Obama in Hiroshima: A Case Study in Hypocrisy

May 20, 2016 at 1:21 PM

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President Obama heads to Japan this week for an historic visit to Hiroshima, site of the world’s first use of a nuclear weapon, and one of the United States’ most enduring shameful acts. The corporate media has hailed the visit as an important step in strengthening bilateral relations between the US and Japan. Indeed, it certainly is that as the US seeks to reassert its hegemony in an Asia-Pacific region increasingly being seen as the sphere of influence of China.

However, Obama’s arrival in Japan also highlights the deeply hypocritical and cynical attitudes of US policymakers, and President Obama himself, when it comes to the relevant issues. He is not expected to formally apologize for the needless slaughter of more than 200,000 Japanese citizens (mostly civilians), nor is he going to address the lingering policy-related effects of the war such as the highly unpopular US military occupation of Okinawa. In fact, it seems Obama is unlikely to touch on anything of substance. But there are indeed numerous subjects which merit close scrutiny.

First and foremost, one must consider the fact that for 70 years the United States has maintained a permanent military presence in Japan, one which is deeply reviled by the majority of the people of Japan, especially the citizens of Okinawa who regularly and continuously protest the US occupation. And while Obama and his counterpart, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, will discuss the continued friendship and partnership between the two countries, the reality is that it remains a master-client relationship. There will likely be much discussion of past, present, and future, without any admission of guilt either on the side of the US for its horrific war crimes nor by Japan for its unrestrained aggression against China, Korea, and the rest of the Asia-Pacific. As Kurt Vonnegut would say, “So it goes.”

Interestingly, the question of nuclear weapons will likely also not be addressed in a substantive way. There may indeed be some discussion of the subject in general terms, but it will be veiled in the typically flowery, but utterly vacuous, Obama rhetoric. Given the opportunity, an intrepid reporter might venture to ask the President why, despite winning the Nobel Peace Prize “for his extraordinary efforts to strengthen international diplomacy and cooperation between peoples [and] vision of and work for a world without nuclear weapons,” he has presided over an administration that will spend more than $1 trillion upgrading, modernizing, and expanding the US nuclear arsenal.

Perhaps even more uncomfortable might be a question about why the allegedly anti-nuclear president who waxed poetic about disarmament as a student at Columbia University has spent two terms in office providing tens of billions in aid to nuclear-armed Israel, raising the amount of US aid to Tel Aviv to historic levels. In 2014, the Obama administration also enthusiastically signed a new nuclear deal with the UK which, according to Obama himself, “intends to continue to maintain viable nuclear forces into the foreseeable future… [America needed to aid Britain] in maintaining a credible nuclear deterrent.” So much for disarmament.

And while Obama and his coterie of spin doctors shape his anti-nuclear legacy with talk of a nuclear deal with Iran – a country that has no nuclear weapons – the cynicism is impossible to ignore. Obama has in fact done everything to promote nuclear proliferation including the absolutely insane new US missile “defense” system in Eastern Europe which, almost by definition, forces Russia to upgrade and expand its own arsenal, including its nuclear stockpile (still the largest in the world) as a countermeasure.

And then there’s the irradiated elephant in the room: Fukushima. The ongoing cover-up of what’s really happening in Fukushima lurks in the background of all discussion about nuclear issues and Japan. No one should hold their breath for even a whisper about this still unfolding environmental catastrophe which the Japanese government has gone to great lengths to dump down the memory hole.

Rather than formally apologizing to the Japanese people for the grave crimes of the US Government, Obama will instead frame his position as “looking forward, not backward,” a hollow platitude that calls to mind the utterly reprehensible decision by Obama not to investigate or prosecute the Bush administration criminals involved in torture. Rather than a heartfelt expression of regret, Obama offers the Trans-Pacific Partnership and an escalation of tensions with China. Rather than working for peace as one might expect of a Nobel Peace Prize winner, Obama instead will continue to champion his “pivot to Asia” strategy which has yielded little in terms of progress but much in terms of US military presence.

President Obama’s visit to Japan, like his allegedly great successes in Iran and Cuba, will change nothing. Obama will say a few words, then leave Japan. He’ll soon leave office with a still more dangerous world than when he entered: more nukes, more wars, more destruction. And this from our Peace Prize President.

Obama, the Military-Industrial Complex, and the Washington Consensus for War

May 20, 2016 at 12:25 PM

Eric Draitser of http://StopImperialism.org provides his commentary (May 13, 2016) on the 2017 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) and the political implications of the bill. He explains the nature of the war consensus in Washington and the fact that Obama and the Republicans are more partners than adversaries. Draitser outlines the pervasive influence of the military-industrial complex in all aspects of US political life, and the dangerous path down which it continues to lead the US. All this and much more in this latest appearance on Loud & Clear with Brian Becker.

Immanuel Ness on CounterPunch Radio (Episode 41)

May 18, 2016 at 3:16 PM

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CounterPunch Radio with Immanuel Ness 

This week Eric chats with political scientist Immanuel Ness about his new book Southern Insurgency: The Coming of the Global Working Class, and the implications of the shift in industrial production to the Global South. Eric and Immanuel explore the themes of the book which include the changing nature of labor struggle, in depth analyses of working class resistance in the “Third World,” and how these struggles must shape and inform the discussion of solidarity on the Left, particulalry in the developed world. The conversation also touches on the nature of contemporary imperialism, the evolution of non-western capital as a quasi-alternative to western capital’s hegemony, the role of organized labor, and much much more.

Hillary Clinton’s Race Problem

May 18, 2016 at 12:49 PM

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When Hillary Clinton was endorsed by Will Quigg, a grand dragon of the Ku Klux Klan in California, many observers were skeptical that the statement of support for the presumptive Democratic nominee was genuine.  Indeed, some went so far as to argue that the very public backing of Clinton by a white supremacist of Quigg’s standing was a diversionary tactic designed to either smear Clinton or distract attention from former grand wizard David Duke’s endorsement of Donald Trump, which the presumptive Republican nominee failed to disavow.  Regardless of whether the support of Clinton was genuine or not, the fact of the matter is that Clinton policies have indeed been unconscionably destructive for Black Americans, and other people of color.

Hillary Clinton was a vocal advocate of her husband’s infamous 1994 Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act (aka the “Crime Bill”) which disproportionately targeted people of color and led to the rise of the phenomenon that has come to be known as mass incarceration or, as Michelle Alexander famously dubbed it, “The New Jim Crow.”  As Alexander noted in The Nation in February 2016, the Clintons and their odious Crime Bill are responsible for:

  • the largest increase in federal and state prison inmates of any president in American history
  • the 100-to-1 sentencing disparity for crack versus powder cocaine, which produced staggering racial injustice in sentencing and boosted funding for drug-law enforcement.
  • the idea of a federal “three strikes” law
  • a $30 billion crime bill that created dozens of new federal capital crimes,
  • the mandating of life sentences for some three-time offenders
  • authorizing more than $16 billion for state prison grants and the expansion of police forces
  • African Americans constituting 80 to 90 percent of all drug offenders sent to prison, even though they’re no more likely than whites to use or sell illegal drugs.
  • A 50% increase in African American incarceration by the year 2000

At the time, Hillary was traveling the country lauding the new bill as a critical piece of legislation to combat the “crime epidemic” and make America safe for middle class whites.  In a blatant display of the sort of racism and white supremacy that could certainly endear her to klansmen like Quigg, Clinton referred to young black males targeted by the Crime Bill as “superpredators,” at once dehumanizing a segment of the population disproportionately impacted by Clinton’s crime policies while also justifying the obviously racist nature of the bill itself.

And while Hillary Clinton can whitewash her record (and that of her husband) when it comes to issues of race and injustice, the inescapable fact is that the “liberal” Clinton presided over the expansion of the for-profit prison industry, the construction of the mass incarceration state, the explosion of life sentences for drug offenders, the expansion of the death penalty, and countless other socially destructive phenomena that continue to ravage Black America to this day.

But beyond the viciously racist crime policies of the Clinton era, Hillary has also scapegoated Black America and other minorities, as well as the working class in general, for the economic crisis precipitated by Wall Street greed.  Who could forget Hillary all but absolving Wall Street of wrongdoing by blaming homeowners “getting in over their heads” when it came to the subprime mortgage market?

It is a well-known fact, documented by mountains of research, that lending practices by Wall Street banks – the same banks who paid Hillary Clinton massive speaking fees – were often racist in nature, and deliberately targeted Black and Latino Americans in a variety of ways. As the New York Times noted in a penetrating 2009 exposé about racist lending practices in New York and the devastating impacts on minority communities, the authors explained that, “Black buyers often enter a separate lending universe: A dozen banks and mortgage companies, almost all of which turned big profits making subprime loans, accounted for half the loans given to the region’s black middle-income borrowers in 2005 and 2006…The N.A.A.C.P. has filed a class-action suit against many of the nation’s largest banks, charging that such lending practices amount to reverse redlining.”

And who was the senator in New York at the time? Mrs. Clinton. And who was taking massive campaign donations and speaking fees from the very same institutions? Mrs. Clinton. One senses a pattern.

And of course who could forget the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) which devastated the once vibrant and productive Mexican agriculture sector, forcing Mexican small farmers off their land and into the United States in search of work just to feed their families?  The scourge of “free trade,” proselytized by the Wall Street darling Hillary Clinton, is the central factor driving the migration to the United States, and all the attendant white supremacy and nativism spawned by it.

The narrative of this presidential campaign is being written in the media and on the streets, with Donald Trump being portrayed as a bigot for his overtly racist rhetoric on a number of key issues, particularly immigration.  Even Hillary Clinton has gotten in on the act by implying Trump is a racist on numerous occasions.  And while that may be true, Clinton is herself perhaps one of the most politically successful racists in American politics in the last half century.  Perhaps then it makes sense that Hillary Clinton was a “Goldwater Girl” – a backer of 1964 presidential candidate Barry Goldwater who stood in firm opposition to Martin Luther King and the Civil Rights Act.

Indeed, Hillary’s racism might be more coded than Trump’s. It might sound softer and be veiled in politically palatable language.  But it is perhaps even more vicious because, unlike Trump, Clinton might just be able to get away with it.

Syria: Regime Change Still the Main Course on the US Menu

May 10, 2016 at 2:53 PM

Eric Draitser of StopImperialism.org provides his commentary (May 7, 2016) on the latest comments from US Secretary of State Kerry regarding the situation in Syria. Draitser explains that US rhetoric is dictated by facts on the ground, and that Washington feels emboldened to discuss regime change with Russia’s engagement having diminished. He notes that the strategy for Syria remains essentially unchanged, with a plan to carve up the country along political lines amenable to US interests in the region. All this and much more in this jam packed short talk.