By ALEXANDER COCKBURN
A friend down the coast here in California called Wednesday to say that her mother, 95, had fallen, cracked her ribs, got a cough and told her daughters, “That’s it. I’m checking out.” She’s given up eating. I remembered all the arguments I’d had down the years with the old lady – a perennial optimist about Democrats when it came to assessing the likelihood that Carter or Clinton or Obama would ever actually serve up the progressive banquets they’d pledged on the campaign trail.
“Tell your mother that at least she won’t have to put up with me saying ‘I told you so, about Obama.’” Her daughter gave a deep, sad sigh. She too has been a loyal liberal Democrat all her life and now, she said, Obama’s breaking her heart. So many high hopes, and there’s a man accepting the Peace Prize with one hand, while signing deployment orders with the other, sending 30,000 more young soldiers to Afghanistan.
Imagine having one’s foot on the lip of the great abyss, dimly hearing the radio in the kitchen playing snatches of the appalling drivel served up by Obama in Oslo. “Whatever mistakes we have made, the plain fact is this: The United States of America has helped underwrite global security for more than six decades with the blood of our citizens and the strength of our arms. The service and sacrifice of our men and women in uniform has promoted peace and prosperity from Germany to Korea, and enabled democracy to take hold in places like the Balkans.”
Obama was in peak form as self-righteous blowhard, proclaiming that “America cannot insist that others follow the rules of the road if we refuse to follow them ourselves. That is why I ordered the prison at Guantanamo Bay closed. And that is why I have reaffirmed America’s commitment to abide by the Geneva Conventions. We lose ourselves when we compromise the very ideals that we fight to defend. And we honor those ideals by upholding them not just when it is easy, but when it is hard.”
As his words hang in the air, captives of the Empire are being kidnapped and rendered to Bagram and other dungeons and tortured, all the while with no legal standing as “enemy combatants”. Stand naked in a cold cell, waiting for the next beating from your interrogators and listen to Obama being piped through the PA at max volume, right after ‘Born in the USA’ (sorry, Birthers): “We do not have to think that human nature is perfect for us to still believe that the human condition can be perfected. We do not have to live in an idealized world to still reach for those ideals that will make it a better place… So let us reach for the world that ought to be — that spark of the divine that still stirs within each of our souls.”
McCain loves the speech. Sarah Palin loves the speech. But that doesn’t mean Obama’s Oslo address was a Republican speech. When it comes to invoking “just wars” Republican presidents can go through the motions, but they haven’t got their hearts in it. Who needs to talk about justice as you drop high explosive and scrawl Death to Ragheads on the side of the bombs? When you want a just war, whistle up a Democrat who can talk with a straight face about installing democracy in the Balkans. After eight years of Bushian crudities the Empire needed an upgrade in its salespitch, which is why we have Obama. Back at the time of the medieval crusades, the Western kings used to take Holy Communion from their Archbishops before heading east to battle Islam and scour the land for booty. I thought the ceremony in that austere hall in Oslo was a straight lineal descent – as Obama accepted his wafer, in the form of the prize — in this modern age a substantial check – and then pledged his holy war.
There have been yelps, but I detect a certain caution on the left, a certain reluctance to toss Obama on the dung heap where he belongs. Often it’s simple self-preservation. A great many nominally left organizations are dependent on liberal non-profit foundations whose executives are swift to cancel grants to those swerving from commitment to the Democratic cause and to the White House. Rather than confess to these coarse inhibitions, the progressives murmur about the lot of Afghan women, the monstrous Taliban, and sit on their hands. And they too see nothing wrong with Obama’s endless pledges to kill Bin Laden – a commitment that aroused ecstasy in Congress last week when General McChrystal told the Senate Armed Services Committee last Tuesday that the world can not defeat al Qaeda until Osama bin Laden is captured or killed.
As Pierre Sprey remarked in the hearing’s wake, “It’s clear to me that, although Gen. McChrystal’s credentials in the assassination business are impeccable, his assassination-based grand strategy is a shameless crib from that great strategic innovator, the USAF’s Col. Worden (e.g., “decapitation of the enemy’s leadership”–by air power, of course). Quibbles over authorship aside, victory through assassination is a brilliant grand strategy for America: it’s cheap, particularly at a time when we’re a bit strapped; it’s politically irresistible to a nation raised on Terminator 2 and Tupac; and, for the defense intellectuals, it offers wonderfully clear cut measures of success. And, empirically speaking, it’s got a great track record. Look how well a single well-conceived execution worked out for Pontius Pilate, the High Priests of the Second Temple, and the Roman Empire.”
Here’s a president who can’t even toss the progressives the one peanut a year they need to keep them happy. Obama’s refusal on the eve of Thanksgiving here ago to sign the U.S. on to the landmine ban was the breaking point for many.
The American Medical Association, mentioned by Clancy Sigal here earlier this week had a study reckoning that an estimated 24,000 people, mainly civilians, are killed or ripped apart by landmines and “unexploded ordinance” (cluster bombs) each year across the world. Mostly the victims are the rural poor, many of them children. As a senator, Barack Obama voted for the ban; as President, he’s against it. Looking at the AMA Report’s numbers it’s a safe bet to say that somewhere in the world, even as Obama invoked Martin Luther King and the peacelovers, some kids the same age as his own two daughters were killed or crippled by a landmine.
Obama could have tossed the peanut through the bars, and ratified the ban. The liberals would have cheered and then Obama could have told Rahm Emanuel to pass the word along to Congress that he’d much prefer the legislators not ratify his decision.