Saturday, May 29, 2010

"Hope-and-Change," A Hoax


By Michael Rectenwald and Lori Price 27 May 2010

In our encounters on various social networking sites and political blogs, we consistently encounter the faithful remnants of the “hope-and-change” believers. To combat the onslaught of evidence and opinion that leads one to the conclusion that Obama is a fraud at best and represents a hoax at worst, they point to lists of his accomplishments and the ways he has delivered on his campaign promises. Such lists, we believe, are generally misrepresentations and fail to rise to the level of credibility. They are misleading because they represent minor deeds that might very well have been accomplished otherwise. We have characterized them as delivering on promises to “sharpen the pencils in the White House --mission accomplished.” There are some notable changes, but are they commensurate with Obama’s euphuistic campaign rhetoric? We think not. We believe that Obama’s rhetoric was a complete fabrication aimed at diverting real energy for change into a cul de sac of Democratic apologetics. It was, in short, a hoax.

By “hoax” we mean that it represents a corporate takeover the dissent that bubbled up in the country against the Bush administration, including his economic but mostly his imperialist agenda in Iraq and Afghanistan. Presenting Obama as a candidate of amorphous “hope-and-change,” the corporate sponsors of Obama intended to divert this dissent into acceptable (Democratic) channels. Some if not most of it had, indeed, arisen from Democratic channels, but the meaning of this dissent far exceeded anything that the Democratic Party represented either in its stated platform, or its actual practices, especially the consistent and over-riding support of the wars. The corporate and military backers of Obama bet on Obama’s oratorical skill and civil-rights-sounding rhetoric to effect a prestidigitation of incredible proportions. The intention of the magic was to fool tens of millions of voters, small-scale individual contributors, and campaigners into believing that Obama was the genuine article, that he represented change from the very policies and practices that had made Bush so virulently despised and vehemently opposed. These policies include first and foremost the war.

While Obama maintained that Al Qaeda was best fought in Afghanistan, he nevertheless left a distinct impression that his intention was to end all of the wars as soon as possible, and to begin withdrawing troops from Iraq on “day one.” Troops have indeed been moved around, repositioned outside of predefined “combat zones.” But Obama missed his own deadline for troop withdrawal from Iraq, and the message of Obama was anti-Bush doctrine, anti-war escalation, and anti-pre-emptive intervention. Nonetheless, after taking office, Obama proceeded to keep most of the Bush military team, including General David Petraeus and Bush’s last Secretary of Defense, Robert Gates. During Obama’s first full year in office, a record number of civilians were killed in Afghanistan. The number of troops killed in Afghanistan in the first three months in 2010 doubled that of the same period a year before.

Obama has embraced the Bush “surge” policy, adopted from the Iraqi “surge” and implemented in Afghanistan. The effect has not been the victory supposedly desired (a premise we utterly reject—the intention is not to “win” but to maintain occupation), but rather continued embattlement in territories continually under siege. Again, as in Iraq under Bush, the enemy in Afghanistan has changed under Obama. The troops admittedly fight the Taliban and not al-Qaeda, as promised. Furthermore, evidence points to the fact that we are actually funding the enemy that we are supposed to be fighting: The US is funding the Taliban militants via contractors. The bounty being offered by the Taliban for NATO troops killed is, in other words, being paid from the U.S. Treasury. Under Obama, the dreaded drone bombings in Pakistan, which kill thousands of civilians, have increased considerably.

Another major area of Obama’s hope-and-change rhetoric has to do with domestic surveillance. Where domestic surveillance is concerned, Obama actually has morphed into a more draconian form of Bush, extending domestic surveillance to the web. The USA PATRIOT Act has been extended under Obama -- although he campaigned against its renewal during his presidential campaign -- with no new added protections for civil liberties. The Obama Administration is seeking to weaken Miranda rights for terror suspects, venturing deep into territory on which George W. Bush did not tread.

In the area of treatment of “enemy combatants,” which Obama renamed “unprivileged enemy belligerents,” Obama has also maintained and extended the Bush policies. In May of 2010, the Obama Administration secured a legal victory from the D.C. Circuit Court. The Court ruled, “Foreign nationals held at a U.S. military prison at Bagram airbase outside of Kabul, Afghanistan, do not have a right to challenge in U.S. courts their continued imprisonment.”

In early May 2010, an article in The Sydney Morning Herald revealed, ‘The CIA received secret permission to attack a wider range of targets, including suspected militants whose names are not known, as part of a dramatic expansion of its campaign of drone strikes in Pakistan's border region… The expanded authority, approved two years ago by the Bush administration and continued by Barack Obama, permits the agency to rely on what officials describe as ‘pattern-of-life’ analysis, using evidence collected by surveillance cameras on the unmanned aircraft and from other sources about individuals and locations. The information was used to target suspected militants, even when their full identities were not known, the officials said. Previously the CIA was restricted in most cases to killing only individuals whose names were on an approved list.’ Such de-facto ‘death squads’ represent a breathtaking expansion of executive power and provide clear evidence that Obama’s oratorical pleadings for ‘change' were fueled by a desire to garner votes rather than a wish to implement actual change.

On the environment, Obama has been a complete disaster. Need one mention that Obama has utterly failed to respond to the oil gusher crisis in the Gulf of Mexico? More than a month after the disaster began, Obama has still not responded with federal direction of containment and clean-up efforts, leaving such to the very criminal culprits who caused the gusher that spews an estimated 70,000 barrels of oil into the Gulf daily. Just yesterday, the Obama administration once again defended BP’s containment and clean-up efforts, and refused to take charge of the disaster response, a disaster affecting four states directly, major fishing industries, thousands of jobs, and the health of tens of thousands if not the entire U.S. population. The damage to the Florida the wetlands and to other coastal areas surrounding the Gulf may be irreversible. This is a U.S. crisis affecting the U.S. continent and its citizens. Obama has utterly and miserably denied this fact and completely failed the U.S. population. His environmentalism is a complete fraud.

An earlier report published on this site pointed to the Obama’s support of the financial oligarchy over the people of the United States--of Wall Street over Main Street (“I’m Barack Obama and I approve this bailout.”) We are told now by Obamaphiles that the phrase is now irrelevant. It is called irrelevant because it represents a major breach of campaign promises -- the implication of which was that Obama would enact policies that favored the workers over the bankers and brokers on Wall Street and elsewhere in the financial oligarchy. This is nothing like the truth. After more than tripling Bush’s bailouts, Obama has done nothing but chide Wall Streeters verbally, while doing nothing substantial to reform their behavior. He defended the payout of bonuses for executives of the very companies that caused the financial meltdown of 2008. The financial “reform” recently passed has given Wall Street a “sigh of relief” because it is so favorable to them and does nothing to stem the tide of corruption, greed and the potential damage to the economic well-being of the vast majority.

The health care reform was apiece with this sort of reformism --a reformism that actually favors the corporations over the individuals supposedly protected. Rather than a public option that he campaigned on, the reform amounts to a bailout for the health care and pharmaceutical industries, funneling as it does coerced payments under penalty of fines from millions of the uninsured into corporate coffers. According to the CBO, an estimated four million of the uninsured will pay fines.

Have we missed anything? Most definitely, we could continue to point to Obama’s “out-Bushing” of Bush. We provide a list of stories to support our case.

Now, why and how is the Obama presidency a hoax? The litany of “failures” and “betrayals” is just too long to maintain another narrative. The attempt is a vain endeavor continued only by the most recalcitrant of the Obama orthodoxy. In fact, we believe that a majority has implicitly accepted the fact that the word hoax best describes the Obama presidency. We see this position growing in the cyber sphere. It is the position of the most wizened political observers we know. But if the serious evidence is not enough, we point to a joke as an illustration.

We refer to Obama’s joke during the White House Correspondents' Dinner regarding the use of predator drones to attack the boy band, the Jonas Brothers. Jokes always reveal a kernel of truth. Every joke contains a parcel of latent seriousness. This joke reveals the true tenor of Obama’s thinking, or rather an admission of his real function. He is the leader of a military machine that kills without conscience. Unmanned drones represent the evacuation of human presence, cognition, and decision-making from the battlefield itself. Without review or visual recognition of an enemy from a human standpoint in the air or field, unmanned drones nevertheless kill. This is not indiscriminate killing, but it is indirect and undirected to an unconscionable degree. And it is not as accurate as to be able to target and kill particular individuals without “collateral damage,” as Obama seemed to suggest. With this joke, Obama recognized and confessed the truth of his presidency. He is a leader of an imperialist financial and military oligarchy that has no conscience and no objective but profit and gain, no matter the cost in human misery and death. There is no “hope” for “change” under these conditions. The Obama hoax was to suggest that there was.

Let’s no longer refer to the Obama administration as a “failure,” or his failures as “betrayals.” To fail you have to intend to succeed, and Obama never intended to succeed at matching rhetoric and reality. The point was in fact to make rhetoric replace reality and to “hope” that the rhetoric would continue to work as such for about four years. At that point, the corporate oligarchy may continue on the current tack, or it may adopt another tactic. Our feeling is that the country is set-up for reactionary retrenchment, based on the mistaken opposition to the Obama presidency from the right. This will be the subject of a future report.

Michael Rectenwald and Lori Price,

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