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Terrorizing the Vulnerable

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Hold Your Applause

Posted on Jun 8, 2009
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By Chris Hedges

Did they play Barack Obama’s speech to the Muslim world in the prison corridors of Abu Ghraib, Bagram air base, Guantanamo or the dozens of secret sites where we hold thousands of Muslims around the world? Did it echo off the walls of the crowded morgues filled with the mutilated bodies of the Muslim dead in Baghdad or Kabul? Was it broadcast from the tops of minarets in the villages and towns decimated by U.S. iron fragmentation bombs? Was it heard in the squalid refugee camps of Gaza, where 1.5 million Palestinians live in the world’s largest ghetto?

What do words of peace and cooperation mean from us when we torture—yes, we still torture—only Muslims? What do these words mean when we sanction Israel’s brutal air assaults on Lebanon and Gaza, assaults that demolished thousands of homes and left hundreds dead and injured? How does it look for Obama to call for democracy and human rights from Egypt, where we lavishly fund and support the despotic regime of Hosni Mubarak, one of the longest-reigning dictators in the Middle East?

We may thrill to Obama’s rhetoric, but very few of the 1.3 billion Muslims in the world are as deluded. They grasp that nothing so far has changed for Muslims in the Middle East under the Obama administration. The wars of occupation go on or have been expanded. Israel continues to flout international law, gobbling up more Palestinian land and carrying out egregious war crimes in Gaza. Calcified, repressive regimes in countries such as Egypt and Saudi Arabia are feted in Washington as allies.

The speech at Cairo University, which usually has trucks filled with riot police outside the university gates and a heavy security presence on campus to control the student body, is an example of the facade. Student political groups, as everyone who joined in the standing ovation for the president knew, are prohibited. Faculty deans are chosen by the administration, rather than elected by professors, “as a way to combat Islamist influence on campus,” according to the U.S. State Department’s latest human rights report. And, as The Washington Post pointed out,  students who use the Internet “as an outlet for their political or social views are on notice: One Cairo University student blogger was jailed for two months last summer for ‘public agitation,’ and another was kicked out of university housing for criticizing the government.”

The expanding imperial projects and tightening screws of repression lurch forward under Obama. We are not trying to end terror or promote democracy. We are ensuring that our corporate state has a steady supply of the cheap oil to which it is addicted. And the scarcer oil becomes, the more aggressive we become. This is the game playing out in the Muslim world.


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The Bush White House openly tortured. The Obama White House tortures and pretends not to. Obama may have banned waterboarding, but as Luke Mitchell points out in next month’s issue of Harper’s magazine, torture, including isolation, sleep and sensory deprivation and force-feeding, continues to be used to break detainees. The president has promised to close Guantanamo, where only 1 percent of the prisoners held offshore by the United States are kept. And the Obama administration has sought to obscure the fate and condition of thousands of Muslims held in black holes around the globe. As Mitchell notes, the Obama White House “has sought to prevent detainees at Bagram prison in Afghanistan from gaining access to courts where they may reveal the circumstances of their imprisonment. It has sought to continue the practice of rendering prisoners to unknown and unknowable locations outside the United States, and sought to keep secret many (though not all) of the records regarding our treatment of those detainees.”

Muslim rage is stoked because we station tens of thousands of American troops on Muslim soil, occupy two Muslim nations, make possible the illegal Israeli occupation of Palestine, support repressive Arab regimes and torture thousands of Muslims in offshore penal colonies where prisoners are stripped of their rights. We now have 22 times as many military personnel in the Muslim world as were deployed during the crusades in the 12th century. The rage comes because we have constructed massive military bases, some the size of small cities, in Iraq, Afghanistan, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and Kuwait, and established basing rights in the Gulf states of Bahrain, Qatar, Oman and the United Arab Emirates. The rage comes because we have expanded our military empire into neighboring Uzbekistan, Pakistan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan. It comes because we station troops and special forces in Egypt, Algeria and Yemen. And this vast network of bases and military outposts looks suspiciously permanent.

The Muslim world fears, correctly, that we intend to dominate Middle East oil supplies and any Caspian Sea oil infrastructure. And it is interested not in our protestations of good will but in the elemental right of justice and freedom from foreign occupation. We would react, should the situation be reversed, no differently.

The brutal reality of expanding foreign occupation and harsher and harsher forms of control are the tinder of Islamic fundamentalism, insurgences and terrorism. We can blame the violence on a clash of civilizations. We can naively tell ourselves we are envied for our freedoms. We can point to the Koran. But these are fantasies that divert us from facing the central dispute between us and the Muslim world, from facing our own responsibility for the virus of chaos and violence spreading throughout the Middle East. We can have peace when we shut down our bases, stay the hand of the Israelis to create a Palestinian state, and go home, or we can have long, costly and ultimately futile regional war. We cannot have both.

Obama, whose embrace of American imperialism is as naive and destructive as that of George W. Bush, is the newest brand used to peddle the poison of permanent war. We may not see it. But those who bury the dead do.

Wages of Rebellion: The Moral Imperative of Revolt, By Chris Hedges, Truthdig Columnist and Winner of the Pulitzer Prize -- Get Your Autographed Copy Today Also Available! Truthdig Exclusive DVD of Chris Hedges' Wages of Rebellion Lecture The World As It Is: 
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By pesach kremen, June 10, 2009 at 1:19 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

You are wrong in mentioning Israel’s “brutal” assault on Gaza. What about the years of rocket fire from Gaza to Israel when you said absolutely nothing? Are you aware that Hamas would deliberately locate rocket launchers in populated areas.

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By Bill Jones, June 10, 2009 at 1:09 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

“naive and destructive” imperialism. I think you misspelled Naive, I spell it Cynical.

One thing I haven’t seen commented on is the hubris of Obama’s line about how the Palestinians must renounce violence, what insolence. The US and its puppet master israel continue to rain down death from the skies while telling the victims what methods can be used to protest the slaughter.
What a peace of filth Obama is.

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By ardee, June 10, 2009 at 12:40 pm Link to this comment

Just wanted to applaud the exchange between micosaudad and Russian Paul. An increasingly rare display of intelligent , polite and knowledgeable postings…..Thank you for setting this example .

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By Russian Paul, June 10, 2009 at 12:13 pm Link to this comment

mico - You say we should “...set aside our cynicism for just a couple of years and actually believe that someone means what they say.”

How is that possible when he promises to close Gitmo, but is expanding Bagram where people are held indefinitely without charge?

How can one truly set their cynicism aside when the torture in Guantanamo has WORSENED?

How can I support the expansion of the Af-Pak war? And the continued military support for Israel, despite his flowery Cairo speech?

And as for health care, single payer is off the table, all he wants to do is force us to buy insurance, and if we don’t we can get fined. This is healthcare reform?

Presidents don’t change anything, movements do. If we “set aside our cynicism and believe whatever Obama says” we are giving his administration carte blanche to continue the Bush-Clinton-Bush policies.

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By micosaudad, June 10, 2009 at 10:41 am Link to this comment

Fascism is all about achieving the consent to govern through intimidation and bullying.  Obama is trying his best to earn consent.  Completely different MO.  If you’re looking for someone who believes in gaining consent through deception and intimidation then I suggest you reference a certain individual in the last administration that rhymes with Jaynie.

But that’s beside the point I’m trying to get across here:

- We are all on the same side and your efforts are sorely needed elsewhere -

Do you know how hard it will be for him to get a public option for health care?  He needs us right now to demand a public option from all of the people who are fighting it.  If you have energy to push the system for change that’s the place where you can actually have a positive effect right now.  If people start eating the administration from within then we get none of the things he promised. 

And then people will be saying “wow he never lived up to any of his promises”.  While the truth is that if we fail to push for what we want at the correct moment that he is presenting them to us, then we will be letting ourselves down. 

He is counting on us to help ourselves.  He’s not giving something to us.  He’s creating the space item by item and issue by issue.  The quicker you follow his strategy and push for things one by one instead of all at once the quicker he’ll be able to address everything else.

That’s a hypothesis.  In order to test it you have to give him some trust.  And not an easily-bruised trust after not even a full year of presidency.  The kind of trust that can allow you to get hurt.  I’m talking about setting aside your cynicism for just a couple of years and actually believing that someone means what they say.

I’m saying it’s better to find ourselves at the end of his presidency and be hurt by our lack of achievements after so much work, than to derail it from even possibly having a chance.

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By thebeerdoctor, June 10, 2009 at 9:20 am Link to this comment

Since this thread is mainly concerned with the BS of the Obama administration. Here is a link to that “right war” Obama has escalated:

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By ardee, June 10, 2009 at 3:57 am Link to this comment

micosaudad, June 9 at 6:24 pm #

There is a lot of bitterness here.  Can I suggest that it is unproductive.  It doesn’t serve to persuade, it doesn’t serve any useful purpose at all.

It seems like many of you feel betrayed by Obama, but if that’s how you feel, I think you’ve missed the whole point.  Obama wasn’t elected to give us what we want.

Perhaps you mistake commitment for bitterness and perhaps you mistake the opinion that Obama betrayed us for confirmation of what some of us already knew; Obama was as much a front man for fascism as was Reagan.

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By tahitifp, June 10, 2009 at 12:46 am Link to this comment

PH, that’s one helluva link you posted. 

Countries, like children,are so cute when they’re young.  (tongue in cheek)

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By Inherit The Wind, June 9, 2009 at 8:15 pm Link to this comment

Folktruther, June 9 at 10:54 pm #

You may be right, micodad, our focusing all our bitterness on Obama.  We certainly should save some of it for you.

“‘Cheer up!’ they said, ‘things could be worse.’ So I cheered up and sure enough, they got worse.”

I’ve now been described as being the same as Folktruther…..

photoshock, June 9 at 9:42 pm #

ITW and folktruther must be true believers in the cause. For they speak with forked tongue.

That’s a spew-coffee-on-the-screen spit-take of a statement if there ever was one.

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By micosaudad, June 9, 2009 at 8:02 pm Link to this comment

Let the ad hominem commence!

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By Folktruther, June 9, 2009 at 7:54 pm Link to this comment

You may be right, micodad, our focusing all our bitterness on Obama.  We certainly should save some of it for you.

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By micosaudad, June 9, 2009 at 7:24 pm Link to this comment

Thanks for the comment KDelphi. I won’t go through the list but I’ll respond to one of your examples as a anecdote for what I perceive to be Obama’s strategy.

Keeping people like Gates and McChrystal on board is a wise move in my opinion.  If Obama wants to close some high-power, high-dollar weapons program, do you think he’d be able to get that done without someone like Gates?  I think that this particular choice shows a level of strategic thinking that can get very difficult tasks done.  Many of these changes won’t be trumpeted.  For example, would you have heard about Obama cancelling the multi-million dollar presidential helicopter if McCain hadn’t mentioned it and the news hadn’t picked up on their interaction?

I’ve chosen to supress my cynicism and do what I can to help a popular leader do what I elected him to do.  I propose simply that we do what we can to help him get things done according to his list of priorities and then at the end of his term call for an accounting and see where we stand then.  Can we give him our effort until then, please?

If you do and you’re proven right, then think how much sweeter your disdain will be!

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By herewegoagain, June 9, 2009 at 7:20 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Inherit the Wind writes: “I have news for you: I don’t think President Obama really gives a shit what you post here, what Hedges or Pfaff or the others post here.”

This is not news to us, trust me.

the beerdoctor writes: “President Obama was elected to office by convincing the electorate that he was the safest black man in America, with a lovely successful wife and photogenic children.”

Speaking of Michelle Obama, have you noticed her complete transformation from convincing populist to June Cleaver Version 2009, in just five short months?

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By photoshock, June 9, 2009 at 6:42 pm Link to this comment

ITW and folktruther must be true believers in the cause. For they speak with forked tongue.
Obama, the President is not the liberal he proclaimed and is surely looking out for the corporate interests that elected him. His is a standing invitation to the corporatocracy to loot and pillage the public trust and give nothing in return.
With men like Lawrence Summers and Geithner and all of the Wall Street Thugs that have invaded the administration, we are now looking at the beginning of the end of this country.
We are and were sheeple to think that Obama would change the status quo and give the progressives what is truly needed in the world, peace and prosperity.
The only peace that exists is in the Bilderberger group and the only prosperity is among the thieves and looters of Wall Street.
Yes, I too am not optimistic about the chances of change, real change coming any time soon. Before its too late, we must take back the reins of government and once again declare our independence from the likes of the Centralized Banking system that controls the worlds economy.
Give peace a chance! Hell NO! Just start another unnecessary and abominable war with the people of the
Middle East. Afghanistan and Pakistan are not the playgrounds of the rich, they are the countries that will control the flow of Caspian Sea oil to the rest of the world.
Should the people’s revolt work in this country, we must bring back the necessary work of ‘greening our economy,’ by bringing back the Tucker Car and other inventions that have through the years proved that the oil companies and the banking system are nothing but farces that have led to the raping and pillaging of America.

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By KDelphi, June 9, 2009 at 5:14 pm Link to this comment

micosaudad—So, on which of his campaign “promises” (which I never believed), would you say that Obama is , at least, moving in the right direction on?

“Leaving Iraq”? “Closing GITMO”? “Same health care for all as Congress has”? “Reforming NAFTA”? “Stopping torture” with people like McChrystal amd Gates?  Using DynaCorp instead of Blackwater? “helping Main St” with the likes of Summers and Geithner? Well, he did give poor people $250 and $13 a week—no health care or help with keeping your house, but, you got that $250~!!!! No APR limits on your credit card, but, they have to let you KNOW before the screw you! Brilliant!

No one, I dont think, expected him to produce miracles. (I didnt even support him) But, I do think that people thought he was much more progresive than he is. Honestly, did you, as a Dem, I assume, think that he wqas a Chicago School Capitalist? That he would increase the military budget and forces in AfPak? What “change” waas it that you wanted? A prettier liar? There were screaming comments about Obama being “liberal to the core”!! and people were “overcome with joy” at the speech in Cairo. (Someone screamed “i love you”!! from the heavily policed stadium) These are not comments of an informed citizenry , but comments of people who are just plain comfortable and dont give a damn about the rest of the world, even in their own country.

Obama is another neo-liberal Ivy League guy who charms those that have the means to be charmed.

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By PatrickHenry, June 9, 2009 at 4:39 pm Link to this comment

What will Obama do when Israel sanctions the U.S?

www dot bdsmovement dot net

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By micosaudad, June 9, 2009 at 3:24 pm Link to this comment

There is a lot of bitterness here.  Can I suggest that it is unproductive.  It doesn’t serve to persuade, it doesn’t serve any useful purpose at all.

It seems like many of you feel betrayed by Obama, but if that’s how you feel, I think you’ve missed the whole point.  Obama wasn’t elected to give us what we want.  The thing about Obama was to remind us that in order to get what we want we need to work for it. 

Whatever that thing you want is if it’s improtant it’s not going to come in 100 days or 200 days of an administration that has to juggle all sorts of priorities.

I’m bi.  Am I outraged that Obama isn’t making good on his promise to repeal ‘don’t ask don’t tell’? No.  I think getting the economy and healthcare taken care of is more important.  If you pick fights that the left sorely wants to pick you will end up in the mess that the repuplicans are in right now. 

We’re all on the same team, let’s not pull each other in opposite directions and prevent any movement whatsoever.  Have a little faith and let’s get the bigger problems out of the way and then if the quarterback isn’t addressing the problems that you think are most important then vote for someone else.  But in the meantime how about some humility and help me help you. Help Obama help you.  And After it’s done make a judgement if you want to invite him back.

Let’s take a breath and get some space.  Don’t confuse the fierce urgency of now with rushing in guns blazing to your own suicide.

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By hippie4ever, June 9, 2009 at 3:15 pm Link to this comment

Where I live we have lots of ivy-league educated yuppies like Barrack; smart, smug, successful, without any serious conviction other than looking out for number one. Yes, they are very polite, in a meaningless way. They are hardly reformers and much prefer their luxurious homes, yachts, cars—to making a better world. Their attitude is to leave the dreams to the dreamers; nothing good is on the agenda for Mother Earth.

This “two party system” is a farce and it’s unrealistic to expect change from it. Right now they’re selling us out to the health insurance industry; single-payer will be killed sooner or later.

The bodies will soon be coming home from Afpakistan, dead. More untold billions to Halliburton, among others, for imperialism and addiction to oil. With a crippled economy, probably enough will enlist to avoid imposing a draft. Better dead than unemployed might become their motto.

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By tahitifp, June 9, 2009 at 2:27 pm Link to this comment

I believe in one of his books Obama said that he was the screen onto which people projected their hopes and dreams.  Didn’t people understand what they were reading?

I spotted that in his first speech.  He didn’t seem real, tho I acknowledged his prodigious speaking skills and his ability to con the masses.  I told my friends that he’d missed his calling and should be a preacher. grin  He could have amassed gazillions of dollars for whatever charities he chose. 

Instead, we now have a front man giving our gazillions of dollars to the banks and the Pentagons eternal wars.

ABB thinking never works.

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By thebeerdoctor, June 9, 2009 at 1:27 pm Link to this comment

For some strange reason, whenever I read the comments of so many who are disappointed by President Obama, I am reminded of a movie made in the 1980’s called Vagabond by Agnes Varda. The gist of the movie concerns a wandering girl and the people she encounters, camping about in the winter in France, before as the film reveals at the very beginning, she froze to death. But what strikes me about the movie, that I saw only once, but nevertheless left a vivid impression, was the way the people she encountered projected their hopes and visions on what the wandering girl’s aspirations actually were. Of course all of these projections were false, even from those people who actually loved her. What some perceived to be a free spirit was in actuality, a rather petty, somewhat mean individual.
I mean anti-war advocates like myself, knew from the start that Barack Obama was not a peace candidate. All you had to do was actually read his campaign website to see that, like the late Robert F. Kennedy, he would adopt that flavor and illusion, in order to convince the unsuspecting optimistic amongst the electorate that he was a believer in what they advocated. Of course he was not.
One thing seems quite apparent. President Obama is making many elements of his demographic base quite angry at his actions and lack of action. You can sense this frustration reading Jim Hightower, or Jeremy Scahill. Now even smartypants cheerleaders like MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow, have become somewhat disillusioned, when they notice that the fierce advocate for gay rights (they were told) has backtracked to the point that “don’t ask, don’t tell” is alright when it comes to military recruitment.
Only the cowardly neoliberal progressives keep making excuses for all this protection of the status quo. That self-serving crowd refuses to acknowledge that their double talk about expanding markets through democratic capitalism is nothing but what comes out of a horse’s behind. Frightened of real populism, they cringe before their corporate task masters, and say yes sir! whenever Wall Street banksters throw them a monetary bone.
President Obama was elected to office by convincing the electorate that he was the safest black man in America, with a lovely successful wife and photogenic children. Examining his background politically, I must say that I do not think he is capable of enacting the populist reforms that this country sorely needs. He always reminds himself where his bread is buttered, and it should always be remembered, he always strives to be a polite man. When you look at his cabin carefully, I notice that there is no one there to represent and remind his conscience of the powerless and disenfranchised who bear the brunt of so many misguided policies. Obama has no one like Frances Perkins in his cabinet.

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By Folktruther, June 9, 2009 at 12:32 pm Link to this comment

What Inherit says is true in the sense that present power is seldom interested in ideas that will influence future power.  the powerful ae very present oriented and are vitally concerned with RIGHT NOW rather than changes in society at some future time.  Like Ihnerit, they are also prisoners of a depraved and corrupt truth consensus and literaly can’t understand progressive thought when it subverts conventiional thought.

this is why intelligence agencies sometimes support progressive ideas that are alternatives to current bankrupt Progressive ideas.  The Csarist secret police, for example, pormoted marxism over People’s Will terrorism fifteen years before marxists took power.  At the end of a life cycle of a powerstate like Csarism or the US, establishment poltical ideas grow increasingly rigid, steriotyped and obsolete, like Inherit’s. 

According to Inherit, everyone that opposes Zionism and Obama’s support of it is an anti-Semite, or is as good as an anti-semite, and is out of the mainstream truth consensus.  As is of course true of all noew progressive policies before they are generally known.  But, as Inherit is aware, anti-Zionism is increasing both in the world and in the US, and even in Israel, so all he can do is whine plaintavely that we all want to kill all Israeli Jews or other absurdities.

In Trotsky’s HISTORY OF THE RUSSIAN REVOLTUION, he argues against those who state that the Csar has no political ideans, that his crown is covering his eyes.  Trotsky argues, what good is there to see clearly when all that you see is your doom.  this describes the US and Israeli ruling class as well, and their supporters, like Inherit.

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By thebeerdoctor, June 9, 2009 at 8:16 am Link to this comment

please pardon the bad link, see if this works:

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By thebeerdoctor, June 9, 2009 at 8:10 am Link to this comment

re: RdV

What can one say about the moral cowardice of the Democratic party and its newly elected king?

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By Paul_GA, June 9, 2009 at 6:07 am Link to this comment

In the end, Obama is a creature of the Status Quo, and as Solzhenitsyn said 31 years ago in his commencement speech at Harvard, “Western thinking has become conservative; the world situation should stay as it is at any cost; there should be no changes. This debilitating dream of a Status Quo is the symptom of a society that has come to the end of its development.”

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By RdV, June 9, 2009 at 5:24 am Link to this comment

“I’m saying Obama’s not interested in what 1% of 1% of the far left thinks—that if 10 or 20% of the population have an opinion then he’ll be listening.”

  This is garbage. The majority of Americans support “progressive” views from healthcare to Gay Rights, yet in the cognitive dissonance echo chamber, some fools continue to marginalize the labels—separating them from the issues. More than 10-20% voted for Obama for change—think he is listening to them now that he assumes the mantle of Bush?

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By Ivan hentschel, June 9, 2009 at 5:12 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

I am aware that many do not want to hear this and this it is the “same old, same old”,but it all still must be said, and said out loud. We are not left with much to deny.

Someone above said that Obama moves slowly and thoughtfully? C’mon: he is “all hat and no cattle”. He does not move at all. He has ensured the status will remain very, vey quo.

There is no excuse for torture, there is no need for wars that decimate civilian populations and our duplicity is a snake that will come around and bite us on the backside.

Make all of the pseudo-patriotic excuses you like, but Hedges is right on the money, this time.

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By C. Curtis Dillon, June 9, 2009 at 4:55 am Link to this comment
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Mr. Hedges is a very angry man and for good reason.  While most of us form opinions vicariously, Chris has been on the front lines most of his career and has first-hand knowledge of what really happens when American interests collide with the needs and desires of indigenous populations throughout the world.  We should give a bit more credence to his views because they are backed by real-life experiences.

We also should remember that money drives the American political process.  To gain national attention, a politician crawls through a cesspool of special interests and rub elbows with the slimiest characters this nation has to offer.  Neither major party endorses him without having first sold a considerable part of his soul to the devil.  Parties need massive cash flows to function and the only reliable sources are corporations, political action committees and the rich.  It is too difficult to raise $10 million from a million people when a big corporate donor can fill the need with a single phone call.

So, given that most of our political elite are in the pockets of the financial elite, what can we expect from our leaders?  We engage in foreign adventures because the politicians protect their contributor’s assets and business enterprises.  We need oil and most of it is, unfortunately, under the sands of the Middle East.  Since Exxon/Mobil, Chevron and other oil companies use oil to sustain their obscene profits, they enlist the US government to protect “American” interests in the region.

But, for a moment, let us assume Obama is a “good guy” and has only the best interests of the American people at heart.  He announces a new initiative (say healthcare) with great fanfare.  Then the phone starts ringing and he is told over and over about how important insurance money is to the party’s survival and how a certain group of senators will never vote for any bill that jeopardizes obscene insurance company profits with a public insurance option.  This goes on every day with every important policy decision.  The president has no other option that to ask “what is possible?” and before long the legislation has been gutted and, surprise, surprise, the insurance companies actually have a better deal than we have now.  We saw this at work in the Clinton attempt to reform healthcare and it starts all over again.  Politicians are prisoners of the monies interests and that will never change.  The Middle East initiative is subject to the same pressures from all sides.

Politics is about appearance, not substance.  Why do you think the speech was in Cairo and not Washington?  It was about visuals and words which are exceedingly cheap.  However, expectations were created by that speech and failure to meet them has grave consequences.  If Obama cannot deliver on his sweeping vision, America’s political standing is in the crapper.  If a maverick like Obama, with his Muslim heritage, cannot deliver than no American administration can be trusted and what little political goodwill the speech generated will be lost for a long time.  That is the worry about his presentation and I’m convinced he does not have the clout to make it happen.

Obama is a great orator and this creates a huge downside risk.  People hang on his words and are then disappointed when nothing concrete emerges.  He is digging a huge hole for us and doesn’t have the ability to meet the expectations.  This is the danger he presents.  With Bush, we knew exactly what to expect and were only disappointed when the actions were even worse than the rhetoric.  With Obama we have very high expectations which are already being dashed on the rocks of reality.  He needs to stop adding to our expectations and start delivering on the promises.  His legacy and the future of America are hanging in the balance.

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By thebeerdoctor, June 9, 2009 at 4:12 am Link to this comment

This is one of the best Chris Hedges’ commentary on the illusion of words and the god damn awful reality of implemented policy. I think it was Inherit on this thread, who said that President Obama has challenged Netanyahu. Yes, perhaps verbally, but has he even mentioned stopping the arms shipments that continue to flow to Israel, enabling their brutal colonization? Of course not. The last president to bring out a stick before the carrot was George H. W. Bush back in 1990. Since then it has become apparent that U. S. policy towards Israel, is whatever Israel decides it to be.
Obama’s Cairo speech was brilliant as stagecraft, but do not pay any attention, as Chris Hedges has pointed out, that the murderous policy of permanent war remains firmly in place.

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By Inherit The Wind, June 9, 2009 at 3:51 am Link to this comment


I’m not saying any of those things. I’m saying Obama’s not interested in what 1% of 1% of the far left thinks—that if 10 or 20% of the population have an opinion then he’ll be listening.

I can’t help if you project what you want to see that wasn’t there onto his speech.  But I WILL say that if you go back to the thread on what was PREDICTED he’d say, that “The Contingent” was wrong and now are into serious butt-covering to avoid admitting being wrong.

As usual.

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By Samson, June 9, 2009 at 3:00 am Link to this comment

Oh, I’m quite sure that Obama doesn’t care a bit about what anyone on the left things of him.  He’s made that quite clear ever since the day after he got the nomination from Hillary.  He cares a lot about what the Republicans think, but he’s made it perfectly clear for a long time now he doesn’t care what the left things.  My only puzzlement has been why the left ever supported him to begin with?

Are you trying to say that Obama is the King and only what the King things matters, and that us poor little peons must not discuss opinions when the King doesn’t care what we think.  This is still a democracy, so we are free to discuss and organize as we see fit. In fact I feel its vital we do so.

Of course, I’m not really sure I care much about Mr. Obama says either.  He’s becoming rather famous for Bill Clinton-style “I feel your pain” speeches, that unfortunately are short on any concrete proposals and which seem to be quickly forgotten by the Obama Administration once given.  That would be my early assessment of this speech. Pretty words that won’t be backed up by any actions, and thus will soon be forgotten like all the other meaningless pretty words spoken by politicians on this topic.

Taking on the Arab World and the Palestinians is not a mark of courage in a US President.  That’s doing exactly what the powerful in this country want, and in the case of the Palestinians, it basically amounts to kicking people when they are already beaten down. Hardly a brave act.

I’m not really sure he ‘took on Israel’.  I’m sitting here with the speech in another window, and I don’t really see it.  The closest he seems to have come is to say “hey, don’t steal any more land.  You’ve stolen almost all of it already, so maybe you should stop now.”  Of course, he’s only just asking very nicely that they stop. Its not like he’s threatening to cut of the $5 billion to $10 billion a year we give Israel.  Which by the way we need desperately in this rapidly becoming bankrupt nation and can no longer afford.  At the very least, we should be strongly leveraging that money to get peace.

And that slight change from ‘steal everything’ to ‘only steal all the important stuff and most of the rest’ is about the only difference in US policy that I see in this speech.  Otherwise, this was basically a lot of pretty words that underneath said that nothing is changing.

If you believe that idiotic notion that Bush used to peddle that ‘they hate us for our freedoms’, then this might be a new voice to you.  But, if you believed that the reason they all seemed pissed at us is because that had legitimate grievances with how we’ve been screwing them over for the last 30 years or more, then the speech is basically meaningless.  None of that changed.

We are still fighting wars in the region, and they’ve already expanded to Pakistan under Obama.  And SOS Hillary just gave the clearest signal yet, right as Obama was flying home from this supposed ‘new beginning’, that we’ll be fighting a major war in Iran before Obama’s term is up… Probably before the mid-terms.  We still holds tens of thousands prisoner, most under deplorable conditions.  And the speech made it very clear that we are going to keep funding Israel as the big bully of the region and we won’t brook any interference with Israel ... except we might tell them not to steal quite so much.

Yeah, that’ll bring peace to the region. Unless you really believed they hate us for our freedoms.

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By johannes, June 9, 2009 at 2:56 am Link to this comment

I think I am the only Europeên writer on this articel, we had and have the feeling that is to say the Europeên people who are interested in their future, that the American politic is aimed at the oneness of Europe, its a very long history, the end is that the White house thinks its a good thing to let the 90 millioen Turcs come in Europe, we the Europens just think the opposite, they have all ready created an big Moslim group in the middel of Europe Bosniê, Kosovo, Albaniê, the old all allied powers from the WII the Serbs they have bombed and
make them their enemys, why we are demanding, why to bomb your old friends to take in a hated group of people who openly are sponsorisysd by the Saoudies, and
figthers out exstreem Moslim countrys, Holbrook was the mighty men, and the stupid NATO was following, we are demanding ourselfs are they all corrupted by some big power, its all the same over again with this
American Messias, who is your enemy to day and who to
morrow, thats the question.


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By Ed Harges, June 8, 2009 at 9:35 pm Link to this comment

Re: By Folktruther, June 8 at 2:42 pm:

Honored that you should say so!

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By Inherit The Wind, June 8, 2009 at 7:51 pm Link to this comment

Hate to break up your circle-jerk but all Hedges did is recycle the same old tired TruthDig assertions that you all simply accept as “The Truth”.  Nothing new, nothing bold, just more waving the bloody flag and you all start foaming with rage and righteous indignation.

WTF did you expect? That Obama would issue magic ukases and the nation would turn around overnight?  That just by being elected the spineless brainless dickheads in the Dim party in Congress would support him? 

Obama moves carefully, and thoughtfully.  We’ve just had 8 years of a putz who went with his “gut” without ever considering consequences.

Now, after all of you said he wouldn’t, (probably including Hedges), Obama has thrown down a gauntlet—in the faces of the Arab League, Palestinians, and, most significantly, of the Israelis.  You all said he’d never challenge Netanyahu or the the settlements or the occupation.  He did.

Now, all covering your butts, you say “well, words are fine but where are the deeds?”  I say we need to let him do the job and see the deeds.

Precipitous action is usually stupid.  As we know from George W. Bush.

You know, I used to be bugged when neo-cons bitched about liberal whining (especially when they are so good at it themselves) but it’s true.  Too many of us Liberals and so-called “progressives” are nothing but whiners that they don’t get their own way.

I have news for you: I don’t think President Obama really gives a shit what you post here, what Hedges or Pfaff or the others post here.  I’m not sure I blame him either.

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By Paolo, June 8, 2009 at 6:28 pm Link to this comment

As a libertarian, I was glad to hear Obama talk about foreign policy in terms other than endless war. Actually, after Bush, it’s nice to have anyone who can say anything coherently. Unfortunately, Hedges is right: Obama gave a fine speech, but will change nothing about America’s interventionist foreign policy.

In the end, economics will force the Washington crowd to reduce interventionism. Bottom line: we can’t afford it. And once the Chinese get sick of being played for suckers for buying US debt, and decide to dump their treasury bond holdings, the dollar may no longer be the world’s “reserve currency.” It will likely be replaced by the Euro. When that happens, all hell breaks loose in the US economy: inflation, unemployment, riots, you name it.

Kinda depressing, isn’t it?

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By elisalouisa, June 8, 2009 at 5:06 pm Link to this comment

Obama has the opportunity to really make a difference. Will he? I doubt it.  Big money supported him from the beginning. They call the shots, not the voters.

Obama makes people feel good and that is even worse for we are lulled into thinking everything is OK.

Thanks again to Chris Hedges.

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By Samson, June 8, 2009 at 4:18 pm Link to this comment

Obama doesn’t need to be lecturing the Muslims to be controlling their extremists. He needs to be acting in America to control the extremists here. If he really means what he says.

Look at Northern Ireland.  Essentially, its become more peaceful now (at least as how it looks from an ocean away).  And it became peaceful because the majority on both sides that simply wanted to live their lives in peace forced the extremists to stop.

It has to be the peaceful within a society that tells its own extremists to stop the killing and the hate.  It can’t be done by lecturing the other side.  If Obama really wants peace, he now needs to return home and take on the extremists here who push for more and more war.

For instance, on the very weekend following this speech, SOS Clinton is how beating the war drums against Iran.  The Democratic controlled Congress is about to pass the war funding bill with no strings attached.

Will Obama come home and take on the extremists within his own party and his own government who are trying to fan the flames of war yet even higher?

Of course, Obama will himself sign that war funding bill when it reaches his desk.  Obama is leading the foreign policy that has the Pakistani army acting as our proxy and expanding the Afghan ground war into Pakistan.  Obama is the commander-in-chief of an army devising tricks to keep its troops patrolling the streets of Baghdad despite the agreement to ‘withdraw’ from the cities this month.

So, maybe Obama needs first to go stand in front of the mirror and commit to fighting the violent extremist within himself.  Then to take on the violent extremists within his own party.  Then to take on the violent extremists in the nation.

After those tasks, he could return to the Middle East and give another speech, this time with his hands openly spread open in a gesture and message of peace.

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By Colin, June 8, 2009 at 3:27 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Hedges’ article is right on. I am so sick of listening to Obama’s rhetoric about ending torture, supporting the Palestinians, pursuing diplomacy over militariasm. It is all a giant hoax. Nothing Obama promised (ending torture, more transparency, ending a war, limiting the powers of the president) has been implemented, and none of it will be.


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By samosamo, June 8, 2009 at 3:08 pm Link to this comment

When it comes to building empires and fighting imperial wars and globalization of markets or what ever, the ‘feel good’ information is always meant for the average american vegetable because the people on the receiving end KNOW what the score is and what is happening in ‘our’ good name but never with their consent.

Chalmers Johnson said as much in his ‘Blowback’ trilogy.

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By KDelphi, June 8, 2009 at 3:01 pm Link to this comment

From Ali Abunimah:

“Some people are prepared to give Obama a pass for all this because he is at last talking tough on Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank. In Cairo, he said: “The United States does not accept the legitimacy of continued Israeli settlements. This construction violates previous agreements and undermines efforts to achieve peace. It is time for these settlements to stop…..

....These carefully chosen words focus only on continued construction, not on the existence of the settlements themselves; they are entirely compatible with the peace process industry consensus that existing settlements will remain where they are forever.”

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By KDelphi, June 8, 2009 at 2:53 pm Link to this comment

Thank you, Hedges…

WritersontheStorm—OK—am I allowed, too?I told you so. If you cant figure out what Hedges is pissed about, I dont know what to tell you. Could it be the drone deaths? Could it be the continuation of rendition and unlimited detention..hmmm…

As someone said, (wish I could remember who) Obama is “stealth Bush”.

tahitifp—thanks for the link…I had been hearing about this and hoping it would go forward. But, they need more supporters….

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By WriterOnTheStorm, June 8, 2009 at 1:11 pm Link to this comment

Can’t tell what Hedges’ beef is here. Does the article have a focus, or is it yet another metastasized end-of-the-empire screed?

It’s disappointing to see Hedges lumping muslims into a single group, since he knows this is one of the major faults in the thinking of the west (i.e. christians??). Framing any problem in the middle east as US v. islam will get you nowhere. That’s akin to arguing that settlers took the west from the Native Americans because the Indians were pantheists. The settlers took the land because they were greedy, and because they could.

It’s exactly the same with the “Native Arabians”. It’s easy to buy into the turgid media myth that Israeli expansion, just one of many examples, is opposed by the Palestinians because they are muslim and the Israelis are not. This myth gets so much traction that many newcomers to the debate are surprised to learn that Palestinians actually have legitimate moral, legal, and political grounds to oppose Israeli expansion. Similarly, we pretend that those despotic Arab leaders are doing the civilized world a favor by keeping their finger in the dike holding back the fundamentalist tide, but the real favors being done are to personal bank accounts, and entrenched power.

In my more cynical moments, I am convinced that people talk about this as a religious problem or as a clash of civilizations precisely as a way of avoiding the harder moral questions. To be sure, there is a clash of civilizations going on. But this is more about secularism v. religiosity, a struggle in which christians and jews are on the SAME side as the muslims.

As for the Obama bashing in the article, it’s hard to begrudge Hedges a little I-told-you-so satisfaction, since he saw through all the pretty speechifying from the start.

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By sophrosyne, June 8, 2009 at 12:49 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Chris is so right.  Truth is, Obama was selected by the powers that rule America to put a happier and more benign face on imperialism.  His policies are really the same as Bush despite the rhetoric.  Obama would not have won had to he challenged American imperilaism and Zionist dominance of Congress and the media.

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By tahitifp, June 8, 2009 at 12:35 pm Link to this comment

Good article by Hedges.  I came across this this morning and immediately made some calls. I hope it’s OK to post it here.

The office of Rep. Dennis Kucinich has confirmed that he will vote against the supplemental. That makes 11 Democratic votes to block the passage of the package that includes supplemental funding for the war in Afghanistan, the IMF European bank bailout and the Lieberman suppression of detainee photos amendment. A total of 39 are needed, which means 28 more to go.

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By Folktruther, June 8, 2009 at 11:42 am Link to this comment

You have a point, Ed.

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By Ed Harges, June 8, 2009 at 11:14 am Link to this comment

FT writes:

“The major problem, Ed, is not the Israelization of American foreign policy, but the Americanizing of Israeli foreign policy.”

There has been a morphing in both directions, but I disagree with you as to which has done the most harm to America, and to Arabs and Muslims. It’s not just the distortion of American policy to favor Israel, but the adoption and normalization in the American mindset of Israel’s belligerently partanoid outlook on the world, and its conceptual framework including such odious concepts as “preventive war”.

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By herewegoagain, June 8, 2009 at 10:37 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

And unfortunately, all this Muslim rage that Chris Hedges’ refers to plays right into the hands of the rabid rightwing faction of Muslims who are itching for total control of the Middle East.

So interestingly, if we were to completely remove our military presence, it could actually weaken their growing power.

I really do wonder sometimes if there is a secret unholy alliance between the neocon agenda in our country and their scary Doppelgangers in the Middle East.

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By squeaky jones, June 8, 2009 at 10:07 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Mr. Fish is one of the best in the cartoon world. Obama appears all lovie dovie to the muslim world, while on the other hand here is another bomb to murder more innocent life. Who is not a war criminal in Washington D.C.? Squeaky.

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By Folktruther, June 8, 2009 at 10:02 am Link to this comment

Hedges piece is an elequent presentation of the simple truth.  One wonders how long the American people will be held in thrall by Obama’s public relations skills.  the Obama cheerleaders appear to be falling away from the truthdig commentators; one wonders if a similar trend is occurring in the population, or how long it takes for the less political follow the more political.

The major problem, Ed, is not the Israelization of American foreign policy, but the Americanizing of Israeli foreign policy.  The American ruling class is using Zionism for its own purposes.  This is common in power relations.  the Roman emperors had German guards who would not be influenced by Roman politics.  Howard Huges had Mormon aides who served only him.  The Turkish Ottoman empire trained Christian castrates to serve in high positions.

A number of Israeli high officials have stated that present Israeli policy is not historically viable.  But they are stuck with it because of American pressure.  Obama’s speech in a state governed by the US’s paid despotic dictator is a good example of US interests also serving Israel’s interests.  They cleared all the Egyptian people off the streets, invited the American oriented rich to hear Obama, who made a speech oriented to winning the Lebanon election and gaining influence at home.  Authorized vacuity to service the Obama cheerleaders.

Retaining decaying American power as long as possible, leaving Isarel to its fate when it declines past a certain point.

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By ColdTileFloor, June 8, 2009 at 9:38 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)


Obama represents the all new and improved “brand” promoting and facilitating the nefarious agendas of our most dangerous lobbyists, our corporate power brokers, and their imperial warlords in the gargantuan US military industrial complex.

He has managed to mesmerize millions of reasonably intelligent Americans into believing that he really represents their best interests. Plus…we suddenly no longer have any “race” problems in this vast and sleepy land.

Quite extraordinary, really.

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By Paul_GA, June 8, 2009 at 9:15 am Link to this comment

Well, Thomas Mc, as the British novelist R.F. Delderfield once wrote, “All men are reluctant to destroy their own idols. It is so much easier to make excuses for them.”

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By Thomas Mc, June 8, 2009 at 8:48 am Link to this comment

Obama is a giant fraud, and the Left not only fell for it, they continue to believe in him, rather than what their lying eyes are telling them.

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By P. T., June 8, 2009 at 8:46 am Link to this comment

The Zionist expansionists need not worry.  Any pressures on Israel to conform to the Road Map will be “largely symbolic,” so the New York Times reported (Helene Cooper, June 1).

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By Ed Harges, June 8, 2009 at 8:32 am Link to this comment

Until Obama is able to halt and reverse the Israelification of US foreign policy, US actions will continue to belie all his pretty speeches.

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By 111mike, June 8, 2009 at 8:13 am Link to this comment

Nation of Manipulation, LLC

“Circumventing the will of a pacified and unsuspecting populace for generations.” 

Let our mastery of language and proficiency at disseminating its desired effect pave the way for your corporate endeavors.


Your “elected” officials,
Experts in Linguistics

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By C Quil, June 8, 2009 at 8:01 am Link to this comment

Thanks for this piece, Chris.

Mr. Fish’s cartoon is brilliant too, as usual.

I’m developing the same allergic reaction to Obama’s speeches as I had to Bush’s - carefully parsed phrases drained of any real meaning, slippery words that are open to any interpretation, and lots and lots of air but not much substance - like mass-produced white bread.

He’s has the cadence of Martin Luther King Jr. without the conviction, the conscience or the soul, and he’s completely dazzled by his own celebrity, as are many who hear him - but don’t really listen.

Here’s a guide to writing your own Obama speech. It has the Mad Libs approach, and you know, it really works.

Too bad his speeches don’t result in anything funny.
Write-Your-Own Obama Speech

by Benjamin Sarlin

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By godistwaddle, June 8, 2009 at 7:54 am Link to this comment

Justice would require that we return to the ‘40s, and the U.S. NOT be instrumental in establishing Israel where it is, and, feeling guilty about ignoring the Shoah, establish it in Delaware, so WE’D have to deal with Delawarean refugee camps.

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By Fadel Abdallah, June 8, 2009 at 7:44 am Link to this comment

I wish there was a way to make Obama read this sobering piece from Chris Hedges!

Not only I held my applause for Obama’s sugar-coated rhetorical skills, but I also experienced a state of surreal perplexity at the gap between sweet rhetoric and horrible reality!

Possibly, for many who live by the herd mentality, Obama’s sweet rhetoric could serve as the proverbial opium of pacification. However, for me, only one sad fact is being confirmed, which is, “the more things change the more they stay the same if they don’t get worse!”

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By EJH, June 8, 2009 at 7:31 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

“The Bush White House openly tortured. The Obama White House tortures and pretends not to.”

This is exactly the difference between Republicans and Democrats.  Republicans openly rape and pillage, maim and kill while the Democrats do the same things only quieter and with a prettier face out front.  I tend to think that the Democrats are more dangerous because their subltler style fools the rest of the world into trusting the US.  The one good thing about Bush and the Republicans is that, since their techniques are so crude, the world can clearly see what America is really up to.  They make people hate America and the only thing that can stop America from taking over and destroying everything is a united front of anti-Americanism.  I fear that Obama is fooling not only his flock of American sheep but the rest of the world as well.  People need to understand that, though the president and the ruling party have changed, America has not.  It is still the vicious, rapacious country that it always has been.  We must not let our guards down.

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By johannes, June 8, 2009 at 5:48 am Link to this comment

Dear reeders,

Killing people with drones, is in human and playing for GOD, to kill people is a great crime against humanety and live, it always was and will be.

So a president who stops not immediately all killing by his soldiers, who was chosen on his word of promises, to change, YES WE CAN, is just as the men before him, even worse, seen his promises.

Well its not new, the satanic forses are to strong, for the moment, one day we will find the road to push them aside, and make a peace full world


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By everynobody, June 8, 2009 at 5:28 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Well, for once I can pretty much agree with everything Hedges says here. God talk about schizophrenic; I listen to the words and then look at the action. We’re in very deep doo doo!

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By idarad, June 8, 2009 at 5:05 am Link to this comment

Thanks Chris for nailing this!  I still have one question. Under what authority have we attacked and continue to occupy and repress the peoples of Afghanistan and Pakistan? (I did not forget Iraq - that attack and occupation was/is a war crime.)
For some reason unbeknown to me, we, the United States - which as its citizens we supposedly control our government, unlike other brutal regimes - continues to act as though it is our inalienable right to plunder around the globe to make things “right.”,  Doing so has raised the levels of hate of Americans. How long will it take for the children of these lands to forget the slaughter they see in their child’s eye. Will they just wake one morning and forgive us of our atrocities?

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By idarad, June 8, 2009 at 5:02 am Link to this comment

Thanks Chris for nailing this!  I still have one question. Under what authority have we attacked and continue to occupy and repress the peoples of Afghanistan and Pakistan? (I did not forget Iraq - that attack and occupation was/is a war crime.)
For some reason unbeknown to me, we, the United States - which as its citizens we supposedly control our government, unlike other brutal regimes - continues to act of those it is its inalienable right to plunder around the globe to make things “right.”,  Doing so has raised the levels of hate of Americans. How long will it take for the children of these lands to forget the slaughter they see in their child’s eye. Will they just wake one morning and forgive us of our atrocities?

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By Lester Shepherd, June 8, 2009 at 5:00 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

We have tortured since General Washington took over.  This is nothing new.  In addition, nobody ever, ever, mentions our indiscriminate use of electric shock to the genitals, even the most progressive of journalists.  Wonder Why?

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By ardee, June 8, 2009 at 4:58 am Link to this comment

A brilliant and insightful analysis of what is increasingly seeming to be the sham of the Obama administration.

We have traded a President who couldnt put two coherent sentences together for one who speaks very well indeed. The problem ,however, is not speech making but acting upon the content of those pretty words. Mr. Hedges article cites chapter and verse on the hypocracy of Obama and I will simpy concur.

What I do wish to speak to is the seeming reluctance of the American citizen to recapture his/her nation. When you support our current system you support torture, imperialism, rampant and selfish capitalism that earns profit on the suffering of the rest of the world. You tacitly approve of the poor education available to our children, the casting aside of seniors, the destruction of pensions and dreams, and the rest of the destructive elements of rampant greed and self interest.

The next time you listen to an Obama speech I would ask that you listen, not to the rhetoric or the pretty phrases, but to the absence of concrete plans and proposed actions. George Walker Bush made speeches in which he promised many things, often that was the last we heard of them. Barack Obama seems to be following in his predecessors footsteps.

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By Paul_GA, June 8, 2009 at 4:55 am Link to this comment

Since the USA cannot, or will not, end the imperial project of its own accord, I expect that it will end involuntarily when this country stretches itself beyond the breaking point ... and breaks.

We Americans can’t say we weren’t warned.

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