bamboozled

There are still a number of important editorials coming out with critical analysis about what a President Obama will mean. As my posts over the entire election campaign make clear, I’ve never felt duped by this candidate as he never represented progressive–let alone radical points of view. He seemed like the same old sort of candidate who supports big power structures. There are a number of people, who as I’ve also commented at length, believed otherwise. They were bamboozled as it were–at least until the Rahm Israel Emanuel appointment made the news. So here are some responses from people who felt they were bamboozled as well as from people who knew along along, who tried to warn us all along, and whose words continue to remind of us why we must continue the struggle. Today Friends of Lebanon actually used the word bamboozled to describe their concerns:

It troubles me that you view the July 2006 War (which left 43 Israeli civilians dead and at least 1200 Lebanese civilians dead) as an Israeli exercise in self-defence. It troubles me that you categorically deny Lebanon the same right to self-defence. Is “self-defence” an objective concept or is it a US/Israeli prerogative? It troubles me that you vocally champion “adherence to the rule of law” on the one hand, and then look the other way as Israel violates humanitarian and international laws time and again.

Am I being an idealist in mentioning such grandiose notions as humanitarian and international law? I think not. You speak often of ideals. You even acknowledge their violation parenthetically in your “Plan to Actively Engage China.” You note that China has “failed to live up to international standards of human rights,” (a phrase many would say is a gross euphemism at best) and then you kindly chastise China: “the United States has to be frank with the Chinese about such failings and will press them to respect human rights.” You graciously offer not to “demonize China” because you “understand both the magnitude of the challenges facing a developing China and the importance of a constructive relationship to foster continued peace and prosperity.”

Compare this if you will, to the bold assertions in your “Israel Fact Sheet” (not a speech, a statement or a plan here, but an incontestable fact sheet). Well, you know what it says, don’t you, Mr Obama. Israel is always right. Lebanon, Palestine and any other country that dares support Arabs’ being of equal worth to Jews, they are always inherently wrong. You do not hesitate to demonise the Arabs/Iranians as violent extremists and terrorists. “Those who threaten Israel threaten us,” you say. Does that not recall your predecessor’s warning that “you’re either with us or against us”?

This brand of so-called diplomacy is neither new nor improved. Any vague sense of hope for change we may have still clung to—those of us who value open-minded dialogue that demands listening as well as speaking—well, that hope that you so carefully crafted during the campaign was resolutely squashed after the election when you nominated as your Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel. Would you expect anyone to believe that he is not the epitome of bias, a veritable Mr Preconditions?

Bamboozled indeed. It seems to me that this little game of con the consumer has seduced those who are hungry for power. For it is this dogged insistence on double standards that has these past eight years fed the distrust and scorn and despising of the US. And it is the chauvinism of adhering not to the rule of law, but to the rule of men. And it is the hypocrisy of professing to defend democracy by killing the spirit if not the body of anyone who dares to voice a different opinion.

The use of the word bamboozled here (and elsewhere if you follow the link and read the entire article) is important interesting in relation to a speech given by Malcolm X as represented in Spike Lee’s biopic of the same name, which importantly, is a speech in which he is speaking to an audience about politicians:

Clearly, Friends of Lebanon was not bamboozled as it tracks Barack Obama’s language and the way he used it unevenly, for instance, to describe Israeli aggression as “self defense,” whereas Lebanese people don’t have that right.

John Pilger’s recent op-ed responds to the historic nature of Obama’s election in the context of the historical process of destruction that American will continue to unleash around the world if his early choices in those he wants by his side are any indication:

Obama’s first two crucial appointments represent a denial of the wishes of his supporters on the principal issues on which they voted. The vice-president-elect, Joe Biden, is a proud war maker and Zionist. Rahm Emanuel, who is to be the all-important White House chief of staff, is a fervent “neoliberal” devoted to the doctrine that led to the present economic collapse and impoverishment of millions. He is also an “Israel-first” Zionist who served in the Israeli army and opposes meaningful justice for the Palestinians — an injustice that is at the root of Muslim people’s loathing of the United States and the spawning of jihadism.

No serious scrutiny of this is permitted within the histrionics of Obama-mania, just as no serious scrutiny of the betrayal of the majority of black South Africans was permitted within the “Mandela moment.” This is especially marked in Britain, where America’s divine right to “lead” is important to elite British interests. The once respected Observer newspaper, which supported Bush’s war in Iraq, echoing his fabricated evidence, now announces, without evidence, that “America has restored the world’s faith in its ideals.” These “ideals”, which Obama will swear to uphold, have overseen, since 1945, the destruction of 50 governments, including democracies, and 30 popular liberation movements, causing the deaths of countless men, women and children.

Elias Akleh, also writing in Dissident Voice, describes the rhetoric of change and the celebration of it an “orgy” not the least of which because people were so hypnotized by it that they ignored the warning signs:

Obama’s victory, and more accurately Democrats’ victory, was a sure thing. Through two major wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the war in Haiti, their proxy wars in Africa, war in Georgia, war against Lebanon via Israel, and their violations of international laws, plus the internal wars against the freedom of American people, and the ravaging of American economy, the Republican neoconservative Bush administration had swung the pendulum to the extreme right, and now it has but to swing back to the opposite direction. Everybody knew that after eight disastrous years of Republican rule the Democrats will have their turn. This inevitable change is what brought Obama to the White House. Obama rode to the White House on the people’s wish for change….

Hypnotized by “change” and “race” people could not see the similarities Obama has with McCain/Bush/Republicans. They are all for wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Although initially Obama opposed the Iraqi invasion, he always voted for the surge and more war funding in Iraq. He wants to leave a residual force in military bases in Iraq, and wants to ship another military surge to Afghanistan to keep bombing Pakistani borders. He supported Israeli terror and aggression against Palestinians and the war against Lebanon. Obama is belligerent towards Iran promising to do “everything in my power to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon”. He was confrontational towards Russia after the war in Georgia. He is for war against “global terrorist” and promised to bring Osama bin Laden in dead or alive. He is for drug wars (protecting drug trade, whose money goes through Wall Street). Locally, he supports the death penalty, pollutant nuclear and coal industries, and had never talked about abolishing oppressive laws such as Patriot Act, homeland security, internet control, and wiretapping and spying on American citizens.

In an article by John Craig Roberts called “Conned Again”–though I don’t believe he actually is referring to himself, but rather the American electorate, he tells us that in addition to the dangerous appointments of terrorists like Emanuel, Obama’s economic plan will not bring change: (thanks Rania)

Obama’s economic team is just as bad. Its star is Robert Rubin, the bankster who was secretary of the treasury in the Clinton administration. Rubin has responsibility for the repeal of the Glass-Steagall Act and, thereby, responsibility for the current financial crisis. In his letter to Obama, Nader points out that Obama received unprecedented campaign contributions from corporate and Wall Street interests. “Never before has a Democratic nominee for President achieved this supremacy over his Republican counterpart.”

Obama’s victory speech was magnificent. The TV cameras scanning faces in the audience showed the hope and belief that propelled Obama into the presidency. But Obama cannot bring change to Washington. There is no one in the Washington crowd that he can appoint who is capable of bringing change. If Obama were to reach outside the usual crowd, anyone suspected of being a bringer of change could not get confirmed by the Senate. Powerful interest groups–AIPAC, the military-security complex, Wall Street–use their political influence to block unacceptable appointments.

As Alexander Cockburn put it in his column, “Obama, the first-rate Republican,” “never has the dead hand of the past had a ‘reform’ candidate so firmly by the windpipe.” Obama confirmed Cockburn’s verdict in his first press conference as president-elect. Disregarding the unanimous US National Intelligence Estimate, which concluded that Iran stopped working on nuclear weapons five years ago, and ignoring the continued certification by the International Atomic Energy Agency that none of the nuclear material for Iran’s civilian nuclear reactor has been diverted to weapons use, Obama sallied forth with the Israel Lobby’s propaganda and accused Iran of “development of a nuclear weapon” and vowing “to prevent that from happening.”

The change that is coming to America has nothing to do with Obama. Change is coming from the financial crisis brought on by Wall Street greed and irresponsibility, from the eroding role of the US dollar as reserve currency, from countless mortgage foreclosures, from the offshoring of millions of America’s best jobs, from a deepening recession, from pillars of American manufacturing–Ford and GM–begging the government for taxpayers’ money to stay alive, and from budget and trade deficits that are too large to be closed by normal means.

And in terms of economics Emanuel is a dangerous pick for his first right-hand man as Bruce Dixon writes in the Black Agenda Report. There are many other reasons we should be outraged by this choice on Obama’s part:

The first appointments of the new regime are truly disturbing. Illinois congressman Rahm Emanuel, the new White House chief of staff is a certifiable Democratic neocon who helped strongarm NAFTA, welfare reform and the Telecom Act of 1996 though congress for Bill Clinton. He served on the board of Freddie Mac while it was busy inflating the housing bubble, and was an early and unrepentant advocate of invading Iraq and bombing Iran. As head of the DCCC, responsible for recruiting and funding 2006 Democratic congressional candidates, Emanuel used corporate contributions to try to knock more than a twenty antiwar Democrats out of primary races in favor of pro-war Democrats. Confronted with choices between pro-war Democrats and pro-war Republicans, voters rejected most of Emanuel’s picks, costing Democrats as many as ten Congressional seats.

Dixon doesn’t just critique Obama’s decisions; importantly he offers ways for us to mobilize now in relation to the economic situation in the U.S. and things we can take action on that will help the people who need it the most in the U.S.:

The biggest thing the Obama administration can do to succeed in its first month, to boost the incomes and secure the economic well-being of millions of US families is to speedily pass the Employee Free Choice Act. Under the Reagan, Clinton and Bush regimes, the right of Americans in a workplace to organize a union, even to think out loud about a union, has almost disappeared. Working people have no leverage against employers, who, according to Labor Department stats, fired someone every ten minutes in 2005 for suspected union activity. Right now, that’s illegal, but the fines are so light that employers wantonly violate the law and willingly pay the fine rather than allow workers to organize.

Swift and early passage of the Employee Free Choice Act will empower families to fight their own fights for economic parity on more equal ground than we have seen in a generation. While the productivity of American workers has nearly tripled over the last thirty years, wages have remained, when adjusted for inflation, flat. All the profits of increased productivity have flowed upward to the bosses. US executives often make 400 to 1000 times the wage of their workers, as opposed to only 40 to 100 times as much in Germany or Japan, which are still out-competing the US anyway.

If the Employee Free Choice Act is passed early, an Obama administration will create thousands of local organizing opportunities and thousands of institutional allies to help hold it on the course of peace and economic justice it was elected to take. If you want to see an Obama presidency succeed on the terms of the voters who elected it, the thing to do this week is sign the petition and join the one million others who want to lift up not just the fortunes of Wall Street, but those of ordinary families.

Visit the site of American Rights At Work and Learn more about the difference unions make in access to health care and education and democratic rights in the workplace. Forward the information, the videos and the petition to everyone on your list. Blog it and put the “one million strong” ad and the videos on your own web site, if you have one. And yes, call and email the Obama Transition Team. Organize something, or join something already organized to pressure the new administration to keep its promises. If you want change, be the change.

While it is likely that Obama might respond to pressure on these domestic issues, I wonder how well he will respond to continued outrage–from all sorts of people–about his choice of Emanuel. Ali Abunimah responds to that racism–of past and present–in the Emanuel family, which importantly has not been repudiated publicly by anyone in the new administration:

Sons are not responsible for the racism of their fathers. But they do have a responsibility to let others know that they disagree vehemently with such sentiments. This is certainly the case for individuals in public service, particularly the man President-elect Barack Obama has chosen as White House chief of staff. Yet, Rep. Rahm Emanuel has not said a word regarding the troubling statement his father made to the Israeli newspaper Ma’ariv.

In a recent interview, Dr. Benjamin Emanuel asserted that his son’s appointment would be beneficial to Israel. “Obviously he will influence the president to be pro-Israel,” the elder Emanuel said, according to the Jerusalem Post. “Why wouldn’t he be? What is he, an Arab? He’s not going to clean the floors of the White House.”

The public has a right to expect Mr. Emanuel to reject such raw racism especially given the historic resonance of Mr. Obama’s victory. It’s especially important for Arab and Muslim Americans who came through the election campaign feeling they are the last group of Americans who can still be publicly denigrated.

The American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee has put a call out to ask people to respond to these racists comments–and indeed to the appointment of Emanuel himself.

Abunimah, like Margaret Kimberly of the Black Agenda Report, warned us all along about what to expect with Obama:

It’s not as if we at BAR didn’t warn you. Barack Obama’s first major act as president-elect was to select as his chief of staff Rep. Rahm Emanuel, whose “role as Chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee was to insure that anti-war and other progressive candidates stayed out of the running.” So when do the protests begin? “Progressives for Obama and other groups who promised to hold their idol accountable haven’t gotten around to doing so just yet or even announcing when the time will be right for their tongues to become untied.”

But our tongues should not be tied. We must speak. We must get up out of our chairs and do something. Or else it will be four more years of the same. Or worse.

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