Libby’s Stew: Obama in Germany, Ireland, and Stasi America
Obama in Germany
Paul Craig Roberts in “Hypocrisy At The Brandenburg Gate - Stasi in the White House”
Obama’s speech will go down in history as the most hypocritical of all time. Little wonder that the audience was there by invitation only. A real audience would have hooted Obama out of Berlin.
Here was Obama, who enabled Wall Street to rob the American and European peoples and who destroyed Americans’ civil liberties and the lives of vast numbers of Iraqis, Afghans, Yemenis, Libyans, Pakistanis, Syrians, and others, speaking of “the yearnings of justice.” Obama equates demands for justice with “terrorism.” Here was Obama, who has constructed an international spy network and a domestic police state, speaking of “the yearnings for freedom.”
Here was Obama, president of a country that has initiated wars or military action against six countries since 2001 and has three more Muslim countries--Syria, Lebanon, and Iran--in its crosshairs and perhaps several more in Africa, speaking of “the yearnings of peace that burns in the human heart,” but clearly not in Obama’s heart. Obama has turned America into a surveillance state that has far more in common with Stasi East Germany than with the America of the Kennedy and Reagan eras. Strange, isn’t it, that freedom was gained in East Germany and lost in America.
At the Brandenburg Gate, Obama invoked the pledge of nations to “a Universal Declaration of Human Rights,” but Obama continues to violate human rights both at home and abroad. Obama has taken hypocrisy to new heights. He has destroyed US civil liberties guaranteed by the Constitution. In place of a government accountable to law, he has turned law into a weapon in the hands of the government.
He has intimidated a free press and prosecutes whistleblowers who reveal his government’s crimes.
He makes no objection when American police brutalize peacefully protesting citizens.
His government intercepts and stores in National Security Agency computers every communication of every American and also the private communications of Europeans and Canadians, including the communications of the members of the governments, the better to blackmail those with secrets.
Obama sends in drones or assassins to murder people in countries with which the US is not at war, and his victims on most occasions turn out to be women, children, farmers, and village elders.
Obama kept Bradley Manning in solitary confinement for nearly a year assaulting his human dignity in an effort to break him and obtain a false confession. In defiance of the US Constitution, Obama denied Manning a trial for three years.
On Obama’s instructions, London denies Julian Assange free passage to his political asylum in Ecuador. Assange has become a modern-day Cardinal Mindszenty. [Jozsef Mindszenty was the leader of the Hungarian Catholic Church who sought refuge from Soviet oppression in the US Embassy in Budapest. Denied free passage by the Soviets, the Cardinal lived in the US Embassy for 15 years as a symbol of Soviet oppression.]
When the Berlin Wall came down, the Stasi Spy State that suffocates the soul moved to Washington. The Stasi is alive and well in the Obama regime.
Barry Grey in “Obama in Berlin”
In his speech in Berlin on Wednesday, President Barack Obama ...
He felt obliged, however, to include an explicit defense of the newly exposed surveillance network over which he presides, whose massive and illegal operations dwarf the spying apparatus of the old Stasi secret police.
This was among the most glaring contradictions in a speech riddled with banalities and lies. Obama invoked the ideals of “peace” and “tolerance,” having just approved the direct arming of Islamist militias that are carrying out sectarian atrocities in Syria. He spoke of “justice” in one breath and his drone assassination program in the next.
This hypocrisy was not lost on millions of people in Germany and around the world who not so long ago were taken in by presidential candidate Obama and his campaign slogans of “hope” and “change.” Since then, more than four years of war, bank bailouts, social cuts and relentless attacks on democratic rights—a continuation and intensification of the right-wing policies of the Bush administration—have done much to deflate the popular illusions in Obama that existed at the time of his election.
On Wednesday, Obama spoke before a handpicked crowd of 4,000, standing behind bulletproof glass and protected by a virtual lockdown of much of Berlin.
Five years ago, when candidate Obama spoke in Berlin, 200,000 people, most of them young, converged on the Tiergarten in a display of naïve and deluded enthusiasm that was dubbed “Obamamania.”
The Obama phenomenon was the result of a confluence of media manipulation, political inexperience and self-delusion, and the false conception that Obama’s African-American ethnicity made him more sympathetic to the plight of working people and more inclined to pursue progressive policies.
Somehow, it was assumed, because Obama had an African birth father his election would change the nature of American imperialism.
The promotion of such illusions played into the hands of the ruling class, helping it to buy time while it prepared an unprecedented assault on the social conditions of the working class and an escalation of militarist violence in the Middle East and further afield. The installation of Obama further consolidated the military/intelligence establishment’s control over the United States.
Obama in Ireland
Parliamentarian Clare Daly said Ireland had displayed itself “as a nation of pimps, prostituting ourselves in return for a pat on the head,” according to The Irish Times.
The “unprecedented slobbering” during the president’s visit to Northern Ireland, she said, had even led to speculation that “you were going to deck the Cabinet out in leprechaun hats decorated with a bit of stars and stripes to really mark abject humiliation.”
“We’ve had very little challenging of the fact that [Michelle Obama’s] glad to be home,” she said. “‘Home’ a country she’s been in less than a week and her husband has very tenuous links in.”
After referring to the president’s speech on peace to children in Northern Ireland, Daly asked, “is this person going for the hypocrite of the century award? Because we have to call things by their proper names, and the reality is by any serious examination, this man is a war criminal.”
“This is the man who is in essence stalling the Geneva peace talks by trying to broker enhanced leverage for the Syrian opposition by giving them arms — and to hell with the thousands more who’ll lose their lives, or the tens of thousands who will be displaced,” Daly said.
“This is the man who has facilitated a 200 percent increase in the use of drones which have killed thousands of people, including hundreds of children.”
Obama in Stasi America
Jim Hightower in “Repeal the patriot act”
It's back. The Patriot Act – a grotesque, ever-mutating, hydra-headed monstrosity from the Bush-Cheney Little Shop of Horrors – has risen again, this time with an added twist of Orwellian intrusiveness from the Obamacans.
Since 2006, Team Bush, and then Team Obama, have allowed the little-known, hugely-powerful National Security Agency to run a daily dragnet through your and my phone calls – all on the hush-hush, of course, not informing us spyees. Now exposed, leaders of both parties are pointing to the Patriot Act, saying that it makes this wholesale, everyday invasion of our privacy perfectly legal.
When the story broke, Obama dissembled, calling these massive and routine violations of the Fourth Amendment "modest intrusions" that are "worth us doing" to make us more secure. He added disingenuously that Congress is regularly briefed about the program. In fact, only a handful of members are briefed, and they have been flatly lied to by Obama's director of national intelligence. Yet, Sen. Diane Feinstein, loyally defends spying on Americans, claiming it protects us from terrorists. But she then admitted she really doesn't know how the mountains of data are being used.
This is nothing but a bottomless "Trust Us" swamp, created by the panicky passage and irresponsible reauthorization of the Patriot Act. Secretly seizing everyone's phone records is, as the ACLU put it, "beyond Orwellian." As a New York Times editorial flatly and rightly says, "The administration has now lost all credibility on this issue." But no administration can be trusted to restrain itself from abusing the unlimited power of the Patriot Act.
It's not enough to fight NSA's outrageously invasive spying on us – the Patriot Act itself is a shameful betrayal of America's ideals, and it must be repealed.
Glenn Greenwald in “On the Espionage Act Charges Against Edward Snowden”
Who is actually bringing 'injury to America': those who are secretly building a massive surveillance system or those who inform citizens that it's being done?
The Obama administration leaks classified information continuously. They do it to glorify the President, or manipulate public opinion, or even to help produce a pre-election propaganda film about the Osama bin Laden raid. The Obama administration does not hate unauthorized leaks of classified information. They are more responsible for such leaks than anyone.
What they hate are leaks that embarrass them or expose their wrongdoing. Those are the only kinds of leaks that are prosecuted. It's a completely one-sided and manipulative abuse of secrecy laws. It's all designed to ensure that the only information we as citizens can learn is what they want us to learn because it makes them look good. The only leaks they're interested in severely punishing are those that undermine them politically. The "enemy" they're seeking to keep ignorant with selective and excessive leak prosecutions are not The Terrorists or The Chinese Communists. It's the American people.
The Terrorists already knew, and have long known, that the US government is doing everything possible to surveil their telephonic and internet communications. The Chinese have long known, and have repeatedly said, that the US is hacking into both their governmental and civilian systems (just as the Chinese are doing to the US). The Russians have long known that the US and UK try to intercept the conversations of their leaders just as the Russians do to the US and the UK.
They haven't learned anything from these disclosures that they didn't already well know. The people who have learned things they didn't already know are American citizens who have no connection to terrorism or foreign intelligence, as well as hundreds of millions of citizens around the world about whom the same is true. What they have learned is that the vast bulk of this surveillance apparatus is directed not at the Chinese or Russian governments or the Terrorists, but at them.
And that is precisely why the US government is so furious and will bring its full weight to bear against these disclosures. What has been "harmed" is not the national security of the US but the ability of its political leaders to work against their own citizens and citizens around the world in the dark, with zero transparency or real accountability. If anything is a crime, it's that secret, unaccountable and deceitful behavior: not the shining of light on it.
Gary Younge in “Is Obama Worse Than Bush? That's Beside the Point”
Whereas Bush illegally invaded a nation with great fanfare, Obama has chosen to bump people off with great stealth (unless it's Bin Laden, in which case he metaphorically parades around with a head on a pike). Those are different strategies, but the discussion about which is better or worse is sterile precisely because neither is good and neither works. Whatever their declared intentions, both involve the murder of civilians and the creation of enemies, which in turn demand a clandestine security structure that seeks to pre-empt the metastasizing resistance to its policies both at home and abroad. The sprawling growth of its spying program is commensurate with the size of its military and the spread of its incursions into countries like Yemen, Somalia and Pakistan where it is not formally at war.
Given that he kept on Bush's defence secretary and appointed an economic team friendlier to Wall Street than the poor, we should not be too shocked about these continuities. But there are some things he did promise to do – and was twice elected with a massive mandate to do them. Protecting civil liberties was one of them.
When given the choice of representing the interests of those who voted for him and the interests of American military and economic hegemony, he chose the latter. That's not the change people believed in.
David Sirota in “A tale of two presidents: The one we voted for - and Obama”
Recent leaks reveal a frightening reality: In fighting terrorism, we have resorted to engaging in terrorism
This story began last year, when the White House told the New York Times that President Obama was personally overseeing a “kill list” and an ongoing drone bombing campaign against alleged terrorists, including American citizens. Back then, much of the public language was carefully crafted to reassure us that our country’s military power was not being abused.
In the Times’ report – which was carefully sculpted by Obama administration leaks – the paper characterized the bombing program as “targeted killing” with “precision weapons.” It additionally described “the care that Mr. Obama and his counterterrorism chief take in choosing targets” and claimed that as “a student of writings on war by Augustine and Thomas Aquinas, the president believes that he should take moral responsibility” for making sure such strikes are as precise as possible.
The unstated deal being offered to America was simple: Accept a president claiming unprecedented despotic authority in exchange for that president promising to comport himself as an enlightened despot – one who seeks to limit the scope of America’s ongoing violence.
Many of the president’s partisan supporters would never have agreed to such a bargain if the executive in question were a Republican. They would have expressed outrage at news that, according to the Times, the president was “count(ing) all military-age males in a strike zone as combatants” even when those males happen to be innocent civilians. But because it was a Democratic commander in chief, many liberals tacitly agreed to the deal, reassuring themselves that this was a president who would only use violence in the most narrow ways.
That, though, brings us to the second part of this parable – the part that unfolded earlier this month when blood-soaked reality crashed the myth. In this latter chapter, we learned that the president isn’t personally overseeing “targeted” killing – he is evidently overseeing indiscriminate killing.
That was the key discovery in NBC News correspondent Richard Engel’s report finding that “the CIA did not always know who it was targeting and killing in drone strikes” approved by the president. Employing so-called “signature strikes,” the president has been authorizing the assassination of people “based on their patterns of behavior” according to Engel – that is, based simply on where a person “meets individuals, makes phone calls and sends emails.” In all, the identities of up to a quarter of those assassinated were unknown at the time that the president’s drone strikes went forward.
The deep-thinking moralist that we were told was in the White House might look at this and worry that in fighting terrorism we have resorted to engaging in terrorism. After all, deliberately killing people without regard for their identity seems like an effort to terrorize a whole population. Indeed, as this week’s stunning new video series by documentarian Robert Greenwald illustrates, such violence seems eerily similar to the kind of terrorism that our government publicly decries.
But, then, that’s this saga’s big reveal. In embracing such tactics, this parable’s main character shows that he probably isn’t the pious Aquinas-loving saint his aides present him as and that many hoped he would be. This story instead increasingly looks like a cautionary tale about a wholly unenlightened authoritarian who displays little concern about which particular lives he is choosing to end.
This, of course, is not a particularly new or unique story. It is, in fact, the oldest story in human history: the story of how power corrupts and how absolute power corrupts absolutely.
[cross-posted on open salon]