domingo, 14 de septiembre de 2008

Do Obama Supporters Actually Believe In Anything?

I suppose we all know that Obama is a warmonger, right? Well, no... almost no one I talk to knows that. In fact, they somehow got it into their heads that he is for "peace"... well, I'll explain below why he's a warmonger, if you haven't been paying attention. Basically, that's what I do with Obama supporters who say they are antiwar. I say, "Why do you support a warmonger for President if you are antiwar?" They deny he is a warmonger. I then convince them that he is a hawk on Iraq and Afghanistan, just like Bush and Cheney. They realize I'm right, and suddenly, they start saying things like, "Well, you know, maybe Obama's right. Maybe we should continue the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq and go to war with Iran. Maybe the Left is just wrong on that issue... you know, I think General Petraeus is one of the most wonderful men in all of human history. You know, his surge worked wonders. Who knows what would happen if we withdrew from Iraq! Imagine the chaos!"

At that point I have to argue with them on why the wars are wrong, and why the surge was not a success, and why it is likely Iraq and Afghanistan would be a hell of a lot better off without our occupation. If you are wondering about what I base these ideas on, read this on the illegal and immoral Afghanistan war, and read this and this on the Iraq war and the "surge."

Key moral point: whereas civilian casualties were once a small part of war, in our current wars, for every "insurgent" we kill, we also kill between 10 and 100 civilians (approx. 1.1million Iraqi civilians have died as a result of the war, mostly children, as a result of malnutrition greater than that during the sanctions, and about 16K insurgents have died) and half of all Iraqis are either refugees, in need of emergency aid, wounded, or dead. If that isn't terrorism and doesn't breed more terrorism, I don't know what is or does. The surge in Iraq was really a surge in our targeting and killing of civilians.

Key pragmatic point: the U.K. pulled out their troops from Basra against U.S. protests, and violence in Basra declined by 90% almost immediately. Even Petraeus had to marvel at that.

Anyway, I find it despairing that so many people (nearly everyone) who call(ed) themselves antiwar, are, in fact, not antiwar, and though they may have been to a million protests against war, the magic of Obama-- "the first sort of mainstream African American who is articulate and bright and clean," as his own VP , Biden, called him during the primaries--overwhelms their feeble intelligences and phony integrity.

Then there are those very few who already know Obama doesn't represent any of their issues, but they will vote for him anyway, because he can be more easily "influenced by the people" than McCain. Yeah, like W. J. Blythe III (AKA Bill Clinton) was? When he and Gore trashed welfare, trashed the environment, doubled the black prison population, and bombed Iraq daily and killed millions of Iraqi children with sanctions? (Read the Herman article for all of Blythe's real ultra-right legacy.)

Like Clinton, Obama will have the unquestioning support of liberals he needs to be even more right-wing than the Republicans could be. We've already seen Obama break all of his promises to his constituents after getting elected to the Senate. Obama is about as likely to become a progressive as Cynthia McKinney (the real black candidate) is likely to beat him in November. Either way it's a long shot, but at least if we support a good candidate, the Dems may be dealt a blow they quite deserve, and maybe we will advance on the path to opening up the presidential debates for the next election.

Remember, voting isn't a sport. Voting for someone who wins doesn't mean you win, unless that person represents your values.

Now the part I promised for those who are still skeptical about my assertion that Obama is no different on the wars than McCain or Bush:

He says he's going to "end the Iraq war" on his website (the war he calls the "dumb war"). That should be good enough... or should it? Well, never mind that he's funded the war in the Senate nearly every time the appropriations came up... if you take the time to read a little more on his own page, he makes it clear that he's simply lying about his plan to end the war, and in fact, his "plan" is basically the same as Bush's new plan of a "time horizon" for withdrawal of "combat troops" (leaving, of course, as Obama would, 60,000-80,000 troops for "fighting terror" and "protecting U.S. bases and service personnel" and other vague-as-hell euphemisms, not to mention half of all "our" troops, which are the private mercenary contractors unaccountable to any legal system).

That leaves the number of U.S. troops Obama says he will redeploy to Afghanistan at around the same number: 60-80,000 (there are 140,000 in Iraq right now).

Like McCain, he wants to increase overall military spending and increase the size of our military by at least 100,000 troops. It's not hard to understand why he wants to increase the size--how else would he keep fighting the Afghanistan and Iraq wars while at the same time fighting Iran, as he has been threatening? (He says he will consider even the option of nuking Iran... guess what, that makes negotiating with Iran super impossible. And it's really hilarious how only a month before he threatened to nuke them, he said they were no threat to us whatsoever.)

Perhaps the one difference between Imperialist Dee and Imperialist Dumb is Obama claims he would make private military contractors legally liable for their actions. But given Obama's record of flip-flopping hypocrisy, and given the immense power the contractors have over the U.S. government, it is unlikely he will ever be able to reign them in. Why are they so powerful? Well, we need them desperately because our wars are so unpopular we can't recruit volunteers to fight them. The contractors hold the ultimate card: they can threaten to end their contract if the conditions are changed on them. The only way to make them accountable is to put them out of business by abolishing our imperial war machine.

That sums it up on the wars. I could write on and on about Obama's crap record on the environment, on health care, on taking more corporate money than McCain (especially from the military industrial complex), on supporting the Israeli Occupation of Palestine, etc. He talks a good game on taxes and econ. policy but none of that makes any difference, because we are going deeper in debt every day for our wars that Obama is so fond of. We have no money for social programs as long as we spend 60% of our budget on the military (more than all other countries' military spending combined). For some people then, it comes down, at the end, to abortion rights. Well, the truth is McCain can't appoint just anyone he wants to the Supreme Court, despite his rhetoric. The Senate approves all Presidential appointments, and the Dems control the Senate. But it wouldn't surprise me if Obama and the right-wing Dems ended up appointing some anti-choice nut job to the Supreme Court if Pres. McCain were to ask them to.

But the wars are the most important thing. There is no progress for us nor for the rest of the world until we abolish U.S. imperialism.

martes, 9 de septiembre de 2008

War Strategists Can't Solve Afghanistan

I just read a lengthy article on Truthout, taken from Le Monde, about how to win the war in Afghanistan. I'm just amazed at how people can claim to be experts on a subject without even looking at it realistically. The war CAN'T BE WON, it must simply be ended! Go read the article. My comment is below the link (and in the article, of course).

This is one hodgepodge analysis which only succeeds in contradicting itself. It recommends more troops be sent for longer durations in order to build lasting commitments and relationships in the country, yet recognizes that eventually, as every Afghan knows, the western troops will leave, and people will be left to deal with the problems on their own. So sending more troops is not the answer.

In addition, this analysis suffers from a highly theoretical approach. On the ground, NATO soldiers generally have no idea what they are doing over there, and they don't give a damn about the country. Afghans know that. That's why real relationships between the Afghans and NATO do not happen.

Also, there's no mention of the real underlying reason for the occupation -- Jaffrelot says the U.S. wants to get bin Laden but that's not true, as even Bush admits we are not focused on that. Then he says we want to make sure the Taliban doesn't re-emerge as a threat to us. Again, the Taliban never was a threat to us. The only threat was their strict policy against opium which we said we agreed on, but in fact obviously didn't, as every country we invade ends up sending us huge quantities of drugs, Afghanistan included. And of course there is the UNOCAL pipeline which Jaffrelot seems to know nothing about.

The problem is that NATO is trying to impose democracy on a country when neither the EU nor the U.S. seem to actually practice democracy. We all wish we had the moral authority to reshape the world, but moral authority has to be earned. Until then, let's just stop sending men with guns to other countries and telling people what to do.

If we want to make a difference for the people, we can send them OLPCs and help them with irrigation and whatever they need to do sustainable agriculture.

jueves, 4 de septiembre de 2008


I know everyone remembers the Vote or Die t-shirts. I saw a lot of people wearing them on campus a few years ago. The campaign continues, even if the slogan is less often spouted.

University professors are not allowed to tell students who to vote for, but they make up for it by shouting at everyone in their class that they MUST vote and it is of the utmost importance (they know, of course, that most university students will vote Democrat).

Why am I offended when I hear this rhetoric of the importance of voting?

If you are voting for an imperialist warmonger (Obama/McCain) then you are doing a disservice to the world, and you would do much better to just stay home on election day. The imperialists want a higher voter turnout to make their elections look legitimate. Do the world a favor, don't legitimize these mass-murderers.

Voting is somewhat important IF you are voting for an anti-imperialist candidate like McKinney or Nader. It would be more important if we had paper ballots rather than the rigged electronic voting machines. It would also be more important if we could actually vote for the person that represents our values rather than the "least worst" of a corrupt, corporate two-party system. That is, we need Instant-Run-Off Voting. In the meantime, we still can vote for Ralph Nader or Cynthia McKinney, but it's unlikely they'll win, because they are locked out of the presidential debates and the major media.

But let's face it, even if we had the best voting system in the world, we each have a very small voice in the voting system. What's much more important than voting is actually protesting the government when it does things we disapprove of, like engaging in imperialist wars. But for some reason, teachers feel no need to urge their students to take part in protests or civil disobedience. We praise Martin Luther King, yet we don't remember anything he told us. He did not tell us to vote this guy or that guy, he told us to do civil disobedience to end racism and the imperialist Vietnam war (a war to protect the Vietnamese from themselves... sound familiar?).

The truth is, unless we get REALLY involved in politics and we destroy the system of business-as-usual capitalism/imperialism, we really do have a good chance of dying by a nuclear/bio/chemical-counter-attack or by pollution or by brutal police or by being drafted into the army to fight on the unending front on the "war on terror." Or maybe everything will turn out fine for us, and it is just everyone else around the world that will suffer. That would be peachy, huh?

People tell me protesting doesn't work. Well, if anything doesn't work, it's VOTING. You can have 50,000,000 antiwar people voting, and the wars go on. Now tell me the wars would go on if we had 50,000,000 or even 1,000,000 people protesting outside the White House.

I suggest a new slogan for t-shirts: "PROTEST OR DIE."

lunes, 1 de septiembre de 2008

Criticism of Ralph Nader -- Accuracy in Reporting?

So I read Lisa Chamberlain's article on from 2004, "The Dark Side of Ralph Nader." I've also read similar articles, and it seems there are a lot of former Nader supporters who have been burned by him. So maybe Nader, despite all the good he has done and his wonderful presidential platform, is a vindictive egotistical maniac.

Even so, I estimate he's a safer choice than the corporate sell-outs Obama/McCain who want war on Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan and Pakistan. McKinney also seems like a good choice (the only dirt I've found on her is a misuse of office-supply money and that she punches cops when they harass her, and that last part actually endears her to me even more).

But I really wish journalists would cite sources like academics, because otherwise it's hard to take them seriously. Chamberlain did seem to actually talk to a lot of people Nader burned, so that part I accept to some extent. But then she made a few claims which she seems to have pulled out of a hat. On page 5, she says:

In 2000, again with the Green Party, he ran a full-fledged campaign, raising and spending money to get on the ballot in all 50 states.... While he assured Democrats that he wouldn't campaign late in the election season in key battleground states, he reneged on that promise, zeroing in on Florida, Oregon and New Hampshire in the last few weeks before the election.
I've tried to google the source for this accusation that Nader promised not to campaign in all 50 states in 2000, and all I've found is other people saying the same thing and Nader supporters saying it's a lie and Nader saying he never said it. People also say Nader said this in 2004 and again reneged. So there's no proof that he ever said this, and the idea that he would have said it in the midst of trying to get on every state's ballot seems really odd. Why get on the ballot of swing states if he's not campaigning in swing states? This logical problem doesn't seem to have occurred at all to Ms. Chamberlain.

Ok, let's move onto Ms. Chamberlain's next unsourced accusation, on page 6:

Every study after the election determined that almost all of Nader's votes would have gone to Gore if Nader hadn't run, but Nader continues to insist that he bore no responsibility.
First of all, she ignores the data which seems to disprove such a thesis. But in any case, this is going back to assuming that Nader is somehow not trying to compete with the Dems, or that he at some point promised not to, or that if he is, he has no right to. Well, the Dems have no right to our votes anymore because since McGovern they've sold us down the river on every progressive issue: on the wars, on single-payer health care, on the environment, on impeaching Bush (to make sure our next President doesn't have precedent on his side to ignore Congress and the Supreme Court), and on making sure we have a real democracy (i.e. paper ballots so Diebold's Chris Riggall (yeah that's his real name!) doesn't count the votes even after he admitted their software miscounts, and of course instant-run-off voting is off the table even though the DNC's Chair, Howard Dean, *says* he supports it.

I asked the directors of "An Unreasonable Man" why the issues Ms. Chamberlain brings up regarding Nader were not much treated in their otherwise excellent documentary. Here is Steve Skrovan's response:

Dear Mr. Rosenblum,
Thank you for the note. Glad you enjoyed our film.
We weren't trying to depict Nader as a saint. That's why we gave so much screen time to so many of his critics. The majority of our reviews have cited that balance as a strength of the film The dominant story was that Nader was an "egomaniac spoiler." Our aim was to allow Nader to answer those charges, then let the audience decide whether his arguments were convincing.
We asked Mr. Nader about the union busting charges and although I agree it is a bit of a contradiction and potentially hypocritical, it turned out not to be enough of a story to include in the two hours we had to tell our story. Nader contends that the young people who came to work for him were college grads looking to get work experience before they went on to graduate school or to more lucrative positions in the private sector. He, himself, never took a salary from any of the public interest groups he started. And the organization he is most associated with, Public Citizen (although he's had no official affiliation with it since 1980, is in fact a union house.
We also looked into the Ted Jacobs relationship. Unfortunately, Mr. Jacobs passed away some time ago and was not available to tell his story. Anyone else trying to tell it would have been second hand. From what we were able to gather, it was more of a personal issue of a close friendship that broke up than anything having to do with policy. We chose, instead, to tell a similar, more public story of a conflict that Nader had with long time associate, Joan Claybrook, during the Carter administration. We felt it was important to illustrate that Nader is harder on the people closer to him and his views (ie Joan Claybrook, Al Gore) than he is on those farther away (ie George Bush). He expects more from those closer. That theme carries through to his foray into electoral politics. Many people found his views on personal loyalty expressed in that segment to be chilling and anything but saintly. That story had the added benefit that Ms. Claybrook could speak for herself. Had Mr. Jacobs still been alive, we may have included it. I don't know.
Nader has always been an unapologetic supporter of the plaintiff's bar, even though he has never tried or otherwise benefited from a personal injury case. He believes it is a basic right of a democracy for individuals to have their day in court. I refer you to the Center For Justice and Democracy for some mythbusting on this issue I would expect a magazine like Forbes to demonize trial lawyers and spin Nader's association with them in a negative way.
Steve Skrovan