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September 11, 2009

"You Lie!"

By: Bernard Chazelle

Obama-wise, let's just say I am speeched-out. When everyone else hears a new Gettysburg Address, I hear a new ABBA song. Take this BS, cribbed from his 2004 Convention speech and perpetually recycled ever since:

That large-heartedness -- that concern and regard for the plight of others -- is not a partisan feeling. It's not a Republican or a Democratic feeling. It, too, is part of the American character.

Concern for the plight of others... Yes, really, what's more American than that? To be fair to the speech, there was Joe Wilson's Jimmy Rushing-like one-bar solo. And who didn't enjoy that? Although the shoe-thrower set standards that mere mortals will find hard to match, it was interesting to see how one could be both a breath of fresh air and a cretin at the same time. Well done, Wilson!

Now let's get technical. What I got from the speech was that Obama will force everyone to become a paying customer of a private health insurer (as opposed to paying the government). In the olden days, the government would tax you and pass on the loot to the robber barons. So 20th century! Obama wants to cut the middle man and have the taxpayer fork their money over to the robber barons directly. Or else. It's brilliant. (We could save Detroit by requiring every US citizen to buy a Ford or GM vehicle.) Health insurance stocks soared after the speech, which says all you need to know about it.

After rewarding the Wall Street gangsters with trillions of our own dollars, Obama had this to say:

... our ability to stand in other people's shoes; a recognition that we are all in this together.

Not only are we not "in this" together, Mr President, but your policies are to ensure that we never will be "in this" together. You lie!

— Bernard Chazelle

Posted at September 11, 2009 11:52 AM

DEMAND SINGLE PAYER, call Pelosi @1-202-225-0100.
I thought the speach was wonderful, I know I was impressed. Obviously the man is a powerful speaker. HE SPOKE THE ABSOLUTE TRUTH in one of his VERY first lines when he said not everybody will be covered without SINGLE PAYER, BUT---. The point being EVEN the President KNOWS the workable answer that helps ALL.
Shock to the economy is HIS glitch for not going for SINGLE PAYER. The economy ALREADY is in shock and the insurance companies, much like the newspapers, ARE bleeding to death. The ONLY reason they are still alive is YOUR TAX DOLLAR transfusion that's quickly running out their assholes.

Posted by: Mike Meyer at September 11, 2009 01:24 PM

Mike Meyer: Yes, the president gave a great speech ( he always does ) but when we see the final results, it will all seem like a big hoax and a cruel joke.

The reform should to bring affordable and quality healthcare to everyone. When one talks about muti-tiered plans, it is just not going to happen. If premiums are reduced, deductibles will go up and even the public option ( if it does become a reality ) will have to compete with the private companies to remain solvent. So it will not be the public option that will determine premiums but the private insurers.

And the vigour with which every supporter of these plans, including the President state that "illegal immigrants!" will not be covered is just digusting and immoral. When a very sick patient comes to the ER, it is bad enough that he/she is asked about his/her insurance. Now they are going to ask every patient whether he/she is legal? Since when human beings became illegal? I worked at a govt institution and never had to worry about these things. We just took care of patients. Now, even at govt institutions that serve indigent population, they will have to enforce these rules ( if they become a reality)?

Sadly, at the end of the day, nothing much will change. Only when "Healthcare" and "Profits" are seperated totally, will we see every American receive the healthcare he/she needs.

ps and the profit motive is not only driving the regular culprits. a friend called me up one day to ask about a drug which was very promising for a medical condition and I told him that indeed it was wonderful and I was curious to know why as he was not in medical field and I was told, he wanted to invest in that drug's parent company! everyone wants to get rich!

Here is something from current issue of Harper's:
Harper's Index
% change since 2002 in average premiums paid to large US health-isurance companies: +87
% change in the profits of the top ten insurance companies: +428

chances that an American bankrupted by medical bills has health insurance:7 in 10

Portion of its membership that Washington State's subsidised health plan intends to lose this year: 1/3
Average percentage by which it is raising premiums in order to do so: 70

Number of states that have run out of money for unemployment insurance: 16
Total amount they have borrowed from the federal govt so far to bridge the gap : $11,743,613,200

Date on which Illinois stopped paying to bury the corpses of indigent:7/1/09
So, if one is poor, he/she has to worry about not only how to stay alive ( food , shelter and healthcare ) but worry about dying?

Posted by: Rupa Shah at September 11, 2009 02:29 PM

The President needs to be commended for doing a very difficult job without the benefit of any MAinstream Media criticism on his health care reform stance.

For instance, if you watched him last year, he said that Single Payer Universal Heatlh Care for ALL was the best solution. Great statement, there, Mr Prez to be. (Citation )

Then he WENT ON TO SAY, "But since we are not starting from scratch, we have to work within the system we already have." WHAT? WTF?!?

Do you tell someone who is driving around in an unsafe car that gets horrible gas mileage, that cannot pass the lcoal smog law tests and that is ugly to boot that they have to stay in that car?

The media, which has interviewed every single living numb skull within four hundred miles of a major network's office, and reported on such things as Obama not having a valid birth certificate, etc. somehow have never found time to parse the President's stupidity in saying this.

Just how much lunacy is there when one says "I have found the perfect solution, and now I am working on reform, but I must stick with what we have, even though what ewe have DOESN'T WOERK and is more expensive, as we will see to it that it will be slightly modified."

We are so screwn. Both the President and our Corporate media are only beholden to the Corporatocracy. SCREWN SCREWN SCREWN.

Posted by: Truedelphi at September 11, 2009 02:35 PM

The President needs to be commended for doing a very difficult job without the benefit of any MAinstream Media criticism on his health care reform stance.

For instance, if you watched him last year, he said that Single Payer Universal Heatlh Care for ALL was the best solution. Great statement, there, Mr Prez to be. (Citation )

Then he WENT ON TO SAY, "But since we are not starting from scratch, we have to work within the system we already have." WHAT? WTF?!?

Do you tell someone who is driving around in an unsafe car that gets horrible gas mileage, that cannot pass the lcoal smog law tests and that is ugly to boot that they have to stay in that car?

The media, which has interviewed every single living numb skull within four hundred miles of a major network's office, and reported on such things as Obama not having a valid birth certificate, etc. somehow have never found time to parse the President's stupidity in saying this.

Just how much lunacy is there when one says "I have found the perfect solution, and now I am working on reform, but I must stick with what we have, even though what we have DOES NOT WORK and is more expensive, as we will see to it that it will be slightly modified."

We are so screwn. Both the President and our Corporate media are only beholden to the Corporatocracy. SCREWN SCREWN SCREWN.

Posted by: Truedelphi at September 11, 2009 02:36 PM

WSWS pointed out another lie yesterday

[Obama] went on to declare that his health care plan was essential to reining in the ballooning federal deficit and national debt. “Put simply,” he said, “our health care problem is our deficit problem. Nothing else comes close.”

This is a lie. It ignores the far greater role of the multi-trillion-dollar bailout of the banks, the hundreds of billions spent on the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and the half-trillion-dollar annual military budget in bankrupting the federal treasury.

Posted by: Weniger Gottquatsch at September 11, 2009 03:00 PM

Professor, don't knock Abba!

I think you know a vast amount about the music of the olden days, but not so much about the robber barons, when and how they got money from and gave money to the government, and what all was going on back then. Just a hunch of mine.

As for Obama's health care initiative, he isn't going to work any miracles. He's right that Teddy Roosevelt started working on this, and if we could go back to a society where only white people had any right to ask for anything, including life, probably some of that GOP opposition from the Buchanon types would disappear. But we have what we have, thank God!

Remember this is the United States, not some sensible country like France, and FDR didn't get us universal health care either, nor Truman, and that was during and on the heels of the New Deal, which getting the government to do things was wildly popular. And of course JFK didn't get it done, nor LBJ after JFK was assinated, nor Nixon even though he tried to prove himself worthy by being more liberal than anyone would have guessed. And of course the Clintons didn't get it done either, bringing us to the mess we have now.

So it ain't easy in this screwed up country.
It goes without saying that what comes of this health care reform will be woefully inadequate, but getting something will be a step. And then people can start demanding other steps, and fighting for them, if they have it in them. The health insurers have been too powerful to knock out cold this time, but remember the little train that could, unless you're so appalled by Obama's dumb political talk (which is much less offensive than that GOP bullshit) that you just want to give up on thinking that we "can" do anything. In that case, I recommend that you listen to a Bach dirge, if there is such a thing. If not, I'm sure you can come up with something.

Posted by: N E at September 11, 2009 03:02 PM

Bravo, N E

Posted by: G S Herscher at September 11, 2009 03:23 PM
That large-heartedness -- that concern and regard for the plight of others -- is not a partisan feeling. It's not a Republican or a Democratic feeling. It, too, is part of the American character.

I just received Kolko’s Main Currents in Modern American History, and the first few sentences of the preface, published in 1976, exactly describes Obama’s strategy - keep us ignorant and make us feel special. Kolko:

The United States from its inception has been a nation blind to itself - its past, its present, and its future. Intellectually and culturally underdeveloped, it has left it to a handful of European commentators and rare, alienated mavericks to produce some of the more penetrating assessments of American life and society. No industrialized people confronts reality so ill-prepared in terms of ideas and insights to cope with the problems before it.

In a critical sense this myopia is a consequence of the pervasive self-satisfied chauvinism which characterized the United States during the first modern century after the Civil War, and optimism is virtually a national ideology.

How many people who listened to Obama’s speech know that any “reform” passed and signed won’t take effect until 2013? How many know about Obama’s secret dealings with big health corporations? How many know how tickled they are that we will be forced to buy crummy insurance?

How many times have you heard that the US has the best health system in the world?

Posted by: Butch in Waukegan at September 11, 2009 03:45 PM

It's just like me
to say to you,
honeyed words,
without an ounce of truth...

with apologies to Paul Revere and the Raiders and the rhyming commission.

Posted by: Carl at September 11, 2009 03:56 PM

A correction:
In my comment above at 2.29pm
Sadly, at the end of the day, nothing much will change. Only when "Healthcare" and "Profits" are seperated totally, will we see every American receive the healthcare he/she needs.

I just want to clarify, when I say American, I am not thinking of passports. I am thinking of anyone who lives in the US. If that does not clarify what I mean, I will delete American and substitute every with everyone.

I know, your comment is directed to Prof Chazelle but I want to speak on behalf of the indigent population I served for 26 years. If they were given the explanation you are giving, it would be cold comfort to them. Who will fight on their behalf? Medicare/Medicaid took away their benefits by reducing eligibility and a patient of mine who was wheelchair-bound, her wheelchair was taken away ( I could write any number of stories ). Right now, they are closing satellite clinics (established so patients would not have to travel long distances). Now, with those clinics closed, transportation not being provided and patients not being able to go to the main hospital, patients are not going to see the doctor. They are staying home and dying. In this equation, the poor are left out.

This is not likely to change as m/m DOES NOT REIMURSE the clinics and hospitals 100%. Many community hospitals in my city closed as their patients were on m/m. And many hospitals do not accept patients on m/m.

Only if everyone could go to a county hospital for 2/3 visits at different times for different medical problems, he/she would not wait for a step by step approach to changing our healthcare system.

Posted by: Rupa Shah at September 11, 2009 03:56 PM

Bernard, with this: "it was interesting to see how one could be both a breath of fresh air and a cretin at the same time" you managed to express exactly what I've been trying to figure out how to say, so thank you.

With this: "When everyone else hears a new Gettysburg Address, I hear a new ABBA song" you indicate to me that you need to re-evaluate ABBA.

Posted by: ethan at September 11, 2009 04:23 PM

Rupa Shah:

Always glad to get your view, and I certainly don't want the poor to be left out. I'm not saying people should have to wait for anything, but the legislation has to be enacted. Obama isn't the problem preventing that.

I really don't think Obama would get anything done if he gave speeches that read like Gabriel Kolko, and I have a hard time blaming him for trying to get the country to listen to the better angels of our nature, to use Lincoln's line. He gave a political speech, for God's sake, so of course it had inspirational drivel in it. But if there is any issue on which I believe Obama, it's that he really thinks no one should have to fight with insurance companies about their bills when they are very sick or even dying. People might recall that his MOTHER had to do that, so I think he probably appreciates the indignity of that.

I hope somebody does something for your indigent patients. It's great that you have.

Posted by: N E at September 11, 2009 04:35 PM

when will N.E. stop being such a doofus? "he's gotta do sumpin, so why not just force every american to buy private insurance?"

(as for his mother, i have no doubts about what obama would do to her were the FIRE sector just to ask.)

and can we get some standards for a speech here? just because he ain't dumbya don't make him cicero.

Posted by: anonymous at September 11, 2009 04:56 PM

Obama wouldn't get anything done if he gave speeches that read like Gabriel Kolko but then we wouldn't get a health care bill that is worse than what we have now. For example: More money from the poor to the rich will not help health care. Mandatory payments will create a whole new category of scofflaws. American families will fall farther behind as they will no longer be covered for ordinary medical care. Children will continue to be sick while we spend extravagantly on a few end of life issues leading to greater healthcare expenses down the road. (For example did you know that the plaque that your dentist scrapes off your teeth is the same stuff that clogs your heart and arteries? Children with bad dental care suffer from more infections, the infections are more acute, they miss more school time, they are less attentive in school and suffer from early and irreparable heart damage. And that is just one small way in which the failure to fix the situation will make things harder to fix in the future.)

On top of making things worse for the workers and worse for the children and worse for general health, it makes things worse for progressives because the right is going to turn around and say "See, we told you socialism doesn't work." And most of America will believe them and vote for them. And Obama knows this. He is an odious little man as some said recently. But I am not disappointed because he says what he is going to do and he does it and right now he is going to transfer billions of dollars to large insurance companies who will pay it out to executives who keep costs down by refusing coverage.

These are not half measures, these are the final plans.When O says: "It's time to move on, it's no time to let the perfect be the enemy of the good, we must go together to a better future after this start blah blah blah " he means it's time to return to wars as a way to shovel money to the well off.

Posted by: drip at September 11, 2009 05:07 PM
It goes without saying that what comes of this health care reform will be woefully inadequate, but getting something will be a step.

A step in precisely the wrong direction, because

What I got from the speech was that Obama will force everyone to become a paying customer of a private health insurer.

In a couple years my parents' insurance will no longer cover me. At that time am I going to start blowing any of my slender discretionary budget on premiums (however subsidized) for insurance that I couldn't afford to use anyway? Fuck that fucking shit.

Posted by: Cloud at September 11, 2009 05:22 PM

N E:
"I hope somebody does something for your indigent patients."

Isn't THAT THE PROBLEM? Everyone says, let someone else deal with someobody else's troubles. I take care of ONLY ME!! And Obama said, "We are our brother's keepers." Is this how?

ps I am sure, what happened to his mother has a lot to do with his desire to change the whole system but the way he and the congress are going about it is hardly going to scratch the surface and people who need help the most, will face the same hurdles they are facing today and will be denied healthcare.

Posted by: Rupa Shah at September 11, 2009 05:34 PM

And they are not Rupa Sha's indigent patients! They are our fellow citizens! If nothing else, lets get them healthy so they don't make us sick, if you can't see clear to actually, you know, care about another person.

Insert random caps as needed.

Posted by: drip at September 11, 2009 05:51 PM

I think he actually said "You are your fellow consumers keeper."

Posted by: tim at September 11, 2009 06:23 PM

I don't know if what Joe Wilson said was true or not. Certainly I do not doubt Obama's wish to suck up to the racist right but at the same time you sort of feel they could always put the thumbscrews on even more tightly somehow. I just can't be bothered to figure out who's right.

But I will say that if Joe Wilson was just waiting to stand up and shout "You Lie!" at some random point in the speech he was very unlucky to not hit a more obvious example of presidential deceit.

For my money the absolute funniest lie came close to the start when Obama declared that he intended to be the last American president to ever address the issue of health care.

Posted by: DavidByron at September 11, 2009 06:27 PM

For my money the absolute funniest lie came close to the start when Obama declared that he intended to be the last American president to ever address the issue of health care.

That is precisely his intention. He will do his level best that the gravy train keeps rolling on for the finciers who back back him. The great thing about Obama is that he tells you what he is going to do.

Posted by: drip at September 11, 2009 06:58 PM


I didn't hear that part of the speech, and I hate to be a doofus, but I assume Obama was trying to say he wants to put an end to this endless string of failures by Presidents to get their proposed health care reforms through Congress.

I hope Obama gets something with some redeeming value passed.

Posted by: N E at September 11, 2009 07:04 PM

Rupa Shah; I think I can guarantee there will be NO PROFITS WITH SINGLE PAYER. I site the ENTIRE history of US Govt finance as proof.

Posted by: Mike Meyer at September 11, 2009 07:22 PM

Mike Meyer:
I believe you.
The director of Medicine at the hospital where I worked was the president of Physicians for National Health Programme which advocates universal coverage/single payer system. We all worked towards achieving that goal as my hospital was a hot bed of activism, if one can call that. We wore buttons, healthcare-not profits. Reps from drug companies were NOT allowed to meet with MDs ( though some of them managed to, somehow). If one has worked in a hospital like mine, one can not but change his/her opinion about what is neeeded in terms of reforms.

drip at 05:51 PM
Yes, I use CAPS and they are controlled, not by my fingers but my brain i.e. it makes my fingers write them! And yes, I can visualise where MY brain would have made my fingers insert CAPS in your comment. BUT, I can not deface someone else's comment!

ps Mike Meyer and I seem to use CAPS the most but neither has learnt to do it from the other.

Posted by: Rupa Shah at September 11, 2009 08:31 PM

I actually did laugh out loud when I read that statement (hint: never listen to a public speech if you can just read the text). I figured at that time that the next president would be forced to revisit the issue because Obama's reform does nothing but throw a trillion dollars at the super rich. Prices will still rise and the crisis looms ever closer. He's literally doing nothing to stop it -- no -- he's making sure the only two mechanism suggested for fixing the crisis don't happen (single payer and strong public option). He literally couldn't even suggest any other mechanism.

But then I caught Dennis Kucinich's comments on all this and he thinks that health care will have to be revisited even before the end of the current presidential .... ah no. I misheard him. He thinks it will be revisited by the next president too... around 2015. Of course I forgot that nobody has to worry about it until after 213 because Obama's wonderful reforms don't bother to get out of bed before midday.

Kucinich makes his prediction around 3 minute mark.

Posted by: DavidByron at September 11, 2009 09:35 PM

By the way, does anybody know a good source for what the current state of the health care reform proposals are? People talk about it as if they know, but if they do they know something I don't, because the ground keeps shifting under my feet.


Posted by: N E at September 12, 2009 08:12 AM

The following link should take you to the President's website with HIS plan! What will be the final outcome with amendments and compromises, one does not know.

ps allegedly, people who can not afford the public option will be given subsidy! But when someone is struggling to pay the rent, utilities and feed the family, where are they going to find the money to avail themselves of the susidised plans?

Posted by: Rupa Shah at September 12, 2009 08:38 AM

Rupa Shah:

I think single payer would be the best option, but if we have to go this way, I hope this doesn't become just another way to steal from the uninformed.

Posted by: N E at September 12, 2009 09:47 AM

And the president was so emphatic about NOT COVERING the so called illegal immigrants in his plan. Well, that is NOT A CERTAINTY ( and I am glad to note that ). I am sure, lot of organisations are getting ready for a fight.

"Senate committee tackles illegal-immigrant healthcare concerns",0,3465175.story

Posted by: Rupa Shah at September 12, 2009 09:57 AM

Rupa Shsh: SINGLE PAYER WILL COVER EVERYONE even the illegals. SURE it will be expensive and the rednecks will have a heart attack over ANY benefits to the "undeserving", BUT IT IS THE ONLY WORKABLE ANSWER. Otherwise, why bother, WE ALREADY have a fantastically workable "SCREWING AMERICA PLAN"?

Posted by: Mike Meyer at September 12, 2009 11:46 AM

I get your point, however, to mention Cong. Wilson in the same breath as the immortal Jimmy Rushing borders on sacrilege.

Posted by: Bob Della Valle at September 12, 2009 12:35 PM

I get your point, however, to mention Cong. Wilson in the same breath as the immortal Jimmy Rushing borders on sacrilege.

Posted by: Bob Della Valle at September 12, 2009 12:35 PM

NE, why are you always giving Obama a pass? Is it because of your 9/11 theory and you're convinced that Obama's forced to make a descision due to the corporate backers behind the scenes?

Posted by: Jenny at September 12, 2009 12:51 PM

Jenny, not to speak for N E, but I for one factor in stuff like this (something Jon forwarded me, but hasn't posted yet on the site). I wouldn't call it "giving Obama a pass." I would call it "assuming that there's a lot of stuff going on behind the scenes that I don't know about, and while genuine evil is rare, fear and compromises are not."

Less emotionally satisfying than "Lying bastards!" blather, but (to me) a more accurate map.

Posted by: Mike of Angle at September 12, 2009 02:54 PM

Mike of Angle:
I read the article you referred to and I can accept the contents of that as I respect Ray McGovern. However, leaving aside issues where the agency may be involved, why would Obama make statements on other issues which are patently false ( which supposedly have nothing to do with the agency)? Article below is just one example of what he said and what really will happen (related to this post about his speech).

“They Employ a Lot of Our Friends:” Left Reflections on Obama's Corporatist Health Care Speech
By Paul Street

Posted by: Rupa Shah at September 12, 2009 04:05 PM

Jenny, in answer to your question, I don't think Obama is the real problem, and I think people's anger is misdirected.

The Congress is corrupt, money rules our government, and I think Obama is trying to get the best health reform bill he can against great opposition, just as I think he is trying to exert as much positive influence as he can on the National Security State. He just doesn't have the power to reverse all policies, end all wars, or do nearly as much as people thinkg, and that's actually the one problem I have with Chris Floyd. Despite his real understanding of the National Security State, Chris Floyd to my eyes seems to lack an appreciation of the limitations a President faces in controlling it.

As for 9/11, I read Chris Floyd's column on it and thought it excellent. I agree with him, and I obviously am offended enough by government complicity in mass murder to speak out about it openly enough, despite my temporary anonymity, to render me as unemployable in politics as Chris Floyd and Van Jones. (That anonymity isn't worth a nickel in the end.) I don't really feel much doubt about the general thrust of what happened on 9/11, notwithstanding that at first it was quite a difficult thing for me to accept because I grew up in the heartland and once upon a time even helped my mother teach Sunday school, oh so long ago. I am not a New Yorker, like Oarwell per what he said yesterday, and I wasn't raised breathing cynicism, but rather the fresh pure air of wholesome, moralistic gullibility. So for me personally, the consequences of knowing what I now do have been real, because as Matt Damon said at the end of the Bourne Supremacy, "that knowledge changes things, doesn't it?"

But all that is only thinly related to my view of the difficulties Obama faces, though I will confess that my fairly detailed study of the history of the National Security State only began in a meaningful way after I concluded that what happened on 9/11 involved some active government complicity.

I'm still learning, of course. I just finished reading the best book I've yet read to understand what was going on in the 50s and 60s in the US in connection with East Asia, Franz Schurmann's The Logic of World Power, which anyone can buy for about $4 or $5 from Amazon or Abebooks. I was surprised reading that book how much I didn't understand about those years, despite a lot of reading, including by Bruce Cumings. In particular, I hadn't understand some of the reasons for JFK's approach, let alone understood how LBJ ended up putting ground troops in Vietnam. That had always seemed insane to me, but I do see now how LBJ ended up doing it.

Schurmann, as a sociologist as well as a sinologist, was not naive about the U.S. military or the rest of the bureaucracy. In partial answer to your question, here's a quote from him about power and how Americans think about it:

“Americans, for all their democratic heritage, have the curious conviction that power and influence always go from the top down. Thus, because the President is at the top, he must have perfect knowledge and control over what his underlings do. Power and influence go both ways, and people in East Asia, with long and complex political traditions of their own, understand that better than Americans."

The significance of that to your question is that Obama makes choices among options based upon information, and those choices and information come from others. He too can be manipulated and controlled.

Here's what Schurmann wrote about the military's role in U.S. politics:

"The ideology of civilian control of the military is so sacrosanct that military men always testify only in their role as military professionals, cleverly referring all policy questions to their civilian superiors. There is a lot of play acting that goes on in those [appropriations]hearings, not unusual for highly ideologized bureaucracies. But like the lengthy and stylized perorations of communist party congresses, there are always ways of getting a sense of what the stylized terminology means. Publics are not supposed to know about bureaucratic struggles, for they may disturb public tranquility and inspire doubts about government’s legitimacy and effectiveness."

If you read Schurmann's book, or Cumings, you will get a view of the dominant role of the military in U.S. politics that you rarely see elsewhere, because it is virtually taboo to write about it, and it isn't easy to get access to that information either. But the military and CIA ahve been enormously political, to the point that on many occasions they attempted to topple governments and commit acts of war, including terrorism, start wars, and even risk nuclear wars (the Cuban Missile Crisis was but one instance). That is all VERY political.

And here's what Schurrman wrote about what JFK's policies and how they squared with what was going on at the same time in the National Security bureaucracy:

“The bureaucratic lenses required that the Viet Cong be seen as tools of North Vietnam which, in turn, was a tool of the Sino-Soviet bloc or variants thereof. In 1963, the containment and rollback currents were still in bitter contention over the way to defeat or check communism and assure American supremacy. No one in Washington who counted dreamed that America might indeed be a paper tiger, whose armies and dollars would soon degenerate. It is hard to see how Kennedy could have bucked both of these currents for the sake of peace, and at the same time created a regime at the Pentagon that would muzzle the military. If the popular mood was peaceful, the bureaucratic mood was militant. Historically, it seems almost inevitable that Kennedy was assassinated.”

I don't have any illusions about Obama being a saint, just as I really don't have any illusions that JFK was a saint. Obama is a politician, but he really can't talk other than as a politician, in all the stupid language of politicians. In my view, that doesn't mean he sucks. That's just what he has to do, and I don't have any illusions that he has shitty policies and does many shitty things. But my sense of him is that he would like to leave the world better than he found it. As President, that's not even easy. The deep waters of our National Security State remain as shark-infested as they were forty years ago, and indeed as they have always been. And our Congressional politics are corrupt and no better than they have ever been either.

In my view, people should take out their anger and disgust on Congress, the military, the intelligence agencies, and the rest of the National Security State, because they are the resistance. When any of those institutions push for anything progressive and Obama becomes the brake on the system, by all means go after him. That's not what I see happening right now.

Finally, let me leave you a question to ask yourself. If 9/11 had not occurred, do you really think we could be occupying Iraq now and also have a war going on in Afghanistan eight years after deploying troops there? Do you think our military budgets would be near their present levels, with no reduction in the future even on the horizon? And if you believe that, just what do you think would have convinced the public to accept that state of affairs?

You don't need to respond here, because I asked myself those questions long ago and have my own answers. I think there is something to be said for stepping back and asking questions like that, because we can be deceived, or deceive ourselves, about nearly everything else.

Posted by: N E at September 12, 2009 04:53 PM

N E:
I read your comment above and I do understand, presidents have limitations.
Considering his intellect ( no one can deny it ), his knowledge, his dealings with politicians in Illinois, Chicago and the senate, he HAD to know, how the system works, who really controls the govt and what limitations he would face and what he would be able to achieve if he ran for president. In spite of that, he promised the Americans the world. His speeches inspired people ( including me ) and people really believed, he WOULD CHANGE THINGS for the country and take it in a different direction. Should one think now that he was naive or he was just eager to get elected and in spite of knowing he would not be able to do much, he kept promising and giving his great speeches?

ps I have to admit, he has done a few things which needed to be done.

Posted by: Rupa Shah at September 12, 2009 05:38 PM

But if you're blaming Bush for setting off 9/11, why not blame Obama for his continuation of Conservative policies: he fired a fucking drone missile three fucking days after he first went to office, what does that tell you?

Posted by: Jenny at September 12, 2009 06:35 PM

Rupa Shah:

My view is that ANY politician has to get elected, and you don't do it by sounding like Winnie the Pooh's friend Eeyore. I really don't have any idea whether Obama anticipated how hard it would be to do some of the things he promised, but I'm sure you're right that he knew many of his promises might not be easy to deliver. That being said, weak rhetoric wouldn't have made it easier to do them. Any chance of real political success depends on some big inspirational talk, but that by no means guarantees you'll get that success. It's still a long shot, but then again, you certainly don't want to set your sights too low, and you don't want to be held back by your own lack of providing inspiration and motivation to people.

If the problem is hypocrisy and dishonesty because Obama isn't delivering close to what he claimed he would, I can see that. I just still don't think he's the weak link in the chain, and I think people are misdirecting their anger, which doesn't help these our other crappy institutions improve. Unless people figure that out, this will go on forever with people just regularly changing the name of the President who disappoints them or angers them. And to those who think a President from a different party would change the equation, although that's getting into a hypothetical area not too close to present conditions, I don't think it would UNLESS something is done about our corrupt Congress and our insatiable National Security State. I think an independent or even a member of the Green Party would have the same exact problems, were it conceivable they could win the Presidency.

Posted by: N E at September 12, 2009 06:37 PM


I never said I blamed Bush. Hell if I know what was or is in his head, though I do think he has more brains and political cunning than is observable. Then again, how could he not?

It is hard for me to believe Cheney or Rummy would let an opportunity like 9/11 slip by them, but really that opinion is just based on my dislike of their policies, their illustrious careers, their sparkling personalities, their tendency to foam at the mouth on occasion, and general overall lust for viciousness. Without a real investigation, one can't identify guilty parties.

I blame who I think is driving the policy or action in question, and in connection with battlefield operations I don't think that is Obama, no matter how many pronouncements he might make about it. Parts of the military are already angry about the emphasis on reducing civilian casualties, and don't for a second think that the dispute about what weapons should be used is free of political meaning. That was one of Schurmann's big points. When the CIA and the Air Force speaking through George Will want a bigger emphasis on drones and air attacks, they are saying they want more involvement and with it less presidential control, because air power is very hard for Presidents to control. Ground troops are most subject to Presidential control--that's probably why LBJ sent them into Vietnam. (His alternative was trusting that Admiral Moorer wouldn't bring China into the war, which he had good reason to worry about.)

I may blame a President for just not stopping a bad practice, but not as often as you would because I don't think that's so easy for a President to do. If Truman had gone along with nuking Manchuria, I would have blamed him even though his hand had almost been forced by Macarthur and the navy. Same as to Eisenhow during either of the Quemoy crises in the 50s, or JFK during the Laos crisis or the Cuban Missile Crisis. Or LBJ when Admiral Moorer and the navy and the JCS were trying to get him to give the go-ahead to some very risky things vis a vis China around the time that China was firing off its first atomic bomb tests. If any of those Presidents had actually gone followed some very dangerous courses of action urged upon them by the military and CIA, I certainly wouldn't have absolved them of blame for getting millions of people killed.

Similarly, if Obama lets himself get maneuvered into bombing Iran, I will blame him even if it isn't his idea. But Obama can't go to war with the military bureaucracy, figurately speaking, about everything. It's very hard to explain that in a comment, no matter how Tolstoyish, and even a post wouldn't do it. You're going to have to read more than a few books to understand that, and especially lots of memoirs might help get a feel for how executive action works, and is subverted, within a military vast bureaucracy full of actors with their own agendas, many of whom are your political enemies, and almost all of whom are animated by less than flexible ideology. I hope you realize that most of the officers in the military are likely not fans of Obama.

So when you say "he" fired a drone three days after taking office, you're revealing something that I think is at the heart of the problem. It sounds like in your mind, the government and militiary now ARE Obama, as though there are a million clones of him running around doing this and that, paperwork here, firing drones there, ruining health care elsewhere. That mental construct is what I think takes people into bad analysis that prohibits our broken political system from getting fixed.

Posted by: N E at September 12, 2009 07:18 PM

By the way, this is worth reading:

And here's my discussion question: What isn't the National Security State capable of?

Posted by: N E at September 12, 2009 07:25 PM

Mike Of Angle, if you are going to be my spokesperson, you need to be more verbose.

Somehow Jenny got me talking about the National Security State and 9/11 on a health care thread. I'm blaming her.

Posted by: N E at September 12, 2009 07:45 PM

But surely the president has the power to cease bombings of Pakistan and he didn't, so yes, he's responsible too. Maybe I'll cut him slack on health care, it's possible he was pressured by all the paranoid protesters,but not with foreign policy.

Posted by: Jenny at September 12, 2009 08:18 PM


I'm not saying you have to like him, and I'm not saying he has nothing to do with it, let alone that he has no moral responsibility for anything. I'm saying if you focus on the President, and speak and act like it's all coming from the President, the problems will NEVER get fixed, because the problems are not primarily eminating from the President. That's true in foreign policy because of the National Security bureaucracy, and also true of legislation because of Congress.

(My God, that's almost concise!)

Posted by: N E at September 12, 2009 08:53 PM

Jenny: But surely the president has the power to cease bombings of Pakistan and he didn't, so yes, he's responsible too.

Actually, your original formulation ("he fired a fucking drone missile three fucking days after he first went to office") was spot on:

Barack Obama gave the go-ahead for his first military action yesterday, missile strikes against suspected militants in Pakistan which killed at least 18 people.

Four days after assuming the presidency, he was consulted by US commanders before they launched the two attacks. Although Obama has abandoned many of the "war on terror" policies of George Bush while he was president, he is not retreating from the hunt for Osama bin Laden and other al-Qaida leaders.

That's from a story titled "President orders air strikes on villages in tribal area". There's another account here ("President Obama 'orders Pakistan drone attacks'"). Or if none of that's enough (and I'm sure it won't be for some people), just listen to what Obama stated explicitly during the campaign:

But let me make this clear. There are terrorists holed up in those mountains who murdered 3,000 Americans. They are plotting to strike again. It was a terrible mistake to fail to act when we had a chance to take out an al Qaeda leadership meeting in 2005. If we have actionable intelligence about high-value terrorist targets and President Musharraf won't act, we will.

A speech that's filled with similar pearls:

I will not hesitate to use military force to take out terrorists who pose a direct threat to America. This requires a broader set of capabilities, as outlined in the Army and Marine Corps’s new counter-insurgency manual. I will ensure that our military becomes more stealth, agile, and lethal in its ability to capture or kill terrorists.

(By the way, this is Obama echoing the same bloodthirsty rhetoric Kerry spewed in 2004.)

So yes, you're absolutely right, Obama is responsible—for his words, and for the actions he's taken that prove they weren't just words.

Posted by: John Caruso at September 12, 2009 09:28 PM

John Caruso: N E still can't believe that Obama is a warmonger. JUST LIKE Codpiece, he wants to kill somebody, BUT not enough to lay in a ditch with a rifle. A stroke of a pen is enough to satisfy his "thrill-o-the-hunt". THAT and a phonecall telling him someones "not christmasy" goose has been cooked so's WE can all sleep well tonight. Attila the Hun in a speedo and foam helmut riding a bicycle CONQUERING the Asian Steppes.

Posted by: Mike Meyer at September 12, 2009 09:58 PM

John Caruso:

I guess you're right. Some journalists said Obama decided on those drone attacks, and he made a speech saying we need to fight terrorists, so he really is a powerful warmonger in complete charge of the entire military, free to stop any practice he wants at his whim. Everything is within his control, and the military and intelligence agencies have no political power, or certainly would never use it becuase that would be improper, and you will pass your eighth grade government exam with flying colors.

Seriously, little of what I said is inconsistent with your rant, and if you think about what I said, that should become clear quickly enough.

Mike Meyer: Put Nancy Pelosi on hold for a minute and answer a question for me: Do you think there are any limits on Obama's power in connection with ending or scaling back our ongoing wars, and if so what are the limits on his power and what imposes them on him? If you can't answer that, you've got work to do. Even a dog can speed-dial Pelosi and bark at her, but it won't get you anywhere unless you're barking what needs to be barked.

Long ago an old Chinese thinker named Sun Tzu, famous for his theories of warfare, wrote something smart: Tactics without strategy is the noise before defeat.

Tactics need to have a strategy behind them, and that strategy needs to be devised to fix what is broken. So ask yourself, what is broken?

Barack Obama is not the driving force behind U.S. militarism, and though he may not be much of a brake on it, nobody else would be either at this time. If you or Caruso or anybody else can think someone else would be able to restrain US militarism, stop the drone attacks, and get us out of Afghanistan and Iraq too while you're at it, I'd love to hear you out, and I will give any argument you put forward very careful consideration, down to the minutest detail, because accomplishing a drastic scaling back of US militarism and the National Security State is my goal.

The problem we face is not Obama, but much deeper and more intractable. It's so intractable that it's not even pleasant to acknowledge it, but it is real and pretending that it isn't real won't make it go away. The National Security State skews the entire political system and prevents necessary political change, and if that change keeps being stifled, the consequences could be more dire than anyone should be willing to accept. To understand how dire you do need to extrapolate just a little, but not that much.

I linked in an earlier comment the first section of a series of articles Daniel Ellsburg has written that should be sobering to anyone. The Pentagon roughly fifty years ago had plans that involved contingencies which would result in up to more than half a billion deaths (yes, BILLION) as a result of nuclear strikes which it considered might be necessary at that time. At least those were the figures the Pentagon put forward when John Kennedy asked how many people could be killed as a result of the Joint Chiefs' war plans. Ellsburg was personally involved in those issues, and just as should have happened, the whole experience shook him to his core. From Bobby Kennedy's writings, we know that JFK felt the same way, to his credit.

We are much more powerful now than we were nearly fifty years ago, when the events and documents Ellsburg describes shocked him to his senses, and we are now an Empire in decline in a world fast being depleted of its resources and polluted beyond its recovery point. Military men now are no different from the military men then who considered half a billion casualties acceptable fifty years ago. We need to quit thinking not only of our own nation as exceptional, but we need to quit thinking of our own time as exceptional. We and our leaders are the same foolish species who made the rest of human history what it was, full of unspeakable horrors, bloodlust, genocide, traffic in every sin imaginable, and yes, conspiracies to perpetrate that parade of horrors.

And now, at the pinnacle of our power, we're headed for real trouble. It is almost scientifically certain that we are going to face times harder than the present, and historical analysis provides little basis for optimism about whatever scientific doubt exists. Our present social injustices and inequities are are already tearing at our social fabric, and the challenges we face are already testing the limits of our endurance. As conditions deteriorate, too much stress on the National Security State will ultimately provoke a response, particularly if resource competition increases, and the brutality that could be unleashed this century is beyond my comprehension but, unfortunately, not my imagination. We are too powerful to be so selfish and so vicious, and I shudder to think what might ultimately result from our involvement in Central Asia, in particular.

On a more abstract plane, our mastery of morality has not kept pace with our mastery of science, and we seem well on the way to paying a heavy price as a species for our hubris. Whether this has anything to do with Kant I cannot say, but it's important anyway.

These daunting, terrifying problems go far beyond Barack Obama, and I presume no one would put all that on his plate. But these are not idle questions, and thinking about these things should involve more than egos and personalities. We're all human, and I get plenty snarky myself, but we really need to figure out what the hell can be done about this mess we're in, because we and our descendants are all in it together. The words of John Donne have never been more true.

Maybe a metaphor will help, especially, it seems to me, because it's unflattering to Obama. If you don't pull a weed out at the roots, it will grow back. Obama is not the root of our militarism. The roots are in the National Security State. As long as they are there, what grows from them will always be a weed. We need to pull them out.

Posted by: N E at September 13, 2009 01:46 AM

NE, you can't have it both ways:Obama has a responsibility to really look at the progress we've made in Afghanistan/Pakistan. No really, he fucking does. You can't give the president a pass while damning the rest of the cabinent and proclaiming all this shit's happening because of some fucking conspiracy theory. And in the case of someone actually getting us out of Afghanistan/Iraq/etc, How about Ron paul? I hate him,but I'm sure he'd do everything in his willpower to get us out.
You can't have this shit both ways. If Kennedy knew Vietnam was going to be shit, why didn't he put his foot down and say "Fuck the lot of you?"

I apologize for the cursing,but you're getting on my last nerve.

Posted by: Jenny at September 13, 2009 03:14 AM


It's pretty clear that we are on different wavelengths.

You wrote: "You can't have this shit both ways. If Kennedy knew Vietnam was going to be shit, why didn't he put his foot down and say "Fuck the lot of you?"

The short answer is that eventually he did and he got his head blown off, which should make you feel both stupid and ungrateful, but it apparently doesn't.

Another answer is that he wasn't a teenager.

There are many more answers too, but you'd actually have to think a bit more for them to make any sense to you.

Speaking of last nerves, people who ask questions need to at least try to understand the answers they get.

And Jenny, if I wanted to curse, which on occasion I have done in the past, I could take what you said up more than a few levels, so I'm not shocked. It's just that being around middle school kids has ruined cursing for me.

Posted by: N E at September 13, 2009 03:58 AM

For Everyone:
Norman Solomon was one of the guests on C-SPAN's Washington Journal this morning and it is a 'MUST WATCH'. Usually they re-brodcast it during the late morning or early afternoon. In anycase, it is available online at anytime. He talked about his recent trip to Afghanistan and what Obama's policy ( yes, HIS policy ) is doing to the people there and he holds the president responsible for it.

Posted by: Rupa Shah at September 13, 2009 10:22 AM

N E: ONLY The President can stop the wars, he just DOES NOT want to. Power corrupts and absolute power -----...

Posted by: Mike Meyer at September 13, 2009 11:46 AM

Rupa Shah:

Norman Soloman is great, and I would bet that the situation in Afghanistan is far worse than he thinks, and I would bet that our brutality is worse than anyone imagines, even ATR readers, and in a way it's fine to call it Obama's responsibility because that is the game of power that he chose to play. So I will definitely try to watch a tape of that and wish everyone would.

Maybe criticizing Obama is all we can do anyway, as a form of shorthand perhaps, because nobody even knows who is actually advocating what policies within the National Security bureaucracy, who is directing what actions, or why and how anything happens, because it's all top secret, and as Schurmann wrote three decades ago even the public aspects are camouflaged in bureaucratese so that the public doesn't ever figure out that the military and intelligence agencies are making more political decisions that the public would ever think proper.

I realize that when a drone attack happens, a bunch of journalists print what Fort Bragg or somebody else tells them to print, and a bunch of people start pointing at it and linking to it and saying "Look what that warmonger Obama has done!", and people like Norman Soloman are rightly appalled by the murder of civilians, as I am, but laying it all on Obama isn't going to stop it. That's my entire point, notwithstanding an amazing resistance people seem to have to even considering that perspective long enough to be able to identify what I say accurately, let alone think it through.

Our militarism will stop when the military and the corporations tied to it suffer from it, and not a moment before. If Obama suffers from our militarism, that's probably excellent news to most of those actually selling that militarism--it's real advocates and proponents. Then they can just get a new figurehead and get even more of what they want, whether it's more drone attacks, more secret torture facilities, an escalated war, more surveillance on you and me and anyone else who might jeopardize their interests, and ultimately eventually probably a war with a bigger player like Russia or China, unless the world really is different now from what it has always been.

If you think nobody in the Pentagon might favor a real world war down the road, or might come to favor it as the world geopolitical situation changes, I think you aren't paying sufficient attention to history, especially the history of the various services of the United States military and the intelligence agencies since World War II. I hope we elect Presidents who are able to restrain our militarists better than has happend in the past, but some of our Presidents who are considered warmongers actually chose the least warlike option presented to them, and there was substantial pressure, including manipulation and deception of them, to get them to do worse than they did. Everyone on the left will stupidly criticize LBJ and McNamara as if they conjured the Vietnam wore from nothing on their own to serve their agenda, and few people even know who Admiral Moorer or Admiral Sharp or General LeMay or General Powers were.

For the millionth time, this has nothing to do with whether Obama is any damn good. He or someone else will reach that lofty plateau when it becomes politically possible for that to happen, which will result from a movement from below or not at all. The question is what needs to change for that to happen, and especially to put American militarism on a leash.

Think of it as all about Obama if you must, Rupa Shah, but we're going to have the National Security State forever if that's how it's going to keep playing out, and someone as empathetic as you may not think things could become more horrible than they are, but they could.

Posted by: N E at September 13, 2009 11:55 AM

N E: 48% of the nation voted for McCain= OPEN agreement for continuation of Bush's Policies. Many Democrats voted for Obama's "tough on terrorism" stance= = = continue Af/Pak. FACE FACTS, America WANTS war, therefore Obama wants war, BECAUSE Obama wants what he thinks America wants. Looking for some sort of MORALITY in war and decisions concerning war IS a waste of YOUR time and OURS and ANYONES. Obama IS AMERICAN, no matter what the teabaggers say, and as such, like U&I, steeped in the "tea" of war. The problems unraveling in this country is just OUR Karma, NOT just Obama's, NOT just Bush/Cheney's, but OURS.

Posted by: Mike Meyer at September 13, 2009 12:10 PM

Mike Meyer wrote: "ONLY The President can stop the wars, he just DOES NOT want to."

Mike, you seem like a great guy and a commendable pesterer of Nancy Pelosi, but your opinion on that isn't even close to being right.

As Commander in Chief, the President can of course issue any Constitutional order to the military that he wants to issue, and he has that authority. But we have obligations under treaties and international agreements that may come into play, and orders have to be implemented, which requires a period of notice and preparation unless the President wants to be impeached as jeopardizing the lives of our troops for no reason. And while planning is done during a reasonable period of time needed to implement an executive order, the responses from the political opposition, his own party, his cabinet, the various branches of the service, the media, and the pundits all will begin. He will be figurately dragged through the mud and depicted as unstable, but of course if the President has no concern beyond that one one result and doesn't care at all about reelection, that may be fine with him. A willing lame duck could make a run at it, for a while. But then events will begin happen that shape the public discussion and might require some rethinking. Perhaps an attack on our troops will occur, or seem to, or perhaps something else will prevent us from executing the order, at least temporarily. Soon this maverick President you have conjured who thinks that he alone has the right to end a war, almost dictatorially, which all the soldiers and pundits and politicans will point out is unAmerican, that supposedly all-powerful President will find Congress undercutting him with legislation and members of his own Cabinet stabbing him in the back to serve their own political interests. That was just a quick effort to respond, so it's not artful, but I hope you really don't believe a President can just decide to end a war and do it all on his own and actually pull it off.

Posted by: N E at September 13, 2009 12:15 PM

N E: Nixon did it, so YES I SURE DO.

Posted by: Mike Meyer at September 13, 2009 12:34 PM

Mike: N E still can't believe that Obama is a warmonger.

Yes, and he's certainly not alone. The funniest part about this is that Obama's determination to act as judge, jury, and executioner for people within Pakistan was a major campaign issue; Obama actually outflanked John McCain to the right on this, and McCain attacked him for it (along with much of the left, though for different reasons). Then within days of taking office Obama ordered this bombing—and of course the number of U.S. attacks within Pakistan has gone way up under the Obama administration. But this still isn't enough reason for many people to hold Obama responsible for what he said he would do, and then did.

Which just shows that this is more like religious faith than anything rational, and the mounting counterevidence isn't any more relevant to true believers than the fossil record is to Creationists.

Posted by: John Caruso at September 13, 2009 12:53 PM

N E:
I am NOT CLAIMING it is all Obama's fault.
The congress could stop funding the war and it will stop. Not having read the book you mention ( or for that matter, I am not very well read to start with ) and not being privy to how the National Security apparatus works ( though we do know, Cheney was running the show and had total control over what nasty things they were doing ), Obama is the president with final authority and buck stops there.
If Obama thinks or believes, he is being controlled and is not able to order RIGHT actions or is made to do things against his conscience (does not matter what the issue may be), I SERIOUSLY think, he could give up his presidency and Biden can take over. I know, this may sound naive or silly on my part to think like this, but HONESTY and INTEGRITY are a must requirement as far as I am concerned, in my elcted officials and that includes the President.
And yes, as you said, anyone who is elected will do the same thing. Well, then that person will deserve to be criticised too as and when he/she is not being truthful with the American public or is following policies which are not in the best interests of humanity as a whole ( I just can not believe, a policy is in our best interest when it hurts other people. Only when it is good for all, will it be good for us too ).

Posted by: Rupa Shah at September 13, 2009 12:58 PM

Rupa: I am NOT CLAIMING it is all Obama's fault.

Yeah, nobody is. It's just a handy straw man.

Posted by: John Caruso at September 13, 2009 01:18 PM

N E:
"you may not think things could become more horrible than they are, but they could."

Actually, I DO think about that and am afraid that they could get worse. Some of the policies Obama is pusuing are no different than Bush's ( with a different name ). He is making some functions of the govt more open but some are getting even more secretive ( which should not be ). And what is this about Cybersecurity act?
How many more draconian laws will be passed to increase the President's authority ( or is this also the work of rogue elements in the govt as you claim?) ?

Posted by: Rupa Shah at September 13, 2009 02:05 PM

NE:Everyone on the left will stupidly criticize LBJ and McNamara as if they conjured the Vietnam wore from nothing on their own to serve their agenda, and few people even know who Admiral Moorer or Admiral Sharp or General LeMay or General Powers were.

Actually I don't know anyone on the left who thinks this and the idea is quite silly and an example of someone who believes in conspiracy's which more often than not exists only in their minds and not in the real world......

I think actual leftist realize the very rich and documented history of the US involvement in Vietnam that reaches back well before LBJ and McNamara as detailed in the Pentagon Papers...The liberal establishment-like the New York Times- try's to portray Vietnam as LBJ or McNamara's war, or as our "blundering efforts to do good" and so on and ignore the very rich history of US imperialism in the area...

I remember reading an article in the NYT describing Vietnam in those very LBJ's war...this coming from a paper that actually published parts of the Pentagon Papers but I guess they didn't read them...much easier to blame imperial violence and aggression as the work of few nefarious bad apples and just ignore well documented facts.-Tony

Posted by: tony at September 13, 2009 05:04 PM

"But let me make this clear. There are terrorists holed up in those mountains who murdered 3,000 Americans. They are plotting to strike again."

Chazelle already said it in the title.

In fact, a simplified form of this blog, one that possibly could reduce its carbon footprint, would be to post any typical administration stenographer-story from the NYT or WaPo, followed by "what Chazelle said."

Jenny, must ask: if Ron Paul is an individual who you think would work sincerely to end the horrific conflicts in Iraq and Afsmackistan, why do you hate him?

NE, I think it possible, likely, even, that Obama, Patsy/Actor/Puppet that he is, would have been forced into accepting and endorsing the symbolic drone kill on the 3rd day of his administration, against what might have been his best wishes. It presumably was presented to him as a fait accompli, as a strategic or tactical imperative, by stony-faced generals and intelligence personnel. It was hardly even a test, more of an expectation, nothing as changeable as, say, the color of the Lincoln bedroom towels.

Obama understood full-well the price demanded by his "great" office and acquiesced far back on the campaign trail (at least). He knows that part of the burden he must bear (assuming he has a conscience) is unquestioning obeisance to the core militarist principles of Empire. Obama has willingly allied himself with a terrible malificience and I have seen no evidence whatsoever that he is combatting it.

The unspeakable forces that arranged 9-11 (which Obama still uses to justify US imperialism) did not let power slip from their grasp at the mere changing of the White House guard. Quite the opposite. They simply turned the Janus head around, so that now, instead of sneering, inarticulate cluelessness, we see grace and intelligence. Same lies, but a better color of lipstick for the War Pig.

Posted by: Oarwell at September 13, 2009 06:07 PM

"Some of the policies Obama is pusuing are no different than Bush's . . ."

You for some reason others seem resistant to what is a logical and even obvious conclusion from that sentence, and also the very point that I keep making--changing the identity of the President alone will change little.

Now, to those who are really mostly interested in having somebody to call "evil" or a "warmonger," as opposed to trying to fix problems in a discipline way, maybe that's not a nice conclusion to reach. But anybody who wants to stop this from happening is going to have to figure out what they want to change, and how they want to change it. It won't happen by dumb luck or fabulous oratory.

John Caruso says my view that he blames Obama alone for everything is a straw man, but I haven't heard him blame anyone else, even the Pentagon, or for that matter propose doing anything beyond talking about the immorality of it all and lamenting that everyone doesn't have his keen moral insight. Great, ok, how do we stop it? How does calling Obama a warmonger get us there? Not only isn't it a strategy, it isn't even a tactic--it's just air.

Now, when you said that Cheney was running everything, that wasn't actually true either. Cheney gave that a good try and came close for quite a while, but ultimately he didn't get it done because there are other powerful interests in the bureaucracy, notably in Cheney's case CIA. And though Cheney certainly did seem to have some "rogue elements" at his disposal to use your term, and they were undoubtedly doing all sorts of nefarious things we don't get to know about, that's not the reason that Obama can't control the whole bureaucracy by issuing Presidential orders. (By the way, even now less than half of Obama's appointees are even in place, for reasons that I can't fathom. That the Senate Dems tolerate that is appalling.) The limitations on Obama's Presidential independence have more to do with the operation of bureaucratic power, which in the military and the CIA is vast and extends from the bureaucracy to the media and the Hill.

But hey, Rupa Shah, I have a hunch you're doing more than your share of work for THE GOOD, and it probably doesn't matter whether you like Obama or any other President anyway, because the way our system is set up, the candidates are preselected after agreeing to general groundrules such as the continuance of imperial policies. I just wish people would understand that the National Security State isn't as subject to Presidential control as they think, and that the real problem is deeper than the identity of the President. The real problem is an outgrowth of a military bureaucracy, the National Security State, which was devised to perpetuate continuous war and needs to be put on a leash.

Unfortunately, if that were a Presidential candidate's position, he couldn't survive the pre-selection process called raising money. So doing something about that presents a formidable chicken-and-egg problem. No one, whether Ron Paul or Nader or someone else, can propose scaling back the Empire and get money and media access sufficient to win.

Mike Meyer:

Nixon didn't end the war in Vietnam in a way that should make YOU like him, and certainly not in a way that earned him much gratitude or respect in Laos, Cambodia, or North Vietnam. He ultimately got the U.S. out of Vietnam, for reasons other than a Quaker-like love of peace, and only after five years of horrible escalation of the air war. Plus, he sabotaged, in a criminal way, the peace talks in 68, and essentially signed off on genocide by B-52 in Laos and Cambodia. If you're suggesting that Obama is more of a warmonger than Nixon, that would be such a stupifying statement that I don't know if I could even type a full response to without taking a walk first. And even after all that escalation and duplicity and genocide, Nixon's move toward peace turned the CIA and Joint Chiefs against him and precipitated his downfall. So I wouldn't say he is a sterling example of a President successfully overriding the bureaucracy to make peasce. He lied endlessly, prolonged the war, authorized killing a big chunk of Southeast Asia, and then was destroyed by his former political allies on the Right for making peace. That's how easy it is for a President to buck the institutional warmongers who surround him and make peace.

John Caruso:

I haven't anywhere suggested a religious faith in Obama's good intentions, so it's ironic of you to suggest that I am dealing knocking down straw men in argument. I expect a deafening silence from you in response to my invitation that you identify what other people or entities other than Obama has any ongoing blame for our wars in Iraq and Afghanistan/Pakistan, and I most certainly don't expect you to you identify what you think is and isn't within Obama's power either, let alone specify a strategy for accomplishing anything. You are right that Obama even before being elected endorsed a change in military strategy in Afghanistan and Pakisan that in one way escalated that war, and I certainly am not saying that Obama isn't the President and doesn't bear responsibility for anything, but there's more to our policy in Afghanistan and Pakistan than you mention, and I assume therefore than you understand.

We have two ways of continuing to fight in Afghanistan--through air power, specifically drones seem to be the military's first choice, and through ground troops. The military has been complaining about Obama's directives seeking fewer civilian casualties in ground fighting (which I would not call typical warmongering) and although you are right that the number of air attacks with drones has increased this year, Obama also stopped that for a time to evaluate that policy (which is also not typical warmongering). Well, McChrystal says things aren't going well and suggests more troops are needed, and Obama can't ignore that. What do you think he should he do as the situation deteriorates? (Let's leave out the suicidal option of him saying I have changed my mind and we're taking all our troops and going home.)

Should he do nothing? Should he authorize more air attacks? Should he send more ground troops?

You might have noticed recently that George Will came out in opposition to more ground troops in Afghanistan. That doesn't surprise me, because that would leave Obama's only choice a great use of air power, and in particular drones, which are typically less subject to Presidential control than ground troops, unless you believe that the President should spend all his time reviewing immediate action or strike reports by CIA officers recommending an air strike, which would seem to give the President the duties of a Captain or Major rather than a Commander in Chief. The right wing has historically always advocated the use of air power in Asia and never wanted to commit U.S. ground troops. That goes back all the way to 1949 when China went Communist. It does not signify a more peaceful strategy, and when McCain advocated more reliance on air power, that did not mean his strategy was less right wing than Obama's. You just apparently didn't understand the different approaches and their history, which would be fine but for your certitude.

Alternatively, Obama can send in ground trooops and keep in place his orders issued to avoid civilian casualties, which undoubtedly the military and its allies will site as reasons for their mission failure. And the increased casualties the US suffers will be blamed on Obama, and the Right and the air force and the cia will claim that many fewer American lives would have been lost than if we had just bombed the troublesome parts of Afghanistan back to the pre-stone age, as we had been until Obama got squeamish and change the strategy. The advantage of sending more ground troops is that it results in less use of drones blowing up groups of innocent people all over the place, which is immoral. But when an American President puts more American troops' lives at risk by stopping the immoral killing of innocent foreigners, the Right and military will use it against him.

Finally, Obama could ignore the advice of his chosen military commander in Afghanistan and do nothing to respond to a deteriorating situation, which undoubtedly would be used against him over and over and over again to precipitate his political demise. Obama cannot disregard his commanders battlefield assessment for no reason or ignore ALL of the alternative responses in favor of just doing nothing.

If Obama wants to reverse course in Afghanistan without destroying himself politically, he can't do it overnight, and it won't be easy for him to do at all, because all the other powerful political actors (military, intel, opposition party, private sector) want the US to stay in Central and South Asia. McCain didn't want less involvement and Obama was NOT, as you contend, to the RIGHT of McCain on Afghanistan. McCain simply wanted DIFFERENT involvement in Afghanistan, emphasizing air power, which like navy power is historically right wing and, as I said, not easily controlled by a President. (McCain's grandfather was one of those right wing navy admirals).

So you can Obama is a warmonger all you want, and go ahead and knock yourself out, but you're not saying much.

I will conclude by saying that I would love to live in a world where Obama could come out and say Dick Cheney is a war criminal and is going to be prosecuted for war crimes, we are going to pull all our troops out of Iraq and Afghanistan, and we are going to disband our military empire and use the money to better educate ALL our children, we will institute single payer health care, and the lion will lie down with the lamb. But since we live in the world we have rather than the world we want, we should try to understand how power works and blame those who are using it to achieve the wrong ends, not those who are just trying to make those accomodations with it that they have to make to get anything done. I agree that it's an ugly business.

Without being too Machiavellian, the first step to getting something positive accomplished is having at least a vague idea of who holds power and how it operates in the National Security State and in Congress, which are not the same. If you don't come to understand that, all your speeches will accomplish nothing.

Posted by: N E at September 13, 2009 06:25 PM


Like you, I don't know what was presented to Obama or what specifically he authorized. I certainly don't place much stock on what someone at Langley or elsewhere may have chosen to leak for their own reasons. But I do see a downside for Obama in telling CIA that all tactical decisions are going to be made from him in the White House. I'm sure they knew he wouldn't want to immediately tell them not to go forward with an air strike that they said was advisable if not important or even urgent. This notion that the President can micromanage battlefield decisions baffles me.

I really don't care whether anyone likes Obama personally. He obviously has made a lot of accomodations with Power, and I have no expert insight into the real depths of his character. I don't think his biggest character tests have happened yet, though we'll get there soon enough. I dislike some of what he says, but I don't dislike anything he says about 9/11, bullshit that it is, because it's part of our national mythology now and he doesn't have the power to reverse that or bring anyone to justice for what happened, so that's what he has to say. Sure it's ridiculous, but that's unusual only that it's more recent bullshit than talking about things that happened longer ago and also weren't at all what really happened.

A lot of this tiresome issue of whether Obama could fairly be called a warmonger is just semantics. In a real way, anybody who signs up for the job of heading an Empire engaged in two wars and always seemingly on the verge of another has to have some warmonger in him, because that's the job. (I think Kurt Vonnegut once wrote a book with the theme that you are what you do.) My point is that there are bigger warmongers pressuring him for even more aggressive warmongering, and the whole system is set up to require perpetual warmongering, so just talking about Obama all the time is a distraction from the real problem. Plus, in those instances when he is actually being pressured to be more warmongerish and is in fact acting as a brake on that impetus, the warmonger claim may be factually misleading, so I don't think it's helpful to act like it's all coming from Obama.

Let me give you some historical examples. You know about JFK, so I certainly don't need to tell you how he was a brake on the National Security bureaucracy, but LBJ on a few occasions also kept the Joint Chiefs, dominated by the Navy and Air Force, from pursuing a course of action in Vietnam vis a vis China that could well have resulted in nuclear war against them, and that he and McNamara both constantly feared would lead to that and possibly escalation with the Soviets. That was a few years after that memo Ellsberg discusses inhis recent article, which i linked previously, the one where Ellsburg talked about half a BILLION casualties. If the recommendations of Admirals Moorer and Sharp had been followed, we could well have ended up with a nuclear attack on China, and that could have led to escalation bringing in the USSR. That's why LBJ didn't unleash the Navy and the Air Force, because they were expert at creating events that led to escalation. LBJ being something of a political opportunist certainly wasn't going to get his own damn head blown off as his predecessor had, which nobody comes right out and says might have had something to do with almost his first official act as President having been accompanied by a statement that he wasn't going to be the President who lost another country to the communists. That being so, if LBJ didn't want to turn lose the admirals and risk them starting a war with China, which the admirals had often tried to do, not just at the Gulf of Tonkin, he had to send in ground troops. And now everyone remembers LBJ and McNamara as having brought us Vietnam, but that's just not very accurate. Fanatical cold warriors in the CIA, the Navy, and the Air Force brought us Vietnam, and LBJ and McNamara struggled mightily for years to keep it from turning into a nuclear assault on China. People don't understand it, but their course of action was designed to avoid the larger horrific war they were being backed into. And yet most people would say JFK was a hawk, and that Vietnam was McNamara's war, and that LBJ chose to escalate, and almost no one is even aware that hawks at CIA, the Navy, and the Air Force forced their hand and tried to damn near blow up the whole world. That's pretty good impunity, if you can get away with that sort of shit, and in our lovely National Security State system, they routinely do.

This history is so unknown because it calls our most powerful institutions into disrepute, but it is our real history, and it's probably also ignored because it reveals that our political processes lack legitimacy, that policies are driven by actions of unelected militarists within the National Security State that we don't even learn about until decades later, if ever. Well, that's not much democracy, even apart from the flagrant election tampering that also has plagued us lately. We should probably do something about all that, and convincing everyone that Obama is running everything is certainly no help.

When something isn't true in a meaningful way, leads to nothing useful, and perpetuates the historical unawareness that permits the hawks in the military and intelligence agencies to effectively run the country from behind the scenes, I don't think repeating it over and over is such a great social contribution.

That's my point.

Posted by: N E at September 13, 2009 07:39 PM

N E: If I can't blame Obama, then I blame YOU. As long as U&I PAY, OBAMA WILL PLAY.
YES Nixon did it, THAT, I see YOU agree. I didn't say EASILY. If ANY bastard deserved to have his career ruined, THAT ONE did. HE DID END THE WAR and I gotta hand it to him. I STILL in no way feel the least bit of pity, nor will shed a tear for Richard M. Nixon.

Posted by: Mike Meyer at September 13, 2009 07:49 PM

Mike Meyer:

The weird thing is, Nixon's domestic policies were far, far more liberal than Obama's, and you're correct that in the end on foreign policy Nixon was also becoming forward-thinking. That's why CIA and the Navy did him in. (Does anybody know that Woodward was a Naval Intelligence officer and briefed Haig, per no less a source than Moorer himself, just two years before he went to the Post?)

Once we got the National Security State up and running and let it get in the business of keeping even Presidents from acting against the national interest, as defined by the National Security State bureacracy itself, we were screwed. By the end of the 70s we got Reagan, and our options have been poor ever since.

Posted by: N E at September 13, 2009 08:10 PM

it was interesting to see how one could be both a breath of fresh air and a cretin at the same time

Ah, le mot juste!. Or, le bunch of mots justes, I suppose.

Gee, I wonder what the rest of this thread's about.

Posted by: RobWeaver at September 13, 2009 10:13 PM

It's occurred to me that if a President just told the truth (or much more of the truth) about how our system works that in itself would be a revolutionary act. He'd be ripped apart in the press and wouldn't win a second term. But a President is in a position to kick over the applecart and raise issues in a way that nobody else is.

Alternatively, he can just contribute to the mythology and stay well within the mainstream, make deals, and tell himself this is all he can do.

Posted by: Donald Johnson at September 14, 2009 12:03 PM