Friday, December 11, 2009

War Mind Set

The Nobel speech was Obama’s worst by far. It was an unqualified representation of the United States as forever saving the world from evil with the blood of its citizens.

Is that the full legacy and ongoing record from Korea, Vietnam, Grenada, Panama, El Salvador, Nicaragua, Iraq and Afghanistan? In contrast to his Cairo speech, even token “self-criticism” of the US record was totally absent. World War II was used as the prototype to label all our wars as “just”. Why cloud the message with any hint of selfish motivation, of interests of empire and super-power domination, or of intervention to sustain allied oppressive regimes?

Worst was the argument that wars are inevitable as far into the future as anyone can foresee. King and Gandhi were acknowledged, then condescendingly relegated to irrelevance. This was an exposition of war mentality from the man who was going to change the "mind set" of war. No wonder Gingrich, Palin, and Rove embrace this speech.

I try to focus on keeping hope alive, but this was an unqualified downer.

Monday, December 7, 2009

My “wrong course” blog got some contrasting responses. One respondent who has bashed Obama almost from the beginning said “right on”. But I have not changed my mind about the promise and possibilities brought about by the historic election of Barack Obama. Another respondent, “D”, was disappointed in my strong criticism of Obama. Here is D’s comment and my reply:

D wrote:

Dear Leon,

I'm sorry I haven't written sooner. I have read your blogs and I have been in agreement with your ideas and sentiments. In fact I was happy that you were still an optimist, until this last blog: “the wrong course”. I think Obama needs this next year for us to see the results of all his efforts. I'm going to remain an optimist until then.

Of course I didn't want him to send more troops to Afghanistan, nor I'm sure did he, but he did announce he has "benchmarks" for Karzai and he did announce to the people over there that we are not there to "win" or to "bring democracy" to their land. Only to help them get trained to fight the Taliban and hopefully the Al Qaeda bordering Pakistan.... This is the part you are not happy about, but I'm still on the fence thinking it may be the smart thing for now.

I agree that he must get jobs for people to improve the economy at home; then more Americans will rally around Obama again. Poor man, he inherited this cesspool of trouble and we all want him to fix it in his first year as President. It would be easy if only we had a united Congress. The ultra-right is truly troublesome.


Dear D,

As you can tell from my earlier blogs, it was hard for me to write the latest one. I have not given up on Obama, but I am worried about the way things are going. I'm sure he knows that he has to re-inspire his supporters, who can't be expected to remain enthusiastic as their hopes give way to disappointments on domestic issues and dismay over another war escalation. He may lose the wavering Senate in 2010 and his presidency will be at great risk in 2012 if unemployment is high and a serious drawdown of the wars is not in progress. Given the ongoing crusade of the ultra-right, what a disaster that would be! I hate to think of Patraeus or McCrystal as Obama's successor. I would like to share your optimism, but I can't support the war and imperial aspects of US policy that remain dominant. I still have optimism that Obama's supporters can encourage his generally progressive aims and reignite hopes for real change. This is such a complicated and tough time. I respect your attitude as we both (along with many others) struggle to figure things out.


Wednesday, December 2, 2009


It’s taken me a while, longer than most of my friends, to face up to Barack Obama’s accommodation to the powers that be. He is the most powerful individual in the world — only within terms imposed by a system stronger than any president. So far, when his promises and proposals require confronting entrenched power, he bows to a pragmatic perception of “reality”. That means retreating and weakening chances for meaningful change on almost every critical issue. It now means being the standard bearer for escalating the disastrous war in Afghanistan and Pakistan.

I don’t question Obama’s desire for significant reform. Nor, as difficult as the struggles are, do I doubt the capacity of the people to achieve changes that a majority voted for with enthusiasm a year ago. The “Obama coalition” showed what was and is possible. On the other hand, the ultra-right is far more dangerous than ever and is counting on Obama’s failure. Preventing that failure and its consequences calls for a fight to change the Obama Administration’s self-defeating course of weakness toward Wall Street and compliance with the military-industrial complex.

The biggest problem for Obama, and for the country, clearly is the economy. That has compounded every difficulty in moving a progressive program forward. The great need is for a serious investment in putting people to work. There is no longer room for hesitation and timidity.

No one can know where things would stand if Obama risked being bolder on the stimulus and universal health care, or in defying rather than appeasing the war hawks. What we do know is that the course we're on is not headed to the promised land embraced by so many at the beginning of the "Obama era".