Fidel on Obama: The empire's hypocritical politics
By Fidel Castro Ruz
May 25, 2008 -- It would be dishonest of me to remain silent after hearing the speech Barack Obama delivered on the afternoon of May 23, 2008, at the Cuban American National Foundation, created by Ronald Reagan. I listened to his speech, as I did [John] McCain's and Bush's. I feel no resentment towards Obama, for he is not responsible for the crimes perpetrated against Cuba and humanity. Were I to defend him, I would do his adversaries an enormous favour. I have therefore no reservations about criticising him and about expressing my points of view on his words frankly.
What were Obama's statements?
``Throughout my entire life, there has been injustice and repression in Cuba. Never, in my lifetime, have the people of Cuba known freedom. Never, in the lives of two generations of Cubans, have the people of Cuba known democracy... This is the terrible and tragic status quo that we have known for half a century –- of elections that are anything but free or fair ... I won't stand for this injustice, you won't stand for this injustice, and together we will stand up for freedom in Cuba'', he told the annexationists, adding: ``It's time to let Cuban American money make their families less dependent upon the Castro regime... I will maintain the embargo.''
The content of these declarations by this strong candidate for the US presidency spares me the work of having to explain the reason for this reflection.
José Hernandez, one of the Cuban American National Foundation directors who Obama praised in his speech, was none other than the owner of the 50-calibre automatic rifle, equipped with telescopic and infrared sights, which was confiscated, by chance, along with other deadly weapons while being transported by sea to Venezuela, where the foundation had planned to assassinate the writer of these lines at an international meeting held in Margarita, in the Venezuelan state of Nueva Esparta.
Pepe Hernández' group wanted to renegotiate a former pact with Clinton, betrayed by Mas Canosa's clan, who secured Bush's electoral victory in 2000 through fraud, because the latter had promised to assassinate Castro, something they all happily embraced. These are the kinds of political tricks inherent to the United States' decadent and contradictory system.
Presidential candidate Obama's speech may be formulated as follows: hunger for the nation, remittances as charitable hand outs and visits to Cuba as propaganda for consumerism and the unsustainable way of life behind it.
How does he plan to address the extremely serious problem of the global food crisis? The world's grains must be distributed among human beings. Fish, [the supplies of which] become smaller every year and more scarce in the seas that have been over-exploited by the large trawlers which no international organisation could get in the way of. Producing meat from gas and oil is no easy feat. Even Obama overestimates technology's potential in the fight against climate change, though he is more conscious of the risks and the limited margin of time than Bush. He could seek the advice of [former US vice-president Al] Gore, who is also a Democrat and is no longer a candidate, as he is aware of the accelerated pace at which global warming is advancing. His close political rival Bill Clinton, who is not running for the presidency, an expert on extra-territorial laws like the Helms-Burton and Torricelli Acts, can advise him on an issue like the blockade, which he promised to lift and never did.
What did he say in his speech in Miami, this man who is doubtless, from the social and human points of view, the most progressive candidate to the US presidency? ``For two hundred years'', he said, ``the United States has made it clear that we won't stand for foreign intervention in our hemisphere. But every day, all across the Americas, there is a different kind of struggle -- not against foreign armies, but against the deadly threat of hunger and thirst, disease and despair. That is not a future that we have to accept -- not for the child in Port au Prince or the family in the highlands of Peru. We can do better. We must do better... We cannot ignore suffering to our south, nor stand for the globalisation of the empty stomach.'' A magnificent description of imperialist globalisation: the globalisation of empty stomachs! We ought to thank him for it.
But, 200 years ago, Simon Bolivar fought for Latin American unity and, more than 100 years ago, Jose Martí gave his life in the struggle against the annexation of Cuba by the United States. What is the difference between what [US President James] Monroe [who in 1823] proclaimed [the Americas were the USA's domain] and what Obama proclaims and resuscitates in his speech two centuries later?
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``I will reinstate a Special Envoy for the Americas in my White House who will work with my full support. But we'll also expand the Foreign Service, and open more consulates in the neglected regions of the Americas. We'll expand the Peace Corps, and ask more young Americans to go abroad to deepen the trust and the ties among our people'', he said near the end, adding: ``Together, we can choose the future over the past.'' A beautiful phrase, for it attests to the idea, or at least the fear, that history makes figures what they are and not [the other] way around.
Today, the United States has nothing of the spirit behind the Philadelphia declaration of principles formulated by the 13 colonies that rebelled against English colonialism. Today, they are a gigantic empire undreamed of by the country's founders at the time. Nothing, however, was to change for the natives and the slaves. The former were exterminated as the nation expanded; the latter continued to be auctioned at the marketplace —- men, women and children -— for nearly a century, despite the fact that ``all men are born free and equal'', as the Declaration of Independence affirms. The world's objective conditions favoured the development of that system.
In his speech, Obama portrays the Cuban Revolution as anti-democratic and lacking in respect for freedom and human rights. It is the exact same argument which, almost without exception, US administrations have used again and again to justify their crimes against our country. The blockade, in and of itself, is an act of genocide. I don't want to see US children inculcated with those shameful values.
An armed revolution in our country might not have been needed without the military interventions, the Platt Amendment [which in 1901 made Cuba a virtual colony of the US] and the economic colonialism it visited upon Cuba.
The revolution was the result of imperial domination. We cannot be accused of having imposed it upon the country. The true changes could have and ought to have been brought about in the United States. Its own workers, more than a century ago, voiced the demand for an eight-hour work shift, which stemmed from the development of productive forces.
The first thing the leaders of the Cuban Revolution learned from Martí was to believe in and act on behalf of an organisation founded for the purposes of bringing about a revolution. We were always bound by previous forms of power and, following the institutionalisation of this organisation, we were elected by more than 90 per cent of voters, as has become customary in Cuba, a process which does not in the least resemble the ridiculous levels of electoral participation which, many a time, as in the case of the United States, stay short of 50 per cent of the voters. No small and blockaded country like ours would have been able to hold its ground for so long on the basis of ambition, vanity, deceit or the abuse of power, the kind of power its neighbour has. To state otherwise is an insult to the intelligence of our heroic people.
Delicate questions for Obama
I am not questioning Obama's great intelligence, his debating skills or his work ethic. He is a talented orator and is ahead of his rivals in the electoral race. I feel sympathy for his wife and little girls, who accompany him and give him encouragement every Tuesday. It is indeed a touching human spectacle. Nevertheless, I am obliged to raise a number of delicate questions. I do not expect answers; I wish only to raise them for the record.
1. Is it right for the president of the United States to order the assassination of any one person in the world, whatever the pretext may be?
2. Is it ethical for the president of the United States to order the torture of other human beings?
3. Should state terrorism be used by a country as powerful as the United States as an instrument to bring about peace on the planet?
4. Is the Cuban Adjustment Act [which grants permanent residence in the US to Cubans who flee Cuba], applied as punishment on only one country, Cuba, in order to destabilise it, good and honourable, even when it costs innocent children and mothers their lives? If it is good, why is this right not automatically granted to Haitians, Dominicans and other peoples of the Caribbean, and why isn't the same Act applied to Mexicans and people from Central and South America, who die like flies against the Mexican border wall or in the waters of the Atlantic and the Pacific?
5. Can the United States do without immigrants, who grow vegetables, fruits, almonds and other delicacies for US citizens? Who would sweep their streets, work as servants in their homes or do the worst and lowest-paid jobs?
6. Are crackdowns on illegal residents fair, even as they affect children born in the United States?
7. Are the brain drain and the continuous theft of the best scientific and intellectual minds in poor countries moral and justifiable?
8. You state, as I pointed out at the beginning of this reflection, that your country had long ago warned European powers that it would not tolerate any intervention in the hemisphere, reiterating that this right be respected while demanding the right to intervene anywhere in the world with the aid of hundreds of military bases and naval, air and ground forces distributed across the planet. I ask: Is that the way in which the United States expresses its respect for freedom, democracy and human rights?
9. Is it fair to stage pre-emptive attacks on 60 or more ``dark corners'' of the world, as Bush calls them, whatever the pretext may be?
10. Is it honourable and sound to invest [trillions] of dollars in the military industrial complex, to produce weapons that can destroy life on Earth several times over?
Before judging our country, you should know that Cuba, with its education, health, sports, culture and science programs, implemented not only in its own territory but also in other poor countries around the world, and the blood that has been shed in acts of solidarity towards other peoples, in spite of the economic and financial blockade and the aggression of your powerful country, is proof that much can be done with very little. Not even our closest ally, the Soviet Union, was able to achieve what we have.
The only form of cooperation the United States can offer other nations consists in the sending of military professionals to those countries. It cannot offer anything else, for it lacks a sufficient number of people willing to sacrifice themselves for others and offer substantial aid to a country in need (though Cuba has known and relied on the cooperation of excellent US doctors). They are not to blame for this, for US society does not inculcate such values in them on a massive scale.
We have never subordinated cooperation with other countries to ideological requirements. We offered the United States our help when hurricane Katrina lashed the city of New Orleans. Our internationalist medical brigade bears the glorious name of Henry Reeve, a young man, born in the United States, who fought and died for Cuba's sovereignty in our first war of independence.
Our revolution can mobilise tens of thousands of doctors and health technicians. It can mobilise an equally vast number of teachers and citizens, who are willing to travel to any corner of the world to fulfill any noble purpose, not to usurp people's rights or take possession of raw materials.
The good will and determination of the people constitute limitless resources that cannot be kept and would not fit in a bank's vault. They cannot spring from the hypocritical politics of an empire.
Change is good. I change my socks every couple of months and my shirt at least once a fortnight when it’s hot. Barack Obama has got himself selected as a candidate for next commander in chief of the US armed forces and chief jailer at Guantanamo by using the “c” word a lot. One thing he has decided not to change, should he get the job, is US imperialism’s attitude to Palestine and the Israeli state. The IDF can continue slaughtering Palestinians and the Israeli state’s government can carry on blockading them back to the Stone Age.
Every single word of what follows is lifted from his website and is extracted from his speech to the American Israel Public Affairs Committee. You can provide your own indignant commentary. To paraphrase Trotsky on Lloyd George - “arsehole”.
He’s not Bush but how did anyone get the idea that there is anything supportable about this character?
We know that the establishment of Israel was just and necessary, rooted in centuries of struggle, and decades of patient work. But 60 years later, we know that we cannot relent, we cannot yield, and as President I will never compromise when it comes to Israel’s security.
Flying in an IDF helicopter, I saw a narrow and beautiful strip of land nestled against the Mediterranean.
I have been proud to be a part of a strong, bi-partisan consensus that has stood by Israel in the face of all threats.
Those who threaten Israel threaten us. Israel has always faced these threats on the front lines. And I will bring to the White House an unshakeable commitment to Israel’s security.
That starts with ensuring Israel’s qualitative military advantage. I will ensure that Israel can defend itself from any threat – from Gaza to Tehran. Defense cooperation between the United States and Israel is a model of success, and must be deepened. As President, I will implement a Memorandum of Understanding that provides $30 billion in assistance to Israel over the next decade – investments to Israel’s security that will not be tied to any other nation. First, we must approve the foreign aid request for 2009. Going forward, we can enhance our cooperation on missile defense. We should export military equipment to our ally Israel under the same guidelines as NATO. And I will always stand up for Israel’s right to defend itself in the United Nations and around the world.
I opposed holding elections in 2006 with Hamas on the ballot.
Jerusalem will remain the capital of Israel, and it must remain undivided.
Syria has taken dangerous steps in pursuit of weapons of mass destruction, which is why Israeli action was justified to end that threat.
I will do everything in my power to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon.
June 4, 2008 | Issue 673
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With the final primaries in Montana and South Dakota, Barack Obama clinched the Democratic presidential nomination, bringing him a step closer to becoming the first African American president in a nation founded on slavery.
One of the most important reason for his success is the belief among millions of supporters that he alone among the major candidates is committed to stopping the war on Iraq and charting a radically different course for U.S. foreign policy. But is Obama really the anti-warrior he is made out to be?
Anthony Arnove is the author of Iraq: The Logic of Withdrawal, an essential book for all antiwar activists, and coauthor with Howard Zinn of Voices of a People’s History of the United States. He answered SocialistWorker.org's questions about Obama's stands on war, imperialism and U.S. foreign policy.
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BARACK OBAMA presents himself as a candidate who will end the U.S. war on Iraq. Knowing the details of what he proposes, is it accurate to say that he'll end the war?
PEOPLE WHO believe Barack Obama will end the occupation of Iraq are likely in for a rude awakening. Despite talking about withdrawal from Iraq, his plan would keep troops in the country for years to come, likely well beyond his potential first term.
Obama has also left open the possibility that if he reduces the overall troop levels in Iraq--something that from a military standpoint is very likely, given how overstretched the United States is now--he would increase the number of mercenaries in Iraq.
Writing in the Nation magazine, journalist Jeremy Scahill reported, "A senior foreign policy adviser to leading Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama has told the Nation that if elected Obama will not 'rule out' using private security companies like Blackwater Worldwide in Iraq."
Obama says that he will "have all of our combat brigades out of Iraq within 16 months." But "combat brigades" only make up about half the troops in Iraq.
In addition to the mercenaries and private contractors, that would leave tens of thousands of troops involved in so-called counterinsurgency operations. That's the same rationale the Bush administration uses for keeping troops in Iraq. Other troops would stay for "training" operations. This, too, is the Bush argument: we'll stand down as the Iraqis stand up.
But there's no way the Iraqi police or security forces will ever have any legitimacy as long as they are seen as collaborating with an unwanted foreign occupation. That's why "Iraqization" of the conflict is leading in the same direction that "Vietnamization" led during the U.S. war against Vietnam: prolonging the disaster.
Other troops will remain for "force protection." That's a complete oxymoron. If the U.S. wasn't in Iraq as an occupying power, if it didn't have military bases, if it wasn't building in Baghdad the largest embassy of any government in the world, there would be no need for such troops.
This is also the reasoning given for why we need so many mercenaries in Iraq--and may need more. As Patrick Kennedy, undersecretary of state for management, told James Risen of the New York Times, "If the contractors were removed, we would have to leave Iraq."
Other troops are likely to be involved in air operations over Iraq, whether or not they are based formally in Iraq, or are based regionally.
The Washington Post reported May 23 that "pilots have dramatically increased their use of helicopter-fired missiles against enemy fighters, often in densely populated areas. Since late March, the military has fired more than 200 Hellfire missiles in the capital, compared with just six missiles fired in the previous three months."
Obama also talks about the need to "refocus our attention on the broader Middle East" and "finishing the fight in Afghanistan." So we are likely to see some troops now in Iraq shifted toward the occupation of Afghanistan, and also toward possible new interventions in the region.
That is, we are likely to see an adjustment in the tactics of the war, perhaps even the strategy, but not an end to the war. Not an end to the politics of seeking to dominate and control the Middle East and Western and Central Asia, its people and its resources.
WHAT DO you say to people who want the war to end, but think that Obama's plan is acceptable?
I THINK that many people who hold this belief think that Obama, once elected, will move to the left--that he's not talking about a complete withdrawal because he can't do that and get elected (even though public opinion polls point in the other direction).
I think many of Obama's supporters would be surprised to learn that he's not for a complete withdrawal, and that he hasn't ruled out using more mercenaries in Iraq.
Either way, I think there's a degree of wishful thinking here. It's understandable. After eight years of Bush and eight years of Clinton, people are rightly desperate for some alternative--and hopeful that Obama will bring about a significant turn in U.S. foreign policy.
But in the absence of a large, independent antiwar movement putting pressure on Obama and the Democrats, I think we're likely to see the opposite: that Obama will govern to the right of the positions of his supporters.
That to me is the key question: Will there be that pressure on Obama if he's elected? Or will people in the antiwar movement succumb to the pressure to "give him time" and not to "rock the boat."
The experience after the 2006 mid-term elections is not encouraging. Democrats took over the House and Senate, yet continued to fund and prolong the occupation of Iraq. Many groups in the antiwar movement, rather than build large demonstrations to challenge the Democrats, have started to campaign for them for 2008. This is leading to an infinitely receding horizon of when the troops will ever leave.
OBAMA ARGUES that Iraq has been a distraction from the war the U.S. should be fighting. He supports a surge of U.S. troops to Afghanistan similar to what the Bush administration stands for. Should we look at the occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan differently?
THE IDEA that Afghanistan is the "good" occupation or the "right fight" is completely misguided, in my view.
In Afghanistan, Washington claimed to be targeting terrorists who had attacked the United States, but instead, it targeted the civilian population of the country. The idea behind the U.S. invasion in 2001 was to make the people of Afghanistan suffer, hoping that would help bring down the Taliban regime, make an example of Afghanistan and pave the way for attacking Iraq.
Of course, there was also an element of seeking revenge--no matter that the people being killed by U.S. attacks had nothing to do with planning or carrying out the attacks of 9/11.
All of this has nothing to do with fighting terrorism, making the world safer or protecting people in the United States from attack. In fact, we have destabilized the region, made it more violent, killed thousands of civilians, escalated tensions between Afghanistan and its neighbors, and made the United States more isolated and hated, and therefore more likely to be the target of attacks.
DO YOU think Obama differs on the aims of U.S. foreign policy, or on the tactics and strategies needed to achieve those aims?
I THINK he differs on the tactics and strategies, not the aims or principles. After eight years of inept and counterproductive foreign policy decision-making, which has led even top generals and Republican advisers to defect from the Bush camp, we're bound to see a readjustment in U.S. policy, regardless of who becomes president.
Aggressive unilateralism is likely to be replaced with a slightly more collaborative approach to foreign policy decisions, with the understanding that, at the end of the day, Washington will always reserve the right to go it alone. What that means is not a renunciation of the Bush doctrine of preventive war, but an adjustment in how it is applied.
But the goal remains the same for Obama: preserve and extend what's called "American leadership" in the world. What that means is preserve and extend American empire. And in turn, that means using military force and the blunt instruments of economic control in Washington's hands.
Sure, we may see more so-called soft power. A little better packaging and advertising of our policies. Less needless alienation of "allies." But not a reversal of decades of bipartisan support for the U.S. imperial project, with all the disastrous consequences that have flown from that.
As two British conservatives, Timothy Lynch and Robert Singh, wrote in the Wall Street Journal, "Regardless of who wins in November, the current foreign policy will live on in the next White House. None of the main candidates has disavowed the war on terror. Each has called Mr. Bush tactically deficient. But the debate over the war on terror is over how, where and when. The candidates have all argued that they would do a better job of fighting it."
OBAMA ADVISERS like Samantha Powers are associated with talk about "humanitarian intervention" by the U.S. Is that an idea the antiwar movement should support?
IT WAS interesting when Powers was kicked to the curb (or "thrown under the bus," as it's been called) for having a few fairly uncontroversial harsh words for Hillary Clinton.
Over the same period, Powers was at pains to explain that Obama would not pull out of Iraq completely, and that he would have to evaluate even his position about withdrawing combat troops within 16 months, based on developments on the ground that he couldn't foresee as a candidate.
But that wasn't an issue. The issue was whether or not Powers had trashed Clinton.
Still, the influence of Powers and a group of like-minded advisers to Obama does seem to signal that we are likely to see more rhetoric about humanitarian intervention, especially in the Darfur region of Sudan and elsewhere in Africa.
On the one hand, this may feel a bit like a return to Bill Clinton-era policies. But we should keep two things in mind: the first is that Bill Clinton's rhetoric about humanitarian intervention helped lay the basis for the overwhelmingly bipartisan support for invading Afghanistan in 2001 and Iraq in 2003. The other is that U.S. imperialism has always cloaked itself in humanitarian justifications. This didn't start with Clinton.
So our challenge is to make the case that the issue is not the "mismanagement" of the Iraq occupation or that the U.S. focused on Iraq, instead of Afghanistan or Pakistan or Iran or North Korea.
The issue is that U.S. foreign policy is driven by interests, especially corporate interests, that are destroying the planet, that are destroying the lives of people around the globe and at home.
Take the issue of troop levels. Obama's Web site says, "Obama will increase the size of ground forces, adding 65,000 soldiers to the Army and 27,000 Marines." What do we imagine the purpose of those troops will be? To provide housing for homeless people? To teach children who are illiterate? To wipe out malaria and easy preventable diseases that kill millions of children ever year?
No, those troops will be charged with protecting U.S. corporate interests globally, preserving "stability," protecting and training dictators aligned with the United States, and suppressing any struggles that threaten the interests of U.S. rulers and elites.
THE DEMOCRATS are generally considered less likely to get the U.S. into wars, and less brutal in carrying them out, than Republicans. Is that a fair reading of the Democrats' record in office?
VIETNAM WAS started by Democrats and ended by a Republican. The First and Second World War began under Democrats.
John F. Kennedy, who is idealized today, was a Democrat who presided over the massive expansion of U.S. covert and overt aggression in Latin America--and beyond--supporting coups, funding death squads and backing dictatorships in pursuit of a vicious Cold War anticommunism.
The policy we now see being vigorously pursued in Iraq and the Middle East is the Carter Doctrine, named after Democrat Jimmy Carter. In 1980, Carter explained, "Let our position be absolutely clear: An attempt by any outside force to gain control of the Persian Gulf region will be regarded as an assault on the vital interests of the United States of America, and such an assault will be repelled by any means necessary, including military force."
"The last great liberal hope to win the White House--Bill Clinton--committed more troops to more parts of the globe than any president since World War II," Lynch and Singh wrote in the Journal. "Since the end of the Cold War, America has undertaken at least nine military interventions overseas, under three presidents of both parties in two distinct historical eras (pre- and post-9/11). This history suggests that the next great liberal hope--Mr. Obama or Mrs. Clinton--would probably continue the trend.
So the key question is not whether or not we have a Democrat in office. It's whether we have any opposition, any struggle in the streets, any movements for change that work outside the narrow channels of electoral politics.
It is a question not of waiting for elected officials to give us reforms, but of fighting for them, against all the forces in our society that want to preserve the power and privilege of the few against the needs and interests of the many. Our job today is to build the opposition, whoever is in power in 2009, and to build an independent antiwar movement that can fight for its own demands--including, crucially, immediate and unconditional withdrawal from Iraq.
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