Chris Knipp Writing: Movies, Politics, Art

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PostPosted: Tue Dec 22, 2009 12:28 pm 
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Obama, War, Climate, and Money

Like so many of the world's political leaders, the American President seems to exist to smooth things over; to tell us that things are alright, that we're all doing our best and it will get better. Thus his announcement that the Congressional health care plan is a milestone and a memorable solution to a long-standing problem, when in fact, lacking a public option, this plan is only an agreement to suck more poor citizens into the private insurance nexus, as indicated by the way the major independent providers' stocks have all gone up in the 20% range in the week of the Congressional vote on the bill. Polls show that Americans wanted a public option, and this bill is likely to cause more grief than satisfaction. Former Democratic National Committee Chairman, doctor, and longtime Vermont governor Howard Dean prominently called upon congressmen to "kill the bill," saying with reason that it was "not worth passing." The Obama administration, like the Congress hand-in-glove with the health insurance companies and Big Pharma, didn't push hard for a public option, and say things are fine.

The health care bill is the most frustrating outcome of US legislation since Obama became President; it is, typically, something, but not enough. But if one thing has caused the President's stock to drop drastically with progressives it is his announced escalation of the war in Afghanistan. This itself is merely a desensitizing gesture and in a sense a cover-up, because the escalation is already under way. Jeremy Scahill has written recently about how much more personnel the US has in Afghanistan than is publicly admitted. Contrary to popular belief, Scahill explains, the U.S. actually has 189,000 personnel on the ground in Afghanistan right now -- and that number is quickly rising. Beginning with his focus on Blackwater, Scahill has been prominent in reporting the privitization and consequent concealment of American global warfare. In matters like this, Obama seems to be not an initiator like Bush-Cheney, but a continuer, one who perpetuates the situation, who acts by doing nothing to change things fundamentally.

Obama's Nobel Peace Prize acceptance speech enunciates a view of America as the world's peacekeeper that would perpetuate the discredited and crumbling policies delineated in Chambers Johnson's seminal "Blowback Trilogy" (Blowback: The Costs and Consequences of American Empire; The Sorrows of Empire: Militarism, Secrecy, and the End of the Republic; and Nemesis: The Last Days of the American Republic). The "peacekeeper" stance is revealed as a pose by the overriding US focus on oil-rich Iraq and Afghanistan, a cover for Pakistan, all of this a way of maintaining dominance in the Middle East -- while the impoverished and violent continent of Africa, likely to be the future epicenter of climate disaster, is virtually ignored. Meanwhile also the siege of Gaza is allowed to continue unabated while its ravaged people must live among the rubble.

The fact is that the Obama administration is doing little if anything more than Bush to help solve the global problems of climate change, poverty, famine, internal conflict. We can't even solve our own huge current economic problems when not enough has been done to save mortgages, find jobs for the unemployed, protect infrastructures because there's not enough money being made available. This is a matter of priorities. Too much goes to war. Even Wall Street and the big corporations that put Obama in office and to which he consequently is most beholden aren't getting the financial help they need to fight the current economic crisis, by consensus the worst and most widespread financial disaster since the 1930's.

Thomas K. Friedman, the prominent writer and New York Times commentator, attended the World Climate Conference in Copenhagen and his conclusion to comedian Eugene Mirman in a blog for was that the one thing that came out of it (though important) was a "deal on forests." Obama came late and worked with a group of five countries to make a non-binding deal.. The US stance is that, as PBS reporter Ray Suares claims, the many small nations, which in fact suffer most from climate change and can even be eradicated by it, were getting in the way and a conference should consist of only a few dozen countries, and maybe like here just a handful should call the shots and get the headlines.

In truth democracy does not prevail in world conferences, and the big ones make deals that maintain the status quo and benefit the most powerful nations. America has up to now been the world's greatest carbon emitter and Barack Obama is the leader of this country, and he did not step forward to take the drastic steps necessary to save the planet. But as we come up on the first year of Obama's presidency, what we see is not leadership but his failure to assume the reins and step forth. Communication and negotiation have turned out to be conciliation and knuckling under. Money dominates, war policies continue, and the greatest challenge of our time, climate change, grows ever more ominous.

Also posted on Filmleaf.

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