FacebookTwitterRedditEmail

Slavery, War and Presidential Politics

As I watched “unity” take hold of the Democratic Party this week, the believer in me wanted to be imbibe it — bottoms up.

Michelle Obama ignited the crowd. “That is the story of this country,” she said. “The story that has brought me to the stage tonight. The story of generations of people who felt the lash of bondage, the shame of servitude, the sting of segregation, who kept on striving, and hoping, and doing what needed to be done.”

And the Big Party opened its arms.

“So that today, I wake up every morning in a house that was built by slaves.”

Slaves?

Wow. I can remember when we didn’t talk like this in public, especially not on a national stage. Acknowledging slavery — at a profound level, in all its immorality — is so much deeper than simply acknowledging racism, which can be reduced to the behavior of ignorant people. But the ownership of human bodies and human souls, total control over people’s lives and the lives of their children, was inscribed in law. And such ownership was a core principle of the “greatest country on earth,” embedded in the economy, embraced by the Founding Fathers with no questions asked.

This isn’t just “history.” It’s wrong. Indeed, the United States of America came into being with a damaged soul. That was the implication packed into Michelle Obama’s words.

But no more, no more. The wild cheers she received when her speech ended seemed to acknowledge a long-, long-delayed public desire for atonement. We’ve become a country that can acknowledge its wrongs and right them.

And electing Hillary Clinton as president — the message continued — would be a further step along this journey toward full equality of all human beings. The Democratic Party has found its unity and stands for what matters.

If only . . .

I can take the infomercial aspect of all this — the pumped fists, the roar of victory, the clichés of American greatness emanating from one speech after another, even the endless media reduction of democracy to horse-race stats — but I am a long way from being aboard the Hillary bandwagon. And despite the lurking specter of Trumpenstein, I remain unconvinced that this year — come on, man, this year — the candidate of the lesser evil is the one I have to vote for.

And I’m not even speaking as a rebellious Berniecrat.

While I remain in awe of what the Bernie Sanders campaign has accomplished in the past year, even Bernie has not articulated, and fails to embody, the fullness of the revolution that has propelled his candidacy beyond all expectation.

“It’s no secret that Hillary and I disagree on a number of issues. That’s what democracy is all about!” Bernie said on the opening night of the Democratic National Convention, standing solidly for real political even change as he called for party unity and endorsed Hillary.

He also said: “This election is about ending gross levels of income inequality” and called for serious Wall Street reform, containment of the billionaire class, free state college tuition and the expansion of various social programs.

What he failed to call for is, at the very least, a discussion of the disastrous consequences and hemorrhaging costs of the American war machine, which is the primary cause of the nation’s social impoverishment.

What I’m certain of is that the revolution Sanders has fomented is grounded, in the hearts of his supporters, in the transcendence of war as much as it is grounded in the hellish wrongs of racism and slavery. This wrong is not only part of the deep past, beginning with the conquest of and genocide against the continent’s original inhabitants, but it is alive, economically entrenched and wreaking planetary havoc today. And we can’t even talk about it.

Over the past quarter century, neocons and military-industrialists have vanquished Vietnam Syndrome and the public opposition to war, achieving the solidification of endless war.

“There was significant opposition to the First Gulf War — 22 senators and 183 reps voted against it, including Sanders — but not enough to stop the march to war,” Nicolas J.S. Davies wrote last October on Huffington Post. “The war became a model for future U.S.-led wars and served as a marketing display for a new generation of U.S. weapons. After treating the public to endless bombsight videos of ‘smart bombs’ making ‘surgical strikes,’ U.S. officials eventually admitted that such ‘precision’ weapons were only 7 percent of the bombs and missiles raining down on Iraq. The rest were good old-fashioned carpet-bombing, but the mass slaughter of Iraqis was not part of the marketing campaign. When the bombing stopped, U.S. pilots were ordered to fly straight from Kuwait to the Paris Air Show, and the next three years set new records for U.S. weapons exports. . . .

“Meanwhile, U.S. officials crafted new rationalizations for the use of U.S. military force to lay the ideological groundwork for future wars.”

And Barack Obama’s military budget is the largest ever. When you factor in all military-related spending, Davies points out, the annual cost of U.S. militarism is over a trillion dollars.

Before the value of this spending is addressed, the fact of it has to be acknowledged. And no presidential candidate without the courage to do at least this — open a discussion about the costs and consequences of war — deserves my vote, or yours.

More articles by:

Robert Koehler is a Chicago award-winning journalist and editor.

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550
Weekend Edition
December 06, 2019
Friday - Sunday
Jeffrey St. Clair
Eat an Impeachment
Matthew Hoh
Authorizations for Madness; The Effects and Consequences of Congress’ Endless Permissions for War
Jefferson Morley
Why the Douma Chemical Attack Wasn’t a ‘Managed Massacre’
Andrew Levine
Whatever Happened to the Obama Coalition?
Paul Street
The Dismal Dollar Dems and the Subversion of Democracy
Dave Lindorff
Conviction and Removal Aren’t the Issue; It’s Impeachment of Trump That is Essential
Ron Jacobs
Law Seminar in the Hearing Room: Impeachment Day Six
Linda Pentz Gunter
Why Do We Punish the Peacemakers?
Louis Proyect
Michael Bloomberg and Me
Robert Hunziker
Permafrost Hits a Grim Threshold
Joseph Natoli
What We Must Do
Evaggelos Vallianatos
Global Poison Spring
Robert Fantina
Is Kashmir India’s Palestine?
Charles McKelvey
A Theory of Truth From the South
Walden Bello
How the Battle of Seattle Made the Truth About Globalization True
Evan Jones
BNP Before a French Court
Norman Solomon
Kerry’s Endorsement of Biden Fits: Two Deceptive Supporters of the Iraq War
Torsten Bewernitz – Gabriel Kuhn
Syndicalism for the Twenty-First Century: From Unionism to Class-Struggle Militancy
Matthew Stevenson
Across the Balkans: From Banja Luka to Sarajevo
Thomas Knapp
NATO is a Brain Dead, Obsolete, Rabid Dog. Euthanize It.
Forrest Hylton
Bolivia’s Coup Government: a Far-Right Horror Show
M. G. Piety
A Lesson From the Danes on Immigration
Ellen Isaacs
The Audacity of Hypocrisy
Monika Zgustova
Chernobyl, Lies and Messianism in Russia
Manuel García, Jr.
From Caesar’s Last Breath to Ours
Binoy Kampmark
Going to the ICJ: Myanmar, Genocide and Aung San Suu Kyi’s Gamble
Jill Richardson
Marijuana and the Myth of the “Gateway Drug”
Muzamil Bhat
Srinagar’s Shikaras: Still Waters Run Deep Losses
Gaither Stewart
War and Betrayal: Change and Transformation
Farzana Versey
What Religion is Your Nationalism?
Clark T. Scott
The Focus on Trump Reveals the Democrat Model
Kollibri terre Sonnenblume
Do Bernie’s Supporters Know What “Not Me, Us” Means? Does Bernie?
Peter Harley
Aldo Leopold, Revisited
Winslow Myers
A Presidential Speech the World Needs to Hear
Christopher Brauchli
The Chosen One
Jim Britell
Misconceptions About Lobbying Representatives and Agencies
Ted Rall
Trump Gets Away with Stuff Because He Does
Mel Gurtov
Hong Kong, Xinjiang, and the Insecurity of China’s Leadership
Nicky Reid
Dennis Kucinich, Tulsi Gabbard and the Slow Death of the Democratic Delusion
Tom H. Hastings
Cross-Generational Power to Change
John Kendall Hawkins
1619: The Mighty Whitey Arrives
Julian Rose
Why I Don’t Have a Mobile Phone
David Yearsley
Parasitic Sounds
Elliot Sperber
Class War is Chemical War
December 05, 2019
Colin Todhunter
Don’t Look, Don’t See: Time for Honest Media Reporting on Impacts of Pesticides
FacebookTwitterRedditEmail