Just a few questions


I watched the unveiling of Barack Obama’s “national security team,” and I have some questions for him.

Why is there not a single person on the team who opposed the invasion of Iraq in 2003? I’m not suggesting that every person you appoint should have been right about the war, but I think it’s reasonable to expect at least one non-hawk appointee. One of your main selling points in the campaign was that you were opposed to this war. I don’t see why your appointments shouldn’t reflect that position in some way.

Why should we put up with having Bush appointee Robert Gates continue at Defense? As an old crony of Reagan spook William Casey, he was deeply involved in Iran-Contra and other dirty covert operations. Under Gates, the corruption and looting by war contractors in Iraq has not abated. He continues to push for massive budget increases at Defense, which does not represent any change from the past. And what about all the Rumsfeld parasites still on the Pentagon staff? Do they stay too? Really, sir, are we supposed to believe that you can’t find anyone better than this Bush toady to run Defense? If there was one chance to show courage and determination in appointments, it would be the Pentagon. All this signals is more of the same. I consider any person who worked for Bush-Cheney as already morally compromised.

Speaking of the Pentagon, will you take a good hard look at cutting the Defense budget? I realize that it’s considered politically dangerous to do so, but I don’t think it’s a coincidence that we happen to be having an economic meltdown after throwing away our resources on an illegal war. The war industry is in fact a drag on the economy—we can have a strong defense without having to waste billions of dollars making weapons manufacturers filthy rich. Moderate cuts in the Defense budget, including clamping down on the massive waste and fraud, will be needed if we’re going to restore the economy. If we can’t challenge this sacred cow, all the economic stimulus packages in the world aren’t going to do the trick.

What about Blackwater and the other private mercenary forces that are a stain on our honor and a threat to freedom? Will you please cancel their contracts?

Will there be accountability for the crimes and corrupt practices of KBR and other Iraq War contractors who have been looting billions from our Treasury?

You have nominated Janet Napolitano to run Homeland Security. This is a huge department created as part of Bush’s so-called “War on Terror.” Are you planning on continuing this so-called “war” which by definition can never end? Do you support the Patriot Act, one of the key items in Bush’s attack on the Bill of Rights? Do you plan to continue the illegal NSA spying “program” which uses the pretense of “terrorist surveillance” to violate the rights of our own citizens? Why is it called “Homeland Security” anyway? This is colonialist language that implies that we have other lands to administer—couldn’t we just call it domestic security?

You have said that you oppose the shameful use of torture by the Bush-Cheney regime, and that torture will end under your administration. Will you also end the so-called “renditions” in which human beings are kidnapped and sent to other countries who then torture these prisoners? Will you end secret prisons and indefinite detention without charges? Will you call for the repeal of the Military Commissions Act, which denies the age-old right of habeas corpus and violates the Bill of Rights?

Will there be any accountability for the crimes against humanity committed by the Bush administration? Will there be investigations into the unlawful actions of these people? If not, doesn’t that send the message that future Presidents can fail to uphold their oaths of office without fear of any consequences? How does sweeping these crimes under the rug help this country to change for the better?

I noticed that there was no nomination for CIA director. Does that mean that Bush appointee Michael Hayden, who has supported all the illegal and immoral foreign policy doctrines of the Bush-Cheney regime, is staying on at CIA? Isn’t it time for thorough reform of the CIA, NSA, and other intelligence agencies, especially following a period when a covert agent’s identity was exposed for political reasons by the administration, with minimal consequences?

I hear you talking about the danger of Iran getting a nuclear weapon. Could we also talk about the danger of any country at all having a nuclear weapon? How can we tell other countries not to get nukes when we’re not doing anything to reduce our own? Are we supposed to think that somehow we have the moral right and the inherent ability to wield these weapons, but other countries don’t? Will you lead by example and create a plan for gradual de-escalation of our nuclear arsenal, thereby lending legitimacy to our professed concerns about proliferation?

I haven’t heard you or Hillary Clinton questioning any of the policies of the Israeli government. Why should criticizing these policies be taboo and equated with hating Israel or being antisemitic? We can criticize the Mexican government’s policies without being accused of hating Mexicans, can’t we? Are you willing to admit that the Palestinians have rights too? This endless conflict in the West Bank and Gaza doesn’t make me feel safer—it makes everybody less safe, in fact. What do you plan to do to help Israel and the Palestinians make peace?

American politicians have been talking about supporting freedom and democracy for as long as I can remember. Why, then, do we pump arms and money into repressive authoritarian governments such as Egypt, Indonesia, or Uzbekistan? Will you end funding of such regimes?

We still hear anti-Cuban rhetoric every election cycle. Yet we continue to treat China, a totalitarian government, as a favored nation. Will you challenge China on its numerous violations of human rights? Will you open dialogue with Cuba?

The Bush administration expressed constant contempt for the United Nations. Will your administration recommit to the principles of international law and cooperation? Will you accept the jurisdiction of the International Criminal Court, or will you continue the Bush policy of defying the court, the Geneva Conventions, and other international standards of human rights and responsibilities?

The World Bank and the International Monetary Fund have contributed to the drastic poverty and debt of the developing world by using so-called “neoliberal” economic policies to maintain the power and privileges of rich countries and international corporations. Would you consider policies of debt forgiveness for the Third World in order to free poor countries from burdens unfairly placed on their people by corrupt leaders? Would you oppose the predatory economic strategies of international corporations that are impoverishing millions in Latin America, Africa, and Asia?

I expect the answers to a lot of these questions are going to be “no.” I know that there are great political constraints on a President in this country. Some are theorizing that you are bringing the establishment under your tent so that you can govern with less disruption than previous Democratic presidents. You’ve proven yourself to be a brilliant politician, which is a definite plus if you really want to create change. Nevertheless, I think these questions need to be asked, because change has to involve the challenging of preconceptions. And the level of disintegration we are witnessing today, socially and economically, makes this even more vital. You talk about unity, and I appreciate the sentiment, but you know, there are powerful groups who don’t want anything more than a cosmetic change, if that. And they aren’t giving up without a fight. If you just give in to these interests without confronting them, I think that there won’t be a significant enough change. This is true in every area of policy, but since I’m focusing on national security in this case, I will say that we need to make peace our priority, first and foremost. That means shifting away from our war-based social and economic structures. That means letting go of the illusion that we can be the world’s policeman. That means ending the madness of trying to exploit the world’s resources and people for the exclusive benefit of the U.S. and the international corporate classes. That means coming to our senses and recognizing our country as a republic, a nation among nations, and not an empire or superpower.

I wish you luck. I hope you prove yourself worthy of your promises.


~ by cdash on December 3, 2008.

17 Responses to “Just a few questions”

  1. Excellent, excellent post, Dashiell.

    You know, there is a part of me that just doesn’t want to know the answers to all these really important questions. (And, to say “really important” with regard to those questions is probably understating it by several orders of magnitude.) And the reason I don’t want to hear the answers is because my gut is telling me that I’m not gonna like what I hear.

    But, like they say, he’s not even the president yet. And all presidents get the so-called “honeymoon.” well, all presidents except Bill Clinton who got none at all, but that’s besides the point.

    I think.

    Bottom line, you’ve summed these particularly issues up with a razor’s edge of clarity. Thanks.

  2. As Anita pointed out, he’s not the President yet. To expect him to address these things before 1/20 is premature. You raise valid questions which I hope will be addressed within the first 3-6 months of 2009. I don’t expect him to unravel W’s tangled ball of barbwire overnight.

    No, I’m not happy with his picks. But perhaps some of them just lacked the moral courage to oppose the war. With Obama as prez, maybe they will now. One can hope.

    Gates will only be there for a year. He’s a transition guy who Obama needs to bring him up to speed on all that’s going in Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan, Pakistan, etc. Two months isn’t enough time. Just pull out? Sure, fine by me, but Obama has to appease those with their fingers in the pie, not chop them off as I would. >:)

    Oh, there will never be peace between Israel and the Palestinians. People have tried for almost a century. Israel will defend its right to exist by any means necessary while its Arab neighbors refuse to recognize its right to exist. Time and time again efforts have failed. I don’t see either side ever budging from their positions. I’d rather Obama not waste time on it. I’m sorry if that’s sounds callous. I gave up hope long ago of that conflict ever being resolved. I’d love to be proven wrong though.

  3. Anointing the Borg Queen Secretary of State is very troubling to me.

    It must be a purely political decision on Obama’s part.

    Her paper-thin CV: a tissue of teas with foreign leaders while she was First Lady and her psychotic fantasy of dodging enemy sniper at the airport in Bosnia while Chelsea did yoga stretches on the tarmac 20 feet away, hardly makes her qualified to carry out the duties of the job.

    Personally, Bill Richardson’s CV is far more accomplished and I think he would have been a better choice.

    The good thing about Obama selecting the Borg Queen to be his Secretary of State is, Gov. David Patterson now has the chance to replace her with someone better who might actually do something for the people of New York.

    After 8 years as senator, the Borg Queen was MIA 2 of those years as she ran for president which translates into 25% of her time in office.

  4. Obama’s cabinet appointees are well-qualified, just not for the positions he appointed them to. Serving on a “strategic advisory board” at an offshore drilling company doesn’t qualify Richardson for Secretary of Commerce. Hillary would have made a great Secretary of HHS, but I don’t see what she brings to the table as SoS. I wanted Napolitano to be Attorney General, but what are her Homeland Security credentials?

    It’s like they’re throwing it in our faces that these appointments are purely symbolic. The critical issue I guess isn’t so much who Obama appoints, but who his cabinet members appoint to serve under them. The brains behind an operation are seldom the public faces–think Wolfowitz, Libby, David Addington, etc.

  5. Yes, he’s not President yet. But that doesn’t mean that questions should be saved for later. There’s a danger of falling into a complacent attitude regarding Obama. The Clinton administration proved that, without political pressure, a Democratic presidency can all too easily take the support of the “left” for granted, with a “Where else can they go?” attitude. Of course the times are different now, and there is a much more viable progressive movement in the U.S. than in the 90s (I suppose we can thank Bush for that, if we’re in the mood for irony), so I am more hopeful.
    If, as M.F. Voorhees suggests, the real brains are behind the appointed figureheads, there is still the likelihood that said brains will be from the same mold as the appointees. Wolfowitz, Libby, and Addington are, after all, creatures of either Cheney or the neocon network.
    In any case, my intent is not to be a mere spectator, swayed by alternating waves of hope and fear, but to present challenges to prevailing ideas, regardless of who happens to be occupying the White House.
    I attended a talk by Tom Hayden last night. He was surprisingly positive about Obama, in terms of opportunities presented. Two points he made that I found compelling: first, that if Obama is a centrist as he says he is, our job is to move the center to the left (just as the Repugs steadily moved it to the right from Reagan onwards); and secondly, that the volunteers and organizers who did the work on the ground to get Obama elected are overwhelmingly to the left of their candidate, which means that the new President, if he is politically astute, will need to retain the support of his grassroots.
    “Hope” and “change”–words pointing a direction to a goal. While on the road to the goal, other words are needed as well, namely “influence” and “challenge.”

  6. “In any case, my intent is not to be a mere spectator, swayed by alternating waves of hope and fear, but to present challenges to prevailing ideas, regardless of who happens to be occupying the White House.”

    Right on! As citizens, we have hold ALL elected officials to the same standards. I’m so over the generic “Proud-to-be-a-Democrat” clique, and their unique ability to transform every issue into a Right vs. Left game. If Obama turns out to be corrupt or incompetent, we damn well better call him out on it, just as we would Bush or Cheney. At the same time, it seems counterproductive to hold grudges against every official ever affiliated with the Bush administration. If Petraeus or Gates or some yet-to-be-named Republican makes positive steps toward peace in Iraq and/or Afghanistan, I hope the Left can learn to appreciate their contributions.

  7. Viewing from ‘offside’ I am impressed with your noting the absolute bafflegab that characterizes U.S. politics.
    I’m afraid the understating the challenge part is well taken, as I see a global pattern of reversion to the politics of those who ‘lost’ WW II – and disappeared with unimaginable amounts of wealth. Be that as it may, two links for the basics

  8. I agree with M Fred. It is high time we abandon all the party distinctions. This is the most important and complicated transitions from admin to admin we have ever witnessed (our lifetimes).
    I can understand the initial decision to keep on several key members of the Bush goon squad on the payroll. In this new era some old rules never change…Keep your enemies close.
    But the rubber meets the road when Guantanamo and the other covert ‘national security’ issues cross The President -Elect’s desk.
    “To, kill , torture, maim, bomb or not to kill… “

  9. Surely no one is surprised.

    As the election went on, Obama moved further, and further to the Right.

    What I can’t decide is, is it because Democrats are pussies, or, is it because they are in on it?

  10. Dashiell: This is amazing. I’m going to highlight it on my next Obama post. Or my last one. You absolutely hit all the high notes here.

    I like President Evo Morales of Bolivia on the same subject. He said: “Mr Obama, I like you and respect you and I know what you must be feeling because I’m the first Indigenous Bolivian to be elected president. I wish you well. But please leave us the fuck alone!”

  11. DASHIELL: I have a theory as to why Obama kept himself so far away from Jim Martin’s races against Chambliss. I believe that he has bought into the chickenhawk thing lock, stock and barrel and being around a guy like Martin who actually DID serve in Vietnam but who’s anti-war and PRO-VETERAN, PRO-SERVICE PERSON is kind of an embarrassing thing for Obama.

    That’s why he’s into all the brass and the neo-con stuff. For those guys, the more chickenhawks in politics the better.

  12. ClapSo is distraught. He sees this election as a farce which left a hawk in charge when people tried to delude themselves that he wasn’t : simply because McCain/Palin were too awful to contemplate.
    Can’t say as I disagree.

  13. You asked:

    “Would you consider policies of debt forgiveness for the Third World in order to free poor countries from burdens unfairly placed on their people by corrupt leaders?”

    How about doing the citizens of those countries a true favor by removing their corrupt leaders? You must know by know that the real problem facing impoverished countries is the dictator problem. When countries become democratic, capitalistic, pluralistic and free, they prosper.

  14. […] – “Just A Few Questions”, Fairlane/Jonestown, December 3 […]

  15. great blog dashiell,

    hit all the major points… the truth is, until 1/20, his appointments are the only “measurables” we have to judge the Obama presidency by.

    One Love,
    –Reverend Manny and the Twilight Empire

  16. No Slappz said “How about doing the citizens of those countries a true favor by removing their corrupt leaders? ”

    True. But we had to remove our corrupt leader, first.

  17. This country will always be at war. It doesn’t matter what kind of rhetoric any of these phony candidates run on. The banking families funding these wars have been getting rich for hundreds of years and I doubt it will end anytime soon. Gates has ordered 20,000 troops to Afghanistan by March. And I agree that it is completely unreal that he was retained in his position. Frightening, and obvious that Obama plans to ‘stay the course’…

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