Revolution#121, February 24, 2008

Readers Debate Election '08 and Obama

Editors’ Response: Our recent editorials on the election, including “Election ’08: Bamboozling You Into the Empire” (issue #120) and “Andrew Sullivan on Obama: The ‘Best Face’ for Imperialism” (issue #118) were, as expected, controversial – and are being debated both through correspondence to Revolution and in online discussion groups and web sites. Here we are sharing a sampling of that, and we encourage readers to get our coverage of the election into all kinds of forums. Send us your own response to our coverage, and your experiences engaging with others.

There is a question that, while not explicitly posed by, runs through all these letters: Will we accommodate our aspirations, and what we accept, within the limits of choosing a candidate who—as one of our correspondents says, arguing for Obama, doesn’t have blood on his hands…yet? Will “relevance” end up being defined, whatever one’s intentions, as relevant to a process of shoring up and strengthening imperialist exploitation and oppression in one form or another? Will our energies be sucked into speculating on which candidate might kill a few thousand less people—as one of our readers describes the choice that he feels himself agonizing over? Will we accept the “choice” of choosing which candidate might avoid “legal” torture while relying on the kind of “unofficial” torture that has always been a part of imperialist domination? Channeling one’s energy into electing a Democrat will, despite one’s intentions, result in political paralysis or worse than paralysis. The framework of politics of the “possible” means accommodating ourselves to the politics of horrors. Instead, we need to bring forward a movement outside of the “acceptable” framework, and continue to wrestle with what kind of better world is possible.

I Don’t See How Voting for Obama and Saying Stop Torture Are Divergent

I don’t see how voting for Obama and saying stop torture are divergent. They are both actions, they are different and unique. By saying yes to one, you are not saying no to the other.

What is happening is that people are stopping paying attention to your organization and you are sad, so you attack the candidate who has captured the interest of your former sponsors.

That is fine, the guy certainly has some questionable things to talk about. But relatively speaking—his hands are clean so far—no blood on them yet.

So why not give the guy a chance, and continue to work on the side for the issues? You don’t have to stop asking that torture ends just because Obama got in to office.

Your paper is beginning to bore me by talking more about individuals than social objectives. You used to get to the heart of what social change would look like—instead you get in to character smears as if they mean anything relevant to achieving social change.


Why Wasn’t Anyone Screaming Conspiracy?

Why? In the world would any support a Republican, a Democrat (with conservative) views. These people have shown us what their principles are....war, war, more war by any means necessary. They are the ones who have hood-winked all Americans for far too long. They have their own agendas, always have, and always will. We do need change, a positive change is good, far better than the foolishness we were forced to put up with for approximately eight years. Only a few people have benefited from this government. Over the past 200 years. It’s funny how we have become overwhelmed with garbage that when we finally get someone who has fresh, spiritual ideas—we scream conspiracy. Why weren’t anyone screaming conspiracy when Bush forced his way in office, not once but twice. Declared war on a country who had nothing to do with his 9/11. The votes were not counted fairly, where were you and the rest of the revolutionary camp?


The Consequences Are Enormous

Editor’s Note: The following is from an online discussion list. It was posted in response to another posting on that list criticizing the article “Andrew Sullivan on Obama: The ‘Best Face’ for Imperialism”(Revolution #118, February 3, 2008) as factually inaccurate and an “ad hominem” (personal) attack on Obama:

...I hadn’t read the article from the Maoist newspaper posted until it was bad-mouthed. Wanting to see how bad it was, I read it for myself. And, beyond some discussion of the journalist’s background (certainly relevant within the context of that article) and Obama’s background (again, certainly relevant), I couldn’t find any ad-hominem attacks, as was claimed. Certainly it had nothing to do with endorsing Obama; in fact it was a critique of a particular article which endorsed Obama, and more generally it was a structural analysis of Obama and the Democratic party.

Nor could I find any factual inaccuracies; I did find many factual *accuracies* however—and factual accuracies which are usually written of of the corporate media, such as discussion of Ronald Reagan—accurately—as an arch-terrorist. Reagan’s record of war, terrorism, and subverting democracy is certainly relevant to those who seek to change U.S. foreign policy.

Actually, I found the article quite interesting and insightful. I am not a Maoist by any means, and some of us may have difficulties reading articles with Marxist jargon in them, but if you make some mental substitutions as you read (“imperialism”—“foreign policy in breach of international law and subverting the independence of other nations”, “ruling class”—“pundits, mainstream media, corporate interests”, etc.), I thought it made a lot of sense, certainly a perspective worth listening to, not to be blown off in one sentence. I encourage people to read it. In fact, the response was very similar to how the corporate media deals with U.S. foreign policy insofar as it is terrorist and subversive of democracy—and other important, almost illicit, information. And that history of anti-democratic foreign policy, and its portrayal in the media, is a long story, but one that everybody needs to know.

Actually, one of the most sordid chapters in this story closed just a few days ago, when Suharto, former U.S.-supported dictator of Indonesia, died. He came to power in 1965, the culmination of a decade of U.S. efforts to overthrow the independent policies of president Sukarno. This happened under the Democrat Lyndon Johnson. After the coup, political opponents were massacred, estimates of the dead range from the hundreds of thousands into the millions; lists of political opponents were provided by American diplomats, shortly to be butchered by a very efficient death machine. The U.S. government provided vast military aid to Suharto; the U.S. press reported gleefully that Indonesia was open for business. Multinational corporations poured in and were dutifully handed control of the strategically important natural resources of the country, destroying any possibility of economic independence. Suharto invaded East Timor in 1975, and in the ensuing massacres about one third of East Timor’s population—about 200,000 souls—were killed. Ford and Kissinger were *in Indonesia* the day before the invasion, giving it the green light; the invasion was delayed until the day after they left. In response to the invasion, the U.S. increased aid. Even Jimmy Carter, the supposed human rights saint, continued military aid to the butchers. (My home country of Australia has done its bit training Kopassus soldiers.) As the killing proceeded, mainstream U.S. media coverage was inversely proportional to the scale of the slaughter. Indeed, through a several month period in 1978 of the very worst atrocities, U.S. mainstream media coverage was exactly zero. In the 1980s, Reagan visited Indonesia as part of his Orwellian-named “wings of freedom” tour. Clinton called Suharto his kind of guy. In 1991, there was a massacre in Dili of hundreds of East Timorese; two U.S. independent journalists were beaten. In response, the U.S. sold Indonesia a batch of fighter planes.

This is relevant today, because Suharto died a few days ago. Check how much of the above was mentioned in mainstream media accounts of Suharto’s life and crimes. The U.S. policy here speaks for itself, and it was largely bipartisan. It is relevant to the current discussion, not only as an instance of the barbarity of U.S. foreign policy, but also as an instance of the barbarity of U.S. foreign policy as applied by Democratic presidents—and today, there is no difference between the parties, nor between the candidates, on many of the outrages that constitute U.S. foreign policy. Everybody will continue to support Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Israel, Pakistan, bomb Somalia, bomb Afghanistan, and so on—quite apart from the ongoing catastrophes in Iraq and Palestine.

Since foreign policy is so rarely mentioned in these presidential debates, but is so important, perhaps the best measure of the prospective foreign policy positions of the candidates is to look at their advisors. Well Hillary has her husband as an advisor, and his record as war criminal speaks for itself: Haiti, Sudan, Afghanistan, Bosnia, Serbia, and so on.

But who are Obama’s foreign policy advisors? Well, first, there is none other than Zbigniew Brzezinski, architect of much of the above-mentioned horror—in particular, training jihadis in Afghanistan. And then, there are those fighter planes that were shipped to Indonesia in 1991. The man who oversaw that deal, General Merrill McPeak, is another one of Obama’s principal foreign policy advisors.

So, the decisions made for Democratic candidate, and then for president, are not only important to Americans—they are also important to those who will be on the receiving end of foreign policy. And for those recipients, it may well be a matter of life or death. Even if all the candidates are probable or certain prospective war criminals, if there is a slight difference, well that difference may amount to thousands of lives. So that is the sort of decision that Americans are confronted with, not a civilized decision, and not a pleasant one, not a decision that people in a democratic nation should have to tolerate. But a system in which these sorts of policies are the norm and are expected is one which is an unspeakable outrage, but one we must confront, and try to change as best we can. The consequences are enormous.

Send us your comments.

If you like this article, subscribe, donate to and sustain Revolution newspaper.

What Humanity Needs
From Ike to Mao and Beyond