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 Afghanistan. (www.gallup.com/poll/124490/In-U.S.-More-Support-Increasing-Troops-Afghanistan.aspx].
(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 understand—America 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
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 http://www.monthlyreview.org/mrzine/hp091109.html) 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 http://www.atimes.com/atimes/Middle_East/JK27Ak01.html).
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 http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/eu_nobel_peace).
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 http://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/remarks-president-acceptance-nobel-peace-prize)
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 http://www.wgal.com/politics/21917001/detail.html). 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 www.norwaypost.no/content/view/22892/26/)
"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."
Paul Street (firstname.lastname@example.org) 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 http://www.wifr.com/morningshow/headlines/15618592.html
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 http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2009/sep/18/us-foreign-policy-obama-afghanistan
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 http://www.truthdig.com/report/item/20090503_buying_brand_obama/