By Gregory Wonderwheel
August 31, 2008
In the best tradition of propaganda sloganeering, the Democrats labeled each day of their recent convention with a titled slogan intended to tell the party faithful what the sermon was to be about. The final day of the convention culminating in Barack Obama’s acceptance speech was titled with the religiously tinted slogan, “Change You Can Believe In.” Let the buyer beware. As Jean-Baptiste Alphonse Karr wrote in January 1849, “The more it changes, the more it’s the same thing” (“plus çça change, plus c'est la mêê me chose," commonly rendered as "the more things change, the more they stay the same"). With a triumph of staging, Barack Obama is selling the elixir of change in the political market places as well as preaching it from the political pulpits, still one must ask in all honesty and daring to speak truth to the power of Democratic propaganda: Where is the “change” when it is more of the same thing?
The 2008 Democratic convention is now history, yet like the lingering sour taste of the 2004 Democratic convention, the unsettling queasy sensations of altitude headiness now roll down the mountain like echos from Mile High Stadium. In 2004, the hope for change in the face of 18 months of war, was dashed in the hearts and minds of progressives who watched the micro-managing by the Kerry campaign turn what should have been a calling to the nation of a clearly enunciated antiwar message. Instead, we witnessed the nominee “report for duty” and promise that if he were elected he would win the war the right way.
Now, in 2008, we have just witnessed this election season’s central hope for change -- a world without lies and deception leading us to war – be dashed once again in the Democratic Party’s search for the great white whale, the White House. Obama staked his claim on the party’s nomination by asserting the evidence of his good judgement against the war in Iraq, and as his reward, in the convoluted primary process of caucuses and open or closed party voting, the majority of voters agreed. However, the progressive anti-war sentiments that are hung on the hook of hope espoused in the mantra of change by Obama continue to fall on the deaf ears of this captain of the Democratic Party as surely as First Mate Starbuck’s pleas to turn back were unheard by Captain Ahab. Progressives say to Obamam as did Starbuck to Ahab, "Thou hast outraged, not insulted me, sir; but for that I ask thee not to beware of Starbuck; thou wouldst but laugh; but let Ahab beware of Ahab; beware of thyself, old man." Just so to you Obama, in your voyage to war in Afghanistan, Obama beware of Obama; beware of thyself.
Herman Melville’s Moby Dick is quite instructive for those seeing insight into he ways of the Democratic Party. We progressives among the Democrats are too as the native islander and harpooner Queequeg was: pagans among the Christians. The protagonist storyteller Ismael relates how he learned of the cannibal Queequeg’s desire to see the world among the Christians:
For at bottom- so he told me- he was actuated by a profound desire to learn among the Christians, the arts whereby to make his people still happier than they were; and more than that, still better than they were. But, alas! the practices of whalemen soon convinced him that even Christians could be both miserable and wicked; infinitely more so, than all his father's heathens. Arrived at last in old Sag Harbor; and seeing what the sailors did there; and then going on to Nantucket, and seeing how they spent their wages in that place also, poor Queequeg gave it up for lost. Thought he, it's a wicked world in all meridians; I'll die a pagan.
Among those of us who belong to the progressive persuasion, there are those who convert to the self-delusions of the Democratic Party like pagans converting to Christianity, yet others of us remain unconvinced. We observe the practices of the Democrats and are soon convinced that even liberal Democrats can be both miserable and deceptive, and arriving at the conclusion that it is a deceptive world in all political meridians, we choose to remain and die progressives. Many progressives rather than return to their native lands live among the Democrats and look to Democrats themselves to be better, and like Queequeg say, "It's a mutual, joint-stock world, in all meridians. We cannibals must help these Christians."
In such spirits, progressives like Katerina Vanden Heuvel of The Nation writes in her essay titled “Don’t Make Afghanistan the Democrats’ War”:
Barack Obama not only had the good judgment to oppose the war in Iraq, he argued for the need "to end the mindset that took us into" that war. So it is troubling that a man of such good judgment is now ramping up his rhetoric about how we need to end the war in Iraq to focus on what he calls the "central front in the war on terror"--Afghanistan.
However, one didn’t need to be schooled in Melville to see in their Convention the persistence of the same old mindset by the Democrats in their clear call to arms to Afghanistan. Now that the people, who were bamboozled by a lying president into believing that a war with Iraq was both legitimate and moral, have mostly woken up from that hypnotic delusion, they seem all too willing to be entranced into a similar slumber regarding Afghanistan. Here are some examples of the mesmerising mantra delivered on the day of “Change You Can Believe In”:
Barack Obama said:
I will end this war in Iraq responsibly, and finish the fight against al Qaeda and the Taliban in Afghanistan. I will rebuild our military to meet future conflicts. But I will also renew the tough, direct diplomacy that can prevent Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons and curb Russian aggression.
Air Force Maj. Gen. J. Scott Gration (Ret), a self-confessed recent Republican said,
When I consider who should be commander-in-chief, I ask four questions.
First, who has the judgment to make the right decisions about when to use force? In his words of caution before the invasion of Iraq, and in his consistent calls for more force against al-Qaida and the Taliban, Barack Obama has shown the judgment to lead.
And on the previous day labeled with the slogan, “Securing America's Future” Vice presidential candidate Joe Biden chanted:
For the last seven years, this administration has failed to face the biggest forces shaping this century: the emergence of Russia, China and India as great powers; the spread of lethal weapons; the shortage of secure supplies of energy, food and water; the challenge of climate change; and the resurgence of fundamentalism in Afghanistan and Pakistan, the real central front against terrorism.and
Should we trust John McCain’’s judgment when he said only three years ago, ““Afghanistan——we don’’t read about it anymore because it’’s succeeded””? Or should we trust Barack Obama, who more than a year ago called for sending two additional combat brigades to Afghanistan?
The fact is, al-Qaida and the Taliban——the people who actually attacked us on 9/11——have regrouped in those mountains between Afghanistan and Pakistan and are plotting new attacks. And the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff echoed Barack’’s call for more troops.
These calls for the continued war in Afghanistan are nothing more than a Democrats version of the Republican lies that got us into Iraq. Contrary to what the so-called foreign policy “expert” Biden claims, the fact is that the Taliban had absolutely nothing to do with 9/11. There is as much evidence that the Taliban were the “the people who actually attacked us on 9/11" as there was that Saddam Hussein was buying yellow cake uranium and aluminum tubes for development of weapons of mass destruction, that is, none.
Now the question the American people must dare to ask themselves if they are ever to see the wizards behind the curtain of power in Washington DC is this: Was Biden’s false allegation that the Taliban attacked us on 9/11 just a campaign gaff or a part of the concerted plan by the military industrial complex to re-mesmerize the populace into continuing with the same war profiteering mindset that brought us Iraq?
I think the answer is abundantly clear by this thread woven through the convention advocating the need to move troops from Iraq to Afghanistan and stated explicitly also by Obama. The military contractors and war profiteers have seen the writing on the wall: that the war in Iraq is no longer popular. So what have they done? They have convinced the leadership of the Democratic Party, who are always afraid of being labeled "pacifists" or "wimps" unwilling to go to war, including Barack Obama, that reducing the war in Iraq is allowable as long as they can recoup some of their profits by increasing the war in Afghanistan with the hope of spreading it to Pakistan and Iran. And Obama has fully embraced this twisted vision of the new “just” war and appears dead set on making Afghanistan the Democrat’s war in yet another reprise on the theme of Viet Nam. This is nothing less than the Democratic leadership's purposeful collusion with the Republicans to transformation the American Dream into the Orwellian dream of perpetual war.
An honest person must ask, is this change we can believe in? Where is the change when all we are offered is the continued mindset of war with only a change in venue from Iraq to Afghanistan and with continued saber rattling threats of war with Iran? Where is the change when the lies of Hussein’s involvement in 9/11 are simply changed into lies about the Taliban being the perpetrators of 9/11?
While I detest the Taliban's politics and religious dictatorship, including their destruction of sacred Buddhist sites which is nothing less than the self-destruction of their own national heritage and potential sources of tourist income, the reality is that the Taliban never once threatened the United States and even now are only acting as nationalist insurgents seeking to throw out the current US-NATO invaders and occupiers, like they threw out the previous Soviet invaders.
There is absolutely no evidence of participation by the Taliban in 9/11 and when the USA wanted Bin Laden turned over, the Taliban did only what any sovereign government does in like circumstances, it exercised its sovereign right to hold an extradition hearing. This was, for example, what the government of the United Kingdom did when the Spanish authorities asked that Augusto Pinochet be handed over. The English did not hand him over without an extradition hearing in the courts with the right of appeal.
Would the USA turn over someone to Russia or China just because they demanded it be done without an extradition hearing? When the Taliban said they would hold an extradition hearing to determine whether Bin Laden should be turned over to the USA as soon as the evidence to do so was presented by the USA to the Afghanistan government, it was the USA that refused to participate by refusing to provide any evidence connecting Bin Laden to 9/11. Instead the USA and the Bush administration used the Taliban's adherence to and exercise of international law as an excuse to put into motion their pre- 9/11 plans to invade and occupy Afghanistan. Now Obama perpetuates the false legitimacy of those plans.
By failing to let the Taliban government hold Bin Laden under house arrest while an extradition hearing was conducted in tandem with continuing diplomatic negotiations with the Taliban, the Bush administration was directly responsible for Bin Laden being able to escape under the cover of the fog of war.
In order to show they can be just as militaristic as Republicans, as if, after Presidents Wilson, FDR, Kennedy, Johnson, Carter, and Clinton, anyone ever had any real doubts that Democrats can bomb and invade with the best of them, the Democrats are now urging a surge in the war in Afghanistan. The Democrats are using Afghanistan and 9/11 as their talisman for victory in their search for the White House just like Captain Ahab used his rage for his past injuries and peg leg in his search for the white whale. Yet Ahab at least was raging against the beast who was responsible for his injuries, while there no evidence at all that the Taliban government or the people of Afghanistan ever threatened the USA, either by 9/11 or at any other time. So we continue to invade and occupy Afghanistan unnecessarily killing innocent civilians and protecting the poppy growing and heroin trade, all based on lies that are just as pernicious and monomaniacally wrong as Bush’s invasion of Iraq.
There are some who fervently hope that Obama is just posturing and playing the war card for political gain, that once elected, Obama will remove it from the table. However, this seems like a false hope not even remotely connected to the hope that Obama is offering.
Continuing the war of occupation in Afghanistan will only further alienate the people of Afghanistan as the inevitable civilian casualties continue to add up. There is no military solution to an occupation opposed by nationalist insurgents.
In 1851 when Herman Melville wrote Moby Dick the world was not that different of a place from today. Ishmael, the narrator and sole survivor left to tell the tale of the demise of Captain Ahab, in a state of reverie considering his own fateful excursion into these well charted waters as a pawn in the greater story of world events recounts:
Finally, I always go to sea as a sailor, because of the wholesome exercise and pure air of the fore-castle deck. For as in this world, head winds are far more prevalent than winds from astern (that is, if you never violate the Pythagorean maxim), so for the most part the Commodore on the quarter-deck gets his atmosphere at second hand from the sailors on the forecastle. He thinks he breathes it first; but not so. In much the same way do the commonalty lead their leaders in many other things, at the same time that the leaders little suspect it. But wherefore it was that after having repeatedly smelt the sea as a merchant sailor, I should now take it into my head to go on a whaling voyage; this the invisible police officer of the Fates, who has the constant surveillance of me, and secretly dogs me, and influences me in some unaccountable way- he can better answer than any one else. And, doubtless, my going on this whaling voyage, formed part of the grand programme of Providence that was drawn up a long time ago. It came in as a sort of brief interlude and solo between more extensive performances. I take it that this part of the bill must have run something like this:
"Grand Contested Election for the Presidency of the United States.
"WHALING VOYAGE BY ONE ISHMAEL."
"BLOODY BATTLE IN AFGHANISTAN."
What “change to believe in” is this that Obama, now in 2008, over one hundred and fifty years after Melville wrote those words, can only offer us another “bloody battle in Afghanistan.”? What change is there when the bill of the grand program of the Democratic Party has the whaling voyage of the campaign placed in the fated interval between a “Grand Contested Election for the Presidency of the United States” and a further battle in Afghanistan?
In the entire four days of their Convention, the only true progressive voice within the Democratic Party came on day two from candidate Dennis Kucinich who was relegated to five minutes of sub-prime time. Kucinich, in his speech censored by the Obama campaign that prevented him from calling for the incarceration of he Republicans for their crimes, was the only speaker to draw the direct connection between Iraq and Afghanistan and the looming threat of war with Pakistan when he said, “Borrowed money to bomb bridges in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan. No money to rebuild bridges in America.” Only Kucinich dared to speak truth to the actual power of the energy companies and weapons merchants who share control of he Democratic Party just as much they have control of the Republican Party:
Wake up, America. We went into Iraq for oil. The oil companies want more. War against Iran will mean $10-a-gallon gasoline. The oil administration wants to drill more, into your wallet. Wake up, America. Weapons contractors want more. An Iran war will cost 5 to 10 trillion dollars.
The ongoing dilemma of progressives in relation to the Democratic Party is whether to ship on board the doomed Pequod of the Party as it sails in a voyage that offers once again to use militarism and war as the instrument of its foreign policy and as the rallying cry of a fake patriotism. I have total sympathy for progressives who refuse to climb on board this damned ship and chose instead to sail the seas aboard the more modest vessels like the Green Party, searching for lost progressives like the ship Rachel searched for its lost children thrown overboard from whale boats capsized by Moby Dick. But I also have complete sympathy for those progressives who sail with the Democratic Party in its compulsive quest and who say, paraphrasing Queequeg’s words, "It's a mutual, joint-stock world, in all meridians. We progressives must help these Democrats."
Still, it does no good for progressives to attempt to help the Democrats by silence. Progressives who wish to help the Democrats must raise their voices without embarrassment to warn against the Ahab-like obsession with war in the Democratic Party's quest for the White House.