Obama, The Prince of Bait and Switch

On 12 July, The Times (UK) devoted two pages to Afghanistan. It was mostly a complaint about the heat. The reporter, Magnus Linklater, described in detail his discomfort and how he had needed to be sprayed with iced water. He also described the “high drama” and “meticulously practised routine” of evacuating another overheated journalist. For her US Marine rescuers, wrote Linklater, “saving a life took precedence over [their] security”. Alongside this was a report whose final paragraph offered the only mention that “47 civilians, most of them women and children, were killed when a US aircraft bombed a wedding party in eastern Afghanistan on Sunday.”

Slaughters on this scale are common, and mostly unknown to the British public. I interviewed a woman who had lost eight members of her family, including six children. A 500lb US Mk82 bomb was dropped on her mud, stone and straw house. There was no “enemy” nearby. I interviewed a headmaster whose house disappeared in a fireball caused by another “precision” bomb. Inside were nine people — his wife, his four sons, his brother and his wife, and his sister and her husband. Neither of these mass murders was news. As Harold Pinter wrote of such crimes: “Nothing ever happened. Even while it was happening it wasn’t happening. It didn’t matter. It was of no interest.”

A total of 64 civilians were bombed to death while The Times man was discomforted. Most were guests at the wedding party. Wedding parties are a “coalition” speciality. At least four of them have been obliterated — at Mazar and in Khost, Uruzgan and Nangarhar provinces. Many of the details, including the names of victims, have been compiled by a New Hampshire professor, Marc Herold, whose Afghan Victim Memorial Project is a meticulous work of journalism that shames those who are paid to keep the record straight and report almost everything about the Afghan War through the public relations facilities of the British and American military.

The US and its allies are dropping record numbers of bombs on Afghanistan. This is not news. In the first half of this year, 1,853 bombs were dropped: more than all the bombs of 2006 and most of 2007. “The most frequently used bombs,” the Air Force Times reports, “are the 500lb and 2,000lb satellite-guided. . . ” Without this one-sided onslaught, the resurgence of the Taliban, it is clear, might not have happened. Even Hamid Karzai, America’s and Britain’s puppet, has said so. The presence and the aggression of foreigners have all but united a resistance that now includes former warlords once on the CIA’s payroll.

The scandal of this would be headline news, were it not for what George W Bush’s former spokesman Scott McClellan has called “complicit enablers” — journalists who serve as little more than official amplifiers. Having declared Afghanistan a “good war”, the complicit enablers are now anointing Barack Obama as he tours the bloodfests in Afghanistan and Iraq. What they never say is that Obama is a bomber.

In the New York Times on 14 July, in an article spun to appear as if he is ending the war in Iraq, Obama demanded more war in Afghanistan and, in effect, an invasion of Pakistan. He wants more combat troops, more helicopters, more bombs. Bush may be on his way out, but the Republicans have built an ideological machine that transcends the loss of electoral power — because their collaborators are, as the American writer Mike Whitney put it succinctly, “bait-and-switch” Democrats, of whom Obama is the prince.

Those who write of Obama that “when it comes to international affairs, he will be a huge improvement on Bush” demonstrate the same willful naivety that backed the bait-and-switch of Bill Clinton — and Tony Blair. Of Blair, wrote the late Hugo Young in 1997, “ideology has surrendered entirely to ‘values’. . . there are no sacred cows [and] no fossilized limits to the ground over which the mind might range in search of a better Britain. . .”

Eleven years and five wars later, at least a million people lie dead. Barack Obama is the American Blair. That he is a smooth operator and a black man is irrelevant. He is of an enduring, rampant system whose drum majors and cheer squads never see, or want to see, the consequences of 500lb bombs dropped unerringly on mud, stone and straw houses.

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 (2006). Read other articles by John, or visit John's website.

3 comments on this article so far ...

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  1. Richard Posner said on July 30th, 2008 at 10:18pm #

    America has nothing to offer the world but oppression, war and death. There is no way to save a ship which has already begun its descent to the bottom of the sea. The political system of the U.S. is corrupted and poisoned beyond recovery and none of the politicians have the ability or even the desire to do anything about it.
    The only way America can possibly be stopped is through the unified efforts of all the sovereign nations of the world, just as Germany and Japan were stopped.
    “All that is necessary for the forces of evil to win in the world is for enough good men to do nothing.”

  2. Jeremy Wells said on July 31st, 2008 at 7:32pm #

    Two recent articles on Obama from WSWS, clearly dispel any lingering doubts that Obama and the Democratic Party offers no substantive “change” from the “status quo” of unending war, mass starvation and death.

    Democratic candidate in Berlin
    Obama demands Europe send more troops to Afghanistan
    By Stefan Steinberg
    26 July 2008

    Barack Obama’s speech before an audience of some 200,000 in Berlin was a
    reactionary affirmation of Cold War anti-communism and an attempt to
    promote the new framework for US imperialist militarism and aggression,
    the so-called “global war on terror.”

    And the following article:

    Obama promotes wider war in Afghanistan: Another presidential race
    between pro-war candidates
    By Jerry White
    25 July 2008


    Once again, a US presidential election will take place in which the
    broad antiwar sentiment of the population is ignored and the majority of
    American people who oppose wars of aggression are disenfranchised.
    Instead, voters will be confronted with two candidates—Barack Obama and
    his Republican opponent John McCain—whose discernable foreign policy
    differences reflect tactical disputes over US imperialist policy,
    centering on where American military violence should be focused.

  3. JN said on July 31st, 2008 at 9:41pm #

    1) Vote for McKinney
    2) Organise! Build a strong, committed & radical anti-war/Socialist movement. It has to START sometime….