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Barack Obama, Iraq and the Big Lie March 1, 2009

Posted by rogerhollander in About Barack Obama, About War, Barack Obama, Iraq and Afghanistan, War.
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By Roger Hollander, March 1, 2009, www.rogerhollander.wordpress.com

 

“Don’t piss on me and try to tell me it’s raining”

Judge Judy

 

Does it matter whether it is a moral and intellectual imbecile like George W. Bush or a brilliant and charismatic intellectual like Barack Obama who employ the Big Lie as a tactic to explain and justify the unjustifiable?

In a posting that appeared in towardfreedom.com on February 18, Joel S. Hirschhorn writes, “Compared to rioting Europeans, Americans seem like docile, drugged out sheep … mesmerized by melodic rhetoric of political messiah Barack Obama.”

(http://towardfreedom.com/home/content/view/1529/1/) (italics added)

 

In an ironic and tragic twist of fate, it now appears that Barack Obama’s mesmerizing and melodic rhetoric has turned out to be a two-edged sword.  The same magic timbre that inspired and motivated millions of America to work day and night for his election in order to end America’s disastrous military adventures in the Middle East is now being put to use to give credibility to the Bush/Cheney worldview of the Iraq War and to thwart the desires, interests and welfare of those very same millions.  The delivery hasn’t changed, but God help us, look at the content (which is what this article is all about).

 

In an article entitled “War Is Over (IF You Want It)” that appears in the current edition of The Nation magazine (http://www.thenation.com/doc/20090316/alterman), Eric Alterman calls attention to the radical Republican right strategy of defining the fiasco in Iraq as a “victory.”  He cites, for example, an editorial that appeared in the Wall Street Journal that quotes Bush speech writer Marc Thiessen, “As Mr. Bush leaves office, Iraq is a unified and free country, and our enemies there have suffered a devastating defeat. If his successor does not squander that victory, a free Iraq will one day be to the Middle East what a free South Korea has been to Asia.”  (this parallels the same kind of Big Lie that the radical right has propagated about the Vietnam War, that it could have been won if only the politicians had given the military a free hand – to nuke Hanoi presumably).

 

Alterman goes on to cite other neocons in a similar vein and suggests that this is a conscious and concentrated strategy the purpose of which is to set up President Obama up for failure.  If that is indeed the case, then Obama seems to be willingly and blithely walking into the trap.

 

In his speech given on Friday, February 27 at marine Camp Lejeune in Jacksonville, Obama both affirms the neocon revisionist history of the Iraq invasion and occupation and lies blatantly to the American public about the proposed withdrawal.

 

First the latter.  Obama: “Let me say this as plainly as I can: by August 31, 2010, our combat mission in Iraq will end …. And under the Status of Forces Agreement with the Iraqi government, I intend to remove all U.S. troops from Iraq by the end of 2011.”

A bald faced lie.

Writing in the journal Foreign Policy in Focus on Friday, February 27, (http://www.fpif.org/fpiftxt/5910), Phyllis Bennis exposes Obama’s dissimulation about the up to 50,000 allegedly non-combatant troops “left behind.”  Leaving aside the question of why that huge number would be required to “train,equip and advise” (one is reminded of the “advisors” in Vietnam), which even Nancy Pelosi has questioned, Bennis refers to a December New York Times article “describing how military planners believe Obama’s goal of pulling out combat troops ‘could be accomplished at least in part by re-labeling some units, so that those currently counted as combat troops could be ‘re-missioned,’ their efforts redefined as training and support for the Iraqis.’”  She adds, “That would mean a retreat to the lies and deception that characterized this war during Bush years — something President Obama promised to leave behind. It would also mean military resistance in Iraq would continue, leading to more Iraqi and U.S. casualties.”

Along with AlterNet’s Jeremy Scahill (“All Troops Out By 2011? Not So Fast; Why Obama’s Iraq Speech Deserves a Second Look,” (http://www.alternet.org/waroniraq/129362/all_troops_out_by_2011_not_so_fast%3B_why_obama%27s_iraq_speech_deserves_a_second_look/), Bettis shows how the Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA), which was adopted by the Iraqi government but never ratified by the United States, and which calls for all U.S. troops to be out of Iraq by the end of 2011, is full of loopholes that the Pentagon and presumably the President are ready, willing and able, to employ when the time comes for the helicopters to be evacuating the remaining troops a la Vietnam (in other words, it ain’t gonna happen).

Obama himself (inadvertently, I presume) lets it slip into the speech where he states that he will “retain a transitional force … conducting targeted counter-terrorism missions.”   Such missions can hardly be characterized as anything other than combat missions.  He also telegraphs to both the American people via his warning to the Iraq resistance what his ace-in-the-loophole will be: “But our enemies should be left with no doubt: this plan gives our military the forces and the flexibility they need to support our Iraqi partners, and to succeed.”  It’s that flexibility that we knee-jerk peace-mongers worry about.

Sins of omission can be as deceptive, disingenuous and morally corrupt as sins of commission.  As Bettis points out, Obama neglected to mention the future use of air and naval force in Iraq, the disposition of the more than fifty military bases in Iraq, or the future status of the enormous numbers of mercenaries and contractors (e.g. Dyncorp, Bechtel,  and Blackwater, now Xe).  Nor did refer to the city within a city that is the United States Embassy in Baghdad, the largest embassy in the history of humankind of which you can bet that it wasn’t built to become redundant in a period of a couple of years. Come December 31, 2111, all logic and experience tell us that United States military presence in Iraq will continue to be substantial.  Obama does himself and the nation a disservice by suggesting otherwise.

As for the Bush, Cheney, neocon, and now apparently Obama fairytale version of the United States involvement in Iraq, it is probably true that it is the only one that would have been palatable for obvious reasons to the marines at Camp Lejeune, not to mention the neo-Fascist right that has ruled the country for the past eight years.  But to speak before the country and the entire world and characterize the United States invasion and occupation of Iraq, which has been responsible for hundreds of thousands of deaths, untold misery for millions and the virtual destruction of the Iraq infrastructure, as some kind of a noble venture is to contort reality into nothing less than a Big Lie which can only serve to justify past atrocity and foreshadow future ongoing bloodshed and destruction.

Obama: “We Americans have offered our most precious resource – our young men and women – to work with you to rebuild what was destroyed by despotism; to root out our common enemies; and to seek peace and prosperity for our children and grandchildren, and for yours.”  Bush could not have said it any better (which is probably why McCain is salivating as we speak).

The Biggest Lie of all comes toward the end of Obama’s speech: “And so I want to be very clear: We sent our troops to Iraq to do away with Saddam Hussein’s regime …We kept our troops in Iraq to help establish a sovereign government …And we will leave the Iraqi people with a hard-earned opportunity to live a better life …”

Alleging that “we sent our troops to Iraq to do away with Saddam Hussein’s regime” contains the truth within a lie.  In making the statement, Obama incredibly admits that the United States government violated the most fundamental precept of the United Nations Charter and international law, to wit, an unprovoked attack on a sovereign nation.  But does the President expect the American people and the world to forget about the intentionally false information about nuclear materials and weapons of mass destruction that was fed to the American people and world community as the justification for the invasion in the first place?  In this instance Obama’s Big lie serves to reinforce the Original Big Lie of the Bush administration.  The growing demand for prosecutorial accountability with respect to Bush and Company include, we should remember, not only torture, rendition, illegal wiretapping, etc. but also the crime of lying to the American public and Congress about the grounds for the invasion.

(To put matters into an even broader historical context, I refer readers to Nora Eisenberg’s excellent piece in AlterNet.com where she documents the Big Lie technique that was used to justify the first Gulf War in 1991 where according to a United Nations report the United States Air Force bombed Iraq “back into the Dark Ages.”  “Obama to Announce Iraq Troop Withdrawal,”

http://www.alternet.org/waroniraq/128916/why_the_dark_secrets_of_the_first_gulf_war_are_still_haunting_us/)

As for establishing a sovereign government and leaving the Iraqi people the opportunity to have a better life, while the jury may still be out on those counts, the evidence we have to date flies in the face of such empty rhetorical wishful thinking.

Some time ago Bush and the neocons began, ominously, comparing Iraq with South Korea, where the U.S. has had a “successful” military presence for over 50 years.  They neglect, of course, to note the difference, to wit, that South Korea was a military ally of the United States against the North Korean invasion, whereas the U.S. has been bombing the life out of Iraq since 1991 and through its unlawful invasion provoked a near civil war within the country that has cost the lives of hundreds of thousands of Iraqis?  Will this South Korea paradigm fiction be the next straw that Obama will need to grasp in order to justify occupation in perpetuity? 

There are two other critical concepts, which are central to the forces that were behind the original invasion and which impulse the continued military occupation, that Obama neglected to mention.  One of them is “war profiteering.”  Wipe out the infrastructure, and then as a pretext for reconstructing it, give billions in untendered contracts to the likes of Dick Cheney’s Haliburton.  And that is not to mention the corporate ghouls who manufacture our weapons of mass destruction.

The other concept, however, is one that virtually every American, not to mention the rest of the world, knows in her or his heart to have been, is, and will continue to be the single most – if not the only – motivating force behind the U.S. military adventure in Iraq.  It can be found in the original but quickly discarded acronym for the mission: Operation  Iraqi  Liberation.

Further Deconstruction of President Obama’s February 27 “Withdrawal from Iraq” Speech

Obama: (to the military) “You have fought against tyranny …”

Deconstruction: Those soldiers who have fought tyranny are living in Canada.

Obama: (to the military) “You have fought against … disorder.”

Deconstruction: Disorder created not only by the current invasion and occupation but also by 19 years of U.S. bombing and economic blockade.  Eisenberg: “We never learned that the government’s goals had changed from expelling Saddam’s forces from Kuwait to destroying Iraq’s infrastructure. Or what a country with a destroyed infrastructure looks like — with most of its electricity, telecommunications, sewage system, dams, railroads and bridges blown away.”

Obama: “Violence has been reduced substantially from the horrific sectarian killing of 2006 and 2007.”

Deconstruction: Sectarian killing and violence that the U.S. invasion and occupation provoked and by which Saddam Hussein’s atrocities pale in comparison.  U.S. inspired violence and killing 2003-2006 conveniently ignored.

Obama: “Al Qaeda in Iraq has been dealt a serious blow by our troops and Iraq’s Security Forces …”

Deconstruction: And has been handed a recruiting opportunity that will dramatically inflate the ranks of revenge-motivated terrorists who will plague us for decades or more.

Obama: “… a transition to full Iraqi responsibility … an Iraq that is sovereign, stable and self-reliant … The United States pursues no claim on your territory or your resources.”

Deconstruction: An Iraq that is occupied by the U.S. military in perpetuity, in order to ensure the protection of U.S. interests in the region’s natural resources and to ensure the “election” of government’s that maintain Iraq as a client state of the U.S.

Obama: “There are those … who will insist that Iraq’s differences cannot be reconciled without more killing.”

Deconstruction: We don’t insist on more killing we just do it.  Bennis: “And what if the reduction in ground troops is answered with an escalation of U.S. air power? The U.S. appears to be planning to control the skies over Iraq for years to come. That means even more Iraqi civilians being killed by the U.S. military. We need the withdraw all air and naval forces too — something the SOFA agreement mentions, but we have yet to hear anything from the Obama administration. The U.S. has been conducting continuous overflights and regular bombing of Iraq since January 1991 – isn’t 18 years of air war enough?”

Obama: “And as long as I am your Commander-in-Chief, I promise you that I will only send you into harm’s way when it is absolutely necessary …”

Deconstruction: Necessary to what and to whose ends?

Obama: “What we will not do is let the pursuit of the perfect stand in the way of achievable goals.”

Deconstruction: Forget such wishy-washy idealist notions such as actual peace and justice.

Obama: (with respect to) “millions of displaced Iraqis … America has … a moral responsibility – to act.”

Deconstruction: This is another Obama slip up: America has no “moral responsibility” to help those refugees.  It was Saddam who made us create all those refugees.  Right?  We do it out of the goodness of our gas-guzzling hearts.

Obama: “… the United States of America – a nation that exists only because free men and women have bled for it from the beaches of Normandy to the deserts of Anbar; from the mountains of Korea to the streets of Kandahar.”

Deconstruction: Obama gives us jingoistic triumphalistic patriotism, when the American people hunger for a truthful acknowledgement of the past crimes.

One has to ask the question why the entire sub-text, not to mention the practical implications, of Obama’s speech was addressed directly to the radical Republican right, corporate America, and the military-industrial complex.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mesmerized by Melodic Rhetoric: Where Are the Protests in the US? February 26, 2009

Posted by rogerhollander in Barack Obama, Economic Crisis.
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“Compared to rioting Europeans, Americans seem like docile, drugged out sheep herded towards the economic cliff, mesmerized by melodic rhetoric of political messiah Barack Obama.”

Written by Joel S. Hirschhorn  www.towardfreedom.com  

Wednesday, 18 February 2009

Image

Budget Cut Protest in NY

“I’ve been through Y2K and I’ve been through 9/11.  I have never seen people so afraid as what we are seeing right now,” said gun shop owner Scott Moss recently.   With more guns per capita – easily 250 million privately owned ones – and certainly more people in prisons than any other democracy, the intriguing question in this still worsening economic calamity is: If Americans found the courage for political rebellion now, would it preempt massive criminal violence, social havoc and armed rebellion later?

  

What we see President Obama and Congress doing and debating seem inadequate to restore financial health and security to the vast majority of Americans before millions more lives are devastated.  Billions of tax dollars have gone to banks, corporations and others but have not stopped the hemorrhage of our financial lifeblood.  More than half a million jobs continue to be lost a month; 3.5 million in the past year.  Millions are losing their homes, health insurance and ability to buy food.  Those with jobs are afraid to spend money.

As Nobel Prize winning and gloomy economist Paul Krugman said the other day after condemning what is going on in Washington, DC: “the economy is still in free fall” and we may be “falling into an economic abyss.”  Harsh words for a harsh reality.

Recently, President Obama said: “A failure to act, and act now, will turn crisis into a catastrophe.”  But what really matters is exactly what actions the government takes and whether they are what is needed.  Besides, about the same time, his senior advisor David Axelrod said on television that “we have an economic catastrophe.”  For most Americans, catastrophe seems more accurate.

Meanwhile, the elite Upper Class that stole the nation’s wealth in recent years with their greed and political clout, and destroyed the global economic system, are still sitting pretty in their McMansions, penthouses, private jets and yachts.  They still enjoy their $50,000+ cars, still wine and dine in incredibly expensive restaurants, and still retain more wealth than ordinary people can imagine.  Brioni men’s suits for $40,000+ are selling fast.

So what are ordinary Americans doing?  Are there massive crowds of screaming, sign-carrying Americans in city streets from coast to coast?  No.  Or outside congressional buildings and the White House?  No.  Are there riots and looting by hoards of hungry and angry people who have lost a decent lifestyle?  No.  Do we see anything like the anti-Vietnam War protests?  No.  Do we see anything like the urban riots after the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr.?  No.  Do we see anything like the rebellion against the British that created our nation?  No.

What do we see?  Millions of people getting notices that they have lots their jobs, getting eviction notices, applying for bankruptcy, trying to get unemployment benefits, standing on long lines to get a shot at few jobs, filling crowded hospital emergency rooms to get medical help, taking their children out of child care they no longer can afford, and buying fewer and cheaper foods or seeking free food.

Compared to rioting Europeans, Americans seem like docile, drugged out sheep herded towards the economic cliff, mesmerized by melodic rhetoric of political messiah Barack Obama.

No wonder our politicians look like dithering, confused idiots arguing among themselves as we continue falling into economic hell.  We simply are not demanding enough of those we elected.

It’s as if most Americans are patiently waiting to be rescued by winning the lottery.  Is it hope or stupidity?

Meantime, President Obama has successfully stimulated one business sector.  Since November, gun and ammunition sales have soared, as have requests for concealed carry permits.  “Our sales are up 15 to 20 percent since October,” says the owner of Shooter’s Service in Livonia, Michigan. “It’s not the 40 percent other stores are reporting, but it’s good business.”  Oakland County in Michigan issued 130 percent more concealed carry weapon permits in January than a year earlier.  Such permits are up as much as 90 percent in some Western North Carolina counties.  According to the FBI, background checks for gun sales in January jumped 29 percent over January 2008; this followed a 24 percent rise in December and a 42 percent increase in November.  In many places gun sales have dropped because of shortages.

What awaits us when hope becomes futile and all confidence in the government is lost?  Gun owner Chad Roberts in Tennessee said this recently: “With the economy like it is more people are going to be desperate wanting to steal from you.”  So, perhaps we will see a contagious, rapid descent into mass criminal violence.  As suffering, gun-toting Americans resort to looting, theft, robbery, burglary, assaults and other economically driven violent acts to get what is needed to survive, and other gun owners shoot to defend what they have.  The fabric of civilized society ripped apart.  Brutal police and military actions result, and for many no police protection.  Constitutional freedoms suspended in a national emergency.  Government threatened by armed rebellion as gun-toting citizens put their Second Amendment rights to the ultimate use.

This nightmare scenario may happen because free people waited too long, remained too hopeful, put too much faith in elections.  Beyond catastrophe lies mob rule, a doomsday post-democracy, disintegration, collapse, chaos.  Americans sucked into the economic abyss where violence replaces politics.

Hope will be a distant memory.  One way to avoid the abyss is to give Americans what they have a constitutional right to have, something the Founders in their wisdom knew we would need.  They provided an option in Article V of the Constitution that Congress has refused to honor, even though the one and only requirement has long been met.  It is a convention of state delegates to consider proposals for constitutional amendments.  This would provide a national forum for the public to seriously become involved with possible ways to reform and improve our government structure.  Over 700 applications from state legislatures for an Article V convention have been submitted from all 50 states; they are being made available for the first time at foavc.org.  Because the convention can only propose amendments that still must be ratified by three-quarters of the states there really is nothing to fear about harming our Constitution.  There is now considerable interest in many states to push for a convention.

In these dismal times using what the Founders gave us makes more sense than ever before.  Americans need more than two-party politics.  They need a serious debate about structural reforms through constitutional amendments that can attack the deep rooted corruption and incompetence that plague the federal government and contributed to creating our current economic meltdown.

Rather than fear a convention, embrace it.  It is far more rational to fear sticking with our status quo dysfunctional government or, worse, the degeneration into violent upheaval.  Following the Constitution’s path to get reforms should be preferred.

[Joel S. Hirschhorn is a co-founder of Friends of the Article V Convention; contact him through delusionaldemocracy.com.]

Photo from NYC.Indymedia.org

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