[News] Blood on the Nobel

Anti-Imperialist News 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 [1].

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 [2].

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 [3].

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" [4].

"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" [5].

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." [6]

"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 
Peace" (see 
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" [8].

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" [8] 
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."

Paul Street 
(<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 
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 

8. www.youtube.com/watch?v=OBHrnQTinGY&feature=related

From: Z Net - The Spirit Of Resistance Lives


Freedom Archives
522 Valencia Street
San Francisco, CA 94110

415 863-9977

-------------- next part --------------
An HTML attachment was scrubbed...
URL: <http://freedomarchives.org/pipermail/news_freedomarchives.org/attachments/20091215/56ee6606/attachment.html>

More information about the News mailing list