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Kidnapped Girls Become Tools of US Imperial Policy in Africa May 14, 2014

Posted by rogerhollander in Africa, Central African Republic, Congo, Genocide, Human Rights, Women.
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Roger’s note: the average North American’s lack of knowledge and understanding of Africa the the United States’ continued role there is astounding, present company included.  Here is a bit of eye opening reporting for the always reliable Black Action Agenda’s Glen Ford.

In video footage released on May 12, 2014, Boko Haram purported to show dozens of girls recently kidnapped in Nigeria. (Public domain)

A chorus of outraged public opinion demands that the “international community” and the Nigerian military “Do something!” about the abduction by Boko Haram of 280 teenage girls. It is difficult to fault the average U.S. consumer of packaged “news” products for knowing next to nothing about what the Nigerian army has actually been “doing” to suppress the Muslim fundamentalist rebels since, as senior columnist Margaret Kimberley pointed out in these pages, last week, the three U.S. broadcast networks carried “not a single television news story about Boko Haram” in all of 2013. (Nor did the misinformation corporations provide a nanosecond of coverage of the bloodshed in the Central African Republic, where thousands died and a million were made homeless by communal fighting over the past year.) But, that doesn’t mean the Nigerian army hasn’t been bombing, strafing, and indiscriminately slaughtering thousands of, mainly, young men in the country’s mostly Muslim north.

The newly aware U.S. public may or may not be screaming for blood, but rivers of blood have already flowed in the region. Those Americans who read – which, presumably, includes First Lady Michelle Obama, who took her husband’s place on radio last weekend to pledge U.S. help in the hunt for the girls – would have learned in the New York Times of the army’s savage offensive near the Niger border, last May and June. In the town of Bosso, the Nigerian army killed hundreds of young men in traditional Muslim garb “Without Asking Who They Are,” according to the NYT headline. “They don’t ask any questions,” said a witness who later fled for his life, like thousands of others. “When they see young men in traditional robes, they shoot them on the spot,” said a student. “They catch many of the others and take them away, and we don’t hear from them again.”

The Times’ Adam Nossiter interviewed many refugees from the army’s “all-out land and air campaign to crush the Boko Haram insurgency.” He reported:

“All spoke of a climate of terror that had pushed them, in the thousands, to flee for miles through the harsh and baking semidesert, sometimes on foot, to Niger. A few blamed Boko Haram — a shadowy, rarely glimpsed presence for most residents — for the violence. But the overwhelming majority blamed the military, saying they had fled their country because of it.”

In just one village, 200 people were killed by the military.

In March of this year, fighters who were assumed to be from Boko Haram attacked a barracks and jail in the northern city of Maiduguri. Hundreds of prisoners fled, but 200 youths were rounded up and made to lie on the ground. A witness told the Times: “The soldiers made some calls and a few minutes later they started shooting the people on the ground. I counted 198 people killed at that checkpoint.”

All told, according to Amnesty International, more than 600 people were extrajudicially murdered, “most of them unarmed, escaped detainees, around Maiduguri.” An additional 950 prisoners were killed in the first half of 2013 in detention facilities run by Nigeria’s military Joint Task Force, many at the same barracks in Maiduguri. Amnesty International quotes a senior officer in the Nigerian Army, speaking anonymously: “Hundreds have been killed in detention either by shooting them or by suffocation,” he said. “There are times when people are brought out on a daily basis and killed. About five people, on average, are killed nearly on a daily basis.”

Chibok, where the teenage girls were abducted, is 80 miles from Maiduguri, capital of Borno State.

In 2009, when the Boko Haram had not yet been transformed into a fully armed opposition, the military summarily executed their handcuffed leader and killed at least 1,000 accused members in the states of Borno, Yobe, Kano and Bauchi, many of them apparently simply youths from suspect neighborhoods. A gruesome video shows the military at work. “In the video, a number of unarmed men are seen being made to lie down in the road outside a building before they are shot,” Al Jazeera reports in text accompanying the video. “As one man is brought out to face death, one of the officers can be heard urging his colleague to ‘shoot him in the chest not the head – I want his hat.’”

These are only snapshots of the army’s response to Boko Haram – atrocities that are part of the context of Boko Haram’s ghastly behavior. The military has refused the group’s offer to exchange the kidnapped girls for imprisoned Boko Haram members. (We should not assume that everyone detained as Boko Haram is actually a member – only that all detainees face imminent and arbitrary execution.)

None of the above is meant to tell Boko Haram’s “side” in this grisly story (fundamentalist religious jihadists find no favor at BAR), but to emphasize the Nigerian military’s culpability in the group’s mad trajectory – the same military that many newly-minted “Save Our Girls” activists demand take more decisive action in Borno.

The bush to which the Boko Haram retreated with their captives was already a free-fire zone, where anything that moves is subject to obliteration by government aircraft. Nigerian air forces have now been joined by U.S. surveillance planes operating out of the new U.S. drone base in neighboring Niger, further entrenching AFRICOM/CIA in the continental landscape. Last week it was announced that, for the first time,AFRICOM troops will train a Nigerian ranger battalion in counterinsurgency warfare.

The Chibok abductions have served the same U.S. foreign policy purposes as Joseph Kony sightings in central Africa, which were conjured-up to justify the permanent stationing of U.S Special Forcesin the Democratic Republic of Congo, Uganda, Rwanda, the Central African Republic and South Sudan, in 2011, on humanitarian interventionist grounds. (This past March, the U.S. sent 150 more Special Ops troops to the region, claiming to have again spotted Kony, who is said to be deathly ill, holed up with a small band of followers somewhere in the Central African Republic.) The United States (and France and Britain, plus the rest of NATO, if need be) must maintain a deepening and permanent presence in Africa to defend the continent from…Africans.

When the crowd yells that America “Do something!” somewhere in Africa, the U.S. military is likely to already be there.

Barack Obama certainly needs no encouragement to intervention; his presidency is roughly coterminous with AFRICOM’s founding and explosive expansion. Obama broadened the war against Somalia that was launched by George Bush in partnership with the genocidal Ethiopian regime, in 2006 (an invasion that led directly to what the United Nations called “the worst humanitarian crisis is Africa”). He built on Bill Clinton and George Bush’s legacies in the Congo, where U.S. client states Uganda and Rwanda caused the slaughter of 6 million people since 1996 – the greatest genocide of the post War World II era. He welcomed South Sudan as the world’s newest nation – the culmination of a decades-long project of the U.S., Britain and Israel to dismember Africa’s largest country, but which has now fallen into a bloody chaos, as does everything the U.S. touches, these days.

Most relevant to the plight of Chibok’s young women, Obama led “from behind” NATO’s regime change in Libya, removing the anti-jihadist bulwark Muamar Gaddafi (“We came, we saw, he died,” said Hillary Clinton) and destabilizing the whole Sahelian tier of the continent, all the way down to northern Nigeria. As BAR editor and columnist Ajamu Baraka writes in the current issue, “Boko Haram benefited from the destabilization of various countries across the Sahel following the Libya conflict.” The once-“shadowy” group now sported new weapons and vehicles and was clearly better trained and disciplined. In short, the Boko Haram, like other jihadists, had become more dangerous in a post-Gaddafi Africa – thus justifying a larger military presence for the same Americansand (mainly French) Europeans who had brought these convulsions to the region.

If Obama has his way, it will be a very long war – the better to grow AFRICOM – with some very unsavory allies (from both the Nigerian and American perspectives).

Whatever Obama does to deepen the U.S. presence in Nigeria and the rest of the continent, he can count on the Congressional Black Caucus, including its most “progressive” member, Barbara Lee (D-CA), the only member of the U.S. Congress to vote against the invasion of Afghanistan, in 2001. Lee, along with Reps. Marcia Fudge (D-Ohio), Sheila Jackson Lee (D-Texas) and fellow Californian Karen Bass, who is the ranking member on the House Subcommittee on African, gave cart blanch to Obama to “Do something!” in Nigeria. “And so our first command and demand is to use all resources to bring the terrorist thugs to justice,” they said.

A year and a half ago, when then UN Ambassador Susan Rice’s prospects for promotion to top U.S. diplomat were being torpedoed by the Benghazi controversy, a dozen Black congresspersons scurried to her defense. “We will not allow a brilliant public servant’s record to be mugged to cut off her consideration to be secretary of state,” said Washington, DC Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton.

As persons who are presumed to read, Black Caucus members were certainly aware of the messy diplomatic scandal around Rice’s role in suppressing United Nation’s reports on U.S. allies’ Rwanda and Uganda’s genocidal acts against the Congolese people. Of all the high profile politicians from both the corporate parties, Rice – the rabid interventionist – is most intimately implicated in the Congo holocaust, dating back to the policy’s formulation under Clinton. Apparently, that’s not the part of Rice’s record that counts to Delegate Norton and the rest of the Black Caucus. Genocide against Africans does not move them one bit.

So, why are we to believe that they are really so concerned about the girls of Chibok?

A Second Wave of Genocide Looms in Congo, with Susan Rice on Point November 28, 2012

Posted by rogerhollander in Africa, Congo, Foreign Policy, Genocide, Libya, Rwanda, Uganda.
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Roger’s note: Susan Rice, who is Obama’s current nominee to replace Hillary Clinton as Secretary of State, is appaently as hawkish as they come and would fit comfortably into a McCain or Romney Republican administration.  To distinguish between Obama’s foreign policy and that of the Republicans would require a pretty powerful microscope.  Elsewhere, Glen Ford compares her to Clearance Thomas.  But she has served only under Democrat presidents.  It’s called our two party system.  Recent reports indicate that she holds significant investments in more than a dozen Canadian oil companies and banks that would stand to benefit from expansion of the North American tar sands industry and construction of the proposed $7 billion Keystone XL pipeline (cf. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/11/28/susan-rice-keystone-pipeline_n_2207861.html)

by BAR executive editor Glen Ford, Wed, 11/28/2012 – 13:14

Susan Rice has abetted the Congo genocide for much of her political career.”

The invasion of the Democratic Republic of Congo by U.S. allies Rwanda and Uganda, in 1996, set in motion a genocide that left six million Congolese dead. Another wave of mass killings now looms with this month’s capture of Goma, an eastern Congolese city of one million, by “rebels” under Rwandan and Ugandan control. “People need to be clear who we are fighting in the Congo,” said Kambale Musavuli, of Friends of Congo. “We are fighting western powers, the United States and the United Kingdom, who are arming, training and equipping the Rwandan and Ugandan militaries.” The main player in suppressing information on Congo’s neighbors’ role in the ongoing genocide, is U.S. ambassador to the UN Susan Rice.

Rice has fought a two-front battle to protect Washington’s murderous clients, delaying publication of a UN Group of Experts report on Washington’s clients’ depredations in Congo, and at the same time subverting efforts within the State Department to rein in Uganda and Rwanda. Last week, Rice blocked the UN Security Council from explicitly demanding that Rwanda immediately cease providing support to M23 rebels who vowed to march all the way to Kinshasa, the Congolese capital.

Susan Rice has abetted the Congo genocide for much of her political career. Appointed to President Bill Clinton’s National Security Council in 1993, at age 28, she rose to assistant secretary of state for African affairs in 1997 as Rwanda and Uganda were swarming across the eastern Congo, seizing control of mineral resources amid a sea of blood. She is known to be personally close to Rwanda’s minority Tutsi leadership, including President Paul Kagame, a ruthless soldier trained at the U.S. Army’s Command and General Staff College at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, and mentored by Ugandan strongman (and Reagan administration favorite) Yoweri Museveni, who is believed to have pioneered the use of child soldiers in modern African conflicts.

Rice said not a word about ethnic cleansing and racial pogroms against black Libyans and sub-Saharan African migrant workers.”

On the outside during the Bush years, Rice became a fierce advocate of “humanitarian” military intervention in Africa, urging air and sea attacks on Sudan and championing the U.S.-backed Ethiopian invasion of Somalia, in 2006. A senior foreign policy advisor on Barack Obama’s 2008 campaign team, Rice made it no secret she hoped to be named secretary of state. As UN ambassador, she is the administration’s top gun on Africa, the focus of her outsized aggressions. Rice is widely credited with convincing Obama to launch NATO’s bombing campaign for regime change in Libya. She parroted false media reports that Muammar Gaddafi’s troops were raping Libyan women with the aid of massive gulps of Viagra, refusing to back down even when U.S. military and intelligence officials told NBC news “there is no evidence that Libyan military forces have been given Viagra and engaging in systematic rape against women in rebel areas.” Yet, Rice said not a word about ethnic cleansing and racial pogroms against black Libyans and sub-Saharan African migrant workers, including the well-documented erasure of the black city of Tawergha.

Susan Rice’s “humanitarian” instincts, like her boss’s, are highly selective – so much so, that a genocide equal to or greater than the Nazi’s liquidation of European Jewry is invisible to her. More accurately, Rice labors mightily to render the genocide in Congo invisible to the world, suppressing release or discussion of reports on Rwanda and Uganda’s crimes.

Rice labors mightily to render the genocide in Congo invisible to the world.”

The first document, a “Mapping Report,” described human rights violations in the Democratic Republic of Congo from 1993 through 2003. Finally published by the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights in October of 2010, after long delays, the document specifically charges Rwandan troops with engaging in mass killings “that might be classified as crimes of genocide.” The more recent report by a UN Group of Experts concludes that M23, the Congolese “rebel” group that captured Goma, is actually “a Rwandan creation,” embedded with Rwandan soldiers that take their orders from Paul Kagame’s military. Uganda also supports M23.

Susan Rice, as an energetic protector and facilitator of genocide, should be imprisoned for life (given that the death penalty is no longer internationally sanctioned). But of course, the same applies to her superiors, Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama. One would think that the Congressional Black Caucus would be concerned with the threat of a second wave of mass killings in Congo. Not so. A Google search fails to reveal a word of complaint from the Black lawmakers about genocide in Congo or suppression of documentation of genocide – or much of anything at all about Africa since the death of New Jersey Rep. Donald Payne, ranking member of the House Subcommittee on African Affairs, in March of this year.

One would think that the Congressional Black Caucus would be concerned with the threat of a second wave of mass killings in Congo. Not so.”

Instead, incoming Congressional Black Caucus chair Marcia Fudge, of Cleveland, held a press conference with female Caucus members to defend Rice, “a person who has served this country with distinction,” from Republican criticism of her handling of the killing of the U.S. Ambassador to Libya. “We will not allow a brilliant public servant’s record to be mugged to cut off her consideration to be secretary of state,” said Fudge.

In the Congressional Black Caucus’ estimation, Rice’s “record” as chief warmonger in Africa and principal suppressor of the facts on genocide in Congo makes her a role model for African Americans, especially young Black women.

Her relationship to the women of Congo is more problematic. Said Kambale Musavuli, of Friends of Congo, which works tireless on behalf of victims of mass rape in eastern Congo: “Why should you want to help a Congolese woman who is raped, when your tax money is supporting the ones that are doing the raping? That’s a contradiction”

In the Age of Obama, the Black American relationship to Africa is suffocating from such contradictions.

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

Does the Black Political Class Actually Protect or Defend Black People? If Not, What Do They Do? May 12, 2012

Posted by rogerhollander in Democracy, Economic Crisis, Poverty, Race.
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Wed, 05/09/2012 – 14:43 — Bruce A. Dixon

 

By BAR managing editor Bruce A. Dixon

Do the black political class, our preachers, leading business people, and thousands of appointed and elected officials actually do us much good? Do they protect or defend us? Do they carry our wishes and will to the seats of power. Or do they just “represent” us by merely being there doing the bidding of corporate funders?

Does the Black Political Class Actually Protect or Defend Black People? If Not, What Do They Do?

By BAR managing editor Bruce A. Dixon

Let’s take a trip to an imaginary black America, a place in which black leaders regularly stood on their hind legs to safeguard and protect the interest of their constituents against greedy banksters and institutional racism in the job, credit and housing markets. It’s a pretend world where African American politicians are busily engaged in building and expanding opportunity for all, and leading the fight for peace, jobs, justice, and quality education and participatory democracy. It’s a mythical place where prominent blacks in the business world too, work to create good jobs and stable communities and provide key support to the civic organizations engaged in this work as well.

Imagine that the Katrina disaster had occurred in such an imaginary world. Black America’s best and brightest would have convened hundreds of meetings and workgroups in real and virtual spaces across the country. Urban planners, educators, and professionals of all stripes would have speedily devised just and equitable plans for regional education, transit, agriculture, tourism and more. They would have insisted that the six figure number of black Gulf Coast residents deported to the four corners of the continental US on buses paid for by charitable donations to the Red Cross be returned and put to work rebuilding a just and sustainable region. This single example reveals that such a world, if it did exist would differ so profoundly from the one we know as to be almost unrecognizable.

In the real world that does exist, we now have more than 10,000 black elected officials, from small town mayors and sheriffs up to forty-some reps in Congress and the president. Still, black unemployment, black incarceration rates, foreclosures on black homeowners and the gap between black and white family wealth are at or near all time highs, with not a one of these key indicators moving rapidly in any good direction.

Black faces are found more often than ever in corporate boardrooms. Chevron named a tanker after Condoleezza Rice, one of its longtime board members. In recent years, black corporate execs have run the NAACP, the National Urban League and big-city school systems like Atlanta, where public schools CEO Erroll Davis boasts that he learned all he needed to know about running a school system in his time on the board of BP. Black-owned and operated banks in cities like New York are heavily invested in gentrifying developments that push African Americans out of the five boroughs toward the suburban periphery, or in many cases, back to the South. Some contend that it is the shriveling of urban housing and job markets in places like Chicago, Cleveland, New York and Detroit that accounts for the net flow of black population in the twenty-first century reversing from the north back to the south, something not seen in almost a hundred years.

National black leaders, even with popular winds at their backs were unable to prevent the legal lynching of Troy Davis. Since the freelance killing of Trayvon Martin more than thirty police and vigilante killings of young blacks have occurred, and our leaders can’t point to even the beginnings of any official process on the national level aimed at preventing the next thirty. Like the man whose lower lip brush the ground and whose upper lip caresses the clouds, they are all mouth.

Local black political leaders in places like Columbia SC and Atlanta GA have proved as vicious toward the homeless as any of their white colleagues. Black mayors like Philly’s Michael Nutter have endorsed widespread stop-and-frisk policies that presumptively criminalize black youth, and like his black and white counterparts in City Halls across the land, the mayor of Philadelphia tells parents and children that there is no alternative to the piecemeal destruction of public education, driving it into a crisis whose only solution, we will be told, is privatization. The black mayor of Newark is pushing to privatize that city’s water system, and the black mayor of Atlanta has proposed taxing rainwater that some catch as an alternative to the city’s wate rsupply.

At the 2004 Democratic convention, pointedly held on and constantly referring to the anniversary of King’s 1963 March on Washington, Barack Obama gathered more than 20 African American generals and admirals on stage around him, hypocritically linking their mission with that of the apostle of economic justice and nonviolence. Despite the fact that black America is the most antiwar segment of the US population, Barack Obama has boosted military spending to all time highs, has put more troops in more countries than any of his predecessors, and is waging wars in more countries, including African countries than any president in recent memory.

At that Democratic convention, just like the one in North Carolina this year, the goodie bags and receptions will be held by AT&T, the nuclear industry, GE and GM, Big Oil, Big Ag, Big Insurance, drone manufacturers and “defense” contractors, defending US interests in more than 140 countries. Nobody will be the least surprised when Barack Obama again proclaims himself the president of “clean coal and safe nuclear power.” For the black political class, the road leads to exactly the same destination as their white counterparts.

The Congressional Black Caucus and the CBC Foundation like the careers of most black politicians, and traditional civil rights organizations, from NAN to NAACP, the Urban League, National Coalition on Black Civic Participation and the National Conference of Black State Legislators, is funded by the generous contributions of actors like Microsoft, Boeing, Lockheed, Wal-Mart, Bank of America, Wells Fargo and on and on and on on and on. It’s hard to regard most of the black political class these days as anything but sock puppets for the folks who fund their careers.

The Congressional Black Caucus still stages a weeklong annual celebration of itself and the black political class. A look at its weeklong agenda any time over last few years shows lots of relationship workshops, celebrity meet-and-greets and workshops on how to be a black military subcontractor, a black real estate developer, a movie producer, or a contractor with the Department of Homeland Security. You will search in vain for workshops on how to organize to protect black homeowners and keep them in their homes, how to prevent municipal and state privatizations of transit, education and infrastructures, how to organize unions and strike for better wages and conditions, or sessions how to obtain permanent title to vacant urban land for community agriculture projects.

There are a handful of corporate actors, like Koch Industries and Exxon-Mobil that give exclusively or mainly to Republicans. But these are relatively few, and there are some big players that give mostly to Democrats as well. For the most part however, corporate America is happily bipartisan, with a pronounced bias toward incumbents of whatever party and color, and only too happy to shine on the favorite charities of black congresscreatures in the inner city, or Tom Joyner’s computer giveaways, or pet charter schools in black communities, to name just a few.

President Barack Obama, far from being the exception to this rule, will be standing atop a heap of more than one billion dollars in direct corporate contributions to his re-election campaign this year, in addition to another billion in indirect contributions to super-PACs, state and national Democratic parties, and other channels, even without the nickels and dimes of a diminishing number of hopeful ordinary people.

Since it doesn’t protect us, doesn’t defend our jobs, our homes, our education, our children or our elderly, all that the black political class can do for black people, all they can do to prolong their careers, is to wave in our faces the rancid racism of their Republican colleagues. And that’s what Republicans are —- not their rivals, but their colleagues. Keeping the black conversation focused on what racist s.o.bs these Republicans are is vital to the survival of the black political class. It takes attention away from the fact that black politicians in power, of whatever party, no matter what they say on the campaign trail, pursue roughly the same policies in office, in keeping with the fact that they all have the same funders.

The ideology of the black political class is best described with the clumsy world “representationalism”. It’s supposed to “represent” us, mostly by looking like us, but while not defending our children or elderly, not protecting our families or jobs or institutions, not defending our political gains or the public sector that our advocacy built. And the last thing the black political class will do is argue with militarism or war, even though these penalize black communities and nonwhite people around the world. It is only now, with the ascension of a black president, prominent blacks in all branches of the military, courts and corporate American that the end of the representationalist rainbow can clearly be seen. This is it. This is as good as it gets.

It’s time for something completely different. It’s been a long time since we had black leadership that didn’t depend on corporate America for its funding. But until our people can throw up new leaders and mass organizations whose bills aren’t paid by corporate elites, little will change. It’s time for all of us, and especially for those who would be leaders to let pharaoh go.

Bruce A. Dixon is managing editor at Black Agenda Report, and a member of the state committee of the Georgia Green Party. Contact him at bruce.dixon(at)blackagendareport.com.

Barack Obama and Langston Hughes on “Grumblers” and “Merry Christmas” December 27, 2009

Posted by rogerhollander in Africa, Asia, Barack Obama, Cuba, Economic Crisis, Haiti, History, Iraq and Afghanistan, Race, War.
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Posted Wed, 12/23/2009 – 17:24 by Bruce A. Dixon

When US presidents offer us their holiday greeting messages, do we know what are they really saying?  How hard can it be to figure that out?  Langston Hughes died in 1967, but he knew what every US president, including Barack Obama is really saying, underneath and behind the mask.  

by BAR managing editor Bruce A. Dixon

In a recent interview with one of the few black reporters privileged to be part of the White House press corps, President Obama wasasked

April D. Ryan: Speaking of the African American community, this seems to be a shift in black leadership, as it relates to supporting you. You have the CBC that’s upset with you about targeting on the jobs front — African Americans, 15.6 percent unemployment rate, expected to go to 20 percent; mainstream America 10 percent. Then you have black actors who supported you — Danny Glover, who’s saying that you’ve not changed, your administration is the same as George W. Bush. What are your thoughts about the fact that black leadership is grumbling, and the fact that people are concerned with you being the first African American President, and they thought that there would be a little bit more compassion for black issues?

THE PRESIDENT: Well, first of all, April, I think you just engaged in a big generalization in terms of how you asked that question. If you want me to line up all the black actors, for example, who support me, and put them on one side of the room, and a couple who are grumbling on the other, I’m happy to have that.

I think if you look at the polling, in terms of the attitudes of the African American community, there’s overwhelming support for what we’ve tried to do. And, so, is there grumbling? Of course there’s grumbling,

Obama was referring to the relatively mild and tentative criticisms of the Congressional Black Caucus, along with other expressions of disappointment on the part of such activists as actor Danny Glover. The president can ignore, dismiss or disparage the divide between his policies and the opinions of the African American community which supported him. But it’s deep, it’s real, and it’s growing. It’s even historic.

Presidents have been issuing holiday greeting messages from their homes or cozy offices for a long time now, and Obama’s will be on line any minute now. Those interested can probably find it at JackandJillPolitics.com, at whitehouse.gov, and any number of other places. But the ironic 1930 Christmas message of Langston Hughes, the poet laureate of Black America sounds, with the most minor edits, like it could have come from the lips any US president of the past hundred years, including Barack Obama.

Sixty-nine years ago Langston Hughes began his holiday poem Merry Christmas with these lines

Merry Christmas China

From the gun-boats in the river

Ten inch shells for Christmas gifts

And peace on earth forever

At the moment, the U.S. was hip-deep in the Chinese civil war, bankrolling and advising a string of opium-soaked warlord armies against communists and agitators, and conducting naval operations in Chinese rivers and off its coasts. Today our first black president’s Pentagon, headed by the same team that ran George Bush’s Pentagon, sits atop some 800 overseas military bases in a hundred countries with more than 2 million uniformed personnel. Our president will spend more on this military machine than the all the rest of the planet combined, fighting and preparing to fight what the National Security Doctrine calls “multiple overlapping wars” to control resources in distant lands in the interest “free trade and free markets.”

Langston’s Christmas poem draws our attention to a part of the world much in today’s headlines.

Merry Christmas, India

To Gandhi in his cell

From righteous Christian England

Ring out bright Christmas bell

Under our first black president, Afghanistan and Pakistan are part of a vast law-free zone in which daily shellings and air raids go unreported and unremarked except by the families of victims. Assassinations and kidnappings to fill America’s world-wide network of secret prisons have replaced the open incarceration of real and suspected political foes. At least we knew Gandhi’s name, what he was charged with, where he was locked up, what his sentence was, whether he got a day in court and whether his keepers mistreated him. We can’t say that about hundreds or thousands of Obama’s prisoners.

Merry Christmas Africa

From Cairo to he Cape

Sing hallelujah, praise the Lord

For murder and for rape

Some things have changed very little indeed. The four part series “The Ravaging of Africa” to which a link appears in our left column, is a comprehensive indictment of US policy in Africa, which has caused the death of some 26 million Africans since the 1960s, including nearly ten million in Congo alone. America’s role as conscienceless predator was reaffirmed last week in Copenhagen, when the US categorically rejected the notion that it owed the rest of the world a debt for being the single major contributor to climate change over the last century and a half. Africans can drown or starve due to US -initiated climate change, but there will be no technology sharing, no reparations, nothing in the way of human solidarity between Africa and the West if the son of Africa in the White House has anything to say about it.

Langston Hughes draws our attention to the Caribbean, where the US has enforced its will at gunpoint for much of two centuries.

Ring Merry Christmas Haiti

And drown the voodoo drums

We’ll rob you to the Christmas hymns

Until the next Christ comes

Ring Merry Christmas Cuba

(Where Yankee domination

Keeps a nice fat president’s

in a little half-starved nation.)

In Cuba at least, Yankee domination is over. President Obama seems to resent this fact just as much as the last nine presidents, and continues to enforce a warlike economic blockade on Cuba.

And in Haiti, after more than a dozen US invasions and occupations, the US engineered the kidnapping of that country’s elected president, whom Obama will not even allow back in the Western hemisphere. In the name of international cooperation, the US pays for a multinational occupation force from Brazil and other countries to hunt down and kill members of Haiti’s Lavalas party, freeing US Marines for duty elsewhere.

Under the rules, Haiti is to be kept starving and terrorized, prevented by law from feeding or funding itself, owning its own infrastructure or employing its own people. Some things don’t change much.

The Christmas message of Langston Hughes doesn’t forget about domestic affairs either.

And to you down and outers

(“Due to economic laws”)

Oh, eat, drink, be merry

With a breadline Santa Claus–

Jobless levels are the highest they’ve been anywhere since the Great Depression, when Hughes penned his Christmas greeting. But now, just as in 1930, we have a president with an unshakable belief that “a rising tide lifts all boats,” a saying popularized by John F. Kennedy and Ronald Reagan. In this time of economic crisis, President Obama has transferred more wealth to Wall Street from the real economy than all his predecessors combined.

But hard-pressed homeowners and those with heavy debts due to unpayable medical bills remain underwater. Their bailout isn’t coming. The only ones, apart from Wall Street who’ll get anything under an Obama administration will be the military.

President Obama began this December with a belligerent address that used the cadets at West Point as human stage props. At mid-month he went to Copenhagen to receive the Nobel Peace Prize, and offer another bald-faced set of excuses for wars, kidnappings, secret prisons and the whole panoply of empire. He or his vice president may end it treating us to a Christmas or New Year’s message posing with the troops in occupied Iraq or Afghanistan. The more some things change, the more they stay the same.

We don’t know exactly what Obama will say in his holiday message. But Langston Hughes knew seventy years ago what he will mean.

While all the world hails Christmas

While all the church bells sway

While better still the Christian guns

Proclaim this joyous day

While holy steel that makes us strong

Spits forth a mighty yuletide song

SHOOT Merry Christmas everywhere

Let Merry Christmas GAS the air.

Presidents can always find sycophants, yes-men or yes-women eager to agree to whatever they say, often before they can even say it. All that comes with the job, along with Air Force One and that song they play every time he enters a crowded room. But the the truth is always true, no matter how hotly or how many the deniers, and most of Black America is not in denial on war, peace, mass incarceration or poverty.  The heroes, and the just plain honest will always be those who speak the truth to power.

Langston has been gone from us a long time now. We’ll never know what he might say to a son of Africa in the White House, married to a girl from the south side of Chicago. But nobody on either side of the grave speaks more directly to what our first black president has become than Langston Hughes did seven decades ago. Barack Obama is in power. He can ignore, disparage or dismiss the truth. But it’s still true.  And most of us know it.

We wish the president and first family, along with all our readers and friends around the world a joyous and fulfilling holiday.

Bruce A. Dixon is managing editor at Black Agenda Report, and based in Atlanta. He can be reached at bruce.dixon(at)blackagendareport. Langston Hughes is the poet laureate of Black America and can be reached at public libraries, and at independent and other bookstores everywhere.

Put Single-Payer on the Table March 11, 2009

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by Amy Goodman

President Barack Obama promises health-care reform, but he has taken single-payer health care off the table. Single-payer is the system that removes private insurance companies from the picture; the government pays all the bills, but health-care delivery remains private. People still get their choice of what doctor to go to and what hospital to use. Single-payer reduces the administrative costs and removes the profit that insurance companies add to health-care delivery. Single-payer solutions, however, get almost no space in the debate.A study just released by Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting, a media watchdog group, found that in the week before Obama’s health-care summit, of the hundreds of stories that appeared in major newspapers and on the networks, “only five included the views of advocates of single-payer-none of which appeared on television.” Most opinion columns that mentioned single-payer were written by opponents.

Congress is considering H.R. 676, “Expanded and Improved Medicare for All,” sponsored by John Conyers, D-Mich., with 64 co-sponsors. Yet even when Rep. Conyers directly asked Obama at a Congressional Black Caucus meeting if he could attend the White House health-care summit, he was not immediately invited. Nor was any other advocate for single-payer health care.

Conyers had asked to bring Dr. Marcia Angell, the first woman editor in chief of The New England Journal of Medicine, the most prestigious medical journal in the country, and Dr. Quentin Young. Young is perhaps the most well-known single-payer advocate in America. He was Martin Luther King Jr.’s doctor when King lived in Chicago. “My 15-minute house calls would stretch into three hours,” he told me.

But he came to know Barack Obama even better. Though his medical partner was Obama’s doctor, Young was his neighbor, friend and ally for decades. “Obama supported single-payer, gave speeches for it,” he said.

This past weekend, hundreds turned out to honor the 85-year-old Young, including the Illinois governor and three members of Congress, but the White House’s response to Conyers’ request that Young be included in the summit? A resounding no. Perhaps because Obama personally knows how persuasive and committed Young is.

After much outcry, Conyers was invited. Activist groups like Physicians for a National Health Program (pnhp.org) expressed outrage that no other single-payer advocate was to be among the 120 people at the summit. Finally, the White House relented and invited Dr. Oliver Fein, president of PNHP. Two people out of 120.

Locked out of the debate, silenced by the media, single-payer advocates are taking action. Russell Mokhiber, who writes and edits the Corporate Crime Reporter, has decided that the time has come to directly confront the problem of our broken health-care system. He’s going to the national meeting of the American Health Insurance Plans and is joining others in burning their health-insurance bills outside in protest. Mokhiber told me, “The insurance companies have no place in the health care of American people. How are we going to beat these people? We have to start the direct confrontation.” Launching a new organization, Single Payer Action (singlepayeraction.org), Mokhiber and others promise to take the issue to the insurance industry executives, the lobbyists and the members of Congress directly, in Washington, D.C., and their home district offices.

Critical mass is building behind a single-payer system. From Nobel Laureate in Economics Joseph Stiglitz, who told me, “I’ve reluctantly come to the view that it’s the only alternative,” to health-care providers themselves, who witness and endure the system’s failure firsthand. Geri Jenkins of the newly formed, 150,000-nurses-strong United American Nurses-National Nurses Organizing Committee (nnoc.net) said: “It is the only health-care-reform proposal that can work. … We are currently pushing to have a genuine, honest policy debate, because we’ll win … the health insurers will collapse under the weight of their own irrelevance.”

Dr. Young has now been invited to a Senate meeting along with the “usual suspects”: health-insurance providers, Big Pharma and health-care-reform advocates. I asked Young what he thought of the refrain coming from the White House, as well as from the leading senator on the issue, Max Baucus, that “single-payer is off the table.” “It’s repulsive,” sighed Young. “We are very angry.” But not discouraged. I asked him what he thought about Burn Your Health Insurance Bill Day. “Things are heating up.” he chuckled. “When things are happening that you have nothing to do with, you know it’s a movement.”

Denis Moynihan contributed research to this column.

Amy Goodman is the host of “Democracy Now!,” a daily international TV/radio news hour airing on 700 stations in North America. She was awarded the 2008 Right Livelihood Award, dubbed the “Alternative Nobel” prize, and received the award in the Swedish Parliament in December.

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