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After The Iraq Debacle, It Would Be Negligent For Americans Not To Watch Ahmadinejad’s U.N. Speech

9:34 am in Uncategorized by TheCallUp

Originally published at AlterPolitics

One reason why the most powerful interests succeed in pulling the wool over the eyes of the American people is because the masses rarely if ever take the time to read or view the raw information available to them. Instead they rely on others’ interpretations.

Everyone is guilty of this to different degrees. People’s lives are hectic, there are only so many hours in a given day. So the masses look for quick summaries, 30-minute news programs covering dozens of different news briefs that can be measured in seconds. Fast food news consumption for those on the go.

But in doing so, they become dependent upon these same powerful interests, not only to inform them about what they need to know, but how to think about these issues.

When the interests of both the public and the powerful coincide, then the public can often glean an accurate, though often ‘Cliffs Notes’-level of comprehension on any given issue. But when the public interest conflicts with the interests of the powerful on an issue, then the establishment is well positioned to massage the message and misinform, or to drop its coverage entirely, thereby ensuring the public remains uninformed.

This helps to ensure the masses vote and cheerlead against their own best interests, and in ways that further enrich the powerful. The public ends up supporting wars they later learn were unnecessary, unlawful, costly, and resulted in the loss of hundreds of thousands of innocent lives, often including members of their own families.

A majority of Americans knew close to nothing about Saddam Hussein after Sept. 11, 2001, at a time when the Bush Administration began its propaganda campaign to mislead the country into a war with Iraq. This made the Neocons’ job very easy. By repeating talking points laced with demagoguery and fear mongering, the Bush Administration convinced a major majority of Americans that this dictator was so evil, so dangerous, so irrational, that his accelerating ‘nuclear weapons program’ made him an ‘imminent threat’ to American security.

One of the most oft-repeated phrases the Neocons used to help demonize Saddam as a monster was “he gassed his own people.”

George W. Bush on Oct. 11, 2001 (one month after 9-11):

“There’s no question that the leader of Iraq is an evil man. After all, he gassed his own people. We know he’s been developing weapons of mass destruction. … And so we’re watching him very carefully. We’re watching him carefully.”

The gassing allegation was true. Saddam DID gas the Kurds on 40-some different occasions. His largest gassing was against the Kurdish town of Halabja in March of 1988, resulting in the deaths of 5,000 people. But what George W. Bush didn’t want you to know, and could rely on the establishment media not to tell you, was that this gassing took place back when Saddam was an ally and aid recipient of the United States, during the Administration of his father, George H.W. Bush.

Samantha Power, in her Pulitzer Prize winning book, “A Problem from Hell: America in the Age of Genocide,” revealed that not only was the Bush Administration well aware of the gassing of the Kurds, they refused to even condemn it. Despite knowing definitively that Saddam was responsible, as declassified documents now reveal, the State Department went as far as to suggest that perhaps Iran was involved on some level in the gassing.

Does this fact make Saddam any less evil? Of course not. But had the public at large realized that Bush and his fellow Neocons were capitalizing on incidents that occurred nearly 15 years earlier — incidents that happened when Saddam was cozy with Bush’s own father and some of these same Neocons, and with their full knowledge — it might have led the public to question why these Neocons suddenly ’saw the light’ on Saddam’s monstrosity. And that might have taken some of the air out of the ‘imminent threat’ bubble.

And now Americans are being sold that Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is the new Adolph Hitler. This week, the U.S. Senate overwhelmingly (99 votes to 1) passed a new non-binding resolution, proclaiming war to be a viable option should the Iranians gain the capability for a nuke — even if they have no intentions of creating one. The knowledge, in itself, has now been pronounced grounds for war.

Now, you might not like Ahmadinejad, you might even find his views on any number of subjects repugnant, or his abuse of political dissidents criminal, but he is NO Adolph Hitler, NOR Saddam Hussein.

The Washington establishment is terrified that you too might draw this same conclusion. Because if Israel were to launch an attack on Iran, the U.S. would undoubtedly be dragged into war. And none of our politicians have the guts to ward Israel off by threatening repercussions (e.g. aid cuts, no more U.S.-vetoes to shield Israel from accountability at the U.N. Security Council, etc.). And no one in the mainstream media has the courage to address this unprecedented ‘tail wags dog’ dynamic.

So instead, they ALL demagogue the Iranian President, embellish his words, make comparisons to Hitler, as if to make his ‘irrationality’ and ‘evilness’ a type of conventional wisdom that must remain unchallenged, especially during prime time.

When President Ahmadinejad gave a speech at the U.N. yesterday, the U.S. delegation boycotted it, thereby sending a loud and clear message to the nation that this leader is so despicable, so evil, so threatening, that they wouldn’t dare attend.

Despite President Obama’s apparent reluctance for war, the American war drums continue to bang loudly. Each week, the threat of an Israeli attack gets heightened and PM Netanyahu continues to meddle in the U.S. Presidential Elections, blatantly trying to entrap the U.S. President into committing to war.

All Americans owe it to themselves to watch Ahmadinejad’s U.N. speech. Watch it and decide for yourselves whether the Iranian President is the depraved lunatic you’ve been told; whether his words make him such an ‘imminent threat’ to the United States, that hundreds of thousands more innocent lives are worth losing, trillions more dollars are worth spending (err borrowing); that it is worth having our gas prices tripled, and our economy ransacked.

Spare yourselves the establishment’s caricature of Ahmadinejad and just watch him for yourself:

TRANSCRIPT (at mid-page)

Debate: Kurt Eichenwald v Ari Fleischer On Bush Admin’s Refusal To Heed CIA Warnings Of 9-11 Attacks

6:34 am in Uncategorized by TheCallUp

Originally published at AlterPolitics

Former NY Times reporter and bestselling author Kurt Eichenwald wrote a scathing NY Times Op-Ed Tuesday in which he revealed how the Bush Administration refused to heed MANY explicit (previously unknown) warnings of the impending 9-11 attacks.

His information is based upon Presidential Daily Briefings (PDBs) he obtained, which the Bush Admin had refused to release to the 9-11 Commission, and interviews he conducted with intelligence and Bush Admin officials for his new book, 500 Days: Secrets and Lies in the Terror Wars.

Eichenwald stated that the neocons at the Pentagon contested the C.I.A. warning briefs, assuring “the White House that the C.I.A. had been fooled,” and that ”Bin Laden was merely pretending to be planning an attack to distract the administration from Saddam Hussein, whom the neoconservatives saw as a greater threat.”

The C.I.A. responded with an “analysis that all but pleaded with the White House to accept that the danger from Bin Laden was real.” The White House’s refusal to take action lead some officials at the C.I.A. counterterrorism group to contemplate requesting for transfers “so that somebody else would be responsible when the attack took place.”

The Op-Ed created a firestorm in the inner beltway, and the neocon response to Eichenwald was both swift and predictable.

Immediately after the Op-Ed’s release, former Bush WH Press Secretary Ari Fleischer Tweeted the following,  in an attempt to marginalize Eichenwald as some loony conspiracy theorist:

 

CNN’s Anderson Cooper invited Eichenwald and Fleischer onto his show tonight to debate the facts underlying Eichenwald’s reporting, but Fleischer predictably resorts to ad hominem attacks, and demands Democrats share the blame for the Bush Admin’s gross negligence:

 

Can A Democracy Function When The President Can Evade His Critics?

10:30 am in Uncategorized by TheCallUp

Evading Some Critics at the Whitehouse Gate (photo: telekon/flickr)

Evading Some Critics at the Whitehouse Gate (photo: telekon/flickr)

A democracy is built upon the premise that our elected officials will routinely be confronted on their policies in the public square. And from this public engagement, this battleground of ideas, Americans will be better equipped to determine the best policies, thereby ensuring the democratic process actually strengthens the health of the nation, rather than weakens it.

But for some reason, the President of the United States is free to elude this ongoing battleground.

Only at election time, every four years, is he expected to participate in a handful of debates, and these are somewhat controlled environments. Debate questions tend to be the predictable ‘establishment’ ones, unrepresentative of the ones many Americans would like answered. All third party candidates, and the important issues they would bring to this national contest, are deliberately and systematically banned by the two major parties.

Once elected, Presidents begin to mirror ‘regal’ figureheads, suddenly ‘above’ subjecting themselves to pesky, potentially embarrassing, press conferences. They sidestep any engagements where they might be confronted on controversial policies.

President Bush went as far as to build a literal fortress around himself. It was oft-reported how his administration aggressively “screen[ed] audience members, remov[ed] protesters, and script[ed] questions prior to Bush appearing at public events.”

There are literally no laws in place that require the President of the United States to confront his critics.

And their efforts to evade this form of ‘check’ on Presidential power only seems to be getting worse. Whereas George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton held 56 and 31 news conferences, respectively, during their first three years in office, George W. Bush held only 11, and Barack Obama has held only 17.

When they agree to appear in televised interviews, rarely is it ever a hard-nosed Q&A session. Instead they opt to appear on The View, Jay Leno, or some other non-serious venue, where they are more likely to field questions about their daughters’ grades than meaningful ones, like the signing of the controversial National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA). Read the rest of this entry →

Meet The Press: Sen. John Cornyn Can’t Distinguish Today’s GOP Policies From Those Under Bush

11:14 am in Uncategorized by TheCallUp

Originally published on AlterPolitics

Sen. John Cornyn (R-Tex, who heads the National Republican Senatorial Committee) cannot name a single issue on how the Republican Party today differs from the Republican Party during the Bush administration:

Gregory: What does distinguish the Republican Party of today from the Republican Party under President Bush’s rule with regards to spending — which is where it got out of control under Republican rule, that now Conservatives are so upset about?

Cornyn: Well let’s look at a few facts — and I thank you for the opportunity — because I want to respond to what Chris said, the last year that President Bush was in office, 2008, the deficit was 3.2% of the gross domestic product. Today it’s 10%. We just hit the 13 trillion debt on national debt.

Gregory: Well, let me just stop you Senator. Where did some of that debt come from? The President of the United States was George Bush when they passed a huge TARP just to bail out the banks. I mean that’s what ran up a lot of debt as well. Are you saying a Republican was somehow different?

Cornyn: Well, you’re ignoring the stimulus that was, ah, failed according to the President’s own standards. He said he was supposed to keep unemployment to 8%. A 2.6 trillion dollar health care bill that — I agree with Pete — will bankrupt not only the private sector, but the states and the federal government creating a new entitlement program. My point is that unemployment was roughly 6.9% when President Obama was elected, now it’s 9.5%. The deficit was 3.2% the last year President Bush was in office, now it’s 10%. The debt was 2.3 trillion dollars lower in 2008 than it is now, because of runaway spending and debt so …

Gregory: So my question is still: What is the distinction of the Republican Party of today versus the Bush record that you’re defending.

Cornyn: Well, I think what people are looking for, David, are checks and balances. They’ve had single party government, and it’s scaring the living daylights out of them, and it’s keeping ‘job creators’ on the sidelines rather than investing and creating jobs. That’s why the private sector isn’t creating jobs.

Gregory: Well, are you concerned people will see that as a strategy of saying ‘no’ rather than saying ‘yes’ to something?

Cornyn: Well, my constituents in Texas — I have to tell ya — to all the bad ideas they hear coming out of Washington these days, ah — ‘no’ is a good start, and then they want us to replace it with common sense policies that actually make sense. But the problem is our friends on the Democratic side, including the President have passed one unpopular policy measure after another and told the American people “we don’t care what you think. We know what’s better than you do what’s good for you,” and I think the birds are coming home to roost.

In other words, they intend to resume Bush’s policies of increasing the national debt to pay for deeper tax cuts for the rich, to bail out Wall Street fat cats, and to wage more endless and unnecessary wars. Sounds like a winning strategy, John … 8-O

WATCH:

Alan Greenspan To GOP: Let Bush Tax Cuts Lapse

12:31 pm in Uncategorized by TheCallUp

Originally published at AlterPolitics

The former Fed Chairman, Alan Greenspan, is now rebuking the popular GOP Supply-Side talking point (as recently trumpeted by Mitch McConnell) that tax cuts increase revenues, and therefore help reduce deficits:

They should follow the law and let [Bush's tax cuts] lapse,” Greenspan said in an interview on Bloomberg Television’s “Conversations with Judy Woodruff,” citing a need for the tax revenue to reduce the federal budget deficit. [...]

Greenspan, in a telephone conversation after his Bloomberg TV interview was taped, said his position is that all the expiring Bush tax cuts should end, for middle-class and high- income families alike.

Ending the cuts “probably will” slow growth, Greenspan, 84, said in the TV interview. The risk posed by inaction on the deficit is greater, he said.

“Unless we start to come to grips with this long-term outlook, we are going to have major problems,” said Greenspan, who led the U.S. central bank from 1987 to 2006. “I think we misunderstand the momentum of this deficit going forward.”

Here, he more or less lays responsibility for the huge deficit problems we now face at the doorsteps of the Bush Administration:

Greenspan said reducing the deficit is “going to be far more difficult than anybody imagines” after “a decade of major increases in federal spending and major tax cuts.”

Ironic, this coming from the guy who foolhardily endorsed Bush’s 2001 tax cuts, thereby helping to lay the ground work for the massive deficit expansion.

Regardless, this will hopefully take some of the wind out of the GOP/Tea Party sails — these self-proclaimed ‘fiscal warriors’. After all, they have championed two grotesquely incompatible positions: debt reduction AND tax cuts.

Tax cuts have long been the cornerstone of the Republican platform due to their obvious political popularity. But the GOP has recently made debt reduction their ‘call to action’. After they bequeathed a tumultuous economic disaster to an incoming President Obama, the GOP knew he would be forced — as was called for by every credible economist in the world — to increase federal spending to keep the country from spiraling into a full blown depression. It gave the GOP a quick recipe for attack: “Obama is just another big spending ‘socialist’ Democrat, intent on creating runaway deficits”. They hoped to shift at least some of the blame for the staggering deficits they created onto him. Disingenuous?–obviously, but they knew their low-information (propaganda devouring) base would swallow it, hook, line and sinker, and they did.

But a week ago their credibility as self-proclaimed ‘deficit hawks’ was called into question by none other than Chris Wallace (their own mascot) on The Fox News Channel (their home field). And the ensuing fallout continues to reverberate across the main stream media and blogosphere.

The Washington Post recently posed the following question to the GOP:

The issue is whether the tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans should be extended, adding another $678 billion to the deficit over the next decade. The tax cuts, it’s worth remembering, passed originally in 2001 with the argument that the surplus was so large that rates could be cut with budgetary room to spare. Now that the fiscal picture has deteriorated so badly, the questions remains: How are you going to pay the $678 billion? And if you don’t, how are you going to justify the added damage to an already grim fiscal outlook?

If the GOP hopes to have any chance at recasting themselves as ‘deficit hawks’ to anyone left of their wing-nut base, they will have to address this glaring contradiction. They cannot continue to defend tax cuts for the rich, and still claim they intend to be fiscally prudent next time around.

NY Times’ Paul Krugman: Supply Side Economics Creates Deficits

8:00 am in Uncategorized by TheCallUp

Originally published at AlterPolitics

Nobel Prize winning economist, Paul Krugman, attempts to educate a largely ignorant Republican/Tea Party constituency on the documented failures of Supply Side economics. He focuses on the Carter and Reagan years (since Republican politicians tend to cite Reaganomics as their model for economic success), and he demonstrates that revenues actually dropped decisively with Reagan’s tax cuts:

… the revenue track under Reagan looks a lot like the track under Bush: a drop in revenues, then a resumption of growth, but no return to the previous trend: [See Chart]

Matt Yglesias contends that “the conservative movement in America doesn’t [actually] care about the budget deficit,” and the proof is in the policies for which they advocate:

1) There have been two presidents who were members of the modern conservative movement, Ronald Reagan and George W Bush, and they both presided over massive increases in both present and projected deficits.

2) The major deficit reduction packages of the modern era, in 1990 and 1993, were both uniformly opposed by the conservative movement.

3) When the deficit was temporarily eliminated in the late-1990s, the mainstream conservative view was that this showed that the deficit was too low and needed to be increased via large tax cuts.

4) Senator Mitch McConnell says it’s a uniform view in his caucus that tax cuts needn’t be offset by other changes in spending.

5) The deficit reduction commission is having trouble because they think conservative politicians won’t vote for any form of tax increase.

In sum, there are zero historical examples of conservatives mobilizing to make the deficit smaller.

Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell recently made the following assertion about George W. Bush’s tax cuts for the wealthy:

“There’s no evidence whatsoever that the Bush tax cuts actually diminished revenue. They increased revenue, because of the vibrancy of these tax cuts in the economy. So I think what Senator Kyl was expressing was the view of virtually every Republican on that subject.”

Here, Ezra Klein of the Washington Post resoundingly slams McConnell’s fictitious allegations:

There’s an ontological question here about what, exactly, McConnell considers to be “evidence.” But how about the Congressional Budget Office’s estimations? “The new CBO data show that changes in law enacted since January 2001 increased the deficit by $539 billion in 2005. In the absence of such legislation, the nation would have a surplus this year. Tax cuts account for almost half — 48 percent — of this $539 billion in increased costs.” How about the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget? Their budget calculator shows that the tax cuts will cost $3.28 trillion between 2011 and 2018. How about George W. Bush’s CEA chair, Greg Mankiw, who used the term “charlatans and cranks” for people who believed that “broad-based income tax cuts would have such large supply-side effects that the tax cuts would raise tax revenue.” He continued: “I did not find such a claim credible, based on the available evidence. I never have, and I still don’t.”

Of course, the Right rarely if ever lets factual evidence get in the way of their deep-seated, largely debunked, ideologies.

Still, it is good to see the Left finally doing a better job of educating the public about the real track records between the differing economic policies — something necessary if we are serious about promoting positive change in this country.

The Politics Of Genocide Denial

6:33 pm in Uncategorized by TheCallUp

Originally posted at AlterPolitics by Stan (AKA TheCallUp)

The House Foreign Affairs Committee is preparing to consider H.Res.252 — The Armenian Genocide Resolution — this Thursday (March 4, 2010), and it has some key Congresspeople scrambling to kill it.

The resolution calls upon the President of the United States:

(1) to ensure that U.S. foreign policy reflects appropriate understanding and sensitivity concerning issues related to human rights, ethnic cleansing, and genocide documented in the U.S. record relating to the Armenian Genocide and the consequences of the failure to realize a just resolution; and

(2) in the President’s annual message commemorating the Armenian Genocide to characterize the systematic and deliberate annihilation of 1.5 million Armenians as genocide, and to recall the proud history of U.S. intervention in opposition to the Armenian Genocide.

The resolution is basically a formal acknowledgment by the United States of America of the first genocide of the 20th Century. It essentially proclaims that the U.S. government is NOT a Holocaust denier, and it includes quotes from former US Presidents (including Ronald Reagan, Bill Clinton, and George W. Bush) who publicly acknowledged the Armenian genocide in speeches during their respective terms.

One quote included within the body of Resolution 252 was made by none other than Adolph Hitler, acknowledging what he personally had taken from the preceding Armenian genocide:

As displayed in the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, Adolf Hitler, on ordering his military commanders to attack Poland without provocation in 1939, dismissed objections by saying ‘[w]ho, after all, speaks today of the annihilation of the Armenians?’ and thus set the stage for the Holocaust.

That quote exemplifies how deranged leaders often look back to previous massacres and genocides in gauging how the international community might deal with them should they too embark on the annihilation of a targeted group. Unfortunately, in Washington, DC, lobbyist threats are far more likely to move politicians than the snuffed out voices of 1.5 million innocent human beings.

Turkish Deputy Prime Minister Cemil Cicek warned of repercussions, if the motion passes:

“Turkey and the United States are two important allies,” he said. “We have a shared history over the past 50-60 years. Adopting this resolution will harm relations.”

In a rare show of unity, a powerful Turkish bipartisan parliamentary group is in Washington to deliver that message.

Three US Congresspeople are leading the charge to squash the resolution, as reported by The Hill:

In a February 22 letter to House Foreign Affairs Committee members obtained by The Hill, Reps. Steve Cohen (D-Tenn.), Kay Granger (R-Texas) and Ed Whitfield (R-Ky.) ask their colleagues to reject a resolution that would recognize the killing of an estimated 1.5 million Armenians by the Ottoman Turks during World War I as genocide. [...]

“A vote on this resolution will do nothing to rectify the tragedies of the past, but it will most certainly have significant negative consequences on current and future relations with Turkey,” the letter says. Cohen, Granger and Whitfield are all co-chairs of the Congressional Caucus on U.S.-Turkey Relations.

The three lawmakers are also working on a separate letter to Reps. Howard Berman (D-Calif.), the committee chairman, and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.), the panel’s ranking member, opposing the resolution. The trio is gathering members’ signatures and 14 lawmakers have signed onto the letter to Berman and Ros-Lehtinen. Aides are expecting many more to sign on before that letter’s release on Tuesday.

The resolution was aborted the last time it was introduced in 2007, after aggressive lobbying by the Turkish Lobby and the Bush Administration:

In 2007, the resolution squeaked by the panel with a close vote of 27-21 in its favor. But after intense pressure from Turkey, Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) decided against bringing the resolution to the House floor after originally promising to do so.

But some believe that this time around the odds are good for its passage. According to Democratic Rep. Adam Schiff, who introduced the resolution for consideration, there are more favorable conditions today than in 2007.

For one, President Barack Obama was rather vocal on the campaign trail in promising to acknowledge the Armenian genocide:

“I also share with Armenian Americans — so many of whom are descended from genocide survivors — a principled commitment to commemorating and ending genocide. That starts with acknowledging the tragic instances of genocide in world history. As a U.S. senator, I have stood with the Armenian American community in calling for Turkey’s acknowledgement of the Armenian Genocide.“

In 2006, Obama was quoted as saying:

I criticized the secretary of State for the firing of U.S. Ambassador to Armenia, John Evans, after he properly used the term ‘genocide’ to describe Turkey’s slaughter of thousands of Armenians starting in 1915. I shared with secretary Rice my firmly held conviction that the Armenian Genocide is not an allegation, a personal opinion, or a point of view, but rather a widely documented fact supported by an overwhelming body of historical evidence.”

Asserted Mr. Obama, back then: “The facts are undeniable. An official policy that calls on diplomats to distort the historical facts is an untenable policy.”

Mr. Obama also stated unequivocally that “as President I will recognize the Armenian Genocide.”

Of course many will recall that when President Obama finally got the opportunity to make good on his promise in Turkey (April 2009), he opted out. Could you even imagine an American President choosing not to use the word ‘Holocaust’ or ‘genocide’ while in Germany, so as not to offend any German Holocaust deniers in the audience? Could you imagine an American President choosing not to use the word ‘genocide’ in Rwanda or in Cambodia so as not to offend any Hutu or former Khmer Rouge genocidaires?

The good news, as far as this resolution is concerned, is that President Obama (unlike his predecessor) has chosen to remain silent on the measure:

… the Obama administration has taken no public position on the measure, set for a vote Thursday by the House Foreign Affairs Committee. Aides to senior lawmakers on the committee say there has been no pressure against the resolution from the White House.

Another factor working in favor of the resolution is the now-strained relationship between Israel and Turkey:

The [House Foreign Affairs] committee is strongly pro-Israel, and prospects for passage could be affected by rising tensions between Turkey and Israel, as well as Turkey’s relatively warm relationship with Iran. In the past, Turkey and Israel had friendlier relations, and Israel had quietly lobbied against the resolution.

But after what happened in 2007, Speaker Pelosi in not about to commit to anything:

A spokesman for Pelosi did not say whether or not the House leader would bring the resolution to the floor for a vote if it passed the committee again.

“It’s important to take it one step at a time and see what the committee does next week. Following their action, we can have a discussion with the chairman and others about next steps,” said Nadeam Elshami, Pelosi’s spokesman.

It is long past due for the United States of America to stand up and be counted in acknowledging the Armenian genocide. To do otherwise is akin to rewarding the genocidaires.

As Thomas Jefferson once eloquently stated, “There is not a truth existing which I fear… or would wish unknown to the whole world.

Obama’s Nobel Peace Prize Speech Incites Neo-Con Cartwheels

7:12 am in Uncategorized by TheCallUp

Originally published at AlterPolitics by Stan (AKA TheCallUp)

President Barack Obama’s Nobel Peace Prize Speech, in my opinion, was an attempt to somehow mesh Candidate Obama — the principled, compassionate, mindful leader who won the Nobel Peace Prize — to President Obama — torch bearer of the neo-con commitment to open-ended warring.

He started off on a semi-defensive tone, giving something of a broad justification for embarking on an indefinite commitment to more killing and dying in occupied Afghanistan. He then transformed into the more thoughtful, sensible, Candidate Obama persona — the one that artfully taps into secular humanistic sensibilities. A little something for everyone, I guess …

In all fairness to Obama, he never should have been awarded this honor, and he somewhat acknowledged that fact. So it was by no fault of his own that he had to somehow overcome this uncomfortable, somewhat vicarious predicament. And from the favorable reception this speech has been getting from both the Left and Right, it’s safe to conclude he pulled it off — politically-speaking. You know you are the rhetorical master when you deliver a speech that:

has Karl Rove waving pom poms and doing cartwheels, …

It was as if Obama was saying: even THIS president doesn’t do canapés and champagne with European peaceniks! Hoo-ah! After the speech, Karl Rove was crowing, if you can crow by Twitter. “Tweeted that Gerson and Thiessen had gone to work at the Obama White House,” he e-mailed me—Gerson and Thiessen being the two neo-con wordsmiths in the Bush shop.

and also garners support from left-of-center columnists like Joe Klein of Time:

“How does a rookie President, having been granted the Nobel Peace Prize, go about earning it? Well, he can start by giving the sort of Nobel lecture that Barack Obama just did, an intellectually rigorous and morally lucid speech that balanced the rationale for going to war against the need to build a more peaceful and equitable world.”

Here are a couple things from the speech that managed to exorcise my ire:

1. The beginning of Obama’s speech, where he resorted to exaggerated, simplistic notions — i.e. ‘neo-con speak’ — to try to justify his Afghanistan decision:

“For make no mistake: Evil does exist in the world. A non-violent movement could not have halted Hitler’s armies. Negotiations cannot convince al Qaeda’s leaders to lay down their arms.”

This part really disappointed me — that he would resort to this kind of charged-up demagoguery. He has never been one to shy away from complexity in making his case to the American people. His sudden fallback on words like “evil,” and conjuring up images of Adolph Hitler to justify his decision in Afghanistan, will lead many discerning viewers to question his underlying sincerity; especially after eight years of George W. Bush misleading us into wars, committing war crimes, and trampling upon our Constitutional rights — all under the guise of that same simplistic imagery. It’s as if Obama himself has come to recognize that his own substantive case for war is somehow unconvincing on its own merits.

Yes, we are all keenly aware that there’s a small band of loosely connected thugs (al Qaeda), which poses a threat — on some level — to American security. But don’t even try and muddy that threat with Adolph Hitler imagery — a dictator of an industrial nation that had one of the most powerful militaries in the world; one who bombed and invaded country after country, committing genocide against Jews and other innocents, and who ultimately left over 65 million dead in his wake. It’s a disingenuous comparison. The world faces no equivalent threat to Nazi Germany, and this kind of demagoguery has been used far too often — as of late — by disingenuous leaders seeking to justify unnecessary wars.

World War II was a necessary war, but Iraq was not — something he acknowledged, if only by its omission from his speech. But a continued military escalation in Afghanistan is also unnecessary. The tragic consequences of neo-con warmongering has all but ensured that exaggerated threats leveled as a run-up to military escalation is only going to fall on deaf ears, and his doing so only undermines America’s ‘new and improved’ image abroad.

2. Obama’s speech then pivoted to a more idealistic discussion on world responsibility — one where all countries are subjected to the same standards:

To begin with, I believe that all nations — strong and weak alike — must adhere to standards that govern the use of force. I — like any head of state — reserve the right to act unilaterally if necessary to defend my nation. Nevertheless, I am convinced that adhering to standards, international standards, strengthens those who do, and isolates and weakens those who don’t. [...]

Furthermore, America — in fact, no nation — can insist that others follow the rules of the road if we refuse to follow them ourselves. For when we don’t, our actions appear arbitrary and undercut the legitimacy of future interventions, no matter how justified. [...]

Where force is necessary, we have a moral and strategic interest in binding ourselves to certain rules of conduct. And even as we confront a vicious adversary that abides by no rules, I believe the United States of America must remain a standard bearer in the conduct of war. That is what makes us different from those whom we fight. That is a source of our strength. That is why I prohibited torture. 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. (Applause.) And we honor — we honor those ideals by upholding them not when it’s easy, but when it is hard. [...]

Those who claim to respect international law cannot avert their eyes when those laws are flouted.

This one almost made me laugh. Mr. President, clearly this rings hollow to anyone who’s been following your continued cover up of Bush Administration war crimes and your continuation of indefinite detention. Hell — let’s put your predecessor’s illegalities (and your cover up and perpetuation of them) aside for a second. You extend this same “exceptionalism” — this same exemption from international law — to another country: Israel. Richard Goldstone’s UN Fact Finding Mission on the Gaza Conflict produced a credible, scathing report documenting Israeli and Hamas war crimes. You, your administration, and the U.S. Congress immediately discarded it outright using flimsy, ridiculous, unsupportable excuses, as if international laws shouldn’t apply to Israel either.

It appears that much of his speech’s positive feedback from the Left has been directed at his placing recognition on the historic role of war in helping to actually foster peace. He brought up the Balkans as an example. It’s a legitimate point; there are times when war is absolutely necessary in preserving or restoring peace. And yes, the U.S. has willfully assumed a great deal of the world’s burden on this front, paying dearly in American lives and treasure.

There are very few who would look back on history and contend that the U.S. should have stayed out of the 2nd World War, or shouldn’t have intervened — the embarrassingly few times we actually did — to stop genocide. The problem I have is he’s obviously attempting to conflate these noble causes of war with something unrelated: Afghanistan.

Obama is not sending 30,000 additional troops to Darfur or to the Congo to save millions of civilian lives. We’re sending young Americans to prop up a corrupt and illegitimate regime in Afghanistan that has its hands deep into the world’s heroin industry. And this is supposedly vital to U.S. security interests, only because there are fewer than 100 cave-dwelling al Qaeda operatives somewhere between Pakistan and Afghanistan.

Obama is a master orator — I give him that.

Having said all this, the entirety of Obama’s speech was not utterly deplorable — in fact, he’s incapable of delivering a bad speech. But overall, it rang hollow to me, leaving me with the following impressions:

  1. He knew, as we all did, that he had NO BUSINESS being in Oslo, accepting the Nobel Peace Prize. (He cannot be blamed for this.)
  2. In using neo-con, war-mongering rhetoric overseas, he slightly diminished America’s ‘new’ standing in the world, as well as his own image, while simultaneously giving the now-ridiculed neo-cons a HUGE moral victory; a big ‘told you so’. It felt like he somehow substantiated their despicable and dishonest methods by exhibiting lines from their very own playbook, word for word, to reach a similar ends. How appalling, after all the calamity they inflicted upon this country and this world.

Have we finally seen the real Obama?