Politics in the Dismal Season


It’s June, and the political air is full of humbug. That’s not surprising — it is at most seasons — but the difference in the two official parties on the matter is. The Republican program is not exactly humbug, though expressed in obfuscating terms, while the Democratic program is.

The Republican program remains the “War on Terrorism,” which many on the left (and John Edwards) have called a fraud, but in fact the description is accurate although euphemistic. The Republican administration today is conducting real, not metaphorical war against all who actively oppose American control of the governments of SW Asia and NE Africa, in order to control the region’s energy resources, the key to the world economy. Of course these opponents are called indifferently “terrorists,” although their methods don’t differ fundamentally from American methods, and thus we have a war on terrorism rather than a “War on Anti-Imperialism.”

Similarly, two generations ago in SE Asia, the American program was accurately described by the “Domino Theory,” despite efforts by American liberals to describe the theory as false. In those days our government killed millions of people in peasant societies in Indochina because they refused to accept the political and economic regimes that we had picked out for them. We feared that successful defiance of US wishes would spread — like falling dominoes knocking over others — and so had to be prevented in Vietnam. The CIA-directed massacre of a million opponents of what became our client government in Indonesia in 1965 was presented as mutually justifying and justified by the war in Vietnam, in terms of the Domino Theory. (Of course then the enemy was presented as communism, for which the Reagan administration had to substitute terrorism, owing to the desuetude of official Marxism-Leninism.)

This week in the War on Terrorism US warships shelled mountain villages in the jungle of northern Somalia. They also apparently used cruise missiles, which (although we’ve almost forgotten) the Clinton administration used against Iraq and Sudan, resulting in the deaths of thousands in the latter country. This week the semi-autonomous region of Puntland in Somalia apparently asked the US for help against a group of jihadis, perhaps refugees from the popular government of Somalia, the Islamic Courts Union, overthrown by Ethiopia at American direction. This attack was at least the third carried out by US military forces in the region since the US-backed invasion.

The New York Times last Saturday carried an article by Stephanie Strom and Lydia Polgreen that had to be read between the lines even more than usual, but when that was done the article revealed the humbug of the Save Darfur Coalition, an Israeli lobby front group active in the US. NGOs working in Darfur say that the moneys collected by the coalition go to demonizing an “Arab” government — consistent with the US-Israeli propaganda campaign in the region — rather than aiding refugees from the rebellion in the west of the country. The US is engaged in a contest with China over African oil, and the World Bank, under neocon direction and acting as a agent of American policy, is losing the battle for influence in Africa to the Chinese. Only the US uses the term genocide in regard to Darfur, and the article draws a direct parallel with the use of the charge of genocide to justify the Clinton administration’s attack on Kosovo. Former Clinton administration officials have been calling for US military action against Sudan on that model.

David Green writes bitterly but accurately–

“Jewish organizations offer the service to American elites of distracting attention from their motives and crimes, and profiting from the credibility of the association of the “genocide” in Darfur with the Holocaust. It’s really nothing more than an extension of what Finkelstein calls the “Holocaust Industry,” and ultimately it is about supporting the U.S.-Israel agenda. Other organizations are given the choice of either joining or being perceived as insensitive to the legacy of the Holocaust, which is “never again” selectively applied. They either willingly join, cave, or silently abstain without questioning the obviously cynical motives involved (it is considered impolite to question the motives). The Jewish leaders who started Save Darfur care no more about dead Africans now than they did when they supported South African-Israeli supplied rampagers in Mozambique and Angola in the 1980s, who killed millions. Their campaign is in no way intended to be effective … Chinese influence is arguably the major factor in play here, and will only be countered by military intervention, to the detriment of those in Darfur.”

In Iraq, the month of May saw the deaths of at least 127 Americans — and 14 more dead American soldiers the first weekend of June. Meanwhile, the US government casually admitted what has been generally known but not acknowledged in US politics: they have no intention of ever leaving Iraq, despite various talk of withdrawal. The model, it was said, is Korea, where the US has 30,000 troops to this day, more than fifty years after establishing an acceptable government in the Korean civil war. Perhaps significantly, the US military in Iraq began using the term cease-fire at the end of May. Although personalities come and go and party control of the government seems to change, US policy remains remarkably consistent over time.

Thus the Democratic program is obviously humbug, especially among those Democratic candidates who announce themselves as anti-war or in favor of withdrawal. Voted in last fall to end the war, the Democrats have labored through the winter to neutralize the anti-war sentiment of two-thirds of the American people. Their efforts bore fruit in what is being called the “Memorial Day Betrayal,” as a majority of Democrats in the Congress voted to give the administration all the money it wants to kill people in the Middle East. The cynicism was particularly notable when — once the Democrats pro-war majority was established in the Senate — the presidential candidates Clinton and Obama were allowed to cast meaningless grandstanding votes against funding — which of course they had not worked to oppose. As conservative war critic Prof. (and formerly Col.) Andrew Bacevich said after his son had died in Iraq last month, “What kind of democracy is this when the people do speak and the people’s voice is unambiguous — but nothing happens?”

We should be clear that the humbug wasn’t just fecklessness from the Democrats — they worked hard to see that nothing happened. Some Democrats say clearly that by withdrawal they mean re-missioning, whereby the US retains control in Iraq from its billion-dollar embassy and permanent bases while expanding the war in Afghanistan (“the real war on terror”). Some such as Obama continue with hysterical threats against Iran (aided by the press), far beyond the the more temperate comments of the head of the US Central Command, Admiral Fallon, and even the Secretary of State (who nevertheless tried to prevent the EU from actually talking to the Iranians this week).

It was Democratic humbug on the war, said Cindy Sheehan in a Memorial Day message, that prompted her to retire from the peace movement. Now, in order to distract from their non-feasance on the war, the Democrats are hawking health care, which they think is a winning issue for them. It’s obviously a real concern for Americans, as it has been since the Democrats started hawking it sixty years ago.

Senator Obama announced a plan this week, and it’s humbug. He had the temerity to call it “universal heath care,” but it’s simply a plan like those of Clinton and Edwards, which at best would require people to have health insurance the way we’re now required to have auto insurance. Romney, the Republican candidate, actually instituted such a plan when he was governor of Massachusetts. These plans should not be confused with the systems of government-paid health care in, say, Canada and France, where you’re treated on the basis of how sick you are, not how well-off you are. Obama’s plan would simply guarantee that big insurance companies and HMOs would be paid, on the bipartisan principle that if you want to do anything in our increasingly unequal society, you have to pay the rich people first. And it would be done largely though employers, who would therefore continue to have an even more effective control over their workers than wages (i.e., how can you strike for higher wages when you might lose your health insurance?)

I once knew a bartender who made what he called a June Bug: vodka, coconut rum, melon liqueur, orange juice and some lime juice. Depending on the quantities used, it came out a dollar green or a muddy brown. Seems about right for the seasonal humbug.

Carl Estabrook is a retired visiting professor at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign. He conducts weekly radio programs on WEFT-Champaign 90.1 FM. He can be reached at carl@newsfromneptune.com.