Why Israel Lies August 4, 2014Posted by rogerhollander in Israel, Gaza & Middle East, War.
Tags: big lie, chris hedges, Edward Bernays, edward snowden, gaza, hamas, hannah arendt, intercept, israel, israeli massacre, jon queally, kafka, netanyahu, nsa, orwellian, palestinian, roger hollander
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Roger’s note: Two more articles outlining the dynamics behind the Israeli government’s barbaric assault against the ghetto it has created in Gaza. The notion that Israel’s actions are justified as self-defence is exposed as at best Orwellian.
All governments lie, as I.F. Stone pointed out, including Israel and Hamas. But Israel engages in the kinds of jaw-dropping lies that characterize despotic and totalitarian regimes. It does not deform the truth; it inverts it. It routinely paints a picture for the outside world that is diametrically opposed to reality. And all of us reporters who have covered the occupied territories have run into Israel’s Alice-in-Wonderland narratives, which we dutifully insert into our stories—required under the rules of American journalism—although we know they are untrue.
I saw small boys baited and killed by Israeli soldiers in the Gaza refugee camp of Khan Younis. The soldiers swore at the boys in Arabic over the loudspeakers of their armored jeep. The boys, about 10 years old, then threw stones at an Israeli vehicle and the soldiers opened fire, killing some, wounding others. I was present more than once as Israeli troops drew out and shot Palestinian children in this way. Such incidents, in the Israeli lexicon, become children caught in crossfire. I was in Gaza when F-16 attack jets dropped 1,000-pound iron fragmentation bombs on overcrowded hovels in Gaza City. I saw the corpses of the victims, including children. This became a surgical strike on a bomb-making factory. I have watched Israel demolish homes and entire apartment blocks to create wide buffer zones between the Palestinians and the Israeli troops that ring Gaza. I have interviewed the destitute and homeless families, some camped out in crude shelters erected in the rubble. The destruction becomes the demolition of the homes of terrorists. I have stood in the remains of schools—Israel struck two United Nations schools in the last six days, causing at least 10 fatalities at one in Rafah on Sunday and at least 19 at one in the Jebaliya refugee camp Wednesday—as well as medical clinics and mosques. I have heard Israel claim that errant rockets or mortar fire from the Palestinians caused these and other deaths, or that the attacked spots were being used as arms depots or launching sites. I, along with every other reporter I know who has worked in Gaza, have never seen any evidence that Hamas uses civilians as “human shields.”
There is a perverted logic to Israel’s repeated use of the Big Lie—Große Lüge—the lie favored by tyrants from Adolf Hitler and Josef Stalin to Saddam Hussein. The Big Lie feeds the two reactions Israel seeks to elicit—racism among its supporters and terror among its victims.
By painting a picture of an army that never attacks civilians, that indeed goes out of its way to protect them, the Big Lie says Israelis are civilized and humane, and their Palestinian opponents are inhuman monsters. The Big Lie serves the idea that the slaughter in Gaza is a clash of civilizations, a war between democracy, decency and honor on one side and Islamic barbarism on the other. And in the uncommon cases when news of atrocities penetrates to the wider public, Israel blames the destruction and casualties on Hamas.
George Orwell in his novel “Nineteen Eighty-Four” called this form of propaganda doublethink. Doublethink uses “logic against logic” and “repudiate[s] morality while laying claim to it.” The Big Lie does not allow for the nuances and contradictions that can plague conscience. It is a state-orchestrated response to the dilemma of cognitive dissonance. The Big Lie permits no gray zones. The world is black and white, good and evil, righteous and unrighteous. The Big Lie allows believers to take comfort—a comfort they are desperately seeking—in their own moral superiority at the very moment they have abrogated all morality.
The Big Lie, as the father of American public relations, Edward Bernays, wrote, is limited only by the propagandist’s capacity to fathom and harness the undercurrents of individual and mass psychology. And since most supporters of Israel do not have a desire to know the truth, a truth that would force them to examine their own racism and self-delusions about Zionist and Western moral superiority, like packs of famished dogs they lap up the lies fed to them by the Israeli government. The Big Lie always finds fertile soil in what Bernays called the “logic-proof compartment of dogmatic adherence.” All effective propaganda, Bernays wrote, targets and builds upon these irrational “psychological habits.”
This is the world Franz Kafka envisioned, a world where the irrational becomes rational. It is one where, as Gustave Le Bon noted in “The Crowd: A Study of the Public Mind,” those who supply the masses with the illusions they crave become their master, and “whoever attempts to destroy their illusions is always their victim.” This irrationality explains why the reaction of Israeli supporters to those who have the courage to speak the truth—Uri Avnery, Max Blumenthal, Noam Chomsky, Jonathan Cook, Norman Finkelstein, Amira Hass, Gideon Levy, Ilan Pappé, Henry Siegman and Philip Weiss—is so rabid. That so many of these voices are Jewish, and therefore have more credibility than non-Jews who are among Israel’s cheerleaders, only ratchets up the level of hate.
But the Big Lie is also consciously designed to send a chilling message to Gaza’s Palestinians, who have lost large numbers of their dwellings, clinics, mosques, and power, water and sewage facilities, along with schools and hospitals, who have suffered some 1,650 deaths since this assault began—most of the victims women and children—and who have seen 400,000 people displaced from their homes. The Big Lie makes it clear to the Palestinians that Israel will continue to wage a campaign of state terror and will never admit its atrocities or its intentions. The vast disparity between what Israel says and what Israel does tells the Palestinians that there is no hope. Israel will do and say whatever it wants. International law, like the truth, will always be irrelevant. There will never, the Palestinians understand from the Big Lie, be an acknowledgement of reality by the Israeli leadership.
The Israel Defense Forces website is replete with this black propaganda. “Hamas exploits the IDF’s sensitivity towards protecting civilian structures, particularly holy sites, by hiding command centers, weapons caches and tunnel entrances in mosques,” the IDF site reads. “In Hamas’ world, hospitals are command centers, ambulances are transport vehicles, and medics are human shields,” the site insists.
“… [Israeli] officers are tasked with an enormous responsibility: to protect Palestinian civilians on the ground, no matter how difficult that may be,” the site assures its viewers. And the IDF site provides this quote from a drone operator identified as Lt. Or. “I have personally seen rockets fired at Israel from hospitals and schools, but we couldn’t strike back because of civilians nearby. In one instance, we acquired a target but we saw that there were children in the area. We waited around, and when they didn’t leave we were forced to abort a strike on an important target.”
Israel’s ambassador to the United States, Ron Dermer, in a Big Lie of his own, said last month at a conference of Christians United for Israel that the Israeli army should be given the “Nobel Peace Prize … a Nobel Peace Prize for fighting with unimaginable restraint.”
The Big Lie destroys any possibility of history and therefore any hope for a dialogue between antagonistic parties that can be grounded in truth and reality. While, as Hannah Arendt pointed out, the ancient and modern sophists sought to win an argument at the expense of the truth, those who wield the Big Lie “want a more lasting victory at the expense of reality.” The old sophists, she said, “destroyed the dignity of human thought.” Those who resort to the Big Lie “destroy the dignity of human action.” The result, Arendt warned, is that “history itself is destroyed, and its comprehensibility.” And when facts no longer matter, when there is no shared history grounded in the truth, when people foolishly believe their own lies, there can be no useful exchange of information. The Big Lie, used like a bludgeon by Israel, as perhaps it is designed to be, ultimately reduces all problems in the world to the brutish language of violence. And when oppressed people are addressed only through violence they will answer only through violence.
Obama Worse than Bush? October 17, 2013Posted by rogerhollander in Barack Obama, Civil Liberties, Constitution, Criminal Justice, Democracy, War on Terror.
Tags: big lie, bin Laden, bin laden kill, civil liberties, constitution, fema camps, habeas corpus, minority report, obama lie, president obama, prolonged detention, roger hollander, scott baker, seymour hersch, sherwood ross, tom cruise
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Roger’s note: Obama worse than Bush? On the face of it it seems a ludicrous idea. But digging a little deeper … Here are two articles that give much food for thought. I especially encourage you to play the video at the very end of the second article and watch Rachel Maddow take apart Obama’s academy award winning performance for convolution.
http://www.opednews,com, 10/17/2013 at 09:10:31
Hersh Says bin Laden Kill Story “One Big Lie”
If Seymour Hersh says the tale of the death of Osama bin Laden at the hands of US Navy SEALS is “one big lie” and “not one word of it is true,” President Obama will be hard pressed to keep his job when Hersh’s new book comes out. Over a lifetime, investigative reporter Hersh has become famous for his accuracy, honesty, reliability and integrity and if he says the bin Laden tale is a fake, you can take it to the bank.
Federal Emergency Management Agency relief trucks stage in New York, as seen as Army Gen. Frank Grass, the chief of the National Guard Bureau; Air Force Chief Master Sgt. Denise Jelinski-Hall and other National Guard senior leaders visit areas impacted by by jim.greenhill
There is no shortage of videos and more videos from conspiratists and mainstream sources alike.
Some purposes seem benign, even helpful, like using the camps to house natural disaster victims, instead of warehousing them in horrific conditions like what ensued after Hurricane Katrina, when up to 20,000 people were jammed into the Louisiana Superdome.
But the use of such camps can be expanded greatly, especially in the new Amerika, where everyone is a suspect, and Constitutional rights are a sometime option.
Rachel Maddow has compiled and dissected some recent speeches by Obama in which he explains the future use of FEMA camps directly, and his twisted but very real legal theory allowing, at least to him, indefinite pre-emptive detention for crimes that have not been committed yet, and Obama’s overreach, far beyond anything Bush and Cheney ever attempted, and completely outside even the constitution’s Article 1, Section 9, which allows for suspension of Habeas Corpus during times of “Rebellion (e.g. as in the Civil War) or Invasion.” She compares Obama’s evolving policy to that of the Tom Cruise science fiction movie: Minority Report, in which Cruise works as a cop in the department of pre-crime, arresting people for things they haven’t done yet.
Hiroshima, Nagasaki and ‘Bomb Iran’ August 14, 2013Posted by rogerhollander in History, Iran, Japan, Nuclear weapons/power, War.
Tags: admiral leahy, andrew dilks, atomic bomb, big lie, bunker-buster bombs, carter w. clarke, chester nimitz, douglas mcarthur, dr. strangelove, harry truman, henry stinson, hiroshima, history, Iran, iran nuclear, israel, israel military, israel nuclear, james byrnes, japan surrender, manhattan project, marsha cohen, nagasaki, netanyahu, nuclear war, roger hollander, war, wwii history
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Roger’s note: this posting contains two somewhat related articles. The second article, presents the view that the nuclear attack on Hiroshima and Nagasaki was for geopolitical and not military reasons. I first read this interpretation back in the 1960s in a book by the so-called revisionist historian, Gar Alperovitz, “Atomic Diplomacy: Hiroshima and Potsdam.” Also, according to Wikipedia,
‘Alperovitz is the author of critically acclaimed books on the atomic bomb and atomic diplomacy and was named “Distinguished Finalist” for the Lionel Gelber Prize for The Decision to Use the Atomic Bomb and the Architecture of an American Myth, (Knopf, 1995).’ I am no historian, but I find the “revisionist” argument to be quite persuasive.
Last week marked the 68th anniversary of the WWII destruction of the Japanese cities of Hiroshima (Aug. 6) and Nagasaki (Aug. 9) — the first and only deployment of nuclear weapons in human history. Within moments of the nuclear explosions that destroyed these cities, at
least 200,000 people lost their lives. Tens of thousands subsequently died from radiation poisoning within the next two weeks. The effects linger to this day.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has implied that this would the be fate of Israel if Iran was allowed to obtain nuclear weapon-making capabilities, including the ability to enrich high-grade uranium. To prevent this from happening, the economy of Iran must be crippled by sanctions and the fourth largest oil reserves in the world must be barred from global markets, as the oil fields in which they are situated deteriorate. Israel — the only state in the region that actually possesses nuclear weapons and has blocked all efforts to create a Middle East Nuclear Weapon Free Zone – should thus be armed with cutting-edge American weaponry. Finally, the US must not only stand behind its sole reliable Middle East ally, which could strike Iran at will, it should ideally also lead — not merely condone — a military assault against Iranian nuclear facilities.
Netanyahu invariably frames the threat posed by Iranian nuclear capability (a term that blurs distinctions between civilian and potential military applications of nuclear technology) as “Auschwitz” rather than “Hiroshima and Nagasaki”, even though the latter might be a more apt analogy. The potential for another Auschwitz is predicated on the image of an Israel that is unable — or unwilling to — defend itself, resulting in six million Jews going “like sheep to the slaughter.” But if Israel and/or the US were to attack Iran instead of the other way around, “Hiroshima and Nagasaki” would be the analogy to apply to Iran.
A country dropping bombs on any country that has not attacked first is an act of war, as the US was quick to point out when the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor — and this includes so-called “surgical strikes”. In a July 19 letter about US options in Syria, Gen. Martin Dempsey, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, reminded the Senate Armed Services Committee that “…the decision to use force is not one that any of us takes lightly. It is no less than an act of war” [emphasis added].
If the use of atomic weapons on Hiroshima and Nagasaki during wartime remains morally and militarily questionable, one might think that there would be even less justification for a military strike on Iran, with whom neither Israel nor the US is at war. Of course, there are those who disagree: the US is engaged in a war on terror, Iran has been designated by the US as the chief state sponsor of terrorism since 1984 and so on. Therefore, the US is, or should be, at war with Iran.
“All options are on the table” is the operative mantra with regard to the US halting Iran’s acquisition of a nuclear weapon. But if bombs start dropping on Iran, what kind will they be? In fact, the 30,000 lb. Massive Ordnance Penetrators (MOPs) that could be employed against Iranian nuclear facilities are nuclear weapons, since they derive their capability of penetrating 200 feet of concrete in the earth from depleted uranium. Furthermore, some Israelis have darkly hinted that, were Israel to confront Iran alone, it would be more likely to reach into its unacknowledged nuclear armoury if that meant the difference between victory and defeat.
Given all this, comparing the damage that would be done by bombing Iran with the destruction of Hiroshima and Nagasaki is not farfetched. It also reveals some troubling parallels. In the years prior to the Japanese bombing of Pearl Harbor in 1941, President Franklin D. Roosevelt, in response to what the US regarded as Japanese expansionism, imposed economic sanctions on Japan in 1937. Just before the US entered the war, an embargo was placed on US exports of oil to Japan, upon which Japan was utterly dependent.
In 1945, it was already clear that Japan was preparing to surrender and that the outstanding issue at hand was the status of its emperor. There was neither a military nor political need to use atomic weapons to bring an end to the war. Numerous justifications for dropping atomic bombs on Japan were invoked, but nearly all of them were challenged or discredited within a few years after the war ended. Three are particularly noteworthy today, as we continue to face the prospect of war with Iran.
Saving lives: US Secretary of War Henry Stimson justified the decision to use atomic weapons as “the least abhorrent choice” since it would not only would save the lives of up to a million American soldiers who might perish in a ground assault on Japan, it would also spare the lives of hundreds of thousands of Japanese civilians who were being killed in fire bombings. President Harry Truman also claimed that “thousands of lives would be saved” and “a quarter of a million of the flower of our young manhood was worth a couple of Japanese cities.” But as Andrew Dilks points out, “None of these statements were based on any evidence.”
Speaking in Warsaw, Poland on June 12 — two days before the Iranian election that he declared would “change nothing” with regard to Iran’s alleged quest to develop nuclear weaponry — Netanyahu used the opening of an Auschwitz memorial to make his case. “This is a regime that is building nuclear weapons with the expressed purpose to annihilate Israel’s six million Jews,” he said. “We will not allow this to happen. We will never allow another Holocaust.” About the Iranians who would perish after an Israeli attack, Netanyahu said nothing.
Justifying expenditures: The total estimated cost of the Manhattan Project, which developed the bombs dropped on Japan, was nearly $2 billion in 1945, the equivalent of slightly more than $30 billion today. Secretary of State James Byrnes pointed out to President Harry Truman, who was up for re-election in 1948, that he could expect to be berated by Republicans for spending such a large amount on weapons that were never used, according to MIT’s John Dower.
A recent report by the Congressional Research Service shows that Israel is the single largest recipient of US aid, receiving a cumulative $118 billion, most of it military aid. The Bush administration and the Israeli government had agreed to a 10-year, $30 billion military aid package in 2007, which assured Israel of funding through 2018. During his March 2013 visit to Israel, President Barack Obama, who had been criticized by the US pro-Israel lobby for being less concerned than previous American presidents about Israel’s well being and survival, pledged that the United States would continue to provide Israel with multi-year commitments of military aid subject to the approval of Congress. Not to be outdone, the otherwise tightfisted Congress not only approved the added assistance Obama had promised, it also increased it. An Iran that is not depicted as dangerous would jeopardize the generous military assistance Israel receives. What better way to demonstrate how badly needed those US taxpayer dollars are than to show them in action?
Technological research and development: One of the most puzzling questions about the decision to use nuclear weaponry against Japan is why, three days after the utter devastation wreaked on Hiroshima, a second atomic bomb was dropped on Nagasaki. It was unnecessary from a militarily perspective. Perhaps the answer exists in the fact that the Manhattan Project had produced different types of atomic bombs: the destructive power of the “Little Boy”, which fell on Hiroshima, came from uranium; the power of “Fat Man”, which exploded over Nagasaki, came from plutonium. What better way to “scientifically” compare their effectiveness at annihilation than by using both?
The award winning Israeli documentary, The Lab, which opens in the US this month, reveals that Israel has used Lebanon and Gaza as a testing ground for advances in weaponry. Jonathan Cook writes, “Attacks such as Operation Cast Lead of winter 2008-09 or last year’s Operation Pillar of Defence, the film argues, serve as little more than laboratory-style experiments to evaluate and refine the effectiveness of new military approaches, both strategies and weaponry.” Israeli military leaders have strongly hinted that in conducting air strikes against Syria, the Israeli Air Force is rehearsing for an attack on Iran, including the use of bunker-buster bombs.
The Pentagon, which reportedly has invested $500 million in developing and revamping MOP “bunker busters”, recently spent millions building a replica of Iran’s Fordow nuclear research facility in order to demonstrate to the Israelis that Iranian nuclear facilities can be destroyed when the time is right.
Gen. Dempsey arrived in Israel on Monday to meet with Israel’s Chief of Staff Benny Gantz and Israel’s political leaders. Members of Congress from both political parties are also visiting — Democrats last week, Republicans this week — on an AIPAC-sponsored “fact-finding” mission. No doubt they will hear yet again from Israeli leaders that the world cannot allow another Auschwitz.
The world cannot allow another Hiroshima and Nagasaki either.
How Shadowy Right-Wing Front Groups Engineered Our National Embrace of Debt Reduction Over Job Creation July 29, 2011Posted by rogerhollander in Economic Crisis, Right Wing.
Tags: big lie, debt ceiling, debt crisis, debt reduction, Economic Crisis, economic recovery, government spending, lee fang, right wing, roger hollander, spending reduction
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Roger’s note: repeat after me, “political democracy without economic democracy is not democratic.” Economic democracy is synonymous with (gasp!) Socialism. Under capitalist economic relations, money always trumps the interest of living breathing human beings. Right wing money is taking things to the extreme, but it is corporate money — left, right or center — that controls education, information, news and therefore public opinion. Has been that way since day one. What we are seeing today is the slow and steady collapse of world capitalism. You can’t get blood from a stone.
(Photo: Vanessa Arn / Flickr)
For the entire year, as a sluggish economy sputters by and states continue to struggle with falling revenue, the conversation in Congress has centered solely on spending reduction. Earlier this year, we witnessed looming government-showdown duels between competing spending reduction plans. Now with the debt ceiling debate, the only two options are a choice between a package of painful cuts and a package of deeply draconian cuts. There has been no lively discussion of new policy ideas for job creation, foreclosure mitigation, or how to spur demand, the key driver of economic recovery.
Earlier this week, Politico published a piece outlining the vast disparity in the ad war over the debt ceiling. Republican-aligned groups have run over $21.2 million in attack ads highlighting Democrats as irresponsible drivers of the national debt, and elevating the debt ceiling as a top priority. Meanwhile, groups on the left have spent about $30,000 on ads calling out Republicans on the debt, with one hitting lawmakers for “recklessly risking default.” Some Democratic leaning groups have even run ads casting Democrats as better at cutting than Republicans.
Since the end of the Bush presidency, shadowy right-wing groups, many of them formed for this very purpose, have primed the public with a sophisticated public relations campaign to shift the national discourse to a focus on debt reduction. Many of these groups do not appear partisan, and have figured out ways around registering their activity with the Federal Elections Commission (so the true extent to their ad-buying is rarely recorded):
– Founded in 2010 by former Bush admin flak Gretchen Hamel, the group Public Notice has quietly pumped millions into advertising about debt reduction: Public Notice sponsored at least $3 million on a debt ad called “Shovel” that falsely claims the spending doesn’t create jobs, an undisclosed amount for online ads promoting a highly produced web series on the evils of government spending, a debt pledge that features pop singer Justin Bieber, and what is believed to be another multimillion dollar ad buy recently for a commercial, appearing like a PSA, that warns that government spending is akin to cocaine addiction. To warp elite opinion, the group sponsored billboard ads at Reagan National Airport and on buses and bus shelters near Capitol Hill. Although Hamel does not reveal her donors, she is connected closely with the Koch network of billionaire and investors. Last year at a right-wing donor conference attended by top hedge fund manager Steve Schwarzman and Charles Koch, Hamel gave a presentation on “Framing the Debate on Spending.”
– Retired investor Pete Peterson has dedicated $1 billion of his personal wealth to reducing government spending; much of that money has gone to a multifaceted marketing campaign: The Peterson Institute has spent $1 million underwriting a movie about the debt, at least $1,010,232 developing a children’s debt sports game that also directs users to a Econ4U, a front group created by infamous lobbyist Rick Berman, millions more for a TV ad campaign called “Hugh Jidette,” an MTV-U cable television series that misleadingly conflates personal debt with the national debt, a newspaper partnered with the Washington Post, and even a program at Columbia University to develop a national debt-related K-12 curriculum.
– Corporate astroturf lobbyist Rick Berman has spent large amounts orchestrating a scare-mongering campaign over the national debt. Along with his connections to the Peterson network mentioned above, Berman has set up a campaign called “Defeat the Debt” to push the public into believing the national debt is the country’s top priority. He has run ads on television, purchased billboards throughout the Washington D.C. metro area, and aggressively marketed his campaign to Capitol Hill staffers. Last year, Berman purchased an ad during the Super Bowl — spending approximately $3 million — that showed schoolchildren pledging allegiance “to America’s debt, and to the Chinese government that lends us money.”
– A network of other right-wing groups have used a series of public relations gimmicks — like barnstorming bus tours filled with highly paid GOP operatives posing as Tea Party activists — to orchestrate an astroturf effort to build support for cutting spending over creating jobs. Groups like Americans for Prosperity and Americans for Tax Reform sponsored a group called Spending Revolt that toured the country organizing debt-related rallies with Republican candidates last year. The group, which has organized events with the Ohio Coal Association, gained countless local press hits appearing as a genuine citizens groups, despite the fact its sponsors are corporate lobbyists. This year, Americans for Prosperity has continued a separate effort to organize debt-themed rallies. American Majority, a group founded after Obama’s election by two GOP operatives, has quietly provided training efforts across the country to mobilize around the issue of the national debt.
This is only a snapshot of the debt-related public relations campaign; millions more have been spent by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, FreedomWorks, Club for Growth, and other big business advocacy groups.
The incredible resources the right has amassed for its debt campaign are unmatched by progressives. Moreover, at a time when solving the unemployment crisis should be our national priority, only the very wealthy and privileged have the money to direct national ad campaigns of any real impact. In an era of unlimited corporate money in politics, the unemployed and the Middle Class have a quickly disappearing voice in public life.
The Militarized Surrealism of Barack Obama June 30, 2011Posted by rogerhollander in Barack Obama, War.
Tags: Afghanistan, afghanistan drawdown, afghanistan surge, Afghanistan War, big lie, empire, militarism, Obama, obama speech, rhetoric, roger hollander, tom engelhardt, troop withdrawal, war
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Roger’s note: Of which mid-twentieth century aggressive imperial European power are we reminded by Obama’s triumphal rhetoric?
Published on Thursday, June 30, 2011 by TomDispatch.com
Signs of the Great American Unraveling
It’s already gone, having barely outlasted its moment — just long enough for the media to suggest that no one thought it added up to much.
Okay, it was a little more than the military wanted, something less than Joe Biden would have liked, not enough for the growing crew of anti-war congressional types, but way too much for John McCain, Lindsey Graham, & Co.
Tell me you weren’t holding your breath wondering whether the 33,000 surge troops he ordered into Afghanistan as 2009 ended would be removed in a 12-month, 14-month, or 18-month span. Tell me you weren’t gripped with anxiety about whether 3,000, 5,000, 10,000, or 15,000 American soldiers would come out this year (leaving either 95,000, 93,000, 88,000, or 83,000 behind)?
You weren’t? Well, if so, you were in good company.
Billed as the beginning of the end of the Afghan War, it should have been big and it couldn’t have been smaller. The patented Obama words were meant to soar, starting with a George W. Bush-style invocation of 9/11 and ending with the usual copious blessings upon this country and our military. But on the evidence, they couldn’t have fallen flatter. I doubt I was alone in thinking that it was like seeing Ronald Reagan on an unimaginably bad day in an ad captioned “It’s never going to be morning again in America.”
If you clicked Obama off that night or let the event slide instantly into your mental trash can, I don’t blame you. Still, the president’s Afghan remarks shouldn’t be sent down the memory hole quite so quickly.
For one thing, while the mainstream media’s pundits and talking heads are always raring to discuss his policy remarks, the words that frame them are generally ignored — and yet the discomfort of the moment can’t be separated from them. So start with this: whether by inclination, political calculation, or some mix of the two, our president has become a rhetorical idolator.
These days he can barely open his mouth without also bowing down before the U.S. military in ways that once would have struck Americans as embarrassing, if not incomprehensible. In addition, he regularly prostrates himself before this country’s special mission to the world and never ceases to emphasize that the United States is indeed an exception among nations. Finally, in a way once alien to American presidents, he invokes God’s blessing upon the military and the country as regularly as you brush your teeth.
Think of these as the triumvirate without which no Obama foreign-policy moment would be complete: greatest military, greatest nation, our God. And in this he follows directly, if awkwardly, in Bush’s footsteps.
I wouldn’t claim that Americans had never had such thoughts before, only that presidents didn’t feel required to say them in a mantra-like way just about every time they appeared in public. Sometimes, of course, when you feel a compulsion to say the same things ad nauseam, you display weakness, not strength; you reveal the most fantastic of fantasy worlds, not a deeper reality.
The president’s recent Afghan remarks were, in this sense, par for the course. As he plugged his plan to bring America’s “long wars” to what he called “a responsible end,” he insisted that “[l]ike generations before, we must embrace America’s singular role in the course of human events.” He then painted this flattering word portrait of us:
“We’re a nation that brings our enemies to justice while adhering to the rule of law, and respecting the rights of all our citizens. We protect our own freedom and prosperity by extending it to others. We stand not for empire, but for self-determination… and when our union is strong no hill is too steep, no horizon is beyond our reach… we are bound together by the creed that is written into our founding documents, and a conviction that the United States of America is a country that can achieve whatever it sets out to accomplish.”
I know, I know. You’re wondering whether you just mainlined into a Sarah Palin speech and your eyes are glazing over. But hang in there, because that’s just a start. For example, in an Obama speech of any sort, what America’s soldiers never lack is the extra adjective. They aren’t just soldiers, but “our extraordinary men and women in uniform.” They aren’t just Americans, but “patriotic Americans.” (Since when did an American president have to describe American soldiers as, of all things, “patriotic”?) And in case you missed the point that, in their extraordinariness and their outsized patriotism they are better than other Americans, he made sure to acknowledge them as the ones we “draw inspiration from.”
In a country that now “supports the troops” with bumper-sticker fervor but pays next to no attention to the wars they fight, perhaps Obama is simply striving to be the premier twenty-first-century American. Still, you have to wonder what such presidential fawning, omnipresent enough to be boilerplate, really represents. The strange thing is we hear this sort of thing all the time. And yet no one ever comments on it.
Oh, and let’s not forget that no significant White House moment ends these days without the president bestowing God’s blessing on the globe’s most extraordinary nation and its extraordinary fighters, or as he put it in his Afghan remarks: “May God bless our troops. And may God bless the United States of America.”
The day after he revealed his drawdown plan to the nation, the president traveled to Ft. Drum in New York State to thank soldiers from the Army’s 10th Mountain Division for their multiple deployments to Afghanistan. Before those extraordinary and patriotic Americans, he quite naturally doubled down.
Summoning another tic of this presidential moment (and of the Bush one before it), he told them that they were part of “the finest fighting force in the world.” Even that evidently seemed inadequate, so he upped the hyperbole. “I have no greater job,” he told them, “nothing gives me more honor than serving as your commander in chief. To all of you who are potentially going to be redeployed, just know that your commander in chief has your back… God bless you, God bless the United States of America, climb to glory.”
As ever, all of this was overlooked. Nowhere did a single commentator wonder, for instance, whether an American president was really supposed to feel that being commander in chief offered greater “honor” than being president of a nation of citizens. In another age, such a statement would have registered as, at best, bizarre. These days, no one even blinks.
And yet who living in this riven, confused, semi-paralyzed country of ours truly believes that, in 2011, Americans can achieve whatever we set out to accomplish? Who thinks that, not having won a war in memory, the U.S. military is incontestably the finest fighting force now or ever (and on a “climb to glory” at that), or that this country is at present specially blessed by God, or that ours is a mission of selfless kindheartedness on planet Earth?
Obama’s remarks have no wings these days because they are ever more divorced from reality. Perhaps because this president in fawning mode is such an uncomfortable sight, and because Americans generally feel so ill-at-ease about their relationship to our wars, however, such remarks are neither attacked nor defended, discussed nor debated, but as if by some unspoken agreement simply ignored.
Here, in any case, is what they aren’t: effective rallying cries for a nation in need of unity. Here’s what they may be: strange, defensive artifacts of an imperial power in visible decline, part of what might be imagined as the Great American Unraveling. But hold that thought a moment. After all, the topic of the president’s remarks was Afghanistan.
The Unreal War
If Obama framed his Afghan remarks in a rhetoric of militarized super-national surrealism, then what he had to say about the future of the war itself was deceptive in the extreme — not lies perhaps, but full falsehoods half told. Consider just the two most important of them: that his “surge” consisted only of 33,000 American troops and that “by next summer,” Americans are going to be so on the road to leaving Afghanistan that it isn’t funny.
Unfortunately, it just ain’t so. First of all, the real Obama surge was minimally almost 55,000 and possibly 66,000 troops, depending on how you count them. When he came into office in January 2009, there were about 32,000 American troops in Afghanistan. Another 11,000 had been designated to go in the last days of the Bush administration, but only departed in the first Obama months. In March 2009, the president announced his own “new strategy for Afghanistan and Pakistan” and dispatched 21,700 more troops. Then, in December 2009 in a televised speech to the nation from West Point, he announced that another 30,000 would be going. (With “support troops,” it turned out to be 33,000.)
December 31, 2014, almost five years after Obama entered office, more than 13 years after the Bush administration launched its invasion, we could find ourselves back to or just below something close to Bush-era troop levels.
In other words, in September 2012, 14 months from now, only about half the actual troop surge of the Obama years will have been withdrawn. In addition, though seldom discussed, the Obama “surge” was hardly restricted to troops. There was a much ballyhooed “civilian surge” of State Department and aid types that more than tripled the “civilian” effort in Afghanistan. Their drawdown was recently addressed by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, but only in the vaguest of terms.
Then there was a major surge of CIA personnel (along with U.S. special operations forces), and there’s no indication whatsoever that anyone in Washington intends reductions there, or in the drone surge that went with it. As a troop drawdown begins, CIA agents, those special ops forces, and the drones are clearly slated to remain at or beyond a surge peak.
Finally, there was a surge in private contractors — hired foreign guns and hired Afghans — tens of thousands of them. It goes unmentioned, as does the surge in base building, which has yet to end, and the surge in massive citadel-style embassy building in the region, which is assumedly ongoing.
All of this makes mincemeat of the idea that we are in the process of ending the Afghan war. I know the president said, “Our mission will change from combat to support. By 2014, this process of transition will be complete, and the Afghan people will be responsible for their own security.” And that was a foggy enough formulation that you might be forgiven for imagining more or less everything will be over “by 2014” — which, by the way, means not January 1st, but December 31st of that year.
If what we know of U.S. plans in Afghanistan plays out, however, December 31, 2014, will be the date for the departure of the last of the full Obama surge of 64,000 troops. In other words, almost five years after Obama entered office, more than 13 years after the Bush administration launched its invasion, we could find ourselves back to or just below something close to Bush-era troop levels. Tens of thousands of U.S. forces would still be in Afghanistan, some of them “combat troops” officially relabeled (as in Iraq) for less warlike activity. All would be part of an American “support” mission that would include huge numbers of “trainers” for the Afghan security forces and also U.S. special forces operatives and CIA types engaged in “counterterror” activities in the country and region.
The U.S. general in charge of training the Afghan military recently suggested that his mission wouldn’t be done until 2017 (and no one who knows anything about the country believes that an effective Afghan Army will be in place then either). In addition, although the president didn’t directly mention this in his speech, the Obama administration has been involved in quiet talks with the government of Afghan President Hamid Karzai to nail down a “strategic partnership” agreement that would allow American troops, spies, and air power to hunker down as “tenants” on some of the giant bases we’ve built. There they would evidently remain for years, if not decades (as some reports have it).
In other words, on December 31, 2014, if all goes as planned, the U.S. will be girding for years more of wildly expensive war, even if in a slimmed down form. This is the reality, as American planners imagine it, behind the president’s speech.
Of course, it’s not for nothing that we regularly speak of the best laid plans going awry, something that applies doubly, as in Afghanistan, to the worst laid plans. It’s increasingly apparent that our disastrous wars are, as Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee John Kerry recently admitted, “unsustainable.” After all, just the cost of providing air conditioning to U.S. personnel in Iraq and Afghanistan — $20 billion a year — is more than NASA’s total budget.
Yes, despite Washington’s long lost dreams of a Pax Americana in the Greater Middle East, some of its wars there are still being planned as if for a near-eternity, while others are being intensified. Those wars are still fueled by overblown fears of terrorism; encouraged by a National Security Complex funded to the tune of more than $1.2 trillion annually by an atmosphere of permanent armed crisis; and run by a military that, after a decade of not-so-creative destruction, can’t stop doing what it knows how to do best (which isn’t winning a war).
Though Obama claims that the United States is no empire, all of this gives modern meaning to the term “overstretched empire.” And it’s not really much of a mystery what happens to overextemded imperial powers that find themselves fighting “little” wars they can’t win, while their treasuries head south.
The growing unease in Washington about America’s wars reflects a dawning sense of genuine crisis, a sneaking suspicion even among hawkish Republicans that they preside ineffectually over a great power in precipitous decline.
Think, then, of the president’s foreign-policy-cum-war speeches as ever more unconvincing attempts to cover the suppurating wound that is Washington’s global war policy. If you want to take the temperature of the present crisis, you can do it through Obama’s words. The less they ring true, the more discordant they seem in the face of reality, the more he fawns and repeats his various mantras, the more uncomfortable he makes you feel, the more you have the urge to look away, the deeper the crisis.
What will he say when the Great American Unraveling truly begins?
Tom Engelhardt, co-founder of the American Empire Project, runs the Nation Institute’s TomDispatch.com. He is the author of The End of Victory Culture: a History of the Cold War and Beyond, as well as of a novel, The Last Days of Publishing. His most recent book is The American Way of War: How Bush’s Wars Became Obama’s (Haymarket Books)
To stay on top of important articles like these, sign up to receive the latest updates from TomDispatch.com here.
Barack Obama, Iraq and the Big Lie March 1, 2009Posted by rogerhollander in About Barack Obama, About War, Barack Obama, Iraq and Afghanistan, War.
Tags: Barack Obama, Bechtel, big lie, Blackwater, cheney, corporate america, counter terrorism, democracy, dynacorp, erc alterman, first gulf war, George Bush, gulf war, gulf war 1991, haliburton, Iraq, iraq combat troops, iraq military occupation, iraq redeployment, iraq transition, Iraq war, Iraqi people, jeremy scahill, joel hirschhorn, judge judy, kuwait, McCain, Middle East, military industrial complex, Nancy Pelosi, oil, phyllis bennis, republican right, roger hollander, saddam hussein, SOFA, south korea, status of forces agreement, tyranny, us embassy baghdad, xe
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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”
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,”
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.
Beware of the Big Lie Bill February 27, 2009Posted by rogerhollander in Economic Crisis, Labor.
Tags: afl-cio, anti labor, anti-labour, big lie, bob corker, demint, employee free choice, enzi, labor, labour, nlrb, republican neo-fascists, roger hollander, secret ballot, secret ballot protection, tula connell, unions, workers, workers rights
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Opponents of the Employee Free Choice Act in Congress made their Big Lie into a bill Wednesday, when Republican Sens. Jim DeMint (S.C.) and Mike Enzi (Wyo.) introduced the so-called Secret Ballot Protection Act.
Before we go further, let’s clear up the bill’s false implication right now:
The Employee Free Choice Act would not—repeat after me—would not, take away the secret ballot National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) election process if workers seeking to form a union wanted to use it. The Employee Free Choice would ensure workers made the decision of whether to select a union via majority sign-up (card-check) or via ballot process. Choice is good. That’s one reason why we called it Employee Free Choice—because it would enable employees, not management, to make the decision of how to form a union.
The official goal of S. 1312 is to:
amend the National Labor Relations Act to ensure the right of employees to a secret-ballot election conducted by the National Labor Relations Board.
But the real objective of the DeMint-Enzi—and, of course, the autoworker-hating senator from Tennessee, Bob Corker—crowd is to force senators to be on record in support of it before the Employee Free Choice Act is up for a vote and to get free PR for their lies.
In announcing the bill, DeMint put out this gem:
“Card check” is completely unacceptable and un-American, and we must pass the Secret Ballot Protection Act to safeguard workers’ rights for good.
Since Enzi brought up “un-American,” let’s take a look at that term. Seems actions like providing health care for low-income children, ensuring America’s workers are paid overtime and have a safe workplace where they are not paid less because of their gender or race are all-American standards. But not so for DeMint. A quick look at his Senate voting record shows:
- DeMint voted at least seven times against expanding health care for children (the State Children’s Health Insurance Program).
- DeMint voted three times against protecting overtime pay for millions of workers.
- DeMint opposed workplace safety standards.
- DeMint voted against Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, which helps ensure workers are not paid less because of gender or race.
The same day the Big Lie bill was introduced, 39 economists, including two Nobel Prize winners, issued a statement supporting the Employee Free Choice Act as key to getting our nation’s economy back on its feet. Their statement says in part:
Indeed, from 2000 to 2007, the income of the median working-age household fell by $2,000—an unprecedented decline. In that time, virtually all of the nation’s economic growth went to a small number of wealthy Americans. An important reason for the shift from broadly shared prosperity to growing inequality is the erosion of workers’ ability to form unions and bargain collectively.
Yet as Mary Beth Maxwell, executive director of American Rights at Work, says:
At a time when more Americans are hurting financially than perhaps at any other time in our history, a small group of consistently anti-worker members of Congress are introducing legislation to make it harder for workers to negotiate for better pay and health care for themselves and their families. It is unconscionable that these Congressmen with six-figure salaries and guaranteed pensions choose to kick America’s workers when they are down. This ploy is no surprise, as they have voted against raising the minimum wage, expanding children’s health insurance and ensuring worker safety.
Here’s another lie the bill’s sponsors are pushing out, this via Think Progress:
DeMint took to Fox News to describe why he thinks his firewall is necessary. Amidst the usual false rhetoric about Employee Free Choice eliminating the secret ballot, DeMint also incorrectly claimed that the act would harm small businesses:
And this is not just for big auto companies, this is for small electrical contractors, companies with 10 or 15 people. It would change the business model of the United States to the same model the U.S. auto industry has in Detroit.
As Think Progress points out, DeMint has this all wrong. The National Labor Relations Act (NLRA) excludes non-retail employers whose interstate commerce is less than $50,000 and retail employers whose gross annual volume is less than $500,000; there are various other size exemptions for all sorts of industries, from newspapers to taxicab companies. These exemptions would not change under the Employee Free Choice Act.
The list of the Big Lie’s bill co-sponsors (all Republicans) reads like a who’s who of senators who will meet the wrath of working families in coming elections: Sens. Lamar Alexander (Tenn.), John Barrasso (Wyo.), Sam Brownback (Kan.), Richard Burr (N.C.), Jim Bunning (Ky.), Tom Coburn (Okla.), John Cornyn (Texas), Bob Corker (Tenn.), Jim Inhofe (Okla.), John McCain (Ariz.), Mitch McConnell (Ky.), Pat Roberts (Kan.), John Thune (S.D.), Roger Wicker (Miss.) and David Vitter (La.).
Because this group doesn’t have enough votes to get the bill anywhere, it’s all about making noise. And spreading the Big Lie.
This is a cross-post from the Firedoglake blog.