Friday, December 04, 2009

My Favorite Fictional Character

If you asked me right now who my favorite fictional character is, I wouldn't say Kakashi from Naruto, Spock from Star Trek, or even Jacob Black from Twilight. If you asked me right now I would have to answer the antiwar Barack Obama. He is the coolest. He's interested in shrinking the military budget, he's for peace and not war, is not interested in establishing more permanent US bases around the world, and is willing to admit that America is sometimes wrong and is not perfect. He's like the president from a great movie or tv show, one who completely changes the country, who takes a massive risk and decides to turn the most powerful country in the world into a radical new direction.

In my favorite episode of the Antiwar Obama show, he tracks Dick Cheney to his secret underground lair, where he hordes away all the billions of dollars lost by war profiteering in Iraq and Afghanistan. There, Antiwar Obama fights off hundreds of Halliburton and Blackwater employees who are armed with all the body armor that the troops in Iraq never got. Once he reaches the center of the fortress, he finds, much like the mind of Professor James Moriarity to the crime underground in London, the barely beating heart of Dick Cheney is literally the pulse that keeps the military industry complex alive. Faced with a difficult ethical choice, Obama decides that for the sake of the world and the sake of The Daily Show writing staff, Dick Cheney must first be shot in the face with buckshot, and then his heart has to be ripped from his chest and then given to Larry King.

Upon returning home to the United States, Antiwar Obama finds that his act has truly changed the world. Like any awesome and conscious leader Antiwar Obama regularly dresses like a "regular" person and walks around his country so that he can experience the real mood of the people. As he travels around the United States, he sees recruiters from colleges being more aggressive and being better funded than ROTC and JROTC recruiters. He sees a longstanding peace activist dream come true, when outside of the Pentagon, Robert Gates is holding a bake sale in order to buy the next generations of fighter jets, while public education and California's public university system are fully funded.

I know, hu tungo', Antiwar Obama sounds like an awesome show! You should see the episode where the United States invades a country and then doesn't set up any permanent bases! Its so cool! Kalang un guinife!

I voted for Barack Obama last year, and while I enjoyed imagining the exploits of antiwar Obama, I had no illusion that the candidate I was voting for would mean anything different in terms of America's foreign policy or its military industrial complex. He was very upfront that he intended to win the war in Afghanistan by putting more troops there, and he always left room for possible intervention in Pakistan. Liberals and progressives and decolonization activists constantly hoped that Obama might be different, and on some issues of militarism he might be, but on most things, American military policy doesn't change from president to president. The system stays intact, and it would require a helluva lot of work and effort to change it, and no matter how inspirational Obama may have been at times, it was always clear that he wasn't that person, and certainly not for Guam.

What Obama represents in terms of war, is, like the article I've pasted below says, a better articulated and nicer sounding version of everything that Bush said. The tone is very different at times. Obama is willing to admit to the United States not being perfect and is always asking for help, and when him and his people seek help, it sounds far more sincere, then the facade of the Coalition of the Willing. So, I am not saying that Obama is a smarter version of Bush, or that they are alike. But in terms of war and territorial policies, it tends to not matter who is President, they all treat Guam the same. The tip of the spear. One administration might be nicer than the other, but for a spear tip that means the difference between a master who stabs you at someone and then lets you rust, as opposed to one who stabs you at someone and then wipes you down with oil. Your still a tool, but one just treats you better.

At the Guam Community and Economic Forum organized by the University of Guam last month, one of Obama's DOD people, Derek Mitchell was a speaker, and I will admit, that his tone was very different. He was very upfront, far more than any other person from DOD or JGPO I had heard before, about partnership and about working with Guam on making the buildup a success. Obviously, he also obfuscated and obstructed anyone who asked him any serious questions, but he did it in such a nice way, that I swear at times, I felt like he was massaging my shoulders, and telling me that it would be okay and somewhere in the background a Starship song was playing, "And we can build this dream together, standing strong forever, nothing's gonna stop us, now..."

But that sort of romance is the aura and the lure of Obama, it has very little to do with his policies. Do I regret voting for Obama? Ahe', hell no. Voting in an election, especially a large one for a President, has nothing to do with getting what you want. Its just not possible. Anyone who makes it to that level has to compromise, has to be bland, has to be almost useless in order to appeal to enough regular people and harmless enough not upset enough powerful people. Despite knowing this, I still found Obama exciting, and although I have been disappointed in how slowly he's moved on the key tasks in his platform, I'm still holding out hope that he won't become cautious to the point of irrelevance just in order to get re-elected.

The article below is a response to Obama's speech the other night on the need to escalate the war in Afghanistan. Para Guahu, the question of whether or not Afghanistan is Obama's Vietnam is silly. I think its silly for a couple reasons, but the main one is that it misses the point of what it is like to have an empire. Calling Afghanistan Vietnam is meant to create the impression that the United States will get "stuck" there. When people attempt to criticize Obama was helping the US get stuck there, they might appear to be speaking a difficult truth or revealing something which most people don't want to admit. In reality however, the Vietnam label is just another way of deflating or erasing the American empire, and ensuring that no one who is part of that empire knows how it really works.

Part of having an empire is the fact that you get "stuck" everywhere. You have bases and you have forces everywhere. Sometimes they are fighting, sometimes they are simply projecting force, sometimes they are providing quiet pressure on other governments to ensure that they don't conflict with your regional interests. Every place is a potential Vietnam. By referring to Afghanistan as Obama's potential quagmire, it's a simple way of pretending that America only occasionally gets stuck in other places, or that its only once every few generations or so that people actually don't want the US somewhere.

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President Barack Obama delivered the best speech George W. Bush ever gave in his life
By William Rivers Pitt
December 2, 2009

On Tuesday night, President Barack Obama delivered the best speech George W. Bush ever gave in his life. Mr. Bush, if he was watching, would have recognized virtually every facet of Obama's speech, for it was the Bush administration that hammered out the template used by Mr. Obama to deliver the news that he is doubling down on the war in Afghanistan.

Obama's eloquence was far superior to anything Mr. Bush could have ever hoped to achieve - for the first time in the 21st century, the United States has a president who can pronounce "nuclear" correctly - but at the end of the day, it was the same script all over again.

Mr. Obama's speech contained all the well-worn Bushian touchstones, one above all: sharing a stage with soldiers in uniform - and how heartbreakingly young were the faces in that room; one could hear a pin drop throughout in that roomful of children whose lives will be directly affected by the decision that was announced - as a means of political defense and to augment his martial profile. Mr. Bush pulled this sickening stunt more times than can be counted, and it burned like acid to see another president defile their service by using them as props in a bit of political theater.

It took exactly 130 words for Mr. Obama to invoke the attacks of September 11, which is just about how long it usually took Mr. Bush whenever he unleashed one of his linguistic muggings upon the populace.

Mr. Obama blessed the calamity of Iraq as a success - "We have given Iraqis a chance to shape their future, and we are successfully leaving Iraq to its people," said the president - which was a favorite habit of Mr. Bush, no matter how brazen facts to the contrary happened to be.

Mr. Obama likewise blessed the recent fraud-riddled election in Afghanistan as a positive thing, despite the cancerous effect that farce of a vote has had on the confidence of the Afghan people. In this, the president echoed Mr. Bush once again, as it was often Mr. Bush's practice to fete Iraqi elections that were controlled by Iran and riven with violence as successful steps towards democracy.

Mr. Obama re-introduced the American people to the menace of weapons of mass destruction, a favorite note of Mr. Bush. Obama did not go so far as to say that Afghanistan is in possession of 26,000 liters of anthrax, 38,000 liters of botulinum toxin, 500 tons of sarin, mustard and VX nerve agent, 30,000 missiles to deliver the stuff, mobile biological weapons labs, and uranium from Niger for use in a robust nuclear weapons program, as Mr. Bush did during another memorable prime-time speech, but the call to dread was there all the same. The threat of "loose nukes" is indeed real enough, but it was a kick in the stomach to see the Bush Handbook on Fear put into play once again.

Mr. Obama acknowledged in his speech that America's war in Afghanistan has lasted eight long years, and even tipped a wink at America's share of responsibility for helping to shape the bleak and battered history of that nation. But then, as Bush so often did with Iraq, Mr. Obama threw the responsibility for putting the pieces of that shattered nation back together squarely on the shoulders of the Afghan people. In effect, the occupier demanded that the occupied shape up and fly right. The Hebrew word for this is "chutzpah," and it fits the situation like a glove.

Mr. Obama never used the words "Coalition of the Willing," but his high-flown rhetoric about NATO and an international alliance to deal with Afghanistan stood in stark contrast to reality. Hardly anyone in the international community appears to have much interest in sharing or increasing the burden of continued warfare - a few of those hesitant nations have personal experience with that region in their history, none of it positive - leaving Mr. Obama and the United States pretty much on their own going forward. This may change, but not by much.

Where Mr. Obama departed from the well-worn script of Mr. Bush was in the realm of the rhetorical. He weaved a tapestry of interconnected American interests - economic, social, diplomatic - to explain why the war in Afghanistan must not just go on, but grow. Take this gem, for example:

But as we end the war in Iraq and transition to Afghan responsibility, we must rebuild our strength here at home. Our prosperity provides a foundation for our power. It pays for our military. It underwrites our diplomacy. It taps the potential of our people, and allows investment in new industry. And it will allow us to compete in this century as successfully as we did in the last. That is why our troop commitment in Afghanistan cannot be open-ended - because the nation that I am most interested in building is our own.

Indeed, it was all wonderfully phrased and brilliantly delivered. But in the end, Mr. Obama simply told us what we have been hearing for too long already: we must beat our swords into ploughshares by using swords. Mr. Bush never said it so well, but he said it all the time nonetheless.

Mr. Bush was proud to call himself a war president - "I make decisions here in the Oval Office in foreign policy matters with war on my mind," he famously boasted to Tim Russert with that signature smirk on his face. On Tuesday, Mr. Obama was nowhere near as blunt, but nonetheless, the torch has been passed. Whether or not his strategy for Afghanistan will be successful remains to be seen, but he sold it to the American people in exactly the same fashion as his predecessor. There was a little more sugar to make the medicine go down, but the taste of it remained all too terribly familiar.

At the end of Mr. Obama's address, the cadet corps of West Point stood and applauded. They had to; here was the commander in chief, and they are required to stand whenever he enters and exits. One wonders, however, what they really thought about what they heard. After all, it wasn't anything new; they, and we, have heard it all before.

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