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Live Chat: Robert Scheer on Obama’s State of the Union Address
Posted on Jan 28, 2011
Instead of listening to people like Volcker and plenty of others out there who could tell him, “No, what you have to do is concentrate on job creation, you have to concentrate on helping people stay in their homes, you have to worry about the consumers, you have to pressure Wall Street to give back something for all the money we’ve given them …,” which has been enormous. There’s a report issued today—this is Thursday—the main report on what happened during all of the meltdown, and it blasts Goldman Sachs. It blasts [Timothy] Geithner, who was the treasury secretary, was head of the Fed back then, making these deals for AIG and the pastoral money, and it said this did not have to happen, this banking meltdown, and that in fact the government going back to Bill Clinton was complicit in it.
Anderson: OK. Well, piggybacking on your point about foreign wars and Obama, we have Chris in Salem, Ill., asking: “If terrorism is using violence to get what you want, aren’t we terrorists in Iraq and Afghanistan? If war is a conflict between two well-equipped and well-organized armies, why do we allow our leaders to say what is happening in Iraq and Afghanistan is war? Shouldn’t we insist on the more correct term “Occupation”? Wouldn’t it then be harder for them to make the case for funding and to insist what we are doing is noble and good?”
Scheer: Well, there’s no question that these are occupations. In Iraq’s case, there’s no evidence to this day of any involvement of Iraq under Saddam Hussein in terrorist attacks against the United States. It’s a continuous embarrassment that our buddies in the Mideast, in the Emirates and in Saudi Arabia, were the main backers, and the funding came from the places in the Mideast that we thought were the good guys, our allies. Fifteen of the 19 hijackers came from Saudi Arabia. Not one came from Iraq. In fact, not one was a native Afghani. So, you know, the whole excuse … we all know, it’s well documented, there’s an inquiry going on in England right now in which Tony Blair is being blasted for having gone along with Bush. And we know that the whole excuse for the war was fraudulent from the beginning. They knew it, it was built on a tissue of lies.
And so, yes, in terms of terminology, it is an occupation. And you know, this whole use of terror—the whole notion of terror is … it can’t be excluded from the actions of people who have sophisticated weapons. It can’t be reserved just for people who have roadside bombs, or do hijacking. If you’re using drones to destroy innocent civilians, that’s terrorism. The dropping of the Bomb on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, I thought, was an act of state terrorism, and I still do. I think just because you have big airplanes and big bombs and can destroy lots of people at will doesn’t mean that’s an act of war as opposed to an act of terror. The key definition in terrorism should be: Are innocent civilians being killed for some other purpose? Even if the purpose is noble—even if you think the purpose is noble—if you’re in fact treating human beings as sort of collateral in your war, and that you can sacrifice them, who are innocent people, that’s terrorism.
The other thing that should be noted about this use of the word terrorism is this whole idea that we have to have a massive military arsenal to combat it. The terrorists that should have concerned us, the people who did the hijacking and so forth, had an arsenal that could be bought for a couple of hundred dollars at Home Depot. You know, box cutters and pen knives, and so forth. Why in the world we have to have stealth bombers, why we have to have the most sophisticated weaponry, to combat them just makes no sense. We have weapons systems that are designed to defeat the old Soviet Union that doesn’t exist. And then the excuse is “well, the Chinese might get it.” So we’re in this absurd position where we’re borrowing money from the Chinese to be able to pay for weapons to potentially combat the Chinese. It’s like some kind of nightmare scenario, when it isn’t laughable.
Anderson: OK. So, taking it from the international to the domestic front, we have a question about the housing industry, housing market. Truthdig member Anyfreeman asks … well, first he says: “Thanks for cutting through the distractions. My question: How can Americans protect our homes and future from the fallout from the biggest swindle in history? The foreclosure debacle is just a cover-up of the most effective Ponzi scheme, the mortgage securities scam. The Obama crew is the same that created, perpetrated and profited from this “Hoover maneuver” of capital theft. However, nobody has even been referred for prosecution. Heck, during the ’80s S&L scandal, the Department of Justice referred 2,500 miscreants, and more than 1,100 actually did jail time. How can we make the enforcers enforce the rule of law when they are the very architects of this mess?”
Scheer: Well, you know, the only way we can do it is by embarrassing them. That’s why we have Truthdig. That’s why I wrote a book called “The Great American Stickup.” And it’s amazing—I mean, just to combine the two issues of national security and economic well-being, the chief national security adviser to Barack Obama, his previous job was being the Washington lobbyist for Fannie Mae, the housing agency that helped get us into all this trouble. So this guy who was there in Washington, deceiving Congress, deceiving the public about what Fannie Mae was doing, what was going on with the housing thing—is now entrusted with our most secret data and excuse for going to war, and what are we doing in Afghanistan and Iraq, and so forth. It’s bizarre.
And as I say, the chief of staff there now in the White House is somebody who lobbied for the big banks, and was up to his eyeballs in all of those deals. The guy who was brought in, the head of GE is brought in to be on the jobs council, is somebody who at GE capital … they specialized in these toxic subprime mortgages, and the government had to bail them out. So not only are these people not being punished for what should have been crimes, except they got to write the laws to make their crimes legal, these Ponzi schemes, but they’re being rewarded with ever more important jobs. Ever more important jobs.
And let me say something to our readers who feel I’m too harsh on Obama. If George W. Bush or another Republican were president now, and that president, that Republican president, made the appointments that are being made now by Barack Obama, I know every one of those people on the progressive side of things, that’s criticizing me, would be outraged. They would condemn it. Absolutely condemn it. If we had a Republican president, say John McCain were in there now, and he was appointing the head of GE to be head of his jobs commission, and the guy had exported hundreds of thousands of jobs, he had the subprime mortgages coming out of his eyeballs, more than half of GE’s profit that this guy has benefited from, he got $14 million himself in salary when we were all suffering. And if McCain had appointed that guy to be head of his jobs council, we would all think it was ludicrous! Obama does it and we think it’s an act of statesmanship. Or some people do.
And I don’t understand the people who feel the need to defend Obama at this time. You know, I find him very charming, very impressive; yes, I did support him when he was running. And by the way, I hope he does well. I really would like to see … I’ve said this before in these broadcasts: I would love to be proved wrong. Trust me. I don’t like the American people to suffer; I would love to see policy succeed rather than fail. But the idea that we’re doing ourselves a favor, we’re doing our president a favor, we’re doing our society a favor, by withholding criticism is nonsense. It’s a denial of what democracy is all about! Democracy is all about debate, and dissent, and challenging. And I hear just too many people—I’m getting too many comments around, you know, when I’m on the radio and in our columns and other places that run the columns, people saying “Oh, you’ve got to rally around the president.” Well, that’s not what Jefferson, you know, had in mind. That’s not what our Founders had in mind. What, rally around our leaders mindlessly? No! We’re supposed to be the center of democracy. We’re supposed to be thoughtful. We’re supposed to be challenging. And I’m hearing too much of this talk about, you know, “Let’s rally around our president.” I think that’s a very dangerous notion. You know, the emperor has no clothes now, and we have to challenge it.
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