Monday, May 25, 2009

Obama's War

Miracles will not happen,” the president said,  “. . . but with a common focus, we can make strides.”  “ . . . the path to success is slow and unsure.”  The United States, the national security advisor pledged, would do “whatever we could, to do what we can as quickly as possible to help . . . .”  “There will be more violence, and there will be setbacks.”  Too bad the officials did not invite Washington State House leader, Representative Lynn Kessler, to comment because she would surely have supplied the only cliché missed by the assembled notables:  “there is light at the end of the tunnel.”  Isn’t this a bit of deja vu all over again?  The speakers were president Obama and national security advisor Jones not Bush and Rice.  Otherwise, who could notice the difference?


Last week the United States, We The People, killed more than a hundred innocent Afghani civilians.  We bombed them, as Curtis LeMay would have it, back to the stone age, “their corpses,” wrote Chris Hedges, “blown into bits of human flesh by iron fragmentation bombs. . . .”  We denied it, naturally, just as we have denied the last 5,000 Afghani civilians we have killed.  We will investigate, of course, but already, as The Daily World reported on 7 May, “the top U. S. commander in Afghanistan suggested the Taliban might be to blame.”  Eventually we will apologize, just as we have done for the other 5,000 innocent men, women and children we have killed:  Terribly sorry;  the tragic cost of war; so regrettable, but it is the price that must be paid; “We think,” as Madaline Halfbright said some years ago, “that the price is worth it.”  And then we will go on killing. 


We pull the trigger in Nevada.  We fly pilot-less drones - - the reaper and the predator and other iterations of unseen death.  They zoom in.  The killers are thousands of miles away.  They are stimulated by the death they bring according to one pilot in a recent interview.  The remote pilots don’t have to see the bodies, the blood.  They see a flash and move on.  “We don’t get it wrong” one pilot said on 60 Minutes recently.  A wedding party - - terrorists.  Nothing wrong.  A funeral - - terrorists.  Nothing wrong. 


Too bad. 

So sorry. 

Obama expresses regret and promises to “make every effort” to avoid further “tragedies.” Already in Afghanistan and Pakistan we are covered in blood.  Rivers of blood.  Oceans of blood.  The pilots of the drones kill the mourners or the celebrants and then go home to breakfast with the wife and kiddies.


This is computer-game killing.  Targeted.  Ruthless.  Anonymous.  Value free.  Movements on a computer screen.  Voiceless, virtual humans - - obliterated.


Push the button. 


Time for my shift to end.  Got to get home to the wife and kids who move about the world without the faintest inkling that someone, somewhere could be watching, waiting, plotting.  Armed.  Lethal.  Our brothers, sons, fathers, mothers, sisters, aunts. 


Is this the kind of country we want to be?  “We are morally no different from the psychopaths within the Taliban,” Chris Hedges wrote on the 11th, “who Afghans remember we empowered, funded and armed during the 10-year war with the Soviet Union.  Acid thrown in a girl’s face or beheadings?  Death delivered from the air or fields of shiny cluster bombs?  This is the language of war.  It is what we speak.  It is what those we fight speak.”


  This is not change we can believe in.


Millions, tens of millions of people voted for candidate Obama in November, willingly suspending disbelief, hoping, yearning for someone who would change the trajectory of the militarist, imperialist country we have become under presidents and congresses for the past sixty years.  They believed brand Obama.  But the brand was a marketing tool, a way to elect a more acceptable representative of the ruling military-industrial-congressional complex. 


Where are the Democrats?  Unfortunately, and tragically for our future, they are all with Obama and the empire.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Christians and Torture

A recent letter to the editor at the Aberdeen Daily World reminded me of a story told about Mahatma Gandhi.  Gandhi, a Hindu, studied the Bible and found an interest in the Christian faith and the teachings of Jesus.  To learn more he decided to attend a Christian church in white South Africa.  When he attempted to enter a church one of the church elders barred Gandhi’s way.  “Where do you think you’re going, kafir?”  “I’d like to attend worship here,” Gandhi replied.  “There’s no room for kaffirs in this church, the elder said, “so get out of here or I’ll have my assistants throw you down the steps.”  Sometime later the missionary E. Stanley Jones asked Ghandi why, although Gandhi often quoted the words of Christ, he adamantly rejected becoming a Christian.  “Oh, I don't reject your Christ” Gandhi said. “I love your Christ. It's just that so many of you Christians are so unlike your Christ."

As a teenager I once contemplated becoming a minister.  That all vanished on the day I was physically removed from the church I had grown up in because I attempted to shout down the minister who had just urged the congregation to support the war in Vietnam.  That I did not enter the clergy probably comes as a relief to some of the listeners to the program.  Nonetheless, like Gandhi, I too discovered that too many Christians were unlike their Christ.  Now, research by the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life has pointed out more differences between me and the conspicuously pious sky-godders who loudly proclaim themselves so righteous, moral and just.  The study confirmed that the more often you go to church, the more you approve of torture.  Why do you suppose that’s true?  Wouldn’t you expect exactly the opposite - -  that support for torture would be stronger among the non-religious than among the most frequent church-goers?

Not so in the United States today.  Only 42% of people not affiliated with a religious organization approved of torture while 54% of people who attend worship at least once a week agreed that using torture was “often” or “sometimes” justified.  “White evangelical Protestants were the church-going group most likely to approve of torture,” wrote Susan Brooks Thistlethwaite in The Washington Post.  Thistlethwaite went on to write, “I think it possible, even likely, that this finding has a theological root.”  Christians base their theology on salvation through Christ’s suffering - - his flogging and crucifixion.  “For Christian conservatives,” Thistlethwaite concluded, “severe pain and suffering are central to their theology.”  Think Mel Gibson’s S & M violence fest, The Passion of the Christ.  “God wanted Jesus tortured for the sins of humanity” therefore torture of one human by another is OK - - redemptive even for Christians who have adopted this “penal theory of atonement.”

One wonders just how may of the torturers themselves were good Christians.  Torture, religion, proselytizing, God.  “They’re all part of the mixed-up horrific business that George Bush unleashed in the Middle East and Central Asia  “Christians were a favored constituency when Bush was in power,” Cynthia Tucker reminded us recently in The Daily World.  “Their enthusiasm powered his campaigns; their votes helped usher him in; their leaders helped push through his agenda, including his unfortunate war of choice in Iraq.” 

Americans have conflated U. S. military forces with “Onward Christian Soldiers” before in our history - - especially in China during the Boxer Uprising in 1900.  U.S. military forces were sent to China to rescue the haughty Christian missionaries whom the Chinese so detested.  Now the forces of a militarized Christianity have almost seized control of our military.  “The special forces guys - - they hunt men, basically,” said Lt. Col. Gary Hensley, the chief of U. S. military chaplains in Afghanistan, in a videotaped sermon shown on Al Jazeera across the Middle East a few weeks ago.  “We do the same things as Christians,” Col. Hensley went on,” we hunt people for Jesus.  We do, we hunt them down.  Get the hound of heaven after them, so we get them into the kingdom.”  Or at least onto the waterboard.

Monday, May 4, 2009

Tea Bagging

The tea-bag revolt of a few weeks ago had me thinking of Chester A. Riley [look him up if you are too young].  “What a revoltin’ development this is,” Riley used to say in one of the most iconic phrases created on radio and the early years of television.  I wish I knew what it was that the tea-bag movement was a protest against.  Revolutionaries carried out the original Boston Tea Party to protest a tax on tea but how that event related to this one I have no idea.  

For the last eight years I’ve waited for angry citizens to take to the streets to protest the proto-fascist Bush government which, with the connivance first of a Republican and then a Democratic Congress, gutted the Constitution by removing the right of Habeas Corpus; made a mockery of the First, Fourth, Fifth and Sixth Amendments; rolled over the concepts of the right to privacy; violated the rights of due process; appropriated more than $1 trillion to fight an immoral and illegal preemptive war; allowed unregulated banks and Wall Street oligarchs to bring the country to its knees; put millions of people around the world out of work; caused millions to lose their homes to foreclosure.  But masses of people certainly did not do that then nor did the tea-bag protesters do that now.  

What a revoltin’ development this is. 

No, what they protested, I guess, was taxes.  The protestors carried signs that said,  “Give me liberty, not debt,” “No more spending,” and “Taxation is Piracy.”  The “official” website for the movement “attacked the government for ‘spending trillions of borrowed dollars, leaving a debt our great-grandchildren will be paying.’”  

Excuse me?  While I have been a critic of President Obama’s financial stimulus plan because, as Nobel Prize winning economist Paul Krugman has pointed out, the plan does not spend enough nor on the right things, I’m astonished that the tea-baggers could possibly be protesting their own rescue.  Where do they think the current tax cut for 95 percent of people came from?  Bush? Do these people think the ruling oligarchy is going to end the new depression?  They can’t.  Wall Street and the major banks are broke, busted, kaput.  Where were these people for the last eight years when the Bush administration ran up the nation’s largest deficit in history in pursuit of empire?  

I know where they were: I can answer my own question.  They fell in line with Bush.  They supported his policies.  Remember when the Iraq war had 85 percent approval ratings?  I do; many of us were in that 15 percent minority.  We were out on the streets.  It was us at whom those middle fingers were raised.  Now those middle-finger waving war supporters are loosely throwing around concepts - - fascist, socialist, Communist that they are unable to define, understand or differentiate among - - hoping that some name, any name, will stick to Obama.  Unbelievably, some of these people are also calling for Obama’s impeachment something they never called for in the previous eight years, as commentator Walter Brasch recently pointed out. 

Ironically, the idea for the Tea Party originated with CNBC commentator Rick Santelli and was promoted by the likes of Sean Hannity, Rush Limbaugh, Bill O’Reilly Glenn Beck and “dozens of other conservative talking mouths who are among the” richest   1 percent in the country.  It is that ruling class who are the real target of tax increases that Obama may institute next year.  “May” being the operative word.  I wouldn’t hold my breath.

Nice.  The richest 1 percent stir up the pitchfork crowd to save their own bank accounts.  As Chester A. Riley said, “What a revoltin’ development this is.”