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Obama In Chocoate Factory Earning his Keep

9:02 am in Uncategorized by Deena Stryker

 

Yesterday I happened unto France 24 just as it was airing President Obama’s speech to a select group of Belgian students in the presence of the king and queen and government officials at the Palais des Beaux-Arts, a fancy theatre. He started by saying: ‘What’s not to like in a country famous for its chocolate and beer?”

It was the old Obama, the one we loved and admired when he ran for his first term, the Obama of Dreams From My Father, a brilliant intellectual who knows where the major capitals are – yet caring, and funny. You could tell he was happy to once again be in front of a young audience that could respond to his message with enthusiasm. It was a message that glossed over centuries of strife to emphasize the noble documents they spawned but did not always follow, giving rise to the most powerful military alliance the world has ever known.

Here in the capital of EuroNatoLand, he lectured the next generation of leaders about the meaning of freedom and democracy, and the need to defend those values lest they be taken away by — essentially — the same country their parents were taught to fear all during the Cold War.

But the only enemy tanks Belgium and the rest of Western Europe have known were not Russian, but German, and every European youth has been taught what that meant. And because of that history, European youth is largely pacifist (unless you count the resentment, among the lower classes, of Muslim immigrants).

Of course this lengthy speech was not broadcast in the United States, but you can read it here and still catch the French debate that followed online. The French channel also documented the enormous number of security vehicles and personnel accompanying the president on the American taxpayers’ dime, conjuring up a Hollywood rendition of Cleopatra’s trip to Rome.

Here are some of the more outrageous claims the President made, perhaps thinking that Europeans are as ignorant as Americans of world events:

We did not claim or annex Iraq’s territory. We did not grab its resources for our own gain (sic). Instead, we ended our war and left Iraq to its people in a fully sovereign Iraqi state that can make decisions about its own future.

Never mind that Al Qaeda was not in Iraq before we invaded, while now it controls parts of the country, together with parts of Syria.

NATO only intervened after the people of Kosovo were systematically brutalized and killed for years.

NATO bombed Serbia without a UN mandate, while Obama accuses Russia of not getting UN permission to hold a referendum in Crimea.

We are confronted with the belief among some that bigger nations can bully smaller ones to get their way — that recycled maxim that might somehow makes right.

Give a Professor of Constitutional Law a little chocolate and beer and he’ll say anything to earn his keep.

Obama ended his speech by linking individual and national responsibility in a magisterial sweep from respecting gay rights to being strong in the face of conflict and corruption, calling for freedom to triumph over tyranny, “for that is what forever stirs in the human heart.”

Such an ending could not fail to stir enthusiastic applause. But I could find no mention of the speech today in either the Belgian or French press.

Three Musketeers vs. Goliath

8:24 am in Uncategorized by Deena Stryker

RT’s Sophia Shevardnadze interviews Russian specialist Professor Stephen F. Cohen today about the fall-out from the Snowden case in U.S.-Russia relations. Cutting to the chase, Cohen compared the American public’s response to the Pentagon papers with what is happening today: polls indicate that about half of Americans accept to be spied upon if that will keep their children safe from terrorists, whereas in the seventies, reaction to Daniel Ellsberg’s leaking of Vietnam War documents turned the country against that war.

Bradley Manning faces life in prison for supposedly aiding the enemy by revealing past American misdeeds, Julian Assange is threatened with arrest for publishing his leaks if he sets foot outside the Ecuadoran embassy in London, and Edward Snowden is stuck in a transit no-man’s land in  Moscow facing the same charges. These three musketeers are being hounded for exposing government wrong-doing that has cost thousands of lives as ‘the West’ crusades against terrorists and a select list of ‘dictators’ around the world.

Last Monday France 24 aired an interview with an exiled Syrian journalist who is operating a radio program for Syrians (Radio Rozana) financed by the French government. Lina Chawaf described the conditions under which she worked while still in Syria. Her private television channel was only allowed to broadcast non-political programs, and when she went to work for another channel, government minders pressured her regularly to broadcast the Assad line. Threats, veiled and otherwise eventually motivated her to leave the country.

Americans have been conditioned to condemn curtailment of press freedom in one-party states. But, call me a trouble-maker, I have a hard time seeing these situations as qualitatively different from what increasingly goes on in the United States. Granted, journalists may not receive daily threats from the FBI or the CIA, but for decades they’ve known what they can and cannot say if they want to keep their high-paying jobs, and now, new laws allow the government to jail them on the pretext that talking to sources equals aiding the enemy. Chris Hedges and several other prominent journalists just lost a law suit against these scary tactics.

In case anyone thinks activists are exaggerating the gravity of the situation, the recent death of an investigative American journalist in an automobile accident that may have been caused by a cyber attack (http://www.opposingviews.com/i/society/transportation/cars/journalist-michael-hastings-body-cremated-authorities-against-familys#) should give pause. The day before his death, Michael Hastings emailed friends that he was going to have to “go off the radar for a bit” because he was on to an important story. His body was returned to his family in an urn, and no one has been allowed to examine the car that suddenly burst into flames on a Los Angeles street. Aside from the more sophisticated means employed, is this incident qualitatively different from the assassination, say, of Russian journalist Anna Politkovskaya a few years ago in the elevator of her apartment building?

We can expect such deaths to multiply, given the stakes for the American system and the electronic tools it has perfected. For background read Tomdispatch’s July  14th Surveillance Blowback The Making of the U.S. Surveillance State, 1898-2020  By Alfred W. McCoy, then tell me whether journalists and whistle-blowers should be prosecuted.
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