[News] Blood on the Nobel
news at freedomarchives.org
Tue Dec 15 07:31:49 EST 2009
Blood on the Nobel
On Words, Deeds, and Imperial Re-Branding*
December 15, 2009
By Paul Street
Obama is an incredibly Orwellian character. He
can make people think that war is peace.
- Jeremy Scahill, Chicago, Illinois, Speech to
the International Socialist Organization, June 2009
Cindy Sheehan sees war as war, whether the battle
standard is being waved by a white moron from
Midland, Texas or an eloquent black man from Chicago.
- Alexander Cockburn, September 5, 2009
Obama has only brought war to our country. Peace prize? He's a killer.
- Afghan man, December 10, 2009
Here is an interesting sentence from the
Associated Press on the day that Barack Obama was
given the world's highest award for the
advancement of peace: "President Barack Obama
entered the pantheon of Nobel Peace Prize winners
Thursday with humble words, acknowledging his own
few accomplishments while delivering a robust defense of war."
We truly live in Orwellian times .
A Flawed Prize
Does Obama deserve his Nobel? Let's admit from
the start that the prize has long been a
less-than- perfect measure of its recipients'
actual commitment to peace. Alfred Nobel, it is
worth recalling, was a leading armaments
manufacturer. He was the inventor of dynamite
along with other deadly war materials.
It's true that the Nobel Peace Prize has gone to
some deserving recipients, like Dr. Martin Luther
King, Jr. But there are numerous peace leaders
and war opponents who have not received the award
and should have, including Mahatma Gandhi, who
led mass nonviolent resistance to the British Empire in the 1940s.
The award has repeatedly gone to powerful
Americans with blood-soaked records. It was
given in 1906 to Teddy Roosevelt, a man who
openly glorified war abroad and genocide at home,
a man who helped escalate the Spanish American
War in accord with his belief that the US needed
periodic wars to maintain proper national manliness.
The prize went in 1919 to Woodrow Wilson, who
crushed dissent at home as he sent hundreds of
thousands of U.S. troops to kill and die in the
great inter-imperialist bloodbath known then as
The Great War and as he sent troops to intervene
against the Russian Revolution in 1918. Wilson
also intervened in quite bloody and neocolonial
ways in Mexico, the Dominican Republic, and in
Haiti, where his troops restored de facto slavery in the sugar fields. .
The prize went in 1945 to Franklin Roosevelt's
Secretary of State Cordell Hull, a man who
refused to accept Jewish refugees from Nazi
Germany in 1939. Hull helped lead Western
appeasement of hyper-militaristic Nazism on the
theory that fascism was a useful bulwark against
socialism. And Hull tried to economically
cripple Japan, thereby provoking the attacks that
provided the pretext for the United States'
entrance into World War II - a war that he and
author top foreign policymakers exploited to
advance the United States' emergence as the
world's reigning military and economic superpower.
In 1973 the award went to Richard Nixon's
Secretary of State Henry Kissinger. Kissinger
was a leading architect of the latter stages of
the U.S. crucifixion of South East Asia during
the late 1960s and early 1970s, including the
mass-murderous bombing of Hanoi and Haiphong and
the invasions of Cambodia and Laos. He was
involved in U.S. support for the criminal coup
that overthrew Chile's democratically elected
leftist president Salvador Allende on September
11, 1973. The U.S.-allied junta in Santiago
murdered and tortured many thousands of Chileans.
The execution and tortures under the fascist
dictator Augusto Pinochet continued as Kissinger received his award .
Almost exactly two years after receiving his
Nobel, Kissinger and his next president Gerald
Ford gave the U.S. client state Indonesia a green
light to invade the independent island nation of
East Timor, a bloody, genocidal invasion that
killed a third of the population there over the next quarter century .
So the Nobel has more than a little
power-worshipping blood and explosives' dust on it as it gets handed to Obama.
Af-Pak Escalation and Speech: Deceptions and Deletions
Still, what has U.S. President Barack Obama done
to deserve getting a prize, any prize, with the
word peace on it? What business does he have
standing on the same stage as Dr. King, who in
1967 courageously identified the United States as
"the leading purveyor of violence in the world,"
adding that a nation approaches "spiritual death"
when it spends more on the military than it does on social uplift?
Let's start with Afghanistan or with what the
administration calls "Af-Pak." In defense of
Kissinger's Nobel, one could argue that Henry was
at least winding down an imperial war in Southeast Asia when he got his.
Obama got his Nobel Peace Prize as he's
escalating an imperial war in South Asia.
Formally announced nearly two weeks ago, Obama's
decision to re-escalate second time in
Afghanistan was expected. The decision was never
much in doubt given the fact that he surrounded
himself with - and handed over most of his
foreign policy to - military men, all of whom are
predisposed by career background and philosophy
to advocate increased force levels.
On December 1, 2009, speaking to a prime- time
national television audience from the U.S.
Military Academy at West Point, the
Commander-in-Chief announced plans to send 30,000
more troops to Afghanistan over six months, on an
accelerated timetable that would dispatch several
hundred Marines by Christmas. Six times in his
war speech Obama used the phrase "safe haven."
Like Bush in the fall of 2001, Obama wants
American people to think that Afghanistan is some
of special, super-powered planning and execution
site for past and .future terror attacks on the
American "homeland." The word he used last week
was "epicenter." This was dangerous nonsense. As
Harvard Kennedy School of Government professor
Stephen Walt noted in an August 2009 Foreign
Policy essay, Obama's "safe haven myth" rests on
the flawed premise that al Qaeda and/or its many
and various imitators couldn't just as
effectively plot and conduct future terror
attacks from any of a large number of other
locations, including Western Europe and the U.S.
itself. 9/11 itself was planned and conducted
primarily outside Afghanistan and
Pakistan. There is no single "epicenter" of
extremist Islamic terror...no single epicenter
except perhaps Washington, which has long fueled
flames of Islamic extremism both directly and
indirectly in connection with a long history of
imperial intervention and occupation in the
Middle East and the broader Muslim world.
There was quite a bit deleted from Obama's West
Point speech. The president said nothing in that
address about the many tens of thousands of
private military contractors deployed by the
Pentagon in Afghanistan (57 percent of the U.S.
force presence there at the end of last
June). U.S, paid mercenaries' numbers in
Afghanistan rose by 40% just between June and
September. They now total 104,101, more than the
total number of uniformed personnel there.
Obama did not note that nearly a third of all
U.S. fatalities in Afghanistan have taken place
since he became president. Obama has been the
president for less than a tenth of the time in
which the U.S. has been deploying troops in
Afghanistan but his period as commander in chief
accounts for nearly a third of the total U.S.
deaths over there. Clearly there's already been
an escalation before the escalation.
Obama also did not mention the fact that as of
the latest Gallup poll prior to his Afghanistan
speech less than half of Americans and less than
a third of Democrats supported a White House
decision to increase troops in Afghanistan. The
partisan differences are interesting, reminding
some observers of how Bill Clinton ended up
relying significantly on Republicans over and
against Democrats on key issues like NAFTA and
welfare reform. Before his speech last week, just
29 percent of Democrats but fully 72 percent of
Republicans favored a troop increase in
(After his West Point speech, terrible and wooden
as it was, Obama got a bump, with Gallup
reporting a bare majority, 51 percent, now
supporting a troop increase. That's why the
ruling class hired him - to provide eloquent
fake-progressive cover, re-branding, for
militaristic policies that most Americans would
be more likely to oppose if they were being
carried out by the Republican Party, whose brand
was badly damaged by the Bush fiasco.)
Obama's West Point war speech failed to mention
that the Karzai government he says he wants to
equip for security tasks in Afghanistan is among
the most corrupt, pathetic, and inept governments
on Earth. It is loathed by the nation's
Pashtuns, who are by far the largest ethnic group in Afghanistan.
Obama failed to note that just 6 percent of the
U.S. military units deployed in Afghanistan
report high morale or that more U.S. soldiers
committed suicide this year than in any year on record.
Also unmentioned by the president were the many
hundreds of innocent Pakistani civilians killed
by his drastically escalated "secret" Predator
drone war. Obama has embraced and expanded the
killer drone program conducted by the CIA and the
private contractor formerly known as Blackwater
(Xe Services). "During his first nine and a half
months in office," the journalist Jane Mayer
recently noted, "he has authorized as many CIA
aerial attacks in Pakistan as George W. Bush did
in his final three years in office ...So far this
year, various estimates suggest, the CIA attacks
have killed between three hundred and twenty-six
and five hundred and thirty-eight people." (The
New Yorker, October 26, 2009). According to the
CIA counter-insurgency consultant David
Killcullen, most of the people being killed this
way are innocent bystanders. In a recent New York
Times Op-Ed titled "Death From Above, Outrage
Down Below," Killcullen, a former advisor to
General David Patraeus, explained that the
United States' remote-controlled drones perform
deliver what he calls "a hit rate of two percent
on 98 percent collateral" - meaning that two
militants are killed for every 98 civilians
slaughtered. This is "not moral," Killcullen
says. Yes, "not moral" (New York Times, May 17, 2009).
The first two Predator assaults of the Obama
administration occurred on the morning of January
23, 2009 - the future Nobel Peace Prize winner's
third day in office. The second drone-hit
ordered by the "peace" president on that day
mistakenly targeted the residence of a
pro-government tribal leader, killing his entire
family, including three children. In keeping with
U.S. policy going back to Bush and Clinton, there
was no official acknowledgement of either strike.
The CIA drone program is an officially
non-existent U.S. secret and honored as such by the Obama administration.
In his West Point War Speech, Obama failed to
note that his drone war and Washington's general
murderous presence in South Asia is fueling the
very de-stabilization and terrorism he purports
to oppose and wants us to fear in Afghanistan and
Pakistan. He did not note that the U.S. is
constructing gigantic, super-fortified
mega-embassies in Islamabad and Kabul along with
gargantuan consulates in Peshawar and
elsewhere. The U.S. clearly intends to remain in
the region for a very long time, something that
powerfully validates Osama bin-Laden's
longstanding narrative on how the American Empire
has dug in for a long occupation of the Muslim world.
In an effort to mollify his fading liberal base
last week, it is true, Obama made reference to a
timetable for the beginning of withdrawal in July
2011. This should not be even remotely confused
with a schedule for actual withdrawal, however.
And just in case anyone thought otherwise, the
White House public relations machine went into
hyper-drive last Sunday sending out what the New
York Times calls a "forceful public message
...that American military forces could remain in
Afghanistan for a long time...In a flurry of
coordinated television interviews," the Times
reported, "Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates,
Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and
other top administration officials said that any
troop pullout beginning in July 2011 would be
slow and that the Americans would only then be
starting to transfer security responsibilities to Afghan forces..."
White House Whitewash
If there was anything surprising or at least
shocking about Obama's December 1st address, it
was the extent to which he was willing to grossly
distort history and to sound almost exactly like
George W. Bush on behalf of his militaristic
policy. "Just days after 9/11, Congress
authorized the use of force against al Qaeda and
those who harbored them -- an authorization that
continues to this day.... For the first time in
its history, the North Atlantic Treaty
Organization invoked Article 5 - the commitment
that says an attack on one member nation is an
attack on all. And the United Nations Security
Council endorsed the use of all necessary steps
to respond to the 9/11 attacks. America, our
allies and the world were acting as one to
destroy al Qaeda's terrorist network and to
protect our common security." ("Text of Obama's
Speech on Afghanistan," December 1, 2009,
Obama clearly meant here to create the false
impression that the United Nations Security
Council (UNSC) authorized the Bush
administration's attack on Afghanistan in
October, 2001). But, of course, the UNSC did no
such thing since the attack met none of the UN's
criteria for legitimate self-defense. After
9/11, the Council passed two resolutions, neither
of which authorized the use of military force in Afghanistan.
The claim that human civilization ("the world")
was united in support for Washington's attack on
Afghanistan was completely false. An
international Gallup poll released after the U.S.
bombing began showed that global opposition was
overwhelming. In 34 of the 37 countries Gallup
surveyed, majorities opposed a military attack on
Afghanistan, preferring that 9/11 be treated as a
criminal matter rather than as a pretext for war.
Even in the U.S., just 54% supported war. "In
Latin America, which has some experience with US
behavior," Noam Chomsky noted last
year, "support [for the U.S. assault] ranged
from 2% in Mexico, to 18% in Panama, and that
support was conditional on civilian targets being
spared (they were attacked at once). There was an
overwhelming preference in the world for
diplomatic/judicial measures, rejected out of
hand by [Washington, claiming to represent] 'the
world.'" (N. Chomsky, "The World' According to
Washington," Asia Times, February 28, 2008).
"Under the banner of this domestic unity and
international legitimacy - and only after the
Taliban refused to turn over Osama bin Laden - we
sent our troops into Afghanistan," Obama said,
adding that "We did not ask for this fight."
This was completely false. In the actual history
that occurred, the U.S. refused to respond to the
Taliban government's offer to turn bin-Laden over
to a foreign government for a trial once evidence
pointing to his guilt was presented. The U.S.
deliberately made sure that bin Laden would not
be turned over through legal and diplomatic
channels because quite frankly the Bush
administration wanted war and did not wish to
follow the UN Charter's requirement that nations
pursue all means of resolution short of force
before taking military action. "President George
Bush rejected as non-negotiable' an offer by the
Taliban to discuss turning over Osama bin Laden
if the United States ended the bombing in
Afghanistan," The Guardian reported on October 14, 2001.
The West Point speech was marred by broader
historical deceptions that seemed to have been
pasted almost identically from the war speeches
of George W. Bush. Just like his predecessor,
Obama peered straight into the camera to address
the people of a nation he was about to inflict
more terror to and said: "I want the Afghan
people to understandAmerica seeks an end to this
war and suffering." Like the much-bemoaned
messianic militarist "Dubya," the new war
president claimed that "We have no interest in
occupying your country." He even claimed - quite
preposterously - that he wanted "to forge a
lasting friendship in which America is your
partner, and never your patron." Also like Bush, Obama:
* exaggerated the "contributions from our allies"
in this war effort, which is overwhelmingly American.
* cited Al Qaeda's "attacks against London and
Amman and Bali" as a justification for imperial
interventions in distant Muslim lands.
* promised a long war against terrorism: "The
struggle against violent extremism will not be
finished quickly, and it extends well beyond
Afghanistan and Pakistan....It will be an
enduring test of our free society, and our leadership in the world."
* Went to remarkable rhetorical lengths to
whitewash the supposed benevolent historical
record of that great global "leadership," claiming that:
- "More than any other nation, the United
States of America has underwritten global security for over six decades."
- "Unlike the great powers of old, we have not sought world domination"
- "We do not seek to occupy other nations."
- "We are still heirs to a moral struggle for
freedom. And now we must summon all of our might
and moral suasion to meet the challenges of a new age."
These last claims were too much for Matthew
Rothschild, editor of the monthly left-liberal
magazine The Progressive. In an essay titled
"Obama Steals Bush's Speechwriters," Rothschild
offered a historically informed response:
"Well, let's see: The United States led the world
to the cliffs of nuclear annihilation during the
Cold War. The United States invaded one Latin
American country after another, and subverted
other governments there covertly. The United
States helped overthrow governments in Ghana and
the Congo, and supported racist forces in
southern Africa. The United States plunged into
the Korean War, and then supported one dictator
after another in South Korea. The United States
killed between two and three million people in
Indochina. And the United States supported
Suharto in Indonesia, who killed nearly a million
people, some at the behest of the CIA, after
taking power in 1965. The U.S. also supported
Suharto's invasion of East Timor ten years later,
which took another 200,000 lives"
"Obama can call that global security,' if he wants to, but it's dripping red."
"... what does having almost 1,000 military bases
in more than 100 countries mean, then?"
"...the United States has invaded or overthrown
dozens of countries in the last six decades, and
it doesn't need to occupy them if it can install a puppet regime instead" .
"If you closed your eyes during much of the
President's speech on Afghanistan Tuesday night
and just listened to the words," Rothschild
added, "you easily could have concluded that
George W. Bush was still in the Oval Office...And
that he didn't choke on these words tells you all
you need to know about Obama."
"Spiritual Death" Re-Visited: "The United States
is Broken Yet Nation-Building in Afghanistan"
As the Christmas season arrives amidst growing
U.S. food lines and the highest U.S. unemployment
rate in more than 27 years, we might reflect on
the terrible domestic social and opportunity
costs of escalation abroad. Those costs,
reflecting the twisted misplacement of resources
that Dr. King described as symptomatic of
America's "spiritual death," are enormous. By
the White House's own calculation, the Afghan
escalation is going to cost $1 million a year per
every single new soldier deployed - a $300
billion investment. In a rational, just, and
democratic nation, that stupendous sum would be
diverted to create jobs and to fund education,
housing relief and health care in a time when
real U.S. unemployment is close to 20 percent,
when 45,000 Americans die each year in connection
with their lack of health insurance, in a time
when 1 in 4 American children now rely on Food Stamps.
Echoing Dr. King's late-1960s sermons and
speeches against the U.S. military state's
"perverted priorities," New York Times columnist
Bob Herbert marked the day of Obama's West Point
Address with an eloquent lament:
"More soldiers committed suicide this year than
in any year for which we have complete records,"
Herbert wrote. "But the military," Herbert noted,
"is now able to meet its recruitment goals
because the young men and women who are signing
up can't find jobs in civilian life. The United
States is broken - school systems are
deteriorating, the economy is in shambles,
homelessness and poverty rates are expanding -
yet we're nation-building in Afghanistan, sending
economically distressed young people over there
by the tens of thousands at an annual cost of a million dollars each."
Of course, "nation-building" is a euphemism for
imperial assault and occupation. Look at the
unimaginable devastation - more than 1 million
plus killed before their time, millions more
injured and displaced, and massive social and
technical infrastructure destroyed - "we" (our
unelected agents of Empire) have inflicted on
Iraq, about which Obama had the noxious imperial
chutzpah to say the following in West Point last
week: "Thanks to [U.S. troops'] courage, grit and
perseverance, we have given Iraqis a chance to shape their future."
A chance to shape their future? As the respected
Middle East journalist pointed out two years ago:
"The American occupation has been more disastrous
than that of the Mongols who sacked Baghdad in
the thirteenth century. Only fools talk of
solutions now. There is no solution. The only
hope is that perhaps the damage can be contained"
("The Death of Iraq," Current History, December 2007, p. 31)
One wonders what Rosen would have had to say
about the following comment offered by Barack
Obama to autoworkers assembled at the General
Motors plant in Janesville, Wisconsin on February
13, 2008, just before that state's Democratic
primary: "It's time to stop spending billions of
dollars a week trying to put Iraq back together
and start spending the money putting America back together" .
For those who knew the depth and degree of the
destruction inflicted on Iraq by two invasions,
one ongoing, and more than a decade of deadly
economic sanctions (embargo), this statement was nothing short of obscene.
The Broader Middle East
Let's turn briefly to Obama's qualifications for
a peace prize beyond Afghanistan and
Pakistan. For what its worth, if anyone still
cares - the media certainly doesn't - Obama has
continued the disastrous Iraq
occupation. Earlier this year, the White House
has pressured the Iraqi government not to permit
the popular referendum required by the Status of
Forces Agreement (SOFA) - the withdrawal document
forced on the Bush administration by the Iraqi
resistance. This is because the Obama
administration fears that the Iraqi population
will insist on the immediate removal of all U.S.
troops, consistent with their longstanding
majority resistance to the presence of U.S. forces in their country.
Obama has refused to rule out U.S. approval for
an Israel attack on Iran. He maintains that a
U.S. first strike, possibly nuclear, remains on
America's table of options in regard to the
supposed threat posed by Iran. He has
consistently raised bogus Bush-like WMD alarms
about "Iran's nuclear program" even as he moves
forward with efforts to reconstitute U.S. nuclear
weapons and with U.S. assistance to India's
nuclear weapons program, both actions in
violation of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation
Treaty. Right after receiving the Nobel, Obama
ordered the accelerated production (at the cost
of $51 billion) of a 13 ton so-called bunker
buster bomb - deadly ordnance meant to be placed
on B2 Stealth bombers for strikes on mythical Iranian weapons facilities.
Obama has refused to move in any serious way
against Israel's brutal and criminal occupation
of Palestine. He refuses to acknowledge the
well-known fact that Israel is a heavily
nuclear-armed state - something that makes it
difficult for much of the world to take Obama
seriously when he claims to be upset about the
possibility that nuclear weapons might rear their head in the Middle East.
Obama has cozyed up to hyper-authoritarian
regimes in Egypt and Saudi Arabia because of
their perceived indispensability in supporting U.S. goals and "checking Iran".
Bullying Nuclear Russia
Moving beyond the Middle East, the Obama White
House has continued the Bush administration's
dangerous practice of bullying Russia, still the
world's second leading nuclear power. It has
conducted military-training operations and
supplied weapons to Georgia, site of a probably
U.S.-sponsored war with Russia in August 2008.
Obama has persisted with and possibly increased
Bush's provocative efforts to incorporate Georgia
and the Ukraine and even formally neutral Sweden
and Finland into the North American Treaty
Organization (NATO), a US-dominated political and
military alliance aimed at encircling Russia and
rolling back Russian influence and power in
Europe. And while it scrapped George W. Bush's
plans for "anti-missile" bases near Russia's
western border in Poland and Czechoslovakia, the
new White House is reconfiguring the anti-Russian
"missile shield" with a more widely dispersed and
mobile missile system that will be operational
much more quickly than what the previous
administration promised. "With the growing
threat of encirclement and aggressive
militarization and technical advancement of
western (mainly U.S.) weaponry proceeding apace,"
the left researchers Edward S. Herman and David
Peterson noted last November, "Russia had moved
to an openly greater reliance on tactical and
other nuclear weapons. On these areas," Herman
and Peterson note, "Obama once again represents
continuity rather than change."(MR Zine, November
9, 2009 at
Just like his predecessor George Bush, Obama is
using the ridiculous notion that Europe is
threatened by Iran to "justify building a missile
system aimed at Russia and China" (John Pilger,
"Power, Illusion, and America's Last Taboo,"
International Socialist Review (November-December 2009), p. 26).
Some peace president.
Rolling Back Democracy in Latin America
Meanwhile, back in his own hemisphere, Obama is
assisting a right-wing counter-attack against
recent movements towards social justice and
national independence in Latin America. Beneath
deceptive progressive rhetoric that seemed to put
him on the side of democracy in Honduras last
summer, Obama has refused to move in any
significant way against a right-wing coup that
overthrew a democratically elected, left-leaning
president in that country - a coup the White
House certainly knew about in advance and could
have prevented with one phone call. The
administration has recently acknowledged the
results of a sham election carried out by the
Honduran junta - an election rejected by all but
a few Latin American states. Consistent with
previous administrations, Obama has signed off on
continuing expensive U.S. taxpayer and military
investment in repressive Drug War efforts of
Mexico and the militarized right-wing U.S. client
state of Columbia, whose corrupt leader Alvaro
Uribe continues to receive a pass from Washington
for his effort to undermine what remains of
democracy there. The Columbian regime sponsors
death squads and possesses the worst human rights
record in Latin America. With guidance from
Pentagon satellites, its paramilitaries conduct
covert operations inside Venezuela with the aim
of deposing the democratically elected left
government of Hugo Chávez, Valued as a bastion of
U.S. power in a continent and region that has
moved to the left and away from U.S supervision,
Columbia continues in the Age of Obama to receive
hundreds of billions of dollars in "military
assistance" from Washington. As during the Bush
years, it receives "U.S. military support second in scale only to Israel."
On October 20th, the Obama administration inked a
deal that grants the US seven giant military
bases in Columbia. It lied by claiming that the
deal was only about internal operations against
narcotic lords. "The [real] idea," reported the
Associated Press, "is to make Colombia a regional
hub for Pentagon operations... [so that] nearly
half the continent can be covered by a C-17
[military transport] without refueling..."
"Translated," John Pilger writes, "this means
Obama is planning a rollback' of the
independence and democracy that the people of
Bolivia, Venezuela, Ecuador and Paraguay have
achieved against the odds, along with a historic
regional co-operation that rejects the notion of
a US sphere of influence.'" Each of those
countries except Paraguay was (and remains -
along with Cuba and Nicaragua) a member of the
anti-imperialist association ALBA - the
Bolivarian Alternative for Latin America and the
Caribbean"), an alternative to the U.S.-sponsored
Free Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA).
"There is No Peace Dividend"
Overall, Obama has increased the U.S. "defense"
(empire) budget, which is responsible for half
the world's military spending and maintains more
than 760 military bases spread across more than 130 countries.
This is consistent with a report given to its
investors by the Wall Street firm Morgan Stanley
one day after Obama's inauguration. "As we
understand it, Obama has been advised and agrees
that there is no peace dividend" (Frida Berrigan,
"Dispatches from America," Asia Times, November
22, 2008, read at
Unlike his so-called "health reform," Obama's war
spending is unburdened with the requirement that
it "not add a dime to the federal deficit."
High-tech corporate defense contractors like
Boeing, Raytheon, Rockwell Collins, Xe Services,
Halliburton and Lockheed Martin are of course
making out like bandits, reaping hidden profits
of empire. Under Obama as under Bush, leading
"defense" executives and investors "hide in their
mansions, while young people's blood flows out of
their bodies and gets buried in the mud." They
are the same parasitic, fear-mongering,
blood-soaked Masters of War that Bob Dylan sang about in 1962.
Substance v. Style
The transition from Bush to Obama is about public
relations and "re-branding," not any deep or
substantive change in the core, underlying U.S.
structures, practices, policies, and doctrines or
ideologies. As Noam Chomsky observed in London
one year after Obama's election: "As Obama came
into office, Condoleezza Rice predicted that he
would follow the policies of Bush's second term,
and that's pretty much what's happened apart from
a different rhetoric and style. But it wise to
attend to deeds, not rhetoric. Deeds commonly
tell a different story." (Common Dreams, November 9, 2009).
While this statement would probably have irked
most leading "mainstream" U.S. journalists and
conventional academicians as an irresponsibly
"ideological" comment, the same basic point was
made by ideologically diverse handful of British
professors in a common-sense letter to The
Guardian in mid-September of 2009. The English
academics' missive, asked British journalists and
citizens to "grow up" about the reality of Obama
in the actual world of imperial power:
"Though Obama's leadership has enhanced America's
image, as yet there has been no major change from
the policies and outcomes of the Bush years. Yet
the Obama presidency is still reported in the
mainstream media as a happy departure from the
disastrous Dubya.' Though we are from opposite
ends of the political spectrum, we strongly
challenge this. The public, we feel, should be
properly informed that the US will pursue its
interests, regardless of which party holds power."
"Obama presents himself as the un-Bush.' But
when you look at substance, rather than style and
rhetoric, and the structural constraints on
presidential power, you can legitimately question
the extent of his ability to change US policies.
We call for a richer and better informed debate
on US policy abroad. We need to end this
unhealthy obsession with personalities and look
properly at the issues - an admittedly difficult
task given the supremely gifted and charismatic president now in office."
"Journalists must be more forthright about the
multibillion-dollar Pentagon budget, the massive
numbers of US military bases around the world,
the sheer scale of the US national security
state. If, in Britain, more people knew of the 57
US bases in the UK, we might all be more
realistic in our attitudes to that country." 
"Evil Does Exist in the World"
Such counsel and Obama's militarist record
notwithstanding, Obama was granted the Nobel gift
three weeks after this letter was printed. It was
a "stunning decision," meant, Associated Press
writers Karl Ritter and Matt Moore wrote, "to
encourage his initiatives to reduce nuclear arms,
ease tensions with the Muslim world and stress
diplomacy and cooperation rather than
unilateralism." But many were "shocked by the
unexpected choice so early in the Obama
presidency, which....has yet to yield concrete
achievements in peacemaking" and "still oversees
[colonial, P.S.] wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and
has launched deadly counter-strikes in Pakistan
and Somalia." Ritter and Moore quoted Ahmid
Shabir, an 18-year-old student in Kabul, who
reasonably said that "I don't think Obama
deserves this. I don't know who's making all
these decisions. The prize should go to someone
who has done something for peace and
humanity." (Karl Ritter and Matt Moore,
"President Barack Obama Wins Nobel Peace Prize,"
Associated Press, October 9, 2009, read at
Preposterous in light of the record reviewed
above, the 2009 Nobel Peace Prize was a
spectacular gift to the Orwellian re-branding
project that is the Barack Obama White House. I
found it less than surprising given the
exaggerated Obamania - more advanced even than
even what can be found in the United States - of
what passes for liberal and left opinion in Western Europe
Obama himself sensed the absurdity of the award.
In his acceptance speech in Oslo on December 10,
2009, Obama stated that "I cannot argue with
those who find [other] men and women -- some
known, some obscure to all but those they help --
to be far more deserving of this honor than I."
Obama claimed to be mindful of previous Nobel
Peace Prize winner Martin Luther King, Jr.'s
statement "at this same ceremony years ago:
Violence never brings permanent peace. It
solves no social problem: it merely creates new and more complicated ones.'"
"As someone who stands here as a direct
consequence of Dr. King's life work," Obama said,
"I am living testimony to the moral force of
non-violence." ("Remarks by the President," Oslo,
Norway, December 10, 2009, at
This hardly prevented Obama from accepting the
award, however, or from using the awards ceremony
as an opportunity to advance what the Associated
Press described as "a robust defense of war" (Ben
Feller, "Obama Accepts Nobel Peace Prize With
Robust Defense of War," Associated Press (December 10, 2010).
"I am the Commander-in-Chief of the military of a
nation in the midst of two wars," Obama lectured
the Nobel committee and the world. "I'm
responsible for the deployment of thousands of
young Americans to battle in a distant
land. Some will kill, and some will be killed."
As "a head of state sworn to protect and defend
my nation," Obama argued in Oslo, "he could not
be guided" by the examples of Martin Luther King and Gandhi "alone."
"I face the world as it is," the former professor
turned president intoned to a significant number
of stone-faced war opponents, "and cannot stand
idle in the face of threats to the American
people. 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."
Contrary to Obama's longstanding "American
exceptionalist" belief that the U.S. has always
been and remains "overwhelmingly a force for good
in the world," the bloody record of U.S. imperial
militarism noted by Matthew Rothschild eight days
before led much of the world to stubbornly
conclude (in an example of what Obama considers a
childishly "reflexive suspicion of America, the
world's sole military superpower") that global
"evil" had long been significantly headquartered
in Washington D.C. It's a record that the real
world President Obama - something very different
than the mass-marketed "Brand Obama" sold to
liberal voters at home and masses abroad - has
done all too much to continue in the curious name of "change."
"Obama," the Associated Press added, "is staying
here only about 24 hours and skipping the
traditional second day of festivities. This miffs
some in Norway but reflects a White House that
sees little value in extra pictures of the
president, his poll numbers dropping at home,
taking an overseas victory lap while thousands of
U.S. troops prepare to go off to war and millions of Americans remain jobless."
"To Speak in Favor of War and Peace"
A headline in Ohio calmly reported:
"Nobel-Winning Obama Defends War in Call for
It got crazier in Norway, where Obamaphoria
remains all too intact at the elite
level. According to the Oslo newspaper
Aftenposten's chief political commentator Harald
Stanghelle, Obama's "powerful" acceptance speech
"made a clear message of faith in international
order and in an ethical base for the handling of
the problems of this world. Obama represents a
hope for change," Stanghelle wrote.
"Never before has the message of the need for war
been presented with stronger conviction by a
peace prize winner," wrote The Norway Post.
Norway's largest newspaper Verdens Gang concluded
its main editorial on December 11th, 2009 as
follows: "Yesterday's speech will remain in
history as a great Nobel Speech, possibly the
greatest. A sitting US president, involved in two
wars, was going to speak in favor of war and of
peace. He managed to do both." ("Norwegian Press
Comments on Obama's Acceptance Speech," The
Norway Post, December 13, 2009, read at
"Barack Obama," the left journalist Jeremy
Scahill said last spring in Chicago, "is a
brilliant supporter of empire who has figured out
a way to trick a lot of people into believing
they're supporting radical change. Obama,"
Scahill added, "is an incredibly Orwellian
character. He can make people think that war is peace."
"Overall," Scahill said in an interview around
the same time, is "implementing a U.S. foreign
policy that advances the interest of the American
empire in a way the Republicans could only have dreamed of doing."
The title of the Socialist Worker article in
which Scahill made this last comment said a
mouthful "Re-branding War and Occupation."
The "re-branding" project is enhanced, of course, by the Nobel Peace Prize
Will Norway Apologize to Bola Boluk?
We can hardly expect the Norwegians to rescind
their creepy gift to Obama and, through him, to the American Empire.
But maybe we could ask them to issue an apology to the people of Bola Boluk.
Obama's escalation of attacks on "insurgents" who
live intermingled with civilians has brought a
predictable increase in "collateral damage" in
South Asia. An especially graphic episode came
in the first week of May 2009. That's when U.S.
air-strikes killed more than 140 civilians in
Bola Boluk, a village in western Afghanistan's
Farah Province. Ninety-three of the dead
villagers torn apart by U.S. explosives were
children. Just 22 were males 18 years or older.
As the New York Times reported:
"In a phone call played on a loudspeaker on
Wednesday to outraged members of the Afghan
Parliament," The New York Times reported, "the
governor of Farah Province...said that as many as
130 civilians had been killed."
According to the governor," the villagers bought
two tractor trailers full of pieces of human
bodies to his office to prove the casualties that had occurred.'"
"Everyone at the governor's cried, watching that shocking scene.'"
An Afghan legislator "talked to someone he knew
personally who had counted 113 bodies being
buried, including those of many women and
children. Later, more bodies were pulled from the
rubble and some victims who had been taken to the
hospital died..." (New York Times, May 6, 2009).
The initial response of the Obama Pentagon to
this horrific incident - one among many such mass
U.S. aerial killings in Afghanistan since October
2001 - was to absurdly blame the civilian deaths on "Taliban grenades."
While Obama's Secretary of State Hillary Clinton
expressed deep "regret" about the loss of
innocent life, neither she nor Obama would issue
an apology or acknowledge U.S. responsibility for
the blasting apart of civilian bodies in Farah
Province. The United States, Obama has said both
as a candidate and as president, does not
apologize for its "mistake." This, he explains,
is because America is overwhelmingly a "force for good in the world."
By sharp and telling contrast last May, Obama had
just offered a full apology and fired a White
House official because that official had scared
U.S. civilians with an ill-advised Air Force One
photo-shoot flyover of Manhattan. The exercise reminded New Yorkers of 9/11.
The disparity was revealing. Frightening New
Yorkers led to a presidential admission of guilt
and request for forgiveness along with the
discharge of a White House staffer. Killing more
than 100 Afghan civilians did not require an
apology. Nobody had to be fired. The Pentagon
was permitted to advance preposterous claims
about how the civilians died -- stories that were
taken seriously by "mainstream"
(corporate-imperial) media. The U.S. subsequently
conducted a dubious "investigation" of the Bola
Boluk slaughter that reduced the civilian body
count drastically and blamed the Taliban for
putting civilians in the way of U.S. bombs.
Orwell, Vonnegut, and Kafka would have been impressed. Some Afghans were not.
As one young Pashtun man told Al Jazeera on the
day the Nobel gift was handed to the head of the
American Empire: "Obama has only brought war to
our country. Peace prize? He's a killer."
"He doesn't deserve the award," said a woman from
Bola Boluk. "He bombed us and he left us with nothing - not even a home" .
Postscript. Good news. After Obama's Afghanistan
speech and as he received his noxious Nobel, the
remnants of an antiwar movement stirred to a
degree not seen in some time. Along with the
cumulative impact of President Obama's first year
of corporatism and militarism, the bracing effect
of his remarkably George Bush-like speeches (at
West Point and in Oslo) on behalf of war and
militarism was starting to break down the fog of
"Obamaitis" - the paralyzing impact of the
nation's charismatic first black president on
progressive forces inside the U.S. "homeland."
The imperial reality of Obama was dissolving the
childish confusions spread by "Brand Obama" 
to an unprecedented degree. I marched against the
Afghanistan re-escalation in downtown Chicago on
December 5, 2009 with hundreds of other fellow
leftists, chanting, among other things, "Obama,
don't lie to me, your wars don't bring
democracy." Many curious Christmas shoppers in
Obama's "home city" laughed and some
applauded. They were pleased to see visible
confirmation of something many of them surely had
been thinking in recent days - that the
much-ballyhooed "change" of November 4, 2008 had
brought forth another in a long line of war presidents.
It was nice to see. "Brand Obama" has shut down
the antiwar movement long enough. Illegal,
mass-murderous permanent war and perverted
imperial priorities are illegal, mass-murderous
permanent war and perverted imperial priorities
whether they are being led by a white Republican
moron from Midland Texas or by an eloquent black
Democrat from Chicago - whether they are headed
by a boorish lout like Richard Nixon or a dashing
young telegenic personality like Jack
Kennedy. The American corporate and military
order is a richly bipartisan affair.
It's not about writing "Open Letters to President
Obama" ala Michael Moore, begging the new
commander-in-chief to be the truly progressive
actor so many deluded left liberals (with Moore
in the lead) wanted to believe he was. It's time
to resist Empire's New Clothes, determined to "Fight the Rich, Not Their Wars."
(<mailto:paulstreet99 at yahoo.com>paulstreet99 at yahoo.com)
is the author of many books, articles, chapters,
reviews, and speeches. His next volume is
provisionally titled "Empire's New Clothes:
Barack Obama in the Real World of Power and the
Politics of Progressive Betrayal" (2010).
* This essay expands (considerably) on a speech I
was supposed to give on the topic "Does Obama
Deserve the Nobel?" at the University of
Minnesota on December 10, 2010. Post-blizzard
road conditions kept me in Iowa but I am very
grateful to Jason Adams, Dan Dimaggio, and
Socialist Alternative for asking me to speak and
sparking these thoughts. Thanks to Kelly G. for the Norway press cites.
1. "The Ministry of Truth...was an enormous
pyramidal structure of glittering white concrete,
soaring up, terrace after terrace, three hundred
meters into the air. From where Winston stood it
was just possible to read, picked out on its
white face in elegant lettering, the three
slogans of the Party: WAR IS PEACE. FREEDOM IS
SLAVERY. IGNORANCE IS STRENGTH." George Orwell,
1984 (New York: Harcourt Brace Janovich, Inc., 1949), p.7.
2. On Kissigner and Chile, see Christopher
Hitchens, The Trial of Henry Kissinger (London:
Verso, 2001), pp. 55-76, 129-130.
3. On Kissinger, Ford, Indonesia, and East
Timor, see Noam Chomsky and Edward S. Herman, The
Washington Connection and Third World Fascism,
Volume I (Boston, 1979), pp. 130-204; William
Blum, Rogue State: A Guide to the World's Only
Superpower (Monroe, ME: Common Courage Press, 2005), pp. 188-89.
4. Rothschild compared Obama's airbrushed
historical account with the following passage
from Bush's 2004 State of the Union Address:
"America is a Nation with a mission, and that
mission comes from our most basic beliefs," Bush
said. "We have no desire to dominate, no
ambitions of empire. Our aim is a democratic
peace -- a peace founded upon the dignity and
rights of every man and woman. America acts in
this cause with friends and allies at our side,
yet we understand our special calling: This great
Republic will lead the cause of freedom." M.
Rothschild, "Obama Steals Bush's Speechwriters,"
The Progressive, December 2, 2009. See Blum,
Rogue State, pp. 162-220 for a useful history of
U.S. interventions abroad, 1945-2004.
5. WIFR Television, CBS 23, Rockford, Illinois,
"Obama Speaks at General Motors in Janesville,"
February 13, 2008, read at
6. Professors Inderjeet Parmar (University of
Manchester), Dr Mark Ledwidge (University of
Manchester), Professor Rob Singh (Birkbeck
College), Dr Tim Lynch (Institute for the Study
of the Americas), "Letter: U.S. Foreign Policy,"
The Guardian, September 18, 2009, read at
7. "Barack Obama is a brand. And the Obama brand
is designed to make us feel good about our
government while corporate overlords loot the
Treasury, our elected officials continue to have
their palms greased by armies of corporate
lobbyists, our corporate media diverts us with
gossip and trivia and our imperial wars expand in
the Middle East. Brand Obama is about being happy
consumers. We are entertained. We feel hopeful.
We like our president. We believe he is like us.
But like all branded products spun out from the
manipulative world of corporate advertising, we
are being duped into doing and supporting a lot
of things that are not in our interest."
"...The Obama campaign was named Advertising
Age's marketer of the year for 2008 and edged out
runners-up Apple and Zappos.com. Take it from the
professionals. Brand Obama is a marketer's dream.
President Obama does one thing and Brand Obama
gets you to believe another. This is the essence
of successful advertising. You buy or do what the
advertiser wants because of how they can make you
feel." See Chris Hedges, "Buying Brand Obama,"
Truthdig (May 3, 2009), read at
From: Z Net - The Spirit Of Resistance Lives
522 Valencia Street
San Francisco, CA 94110
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