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“President Obama never ceases to amaze. He can’t fire teachers and tomahawks at the same time,” but he did it, as Jon Stewart said. (Daily Show March 22) The domestic-needs budget will get sliced, Obama repeatedly stated the government has no money, and then ordered the armed forces to fire hundreds of tomahawk and cruise missiles – and the US lost a jet bomber. The Tomahawk replacement cost for the first day of firing alone will cost upwards of $71 million (Fox.com March 20). The first week of “no-fly-zone” war against Libya could cost $1 billion.
He flew to Brazil and there announced he had found this new war opportunity, which he couldn’t resist. One Washington cynic thought Obama had a secret agenda: to replace Henry Kissinger as the most unworthy Nobel Peace Prize recipient in history.
Brazilian President Roussef stated her strong opposition to using military means in Libya and Brazil abstained on the UN resolution authorizing armed intervention. Breaking political protocol, Obama used his visit there to justify his new war. Disrespectful? Insensitive? Or just another ugly American performance?
As war raged in Libya, Obama signed a nuclear energy pact with Chilean President Piñera just as the Japanese government informed Tokyo residents of dangerous radiation levels in their drinking water and spinach.
Obama waxed eloquent on the marvels of increased trade between the US and its Latin American neighbors, but probably forgot that some of those big Latin American sales were for large weapons shipments, a primary export of our great country. He also vowed to pursue the drug war through a rehab and education focus, without mentioning that tens of millions of US users – not addicts – will not avail themselves of such services and that attempting to spray crops and catch narco-traffickers has yielded zilch (not the name of a new drug) – but only for a little more than a century. Hey, give ‘em time.
Chile shows, he orated, it is possible “to transition from
dictatorship to democracy — and to do so peacefully.” He wasn’t old enough to remember how in September 1973 the US government helped Chileans make the transition from democracy to dictatorship. But General Pinochet and his military fascists only ruled for 17 years, four years longer than Hitler. Needless to say Obama did not refer to the democratically elected government of Dr. Salvador Allende that the US government helped overthrow through force and violence.
Nor did he opine on US spooks and cops, diplomats and bankers rushing to support military dictatorships in Argentina, Brazil, Uruguay, Paraguay and much of Central America. Over decades they slaughtered, tortured and exiled their dissenters. The US closed its doors to most of those fleeing from those nasty US-backed dictatorships.
He refrained from telling how US troops invaded the Dominican Republic. In Haiti, US diplomats kidnapped and exiled its president. Indeed, after seven years of forced exile, the twice-ousted Haitian President Jean Bertrand Aristide almost didn’t return home. As Air Force One headed south with the first “black” President, the White House tried to persuade South Africa to keep Aristide from boarding a plane for his native Haiti.
Exiles also eluded Obama’s speech. That ugly stuff belongs in history’s garbage can where its redolence cannot spoil the sweet rhetoric of democracy. Reality is a bit different unless democracy includes narco-states (Mexico, Colombia, Central America) whereby tens of thousands die in gun battles, or pervasive malnutrition, lack of medical care and jobs that plague the lower continent. For Obama, the stain on this near-perfect hemisphere is Cuba.
As President Raul Castro freed the last political prisoner arrested in 2003 for taking money, goods and services from the US government, and announced a vast expansion of privatization, Obama demanded: “Cuban authorities must take some meaningful actions to respect the basic rights of their own people — not because the United States insists upon it, but because the people of Cuba deserve it, no less than the people of the United States or Chile or Brazil or any other country deserve it.”
During the few days he spent south of the border, he used political platitudes that resonate with a 2012 re-election campaign. He enunciated new “solidarity” without reference to Latin American regional economic, political and military collaboration — without their northern Big Brother’s help.
Even in the last stop of his presidential tour, in El Salvador, Obama avoided Latin America’s issues, like how printing ever more US dollars devalues the dollar supply in these countries. He also avoided talking about how US protectionist policies worked against Latin American exports, and how US subsidies for agri-business screwed Latin American agriculture.
A Univision journalist in San Salvador asked Obama about Operation “Fast and Furious.” No one had briefed him on how DEA agents provided Mexican narco-trafficking gangs with high-powered weapons with hidden GPS signals so the Mexican army could locate and destroy the gangs. Oops! The gangs removed the devices.
Obama reassured Salvadorans that those anti-drug smoothies — forget their tiny error in Mexico — would invest $200 million to set up a fool proof “regional security initiative” to stop drug trafficking, gang violence and Central American migration to the United States.
Democracy will get strengthened by military and drug agencies: the new US solidarity with South America.
Change you can believe in!
Saul Landau’s film WILL THE REAL TERRORIST PLEASE STAND UP featuring the Cuban 5 is distributed by cinemalibrestudio.com. Counterpunch A/K published his BUSH AND BOTOX WORLD
Nelson Valdes is Professor Emeritus, University of New Mexico.