AL JAZEERA ENGLISH COLUMN: Obama’s Third War

Yesterday I published my first column for Al Jazeera English. I get more space than my syndicated column (2000 words compared to the usual 800) and it’s an exciting opportunity to run alongside a lot of other writers whose work I respect.

Here it is:

Stalemate in Libya, Made in USA

Republicans in the United States Senate held a hearing to discuss the progress of what has since become the war in Libya. It was one month into the operation. Senator John McCain, the Arizona conservative who lost the 2008 presidential race to Barack Obama, grilled top U.S. generals. “So right now we are facing the prospect of a stalemate?” McCain asked General Carter Ham, chief of America’s Africa Command. “I would agree with that at present on the ground,” Ham replied.

How would the effort to depose Colonel Gaddafi conclude? “I think it does not end militarily,” Ham predicted.

That was over two months ago.

It’s a familiar ritual. Once again a military operation marketed as inexpensive, short-lived and—naturally—altruistic, is dragging on, piling up bills, with no end in sight. The scope of the mission, narrowly defined initially, has radically expanded. The Libyan stalemate is threatening to become, along with Iraq and especially Afghanistan, America’s third quagmire.

Bear in mind, of course, that the American definition of a military quagmire does not square with the one in the dictionary, namely, a conflict from which one or both parties cannot disengage. The U.S. could pull out of Libya. But it won’t. Not yet.

Indeed, President Obama would improve his chances in his upcoming reelection campaign were he to order an immediate withdrawal from all four of America’s “hot wars”: Libya, along with Afghanistan, Iraq, and now Yemen. When the U.S. and NATO warplanes began dropping bombs on Libyan government troops and military targets in March, only 47 percent of Americans approved—relatively low for the start of a military action. With U.S. voters focused on the economy in general and joblessness in particular, this jingoistic nation’s typical predilection for foreign adventurism has given way to irritation to anything that distracts from efforts to reduce unemployment. Now a mere 26 percent support the war—a figure comparable to those for the Vietnam conflict at its nadir.

For Americans “quagmire” became a term of political art after Vietnam. It refers not to a conflict that one cannot quit—indeed, the U.S. has not fought a war where its own survival was at stake since 1815—but one that cannot be won. The longer such a war drags on, with no clear conclusion at hand, the more that American national pride (and corporate profits) are at stake. Like a commuter waiting for a late bus, the more time, dead soldiers and materiel has been squandered, the harder it is to throw up one’s hands and give up. So Obama will not call off his dogs—his NATO allies—regardless of the polls. Like a gambler on a losing streak, he will keep doubling down.

U.S. ground troops in Libya? Not yet. Probably never. But don’t rule them out. Obama hasn’t.

It is shocking, even by the standards of Pentagon warfare, how quickly “mission creep” has imposed itself in Libya. Americans, at war as long as they can remember, recognize the signs: more than half the electorate believes that U.S. forces will be engaged in combat in Libya at least through 2012.

One might rightly point out: this latest American incursion into Libya began recently, in March. Isn’t it premature to worry about a quagmire?

Not necessarily.

“Like an unwelcome specter from an unhappy past, the ominous word ‘quagmire’ has begun to haunt conversations among government officials and students of foreign policy, both here and abroad,” R.W. Apple, Jr. reported in The New York Times. He was talking about Afghanistan.

Apple was prescient. He wrote his story on October 31, 2001, three weeks into what has since become the United States’ longest war.

Obama never could have convinced a war-weary public to tolerate a third war in a Muslim country had he not promoted the early bombing campaign as a humanitarian effort to protect Libya’s eastern-based rebels (recast as “civilians”) from imminent Srebrenica-esque massacre by Gaddafi’s forces. “We knew that if we waited one more day, Benghazi—a city nearly the size of Charlotte [North Carolina]—could suffer a massacre that would have reverberated across the region and stained the conscience of the world,” the President said March 28th. “It was not in our national interest to let that happen. I refused to let that happen.”

Obama promised a “limited” role for the U.S. military, which would be part of “broad coalition” to “protect civilians, stop an advancing army, prevent a massacre, and establish a no-fly zone.” There would be no attempt to drive Gaddafi out of power. “Of course, there is no question that Libya—and the world—would be better off with Gaddafi out of power,” he said. “I, along with many other world leaders, have embraced that goal, and will actively pursue it through non-military means. But broadening our military mission to include regime change would be a mistake.”

“Regime change [in Iraq],” Obama reminded, “took eight years, thousands of American and Iraqi lives, and nearly a trillion dollars. That is not something we can afford to repeat in Libya.”

The specifics were fuzzy, critics complained. How would Libya retain its territorial integrity—a stated U.S. war aim—while allowing Gaddafi to keep control of the western provinces around Tripoli?

The answer, it turned out, was essentially a replay of Bill Clinton’s bombing campaign against Serbia during the 1990s. U.S. and NATO warplanes targeted Gaddafi’s troops. Bombs degraded Libyan military infrastructure: bases, radar towers, even ships. American policymakers hoped against hope that Gaddafi’s generals would turn against him, either assassinating him in a coup or forcing the Libyan strongman into exile.

If Gaddafi had disappeared, Obama’s goal would have been achieved: easy in, easy out. With a little luck, Islamist groups such as Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb would have little to no influence on the incoming government to be created by the Libyan National Transitional Council. With more good fortune, the NTC could even be counted upon to sign over favorable oil concessions to American and European energy concerns.

But Gaddafi was no Milosevic. The dictator dug in his heels. This was at least in part due to NATO’s unwillingness or inability to offer him the dictator retirement plan of Swiss accounts, gym bags full of bullion, and a swanky home in the French Riviera.

Stalemate was the inevitable result of America’s one foot in, one foot out Libya war policy—an approach that continued after control of the operation was officially turned over to NATO, specifically Britain and France. Allied jets were directed to deter attacks on Benghazi and other NTC-held positions, not to win the revolution for them. NTC forces, untrained and poorly armed, were no match for Gaddafi’s professional army. On the other hand, loyalist forces were met by heavy NATO air strikes whenever they tried to advance into rebel-held territory. Libya was bifurcated. With Gaddafi still alive and in charge, this was the only way Obama Administration policy could have played out.

No one knows whether Gaddafi’s angry bluster—the rants that prompted Western officials to attack—would have materialized in the form of a massacre. It is clear, on the other hand, that Libyans on both sides of the front are paying a high price for the U.S.-created stalemate.

At least one million out of Libya’s population of six million has fled the nation or become internally displaced refugees. There are widespread shortages of basic goods, including food and fuel. According to the Pakistani newspaper Dawn, the NTC has pulled children out of schools in areas they administer and put them to work “cleaning streets, working as traffic cops and dishing up army rations to rebel soldiers.”

NATO jets fly one sortie after another; the fact that they’re running out of targets doesn’t stop them from dropping their payloads. Each bomb risks killing more of the civilians they are ostensibly protecting. Libyans will be living in rubble for years after the war ends.

Coalition pilots were given wide leeway in the definition of “command and control centers” that could be targeted; one air strike against the Libyan leader’s home killed 29-year-old Mussa Ibrahim said Saif al-Arab, Gaddafi’s son, along with three of his grandchildren. Gaddafi himself remained in hiding. Officially, however, NATO was not allowed to even think about trying to assassinate him.

Pentagon brass told Obama that more firepower was required to turn the tide in favor of the ragtag army of the Libyan National Transitional Council. But he couldn’t do that. He was faced with a full-scale rebellion by a coalition of liberal antiwar Democrats and Republican constitutionalists in the U.S. House of Representatives. Furious that the President had failed to request formal Congressional approval for the Libyan war within 60 days as required by the 1973 War Powers Resolution, they voted against a military appropriations bill for Libya.

The planes kept flying. But Congress’ reticence now leaves one way to close the deal: kill Gaddafi.

As recently as May 1st,, after the killing of Gaddafi’s son and grandchildren, NATO was still denying that it was trying to dispatch him. “We do not target individuals,” said Lieutenant General Charles Bouchard of Canada, commanding military operations in Libya.

By June 10th CNN television confirmed that NATO was targeting Libya’s Brother Leader for death. “Asked by CNN whether Gaddafi was being targeted,” the network reported, “[a high-ranking] NATO official declined to give a direct answer. The [UN] resolution applies to Gaddafi because, as head of the military, he is part of the control and command structure and therefore a legitimate target, the official said.”

In other words, a resolution specifically limiting the scope of the war to protecting civilians and eschewing regime change was being used to justify regime change via political assassination.

So what happens next?

First: war comes to Washington. On June 14th House of Representatives Speaker John Boehner sent Obama a rare warning letter complaining of “a refusal to acknowledge and respect the role of Congress” in the U.S. war against Libya and a “lack of clarity” about the mission.

“It would appear that in five days, the administration will be in violation of the War Powers Resolution unless it asks for and receives authorization from Congress or withdraws all U.S. troops and resources from the mission [in Libya],” Boehner wrote. “Have you…conducted the legal analysis to justify your position?” he asked. “Given the gravity of the constitutional and statutory questions involved, I request your answer by Friday, June 17, 2011.”

Next, the stalemate/quagmire continues. Britain can keep bombing Libya “as long as we choose to,” said General Sir David Richards, the UK Chief of Defense Staff.

One event could change everything overnight: Gaddafi’s death. Until then, NATO and the United States must accept the moral responsibility for dragging out a probable aborted uprising in eastern Libya into a protracted civil war with no military—or, contrary to NATO pronouncements, political—solution in the foreseeable future. Libya is assuming many of the characteristics of a proxy war such as Afghanistan during the 1980s, wherein outside powers armed warring factions to rough parity but not beyond, with the effect of extending the conflict at tremendous cost of life and treasure. This time around, only one side, the NTC rebels, are receiving foreign largess—but not enough to score a decisive victory against Gaddafi by capturing Tripoli.

Libya was Obama’s first true war. He aimed to show how Democrats manage international military efforts differently than neo-cons like Bush. He built an international coalition. He made the case on humanitarian grounds. He declared a short time span.

In three short months, all of Obama’s plans have fallen apart. NATO itself is fracturing. There is talk about dissolving it entirely. The Libya mission is stretching out into 2011 and beyond.

People all over the world are questioning American motives in Libya and criticizing the thin veneer of legality used to justify the bombings. “We strongly believe that the [UN] resolution [on Libya] is being abused for regime change, political assassinations and foreign military occupation,” South African President Jacob Zuma said this week, echoing criticism of the invasion of Iraq.

Somewhere in Texas, George W. Bush is smirking.

Ted Rall is an American political cartoonist, columnist and author. His most recent book is The Anti-American Manifesto. His website is rall.com.

(C) 2011 Ted Rall, All Rights Reserved.

SYNDICATED COLUMN: The Revolution Will Not Be Deactualized

Oct. 6th: Will Tahrir Square Come to Washington?

I used to work for Democratic candidates. I was a campus activist. I marched in protests.

But, in the 1980s, I quit politics. I was fed up. The Left was impotent and inept. They didn’t want to change things. They were content with theater. Bad theater at that: dorks on stilts, boring speakers, stupid slogans, the same old chants. “The people, united, will never be defeated!”

Except—we were defeated. We didn’t even fight.

Our protests were poorly attended. The media ignored us. And we always lost. Even the Democrats didn’t care about us or our opinions. By the time Bill Clinton won in 1992, the progressive wing of the party was good for one thing: voting Democratic.

Along with millions of others, I drifted away.

Now, finally, for the first time in decades, I am excited.

We can change everything. Here. In America. Now.

People are rising up in Tunisia, Egypt, Jordan and Syria. Patriotic Afghans, Iraqis and Yemenis are fighting puppet dictators propped by U.S. military occupation. They demand an end to violent, corrupt governments that serve themselves but not their citizens. People in the Middle East and European countries such as Greece refuse to accept systemic poverty and unemployment so that a tiny slice of corrupt, well-connected elites can continue to amass wealth.

Why just in other countries? Why not here?

Why can’t we have a Tahrir Square?

Lord knows we need one.

Here in the United States, corrupt politicians and their corporate overlords have raped the wealthiest nation in the history of civilization, reducing one out of five Americans to unemployment as the income of the rich skyrockets. They tell us our schoolchildren must do with less, that we cannot afford to see doctors when we are ill; meanwhile they start prolonged, seemingly endless wars of aggression against nations that posed no threat whatsoever: Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, and now Yemen.

Did you know that Egypt and Tunisia had lower unemployment and disparity of income than the United States?

Organizers are calling a demonstration planned for October 6, 2011 in Washington’s Freedom Square “the biggest story on the progressive sphere of the Internet tomorrow.” October 6th marks the tenth anniversary of the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan.

This, they say, will not be the usual sad protest demonstration in which people show up, chant slogans, march around, then pack up their signs and go home.

[Full disclosure: I have endorsed October 6th and will attend.]

The idea behind October 6th is simple: to recreate Tahrir Square two blocks away from the White House.

“We are not packing up and leaving this time,” says Tarak Kauff, one of the October 6th organizers. “We are preparing to stay as long as we possibly can or until some basic demands are met. If we are driven out, we will return.”

In other words, clear your calendar for the 6th, the 7th, the 8th…however long it takes for the Obama Administration to yield to key demands, including immediate withdrawal of American troops from Afghanistan and the other wars. Participants are being asked to sign a pledge to attend at http://october2011.org.

“Previous demonstrations were one-day events which were simple for the Administration and Congress to ignore,” Margaret Flowers, another organizer, told me. “The large demonstrations usually happened on weekends when there was little going on in Washington. “This is different because it is an occupation that begins on a Thursday, a day of business, and will continue.”

They will keep the heat on. “We intend to stay and to have waves of nonviolent civil resistance. The time for symbolic actions has ended. Too many people are suffering and dying here and around the world because of the policies of this nation. The planet is suffering because of the policies of this nation. This government has demonstrated that it is incapable of acting in the best interests of the people and planet. We say that this is unacceptable and we will stay and resist until this changes,” Flowers said.

All the participating groups have pledged to remain nonviolent. However, it is not hard to imagine the Washington police or other state security apparatus reacting brutally to the occupation of part of downtown Washington by tens or even hundreds of thousands of people. Hoover crushed the Bonus Army. Antiwar demonstrators at the 1968 Democratic National Convention were beaten. Chinese authorities refused to tolerate the occupation of Tiananmen Square. We have seen dissent crushed in Iran, Bahrain and Syria.

A real demand for real change? The system will view that as a threat.

Flowers: “If the police respond violently, we will do our best to maintain a nonviolent response. If we responded with violence, it would reinforce the police violence and they have weapons, so more people would be hurt. We do not want that. It will be very unfortunate if the police and others working for the security state choose violence. But that is a possibility as we are seeing in this country and around the world. Empires have a history of violence. We want a different kind of society—one that is peaceful, just and sustainable. That is the kind of society we intend to model during our occupation.”

Unlike previous demonstrations, which tended to center around one issue like globalization or gay rights, October 6th is an attempt to unify the American Left into a holistic attack upon the main cause of most of the problems we face: the hegemony of big business that is the inevitable culmination of late-stage capitalism.

Tarak Kauff: “October 6 is…a call for people to stand up to, and resist the root cause not only of our global war-making for profit, but of near catastrophic ecological disaster, pollution, an austerity budget cuts that will devastate the poor and working class, lack of adequate health care and just about every social ill you can think of. What’s the root cause? You got it before I can say it. That’s right, the corporate state.”

October 6th has lit up the leftie blogosphere. If things come together, it could be The Big One: the major event that marks the beginning of the end of the two-party trap and a political system that extracts wealth from the poor and middle-class for the benefit of the wealthy.

Organizer Kevin Zeese adds: “I expect that we will be staying, and not just for the 7th and 8th. We will be working through various scenarios on what will happen depending on how the government responds. In similar events around the world there have been a range of actions and protesters have had to adjust depending on them. Our intent is to stay until we are satisfied with the response.”

“History is not a fairy tale you read to your children at night,” reads the mission statement. “It is not something someone else did in another place. History is right here and right now, in front of you.”

(Ted Rall is the author of “The Anti-American Manifesto.” His website is tedrall.com.)

COPYRIGHT 2011 TED RALL

SYNDICATED COLUMN: Being, Nothingness and Anthony Weiner

Should Anthony Weiner Resign?

Should Anthony Weiner resign?

Aside from the obvious pleasure that we derive from wallowing in salacious revelations about the rich and powerful, this week’s Weiner sexting controversy provides a window into American morals. Namely: what is wrong, what is right, and what if anything should be done about it?

Let’s look at the sin first.

Weiner sent smutty photos, some with smutty captions, to some of his followers on Twitter. As far as we know he never met any of these women in person, much less had sex with them.

After the Congressman and once-possible-future mayor of the City of New York realized that he had mistakenly sent one of his crotch shots to the wrong addressee, he got too clever by half. Trying to get ahead of the story before it broke organically, he called a press conference and claimed that Evil Right Wingers had hacked his Twitter account. This lame story quickly fell apart, and here we are, with The New York Times editorial board officially decrying Weiner’s “profoundly squalid and offensive pattern of conduct,” language one would have liked to have seen used to describe, for example, torture. Or the bailouts for millionaire bank executives. Or lying us into war in Afghanistan. And Iraq. And Libya.

No victim, no sin. Who’s Weiner’s victim?

Not, apparently, the women to whom he tweeted his…tweet. As far as we know, they were willing adult participants.

Weiner’s wife Huma Abedin is the sole candidate for Victim.

You have the right to feel outraged on her behalf. Me, I’m wary. No one but a husband and wife (or two husbands or wives) knows what goes on between them.

For all we know, Huma might be evil. She may have done far worse. Maybe she doesn’t mind. Or thinks a guy is entitled to fantasies that don’t involve his wife. If she sticks around we’ll at least know that her hubby’s “profoundly squalid and offensive pattern of conduct” wasn’t worth divorce.

The way I see it, this is the Weiners’ business.

To ask whether Weiner should resign, then, goes to another question. Did he betray his constituents–those in Queens and, more broadly as a nationally-known Congressman, the American people?

No doubt, Weiner lied to we, the people. It’s hard to imagine now, but that used to be an impeachable offense. Dig up Richard Nixon and ask him.

Nowadays, however, the public seems to have abandoned the expectation that politicians tell the truth. President Obama, for example, included a clear call for a public option in his healthcare reform proposal during the 2008 presidential campaign. It’s still on his website. And yet: “I didn’t campaign on the public option,” he said in late 2009.

Weiner lied. But it wasn’t about policy or something important like war. Remember Libya? We were going to “move quickly to save [civilian] lives.” It was going to be “this limited action, limited both in time and scope.” That was March. Now we’re trying to kill Kadaffi.

And, to Weiner’s credit, he didn’t lie long. A week. When he ‘fessed up, he did it like a man: took questions from the press, accepted responsibility, volunteered dirty deeds we didn’t know about.

It’s certainly not “we DID find the WMDs,” à la Bush-Cheney. Who, remember, did not resign.

I would love to live in a country in which lying to the public was cause for resignation. It sure would make for a lot of vacancies in government.

But we don’t–and it seems weird to hold a sexter to a higher standard than a warmongering mass murderer.

Ultimately the public’s case against Weiner comes down to the one Edward G. Robinson snaps at the dastardly insurance salesman played by Fred MacMurray in “Double Indemnity”: “I picked you for the job, not because I think you’re so darn smart, but because I thought maybe you were a shade less dumb than the rest of the outfit. I guess I was all wet. You’re not smarter, Walter. You’re just a little taller.”

Weiner doesn’t even get to be tall.

The Times questioned Weiner’s “judgment and character, considering that he was once considered one of the savvier members of the House. Had it not occurred to him, in an era of unending sexual scandal, that repeatedly sending these kinds of photographs to strangers would eventually catch up with him? And that, if it did, his attempt to exploit his political celebrity for online sexual gratification would be considered reprehensible?”

Should Weiner resign? Only if not being sufficiently cold, cynical and calculating is just cause.

(Ted Rall is the author of “The Anti-American Manifesto.” His website is tedrall.com.)

COPYRIGHT 2011 TED RALL

SYNDICATED COLUMN: Rise of the Obamabots

Stifling Liberal Dissent Under Obama

After they called the presidency for Obama, emails poured in. “You must be relieved now that the Democrats are taking over,” an old college buddy told me. “There will be less pressure on you.”

That would have been nice.

In the late 1990s my cartoons ran in Time, Fortune and Bloomberg Personal magazines and over 100 daily and alternative weekly newspapers. I was a staff writer for two major magazines.

Then Bush came in. And 9/11 happened.

The media gorged on an orgy of psychotic right-wing rhetoric. Flags everywhere. Torture suddenly OK. In a nation where mainstream political discourse was redefined between Dick Cheney on the right and libertarian Bill Maher on the not-as-right, there wasn’t any room in the paper for a left-of-center cartoonist. My business was savaged. Income plunged.

My editor at Time called me on September 13, 2001. “We’re discontinuing all cartoons,” she told me. I was one of four cartoonists at the newsweekly. “Humor is dead.” I snorted. They never brought back cartoons.

McCarthyism—blackballing—made a big comeback. I had been drawing a monthly comic strip, “The Testosterone Diaries,” for Men’s Health. No politics. It was about guy stuff: dating, job insecurity, prostate tests, that sort of thing. They fired me. Not because of anything I drew for them. It was because of my syndicated editorial cartoons, which attacked Bush and his policies. The publisher worried about pissing off right-wingers during a period of nationalism on steroids.

Desperate and going broke, I called an editor who’d given me lots of work at the magazines he ran during the 1990s. “Sorry, dude, I can’t help,” he replied. “You’re radioactive.”

It was tempting, when Obama’s Democrats swept into office in 2008, to think that the bad old days were coming to an end. I wasn’t looking for any favors, just a swing of the political pendulum back to the Clinton years when it was still OK to be a liberal.

This, you have no doubt correctly guessed, is the part where I tell you I was wrong.

I didn’t count on the cult of personality around Barack Obama.

In the 1990s it was OK to attack Clinton from the left. I went after the Man From Hope and his centrist, “triangulation”-obsessed Democratic Leadership Council for selling out progressive principles. Along with like-minded political cartoonists including Tom Tomorrow and Lloyd Dangle, my cartoons and columns took Clinton’s militant moderates to the woodshed for NAFTA, the WTO and welfare reform. A pal who worked in the White House informed me that the President, known for his short temper, stormed into his office and slammed a copy of that morning’s Washington Post down on the desk with my cartoon showing. “How dare your friend compare me to Bush?” he shouted. (The first Bush.)

It was better than winning a Pulitzer.

It feels a little weird to write this, like I’m telling tales out of school and ratting out the Vast Left-Wing Conspiracy. But it’s true: there’s less room for a leftie during the Age of Obama than there was under Bush.

I didn’t realize how besotted progressives were by Mr. Hopey Changey.

Obama lost me before Inauguration Day, when he announced cabinet appointments that didn’t include a single liberal.

It got worse after that: Obama extended and expanded Bush’s TARP giveaway to the banks; continued Bush’s spying on our phone calls; ignored the foreclosure crisis; refused to investigate, much less prosecute, Bush’s torturers; his healthcare plan was a sellout to Big Pharma; he kept Gitmo open; expanded the war against Afghanistan; dispatched more drone bombers; used weasel words to redefine the troops in Iraq as “non-combat”; extended the Bush tax cuts for the rich; claiming the right to assassinate U.S. citizens; most recently, there was the forced nudity torture of PFC Bradley Manning and expanding oil drilling offshore and on national lands.

I was merciless to Obama. I was cruel in my criticisms of Obama’s sellouts to the right. In my writings and drawings I tried to tell it as it was, or anyway, as I saw it. I thought—still think—that’s my job. I’m a critic, not a suck-up. The Obama Administration doesn’t need journalists or pundits to carry its water. That’s what press secretaries and PR flacks are for.

Does Obama ever do anything right? Not often, but sure. And when he does, I shut up about it. Cartoonists and columnists who promote government policy are an embarrassment.

But that’s what “liberal” media outlets want in the age of Obama.

I can’t prove it in every case. (That’s how blackballing works.) The Nation and Mother Jones and Harper’s, liberal magazines that gave me freelance work under Clinton and Bush, now ignore my queries. Even when I offered them first-person, unembedded war reporting from Afghanistan. Hey, maybe they’re too busy to answer email or voicemail. You never know.

Other censors are brazen.

There’s been a push among political cartoonists to get our work into the big editorial blogs and online magazines that seem poised to displace traditional print political magazines like The Progressive. In the past, editorial rejections had numerous causes: low budgets, lack of space, an editor who simply preferred another creator’s work over yours.

Now there’ s a new cause for refusal: Too tough on the president.

I’ve heard that from enough “liberal” websites and print publications to consider it a significant trend.

A sample of recent rejections, each from editors at different left-of-center media outlets:

• “I am familiar with and enjoy your cartoons. However the readers of our site would not be comfortable with your (admittedly on point) criticism of Obama.”

• “Don’t be such a hater on O and we could use your stuff. Can’t you focus more on the GOP?”

• “Our first African-American president deserves a chance to clean up Bush’s mess without being attacked by us.”

I have many more like that.

What’s weird is that these cultish attitudes come from editors and publishers whose politics line up neatly with mine. They oppose the bailouts. They want us out of Afghanistan and Iraq. They disapprove of Obama’s new war against Libya. They want Obama to renounce torture and Guantánamo.

Obama is the one they ought to be blackballing. He has been a terrible disappointment to the American left. He has forsaken liberals at every turn. Yet they continue to stand by him. Which means that, in effect, they are not liberals at all. They are militant Democrats. They are Obamabots.

As long as Democrats win elections, they are happy. Nevermind that their policies are the same as, or to the right of, the Republicans.

“So what should I think about [the war in Libya]?,” asks Kevin Drum in Mother Jones. “If it had been my call, I wouldn’t have gone into Libya. But the reason I voted for Obama in 2008 is because I trust his judgment. And not in any merely abstract way, either: I mean that if he and I were in a room and disagreed about some issue on which I had any doubt at all, I’d literally trust his judgment over my own. I think he’s smarter than me, better informed, better able to understand the consequences of his actions, and more farsighted.”

Mr. Drum, call your office. Someone found your brain in the break room.

Barack Obama and the Democrats have made it perfectly clear that they don’t care about the issues and concerns that I care about. Unlike Kevin Drum, I think—I know—I’m smarter than Barack Obama. I wouldn’t have made half the mistakes he has.

So I don’t care about Obama. Or the Democrats. I care about America and the world and the people who live in them.

Hey, Obamabots: when the man you support betrays your principles, he has to go—not your principles.

(Ted Rall is the author of “The Anti-American Manifesto.” His website is tedrall.com.)

COPYRIGHT 2011 TED RALL

Just Kidding

The U.S. [aid Egyptian dictator Hosni Mubarek $37 billion since 1981. Now they want to distant themselves.

Open Letter to Pro-Obama Liberals

At this time of the year I offer the Ted Rall Subscription
Service. For $30/year, you receive my cartoons and columns in your
in box before anyone else–sometimes days in advance of official
release. You also receive extras…for example, subscribers
received blog notices from Afghanistan and Iran last August.
Subscribers may purchase original art at heavily discounted rates,
and receive signed copies of my newest books at discounted rates as
well. To sign up, simply click
here
.

SYNDICATED COLUMN: The Death of the Moderates

Extreme Problems Require Extreme Solutions

Given his druthers, Obama will pursue the most left-leaning course that he can get away with.” So says Jennifer Rubin, a right-wing pundit at the neoconservative-leaning Washington Post. “Obama,” Rubin claims, “would have marched through his entire liberal agenda—if he had the votes.”

This, of course, assumes that Obama ever had a liberal agenda. There’s not much evidence of that. Moreover, Obama did have the votes in Congress to get almost everything that he wanted. But he chose not to even try.

It is also not true. He did have the votes. In recent years, for example, minority Republicans in the Senate have threatened filibusters on most major Democratic initiatives. When they have 60 or more votes, Democrats file a cloture motion to stop filibusters before they start. In practice, Democrats say—and the media has been repeating their meme—that it now takes 60 votes to pass a bill in the Senate.

It isn’t true. Not now. Not ever.

What Dems fail to understand is that they are depriving themselves of a big political opportunity by embracing automated parliamentary procedure. If Republicans want to filibuster, let them drag out their District of Columbia white pages and start reading on C-Span. Footage of GOP senators stonewalling popular legislation—extensions of unemployment benefits, eliminating tax breaks for individuals who earn more than $1 million a year, or healthcare benefits for 9/11 first responders—would make for awesome attack ads in 2012.

When the Bush Administration enjoyed a razor-thin 50-vote majority in the Senate, it only needed a simple majority in order to pass major bills. Even though they should have, Democrats didn’t filibuster. Democrats lack nerve. And voters hate them for it.

There’s another factor at work: self-delusion. Much liberal disappointment with Obama stems from the fact that, on several issues, he is doing exactly what he said he was going to do during the campaign. He told us that we were going to go deeper in Afghanistan. Liberals simply chose to pretend that he was lying. It’s not Obama’s fault if people are in denial. At the same time, Obama failed to realize that the world had changed dramatically between September and November of 2008.

During the summer of the 2008 campaign, there was a plausible argument to be made that the American people were fundamentally moderate. But after the economic meltdown of September 2008, a crisis of capitalism and consumer confidence that continues today with no end in sight, the electorate moved decidedly to the left. Six months into Obama’s term, most Americans told pollsters they preferred socialism to capitalism. In early 2010 one in five Republicans said they have a positive view of socialism.

Meanwhile, the right became more radical too. This is what happens during a crisis when the “mainstream” system is unresponsive. Moderation? There are no more moderates.

As we have seen time and time again in American history, compromises usually mean no solution at all. From the status of Missouri as a slave state to last week’s tax deal between Democrats and Republicans, compromise usually means kicking the can down the road for another generation of people and politicians to contend with.

Yet the myth persists: moderation equals common sense. I don’t know about my fellow lefties, but I find more common ground with Tea Party types who are angry as hell and don’t want to take it anymore than I do with squishy soft liberals who think everything is fine as long as Barack Obama gets reelected in 2012.

Nothing is fine. The unemployment rate is over 9.8 percent officially and about 20 percent unofficially. Yet neither party has lifted a finger to even talk about proposing a jobs program. Tax cuts? Unemployed people don’t pay taxes. Depression-level joblessness is fiscal poison. If we don’t create tens of millions of new jobs soon, social and political unrest will increase dramatically.

Chris Hedges recently put out a book titled “The Death of the Liberal Class.” A better title might have been “The Death of Moderation.” No one better embodied the American brand of political moderation than traditional liberals. They supported income redistribution, but only through a slightly progressive income tax: not enough to make a difference, but plenty to make right-wingers spitting mad. They consistently voted for huge defense budgets and war after war, yet were successfully framed as wimps by Republicans whose rhetoric matched their similar bellicosity.

The smug and the complacent love moderation precisely because it can’t change the status quo.

Look at ObamaCare: that’s what happens when you compromise. The insurance companies get to soak even more Americans than usual—and charge those of us who are already in the system more. Like many other issues, the “extremes” work better than the centrist, “common sense” solution. If I can’t have full-fledged socialized medicine, give me free markets.

Moderates know their time has past. New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg recently brought 1,000 people together to create a militant moderate organization called No Labels. Like Jon Stewart’s Million Moderate March, No Labels is meant “not to create a new party, but to forge a third way within the existing parties, one that permits debate on issues in an atmosphere of civility and mutual respect,” say organizers.

Sweet.

Because, you know, you should always be civil and respectful to people who think torture and concentration camps are A-OK.

For those who despair of the rise of political extremism, I ask: From multi-trillion dollar deficits to endless war to mass die-offs of species and climate change, are the problems America face so trivial that they can be resolved with more half-assed compromises?

(Ted Rall is the author of “The Anti-American Manifesto.” His website is tedrall.com.)

COPYRIGHT 2010 TED RALL

Presidential Entropy

Just wait…a few years from now, we’ll look back at George W. Bush and wonder why we were so hard on him.

SYNDICATED COLUMN: So Much for Democracy

Is a Clinton Victory Worth the Cost?

My involvement with the Democratic Party started at age 9, when my mom took me along to pass out McGovern-Shriver leaflets door-to-door in our solidly Republican neighborhood. “The Democrats,” my mother explained, “are the party of the people. Republicans only care about rich big-shots.” Nothing I have seen since 1972 has contradicted the latter part of that summary of our two-party system. Watching my mom’s enthusiasm while she tried to reason with our neighbors and dialed number after number in the dingy campaign headquarters in downtown Dayton convinced me that there really was a chance of ousting President Nixon—a man, who all attempts at historical revisionism notwithstanding, was the devil. My fourth-grade class held a mock election that fall. There were 32 little Nixonites to my one Democratic vote.

I quickly learned that, in America, Democrats usually lose, even when they win. Jimmy Carter squeaked by Ford in 1976—an astonishing fact when you consider the unelected incumbent’s corrupt pardon deal and idiotic demeanor—and never enjoyed a mandate to act like a real Democrat. The great Reagan defense build-up actually began in 1978 under Carter, along with draft registration and the U.S. refusal to attend the 1980 Olympics because of the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. I was convinced that Carter lost in 1980 because these compromises had lost him his party’s liberal base, but I still worked for Mondale and Dukakis as they continued to pursue watered-down liberalism, organizing college students and dodging New York cops while wheat-pasting posters in the subways.

The capitalism run-amok excesses of the Reagan and Bush years made it easier to be a Democrat again—by the time 1992 rolled around, there was nothing more important to the country’s political and financial health than getting George Herbert Hoover Walker Bush out of the White House. The day after the election, a reporter called me to ask my reaction. “I feel like an evil cloud has lifted from the country,” I told him as I scribbled file labels at one of my three jobs. “Americans have rejected the idea that caring about other people is a sign of weakness.” I really did feel that way.

Which brings me to November 5th, when I will not be voting for Bill Clinton.

I am personally better off than I was four years ago, but the country has continued to go to hell. The reasons are simple. Given the first chance in a century to get national health protection passed, he blew it by proposing an outlandish scheme designed to protect insurance-company profits. Then he signed NAFTA and GATT, treasonous free trade deals that sell out American workers for the benefit of his corporate pals’ bottom lines. Even Reagan and Bush never pushed hard on NAFTA. To be sure, he did the right thing by sending troops to Bosnia, but he waited so long that the people they were sent to protect were all dead by the time they got there.

Clinton’s 1995 copresidency with Newt Gingrich was an embarrassment, but the last straw was his cynical election-year betrayal of the poor by eliminating welfare without creating the jobs to replace it.

My friends argue that a vote for Ralph Nader or Ross Perot—or for that matter, opting to stay home and watch TV—is a vote for Bob Dole. In a rigid two-party system, they’re right, but so what? Even if there were a chance that Dole could be elected, he and Clinton are both essentially the same: Both are pro-business, pro-choice and deficit-obsessed. A Dole Administration might cost the nation a few progressive appellate judges, but on the issues that really matter, most Americans wouldn’t notice much difference.

Furthermore, casting a protest vote, or not voting at all, is an effective means of telling the mainstream parties that you’re not interested in what they’re offering. While low voter turnout allows “winners” to claim mandates at press conferences, they know that the truth is that their message isn’t selling. While it may mean supporting a “spoiler” in the short term, it can force the big parties to reevaluate their directions.

This year, voting for Clinton potentially tells him that you agree with everything he’s done so far when you’re actually voting for the anti-Dole. If you support NAFTA and guaranteed unemployment and making children homeless, fine. But our republic wasn’t intended to have voters support the lesser of two evils—or likely winners simply because they’re likely to win. If you substantially disagree with Clintonism, you have a moral obligation as a citizen to vote for someone else. If no other candidate else appeals to you, your duty is to stay home.

Some people may question how I could abandon the Democrats after all this time. But I never left the party—it left me.

(Ted Rall, a syndicated cartoonist and freelance writer based in New York City, was a 1996 Pulitzer Prize finalist.)

© 1996 Ted Rall, All Rights Reserved

SYNDICATED COLUMN: ‘Civil’ Democrats Defend Kemp, Dole on Morals

‘NEW YORK, August 32—In an active demonstration of his convention speech call for a new era of “civility,” yesterday President Bill Clinton (D-AK) took the unusual step of coming to the defense of his Republican opponents on moral issues.

“I have come under fire over so-called moral issues myself,” said Clinton, who survived the Gennifer Flowers and Paula Jones scandals and now leads the polls by twenty points. “This isn’t about partisan politics—I know how painful it is to have one’s private life overshadow one’s accomplishments in the public arena.”

Clinton then turned his conciliatory remarks to vice-presidential candidate Jack Kemp, who has been dogged by rumors that he attended a gay orgy in California ever since columnist Drew Pearson wrote about the incident in 1967. The episode became public when then-Governor Ronald Reagan fired a staffer who also attended the orgy in a remote cabin in the Sierra Nevada mountains. It has come up several times during this year’s campaign.

“The Democratic Party has always supported homosexual rights,” Clinton said in a hastily-called news conference held in front of the Anvil, a gay bar in Manhattan’s Greenwich Village. “Is it so wrong to love another man? There is absolutely nothing wrong or immoral about a buff 32-year-old quarterback rolling around with a bunch of sweaty nude men in the middle of nowhere. It took great courage for the Republican Party to nominate the nation’s first openly, or closeted, as the case may be, gay, or bisexual, or whatever, vice-presidential candidate.”

“There will be those bigots who would otherwise have supported our opponents on the Dole-Kemp ticket this November but plan to vote Democratic instead because Jack Kemp chose to experiment with his sexuality three decades ago,” Clinton continued as a hand-picked crowd of transvestites and male prostitutes cheered. “Well, hear this—the Clinton-Gore ticket doesn’t want your vote! Just because Al and I have always limited ourselves to straight sex doesn’t mean that we don’t support Jack Kemp’s right to

rub his firm, tight, rippling biceps against the twitching thighs, supple buttocks and welcoming arms of a dozen men greased down with massage oil!”

Clinton also reaffirmed his party’s support of gay marriage.

“In fact,” the president concluded, “Jack Kemp and Bob Dole have every right to come out of the closet. If elected, I think they ought to divorce their wives and live together as man and wife—which would demonstrate that the Republicans are serious about deficit reduction by eliminating the expense of maintaining a separate residence for the vice president.”

Jack Kemp could not be reached for comment.

Meanwhile, while campaigning in front of the Grassy Knoll Bar & Grill in Dallas, Vice President Al Gore (R-TN) told an enthusiastic lunch-hour crowd of born-again Christians that it was time to “reach out” to Bob Dole, Newt Gingrich and other well-known Republicans who have gotten divorced.

“Ronald Reagan, a great president, divorced Jane Wyman before most people were even born. Newt Gingrich knew that marrying his high school math teacher would help him get the SATs he’d need to get into a good college, but when it came time to enter public life, that wife was no longer appropriate,” Gore said, his facial expressions alternating masterfully between sympathy and understanding. “So he divorced her in that hospital bed—but if he hadn’t done that, he wouldn’t be who he is today. Similarly, you won’t find any mention of Bob Dole’s first wife in his autobiography. Dumping the mother of his only child wasn’t an easy decision, but it gave him the opportunity to marry a woman who would one day run the Department of Transportation!”

A well-dressed heckler screamed out: “What about Bill and Hill?”

“No!” Gore responded directly to the man. “It’s wrong to compare marriages along party lines. No one knows why Republicans get divorced while Democrats stay married, but we are all Americans. We are inclusive and we are tolerant and we are nice, and that means accepting lifestyles that we ourselves may not necessarily agree with. We’re bigger than a few sundry ‘til death do us parts.”

A Dole spokesman replied: “It’s about time the Democrats started talking about family values.”

(Ted Rall, a syndicated editorial cartoonist and freelance writer living in New York City, is the author of The Worst Thing I’ve Ever Done! (NBM Publishing, 1996), a graphic novel depicting the true confessions of Americans’ worst crimes.)

© 1996 Ted Rall, All Rights Reserved.

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