"This Isn't a Game"
By Paul Street at Apr 12, 2007
Let me share one of the the most depressing passages I've ever read in the annals of political journalism. It can be found on the first page of last Sunday's New York Times, at the end of an Adan Nagourney story about Barack Obama's low-key campaign in northern Iowa.
Nagourney's article, which notes that the Barockstar's town-hall meetings are taking on the tedious feel of an academic seminar (makes sense: Obama taught Constitutional Law at the conservative University of Chicago for years), concludes on a truly disturbing note:
“Things have cooled off enough to permit Mr. Obama, dressed in his signature open-collared white shirt and loose-hanging black sports coat, to linger until almost the last person is gone. This more casual setting has revealed Mr. Obama to be a tactile campaigner; his bony hand grabbing elbows and hands, his long arms thrown over shoulders, drawing voters close in conversation.”
“And it allowed for moments like one that took place at the V.F.W. Hall in Dakota City, after almost everyone had gone. Mr. Obama was approached by a woman, her eyes wet. She spoke into his ear and began to weep, collapsing into his embrace. They stood like that for a full minute, Mr. Obama looking ashen, before she pulled away. She began crying again, Mr. Obama pulled her in for another embrace.” “The woman left declining to give her name or recount their conversation. Mr. Obama said she told him what had happened to her 20-year-old son, who was serving in Iraq.” “ ‘ Her son died,' he said. He paused. ‘What can you say? This happens to me every single place I go.'"
“The next day, at the rally here, Mr. Obama described the encounter for the crowd. The woman, he said, had asked if her son's death was the result of a mistake by the government. ‘And I told her the service of our young men and women — the duty they show this country — that's never a mistake,' he said.”
“He paused carefully as he reflected on that encounter. ‘It reminds you why you get into politics,' he said. ‘It reminds you that this isn't a game. ‘” (Adam Nagourney, "Two Years after big Speech, a Lower Key for Obama," New York Times, 8 April 2007).
What's so upsetting here to me isn't only that American mothers are losing their children in Washington's mass-murderous oil occupation of Iraq – the very same arch criminal invasion that the Democratic-controlled Congress recently voted to support by exceeding George W. Bush's Surge funding request.
The other thing is that dominant war and entertainment media's information is so bad that many bewildered Americans (including even the parents of war dead) believe that Obama is a progressive antiwar candidate, just like they have been induced to think that Congress recently voted against the war on Iraq.
Here are some highlights (in italics) from a summary of Obama's U.S. Senate war voting record recently sent to me by the Creative Youth News Team (CYNT), a progressive African American advocacy organization:
“1/06/05: Obama voted for Bush's Ohio electors. Roll Call 1
1/26/05: Obama voted to confirm Condoleezza Rice for Secretary of State. Rice was largely responsible…for the deaths of hundreds of thousands of innocent victims in unnecessary wars... Roll call 2
2/01/05: Obama was part of a unanimous consent agreement not to filibuster the nomination of lawless torturer Alberto Gonzales as chief law enforcement officer of the United States (U.S. Attorney General). No roll call is available to view but the unanimous consent is noted in Thomas.loc.gov
2/15/05: Obama voted to confirm Michael Chertoff, a proponent of water-board torture, an individual connected to the financing of 9/11 and the man behind the round-up of thousands of people of Middle-Eastern descent following 9/11. By Roll call 10.
4/21/05: Obama voted to make John "Death Squad" Negroponte the National Intelligence Director. In Central America, John Negroponte was connected to death squads that murdered nuns and children in sizable quantities. He is suspected of instigating death squads while in Iraq, resulting in the current insurgency. Instead of calling for Negroponte's prosecution, Obama rewarded him by making him National Intelligence Director. On 4/17/05, the California Democratic Party unanimously passed a resolution discussing the death squads and calling on Senators to reject the nomination of John Negroponte. Roll call 107
4/21/05: Obama voted for HR 1268, war appropriations in the amount of approximately $81 billion. Much of this funding went to Blackwater USA and Halliburton and disappeared. Roll call 109 [W FOR PRO-WAR VOTE]
7/01/05: Obama voted for H.R. 2419, termed "The Nuclear Bill" by environmental and peace groups. It provided billions for nuclear weapons activities, including nuclear bunker buster bombs. It contains full funding for Yucca Mountain, a threat to food and water in California, Nevada, Arizona and states across America.. Roll call 172 [W]
9/26/05 & 9/28/05: Obama failed and refused to place a hold on the nomination of John Roberts, a supporter of permanent detention of Americans without trial, and of torture and military tribunals for Guantanamo detainees. 10/07/05: Obama voted for HR2863, which appropriated $50 billion in new money for war. Roll call 2 [W]
11/14/05: Obama voted again for "The Nuclear Bill" in Roll Call 321. This was the vote on the Conference Report on the Nuclear Bill (HR 2419). As the House had already approved the Conference Report, this was the last opportunity for anyone in Congress to say "no" to this disastrous bill which threatened California's water and food supply and provides billions of dollars for the kind of nuclear weapons activities violative of international law. [W]
11/15/05: Obama voted for continued war, again. Roll call 326 was the vote on the Defense Authorization Act (S1042) which kept the war and war profiteering alive, restricted the right of habeas corpus and encouraged terrorism. Pursuant to his pattern, Obama voted for this. [W]
12/21/05: Obama confirmed his support for war by voting for the Conference Report on the Defense Appropriations Act (HR 2863), Roll call 366, which provided more funding to Halliburton and Blackwater. [W]
5/2/06: Obama voted for money for more war by voting for cloture on HR 4939, the emergency funding to Halliburton, Blackwater and other war profiteers. Roll call 103 [W]
5/4/06: Obama, again, voted to adopt HR4939: emergency funding to war profiteers. Roll call 112. [W]
6/13/06: Obama voted to commend the armed services for a bombing that killed innocent people and children and reportedly resulted in the death of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, a person unlikely ever to have existed and who was reported killed three times previously. Michael Berg, whose son was reportedly killed by al-Zarqawi, condemned the attack and expressed sorrow over the innocent people and children killed in the bombing that Obama commended. Roll call 168 [W]
6/15/06: Obama voted for the conference report on HR4939, a bill that gave warmongers more money to continue the killing and massacre of innocent people in Iraq and allows profiteers to collect more money for scamming the people of New Orleans. Roll Call 171 [W]
6/15/06: Obama, again, opposed withdrawal of the troops, by voting to table a motion to table a proposed amendment would have required the withdrawal of US. Armed Forces from Iraq and would have urged the convening of an Iraq summit (S Amdt 4269 to S. Amdt 4265 to S2766). The reported US death toll is now over 3000 and the reported civilian death toll is about 700,000. Families of those who have died in Iraq since 6/15/06 can send their bills for the funeral expenses to Barack Obama. Roll Call 174 [W]
6/22/06: Obama voted against withdrawing the troops by opposing the Kerry Amendment (S. Amdt 4442 to S 2766) to the National Defense Authorization Act. The amendment, which was rejected, would have brought our troops home. Roll Call 181 [W]
6/22/06: Obama voted for cloture (the last effective chance to stop) on the National Defense Authorization Act (S 2766), which provided massive amounts of funding to defense contractors to continue the killing in Iraq. Roll Call 183 [W]
6/22/06: Obama again voted for continued war by voting to pass the National Defense Authorization Act (S 2766) continued war funding. Roll Call 186 [W]9/7/06: Obama voted to give more money to profiteers for more war (H..R. 5631). . Roll Call 239 [W]
9/29/06: Obama voted vote for the conference report on more funding for war, HR 5631. Roll Call 261 [W]11/16/06: Obama voted for nuclear proliferation in voting to pass HR 5682, a bill to exempt the United States-India Nuclear Proliferation Act from requirements of the Atomic Energy Act of 1954. Roll Call 270 [W]
12/06/06: Obama voted to confirm pro-war Robert M. Gates to be Secretary of Defense. Gates is a supporter of Bush's policies of pre-emptive war and conquest of foreign countries. Roll Call 272 [W]
(A note about cloture: often, with the Republicans in a majority in 2005 and 2006, the only way to stop nominees or bills was through opposing cloture. This frequently made Obama's votes for cloture worse than his vote for the bill itself . In some cases there was no role call on cloture and only the roll call to confirm or adopt the bill or nominee is available. Opposing cloture allows a minority party to stop a bill.)
Obama's voting record in 2007 establishes that he continues to be pro-war. On March 28, 2007 and March 29th, 2007, he voted for cloture and passage of a bill designed to give Bush over $120 billion to continue the occupation for years to come (with a suspendable time table) and inclusive of funding that could be used to launch a war with Iran. Roll calls 117 and 126 [W].
Obama's record shows a minimum of 20 major pro-war votes. After voting 20 times for war, how dishonest is Obama when he claims to be for peace?”
Ok that's it for the CYNT's revealing and depressing summary.
Obama can talk all he wants on the money-whoring citizen-deceiving power-serving campaign trail about telling the weeping woman in northern Iowa that her son didn't die because of a “mistake.” “Mistake” and “strategic blunder” are exactly how he has described the occupation of Iraq in various foreign policy speeches and in his slippery, two-faced campaign book The Audacity of Hope.
The invasion is an error, Obama claims – one that was carried out with what he calls the “best of intentions.” He claims to think it expressed an unrealistic desire to export democracy.
Like many people on the radical Left, I think the supposedly “non-ideological” Obama and other leading Democrats are full of heavily ideological shit when they describe “Operation Iraqi Liberation” (O.I.L.) as a well-intended "blunder." The occupation of Iraq was and remains a brazenly imperialist war crime implemented to deepen U.S. control over strategically super-significant Middle Eastern oil.
The notion that O.I.L. had or has anything to do with a U.S. desire to export or defend “democracy” and “freedom” is childish drivel. It is an infantile fairly tale whose utter falsity ought to be obvious to any moderately informed adult with elementary thinking capacity.
I said a few posts back that I wanted this blog to be more activist. A reader might say “fine but what can I do?”
Well, my last two posts were dedicated to specific forms of resistance: conscientious objection and refusal to pay war taxes. There's a broad and developing spectrum of actions and strategies to recommend, including mass civil disobedience, large-scale protests, literal sabotage and much more.
All Democratic congresspersons who voted to fund Bush's criminal war Surge last March should be sent the new special Certificates of Iraq War Ownership that peace activists have designed for them. Regarding electoral politics, think about picketing and otherwise disrupting and embarrassing the Town Hall gatherings and (my favorite) the Big Money fundraising events held by any and all presidential candidates (not just Obama) who aren't following the lead of people like John Lewis and Dennis Kucinich (two of the 8 congressional representatives who refused to back the recent Democratic supplemental funding authorization measure because of opposition to imperialist policy) in calling for the rapid de-funding of the war and the return home (not just the imperial redeployment) of the troops in Iraq.
Kucinich - a left presidential candidate - spoke in Des Moines today and I heard part of his speech on the radio. He accused the leading (Big Money) Democratic presidential candidates (see my recent ZNet piece on Obama's campaign finance profile) of – get this Obama supporters – “playing games” with the lives of U.S. soldiers in Iraq.
He's right. Let's be real: the top Democrats want Bush saddled with the bloody Iraq quagmire right up until the eve of the 2008 election. They have a vested interest in the creation of many more dead GIs over the next 18-and-a-half months. The media-created Barockstar is going to be handing out many more disingenuous hugs to the relatives of dead soliders in months to come...he'll be shedding crocodile war tears all the way to the campaign finance bank. This is an unpleasant thing for Daily Kos liberal types to acknowledge. But that's too bad.
It's how the quadrennial Winner Take All extravaganza works.
It's "a game" alright – a really sick game, people.