FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Talk is Cheap

by DAVE LINDORFF

What the hell is Barack Obama talking about?

He says that America should be talking with leaders in Cuba, Iran, Venezuela, Korea, Syria. Fine. But he calls this “talking with our enemies.”

What enemies?

Let’s get something straight. Enemies are people who are fighting against you, who are trying to destroy you.  Is Cuba fighting against America? Is Iran fighting against America? Is Venezuela fighting against America? Syria? China? No. These countries may be rivals, but they are not enemies.

The closest we come to having an actual enemy in today’s world is North Korea, where we are technically still in some kind of truce following a hot war, but of course that war itself has been over for half a frigging century, and nobody has been killing anyone on the Korean Peninsula in decades.

The truth is, America doesn’t have any real enemies, except for the ones it has made for itself in Iraq and Afghanistan, and of course the Al Qaeda organization. But Al Qaeda is a gang of terrorists, not a country, and in Afghanistan it is movement, the Taliban, once the government of that country, which we overthrew.  And even there, where we have enemies, talk is better than war. It is obvious that at some point if we are ever to exit from Iraq and Afghanistan, there will have to be talks with the people we are fighting. Afghanistan’s leaders have said this—that there will have to be talks with the Taliban. And Bush’s own “Iraq Study Group,” headed by former Republican Secretary of State James Baker and former Democratic Congressman Lee Hamilton, concluded that the US will have to negotiate to settle the Iraq conflict. Both those processes should be begun immediately, not after more thousands have been killed.

By calling other countries “enemies,” Obama fell into a trap of his own making, though admittedly, he’s not the first to define all these rival nations as enemies. It’s a logical outcome of the Bush/Cheney position that “either you’re with us or you’re against us.”

Instead of buying into that nonsense, Obama should have questioned the premise. Then he wouldn’t be in the mess he’s in now, trying to fine-tune whom he would talk to and whom he wouldn’t talk to. Erstwhile Democratic presidential candidate and former Alaskan Senator Mike Gravel had it right when, during an early TV “debate” before the media decided to black him out, he replied to the moderator’s stupid question to all the candidates of “Who, after Iran, are America’s biggest enemies?” He challenged the premise, asking, “Iran’s not our enemy. Who are we afraid of? We don’t have any enemies.” He got one of the biggest applauses of the evening for that.

As for the basic point—talking with people we have disagreements or rivalries with—it is obvious that not talking is idiotic, and gets you nowhere—or worse, into a war.

Let’s take Cuba. For exactly half a century since its Communist revolution, we have treated Cuba like a mortal enemy, blockading the country, forcing other countries to join us in an embargo (an act of war, by the way), plotting and attempting to assassinate the country’s leader, Fidel Castro, and financing and supporting an obsessed group of dispossessed rich Cubans who want to return the island to its mob-infested, neo-colonial days. In those 50 years, the only thing not talking has accomplished has been the impoverishment of two generations of Cubans. Meanwhile, of course, the US has talked, conceded, caved in, given in, pandered and invested in China, another Communist country that, unlike Cuba, actually has fought against the US (in Korea, by proxy in Vietnam, and against an ally, Taiwan). There is clearly no logical reason for not talking with Cuba, and if we were talking with Cuba, life there would be better, and no doubt, things would be better here, too.

Iran is another example. It is known that when the US invaded Iraq, in 2003, Iran tried desperately to initiate talks with the US. The Bush/Cheney administration didn’t want to talk. It was calling Iran an “Axis of Evil” nation. Had talks begun, there might not even be a nuclear dispute today. Indeed, there might not even have been a rivalry. Instead, we now have the Bush/Cheney administration pushing forward for plans to attack Iran.

We could go back to Iraq, too, of course. Before the US launched its attack, Saddam Hussein was telling the Bush/Cheney administration he was willing to leave the country. All he wanted was a safe haven like Idi Amin got, and a billion dollars. We were not told about this offer until years later. Yet think how much cheaper that solution, arrived at through a little talking, would have been than what we got through not talking. Instead of letting Hussein run off with a billion of his own ill-gotten wealth, we’ve spent close to a trillion dollars, killed upwards of a million innocent Iraqis, destroyed a country, driven four million people in a nation of 24 million into exile, ruined America’s global reputation, and bankrupted the US treasury, not to mention running up the price of oil four-fold.

Talk is cheap, I’d say.

Obama should be more forthright and admit that America has no enemies, and that we can talk to anyone.

DAVE LINDORFF is a Philadelphia-based journalist. His latest book is “The Case for Impeachment” (St. Martin’s Press and now available in paperback edition). His work is available at www.thiscantbehappening.net

 

Your Ad Here

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dave Lindorff is a founding member of ThisCantBeHappening!, an online newspaper collective, and is a contributor to Hopeless: Barack Obama and the Politics of Illusion (AK Press).

More articles by:

CounterPunch Magazine

minimag-edit

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550

zen economics

Weekend Edition
February 24, 2017
Friday - Sunday
Pierre M. Sprey - Franklin “Chuck” Spinney
Sleepwalking Into a Nuclear Arms Race with Russia
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Exxon’s End Game Theory
John Laforge
Did Obama Pave the Way for More Torture?
Ajamu Baraka
Malcolm X and Human Rights in the Time of Trumpism:  Transcending the Masters tools
Paul Street
Liberal Hypocrisy, “Late-Shaming,” and Russia-Blaming in the Age of Trump
Vijay Prashad
A Foreign Policy of Cruel Populism
John Chuckman
Israel’s Terrible Problem: Two States or One?
Matthew Stevenson
The Parallax View of Donald Trump
Stan Cox
Can the Climate Survive Electoral Democracy? Maybe. Can It Survive Capitalism? No.
Ramzy Baroud
The Trump-Netanyahu Circus: Now, No One Can Save Israel from Itself
Chuck Collins
Wall Street Hopes You’ve Forgotten the Crash Already
Edward Hunt
The United States of Permanent War
Pete Dolack
The Bait and Switch of Public-Private Partnerships
Elliot Sperber
Why Resistance is Insufficient
Brian Cloughley
What are You Going to Do About Afghanistan, President Trump?
Binoy Kampmark
Warring in the Oncology Ward
Yves Engler
Remembering the Coup in Ghana
Jeremy Brecher
“Climate Kids” v. Trump: Trial of the Century Pits Trump Climate Denialism Against Right to a Climate System Capable of Sustaining Human Life”
Franklin Lamb
Another Small Step for Syrian Refugee Children in Beirut’s “Aleppo Park”
Ron Jacobs
The Realist: Irreverence Was Their Only Sacred Cow
Robert Koehler
Costa Rica’s Peace Journey
Andre Vltchek
Lock up England in Jail or an Insane Asylum!
Paul DeRienzo
Three Years Since the Kitty Litter Disaster at Waste Isolation Pilot Plant
Eric Sommer
Organize Workers Immigrant Defense Committees!
Steve Cooper
A Progressive Agenda
Andrew Stewart
The 4CHAN Presidency: A Media Critique of the Alt-Right
Edward Leer
Tripping USA: The Chair
Nyla Ali Khan
One Certain Effect of Instability in Kashmir is the Erosion of Freedom of Expression and Regional Integration
Rob Hager
The Only Fake News That Probably Threw the Election to Trump was not Russian 
Mark Dickman
The Prophet: Deutscher’s Trotsky
Christopher Brauchli
The Politics of the Toilet Police
Charles R. Larson
Review: Timothy B. Tyson’s “The Blood of Emmett Till”
February 23, 2017
Dave Brotherton
Trump, Moral Panics and Resistance
Jonathan Cook
One State: Trump Has Reminded Palestinians What It Was Always About
Bill Quigley
Ten Examples of Direct Resistance to Stop Government Raids
Linn Washington Jr.
Bigot Boy Business: Trump Exposes His Ignorance and Intolerance, Again
John W. Whitehead
The Illusion of Freedom: the Police State Is Alive and Well
Ralph Nader
Restricting People’s Use of Their Courts
David Macaray
Women As Labor Union Organizers
Kathy Kelly
Friendship in Defiance of War
Doug Weir
Why Did the US Use Depleted Uranium Weapons in Syria?
Steve Horn
Former GOP Congressional Staffer Follows Revolving Door, Now Latest Keystone XL Lobbyist
Binoy Kampmark
From Rights to Repentance: Norma McCorvey and Roe v Wade
Thomas Knapp
The Target of the “Border Adjustment Tax” is You
Chris Zinda
Open Letter to Neoliberal Environmentalists
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail