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Has Rev. Wright Cost Obama the Presidency?


Every few years New York City cops hear the growl of clear and present danger and subdue the threat with powerful volleys of lead. With Sean Bell, an African-American, in November 2006 the fusillade rose to 50 shots, deemed necessary by the men in blue to lay low Bell outside a nightclub in November 2006.

In Queens last week a judge ruled that the cops who turned young Bell into a sieve on his wedding day had been filled with most understandable apprehension though Bell  turned out to be unarmed. As usual  the cops walk and sometime later the victim’s family may get a settlement from the city. The important thing is that justice is seen not to have been done. Power needs the periodic buttress of irrational, uniformed violence.

The crowds protesting in Queens after Judge Anthony Cooperman let Bells’ killers go free a week ago were orderly, as instructed by an African American. “We’re a nation of laws, so we respect the verdict that came down,” Barack Obama , said when asked about the case by reporters in Indiana. “Resorting to violence to express displeasure over a verdict is something that is completely unacceptable and is counterproductive.”

Spoken like a president of the Harvard Law Review, at least in this era! In fact Obama’s white rival for the Democratic nomination, Hillary Clinton, put more juice into her press release: “This tragedy has deeply saddened New Yorkers – and all Americans. My thoughts are with Nicole and her children and the rest of Sean’s family during this difficult time. The court has given its verdict, and now we await the conclusion of a Department of Justice civil rights investigation.”

Obama is now well advanced along the path of reassurance, where  each candidate nearing the White House make clear their fidelity to the standard of irrational violence. As with McCain and Mrs Clinton this year he has affirmed his willingness to wipe out America’s enemies with nuclear bombs and missiles, though he draw some rebukes for saying he was not in favor of nuking the Hindu Kush, thus casting a disquieting flicker of reason across the path of reassurance.

Since he is, though half white, black in appearance  — and in such matters appearance counts for everything – Obama has dealt with the pigmentation problem by declaring that race is no longer a troubling  factor in America, and should be low on the fix-it list of any incoming President. In Selma, Alabama, he declared that blacks “have already come 90 percent of the way” to equality. Indeed he’s already issued white America a loss damage waiver. “If I lose, it would not be because of race. It would be because of mistakes I made along the campaign trail.”

Actually, if Obama loses, he will probably ascribe it privately to a mistake he made many years ago, stepping into the Rev Jeremiah Wright’s tumultuous church in Chicago intead of praying sedately in some dour white Presbyterian chapel in the western suburbs. Obama thought he’d dealt with the Wright problem by a tasteful speech about race in Philadephia in late March in which he said the fiery pastor was anchored in the divisiveness of the past.

Wright came bounding back last weekend, with an unflinching interview with Bill Moyers on tv and a rip-roaring sermon in the National Press Club in Washington. He’s clearly the most powerful public orator in America since Martin Luther King, and as radical as MLK in his toughest moments. People have puzzled about Wright’s timing, which from Obama’s point of view, could not have been worse. I’d bet that there was no plan. In the press club Wrght felt the wind at his back and gave the folks his basic sermon. It’s the way he is and 95 per cent of it makes total sense and is a breath of fresh air, as Wright ushers the Real America onto the stage, as opposed to the political candidates’ flattering fictions.

But of course all this week Obama has been in despair. Now he expels  Wright from his life. He derides the man who presided at his wedding. “Reverend Wright’s comments were not only wrong but divisive, divisive at a time when we need unity; racially charged at a time when we need to come together to solve a set of monumental problems.”Once the Man has got you saying sorry, he’ll never let you stop. “Okay, but not quite enough. Try it again, and again and again. . .”

Has Wright really cost Obama the presidency? I doubt it. There are Americans who will never vote for Obama, because he looks like a black man, whether or not his hue is darkened by Wright’s shadow. There are Americans reminded by Wright that whatever Obama may say,  there are still a lot of angry black people. But particularly this week these Americans have seen that Obama isn’t angry and doesn’t want to demand reparations for slavery  and justice for Sean Bell. He and Wright are in opposite corners of the ring. That could help Obama , having a black radical  as well as whites to run against.


Iran: Yes, War Really Does Loom

I hope you CounterPunchers caught Andrew Cockburn’s sensational scoop which we ran here on this site yesterday.  Andrew reports that

 “six weeks ago, President Bush signed a secret finding authorizing a covert offensive against the Iranian regime that, according to those familiar with its contents, ‘unprecedented in its scope.’ Bush’s secret directive covers actions across a huge geographic area – from Lebanon to Afghanistan – but is also far more sweeping in the type of actions permitted under its guidelines – up to and including the assassination of targeted officials.”

The new expanded secret war required a special appropriation which leading Democrats secretly approved, after listening to the request in secret session. They voted $300 million for the covert operations, which are a major escalation towards open war on Iran. You can find the whole sequence in histories of the escalation of the war in Vietnam.

Previously Admiral Fallon, head of Centcom, managed to head off White House efforts to spark a direct confrontation. That posture cost him his job and now Petraeus, Bush’s favorite general, has the job. As Andrew Cockburn reported here yesterday:

“Though Petraeus is not due to take formal command at Centcom until late summer,  there are abundant signs that something may happen before then.  A Marine amphibious force, originally due to leave San Diego for the Persian Gulf in mid June, has had its sailing date abruptly moved up to May 4.  A scheduled meeting in Europe between French diplomats acting as intermediaries for the U.S. and Iranian representatives has been abruptly cancelled in the last two weeks.  Petraeus is said to be at work on a master briefing for congress to demonstrate conclusively that the Iranians are the source of our current troubles in Iraq, thanks to their support for the Shia militia currently under attack by U.S. forces in Baghdad.”

The intelligence briefings that preceded the secret “finding”  and accompanied the ensuing briefings to congressional leaders clearly exaggerated Iran’s role in Iraq and also the capabilities of those anti-Iranian groups which will now be drenched in US money and supplies.  But  Petraeus is no fool in timing. He has left the failing “surge” behind him now, and his flunkeys in the press will blame the failure on his successor as head of coalition forces, Army General Ray Odierno, “who lacks Gen Petraeus’s skill. . .”  Etc.  Petraeus’ long term game plan is presumably to run for the Presidency in 2012, either challenging a Democratic incumbent or perhaps seizing the baton from the senile President McCain. Talking of CounterPunch scoops I also strongly encourage you  to read Doug Valentine’s searing expose of McCain’s conduct as a POW, in our newsletter, exclusive to subscribers.

Can America afford a war against Iran? Perhaps Uncle Sam is merely following orders from Saudi Arabia and the Gulf states’  princes, whose billions are necessary to bail out the US banks.

Footnote: A version of the piece on Obama ran ran on The First Post






Alexander Cockburn’s Guillotined! and A Colossal Wreck are available from CounterPunch.

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