Wednesday, December 09, 2009

The Devil and Mr. Obama

(Note: Patrick Ward, associate editor of the UK's Socialist Review asked Bageant to write a piece for the party publication. This is the unabridged text of Joe's submission.)

Change, for the worse...
By Joe Bageant, Counterpunch


Well lookee here! An invite from my limey comrades to recap Barack Obama's first year in office. Well comrades, I can do this thing two ways. I can simply state that the great mocha hope turned out to be a Trojan horse for Wall Street and the Pentagon. Or I can lay in an all-night stock of tequila, limes and reefer and puke up the entire miserable tale like some 5,000 word tequila purged Congolese stomach worm. I have chosen to do the latter.


As you may know, Obama's public approval ratings are taking a beating. Millions of his former cult members have awakened with a splitting hangover to find their pockets turned inside out and eviction notices on the doors of their 4,000 square foot subprime mortgaged cardboard fuck boxes. Many who voted for Obama out of disgust for the Bush regime are now listening to the Republicans again on their car radios as they drive around looking for a suitable place to hide their vehicles from the repo man. Don't construe this as support for the GOP. It's just the standard ping ponging of disappointment and disgust that comes after the honeymoon is over with any administration. Most Americans' party affiliations are the same as they were when Bush was elected. After all, Obama did not get elected on a landslide by any means; he got 51% of the vote.


Right now his approval ratings are in the 40th percentile and would be headed for the basement of the league were it not for the residual effect of the Kool-Aid love fest a year ago. However, millions of American liberals remain faithful, and believe Obama will arise from the dead in the third year and ascend to glory. You will find them at Huffington Post.


This frustrating ping pong game in which the margin of first time, disenchanted and undecided voters are batted back and forth has become the whole of American elections. That makes both the Republican and Democratic parties very happy, since it keeps the game down to fighting the enemy they know, each other, as opposed to being forced to deal with the real issues, or worse yet, an independent or third party candidate who might have a solution or two.
Thus, the game is limited to two players between two corporate parties. One is the Republican Party, which believes we should hand over our lives and resources directly to the local Chamber of Commerce, so the chamber can deliver them to the big corporations. The other, the Democratic Party, believes we should hand our lives and resources to a Democratic administration -- so it alone can deliver our asses to the big dogs who own the country. In the big picture it's always about who gets to deliver the money to the Wall Street hyena pack.


Americans may be starting to get the big picture about politics, money and corporate power. But I doubt it. Given that most still believe the war on terrorism is real, and that terrorists always just happen to be found near gas and oil deposits, there is plenty of room left to blow more smoke up their asses. Especially considering how we are conditioned to go into blind fits of patriotism at the sight of the flag, an eagle, or the mention of "our heroes," even if the heroes happen to be killing and maiming Muslim babies at the moment. Patriotism is a cataract that blinds us to all national discrepancies.


Much of the rest of the world seems plagued with similar cataracts that keep it from noticing the chasm of discrepancy between what Obama says and what he actually does. The Nobel Committee awarded the 2009 Peace Prize to the very person who dropped the most bombs and killed the most poor people on the planet during that year. The same guy who started a new war in Pakistan, beefed up the ongoing war in Afghanistan, and continues to threaten Iran with attack unless Iran cops to phony US-Israeli charges of secret nuclear weapons facilities. It's weapons of mass destruction all over again. Somewhere in the whole fracas has been forgotten that Iran has been calling for a nuclear free zone in the Middle East since 1974. Iran has also been consistent in its position that "petroleum is a noble material, much too valuable to burn for electricity," and that nuclear energy makes much more sense, given that our food supply, whether we like it or not, is fundamentally dependent upon petrochemicals and will remain so until the earth's population is reduced to at least half of what it is now. The Iranian attitude has been to use the shrinking petroleum deposits as judiciously as possible.


To which oilman George Bush replied that "There will be consequences for Iran's attitude." Obama has reinforced Bush's sentiment, stating that not only will there be consequences, but that a military strike on Iran "is not out of the question." Although nuclear weapons are in direct opposition to the Muslim faith, 71 million Iranians must have shuddered and paused to think: "Maybe an Iranian bomb isn't such a bad idea after all."


Under cover of being the first "black" president, Obama is looking to best one of the Bush administration's records. And that is causing unshirted hell for anybody two shades darker than a paper bag, particularly if they are wearing sandals (Obama himself being only one shade darker than the bag and given to size eleven black Cole Haans). So far, two million Pakistanis have been, in official US State Department jargon, "displaced" by U.S. backed bombing and gunfire -- which will surely displace a fellow if anything will. A significant portion of them are "living with host families." Translation: packed into crowded houses ten to a room, wiping out food and water supplies, crashing already fragile sanitation infrastructure, and serving as a giant human Petrie dish for intestinal and respiratory diseases. Many more are still living in the "conflict area." Makes it sound like living next door to a neighborhood domestic squabble, doesn't it? God only knows how many more innocent people will yet be killed in the conflict area of Obama's "war of necessity." You know, the "good war." The war that is supposed to offset the interminable bad one in Iraq, where we continue to occupy and build more bases.


Afghanistan: Grab the opium and run
Then there are Obama's noble efforts to fight terrorism by beefing up troop "deployment" in Afghanistan. Deployment may be construed to mean an American style armed gangbang, in which everybody piles on some wretched flea bitten hamlets for all they are worth, with periodic breaks for pizza and video games.


Now if you look at the deployment of US forces in Afghanistan, compared to NATO country forces there, you'll find them in a nice even line along what could easily be mistaken for an oil pipeline route. One that taps into the natural gas deposits in Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan and, by the purest coincidence, just happens to bypass nearby Russia and Iran. But we all know that "It's about fighting terrorism over there so we won't have to fight it here!" That still plays in Peoria, so we're sticking with it.


At the moment, out-of-pocket cost of America's wars in Iraq and Afghanistan is $900 billion. Interest on the debt incurred, plus the waste of productive resources on the war, pushes the cost to three thousand billion dollars (Nobel economist Joseph Stiglitz). By comparison, the entire 2009 government budget for elementary and secondary education is slightly above $800 billion. Or to look at it another way, how far would three thousand billion dollars go toward establishing energy independence? As Harvard monetary expert Linda Bilmes points out that there is "no benefit whatsoever for any American whose income does not derive from the military/security complex." I sent an email to Obama pointing this out, suggesting that we pull out of Afghanistan, grab the opium and run. I got a nice reply saying that my president is grateful for the input. So there ya go.


Lately there has been a ruckus about our little "slap shop" in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. Despite Obama's promises to close down, "Cigarland," it is still open for business. Word has it that Cigarland may be moved to an "underused" maximum security prison (one would think a scarcity of criminals for a maximum security prison would be good news, but what do I know?) in the desperately broke community of Thompson, Illinois. Locals there tell the national press, "Sure, put it in our backyard. No problem." Or, "This town is in the prison business. Prisons R Us." Or more bluntly, "We know how to handle these creeps and we need the jobs."


It's the kind of job creation Stalin would have understood.


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