Comments: President Obama's Speeches

address to king abdullah, hosni mubarak and your loyal subjects

Posted by sam -- err -- osama at June 3, 2009 10:08 PM

What, no prokaryotes or archaea?

Posted by Fred Woolsey at June 3, 2009 10:10 PM

Bacteria of the world, UNITE!

Posted by Fred Woolsey at June 3, 2009 10:12 PM


"Bacteria of the world, UNITE!'

come on, bacteria are anarchists!

Posted by Not Exactly at June 3, 2009 11:17 PM

"come on, bacteria are anarchists!"

I thought that free radicals where the anachists? Though bacteria are probably leftists with all that uniting going on, and Glenn Beck told me that molecules were dangerous union officials in league with them to cause cholera and the like...

Are non-muslim palestinians allowed to listen to this speech or only the muslim ones?

Posted by Euripides at June 3, 2009 11:41 PM

Sure, the Muslim World, it orbits the Sun directly opposite the Earth, so we can never see it (don't try to look at the Muslim World or you'll burn your eyes.)
Oh, and everything's backward over there, so Obama will have to talk in reverse ("!Moment, the is this")

Posted by SteveB at June 4, 2009 10:07 AM

Yes. Now if the muslim world doesn't shape up, it will have no one to blame but itself.

Posted by abb1 at June 4, 2009 11:29 AM

Good one, Bernard; worthy of the blog owner!

My favorite is the 'and Wiccans'.

Posted by Nell at June 4, 2009 12:45 PM

Gogli bodies are the problem, and must be eradicated. Or exiled to Gorky.

Plus, did you see the text of Obama's remarks? He actually said (in camel-talk) "Assalamu-alaikum." I don't know what that means, but I bet he was giving instructions to blow up freedom or something.

It's incredible that we let him go and talk in their code language directly to these people. How much did this cost the taxpayer?

Posted by Oarwell at June 4, 2009 01:21 PM

One interesting thing I've learned recently about Muslim World (great name for a theme park, BTW) is that they just love music. So much so, that the appearance of an Air National Guard band in their "remote village" will cause them to completely forget that we blew up their children:

The bands also have humanitarian objectives and are tasked with playing in remote villages and at foreign dignitary events to boost morale, bolster U.S. military and foreign community relationships, and promote the U.S. Armed Forces in general.

"It can be an isolated Forward Operating Base in Afghanistan or a remote village in Somalia. We're not dropping bombs, we're going out and changing people's opinions about our country," said Chief Mason. "We like to call ourselves a non-kinetic weapon system. We bring the bond of friendship through music."

Of course, it's important to understand that one of the reasons a simple visit by military musicians can make such a difference is because, in Muslim World, people have so few other sources of information about Americans:

"ANG bands are helping to create a positive impression of the United States by performing in communities for people who have perhaps never met an American before, or whose only impressions of America and Americans are from movies and the media," said Col. Patrick Jones, chief of Air National Guard Bands.

Yes, their "only impressions of America and Americans are from movies and the media." How true that is.

Posted by SteveB at June 4, 2009 01:26 PM

Oarwell, surely you meant "Golgi," not Gogli. Or giggly. Or Gidget. And don't talk to yourcellph.

Posted by Oarwell at June 4, 2009 01:26 PM

Also, listing both "Address to AIPAC" and "Address to All Deities" is redundant.

Posted by SteveB at June 4, 2009 01:40 PM

SteveB, get your theology straight:

AIPAC = Israel
Deities = Wall Street

Posted by almostinfamous at June 4, 2009 02:34 PM

"My favorite is the 'and Wiccans'."

--i liked the 'my puppy', but hey, i liked the speech too, even if it wasn't backwards.

Posted by Not Exactly at June 4, 2009 03:21 PM

I thought it was an excellent speach. Refreshingly strange to come from a US President. None of the usual " UR evil and WR gonna git U!" crapola that the last few guys have spewed and NEVER got the "right" enemy.

Posted by Mike Meyer at June 4, 2009 03:23 PM

You left out the Ebola and Marburg families of viruses. You are gonna be SO sorry.

Glad to hear commenters say the speech was better than expected. Was afraid to listen.

Posted by catherine at June 4, 2009 03:31 PM

He should move "address to my puppy" up in his schedule - they grow up so fast, and those precious days of puppyhood are over sooner than you think.

Posted by mistah charley, ph.d. at June 4, 2009 08:22 PM

Puppies are a threat to the planet.
Look at their horrid little gogli eyes . . .

Posted by The Creator at June 5, 2009 02:53 AM

I haven't heard the speech, but I have now heard some highlights on the radio. It sounded to me like garden variety demagoguery.

Talking about stereotypes of the "Muslim World" and then complaining about stereotypes of "America", as if it's in the same category. "Muslim World" is what - 1.2 billion people? "America", in the sense implied, is what - a few hundred fat cats who control the US government? Democracy? Please... Spare me the lecture.

Equating the goal of an ethnocentric racist movement with struggle of the native population for self-determination? Bullshit, usual bullshit. Good actor, bad script.

Posted by abb1 at June 5, 2009 03:57 AM

Abb1: "garden variety demagoguery. . . equating 'ethnocentric racist movement' with 'struggle for self-determination'. Spare me the lecture. . . Bullshit, usual bullshit. . . Good actor, bad script."

i don't know what highlights you heard on the radio, or what station, but it's easy to find the whole speech online, which is where i listened to it. Or you can just read it==that's easy too. That certainly wasn't any of the "usual bullshit" i've ever heard from a US president. amd i can't recall any implicit praise for racism or any demagoguery either.

Posted by Not Exactly at June 5, 2009 09:29 AM

Fine.
Just as Muslims do not fit a crude stereotype, America is not the crude stereotype of a self-interested empire.

Yes, 1.2 billion Muslims can't fit a stereotype, nor can 300 millions Americans. But American empire - why not? 'Empire' is not a group of human beings, it's a different category with its own characteristics; they do fit a stereotype; that's why it's called 'empire', that's what the word 'empire' means - an entity, a phenomenon with certain characteristics. "Self-interested" is certainly one of them.

In Ankara, I made clear that America is not - and never will be - at war with Islam. We will, however, relentlessly confront violent extremists who pose a grave threat to our security.

But why? Why do violent Muslim extremists pose a grave threat to American security? Why not to Brazilian security? Do they hate our freedom or something?

For decades, there has been a stalemate: two peoples with legitimate aspirations, each with a painful history that makes compromise elusive.

That is not true, like I said. There are no "two peoples"; one is a people and the other is merely an ethnocentric ideology; an ideology doesn't constitute a community. "White people" is not a people. Creating a state dominated by an an ethnic group at the expense of other ethnic groups is not a legitimate aspiration. Am I wrong here?

Posted by abb1 at June 5, 2009 11:35 AM

It was higher quality bullshit than we normally hear from a US President.

Though actually, I'm not sure how much better it really was. Anyone sounds good compared to Bush, for one thing, but haven't previous Presidents made token mentions of US crimes before their own term in office? I don't remember clearly. Clinton apologized, I think, for the US role in Guatemala, for instance. Did Bush or one of his minions during his democracy promoting phase (yes, I'm being ironic) ever make reference to our support of authoritarian rulers? I think they might have.

There were some good features in this speech and judging by the usual pathetic level of dishonesty from politicians it was good. But if we judged it by normal human standards I'd give it a C minus or a D. Lectures on nonviolence from an American President are self evidently ridiculous (though it does not surprise me when liberal Obamaphiles don't catch this) so I'll move on to the false balance between Israel and Palestine. What he said is fairly mainstream among political commentary in the US and it only sounds brave if you listen to congressman scared to death by AIPAC. He said the Palestinians suffer under occupation and from the settlements, but he then goes on to talk about Palestinian violence against civilians, as though there isn't much greater violence in the opposite direction. Why not tell both sides that violence against civilians is wrong? I'll answer my own question--it's because if you tell the truth then it will sound like an unbalanced condemnation of Israel to Americans used to thinking that any mention of Palestinian suffering is a display of political courage. There are nonviolent protests by Palestinians and they get little coverage in the US, and as someone said in the comments section at another blog, if Obama wants to support nonviolent protests then why not mention some of those groups who actually carry it out?

By American standards, President Clinton was sympathetic to the Palestinians, but when it came down to actual negotiating, his administration saw things through Israeli eyes--everything Barak did was a heroic concession and it was up to the Palestinians to "compromise" by throwing away yet more of what little claims they could still hope to make. The danger with American Presidents who are supposedly sympathetic to Palestinians is that they are in a better position to demonize Palestinians when they don't do as they are told, the way Clinton did when the Camp David summit didn't lead to an agreement.

Posted by Donald Johnson at June 5, 2009 11:36 AM

The discussion at the Lehrer Newshour last night was pretty good--nowadays that show actually brings in people who are discernably leftwing from time to time. The Angry Arab blogger was one of the participants--

transcript

Posted by Donald Johnson at June 5, 2009 11:44 AM

"We will, however, relentlessly confront violent extremists who pose a grave threat to our security."

I took that to mean he would confront the neocons.

Posted by Oarwell at June 5, 2009 12:02 PM

Israel: No policy change after Obama speech

Israeli officials say settlement policy won't change after Obama speech

STEVEN GUTKIN
AP News

Jun 05, 2009 07:31 EST

"Israel will not heed President Barack Obama's powerful appeal to halt all settlement activity on lands the Palestinians claim for a future state, officials said Friday, a position that looks sure to cause a policy clash with its most powerful ally."

That didn't take long.

Posted by Oarwell at June 5, 2009 12:07 PM

In spite of reading some articles which took issue ( with justification) with Whitehouse's use of the word "The Muslim World" ( a friend wrote to me, 'How would it sound if Iran declared, President Ahmedinejad to address Christian world?') before the President gave his speech, after hearing the last 25 minutes of his speech live on C-SPAN, I have to agree with Mike Meyer, it was an excellent speech. YES, I do understand, only words have no meaning ( and some specifics were missing) unless followed by action. But to hear an AMERICAN PRESIDENT say it, made all the difference. I guess, I am always hopeful that things can and will change. May be it is time for everyone to help the President put his words into action!

ps I hope, whenever he deviates from the path he has promised to follow, the Whiehouse phones are ringing off the hook! and here is an Israeli perspective.
"The end of the 9/11 era"
By Akiva Eldar
http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/spages/1090535.html

And even Rami Khouri had some words of praise for the speech ( though he found it lacking in some ways and one could not disagree with him) and like everyone else, he is waiting for concrete actions to follow the words.
http://www.agenceglobal.com/Article.asp?Id=2022

Posted by Rupa Shah at June 5, 2009 12:20 PM

Resistance through violence and killing is wrong and it does not succeed.

What?? The guy is a pacifist?

Ah, I see, this is addressed to the Palestinians. I believe the correct expression goes something like this:


Resistance is futile. Your culture will adapt to service ours.

Posted by abb1 at June 5, 2009 01:28 PM

It's incredible that we let him go and talk in their code language directly to these people. How much did this cost the taxpayer?
Posted by: Oarwell at June 4, 2009 01:21 PM

I always thought there was more to "Ich bin Ein Berliner" than met the ....um...tongue

Posted by Woody at June 5, 2009 02:10 PM

abb1 at June 5, 2009 01:28 PM:
I do not know if President Obama is a pacifist or not but violent reistance ( even though legal according to Internationa laws ) against an occupier or an oppressor is counterproductive ( Prof Edward Said, Dr Haider Abdel Shafi were against it and Prof Khalidi believes the same). It makes the occupier/oppressor only more brutal and the occupied lose credibilty of their just cause by world community which may not be getting all facts ( In any case, I am personally against any violence). Where as non-violent resistance by Palestinians at Bi'lin with Anarchists and ISM has brought small but important victories.

Posted by Rupa Shah at June 5, 2009 02:42 PM

Counterproductive? What is productive - to lay down and die?

Posted by abb1 at June 5, 2009 02:52 PM

Counterproductive? What is productive - to lay down and die?

By strict definition....counterproductive - tending to hinder the achievement of a goal.
SO, "productive does NOT mean to lay down and die". It means to follow different tactic and strategy, a peaceful one, to achieve the same goal. And Sit-ins and Die-ins and other peaceful protests are more likely to gain the aggrieved party more support from the world community than violence ( understandable but not justified ). And individuals have been known to willingly face death than use violence for justice, no!

Posted by Rupa Shah at June 5, 2009 03:45 PM

Fine, non-violence as a personal choice is fine. One can reject violence and accept the (most likely very unpleasant) consequences.

But more productive? Sorry, this flies in the face of common sense, and I don't think it's a good way to promote the idea.

Posted by abb1 at June 5, 2009 04:05 PM

i haven't seen much criticism of the speech yet that is at all persuasive to me, here or elsewhere. i liked it. i certainly wouldn't give it a C or a D by any standard, let alone by the standards of presidential speeches. (i still remember listening dumbstruck to ronald reagan talk about manifest destiny)

a speech that Inhofe calls "unamerican" and that gets netanyahu all pissy won't ever get a C from me. I think to go from the war on terror, abu ghraib, and guantanamo to obama's cairo speech is a big, big improvement, dare i even say a change in the landscape, even if right now it's just rhetoric. Speeches like that really are one of the advantages Obama has, because they do change the public atmosphere. He has a lot of opposition, but speeches like that make the job of his opposition a lot harder. (I hope you don't think i'm starry eyed, cuz i'm not)

that being said, while obama (with the backing of the neoliberal internationalists) has got the podium, the Global War on Terror team has got plenty of resources to respond. my opinion is they prefer nonverbal communication, but we'll see. Keep your eyes open; it's their move.

Posted by Not Exactly at June 5, 2009 04:29 PM

I agree with abb1 here, violence works in this case. If he was really dedicated to peace or at least closure,Obama would support Palestine and their resistence.

Posted by Jenny at June 5, 2009 06:57 PM

"he Global War on Terror team has got plenty of resources to respond."

Sigh. You've got a ready made excuse for Obama if he turns out to be just another Bill Clinton. So far that's what he is. Sure, he drives Netanyahu crazy--Netanyahu is crazy, just like Bush. What the American empire needs is a cool sophisticated front man, not people like Bush and Cheney. They were so openly arrogant we had mainstream liberals admitting that the US had an empire and that the people at the top were war criminals, rhetoric that mainstream liberals normally do their best to avoid. Now we've got mainstream liberals salivating because Obama is so cool, such a master of rhetoric, so skillful at making his critics look like nutcases (all this is being said in the comments section over at Obsidian Wings, a center-left blog I read). I don't see this as a virtue. I see it as dangerous.

Clinton was famous for his "empathy"--he was popular over much of the world, but the man was ruthless. I don't know for sure where Obama really stands on issues, but he's said nothing that Clinton wouldn't have said in similar circumstances. I can't get excited about a speech simply because it drives the right a little nuts. His supposedly balanced depiction of the I/P conflict was exactly the sort of thing you'd find in the NYT--it sounds good compared to what AIPAC would say, but that's setting the bar very low.

Anyway, what matters is what he does, and if he pulls out a deal that's fair for both sides, then great.

Posted by Donald Johnson at June 5, 2009 07:04 PM

Not Exactly 4:29pm: EXACTLY!

Posted by Mike Meyer at June 5, 2009 07:19 PM

Jenny: crazy talk, not smart, immoral--not a good trio.

Donald Johnson:

I agree Obama was able to become President for some of the reasons you identify, though you describe those reasons in very pejorative terms which seem to me to be based on your view of Clinton, which i basically share. (though i would list clinton's vices as gutlessness and selfishness instead of ruthlessness, we're probably thinking of the same end behavior).

Obama is not bill Clinton. Of course he will often sound like him, because i agree that the same neoliberal internationalist corporate forces that were behind Clinton put Obama in office. That limits obama, of course, and politics limits him. So he isn't going to ever sound like Gandhi or MLK sound in the movies. but even those icons of idealism were constrained by politics and weren't caricatures in the real world.

I also agree a President who is a master of rhetoric is dangerous. But the best Presidents FOR THE PEOPLE all seem to have had that ability. What matters is how obama uses the rhetoric, towards what ends, how effectively. Ultimately, if obama sells out like clinton did not too far into his first term, those rhetorical skills of his could do damage. but let's wait to see whether it happens before we condemn him for thigns he hasn't done. i think that was a very good speech, and it offers promise

Posted by Not Exactly at June 5, 2009 08:49 PM

"we condemn him for thigns he hasn't done. i think that was a very good speech, and it offers promise"

That's fair, but I think he's sold out on some issues already. I expect him to be good on some issues, bad on others, and I think he's supported by neoliberals because he's one of them.

On the I/P conflict, there's actually some reason for optimism that has nothing to do with any belief that Obama is secretly on our side ( though whether one is optimistic may depend on what sort of deal one thinks the Palestinians should settle for). The reason for optimism is that a fair number of people in the foreign policy establishment think the Israeli settlement policy is bad for American foreign policy as they see it. Walt and Mearsheimer are not leftwing radicals and I think they speak for a number of mainstream types. So Obama might press for a two state solution along the lines of the Clinton parameters, because much or most of the American foreign policy establishment may favor this.

Posted by Donald Johnson at June 5, 2009 11:10 PM

the Global War on Terror team has got plenty of resources to respond.

What makes you think that Obama isn't on that team?

Posted by windy at June 5, 2009 11:12 PM

NE: Sorry,but I've gotten so fed up with the conflict that I'm willing to support any violence that the Palestinans throw at Israel. Obama needs to involve Hamas in any discussion he may have with Israel. Plain and fucking simple.

Posted by Jenny at June 6, 2009 01:05 AM

"NE: Sorry,but I've gotten so fed up with the conflict that I'm willing to support any violence that the Palestinans throw at Israel. Obama needs to involve Hamas in any discussion he may have with Israel. Plain and fucking simple."

well, it may be plain and simple, but it isn't going to happen. i guess it's not too hard to get fed up and support any violence somebody or other throws at somebody or other, since everybody does that. that's the whole history of the world.

but aside from that, i see no basis for violence against israel helping the palestinians. all it seems to do is justify massively disproportionate violence against them

i think that you being fed up is better than lots of others being dead

Posted by Not Exactly at June 6, 2009 01:24 AM

What makes you think that Obama isn't on that [Global War on Terror) team?

Posted by windy at June 5, 2009 11:12 PM


--whole categories of books could be/have been written on that, depending on how much context is provided, but here's the short answer.

On the one hand, we've got our crazy aggressive unilateralists, a bunch of military/oil/arms contractor and lately neocon types who used to be Cold Warriors and were the Committee for a Clear and Present Danger and Team B and are very cynical about the UN and wary of Europe. Once upon a time, they controlled the ops side of the CIA too, and they've always pretty much controlled the FBI, which has always been a right-wing organization. Those are the folks who brought us the global war on terror, the clash of civilizations, and even the war against iraq. they also wanted to take out syria and iran, but steps were taken by their enemies in the bureaucracy and elite to prevent that. A big part of that was probably the Scooter Libby Trial. Anyway, that's what i meant by the global war on terror team, led by Cheney. the most unilateralist, most hawkish, most agressive, most brutal, and craziest faction

The other team, which started out as cold war liberals back in the day and has also been referred to as yankees but that i call neoliberal internationalists, focuses more on free trade and international banking and holding our profitable world order together. They don't seem to favor bold risks that could precipitate economic chaos and ruin. Decades ago, they didn't want to nuke China or Vietnam or Cuba or the USSR and came to favor detente as a way to open up the world to money-making, which indeed happened. That team favors Obama. He uses their rhetoric, and really well. i think donald johnson that there is a danger that such rhetoric can be deceptive. speeches are still just words, even if effective words can change opinion and facilitate changes in policy.

it's important to remember that there is a lot of common ground shared by these factions, and some people may be sort of between the two and some move from one to the other over time etc. (the sneaky liar colin powell is a master at that) they're just political alignments and power groups, but nonetheless fighting over power. Nixon started on the crazy unilateralist cold warrior team and tried to shift over to the internationalist team, along with kissinger, which caused a civil war in the GOP and watergate. i think it's extremely hard to understand with certainty what's going on most of the time because we don't get enough information and many of the players and entities involved are skilled/trained in deception.

obama is clearly on the internationalist team that doesn't like all this aggressive american unilateralism that threatens the stability of the international economic and political order. that doesn't mean obama can just give a speech and end the war on terror. He can't do that. He certainly knows that wouldn't work out for him.

anyway, the unilateralists clearly seem to think those internationalists are wussies who don't understand power or american security. they control much of the military and security establishment, and it seems plenty of the media and civilian bureaucracy in government too, so they're never really entirely out of power. They're way better at destructive opposition than constructive government, in my opinion. They're ruiners, not builders, and once they destroy countries like iraq or the united states somebody else has to clean up the mess.

a year or so ago, well before the election, Zbig Brzezinski went on the Daily Show and told Jon Stewart that an attack on iran would commit the US to a costly war in asia for twenty years that would end the American empire. Now Zbig might as well be a spokesmodel for the NY banks, and when you hear him on TV saying that you can rest assured that the internationalists have gotten their act together enough to put their foot down and raise hell in the media and bureaucracy and among the elites to make sure nothing too unprofitable happens. And whaddayaknow, obama won.

but the thing is, in our system politicians aren't reliable for their sponsors. more than others who comment on this site thing, Presidents quite commonly succumb to this naive idea that they should do the right thing, or try to. They know who put them in power, but especially about questions that affect war and peace, they start thinking more broadly than their sponsors would like. Hell, even nixon did it, and never a creepier creep was born. (Which is why the committee to reelect the president was so brilliantly named!)

So don't give up on Obama. I tell you, his mama is going to be in his head at night whispering to him to remember what's right.

Posted by Not Exactly at June 6, 2009 02:00 AM

Donald Johnson:

of course obama is a neoliberal. as fdr said, politics is the art of the possible. in 2009, obama might as well be a Druid as a socialist or a New Dealer or a Great Society Dem. Those forces, which were once powerful political realities, are gone. that doesn't mean that obama's dream society would be the same as a banker's. He started as a community organizer and not an investment banker for a reason, and it wasn't the money.

As for the i/p conflict, i see a necessity of a two-state solution more than i see a possibility of one. i hope it's possible, but i don't know that it is, whereas it's obvious that it's necessary. at varous times, most israelis see that--it just seems to be easy for radicals of either side or both to create polarization through violence.

As for the US, you're right that Walt and Mearsheimer are not radicals, and their thesis has some appeal to the US power elite for the same reason it irritates me--i think it has the tail wagging the dog. Israel is extremely useful to the US military because they are in many respects a dependent satellite, as everybody in the arab world thinks. [or is it the muslim world?:)] Sure AIPAC is a powerful lobby, maybe the most powerful foreign lobby, but they aren't nearly as powerful a lobby in the US as the US military is.

On the other hand, the fingers of the US are all over Israeli national security. I don't think AIPAC has had anything like the effect on the US that Henry Kissinger had on Israel in the 1970s.


But that's neither here nor there. I don't think Obama is per se on anyone's side. But i do think he would like a peaceful middle east rather than one that erupts in a conflagration killing milliosn of people and perhaps irradiating the entire region. And he knows the settlements really have to stop. Gershom Gorenberg is writing good stuff right now on how the israeli right is running a scam with its effort to keep the settlements growing. Stoppng that strikes me as a first step towards trying to find a two-state solution.

Posted by Not Exactly at June 6, 2009 02:34 AM

So don't give up on Obama. I tell you, his mama is going to be in his head at night whispering to him to remember what's right.

Oh, for Christ's sake....

Posted by NomadUK at June 6, 2009 02:39 AM

As far as violence goes, I got a feeling that the rate of violence is simply proportional to the rate of systematic injustice, and there's nothing anyone can do about it. It's like a law of nature, the same sort of things as, say, gravity.

Posted by abb1 at June 6, 2009 03:05 AM

Abb1, do you agree with me by any chance?

Posted by Jenny at June 6, 2009 03:30 AM

That you support anti-Zionist violence, you mean?

Well, it's not that I support violence - I mean, I don't want more of it - but I don't feel I can judge or second-guess people who are involved in an anti-colonial struggle; it's not a football match.

As far as I'm concerned, they certainly have the right to use any means they deem necessary. As long as justice is denied to somebody, there can be no justice for anybody.

Posted by abb1 at June 6, 2009 07:08 AM

So don't give up on Obama. I tell you, his mama is going to be in his head at night whispering to him to remember what's right.

Oh, for Christ's sake....

Posted by NomadUK at June 6, 2009 02:39 AM


I KNEW THAT WAS GOING TO GET A WELL DESERVED COMMENT!

Posted by Not Exactly at June 6, 2009 08:56 AM

'As far as violence goes, I got a feeling that the rate of violence is simply proportional to the rate of systematic injustice, and there's nothing anyone can do about it. It's like a law of nature, the same sort of things as, say, gravity.

Posted by abb1 at June 6, 2009 03:05 AM"

Do you REALLY believe that statement, or do you just mean to say that violence is justified by the level of systemic injustice? (which still leaves the question of WHAT violence, though the US and Israeli militaries aren't really in a moral position that should permit throwing stones)
if what you mean is the latter, i can understand that position. i'm not there with you, but i can at least understand it. i just think it's regrettable.

if what you mean is truly that the level of violence isn't affected by what people do, i don't agree with that AT ALL. What you said in fancy schmancy talk that is the reification of abstractions--treating abstractions as real things. Whether people engage in violence is NOT like gravity, it depends upon people. Historically, the left or at least the Marxian left accused their intellectual opponents of always talking about history like it isn't made by the collective choices of people. You know, it's all God'w will or for the greater glory of something or other what people do. That's crapola. History is made by people.

the response of people to systemic injustice is part of that, and it is determined by people, just as much as their response to other provocations. you can blow yourself up, or not. you can kill a kid, or not. people are morally responsible even if they prefer to think of a clever way to duck that responsibility
we don't get to say "it wasn't me--it was a law of nature." militarists routinely do this by saying things like "war is hell." no, war is what armies make it and they don't want to own up to their choices and conduct.

Posted by Not Exactly at June 6, 2009 09:31 AM

Obama is not bill Clinton. Of course he will often sound like him, because i agree that the same neoliberal internationalist corporate forces that were behind Clinton put Obama in office. That limits obama, of course, and politics limits him.

Once again, the unfounded assumption that Obama wants to do the right thing, but is "limited" by forces outside his control.

I don't have anything else to say about this except to point out that it is an unfounded assumption.

Well, that and: Bill Clinton had a mama too, and she was probably "in his head at night whispering" that he really shouldn't kill half a million Iraqi children through sanctions. He obviously didn't listen.

Posted by SteveB at June 6, 2009 09:37 AM

ABB1: 'I don't feel I can judge or second-guess people who are involved in an anti-colonial struggle." i think it's good to be on the side of the oppressed. and the "mile in your mocassins" principle is good too.

"As long as justice is denied to somebody, there can be no justice for anybody."

you sound almost exactly like the most famous quote of eugene debs there, who i think was one of the best people in american history, somebody who didn't do a lot of compromising of his principles (and therefore didn't get to be President!). Strangley, that thought is also very similar to something that Obama quoted from the Koran, and which is also in the Talmud: He who destroys a single soul, destroys a universe. he who saves a single soul, saves a universe. Every once in a while i read something like that and think maybe there is something worthwhile in homo sapiens sapiens.

those are each fine thoughts, but i see some serious tension between the view that you can't judge people involved in an anti-colonial struggle even when they commit violence against innocent people AND the position that any injustice against anyone negates justice for everyone. my head would explode if i tried to believe both those things, because when innocent people are killed they have been denied justice severely and permanently

Posted by Not Exactly at June 6, 2009 09:57 AM

SteveB:

"I don't have anything else to say about this except to point out that it is an unfounded assumption."

--not everything you don't agree with is unfounded or an assumption, let alone an unfounded assumption. you just don't agree with my assessment of obama, bsed on what i've read by and about him. i don't know whether you yourself have tried to figure him out rather than just making assumptions. i certainly will be the first to admit that obama is not one of my friends and i don't have personal knowledge about his character. but few people have that.


Well, that and: Bill Clinton had a mama too, and she was probably "in his head at night whispering" that he really shouldn't kill half a million Iraqi children through sanctions. He obviously didn't listen.

i was being a little flip with that reference to obama's mom, though i do have some respect for her and think she probably had some impact on his values. i don't know anything about clinton's mom, as i didn't do my homework on him before he abandoned every progressive impulse and became a master triangulator. It was really too bad that we didn't figure him out in time, because he was/is way too in love with himself and way to much of an unprincipled self-promoting political operator to do good for the country.

we'll see about obama. clinton we have already seen. i agree with you about the iraqi kids.


Posted by Not Exactly at June 6, 2009 10:12 AM

but i see some serious tension between the view that you can't judge people involved in an anti-colonial struggle even when they commit violence against innocent people AND the position that any injustice against anyone negates justice for everyone

That's not what I meant, not that "injustice against anyone negates justice for everyone", that sounds like some poetic thing.

I meant it in a more practical way: you can't accept injustice done to someone, while demanding justice for someone else; it's hypocritical, it doesn't work.

What is negated here is the concept of "innocent people". For example, from the point of view of a slave, random free person is not innocent.

Posted by abb1 at June 6, 2009 10:26 AM

"I meant it in a more practical way: you can't accept injustice done to someone, while demanding justice for someone else; it's hypocritical, it doesn't work."

--that's the same thing you said before, and my response is the same. if you believe in doing justice to every individual, you can't support killing any innocent individuals. if you do, you're hypocritical and your views don't work.


"What is negated here is the concept of "innocent people". For example, from the point of view of a slave, random free person is not innocent.'

--yeah, sure, nobody you or the slave doesn't want to be innocent is innocent. how clever.

Posted by Not Exactly at June 6, 2009 11:14 AM

The Israelis bomb the Palestinians because U PAY them to do so, 3 billion a year, supposedly. The Palestinians, being human, fight back, and to INSURE they are able to do so, U PAY them X dollars per year, through OUR GOOD friends, the Egyptians. (WILLING 2 TORTURE 4 U good friends) Its JUST LIKE a heavy weight boxing match, everybody gets PAID to fight, so therefore, they fight. Only in this match U&I have put a 98 pounder against a 250 pound world champion, so naturally the Palestinians take a hell of a beating, YET they STILL stand. IF WE DON'T PAY then there are no resourses and little reason to fight. Sure, they have their differences, and there WILL be some paybacks, but sooner or later EVERYBODY will get down to worrying about day-to-day living WITHOUT OUR MONEY to support killing-4-a-living and financing a landgrab. WITHOUT U&I to give BAD ADVICE about some nonexistant "roadmap to nowhere" that only serves to jerk that part of the world into profitability for OUR corporations, why, those folks that hate each other so much due to OUR LIES, might find common ground to live in peace with each other.

Posted by Mike Meyer at June 6, 2009 12:54 PM

See, I feel that the concept of 'innocence' presupposes some basic justice in the system. When system is fundamentally unjust, the concept becomes meaningless.

If someone is being oppressed by unjust system of which you're a part, do you really have any grounds to claim innocence? I don't think so.

And it's not necessarily because you're doing something wrong, not necessarily your fault, it's just a bad situation, that's all.

Posted by abb1 at June 6, 2009 12:54 PM

1. Obama's speech was intended to make people happy.
Trouble is, what's needed from him are words that will make a few people very mad.

2. Obama will never ask himself "do I want peace in the middle east?" He'll ask "do i want peace more than my reelection? Or am I opposed to torture more than I am willing to live without the support of the military-industrial complex."
Politics is not the art of the possible; it's the art of the choice. So far Obama has not had to choose (except on 1 thing: giving all our money to Wall Street.) Which means his presidency has not really begun. It'll begin before December.

3. The settlement freeze is a red herring. Of course Bibi will lose that one. But then he'll go "Haven't we suffered enough?" Time for the Palestinians to reciprocate. Just think how clever it is for Bibi to make the freeze the key issue. Why not discuss whether we Americans are generous enough to grant Gitmo prisoners the use of anti-drandruff shampoo. And once that's settled we'll see if they show enough gratitude to discuss things like trials.

Posted by Bernard Chazelle at June 6, 2009 02:51 PM

"The settlement freeze is a red herring. Of course Bibi will lose that one. But then he'll go "Haven't we suffered enough?" Time for the Palestinians to reciprocate. Just think how clever it is for Bibi to make the freeze the key issue. "

Yeah, that's what I was trying to clumsily express upthread. The discussion of the I/P conflict is so weighted against the Palestinians in the US that Obama has become identified as a champion of Palestinian rights merely for saying things you find all the time in NYT editorials. This puts him in a perfect position to browbeat and bully them later and if they don't do exactly what he asks, it means they are not ready for peace. Thomas Friedman has had the same gig among the pundit set--I still meet people who think he's pro-Palestinian and it's enabled him to blame them almost exclusively for their own suffering.

N.E. will probably argue that we don't know what Obama intends to do. That's right, but it doesn't matter. He's given a speech which is better than what American politicians would usually say, but it still falls far short of real honesty, and it's a bad idea to give him more credit than he deserves. It's like we want to lose the argument by surrendering half the battleground before the fight begins.

Posted by Donald Johnson at June 6, 2009 03:32 PM

WE want to lose the arguement BECAUSE WE feel safer under the empire than as just another country. WE ARE THAT SECRET GOVERNMENT THAT RUNS OBAMA. U&I fear that IF WE rock the empire boat then ALL the shit WE've stirred in the world will back up in the pipes of international discourse. WE THE PEOPLE have forced empire upon the world BEFORE Obama was even born, just like he says. Obama will continue to promote empire because that's what WE PAY him to do. Ain't no empire without one hell of a lot of empirical people, enough to hold off the world. One or a few can't do it alone, it takes ALL of US.

Posted by Mike Meyer at June 6, 2009 05:30 PM

Donald Johnson:

"N.E. will probably argue that we don't know what Obama intends to do. That's right, but it doesn't matter. He's given a speech which is better than what American politicians would usually say, but it still falls far short of real honesty . . ."

Real honesty-that's the standard he has to meet in a major political speech? hahahahahahaha he'll get the full approval of you, maybe the professor, a minority of the urban vote in california, three wisconsin farmers, but i'd bet probably not even the islamic congressman from minnesota, who undoubtedly knows what politics is and what it isn't.

"and it's a bad idea to give him more credit than he deserves."

ok, if you say so, let's just give him no support so that the really bad guys who want him to fail have an easier time of it

"It's like we want to lose the argument by surrendering half the battleground before the fight begins."

The fight? Just what fight is that. Neither your view nor mine is in any "fight" right now. We don't even have ringside seats. We are watching from the back of the auditorium. i'm not really even sure if we're not watching pay per view. If you want to not lose the fight, the first thing you need to do is get in it. that's going to involve a movement or a coalition. either is going to involve compromises you presently aren't going to like unless you find a whole lot more people who agree with you. i find it hard to take seriously the criticism that he surrendered half the battleground when at present the half he supposedly "surrendered" is occupied by the enemy, heavily defended, and at present entirely impregnable


Professsor Chazelle:


"1. Obama's speech was intended to make people happy. Trouble is, what's needed from him are words that will make a few people very mad."

--well, that nutcase Senator inhofe and his crowd (who are much of the GOP) did seem sort of mad. Netanyahu and many of the israelis seems sort of mad too. i don't quite understand how other words to make others mad would necessarily help. i guess you want him to use the "bully pulpit" to bring more moraltiy to the Presidency, and maybe that would make you respect him more,
but you're not really even thinking about, political effectiveness. that's fine for you, but not for him. he better think about political effectiveness.


"2. Obama will never ask himself "do I
want peace in the middle east?" He'll ask "do i want peace more than my reelection? Or am I opposed to torture more than I am willing to live without the support of the military-industrial complex."


i think his choices are much more concrete than that, that he has way too much to do to think so abstractly. A question like 'am i willing to live without the support of the military-industrial complex" also strikes me as a little sophomoric. he can no more "live without the support of the military industrial complex" and still run the country than he can live without oxygen. he isn't thomas merton--he's president, if he doesn't deal with the military industrial complex, it will just go on about its business without him. heck, it may ignore do that even if he doesn't ignore it.

it seems really hard for people to think about politics in a machiavellian way, and i suppose that it didn't come naturally to me either until i concluded that otherwise nothing makes much sense, but those who wield power like obama now does have real enemies--ideological, political, personal, purely pragmatic--who have power too, in some ways maybe even more power, and many of those enemies are cunning, deceitful, ruthless, and all the things that many folks thing obama himself is and that he may even turn out to be for all i know. obama can't just decide to be morally above all that. things just don't work out for The Prince who does that. he has to be very careful about doing what woodrow wilson or jimmy carter did unless he wants his presidency to meet the same sort of failures. and as fdr observed about the reasons for wilson's ultimate failure, it's quite hard to keep the country on a moral high note all the time. no matter how much you want him to do that, he really can't.

"Politics is not the art of the possible; it's the art of the choice. So far Obama has not had to choose (except on 1 thing: giving all our money to Wall Street.) Which means his presidency has not really begun. It'll begin before December."

--catchy, but i'm sticking with FDR's more experienced view. every person's decision is of course about choice, and that's true of Obama too, but he really does have to think about consequences. you and other moral critics don't, and there's an important role for what you do. it's just not being President.

i absolutely agree that obama is of necessity too beholding to wall street, and i bet hate socialism for the rich and capitalism for the poor as much or more than you do, but there would have been real consequences for obama if he had canned geithner and that prick larry summers and made dean baker secretary of the treasury. hell, even making krugman treasury secretary would have created quite a tsunami, let alone dean baker.

it's going to be hard to create some basic social and economic justice in the country, to undo the out-of=control militarism, and to prevent the State from crushing any movement that gets going. but right now there's not really much of a movement that the state even needs to crush. as i've said before, obama has to deal with the political reality he faces. that's not easy. i think it's harder now than it's ever been, and it's never been easy


"3. The settlement freeze is a red herring. Of course Bibi will lose that one. . . ."

don't be so sure. Read Gershom Gorenberg. But you're right that Netanyahu et al will respond if he does lose the settlement issue. and of course they'll keep trying to get they want, so will everyone else.

"Why not discuss whether we Americans are generous enough to grant Gitmo prisoners the use of anti-drandruff shampoo. And once that's settled we'll see if they show enough gratitude to discuss things like trials."

it's funny you mention the torture of the gitmo prisoners again, because i just finished reading David Ray Griffin's The New Pearl Harbor Revisited (and i'm pretty sure i'm not crazy), which updates and corrects his original book based on what has been learned during the last 5 years. The reason i mention that and cause a few rolled eyes is that one thing he mentioned is how extensively the water-boarded prisoners at guantanamo were cited by the 911 commission. (that's about all they cited) You can really get people to admit amazing thigns if you waterboard them often enough and lock them away so no one can even talk to them, including counsel. But that book would definitely blow a lot of fuses in most brains, maybe even academic brains, so anybody who wants to read it does so at their peril. Not because it's crazy, but because it's not. Psychologically, i think it's much harder to accept than anything Chomsky says. One thing i'll say for david ray griffin, he really is a remarkably lucid thinker and not afraid of any conclusions that logic leads him to. He may make some errors every so often, but he's pretty darn careful and hard for me to catch in mistakes. i also think he's a lot more sophisticated in his understanding of power and politics than he was five years ago. then again, i am too, over my own objection. i just wish Griffin and others wouldn't call their writing about 911 a "truth movement," because i think that's just not so. A movement is a unified force for change with the potential to get it done. it's way more than a search for truth. i'm not even sure they have anything to do with each other.

at langley they put an inscription in the lobby saying "the truth will set you free." i think that's one of the funniest inside jokes ever made.


Posted by Not Exactly at June 6, 2009 05:57 PM

Jesus fucking Christ, "let's just give him no support so that the really bad guys who want him to fail have an easier time of it"? Is this intentional self-mockery on your part? I'm speechless. Cue AlanSmithee in 3,2,1...

Posted by Save the Oocytes at June 6, 2009 07:24 PM

"Jesus fucking Christ, "let's just give him no support so that the really bad guys who want him to fail have an easier time of it"? Is this intentional self-mockery on your part? I'm speechless. Cue AlanSmithee in 3,2,1..."

it's definitely not self-mockery, neither accidental nor intentional. the profanity is middle school, and the alansmithee reference is ironic, but if you ask a real question i'll answer

Posted by Not Exactly at June 6, 2009 09:09 PM

You've just demonstrated why you're not worth my time.

Posted by Save the Oocytes at June 6, 2009 10:29 PM

Not Exactly, see if you can hold the following two thoughts in your head at once--

1. It's not realistic to expect complete honesty from Obama or any other politician.

2. Nonetheless, we should not praise Obama for the dishonest elements in his speech, but point them out and criticize him for it. He should feel pressure from his left as well as from his right.

I disliked my own battleground metaphor, partly because I expected you to extend it. It's never interesting arguing over the meaning of a metaphor. The issue is simple. Obama's speech contained some truth and some half-truths and some hypocrisy and some lies and we ought to point all this out. And to my surprise, there are some people on the far left who make it into the mainstream press these days and make these points--upthread I linked to a transcript of the Lehrer Newshour from Thursday where four people did just what I recommend, on national television. The more this happens, the better off we will all be.

Posted by Donald Johnson at June 7, 2009 12:02 AM

"I come to PRAISE Caesar, not to bury him". I happen to LIKE what Obama is saying, to tell the truth, maybe its the delivery. I don't know. He "realistically" can't cure the world in one speach or EVEN come close to what NEEDS to be said. I don't expect him to, in any case, he's telling me what I want to hear. That's a damn sight better than ANYTHING George or Bill ever said.

Posted by Mike Meyer at June 7, 2009 01:09 AM

Donald Johnson:

first, sorry that i got cheeky. it's easy to do electronically. on to the substance:

i really don't have too much trouble with pointing out hypocrisy or dishonesty. i just started reading richard seymour's fantastic book the liberal defence of murder, and i'm in the mood for honesty and disgusted by hypocrisy. the history of the world sucks and maybe people will get somewhere when they see how and why that has been so. then again . . .

here's what i have a problem with. obama has to lead the nation, which includes not just people who have my or your view of the past. in fact, we're a minority, and we don't even altogether agree, i suspect (oddly, i would bet many of my views are less socially accepted, yet here i am favoring a more conventional approach. go figure)

i certainly don't like everything obama says or does. when i hear him talk about the war on terror, i wince, because in my view it is virtually in its entirety a fraud, and quite literally so. but my view is fairly isolated (though not nearly as isolated as the public at large is led to believe by the media) and obama has to lead the country. that is what he should do, needs to do, has to do. it's his job.

i don't really fault you or the professor or others for decrying the immorality of some of obama's statements and decisions. there is much to be said for purity of heart. i do think, however, that you fail to recognize that if obama actually did what you want him to do, it would not work out for him. of that i have great confidence. purity of heart is a poor guide for the policy of Princes, old Machiavelli might say. That doesn't mean i favor a political leader going hog wild on Machiavelli like Dick Cheney and becoming evil. it means that when i see a leader whose goals and instincts i think are likely good, i'm glad he doesn't let himself be destroyed by failing to accurately perceive how far he can get ahead of opinion.

i think obama has a tough, tough challenge. i think he may well not always accurately assess how far he can push opinion and therefore may make mistakes. those mistakes will be costly for others and for him when he does make mistakes. i don't yet see that he has made too many mistakes, and i am impressed with his skill. but the professor is right that it's still early. i haven't yet lost confidence in his intentions, and i hope i don't have to.

i would caution you to be me mindful of the duplicity of the corporate media, which certainly includes the mcneil lehrer news hour. it isn't episodic with them, it's chronic. and it's not a fraud on their part, in my opinion; it's the nature of what they are and what they exist to do. So i would encourage everyone to be mindful of when you see criticism of obama from the left, who is presenting it, and what their motives might be.

in closing, i DEFINITELY agree with your opinion that obama should feel pressure from the left, and even more from the left than right. i can't even imagine excessive pressure if it's not destructive. i think we just need to be mindful of the politics. apply pressure by moving public opinion, by undermining the right, by advocating policies that can succeed and making clear how they can succeed. don't apply pressure by criticizing obama for failing to be honest in a politically foolish way. and i don't mean to suggest that's what you favor; it may not be.

Posted by Not Exactly at June 7, 2009 01:18 AM

From The New York Times via Moon of Alabama:

The Obama administration is considering a change in the law for the military commissions at the prison at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, that would clear the way for detainees facing the death penalty to plead guilty without a full trial.

The provision could permit military prosecutors to avoid airing the details of brutal interrogation techniques. It could also allow the five detainees who have been charged with the Sept. 11 attacks to achieve their stated goal of pleading guilty to gain what they have called martyrdom.

As is pointed out in the linked post, this is going to be a way of killing off inconvenient detainees whilst maintaining a veneer of due process.

So, fuck Obama. Just fuck him.

Posted by NomadUK at June 7, 2009 02:31 AM

@NomadUK: yeah, pretty much.

Posted by Cloud at June 7, 2009 10:25 AM

"there is much to be said for purity of heart. i do think, however, that you fail to recognize that if obama actually did what you want him to do, it would not work out for him. of that i have great confidence. purity of heart is a poor guide for the policy of Princes, old Machiavelli might say. "

I think you missed my first point in my previous comment. I wasn't just being snarky when I said you had to keep both points in your head simultaneously.

Supposing I accept that Obama is a good-hearted well-intentioned Machiavelli. I was more willing to believe that early last year, but he did the Sister Souljah thing with his pastor (and by extension, everyone on the far left) a little too sincerely and everything he has done since suggests he's a neoliberal. Better than a neocon, I think, but not someone we should trust.

But suppose he really is as you think. It changes absolutely nothing regarding how we should behave and talk. If he lies, and he lies often, he should be called on it and if he's the Machiavellian left-leaning genius that you and Al Giordano and others think he is, he's already taken all this into account in that 11 dimensional chess game he's playing for our benefit. He secretly welcomes criticism from his left, the more the better, because he secretly pines for the day when he can tell more and more of the truth about how our system works and about the harm we actually inflict. He needs space opened up to his left and it's our job to provide that for him. You're making his job tougher with all this sympathy you're giving. It's even more difficult for him to tell slightly more of the truth when people on his left praise him for lying. To the extent that what we say matters at all, you keep the Overton Window right where it is with this position. It's his job to lie sometimes, poor misunderstood saintly Machiavellian leader that he is, and it's our job to call him a liar when he does. We're doing him a favor.
Seriously, if that's what Obama is, a Kissinger for the forces of good, then we should be dumping on him and he should (secretly) welcome it.

"Purity of heart" is a dismissive phrase--an Obama-infatuated friend of mine uses it the same way. In his case it is a polite way of saying "Don't criticize my hero, you sectarian lefty with your circular firing squads." Yeah, whatever.

Posted by Donald Johnson at June 7, 2009 12:23 PM

You've just demonstrated why you're not worth my time.

Posted by Save the Oocytes at June 6, 2009 10:29 PM

backatcha!

Posted by Not Exactly at June 7, 2009 12:27 PM

From the link posted by Nomad UK:

"[T]he Department [..] takes very seriously its obligation to sustain the life and health of those in its custody. We view the current policy to preserve the life and health of detainees engaging in hunger strikes, attempted suicide, or other attempted serious self-harm as consistent with that obligation and U.S. law."

That's as funny as "The truth will set you free" at Langley.

Nomad UK:

I understand the rage, and people should raise hell about Guantanamo and detainee treatment and rendition and all this evil that's part of the war on terror, which i already have said i believe to be a fraud, but it preceded obama by eight years in direct form and for all intents and purposes by many decades, and he cannot reverse it all by executive order. people seem compelled to feel that we have a lot more democracy than we do. we've got some, with limits.

So i think the "fuck obama" should be directed toward the military and the empire and the intel agencies, or we'll just end up with petraeus (who already is posturing as anti-torture) running in 4 years ad everyone will say "there's no difference anyway."

i think everyone would most certainly be wrong about that.

Posted by Not Exactly at June 7, 2009 12:49 PM


Donald Johnson:

I understand all that, which is logical and reasonable enough, and i don't really have any sort of rule of thumb in mind about when it's better to cut him some slack versus apply pressure. it depends, i suppose. i suspect it probably doesn't even matter that much and we're overarguing. hard to believe, i know.

i thought and think it was a good speech, even though he said things about american history and the war on terror that i consider to be wrong. i just don't evaluate a political speech like a history lecture. the speech pushed policy in the right direction, and it did it effectively, and that's what counts to me. and i'm pretty sure it did those things.

Posted by Not Exactly at June 7, 2009 12:57 PM

Machiavelli-schmakaveli. He is a PR figure. The Democratic party controls the government. The financial sector and large multi-national corporations control the Democratic party. If you read his speech with your magic sunglasses on, it'll say: "don't object to Wall Street investing in your countries", "choose American capital over European". Or something like that.

Posted by abb1 at June 7, 2009 01:03 PM

On one of the Sunday shows I heard James Baker saying he liked the speech, while politely saying that Cheney is his friend and has the right to voice his views. I think that's the real split here--not between closet lefties vs. imperialists, but a split between rational intelligent imperialists vs. arrogant hubris-filled ones.

One could also see it as good cop-bad cop, but I think that's too conspiratorial. Rather, you've got factions among the imperialists, and honest differences of opinion on how American elites can best maintain their control.

Posted by Donald Johnson at June 7, 2009 01:14 PM

For that matter, I think Obama is on record as saying that he admired George Herbert Walker Bush's foreign policy, which Baker ran. Smart imperialists, not the dumb sort that we had with Bush II.

Posted by Donald Johnson at June 7, 2009 01:16 PM

On GHW Bush and Obama's foreign policy--

link

link2

Posted by Donald Johnson at June 7, 2009 01:20 PM

Tiz U&I, WE THE PEOPLE, who created GITMO, allowed it to operate ALL these years, not Obama. WE CHEERED while Baghdad burned, WE turned OUR backs on 8 years of OPEN crime against humanity and refused to impeach, refused to lift a hand when 2 nations were burned to the ground WITHOUT GETTING BIN LADEN, didn't say very much over 2 stolen elections. I personally believe that, WE as a nation ARE NOT afraid to say "NO" to power, WE actually AGREE with what is going on, with what WE ARE DOING, GITMO and all of it.

Posted by Mike Meyer at June 7, 2009 01:59 PM

Mike Meyer:

No, I don't think that's a sufficient explanation. whether it's morally right or wrong, it's unrealistic to expect people to turn their lives upside down because of a moral objection to something they don't know much about and over which they have no real control a long ways away. you can say what you said until you're blue in the face, until your ancestors a thousand years from now are blue in the face, and that won't change anything

the key has to be constraining power. that's what our government was supposedly designed by james madison et al to do. it just no longer works. and i don't know why that would be surprising, since a lot has changed since john locke and james madison.

so we need to update our political system software to make sure gitmos don't happen despite the basic weaknesses in human nature.

that's a big challenge, of course.

Posted by Not Exactly at June 7, 2009 02:16 PM

Not Exactly 2:16pm: Look in the mirror and say that.

Posted by Mike Meyer at June 7, 2009 02:29 PM

"Donald Johnson: You wrote:

"On one of the Sunday shows I heard James Baker saying he liked the speech, while politely saying that Cheney is his friend and has the right to voice his views. I think that's the real split here--not between closet lefties vs. imperialists, but a split between rational intelligent imperialists vs. arrogant hubris-filled ones. . . . One could also see it as good cop-bad cop, but I think that's too conspiratorial. Rather, you've got factions among the imperialists, and honest differences of opinion on how American elites can best maintain their control."

--yes there are differences of opinion among the elites, but i don't know why you feel the need to strain to avoid conclusions that have conspiratorial implications, other than that has been drummed into your head over the course of your life. i wouldn't use the word 'honest' to describe the differences of opinion within the elites. it's actually puzzling and interesting to me (because i think the answer is potentially important) why people who view our national policy as pretty much fundamentally rotten nonetheless want very much to believe the country is governed by people who have "honest differences of opinion" rather than being fundamentally dishonest and skillfully so. i'm not intending to criticize you by that observation, though it probably comes off that way. i seriously believe the explanation for that is significant. in my opinion people with power just typically aren't that honest, not even the good ones. and deception has become institutionalized.

--i would be careful about taking anything richard haas or other spokespeople say at face value. what is said for public consumption by the cfr types has more to do with politics than anything else. i trust obama more than richard haas.

--cheney and james baker probably are friends, and i think the differences between cheney and g.h.w. "poppy" bush are routinely exaggerated these days. A lot changed between 1991 and 2003. i certainly don't think h.w. bush was any big opponent of this last iraq war on principle, or for that matter that scowcroft was. they just didn't like how it was handled and definitely decided to come out publicly with that position.

of course obama's foreign policy looks like that of poppy bush, since gates is in charge of DOD and gates and poppy bush have been joined at the hip for more than 30 years. then again, cheney has longstanding ties to those two too. and rummy. and carlucci. obama didn't cut all his ties with that crowd because then he would have way too many powerful enemies and almost no powerful allies. and then he would fail for sure, because a president can't just issue a few executive orders and have everything fall into place teh way he wants--it just doesn't work that way.

finally, be mindful that what you read isn't all true. (that makes knowing what is really going on quite a challenge, and not even fully possible, i know).

at the end of the day, i can't tell you that i know obama personally or that he will do as much to improve neoliberalism as i'd like. maybe he'll be a disappointment. maybe he'll even go over to the dark side. we'll see. but i repeat, i think his speech was good, and i think he's trying to move policy in the right direction, and so far being effective at it.

i do have a reservation about guantanamo and our ongoing atrocities there and at places like diego garcia. i have no idea what he obama is trying to do about all that within the government, because it's all so cloaked in national security, so i really can't say whether he's trying hard or hardly trying. but unlike nomadUK i don't assume he's not trying to do anything about it. and i don't assume it's an easy thing for him to change. and that goes right to the heart of why our political system is presently screwed up, because we should be able to know the answers to those questions.

Posted by Not Exactly at June 7, 2009 02:52 PM

"Not Exactly 2:16pm: Look in the mirror and say that."

Posted by Mike Meyer at June 7, 2009 02:29 PM

Ever heard of Norman Morrison? Roger Allen LaPorte? Malaki Ritscher? There are many others i can't name, and you can poke around on the net for a while if you want a longer list.

The wars--they continued anyway. the problem isn't that "we the people" want these things to happen, not most of us anyway. it's that we can't stop them right now.

Posted by Not Exactly at June 7, 2009 03:09 PM

Not Exactly: Don't know those folks, BUT I've run across YOU. How about a test? CLOSE GITMO, call Pelosi @1-202-225-0100. I called friday but I said "NO TO H.R.45 a gun control bill" for example and I did NOT mention GITMO. I call EVERYDAY about MY concerns. Its ONLY a phone call.

Posted by Mike Meyer at June 7, 2009 03:43 PM

mike meyer: i'm glad you call. it's not a bad idea. maybe somebody will listen. but if you can get an organization going, they'll listen more.

those were the names of folks who lit themselves on fire and burned to death as antiwar protests. they obviously weren't happy about what was happening. i think most people aren't most of the time. but whether you call pelosi every day or light yourself on fire, the same old shit keeps happening.

and it will until something makes it impossible as a structural matter, which is impossible when everything is cloaked in secrecy.

the secrecy has to go. mention that to pelosi. she should be pretty receptive emotionally right now, since that very secrecy just screwed her. of course, she also has just been reminded who holds all the cards.

Posted by Not Exactly at June 7, 2009 06:37 PM

Not Exactly: A Blackman is President, that ain't the same ole shit. No matter how bad Obama wants to be a Good Ole Boy, it just ain't the same. Obama will NEVER reach the "high standards" set by George Bush or Dick Cheney. (which ever one was really president)

Posted by Mike Meyer at June 7, 2009 08:00 PM

hey--i never said we had the same ol' shit, though i'm not sure i know what a "Blackman" is. :)

i do wish he would fight more, but i like his direction, just not his velocity.

Posted by Not Exactly at June 7, 2009 08:11 PM

"want very much to believe the country is governed by people who have "honest differences of opinion" "

I was being somewhat ironic there. But actually, what's wrong with saying that Baker and Cheney are two ruthless men who have honest differences of opinion on the best way to make sure the world is run along lines that rich powerful Americans find congenial? I'm sure Mafia godfathers might also have honest differences of opinion on whether someone needs to be whacked.

I think Obama successfully inserted himself into that "honest" conversation--he sides with the Jim Bakers.

Posted by Donald Johnson at June 7, 2009 10:17 PM

Donald Johnson: EXACTLY!

Posted by Mike Meyer at June 8, 2009 01:45 AM

i think the step taken by the first Black President of United States was a much needed one. what Iraqi journalist Zaeedi did to President Busha few months back, Obama needed to build a friendly image in the muslim world. at least he is not ensuring hatred for himself from the muslims as his predecessor did.

Posted by debanjan mukherjee at June 8, 2009 02:14 AM

debanjan mukherjee: i agree with that

Donald Johnson: "what's wrong with saying that Baker and Cheney are two ruthless men who have honest differences of opinion on the best way to make sure the world is run"

Good question. There's obviously nothing wrong with it when it's true. But the press often tries to portray differences and decisions as honest when they're not. in the US, usually they're not.

i basically think obama is in is a weak position, as clinton was. in some ways his position is much worse because the mess that exists now. i'm irritated with him about health care , because we should have single payer, but it isn't going to happen because he doesn't think he has the strength to fight that battle either.

as for obama siding with baker, i guess he does. he needs him and gates and the internationalist crew. but those guys really are cold-blooded mafioso, so we'll see how far obama will follow their lead

Posted by Not Exactly at June 8, 2009 08:29 AM

"Good question. There's obviously nothing wrong with it when it's true. But the press often tries to portray differences and decisions as honest when they're not. in the US, usually they're not."

This arguing over semantics is getting a little frustrating, so I'm just gonna end my part of this conversation. You seem to think that the word "honest" denotes approval. It doesn't. You could maybe glean some hint of this when I compared it to a couple of Mafia guys having an "honest" debate over whether to murder someone, but apparently you didn't. I'd try explaining it one more time, but it's not worth the effort.

Posted by Donald Johnson at June 8, 2009 08:58 AM

"I'd try explaining it one more time, but it's not worth the effort."

funny, and truer words have never been said :) i certainly don't think you approve of the world being a mess!

i haven't even reread what i wrote--possibly i was just exhausted. But to interpret all those wasted words of mine, you'd really have to keep in the forefront of your mind how fundamental i think deception has become to our politics. jonathan schell wrote that fine book The Times of Illusion about the nixon years nearly 40 years ago, and deception just keeps getting better and better

peace

Posted by Not Exactly at June 8, 2009 02:28 PM

Okay, I agree deception is pretty good now--I don't know if it's better or worse now than in the past.

Posted by Donald Johnson at June 8, 2009 06:54 PM