Hollywood filmmakers David Geffen, Steven Spielberg and Jeffrey Katzenberg have invited 700 “political donors and activists” to a benefit to raise funds for Barack Obama’s campaign: at $2,300 per person. Later in February a private dinner will be held in Geffen’s home for those “who agree to raise $46,000 for the Illinois Democrat” (Los Angeles Times, 1/25/07). These wealthy Democrats are enamored with Obama’s eloquence and bestselling book, and embrace his supposed anti-war position.
The truth, however, is that Obama does not oppose the US-Iraq War. Although claiming that he would have voted against the 2002 war resolution, since becoming senator he has supported every appropriation bill to continue the slaughter. He can’t oppose the war, therefore, and vote money to continue it.
Paul Street, a radical historian, journalist and activist, has written a critical review of Obama’s bestselling book, The Audacity of Hope (go to zmag.org and then click on ZNET).
Street rightly blasts Obama’s pathetic assertions about US history, such as his support for the “grand compromise” between the North and South that allowed the Founders to endorse the Constitution – a devil’s bargain that legitimized “black chattel slavery as the core, defining and federally protected political-economic institution of the U.S. South.” This immoral political deal meant that anyone who looked like Obama could not enjoy the same “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness” as white men of wealth.
Obama’s ignorance or denial of US history is also revealed in his praise of President Woodrow Wilson’s efforts to “encourage the self-determination of all peoples…and provide the world a legal framework that could help avoid future conflicts.” Is Obama unaware of Wilson’s racist views? Does he not know that the film Birth of a Nation was shown in the Wilson White House? Is he unaware of Wilson’s racist aggression against Haiti, the Dominican Republic and Mexico?
According to Noam Chomsky, “Wilson’s troops murdered, destroyed, reinstituted virtual slavery and demolished the constitutional system in Haiti.” Despite “the takeover of Haiti and the Dominican Republic,” Chomsky notes, “Wilson built his reputation as a lofty idealist defending self-determination and the rights of small nations with impressive oratory.” But Wilson’s doctrine “was restricted to people of the right sort”; those deemed inferior were not given “the rights of democracy and self-determination; they remained subject to their racially and culturally superior colonial overlords” (Noam Chomsky, World Orders Old and New and Year 501: The Conquest Continues).
Obama believes that those who made U.S. Cold War foreign policy combined “Wilsonian idealism” and “humility regarding America’s ability to control events around the world.” This “humility,” Street points out, included the CIA “overthrow of democratically elected governments in Iran (1953) and Guatemala (1954) and the sponsorship of mass-murderous dictatorships in Indonesia and Latin America….” For indisputable evidence of US support for death squad regimes in Latin America that left at least 300,000 people dead and hundreds of thousands tortured, see Greg Grandin, Empire’s Workshop: Latin America, the United States and the New Imperialism.
Obama thinks the US-Iraq War is a “dumb but not a criminal one,” a “botched war” that was undertaken with “the best of [democratic] intentions.” Street disagrees, stating that Obama “is incapable of accurately identifying the Bush administration’s illegal, racist and brazenly imperialist invasion of Iraq as a monumental war crime…”
After nearly four years of monstrous lies leading to hundreds of thousands of deaths and torture, the claim that the US criminal invasion was undertaken with “the best of democratic intentions” has to rank as one of the most incredible statements in US history.
Street concludes by stating that Obama’s actual views are “carefully designed to reassure the corporate-imperial plutocracy, the foreign policy establishment and the white majority that [his] presidency would show proper…deference to dominant social, racial and global structures and ideologies of inequality.”
In his April 4, 1967 “Beyond Vietnam” speech at New York’s Riverside Church, exactly one year before he was assassinated, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. called the US – then engaged in a genocidal war of aggression against the Vietnamese people – the “greatest purveyor of violence in the world.” Can one imagine Barack Obama – who is fond of quoting King – making such a statement about the US today, even after the deaths of hundreds of thousands of Iraqis?
John Marciano, Professor Emeritus, State University of New York, lives in Santa Monica.