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March 15, 2008

The Problem With Reality Is That It's So Radical

Gerald Posner likes Obama, but now he is angry!

[Jeremiah] Wright made his comments on September 16, only 5 days after the deadly strikes in New York and Washington. He said, in part, "We bombed Hiroshima, we bombed Nagasaki, and we nuked far more than the thousands in New York and the Pentagon, and we never batted an eye....We have supported state terrorism against the Palestinians and black South Africans, and now we are indignant because the stuff we have done overseas is now brought right back to our own front yards. America's chickens are coming home to roost."...

If the parishioners of Trinity United Church were not buzzing about Reverend Wright's post 9/11 comments, then it could only seem to be because those comments were not out of character with what he preached from the pulpit many times before. In that case, I have to wonder if it is really possible for the Obamas to have been parishioners there - by 9/11 they were there more than a decade - and not to have known very clearly how radical Wright's views were. If, on the other hand, parishioners were shocked by Wright's vitriol only days after more than 3,000 Americans had been killed by terrorists, they would have talked about it incessantly.

1. As always in American (white) culture, a straightforward description of reality is perceived as "radical" "vitriol."

2. People who try to make discussions of reality taboo are simultaneously making reality much worse for most people. The more that honest examination of why were were attacked on 9/11 becomes taboo, the more Americans will die.

3. Wright obviously was nodding toward Malcolm X's description of the assassination of JFK as chickens coming home to roost. Posner wrote an entire book about the assassination. It is odd indeed for him not to bring this up here.

4. Here's a Wall Street Journal op-ed that Posner wrote on September 25, 2001, explaining why he'd changed his mind and now admired George Bush:

Since the murderous terror attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, President Bush has come alive in a way I did not think possible. It was as though the attack on America--which he rightly called an "act of war" from the start--gave him a focus and clarity I had not earlier seen...he has converted many of us to admirers, and he deserves our complete support. The entire administration, from Colin Powell to Donald Rumsfeld to Dick Cheney, inspires more confidence as we embark on this uncertain war than we likely would have had in any Gore administration.

5. The more I learn about Jeremiah Wright, the more he's one of the small number of things I like about Obama.

—Jonathan Schwarz

Posted at March 15, 2008 05:03 PM

Seems to me that it's mainly principled libertarians and non-Zionist leftists who would ever have issues with our foreign policy.

What mainstream America fails to realize is that routine killing of foreigners OUTSIDE of the context of a formally declared 'war' is and always has been our M.O., independently of whether we do it ourselves or by our financial/military support of various regimes.

I had heard Rev.Wright's comments in the context of a news broadcast on my local station on the 'controversy' of his remarks. My reaction, on the other hand, was more along the lines of, "Right on, brother."

Posted by: Paul at March 15, 2008 05:23 PM

C'est vrais.

Posted by: abb1 at March 15, 2008 05:26 PM

This is the kind of stuff that could really derail Obama's chances an yet it's the kind of stuff that makes me like him more. Only in America.

Posted by: cemmcs at March 15, 2008 05:45 PM

"Chickens coming home to roost never made me sad. It only made me glad"?

Posted by: buermann at March 15, 2008 06:36 PM

Well, john Caruso, the guy is running for office.

Posted by: cemmcs at March 15, 2008 07:10 PM

i know somebody who needs to watch head of state... get a grip on the situation...

"god bless america! and no place else."

Posted by: hapa at March 15, 2008 07:19 PM

Problem is, where is the "home" the chickens are supposed to roost? Was the fire-bombing of Dresden a "chickens coming home..." or not? Why not? I think this "chickens" argument should be thought out and applied when fits specific criteria--what they are, I really dunno. Dresden? Hamburg? After Warsaw, Rotterdam and London, why--or why not? 9-11? After...Cambodia, South America and...? If I were an American Indian and blew up the building housing the Bureau of Indian Affairs, killing 57 pedestrians strolling around it, "chickens coming home...?"
If you can't tell why the chcickens should be coming home to roost where and how, it's not a sound but a foul (pun intented) argument.
Go at it.

Posted by: donescobar at March 15, 2008 07:26 PM

cemmcs: If you want to excuse Obama's abandonment of his friend and supporter as justifiable election maneuvering (over statements that, were Obama to endorse rather than condemn them, would do him a good bit of credit), that's certainly your prerogative—though I don't see how it can make you like him more. I choose to take him at his word, and I consider this a telling demonstration of the true nature of his character.

Posted by: John Caruso at March 15, 2008 07:32 PM

Donescobar--I agree that using 9/11 in this way is just asking for misunderstanding. It's not like the 3000 people who died had it coming. Wright explained what he meant in today's NYT--he said he wanted people to be introspective and not holier than thou about the attack. That position in itself was enough to trigger hysterical denunciation right after 9/11, but I agree with Wright. I'd prefer he made his point in a slightly different way, maybe by simply saying something like "9/11 was an inexcusable act of mass murder, but America is guilty of worse, and some of what we've done helped bring about 9/11."

Posted by: Donald Johnson at March 15, 2008 08:27 PM

"People who try to make discussions of reality taboo are simultaneously making reality much worse for most people."
Yes, making reality much worse for most people, but much better for they themselves. Big difference between just fucking things up, and fucking things up in a way that causes a lot of suffering for a bunch of others but makes your life way nicer.

Posted by: roy belmont at March 15, 2008 08:36 PM


Thinking about it some more, I know you're sincere (in part because I feel the same way) and I know there probably are some people genuinely offended by what might sound like a disrespectful reference to the 9/11 victims. But I think the vast majority of people who'd object to Wright's 9/11 comment would object just as strongly even if it was crystal clear he was criticizing our foreign policy and not saying the victims had it coming.

Posted by: Donald Johnson at March 15, 2008 08:57 PM

Had Reverend Wright instead said, "I despise injustice in America"- which was my take on the gist of his remarks- who could have taken offense?

Caruso, I'm prepared to roll the dice and cast a vote for Obama (I will not vote for Clinton). But that's what my vote will be- a gamble. But that has been equally true of presidential candidate I've ever supported. The fact is, I've never yet voted for anyone with any confidence, much less pride. I voted for George Dukasis, for crying out loud. Before that, I voted for Jimmy Carter primarily because he vowed to cut the budget of the Defense Department. The first thing he did was increase it by 10%.

Obama acted sensibly about Wright- no more, no less. As someone has noted, he is running for the presidency. And the long knives of the establishment are sharpened and looking to slice and dice him into a thousand pieces. Slice him up, and over, and out. Surely you acknowledge that the virtual blackout of the vile remarks made by John McCains supporters are the flip side of that coin. As are the race baiting remarks that have emenated from Clinton's camp since (at least) Obama's victory in South Carolina. He's been a under vicious assault, albeit subterranean, made with a wink and a nod, always with enough wiggle room to plausibly deny what is perfectly clear to those with eyes to see. That said, I believe he's handled this dust up with remarkable aplomb. Which is a good thing, too, because it will get much worse before it ever gets better- if it ever does.

Posted by: JW at March 15, 2008 08:59 PM

John Caruso,

I am not an Obama fan and I probably won't vote for him but when I see that his pastor says stuff like that it makes me like him more and I forgive him for whimping out.

As murray Slaughter once said of Ted Baxter, "When a cow flies, you don't criticize him for not staying in the air that long."

Posted by: cemmcs at March 15, 2008 09:12 PM

JW: you write,

Had Reverend Wright instead said, "I despise injustice in America"- which was my take on the gist of his remarks- who could have taken offense?

But isn't that the whole style of the Obama campaign, to offer innocuous truisms, undoubtedly heartfelt, that sound like they came off a wall-hanging in a dentist's office?

Once you start talking about anything remotely specific with respect to America's long history of foreign policy conducted in the shadows, inevitably people get upset.

Posted by: Jonathan Versen at March 15, 2008 09:37 PM

Obama is doing his Sister Souljah thing. It's contemptible but unavoidable if he wants to have any chance of winning and it may not be enough.

In this case I agree with cemmcs. I blame the sort of people who go ballistic because someone is truthful about American crimes more than I do the politician. The best one can hope for is that Obama secretly agrees with Wright, but I'm not counting on it. And anyway, what good does it do if he can't act on his beliefs?

Posted by: Donald Johnson at March 15, 2008 09:42 PM

"Once you start talking about anything remotely specific with respect to America's long history of foreign policy conducted in the shadows, inevitably people get upset".

No doubt about it. Which makes Obama's pledge to get the troops the hell out of Iraq all the more remarkable. If he hasn't hammered it home, it's because he hasn't had to- yet. Clinton dare not attack him on that score, and it will be a point of departure between him and McCain should he gain the nomination. Still, insofar as a foreign policy statements from candidates go, it is concise. Then again, so was Carter's promise to cut the Defense department's budget. Or (and here I'm going for a laugh) Nixon's "secret plan" to end the Vietnam war. Presidential politics is nothing if not a crap shoot.

Posted by: at March 15, 2008 09:51 PM

Who's got what coming? Do I, as an American, have it coming to me because of what our establishment did in Vietnam, Cambodia, Latin America etc etc? Does it matter that I never voted for Tricky, RR, any Bush? Germans who didn't vote for Adolf or scream "Sieg Heil" got burnt to a crisp in Hamburg along with members of the NSDAP and the screamers. Once the chickens come, they drop their deadly shit like carpet-bombing B-52s.
Can't be helped. I don't know what other ways we have, or have had, to conduct the so-called affairs of state. If they didn't require stinkin' badges, I'd join the anarchists.
I don't see how the coming election will change what America is about: the rich will get richer, the middle class will get squeezed, the poor will remain poor. And swarthy people far away will enjoy the latest achievements of our military-industrial complex. Can you remember when it wasn't that way?

Posted by: donescobar at March 15, 2008 10:31 PM

Funny, I'm just talkin about Rev. Wright with my SO here and it turns out she's been down to the Rev.'s church and saw him in action before, with another reporter who was doin some story about Chicago ministers in Daley's back pocket. She says he was "awesome". I'll hafta check out some of these youtube copies that are floating around.

This chickens roosting stuff was just a reference to blowback from operation cyclone, I thought? Founding father chickens one day, terrorist chickens the next.

Posted by: buermann at March 15, 2008 10:41 PM

I think the firebombing of Dresden - far as the Germans are concerned - definitely was a "chickens coming home". Absolutely, without a doubt. And they know it.

Posted by: abb1 at March 16, 2008 06:00 AM

I am tired of hearing about the "Innocents" killed on 9/11. That was the "WORLD TRADE" building(s). Those were the people who ENABLED, and vastly PROFITED from, the exploitation and enslavement of 3rd world factory workers. They were no more "innocent" than the Germans who turned their faces from the camps or the plantation owners who enjoyed the fruits of slave labor. "INNOCENTS" my eye, THEY were the epicenter of evil.

Posted by: William at March 16, 2008 07:55 AM

I am tired of hearing about the "Innocents" killed on 9/11. That was the "WORLD TRADE" building(s). Those were the people who ENABLED, and vastly PROFITED from, the exploitation and enslavement of 3rd world factory workers. They were no more "innocent" than the Germans who turned their faces from the camps or the plantation owners who enjoyed the fruits of slave labor. "INNOCENTS" my eye, THEY were the epicenter of evil.

Posted by: George at March 16, 2008 07:57 AM

William/George - It's tempting to agree with you, but you're wrong. Read Greg Palast's _Best Democracy Money Can Buy_ on this topic. I'm too lazy to look it up, but in one essay he says something along the lines of "the WTC was the symbol of American socialism".

Sounds crazy, but consider Cantor Fitz. As I understand it, the firm trades in municipal bonds - building roads and schools etc. Those are not the people you mean.

Posted by: Aaron Datesman at March 16, 2008 09:02 AM

How many Americans would embrace Rev. Wright's critique of their country? I do, and all my friends do, and most of the people who comment here do, but what percentage of the population do we represent?

I don't ask the question to suggest we're any particular percentage - whether large or small - just to admit that I don't know.

I suspect Americans are more open to these ideas than we're led to believe by the media, which treats Rev. Wright as a raving lunatic. They feign shock, crying "How could anyone say such a thing about our beloved country?!" Are they honestly shocked? Of course not.

And then the well-meaning liberals weigh in: "Well, of course many (perhaps all) of these charges are factually correct, and I accept his critique myself, but other people won't, so Obama is right to repudiate these beliefs." But that's based on an assumption about what "other people" think. Sometimes, I feel like talking to Dems about politics is like going to a restaurant that everyone hates, but they keep going because they think everyone else likes the place. "But... I thought you liked the food here? You don't either?"

So lots of people agree with Rev. Wright, but we're left wondering how many. I don't even know how to formulate a poll question to get at this. Maybe: "Has the United States government, through its foreign policy, had a net positive or negative influence on the world over the past fifty years?"

Posted by: SteveB at March 16, 2008 09:34 AM

And the people of New Orleans are still suffering, as the people all over the world- truth is hard to take sometimes!


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Posted by: Lyn LeJeune at March 16, 2008 11:14 AM

Who's got what coming? Do I, as an American, have it coming to me because of what our establishment did in Vietnam, Cambodia, Latin America etc etc? Does it matter that I never voted for Tricky, RR, any Bush?

Yes, you do!!! and so do I!
You may not have voted for them, but you didn't do much to stop them either, nor did you prosecuted them after their crimes became known.

Posted by: Don Quijote at March 16, 2008 11:32 AM

True enough.I marched, I withheld taxes, I signed petitions. Not much. Prosecute them? Well, unless I made a citizen's arrest of Henry Kissinger (why didn't I think of it then?!), what?
Protest marches (as the anti-Iraq war ones recently) become features on the news. They achieve little, convince few.
Violence by large numbers of citizens? A Cockburn wet-dream. Not in the Home of American Idol.
So, now what? Baby grass roots steps? We'll all be in rapture or burning in hell by then.

Posted by: donescobar at March 16, 2008 12:47 PM

I don't see how you get "We're to blame!" out of "Chickens coming home to roost." Doesn't Wright just mean that this is a predictable consequence of our foreign policy? Who's to blame for it is a separate question, isn't it?

I'm against collective punishment, whether it's punishing the citizens of Iraq for Saddam's crimes (e.g. through sanctions) or punishing the participants in American "democracy" for Bush's actions.

Posted by: SteveB at March 16, 2008 01:08 PM

Yes, you do!!! and so do I!
You may not have voted for them, but you didn't do much to stop them either, nor did you prosecuted them after their crimes became known.
Posted by Don Quijote at March 16, 2008 11:32 AM

Genau, brother!
That's the 'problem' with even a putative 'democracy' such as the one we dabble in: we 'freely' select our representatives, who then act for us. If their acts are criminal or immoral or otherwise dastardly, WE--each and every one of us--is responsible because we VOTED for the fuckers.

Which is one reason I've long suggested that one of the rights reserved to the people ought to be the apprehension, and elimination, of those who betray us.

Posted by: konopelli/wgg at March 16, 2008 01:13 PM

"I don't see how you get "We're to blame!" out of "Chickens coming home to roost." "

You don't necessarily get from one to the other honestly, but it's one interpretation and it's the interpretation always foisted on people who say it. I'm in favor of not giving dishonest people an easy way to attack, but it's also true that it doesn't matter how clearly you explain yourself, someone will choose to take your words the wrong way on that subject. It's happened to me.

Posted by: at March 16, 2008 01:51 PM

We are responsible for those whom we elect, plain and simple.

Posted by: Peter at March 16, 2008 02:11 PM

Wonder if anyone else here is old enough to remember the fiery speeches of Malcolm X and how much he was feared and reviled by politicians and the establishment press in the 1960's. (

Malcolm was very much a "fight fire with fire" advocate, many believe with good cause. The Reverend Wright's critical statements are models of decorum in comparison with Malcolm X's calls to counter force with force.

What strikes me as curious and a little amusing is that the level of criticism and opprobrium being visited on the Rev. Wright is at about the same hysteric level as that showered on Malcolm X in his day.

One hopes eternally and in vain that someday people will just get a grip.

Posted by: Sam Thornton at March 16, 2008 02:18 PM

For those of you defending collective punishment, you might want to remember that back in the real world, it's the US and its allies which have the power to inflict collective punishment to an almost unlimited degree. You can point out that our collective punishment inflicted on others is just as bad (or worse) than 9/11, or you can say all's fair in war, in which case what the US and Israel are doing is just fine, or even unnecessarily benevolent. The Palestinians, after all, freely chose a terrorist organization that blows up children and brags about it, so I guess that means they deserve everything they get. Yes, the Israelis chose Sharon and various other war criminals in their elections, but again, how do you want to argue this? That collective punishment is fine? Because you're just endorsing the tactics of the people in power.

Posted by: Donald Johnson at March 16, 2008 02:26 PM

OK, I find this post guilty of some dishonesty. Posner actually reversed his position on Bush in 2006. Which is still a slow level of self-awareness nevertheless, but hell, at least he budges...

Posted by: En Ming Hee at March 16, 2008 02:30 PM

Perhaps you'd like to explain where the dishonesty is, En Ming Hee. Posner's statement about Wright is disgusting, his 2001 statement was disgusting and stupid, and you come along and tell us this nitwit changed his mind about Bush in 2006.

Posner also wrote a book on intellectuals which, (surprise, surprise) bashed Chomsky in a dishonest fashion. Neither you nor Jon mention this, which I find highly dishonest.

Posted by: Donald Johnson at March 16, 2008 02:50 PM

After Guernica, how could there be talk of a "fair" war, a war fought on battlefields by two armies, away from population centers?
When Goebbels gave his famous "Wollt ihr den totalen Krieg?" {"Do you want total war?") speech, it had already arrived years earlier. By both sides, for both sides. We've been there ever since.
When British Air Command (under Bomber Harris) hit Hamburg, their orders were based on the "if we can't destroy the factories completely, destroy the homes where the workers live."
You don't want it? No war at all is the only answer, and do dig me up when we reach Quakerdom for all. We still pretend the 19th century rules of war mean something, and that "war crimes" are easily distinguishable. Only when the winners write their histories, and only until the losers revise them. That, for example, is what the recent publications in Germany about the Allied bombings was about. But as DER SPIEGEL admitted, we "asked for it."
In the USA, we have never admitted that anything we did "asked for it."

Posted by: donescobar at March 16, 2008 03:05 PM

THIS IS EXACTLY WHY there should be separation of Church and State. (governments are not a function of morality, often quite, the opposite) THIS IS EXACTLY WHY I'm voting for Michael Meyer.
WE can NEVER properly try and punish Nixon or Reagan, BUT WE CAN do so to those in power NOW. George and Dick DESERVE prosecution just as much as Nixon and Reagan AND they are STILL ALIVE AND IN POWER. (1-202-225-0100 take care of today's problems today)(Yesterday is gone and WE WILL have plenty of troubles tomorrow without backlogging today's into it.)

Posted by: Mike Meyer at March 16, 2008 04:43 PM

We are responsible for those whom we elect, plain and simple.

What's this "we" shit? I DIDN'T VOTE FOR BUSH. My knuckleheaded neighbor did, and now I'm suddenly responsible for his choices?

I know it sounds all tough and moral to say "we" are responsible, but holding everyone responsible really means holding nobody responsible.

Posted by: SteveB at March 16, 2008 06:44 PM

SteveB: Question IS then "who's going to do ANYTHING about it"? No-one? Everyone? The guy who voted for Bush? YOU?

Posted by: Mike Meyer at March 16, 2008 08:18 PM

Gerald Posner has always been a disinformation motherfucker for the CIA. As per wiki:

'HSCA chief investigator Gaeton Fonzi called [CASED CLOSED] "a dishonest book", and Oswald's marine officer at Atsugi, Gerry Patrick Hemming, took grave issue with the book's conclusions, calling Posner "a limped-dick fuck."'

He's real ugly too.

He's the second CIA-tainted POS that has come to Hillary's defense this campaign season (the other being long-time CIA asset Gloria Steinem). Enough.

Posted by: Bob In Pacifica at March 16, 2008 09:20 PM

steinem's wiki entry had reference to her CIA connections before 1970. what proof is there for afterward?

Posted by: hapa at March 16, 2008 11:13 PM

Politics in America is such that only a moral phony can be elected president. I've always been a fan of Hillary over Obama precisely because she's up front about it. If Obama ever was better than that, it doesn't matter now because he is undergoing his conversion process. Ambition is leading him to prove he is a moral phony like the rest, with sufficient gusto to convince the gatekeepers. It's a bit like that scene in There Will Be Blood where Eli confesses to his lack of faith just before being bludgeoned to death.

Posted by: eatbees at March 16, 2008 11:28 PM

Then surely I HAVE FAILED
Some how
And Jesus will think
I'm a JERK
If YOU let those
TV Preachers make
A monkey out of YOU
Then JESUS will think
Just like YOU

Posted by: Mike Meyer at March 17, 2008 12:11 AM

hapa, read what she did for the CIA (worked infiltrating student movements, including the World Youth Festivals in Vienna and Helsinki, where she did heavy lifting for the Agency through C.D. Jackson and Cord Meyer, and ended up working under Samuel Walker, Jr., who was vice president of the Free Europe Committee, another CIA-funded group. She worked through the CIA's Independent Research Service and the National Student Association, which had been getting money from the CIA from 1952). Steinem's own career, prior to this involvement, wandering across India without known finances for a couple of years, at the very least suggests the possibility that she was making the same kinds of observations of student and other young leaders, etc., in India, just as did in Vienna and Helsinki.

After she admitted her CIA involvement in the NYTimes in 1967 she formed MS. Magazine with another "former" CIA employee at the youth festivals, Clay Felker, paid for by corporate money. Steinem had a "relationship" with Henry Kissinger during the period in which Kissinger's influence on American policy helped to kill millions of brown men, women and children around the world and helped to crush democratic movements. She was also the girlfriend to Stanley Pottinger, who at the time was a Republican State Dept. official.

If one views Steinem's later career (post-student movement) she appears in the midst of crises and helps to stir up division, usually along gender lines. For example, most recently her "Women are never frontrunners" op-ed, which, at the time was blatantly untrue (Clinton had been the frontrunner until the Iowa primary less than a week before her op-ed was published). It helped to create a gender narrative for this campaign that once again divided the Democratic Party.

It shouldn't be surprising that reactionary elements within the oligarchy viewed the feminist movement in the sixties as a means of dividing the anti-war movement, the black movement, etc. The goal is always to divide and conquer. In effect, Steinem operates as a more refined Tammy Bruce.

Actually, Larry Johnston makes three CIA cheerleaders (I know, he's supposed to be ex-CIA, and free of the bad CIA). I don't mean that the CIA is an evil little cabal within the government, but rather serving the function international goon squad, not unlike what the Pinkertons did, sometimes within the law, sometimes outside of the law. The propaganda purposes of the intelligence services are a little more subtle than torture, but nevertheless an important part of continuing the same as before. Divide and conquer almost always works.

Posted by: Bob In Pacifica at March 17, 2008 09:52 AM

My fave fact on Gloria Steinem:
"In 1960 she moved back to New York, and was hired as an editorial assistant and photo caption writer for Harvey Kurtzman's satirical magazine Help!."

Posted by: Mike of Angle at March 17, 2008 04:30 PM