Tag Archives: Barack Obama

Andrés Sal.lari: Honduras ¿Golpe de Estado contra Barack Obama?

Una noticia me llamó mucho la atención este domingo, al llegar a mi puesto de trabajo para iniciar la crónica del retorno del depuesto presidente José Manuel Zelaya, un colega se apareció en mi chat y me pasó unas declaraciones que realizó el canciller impuesto por el gobierno de facto hondureño, Enrique Ortez Colindres, que decían lo siguiente.

“Dejad a los hondureños que resuelvan sus problemas. Ellos permiten lo que sea. Ya Estados Unidos no es el defensor de la democracia. En primer lugar, el presidente de la República, que lo respeto, el negrito, no conoce dónde queda Tegucigalpa. Nosotros somos los que conocemos dónde está Washington y somos los obligados como país pequeño, un pigmeo democrático, a aclararles las concepciones y a leerle, tal vez en su idioma, lo que está pasando”.

Lo que me pregunto es si Ortez habla solo.

Horas después, los colegas Cristina González y Hernán Cano entrevistan al sociólogo James Petras en la emisora YVKE Mundial de Caracas.

Petras no se plantea la discusión en los mismos términos que propongo en esta nota, él critica abiertamente a Obama por no romper relaciones con los golpistas, y por no imponer sanciones comerciales, pero me robo parte de sus declaraciones para utilizarlas en pro del interrogante que plantea esta nota.

Dice Petras: “Bueno, por lo menos veamos los indicadores concretos. Primero, el embajador norteamericano sigue allá. Segundo, los generales, mayores y coroneles estadounidenses estacionados en la base de Honduras siguen en contacto con los asesinos como si fuera una cosa rutinaria.”

Me vuelve la pregunta de antes.

¿Ortez habló solo?

Obama no habrá sido del todo tajante, pero el lunes 29 de junio dijo que el gobierno de Michelleti era ilegal y que el único presidente que reconocía EEUU era Zelaya.

¿Fue una declaración de condena real o una actuación para las cámaras?

No estoy seguro, pero al día siguiente las agencias internacionales informaron que Estados Unidos había decidido suspender sus actividades militares conjuntas con Honduras como medida de presión tras el golpe de Estado.

Esta noticia era interesante, pero al día siguiente el periodista Walter Martínez informó en su programa Dossier -que transmiten Venezolana de Televisión y Telesur- en Venezuela, que esta orden había sido desacatada.

Eso fue el miércoles posterior al golpe del domingo 28 de junio. Cuatro días después leí declaraciones de otro periodista venezolano -quien fue vicepresidente de Chávez- y que suele tener muy buena información.

Rebotada por la Agencia Bolivariana de Información, la noticia era la siguiente:

“El periodista José Vicente Rangel denunció este domingo que en Honduras actuaron dos líneas políticas de Estados Unidos antes de que se fraguara el golpe de Estado contra el presidente constitucional de ese país, Manuel Zelaya.

‘En Honduras se hicieron presentes dos niveles de la política del gobierno norteamericano, una proveniente de la Casa Blanca y otra de la maquinaria que dejó montada la administración de George W. Bush a través de la base militar implantada en la población hondureña de Palmarola’, sostuvo.

Rangel explicó que las razón es que en la madrugada del domingo 28 de junio dos importantes funcionarios del Departamento de Estado, James Steimberg y Tom Shannon, contactaron la embajada estadounidense en Tegucigalpa y la base militar que tiene ese país en la población hondureña de Palmarola para advertir del golpe y disuadir cualquier intento de apoyo.

‘En Honduras operaría, además del Departamento de Estado, la línea del Pentágono a través de la base militar cuyo jefe, el general Douglas Fraser, días antes del golpe en ese país hizo declaraciones contra el presidente (Hugo) Chávez, las cuales asumió de inmediato el gobierno usurpador de (Roberto) Micheletti’, comentó Rangel.

Indicó que fue por esa situación que el embajador estadounidense, Hugo Llórens, se vio forzado a pronunciarse en contra de lo ocurrido, con reservas al principio y luego en forma más categórica.”

Otra vez la pregunta. ¿Por boca de quién habló Cortez?

Robert Gates es el secretario de Defensa de Estados Unidos, Obama le mantuvo el puesto que su antecesor George W. Bush le había confiado en 2006. Su función clave es vencer en la guerra de ocupación en Afganistán y Pakistán, para lo que la administración de Obama está dispuesta a seguir bombardeando indiscriminadamente a sus pueblos, como ya lo ha demostrado.

En octubre de 2007, Gates declaró desde El Salvador que Chávez “es una amenaza para la libertad y prosperidad económica de los venezolanos.”

Durante la década del ’80, Gates fue el subdirector de la CIA, la época en la que Honduras era una base de operaciones para la inteligencia estadounidense, que mantenía una guerra de alta intensidad para derrocar a los sandinistas en Nicaragua.

La presencia estadounidense (con base y 600 soldados hasta hoy) en Honduras permanece, y dudo mucho que los contactos entre los militares de ambos países y Gates puedan haber desparecido. También es imposible pensar que Gates no esté congratulado con el golpe de Estado que afecta al ALBA y a Chávez directamente.

Una vez más la pregunta. ¿Habló solo Cortez?

Repito y repito esta pregunta porque esa declaración racista e irrespetuosa es prácticamente inédita en la historia golpista del continente, y que no surjan represalias más llamativo aún.

Petras confirma que “los generales, mayores y coroneles estadounidenses estacionados en la base de Honduras siguen en contacto con los asesinos como si fuera una cosa rutinaria.”

Walter Martínez informa que la orden de suspender la ayuda militar fue desoída y Rangel revela que diplomáticos de Obama debieron llamar a Tegucigalpa para que EEUU quedé despegado del golpe, y que el embajador Llórens se vio “forzado” a declarar contra la intentona.

Todo parecería indicar que hay un doble poder, tal vez el embajador Llórens, el Pentágono y probablemente el secretario Gates, estén de acuerdo en que Obama “es un negrito que no sabe dónde queda Tegucigalpa” y en que “Estados Unidos ya no es el defensor de la democracia” y “permite lo que sea”.

Tal vez alguna línea de poder le transmitió a Cortez la seguridad necesaria, o la luz verde para que se dirigiera al Presidente de Estados Unidos en esos términos sin el temor a sufrir la represalia correspondiente, que yo pensaría que es el derrocamiento del gobierno golpista.

Por qué no podría concluir esto este periodista, si esta idea acerca de Obama es la que promueve todo el tiempo Richard Cheney, el ex vicepresidente de Bush, que permanentemente declara los mismos conceptos que Cortez con diferentes palabras. Y Gates era uno de los principales funcionarios de Bush y Cheney.

Es cierto que Obama sigue atacando Afganistán y Pakistán, pero no sé si podría dejar de hacerlo sin ser derrocado. Es cierto que mantuvo a Gates, y todo pareciera indicar que podría haberlo removido sin que esto le represente represalias, pero no me animaría a afirmarlo de manera tajante.

También es cierto que algunas cuestiones cambiaron en materia de política exterior estadounidense y eso puede tener muy molestos a muchos ultraconservadores acostumbrados a detentar el poder en Washington. De hecho lo tiene muy molesto a Cheney, y entonces me permito pensar que para el viejo lobo de operaciones de inteligencia y desestabilización de la guerra fría, Robert Gates, tampoco le caerá bien el negrito.

Pareciera ser que esto mismo es lo que piensa la presidenta argentina Cristina Fernández de Kirchner, quien en la madrugada del pasado domingo declaró lo siguiente en la Asamblea Extraordinaria de la OEA en Washington.

Cristina es una mujer inteligente, recomiendo prestarle atención:

“Creo también, esto corre por cuenta exclusivamente de quien habla, que también hay aquí atrás otros intereses, intereses que tal vez quieran torcer el rumbo que ha comenzado a tomar el conjunto de la América como por ejemplo en Trinidad y Tobago (Cumbre de las Américas) donde pudimos volver a dialogar y a intentar tener una relación diferente. Yo no soy ingenua y creo que no solamente el ataque es a Ud. presidente Zelaya, o a la República de Honduras, tal vez hay una estrategia más fina, mas profunda que no solamente involucra a quienes tal vez en su país quieren seguir con un modo de no redistribución del ingreso, etc etc.

Creo que también se intenta frustrar una política diferente para el conjunto de América para el conjunto de todos países que conformamos América. Pensémoslo. ¡Qué curioso!, durante los últimos 8 años no se habían registrado, salvo el episodio de Venezuela, casos similares. Cambia la administración del país más poderoso del mundo en el cual estamos aquí, con una nueva tónica a la que todos aspiramos como cambio y comienzan a suceder cosas como estas que pareciera ser que retroceden o ponen el tela de juicio los avances que hemos comenzado a tener a partir de un cambio de administración que ha sembrado mucha esperanza, no solamente en América, sino en el mundo en la necesidad de cambiar.

Sin visiones conspirativas pero con la inteligencia que todos tenemos la obligación de tener al mirar los hechos, no solamente en el lugar que se producen y por las apariencias que presentan, creo que estamos todos obligados a tener una gran dosis de racionalidad, una gran dosis de inteligencia para entender las cosas que están en juego a partir de lo que ha sucedido en Honduras.

Restituir entonces las cosas a su lugar no va a ser solamente un acto de justicia con el pueblo de Honduras y con el respeto estricto a los Derechos Humanos sino también la posibilidad de continuar y profundizar un cambio que comenzó a partir de Trinidad y Tobago, de la derogación de la hermana Republica de Cuba y de un aire diferente que se empezó a respirar en toda la América”.

El director de Human Rights Watch, el chileno José Miguel Vivanco, declaró el fin de semana que la solución a la crisis de Honduras depende de la administración del presidente de los Estados Unidos, Barack Obama, ya que, si va a fondo, el gobierno de facto “no resiste más que unas horas”.

Obama también es un hombre muy inteligente, yo no me animo a asegurar qué es lo que quiere y/o qué es lo que puede hacer, pero el envalentonamiento racista de Cortez, y la nula represalia de Washington, sumado al silencio de Llórens, me sigue revoloteando en la cabeza.

¿Habrá sido este un golpe de Estado contra el negrito?

Fuente: Argenpress

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J. Enrique Olivera Arce: Obama, más amenaza que esperanza para México

En Perspectiva

        • “Espero que el próximo gobierno de Estados Unidos que encabezará el demócrata Barack Obama, tenga suficiente talento y sentido común y no cometa el error de renegociar el Tratado de Libre Comercio para América del Norte”

        • Felipe Calderón Hinojosa

Si de algo tenemos que estar convencidos es de que los Estados Unidos de América no tienen amigos, tienen intereses. La designación de Hillary Clinton en el Departamento de Estado y la confirmación de Robert Gates, secretario de defensa de la administración Bush, no hace sino ratificar lo anterior, mostrando la intención de Barack Obama de mantener una política exterior agresiva, con el objetivo de restaurar el hoy desquebrajado dominio del imperialismo norteamericano en el mundo.

No podía esperarse otra cosa. Más allá de una política interna llamada a fortalecer el aparato productivo, la capacidad de consumo de las clases medias, y la seguridad social destinada a las capas más desprotegidas de la sociedad norteamericana, tendiente a recobrar confianza, credibilidad y margen de maniobra política frente a la crisis global, el imperialismo no puede renunciar a su hegemonía económica y militar en el resto del mundo; so pena, como afirman prestigiados analistas, de ceder iniciativa geopolítica, energética y comercial frente a China, Rusia, o la India, potencia emergente a considerar.

De ahí que resulte ingenuo esperar que el imperialismo renuncie a sus intereses en México, en nombre de una mal entendida amistad. Como resulta no sólo ingenuo, también ceguera política, el que el Sr. Calderón Hinojosa tratara en Lima, Perú, de enmendarle la plana a Barack Obama, oponiéndose a la revisión de un Tratado de Libre Comercio que ya no le es funcional a los Estados Unidos. Por elemental lógica habría que considerar las prioridades de nuestro vecino en materia de política interna y exterior y no las propias, a partir de los déficits –comercial, fiscal, de inversión, climático, de valores, de igualdad y de responsabilidad- que según el premio Nobel, Joseph Stiglitz, frente a la actual crisis acusa la nación más poderosa del planeta. Subsanarlos y obtener el equilibrio deseable, exige un gran esfuerzo hacia adentro pero también en lo externo, y en ello va por delante el interés nacional por sobre amistad y buena vecindad.

Inversión, empleo, fortalecimiento del mercado interno, y reactivación de los procesos de expoliación imperial  de la riqueza en el resto del mundo bajo su hegemonía, a través de una política monetaria y comercial agresiva con el respaldo de la bota militar, dicta la lógica. Bajo este supuesto, es de considerarse que la inversión productiva y las políticas de empleo se concentren en territorio nacional, beneficiando a sus connacionales a costa de la reducción de flujos de capital al exterior y de la mano de obra proveniente del extranjero. En tanto que en el mundo subdesarrollado bajo su dominio, sacarán raja de los demoledores efectos de la crisis global, haciéndose de  recursos naturales de países empobrecidos en beneficio del imperio.

México, atrapado entre el coloso del norte y los países emergentes de América Latina que vinculándose a China y Rusia, vienen construyendo su propio espacio frente a los Estados Unidos, con Tratado de Libre Comercio con América del Norte, o sin este, seguirá condenado a repetir su historia de país dependiente, expoliado, de rodillas en un permanente estado de subdesarrollo, víctima de sus propias contradicciones internas y la ceguera y corrupción de sus gobernantes.

Bajo esta óptica, la administración de Barack Obama, es más amenaza que esperanza para México. O aprendemos a rascarnos con nuestras propias uñas, rescatando con honestidad, trabajo y defensa de lo más caro de nuestros intereses nacionales, a un país que se hunde más cada día, o seguiremos atados a nuestro destino manifiesto hasta que se reviente el hilo por lo más delgado.

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DAVID ALANDETE: El Partido Republicano enseña su rostro más radical

En las primarias fueron contrincantes. Pero los tres principales competidores contra John McCain por la nominación del Partido Republicano se unieron el miércoles en un duro ataque contra lo que bautizaron como “la prensa liberal”, contra la izquierda, contra Washington y contra el candidato demócrata a la presidencia de EE UU, Barack Obama.

Olvidados los tiempos del conservadurismo compasivo, Rudolph Giuliani, Mike Huckabee y Mitt Romney imprimieron un tono radical a la Convención de Saint Paul y acusaron al senador por Illinois de falta de firmeza ante el terrorismo islamista y de atesorar menos experiencia ejecutiva que cualquiera de los dos miembros de la candidatura republicana.

“Los demócratas han renunciado a ganar la guerra de Irak y han renunciado a América”, dijo el ex alcalde de Nueva York Rudolph Giuliani. En una severa crítica al Partido Demócrata, dijo que en su Convención, en Denver, “raramente mencionaron los ataques del 11 de septiembre de 2001. Viven un estado de negación respecto a la mayor amenaza que vive nuestro país”.

El ex gobernador de Arkansas Mike Huckabee acusó a Obama de ser el candidato que pondrá a Estados Unidos “en riesgo en un mundo peligroso”. Mitt Romney, por su parte, aportó puntos del ideario neoconservador al asegurar que los republicanos son los únicos que creen “en la distinción entre el bien y el mal”, mientras Obama “duda y se doblega” ante el terrorismo.

Giuliani defendió a McCain como “un soldado de a pie en la revolución conservadora de Reagan”. De hecho, los tres ex candidatos le atribuyeron a McCain el rol de defensor del legado del célebre presidente republicano de los años ochenta. “El camino adecuado es el que lideró Ronald Reagan hace 30 años y que ahora recorrerán John McCain y Sarah Palin”, dijo Romney, que fue gobernador de Massachusetts entre 2003 y 2007.

En su intervención, este político mormón unió directamente la presidencia de George W. Bush a la candidatura de McCain. “Bush definió a los Estados que patrocinan el terrorismo como lo que son: un eje del mal”, afirmó, en una defensa de la tradición neoconservadora de los años más recientes del Partido Republicano. “El islamismo radical y violento es el demonio, y debemos vencerlo”.

“Queremos pasar de un Washington liberal a un Washington conservador”, dijo Romney, en tono desafiante. “Los liberales cambiarían la sociedad de las oportunidades por la dependencia de la caridad del Gobierno”, dijo, detallando a continuación un ideario económico netamente republicano: “El camino adecuado consiste en reducir el gasto del Gobierno, en bajar los impuestos, en exterminar las grandes regulaciones y los mandatos, detener las tasas a las empresas y enfrentarse al apetito de tiranosaurio de los sindicatos”.

Tanto Romney como Giuliani acusaron a los demócratas de la crisis energética que vive EE UU. Ambos defendieron la propuesta de McCain de abrir las costas estadounidenses a más perforaciones petrolíferas. “Es el Congreso liberal el que nos hace más dependientes de los tiranos de Oriente Próximo”, dijo el ex gobernador de Massachusetts.

Los discursos de los tres ex candidatos fueron, también, una defensa de la experiencia política de Sarah Palin y un encendido ataque personal contra Obama y su compañero de candidatura, Joe Biden. ” tiene ya más experiencia en un puesto ejecutivo que toda la candidatura demócrata”, dijo el ex alcalde de Nueva York. “Ha sido alcaldesa, y sabéis cómo me gusta este trabajo. Lo siento, Barack, si [el puesto de alcaldesa] no es lo suficientemente glamuroso”, dijo.

Los tres antiguos adversarios se sometieron obedientemente a la disciplina de partido en sus comparecencias. Sólo uno, el ex gobernador de Arkansas y ministro baptista Mike Huckabee, reconoció entre risas que, al principio, hubiera querido ser él quien leyera el discurso de aceptación de la candidatura el jueves por la noche. Pero el Huckabee del miércoles fue un ariete más en la táctica de acoso y derribo diseñada por el estratega electoral Steve Schmidt, amigo personal de Karl Rove y arquitecto de la campaña de McCain. “Sarah Palin obtuvo más votos como alcaldesa de Wasilla, Alaska, que Joe Biden en su candidatura a la presidencia”, dijo.

Fue Huckabee quien más se cebó con “los medios elitistas” por subrayar diversas polémicas en las que Palin se ha visto envuelta recientemente. La prensa, dijo, “ha hecho algo que parecía imposible de conseguir: unir al Partido Republicano y a todos los estadounidenses en apoyo del senador McCain y la gobernadora Palin”.

http://www.elpais.com/articulo/internacional/Partido/Republicano/ensena/rostro/radical/elpepuint/20080905elpepiint_3/Tes

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Barack Obama: Speech Transcript

Transcript of Senator Obama’s Nomination Acceptance speech

Two hundred and twenty one years ago, in a hall that still stands across the street, a group of men gathered and, with these simple words, launched America’s improbable experiment in democracy.

Farmers and scholars; statesmen and patriots who had traveled across an ocean to escape tyranny and persecution finally made real their declaration of independence at a Philadelphia convention that lasted through the spring of 1787.

The document they produced was eventually signed but ultimately unfinished. It was stained by this nation’s original sin of slavery, a question that divided the colonies and brought the convention to a stalemate until the founders chose to allow the slave trade to continue for at least 20 more years, and to leave any final resolution to future generations.

Of course, the answer to the slavery question was already embedded within our Constitution — a Constitution that had at its very core the ideal of equal citizenship under the law; a Constitution that promised its people liberty, and justice, and a union that could be and should be perfected over time.

And yet words on a parchment would not be enough to deliver slaves from bondage, or provide men and women of every color and creed their full rights and obligations as citizens of the United States.

What would be needed were Americans in successive generations who were willing to do their part — through protests and struggle, on the streets and in the courts, through a civil war and civil disobedience and always at great risk — to narrow that gap between the promise of our ideals and the reality of their time.

This was one of the tasks we set forth at the beginning of this campaign — to continue the long march of those who came before us, a march for a more just, more equal, more free, more caring and more prosperous America.

I chose to run for the presidency at this moment in history because I believe deeply that we cannot solve the challenges of our time unless we solve them together — unless we perfect our union by understanding that we may have different stories, but we hold common hopes; that we may not look the same and we may not have come from the same place, but we all want to move in the same direction — towards a better future for our children and our grandchildren.

This belief comes from my unyielding faith in the decency and generosity of the American people. But it also comes from my own American story.

I am the son of a black man from Kenya and a white woman from Kansas. I was raised with the help of a white grandfather who survived a Depression to serve in Patton’s Army during World War II and a white grandmother who worked on a bomber assembly line at Fort Leavenworth while he was overseas.

I’ve gone to some of the best schools in America and lived in one of the world’s poorest nations. I am married to a black American who carries within her the blood of slaves and slaveowners — an inheritance we pass on to our two precious daughters.

I have brothers, sisters, nieces, nephews, uncles and cousins, of every race and every hue, scattered across three continents, and for as long as I live, I will never forget that in no other country on Earth is my story even possible.

It’s a story that hasn’t made me the most conventional candidate. But it is a story that has seared into my genetic makeup the idea that this nation is more than the sum of its parts — that out of many, we are truly one.

Throughout the first year of this campaign, against all predictions to the contrary, we saw how hungry the American people were for this message of unity.

Despite the temptation to view my candidacy through a purely racial lens, we won commanding victories in states with some of the whitest populations in the country. In South Carolina, where the Confederate Flag still flies, we built a powerful coalition of African-Americans and white Americans.

This is not to say that race has not been an issue in the campaign. At various stages in the campaign, some commentators have deemed me either “too black” or “not black enough.”

We saw racial tensions bubble to the surface during the week before the South Carolina primary. The press has scoured every exit poll for the latest evidence of racial polarization, not just in terms of white and black, but black and brown as well.

And yet, it has only been in the last couple of weeks that the discussion of race in this campaign has taken a particularly divisive turn.

On one end of the spectrum, we’ve heard the implication that my candidacy is somehow an exercise in affirmative action, that it’s based solely on the desire of wide-eyed liberals to purchase racial reconciliation on the cheap.

On the other end, we’ve heard my former pastor, Rev. Jeremiah Wright, use incendiary language to express views that have the potential not only to widen the racial divide, but views that denigrate both the greatness and the goodness of our nation — that rightly offend white and black alike.

I have already condemned, in unequivocal terms, the statements of Rev. Wright that have caused such controversy. For some, nagging questions remain.

Did I know him to be an occasionally fierce critic of American domestic and foreign policy? Of course. Did I ever hear him make remarks that could be considered controversial while I sat in church? Yes. Did I strongly disagree with many of his political views? Absolutely — just as I’m sure many of you have heard remarks from your pastors, priests or rabbis with which you strongly disagreed.

But the remarks that have caused this recent firestorm weren’t simply controversial. They weren’t simply a religious leader’s effort to speak out against perceived injustice.

Instead, they expressed a profoundly distorted view of this country — a view that sees white racism as endemic, and that elevates what is wrong with America above all that we know is right with America, a view that sees the conflicts in the Middle East as rooted primarily in the actions of stalwart allies like Israel, instead of emanating from the perverse and hateful ideologies of radical Islam.

As such, Rev. Wright’s comments were not only wrong but divisive, divisive at a time when we need unity; racially charged at a time when we need to come together to solve a set of monumental problems — two wars, a terrorist threat, a falling economy, a chronic health care crisis and potentially devastating climate change; problems that are neither black or white or Latino or Asian, but rather problems that confront us all.

Given my background, my politics, and my professed values and ideals, there will no doubt be those for whom my statements of condemnation are not enough. Why associate myself with Rev. Wright in the first place, they may ask? Why not join another church?

And I confess that if all that I knew of Rev. Wright were the snippets of those sermons that have run in an endless loop on the television and YouTube, or if Trinity United Church of Christ conformed to the caricatures being peddled by some commentators, there is no doubt that I would react in much the same way

But the truth is, that isn’t all that I know of the man. The man I met more than 20 years ago is a man who helped introduce me to my Christian faith, a man who spoke to me about our obligations to love one another; to care for the sick and lift up the poor.

He is a man who served his country as a U.S. Marine, who has studied and lectured at some of the finest universities and seminaries in the country, and who for over thirty years led a church that serves the community by doing God’s work here on Earth — by housing the homeless, ministering to the needy, providing day care services and scholarships and prison ministries, and reaching out to those suffering from HIV/AIDS.

In my first book, “Dreams From My Father,” I described the experience of my first service at Trinity:

“People began to shout, to rise from their seats and clap and cry out, a forceful wind carrying the reverend’s voice up into the rafters….And in that single note — hope! — I heard something else; at the foot of that cross, inside the thousands of churches across the city, I imagined the stories of ordinary black people merging with the stories of David and Goliath, Moses and Pharaoh, the Christians in the lion’s den, Ezekiel’s field of dry bones.

“Those stories — of survival, and freedom, and hope — became our story, my story; the blood that had spilled was our blood, the tears our tears; until this black church, on this bright day, seemed once more a vessel carrying the story of a people into future generations and into a larger world.

“Our trials and triumphs became at once unique and universal, black and more than black; in chronicling our journey, the stories and songs gave us a means to reclaim memories that we didn’t need to feel shame about…memories that all people might study and cherish — and with which we could start to rebuild.”

That has been my experience at Trinity. Like other predominantly black churches across the country, Trinity embodies the black community in its entirety — the doctor and the welfare mom, the model student and the former gang-banger.

Like other black churches, Trinity’s services are full of raucous laughter and sometimes bawdy humor. They are full of dancing, clapping, screaming and shouting that may seem jarring to the untrained ear.

The church contains in full the kindness and cruelty, the fierce intelligence and the shocking ignorance, the struggles and successes, the love and yes, the bitterness and bias that make up the black experience in America.

And this helps explain, perhaps, my relationship with Rev. Wright. As imperfect as he may be, he has been like family to me. He strengthened my faith, officiated my wedding, and baptized my children.

Not once in my conversations with him have I heard him talk about any ethnic group in derogatory terms, or treat whites with whom he interacted with anything but courtesy and respect. He contains within him the contradictions — the good and the bad — of the community that he has served diligently for so many years.

I can no more disown him than I can disown the black community. I can no more disown him than I can my white grandmother — a woman who helped raise me, a woman who sacrificed again and again for me, a woman who loves me as much as she loves anything in this world, but a woman who once confessed her fear of black men who passed by her on the street, and who on more than one occasion has uttered racial or ethnic stereotypes that made me cringe.

These people are a part of me. And they are a part of America, this country that I love.

Some will see this as an attempt to justify or excuse comments that are simply inexcusable. I can assure you it is not. I suppose the politically safe thing would be to move on from this episode and just hope that it fades into the woodwork.

We can dismiss Rev. Wright as a crank or a demagogue, just as some have dismissed Geraldine Ferraro, in the aftermath of her recent statements, as harboring some deep-seated racial bias.

But race is an issue that I believe this nation cannot afford to ignore right now. We would be making the same mistake that Rev. Wright made in his offending sermons about America — to simplify and stereotype and amplify the negative to the point that it distorts reality.

The fact is that the comments that have been made and the issues that have surfaced over the last few weeks reflect the complexities of race in this country that we’ve never really worked through — a part of our union that we have yet to perfect.

And if we walk away now, if we simply retreat into our respective corners, we will never be able to come together and solve challenges like health care, or education, or the need to find good jobs for every American.

Understanding this reality requires a reminder of how we arrived at this point. As William Faulkner once wrote, “The past isn’t dead and buried. In fact, it isn’t even past.” We do not need to recite here the history of racial injustice in this country.

But we do need to remind ourselves that so many of the disparities that exist in the African-American community today can be directly traced to inequalities passed on from an earlier generation that suffered under the brutal legacy of slavery and Jim Crow.

Segregated schools were, and are, inferior schools; we still haven’t fixed them, fifty years after Brown v. Board of Education, and the inferior education they provided, then and now, helps explain the pervasive achievement gap between today’s black and white students.

Legalized discrimination — where blacks were prevented, often through violence, from owning property, or loans were not granted to African-American business owners, or black homeowners could not access FHA mortgages, or blacks were excluded from unions, or the police force, or fire departments — meant that black families could not amass any meaningful wealth to bequeath to future generations.

That history helps explain the wealth and income gap between black and white, and the concentrated pockets of poverty that persists in so many of today’s urban and rural communities.

A lack of economic opportunity among black men, and the shame and frustration that came from not being able to provide for one’s family, contributed to the erosion of black families — a problem that welfare policies for many years may have worsened.

And the lack of basic services in so many urban black neighborhoods — parks for kids to play in, police walking the beat, regular garbage pick-up and building code enforcement — all helped create a cycle of violence, blight and neglect that continue to haunt us.

This is the reality in which Rev. Wright and other African-Americans of his generation grew up. They came of age in the late fifties and early sixties, a time when segregation was still the law of the land and opportunity was systematically constricted.

What’s remarkable is not how many failed in the face of discrimination, but rather how many men and women overcame the odds; how many were able to make a way out of no way for those like me who would come after them.

But for all those who scratched and clawed their way to get a piece of the American Dream, there were many who didn’t make it — those who were ultimately defeated, in one way or another, by discrimination.

That legacy of defeat was passed on to future generations — those young men and, increasingly, young women who we see standing on street corners or languishing in our prisons, without hope or prospects for the future. Even for those blacks who did make it, questions of race, and racism, continue to define their worldview in fundamental ways.

For the men and women of Rev. Wright’s generation, the memories of humiliation and doubt and fear have not gone away; nor has the anger and the bitterness of those years.

That anger may not get expressed in public, in front of white co-workers or white friends. But it does find voice in the barbershop or around the kitchen table. At times, that anger is exploited by politicians, to gin up votes along racial lines, or to make up for a politician’s own failings.

And occasionally it finds voice in the church on Sunday morning, in the pulpit and in the pews. The fact that so many people are surprised to hear that anger in some of Rev. Wright’s sermons simply reminds us of the old truism that the most segregated hour in American life occurs on Sunday morning.

That anger is not always productive; indeed, all too often it distracts attention from solving real problems; it keeps us from squarely facing our own complicity in our condition, and prevents the African-American community from forging the alliances it needs to bring about real change.

But the anger is real; it is powerful; and to simply wish it away, to condemn it without understanding its roots, only serves to widen the chasm of misunderstanding that exists between the races.

In fact, a similar anger exists within segments of the white community. Most working- and middle-class white Americans don’t feel that they have been particularly privileged by their race.

Their experience is the immigrant experience — as far as they’re concerned, no one’s handed them anything, they’ve built it from scratch. They’ve worked hard all their lives, many times only to see their jobs shipped overseas or their pension dumped after a lifetime of labor.

They are anxious about their futures, and feel their dreams slipping away; in an era of stagnant wages and global competition, opportunity comes to be seen as a zero sum game, in which your dreams come at my expense.

So when they are told to bus their children to a school across town; when they hear that an African-American is getting an advantage in landing a good job or a spot in a good college because of an injustice that they themselves never committed; when they’re told that their fears about crime in urban neighborhoods are somehow prejudiced, resentment builds over time.

Like the anger within the black community, these resentments aren’t always expressed in polite company. But they have helped shape the political landscape for at least a generation.

Anger over welfare and affirmative action helped forge the Reagan Coalition. Politicians routinely exploited fears of crime for their own electoral ends. Talk show hosts and conservative commentators built entire careers unmasking bogus claims of racism while dismissing legitimate discussions of racial injustice and inequality as mere political correctness or reverse racism.

Just as black anger often proved counterproductive, so have these white resentments distracted attention from the real culprits of the middle-class squeeze — a corporate culture rife with inside dealing, questionable accounting practices and short-term greed; a Washington dominated by lobbyists and special interests; economic policies that favor the few over the many.

And yet, to wish away the resentments of white Americans, to label them as misguided or even racist, without recognizing they are grounded in legitimate concerns — this too widens the racial divide, and blocks the path to understanding.

This is where we are right now. It’s a racial stalemate we’ve been stuck in for years. Contrary to the claims of some of my critics, black and white, I have never been so naive as to believe that we can get beyond our racial divisions in a single election cycle, or with a single candidacy — particularly a candidacy as imperfect as my own.

But I have asserted a firm conviction — a conviction rooted in my faith in God and my faith in the American people — that working together we can move beyond some of our old racial wounds, and that in fact we have no choice if we are to continue on the path of a more perfect union.

For the African-American community, that path means embracing the burdens of our past without becoming victims of our past. It means continuing to insist on a full measure of justice in every aspect of American life.

But it also means binding our particular grievances — for better health care, and better schools, and better jobs — to the larger aspirations of all Americans, the white woman struggling to break the glass ceiling, the white man whose been laid off, the immigrant trying to feed his family.

And it means taking full responsibility for own lives — by demanding more from our fathers, and spending more time with our children, and reading to them, and teaching them that while they may face challenges and discrimination in their own lives, they must never succumb to despair or cynicism; they must always believe that they can write their own destiny.

Ironically, this quintessentially American — and yes, conservative — notion of self-help found frequent expression in Rev. Wright’s sermons. But what my former pastor too often failed to understand is that embarking on a program of self-help also requires a belief that society can change.

The profound mistake of Rev. Wright’s sermons is not that he spoke about racism in our society. It’s that he spoke as if our society was static; as if no progress has been made; as if this country — a country that has made it possible for one of his own members to run for the highest office in the land and build a coalition of white and black, Latino and Asian, rich and poor, young and old — is still irrevocably bound to a tragic past.

But what we know — what we have seen — is that America can change. That is the true genius of this nation. What we have already achieved gives us hope — the audacity to hope — for what we can and must achieve tomorrow.

In the white community, the path to a more perfect union means acknowledging that what ails the African-American community does not just exist in the minds of black people; that the legacy of discrimination — and current incidents of discrimination, while less overt than in the past — are real and must be addressed.

Not just with words, but with deeds — by investing in our schools and our communities; by enforcing our civil rights laws and ensuring fairness in our criminal justice system; by providing this generation with ladders of opportunity that were unavailable for previous generations.

It requires all Americans to realize that your dreams do not have to come at the expense of my dreams; that investing in the health, welfare and education of black and brown and white children will ultimately help all of America prosper.

In the end, then, what is called for is nothing more, and nothing less, than what all the world’s great religions demand — that we do unto others as we would have them do unto us. Let us be our brother’s keeper, Scripture tells us. Let us be our sister’s keeper. Let us find that common stake we all have in one another, and let our politics reflect that spirit as well.

For we have a choice in this country. We can accept a politics that breeds division, and conflict, and cynicism. We can tackle race only as spectacle — as we did in the O.J. trial — or in the wake of tragedy, as we did in the aftermath of Katrina — or as fodder for the nightly news.

We can play Rev. Wright’s sermons on every channel, every day and talk about them from now until the election, and make the only question in this campaign whether or not the American people think that I somehow believe or sympathize with his most offensive words.

We can pounce on some gaffe by a Hillary supporter as evidence that she’s playing the race card, or we can speculate on whether white men will all flock to John McCain in the general election regardless of his policies.

We can do that.

But if we do, I can tell you that in the next election, we’ll be talking about some other distraction. And then another one. And then another one. And nothing will change.

That is one option. Or, at this moment, in this election, we can come together and say, “Not this time.” This time we want to talk about the crumbling schools that are stealing the future of black children and white children and Asian children and Hispanic children and Native American children.

This time we want to reject the cynicism that tells us that these kids can’t learn; that those kids who don’t look like us are somebody else’s problem. The children of America are not those kids, they are our kids, and we will not let them fall behind in a 21st Century economy. Not this time.

This time we want to talk about how the lines in the emergency room are filled with whites and blacks and Hispanics who do not have health care, who don’t have the power on their own to overcome the special interests in Washington, but who can take them on if we do it together.

This time we want to talk about the shuttered mills that once provided a decent life for men and women of every race, and the homes for sale that once belonged to Americans from every religion, every region, every walk of life.

This time we want to talk about the fact that the real problem is not that someone who doesn’t look like you might take your job; it’s that the corporation you work for will ship it overseas for nothing more than a profit.

This time we want to talk about the men and women of every color and creed who serve together, and fight together, and bleed together under the same proud flag.

We want to talk about how to bring them home from a war that never should’ve been authorized and never should’ve been waged, and we want to talk about how we’ll show our patriotism by caring for them, and their families, and giving them the benefits they have earned.

I would not be running for president if I didn’t believe with all my heart that this is what the vast majority of Americans want for this country. This union may never be perfect, but generation after generation has shown that it can always be perfected.

And today, whenever I find myself feeling doubtful or cynical about this possibility, what gives me the most hope is the next generation — the young people whose attitudes and beliefs and openness to change have already made history in this election.

There is one story in particularly that I’d like to leave you with today — a story I told when I had the great honor of speaking on Dr. King’s birthday at his home church, Ebenezer Baptist, in Atlanta.

There is a young, 23-year-old white woman named Ashley Baia who organized for our campaign in Florence, South Carolina. She had been working to organize a mostly African-American community since the beginning of this campaign, and one day she was at a roundtable discussion where everyone went around telling their story and why they were there.

And Ashley said that when she was 9 years old, her mother got cancer. And because she had to miss days of work, she was let go and lost her health care. They had to file for bankruptcy, and that’s when Ashley decided that she had to do something to help her mom.

She knew that food was one of their most expensive costs, and so Ashley convinced her mother that what she really liked and really wanted to eat more than anything else was mustard and relish sandwiches. Because that was the cheapest way to eat.

She did this for a year until her mom got better, and she told everyone at the roundtable that the reason she joined our campaign was so that she could help the millions of other children in the country who want and need to help their parents, too.

Now Ashley might have made a different choice. Perhaps somebody told her along the way that the source of her mother’s problems were blacks who were on welfare and too lazy to work, or Hispanics who were coming into the country illegally. But she didn’t. She sought out allies in her fight against injustice.

Anyway, Ashley finishes her story and then goes around the room and asks everyone else why they’re supporting the campaign. They all have different stories and reasons. Many bring up a specific issue. And finally they come to this elderly black man who’s been sitting there quietly the entire time.

And Ashley asks him why he’s there. And he does not bring up a specific issue. He does not say health care or the economy. He does not say education or the war. He does not say that he was there because of Barack Obama. He simply says to everyone in the room, “I am here because of Ashley.”

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“I’m here because of Ashley.” By itself, that single moment of recognition between that young white girl and that old black man is not enough. It is not enough to give health care to the sick, or jobs to the jobless, or education to our children.

But it is where we start. It is where our union grows stronger. And as so many generations have come to realize over the course of the two-hundred and twenty one years since a band of patriots signed that document in Philadelphia, that is where the perfection begins.

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The Independent: Echoes from another era of American liberalism

History never repeats itself exactly. But long before the electrifying appearance of Ted Kennedy at the Democratic convention it was evident that, with the rise of Barack Obama, American politics might be approaching a moment comparable to when another Kennedy took the presidential oath of office on the steps of the Capitol that icy January day in 1961.

“This November, the torch will be passed again to a new generation of Americans,” the cancer-stricken Kennedy, the last survivor of his own family’s most glorious generation, declared on Monday evening, reprising the luminous words of his slain brother’s inaugural address 47 years ago. But Ted Kennedy, whose final convention this will surely be, was also passing on a torch of his own – the seal of approval of the Democrats’ first family.

In its time, this approval was conferred upon Bill Clinton, though relations between the Clintons and the Kennedys, while friendly, were never especially close. Last January the blessing was transferred, as the old liberal lion embraced not Hillary Clinton, but a young and Kennedy-esque senator from Illinois, in the race for the White House. The endorsement did not immediately affect the campaign, as Hillary easily won the Democratic primary in the Kennedy fiefdom of Massachusetts. But it was a signal of the impending power shift at the summit of the party.

The parallels between 1960 and 2008 are striking. Kennedy broke new ground by becoming the first Catholic President. An Obama victory in November would, of course, constitute a far more remarkable historical breakthrough, with the election of the first African American to the White House, a prospect utterly unimaginable in John Kennedy’s day. Both are young – indeed a President Obama would be five years older than JFK when he took office. Both have grace, charm and elegance. They share a cool, at times sardonic, detachment.

Should Obama win, it might also well be in circumstances similar to that of 1960. We often forget that Camelot in Washington, DC, was born of a squeaker of an election, which some to this day maintain was only resolved by shady machinations on the part of Chicago’s Mayor Richard Daley that handed the vital state of Illinois to Kennedy, not Richard Nixon. If the current dead heat in the polls between Obama and John McCain is an indication, it could be an equally close-run thing in November 2008.

A genuine watershed

But the similarities must not be overstated. The legend that now encrusts the 35th President obscures the fact that 1960 was not a watershed election. John Kennedy’s freshness might have been a radical departure from the stale country-club Republicanism of his predecessor Dwight Eisenhower. But in the sweep of history, it was merely prolongation of a Democratic era that began with Franklin Roosevelt and the New Deal.

By contrast, 2008 has the makings of a genuine watershed. An Obama victory would signify the end of more than a generation of Republican dominance ushered in by Ronald Reagan and continued by Bush father and son. The overwhelming sense today is that American conservatism has run its course, bankrupt in ideology and devoid of leaders. A turning point is at hand, towards more regulation, more government intervention – an age in which “liberalism” is no longer a dirty word and when, miracle of miracles, universal healthcare might turn from distant dream into fact.

All through the Reagan/Bush era, Ted Kennedy toiled away on Capitol Hill, defending liberal values when they could not have been more out of fashion. He continued to fight for improved public education, better welfare, and, of course, for universal healthcare, despite mostly Republican majorities in Congress, and mostly Republican occupants of the Oval Office. He swam against the tide too with his impassioned opposition to the Iraq war. On that issue as well, he has been vindicated – as has been Obama. Indeed, Hillary Clinton’s stubborn refusal to repudiate her Senate vote in October 2002 to authorise the war may have cost her both Kennedy’s endorsement and the Democratic nomination.

On Monday evening, the messenger might have been sickly, but his message reverberated to the rafters. In a shifting, dangerous world, as America faces its worst economic crisis in a generation, today’s young prince faces a far greater challenge than his predecessor of 48 years ago. Like Obama today, candidate John F Kennedy was widely seen as inexperienced and untested. But Americans took the chance, and the gamble paid off. With his very presence on stage, Ted Kennedy was promising that the same can happen now.

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Michael Moore: Open Letter to Caroline Kennedy

Dear Caroline,

We’ve never met, so I hope you don’t find this letter too presumptuous or inappropriate. As its contents involve the public’s business, I am sending this to you via the public on the Internet. I knew your brother John. He was a great guy, and I know he would’ve had a ball during this thrilling and historic election year. We all miss him dearly.

Barack Obama selected you to head up his search for a vice presidential candidate. It appears we may be just days (hours?) away from learning who that choice will be.

The media is reporting that Senator Obama has narrowed his alternatives to three men: Joe Biden, Evan Bayh and Tim Kaine. They’re all decent fellows, but they are far from the core of what the Obama campaign has been about: Change. Real change. Out with the old. And don’t invade countries that pose no threat to us.

Senators Biden and Bayh voted for that invasion and that war, the war Barack ran against, the war Barack reminded us was the big difference between him and Senator Clinton because she voted for the war and he spoke out against it while running for Senate (a brave and bold thing to do back in 2002).

For Obama to place either of these senators on the ticket would be a huge blow to the millions that chose him in the primaries over Hillary. He will undercut one of the strongest advantages he has over the Hundred-Year War senator, Mr. McCain. By anointing a VP who did what McCain did in throwing us into this war, Mr. Obama will lose the moral high ground in the debates.

As for Governor Kaine of Virginia, his big problem is, well, Obama’s big problem — who is he? The toughest thing Barack has had to overcome — and it will continue to be his biggest obstacle — is that too many of the voters simply don’t know him well enough to vote for him. The fact that Obama is new to the scene is both one of his most attractive qualities AND his biggest drawback. Too many Americans, who on the surface seem to like Barack Obama, just don’t feel comfortable voting for someone who hasn’t been on the national scene very long. It’s a comfort level thing, and it may be just what keeps Obama from winning in November (“I’d rather vote for the devil I know than the devil I don’t know”).

What Obama needs is a vice presidential candidate who is NOT a professional politician, but someone who is well-known and beloved by people across the political spectrum; someone who, like Obama, spoke out against the war; someone who has a good and generous heart, who will be cheered by the rest of the world; someone whom we’ve known and loved and admired all our lives and who has dedicated her life to public service and to the greater good for all.

That person, Caroline, is you.

I cannot think of a more winning ticket than one that reads: “OBAMA-KENNEDY.”

Caroline, I know that nominating yourself is the furthest idea from your mind and not consistent with who you are, but there would be some poetic justice to such an action. Just think, eight years after the last head of a vice presidential search team looked far and wide for a VP — and then picked himself (a move topped only by his hubris to then lead the country to near ruin while in office) — along comes Caroline Kennedy to return the favor with far different results, a vice president who helps restore America to its goodness and greatness.

Caroline, you are one of the most beloved and respected women in this country, and you have been so admired throughout your life. You chose a life outside of politics, to work for charities and schools, to write and lecture, to raise a wonderful family. But you did not choose to lead a private life. You have traveled the world and met with its leaders, giving you much experience on the world stage, a stage you have been on since you were a little girl.

The nation has, remarkably (considering our fascination with celebrity), left you alone and let you live your life in peace. (It’s like, long ago, we all collectively agreed that, with her father tragically gone, a man who died because he wanted to serve his country, we would look out for her, we would wish for her to be happy and well, and we would have her back. But we would let her be.)

Now, I am breaking this unwritten code and asking you to come forward and help us in our hour of need. So many families are hurting, losing their homes, going bankrupt with health care bills, seeing their public schools in shambles and living with this war without end. This is a historic year for women, from Hillary’s candidacy to the numerous women running for the House and Senate. This is the year that a woman should be on the Democratic ticket. This is the year that both names on that ticket should be people OUTSIDE the party machine. This is the year millions of independents and, yes, millions of Republicans are looking for something new and fresh and bold (and you are the Kennedy Republicans would vote for!).

This is the moment, Caroline. Seize it! And Barack, if you’re reading this, you probably know that she is far too humble and decent to nominate herself. So step up and surprise us again. Step up and be different than every politician we have witnessed in our lifetime. Keep the passion burning amongst the young people and others who have been energized by your unexpected, unpredicted, against-all-odds candidacy that has ignited and inspired a nation. Do it for all those reasons. Make Caroline Kennedy your VP. “Obama-Kennedy.” Wow, does that sound so cool.

Caroline, thanks for letting me intrude on your life. How wonderful it will be to have a vice president who will respect the Constitution, who will support (instead of control) her president, who will never let her staff out a CIA agent, and who will never tell her country that she is “currently residing in an undisclosed location.”

Say it one more time: “OBAMA-KENNEDY.” A move like that might send a message to the country that the Democrats would actually like to win an election for once.

Yours,
Michael Moore

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Robert Fisk: The West’s weapon of self-delusion

So they are it again, the great and the good of American democracy, grovelling and fawning to the Israeli lobbyists of American Israel Public Affairs Committee (Aipac), repeatedly allying themselves to the cause of another country and one that is continuing to steal Arab land.

Will this ever end? Even Barack Obama – or “Mr Baracka” as an Irish friend of mine innocently and wonderfully described him – found time to tell his Jewish audience that Jerusalem is the one undivided capital of Israel, which is not the view of the rest of the world which continues to regard the annexation of Arab East Jerusalem as illegal. The security of Israel. Say it again a thousand times: the security of Israel – and threaten Iran, for good measure.

Yes, Israelis deserve security. But so do Palestinians. So do Iraqis and Lebanese and the people of the wider Muslim world. Now even Condoleezza Rice admits – and she was also talking to Aipac, of course – that there won’t be a Palestinian state by the end of the year. That promise of George Bush – which no-one believed anyway – has gone. In Rice’s pathetic words, “The goal itself will endure beyond the current US leadership.”

Of course it will. And the siege of Gaza will endure beyond the current US leadership. And the Israeli wall. And the illegal Israeli settlement building. And deaths in Iraq will endure beyond “the current US leadership” – though “leadership” is pushing the definition of the word a bit when the gutless Bush is involved – and deaths in Afghanistan and, I fear, deaths in Lebanon too.

It’s amazing how far self-delusion travels. The Bush boys and girls still think they’re supporting the “American-backed government” of Fouad Siniora in Lebanon. But Siniora can’t even form a caretaker government to implement a new set of rules which allows Hizbollah and other opposition groups to hold veto powers over cabinet decisions.

Thus there will be no disarming of Hizbollah and thus – again, I fear this – there will be another Hizbollah-Israeli proxy war to take up the slack of America’s long-standing hatred of Iran. No wonder President Bashar Assad of Syria is now threatening a triumphal trip to Lebanon. He’s won. And wasn’t there supposed to be a UN tribunal to try those responsible for the murder of ex-prime minister Rafiq Hariri in 2005? This must be the longest police enquiry in the history of the world. And I suspect it’s never going to achieve its goal (or at least not under the “current US leadership”).

There are gun battles in Beirut at night; there are dark-uniformed Lebanese interior ministry troops in equally dark armoured vehicles patrolling the night-time Corniche outside my home.

At least Lebanon has a new president, former army commander Michel Sleiman, an intelligent man who initially appeared on posters, eyes turned to his left, staring at Lebanon with a creditor’s concern. Now he has wisely ordered all these posters to be torn down in an attempt to get the sectarian groups to take down their own pictures of martyrs and warlords. And America thinks things are going fine in Lebanon.

And Bush and his cohorts go on saying that they will never speak to “terrorists”. And what has happened meanwhile? Why, their Israeli friends – Mr Baracka’s Israeli friends – are doing just that. They are talking to Hamas via Egypt and are negotiating with Syria via Turkey and have just finished negotiating with Hizbollah via Germany and have just handed back one of Hizbollah’s top spies in Israel in return for body parts of Israelis killed in the 2006 war. And Bush isn’t going to talk to “terrorists”, eh? I bet he didn’t bring that up with the equally hapless Ehud Olmert in Washington this week.

And so our dementia continues. In front of us this week was Blair with his increasingly maniacal eyes, poncing on about faith and God and religion, and I couldn’t help reflecting on an excellent article by a colleague a few weeks ago who pointed out that God never seemed to give Blair advice. Like before April of 2003, couldn’t He have just said, er, Tony, this Iraq invasion might not be a good idea.

Indeed, Blair’s relationship with God is itself very odd. And I rather suspect I know what happens. I think Blair tells God what he absolutely and completely knows to be right – and God approves his words. Because Blair, like a lot of devious politicians, plays God himself. For there are two Gods out there. The Blair God and the infinite being which blesses his every word, so obliging that He doesn’t even tell Him to go to Gaza.

I despair. The Tate has just sent me its magnificent book of orientalist paintings to coincide with its latest exhibition (The Lure of the East: British Orientalist Painting) and I am struck by the awesome beauty of this work. In the 19th century, our great painters wondered at the glories of the Orient.

No more painters today. Instead, we send our photographers and they return with pictures of car bombs and body parts and blood and destroyed homes and Palestinians pleading for food and fuel and hooded gunmen on the streets of Beirut, yes, and dead Israelis too. The orientalists looked at the majesty of this place and today we look at the wasteland which we have helped to create.

But fear not. Israel’s security comes first and Mr Baracka wants Israel to keep all of Jerusalem – so much for the Palestinian state – and Condee says the “goal will endure beyond the current American leadership”. And I have a bird that sits in the palm tree outside my home in Beirut and blasts away, going “cheep-cheep-cheep-cheep-cheep” for about an hour every morning – which is why my landlord used to throw stones at it.

But I have a dear friend who believes that once there was an orchestra of birds outside my home and that one day, almost all of them – the ones which sounded like violins and trumpets – got tired of the war and flew away (to Cyprus, if they were wise, but perhaps on to Ireland), leaving only the sparrows with their discordant flutes to remind me of the stagnant world of the Middle East and our cowardly, mendacious politicians. “Cheep-cheep-cheep,” they were saying again yesterday morning. “Cheap-cheap-cheap.” And I rather think they are right.

* The Independent

http://www.independent.co.uk/news/fisk/robert-fisk-the-wests-weapon-of-selfdelusion-842117.html

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