In “shifting to the center,” Barack Obama has now established himself as the other war candidate — pity those of us who maintained some glimmer of hope that this man’s touting of hope itself, and change, would have meant some conclusion to this latest round of imperial expansion. Pity those of us who thought that because Hillary Clinton made him look good, that he was good. While Obama can profess that the seas will stop rising because he, Obama, is the presumptive nominee (and this election for Obama is all about Obama), he cannot break with nearly 200 years of uninterrupted American war, nor will he be second to Gerald Ford in being the only other president in a century not to have ordered troops to war. Not even this man, god-like messiah of his own audacious subtext, can stop war…but he can stop seas from rising. I do not think this is the “audacity of hope,” nor even the “audacity of vanity;” it looks like just sheer audacity.
Barack Obama has asserted recently that the war in Afghanistan is one that “America” has to “win.” For determined opponents of U.S. power, this is a kind of “good news,” since this further steeping of a declining hegemon in a war-without-end will surely speed its geopolitical decline. And look at where Obama is choosing to concentrate: Afghanistan — the unconquerable Afghanistan. This Afghanistan, now at the center of the epic struggle of world imperialism, can look forward to chalking up another superpower to its name, yet again. Yet another superpower will be leaving its helmeted skull in Afghan sand, and one can almost hear Russian war veterans laughing in disbelief at the sight of history repeating itself as farce. And note how many “jihadists” from across Asia seem to have heard Obama’s message and have realigned and reoriented their energies in a shifting focus to Afghanistan, having had invaluable live-fire training in Iraq, and note how the violence always escalates in Afghanistan, even to the point where the U.S. has to abandon one of its forward camps, while the international media broadcast footage of an American solider being shot to pieces and rolling lifelessly down the hillside.
While Afghanistan serves as the black hole of imperialism, imagine being one of those American troops left in the last brigade to leave Iraq, as part of a “phased withdrawal,” outmanned, outgunned, hated, removing itself under the eyes of those who wish to inflict a final humiliation. In fact, there may not even be any such withdrawal if you listen to Obama, who has adopted some doublespeak of his own: he will withdraw “combat troops” from Iraq, he acknowledges that Iraqis do not want an open-ended U.S. presence … and in almost the same breath says U.S. troops will remain in Iraq to protect “diplomatic” and “humanitarian” missions (which in U.S. doublespeak can mean just about anything), to train Iraqi forces, and to conduct counter terrorism. Not “open ended,” he says. Suddenly, the other war candidate has become the two war candidate. The question Obama needs to answer is the one John Kerry failed to: if Americans want a war making right winger for a president, why would they not vote for the one person who is honestly just that?
[Update: This is what “withdrawal of the troops from Iraq” looks like in Obama’s world: a news story just released quotes his campaign advisers as saying that 50,000 troops would remain in Iraq. In George Orwell’s 1984, “2+2=5” at least seemed more plausible than 0 = 50,000. Also, keep in mind that the figure of 50,000 troops in Iraq, beyond 2009, was part of a plan first offered by the Bush administration.]
As if challenging the incredulous to climb to greater heights of disbelief, Obama threatens to widen the war into Pakistan as well, a nuclear power. This is the height of audacity, and maybe only in “America” could one make a promise like this:
“The greatest threat to that security lies in the tribal regions of Pakistan, where terrorists train and insurgents strike into Afghanistan. We cannot tolerate a terrorist sanctuary, and as president, I won’t. We need a stronger and sustained partnership between Afghanistan, Pakistan and NATO to secure the border, to take out terrorist camps and to crack down on cross-border insurgents. We need more troops, more helicopters, more satellites, more Predator drones in the Afghan border region. And we must make it clear that if Pakistan cannot or will not act, we will take out high-level terrorist targets like bin Laden if we have them in our sights.”–Barack Obama.
Dave Sirota, July 18, 2008
‘CENTRISTS’ ARE RUNNING THE ASYLUM
Washington’s pundits and politicians have waged an ongoing propaganda campaign to pass off crazy, fringe politics as reasonable and mainstream.
In the asylum that is American politics, beware a candidate like Barack Obama when he is lauded for moving to “the center” — because usually that means he is drifting away from it.
Over the last month, the Democratic presidential nominee has backed a measure to permit warrantless wiretapping and protect telecom companies when they violate customers’ privacy; sent conflicting signals about whether he will reform the NAFTA trade model; and threatened to revise his timetable for ending the war in Iraq. Universally, reporters have billed this dance as a move to the middle. As the Associated Press claimed in a typical description, Obama’s shifts are designed “to appeal to the center of the electorate.”
However, empirical data proves “the center of the electorate” is exactly the opposite …continue
Mike Whitney, July 21, 2008
THE DEMOCRATS ARE THE REAL PROBLEM
Obama’s candidacy is over; kaput. He’s already stated that he has no intention of stopping the war, so he has disqualified himself. That’s his prerogative; no one put a gun to his head. His op-ed in Monday’s New York Times just removes any lingering doubt about the matter. What Obama proposes is moving the central theater of operation from Iraq to Afghanistan. Big deal. Why is it more acceptable to kill a man who is fighting for his country in Afghanistan than in Iraq?
It’s not; which is why Obama must be defeated and the equivocating Democratic Party must be jettisoned altogether. The Democrats are a party of blood just like the Republicans, they’re just more discreet about it. That’s why people who are serious about ending the war have to support candidates outside the two-party charade. The Democrat/Republican duopoly will not deliver the goods; it’s as simple as that. The point is to stop the killing, not to provide blind support for smooth-talking politicos who try to mask their real intentions. Obama made his choice, now he can suffer the consequences. …continue
Ron Jacobs, July 20, 2008
The Adventures of the Parasite Army: WHY AFGHANISTAN IS NOT THE GOOD WAR
It’s the perennial thorn in the colonialist’s side. It’s the war that won’t go away. It’s a wasp sting that swells, slowly choking the life out of the sting’s recipient. It is the nearly seven-year old occupation of Afghanistan by the United States and various NATO allies. Nearly forgotten by most Americans, the situation in that country has taken headlines away from the occupation of Iraq because of the resurgence of the anti-occupation forces. …continue
Corey D.B. Walker, July 18, 2008
Getting Beyond the Either/Or Choice: A KINDER, GENTLER IMPERIALISM?
Both major party presidential candidates have been sparring over the focus, scope, and reach of the Bush Administration’s self-proclaimed “War on Terrorism.” Each, in their own way, look to tweak the grand designs of imperial power to properly and correctly align it with their particular ideological proclivities and vision of American global hegemony.
Whether it is Senator McCain’s continuation of the war in Iraq or Senator Obama’s intense focus on the theatre of conflict in Afghanistan (and extending into Pakistan), both candidates have chosen not to challenge the underlying foundational assumptions that have informed American foreign policy and national security policy since the events of 11 September 2001.
Both candidates agree with the deeply flawed language and logic that our nation is at “war.” As military historian Sir Michael Howard opined almost seven years ago, “[T]o use, or rather to misuse the term ‘war’ is not simply a matter of legality, or pedantic semantics. It has deeper and more dangerous consequences. To declare that one is ‘at war’ is immediately to create a war psychosis that may be totally counter-productive for the objective that we seek. It will arouse an immediate expectation, and demand, for spectacular military action against some easily identifiable adversary, preferably a hostile state; action leading to decisive results.” In this respect, Senator McCain will have us “win” in Iraq and Senator Obama will have us “win” in Afghanistan. …
In several significant ways, the foreign policy differences between the two candidates can best be understood as two competing visions for the enhancement and perpetuation of American imperialism. …continue
6 thoughts on “A Shift Toward the Center (of Fascism)”
I think the discussion in the comments are also enlightening.
I also think that a lot of ppl haven’t gotten or taken the time to read the actual bill to verify that the changes Obama and Pelosi et al say were made, were actually made.
I’m watching the debate with interest though. When your neighbour’s house is on fire…
It’s amazing to see Obama making such an about face, going as far as reviving a plan for Iraq first offered by Bush. It’s not surprising that the many peace activists who helped to lift Obama are now beginning to depart from his side.
Senator Obama is turning out to be a real disappointment and a very dangerous man. Moving the war on terror to Pakistan could have disastrous consequences on both the political stability in the region, and in the broader balance of power. Scholars such as Richard Betts accurately point out that beyond Iran or North Korea, “Pakistan may harbor the greatest potential danger of all.” With the current instability in Pakistan, Betts points to the danger that a pro-Taliban government would pose in a nuclear Pakistan. This is no minor point to be made. While the Shi’a in Iran are highly unlikely to proliferate WMD to their Sunni enemies, the Pakistanis harbor no such enmity toward Sunni terrorist organizations. Should a pro-Taliban or other similar type of government come to power in Pakistan, Al-Qaeda’s chances of gaining access to nuclear weapons would dramatically increase overnight.
There are, of course, two sides to every argument; and this argument is no exception. On the one hand, some insist that American forces are needed in order to maintain political stability and to prevent such a government from rising to power. On the other hand, there are those who believe that a deliberate attack against Pakistan’s state sovereignty will only further enrage its radical population, and serve to radicalize its moderates. I offer the following in support of this latter argument:
Pakistan has approximately 160 million people; better than half of the population of the entire Arab world. Pakistan also has some of the deepest underlying ethnic fissures in the region, which could lead to long-term disintegration of the state if exacerbated. Even with an impressive growth in GDP (second only to China in all of Asia), it could be decades before wide-spread poverty is alleviated and a stable middle class is established in Pakistan.
Furthermore, the absence of a deeply embedded democratic system in Pakistan presents perhaps the greatest danger to stability. In this country, upon which the facade of democracy has been thrust by outside forces and the current regime came to power by coup, the army fulfills the role of “referee within the political boxing ring.” However, this referee demonstrates a “strong personal interest in the outcome of many of the fights and a strong tendency to make up the rules as he goes along.” The Pakistani army “also has a long record of either joining in the fight on one side or the other, or clubbing both boxers to the ground and taking the prize himself” (Lieven, 2006:43).
Pakistan’s army is also unusually large. Thathiah Ravi (2006:119, 121) observes that the army has “outgrown its watchdog role to become the master of this nation state.” Ravi attributes America’s less than dependable alliance with Pakistan to the nature of its army. “Occasionally, it perceives the Pakistan Army as an inescapable ally and at other times as a threat to regional peace and [a] non-proliferation regime.” According to Ravi, India and Afghanistan blame the conflict in Kashmir and the Durand line on the Pakistan Army, accusing it of “inciting, abetting and encouraging terrorism from its soil.” Ravi also blames the “flagrant violations in nuclear proliferation by Pakistan, both as an originator and as a conduit for China and North Korea” on the Pakistan Army, because of its support for terrorists.
The point to be made is that the stability of Pakistan depends upon maintaining the delicate balance of power both within the state of Pakistan, and in the broader region. Pakistan is not an island, it has alliances and enemies. Moving American troops into Pakistan will no doubt not only serve to radicalize its population and fuel the popular call for Jihad, it could also spark a proxy war with China that could have long-lasting economic repercussions. Focusing on the more immediate impact American troops would have on the Pakistani population; let’s consider a few past encounters:
On January 13, 2006, the United States launched a missile strike on the village of Damadola, Pakistan. Rather than kill the targeted Ayman al-Zawahiri, al-Qaeda’s deputy leader, the strike instead slaughtered 17 locals. This only served to further weaken the Musharraf government and further destabilize the entire area. In a nuclear state like Pakistan, this was not only unfortunate, it was outright stupid.
On October 30, 2006, the Pakistani military, under pressure from the US, attacked a madrassah in the Northwest Frontier province in Pakistan. Immediately following the attack, local residents, convinced that the US military was behind the attack, burned American flags and effigies of President Bush, and shouted “Death to America!” Outraged over an attack on school children, the local residents viewed the attack as an assault against Islam.
On November 7, 2006, a suicide bomber retaliated. Further outrage ensued when President Bush extended his condolences to the families of the victims of the suicide attack, and President Musharraf did the same, adding that terrorism will be eliminated “with an iron hand.” The point to be driven home is that the attack on the madrassah was kept as quiet as possible, while the suicide bombing was publicized as a tragedy, and one more reason to maintain the war on terror.
Last year trouble escalated when the Pakistani government laid siege to the Red Mosque and more than 100 people were killed. “Even before his soldiers had overrun the Lal Masjid … the retaliations began.” Suicide attacks originating from both Afghan Taliban and Pakistani tribal militants targeted military convoys and a police recruiting center. Guerrilla attacks that demonstrated a shocking degree of organization and speed-not to mention strategic cunning revealed that they were orchestrated by none other than al-Qaeda’s number two man, Ayman Al-Zawahiri; a fact confirmed by Pakistani and Taliban officials. One such attack occurred on July 15, 2007, when a suicide bomber killed 24 Pakistani troops and injured some 30 others in the village of Daznaray (20 miles to the north of Miran Shah, in North Waziristan). Musharraf ordered thousands of troops into the region to attempt to restore order. But radical groups swore to retaliate against the government for its siege of the mosque and its cooperation with the United States.
A July 2007 National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) concludes that “al Qaeda is resurgent in Pakistan- and more centrally organized than it has been at any time since 9/11.” The NIE reports that al-Qaeda now enjoys sanctuary in Bajaur and North Waziristan, from which they operate “a complex command, control, training and recruitment base” with an “intact hierarchy of top leadership and operational lieutenants.”
In September 2006 Musharraf signed a peace deal with Pashtun tribal elders in North Waziristan. The deal gave pro-Taliban militants full control of security in the area. Al Qaeda provides funding, training and ideological inspiration, while Afghan Taliban and Pakistani Tribal leaders supply the manpower. These forces are so strong that last year Musharraf sent well over 100,000 trained Pakistani soldiers against them, but they were not able to prevail against them.
The question remains, what does America do when Pakistan no longer has a Musharraf to bridge the gap? While Musharraf claims that President Bush has assured him of Pakistan’s sovereignty, Senator Obama obviously has no intention of honoring such an assurance. As it is, the Pakistanis do just enough to avoid jeopardizing U.S. support. Musharraf, who is caught between Pakistan’s dependence on American aid and loyalty to the Pakistani people, denies being George Bush’s hand-puppet. Musharraf insists that he is “200 percent certain” that the United States will not unilaterally decide to attack terrorists on Pakistani soil. What happens when we begin to do just that?
That was excellent, and it deserved to be a post by itself. Thanks especially for the link to your book, and just in case people miss it, here it is again:
Terrorism and the Bush Doctrine
I have no idea what Pakistan will do, but I do know that McCain is a far worse choice for America than Obama.
Senator McCain’s campaign fascinates me somewhat…
McCain complains about media’s Obama obsession:
… and then, McCain calls Obama ‘inexperienced’, especially on Foreign policy matters:
However, McCain makes a HUGE blunder… which CBS covers up(why?):
So who does one choose?
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