Sunday, June 22, 2008

The week in review

On Friday, the Democratic-controlled House of Representatives capitulated to White House demands and passed a bill that essentially legalizes -- retroactively -- the Bush administration's covert spying program on Americans (see Salon's Glenn Greenwald on the many ways in which the bill violates the rule of law. I wrote about Bush's illegal "warrantless wiretapping" back in 2006.)

Meanwhile, Republican Senator Kit Bond displayed the modern GOP's view of the appropriate relationship between a citizen and the State in explaining why telecommunications companies that colluded with the illegal spying program were in the right:
"I'm not here to say that the government is always right, but when the government tells you to do something, I'm sure you would all agree that I think you all recognize that is something you need to do."
Also this week, the House Democratic leadership brought to the floor a $162 billion bill funding the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan that -- surprise! -- contained not even the weakest language regarding a timeline for withdrawal (not even the non-binding "targets" they initially included in 2007's war supplemental).

Here is Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who in a stunning act of political courage voted against the war funding bill she chose to bring to the floor (fully aware that it would pass and continue the Iraq occupation well into the next administration), explaining why opponents of aggressive warfare should not believe their own eyes:
"I don't consider it a failure," Pelosi told reporters Thursday. "We never sent them a bill that did not have deadlines, conditions and the rest." She blamed Republicans in the Senate. "They are complicit with the president to make sure he never has to get a bill on his desk with a timeline, because the American people want a timeline," she said.
Just a small note of clarification: in the bolded section above, Pelosi is talking about Republicans who are complicit in funding an illegal war of aggression -- not Democrats like herself. Hope that helps.

On the campaign trail: Democratic presidential nominee Barack Obama released a list of his foreign policy advisors that consists almost entirely of near-dead warmongers and Clinton-era imperialists. Of course, most people won't pay attention to these types of things, but Obama's point is merely to signal to the ruling elites that he has no plans to threaten the status quo in any way.

More and more, Obama's lukewarm opposition to the Iraq war (he has voted to fund it while in the Senate and has no plans to withdraw all U.S. troops before 2013) is looking as if it were a fluke based not on any principled opposition to empire or aggressive warfare, but solely on consideration of U.S. strategic interests; that is, I think it's fair to say Obama would have supported invading Iraq had he been convinced the United States could have done so under the auspices of the United Nations and with more international allies -- murder being more respectable if you bring more friends along, of course.

If one needs any further proof of Obama's establishment-bonafides, consider the fact that one of his chief foreign policy advisers, Bill Clinton's Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, was primarily responsible for perpetuating a low-grade war on Iraq, in the form of economic sanctions and continual aerial bombing, that resulted in the deaths of hundreds of thousands of Iraqi children. and engendered much of the hatred toward the United States that is prevalent in the Middle East today.

Albright, it should be remembered, also dismissed the deaths of Iraqi's as a price that was "worth it", despite the fact that the sanctions neither resulted in Saddam Hussein's overthrow nor prevented a war. And as the Institute for Public Accuracy recounts in an overview of Obama's newly minted group of advisers:
When Lesley Stahl asked "We have heard that a half million children have died [in Iraq from the sanctions]. I mean, that's more children than died in Hiroshima. And -- and you know, is the price worth it?" Albright replied: "I think this is a very hard choice, but the price -- we think the price is worth it." (CBS News, May 12, 1996).
Finally, Obama's audacious list of establishment foreign policy advisers leads the The American Conservative's Kelley Vlahos to write:
'“Anti-war” candidate Barack Obama came out with a list of national security advisors mostly resembling the moldy contents of a closet in Georgetown. At this rate, the potentially painful lessons of Iraq will have been anesthetized by Election Day, moving artfully into another foreign policy chapter and potentially leaving another festering human disaster behind.'

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