Archive for the ‘US politics’ Category

Obama and the continuity of war crimes

June 26, 2010

Change you can belive in, yes indeed! We are at the end of a week in which continuity, not change, was the name of the Obama game. Continuity in war and in war crimes, that is.

Firsdt, we had the high-profile quarrel about general McChristal, ending in his dismissal as commander of the Western troops in Afghanistan. The general and his aides had made a number of unflattering remarks about president Obama and high civilian officials in his administration. Rolling Stone magazine published them in a profile of the general, written with his cooperation. This was – so the liberal commentarocracy commented – insubordination, contempt for civilian elected leadership, and so on and on. The general had to go.

Of course,  this is hardly cause for relief. There goes the general, but the war remains. And the president insisted:  there will not be a change in strategy. “This is a change in personnel, not in policy. We will not miss a beat because of the change of command in the Afghan theatre.” Thus spoke the President of Change. The new Afghan commander? General Petraeus, (in)famous for his presumed ‘successes’ in the Iraq ‘theatre’, ‘successes’ on which Juan Cole has some interesting observations. By the way, you see, war is played out in ‘theatres’, these days. There is no bloodier busines than this bloody show business. 

Yes, much more can be said about the fall of the general. It says something about relationship between civilian and military authorities, about the way power is working in high circles, and about the impasse in which America’s war inm Afghanistan has landed. But that is for another place and time. For now, I’ll just quote Arthur Silber, from one of his perceptive pieces on his weblog: “I don’t give a glimmer of a shadow of the faintest damn about the outcome of incidents of this kind, because the major participants are all war criminals.” The whole article, in which he explains why he is saying this, is well worth reading.

The poor general had barely left the scene when another  highly symbolic announcement attracted some attention. Guantanamo Bay wil stay, for much longer than Obama promised. Remember the promise? He would close that concentration camp, that symbol of the horrors of the so-calles War on Terror, that place with cages for human beings, from which stories of mistreatment and outright torture dripped like blood from the bodies of its prisoners.

Within a few mothns after becoming president, Obama let go of his own deadline, after resistance from Congress. And now, we read in the New York Times: “Stymied by political opposition and focused on other priorities, the Obama administration has sidelined efforts to close the Guantanamo prison, making it unlikely that President Obama will fulfill his promise to close it before his term ends in 2013.” THe NY Times bases this conclusion on what priminent senators, presumably with inside knowledge, are saying.

Changing priorities, resistance age against policies, that is the story. Let’s just say this. Committing new and continuing crimes seems to be a much higher priority for Obama than ending earlier, but still ongoing, crimes. Where’s the change in that?

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Remembering the Kent State killings

May 4, 2010

On May 4, exactly 40 years ago today,  soldiers of the National Guard shot and killed  four students protesting the invasion of Cambodia. With that invasion, president Nixon escalated the Vietnam War. That was on April 30.

After that invasion, protests broke out immediately. Within hours, there were people protesting on the streets. The days and weeks after that saw 4 million people in action. Universities and colleges closed down because of student strike action. High school kids protested.

Students revolted on Kent State University, Ohio. Activists burned down a recruiting centre on campus. The National Guard occupied the university. Students assembled to protest. Their number was around 4,000. Some threw rocks, some threw molotov cocktails. The days of purely peaceful protests were – after a war that dragged on and on and had already cost hundresds of thousands of Vietnamese lives, and tens of thousands of American lives as well – were gone.

Then, National Guardsman opened fire on the crowd. From a distance,  67 bullets  were fired. Four students died, two of them, on their way to class, were not even part of the protests. In the days after thisese shootings, more people got killed. On May 14, two protesters were shot dead by National Guards on Jackson State University, Mississippi. These state killings got much less publicity than theose on Kent State. The victims on Kent, you see, were white. The victims on Jackson State were black.

For days and weeks, revolt rumbled through the United States. Anger against the escalation f the war combined with anger because of the state killings. Within months, president Nixon announced that the invasion of Cambodia would end. The Vietnam war, however, dragged  on for a number of years. We should not forget the people who were murdered by the U.S. state in its effort to keep that war going against the will of a large part of the U.S population.

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Obama, or: changes we can become sick of

March 31, 2010

Are there still left wing people around who can believe in Obama’s ‘Change you can believe in’? Decision after decision had been made by Obama and his White House crew that proves theat hs presidency is becoming more dangerous and – to left-wing hopes misplaced in him – dissappointing by the day.

A few examples. Obama spoke beautiful words about climate change, how big a problem that is, and how measures to stop it are urgenty needed. Yet, today we read that “Obama has announced proposals to expand offshore il and gas exploration in a bid to reduce foreign energy dependency.” The source of the fossile fuels – whose use contributes mightily to carbon dioxine in the atmosphere, and hence to the greenhouse effect which is a source of climate change – may change, from Middle East oil to Atlantic ocean oil. The addiction to these fossile fuels  remains, the monster destabilising the climate will be fed – with Obama’s explicit consent. n this way, he hopes to get Republican support for a law to  combat… climate change! In order to save the climate, we had to destroy it…

Talking about energy and the Middle East: the U.S. drive against oil state Iran is continuing. The U.S. president has pressed for tougher UN sanctions against Iran over its nuclear program to be passed in a matter of weeks.” Iran is building nuclear facilities. The US claims Iran is doing that because it  is making nuclear wapons. There is no evidence for that claim.

And even if it were true, that is no reason for any aggression towards Iran. An Iranian nuclear weapons capability wuld mean that the country becomes what Pakistan, Iran, India already are: nuclear powers. Rejecting  Iran’s step in that direction,while accepting those three powers als friends and allies – it is vile hypocracy. And let us not forget that the US – that same US that Obama is pushing towards aggression  against Iran – is the one and only country that has actually used nuclear weapns – against two cities of a defeated enemy.

But – Obama fans may retort – hasn’t he finally reformed health care? Yes, he did – in an atrocious way. Millions of Americans will remain uninsured. The rest will be forced to buy expensive insurance policies which don’t even cover all costs. People on lower incomes get government subsidies for buying insurance – but these subsidies cover only part of the costs of that policies. No full coverage, rising expenses for people, money going from government to insurnce companies through the subsidies people get for buying insurance….

It is a bad deal. If yo don’t take my word for it, maybe Dr. Steffie Woolhandler, one of the founders of Physicians for a National Health programme, can convince you. Or maybe the statement of that organisation itself, will.

If all this is not quite enough,  you might uesefully check out Chris FLoyd’s beautiful blog, Empire Burlesque. He write article after article attacking the Obama myth with facts, figures and quotes. Enlightening stuff.

McCain, Obama: how sad that both cannot lose at the same time

July 1, 2008

The Biggest and Most Expensive Circus on Earth, also known as the American presidential election campaign, is upon us. And, by ‘us’, I mean all inhabitants of this tormented planet, not just the people of the United States themselves.

For that is the first thing I’d like to say on the presidential elections in the US: the one that will be selected to live in the White House is not just head of state and Commander-in-Chief of the US. He (the only she has lost the Democratic primaries) is in fact, world boss. If democratic principles would prevail, all citizens of the world should have the right to take part in this election. Something like this has had been suggested in 2004. Maybe every country should demand admission and ask to become a state within the United States – with the right to elect two Senators, a number of Representatives and to help elect the president…

This would, obviously, be too much democracy to be tolerated. So we will have to endure the elections as they are now, and that wil not be fun. For – and this is the second thing I’d like to say – in an race between a Democratic and a Republican candidate, the sad  thing is that they cannot both lose at the same time. For both deserve to lose. Both ar a threat to democratic rights, to the welfare of the majority, and to the remnants of peace in this world.

I will not insult my readers by taking much space explaining why McCain deserves to lose. He wants to continue the Iraq war endlessly. He threatens Iran with war. He walks in the footsteps of the Bush presidency. No more of that, please!

The other man, Barack Obama, has gained a deplorable amount of support from people on the Lleft. He does not deserve it, and that becomes clearer every week. He is refusing to block FISA, a piece of legislation that enables cooperation of big media in spying on people in America, and protects these corporations against lawsuits on that account. So much for privacy and civil rights. He basically blames black fathers for irrespioonsible behaviour towards their families – thereby going along with the racist sterotypes putting blame for poverty among black people on blacks, especially black men. So much for putting an end to racism. Het talks of withdrawing combat troops out of Iraq, but wants to keep a military force there: cambat troops number only half the American military force there. private contactors – or to use the proper term, mercenaries – may also be used under an Obama presidency, according to a Obama advisor. And Obama calls for more attention to other war fronts, especially Afganistan. A bit of de-escalation in Iraq, a bit of escalation in afghanistan, is that the best bargain for peace?! So much for ending war.

The vaguely progressive image thet Obama tried to promote in the primaries is fading quickly. And it’s not just a matter of moving to the center in order to win the elections. The problem goes much deeper that that. Every candidate that wants to become president through either the Democratic or the Republican party machinse, must be a defender of American capitalism, of the strong state that protects this capitalism. Every candidate, either Democratic or Republican, must be a promotor of empire and therefore an instigator of war. Being prepared to commit mass murder and other crimes usually goes with the (ambition for) job, as Arthur Silber explains, with only bits of exaggeration. 

Obama may talk have talked Left to gain his candidacy; but he has to act Right (which means, wrong) when he is president. And he has, again and again, to prove to the big corporations and their big media mouthpieces, that he is prepared to dump his left-leaning language and to be as brutal as his predecessors. Obama is not betraying his principles by turning to the center. he is paying obeisance to the true principles guiding both parties: fealty to corporate interest and to imperialist ambitions. Again, he does not deserve any left wing support.