Posts Tagged ‘wars’

Pentagon’s Christmas Present: Largest Military Budget Since World War II

December 26, 2010

By Rick Rozoff, opednews.com, Dec 23, 2010

On December 22 both houses of the U.S. Congress unanimously passed a bill authorizing $725 billion for next year’s Defense Department budget.

The bill, the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2011, was approved by all 100 senators as required and by a voice vote in the House.

The House had approved the bill, now sent to President Barack Obama to sign into law, five days earlier in a 341-48 roll call, but needed to vote on it again after the Senate altered it in the interim.

The proposed figure for the Pentagon’s 2011 war chest includes, in addition to the base budget, $158.7 billion for what are now euphemistically referred to as overseas contingency operations: The military occupation of Iraq and the war in Afghanistan.

The $725 billion figure, although $17 billion more than the White House had requested, is not the final word on the subject, however, as supplements could be demanded as early as the beginning of next year, especially in regard to the Afghan war that will then be in its eleventh calendar year.

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Mercenary Soldiers on Sale… Who’s In Charge of These Hired Killers?

March 23, 2010

Eric S. Margolis, Khaleej Times Online, March 22, 2010

A fascinating scandal has erupted in Washington over the use of mercenaries (‘private contractors’ in US terminology) that is exposing the dark underbelly of America’s foreign wars. It has been that the Pentagon and other US intelligence agencies secretly fielded mercenaries in Afghanistan, Pakistan (aka “Af-Pak”), and Iraq to assassinate tribal militants.

US law forbids murder or using mercenaries.  But, as the Roman jurist Cicero said, “laws are silent in times of war.”

A former senior Pentagon official specialising in clandestine operations, Mike Furlong, set up a shell company, International Media Ventures (IMV), to supposedly provide the US military with “cultural information” about Afghanistan’s Pashtun tribes.  Two obscure Pentagon outfits, the “Cultural Engineering Group” in Florida, and “Counter-Narco-terrorism Technology Programme” of Virginia funded Furlong with $24.6 million. Furlong hired a bunch of former Special Forces types and assorted thugs. These rent-a-Rambos’s real mission was to assassinate Pashtun leaders in Pakistan and Afghanistan, and target tribal compounds for strikes by US Predator drones. Welcome to the modern version of the Mafia’s infamous contract killers, “Murder Inc.”

Thickening this plot, retired CIA types, including the flamboyant Dewey Clarridge, whom I well recall from the 1980’s Afghan war, were involved. So were other would-be bounty-hunters, eager to cash in one the Pentagon’s cash bonanza. It is uncertain if Furlong’s Murder Inc had time to go operational.  But its exposure is causing uproar.  In best US government tradition, the Pentagon denied backing Furlong and cut him adrift. He is now under criminal investigation. Shades of former CIA agent Edwin Wilson, whose frightful case I long followed. Wilson was set up as a deniable “independent” by CIA to supply arms and explosives to Libya and Angola in the 1980’s. When this intrigue blew wide open, Wilson was kidnapped by US agents and buried alive in federal prison for 27 years.

The Furlong scandal comes at a time of growing criticism of the US government’s use of over 275,000 mercenaries in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan.   These hired gunmen and logistics personnel operate without any accountability, legal structure, or oversight. Lack of command and control of such free-lancers infuriates traditional military men, who detest US Special Forces and these hired gunmen as ‘cowboys.’

It certainly is no way to win over Muslim hearts and minds.

Private mercenary firms like Xe (formerly Blackwater) and DynCorp have raked in fortunes running private armies for the US. They are major donors to the far right of the Republican Party. Deeply worried civil libertarians call these private armies potential Brownshirts, after the Nazi Party’s private army in the late 1920’s.

Amazingly, US Special Forces in Af-Pak have not until this month been under the control of supreme commander, Gen. Stanley McChrystal. They apparently reported to his rival, Central Command chief Gen. David Petraeus in Tampa, Florida.

To the Pentagons’s anger, CIA runs its own killer paramilitary units and drone assassination operations, 90 per cent of whose victims are civilians, according to Pakistani media investigations.   CIA’s paramilitaries report only to HQ in Langley —which does not talk to the Pentagon. Pakistan’s feeble government is not even informed in advance of Predator strikes and assassinations on its own territory.   How many of the 15 other US intelligence agencies and NATO forces are running their own little illegal private armies? US mercenaries are responsible for a growing number of civilian deaths. It’s only a matter of time before all these cowboys begin shooting at one another.  Reliable sources in Pakistan report that US-paid mercenaries are staging bombings there and in Afghanistan in an attempt to incite popular anger against Islamic or tribal militants, and draw Pakistan’s army deep into the fray.

Washington brands all Al Qaeda and Taleban “illegal combatants,” denying them due process of law and the Geneva Convention’s prisoner protections.  Murdering or torturing such “terrorists,” says Washington, is lawful.  So what about all the US mercenary Rambos running amok, who wear no uniform, kill at will, and have no legal oversight and, as we saw in Iraq, get away with murder?

Eric Margolis is a veteran US journalist who reported from the Middle East and Asia for nearly two decades

USA: Thousands rally on anniversary of invasion of Iraq

March 21, 2010

By MATTHEW BARAKAT (Associated Press Writer)

The Washington Post,  March 21, 2010

WASHINGTON — Thousands of protesters – many directing their anger squarely at President Barack Obama – marched through the nation’s capital Saturday to urge immediate withdrawal of troops from Iraq and Afghanistan.

At least eight people, including activist Cindy Sheehan, were arrested by U.S. Park Police at the end of the march, after laying coffins at a fence outside the White House. Friday marked the seventh anniversary of the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq.

“Arrest that war criminal!” Sheehan shouted outside the White House before her arrest, referring to Obama.

At a rally before the march, Sheehan asked whether “the honeymoon was over with that war criminal in the White House” – an apparent reference to Obama – prompting moderate applause.

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Disillusion among Liberal Supporters: Obama’s Foreign / Military Policy

January 19, 2010
by Jack A. Smith
Global Research, January 19, 2010

A year has gone by since Sen. Barack Obama assumed the presidency, replacing George W. Bush, who was among the worst chief executives in American history.

The election of an African American to the White House is an historically positive development. And his first year in office  has shown his superiority to Bush and his defeated opponent, rightist Sen. John McCain, in several areas.

At the same time, in terms of foreign/military policy, President Obama has essentially continued many of the Bush Administration’s initiatives  first and foremost his predecessor’s “global war on terrorism,” but in other international endeavors as well.

Democrats of the political center and center right have remained uncritical of President Obama‹ some to the extent of keeping quiet about, or supporting, his administration’s expanding wars, although they may have opposed the wars during Bush’s reign.

But a number of liberal Obama supporters who identify with the party’s center left are expressing serious disappointment. Center right governance, continual compromise with the right wing Republicans, and more wars are not the changes they expected from a candidate some believed to harbor progressive intentions.

In this article we will explore the first year of President Obama’s foreign/military policies ‹ a principal source of progressive dissatisfaction.

On one level, the Bush-Obama global war on terrorism, with its military moves in Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia, the Philippines and elsewhere, are aimed at defeating al-Qaeda, which claims responsibility for the attack of Sept. 11, 2001, and other organizations it deems to be “terrorist,” even if their activities are confined to their own countries or in fact are not actually terrorists at all.

But on another far more important level the real objective of this endless series of wars is the attainment of geostrategic advantage against any country or bloc that potentially might undermine Washington’s dominion over world affairs.

Within this strategic context the Obama government is particularly interested in five objectives: (1) Winning the Afghan war, or at least conveying the impression that the U.S. has not lost; (2) Making sure Washington’s old Cold War rivals ‹ now reconstituted as the economic powerhouse of China and resource-rich Russia ‹ are “contained,” or at least are not subverting American power; (3) keeping the European Union in tow as a junior partner; (4) insuring that Latin America and the Caribbean remain firmly within the Yankee sphere of influence; and (5) certifying that the lion’s share of the world’s petroleum and natural gas resources continue to accrue to the world’s only military superpower.

Obama’s foreign/military strategy is a continuation of policies that began in the aftermath of World War II in 1945. For the first 45 years, to 1990, the main goal was to dominate and lead the capitalist countries in a Cold War to overpower socialist and communist alternatives to capitalism. For the remaining 20 years the main goal was for the U.S. to dominate and lead all of countries of the world as the “indispensable” unipolar hegemon.

The eight years of the Bush Administration deviated from America’s postwar international line, but not in its devotion to fulfilling the political system’s hegemonic and militarist goals. Where Bush ruptured the continuity of traditional U.S. foreign/military policy was in the counterproductive methodology and dysfunctional risk evaluation emanating from the hubris and gross misperceptions of the neoconservative ideologists who crafted presidential decisions.

Starting unjust wars against much smaller countries hardly contradicts traditional U.S. international behavior. Indeed, it is the hallmark of such behavior. But responding to 9/11 with an amorphous, endless, and unwinnable “war on terrorism” was absurd. The subsequent attack on desperate, underdeveloped Afghanistan, and then invading already half-crippled Iraq, were disastrous errors that have cost Washington mightily in terms of treasure and reputation.

Bush announced early in his administration: (1) that the Pentagon would exercise its full spectrum military dominance, preemptively when desired, against any challenge from anywhere ‹ and demanded worldwide allegiance to Washington’s adventurism; (2) that the mission of the White House was to transform the governments of “rogue countries,” “failed states,” and societies that “harbored terrorists” into “democratic” subsidiaries of the U.S. government by violence if persuasion failed; (3) that other countries ‹ especially America’s NATO allies ‹ must dance to Washington’s martial music or risk being shunned or even tossed aside like a used tissue or an Old Europe.

The result of Bush’ overt imperialist grab to extend Washington’s global domination, coupled with rude treatment and bullying of hesitant allies, was the weakening of U.S. world power politically, militarily, and economically.

Politically, many allied nations grew more distant. Much of heretofore subordinate Latin America began to move left and to ignore Uncle Sam’s orders. The Muslim world was aghast at Bush’s unjust wars against two Islamic countries and 100% support for Israel. Militarily, the Pentagon’s armies suffered the humiliation of being fought to a stalemate by small and poorly armed guerrilla forces in Iraq and Afghanistan. Economically during this period the U.S. became the world’s greatest debtor nation, and of course it sank into a painful recession.

Regarding debt, which is often brushed aside, an article in the Dec. 29 Financial Times pointed out: “Over the next decade U.S. publicly held debt is forecast to more than double to 85% of gross domestic product ‹ the highest rate since the second world war. And that is without including the intra-government debt in Social Security and Medicare, the government health scheme for the elderly, which would push U.S. indebtedness well above 100% of GDP during Mr. Obama¹s second term. Hegemons cannot for long survive such rising indebtedness.”

As President Obama entered the White House a year ago, the U.S. was still the world’s only superpower and despite its debts and the recession it remained a rich and dominant country. Its share of global income remains about where it has been for decades: 22%. But America’s standing in the world was greatly diminished because of its past and especially more recent policies. Also, other nations were rising, such as the BRICs (Brazil, Russia, India, China). And some previously subordinate countries were disinclined to continue playing follow the leader after Washington’s neoliberal economic model caused them grave hardship and its extreme laissez faire form of capitalism sparked the present recession.

What principally props up the U.S. today is

(1) its overall military power and hair-trigger willingness to use it;

(2) the continuing political and organizational weakness of the European Union, a potentially powerful economic competitor and rival were it to leave Washington’s orbit;

(3) and China’s expressed indifference to displacing the U.S. as the global hegemon. Beijing has been committed for decades to multipolarity,  global leadership by several countries and blocs, not just the present unipolar superstate. Many other countries support such a reorganization.

Washington grudgingly recognizes that some form of multipolarity is unavoidable within the next decade or two at most, in which case it would certainly seize the opportunity to become “first among equals,”  retaining as much “leadership” as possible.

This is where Obama fits in, and we’ll begin at the beginning. At 48, he is an exceptionally intelligent, self-confident and ambitious man who obviously feels comfortable wielding power. He had not even served a full first Senate term in Washington, after several years as an obscure Illinois state legislator, when he put himself forward and was selected by the power elite to seek the Democratic nomination for the presidency.

By power elite ‹the term coined by the great sociologist C. Wright Mills ‹ we’re speaking of that informal assemblage of corporate, financial, military, and political leaders and their intellectual minions in the U.S. who together possess hugely disproportionate influence and access to wealth. During the grueling primaries and the presidential campaign corporate and financial institutions were among Obama’s biggest contributors, uniquely investing more in the Democrat this time than in his openly pro-business Republican opponent.

Obama of course was elected by the masses of American people, but it is extremely doubtful he would have been a serious candidate to begin with were it not for the backing of these powerful interests.

The elite wanted a chief executive who would (1) repair the damage Bush caused, and quickly restore U.S. dominance in world affairs; and (2) should the days of unipolarity prove short, as seems likely, manipulate the transition to multipolarity so that the United States comes out on top.

Obama made it clear in the two years before the election that his foreign/military strategy would rest upon a combination of the reliable hegemonic policies of the Democratic Clinton Administration and the “realist” international program of the Republican administration of George H. W. Bush (the First). These were the “successful” policies that existed during the dozen halcyon years before the neocon Vandals sacked Washington.

Obama won election for several reasons. The most important were that the Democratic candidate followed eight dreadful years of President Bush, and the country was in an economic recession. But equally important was the “hope for change” he cultivated in the minds of multitudes of Democrats and independents, while never specifying clearly what that “change” was supposed to be, though many voters assumed it would be progressive. That he opposed the Iraq war was a big plus, even though he voted to fund it during each of his few years in national politics. Not to be overlooked, of course, were his winning personality, and spellbinding ability as a public speaker.

Obama’s first payback to his elite backers was the selection of an economic team that would not impose overly harsh regulations on the financial system. Treasury Secretary Geithner, National Economic Council Director Summers, and Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke had also supported policies that facilitated the recession but they’ve supposedly learned from their colossal mistakes.

The second payback was keeping Bush’s Defense Secretary Robert Gates (who is also connected to Bush the First’s administration) in his old job, naming pro-Iraq war Democratic Sen. Hillary Clinton Secretary of State, and retaining Gen. David Petraeus as head of Central Command. This triumvirate seems mainly responsible for the vast expansion of the Afghan war, its overlapping into Pakistan and now the extension to Yemen. With their help, Obama  believes he will “win” the Afghan war (and thus a second term).

Obama’s immediate task upon assuming office was to repair the Bush Administration’s mishandling of relations with the rest of the world. He quickly made peace with the major U.S. allies who had been offended by the Bush regime’s arrogance and unilateralism. He promised a new policy for Latin America based on equality and mutual respect. He assured the nearly 1.6 billion Muslims that America was their friend.

When these overtures were made, it seemed as though the conduct of the old foreign policy ‹ which had served the  U.S. handsomely since the mid-1940s until the neoconservative train wreck ‹ was back on track. No more alienating our friends, and no more harebrained wars.

After a year, what does this foreign/military policy look like? It’s quite similar to Bush’s but without with  the neocon management, so it looks better.

There has been a huge expansion of the Afghan war, increasing thrusts into Pakistan, and now Yemen’s the target of Washington’s bombings, pilotless drones, military aid and bribes. The war budget is more bloated than ever before. The costs of it all are astronomical, but it will be future generations of Americans ‹ those of our children and grandchildren ‹ who will pay big time for the imperial wars of the Bush-Obama years.

The overture to Latin America was a charade. Washington mildly criticized but facilitated the successful anti-democratic Honduran coup to prevent a reliable satellite from possibly turning toward the left in future years. Meanwhile, the Pentagon is taking over seven new military bases in Colombia, threatening adjacent Venezuela ‹ the CIA’s number one target in South America. And of course the Cold War with Cuba is as cold as ever.

The Obama Administration is still pursuing the goal of exercising hegemony over the entire oil-rich Middle East. Washington’s total partiality to Israel at the expense of the Palestinian people remains unchanged. The attitude of the Democratic Congress and the Obama White house toward the suffering people of Gaza is unforgivably cruel. The White House still supports dictatorial Egypt and backward Saudi Arabia against the aspirations of their own people.

Muslims around the world welcomed Obama’s Cairo speech June 4, but the good will it generated has dissipated. Efforts to destabilize Iran are continuing apace, along with threats of “killer” sanctions, and the prospect of war remains “on the table.”

NATO, which is remotely controlled from Washington like a drone over western Pakistan, is still inching toward Russia, to Moscow’s continuing annoyance. And by penetrating Afghanistan, the armies of the North Atlantic are situated close to the Central Asian oil and gas reserves located in several former southern republics of the late Soviet Union. NATO bases are now virtually touching western China.

Billions are being spent to convert Guam into a major U.S. base in the Pacific, undoubtedly with China in mind. In northeast Asia Obama is continuing Washington’s 57-year refusal to sign a peace treaty with North Korea to officially end the Korean War ‹ a major irritant stimulating Pyongyang’s antipathy toward Washington. All the over 700 U.S. major military outposts abroad ‹ “America’s Empire of Bases,” as Chalmers Johnson puts it ‹ are remaining in place, as are the nuclear-armed missiles targeting China’s cities, a push-button away from oblivion.

Despite its rhetoric about taking environmental action ‹ a foreign policy issue of enormous importance ‹ the Obama Administration’s performance at the UN’s December climate conference in Copenhagen was big on posturing but small indeed on programmatic commitments.

The Obama White House couldn’t do much about Iraq because Bush made the deal with the Baghdad government to withdraw at the end of 2011. We will believe the complete withdrawal when we see it. At this stage it is likely that there will be an eventual agreement between Baghdad and Washington to prolong the Iraq occupation with a substantial number of American troops remaining indefinitely.

Progressives have every reason to be dismayed by the Obama Administration’s foreign/military policy. It’s essentially a continuation of the postwar policy that brought the U.S. to global power, though in a bright new wrapping. It’s better than the Bush years, but that’s the faintest of praise.

Barack Obama was the candidate of change, but the reality in international endeavors is small change indeed. Social commentator Glenn Greenwald remarked on this general point during an interview on Democracy Now in early January:

“It’s ironic, given that the campaign was all based on changing the nature of how Washington works ‹ [but] the central attribute of the Obama Administration is to accommodate and keep in place the same power factions that have run Washington forever, and as a result, the same mindset, the same dynamic that governs Washington in virtually every area.”

Unless we Americans take a public stance against war and hegemony, and associate ourselves with the antiwar and social movements struggling for substantial change, there will be no change at all. It’ll just be war after war. Maybe if Albert Einstein said this it would be more convincing. Well, he did:

“We must not conceal from ourselves that no improvement in the present depressing situation is possible without a severe struggle; for the handful of those who are really determined to do something is minute in comparison with the mass of the lukewarm and the misguided. And those who have an interest in keeping the machinery of war going are a very powerful body; they will stop at nothing to make public opinion subservient to their murderous ends.”

Jack A. Smith is editor of the Activist Newsletter (http://activistnewsletter.blogspot.com/), and former editor of the now defunct Guardian newsweekly. He may be reached at jacdon@earthlink.net.

Obama wants record $708 billion for military next year

January 15, 2010
Yahoo! News
Associated Press

By ANNE GEARAN and ANNE FLAHERTY, Associated Press Writers Anne Gearan And Anne Flaherty, Associated Press Writers Wed Jan 13, 2010

WASHINGTON – President Barack Obama will ask Congress for an additional $33 billion to fight unpopular wars in Afghanistan and Iraq on top of a record $708 billion for the Defense Department next year, The Associated Press has learned — a request that could be an especially hard sell to some of the administration’s Democratic allies.

The extra $33 billion in 2010 would mostly go toward the expansion of the war in Afghanistan. Obama ordered an extra 30,000 troops for that war as part of an overhaul of the war strategy late last year.

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The new decade begins

January 4, 2010

Barry Grey,wsws.org, Jan 4, 2010

The new decade has begun with a series of events signaling that the United States will intensify its aggressive and militarist policies in Central Asia, East Africa, the Middle East and beyond. These actions indicate that international tensions, fueled over the previous decade by the US-led wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and military interventions in a number of other countries, will grow even more embittered and explosive.

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War and Profits

November 25, 2009

by Stephen Fleischman |The Smirking Chimp,  November 23, 2009

We know why there are wars, and we’ve known it for a long time. Good wars, that is, necessary wars, not wars by powerful foreign invaders, wars that might threaten our country.

Everybody knows we’re in the process of old-hat empire building, the kind designed by the British in the salad days of colonialism and for which they eventually took hits around the world by the likes of George Washington and Mahatma Gandhi.

No lessons learned there. President Obama is about to make a momentous decision on Afghanistan. He has been mulling over, for the last few weeks, how many more troops he will be sending to McChrystal, to further his counter-insurgency in that country. Ten thousand? Eighty thousand? Whichever, it’s a process of foregone futility. And everybody knows it. But the mainstream media, heavy with punditry, spends endless hours hashing over every detail. And you don’t have to be a weatherman to know which way the wind is blowing. The propaganda circle from government handout to media coverage is complete.

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Obama’s Promises and Policies

November 4, 2009

George Barnsby, The Barnsby Blog No. 966, Nov 4, 2009

Once again I have turned to the Website of the only man who can save the world, Barack Obama who forty days ago amazed and delighted the world with his statement that he would abolish all nuclear weapons, but who since has reneged on that promise and today keeps the most warlike company of those who want to conquer Iraq and Afghanistan  and other places for their oil, and precious metals while puppet governments in Asia and elsewhere are quite willing to give their assets to the Western Neo-Coms, but find it necessary to deceive their own people and the rest of the world by fulsome false promises that they are not serving their own material interests but are patriots serving the interests of their countries.

In the meantime Obama has his own problems with his ‘allies’ notably NATO and the European Union and the basic trio of Nuclear Maniacs – Bush, Blair and Brown are now desperately trying to defy the Human Rights authorities who are chasing them for Crimes against Humanity and they will eventually suffer the same fate as did the Nazi genocidists at Nuremburg in 1946.

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Obama’s Peace

October 23, 2009
Joseph Massad
By Joseph Massad, Al-Ahram Weekly, 15 – 21 October, 2009

For his continued wars against Pakistanis, Afghanis, and Iraqis, his support for the overthrow of democracy in Honduras, his abetting dictatorships across the Arab and Muslim worlds (which his government finances, arms, and trains in torture methods), his planning for a possible invasion of Iran, and his enthusiastic support for the racist Israeli settler colony (and its colonial wars and occupations against Palestinians), President Barack Obama received the Nobel “Peace” Prize. This comes as no surprise, as Obama joins a long list of recipients of this sham of a prize, who are distinguished for similar “peaceful” pursuits. These include terrorists like Menachem Begin, war criminals like Henry Kissinger, ethnic-cleansing colonial generals like Yitzhak Rabin, dictators like Anwar Sadat, corrupt politicians like Yasser Arafat, and imperial presidents like Jimmy Carter. Granting this overambitious power-hungry man the recognition of the Nobel committee is therefore most apt.

Obama’s most recent pursuit of peace has been to force the corrupt Palestinian Authority to discard the United Nations-issued Goldstone Report which detailed the war crimes committed by Israel in its murderous war against Palestinian civilians in Gaza ten months ago. Indeed, the first Black American President has just enjoined the Palestinians and Arab and Muslim countries from the pulpit of the United Nations to recognize Israel’s right to be a racist “Jewish State.” One wonders what the American reaction would be if Palestinian and Arab leaders would call on Obama and on African Americans to recognize the right of the United States to be a white state.

This is the same Obama whose hubris was of such caliber that when he gave his infamous speech in Cairo several months ago he did not grieve the tens of thousands of Arab, including Egyptian, civilians killed by Israel’s six decade-long wars and massacres against them; nor did he show solidarity with the millions of Arabs who were rendered refugees (including one million Egyptians during the War of Attrition) by Israel’s barbaric bombings. Instead, Obama chose to give Arabs a lesson in European Jewish history and enjoined them to appreciate the holocaust committed by European Christians against European Jews and not the ongoing Nakba committed by European Jewish colonial settlers against Arabs. He has even forbidden Palestinians or other Arabs from ever attempting to destroy Israel’s racist structures to end its racist rule. Indeed, Obama threatened Arabs that any attempt by them to destroy the racist basis of the Jewish state would be seen as tantamount to a holocaust. One wonders if he thinks ending segregation in the United States and Apartheid in South Africa were tantamount to the extermination of white people! This is also the same Obama who, in order to fend off the accusation of being Muslim, told us during his electoral campaign that not only was he a Christian, but that he prays to Jesus every night and that the blood of Jesus Christ will redeem him.

But general wisdom in the US has it that the election of Obama, even if it did not instantiate any change in US imperial policy abroad, has been the best thing that happened to most Americans, or at least to white liberal Americans and all African Americans, at the domestic level. This is a largely mistaken conclusion. Obama in my estimation is the worst thing that happened in recent years to African Americans, who continue to face institutional, structural, economic, cultural, social, and personal discrimination on a daily basis. The racism that informs US domestic policy and causes the poverty of African Americans is not unrelated to the racism that informs US imperial policies that impoverish Egyptians, Palestinians, Hondurans, Iraqis, and Afghanis.

Obama’s election has been best for white liberal Americans whose conscience can be assuaged by pretending that they are not racist at all and that indeed America is no longer a racist place evidenced by the election of a black man to the presidency. The fact that today African Americans are less educated and poorer than they were in the 1960s is immaterial to this self-congratulatory logic. Neither is the fact that there are more African American men today (in relative and absolute numbers) in America’s racist jails than there had been at the height of Apartheid in South Africa. As for Obama’s ongoing policies on education and racialized crime, they of course continue the policies of his white predecessors in pushing for more corporatization of schools and jails and busting teachers unions in the interest of the white business class.

But Obama is the culmination of white liberal hopes entertained since the early seventies when the language of racism was transformed, as an effect of the cooptation of the Civil Rights movement, into a culturalist language. Black people were not inferior racially, white liberals averred, “their problem” was diagnosed as “cultural.” The feeling was that if black Americans would simply speak and act like a fantasized white middle class and adopt its social and cultural values, they would cease to face discrimination and they would break the “cycle of poverty.” Reform, it was decided, should aim to effect such transformation. The black middle class, formed in the late nineteenth century in the wake of the abolition of slavery, though a small minority among African Americans, was seen as a model to be emulated. Indeed white liberal remedies like Affirmative Action (the largest beneficiaries of which were and still are white women and not African Americans) when it benefited any blacks at all, it did so by benefiting the established small black middle class. It was conservative members of this class who, after reaping its benefits, would advocate against Affirmative Action. Thus, white women and middle class African Americans benefited from a program that improved little in the lives of most African Americans, while the latter would increasingly be blamed for benefiting from it at the expense of white men –a refrain used by most white conservatives and not a few white liberals!

As Derrick Bell has eloquently demonstrated, Affirmative Action is a cover for a system by which racism continues to be institutionalized and African Americans continue to be blamed for refusing to improve their lives despite alleged Herculean efforts on their behalf. Some of the culturalist arguments of white liberals centered on Affirmative Action’s production of white-acting black folks who would join the ranks of “hard-working Americans,” a racist code that refers to white people which Obama often invokes in his speeches. The fantasy of low-grade American television programs in the late 1970s and 1980s like “Different Strokes” and “Webster” was to demonstrate that if white families were afforded the opportunity to raise black kids, these kids would end up as model citizens; indeed, they could grow up to become presidents one day. It was culture, you see, not race!

Obama was of course not only raised by his white Christian mother and her family (something he –and Joe Biden –never tired of reminding us during his electoral campaign to fend off his paternal Muslim contamination), but even his black father was African and not African American. Passing him off as an example of what happens when African Americans are raised the “right way” is the pride and joy of white liberals enamored of their own culturalist-cum-racist ideology and inebriated by virulent American nationalism. Obama’s continuation of America’s imperial wars and aggressions is proof that if you put an African American in office who is raised “the right way,” he will perform his imperial duties as well as any white president. Obama’s winning the Nobel Peace Prize was therefore a major gain for white liberal Americans who can bask in the sun of their achievement. For after all, producing a few African Americans in the form of Barack Obama can and will silence whoever can still muster the courage to criticize this thoroughly racist system dubbed “American democracy” which continues to victimize most African Americans and much of the Third World.

The writer is associate professor of modern Arab politics and intellectual history at Columbia University.

Kashmir dispute main cause of tension in South Asia

September 29, 2009

Kashmir Media Service,

New York, September 26 (KMS): The Chairman of All Parties Hurriyet Conference, Mirwaiz Umar Farooq, has said that Kashmir dispute is the main cause of tension in South Asia and needs to be resolved without any further delay. Addressing the OIC Foreign Ministers’ Conference in New York, the APHC Chairman said, because of its impact on relations between Pakistan and India, the conflict over Kashmir directly affects the peace and stability in the entire region, which is home to millions of people.

Mirwaiz maintained that the APHC was committed to bring about a peaceful and political solution to the dispute through meaningful dialogue among Pakistan, India and Kashmiris’ genuine leadership. He demanded demilitarization of Jammu and Kashmir, complete withdrawal of Indian troops from town and villages of occupied Kashmir and repeal of all draconian laws including Disturbed Areas Act, Public Safety Act and Armed Forces Special Powers Act.

The APHC Chairman said that human rights violations should be stopped and the international rights organisations should be allowed to have access to the occupied territory. He also called for the restoration of the rights of peaceful association, assembly and demonstrations, unconditional release of all political prisoners, freedom of all political leaders to travel abroad and allowing people to people contact on either side of the Line of Control.

Mirwaiz appealed to the leaders of the Islamic countries to use their moral and political influence to help resume the peace process for a just and honourable settlement of the Kashmir dispute and to grant the people of Kashmir their inalienable right of self-determination.

Complete text of the APHC Chairman’s speech is as follows

Mr. Chairman, Mr. Secretary General, Excellencies, distinguished guest, ladies and gentlemen,
Assalam-u-Alaikum Warahmatula-e-Wabarakatuhu,
I am enormously grateful for the opportunity to address this highly esteemed gathering of Foreign Ministers of the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC) on the subject of Kashmir.  I was also invited to participate in the OIC Council of Foreign Ministers in Damascus, Syria in May 2009. However, I could not attend that meeting because I was not given the travel document by the Government of India.

Excellencies, today, at this august body, I stand before you not just as a representative of the Kashmiri people struggling for their inalienable right of self-determination, but, more importantly as a ‘believer’. A believer who is urging the Ummah to reclaim its intellectual and spiritual glory.  A believer who is proud of the accomplishments of the Organization of Islamic Conference, yet, recognizes that there is much work still to do.

The Foreign Ministers in this annual coordination meeting aim to discuss various issues related to the United Nations’ agenda in order to enhance cooperation and coordination among the OIC Member States at the UN.  The importance of this initiative cannot be overstated. And, we need to be sure that our cooperation cannot be built on the hatred of anyone or anything, rather it should be undertaken with a love for ourselves and our traditions.

The present Charter of the Organization was adopted by the Eleventh Islamic Summit held in Dakar on 13-14 March 2008, which laid down the objectives and principles of the organization and fundamental purposes to strengthen the solidarity and cooperation among the Member States. The Organization has the singular honor to galvanize the Ummah into a unified body and have actively represented the Muslims by espousing all causes close to the hearts of over 1.5 billion Muslims of the world. The Organization has consultative and cooperative relations with the UN to protect the vital interests of the Muslims and to work for the settlement of conflicts and disputes involving Member States. One such conflict is that of the Jammu and Kashmir.

It bears no reiteration that the Kashmir conflict primarily involves the life and future of the people of the land. However, unresolved dispute is at the underlying cause of tension between two nuclear rival – India and Pakistan.  Because of its impact on relations between these two neighboring countries, it directly affects the peace and stability in an unstable region, which is home to more than 1.2 billion people, and the peace and security of many more nations beyond.

It has been a cause of two wars and numerous battles between the two neighbors, India and Pakistan.  The place has been aptly described by the former US President, Bill Clinton as the “most dangerous place” on earth. The situation has taken an ominous turn since the Mumbai attacks o November 26, 2008. With extremist threat growing in the region, the escalating turmoil in Kashmir promises to engulf the entire region extending from Afghanistan to Bangladesh.

Excellencies, the APHC is committed to a peaceful and political solution to the Kashmir dispute. We believe that for a meaningful dialogue between Pakistan, India and the Leadership of Jammu & Kashmir the following measures need to be taken.

1.  To demilitarize the arena of conflict – the State of Jammu and Kashmir – through a phased withdrawal of the troops;

2.  Complete withdrawal of India’s military presence from Kashmiri towns and villages;

3.  Immediate repeal of all draconian laws including Jammu and Kashmir Disturbed Areas Act and Public Safety Act and Armed Forces Special Powers Act;

4.   End to violations of human rights and allowing the international human rights organisations to have access to Kashmir;

5. The restoration of the rights of peaceful association, assembly and demonstrations;

6.    The unconditional release of all political prisoners;

7.     Freedom of all political leaders to travel abroad; and

8.   To allow people to people contact on either side of the Line of Control.

Excellencies, we trust you will bring your immense moral and political influence to bear on initiating a peace process which will lead to a speedy, just an honourable settlement of the dispute and to restore the inalienable right of self-determination of the people of Kashmir.

I thank you, Excellencies for your patient hearing.

See also, Resolving the Kashmir Conflict


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