[Marxism] Vintage Cockburn

Louis Proyect lnp3 at panix.com
Sat Oct 10 07:01:18 MDT 2009


Weekend Edition
October 9-11, 2009
CounterPunch Diary
War and Peace

By ALEXANDER COCKBURN

I suppose we should not  begrudge Barack Obama his Nobel Peace Prize, 
though it represents a  radical break in tradition, since he's only had 
slightly less than nine months to discharge his imperial duties, most 
concretely  through the agency of high explosives in the Hindu Kush 
whereas laureates like Henry Kissinger had been diligently slaughtering 
people across the world for years.

Woodrow Wilson, the liberal imperialist with whom Obama bears some 
marked affinities, won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1919, having brought 
America into the carnage of the First World War. The peace laureate 
president who preceded him was Teddy Roosevelt, who got the prize in 
1906  as reward for sponsorship of the Spanish-American war and ardent 
bloodletting in the Philippines.  Senator George Hoar’s famous 
denunciation of Roosevelt on the floor of the US Senate in May of 1902 
was probably what alerted the Nobel Committee to Roosevelt’s eligibility 
for the Peace Prize:

     “You have sacrificed nearly ten thousand American lives—the flower 
of our youth. You have devastated provinces. You have slain uncounted 
thousands of the people you desire to benefit. You have established 
reconcentration camps. Your generals are coming home from their harvest 
bringing sheaves with them, in the shape of other thousands of sick and 
wounded and insane to drag out miserable lives, wrecked in body and 
mind. You make the American flag in the eyes of a numerous people the 
emblem of sacrilege in Christian churches, and of the burning of human 
dwellings, and of the horror of the water torture. ”

TR was given the peace prize not long after he’d displayed his boundless 
compassion for humanity by sponsoring an exhibition of  Filipino “monkey 
men” in the 1904 St Louis World Fair as “the missing link” in the 
evolution of Man from ape to Aryan, and thus in sore need of 
assimilation, forcible if necessary, to the American way. On receipt of 
the prize, Roosevelt promptly dispatched the Great White Fleet  (sixteen 
U.S. Navy ships of the Atlantic Fleet  including four battleships) on a 
worldwide tour to display Uncle Sam’s imperial credentials, anticipating 
by scarce more than a century, Obama’s award, as he prepares to impose 
Pax Americana on the Hindukush and portions of Pakistan.

People marvel at the idiocy of these Nobel awards, but there’s method in 
the madness, since in the end they train people to accept without demur 
or protest absurdity as part and parcel of the human condition, which 
they should accept as representing the considered opinion of rational 
men, albeit Norwegian. It’s a twist on the Alger myth, inspiring to 
youth: you too can get to murder Filipinos, or Palestinians, or 
Vietnamese or Afghans  and still  win a Peace Prize. That’s the audacity 
of hope at full stretch.

It’s dawning even  on those predisposed to like the guy that when it 
comes to burning issues the first black president of the United States 
truly hates to come down on one side or the other. He dreads  making 
powerful people mad. He won’t stand up for his own people when they’re 
being savaged by the nutball right, edges them out, then has his press 
secretary claim that they jumped of their own accord. This may impress 
the peaceniks of Oslo, but from the American perspective he's looking 
like a wimp.

Obama’s Afghan policy evolved on the campaign trail last year as a 
one-liner designed to deflect charges that he was a peacenik on Iraq. 
Not so, he cried. The Global War on Terror was being fought in the wrong 
place. His pledge was to hunt down and “kill” Osama bin Laden.

Once ensconced in the Oval Office Obama, invoking “bipartiship”, 
instantly nailed a white flag to the mast by keeping on Robert Gates, 
Bush’s secretary of defense.

He formed a foreign policy team mostly composed of Clinton-era 
neo-liberal hawks, headed by Hilary  Clinton and Richard Holbrook. His 
next step was to eject the US commander in Afghanistan, Gen. David 
McKiernan, and install Gen. Stanley McChrystal, best known for running 
the assassination wing of the military's joint special-operations 
command. (JSOC). Then he ordered 17,000 new US troops to be deployed to 
Afghanistan.

It was a fine exhibition of Obama’s eerie skill  - also demonstrated in 
the politicking over health reform - in foreclosing his own range of 
choices and allowing opponents to coalesce and seize the initiative. If, 
on his second day in office he’d announced a full and complete review of 
US aims in Afghanistan, with no option left off the table he’d have  had 
some purchase on the situation. But the months drifted by and finally 
the worsening situation forced a review of Afghan policy, precisely when 
Obama’s poll numbers were dropping, the war lobby heartened and the 
liberals already dejected by Obama’s surrender to Goldman Sachs and Wall 
Street and disastrous efforts in the health fight.

At this point  fate handed Obama a golden opportunity. With astounding 
insolence Gen. McChrystal began to conduct a public lobbying campaign 
for his appeal for 40,000 more troops.  His rationale for new troops 
ended up in the hands of Bob Woodward of the Washington Post.

Harry Truman was an indifferent president who needlessly dropped A-bombs 
on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, designed to intimidate Stalin. He launched 
the cold war arms race in 1948. Yet Americans venerate him for two 
things: the sign on his desk saying the buck stops here, and his 
dramatic firing of war hero Gen. Douglas MacArthur, for insubordination 
in challenging Truman’s overall direction of the war in Korea (not to 
mention Truman's fears of likely MacArthur excess in administering 
plans being carefully evolved in Truman’s high command to deploy and use 
nuclear weapons on the Koran peninsula.)

Truman didn’t allow MacArthur time to stage a grandiose resignation. In 
April, 1951, he fired him on late night radio, announcing that "With 
deep regret I have concluded that General of the Army Douglas MacArthur 
is unable to give his wholehearted support to the policies of the U.S. 
Government and of the U.N. in matters pertaining to his official duties. 
In view of the specific responsibilities imposed upon me by the 
Constitution of the U.S. …I have decided that I must make a change in 
command in the Far East. I have, therefore, relieved General MacArthur 
of his command.”

It’s clear that McChrystal stepped over the line conclusively  in his 
speech in London at the Institute for Strategic Studies where he 
contemptuously dismissed the “small footprint” counter-terrorism 
strategy proposed by Vice President Joe Biden and Senator John Kerry, 
saying that it would lead to Afghanistan becoming Chaos-istan. Obama’s 
National Security Advisor, Gen Jim Jones declared that it would have 
been better that McChrystal’s criticisms had come up through the Army’s 
chain of command. That was the moment Obama could have fired McChrystal 
for MacArthur’s offense – insubordination and defiance of civilian 
control of military policy.

McChrystal is no war hero, like McArthur. People crave some evidence 
that Obama has steel in his soul. High risk, maybe, but potentially a 
huge coup for Obama at a fraught political moment, also a brisk exit 
from the  humiliation of the failed booster trip to Copenhagen to win 
the 2016 Olympics for Chicago. Obama did nothing, except further irk his 
liberal base by saying withdrawal isn’t an option. Pundits solemnly 
explained that given Democrats’ distaste for the war in Afghanistan – 
backed by strong popular hostility, Obama might have to go to 
Republicans to get the votes for the necessary appropriations of money.

It’s all much too late for any sensible policy review.  There have been 
two moments in the last 40 years when life might have improved for 
ordinary Afghans, particularly women. The first came with the the 
reforming left regime of the late 1970s, destroyed by the warlords with 
US backing. The second arrived with the US eviction of the Taliban in 
2001-2, which was welcomed by many Afghans. But at this stage in the 
game, simply by definition, no American intervention overseas can be 
anything other than a ghastly disaster, usually bloodstained. Allready 
the US had too many chits out to the warlords of the Northern Alliance. 
The US “nation building” apparat is irreversibly corrupt – with a 
network of $250,000 a year consultancies, insider contracts, and beyond 
that a de facto stake in the drug industry now supply most of the West’s 
heroin and opium.

There’s no possible light at the end of any tunnel. The robot war via 
Predator missiles and other instruments in the arsenal infuriates all 
Afghans,  as wedding parties are blown to bits every weekend. With more 
troops and mercenaries now in Afghanistan than during the Russian 
military presence at its peak, there’s zero chance for America playing a 
long-term constructive role in Afghanistan. The US presence is just a 
recruiting poster for the Taliban.

But Obama has now surrounded himself with just the same breed of 
intellectuals who persuaded Lyndon Johnson to destroy his presidency by 
escalating the war. They’re easily as mad as the bible thumper I heard 
last week on my truck radio  as I drove over the Tehachapi pass on route 
58, between Barstow and Bakersfield. Harold Camping, president of Family 
Stations Ministry, was patiently explaining that God’s plan was to end 
the world by flooding on May 21, 2011, thus trumping the end of the 
Mayan calendar, December 21, 2012.   In the Biblical perspective 
5/21/2011 is the end of the world. The elect will  be saved, the rest 
will perish, not even given brief probation like the inhabitants of 
Nineveh.  Camping's voice was calm and seemingly rational , no doubt 
like those of the men and women briefing Obama. A doubter called in, 
emphasizing that he was a 100 per cent believer in the veracity of each 
line in the Bible, but how to explain verse 4 of the ninetieth psalm? 
“For a thousand years in your sight are like a day that has just gone 
by, or like a watch in the night”? Why had the divine author permitted 
himself the ambiguity of simile?  Camping plunged confidently into 
biblical numerology: God revealed to Noah in the year 4990 BC that there 
would be yet 7 days until the flood of waters would be upon the earth. 
Substitute 1000 years for each one of those 7 days,  and we get 7000 
years.  And when we project 7000 years into the future from 4990 BC, we 
find that it falls on the year 2011 AD.  4990 + 2011 = 7001. He 
counseled us to remember, when counting from an Old Testament date to a 
New Testament date, always to  subtract one year because there is no 
year zero, resulting in: 4990 + 2011 – 1 = 7000 years exactly.

But May 21? On May 21, 1988, God finished using the churches and 
congregations of the world.  The Spirit of God left all churches and 
Satan entered into the churches to rule at that point in time.  The 
Bible decrees that this period of judgment upon the churches wil last 
for 23 years.  A full 23 years (8400 days exactly) would be from May 21, 
1988 until May 21, 2011.    Camping took pains to remind his vast world 
audience that this information was discovered in the Bible completely 
apart from the information regarding the 7000 years from the flood.

At this point the geological contours of the Tehachapi pass interrupted 
the radio signal and soon I was descending into the inferno of sunset 
over Bakersfield.  Is Campoing madder than the augurers who have been 
counseling Obama on his Afghan policy? Is his devoted audience more 
gullible than the President?

Last week Obama invited Republicans as well as Democrats to the White 
House for further review of the options. Obama has let events overtake 
him, exactly as he allowed the health policy debate to spin out of his 
control in the summer and early fall. He'll shoot for some sort of 
lethal semi-compromise on reinforcements, thus feeding the right  and 
angering his liberal supporters. A year from now he’ll be paying the 
penalty in the mid-term elections, just as Clinton did.





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