Friday, December 11, 2009

"1984" and Obama's Orwellian Nobel "Peace Prize" Acceptance Speech

In this issue (edited with additional comments on 12/12/09):

- George Orwell's "1984"

- Articles on Obama's Orwellian Nobel "Peace Prize" Acceptance Speech


George Orwell's "1984"

I was uncertain as to whether it would be more appropriate to put the following quotes from George Orwell's (real name Eric Blair) novel, "1984" before or after a few articles about Obama's recent Nobel Peace Prize acceptance speech, as the articles help explain just how "Orwellian" Obama's speech and other pronouncements have been. But here it is at the beginning, so try to remember some of his words and other actions, and to recall some of the speeches and rhetoric of previous Presidents, like George W. Bush, in justifying our continuous wars.

The novel, which many have probably read, or at least heard about, was published in 1949 and is primarily concerned with aspects of totalitarian rule (in this case named, Ingsoc), but many of the principles apply also to any oligarchy or stratified human social grouping. While not all of the novel's "predictions" turned out to be true in every detail, many of the basic concepts hold true today, as they no doubt did even before Orwell's time. The book was scoffed at by the "Orwellian" U.S. press as the actual year of 1984 passed, even though many versions of the principles described were well institutionalized at the time. Denial, like hope, springs eternal.

"1984" George Orwell (from the first edition, © 1949)

Ch. One, pp. 17-18

The Hate rose to its climax. The voice of Goldstein had become an actual sheep's bleat, and for an instant the face changed into that of a sheep. Then the sheep-face melted into the figure of a Eurasian soldier who seemed to be advancing, huge and terrible, his submachine gun roaring, and seeming to spring out of the surface of the screen, so that some of the people in the front row actually flinched backwards in their seats. But in the same moment, drawing a deep sigh of relief from everybody, the hostile figure melted into the face of Big Brother, black-haired, black mustachio'd, full of power and mysterious calm, and so vast that it almost filled up the screen. Nobody heard what Big Brother was saying. It was merely a few words of encouragement, the sort of words that are uttered in the din of battle, not distinguishable individually but restoring confidence by the fact of being spoken. Then the face of Big Brother faded away again, and instead the three slogans of the Party stood out in bold capitals:


But the face of Big Brother seemed to persist for several seconds on the screen, as though the impact that it had made on everyone's eyeballs were too vivid to wear off immediately. The little sandy-haired woman had flung herself forward over the back of the chair in front of her. With a tremulous murmur that sounded like "My Savior!" she extended her arms toward the screen. Then she buried her ace in her hands. It was apparent that she was uttering a prayer.

At this moment the entire group of people broke into a deep, slow, rhythmical chant of "B-B! ... B-BI ••• B-B!"--over and over again, very slowly, with a long pause between the first "B" and the second-a heavy, murmurous sound, somehow curiously savage, in the background of which one seemed to hear the stamp of naked feet and the throbbing of tom-toms. For perhaps as much as thirty seconds they kept it up. It was a refrain that was often heard in moments of overwhelming emotion. Partly it was a sort of hymn to the wisdom and majesty of Big Brother, but still more it was an act of self-hypnosis, a deliberate drowning of consciousness by means of rhythmic noise.

Winston's entrails seemed to grow cold. In the Two Minutes Hate he could not help sharing in the general delirium, but this subhuman chanting of "B-BI ••• B-BI" always filled him with horror. Of course he chanted with the rest: it was impossible to do otherwise. To dissemble your feelings, to control your face, to do what everyone else was doing, was an instinctive reaction. But there was a space of a couple of seconds during which the expression in his eyes might conceivably have betrayed him.

Ch. Two, (pp. 211 - 215)

A Party member lives from birth to death under the eye of the Thought Police. Even when he is alone he can never be sure that he is alone. Wherever he may be, asleep or awake, working or resting, in his bath or in bed, he can be inspected without warning and without knowing that he is being inspected. Nothing that he does is indifferent. His friendships, his relaxations, his behavior toward his wife and children, the expression of his face when he is alone, the words he mutters in sleep, even the characteristic movements of his body, are all jealously scrutinized. Not only any actual misdemeanor, but any eccentricity, however small, any change of habits, any nervous mannerism that could possibly be the symptom of an inner struggle, is certain to be detected. [While intrusions on personal privacy have not yet advanced to this stage today, they have certainly moved a long way in that direction since the inception of the "War on Terror" and the passage of the "Patriot Act." I keep wondering what further invasion, beyond all the wiretapping, purchase preference recording, & etc, might be developed with the camera "eye" on the front of most new computer screens. - Chris] He has no freedom of choice in any direction whatever. On the other hand, his actions are not regulated by law or by any clearly formulated code of behavior. In Oceania there is no law. Thoughts and actions which, when detected, mean certain death are not formally forbidden, and the endless purges, arrests, tortures, imprisonments, and vaporizations are not inflicted as punishment for crimes which have actually been committed, but are merely the wiping-out of persons who might perhaps commit a crime at some time in the future. [While only Jose Padilla, an American citizen held under suspicion as an enemy combatant and "dirty bomb" plotter for three 1/2 years, faced something similar domestically, this reminds me of the policies of extraordinary rendition and torture imprisonment of "non-combatants" and also of detentions of non-citizens in places like Guantanamo.] A Party member is required to have not only the right opinions, but the right instincts. Many of the beliefs and attitudes demanded of him are never plainly stated, and could not be stated without laying bare the contradictions inherent in Ingsoc. If he is a person naturally orthodox (in Newspeak, a "goodthinker"), he will in all circumstances know, without taking thought, what is the true belief or the desirable emotion. But in any case an elaborate mental training, undergone in childhood and grouping itself round the Newspeak words "crimestop, blackwhite", and "doublethink," makes him unwilling and unable to think too deeply on any subject whatever.

A Party member is expected to have no private emotions, and no respites from enthusiasm. He is supposed to live in a continuous frenzy of hatred of foreign enemies and internal traitors, triumph over victories, and self-abasement before the power and wisdom of the Party. The discontents produced by his bare, unsatisfying life are deliberately turned outwards and dissipated by such devices as the "Two Minutes Hate", and the speculations which might possibly induce a skeptical or rebellious attitude are killed in advance by his early acquired inner discipline. The first and simplest stage in the discipline, which can be taught even to young children, is called, in Newspeak, "crimestop."

"Crimestop" means the faculty of stopping short, as though by instinct, at the threshold of any dangerous thought. It includes the power of not grasping analogies, of failing to perceive logical errors, of misunderstanding the simplest arguments if they are inimical to Ingsoc, and of being bored or repelled by any train of thought which is capable of leading in a heretical direction. "Crimestop", in short, means protective stupidity. But stupidity is not enough. On the contrary, orthodoxy in the full sense demands a control over one's own mental processes as complete as that of a contortionist over his body. Oceanic society rests ultimately on the belief that Big Brother is omnipotent and that the Party is infallible. But since in reality Big Brother is not omnipotent and the Party is not infallible, there is need for an unwearying, moment-to-moment flexibility in the treatment of facts. The key word here is "blackwhite." Like so many Newspeak words, this word has two mutually contradictory meanings. Applied to an opponent, it means the habit of impudently claiming that black is white, in contradiction of the plain facts. Applied to a Party member, it means a loyal willingness to say that black is white when Party discipline demands this. But it means also the ability to believe that black is white, and more, to know that black is white, and to forget that one has ever believed the contrary. This demands a continuous alteration of the past, made possible by the system of thought which really embraces (p214) all the rest, and which is known in Newspeak as "doublethink".

The alteration of the past is necessary for two reasons, one of which is subsidiary and, so to speak, precautionary. The subsidiary reason is that the Party member, like the proletarian, tolerates present-day conditions partly because he has no standards of comparison. He must be cut off from the past, just as he must be cut off from foreign countries, because it is necessary for him to believe that he is better off than his ancestors and that the average level of material comfort is constantly rising. But by far the more important reason for the readjustment of the past is the need to safeguard the infallibility of the Party. It is not merely that speeches, statistics, and records of every kind must be constantly brought up to date in order to show that the predictions of the Party were in all cases right. It is also that no change in doctrine or in political alignment can ever be admitted. For to change one's mind, or even one's policy, is a confession of weakness. If, for example, Eurasia or Eastasia (whichever it may be) is the enemy today, then that country must always have been the enemy. And if the facts say otherwise, then the facts must be altered. Thus history is continuously rewritten. This day-to-day falsification of the past, carried out by the Ministry of Truth, is as necessary to the stability of the regime as the work of repression and espionage carried out by the Ministry of Love.

The mutability of the past is the central tenet of Ingsoc. Past events, it is argued, have no objective existence, but survive only in written records and in human memories. The past is whatever the records and the memories agree upon. And since the Party is in full control of all records, and in equally full control of the minds of its members, it follows that the past is whatever the Party chooses to make it. It also follows that though the past is alterable, it never has been altered in any specific instance. For when it has been recreated in whatever shape is needed at the moment, then this new version is the past, and no different past can ever have existed. This holds good even when, as often happens, the same event has to be altered out of recognition several times in the course of a year. At all times the Party is in possession of absolute truth, and clearly the absolute can never have been different from what it is now. It will be seen that the control of the past depends above all on the training of memory. To make sure that all written records agree with the orthodoxy of the moment is merely a mechanical act. But it is also necessary to remember that events happened in the desired manner. And if it is necessary to rearrange one's memories or to tamper with written records, then it is necessary to forget that one has done so. The trick of doing this can be learned like any other mental technique. It is learned by the majority of Party members, and certainly by all who are intelligent as well as orthodox. In Oldspeak it is called, quite frankly, "reality control." In Newspeak it is called "doublethink", though "doublethink" comprises much else as well.

"Doublethink" means the power of holding two contradictory beliefs in one's mind simultaneously, and accepting both of them. The Party intellectual knows in which direction his memories must be altered; he therefore knows that he is playing tricks with reality; but by the exercise of doublethink he also satisfies himself that reality is not violated. The process has to be conscious, or it would not be carried out with sufficient precision, but it also has to be unconscious, or it would bring with it a feeling of falsity and hence of guilt. "Doublethink" lies at the very heart of Ingsoc, since the essential act of the Party is to use conscious deception while retaining the firmness of purpose that goes with complete honesty. To tell deliberate lies while genuinely believing in them, to forget any fact that has become inconvenient, and then, when it becomes necessary again, to draw it back from oblivion for just so long as it is needed, to deny the existence of objective reality and all the while to take account of the reality which one denies-all this is indispensably necessary. Even in using the word "doublethink" it is necessary to exercise "doublethink." For by using the word one admits that one is tampering with reality; by a fresh act of "doublethink" one erases this knowledge; and so on indefinitely, with the lie always one leap ahead of the truth. Ultimately it is by means of "doublethink" that the Party has been able-and may, for all we know, continue to be able for thousands of years-to arrest the course of history.

All past oligarchies have fallen from power either because they ossified or because they grew soft. Either they became stupid and arrogant, failed to adjust themselves to changing circumstances, and were overthrown, or they became liberal and cowardly, made concessions when they should have used force, and once again were overthrown. They fell, that is to say, either through consciousness or through unconsciousness. It is the achievement of the Party to have produced a system of thought in which both conditions can exist simultaneously. And upon no other intellectual basis could the dominion of the Party be made permanent. If one is to rule, and to continue ruling, one must be able to dislocate the sense of reality. For the secret of rulership is to combine a belief in one's own infallibility with the power to learn from past mistakes.

It need hardly be said that the subtlest practitioners of "doublethink" are those who invented "doublethink" and know that it is a vast system of mental cheating. In our society, those who have the best knowledge of what is happening are also those who are furthest from seeing the world as it is. In general, the greater the understanding, the greater the delusion: the more intelligent, the less sane. One clear illustration of this is the fact that war hysteria increases in intensity as one rises in the social scale. Those whose attitude toward the war is most nearly rational are the subject peoples of the disputed territories. To these people the war is simply a continuous calamity which sweeps to and fro over their bodies like a tidal wave. Which side is winning is a matter of complete indifference to them. They are aware that a change of overlordship means simply that they will be doing the same work as before for new masters who treat them in the same manner as the old ones. The slightly more favored workers whom we call "the proles" are only intermittently conscious of the war. When it is necessary they can be prodded into frenzies of fear and hatred, but when left to themselves they are capable of forgetting for long periods that the war is happening. It is in the ranks of the Party, and above all of the Inner Party, that the true war enthusiasm is found. World-conquest is believed in most firmly by those who know it to be impossible. This peculiar linking-together of opposites-knowledge with ignorance, cynicism with fanaticism-is one of the chief distinguishing marks of Oceanic society. The official ideology abounds with contradictions even where there is no practical reason for them. Thus, the Party rejects and vilifies every principle for which the Socialist movement originally stood, and it chooses to do this in the name of Socialism. It preaches a contempt for the working class unexampled for centuries past, and it dresses its members in a uniform which was at one time peculiar to manual workers and was adopted for that reason. It systematically undermines the solidarity of the family, and it calls its leader by a name which is a direct appeal to the sentiment of family loyalty. Even the names of the four Ministries by which we are governed exhibit a sort of impudence in their deliberate reversal of the facts. [We have the Department of Defense, which in reality is the Department of Offence, always busy planning the next war.]

The Ministry of Peace concerns itself with war, the Ministry of Truth with lies, the Ministry of Love with torture, and the Ministry of Plenty with starvation. These contradictions are not accidental, nor do they result from ordinary hypocrisy: they are deliberate exercises in "doublethink." For it is only by reconciling contradictions that power can be retained indefinitely. In no other way could the ancient cycle be broken. If human equality is to be forever averted -if the High, as we have called them, are to keep their places permanently-then the prevailing mental condition must be controlled insanity.

But there is one question which until this moment we have almost ignored. It is: why should human equality be averted? Supposing that the mechanics of the process have been rightly described, what is the motive for this huge, accurately planned effort to freeze history at a particular moment of time?

Here we reach the central secret. As we have seen, the mystique of the Party, and above all of the Inner Party, depends upon "doublethink." But deeper than this lies the original motive, the never-questioned instinct that first led to the seizure of power and brought "doublethink," the Thought Police, continuous warfare, and all the other necessary paraphernalia into existence afterwards. . . . .

Articles on Obama's Orwellian Nobel "War is Peace" Acceptance Speech:
'Whatever Mistakes We Have Made'
By Nicolas J S Davies
December 11, 2009

Consortium News Editor’s Note: Though eloquent and nuanced, President Barack Obama’s Nobel Peace Prize speech whitewashed the post-World War II history of U.S. military interventions and covert actions that have killed millions of people and overthrown democracies that have resisted U.S. dictates and desires, from Iran to Chile.

Facing political criticism from the Right for having apologized at all for past U.S. transgressions, Obama circumscribed the bloody truth within a five-word clause, “whatever mistakes we have made.” In this guest essay, Nicolas J S Davies expands on that phrase:

The history of war has long included that of politicians who justify war in the name of peace.

After ordering the deaths of thousands or millions of people, they insist on tormenting the distraught survivors with disingenuous hand-wringing, mythological history and self-congratulation.

They demonize their victims, marginalize their suffering, and never apologize.

On Thursday in Oslo, after less than a year in office, President Obama took his place among this parade of the most cynical of historical figures.

Before directly addressing the specific role of the United States, Mr. Obama framed the history of warfare in the context of "just war" theory.

What he did not explain was that it was the bloody and catastrophic results of such "moral" justifications for war that brought the modern world to the brink of destruction and led it to instead adopt explicit international treaties and the binding prohibitions on the "threat or use of force" contained in the United Nations Charter.

As President Franklin Delano Roosevelt told Congress on his return from the Yalta conference, his proposal for the United Nations "ought to spell the end of the system of unilateral action, the exclusive alliances, the spheres of influence, the balances of power, and all the other expedients that have been tried for centuries - and have always failed. We propose to substitute for all these a universal organization in which all peaceloving nations will finally have a chance to join."

Or, as Richard Barnet wrote in Roots of War in 1972, "It is exactly because moral standards are so difficult to apply wisely to foreign policy issues that it becomes necessary for survival to submit to objective, even arbitrary standards. There are some things that should not be done, whatever the circumstances or however plausible the provocation.

“The rules of war and the limitations on national sovereignty in the United Nations Charter were developed out of the shared experience of nations that a world where everything is permitted is not worth living in."

History of U.S. Wars

After taking up a third of his Nobel speech with his elaborate effort to dangerously reframe the whole question of war and peace, Mr. Obama finally addressed the history of war-making by his own country, the United States.

"Whatever mistakes we have made, the plain fact is this: The United States of America has helped underwrite global security for more than six decades with the blood of our citizens and the strength of our arms," Obama said.

"We have borne this burden not because we seek to impose our will. We have done so out of enlightened self-interest -- because we seek a better future for our children and grandchildren, and we believe that their lives will be better if others' children and grandchildren can live in freedom and prosperity."

But this claim of selfless American nobility is contradicted by analysts and historians of all political stripes, even on the Right and among the most aggressive neoconservatives.

Jonah Goldberg of National Review quotes his neoconservative colleague Michael Ledeen describing U.S. interventions as the necessary coercive component of a gangsterish foreign policy based on unequal economic relationships:

"Every ten years or so, the United States needs to pick up some small crappy little country and throw it against the wall, just to show the world we mean business."

Or, when confronted with U.S. responsibility for the Kurdish refugee crisis in Iraq and Iran in 1975, Secretary of State Henry Kissinger famously told investigators from the House Intelligence Committee that, "Covert action should not be confused with missionary work."

William Blum provides exhaustive detail of 55 U.S. military and CIA interventions since 1945 in his excellent book Killing Hope (

This or any other thorough review of the historical record makes it clear that most of these interventions brought neither freedom nor prosperity to their victims.

On the contrary, they were mainly designed to overthrow governments that were too responsive to the needs and will of their own people and insufficiently responsive to American geostrategic and commercial interests.

Motivations may sometimes be subject to interpretation, but open violations of international law and the deaths and suffering of billions of people speak for themselves.

Ghosts of War Crimes Past

Was Mr. Obama really unaware of the millions of ghosts standing as silent witnesses to his empty words, whispering in Vietnamese, Arabic, Spanish, Haitian Creole and a dozen other languages?

Obama also claimed that U.S. interventions in other countries are designed to bring “stability” and “security.” But killing people and blowing up their homes and infrastructure does not bring stability or security.

On the contrary, those acts of violence bring death, terrible injuries, devastation and chaos. The use of military force is destructive by definition.

The fact that people and societies eventually recover from war does not mean that war or those who engage in it deserve credit for their victims’ recovery.

Only a drunk driver who is still very drunk would take credit when a person he injured finally emerged from the hospital and rehabilitation. U.S. claims for the benefits of military occupation and aerial bombardment rest on the same absurd and faulty logic.

President Obama went on to expound on one of the central myths of the American way of war. He claimed, "I believe that all nations, strong and weak alike, must adhere to standards that govern the use of force."

He went on later, "we have a moral and strategic interest in binding ourselves to certain rules of conduct... I believe that the United States must be a standard bearer in the conduct of war."

Last week, in Obama with Blood on his Hands (, I described how, contrary to Mr. Obama's posturing, the United States is far behind the rest of the world in its commitment to the standards and conduct required by the Geneva Conventions and other binding treaties on the conduct of war.

U.S. military commanders consistently fail to make the most fundamental distinction between combatants and civilians that is at the heart of the laws of war.

They issue a wide variety of illegal orders that include "weapons free" (formerly "free fire") rules of engagement; orders to "kill all military age males"; air strikes on buildings where combatants have taken cover among large numbers of civilians; and brutal collective punishment of civilian populations. U.S. forces are trained to "dead-check" or kill wounded resistance fighters, and prohibitions on torture are consistently ignored.

Dangerous Opinions

The People on War survey conducted by the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) in 1999 demonstrated that American war crimes are rooted in the attitudes of the general population.

Whereas 75 percent of people in other countries understand that military forces "must attack only other combatants and leave civilians alone", as required by the 4th Geneva Convention, only 52 percent of Americans accept this position.

The ICRC report found that, "Across a wide range of questions, in fact, American attitudes towards attacks on civilians were much more lax" than those of people in other countries.

People on War found similar disparities in American attitudes to torture, the treatment of prisoners of war and disrespect for the value of the Geneva Conventions themselves.

Obama's claim that there is something morally superior about the way the United States fights its wars is either an extremely dangerous illusion or a cynical smokescreen. [You can find more details of the deadly consequences of American violations of the laws of war in my previous article (]

President Obama did offer a constructive suggestion on how "nations that break rules and laws" like the United States should be dealt with:

"I believe that we must develop alternatives to violence that are tough enough to change behavior - for if we want a lasting peace, then the words of the international community must mean something. Those regimes that break the rules must be held accountable. Sanctions must exact a real price. Intransigence must be met with increased pressure - and such pressure exists only when the world stands together as one."

Of course, the problem is that, when the world does stand together as one, as in opposing the U.S. and British invasion of Iraq for instance, the present structure of the U.N. Security Council permits one or two of its permanent members to veto any effort to constrain them.

In contrast with their leaders, a majority of Americans have long believed that the U.N. Charter should be amended so that no one country, not even their own, can veto a resolution that is supported by a supermajority of the other 14 members.

This would be a valuable step toward a more representative international order and the kind of "alternative to violence" that the President claims to seek.

Real Accountability

And, because "regimes that break the rules must be held accountable" [Obama's words from Nobel speech], the United States should restore its recognition of the binding jurisdiction of the International Court of Justice (ICJ). [Reagan, both Bush's, Clinton, and so far, Obama, have rejected the jurisdiction of the International Court of Justice.]

The U.S. withdrew from the jurisdiction of the ICJ after it ruled that the United States was engaged in aggression against Nicaragua in 1986. Nobody can simultaneously claim to uphold the law and to be unaccountable to it.

If Mr. Obama wants to take meaningful steps on the question of accountability for war crimes, there are several other important steps he can take:

The U.S. Justice Department and military Judge Advocates General should initiate serious investigations of American war crimes. And the United States should ratify the Treaty of Rome that established the International Criminal Court (ICC), instead of scheming to undermine it.

President Obama finished his speech with a long and quite eloquent plea for peace that might have been inspiring coming from someone other than the President of the world's most aggressive military power and biggest weapons manufacturer.

The world already has billions of such pleas for peace, coming from the hearts of people all over the world.

What we need from the President of the United States is not another hypocritical speech but action to respond to those pleas.

This means ending U.S. wars and occupations, radically reassessing the genuine defense needs of his country, bringing his government into compliance with its international treaty commitments and enforcing its own laws.

Nicolas J S Davies is the author of Blood on our hands: the American invasion and destruction of Iraq, due out in March. He is a writer and activist in Miami, where he coordinates the Miami chapter of
Progressive Democrats of America (


Mr. President, War Is Not Peace

December, 12 2009By Norman Solomon
Norman Solomon's ZSpace Page

Eloquence in Oslo cannot change the realities of war.

As President Obama neared the close of his Nobel address, he called for "the continued expansion of our moral imagination." Yet his speech was tightly circumscribed by the policies that his oratory labored to justify.

Lofty rationales easily tell us that warfare is striving for the noble goal of peace. But the rationales scarcely intersect with actual war. The oratory sugarcoats the poisons, helping to kill hope in the name of it.

A few months ago, when I visited an Afghan office for women's empowerment, staffers took me to a pilot project in one of Kabul's poorest neighborhoods. There, women were learning small-scale business skills while also gaining personal strength and mutual support.

Two-dozen women, who ranged in age from early 20s to late 50s, talked with enthusiasm about the workshops. They were desperate to change their lives. When it was time to leave, I had a question: What should I tell people in the United States, if they ask what Afghan women want most of all?

After several women spoke, the translator summed up. "They all said that the first priority is peace."

In Afghanistan, after 30 years under the murderous twin shadows of poverty and war, the only lifeline is peace.

From President Obama, we hear that peace is the ultimate goal. But "peace" is a fixture on a strategic horizon that keeps moving as the military keeps marching.

Just a couple of days before Obama stepped to the podium in Oslo, the general running the U.S. war effort in Afghanistan spoke to a congressional committee in Washington about the president's recent pledge to begin withdrawal of U.S. troops in July 2011. "I don't believe that is a deadline at all," Stanley McChrystal said.

War is not peace. It never has been. It never will be.

Actual policy always, in the real world, profoundly trumps even the best rhetoric. And so, for instance, when President Obama's Nobel speech proclaimed that "America cannot act alone" and called for "standards that govern the use of force," the ringing declaration clashed with the announcement last month that he will not sign the international Mine Ban Treaty.

As Nobel Peace Laureate Jody Williams pointed out, "Obama's position on land mines calls into question his expressed views on multilateralism, respect for international humanitarian law and disarmament. How can he, with total credibility, lead the world to nuclear disarmament when his own country won't give up even land mines?"

At the outset of his speech in Oslo, the president spoke of his "acute sense of the cost of armed conflict." Well, there's acute and then there's acute. I think of the people I met and saw in Kabul who are missing limbs, and the countless more whose lives have been shattered by war.

In the name of pragmatism, Obama spoke of "the world as it is" and threw a cloak of justification over the grisly escalation in Afghanistan by insisting that "war is sometimes necessary" -- but generalities do nothing to mitigate the horrors of war being endured by others.

President Obama accepted the 2009 Nobel Peace Prize while delivering -- to the world as it is -- a pro-war speech. The context instantly turned the speech's insights into flackery for more war.

Norman Solomon is co-chair of the national Healthcare Not Warfare campaign, launched by Progressive Democrats of America. He is the author of a dozen books including "War Made Easy: How Presidents and Pundits Keep Spinning Us to Death." For more information, go to:

From: Z Space - The Spirit Of Resistance Lives


The Peace Candidate Myth



But the shortcomings of Barack Obama and the naiveté of his fans is not the important issue. The important issue is the continuation and escalation of the American war in Afghanistan, based on the myth that the individuals we label "Taliban" are indistinguishable from those who attacked the United States on September 11, 2001, whom we usually label "al Qaeda". "I am convinced," the president said in his speech at the United States Military Academy (West Point) on December 1, "that our security is at stake in Afghanistan and Pakistan. This is the epicenter of violent extremism practiced by al Qaeda. It is from here that we were attacked on 9/11, and it is from here that new attacks are being plotted as I speak."

Obama used one form or another of the word "extremist" eleven times in his half-hour talk. Young, impressionable minds must be carefully taught; a future generation of military leaders who will command America's never-ending wars must have no doubts that the bad guys are "extremists", that "extremists" are by definition bad guys, that "extremists" are beyond the pale and do not act from human, rational motivation like we do, that we — quintessential non-extremists, peace-loving moderates — are the good guys, forced into one war after another against our will. Sending robotic death machines flying over Afghanistan and Pakistan to drop powerful bombs on the top of wedding parties, funerals, and homes is of course not extremist behavior for human beings.

And the bad guys attacked the US "from here", Afghanistan. That's why the United States is "there", Afghanistan. But in fact the 9-11 attack was planned in Germany, Spain and the United States as much as in Afghanistan. It could have been planned in a single small room in Panama City, Taiwan, or Bucharest. What is needed to plot to buy airline tickets and take flying lessons in the United States? And the attack was carried out entirely in the United States. But Barack Obama has to maintain the fiction that Afghanistan was, and is, vital and indispensable to any attack on the United States, past or future. That gives him the right to occupy the country and kill the citizens as he sees fit. Robert Baer, former CIA officer with long involvement in that part of the world has noted: "The people that want their country liberated from the West have nothing to do with Al Qaeda. They simply want us gone because we're foreigners, and they're rallying behind the Taliban because the Taliban are experienced, effective fighters."


Alexander Cockburn on the speech that pleased neither liberals nor the right,news-comment,news-politics,the-war-cries-of-a-besieged-president

Bill Moyers and Michael Winship: The Land Mines Obama Won't Touch

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