June 09, 2009

Why "Obscene"? Those Who Bury the Dead Know Why

Yesterday, I began a consideration of Obama's Cairo speech. I characterized that address as "obscene" in its overall perspective and in many of its particulars, in addition to which, as I noted, the speech was replete with distortions, misrepresentations and outright lies.

One of the major reasons for my choice of the word "obscene" might be expressed in a different way, and it concerns the vast chasm separating Obama's words and the realities of American foreign policy on the ground. Obama has already made indisputably clear that he has no intention of altering those realities in any significant way; to the contrary, he is fully committed to expanding America's imperial agenda.

For an excellent overview of the facts concerning that imperial agenda, I recommend to your attention Chris Hedges' latest article: "Hold Your Applause." If these issues concern you, the entire article merits your consideration.

Here are a few key excerpts:
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 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.


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.
My reference to "those who bury the dead" in the title of this post comes from Hedges' concluding paragraph:
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.
I seriously question Hedges' use of the word "naive" in this context (and with regard to any of its various meanings), for several reasons I'll go into another time (probably as part of some upcoming essays). But in light of the considerable virtues of Hedges' article, this is a comparatively minor quibble. Hedges' piece is one of very few I've seen that focus on the excessively violent and bloody facts, as opposed to the pleasing cosmetic sheen that Obama skillfully manipulates to cover up the very ugly truth.

I will still examine certain lies told by Obama in more detail, offering evidence demonstrating why they are lies. But Hedges' article is an excellent overview of the truth that is being denied by most people, and by almost all commentators.

P.S. Certain of Hedges' observations recalled for me some comments I made in an entry on January 1 of this year. In that essay, "The Same Year of Hatred, Cruelty and Violence, Endlessly Repeating," I excerpted a Mike Whitney article concerning Obama's repellent and criminal silence during Israel's campaign of murder in Gaza. In introducing the Whitney piece, I wrote:
[T]hose who engaged in numerous rationalizations and lies to justify their support of Obama should take the lesson: you supported a war criminal. A man who is a war criminal himself can hardly be relied upon to point out the crimes of others. Mike Whitney describes the nature of the evil embodied by Obama...
If you still wonder why Obama won't support investigation and prosecution of the criminals from the Bush era, that's why.

Earlier in that same essay, I offered a brief summary of the nature of the United States today and how we arrived at this point. I repeat it here because of its relevance to some upcoming articles I'm preparing:
For more than a hundred years, the foreign policy of the United States government has been directed to the establishment and maintenance of global dominance. To this end, violence, overthrow, conquest and murder have been utilized as required. (See "Dominion Over the World" for the sources and development of this policy.) More and more, oppression and brutalization have become the bywords of domestic policy as well. Today, the United States as a political entity is a corporatist-authoritarian-militarist monstrosity: its major products are suffering, torture, barbarism and death on a huge scale.
As some of us have been pointing out for quite a long time, it is this monstrosity that Obama is fully committed to continuing, and even expanding. But he will do all of it, which is to say he will continue to commit the same crimes and perhaps even worse ones, with more skillful cover and better public relations.

Tragically, for a great many people, that will be enough to fool themselves into believing that our situation has "improved," and that it has "changed." They can try to make peace with their consciences as best they are able, assuming a conscience is still operational.

But as Hedges notes, it is not so easy for those who bury the dead -- or, I would add, for the dead themselves.