Why can't Obama just stop saying offensive and hypocritical things all the damn time? Why can't he just stick to the easy stuff and make himself look better and less embarrassing? Every time I hear some sound bite from the Illinois Senator that I agree with, it's inevitably followed up a day later by something totally absurd and hypocritical. Oh wait, do you think I'm referring to his recent, and now infamous, "bitter" comment? I'm not. I agree with him. Unhappy and disaffected blue-collar Americans are embittered and do, in fact, cling to their guns, religion, xenophobia, and racism in order to cope with their economic and financial hardships. In an election cycle, when the average "common folk" in this country feel so abandoned by their government when they see no effort to actually confront the weakening economy and no acknowledgment of the financial hardships of regular people, they turn their attention by default and desperation to so-called "values" issues in an attempt to have their voices represented in some way. What's news about this?
This past week has been rife with Obama coverage. "He says Americans aren't happy, how dare he?!" some cry, once again making something out of nothing and displaying that trademark American lack of self-awareness that we've all come to cherish and coddle. Well actually, Americans aren't happy, for a multitude of reasons, and currently 81% of us think this country is headed in the wrong direction. So, Obama was dead on when he said people in rural communities are bitter and the "people," who aren't either staunch Republicans, avid Hillary supporters, Nightly News entertainers, or mentally retarded (these four categories are not mutually exclusive), pretty much agree with him.
Does this mean I now like Obama and will vote for him? No, of course not. But I agree with him when he says obvious things. Who wouldn't? For instance, I agree with Hillary Clinton that a mandatory health care system is better funded and administered than Obama's non-mandated system which would ensure that medical costs would stay high. I also agree with John McCain that Matlock can probably out-sleuth Lansbury any day of the week (before 4:30pm suppertime, that is) and that automatic doors and that awful hissing sound of air brakes on large buses are startling and a little bit scary. Does this mean I will cast a vote for these clowns? Obviously not. Obama is no different (though he doesn't get cold and ornery in air conditioned movie theatres like some presidential old-mandidates). I'm allowed to agree with him on some issues and still not like him.
Take Barack's recent comments to Will Bunch of the Philadelphia Daily News, for example. Obama was asked whether, during an Obama administration in Washington, his Justice Department "would aggressively go after and investigate whether crimes have been committed," by the Bush administration's rampant and documented use of "torture, rendition, and illegal wiretapping." Here is Obama's response, in full,
What I would want to do is to have my Justice Department and my Attorney General immediately review the information that's already there and to find out are there inquiries that need to be pursued. I can't prejudge that because we don't have access to all the material right now. I think that you are right, if crimes have been committed, they should be investigated. You're also right that I would not want my first term consumed by what was perceived on the part of Republicans as a partisan witch hunt because I think we've got too many problems we've got to solve.Again, stating the obvious. Do I agree with his apparent commitment to investigate the criminal activity of the past seven or eight years? Yes, of course. But do I think this makes Obama a great candidate? No. Yet again, he is stating the obvious. Anything less than what he promises is in itself criminal negligence of justice, plus he reiterated his position on impeachment (which is actually a position against impeachment), so anything he says on the subject at this point is a bit trite. Honestly, he seems more intent on laying the groundwork to cover his own ass in the future (is he already planning on commiting impeachable offenses during his tenure in office?), than on actually pursuing any sort of belated justice that the world deserves to see.
So this is an area where I would want to exercise judgment -- I would want to find out directly from my Attorney General -- having pursued, having looked at what's out there right now -- are there possibilities of genuine crimes as opposed to really bad policies. And I think it's important-- one of the things we've got to figure out in our political culture generally is distinguishing between really dumb policies and policies that rise to the level of criminal activity. You know, I often get questions about impeachment at town hall meetings and I've said that is not something I think would be fruitful to pursue because I think that impeachment is something that should be reserved for exceptional circumstances. Now, if I found out that there were high officials who knowingly, consciously broke existing laws, engaged in cover ups of those crimes with knowledge forefront, then I think a basic principle of our Constitution is nobody above the law -- and I think that's roughly how I would look at it.
Obama seems also not to read the news very much himself. There is no doubt whatsoever that the Cheney Gang was responsible for all manner of the very highest crimes and worst misdemeanors. Read one the million books that has been published over the course of this disastrous presidency that details these facts. Lying a nation into war is a crime. Illegally invading and brutally occupying a sovereign nation, let alone two, and murdering and displacing millions of innocent people is a war crime of the highest order. The evidence is staggering and not too hard to find. Just this week, we found out (as if we didn't know already) that Cheney signed off on the torture of illegally detained "terror" suspects, that Bush "was aware" of the harsh tactics being used on detainees, and that even the Pentagon has documented the abuse of prisoners by US military personnel. What could possibly be unearthed at this point that would reveal to Obama that crimes, and not just "dumb policies" have been, and are still being, committed?
Obama's bitter comments are both true and meaningless in the grand scheme of things. Investigating potential crimes of the past administration is a nice little nugget of joy to the still-clinging-to-hope-for-change progressives that want so badly to feel politically involved that they'll vote for someone who doesn't at all share their views. As Reza Fiyouzat recently wrote,
Voting for establishment candidates is (electoral) masturbation. It gives you a euphoric high: I did my bit; I not only get complaining rights, I am an active citizen, even though after this singular act of delivering a ballot, which took me between an hour to a few, I will return to my private space, safe and self-pleased in the knowledge that I did my duty to uphold this wonderful citadel of democracy (no blood-fed empires here) and maintained the healthfulness element in the public domain; now, it's back to me, again, after a brief democracy interruption.And still I have yet to touch on what Obama said and did this week that really pissed me off. The "bitter" remark was correct. The "investigation" comments were welcome, if timid. So what's the newest problem? It's actually the same old same old from Obama: his profound pandering to the state of Israel and its American supporters.
This electoral euphoria, unlike auto-sexual masturbation, comes without any shame or possible embarrassments (if you're religious, that is), thus magnifying its mystifying effects. A perfect democracy achieved with minimal effort required of the subjects; a miracle of efficiency! In fact, to demonstrate the available limits of its efficiency, citizens are actively encouraged by the system to reduce maximally any participation in the public sphere.
Voting at all would be purely masturbational if it were not for the occasional candidates who cause discomfort among the establishment candidates and the press; people such as Ralph Nader and Cynthia McKinney, who come close enough to making sounds pleasing enough so as to cause some warm blood to flow back into an ear otherwise petrified by layers of repeated insults, corruption and violence, thirsty for the slightest talk of social justice and a fight for people's rights, for workers' rights, for immigrants' rights, a good fight against racism.
At a time when Israel is constantly killing children and teenagers, denying Palestinian school children the right to a decent education (by, among other things, prohibiting such basic needs as pencils, paper, and books), shutting down orphanages and schools in Hebron, "willfully" killing journalists in the Occupied Territories, with all the bogus ideas of "peace" (without any mention of justice) seeming having vanished for the time being, the world seems to be in an uproar about a small, exotic, Himalayan nation called Tibet.
No one is saying that Tibet shouldn't be free, or that Tibetans shouldn't be allowed full human rights to self-determination and autonomy (except China, that is, and they're wrong). But this recent media frenzy and activist mayhem across the globe is curious. Dubious. The cause is just, for sure, but the hypocrisy is staggering.
Gideon Levy, noted Israeli journalist for Ha'aretz, recently wrote about the Israeli activists protesting for a Free Tibet, stating,
Citizens of a country that maintains a military subjugation in its backyard that is no less cruel than that of the Chinese, and by some parameters even more so, and against which there is practically no more protest here, have no justification in denouncing another occupation. Citizens of a country that is entirely tainted by the occupation - a national, ongoing project that involves all sectors of the population to some extent, directly or indirectly - cannot wash their hands and fight another occupation, when a half-hour from their homes, horrors no less terrible are taking place for which they have much greater responsibility.The very same could and should be said for citizens of a country whose government and tax dollars are directly supporting two illegal occupations on the other side of the world, wherein horrific catastrophes happen every single day, not to mention bankrolling the very occupation about which Levy speaks. The double standard is obvious and embarrassing. So why is everyone, especially the media, stricken with Tibet fever?
Israeli peace activist and former MK Uri Avnery, in trying to identify why the international media heaps so much attention on one particular human struggle for freedom while so blithely ignoring another, states that Tibetans "enjoy ideal conditions" for media sympathy and air time, considering their enchantingly mysterious and aesthetic culture, a charismatic and beloved figurehead, and an oppressing government much maligned for its myriad human rights violations and economic immunity to US bullying. Avnery explains,
Fringed by the Himalayas, [Tibetans] are located in one of the most beautiful landscapes on earth. For centuries, just to get there was an adventure. Their unique religion arouses curiosity and sympathy. Its non-violence is very attractive and elastic enough to cover even the ugliest atrocities, like the recent pogrom. The exiled leader, the Dalai Lama, is a romantic figure, a media rock-star. The Chinese regime is hated by many - by capitalists because it is a Communist dictatorship, by Communists because it has become capitalist. It promotes a crass and ugly materialism, the very opposite of the spiritual Buddhist monks, who spend their time in prayer and meditation.And how can Basques, Kurds, Chechnyans, Africans in the East Congo or the Western Sahara, Tamils in Sri Lanka, Albanian Kosovars, Corsicans, and even Scots in the UK and the French in Canada complete with that? Palestinans seem to be at a particular disadvantage in this sense. Avnery continues,
When China builds a railway to the Tibetan capital over a thousand inhospitable kilometers, the West does not admire the engineering feat, but sees (quite rightly) an iron monster that brings hundreds of thousands of Han-Chinese settlers to the occupied territory.
And of course, China is a rising power, whose economic success threatens America's hegemony in the world. A large part of the ailing American economy already belongs directly or indirectly to China. The huge American Empire is sinking hopelessly into debt, and China may soon be the biggest lender. American manufacturing industry is moving to China, taking millions of jobs with it.
In the competition for the sympathy of the world media, the Palestinians are unlucky. According to all the objective standards, they have a right to full independence, exactly like the Tibetans. They inhabit a defined territory, they are a specific nation, a clear border exists between them and Israel. One must really have a crooked mind to deny these facts.Levy, too, compares and contrasts the struggles of Tibetans and Palestinians,
But the Palestinians are suffering from several cruel strokes of fate: The people that oppress them claim for themselves the crown of ultimate victimhood. The whole world sympathizes with the Israelis because the Jews were the victims of the most horrific crime of the Western world. That creates a strange situation: the oppressor is more popular than the victim. Anyone who supports the Palestinians is automatically suspected of anti-Semitism and Holocaust denial.
The Palestinians are not as nice as the Tibetans in the eyes of the world. But the Palestinian people deserve exactly the same rights as the occupied Tibetan people, even if their leaders are less enchanting, they have no scarlet robes and their fight is more violent. There is absolutely no connection between rights and the means of protest, and from that perspective, there is no difference between a Tibetan and a Palestinian - they both deserve the exact same freedom.So where does Obama fit into all this? Have I lost the thread here? No sir. True to form, Barack Obama has spoken out against one form of oppression while continuing to pretend another form (that is more politically advantageous to his White House designs) doesn't exist.
Moreover, in the first years of the Israeli occupation, most Palestinians accepted it submissively, with practically no violence. What did they get as a result? Nothing. The world and Israel cloaked themselves in apathy and callousness. Only when planes started being hijacked in the 1970s did the world begin to notice that a Palestinian problem even existed. In contrast, the Tibetan struggle also was tainted with violence in the past, and it is reasonable to assume that violence will increase if the Tibetans do not attain their goal.
There is also no point in asking which occupation is crueler, the Chinese or the Israeli. The competition is harsh and bitter. The Chinese killed and imprisoned more Tibetans, in Lhasa there is less freedom of expression than in Nablus, but in general, the extent of Israeli repression in the territories is much greater today than Chinese repression in Tibet.
Nowhere in the world today is there a region more besieged and confined than Gaza. And what is the result? The world calls to boycott the occupier in the case of China, while absurdly, with regard to the Palestinians, the world is boycotting the occupied entity, or at least its elected leadership, and not the occupier. This, it seems, has no parallel in history.
In an especially ass-kissing article in the Nation on March 15, John Nichols reveals Obama's comments condemning the Chinese crackdown on Tibetan protests and the imprisonment of Buddhist monks. Obama speaks, as any thinking person would, against brutal oppression and the injustices of an ongoing occupation. After saying that he is "deeply disturbed" by the arrests of peaceful protesters, Obama continues by condemning "the use of violence to put down peaceful protests, and call on the Chinese government to respect the basic human rights of the people of Tibet, and to account for the whereabouts of detained Buddhist monks." Seems to make sense, right? Well, sure. But would Barack agree with those sentiments if he replaced the word Chinese with the word Israeli and the word Tibet with Palestine? What if "detained Buddhist monks" were instead "illegally imprisoned and uncharged Palestinians"? Doesn't seem to have the same sexy ring to it, does it? Nope.
Obama then continues, without a hint of irony,
These events come on the 49th anniversary of the exile of the spiritual leader of Tibetan Buddhists, the Dalai Lama. They demonstrate the continuing frustration of the Tibetan people at the way in which Beijing has ruled Tibet. There has been an informal dialogue between Chinese leaders and the Dalai Lama's representatives over the past six years. It is good that they have been talking, but China has thus far shown no flexibility on the substance of those discussions. Indeed, it has delayed in scheduling the latest round, despite the willingness of the Tibetans to continue dialogue.Obama's statements here are both welcome and warranted. What Obama doesn't seem to care about, however, is the double standard and hypocrisy of his comments and his constant efforts to align himself with the Israeli government and commit himself and his future administration to protecting the "sacrosanct" security of a state that already possesses one of the most powerful and modern military forces on the planet. True, this is the 49th year of Dalai Lama's exile and also the year of the Beijing Olympics. But 2008 also marks the 60th anniverary of "Israeli independence" and the 41st year of the Israeli occupation of Palestinian lands (that is, if you're generous and don't automatically count 'independence' via ethnic cleansing and land theft as 'occupation' in the first place).
If Tibetans are to live in harmony with the rest of China's people, their religion and culture must be respected and protected. Tibet should enjoy genuine and meaningful autonomy. The Dalai Lama should be invited to visit China, as part of a process leading to his return.
This is the year of the Beijing Olympics. It represents an opportunity for China to show the world what it has accomplished in the last several decades. Those accomplishments have been extraordinary and China's people have a right to be proud of them, but the events in Tibet these last few days unfortunately show a different face of China. Now is the time for Beijing to take steps that would change the image people have of China later this year by changing the reality of how they treat Tibet and Tibetans. Now is the time to respect the human rights and religious freedom of the people of Tibet.
Not only does Obama continually reassert his profound connection to Israel and to the American Jewish community, but he has dedicated an entire page of his website to making sure no one thinks, even for a second, that Obama advocates for Palestinian rights. (Those people want rights?!?! Heaven forefend!!) The page not only sites numerous articles that praise Obama for his stance on supporting Israeli apartheid, the anti-humanitarian siege of Gaza, and international boycott of democratically-elected Hamas, but it also stresses that Obama blames only the Palestinian leadership (and in no way Israel, the militarized occupier) for the plight of the Palestinian people and seems to boast about Obama's lack of support for the Palestinian cause. It is also curious that, considering Obama's past work with the poor people of Chicago, he refuses to even acknowledge the devastating poverty in which most Palestinians now live at the hands of the Israeli blockade. For a candidate who speaks openly and often of hope, change, and unity, this speaks strongly toward favoritism of one community, while completely forsaking another.
Most recently, Ha'aretz reports, Obama has launched a new Hebrew blog in Israel in the hopes of strengthening his ties with the Israeli public. Last time I checked, though, Israelis don't get to vote for President of the United States, so why would a candidate here in America need Israeli approval? It's all part of the game to win over the lucrative and influential Jewish vote here in the States, in all its bizarrely transparent and obvious glory. So this is the miracle candidate we've been looking for all these many long years so save us from establishment groupthink? Gotcha. Pardon me if I think he's full of shit.
One of the better stances Obama has taken in the past is his stated willingness, and perhaps even eagerness, to meet with world leaders whom the United States has previously, or even currently, regarded as "enemies" without preconditions. Back in February, during a Democratic debate for CNN/Univision, Obama reiterated the importance of unconditional talks with America's "enemies," stating in typical Kennedy-esque syntax, "Let us never negotiate out of fear, but let us never fear to negotiate." Good for him. Diplomacy, not stalemate. Discussion, not boycott. Just what we need in an American president, right? Well, yes, but Obama doesn't even believe his own words.
After intense pressure from pro-Israel groups and parts of the American Jewish community, in reponse to former president Jimmy Carter's visit to Palestine and Syria this week and meeting with Hamas officials, Barack Obama has officially denounced Carter's diplomatic efforts and appears to put more weight on stigma and propaganda than on peace and justice. In a statement to NBC, the Obama campaign wrote,
Senator Obama does not agree with President Carter's decision to go forward with this meeting because he does not support negotiations with Hamas until they renounce terrorism, recognize Israel's right to exist, and abide by past agreements.So much for his claims of meeting with "enemies." Too bad Obama doesn't expect Israel to abide by the same conditions he demands of Hamas. As some basic pre-conditions for Hamas to negotiate with Israel, perhaps the illegal building of settlements on Palestinan land should cease, as is required by both international law and the ground rules of the recent Annapolis talks. Maybe the constant infiltration of Gaza by Israeli Occupation Forces and F-16 attacks responsibile for the killing of hundreds of men, women, and children should stop before Hamas comes to the table. But, in fact, Hamas has offered numerous cease-fires and has been rebuffed consistently by Israel. Even in an extremely pragmatic sense, Hamas should have many more reasonable demands than Israel. Mahmoud al-Zahar, a Palestinian surgeon and a founder of Hamas, who is currently the foreign minister in the government of Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh, which was elected in January 2006, put things like this, in a letter to The Washington Post:
After decades of imprisonment, killing, statelessness and impoverishment, we ask: What peace can there be if there is no dignity first? And where does dignity come from if not from justice?But, of course, Obama doesn't see things like this. He, instead, shows himself to be far from the Kennedy-type figure he pretends to be by resembling, much more closely, President Harry Truman, who, in 1948, single-handedly approved of the creation of the Zionist state of Israel in the Middle East, despite the complete and total opposition to such an idea by absolutely every single State Department and Pentagon expert at the time. Truman remarked, and presciently spoke for Obama himself sixty years in the future, "I am sorry gentlemen, but I have to answer to hundreds of thousands who are anxious for the success of Zionism. I do not have hundreds of thousands of Arabs among my constituents."
Our movement fights on because we cannot allow the foundational crime at the core of the Jewish state -- the violent expulsion from our lands and villages that made us refugees -- to slip out of world consciousness, forgotten or negotiated away. Judaism -- which gave so much to human culture in the contributions of its ancient lawgivers and modern proponents of tikkun olam -- has corrupted itself in the detour into Zionism, nationalism and apartheid.
A "peace process" with Palestinians cannot take even its first tiny step until Israel first withdraws to the borders of 1967; dismantles all settlements; removes all soldiers from Gaza and the West Bank; repudiates its illegal annexation of Jerusalem; releases all prisoners; and ends its blockade of our international borders, our coastline and our airspace permanently. This would provide the starting point for just negotiations and would lay the groundwork for the return of millions of refugees. Given what we have lost, it is the only basis by which we can start to be whole again.
So why doesn't Obama support Carter's meeting with Hamas leaders and side, instead, with Israel's shunning of Carter, despite Carter's role in brokering the first-ever peace treaty between Israel and an Arab country thirty years ago? Why doesn't Obama echo the sentiment of the 64% of Israelis who support direct talks with Hamas regarding a cease-fire and the release of Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit, who has been held captive by Hamas since June 2006? Even Shalit's own father believes that Carter's mission is beneficial to both Israeli-Palestinian relations and for the fate of his son. Obama, apparently, does not.
"I think there's no doubt in anyone's mind," Carter said this week, "that if Israel is ever going to find peace with justice concerning the relationship with their next-door neighbors, the Palestinians, that Hamas will have to be included in the process." Ignoring this fact is absurd and should not be the policy of a US president intent on unconditional diplomacy. Obama seems intent on criticizing and undermining the efforts of a former president rather than recognizing the realities of the situation. And if he does, in fact, recognize the facts and chooses instead to pander to Israel and its Zionist apologists worldwide, despite said facts, in order to advance his political career, then he's as bad as anyone else you could prop up there in the Oval Office. Bascially, it doesn't much matter if you're a witty young Black guy or a crazy old White idiot, as long as you've got Joe (or Avigdor, for that matter) Lieberman's hand up your ass, I have no respect for you.
even for using the word 'Apartheid'
Cecilie Surasky | MuzzleWatch | 16 April 2008
We’ll share some choice quotes from Haaretz’s editorial thanking Jimmy Carter for all he’s done, like that little peace agreement he brokered with Egypt, despite the fact that Israel is now “boycotting” him. But first, it’s worth pointing out that high level Israeli officials (not to mention Haaretz reporters) were using the term “apartheid” to describe Israel’s unequal and separate systems for Israelis and Palestinians long before Carter’s book came out and caused a firestorm that could have destroyed a lesser figure.
Folks like former Israeli Attorney General Michael Ben-Yair who wrote in 2002, “In effect, we established an apartheid regime in the occupied territories immediately following their capture. That regime exists to this day.” And there’s Shulamit Aloni, former Minister of Education, who said, “Through its army, the government of Israel practices a brutal form of apartheid in the territory it occupies.” Geez, even former South African prime minister Hendrik Verwoerd, considered the architect of apartheid said, “Israel, like South Africa, is an apartheid state.”
But Carter is a former US president. And he put apartheid, a word he clearly meant to describe the Palestinian occupied territories and not Israel behind the green line, in the title of his book, Palestine: Peace not Apartheid. Haaretz writes this week, after detailing his major gifts to Israel and the cold shoulder treatment he’s getting this week:
But Israelis have not liked him since he wrote the book “Palestine: Peace not Apartheid.”
Israel is not ready for such comparisons, even though the situation begs it. It is doubtful whether it is possible to complain when an outside observer, especially a former U.S. president who is well versed in international affairs, sees in the system of separate roads for Jews and Arabs, the lack of freedom of movement, Israel’s control over Palestinian lands and their confiscation, and especially the continued settlement activity, which contravenes all promises Israel made and signed, a matter that cannot be accepted. The interim political situation in the territories has crystallized into a kind of apartheid that has been ongoing for 40 years. In Europe there is talk of the establishment of a binational state in order to overcome this anomaly. In the peace agreement with Egypt, 30 years ago, Israel agreed to “full autonomy” for the occupied territories, not to settle there.Thank you Carter, and Haaretz for saying, simply, the truth of what you see. Not everyone has to agree on the word. But they should argue on its merits, not by attacking the messenger, which is the ultimate cheap shot.
These promises have been forgotten by Israel, but Carter remembers.