Backtalk, March 14, 2008

Confessions of an Obama Cultist

Dear Mr. Raimondo,

I just read your most recent piece on Obama and wanted to thank you for it. I myself am a leftist (far leftist) and most likely have very little in common with many of your political stances; however, I wholeheartedly agree with your position that there are priorities that take precedence over purist ideology. The present U.S. course is devastating. Our militarism is a political, moral and economic debacle. Government overreach at home, death abroad, and the weakening of the economy are inextricably linked, and must be attacked as one. None of this is possible without ending our follies in Iraq. This is why I support Ron Paul, much to the chagrin of my leftist friends who deplore his free-market, anti-immigrant stands. Much like many libertarians don’t like your cautious admiration of Obama. But I think if we are serious about ending militarism (which will allow us to recover space for civil liberties and sane economics) we need to push far past partisan, ideological divides and unite to save ourselves from disaster. So you have total support from these quarters.

~ Erik Lamb

Justin Raimondo,

Thank you for defining yourself and your views. I think I’d understood them already but it is brave to take on a whole establishment ready to blow up the planet in pursuit of full spectrum dominance. As a child of the depression and parents who backed FDR in a small Republican town, I am a cradle Democrat who voted Dick Gregory in 1968. I still feel the ambivalence of that vote with its consequent Nixonian presidency and the bombing of Cambodia. I will now vote Obama given the chance. (Whether I could vote for Hillary is a question uncertain and vexed.) Gradually it has become clear to me that peace is the issue, the one that supersedes all others. I read daily and contribute quarterly. You and Tom Englehardt and Cindy Sheehan are my heroes.

~ Sue Perry

Hello, Justin:

Your twin suggestions that (1) Bob Barr could run as a third-party candidate and that (2) Obama could do the same and bolt the Democratic Party to create an antiwar option for its unhappy members hold the promise of something even better. With a split in the Democratic Party, the Bob Barr faction could be inspired to do the same for the Republicans – in the knowledge that the split on the left would make antiwar Republican voters take the necessary risk to avoid the specter of Hillary-in-Drag John McCain as Button-Pusher in Chief. Even better, perhaps Bob Barr could convince Ron Paul to go along with him in this effort. Then perhaps for the first time in who-knows-how-long we would have a real four-way race that would threaten to break into little pieces the one-party–war-party–socialist-party paradigm that has been smothering this country for far too many decades.

~ Lawrence M. Ludlow

How could you, Justin, how could you?

After all the years of taking strong stands against militarism and illegal wars and war plotting, you just threw in the towel, hoping for crumbs from a platitudinarian.

Obama is bought and paid for and stays in the military corporate box. It is distressing to a long-standing reader and supporter of to see you abandon all for what you must perceive as the lesser of three evils.

If Obama stood up to the AIPAC and demanded that Israel return all the land stolen in the 1967 war that would be one thing. Since he declares Israel “sacrosanct” he is condemning the Palestinian people to a brutal occupation and unending cycle of blood revenge.

How could you? It is so distressing to see you, a hero of the antiwar movement, abandon the ideals of the antiwar movement to embrace a few empty phrases. Where are the promises from Obama that the military bases in Iraq will all be closed? Have you heard him declare that the U.S. has no right to kill innocent people in Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan and Somalia? Obama promises to keep the Imperial Presidency strong and apparently has no problem with letting the president and generals commit acts of God without declarations of war.

I hope that rather than bow to a corporate media approved wink-and-nod candidate that you admit to the brief erroneous intoxication of a star struck teenager. Think it over, Justin. Don’t abandon the principles of international law and justice. It’s like you are plunging a dagger into the heart of the antiwar movement at the moment it needs inspiration the most.

You have given over to warm fuzzy feelings rather than demand written promises. I would like to think that a person of color had built-in empathy, but look at Rice and Powell covered in blood and unrepentant. You can be sure the of one thing, increased militarism if you go over to Obama. If he won’t stand up and denounce Bush for the war crime of plotting wars of aggression with lies, how do you expect him to stand up to the generals who always want more power and money?

I hope you recant, your good name is at stake. It is almost too much to stomach that Justin Raimondo is getting hustled by Barack the Banal.

~ John Mackesy

Justin Raimondo has it just about right. Obama is not the perfect antiwar candidate, but he is the best and now only antiwar candidate. One should also take into account the perceptive view of Chomsky that getting the “right” candidate is only half the task. You must then relentlessly pressure even candidates whose views line up with the antiwar vote because they will be under enormous pressure to compromise, to cave in from the insatiable military-corporate-media war machine whose business is war. Obama will be the most susceptible to pressure from the antiwar forces. Plus, he has excited and energized my daughter’s generation (she’s 19). Almost without exception they’re for Obama. If he can produce the sort of turnout this fall that the Democrats have enjoyed so far – roughly twice as many people are voting in the Democratic primaries – then he will crush the man who is calling for a new “100 Years War.”

~ D. Beaumont

A Strategy for Peace – and Survival

“I understand, however, that many antiwar conservatives and libertarians – myself among them – could never bring themselves to actually vote for Obama, never mind recommend that others do so. Yet that doesn’t mean I can’t root for him, which is quite a different matter.”

The above excerpt from Mr. Raimondo’s article “A Strategy for Peace – and Survival” contradicts the sincerity of Mr. Raimondo in his emphasis on the seriousness of the situation this country is in today. If, indeed, a train is about to hit the car of state, then why would one not endorse and vote for a savior, not just root for him? I would have much more respect for Mr. Raimondo if he had the courage to actively endorse, root for, and ultimately vote for a candidate that has the potential to take the “republic” route rather than the “empire” route at the crossroads of history now facing the United States.

~ Charles A. Broman, Las Cruces, NM

Justin Raimondo makes many good points. But he doesn’t deal with what to do if Sen. Clinton wins the Democratic nomination, so that we wind up with two war-hawks as our choice in November.

If that happens, there should be a strong effort to draft Ron Paul to run as a third-party or independent candidate.

I can understand his decision not to run if Sen. Obama wins the Democratic nomination. Obama doesn’t call for the radical change in foreign policy that we need; but the public, with reason, sees him as an antiwar candidate. Rep. Paul’s running as a third candidate in that case would be hopeless. And it would be tragic to have a futile presidential campaign in the fall end his role in Congress.

But if Sen. Clinton wins the Democratic nomination – and especially if she wins in a way that leaves the Obama forces deeply angry and millions of voters extremely frustrated – then all bets are off, and Paul should run. And he should make lots of overtures to the Obama folks – and hire some of Obama’s campaign staff, who must be extremely talented and disciplined to have done as well as they have this year.

This is an extremely volatile political year, and Paul might have a chance of besting Ross Perot’s nearly-19% in the 1992 election. Who knows? With a strong organizing effort – and much better advertising! – he might even be able to go all the way to victory.

I speak as someone who worked for the antiwar Gene McCarthy in his 1968 presidential campaign against the Vietnam War. I switched registration from independent to Republican in order to vote for Rep. Paul in the Maryland primary last month. It would be great to see him on the ballot again in November.

Whatever happens, though, I’ll always be grateful to Ron Paul for his courage in presenting such a strong antiwar case to Republicans.

~ Mary Meehan, Cumberland, Md.

The Rule of Law Is Not Charity

I heartily agree with Charley Reese about military trials of alleged terrorists and I applaud his speaking out. However, he is wrong about the Nuremberg war crimes trials. He writes:

In the case of the Nazis, if the Allies wanted vengeance, and they did, they should have rounded up the Nazi leadership and shot them. That, at least, would have been an honest act of vengeance. Instead, they set up a propaganda farce at Nuremberg and pretended they were going to provide a fair trial to the defendants. The trouble was, the Nazis were German citizens, and they had not violated any laws of Germany, since the criminal government had twisted the laws, as all criminal governments do, to fit its acts.

This is simply not true. When the resolutions to establish the Nuremberg court were written, great care was taken to point out that all acts charged were wrong under existing national laws, existing laws of war or international agreements signed by Germany, such the Briand-Kellogg pact.

The atrocities perpetrated by Nazis were not legal during the Third Reich – that is why they took such pains to hide what they were doing from the German public. Later prosecutions of Nazis in German court were based on the laws which was in force at the time the acts were committed, especially the laws against “Mord” (1st degree murder) and “Totschlag” (2nd degree murder). The Nazis never amended these laws to make exceptions for Jews (or gypsies, communists and homosexuals, for that matter).

The only legal novelty was the non-recognition of the “Act of State” and “Higher Orders” defenses. The defendant could not use the defense that he acted as representative of his state, or that he was simply “following orders.”

Reese’s characterization of the Nuremberg trials as some kind of kangaroo court is completely wrong, and a great disservice to readers. He could make a more apt comparison to the Stalinist show trials during the purges of the 1930s.

~ Chris Lyman

Roots of Venezuelan-Colombian Crisis

Alan Bock’s analysis of the Venezuelan-Colombian crisis has merit in some areas, but is also incomplete in these, and quite erroneous in others.

1) Firstly there is an assumption that the U.S. “war on drugs” is a “genuine” (if misinformed) attempt to suppress the drugs industry. In fact it is just another imperial smokescreen, in the same vein as the “war on terror.” The biggest market for drugs is the western developed world, and compounded by prohibition, this is what creates narco-trafficking. While the FARC are undeniably involved in this trade, the Colombian paramilitaries and state sectors are involved too – probably even to a much greater extent, and one suspects that (as in Indochina in the 1960s) U.S. state agents are also key to this clandestine arrangement, so in this way the U.S. empire deliberately (and not accidentally, as Mr. Bock assumes) compounds the problem they are allegedly there to solve.

2) Furthermore, Mr. Bock assumes that the war in Colombia is primarily aimed at the FARC, but this is not the case at all. Once again it is a smokescreen for a campaign of state terror against the general population, particularly on the poor, indigenous communities, and trades union/human rights activists who are labeled as “FARC sympathizers” and dealt with accordingly. U.S. and European imperial machinations are again at the dark heart of this murderous campaign, using it largely to prepare the way for corporate exploitation of Colombia’s rich natural resources and cheap labor (see Amnesty’s recent condemnation of Coca-Cola for supporting paramilitary violence – just one example).

3) Now come on, Alan. Ecuador is no more a “satellite of Venezuela” than the U.S. is. To determine satellite status from one nation being the consumer of another nation’s oil is quite bizarre. I mean if this deductive process was applied to the Middle East, one could therefore claim that the vast majority of Western powers were de facto “satellites” of Saudi Arabia. Huh?

4) Mr. Bock is correct to downplay Hugo Chavez’s socialist and anti-imperial rhetoric as containing a large dose of bluster, but despite nationalization in some areas (particularly oil), Venezuela is and remains a market economy, so is not in any sense a “model socialist state” – at least not in the Cuban or old Soviet bloc mode. And there is of course corruption and inefficiency within the state apparatus (as in “capitalist” Colombia, actually), but it would be more of a balanced picture to also highlight the role of the hugely wealthy, U.S.-financed elite (the leaders of the opposition) in sabotaging the internal economy to their own ends – namely to bring down Chavez. A similar tactic is gaining ground in Bolivia against President Evo Morales, again in conjunction with U.S. imperial meddling.

5) The Venezuelan referendum was not primarily about whether Chavez should be allowed to perpetually stand as president, though this is how the Western and Venezuelan opposition-dominated media have consistently tried to portray it. Mr. Bock seems to buy into this line, but I will assume this statement is made in ignorance rather than as a deliberate attempt to cover up the truth. The reasons why the projected changes failed were numerous – mostly tactical errors (and a bit of hubris) by Chavez combined with the confusion sowed by the sheer number and wordiness of the new constitutional proposals (and the conflicts therein), handing an unexpected windfall to the opposition – which the latter was able to exploit. Most of the changes were however to do with simply increasing the profile and democratic say of the nation’s poor (once so invisible that the old city maps of Caracas actually showed “open green areas” in the heart of the city where there are in reality teeming barrios of urban squalor). If one goes to Caracas today, one can see immediately that the economic elite are still very much in control and that their affluent lifestyles continue on unaffected. Their hatred of the present regime is spurred by the loss of traditional political dominance, rather than anything that actually hits their purses. Furthermore, this elite is not a genuine “business elite” in the Western sense, but a parasitic byproduct of old Spanish colonialism nowadays mutated to suit the needs of contemporary U.S./corporate imperialism.

I would therefore appreciate it if Alan Bock made better informed statements before the otherwise remarkable and informative Web site gave him an authoritative plug on the subject of Latin America. I’m sure he’s capable of it.

~ K. Gonzales

Fallon’s ‘No Iran War’ Line Angered White House

Too bad we can’t have an updated version of John Kennedy’s Profiles in Courage! Admiral Fallon, and General Zinni, would deserve chapters for the way they stood up to the warmongering antics of the Clinton and Bush II administrations.

Fallon and Zinni demonstrated reason and strength under fire. They have stood their ground in the best tradition of the officers corps in America: neither carrying out illicit orders blindly and unquestioningly – as did the offenders tried at Nuremberg – nor conniving in the politicization of their fiduciary positions.

Thanks, too, to Gareth Porter for highlighting their valorous actions.

~ Gary Corseri

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