Happy 2013 — carpe diem time (“O” is for Opportunity)

Part III — Happy 2013, seizing the day by helping Obama help us!

Last week many on the left were celebrating Hillary Clinton’s tenure as Secretary of State as she prepares to move on to bigger and better things (eyeing 2016, no doubt).

My question is WHY?

Is it because Secretary Clinton won the week’s news cycle?  Or because the MSM has spent the last several days singing paeans to her alleged diplomatic accomplishments?  Or is the left simply exulting in the way Sec. Clinton faced down a few bloviating Senate Republicans, calling “bullshit!” on the GOP’s tired (utterly exhausted and feeble) attempts to twist al Qaeda’s lethal 9/11/12 attack on a U.S. “consulate”/CIA outpost in Benghazi into the cover-up of the century?  (So it took the administration the better part of two weeks to acknowledge that what happened in Benghazi was a straight-up al Qaeda attack rather than a demonstration that got out of hand…  So talking points changed after it was determined that the event had been conflated with simultaneous protests in Cairo against a vicious American hate-film…  SO WHAT?)

Arizona’s Sen. Jeff Flake is a Republican whose career in the House of Representatives actually impressed me pretty favorably (a rarity).  However, questioning Secretary Clinton, he made a perfect ass of himself, pretending there is something mysterious about the fact that the administration’s talking points about Benghazi were revised over time.  (And if Democrats had investigated the Bush administration every time talking points changed, they would never have gotten around to investigating any of Bush’s war crimes and outrages against human dignity… oh wait, they didn’t — but that’s a separate discussion).  Here’s Flake, interrogating Sec. Clinton about the administration’s revised talking points:  “We don’t exactly know where they were changed or how they were changed — but they were changed… or altered” (clearly insinuating with his tone that something diabolically nefarious was afoot).  Senator Flake looked like, well, a flake — a knee-jerk partisan with nothing of substance on his mind, just trying to score points.

I admit that I enjoyed seeing Ms. Clinton cut a few of those empty suits down to size (especially Wisconsin’s vapid Ron Johnson) for trying to reheat this giant Nothingburger of an election-season “scandal,” but the truth of the matter is that AMERICA IS IN REAL TROUBLE if the best we can hope for in our heated political exchanges are moments of schadenfreude at seeing a bunch of hypocritical halfwits outclassed.  Winning a news cycle or two, posting a symbolic or personal victory over the hapless GOP, doesn’t remotely mean that the right’s iron grip on policy has weakened.  It doesn’t mean that George Bush and Dick Cheney’s abominable legacy has been diminished in the least — because it hasn’t.  President Obama has embraced his predecessor’s grotesquely immoral foreign policy, lock, stock, and barrel, which is why America is more hated in the Muslim world than ever.

By following the neocon blueprint to the letter, including Bush’s redirection of the GWoT (prioritizing regime change in Iran over weakening al Qaeda), Barack Obama has turned the Middle East into a bloodbath.  The ethno-sectarian civil war that America unleashed in Iraq has now been replicated in Libya, Syria, and beyond, with the U.S. once again arming and funding “rebels” led by al Qaeda and its affiliates (it’s the 1980s all over again, with Saudi Arabia and its satellite states, especially Qatar, acting as middlemen between Washington and the terrorists who attacked us on 9/11/01).

And the effects of this failure have been as tragic as they’ve been predictable.  More than a decade after 9/11, the United States is still aggressively pursuing policies that only metastasize Islamic hatred of our nation and virtually guarantee decades of war and terrorism.  I’m hardly the first to note that Bush’s response to 9/11 greatly benefitted al Qaeda, turning the group from a ragtag crew of a few hundred die-hard foes into an international phenomenon, a global brand with widening appeal to thousands of human beings who justifiably fear and hate the United States.  From the beginning, Washington’s response to the 9/11 attacks was to play right into bin Laden’s hands, damaging America and increasing global terrorist attacks many times over.

It bears repeating: Osama bin Laden and Ayman al-Zawahiri wanted the U.S. to overreact to 9/11, shredding our Constitution and spending ourselves into bankruptcy by fighting brutal, civilian-slaughtering wars that were sure to bring millions to sympathize with their cause (even while condemning their methods).  These are the neocons’ bounteous gifts to our enemies: the Iraq War, drone strikes in half a dozen countries with which we are not at war, and the general rebooting of the Crusades (attacking militant Muslims across the globe — even when their interests are strictly provincial, concerned with fighting despotic and corrupt governments, as in Algeria: that’s what has driven these groups into al Qaeda’s waiting arms).

*          *          *

And that is why the principled left has NOTHING to celebrate in Secretary Clinton’s little political triumph. Because even though she made the Republicans look bad, the facts on the ground remain grim, thanks to President Obama’s decision to continue and expand Bush’s illegal and extraordinarily counterproductive (but oh-so-profitable) wars.

America’s partners in Libya and beyond, per Ms. Clinton’s testimony, are death squads and militias (most of whom identify with al Qaeda): “All these guys dressed completely in black, holding their automatic weapons — that was my welcoming party” (in Libya, where many of our “allies” against Qaddafi came from the ranks of al Qaeda in Mesopotamia, where just a few years ago they were killing American soldiers — which is why the CIA was turning these soon-to-be allies over to Qaddafi and waterboarding them).  But in the absence of foreign “leaders” whom the West can control, Sec. Clinton testified that “militias… have proven to be responsive.” Responding to an observation that America’s “counter-” terrorism efforts on the African continent will only become more extensive in the years ahead — in Nigeria, Uganda, Somalia, Libya, Mali, Algeria, and beyond — Sec. Clinton declared that observation “prophetic” (another clue to what this abysmal future holds: the U.S. is establishing a new drone base in Niger, according to several recent news reports).  “We’re in for a long struggle here,” Ms. Clinton affirmed.

And the likelihood of MORE assaults on our heavily militarized/CIA-infested “consulates” like the one in Benghazi is very high.  Per Ms. Clinton, “we have probably at least twenty other posts that are under a serious threat environment as I speak to you.”

That’s the way it goes when our nation insists on invading and bombing countries without the slightest pretense of legality.  That’s the logical result when our soldiers shoot pregnant women and then dig the bullets out with knives to frame locals.  The ethnic cleansing, official targeting of funerals and medical responders, the unofficial Kill Teams, the ongoing, institutionalized torture and rendition, our war/hate-crimes (burning Qurans and gleefully urinating on the dead), and the U.S. military and CIA’s repeated targeting of whole communities that has characterized America’s Terror War may have flown beneath the radar of most Americans, but not so for the rest of the world.  Bush and Obama have earned for the United States the hatred of decent people the world over.

*          *          *

That said, there is hope.  And, however jarring the following pronouncement may sound after all I’ve just written, that hope resides largely in the current resident of the Oval Office.

For I am convinced that President Obama’s second term represents our best opportunity to reverse America’s dramatic slide into fascism and economic feudalism.  But we have to act very soon if we truly hope to redeem the promise of his 2008 election (which he immediately betrayed in 2009, needlessly rescuing the rotten establishment just when it was about to go down the drain).

“Go out and make me do it,” Barack Obama has told the American people (emulating, for once, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt) — WE HAVE TO TAKE HIM AT HIS WORD.

As difficult as the task will be, I think we can (“Yes, we can!”) “make” President Obama deliver on the promise of his 2008 candidacy — but it will UNDOUBTEDLY require a massive popular movement that DEMANDS an end to the torturing, oligarch-exalting lawlessness that is today’s America.  And I think that Barack Obama will be amenable to such demands (call me foolish, but I actually believe there’s a middle class-supporting constitutionalist buried somewhere deep within the Corporatocracy-appeasing exterior of this president).  And therein lies our best hope: deep down, Obama agrees with us. The problem is that, like his immediate predecessors, he absolutely refuses to lead America in any direction not dictated by his corporate masters.

What he will do, however, representing the REAL VALUE of his presidency, is use a popular movement as cover to do what he should’ve done all along.  But we need to “make” him do it.  His actions to date make crystal clear that America is screwed if we’re just going to sit around waiting for him to lead.  He won’t.

So lose the lying labels.  There is no “liberal” in the White House, at present.  ONLY WE — by reaching out to those on the other side of the ideological spectrum — can restore America’s traditional values.  Because today’s progressives are “conservative,” in the best sense of the word (“measure twice, cut once” conservatives, rather than “I hate minorities, women, and gays” conservatives).  Because the facts are on our side: climate change clearly does threaten our planet; criminal bankers and reckless, grasping corporations have taken control of our government, corrupting and assaulting our public institutions and decimating the middle class; and the global war of terror is definitely not making us any safer.

But we have to MAKE HIM DO IT. And, if we really want to succeed, we have to first reach out to the principled right — the Ron Paul right (the constitutionalists) — civilly, intelligently, and with a willingness to put our differences aside, focusing on the common ground that unites us.

- Clean up our campaign finance system, gerrymandered districts, and broken election mechanisms.

- End the torture now and restore the Bill of Rights.

- Invest in our crumbling infrastructure and PROVEN methods of education (not willy-nilly privatization and mass-testing scams, like those that Bush and Obama have championed).

- Regulate the banks that have plundered our economy, preventing the next collapse.

- Make President Obama an honest man… while we still can.

My friends, I implore you, SEIZE THIS DAY — or we will live to regret the missed opportunity.

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