Change We Can Believe In?

In the 2009 film The Messenger, we follow two officers from the Casualty Notification Office from Fort Dix, New Jersey as they knock on doors to inform relatives of loved ones recently killed in action in Iraq. These scenes are almost unbearable to watch as we witness the reactions to this heartbreaking news. It struck me that these emotionally affecting scenes on screen are as as close as most of us get to the grim reality of war.

With Obama’s massive troop escalation he’s made Afghanistan his war, reminiscent of President Johnson’s Vietnam War escalation. At the current death rate of 500 soldiers per year the events depicted in the film will soon become a shattering reality for many more Americans. And next year Obama will spend some $65 billion on Afghanistan, more than for the Iraq war.

Afghanistan, the “Graveyard of Empires,” is this administration’s most egregious failing and is now fated to define Obama’s legacy. Beyond Afghanistian, maintaining permanent military bases and large garrisons in Iraq, allowing Israel to evade a just two state peace with the Palestinians, clandestine Blackwater (now Xe services) assassins roaming around Pakistan, the killing of hundreds of Pakistani civilians by CIA Predator drone attacks (“warheads on foreheads” in CIA lingo) authorized by Obama early in his tenure, and a continuing U.S. military build-up in Colombia under the guise of a phony “war on drugs,” are also on the list.

A one-year litany of domestic disappointments could be captured by a bumper sticker reading “the audacity of hopelessness. ” After handing over almost $3 trillion to bankers we have a jobless “economic recovery,” an official 10.2 percent unemployment rate which is actually 16.5 percent, the number of home foreclosures continues to rise and a country in which one in four children only manage to keep hunger pangs at bay because of food stamps and soup kitchens.

In the face of this situation Obama’s first stimulus package was pitifully small and while it did “save” some jobs it wasn’t nearly enough for serious job creation. Obama’s professed support for helping workers to unionize evaporated shortly after his inauguration. And under Obama’s watch, as noted by New York Times columnist Bob Herbert, “Even as tens of millions of working Americans are struggling to hang onto their jobs and keep a roof over their families’ heads, the wise guys of Wall Street are licking their fat-cat chops over yet another round of obscene multibillion dollar bonuses—this time thanks to the bailout billions that were sent their way by Uncle Sam …” The nine largest banks are distributing $32.6 billion in bonuses. But given the jobs crisis and depression-like situation confronting tens of millions of our fellow citizens, Obama found a record-breaking $664 billion for the Pentagon for fiscal 2010.

Finally, Obama and many Democrats quickly abandoned government single-payer national health insurance—the only plausible solution to our healthcare crisis—caving to the predatory for-profit private health insurance lobbyists. (Note: These lobbyists gave $1.8 million to 18 key members of Congress.)

For those who worked and voted for Obama, especially younger folks, all of this must be a bitter pill to swallow, a giant step backward toward disillusionment and cynicism. I prefer to interpret it as a necessary and valuable lesson in electoral illusions for those truly serious about making this a better country: Obama, a brilliant and charismatic politician, was always a conservative corporate Democrat, a self-described believer in “the free market,” and an enthusiastic accommodator to the rich and powerful. In the words of one pundit, Obama is Clinton without the sleaze.

He would never have been given a favorable vetting by the financial elites who choose our presidential candidates if he represented the slightest threat to their domestic interests and global empire. By the way, the latter includes 800 military bases in 130 countries.

According to historian and political analyst Paul Street, the Obama campaign set new corporate fundraising efforts, including nearly $1 million from Goldman Sachs. Street has been uncannily prescient about Obama from the start and I recommend his book, Barack Obama and the Future of American Politics (Paradigm, 2008). In short, aside from some crafty rhetoric Obama was never a social justice populist and viewing him that way always contained a massive dose of wishful thinking. In that narrow sense, Obama has been entirely consistent and didn’t really betray anyone.

More and more Americans are wise to the fact that because Democrats and Republicans are virtually indistinguishable on the issues that matter most, the “change we can believe it” will not be forthcoming from these two business parties. Short term we need a mobilized and vocal movement from below that dramatically increases the political costs for those resisting needed reforms. Longer term, we need systemic change, change in the class structure of capitalism.

Until and unless workers who produce all the goods and services in our society participate in making the major economic policy decisions—to run the economy democratically—we will only be tinkering with a system that primarily serves those who own it. We need a new broad-based political party that actually responds to the genuine grievances and aspirations of ordinary working people and youth.

Gary Olson is Professor Emeritus at Moravian College, Bethlehem, PA. Contact: Per usual, thanks to Kathleen Kelly, my in-house ed. Read other articles by Gary.

6 comments on this article so far ...

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  1. Rehmat said on December 4th, 2009 at 8:14pm #

    After listening to Obama from his Zion Throne the other day – the first thing came to my mind was: “You can fool some people sometime, but not all the times”. Obama’s speech seems to be written by some Bush’s Zionist writer and was full of contradictions, such as ”the West must fight a war it can’t win”.

    I sincerely wish Obama should have studied Afghanistan’s past history and American past experience in Korea and Vietnam. World’s great colonial power, such as, Alexander the Greeks, the Mongols, the British, and the Russians all licked the dust in Afghanistan. America & Co’s performance during the last eight years has not been able to subdue the proud Afghan people either. Now, the ‘Tom’ think he can succeed where other great armies failed.

    Obama made me laugh when he said: “This is not just America’s war. Since 9/11, Al-Qaeda’s safe-heavens have been the source of attacks against London and Amman and Bali (which all been proven to be Israeli False-flags). The people and governments of both Afghanistan and Pakistan (none of which asked Washington for help) are endangered (Gee, American know but Pakistanis and Afghans don’t). And …..Al-Qaeda and other extremists seek nuclear weapons (but sir, the Zionist extremists already have 240 of them). This facts (read myths) compel us to act.”

    Obama has decided to follow the failed strtegy of presidents Lyndon Johnson and Nixon in Vietnam. He is almost trippling American forces (100,000 US plus 50,000 collaborators) – hoping to slow-down Taliban gains, which could pave the way for the western invaders to withdraw under the Nixon’s old slogan of “peace with honor”.

    Obama also repeated his baseless accusation against Pakistan by saying that his main concern is not Taliban but Al-Qaeda (which doesn’t exist except in the minds of Islamophobes). He believe that his new surge will flush the Al-Qaeda leaders, supposedly, hiding in Waziristan (Pakistan). Now, one wonder how he expect to achieve this miracle, even with the help of Pakistani puppet Asif Zardari’s government when the great majority of Pakistan population never liked American governments for their one-sided policy towards Zionist entity. Obama should learn from Nixon’s humiliation in 1969 for expanding Vietnam war into neighboring Cambodia to deny safe heaven to the Vietnamese resistance fighters. Cambodia still don’t have nukes – but Pakistan do have a few dozens of those.

    Christopher Bollyn in his December 2 article, titled Why Afghanistan? has exposed many of US corporate lies. However, he missed two of the main reasons for which Israel lobbying groups pushed Washington to replace Taliban regime – was the sharp drop in the supply of heroin to Jewish-controlled drug-mafia and containment of Iranian influence in the neighboring Afghanistan and Pakistan.

    Christopher Bollyn wrote that Obama in his speech presented a “false reading of history about 9/11. He repeated the fundamental lies about who is really responsible for the terrorist attacks of 9/11?.

    “Some forty nations are involved in the US-led occupation of Afghanistan and in each of them the public has been deceived about the real reasons for the war. One can almost gauge the degree in which a nation is Zionist-controlled by the number of troops it has sent to Afghanistan. The United States and Britain has sent the largest contingents, followed by Germany, France, Canada, Italy, Poland, the Netherlands and Romania.”

    “The administrations of George W. Bush and Barack Hussein Obama II are Zionist-dominated and controlled governments. Rahm Emanuel, for example, the Chief-of-Staff of the Obama White House, is actually an Israeli citizen and the son of a Zionist terrorist from the Irgun, the most radical terror gang in Palestine during the 1930s and 1940s. The Zionist influence in these administrations can easily be seen by the placement of pro-Israel agents in different positions at every level. “

    “Israeli influence within the U.S. military and intelligence spheres is as extensive and deep as it is within the Oval Office. Israeli military intelligence has a great deal of influence in every sphere of the U.S. government which is involved in making the decisions that go into taking the United States to war. That the U.S. government would accept Israeli intelligence on the Middle East from a state that has been at war with nearly every other nation in the region since 1948 is clearly an absurd and biased situation but that is how it is. This is how the United States was taken to war in Afghanistan in October 2001 – and why we are still there.”

    “The Israeli politicians Benjamin Netanyahu and Ehud Barak were the very first people to blame Osama Bin Laden for 9-11 and call for military action against the Taliban-led regime in Afghanistan. They used the terror attacks and the controlled media to begin the Zionist fraud known as the “War on Terror,” an Israeli military strategy long promoted by “Bibi” Netanyahu…..”

  2. Shabnam said on December 4th, 2009 at 10:05pm #


    Everyone knows the HISTOREY OF THE Zionist and their supporters. What is the purpose of writing about it every day? We have to act NOW THAN LATER. We cannot rely on the Western population at all. We must unite immediately as ONE against these war criminals. Israel and Bush administration staged 9/11 to frame MUSLIMS to form the phony “war on terror” to kill millions of Muslim and steal their resources.
    Russia, like the United States is with the zionist and terrorist state of Israel, and Putin is going to visit the occupied land in the coming year. When do the Arab head of states want to understand that is not the Arab interest to cooperate with the Zionists against the people in the region?
    The terrorist state of Russia has done whatever she could to humiliate Iran to cooperate with the enemy of humanity, Israel, what are you going to do about it? Russia has always sided with the enemy of Arabs, Palestinian and Iranians, what are you going to do about. I am sick and tired of talking. We cannot do anything except all people to be united against these Bastard Zionist mass murderers and their fifth column in the region. The Zionist mass murderers has just introduced their petty servants including Zahra Rahnavard, Mousavi’s wife, Soroush , all agent of the ‘velvet revolution’ who tried to label Iranian election as ‘fraud’ like the closet zionist , Chomsky and Juan Cole, a Bahai, and number of other Muslim agents and traitors as ‘opposition’ in the 100 influential ‘thinkers’ list in Foreign policy Journal own by the Washington Post, a Zionist newspaper, What are you going to do? How can we organize the entire population of the region from Mauritania to Pakistan against these mass murderers? You cannot trust the population of the west because they have benefited from the killing of other groups. The Black puppet in the WH, Obama, is even worse than Bush. HE HAS NO RESPECT amongst population of the region. He is EXECUTING THE ZIONIST’S AGENDA NOT TO BE DISCARDED FROM THE WHITE HOUSE EARLER TO keep HIS ‘privilege.’

  3. Annie Ladysmith said on December 4th, 2009 at 10:28pm #

    Yeah! All that great CHANGE. Yeah, it’s diffinitely coming home to roost. All i have to say to the idiots who voted for the King of Deception is **** you ! When you have to stop watching a morbid tv show about fat people losing weight, because your too busy losing you job, your home (with that flatscreen), your car, your rights, and finally your life, maybe it will sink in. It was blatantly obvious where this was going from the getgo, you didn’t have to be a genius to figure it out. YOU ARE ALL SO SCREWED! Your going to end up in camps and your going to see your children starve, the same as the people who have hated him all along. This CHANGE has been planned to kill you.

  4. ilona@israel said on December 14th, 2009 at 10:29am #

    Obama has nothing in common with Zionism. he does his own thing and he concerns just about USA interests. if USA gives money to israel-its just in oder to invest in development of USA weapons and safety systems. thats it.

  5. Deadbeat said on December 14th, 2009 at 11:24am #

    Obama has nothing in common with Zionism
    That’s wishful thinking. Zionism is not confined to Israel. Zionism has spread to the United States in the form of pro-Israel lobby groups and organizations, the control of media and financial centers. It uses both Capitalism and Militarism to sustain its power.

  6. bozh said on December 14th, 2009 at 12:28pm #

    if u substitute the word “zionism” with the words “thinking”, “ideating”, or “ism” u will gather more info.
    But if u say that zionism is “thinking” ab an intention to steal land, murder, and expel people, u have obtained an elucidation.
    Now u know why a nonshemitic melange of ethnoses; sharing one cult, chose to call the robbery with murder “zionism”.
    After all, aren’t some of the greatest robbers ever, called “bankers” and greatest murderers “public servants”.
    Peter the great, suleiman the great, otto the great, et al got their names for helping farmers grow and reap wheat, beets, and cucumbers??
    And what does really mean the “greatness of america? tnx
    Well, visit gaza, iraq, and afgh’n and u’ll know! tnx