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Democrats’ Hegemonic Cadence

Kerry, Personification of Team Obama

by NORMAN POLLACK

Cadence—rhythmical motion (compulsive, sustained intervention), also a concluding and usually falling strain (the end of America’s unilateral global dominance, as both the world’s power system becomes de-centered and US decay, through a surfeit of militarism at the expense of the nation’s general health and well-being, sets in). John Kerry, not in identity crisis, but reflecting accurately the continuity in American foreign policy, which seems to agree with him, a US Tony Blair carrying water for a POTUS himself water carrier for the American ruling class.

Continuity: Kerry, Hilary in pants, Hilary, Kerry in skirt, unisex in the execution of war, intervention, regime change—i.e., the neutralization of gender even as Hilary prepares to ride the Gender Issue into the presidency. (Similarly, on Team Obama, Susan Rice and John Brennan, interchangeable on policy, a unisex endorsement of repression, termed “liberal humanitarian” for one, “just wars” the other—with Rice, a stellar addition to the Team for her “twofer” characteristic, female and black, adding to the unisex a unirace dimension, showing blacks can be just as reactionary and as repressive as whites.) With sex and race made irrelevant, although still used tactically to promote the image of progressive conduct, thought, and values, Obama throws liberal glitter on what I maintain is, at the least, a protofascistic political-economic-ideological framework, the perfect setting for Kerry to do his mischief, as recently as the last several days.

***

On June 22 he meets with Sisi, who overthrew Morsi in a military coup, and in his short term thus far as Egyptian president has murdered and imprisoned large numbers of the Muslim Brotherhood, cracked down heavily on liberal and dissenting demonstrations, and the day after Kerry’s departure jailed three reporters from the Al Jazerra network for alleged subversion. Morsi remains in jail. This is a suitable background for the renewal of military aid to the government and the whitewashing/legitimation of its actions. We find Kerry, from Swift Boat fame to toadying to military dictatorships, Obama indulgently looking on—no, authorizing, as is his wont and prerogative in the case of drone assassinations, support for repression. Here the New York Times, in a surprisingly balanced statement, offers context for the visit, in David Kirkpatrick and Michael Gordon’s article, “Kerry Says U.S. Is Ready to Renew Ties With Egypt,” (June 22), which begins, Kerry “signaled Sunday that the Obama administration was ready to repair relations with Egypt under President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, the former general who led last year’s military takeover.” Given The Times’s sympathies in the matter, be thankful for the last clause.

Kerry becomes a test case of my proposition, America’s protofascism, threatening however to achieve fuller efflorescence. Following his meeting with the military dictator (Sisi received 97% of the vote in a sham election, preceded by widespread suppression of the opposition), Kerry stated in a Cairo news conference that he reaffirmed America’s “historic partnership” with Egypt—this after the brutal record of the regime, and he goes on, in true moral vacuity, “We want to see the people of Egypt succeed,” so he and Sisi discussed “most importantly, our mutual determination for our countries to work together in partnership.” This mutual determination was reinforced by “the first tranche of the $1.3 billion in annual aid…to the military,” after a delay, with Kerry’s own exuberant cheerleading, “I am absolutely confident we will get on track here,” meaning approval of “a previously suspended shipment of 10 Apache helicopter gunships that the Egyptian military has been especially eager for,” a not-harmless weaponry in the war against Sisi’s own countrymen. Not to be deterred, Kerry enthused that in addition to the military aid, he was confident that, in his words, “the Apaches will come, and that they will come very, very soon.”

This is Obama’s White House, a safe haven for international dictatorship, Secretaries of State always to the rescue. On Egypt’s economy, Obama and the US are, Kerry states, “committed to be helpful.” The reporters wryly comment: “Three years after Mr. Obama called publicly for President Hosni Mubarak to bow to the Arab Spring uprising demanding his ouster, Mr. Kerry’s remarks appeared to suggest that the administration is now ready to work with another military-backed strongman.” The 97% vote failed to induce Washington’s caution. Instead, we see the time-honored ploy: sanction repression while meekly pleading for human rights—themselves cancelled by, among other things, Apache helicopter gunships. So, they note, “work with Egypt’s new military-backed government while urging it to improve its record on human rights”—my belief here that they swallow the reasoning hook, line, and sinker, as in quoting Kerry after his presumed tacit admission of, in their words, the government’s “authoritarian record, including its heavy-handed crackdown on both the Islamist opposition and liberal or leftist dissenters.” Given the background, Kerry’s words in Cairo appear either blind to repression or massively deceitful: “I emphasized also our strong support for upholding the universal rights and freedoms of all Egyptians, including freedom of expression, peaceful assembly and association.” Ergo (my addition), military aid to quell social disturbances, prevent free elections, negate democracy in all its rudiments and essentials.

Kerry is certainly a greater talker—for home consumption. The reporters say his 90-minute discussion with Sisi covered such topics as the journalists awaiting sentencing the next day (we learn hours ago they got seven years, plus one had three additional years on another charge), “hurried mass trials that had handed death sentences to more than a dozen senior leaders of the Islamist opposition and hundreds of their supporters,” and “the government’s criminalization of membership in the Muslim Brotherhood, the Islamist group whose party dominated the recent free elections but has since been excluded from politics.” One can see why my praise for the account, bringing these points out, but it is extremely doubtful Kerry used the same blunt language with Sisi the reporters use here. Instead, he mealy-mouth observes: “There is no question that Egyptian society is stronger when all its citizens have a say and a stake in its success.” What the statement does not mention is that its citizens to have a say and a stake must behave, i.e., conform to the dictates of the military, an underlying premise Kerry used the very next day with respect to Iraq: an all-inclusive government, predicated on following the dictates and wishes of the American-approved government (with the US’s unconvincing denial that it is playing favorites or interfering).

A footnote to the above, the reporters write: “The day before Mr. Kerry arrived, riot police officers with tear gas and clubs had worked in tandem with plainclothes supporters throwing bricks and bottles to break up a march by liberal groups demanding only the right to demonstrate; dozens were arrested.” No wonder the Egyptian military was “especially eager” for the Apache gunships. The real wonder is that Kerry is getting away with murder (I take that to be understood literally) in his guise as a liberal statesman, for obviously apprised of the domestic situation , he say at the news conference: “I think we really found ourselves on a similar page of changes that have yet to be made, promises that have yet to be fulfilled…[adding there was] a serious sense of purpose and commitment by both of us [himself and Sisi] to try to help achieve these goals.”

***

Puddle-jumping from Cairo to Baghdad, in fine fettle, Kerry is the bringer of democracy and freedom to benighted lands, now Iraq. But first, perhaps even while in flight, the Egyptian court, held of all places, inside Tora prison, has rendered its verdict, showing in resounding terms the emptiness of his and Sisi’s words. The journalists’ trial provides a searching microcosm of Egyptian justice, Obama-Kerry sanctified through intended military-economic disbursements, which would gladden the heart of totalitarian rulers anywhere. Kirkpatrick again, “Egyptian Court Convicts 3 Al Jazeera Journalists,” (June 23), cracks open this travesty of self-evident repression. Held in prison since December, without trial, without evidence, without counsel, on spurious charges of stirring up “civil strife,” the three, as noted, received sentences of seven years, the additional three-years tacked on to one because he possessed “a single spent bullet” as a souvenir. The reporter writes: “The case has drawn condemnation from international rights groups and Western governments because there was no publicly available evidence that the journalists had either supported the Brotherhood or broadcast anything inaccurate.”

Various ambassadors to Egypt protested the verdict outside the court, the US ambassador not among them. How could it be otherwise? Kerry the day before praised Sisi, saying the latter “gave me a very strong sense of commitment…[for] a re-evaluation of human rights legislation…[and] a re-evaluation of the judicial process.” At times diplomacy reads like a chapter written in hell. In a matter of hours after their discussion, the verdict was handed down—still no complaint from the State Department or POTUS. Of the journalists, all are “respected professionals” who worked for “established international news organizations,” one a Canadian citizen who previously worked for The Times, another, an Australian, for BBC, and “had spent only a few days in Egypt at the time of his arrest,” and the third, an Egyptian, for The Asahi Shimbun. When arrested, they worked for Al Jazerra in a “makeshift studio in a Marriott Hotel” and were depicted in the “state-run and pro-government Egyptian news media as ‘the Marriott cell.’” The judge “announced the verdict and sentences without explanation,” summary justice in the same vein, although milder in form, than Obama’s drone-targeted assassination which leaves a blood-spat where once stood a victim, no counsel, no charges, zap, next victim.

The mother of one defendant: “There is no hope in the judicial system. They give him seven years with no evidence—if they had evidence, how many years would they give him?” The Canadian ambassador: “There is no incriminating evidence with regard to the charges and there were multiple procedural shortcomings. Therefore, we do not understand this verdict.” The Australian foreign minister pronounced herself “shocked” by the verdict; “this kind of verdict does nothing to support Egypt’s claim to be on a transition to democracy.” And the director of Amnesty International: “The verdict provides further evidence that Egyptian authorities will stop at nothing in the ruthless campaign to crush anyone who challenges the official narrative, regardless of how questionable the evidence against them is.” As the Committee to Protect Journalists made clear, “as many as fifteen journalists [remained] in Egyptian prisons.” These were less high-profile cases, journalists from smaller outlets, who languished in prison, none to take up their cases. Further, Kirkpatrick points out (updating the previous account): “More than a thousand Islamist demonstrators were killed by security forces at street protests within a few weeks of the takeover, and at least 16,000 have been arrested.” Not a peep from the White House, and Kerry, the record clear, can only mouth platitudes about rapproachement and the pious hope—contradicted by the facts—of some improvement. Finally: “A spokesman for the Egyptian government declined to comment on the sentences, and there was no indication that there would be an imminent pardon or commutation of the sentences.”

My NYT Comment on the article, same date, follows:

Coming as it does after Kirkpatrick and Gordon’s fine piece on Kerry’s meeting with Sisi in Cairo, this conviction testifies to the absolute phoniness of both Kerry and Sisi, both mouthing platitudes about the commitment to democracy. I’m not surprised, given Obama’s record of regard for dictatorships and Kerry’s lap-dog role as his chief apologist (taking over that function from Hilary). These journalists, imprisoned since December, were convicted without a shred of evidence presented in court (the judge in sunglasses making a mockery of things judicial). It is worth noting that various ambassadors were there to protest the convictions, the US ambassador NOT being one of them.

The Obama-Kerry charade about democracy, when the Egyptian case is so obviously repressive, will not go unnoticed in world circles. But what about The Times, when freedom of the press is so clearly at stake? Will it finally censure Obama and Kerry, or keep giving free passes to an administration wholly out of sympathy with civil liberties?

***

On his arrival in Baghdad Kerry could not have been pleased, as explained in the NYT article by Alissa Rubin and Michael Gordon, “Iraq’s Military Unlikely to Turn the Tide,” (June 23), in which they write of the situation: “As Iraqi Army forces try to rally on the outskirts of Baghdad after two weeks of retreat, it has become increasingly clear to Western officials that the army will continue to suffer losses in its fight with Sunni militants and will not soon retake the ground it has ceded.” So goes Iraq, about as cruel to the people there (we speak often of our “sacrifice of blood and treasure,” but seldom of the moral and physical devastation the US has wrought in deaths and the disruptions of the living) as it was pure evil in conception and execution. The litany of failure continues: “Recent assessments by Western officials and military experts indicate that about a quarter of Iraq’s military forces are ‘combat ineffective,’ its air force is minuscule, morale among troops is low and its leadership suffers from widespread corruption.” Then the reporters’ premonitory note, America’s increasing isolation as well as the ineffectual nature of its efforts (one wonders what Obama’s promise of 300 advisers would achieve, and whether therefore he is deceiving the public by planning a more extensive intervention): “As other nations consider whether to support military action in Iraq, their decision will hinge on the quality of Iraqi forces which have proved far more ragged than expected given years of American training.”

The picture looks dark. ISIS fighters “are consolidating their gains, extending their hold on Euphrates River valley towns, securing access routes between their bases in Syria and the front lines in Iraq, and pressuring other Sunni groups to fight with them.” PM Maliki meanwhile does little, refusing to bring about an inclusive government or acknowledge Sunni rights. Sources speak on condition of anonymity: “Our army soldiers are really down” (one commander); “The momentum is with ISIS” (Western official); five of the army’s 14 divisions were “combat ineffective” (American officials’ assessment). Volunteers are proving a disaster, “killed or wounded in ambush.” In sum, “From the point of view of Iraqi army officers, they are in a desperate situation: ill-equipped against an enemy they say they were not trained to fight.”

What happened to all those years of US engagement? America is incapable of admitting wrongdoing, but the signs are present, as in ISIS’s liberation of 800 prisoners from Abu Ghraib and another 2,500 from Badoosh prison in Mosul, many of whom joined the cause. My point, for now, is that the US to cover its losses (knee-jerk dedication to prestige, reputation as superpower qua unilateral hegemon), it will be loathe to let go. Three hundred advisers, Obama biding his time; the public forgets from day to day.

My NYT Comment on the article, same date, follows:

Blowback, anyone? American intervention created the basis for the Iraqi civil war. Bush-Obama continuity of policy implicates both as war criminals, responsible for the needless deaths of tens of thousands. The US had no business intervening in the first place–and of course will not now or never, admit its cruelty and stupidity. More “advisers,” more continued dumb moves, as in Kerry’s readiness to recognize Sisi and continued aid to the rebel forces in Syria (which undoubtedly strengthened ISIS).

Pursuit of global hegemony in a world no longer shaped by US-defined globalization is worse than madness; moral emptiness, more likely. When will this all stop, Obama and his team of national security advisers, backed by his program of massive domestic surveillance to keep the American public fearful and submissive, are now prepared to take on Russia and China, singly or together, risking nuclear annihilation for the world’s people.

No end in sight, the US determined to stay on top at all costs, rather than be a respectful, sharing world citizen, satisfied with acceptance of others’ aspirations and the guidance of international law and organization, rather than unilateral demands for superiority. Yes, blowback. Soon, even the EU will get out from under, rather than follow US desires to further pressure Russia. As for Obama’s Pacific-first strategy TPP, the plan is wild, opportunist, and irresponsible–much like his administration.

***

The moment of truth, succinctly put in the title of Michael Gordon’s NYT article, “Kerry Says ISIS Threat Could Hasten Military Action,” (June 23), has arrived. In a matter of hours, we see Obama’s betrayal of the American public: open talk that more than advisers are needed, for, after all, losing face is of greater importance than killing large numbers of civilians, the signature of drones plus aircraft from carriers in the Persian gulf which are already present. The chorus in Iraq calling for a US presence is becoming louder. Maliki is promising a new government in July, yet time is of the essence (i.e., rush through action before it can be halted.) Gordon: “Winding up a day of crisis talks with Iraqi leaders, Secretary of State Kerry said on Monday [June 23] that the Sunni militants seizing territory in Iraq had become such a threat that the United States might not wait for Iraqi politicians to form a new government before taking military action.”

The seeds are planted. “They [ISIS] do pose a threat….That’s why, again, I reiterate the president will not be hampered if he deems it necessary if the formation is not complete.” Discussions with key politicians, Kerry “try[ing] to hasten that political process.” A glimpse of reality: “In a news conference after the meetings at the heavily fortified American Embassy,” he urged action—from behind the thick walls. But the US is, and presumably always has been, impartial as to the complexion of the regime: “So great are the concerns that Mr. Kerry stressed on Monday that if American action is taken soon—President Obama has said that he is considering airstrikes—it should not be interpreted as a gesture of political support for Mr. Maliki’s Shiite-dominated government, but rather as a strike against the ISIS militants.” Bombs away!

Norman Pollack has written on Populism. His interests are social theory and the structural analysis of capitalism and fascism. He can be reached at pollackn@msu.edu.