1) Matt McCarten (“Afghan Election Scam a Terrifying Tragedy”)

Claims that we are sending troops to Afghanistan to make it secure and to keep the world safe from terrorism are blatant lies. The so-called Afghan "election result" last week is a contemptible fraud. The President’s brother is a well-known drug runner. The two Vice-Presidents are known as criminal warlords. One of them imprisoned his enemies in a truck container, resulting in them being cooked alive.

The President only won the election because he bribed bandit warlords with money and political positions in his new Western-backed government. Hundreds of polling booths never existed, although they apparently received hundreds of thousands of votes. The long list of allegations would be laughable if they weren’t so tragic.

US top general David Petraeus publicly admitted that al Qaeda doesn’t exist in the country. It is based in Pakistan. So now the West claims that the war is against the Taleban – not al Qaeda. The Taleban has no international terrorist network and there is no instance of any Afghan being involved in a terrorist plot anywhere in the world. The Taleban, while oppressive, is the Afghan local resistance, who see their fight as a war of liberation against foreign occupation. They have nothing to do with international terrorism.


All the West has done is impose a corrupt regime over a formerly oppressive one. Our military presence is immoral and will substantially increase the threat of terrorism, not eliminate it. All the experts accept that the West’s activities in Afghanistan are increasing the recruitment of al Qaeda terrorists elsewhere in the world.

Afghanistan is our generation’s Vietnam.

2) Chris Hedges (“War is a Hate Crime”)

Violence against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people is wrong. So is violence against people in Afghanistan and Iraq. But in the bizarre culture of identity politics, there are no alliances among the oppressed. The Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act, the first major federal civil rights law protecting lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people, passed last week, was attached to a $680-billion measure outlining the Pentagon’s budget, which includes $130 billion for ongoing military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan. The Democratic majority in Congress, under the cover of protecting some innocents, authorized massive acts of violence against other innocents.


“Every thinking person wants to take a stand against hate crimes, but isn’t war the most offensive of hate crimes?” asked Rep. Dennis Kucinich, who did not vote for the bill, when I spoke to him by phone. “To have people have to make a choice, or contemplate the hierarchy of hate crimes, is cynical. I don’t vote to fund wars. If you are opposed to war, you don’t vote to authorize or appropriate money. Congress, historically and constitutionally, has the power to fund or defund a war. The more Congress participates in authorizing spending for war, the more likely it is that we will be there for a long, long time. This reflects an even larger question. All the attention is paid to what President Obama is going to do right now with respect to Iraq and Afghanistan. The truth is the Democratic Congress could have ended the war when it took control just after 2006. We were given control of the Congress by the American people in November 2006 specifically to end the war. It did not happen. The funding continues. And while the attention is on the president, Congress clearly has the authority at any time to stop the funding. And yet it doesn’t. Worse yet, it finds other ways to garner votes for bills that authorize funding for war. The spending juggernaut moves forward, a companion to the inconscient force of war itself.”

The brutality of Matthew Shepard’s killers, who beat him to death for being gay, is a product of a culture that glorifies violence and sadism. It is the product of a militarized culture. We have more police, prisons, inmates, spies, mercenaries, weapons and troops than any other nation on Earth. Our military, which swallows half of the federal budget, is enormously popular—as if it is not part of government. The military values of hyper-masculinity, blind obedience and violence are an electric current that run through reality television and trash-talk programs where contestants endure pain while they betray and manipulate those around them in a ruthless world of competition. Friendship and compassion are banished.

This hyper-masculinity is at the core of pornography with its fusion of violence and eroticism, as well as its physical and emotional degradation of women. It is an expression of the corporate state where human beings are reduced to commodities and companies have become proto-fascist enclaves devoted to maximizing profit. Militarism crushes the capacity for moral autonomy and difference. It isolates us from each other. It has its logical fruition in Abu Ghraib, the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, along with our lack of compassion for our homeless, our poor, our mentally ill, our unemployed, our sick, and yes, our gay, lesbian, transgender and bisexual citizens.


“The inability to identify with others was unquestionably the most important psychological condition for the fact that something like Auschwitz could have occurred in the midst of more or less civilized and innocent people,” Adorno wrote. “What is called fellow traveling was primarily business interest: one pursues one’s own advantage before all else, and simply not to endanger oneself, does not talk too much. That is a general law of the status quo. The silence under the terror was only its consequence. The coldness of the societal monad, the isolated competitor, was the precondition, as indifference to the fate of others, for the fact that only very few people reacted. The torturers know this, and they put it to test ever anew.”

3) Craig Murray

The CIA is up to its usual tricks again supporting the drug running of key warlords loyal to them. They are also setting up death squads on the Central American model, in cooperation with Blackwater.

Fortunately Karzai’s rigging of his re-election was so blatant that the scales have fallen from the eys of the public and even the mainstream media. Politicians no longer pretend we are promoting democracy in Afghanistan.

Karzai comes directly from the Bush camp and was put in place because of his role with Unocal in developing the Trans Afghanistan Gas Pipeline project. That remains a chief strategic goal. The Asian Development Bank has agreed finance to start construction in Spring 2011. It is of course a total coincidence that 30,000 extra US troops will arrive six months before, and that the US (as opposed to other NATO forces) deployment area corresponds with the pipeline route.

Obama’s claim that "Our cause is just" ultimately rests on the extraordinary claim that, eight years after the invasion, we are still there in self-defence. In both the UK and US, governments are relying on the mantra that the occupation of Afghanistan protects us from terrorism at home.

This is utter nonsense. The large majority of post 9/11 terror incidents have been by Western Muslims outraged by our invasion of Afghanistan and Iraq. Put bluntly, if we keep invading Muslim countries, of course we will face a violent backlash. The idea that because we occupy Afghanistan a Muslim from Dewsbury or Detroit disenchanted with the West would not be able to manufacture a bomb is patent nonsense. It would be an infinitely better strategy to make out theoretical Muslim less disenchanted by not attacking and killing huge numbers of his civilian co-religionists.

4) Paul Street (“Obama As Predicted”)

I was not alone in seeing Obama as enjoying more than an outside chance at the White House in the near future. Other Left observers knew about Obama’s longstanding outsized ambition and his related "deeply conservative" [4] ideological orientation and power-accommodating nature.[5] We were aware of his early (late 2003-2004) and close vetting by the national political and financial class[6] and of who really selects viable presidential candidates and winners – the corporate and imperial establishment.[7]

And we knew also that, as the brilliant left commentator and author-filmmaker John Pilger noted last June, Obama’s racial identity could be a "very seductive tool of propaganda" working on behalf of the ruling class. "What is so often overlooked and what matters above all," Pilger ads, "is the class one serves. George W. Bush’s inner circle from the State Department to the Supreme Court was perhaps the most multiracial in presidential history. It was PC par excellence. Think Condoleezza Rice, Colin Powell. It was also the most reactionary."[8] As left black poet and political essayist Michael Hureaux observed in the comments section of Dissident Voice in February of 2008


For some of us in possession of such dark appreciation of the politician and his context, Obama was understood early on to be a distinctly possible if not probable next president – despite or even because of his race. We felt that he offered the U.S. power elite and its authoritarian business and military order and global empire a much needed re-packaging – a symbolic overhaul and "re-branding" – that none of the other serious presidential contenders in the mix could safely provide to the same degree required in the wake of the Cheney-Bush nightmare. For me and a few other lefties I knew/know, there was little all that unlikely or surprising or remarkable about Obama’s rapid climb to the top of the American Empire. It all made perfect sense. The same goes for Obama’s performance as U.S. president so far.

… All my life, I noted, I’d seen the Democratic Party and the broader corporate-managed political culture of which it (the "leftmost" of the nation’s two dominant business parties) is a major part deceive progressive voters and citizens, betraying populist campaign rhetoric and drowning popular dreams for a more just and democratic society in the icy waters of corporate and imperial hegemony.


The closest thing to a Left-progressive and antiwar candidate in the party’s primary field, I said, was Dennis Kucinich. But Kucinich wouldn’t have enough money to hire more than an activist or two in Iowa. He had no chance of getting past the U.S. election system’s big money/big-media gatekeepers[11] to win the nomination or even a single state during the primaries.


At the same time, I figured that Edwards’ "populist" rhetoric would doom his candidacy in the critically important realms of campaign finance (dominated by the wealthy and corporate Few) and corporate media. Corporate America and Wall Street were not about to permit the triumph of a candidate who spoke about "fighting the rich" in the name of democracy and ending poverty. The reigning communications authorities (General Electric-NBC, Viacom-CBS, Disney-ABC, News Corporation-Fox, Time-Warner et al.) could be counted on to mock and marginalize his campaign rhetoric (sincere or not) on behalf of economic justice.

Edwards was also badly scarred amongst the liberal primary base by his past position on the Iraq invasion. …


Third, and intimately related to that media approval, Obama was widely and falsely perceived as a strong and dedicated opponent of Bush’s unpopular Iraq War. This was a critical plus in the primaries, where the Democratic Party’s liberal and progressive base held significant sway. It let the in-fact imperial and militarist Obama appropriate "peacenik" consciousness that would have more appropriately worked to the advantage of more genuinely antiwar candidates like Dennis Kucinich, Cynthia McKinney, Ralph Nader, and (curiously enough) Ron Paul.


Fourth, Obama was widely seen as a left-leaning social-justice progressive. This false image was encouraged by his racial identity, his occasionally populist- and progressive-sounding rhetoric, and his short stint (after graduating from Columbia University and before attending Harvard Law during the 1980s) – heavily advertised in his campaign imagery – as a community organizer on the South Side of Chicago.


At the risk of sounding like a conspiracy theorist (I am no such thing), it struck me that Obama offered the U.S. ruling class and American System an irresistible advertising and imagery overhaul no other candidate could begin to match.


"who better than Obama – with his outwardly progressive credentials, his ‘community organizing’ past, and his non-traditional racial identity – to be the public face for the long-predicted massive taxpayer bailout of high finance? Who better than Obama (with his supposed ‘antiwar’ record and his Islamic-sounding name) to provide cover for the reconfiguration of U.S. military control of strategically hyper-significant Middle Eastern oil resources in the wake of Bush’s Iraq fiasco? Who better to safely channel popular angers and to attach alienated segments of the citizenry to the corporate and imperial state and to refashion America’s image around the world?"


It was, however, ready to vote in large numbers for a certain kind of black presidential candidate – one with special qualities who made a point of distancing himself from traditional black concerns, style, and rhetoric and indeed from the issue of race and the problem of racism. It was prepared to significantly back a smart, unthreatening, expertly crafted "black but not like Jesse [Jackson]" and "Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner" candidate like Barack Obama. This was particularly the case among the younger sections of the white electorate.


branding. The "first black president" story line would be an irresistible narrative for image-makers eager to restore the nation’s sense and representation of itself as a model democracy where "all things are possible" and no deep or insuperable barriers to equality can be found. Along with Obama’s purported antiwar history, his Muslim name and his brief childhood stay in Indonesia held great value in terms of tamping down "anti-American" (anti-U.S. Empire) feelings in the Middle East, South Asia, and the Islamic world more broadly – sentiments that had further fanned by Washington’s deeply criminal and more than incidentally bipartisan invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan.

With his distinctive promise to de-fang popular resistance to American Empire and Inequality at home and abroad, a properly elite-vetted Obama struck me as something of a ruling class dream come true in the post-Bush environment. He would make a marvelous vehicle for wrapping core conservative, system-maintaining policy continuities in the deceptive flag of progressive "change."


Corporate money and media sided on the whole with the Democrats in 2007 and 2008 [21], reflecting the Few’s determination that the Republican Bush-Cheney fiasco called for putting the other dominant U.S. business party in power for a term or two.[22] The Obama presidential campaign set new corporate fundraising records, bypassing and probably blowing up the nation’s public presidential election-financing system. His take included $39 million from the finance, insurance, and real estate ["FIRE’] sector [23] and nearly $1 million from the leading investment firm Goldman Sachs (a big political and policy player that is not in the business of handing over the White House to leftist or even mildly progressive enemies of American plutocracy) alone.[24] But just as significant and telling as such sponsorship was the remarkably favorable free coverage and commentary that Obama received from the nation’s dominant media [snip]

"the parties set out to mobilize the citizen-as-voter, to define political obligation as fulfilled by the casting of a vote. Afterwards, post-election politics of lobbying, repaying donors, and promoting corporate interests – the real players – takes over The effect is to demobilize the citizenry, to teach them not to be involved or to ponder matters that are either settled or beyond their efficacy….The timidity of a Democratic Party mesmerized by centrist precepts points to the crucial fact that, for the poor, minorities, the working-class, anticorporatists, pro-environmentalists, and anti-imperialists, there is no opposition party working actively on their behalf."

[Snip] … okay … just a little bit more.. this article should be read!

The first two CIA Predator assaults of the Obama administration occurred on the morning of January 23, 2009 – the president’s third day in office. The second strike ordered by the "peace" president on that day mistakenly targeted the residence of a pro-government tribal leader, killing his entire family, including three children. "In keeping with U.S. policy, "there was no official acknowledgement of either strike." Thanks to the CIA/Xe Services/White House program’s official secrecy, Mayer added, ""there is no viable system of accountability in place, despite the fact that the agency has killed many civilians inside a politically fragile, nuclear-armed country with which the U.S. is not at war." [33]

Obama’s predictable (and predicted) betrayals of his more leftish campaign rhetoric and imagery have met only minimal and half-hearted opposition from what’s left of a U.S. left. Unjust wars and occupations, mega-bankers’ bailouts and other regressive policies that were seen as intolerable under the nominal rule of a boorish moron from Texas (George W. Bush) have become acceptable for many "progressives" when carried out by an eloquent and urbane black Democrat from Chicago (Barack Obama).

5) Mark Weisbrot (“America’s Real Quagmire”)

In other words, a majority of 56% of Americans wants US troops out of Afghanistan about as soon as is practically feasible or even sooner. Yet Meet the Press – a mainstream network news talkshow since 1947 – does not see fit to find one person to represent that point of view. The other major TV and radio talkshows that the right also labels "liberal" in the US make similar choices almost every day.


And that is where the life-and-death consequences really kick in.

If you want to know why Obama has not fought for a public option for healthcare reform, why he has caved to Wall Street on financial reform, why he has been Awol on the most important labour law reform legislation in 75 years (despite his campaign promises), just look at the major media. Think for a moment of how they would treat him if he did what his voters wanted him to do. You can be sure that Obama has thought it through very carefully.

Obama’s whole political persona is based on media strategy, and on not taking any risk that the major media would turn against him. That is how he got where he is today and how he hopes to be re-elected. Many analysts confuse this with a strategy based on public opinion polling. But as we can see, these are often two different things.

Seventy-five percent of Americans support a public option for healthcare reform. (A majority would support expanding Medicare to cover everyone, but over the years the media, insurance and pharmaceutical companies made sure that this option didn’t make it to the current debate.)

Obama has the bully pulpit. He could say to the rightwing Democrats in the Senate: "Look, you can vote against my proposals, but if you do not allow your president to even have a vote on this reform, you are not a Democrat." In other words, you can’t join the Republicans in blocking the vote procedurally.

He could probably force Harry Reid, the Senate majority leader, to join him in enforcing this minimal party discipline that would come naturally to Republicans, which would allow the healthcare bill to pass the Senate even if conservative Democrats voted against it.

But to do that would risk losing some of Obama’s post-partisan, non-ideological aura that guarantees his media support. Of course, the media is not the only influence that hobbles healthcare reform. The insurance, pharmaceutical and other business lobbies obviously have more representation in Congress than does the majority of the electorate. But Obama does not feel this direct corporate pressure nearly as much. After all, he was the first president in recent decades to get 48% of his campaign contributions from donations of less than $200 – a very significant change in American politics, made possible though internet organising.


But the major media remain one of the biggest challenges to progressive reform in the 21st century.