Saturday, 2 June 2012

Dr. Obama or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb

In his essay Reflections on Gandhi, George Orwell gives mention to E.M. Forster's A Passage to India, an enlightening refutation of orientalist racism within British society during imperialist rule in India. His critiques of both are fairly quaintly collectivized in this quotation : "Although no doubt he was shrewd enough in detecting dishonesty, he seems wherever possible to have believed that other people were acting in good faith and had a better nature through which they could be approached."

This appears to be an Orwellianism of particular subtlety; but consistent in its condemnation of intellectual inconsistency.

This apparent suspension of disbelief, to believe in the act of constant good faith, appears to be applied by many on the political "left" to the U.S. presidency of Barack Obama. Or at least one of the factions of apologetics of certain actions. This is the least worst of them. The worst are contemptible. 

Imagine hypothetically, if you will, that the office of the presidency was still occupied by George W. Bush. Or if an alternative scenario, Senator John McCain instead had been elected to the presidency in 2008.  Imagine if a President McCain had a "kill lists" for targets of unmanned drone strikes. Imagine if those drone strikes ordered by President McCain, as a continuation of the Bush/Cheney administration neoconservative foreign policy, were an accentuation that claimed the lives of over two thousand civilians in the span of two to three years. Imagine if the McCain administration permitted, including of U.S. citizens, indefinite detention in military prisons without trial or due process, and wiretapping of communications without a permit. Imagine if the McCain administration contributed to the Middle Eastern supply of arms to crush Bahrain's pro-democracy movement. Imagine if the Obama administration went to draconian efforts to suppress the transparency of whistleblowers such as Bradley Manning and Wikileaks.  And also imagine if a McCain government sent federal troops to to invade and prosecute farmers of marijuana who provide the plant for medicinal reasons (despite promising the complete opposite in his presidential campaign).

The same liberals who ignore, or at worst even try to condone or justify these actions by the Obama administration, would scream from the rooftops with outrage if a Republican administration was pursuing the same kind of policy with a character of such arrogant and cerebral nature. They prefer to squeal "You can't fight in here, this is the war room!" instead, with militarism undifferentiated from that seen under Bush/Cheney neoconservatism, or in Full Metal Jacket. Those in Chicago protesting as part of Occupy NATO, who were threatened with noxious gasses and noise torture by the police forces, should be commended from having the intellect to respond in the contrary manner. 

We point example to President Lyndon B. Johnson, who upon attaining power following the assassination of John F. Kennedy, undoubtedly achieved many great things domestically. For one, his leadership permeated efforts to outlaw racial segregation in the United States. It also stood for the equality of women, the rights of workers, protection of the environment, and the the alleviation of millions from poverty. But Johnson was not spared from the left's condemnation when he pursued foreign accentuation of neocolonialist atrocities in Vietnam, and forced thousands of young men into being drafted to die for them. 

Similarly, President Barack Obama is a fairly likable figure. He is charismatic. Many of us could even relate to him. It can certainly be argued that he is the lesser of two evils when compared to automated austerity-pushing corporatist Republican Mitt Romney. Obama can be given kudos for his quasi-efforts to improve America's atrocious market-driven healthcare system (though it is far from the efficiency and social mobility that would be achieved under universal healthcare).  He can be regarded for unapologetically defending the rights of women and LGBT rights, even in the face of opposition from right-wing Christian theocrats. But put simply enough, any such progressive achievements or stances should not exempt the Obama administration's militarism and police state authoritarianism from accountability.

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