetoric was from the outset deliberately misleading, designed to con the millions of Americans who went to the polls with the aim of voting to stop the war.
As for Obama's 16-month deadline for withdrawing "combat" forces from Iraq, the Times reports that Pentagon planners are currently drawing up projections for up to 70,000 US troops continuing the occupation not only well past May 2010, but also long after the supposed December 31, 2011 deadline for a full withdrawal established under the recently concluded status of forces agreement reached between Washington and its client regime in Baghdad. It is generally believed that this deadline will be annulled in subsequent negotiations.

I'm with Joseph A. Palermo at the Huffington Post, who writes:
...the United States was not "invited" into Iraq by any Iraqi government, puppet or otherwise, so the occupation remains essentially unilateral in nature. It will therefore require unilateral action to end it. Iraq's government has nothing to say to the United States about when and how American combat troops are disengaged. The country has been under occupation for over five years, the regime is corrupt at every level, and it lacks legitimacy both abroad and with its own people. The United Nations "mandate" came after the U.S. had intervened. There is no "leader" in Iraq, or "parliament," that can tell the American people they must continue to spend $12 billion each month on Iraq's "security" until 2012. It was an American decision to go into Iraq. It will be an American decision to get out of Iraq. In the current context, the desires and demands of the fractured and dependent regime inside Baghdad's "Green Zone" matter little.

Perhaps the best sign that we have been bamboozled, and our election field labor and campaign contributions swindled by the Obama regime is that Obama now has a new fan: Henry Kissinger. In addition to being National Security Advisor and Secretary of State for both Nixon and Ford, Kissinger was an assassination coordinator, enabling various dictators to kill tens of thousands of people. Kissinger can't even travel abroad to many places in Europe or Latin America right now, because he will be subpoenaed (at least) if he does. Kissinger writes in the Washington Post that "President-elect Barack Obama has appointed an extraordinary team for national security policy." I think we should be concerned about Obama receiving such endorsements. I think they denote something that many of us failed to realize over the past several months: Barack Obama is a corporatist, militarist politician. He may not always have been, but that's what he is now. His social function is to continue U.S. corporate and military dominance, to give it a human face, to make the rest of the world like us so we can continue to do, basically, the same things we've been doing all along.
Okay, we can give that a moment to sink in.

The bottom line is this: Prior to the Obama phenomenon, progressives were poised to chart their own course. Now, in an understandable and laudable effort to break the stranglehold of white supremacy, our allies in the Democratic Party and the progressive movement have expended a great deal of money and energy to elect a black person president. That's been done, and in and of itself, in a very isolated and abstract way, sure, it's a good thing. But that person is determined to play it safe, because he doesn't conceive of politics the same way we do. It's not that he fears a backlash among conservatives. It's that, compared to the people who carried him into victory, Barack Obama IS a conservative.

Let me say that again so everyone understands what I am getting at. I said: compared to the people who carried him into victory, Barack Obama IS a conservative. I don't mean he's George Bush. But I do mean that he is too ideologically and morally weak to undo the damage Bush has done.

It's time to go back to charting our own course. This doesn't mean we need to enable the right wing crazies who are out to ruin Obama. The entire point in charting our own course is to change the way the majority of people in America conceive of politics to begin with. Obama has made this more difficult by using the veneer of grass roots political action in a process that ultimately culminates in...yes, Robert Gates as Defense Secretary, endorsements from war criminals like Henry Kissinger, and indefinite Iraq occupation. So we need to start over again. So let's review some facts and get back to the basics on Iraq: While we watch Obama's so-called "transition," remember this:

1. The war was justified to the American people, and to Congress, on the basis of WMDs being manufactured in Iraq. This was a lie.

2. The war was enthymematically justified by exploiting the misunderstanding that Americans had about Islam: many Americans believed that Iraq was behind the 9-11 attacks, and no Bush administration official did anything to correct that misperception. Instead, they exploited it by saying things like "we need to invade Iraq to prevent another 9-11."

3. The Bush administration literally destroyed the careers of people who questioned their policies.

4. The Iraqis are not, by any reasonable measure, "better off" than they were under Saddam Hussein, which doesn't make Saddam a nice guy, may he rot in hell, but it just proves that sometimes there are no heroes, and it undercuts even the post-hoc justifications used by the Administration to justify the invasion long after the initial reasons were exposed as falsehoods.

And most importantly: Barack Obama has questioned none of this, and there is no sign that he intends to.

I submit to you that a PROGRESSIVE position on war and military occupation is this: War is a sign of both political cynicism and a profound failure of creativity and ethics in policymaking. We will never know what its alternatives were because we accepted, from the beginning, the paradigms that dragged us into war. Progressive politicians need to invite open, deliberative exploration of those alternatives. In order to do this, we need to break away from corporate dependency, because corporations will ALWAYS profit from war.

Whatever his other virtues, and we certainly hope we see them, Barack Obama has not broken from corporate dependency, and therefore, he is unable to break away from militarism, and ergo, he is unable to break away from, or even condemn, the cycle of lies and propaganda that were used to justify the invasion and occupation of Iraq.

Score so far: War 1, American People zero. The ball may be in Obama's court, but there is another ball, another court, another set of players, and that is us.

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