After hearing Rush Limbaugh’s hate speech stating he wanted to see Barack Obama “bloodied up politically,” I was not surprised to see a tidal wave of damaging anti-Obama news stories and allegations in the mainstream media. It was bad enough that he was being hit hard by noxious Clinton claims that he was “inexperienced,” or that he was not ready to be “Commander in chief.” I scoffed at the Clinton scare ads about who you want answering the phones in the middle of the night in case of an emergency. Yet, in 2002 it was Barack Obama who courageously stood up against the war fever and spoke out against the invasion of Iraq when everyone else, including Hillary Clinton, was screaming for innocent Iraqi blood. Now that country lies in chaos and ruins.
Next, Geraldine Ferraro , a zealous Clinton supporter, engaged in what social psychologists call the “ultimate attribution error” by arguing that Barack Obama was where he was because he was black, implying that he had no real Presidential qualities that could explain his success as a candidate. This made me wonder. Maybe Obama is under attack precisely because he really does represent change, even if only incremental change, and there are many to his political right in both parties who fear that his cry for change is not just empty rhetoric.
The latest media furor was over videotaped remarks from Obama’s former minister, the Reverend Jeremiah Wright Jr. The bloodhounds were soon barking and snipping at Obama’s heels demanding a renunciation of the pastor’s words. The preacher stated emotionally that US policies and violence around the world were “damned” by God, and had brought on 9-11. He also said that the US was the number one “killer” in the world, that in a day it had wasted over 70 thousand civilian lives by dropping an atom bomb on Hiroshima and days later took another 70 thousand lives dropping one on Nagasaki.
In interviews on CNN and MSNBC, Obama disavowed and condemned the Reverend’s angry statements. He said he was not present when the controversial comments were made, but that he should not be made “guilty by association.” They were not, after all, his words. To his credit he refused to renounce his relationship with his pastor who performed his wedding ceremony and was the inspiration for his book, THE AUDACITY OF HOPE. Furthermore, Obama said he would remain a church member, although did remove the pastor from his African American Religious Leadership Committee
In a calm voice, Obama explained that his pastor had been politicized in the 1960’s during the Civil Rights movement and Vietnam War, a time when there was much more racial tension and anger in the air. He added that the pastor’s confrontational words and style ran counter to his own approach of avoiding polarization and trying to create bridges between people. Finally, he stated that the pastor brought him to Jesus: “What I have been hearing and had been hearing in church was talk about Jesus and talk about faith and values, and serving the poor.”
Reverend Wright’s fiery sermon several years ago implying that the U.S. brought the horrifying Sept. 11 attacks on itself is a thesis that has been defended by scholars like Chalmers Johnson in his books BLOWBACK, THE SORROWS OF EMPIRE, and NEMESIS. Prior to 9/11, the book BLOWBACK predicted that US policies and use of force around the world were generating anger and resentment that could lead to violence being used against the US. Chalmers Johnson got the radical concept of “blowback” from that infamous agent of revolutionary change, the CIA. There is overwhelming evidence that the US supported Islamic militants in Afghanistan during the 1980s who were given training, weapons, and money to fight off the Soviet Union, and that many of these same militants (like Osama Bin Laden) are now declared enemies of the United States. Blowback!
Furthermore, it is just a historical fact the US killed well over a 100 thousand civilians in two atomic flashes in densely populated Japanese cities like Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The American general and future Republican President, Dwight D. Eisenhower, said “dropping the bomb was completely unnecessary,” noting that Japan was already in ruins and wanted to surrender. Historical scholar, Gar Alperovitz, in his thick book THE DECISION TO USE THE ATOMIC BOMB (1995), questioned the use of the atomic bombs as a “military necessity” needed to save American lives and end the war. He argued that the notion that it was necessary in order to save American lives was itself an “American myth.”
What is going on here? Why are arguably true statements about history universally treated with contempt and disbelief by all media commentators and politicians? Are these forbidden truths? Is it also wrong to go back even further and say that the US massacred Native Americans when it colonized the American continent, that it exploited slave labor to run the plantation economy of the South? Are these controversial statements? Is it now “politically incorrect” to tell the truth about the Holy American Empire and its violence in Iraq and Afghanistan? Is it true that you “hate America” if you believe any of the above?
It is important that we understand that this is a cheap ideological trick, a product of a false and cheap patriotism, the kind you hear daily on FOX NEWS. It is based upon denial and a denial of the denial. The assumption that if you want to change the unilateral imperial policies of the Bush administration you must consequently hate America is false. What if you believe that these very imperial policies – the occupation, the practice of torture, the CIA “Rendition” program, and the unilateral use of American military violence are harmful to the long term well being of America? Are we to keep quiet, so that our love of country is not questioned? Are we to remain silent?
Can it be that those who fail to learn from history are condemned to repeat it?
There are still many wonderful aspects about living in America, and there are certain concrete gains created by our Democratic capitalist culture that have benefited humanity. But does this mean that we have to park our brains forever, wrap it in the flag, and stop thinking critically of our government’s use of violence against others in the world?
Was Admiral William Fallon’s resignation as U.S. commander in the Middle East lacking in patriotism for disagreeing with Bush regarding the wisdom of a proposed US military attack on Iran? Could it be that saying “no” to the aggressive, unnecessary, and an unjust war and occupation in Iraq is in fact patriotic? When aggressive war is made sacrosanct, patriotism is indeed “the last refuge of a scoundrel.” Isn’t that the lesson of the Nuremburg Trials?
Finally, I remember being very upset the morning of 9/11/2001, when a friend in San Diego called me and told me in an excited voice to turn on my television set. I was visibly angry when I saw the twin towers crumble straight to the ground. I said to myself that whoever did this was going to push this country politically to the far right. I feared that the Bush administration would manipulate the fear in a regressive way. I feared an irrational a war of revenge. I feared the so called “war on terror” would only set the country back politically, and would seriously endanger open discussion and our valued traditions of American constitutional civil liberties and free speech. Everything I feared has since come true, if not worse. It is, as Obama has said over and over in his stomp campaign speeches, a time when Americans want a change.
Finally, I am a native born American that wants change, and wanting “change” is not anti-American. We must as Americans repudiate Bush and his policies of fear, torture, and war.