In the Great Tradition, Obama is a Hawk

In 1941, the editor Edward Dowling wrote: “The two greatest obstacles to democracy in the United States are, first, the widespread delusion among the poor that we have a democracy, and second, the chronic terror among the rich, lest we get it.” What has changed? The terror of the rich is greater than ever, and the poor have passed on their delusion to those who believe that when George W. Bush finally steps down next January, his numerous threats to the rest of humanity will diminish.

The foregone nomination of Barack Obama, which, according to one breathless commentator, “marks a truly exciting and historic moment in US history,” is a product of the new delusion. Actually, it just seems new. Truly exciting and historic moments have been fabricated around US presidential campaigns for as long as I can recall, generating what can only be described as bullshit on a grand scale. Race, gender, appearance, body language, rictal spouses and offspring, even bursts of tragic grandeur, are all subsumed by marketing and “image-making”, now magnified by “virtual” technology. Thanks to an undemocratic Electoral College system (or, in Bush’s case, tampered voting machines) only those who both control and obey the system can win. This has been the case since the truly historic and exciting victory of Harry Truman, the liberal Democrat said to be a humble man of the people, who went on to show how tough he was by obliterating two cities with the atomic bomb.

Understanding Obama as a likely president of the United States is not possible without understanding the demands of an essentially unchanged system of power: in effect a great media game. For example, since I compared Obama with Robert Kennedy in these pages, he has made two important statements, the implications of which have not been allowed to intrude on the celebrations. The first was at the conference of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), the Zionist lobby, which, as Ian Williams has pointed out, “will get you accused of anti-Semitism if you quote its own website about its power.” Obama had already offered his genuflection, but on 4 June went further. He promised to support an “undivided Jerusalem” as Israel’s capital. Not a single government on earth supports the Israeli annexation of all of Jerusalem, including the Bush regime, which recognizes the UN resolution designating Jerusalem an international city.

His second statement, largely ignored, was made in Miami on 23 May. Speaking to the expatriate Cuban community — which over the years has faithfully produced terrorists, assassins and drug runners for US administrations — Obama promised to continue a 47-year crippling embargo on Cuba that has been declared illegal by the UN year after year.

Again, Obama went further than Bush. He said the United States had “lost Latin America”. He described the democratically elected governments in Venezuela, Bolivia and Nicaragua as a “vacuum” to be filled. He raised the nonsense of Iranian influence in Latin America, and he endorsed Colombia’s “right to strike terrorists who seek safe-havens across its borders”. Translated, this means the “right” of a regime, whose president and leading politicians are linked to death squads, to invade its neighbors on behalf of Washington. He also endorsed the so-called Merida Initiative, which Amnesty International and others have condemned as the US bringing the “Colombian solution” to Mexico. He did not stop there. “We must press further south as well,” he said. Not even Bush has said that.

It is time the wishful-thinkers grew up politically and debated the world of great power as it is, not as they hope it will be. Like all serious presidential candidates, past and present, Obama is a hawk and an expansionist. He comes from an unbroken Democratic tradition, as the war making of presidents Truman, Kennedy, Johnson, Carter and Clinton demonstrates. Obama’s difference may be that he feels an even greater need to show how tough he is. However much the color of his skin draws out both racists and supporters, it is otherwise irrelevant to the great power game. The “truly exciting and historic moment in US history” will only occur when the game itself is challenged.

John Pilger is an internationally renowned investigative journalist and documentary filmmaker. His latest film is The War on Democracy. His most recent book is Freedom Next Time: Resisting the Empire (Bantam/Random House, 2006). Read other articles by John, or visit John's website.

18 comments on this article so far ...

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  1. Wallace said on June 16th, 2008 at 9:48am #

    Mr. Pilger offers us an indisputable analysis of Obama’s political positions. Hopefully his call for us to wake up to the reality of this charade will be heeded! Black Americans especially are prone to give him the benefit of the doubt despite his consistent support of imperial adventures.

  2. Wallace said on June 16th, 2008 at 9:49am #

    Mr. Pilger offers us an indisputable analysis of Obama’s political positions. Hopefully his call for us to wake up to the reality of this charade will be heeded! Black Americans especially are prone to give him the benefit of the doubt despite his consistent support of imperial adventures. He is not an agent of change!

  3. Edwin Pell said on June 16th, 2008 at 2:04pm #

    It does not matter which branch of the war party is elected (dem or repub). Put down the Kool-Aid.

  4. Giorgio said on June 16th, 2008 at 3:46pm #

    Obama reminds me of a black character in an old movie about the Mau-Mau revolt in Kenya against British colonialism. This black’s ambition was to emulate his British masters, copy their mannerisms and speak impeccable queen’s English. When I watch Obama on TV this image of the black Kenyan comes to my mind.
    Obviously, from this very pertinent article Obama’s ambition is to be more popish than the Pope. If he were to see an Arab being killed he would most likely urge the killer: don’t stop there, fleece and scalp the bastard, too!!

  5. hp said on June 16th, 2008 at 5:16pm #

    The best I can hope for concerning Obama, is that he doesn’t drink.

  6. Giorgio said on June 16th, 2008 at 6:42pm #

    hp,
    Well I would rather prefer that Obama would drink and heavily too!
    That the drinking would drive him into a virtual permanent stupor so that it would prevent him from signing those nasty presidential directives à la GW Bush the American people have become accustomed to.

  7. Max Shields said on June 16th, 2008 at 7:07pm #

    Mr. Pilger, great article. The last paragraph is a real killer. And best of all the last sentence:
    “The “truly exciting and historic moment in US history” will only occur when the game itself is challenged.”

  8. Doug D. said on June 16th, 2008 at 7:53pm #

    I’m sure this has been addressed before (but not in any ‘mainstream media’ that I’ve seen). Remember ‘Bittergate’ when Obama threw ‘anti-trade sentiment’ into the mix of how people react to tough economic times? Left and (non-insane) Right could unite on that very sentiment, bitter or not.

  9. hp said on June 16th, 2008 at 8:26pm #

    Giorgio, the last two Presidents are cross addicted drug addicts and alcoholics.
    Both Clinton and Bush.
    I’m wondering if, perhaps, these last damn near 16 years of mass murder and depraved acts may hopefully be at least decreased, held to a minimum, if we can manage to elect a President who isn’t a psychopathic miscreant fueled by alcohol and cocaine..
    Now that’s not saying that a teetotler like John (God help us all) McCain isn’t capable of and willing to commit crimes against humanity, especially if he already has and if he also chooses a VP like Joe (Israel Israel Israel kill kill kill) Lieberman. But if Obama does make it, well, one can always hope he, and us, won’t end up like his father..

  10. Deadbeat said on June 16th, 2008 at 11:03pm #

    Another great critique by Pilger and I agree with hp. The left is too weak and divided to mount a practical alternative.

  11. joed said on June 17th, 2008 at 5:40am #

    you poor poor amerikans. there is nothing you can do to change anything. oh it is so unfair you poor poor people. and that darnd bush and now obama and nothing to be done about it. your system has died and you are left with a bag of dog crap . poor poor amerikans.
    there is nothing you can do.

  12. Don Hawkins said on June 17th, 2008 at 6:59am #

    Oh joed you got that a little wrong. The problem is Worldwide.

    A group of high-profile Australians has issued a statement that has been described as a ‘call to arms’ to avoid the dangerous effects of climate change.
    The group, which includes some of the country’s leading scientists, population and health experts – as well as politicians – is calling for an urgent response to global warming.
    They say global warming is accelerating at a greater speed than previously thought and the window of opportunity for avoiding severe consequences is rapidly closing.
    Climate scientist Professor Barry Brook from the Research Institute for Climate Change and Sustainability at the Adelaide University says the statement followed a climate change conference in Canberra this week.
    “It was climate scientists and earth scientists, those who study climate change and its impacts on the planet, being together with a really wide diversity of other groups,” he told AM.
    “But also people who [work] with the humanities and the effect it’s going to have on everyday people and on society, and how we might cope with it, and what a future world under greenhouse warming might look like – how we can actually move this issue forward, and take the steps to solve it. And it’s pretty urgent.”
    He says the most important theme coming from the statement is that global warming is happening much faster than expected.
    “The first key message is we really haven’t got much longer to go before the problem is taken out of our hands,” he said.
    “What I mean by that is, climate change continues to unfold, but some of the effects of it, the impacts of climate change are accelerating – there’s no doubt about it.
    “They’re happening quicker than scientists had anticipated five or 10 years ago, or even a couple of years ago.
    “One good example is the arctic ice in the summer, it continues to melt at a record rate, the arctic is getting hotter. Now once that happens on a large scale then there will be nothing we can do to stop the warming continuing.
    “The other thing was, there are a lot of opportunities available now to massively reduce our green house gas emissions, and do so in a very cost-effective way. And there is no reason why we need to continue to stall.
    He said one example is energy efficiency.
    “It tends to be called a no-brainer because it’s the sort of measure you can implement across society that uses less electricity, saves society money and also cuts our greenhouse gas emissions,” he added.
    The statement also says that the obstacles to change are not technical or economic, that they are political and social.
    “We mean that the technologies to do this are available. The technologies to implement energy efficiency and also to really scale up rapidly our use for renewable energy such as solar and wind,” he said.
    “They’re available, so the technical know-how is there. It’s not even an economic argument.
    “So the argument is, it’s social, it’s about people understanding and recognising the problem and seeing what an advantage it is.
    “For instance, for Australia to be a first mover on this and actually grasp the opportunities that are available to us to make drastic cuts quickly – that’s a social thing.
    “And it’s also political because it requires some decisions from our political leaders to lead the way, and implement polices – such as the mandatory renewable target, and the emissions trading scheme.
    “But much more than that, in order to really get this going as quickly as is necessary,” he added. ABC

  13. bozhidar balkas said on June 17th, 2008 at 1:08pm #

    one does not flog a blind horse for eating some dung along w. some weeds and a few straws. corollary being, that one can’t flog americans for eating some dung along w. some sick meat and few veggies.
    the ruling class had been feeeding americans that kind of diet for 2 cent’s.
    and the ruling class has by now brilliantly succeeded to render semanticallly blind most housewifes, hobos, prisoners, workers, immigrants, et al.
    ok now! have u noticed that i should have said that priestly/patrician class of life have been hoodwinking us for at least 10t yrs.
    so, it’s unfair to pick solely on patricians in america.
    patricians everywhere behave the same: full of fury, proffessed nobility, sacrifice, service for the people, etc.
    people have been noticing this for millennia. but once kids hit schools, real onslaught began to render also them semantically blind.
    patricians have hated schooling for kids. but once they espied enormous benefits accruing to them from ‘education’ , they now make schooling mandatory.
    patricians also hated democracy. however, they quickly or slowly (i don’t know which) realized that democracy- or ‘democracy’ as i say- wd serve them much better than any dictatorship, they were overjoyed.
    and the rest is history. and, folks, is that what patricians mean when they say, END OF HISTORY? so, history may never ever be recorded again! thank u

  14. Max Shields said on June 17th, 2008 at 2:31pm #

    For those who still see a glimer of “hope” and “change” with Obama

    Obama the hawk?
    Lee Sustar explains that Barack Obama’s hard-line speech at the AIPAC conference wasn’t just pandering to the pro-Israel lobby, but a statement of his real position on foreign policy issues.

    June 11, 2008

    IS BARACK Obama to the right of George W. Bush on Israel-Palestine?

    That was the question across the Arab and Muslim world following Obama’s declaration of support for an “undivided” Jerusalem at the annual meeting of the main pro-Israel lobbying group in Washington.

    As Obama said to a meeting of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) on June 4:

    Israel’s security is sacrosanct. It is non-negotiable. The Palestinians need a state that is contiguous and cohesive, and that allows them to prosper. But any agreement with the Palestinian people must preserve Israel’s identity as a Jewish state, with secure, recognized and defensible borders. Jerusalem will remain the capital of Israel, and it must remain undivided.

    This hawkish statement contradicts official U.S. policy. Under the U.S.-brokered Oslo Accords of 1993 that launched an Israeli-Palestinian “peace process,” the fate of Arab and mainly Muslim East Jerusalem, occupied by Israel since the 1967 Middle East war, is to be decided through “permanent status” negotiations between Israel and Palestinian leaders. Since then, the Palestinian Authority has insisted that East Jerusalem must be the capital of the Palestinian mini-state envisioned under the Oslo agreement.

    By appeasing the Israeli–and U.S.–right wing with his comments on Jerusalem, Obama was signaling that his administration wouldn’t change the course set by George Bush.

    That means further construction of the apartheid wall in the West Bank to Palestinians into ghettos, more carve-ups of the West Bank to consolidate Israeli settlements on Palestinian lands, and continued support for the genocidal combination of sanctions and military strikes aimed at Gaza, one of the world’s most densely populated areas.

    This isn’t speculation. Obama spelled it out for the AIPAC audience:

    I will bring to the White House an unshakeable commitment to Israel’s security. That starts with ensuring Israel’s qualitative military advantage. I will ensure that Israel can defend itself from any threat–from Gaza to Tehran.

    Defense cooperation between the United States and Israel is a model of success, and must be deepened. As president, I will implement a Memorandum of Understanding that provides $30 billion in assistance to Israel over the next decade–investments to Israel’s security that will not be tied to any other nation.

    Obama’s blank check for Israel is part of a plan to ensure that the Middle East remains thoroughly militarized under U.S. domination, even if some U.S. troops are shifted out of Iraq.

    The primary target is to be Iran, which Obama accused of accelerating a nuclear weapons program. “Keeping all of our troops tied down indefinitely in Iraq is not the way to weaken Iran–it is precisely what has strengthened it,” he said. “It is a policy for staying, not a plan for victory. I have proposed a responsible, phased redeployment of our troops from Iraq. We will get out as carefully as we were careless getting in.”

    In other words, very, very slowly.

    The U.S. certainly wouldn’t pull back from the region under an Obama administration. “The danger from Iran is grave, it is real, and my goal will be to eliminate this threat,” Obama said, echoing Hillary Clinton’s notorious comment that the U.S. would “obliterate” Iran if it attacked Israel. He added: “Finally, let there be no doubt: I will always keep the threat of military action on the table to defend our security and our ally Israel. Sometimes, there are no alternatives to confrontation.”

    – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

    THAT’S A lot of saber-rattling from a man often billed as an “antiwar” candidate. Apologists for Obama claim that he “had” to throw out red meat to AIPAC in order to appease the Israel lobby and shore up Jewish votes for the November election.

    But Obama didn’t have to go nearly so far in order to curry favor with AIPAC. While Obama certainly wants to bury memories of his once-friendly relationship with people like Palestinian activist Ali Abunimah and Palestinian historian Rashid Khalidi, he could have accomplished that by other means–as he showed in his disposal of Rev. Jeremiah Wright and his former church.

    No, the explanation for Obama’s hard-line stance lies elsewhere. He’s running to become the leader of the world’s most powerful and vicious imperial power, and he must demonstrate that–despite his past as a community organizer–he’s sufficiently ruthless for the job. His audience isn’t AIPAC, but the U.S. military-industrial complex.

    Thus, Obama has staked out a right-wing stance not only on Israel, but against Cuba. As historian Greg Grandin pointed out, Obama recently met with right-wing Cubans in Miami and denounced Bush for neglecting Latin America and allowing “demagogues like Hugo Chávez” to step “into the vacuum.”

    “He even raised the specter of Iranian influence in the region, pointing out that ‘just the other day, Tehran and Caracas launched a joint bank with their windfall oil profits,'” Grandin wrote.

    Obama also made it clear that he would continue the U.S. policy of building up Colombia’s right-wing government as a militaristic agent of the U.S. in the region. He pledged to “support Colombia’s right to strike terrorists who seek safe havens across its borders,” endorsing Colombia’s deadly attack on rebels in Ecuador’s territory in March, an action that was condemned by virtually all Latin American governments.

    So much for “change.” If elected, Obama may try to downsize and repackage the U.S. occupation of Iraq. But when it comes to aggressively pursuing U.S. imperial interests, there’ll be no retreat unless resistance at home and abroad compels it.

  15. Max Shields said on June 17th, 2008 at 2:36pm #

    For those who still see a glimer of “hope” and “change” with Obama

    Obama the hawk?
    Lee Sustar explains that Barack Obama’s hard-line speech at the AIPAC conference wasn’t just pandering to the pro-Israel lobby, but a statement of his real position on foreign policy issues.
    June 11, 2008
    IS BARACK Obama to the right of George W. Bush on Israel-Palestine?

    That was the question across the Arab and Muslim world following Obama’s declaration of support for an “undivided” Jerusalem at the annual meeting of the main pro-Israel lobbying group in Washington.

    As Obama said to a meeting of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) on June 4:

    Israel’s security is sacrosanct. It is non-negotiable. The Palestinians need a state that is contiguous and cohesive, and that allows them to prosper. But any agreement with the Palestinian people must preserve Israel’s identity as a Jewish state, with secure, recognized and defensible borders. Jerusalem will remain the capital of Israel, and it must remain undivided.

    This hawkish statement contradicts official U.S. policy. Under the U.S.-brokered Oslo Accords of 1993 that launched an Israeli-Palestinian “peace process,” the fate of Arab and mainly Muslim East Jerusalem, occupied by Israel since the 1967 Middle East war, is to be decided through “permanent status” negotiations between Israel and Palestinian leaders. Since then, the Palestinian Authority has insisted that East Jerusalem must be the capital of the Palestinian mini-state envisioned under the Oslo agreement.

    By appeasing the Israeli–and U.S.–right wing with his comments on Jerusalem, Obama was signaling that his administration wouldn’t change the course set by George Bush.

    That means further construction of the apartheid wall in the West Bank to Palestinians into ghettos, more carve-ups of the West Bank to consolidate Israeli settlements on Palestinian lands, and continued support for the genocidal combination of sanctions and military strikes aimed at Gaza, one of the world’s most densely populated areas.

    This isn’t speculation. Obama spelled it out for the AIPAC audience:

    I will bring to the White House an unshakeable commitment to Israel’s security. That starts with ensuring Israel’s qualitative military advantage. I will ensure that Israel can defend itself from any threat–from Gaza to Tehran.

    Defense cooperation between the United States and Israel is a model of success, and must be deepened. As president, I will implement a Memorandum of Understanding that provides $30 billion in assistance to Israel over the next decade–investments to Israel’s security that will not be tied to any other nation.

    Obama’s blank check for Israel is part of a plan to ensure that the Middle East remains thoroughly militarized under U.S. domination, even if some U.S. troops are shifted out of Iraq.

    The primary target is to be Iran, which Obama accused of accelerating a nuclear weapons program. “Keeping all of our troops tied down indefinitely in Iraq is not the way to weaken Iran–it is precisely what has strengthened it,” he said. “It is a policy for staying, not a plan for victory. I have proposed a responsible, phased redeployment of our troops from Iraq. We will get out as carefully as we were careless getting in.”

    In other words, very, very slowly.

    THAT’S A lot of saber-rattling from a man often billed as an “antiwar” candidate. Apologists for Obama claim that he “had” to throw out red meat to AIPAC in order to appease the Israel lobby and shore up Jewish votes for the November election.

    But Obama didn’t have to go nearly so far in order to curry favor with AIPAC. While Obama certainly wants to bury memories of his once-friendly relationship with people like Palestinian activist Ali Abunimah and Palestinian historian Rashid Khalidi, he could have accomplished that by other means–as he showed in his disposal of Rev. Jeremiah Wright and his former church.

    No, the explanation for Obama’s hard-line stance lies elsewhere. He’s running to become the leader of the world’s most powerful and vicious imperial power, and he must demonstrate that–despite his past as a community organizer–he’s sufficiently ruthless for the job. His audience isn’t AIPAC, but the U.S. military-industrial complex.

    Thus, Obama has staked out a right-wing stance not only on Israel, but against Cuba. As historian Greg Grandin pointed out, Obama recently met with right-wing Cubans in Miami and denounced Bush for neglecting Latin America and allowing “demagogues like Hugo Chávez” to step “into the vacuum.”

    “He even raised the specter of Iranian influence in the region, pointing out that ‘just the other day, Tehran and Caracas launched a joint bank with their windfall oil profits,'” Grandin wrote.

    Obama also made it clear that he would continue the U.S. policy of building up Colombia’s right-wing government as a militaristic agent of the U.S. in the region. He pledged to “support Colombia’s right to strike terrorists who seek safe havens across its borders,” endorsing Colombia’s deadly attack on rebels in Ecuador’s territory in March, an action that was condemned by virtually all Latin American governments.

    So much for “change.” If elected, Obama may try to downsize and repackage the U.S. occupation of Iraq. But when it comes to aggressively pursuing U.S. imperial interests, there’ll be no retreat unless resistance at home and abroad compels it.
    http://socialistworker.org/print/2008/06/11/obama-the-hawk

  16. bozhidar balkas said on June 17th, 2008 at 4:44pm #

    meguess obama wouldn’t have said that jerusalem belongs to israel unless he had permission from state dep’t to say that.
    some of his sayings r impossible to decypher.
    eg, “israel’s security being sacrosant”. this statement is a generalization. as such we must guess forever what he means by it now; next yr, decade, century, or even millennium.
    if obama or rather state dep’t wd have said that if , lets say, syr ia or iran attacked israel, US would supply israelis with 100t troops, 10t tanks, 5,000 aircraft piloted by americans, then we would have sm’thing to chew on.
    or if he had said that attacking israel means attacking US, again we have sm’thing to think about.
    so, why is he or state dep’t generalizing when he/it could be descriptive?
    u do such and such and we’l do such and such.
    another puzzle is, “Pals must preserve israel as a jewish state” . again, this is not a descriptive statement so we must guess what he means.
    does it mean that pals in israel must curb size of their families? or that 500t must leave israel or be ousted?
    or that pals must remain second-class citizens?
    how ab the contiguity of the wisps of lands separated from one another? what does that mean? ok continuous or touching state is descriptive to some extent.
    does he mean, the statelet wd be a region w. no jewish enclaves, outposts, roads inside it?
    and will the new state be in one peace? ergo, contiguous or touching being superfluous and probably misleading. thank u

  17. john wilkinson said on June 18th, 2008 at 11:29am #

    ”The “truly exciting and historic moment in US history” will only occur when the game itself is challenged.”

    this should have been the opening statement in the article (not the concluding sentence), followed by factual, useful, actionable information. for example, how is avg. joe sixpack affected by us being an israeli colony, and our leaders committing high treason in the name of israel. something that he can see is true and affecting his life to a major degree.

    instead, what we get in these pages is froth, froth, froth and more froth. it’s not about real change making, it’s about careers of the writers. i don’t see any new and useful information here.

  18. john wilkinson said on June 18th, 2008 at 12:07pm #

    …in other words, the game continues to be played, including the so-called “progressives” (laughable term). it’s all hype and bullshit.