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November 12, 2008

The Audacity of Hype


Dissent in the Age of Obama

by Justin Raimondo

The Obama bandwagon is moving fast and furious, rolling over the few remaining pockets of dissent even as it prepares to take power. The mainstream media, particularly on television, has lost all sense of objectivity and proportion, and their reporting of the president-elect's doings has taken on a distinctly Soviet air. "Our Glorious Leader Picks the White House Dog" is the emblematic headline of a servile fourth estate. The political atmosphere is positively eerie: amid calls for "unity" and attacks on "toxic" language that is "divisive," there is an odd uniformity of thought similar to the virtual unanimity that gripped the nation in the wake of the 9/11 terrorist attacks. Groupthink is all the rage, and the media has joined in the fun. Due to this love-fest, they're oblivious to the warning signs that worry us few and scattered skeptics. They somehow missed the Dear Leader's call for a civilian "national security force," for example, one that is "just as well-funded" and "just as powerful" as the U.S. military.

Media Matters for America, which is shaping up rather nicely as Obama's semi-official media shill, claims Obama's remarks were just about expanding the already existing Americorps program and the president-elect was taken out of context. Yet his words speak for themselves, as do the words of his recently chosen chief of staff, Rahm Emanuel, who declared in his book:

"It's time for a real PATRIOT Act that brings out the patriot in all of us. We propose universal civilian service for every young American. Under this plan, All Americans between the ages of eighteen and twenty-five will be asked to serve their country by going through three months of basic training, civil defense preparation, and community service."

Some Republicans, Rahm brays, "will squeal about individual freedom." Well, let's hope that part isn't true. Because if it's only Republicans who object to this militaristic scheme to solve the unemployment problem by outfitting the out-of-work with spiffy new uniforms, then we're really in a lot more trouble than even I imagined.

If George W. Bush and/or John McCain had called for the creation of a domestic paramilitary force, the liberals and certainly the Left would have seen it as an ominous development, with the more excitable types raising the specter of fascism. Is it left to good old Joe Farah alone to point out the dangers inherent in such a far out proposal?

"If we're going to create some kind of national force as big, powerful, and well-funded as our combined U.S. military forces, isn't this rather a big deal? I thought Democrats generally believed the U.S. spent too much on the military. How is it possible their candidate is seeking to create some kind of massive but secret national police force that will be even bigger than the Navy, Army, Marines, and Air Force put together? Is Obama serious about creating some kind of domestic security force bigger and more expensive than that? If not, why did he say it? What did he mean?"

We'll soon find out what he meant, perhaps a lot sooner than any of us would like. The pool of unemployed young males is growing larger by the week – always a dangerous development for our rulers – and it's a matter of some urgency for the incoming administration. The Obama-Emanuel plan would, in effect, militarize labor short of actually going to war. How else to sop up this deepening pool of idleness and inevitable social and political unrest? Either draft them into the army or jail them, whichever comes first.

Militarism has infected American life to an enormous degree: that's one of the consequences of 9/11 we're still living with, although in the Age of Obama it will be given a leftish gloss. The "battle" for economic recovery will be framed in military terms, as, amid calls for "national unity," a cult of personality forms around a charismatic leader. With government even more bloated with power and self-regard than ever before, this is a dangerous moment in our history, one that could easily see the country fall prey, once again, to the hubris of "idealists."

And don't forget we're still engaged in two foreign wars. Obama's battlefields of choice are Afghanistan and the wilds of Waziristan, instead of boring old Iraq – which is, at any rate, just about played out as an effective narrative in the ongoing story of our eternal "war on terrorism."

Prepare yourself. From now on we'll be hearing the Obama-ites hailing the "surge" on the Afghan front, amid renewed vows to catch the long-gone Osama bin Laden and support the precarious authority of Afghan President Hamid Karzai – the best dressed and least powerful ruler in the region. Popularly known as the mayor of Kabul, since his domain seems not to extend beyond the boundaries of his capital city, Karzai is a pathetic and tragic figure, whose task of keeping order in a country that has never known it is positively Sisyphean. He has been gaining some political traction and even a degree of credibility lately by openly imploring Obama to cut out the NATO bombing that is "mistakenly" slaughtering scores of civilians on what seems like a daily basis. Obama's promise to escalate the war on that front is likely to ratchet up tensions within NATO as well as with our Afghan ally.

If Iraq was and is a quagmire, then Afghanistan is a boneyard that– if the fate of would-be conquerors over the years is any indication – we'll soon find ourselves buried in. The British tried and failed, as did the Russians, who, it could be argued, spent the last energies of their fading power trying to incorporate the Afghans into the Soviet empire. I hate to tell the Obama cult this, but no, we can't – and we shouldn't even try.

Obama hasn't even taken office yet, and already he's announcing an "international effort" to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons, their pursuit of which, according to our own CIA, has long since been dropped. If this is the Obama style of diplomacy, then the value of those much-touted "negotiations" with the Iranians, the Syrians, etc., which we were promised during the campaign will be questionable at best.

The United States is on the wrong course in so many ways that it will take a gargantuan effort to turn the ship of state around. Yet it can be done – but only if the advocates of a new foreign policy for America stay focused. This means avoiding the trap of partisan politics and keeping our powder dry, staying ever vigilant against the schemes of a War Party that never sleeps.

Antiwar.com is your eyes and ears: we sift through rumors of war so that you don't have to. We keep watch on the enemies of peace, so that you're forewarned and forearmed.

That's why the survival of Antiwar.com is so essential, and, I fear our continued survival is indeed at stake. It's a combination of two major factors that has me very worried: the economic downturn and the Obama victory. Complacency and poverty are the two big reasons why we're well behind in our current fundraising campaign.

Our usual donors are either broke – the average donation is $50 – or else convinced that getting rid of Bush/McCain means the Eternal War is over and done with. As Obama has himself made all too clear, however, this is very far from the truth. But I am afraid it will be quite some time before this impresses itself upon many of our regular readers.

That is why I've emphasized the dangers over the opportunities posed by the new administration. There are opportunities aplenty, but these require a reasonably well-informed and focused antiwar constituency. Which is precisely what Antiwar.com has spent the last decade-plus assiduously cultivating and growing. It would be a shame if it all foundered on the rocks of the Second Great Depression and sank beneath the frenzied wave of Obama-mania. Yet that's precisely what will happen unless we make our modest fundraising goal this winter.

I appeal to my readers, both longtime regulars and occasional visitors, to consider the value of this Web site and the service it performs. We report what's happening in the world, and the War Party's connections to most of the bad news, without fear or partisan favor. I have received a lot of letters about my recent columns criticizing Obama, one of which went to far as to state: "Forget the honeymoon? Forget any future donations to Antiwar.com."

Well, then, so be it. Those kinds of people were never the base of our support, and they aren't now. At any rate, we can't help being what we are – and we're ready to take the consequences for not toeing some party line. Antiwar.com will criticize the new administration when and where it merits it, and praise them when they've earned it – no more, no less.

Sure, we'll give them a chance. But Obama's appointments in the national security realm are vitally important, and indicative of the general approach this White House will take to the issue of war and peace. The likely continuation of the Gates regime at the Pentagon and the Emanuel appointment do not bode well for the future. (This is not to even mention the baleful influence of the enthusiastic interventionist Joe Biden.)

Don't fall for the audacity of hype – and remember that yes we can dissent in the age of Obama, though to what extent depends entirely on him.

This is not the time to let down our guard. Indeed, it is time to reenergize a peace movement that has been woefully ineffective, lo these many years, in large part because it had no hope of swaying the White House and a thoroughly passive Congress. This time around, however, the situation is quite different: we can pressure Obama to do the right thing. But that's only if we know what the right thing is. Information is power, and that's what we have to offer you here, in abundance. So, please, make your contribution to Antiwar.com today – because you know you're gonna need us tomorrow.

 

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  • Jorge Hirsch is a professor of physics at the University of California San Diego.

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