Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Liberalism, War and Social Justice




“I am convinced that if we are to get on the right side of the world revolution, we as a nation must undergo a radical revolution of values. We must rapidly begin the shift from a "thing-oriented" society to a "person-oriented" society. When machines and computers, profit motives and property rights are considered more important than people, the giant triplets of racism, materialism, and militarism are incapable of being conquered."
-Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. April 4th 1967


Dr. Martin Luther King's speech, "Beyond Vietnam-A Time To Break Silence is as applicable today, if not more so, as it was nearly 45 years ago when he gave it at Riverside Church in New York. Presently, the United States has been at war longer than at any other time throughout its history. The Afghan war has been waged for a decade without an end in sight. NATO has pushed back its deadline for withdrawal year after year with the never ending caveat "if ground conditions permit". More than 50,000 soldiers continue to occupy Iraq. More than 150,000 soldiers from more than 50 countries around the world fight a dirty colonial war in Afghanistan. While it's true that these current wars started under George W. Bush and the Republicans in Congress, it has been continued and expanded under the Democrats. The majority of Americans suffer from war fatigue. Twice within the past four years, the electorate voted to stop the wars but alas, the wars continue. President Obama and the Democrats in Congress have recently passed the largest military budget since the Second World War. As the United States commits unspeakable violence overseas, horrible violence plagues the country at home.



Where Are The Heroes?
Historically, the differences between American liberals and conservatives was more than differences in politics and policies. The most important differences lay within values. Liberals believed in social justice and true equality. Conservatives believed in hard justice and inequality. Liberals believed that all human beings deserve equal chances to prosper and lead lives of quality as conservatives believed that inequality was an inherent "human nature" and that attempts to reduce inequality was an undue burden on society. Liberals recognised socio-economic inequality while conservatives believed so such thing existed in the United States. Liberals through the Democratic Party believed that if the government lifted society from the bottom, the living standard would rise for everyone. Conservatives through the Republican Party believed that if government lifted society from the top, the living standard would rise for all.
The most striking display within the differences of values between liberals and conservatives were those they identified as heroes. For the liberal grand and great-grand parents of today, Franklin Delano Roosevelt was their primary hero. Roosevelt is their hero because he attempted the ameriloate the negative impacts of the Great Depression through massive public work projects, employment and by introducing the welfare state through measures such as Social Security. For the conservative grand and great-grandparents of today, their hero is Dwight D. Eisenhower, the military general and Supreme Commander of the Allied Forces during the Second World War. Though he warned of the "military industrial complex" at the end of his term, it was under his presidency that the US became increasingly militarized. Under his presidency, the CIA began its activities of overthrowing soverign democratic governments around the world and replacing them with brutal dictators. Eisenhower was the first US President to visit Fascist Spain and recognized General Franco.
For liberal baby boomers, they had plenty of heroes as they grew up. They had John F. and his brother Robert Kennedy, as well as Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Their conservative contemporaries had Barry Goldwater, Richard Nixon and Ronald Reagan. The liberal heroes spoke of peace, an end to war and for social justice in equality. The conservative heroes spoke of war, law and order and moral values even though their actions and deeds were immoral.
However, for both the boomers and Generation X, they had one more hero than the liberals. They had Ronald Reagan. Reagan sought to undermine and roll back the gains of workers and minorities in the country. Reagan began the process of destroying all the programs and policies established to bring about social justice and equality in the country. Reagan held minorities and the poor with contempt. He demonized poor mothers on welfare as undeserving and lazy parasites. Reagan sent the military to overthrow the democratically elected government of Grenada. He sent war planes to assassinate Libyan leader Gaddafi killing his one year old child in the process.
The point is that American liberals proposed peace, justice and equality as American conservatives promoted war, militarism, injustice and inequality. After the assasination of Dr. King in 1968, American liberals seemed to run out of heroes. The last liberal hero, Jesse Jackson was co-opted and marginialised in 1988. Bill Clinton was never a liberal. Liberals tolerated Clinton simply because they had been demoralized after 12 years of Reagan and George H.W. Bush. In 2004, a new liberal hero appeared to emerge in the person of Barack Obama. In 2008, he was elected to the presidency. Liberals had never been so excited and happy since the election of John F. Kennedy in 1960. Perhaps after 40 years of conservative and centre-right politics, liberalism had returned? Instead, liberals find themselves disappointed with Obama. Obama, Joe Biden and others at the White House have expressed nothing but contempt for liberal values. Once again liberals find themselves isolated and cannot see anyone on the horizon to restore their hope and confidence.
The conservatives have found new heroes and a new heroine. Unlike liberals they not only have heroes and heroines in politics but also in the media. Today, the Tea Party is the political home of today's conservative heroes and they have plenty more on Fox News and talk radio. Liberals have become ashamed of and embarrassed by Obama. Their only heroes are now late night comic actors on Comedy Central. Those liberals with time on their hands to read call Noam Chomsky their hero. Liberals and progressives find themselves in an intellectual and moral morass.
Liberalism and War
The Democrats are often considered the party of peace and the Republicans the party of war. The historical record states otherwise. The United States entered both World Wars under liberal Democrat presidents. Woodrow Wilson promised peace and to stay out of the First World War when he ran for re-election in 1916 only to take the country to war one year later. Franklin Roosevelt ran a pacifist campaign in 1940, even while he was angling behind the years to get involved. The Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor was the convenient excuse FDR needed to enter the war.
Initially, John F. Kennedy was a war hawk. During the Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962, Kennedy was quite keen to start nuclear war with Cuba and the USSR. Kennedy had an itchy finger over the red button. The crisis was averted and the world saved from the brink of destruction due to the intervention of the Canadian government. Kennedy was irate over Canada's intervention and Kennedy made it clear during a State visit to Ottawa where he cursed out the entire cabinet of the government of Prime Minister Diefenbaker. On the other hand, Kennedy seemed to undergo a political transformation and clashed with the military brass and the CIA. Though not officially recognized, there's been enough research, including the death bed confession of one his assassins, to indicate that Kennedy was killed by elements of the military industrial complex.
His successor Lyndon Baines Johnson is mostly remembered for his esclation of the Vietnam War. Declassified documents have revealed that the Gulf of Tonkin incident was a hoax in order to justify a complete military intervention of the war. Among liberal and progressive anti-war activists the initials of the president became synonymous with war and murder. Though it was under Eisenhower that the US first became involved militarily in the Vietnam conflict and Kennedy had sent more military "assistance" to South Vietnam, it was Johnson who became most identified with the war. By 1967, Johnson had become hated amongst anti-war and civil rights activists.
It's important to note that though FDR and LBJ led through countries into brutal warfare, they both introduced government programs to relieve poverty. Johnson launched the "War on Poverty". As part of this "Great Society" program Medicare, the health insurance scheme for elderly retirees was introduced. It was under Johnson that both the Voting Rights Act of 1965 and the Civil Rights Act of 1964 were drafted and signed into law. This was always the fatal contradiction of American liberalism. One on hand, liberal Democrats advanced democracy, social justice and equality domestically while they went on imperliast military adventures abroad. Under Johnson, the CIA continued to overthrow democratic soverign governments from Brazil to Indonesia. The CIA even tried to overthrow the Canadian government of Lester Pearson for his efforts to reduce Cold War tensions. This is the fatal flaw and contradiction of American liberalism. One cannot advance social justice and equality at home while pursuing tyranny and inequality abroad. This is the cause of America's moral, political and economic predicament today.
Clinton, Obama and The New Democrats
"Conservatives believe. Liberals lie." The trends forecaster Gerald Celente made the preceding statement a couple of weeks ago. Celente calls himself a political atheist which places him in an objective position to give political analysis. "Conservatives believe" in the lies spoon fed to them by Republican politicians and the talking heads on Fox. Conservatives really believe that Muslim terrorists "hate our freedoms". They really believe that Saddam Hussein had "weapons of mass destruction." Conservatives believe that the "War on Terror" is to really "bring democracy to the Middle East and Afghanistan." Conservatives really believe that God is "punishing America for its immorality" of killing millions of unborn fetuses. The more fantastic, the more absurd and more preposterous the propaganda, conservatives will fall for it hook line and sinker.
Liberals on the other hand lie. During a Gary Null radio interview Celente elaborate: "They will never admit that they have been conned by the conman in chief, head of the presidential reality show. Liberals are intellectual enough to know they have been conned but don't have the moral or spiritual strength to admit so."
It's sad to agree with Celente's comment. Since taking office, President Obama's foreign and war policy had matched and even exceeded that of George W. Bush. While Bush was in office, liberals protested and complained. However, when Obama has done the same or worse, there is a deafening silence from liberals. Obama's award for the Nobel Peace Prize is a choice example. Obama received the prize less than a year of taking office and absent of any significant history of bringing peace to the world. When Bush was nominated for the peace prize was there consternation and explosive indignation that a war criminal could even be considered for the prize and rightfully he didn't win it. Obama's acceptance speech was his most vulgar public display to date. Obama stated that there would always be war and to think otherwise and to even stop war is to live in fantasy land. Obama stated that he was Commander-In-Chief of a nation at war. The rest of the address was bellicose in extreme. “We must begin by acknowledging a hard truth. We will not eradicate violent conflicts in our lifetimes. There will be times when nations, acting individually or in concert, will find the use of force not only necessary but morally justified.” In the next breath Obama desecrated the legacies of King and Gandhi by stating that as the President of the United States, he could not act according to their ideals. Had Bush made the same speech, liberals would have stormed the White House and lynched him from a tree across the street in Lafayette Square. However, since it was Obama there wasn't even a murmur of disapproval by liberals.
American liberals abhor capital punishment. Yet every Democrat presidential candidate since 1992 has supported it. During his tenure as governor of Texas, Bush executed more people than any other politician in American history. Texas competed with Iran and China for the top spot of state executions. Per capita, Bush executed more prisoners than any other chief executive in the world during his terms as governor. Liberals abhorred Bush during the 2000 election for that very reason.
But where was the same moral outrage when Bill Clinton, after the 1992 New Hampshire Primary, flew back to Arkansas to personally oversee the execution of a mentally retarded Black man? Liberals made all sorts of excuses for Clinton. He had to show he was "tough on crime" under George H.W. Bush pulled another Willie Horton as he did against Michael Dukakis in 1988.
How many times will liberals let the Democrats betray them before they do anything about it? Liberals believed that if they swept Republicans out of office during the 2006 Mid Term elections, they could achieve two purposes: Stop the wars and impeach Bush. The Democrats swept the Republicans out. Less than a week after the elections, incoming Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi ruled out impeachment proceedings against Bush. Liberals believed that if they couldn't impeach Bush, Democrats would have the power to investigate Cheney, Rumsfeld and other officials in the Bush administration. The Democrats didn't open a single probe. The wars could have ended in 2007 simply by cutting off the funding. The Democrats refused out of fear of being viewed as unpatriotic. They justified the continued funding of the wars claiming they were opposed the war but "supporting our troops."
Not sensing reality, liberals placed all their efforts to electing Obama with his empty slogan of "change and hope you can believe in." Many gays and lesbians voted for Obama as they were tired of the homophobic demagogy from the Christian far right. Obama, not wasting time to spit on his core base, assigned a right wing homophobic Christian fundamentalist pastor to give the inaugural invocation. Before Obama was sworn in, he assembled the most right wing, reactionary and Zionist members of the Democratic party to fill his cabinet.
Obama signed two executive orders on his first day to close Guantanamo Bay detention facility and to ban the practice of torture. Two years later Gitmo remains open. Torture is still practiced by the US military and intelligence agencies. Obama increased more troops to Afghanistan and expanded the war into Pakistan. Predator drone attacks have increased and killed more civilians than anytime under Bush. Why are the liberals silent? In 2010, Obama signs an executive order given him the exclusive right to assassinate American citizens who he, and only he determines to be a threat to "national security". Imagine if Bush had signed the same executive order. Most recently, Obama is moving to have preventive and indefinite detention without trial. Habeas Corpus has been executed without a whimper from liberals. 800 years of Anglo-Saxon Common Law tossed in the rubbish sign with nothing more than a yawn from liberals.
Contrary to the conventional wisdom of the media, the Republican surge in 2010 wasn't the results of a massive shift to the far right nor was it because Americans believed that the Democrats had governed too far to the left. The tens of millions of people who had voted from Obama in 2008 sat the election out as they no longer believed that the Democrats were any different from the Republicans.
"The Liberal Media"
As Noam Chomsky and Edward Hermann explained thoroughly in "Manufacturing Consent", the myth of "The Liberal Media" was a concoction of conservative ideologues in the 1980s in order to intimidate and force the mainstream media to give more attention and focus to right wing ideas. It's true that the mainstream media up until the 1990s was less commercial than today. It's also correct that the media used to do a bit more investigative reporting and report on issues of vital importance. It's beyond the scope of this essay to give a full examination.
As presented in the second part of this series, the media landscape changed during the mid 1980s. As social inequality widened and the top earners got richer and corporations faced less regulation, the news media shifted with the country. What made the media "liberal" was the new technology of television during the 1950s and 60s. There was far less censorship than today. What made the Civil Rights Movement so effective was the images of peaceful Black protestors being brutalised by police dogs and fire hoses. The anti-war movement became powerful because people all over the world saw the horrors of Vietnam in their living room during dinner time. The TV cameras were present on the streets of Chicago as the police cracked open the skulls of unarmed peace activists during the Democratic National Convention of 1968. The cameras were live as they filmed Mayor Daley shouting "fuckers!" at anti-war protestors on the floor of the convention. Dan Rather was attacked by delegates on the convention floor and got into a scuffle live on TV. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TrlYRWD_tnA
Today if Martin Luther King had organised marches in Birmingham, none of the TV networks would have aired it. The local TV station would have used creative editing. The story would have been told by Bull Connor and the reporters would have repeated what he said and implied that the unarmed and peaceful protestors had "provoked" the police. Over the past decade there has been police brutality against peaceful protestors outside political conventions and international summits. These have all been ignored by the media or the official police version of events is presented. On February 15, 2003, hundreds of millions of people participated in the largest globally planned protest movement in human history. CNN didn't mention it.
As Bush and Obama have gutted the constitution and committed crime, there wasn't a single editorial or protest by the New York Times or the Washington Post. The newspapers and television networks consulted with the White House to edit the stories to present. Each new outrage produced silence, tepid criticism or even worse, support from the media. This has led to the rise of alternative and independent media. The growth of online news has increased by remains a drop in the ocean compared to the established newspapers.
Solutions for Progressives
It's obvious that most liberals no longer care about issues of social justice. Liberalism is dead. Progressives need to organise and start anew. A new third party must be formed. This is evident yet somehow liberals are unable to break out of the straightjackets of masochism. "We can't vote for a third party candidate because they can't win." Yes they can't win when everyone says the same thing. Just imagine what would happen if everyone that made that statement actually voted for a third party candidate? What are the solutions?
I will cite one solution offered from Ralph Nader. In a recent interview with Chris Hedges, Nader dared to say what no liberal has the courage nor nerve to state. Nader didn't mince his words and they are notworthy:
"The more outrageous the Republicans become, the weaker the left becomes...The more outrageous they become, the more the left has to accept the slightly less outrageous corporate Democrats.
"The left has nowhere to go. Obama knows it. The corporate Democrats know it. There will be criticism by the left of Obama this year and then next year they will all close ranks and say ‘Do you want Mitt Romney? Do you want Sarah Palin? Do you want Newt Gingrich?’ It’s very predictable. There will be a year of criticism and then it will all be muted. They don’t understand that even if they do not have any place to go, they ought to fake it. They should fake going somewhere else or staying home to increase the receptivity to their demands. But because they do not make any demands, they are complicit with corporate power. “Corporate power makes demands all the time...It pulls on the Democrats and the Republicans in one direction. By having this nowhere-to-go mentality and without insisting on demands as the price of your vote, or energy to get out the vote, they have reduced themselves to a cipher. They vote. The vote totals up. But it means nothing.
“Obama has the formula now,” Nader said. “You give the Republicans a lot of what they want. Many of them vote for you. You get your Democrat percentage. You weave a hybrid victory. That is what he learned in the lame-duck session. He gets praised as being a statesman and a leader and getting things done. Think of all the rewards he can contemplate while he is in Hawaii compared to what they were saying about him on Nov. 5. All the columnists and pundits say that now he can work with John Boehner. But once you take a broader view, it is the difference in the mph of corporatism. McCain is 50 miles per hour and Obama is 40 miles per hour. The left has disemboweled itself...It doesn’t even have a strategy every four years like a good poker player.”
On the topic of the right wing hegemony of the media, Nader had this to say:
“The so-called liberal media, along with Fox, is touting the tea party and publicizing Palin,” Nader said. “There was an editorial on Dec. 27 in The New York Times on the Repeal Amendment, the right-wing constitutional amendment to allow states to overturn federal law. The editorial writer at the end had the nerve to say there is no progressive champion. The editorial said that the liberals and progressives have faded out to let the tea party make history. And yet, for months, all The New York Times has done is promote Sarah Palin and Glenn Beck. They promote Newt Gingrich and the neocons on the Op-Ed pages. The book pages of the newspaper ignore progressive authors and pump all the right-wing authors.
“If we don’t raise hell, we won’t get any media. If we don’t get any media, the perception will be that the tea party is the big deal.
“On one notorious Sunday, Oct. 10, two of The New York Times’ segments led with a big story about Ann Coulter and how she will change her strategy because she is being outflanked by others,” Nader said. “There was also a huge article on this anti-Semite against Arabs, this Islamaphobe, Pam Geller. Do you know how many pictures they had of Geller? Twenty on this front-page segment. The number of anti-war Op-Eds in The Washington Post over nine months in 2009 was 6-to-1 pro-war. We don’t raise hell. We don’t say Terry Gross is a censor. We don’t say that Charlie Rose is a censor. We have got to blast publicly. We have got to hammer them, because they are the tribune of right-wing fascist forces.
“Three thousand people rallied to protest the invasion and massacre in Gaza two years ago,” Nader said. “It was held four blocks from The Washington Post. It did not get a single paragraph. People should march over to the Post and say ‘Fuck you! What are you doing here? You cover every little blip by the right-wing and you don’t cover us?’
“They are afraid of the right-wing because the right-wing bellows, and they have become right-wing,” Nader said of the commercial press. “They have become fascinated by the bias of Fox. And they publicize what Fox is biased on. The coverage of O’Reilly and Beck and their fights is insane. In the heyday of coverage in the 1960s of what we were doing, it was always less than it should have been, but now it is almost zero. Why do we take this? Why do we accept this? Why isn’t Chris Hedges three times a year in the Op-Ed? Why is it always Paul Wolfowitz and Elliott Abrams and all these homicidal maniacs? Why are they there? Why is John Bolton constantly published in The Washington Post and The New York Times? Where is Andrew Bacevich? Bacevich told me he has had five straight Op-Eds rejected by the Post and the Times in the last two years. And he said he is not inclined to send anymore. How many times do you hear Hoover Institution? American Enterprise Institute? Manhattan Institute. These goddamned newspapers should be picketed.”
"How much more can the oppressed take before they revolt? And can they revolt without organizers? These are the two important questions. You have got to have organizers, and as of now we don’t.”
Conclusion
When will liberals stop being afraid to speak out against police brutality? How come the liberals in San Francisco are silent when Oscar Grant is executed in front of hundreds of witnesses on a subway platform and his killer is acquitted on murder charges? How long will it take for liberals to take a real stand against capital punishment? How is it possible that more people know of the case of Mumia Abul Jamal in London, Paris and Berlin than those in New York, Boston and San Francisco? When will liberals stop being afraid accused of "being soft on crime" or go out of their way to say that they always "support the police"? When will liberals stop being so blatantly selective about the issues they get vocal about? Liberals will march and protest about stolen elections in Iran and the lack of human rights in Tibet while being silent about stolen elections and human rights abuses at home. Have liberals become cowards? Have liberals perverted Dr. King's policy of non-violence to the extreme that they don't even bother showing up to protests for fear of being beaten and arrested for their convictions? Do liberals believe non-violence means the absence of fights and struggles? Have liberals confused humility for meekness? Do liberals believe that they can try to talk rationally and intellectually with opponents who want to hurt them? Dr. King was a warrior. He didn't beg nor plea with power for them to be nice. Dr. King was non-violent yet assertive. Dr. King was peaceful yet forceful. Most importantly, Dr King took responsibility for his inaction for speaking out against war earlier.
The only way to stop war is to acknowledge that one is in a war. Peace is the goal. But being anti-war doesn't connote denying the reality of a war. The United States is at war at home and abroad. In order to stop the war abroad we must stop the war at home. We must stop the political war we are engaged in. We must stop the civil war that's happening in every inner city district of the country. Regardless of whether certain liberals want to confront this reality or not, there is a war in the poorer darker pockets of American cities between the residents and the police. It's a one sided war as the former are vastly out-gunned by the latter. We must stop the "War on Drugs." The United States is the world's largest prison with the vast majority of those incarcerated for low level non-violent drug offensives. Middle Class liberals must understand that being caught with a joint by the police is different than being a person caught with the same joint in Harlem or Hunters Point. There is an information war. Liberals must wake up and confront the reality of daily systematic violence afflicting large segments of the population. War is on television. War is in the schools of the nation. War is on the streets of the nation.
Liberals have been complicit in the current state of affairs. George W. Bush has published and book and has appeared on national TV admitting that he engaged in torture and would do it again. The Bush regime know that after 2 years of Democratic rule without criminal investigations opened or charges pressed, they are confident that they can do it again. Obama is breaking both US and International law by refusing to bring the Bush regime to justice. "Looking forward and not looking back" is nothing less than averting one's eyes. Over the past 25 years, liberals have averted their eyes to injustice or have pretended not to notice. Worse, many liberals simply don't care. Out of sight, out of mind appears to be the predominate trend for American liberals be it to injustice at home and abroad. From this arise the following questions which American liberals and progressives must answer.
Are we going to give up and hand over all the economic, social and political rights we gained over centuries of struggle? Remember the millions before us that died so that we can live in peace and prosperity. Are you going to give up more than 200 years of Enlightenment with all the advances in philosophy, politics and science to a well-funded and organised band of ignoramuses that want to take us back to feudalism? If you answer no to any of these questions, then you have no other choice but to rise, stand up and fight. If we don't fight now we will lose our liberal freedoms and social justice for decades if not centuries to come. We have a choice. Time is running out.

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