- Come and see the blood in the streets.
- Come and see
- the blood in the streets.
- Come and see the blood
- in the streets!
- Poem by Pablo Neruda
- About a month before Barack Obama announced his candidacy
for the presidency of the United States, former National Security Adviser
Zbigniew Brzezinski appeared on PBS's Charlie Rose Show and was asked whether
he thought Obama would be a good choice for president. Brzezinski paused
for a minute, peered at Rose out of the corner of his eye, and answered,
"Just think of the symbolism." As soon as he said that, Brzezinski
and Rose broke out into laughter as though they were sharing a private
- Brzezinski was right, of course. Obama was the perfect
choice for president. Not because of his experience. He had none. He was
a two year senator with a resume' small enough to fit on the back of a
matchbox. Still Obama had what Brzezinski and Co. were looking for, symbolism;
the kind of symbolism that connected him to people around the world and
made them feel like one of their own had finally clawed their way to the
top. Even better, Obama was a charismatic populist who could fill stadiums
with adoring fans and put a benign face on America's interventions in Afghanistan
and Iraq. What more could Brzezinski hope for? After 8 years of dragging
"Brand America" through the mud, the country would finally get
the emergency facelift it needed and begin to restore its battered image
as the world's indispensable nation.
- For leftists, Obama has been a total bust. He's escalated
the war in Afghanistan, increased the cross-border bombings of Pakistan,
hemmed and hawed about prosecuting war crimes, refused to actively lobby
House members to make it easier for workers to organize (EFCA), and surrounded
himself with bank industry reps who've committed $12.8 trillion to sinking
financial institutions with no assurance that the money would be repaid.
Apart from a trifling bill on stem cells, Obama has done absolutely zero
to confirm his bone fides as a liberal. The truth is, Obama is neither
liberal nor conservative; he's simply an inspiring orator and a skillful
politician who has no strong convictions about anything. If he achieves
greatness, it will be because he was thrust into a crisis he couldn't avoid
and reluctantly acted in the best interests of the American people. That
possibility still exists, although it seems more unlikely by the day.
- Foreign leaders are clearly relieved to see the last
of George W. Bush, and they appear to be willing to give Obama every opportunity
to mend fences and break with the past. But Obama has made little effort
to reciprocate or show that he's serious about real change. The emphasis
seems to be more on public relations than policy; more on glitzy photo
ops, grandiose speeches and gadding about from one capital to another,
than ending the chronic US meddling and militarism. Where's the beef or
is it all just empty posturing?
- No one's ready to write-off Obama just yet, but he needs
to show he's the real-deal by taking steps to ratchet-down the war machine
and reign in the corporate elites and bank vermin. But is it really possible
for one man--however well-meaning--to change the course of a nation by
standing up the gaggle of racketeers who pull the strings from behind the
curtain? Keep in mind, America's history of violent interventions, unprovoked
wars, color-coded revolutions and coup d' etats has a long pedigree that
stretches from Bunker Hill to Baghdad. That river of blood did not begin
with George Bush and it won't end with Barack Obama. Every generation has
produced its own litany of crimes, from Wounded Knee to Nagasaki to My
Lai to Falluja. In Harold Pinter's Nobel acceptance speech, the playwright
invokes one such incident which epitomizes the pattern of hostility which
has been repeated over and over again wherever the Washington mandarins
detect opposition to their iron-fisted rule.
Pinter, Nobel Acceptance Speech:
- "The United States supported the brutal Somoza dictatorship
in Nicaragua for over 40 years. The Nicaraguan people, led by the Sandinistas,
overthrew this regime in 1979, a breathtaking popular revolution.
- The Sandinistas weren't perfect. They possessed their
fair share of arrogance and their political philosophy contained a number
of contradictory elements. But they were intelligent, rational and civilized.
They set out to establish a stable, decent, pluralistic society. The death
penalty was abolished. Hundreds of thousands of poverty-stricken peasants
were brought back from the dead. Over 100,000 families were given title
to land. Two thousand schools were built. A quite remarkable literacy campaign
reduced illiteracy in the country to less than one seventh. Free education
was established and a free health service. Infant mortality was reduced
by a third. Polio was eradicated.
- The United States denounced these achievements as Marxist/Leninist
subversion. In the view of the US government, a dangerous example was being
set. If Nicaragua was allowed to establish basic norms of social and economic
justice, if it was allowed to raise the standards of health care and education
and achieve social unity and national self respect, neighboring countries
would ask the same questions and do the same things. There was of course
at the time fierce resistance to the status quo in El Salvador.
- I spoke earlier about 'a tapestry of lies' which surrounds
us. President Reagan commonly described Nicaragua as a 'totalitarian dungeon'.
This was taken generally by the media, and certainly by the British government,
as accurate and fair comment. But there was in fact no record of death
squads under the Sandinista government. There was no record of torture.
There was no record of systematic or official military brutality. No priests
were ever murdered in Nicaragua. There were in fact three priests in the
government, two Jesuits and a Maryknoll missionary. The totalitarian dungeons
were actually next door, in El Salvador and Guatemala. The United States
had brought down the democratically elected government of Guatemala in
1954 and it is estimated that over 200,000 people had been victims of successive
- Six of the most distinguished Jesuits in the world were
viciously murdered at the Central American University in San Salvador in
1989 by a battalion of the Alcatl regiment trained at Fort Benning, Georgia,
USA. That extremely brave man Archbishop Romero was assassinated while
saying mass. It is estimated that 75,000 people died. Why were they killed?
They were killed because they believed a better life was possible and should
be achieved. That belief immediately qualified them as communists. They
died because they dared to question the status quo, the endless plateau
of poverty, disease, degradation and oppression, which had been their birthright.
- The United States finally brought down the Sandinista
government. It took some years and considerable resistance but relentless
economic persecution and 30,000 dead finally undermined the spirit of the
Nicaraguan people. They were exhausted and poverty stricken once again.
The casinos moved back into the country. Free health and free education
were over. Big business returned with a vengeance. 'Democracy' had prevailed.
- But this 'policy' was by no means restricted to Central
America. It was conducted throughout the world. It was never-ending. And
it is as if it never happened.
- The United States supported and in many cases engendered
every right wing military dictatorship in the world after the end of the
Second World War. I refer to Indonesia, Greece, Uruguay, Brazil, Paraguay,
Haiti, Turkey, the Philippines, Guatemala, El Salvador, and, of course,
Chile. The horror the United States inflicted upon Chile in 1973 can never
be purged and can never be forgiven.
- Hundreds of thousands of deaths took place throughout
these countries. Did they take place? And are they in all cases attributable
to US foreign policy? The answer is yes they did take place and they are
attributable to American foreign policy. But you wouldn't know it."
- Pinter's speech is a somber indictment of US foreign
policy; a policy which is now cloaked behind the rock-star facade of Barack
Obama. Nothing has changed and, perhaps, nothing will change. The same
barbarous campaign that thrived under Bush has been passed along to Obama
intact. Wherever there is resistance to US ambitions; there lies the enemy.
Whether its Marxists in Bogota, nationalists in Kosovo, Bolivarians in
Caracas, Shia militias in Beirut, Islamic moderates in Mogadishu or Quakers
in Toledo. They're all enemies, every one of them, and they need to be
- Obama is no fool; he knows he's being used. He knows
he wasn't chosen for his enlightened views on health care and stem cells.
He was picked because the men in charge needed a new posterboy to hide
behind while they carry out their illicit activities. Obama is not so much
of a Commander in chief as he is master illusionist, diverting attention
from the stealth war that goes on relentlessly with or without his consent.
Here's Pinter again:
- "The crimes of the United States have been systematic,
constant, vicious, remorseless, but very few people have actually talked
about them. You have to hand it to America. It has exercised a quite clinical
manipulation of power worldwide while masquerading as a force for universal
good. It's a brilliant, even witty, highly successful act of hypnosis...It's
a scintillating stratagem."
- Consider how the news was shaped to make it look like
the invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan were carried out for altruistic reasons.
Thus, the war in Afghanistan became "Operation Enduring Freedom",
stressing the selfless generosity of bombing a country into oblivion and
reinstating the thuggish warlords to power. The same strategy was used
for the invasion of Iraq which was celebrated as "liberation from
a brutal dictator." Liberation which cost the lives of over 1 million
Iraqis and the displacement of 4 million more. Still, no one in the UN
or so called international community has pressed for removing the US from
the Security Council or prosecuting its leaders for war crimes. It's a
testimony to the success of the US media in upholding the "tapestry
of lies" of which Pinter speaks. Under Obama, the charade has only
gotten worse. The coverage of the war has stopped entirely. War? What war?
What matters now is Obama's cheery banter with Jay Leno, or Michelle's
well-proportioned arms or Malia's adorable Portuguese Waterdog. America
is whole again. Let the killing resume.
- Pinter: "What has happened to our moral sensibility?
Did we ever have any? What do these words mean? Do they refer to a term
very rarely employed these days - conscience? A conscience to do not only
with our own acts but to do with our shared responsibility in the acts
of others? Is all this dead? Look at Guantanamo Bay. Hundreds of people
detained without charge for over three years, with no legal representation
or due process, technically detained forever. This totally illegitimate
structure is maintained in defiance of the Geneva Convention. It is not
only tolerated but hardly thought about by what's called the 'international
community'. This criminal outrage is being committed by a country, which
declares itself to be 'the leader of the free world'. Do we think about
the inhabitants of Guantanamo Bay? What does the media say about them?
They pop up occasionally - a small item on page six. They have been consigned
to a no man's land from which indeed they may never return. At present
many are on hunger strike, being force-fed, including British residents.
No niceties in these force-feeding procedures. No sedative or anesthetic.
Just a tube stuck up your nose and into your throat. You vomit blood. This
is torture. What has the British Foreign Secretary said about this? Nothing.
What has the British Prime Minister said about this? Nothing. Why not?
Because the United States has said: to criticize our conduct in Guantanamo
Bay constitutes an unfriendly act. You're either with us or against us."
- Obama doesn't need to solve the world's problems. He
doesn't have to reverse global warming or slow peak oil, cure AIDS or end
world hunger. All he needs to do is meet the minimal requirement of his
job as president, which is to deliver justice to his people. That's why
the prosecution of Bush for war crimes is more important than any other
issue on the docket. Justice precedes everything; it's the thread that
keeps the social fabric stitched together. Justice for the victims who
were killed in their homes with their families while they were sleeping
or eating dinner. Justice for the people who were bombed in wedding parties
or going to work or at the mosque praying to God. That's what people want
from Obama. Justice, nothing more. The Reverend Martin Luther King said,
"The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends towards justice."
It's up to Obama follow that arc and take at least one step on the path
of legitimacy, accountability and justice.
- Pinter: "How many people do you have to kill before
you qualify to be described as a mass murderer and a war criminal? One
hundred thousand? More than enough, I would have thought. Therefore it
is just that Bush and Blair be arraigned before the International Criminal
Court of Justice."
- It's highly unlikely that a black man with a background
in community organizing really believes that expanding the war in Afghanistan
is the right thing to do. Nor is it likely that he supports wiretapping,
the crackdown on immigrants, penalizing sellers of medical marijuana, trillion
dollar bank bailouts or "enhanced" interrogation. He is merely
reading from the script that he has been given. But as the economic crisis
deepens and the country becomes more radicalized and politically unstable,
that script will have to be tossed aside. Obama will have plenty of opportunities
to shrug off his handlers and show what he's really made of. Perhaps he
is great man after all.
- Pinter: "When we look into a mirror, we think the
image that confronts us is accurate. But move a millimeter and the image
changes. We are actually looking at a never-ending range of reflections.
But sometimes a writer has to smash the mirror - for it is on the other
side of that mirror that the truth stares at us."
- Go ahead, Barack. Smash the mirror.