The Least, First

Monte Asbury's blog

Listen to Obama five years ago

with 6 comments

ObamaI have no idea what Republicans and Democrats will be doing come caucus time in Iowa next January (or what I’ll be doing). But I came across this speech of Barak Obama given five years ago (courtesy of meditatio), and found it remarkable. Given the hopeless swamp that Iraq has become, he appears to have hit the nail on the head then.

That ought to count. The much-touted “experience” of others is surely less significant than the quality of judgment such experience reveals. And what a different place the world would be if the others had responded like this:

I don’t oppose all wars. And I know that in this crowd today, there is no shortage of patriots, or of patriotism.

What I am opposed to is a dumb war. What I am opposed to is a rash war. What I am opposed to is the cynical attempt by Richard Perle and Paul Wolfowitz and other armchair, weekend warriors in this administration to shove their own ideological agendas down our throats, irrespective of the costs in lives lost and in hardships borne.

What I am opposed to is the attempt by political hacks like Karl Rove to distract us from a rise in the uninsured, a rise in the poverty rate, a drop in the median income – to distract us from corporate scandals and a stock market that has just gone through the worst month since the Great Depression. That’s what I’m opposed to. A dumb war. A rash war. A war based not on reason but on passion, not on principle but on politics. Now let me be clear – I suffer no illusions about Saddam Hussein. He is a brutal man. A ruthless man. A man who butchers his own people to secure his own power. He has repeatedly defied UN resolutions, thwarted UN inspection teams, developed chemical and biological weapons, and coveted nuclear capacity. He’s a bad guy. The world, and the Iraqi people, would be better off without him.

But I also know that Saddam poses no imminent and direct threat to the United States, or to his neighbors, that the Iraqi economy is in shambles, that the Iraqi military a fraction of its former strength, and that in concert with the international community he can be contained until, in the way of all petty dictators, he falls away into the dustbin of history. I know that even a successful war against Iraq will require a US occupation of undetermined length, at undetermined cost, with undetermined consequences. I know that an invasion of Iraq without a clear rationale and without strong international support will only fan the flames of the Middle East, and encourage the worst, rather than best, impulses of the Arab world, and strengthen the recruitment arm of Al Qaeda. I am not opposed to all wars. I’m opposed to dumb wars.

So for those of us who seek a more just and secure world for our children, let us send a clear message to the President today. You want a fight, President Bush? Let’s finish the fight with Bin Laden and Al Qaeda, through effective, coordinated intelligence, and a shutting down of the financial networks that support terrorism, and a homeland security program that involves more than color-coded warnings. You want a fight, President Bush?

Let’s fight to make sure that the UN inspectors can do their work, and that we vigorously enforce a non-proliferation treaty, and that former enemies and current allies like Russia safeguard and ultimately eliminate their stores of nuclear material, and that nations like Pakistan and India never use the terrible weapons already in their possession, and that the arms merchants in our own country stop feeding the countless wars that rage across the globe. You want a fight, President Bush?

Let’s fight to make sure our so-called allies in the Middle East, the Saudis and the Egyptians, stop oppressing their own people, and suppressing dissent, and tolerating corruption and inequality, and mismanaging their economies so that their youth grow up without education, without prospects, without hope, the ready recruits of terrorist cells. You want a fight, President Bush? Let’s fight to wean ourselves off Middle East oil, through an energy policy that doesn’t simply serve the interests of Exxon and Mobil. Those are the battles that we need to fight. Those are the battles that we willingly join. The battles against ignorance and intolerance. Corruption and greed. Poverty and despair.

Wow. Wish we had listened!

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Written by Monte

September 22, 2007 at 8:17 pm

Posted in Iran, Iraq, Politics, Terrorism

6 Responses

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  1. Here are some links Maj found for me. (He’d rather I focussed on poetry than politics, and he’s probably right.) (This is a great timeline that shows how/when it happened.) (Nader and colleagues were writing about this in ’88, apparently.) (Here’s a group that’s working on reversing it.)

    Hope all’s well with you, Monte. I’ve been having fun with civil disobedience. I was handcuffed yesterday for a little while. Oh, the joys of the Dirty South. (We’re starting our family Dutch lessons tonight, btw. Netherlands, here we come.)

    Monte Says: I tried to email my curiosity to you, but found the address wasn’t working. I am dying to learn of your handcuffs episode. Drop me an email (see link above) if you feel like telling the story. It’s a noble strain of America’s history you have joined!


    October 16, 2007 at 1:04 pm

  2. Oh, no kidding! Even my husband’s colleagues, who imagine themselves rich but are actually firmly middle class, have been blinded, until recently, to the fact that the neocons are really only helping the VERY rich.


    October 11, 2007 at 10:32 pm

  3. I don’t, but I do know that there are some websites that document the case law, and that there are individuals and groups who recognize the problem.

    Maj tells me he’s never heard anyone address the source of the problem of corruption as clearly as I do (I’ve been harping on this at home for at least a decade). I’m feeling confident enough now in my stature as a published writer and editor that I no longer fear corporate goons coming in and ruining or taking my life, so I’m thinking of writing some non-fiction about it and getting it out there.

    If you find anyone actively working to reverse these cases, please let me know (I’ll be looking eventually, but right now I’ve got a few other irons in the fire). It’s got to be done. And I hope that the corporations will recognize the necessity of doing good business, as well. Their profit margins can be plenty healthy without doing bad business. There’s no real reason to oppose the change that could carry the world (since America, I’m afraid, does seem to have undue influence these days) forward.

    Monte Says: Will do, and you, too! This is a remarkable blotch in American history, and there has to be a better way. Looking for the case in Zinn, I came across these words describing the climate of 1877: Meanwhile, the government of the United States was behaving almost exactly as Karl Marx described a capitalist state: pretending neutrality to maintain order, but serving the interests of the rich. Not that the rich agreed among themselves; they had disputes over policies. But the purpose of the state was to settle upper-class disputes peacefully, control lower-class rebellion, and adopt policies that would further the long-range stability of the system. … [Cleveland is elected, supposedly the candidate who opposed monopolies and corporations, but Cleveland assures industrialists that] “No harm shall come to any business interest as the result of administrative policy so long as I am President … a transfer of executive control from one party to another does not mean any serious disturbance of existing conditions.” [A People’s History of the United States, 258.] How little do the working-class supporters of conservative candidates understand how they’ve been taken to the cleaners by the very people they put in office!


    October 10, 2007 at 4:10 pm

  4. They certainly don’t. Their primary concern seems to be their own survival and the lining of the pockets of the individual politicians.

    Our government here is so corrupted by corporate money that we are more or less given two puppets to vote for every four years but we don’t notice that the same body has its two hands up their butts.

    This started in the 1880s (or so) with two suspect (as in, the Justices were most likely bribed, it seems) Supreme Court rulings, the first granting corporations 14th-amendment personhood, the second granting the protections that personhood affords. I don’t remember the case law, but you can find it easily.

    What we need to be asking about is how to reverse this, how to deny to the corporations this privacy (which should be afforded only to individual citizens — I think history has proven often enough that groups of people are capable of much greater evil than individuals) that allows them to operate as they do. We need transparency, so we can see where the money’s going. Then a lot would be made clear, and we could actually get down to doing some GOOD business, for us and the world, in the best sense of the word.

    Because, let’s face it, there’s big money in bombs. And airplanes. And in rebuilding. And oil. But there’s also money in clean food, and sustainable fabrics, and fairly-traded handicrafts, and wind-energy (it was the only department of Enron making a profit, you know), and all sorts of good things that people need.

    We will make it to the future. But first we have to clean up the mistakes of the past. Which requires that we admit they’ve been made.

    Monte Says: Do you know of any who are working toward that undoing – that of the corporation-as-person, I mean?


    September 26, 2007 at 2:16 pm

  5. “Why did you fail to protect us?” I am so pleased that Americans are asking our government about this at long last, not about 9/11 but about an unnecessary and brutal war. Maybe soon they’ll realize it is because governments have no interest in protecting people.

    Monte, you write a fine blog.

    Monte says: Eli, thanks very much – it means a lot! I’ve not been able to formulate this question until today, for some reason. But the process of doing so has made me realize I really don’t want to vote for anyone who needs to answer it. They had a job to do and didn’t show up for work.


    September 26, 2007 at 1:31 pm

  6. So do I. Well, I wish the politicians had listened, and voted accordingly. It seems like everyone wants to pretend that this is just Bush’s war. There was a vote, and most said yes.

    Thanks for sharing this speech. Both his ideas and his straightforwardness impress me.

    Monte Says: You bet. I agree with your observation about everyone pretending it’s Bush’s war. Hillary has yet to admit her vote was even wrong, except in the “if I had known then what I know now” sense. I understand the National Intelligence Estimate was made available under lock and key to the House and Senate before the War Powers Act vote was taken, but that almost none of them read it. What folly! What costly irresponsibility! Here in Iowa, where the campaigning is constant, you can almost feel the fog of “business as usual” slowly clouding out the sense of much-needed radical change of direction. As if in a narcotic stupor, no one asks, “What were you thinking? How can we possibly trust you not to do something so stupid again?” Sure, the President started it – but why did you fail to protect us?


    September 24, 2007 at 10:51 am

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