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50,292. It is more than 100 days since Barack Obama was elected president of the United States. The ‘Obama brand’ has been named ‘Advertising Age’s marketer of the year for 2008’, easily beating Apple computers. David Fenton of MoveOn.org describes Obama’s election campaign as ‘an institutionalised mass-level automated technological community organising that has never existed before and is a very, very powerful force’. Deploying the internet and a slogan plagiarised from the Latino union organiser César Chávez – ‘Sí, se puede!’ or ‘Yes, we can’ – the mass-level automated technological community marketed its brand to victory in a country desperate to be rid of George W Bush.
No-one knew what the new brand actually stood for. So accomplished was the advertising (a record $75m was spent on television commercials alone) that many Americans actually believed Obama shared their opposition to Bush’s wars. In fact, he had repeatedly backed Bush’s warmongering and its congressional funding. Many Americans also believed he was the heir to Martin Luther King’s legacy of anti-colonialism. Yet if Obama had a theme at all, apart from the vacuous ‘Change you can believe in’, it was the renewal of America as a dominant, avaricious bully. ‘We will be the most powerful’, he often declared.
Perhaps the Obama brand’s most effective advertising was supplied free of charge by those journalists who, as courtiers of a rapacious system, promote shining knights. They depoliticised him, spinning his platitudinous speeches as ‘adroit literary creations, rich, like those Doric columns, with allusion ...’ (Charlotte Higgins in the Guardian). The San Francisco Chronicle columnist Mark Morford wrote: ‘Many spiritually advanced people I know ... identify Obama as a Lightworker, that rare kind of attuned being who ... can actually help usher in a new way of being on the planet’ ...
Much of the American establishment loathed Bush and Cheney for exposing, and threatening, the onward march of America’s ‘grand design’, as Henry Kissinger, war criminal and now Obama adviser, calls it. In advertising terms, Bush was a ‘brand collapse’ whereas Obama, with his toothpaste advertisement smile and righteous clichés, is a godsend. At a stroke, he has seen off serious domestic dissent to war, and he brings tears to the eyes, from Washington to Whitehall. He is the BBC’s man, and CNN’s man, and Murdoch’s man, and Wall Street’s man, and the CIA’s man. The Madmen did well. (Advertising & Propaganda & Obama & United States & Empire US) John Pilger, article New Statesman 'Obama’s 100 Days – The Mad Men Did Well'
83,458. Obama’s is the myth that is America’s last taboo. His most consistent theme was never change - it was power. ‘The United States,’ he said, ‘leads the world in battling immediate evils and promoting the ultimate good … We must lead by building a 21st century military to ensure the security of our people and advance the security of all people.’ And there is this remarkable statement: ‘At moments of great peril in the past century our leaders ensured that America, by deed and by example, led and lifted the world, that we stood and fought for the freedom sought by billions of people beyond their borders.’ At the National Archives on May 21, he said: ‘From Europe to the Pacific, we’ve been the nation that has shut down torture chambers and replaced tyranny with the rule of law.’ (Obama & Empire US) John Pilger, lecture Socialism Chicago 2009; viz website: Power, Illusion & America’s Last Taboo
28,986. Barack Obama is the embodiment of this ‘ism’. Since Obama was elected, leading liberals have talked about America returning to its true status as a ‘nation of moral ideals’ – the words of Paul Krugman in the New York Times. In the San Francisco Chronicle columnist Mark Morford wrote that ‘spiritually advanced people regard the new president as ‘a Lightworker’ ... who can help usher in a new way of being on the planet’.
Tell that to an Afghan child whose family has been blown away by Obama’s bombs, or a Pakistani child whose family are among the 700 civilians killed by Obama’s drones. Or tell it to a child in the carnage of Gaza caused by American smart weapons which, disclosed Seymour Hersh, were re-supplied to Israel for use in the slaughter ‘only after the Obama team let it be known it would not object’. The man who stayed silent on Gaza is the man who now condemns Iran.
Since 1945, ‘by deed and by example’, the United States has overthrown fifty governments, including democracies, and crushed some 30 liberation movements, and supported tyrannies and set up torture chambers from Egypt to Guatemala. Countless men, women and children have been bombed to death. Bombing is apple pie. And yet here is the 44th President of the United States, having stacked his government with warmongers and corporate fraudsters and polluters from the Bush and Clinton eras, teasing us while promising more of the same.
Within three days of his inauguration, Obama was ordering the death of people in faraway countries – Pakistan and Afghanistan. And yet the peace movement it seems is prepared to look the other way and believe that the cool Obama will restore, as Krugman wrote, The nation of moral ideals. (United States & Foreign Relations US & Empire US & Class & Obama) ibid.
28,987. The clever young man who recently made it to the White House is a very fine hypnotist, partly because it is indeed extraordinary to see an African American at the pinnacle of power in the land of slavery. However, this is the twenty-first century, and Race together with Gender and even Class can be very seductive tools of propaganda. For what is so often overlooked and what matters I believe above all is the class one serves. (United States & Foreign Relations US & Empire US & Class & Obama) ibid.
33,071. Obama lied that America had gone to Iraq to bring freedom to that country. He announced that the troops were coming home. This was another deception. (Iraq & United States & Lies & Obama) ibid.
36,685. The invisible government that Bernays had in mind brought together all media – PR, the press, broadcasting, advertising. And their power of branding and image-making, in other words disinformation. And I suppose I’d like to talk today about this invisible government’s most recent achievement: the rise of Barack Obama and the silencing of much of the left. (Government: Secret & Obama) ibid.
99,018. In Nineteen Eighty-Four, George Orwell described a superstate, Oceania, whose language of war inverted lies that ‘passed into history and became truth. ‘Who controls the past,’ ran the Party slogan, ‘controls the future: who controls the present controls the past’.’
Barack Obama is the leader of a contemporary Oceania. In two speeches at the close of the decade, the Nobel Peace Prize-winner affirmed that peace was no longer peace, but rather a permanent war that ‘extends well beyond Afghanistan and Pakistan’ to ‘disorderly regions, failed states, diffuse enemies’. He called this ‘global security’ and invited our gratitude. To the people of Afghanistan, which the US has invaded and occupied, he said wittily: ‘We have no interest in occupying your country.’
In Oceania, truth and lies are indivisible. According to Obama, the American attack on Afghanistan in 2001 was authorised by the United Nations Security Council. There was no UN authority. He said that ‘the world’ supported the invasion in the wake of the 11 September 2001 attacks. In truth, all but three of 37 countries surveyed by Gallup expressed overwhelming opposition. He said that America invaded Afghanistan ‘only after the Taliban refused to turn over Osama Bin Laden’. In 2001, the Taliban tried three times to hand over Bin Laden for trial, Pakistan’s military regime reported, and they were ignored.
Even Obama’s mystification of the 9/11 attacks as justification for his war is false. More than two months before the twin towers were attacked, the former Pakistani diplomat Niaz Naik was told by the Bush administration that a US military assault would take place by mid-October. The Taliban regime in Kabul, which the Clinton administration had secretly supported, was no longer regarded as ‘stable’ enough to ensure US control over oil and gas pipelines to the Caspian Sea. It had to go.
Obama’s most audacious lie is that Afghanistan today is a ‘safe haven’ for al-Qaeda’s attacks on the west. His own national security adviser, James Jones, said in October that there were ‘fewer than 100’ al-Qaeda operatives in Afghanistan. According to US intelligence, 90 per cent of the Taliban are hardly Taliban at all, but ‘a tribal localised insurgency [who] see themselves as opposing the US because it is an occupying power’. The war is a fraud. Only the terminally gormless remain true to the Obama brand of ‘world peace’.
Beneath the surface, however, there is serious purpose. Under the disturbing General Stanley McChrystal, who gained distinction for his assassination squads in Iraq, the occupation of Afghanistan is a model for those ‘disorderly regions’ of the world still beyond Oceania's reach. This is known as Coin (counterinsurgency), and draws together the military, aid organisations, psychologists, anthropologists, the media and public relations hirelings. Covered in jargon about winning hearts and minds, it aims to incite civil war: Tajiks and Uzbeks against Pashtuns.
The Americans did this in Iraq and destroyed a multi-ethnic society. They built walls between communities which had once intermarried, ethnically cleansing the Sunnis and driving millions out of the country. Embedded media reported this as ‘peace’; American academics bought by Washington and ‘security experts’ briefed by the Pentagon appeared on the BBC to spread the good news. As in Nineteen Eighty-Four, the opposite was true.
Something similar is planned for Afghanistan. People are to be forced into ‘target areas’ controlled by warlords, bankrolled by the CIA and the opium trade. That these warlords are barbaric is irrelevant. ‘We can live with that,’ a Clinton-era diplomat once said of the return of oppressive sharia law in a ‘stable’, Taliban-run Afghanistan. Favoured western relief agencies, engineers and agricultural specialists will attend to the ‘humanitarian crisis’ and so ‘secure’ the subjugated tribal lands.
That is the theory. It worked after a fashion in Yugoslavia, where ethnic-sectarian partition wiped out a once-peaceful society, but it failed in Vietnam, where the CIA’s ‘Strategic Hamlet Program’ was designed to corral and divide the southern population and so defeat the Vietcong – the Americans' catch-all term for the resistance, similar to ‘Taliban’.
Behind much of this are the Israelis, who have long advised the Americans in both the Iraq and the Afghanistan adventures. Ethnic cleansing, wall-building, checkpoints, collective punishment and constant surveillance - these are claimed as Israeli innovations that have succeeded in stealing most of Palestine from its native people. And yet, for all their suffering, the Palestinians have not been divided irrevocably and they endure as a nation against all odds.
The most telling forerunners of the Obama Plan, which the Nobel Peace Prize-winner and his general and his PR men prefer we forget, are those that failed in Afghanistan itself. The British in the 19th century and the Soviets in the 20th century attempted to conquer that wild country by ethnic cleansing and were seen off, though after terrible bloodshed. Imperial cemeteries are their memorials. People power, sometimes baffling, often heroic, remains the seed beneath the snow, and invaders fear it.
‘It was curious’, wrote Orwell in Nineteen Eighty-Four, ‘to think that the sky was the same for everybody, in Eurasia or Eastasia as well as here. And the people under the sky were also very much the same – everywhere, all over the world ... people ignorant of one another's existence, held apart by walls of hatred and lies, and yet almost exactly the same – people who ... were storing up in their hearts and bellies and muscles the power that would one day overturn the world’. John Pilger, article December 2009 ‘Welcome to Orwell’s World 2010’
83,461. Far from ‘deconstructing [sic] the war on terror’, Obama is clearly pursuing it with the same vigour, ideological backing and deception as the previous administration. George W Bush’s first war, in Afghanistan, and last war, in Pakistan, are now Obama’s wars – with thousands more US troops to be deployed, more bombing and more slaughter of civilians. On 22 January, the day he described Afghanistan and Pakistan as ‘the central front in our enduring struggle against terrorism and extremism’, 22 Afghan civilians died beneath Obama’s bombs in a hamlet populated mainly by shepherds and which, by all accounts, had not laid eyes on the Taliban. Women and children were among the dead, which is normal.
Far from ‘shutting down the CIA’s secret prison network’, Obama’s executive orders actually give the CIA authority to carry out renditions, abductions and transfers of prisoners in secret without the threat of legal obstruction. As the Los Angeles Times disclosed, ‘current and former intelligence officials said the rendition program might be poised to play an expanded role’. A semantic sleight of hand is that ‘long term prisons’ are changed to ‘short term prisons’; and while Americans are now banned from directly torturing people, foreigners working for the US are not. This means that America’s numerous ‘covert actions’ will operate as they did under previous presidents, with proxy regimes, such as Augusto Pinochet’s in Chile, doing the dirtiest work.
Bush’s open support for torture, and Donald Rumsfeld’s extraordinary personal overseeing of certain torture techniques, upset many in America’s ‘secret army’ of subversive military and intelligence operators as it exposed how the system worked. Obama’s nominee for director of national intelligence, Admiral Dennis Blair, has said the Army Field Manual may include new forms of ‘harsh interrogation’, which will be kept secret.
Obama has chosen not to stop any of this. Neither do his ballyhooed executive orders put an end to Bush’s assault on constitutional and international law. He has retained Bush’s ‘right’ to imprison anyone, without trial or charges. No ‘ghost prisoners’ are being released or are due to be tried before a civilian court. His nominee for attorney-general, Eric Holder, has endorsed an extension of Bush’s totalitarian USA Patriot Act, which allows federal agents to demand Americans’ library and bookshop records. The man of ‘change’, is changing little. That ought to be front page news from Washington. (Obama & War on Terror & Empire US) John Pilger, article New Statesman 'The Politics of Bollocks'; viz website
75,643. Obama has even rejected the Federal Healthcare Model and virtually said to the States – Well, you can organise it as you wish. (Health & Health Service & Obama) John Pilger, In Conversation