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Artwork/Political Cartoons
Artwork/Political Cartoons
Artwork/Political Cartoons
Artwork/Political Cartoons

The following is the entire statementcondemned by Governor Romney and disavowed by the Obama administration — that was released by the U.S. Embassy in Cairo responding to the furor over an American-made hate film targeting Muslims, several hours before the protests that would breach their walls (contrary to Mr. Romney’s bizarrely repeated claims).  Please note that the values in the following statement are now explicitly the values that our highest political leaders reject:

U.S. Embassy Condemns Religious Incitement

September 11, 2012

The Embassy of the United States in Cairo condemns the continuing efforts by misguided individuals to hurt the religious feelings of Muslims – as we condemn efforts to offend believers of all religions. Today, the 11th anniversary of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on the United States, Americans are honoring our patriots and those who serve our nation as the fitting response to the enemies of democracy. Respect for religious beliefs is a cornerstone of American democracy. We firmly reject the actions by those who abuse the universal right of free speech to hurt the religious beliefs of others.

Wow, what terrorist sympathizer (to paraphrase Gov. Romney) wrote that claptrap?  Have you ever in your life seen such apologizing for America?

Has the Obama administration distinguished itself from the actually un-American (in character) comments of this imbecile, Romney?  On the contrary!  In standard fashion, President Obama wasted no time in dashing off to embrace the fringe-right.  Both ABC News and Politico have reported that, per an administration official, the statement by the U.S. embassy in Cairo was inappropriate and “does not reflect the views of the United States government.”

(Having observed the U.S. government closely over the years, I concur that, indeed, it does not.)

And what of our actual values?  The sad truth (and nauseating irony) is that America’s obsession with redrawing the map of the Middle East and crushing (Shi’ite) Iran has once again realigned our state interests with those of (Sunni) al Qaeda: in Libya, Syria, and Lebanon, at least (again, Pulitzer Prize winning journalist, Seymour Hersh’s 2007 article, “The Redirection,” should be essential reading for anyone trying to figure out American foreign policy in the region today).

Once again, through our Saudi Arabian (Sunni) allies, we’re funneling millions of dollars and heavy arms to the extremist Salafis and Wahhabis who hate us, even though many of them are evidently marching to al Qaeda’s fife.  For, in addition to his call to support the U.S.-backed uprising in Syria, al Qaeda’s co-founder (with Osama bin Laden), Dr. Ayman al-Zawahiri, called for anti-American action in Libya, just 24 hours before America’s ambassador and three others were killed on this latest anniversary of the Sept. 11th attacks — an incident that has helped ignite (along with the hate film itself) a fire of protest and rage that has now reached Morocco, Sudan, Tunisia, Iraq, Iran, Yemen…

*          *          *

I realize that many Americans are confused at this moment, having bought into the propaganda that the United States has somehow encouraged or helped facilitate the democratic aspirations of the Muslim world over the last year — but nothing could be further from the truth.  In Libya and Syria, America has co-opted and perverted the same “Arab Spring” that we otherwise tried to thwart in Tunisia, Egypt, Yemen, Bahrain, Iraq, and Palestine.  We’ve done so by indirectly backing terrorists and fanning the flames of ethnosectarian hatred in order to destabilize nations whose leaders we’d like disappeared, simply because they refuse Western domination (no other explanation stands up to scrutiny).

Here, in an excerpt from an excellent roundtable discussion featuring Glenn Greenwald, is former National Security Council and State Department official Hillary Mann Leverett explaining “what U.S. policy is about, which is: U.S. policy identifies expatriates living outside of the country, tries to fund, arm, and convince them to come together to be a front to go back and change regimes in countries we don’t like.

Ms. Leverett’s assessment is useful, reminding us of the inorganic nature of the U.S.-underwritten chapters of the Arab Spring (the movement that, however inspiring, has succeeded organically only in Tunisia and Egypt; everywhere else, it’s either been thwarted by the West and its thugs or co-opted by foreign elements, leading Libya and Syria into their present nightmares).

And now some southern California screwball, convicted of at least two crimes (preparing to operate a meth lab and stealing Social Security numbers for the purpose of committing bank fraud), has produced a religious hate film in cooperation with his Muslim-hating American partners, including crusader-training, Temecula mosque-foe Steve Klein.  When first questioned by reporters, the film’s racist director, Mr. Nakoula — the Coptic Christian, American — besides giving a false name, spread the fiction that he is an Israeli Jew and made sure that the press understood his views on Islam: “Islam is a cancer.”

It certainly seems like he was trying to provoke something, doesn’t it?

Too bad our political leaders are afraid to stand by our embassy’s condemnation of this filmmaker’s Nazi-like beliefs.  Too bad that such timidity and exploitation/appeasement of right-wing hatred and bigotry is endemic in our government and institutions.  But let’s face it: with Republicans pandering to outright bigots — and Democrats bending over backward to not offend them — America in the Obama-era is no place to build a mosque.

I. Rush Limbaugh’s candor — If you read my recent response to Clint Eastwood’s speech at the RNC, you might agree that Rush Limbaugh’s recent comment about the upcoming presidential election basically provides smoking-gun evidence that my thesis is correct: There is NO principle whatsoever behind establishment conservative opposition to President Obama.  Here’s Limbaugh, describing his feelings about Republican nominee Mitt Romney:

“He may as well be ELMER FUDD as far as we’re concerned.  We’re voting against Obama. I don’t care who they put on the ticket, we’re voting against Obama.”

Case closed.  Fudd-Ryan 2012! “Be vewy quiet. We’eh hunting wiberals!”

II. TWO autocratic conventions — I think it’s worth noting that both the RNC and DNC featured moments that were stunningly revealing of the state of democracy in America and the autocratic mindset of our political leaders: 

RNC: First, the Republicans stripped several Ron Paul delegates of their status and changed the rules to prevent future grassroots campaigns from achieving the kind of success Rep. Paul managed in last year’s Republican Primary.  They also put the kibosh on a Ron Paul speech at their convention when they told the congressman that his speech would have to be vetted by Romney’s people, and they would require a statement in the speech of unqualified support for Gov. Romney (once upon a time, American leaders allowed their friends and supporters to articulate some differences with them, lest they appear to be dictatorial, with robotic followers — but what am I talking about?  That was last century!).  The RNC’s actions shocked the Paul folks, leading one to observe: “This is a sign this man [Romney] will take our country down a much worse path than the guy who is currently in office.”

DNC: Second, the Democrats — who put similar conditions on their convention speakers (in 2008, editing Congressman Dennis Kucinich’s speech for him and requiring him to endorse 100% candidate Obama) — had a similarly revealing moment, and an embarrassing moment it was (here’s Jon Stewart’s take on it).  In short, when the Obama people decided to amend the Democratic platform at the last minute with a voice vote — to adopt positions that would pull the party further to the demagogic right and break with their past respect for international law, re: the status of Jerusalem — IT CLEARLY DID NOT PASS.  Obviously, the Democratic delegates were divided on these capitulations to the faith-exploiting right and law-contemptuous neocons.  Finally, after three unsuccessful attempts to ram these changes down the throats of their discordant delegates, the hapless Dem at the podium simply decided to declare the platform amended!  Screw you, dissenters!  How’s that for democratic?  Not too, not very, not at all…

III. Muslim “hypersensitivity — With U.S. embassies under attack in Cairo and Benghazi, many Westerners (at least on the comment boards I’ve seen) seem baffled, once again, about the alleged “hypersensitivity” of Muslims.  The following is my answer to those who toss their hands up in the air, unable to fathom the violence of many Muslims’ reactions to a little hate speech (hate films, hate cartoons, Quran burning, urinating on their dead, etc.).  HuffingtonPost keeps refusing to post this one for some reason, so I figured I’d do it here:

What, to some Westerners, appears to be the hypersensitivity of Muslims to minor offenses can be explained as follows:

Imagine that the most powerful factions in the world have had their boot on your people’s neck for centuries. They/their proxies regularly rape and murder your citizens. As predictably as the seasons, they forcibly remove your good, responsible leaders and replace them with despotic, torturing thugs who transfer your nation’s wealth to themselves and their masters. You’re regularly subjected to foreign bombings and occupation and an endless onslaught of propaganda that portrays your people — ALL OF YOU — as sick, backwards, barbaric, and ugly. Then one day, some representative of those monstrously oppressive factions walks right up to you and spits in your face. You explode and overreact. You do something violent…

That is what happens when you compound unending insults with permanent injury: eventually the victim snaps. It’s simple, really. All it requires to understand this phenomenon is a sense of our actual, unvarnished, blood-soaked history in the Middle East — and BASIC HUMAN EMPATHY.

Introduction: A post-9/11 conversation I once had…

In the immediate aftermath of the 9/11 attacks on America, I found myself debating a conservative young friend I’d made when I was a graduate student in Iowa.  He was surprised to learn that I was not among the roughly 90% of Americans, including himself, who approved of Bush’s response to al Qaeda’s terrorist attacks directed at the heart of American economic, political, and military force projection.

While he was gung ho, I was alarmed at Mr. Bush’s swaggering unilateralism, ambitious agenda (eyeing Baghdad from the start), and blustering rhetoric, including his “crusade” slip and the “smoke ‘em out of their caves” and “dead or alive” blather (I felt such rhetoric was both infantile and dangerous, but I was clearly in the minority).  I had watched aghast as the U.S. Congress, swept up in war fever, passed the open-ended “use of force” resolution with only one “nay” vote (Rep. Barbara Lee’s), enabling the Bush administration to rush off and start empowering brutal warlords and drug lords in Afghanistan (hell-bent on war, Bush had refused to even consider the Taliban’s repeated offers to apprehend Osama bin Laden for us and deliver him to justice).

“But we’ve got to respond!” my friend insisted.

“Definitely,” I answered, “but not this way.  This reaction is exactly what al Qaeda was hoping for.”

“bin Laden was hoping we’d come kick his ass for him???”

I proceeded to make my case that the appropriate response to the 9/11 attacks would’ve involved: 1) taking responsibility for America’s role in creating the Taliban and al Qaeda in the first place; 2) acknowledging and redressing the Afghan people’s legitimate grievances (for instance, by leading an international effort to remove the millions of land mines littering the landscape ever since our proxy war with the Soviets in the 1980s); 3) embracing multilateralism and the world’s efforts to show solidarity with us (from the U.K. to Iran); and 4) adhering rigidly to the rule of law, proving our values and rebutting bin Laden’s indictment of us.

If we’d responded in this way, I argued, we could have isolated the extremists responsible for 9/11, increasing the chance that they would be brought to justice — with the least amount of human suffering and without degrading civil liberties or our Constitution.  It could have been a truly shining moment for America’s professed values, paving the way for a far more peaceful world than the one we’re living in today (and it would’ve been EASY; back then, the whole world was sympathetic to the United States and offering assistance).

But my friend didn’t see it.  He didn’t see how — after flooding Afghanistan in the ‘80s with arms and thousands of violent, foreign jihadis like Gulbuddin Hekmatyar (in order to lure the Soviets and “give them their Vietnam”) — we maybe owed it to the people of Afghanistan to try to apprehend al Qaeda’s leaders without bombing and occupying their nation for years to come (who could have guessed how many years?).

He didn’t find persuasive the argument that we had used the Af-Pak region (as a Pakistani general described it a few years later) “like a condom” and left a power vacuum in the region that made the Taliban’s rise all but inevitable (for, despite their draconian ways, the majority of Afghan citizens actually did prefer them to the brutal warlords and drug lords they eventually defeated and expelled from the country).

Were innocent people in the crosshairs?  Too bad, they shouldn’t have attacked us — or harbored the people who did! (Or so my friend had reasoned at the time.)

It was only a few years later, after the Iraq debacle had begun to unfold, that my young friend began to see that Bush wasn’t exactly Mr. Competent.  Discussing that war, I found my friend more receptive to the argument that Bush’s entire 9/11 response had, in fact, made America considerably less secure (and on virtually every front).  I was able to give him some fairly cogent examples: our allies in Madrid and London having been attacked by al Qaeda; the number of global terrorist incidents — especially those targeting Americans — having skyrocketed; the huge hits America’s treasury and international credibility had already taken…

Only during that second visit (the one that took place a few years after 9/11, rather than mere weeks) my young Iowan friend was not alone.  This time he had brought along a buddy, freshly enlisted in the U.S. Marines.  His friend was mostly quiet, letting us engage and discuss as we had once done on a regular basis (clashing in good-natured fashion over morality, ethics, and basic good sense — before the nation’s troubles had come to the fore).  Yet his taciturn friend did volunteer one thing: “I enlisted in the Marines because I want to know what it’s like to kill someone,” he admitted, “and not be in trouble for it, not go to jail or anything” (no exaggeration, that’s what he told me).

I was flabbergasted.  “But what about the justice of your actions?” I wanted to know.  I informed him that Iraq had nothing whatsoever to do with the 9/11 attacks.  The Bush folks had fabricated the WMD and “al Qaeda-Iraq connection” claims, the majority of which had been debunked in real time, before the war was even launched (only that wasn’t the story the media was interested in covering; they had a bogus case for war to sell).

This fresh Marine recruit was also curious about my morality.  “But what about once you’re in a war?  Then whose side are you on?  If you’re right there, and it’s us versus them?”  That gave me pause, picturing myself in some kind of trench, I suppose, with a bunch of good ole’ American faces all around me and the bullets flying… I conceded that if I ever found myself in such a situation, I supposed I would be on the side of my countrymen — but that there was no reason it should have come to that, least of all in this particular case!

Conclusion: Without empathy, we simply fight in packs, lacking any principles or worthy cause.

And that’s where real moral of the story crystallizes for me.  My friend’s Marine buddy — like my friend himself, a few years earlier, discussing Afghanistan — could not trouble himself with questions of justice.  Ready to kill, he could not be bothered to worry about how millions of innocent Iraqis would be affected by our war (just as my Iowan friend couldn’t really work up any sympathy for the Afghan people, during that other discussion, a few years previous).

And that’s precisely where America has gone wrong.  We’ve forgotten that wars don’t mean anything — or accomplish any positive result — when they’re fought in an unprincipled fashion, without any true concern for the justice of one’s cause.  We’ve forgotten that “winning” means nothing when the victor has forsaken his most cherished values and, ultimately, degraded his humanity (by rejecting the natural human impulse to EMPATHIZE with one’s fellow living beings, especially other human beings). 

“We tortured people unmercifully. We probably murdered dozens of them during the course of that, both the armed forces and the C.I.A.” — General Barry McCaffrey (from Glenn Greenwald’s 2009 article, “The Suppressed Fact: Deaths by U.S. Torture”)

Per even the U.S. military’s own reports, America (DoD-CIA) tortured dozens of detainees to death in the years following 9/11.  Most cases have not resulted in any charges and several were not even investigated (no autopsy, even).  I was personally present at a congressional hearing in 2008 when retired Marine Col. Lawrence Wilkerson, former Secretary of State Colin Powell’s Chief of Staff, testified that he had seen documents indicating that America had tortured to death over a hundred detainees in our custody. He later revised that number upward, indicating that the figure is probably closer to 200 individuals — that’s some 200 human beings that America tortured to death under George W. Bush (the vast majority likely innocent, a la Dilawar the taxi driver, one of the first people America detained and subsequently murdered after 9/11, casually and sadistically, for no good reason).

And now we know that no one will be held responsible for these crimes.  The New York Times recently reported that — despite documentation that the United States under George W. Bush repeatedly tortured detainees to death — there will be ZERO legal consequences for the perpetrators or the policymakers responsible.  Worse yet, although most Americans have apparently gone to sleep on the subject, rendition and torture continue under the present administration (only following a slightly different protocol, generally, involving proxy torturers carrying out U.S. orders, with the Americans often, simply, standing just outside of the door, directing).

*          *          *

This series began with a conversation about some of the individuals and institutions that have systematically shielded serial child rapists over the years, simply to save themselves from bad publicity.  I offered two recent, notorious examples of such conduct, Penn State and the Vatican, observing that, like many a pedophiliac priest, Penn State’s chronic child molester, Jerry Sandusky, was allowed to continue raping and sexually assaulting children for well over a decade — while others in his circle covered up his crimes.

I then turned the conversation to Libor manipulation and America’s essentially genocidal foreign policy in the Middle East, observing how Wall Street and the neocons — with their endless, boundless criminal predations and sociopathic behavior — are essentially like Sandusky and the pedophile priests: they relentlessly commit egregious criminal offenses while the powers that be shield them.

As I type these words, the neocons’ Syria policy has sparked a bloody civil war that — in August alone — forced more than 100,000 refugees out of the country.  America (make no mistake: AMERICA) is doing to Syrians today what we did to Iraqis yesterday and Afghanistan the day before that.  The children and innocents are suffering in the millions, and Americans continue to sit on their hands… when they’re not actually applauding the slaughter, that is (or at least applauding the policy, cheering for empire’s “rebels”).

[To be clear: It would be a mistake to construe my opposition to America’s recent wars as support for Assad or Qaddafi or the Taliban — any more than opposition to the Iraq War meant that one “supported” Saddam Hussein.  This is about principle… and it’s about pragmatism.  Beyond their illegality, the neocons’ policies are immoral and highly impractical, generally achieving the opposite of their stated aims — because their only true aims are to feed the MIC and spread/perpetuate the totalitarian, global surveillance state.  Those are their only values, and as long as we make them our values, we can not be expected to endure as a great nation (as indeed we’re failing right now, by ignoring our laws, our crumbling infrastructure, and proven threats to our security, like exploding healthcare costs and the climate catastrophe that’s upon us).]

So, the world and its institutions are complicit — just as Barack Obama and the Democratic Party are complicit when it comes to the crimes of the neoconservatives (which they’ve mostly continued).  Our political parties and leading institutions do precisely as Archbishop/Cardinal/Pope Ratzinger and Coach Paterno did: they actively cover up monstrous crimes, shield the criminals, and facilitate future horrors.  Millions of innocents suffer and die while our leaders continue to pontificate about America’s “values” to an increasingly skeptical world.

Our true credo: WE DO NOT CHARGE ELITE CRIMINALS, NOR SHALL WE — EVER.  SO DON’T ROCK THE BOAT AND DON’T YOU DARE BLOW THE WHISTLE ON THEIR CRIMES (for that’s the one official act we still prosecute!).

But this series was never intended to be an empty exercise in moralizing and high dudgeon; IT WAS INTENDED TO BE A WARNING:  All that we have visited on the world — demonstrating a considerable dearth of human compassion and empathy — will surely be revisited upon us in the years ahead.  Even if you don’t know or care about the many millions of victims of American policy in recent decades, you should care about that little law of human physics: What goes around comes around.

And that, my friends, is why evolution/God equipped us with EMPATHY in the first place: it’s not just morally satisfying; it’s what we need to survive.

I just watched RNC “mystery guest,” Clint Eastwood, deliver his curious speech, and wow…  It’s a bit of a stunner.  It’s not the maundering old man speech that some of the more glib headlines insinuated — something I had no interest in seeing, incidentally (I have about as much interest in ridiculing Clint Eastwood’s age as I do in mocking Chris Christie’s weight — who cares?).

What the speech is, however, is extraordinarily revealing of the 2012 Republican soul, particularly in that it was ultimately racist… albeit, subtly so.

For while explicitly racist sentiments are not permitted in our present political discourse, coded — and even entirely unconscious — racism has been enjoying its heyday in recent years, with such diverse proponents as Glenn “Barack Obama hates white people” Beck, Newt Gingrich, Donald Trump, Dinesh D’Souza, Sarah Palin, and, yes, even Mitt “Nobody ever asked me for my birth certificate” Romney.  (And then there were all of those patently racist signs at the Tea Party rallies, variously depicting Obama as Hitler, The Joker, an African tribal witch doctor with a bone through his nose…)

These folks — and many, many others on the American right — can’t seem to accept Barack Obama’s American-ness, somehow…  Nearly four years after his election, they remain unconvinced.  What could their issue be?

Sometimes they try to make it seem as if there’s a policy difference in there somewhere, but that doesn’t wash.  In addition to quashing all of the world’s attempts to make Bush-era torturers accountable for their crimes, President Obama has adopted practically every right-wing argument and conservative policy going, making the Heritage Foundation’s positions of yesterday his today… and in the process making today’s Republicans seem an unreasonable party of hypocrites, deranged lunatics denouncing the same policies they championed just a few years ago (comparable, I suppose, to the hypocrisy of those on the left who denounced Bush’s terror wars and now condone — or even celebrate — the continuing butchery and ongoing assault on our civil liberties under Obama).

No, for these Republicans it always boils down to disliking/fearing/distrusting this president, whose very legitimacy many of them still dispute — despite his overwhelming election victory, relative popularity, and the release of his long-form birth certificate.

Conservative politicians and pundits who desire mainstream credibility generally refuse to articulate (at least on record) just why they so stridently oppose President Obama, offering only allusions to his otherness and the radical, un-American nature of his ideas and policies — with the loopy “European Socialist” refrain and the claims that Obama is somehow “soft on Muslim terrorism” both having emerged as politically acceptable, coded nods to the “heartland” folks who know deep down that Obama is not like us and doesn’t share our fundamental, American values.  These die-hard GOP loyalists also know in their precious little, fact-averse hearts that “secret-Muslim Obama” and “non-citizen Obama” would be accepted “facts” if it weren’t for “political correctness” and the “liberal media…”

In short, these Republicans are seriously delusional…

“Clint Eastwood has done a huuuge favor to us all.  Because the Republican Party’s irrationality — that they’ve worked so hard at the convention trying to conceal — was unleashed… Eastwood finally revealed the cognitive dissonance that is the beating heart and soul and fiction of this party: they’re so far gone, they’re hammering Obama for things that Bush did — and Romney is! — Jon Stewart on The Daily Show, 8/31/12

Indeed, the conservative case against Obama has never been a rational one.  It has always been a cynically partisan and dangerously divisive gambit, utterly dependent on incessantly othering “Barack HUSSEIN Obama” and transforming this moderate (by today’s standards), politically conciliatory technocrat into an apocalyptic figure of fear and dread — at least in the poisoned minds of the Republican faithful.

This demagogic ugliness has been the GOP’s tact toward Obama at least since the last Republican vice-presidential nominee went all “pit-bull/hockey mom” on his ass, repeatedly claiming (shamelessly, groundlessly) that Obama “pals around with terrorists.” And this othering of Obama continues to this very day, with Dinesh D’Souza’s race-baiting, election year GOP-propaganda film playing in theaters across the country as I type these words (conservative mainstay D’Souza posits that Obama is afflicted with deeply rooted “Kenyan, anti-colonialist” and “socialist” beliefs that he inherited from his father — through his genes, I suppose, as Obama hardly knew his father).

While The Daily Show episode I’ve cited emphasizes the Eastwood-exposed “irrationality” of the GOP’s case against this President, Jon Stewart declines (in his usual, genteel fashion) to MAKE IT PLAIN, so allow me: Today’s GOP is the party of white-male anger and thinly-disguised bigotry/sexism.

There, I said it (does anyone doubt it?).

The entire election strategy of today’s GOP is focused on two objectives: 1) galvanizing/mobilizing white, religiously-indoctrinated fear of the President; and 2) using recently passed voter I.D. laws — allegedly crafted to prevent (virtually nonexistent) voter fraud — to disenfranchise millions of legally registered American voters, the majority of whom are minorities. In short, it’s easy to understand why roughly three-quarters of polled Latinos and virtually all African-Americans say they will vote against the Republican Party’s candidate this fall… if they’re permitted to, that is.

*          *          *

Finally, allow me to return to Clint Eastwood’s unfortunately racist speech, one last time.  (First, I should clarify that it brings me no pleasure to characterize Mr. Eastwood’s speech in this way.  The truth is, I’m predisposed to like Clint Eastwood; I’m a huge fan of the movies, and there’s no disputing that Mr. Eastwood’s contributions to film — and, by extension, American culture — have been considerable.  For what it’s worth, a couple of my favorite Clint Eastwood films are “Bronco Billy” and “Unforgiven” …I even have a soft spot in my heart — or possibly, head — for his silly movies with Clyde the Orangutan.  Oop oop.)

That said, Mr. Eastwood has been criticized over the course of his career — with at least some justification, I’d say — for the “fascism” and racial insensitivity (the defensive/ever-self-justifying bigotry) of characters like “Dirty Harry” Callahan… even though, at the end of the day, “Harry” (like good old Archie Bunker), is revealed to have a good heart and is basically fair-minded — after all, Hollywood couldn’t have an irredeemably racist/sexist/fascist cop protagonist as the hero of its films…

Actually, I saw Eastwood’s character in his recent film, “Gran Torino,” as something of a belated response, on the part of the famed actor/director, to his prominent, progressive, “Dirty Harry”-era critics.  Through this film, Eastwood (with an aged, “Dirty Harry” proxy) seems to acknowledge the offensive quality of his famous character’s flamboyant use of racial epithets — and sort of simultaneously defends and apologizes for his use of such language (all while chronicling his new character’s ability to confront/overcome his bigotry, forging strong ties with the neighboring Hmong family whom he initially sees as “gooks”).  It’s poignant, actually, and I respect this film and Eastwood’s performance in it.

Nonetheless, I think that some of the criticisms of the “Dirty Harry” films are valid.  Like the protagonist of many a 1970s revenge-fantasy film — featuring a white-male cop/suburbanite who’s had it up to here with the criminal-coddling system — Dirty Harry is an unmistakable avatar of white rage.  Like Charles Bronson in those dismal “Death Wish” movies, “Harry” thrilled predominantly white-male audiences by pointing his gun barrel right at the face of the Black Punk, his hand on the trigger, and snarling “Make my day.”

And that was EXACTLY the problem with Eastwood’s RNC speech: with practically every breath he uttered in the direction of the empty chair in which he’d rhetorically placed Barack Obama, Clint Eastwood was clearly addressing a Black Punk — an inferior — and that’s exactly how he treated (in absentia) the President of the United States.  Mr. Eastwood sat “the President” down for a good talking to, placing himself above Obama (who, in Eastwood’s imagination, was apparently fidgety, foul-mouthed, and petulant, like a kid enduring a stern, parental lecture).  Clint repeatedly had to admonish Invisible Obama for interrupting him, “It’s my turn!” (So sit down and shut up, essentially; it’s time to Take Our Country Back).  In truth, it was a jarringly disrespectful display, and the Republican delegates positively flipped for it; the more insulting Eastwood was, the more they roared with delight.  The Hollywood legend pretended more than once that the President was telling him to “shut up” and also, repeatedly, to go fuck himself (the full phrase unspoken, but the intent clear).  Now, doesn’t that sound just like Barack Obama?  (No, indeed, it does not.)

The speech culminated with an extraordinary, spontaneous, and critically revealing moment, the “Go ahead, make my day” moment that began with a shout from a rapturous delegate, inviting Eastwood to recreate that famous “Dirty Harry” scene, only substituting Mr. Invisible — aka President Obama — for that quivering, cowardly Black Punk in the movie.  After initially demurring, Eastwood decided to indulge this conventioneer.  Addressing “Mr. Obama,” asking him if he wanted to make his day, the American icon decided to turn it into a call-and-response affair:

“GO AHEAD,” Eastwood cued the audience, and they responded en masse, “MAKE MY DAY!!!” to the “Black Punk” who they clearly believe occupies the White House.

*          *          *

Since I think Jon Stewart pretty much hit the nail on the head, I’ll give him the last word on the RNC Clint Eastwood speech: “It hurt these Republicans bad, because this convention (like all conventions) is a scripted and focus-grouped fantasy, and the display of Eastwood’s ‘Gran Torino’ id was the very thing Republicans had constructed the entire week to suppress!

“It advanced our understanding…  There is a ‘President Obama’ that only Republicans can see” and this (radical/socialist/Kenyan/un-American/secret-Muslim) is “bent on our wholesale destruction.”

It would seem that some delusions (and cynical political tactics) reveal more about the deluded one than intended, and the GOP’s deluded chorus — with its reality-averse refrains all conjuring the black president’s scary otherness — reveals a Republican soul that is disturbingly, shamefully, and unmistakably… “Dirty.”

British Member of Parliament George Galloway’s overview of Syria (provided in the linked clip below) serves as a pretty good companion, I think, to my most recent post.  I realize that Galloway’s uncommon empathy with the Palestinians (and Arab/Middle Eastern victims of Western policy, generally) can be off-putting to some — especially when expressed as criticism of Israel — but I find his analysis of the Syria situation (and Middle Eastern affairs, generally) basically sound: apt, valid, rare, and vital.

The following YouTube clip begins with Galloway’s comments already in progress.  He’s recounting the dark predictions of anti-war people (like himself) about Libya, before NATO launched that war, and how those predictions turned out to be tragically prescient concerning the resulting balkanization of Libya and persecution of dark-skinned Africans by NATO’s allies in the war’s aftermath.

Addendum to Previous Blog: George Galloway on Syria

For those who are looking for an introduction to Mr. Galloway, I’ll include the following link to another YouTube clip, the duly famous George Galloway vs. Rupert Murdoch’s “Sky News” clip from summer of 2006, discussing the Israeli war on Lebanon with a British “news” anchor.  It should be noted that many of Galloway’s points are supported by the Israeli government’s official assessment of that war (the Winograd Report): a brutal war which, even from Tel Aviv’s perspective, was a debacle.

Addendum to Previous Blog: George Galloway on Syria

Okay, so Pope Benedict (Ratz), Dick Cheney, and Jerry Sandusky walk into a bar.  After a few drinks, a twinkle appears in the former Vice President’s eye and he says to Sandusky with a wink, “Say, why don’t we rape the hell out of Syria?”  When Sandusky and Cheney can’t stop guffawing and hooting, Benedict brings down his papal staff, BAM!  “Gentlemen, please! Do what you will, but keep it quiet — I’d hate to have to ask either of you to relocate under a cloud of secrecy.”  Wink!

Hilarious, no?

Well, imagine how funny today’s CIVIL WAR must be to Syria’s decades-old resistance, the diverse, Syria-based, peaceful dialogue-seeking National Coordination Committee (NCC)… which is actually the bitter nemesis of the freshly contrived U.S. favorite, the Syrian National Council (SNC), headed by assorted Syrian-Western émigrés — a Swede here, a Frenchwoman there — mostly based in Europe and Turkey.  This nominally Syrian organization (with scant few ties inside Syria when all this started) has been embraced by Western media, which has awarded the American neocon-advised rebels the status of “Syria’s main opposition group” or simply “the opposition.”  Thanks to the MSM’s skewed coverage, the SNC is the only opposition group most Americans ever hear of — or, more importantly, hear from, with their leaders’ unending calls for WAR, WAR, WAR: no dialogue, no compromise, and increased militarization, with an expanded role for NATO (all understandably terrifying prospects to most Syrians).

How did we arrive at this dismal point?

Syria’s established resistance began their chapter of the Arab Spring in early 2011, peacefully advocating for elections and seeking direct negotiations with the Assad regime.  And they were getting somewhere, too, winning a promise for multi-party elections in three months and a constitutional referendum that essentially ended one-party rule in Syria and limited any future president to two seven-year terms (this constitutional concession — denied the Egyptian revolution to this day — was dismissed out of hand by the inchoate SNC and the West, interested only in Bashar Assad’s head).

Then, in February of 2011, external elements (more sham “oppressed Syrian lesbians”?) tried to manufacture a Facebook/Twitter revolution (a la Iran in 2009), calling for a “Day of Rage” that, lacking grassroots support, ultimately failed to materialize.  The outsiders’ campaign was directed specifically at Sunnis and seemed to invite a bloody, sectarian civil war.  Syrians were decidedly not interested.

But the neocons don’t give up easily, not with the full weight of the American foreign policy establishment behind them (for their “ideology” and “deeply held convictions” make the MIC’s profits possible).  Over the last year, America and its allies have aggressively co-opted Syria’s peaceful revolution, relentlessly turning the country toward civil war with millions of dollars, covert military aid to various armed groups, and a slick, media-facilitated propaganda campaign that has all but ignored Syria’s organic Arab Spring in favor of war-clamoring, U.S. think tank-affiliated exiles (think Ahmed Chalabi and his Iraqi National Congress and Ayad Allawi and his Iraqi National Accord — these were the neocons’ primary “Iraqi” tools in 2002 — Londoners, really, their organizations not merely the pawns, but the inventions of Western intelligence agencies; those “Iraqis” were so eager to see Mesopotamia invaded by the power-promising neocons that they fed the Bushies every WMD lie they asked for — that’s love of country, for ya!).

Yes, we’ve been here before, and didn’t that work out great!  Hundreds of thousands of dead Iraqis; thousands of killed and maimed Americans; America’s reputation, resources, and credibility devastated; war crimes to fuel decades of terrorism; looming climate catastrophe, water crisis, and crumbling infrastructure utterly neglected…

But wait, it gets even funnier.

With the exception of the Syrian Muslim Brotherhood (Sunni) — which, like al Qaeda’s current figurehead, Dr. Ayman al-Zawahiri, has decided to support America’s push for regime change — Syria’s indigenous resistance (the NCC) has vehemently rejected the idea of foreign military intervention, including supposedly limited tactics such as arming/equipping the regime’s enemies and imposing a no-fly zone.  It is the SNC’s calls for these specific, American neocon-authored, militarist “solutions” that have prompted members of the actual Syrian resistance to refer to the SNC as “a Washington club” — as in a club that Washington’s warmongers will gladly use to beat Syria into an Iraq-like pulp.  (Already Syria has begun to resemble her fragmented, hyper-sectarian, war torn and utterly devastated neighbor, having gushed scores of thousands of refugees in recent weeks.)

But the U.S. media basically does not cover the pleas of the NCC, the Syrian resisters who’ve been jailed and persecuted for decades, and who worked and hoped for political reforms without all the blood and horror.  Like the CIA’s old partner-in-torture, Bashar Assad, we’ve marginalized Syria’s dissenters practically out of existence.  Near as I can tell, our media exists chiefly to serve the daft, war-fostering neocon narratives that still, after all their egregious failures, dominate our discourse with ignorance and lies.  Washington, too, as if completely unaware of the neocons’ appalling record over the last decade, continues to follow the precise neocon (PNAC) program that began with the Iraq War in 2003: 1) invade Iraq (no defenses, oil-rich, first to go); and 2) use the momentum created by the Iraq War “victory” (hah!) to unseat Assad in Damascus, isolating Iran; and, finally, 3) depose the regime in Tehran, yielding payback for 1979 and the ultimate prize: control over two of the world’s very largest proven reserves of light sweet crude.

This “Clean Break” approach to redrawing the map of the Middle East (the neocons’ dark fantasy, hatched in the late 1990s) is a sick, frankly racist, anachronistically (and in other ways) fucked dream of imperialism and world conquest — appallingly evil nonsense which supposedly died during the first administration of George W. Bush, back when the neocons were given enough rope to hang themselves and promptly did so (before a knight in liberal’s clothing rode in to rescue them… and their lousy, crusading agenda).

*          *          *

“Bandar and other Saudis have assured the White House… ‘We’ve created this movement, and we can control it.’ It’s not that we don’t want the Salafis to throw bombs; it’s who they throw them at—Hezbollah, Moqtada al-Sadr, Iran, and at the Syrians…”

— Seymour Hersh’s article “The Redirection” (The New Yorker, 3/5/07)

Okay, here’s another funny, funny joke (okay, not really): What kind of groups are among America’s primary allies in Syria and Lebanon, these days?  Did you say al Qaeda-affiliated Sunni militants whose suicide bombings and journalist-murdering, civilian-targeting tactics evoke those of ‘the terrorists’ — the jihadis who hate America and Israel at least as much as they hate Syria’s Alawite regime?”

No???  You didn’t say that, because the very thought of America partnering with al Qaeda in any way/shape/form is manifestly insane? Well, too bad (but thanks for playing), because that is the right answer after all, according to recent reports about America’s Syrian pals.  These are the kinds of surprising (some would say revolting) alliances that Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Seymour Hersh began to detail some five years ago in his essential article, “The Redirection,” which explained how George W. Bush — in the wake of an Iraq War that had inadvertently benefited Iran enormouslybegan supporting (through proxies, especially Riyadh) al Qaeda-affiliated Sunni militants in Lebanon and beyond.  (It’s called “strategery,” and Obama has run with it — like most everything he inherited from his moronic, language and humanity-butchering predecessor.)

And now, with the help of those Salafists and their ilk, America (directing our Saudi, Qatari, Lebanese, and Turkish partners) has brought to Syria the bloody civil war that the resistance never wanted, arming a sectarian/Sunni-dominated regime hit squad — populated by violent, significantly foreign, radical jihadis (think 1980s mujahedeen) — who in the past few months have repeatedly terrorized Syria’s capital and minority populations, especially Syria’s Christians (in one recent instance cleansing 80,000 Christians from the city of Homs, virtually overnight, with a series of raids; the Christian population of Qusair has had a similar experience, with most of their 10,000 residents fleeing the U.S.-backed sectarian rebels).

So where are Congress’s alleged “Christians” in the aftermath of these U.S. policy-initiated atrocities?  Where are they when the secretary-general of the U.N. reports that the rebels are using child soldiers?  Well, they’re right where they usually are: standing firmly in the corner of perpetual war, terrorism, suicide bombers, and the despotic, post-9/11 American way… only today a bunch of drone-loving Democrats stand with them, silent as Karl Rove responding to a Congressional subpoena.

Clearly, we are talking about a STRIKING lack of empathy…

Next: A Striking Lack of Empathy, Part IV: Stop Enabling the Recidivist Sandusky Neocons or Don the Miter of Shame!