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

“They hate us because we’re free,” said the American President in the wake of the terrorist attacks that killed nearly 3,000 human beings on September 11, 2001.

The “haters” despised us specifically for our open society, tolerance, and enlightened ways — at least that’s what our political leaders told us… and then they proceeded to dismantle our civil liberties, replacing due process, the Bill of Rights, and habeas corpus with black sites, torture, indefinite detention, and military tribunals for mere suspects (including American citizens), the vast majority of whom have turned out to be innocent… not that we’ve allowed them a shred of legal recourse.

(And it was actually seven months prior to 9/11 that the Bush administration began violating the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, illegally collecting 100% of Americans’ electronic communications, local and otherwise — despite the government’s claims, years later, once the program was revealed, that they were only spying on outside communications, an assertion that was revealed to be 100% false.)

So much for the “open society…”

The politicians also ended tolerance in America, conflating one faith, Islam, with terrorism, despite the fact that, per the Southern Poverty Law Center’s Mark Potok, the primary domestic threat emanates from groups on the radical right filled with “anti-government” ideology (whatever that means) and plain old racism.

The Bush administration singled out Muslims in America, immediately detaining over 5,000 without justification, while dismissing home-grown terrorism and shielding Latin American terrorists (the CIA’s partners for decades) from the law.  Research the name “Luis Posada-Carriles” for Exhibit A; he is the CIA asset who committed the first act of terrorism in the Western hemisphere involving a commercial airliner.

The Bush administration also began committing acts of terrorism and genocide in the world, with renewed fervor and unprecedented brazenness.  Somewhere between 150,000 and over a million Iraqis have died as a result of Bush’s war.

The result of all this warmongering and opportunistic demagoguery:  Today, many American communities, like dozens of fascist populations in history, have come to see ALL members of one demographic group as evil and particularly prone to terrorism.  In the 21st Century, many Americans object to the presence of a mosque in their midst, not to mention an Islamic community center, advocating interfaith outreach, just a few blocks distant from Ground Zero.

So much for “tolerance…”

Incidentally, after the Bush administration finally dropped its opposition to its creation, the 9/11 Commission told us that the politicians had it all wrong:  al-Qaeda had attacked us because of our support for Middle Eastern dictators and our backing for state terrorism, especially that perpetrated by Israel against its far weaker neighbors (the most militant factions of which have consistently sought peace).

Ten years later, with George W. Bush retired and Barack Obama in the White House, America has only achieved CONTINUITY and DESPAIR (so much for “Hope” and “Change”).

Regarding government secrecy, torture, official immunity, and the assault on civil liberties, President Obama has been the champion of war criminals like Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, Addington, and Yoo, cementing their policies and expanding on them (it is now considered “legal” for the president to assassinate an American citizen, without a whisper of due process, far from any battlefield, for purely political reasons).

The worst of it all is that none of these policies has made America the least bit safer.  Even with Osama bin Laden out of the picture, his strategy has succeeded beyond his wildest dreams.  America has responded to terrorism with terrorism… and genocide (see Iraq).  America has answered 9/11 with a dramatic departure from our legal, cultural, and moral traditions.  America now routinely applies the methods we once associated chiefly with dictators and fascists… and their methods DO NOT WORK.

– Torturing innocents and hiding detainees from the Red Cross (under Bush and Obama) has not made us any safer.

– Monitoring the communications of all Americans and targeting law-abiding activists and Muslims (under Bush and Obama) has not made us any safer.

– Removing the judicial system and Congress from the global policing activities of the Executive Branch (under Bush and Obama) has not made us any safer.

– Using claims of Executive privilege and secrecy to hide government crimes and blunders from the citizenry while vilifying and persecuting journalists and whistleblowers (under Bush and Obama) has not made us any safer.

George W. Bush told us that America had to trade liberty for security, and tragically (and completely unnecessarily) Barack Obama has taken that message to heart.

What once seemed like dreadful and appalling aberrations from our core identity as a nation — torture, 100% surveillance of the populace, criminalization of unpopular speech/faith/association, and global, boundless war — have now become the new normal.

Pre-9/11 America is no more.  We now apply brutal and previously unthinkable methods, historically associated with Nazis and despots, as routinely and ubiquitously as any such regime before us — despite the fact that none of them are truly efficacious; the frequency of terrorist acts and the fortunes of terrorist actors (theirs and ours) have ballooned all out of proportion.

We’ve stepped right into bin Laden’s trap and delivered a greater victory to al-Qaeda than he and Mr. Zawahiri had ever dreamed possible.

So much for “enlightenment…”

I just want the President to know that any so-called “deal” he strikes to raise the debt ceiling that involves cutting and/or restructuring Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid is a non-starter with the vast majority of the American people, including myself (center-left) and my father (center-right, and kindly disposed to his local Tea Party).

Personally, I donated many hours and dollars to candidate Obama in 2008 (primary through general) and I want you to know that after the last 2.5 years, I wish fervently that I could take it all back.

About the only thing President Obama could do at this point to win back SOME of my respect would be to assert his authority under the 14th Amendment to raise the debt ceiling in a clean way — WITHOUT damaging the economy and subverting the New Deal. I know the President doesn’t want to abuse his authority as the Chief Executive in this way (that he’s far more comfortable waging war without the imprimatur of Congress or assassinating American citizens sans due process) — but for once he’d be on solid ground.

James C. O’Donnell III

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WHO IS BARACK OBAMA? (The following links should help pull off the blinders for any remaining Obama fans who thought themselves principled critics of his predecessor rather than mere partisans.)

1. Drew Westin’s “The Three Wings of the Republican Party” — www.huffingtonpost.com/drew-westen/democrats-identity-_b_880135.html?view=print&comm_ref=false

2. Glenn Greenwald’s “Barack Obama is Gutting the Core Principles of the Democratic Party” — www.commondreams.org/view/2011/07/21-6?print

3. Frank Rich’s “Obama’s Original Sin” — www.nymag.com/print/?/news/frank-rich/obama-economy/presidents-failure/index5.html

4. Jane Hamsher’s “Breaking Point: Obama and the Death of the Democratic Party” — www.commondreams.org/view/2011/07/08-3?print

5. Jeremy Scahill’s “The CIA’s Secret Sites in Somalia” — www.thenation.com/article/161936/cias-secret-sites-somalia

“Using a trumped up crisis to raid the public purse and attack the basic rights and benefits is a very old trick — but rarely is the shock doctrine tactic wielded as brazenly as in the pseudo debate about the debt ceiling. This is naked class war, waged by the ultra rich against everyone else, and it’s well past time for Americans to draw the line.”

— Naomi Klein, author of “The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism”

What a motley crew of spineless, visionless dolts our political elites have turned out to be, from Boehner to Bachmann to Obama (three heads of the same vampire hydra).

Obama, each and every one of his aspiring Republican challengers, and the entire D.C. establishment are all humming the “Austerity” tune played by the Pied Pipers of Wall St.

The “too big to fail” banks we bailed out (to the tune of $20 trillion) now seek to break the middle class using the same weapons they’ve traditionally deployed in Latin America, Africa, Asia, and beyond: debt, austerity, downward pressure on wages, and generally taking an axe to the public sector and all social spending (not to mention plundering natural resources for pennies on the dollar).

Unfortunately, none of our best and brightest political minds seem to have any familiarity whatsoever with ECONOMICS (outside of the “Shock Doctrine” variety).

They seem particularly oblivious to this moment’s historical precedent, the 1930s, failing to grasp the primary lesson of the Great Depression — namely, that America can’t SHRINK its way to growth, but can only INVEST its way to long-term recovery (which solves our revenue problem, down the road).

They also overlook the rather obvious lesson that conservative regulations for banks and a strong social “safety net” provided America with 50 years of widely shared economic prosperity — bookended, now, by decades of boom, bust, and bailouts (thanks to the deregulatory craze beginning in the 1980s).

If our so-called leaders, from the Tea Party “Right” to the Obama “Left,” weren’t a bunch of Wall St.-enamored rubes, then maybe ONE of them would be shouting from the rooftops that the urgent threat to our economy is NOT the deficit but CHRONIC UNEMPLOYMENT!

It’s time to tax the obscenely wealthy and SPEND:  modernize our infrastructure; put millions to work; make America less dependent of foreign oil, and birth the new economy. (End the wars, for another no-brainer, including the “War on Terror” and the “War on Drugs.”)

But no — not an FDR in sight.