Barack Obama is a War Criminal. In the real world, War Criminals are awarded the Death Sentence. But we don’t live in the real world; we live in fucking Fantasyland, where they’re awarded the Nobel Peace Prize instead.
And let’s have no apologetic bleats to the effect that Obama — having inherited the Bushwars, and made good on his promise to exit Iraq — deserves a free pass here. While it’s surely the case that the Monroe Doctrine wasn’t promulgated by Obama, nor was it under his watch that its purview was expanded to include the entirety of the globe; the zeal with which he has propagated the “White Man’s Burden” (while certainly not history’s first Uncle Tom, Obama may be its most notable) could almost be considered shocking…if it hadn’t been so utterly predictable.
Had he wished to prevent this particular achievement from making its way to his CV, he needed only have, upon taking office, expedited the following:
Of course, this would still have marked him as the leading Terrorist Mastermind of the last four years, had he not in addition:
Discontinued all aid to, and UN blocking on behalf of, Israel.
Shut down the IMF and World Bank. Arguably, these might not be considered quote-unquote Terrorist organisations. But given that the global economy (directed by the U.S. of A. to the degree that it’s known as the “Washington Consensus”) is largely responsible for the deaths by malnutrition and hunger-related disease of 30,000 children per day, whether strictly speaking “violence” or no, the overtly political and mercilessly sadistic charge to, “Make the economy scream,” is tantamount to the same.
And, no: to demand this comportment of an American President isn’t just some pie-in-the-sky bleeding-heart hippie babble. This is a fundamental standard of human decency – a standard to which we hold all other international actors. (Well, except for those willing to join us in “coalition” as we carpet-bomb yet another defenseless people, and any tin-pot dictators whom are at a given moment in our employ…)
Instead, of course, Barack Obama has, e.g.: retained Dubya’s Secretary of War, expanded the war in Afghanistan, greatly expanded the global assassination-by-drone campaign, left a massive Middle East deployment trailing in the wake of the ever-so-reluctant withdrawal from Iraq (essentially, the withdrawal was a product of U.S. fecklessness), bombed the shit out of Libya (while rattling, louder and ever louder, sabres at Iran and Syria), and maintained the Bush-era torture-first-then-ask-no-questions policy in re so-called “illegal combatants” (in fact, it’s entirely legal for citizens to use “any means at their disposal” to resist military occupation).
He has furthermore accelerated to a dizzying pace the Bush Administration’s rollback of Civil Liberties at home – including having seized from the judiciary the authority to convict and punish without trial (i.e., murder) any American citizen unilaterally deemed a “terrorist” and having mercilessly tortured one of the few insiders principled enough to have blown the whistle on our abominable crimes — and then thrown away the key to his cell. All with a smugly jingoistic front which is stomach-turning to say the least.
Oh, did that say “zeal” up above? Apparently it’s more like “glee” with which Obama personally chooses, during his “Terror Tuesday” meetings, the “suspects” to whom will be administered the New American “Due Process” proceedings:
In interviews with The New York Times, three dozen of his current and former advisers described Mr. Obama’s evolution since taking on the role, without precedent in presidential history, of personally overseeing the shadow war with Al Qaeda.
They describe a paradoxical leader who shunned the legislative deal-making required to close the detention facility at Guantánamo Bay in Cuba, but approves lethal action without hand-wringing. While he was adamant about narrowing the fight and improving relations with the Muslim world, he has followed the metastasizing enemy into new and dangerous lands. When he applies his lawyering skills to counterterrorism, it is usually to enable, not constrain, his ferocious campaign against Al Qaeda — even when it comes to killing an American cleric in Yemen, a decision that Mr. Obama told colleagues was “an easy one”.
And — would you know it? – Obama’s shameful Human Rights depredations will not, in the long term, even be his most ignominious legacy. That particular fillip, it hardly need be stated, will belong to his terrifying and insane ecological brinkmanship. Not, again, that he’s been the first and only Captain of our species’ Titanic growth-at-any-cost megalomania. But he’s happened to be at the helm during a time when the bills have begun to accumulate with such rapidity that any and every attempt to sweep them under the rug is simply the most ridiculous of farce.
In the face of (to name a few obvious distractions) the increasing deadliness of global weather patterns, the decreasing reliability of food harvests, the rapid depletion of global fish stocks (in September, it was reported that North Sea Cod are almost completely finished), seven thousand temperature records toppled in March of this year and the most severe drought in eight hundred years, the ever-growing oceanic “dead zones”, nearly-depleted aquifers, the fastest species die-off in world history, and wildfires gone wild; the President has consistently chosen a course not of ecological reconciliation, but rather the continuation of our full-speed-ahead mad dash across the brink: initiate any war, exploit any resource, destroy any community (human, animal, plant), “remove” any mountain-top; all to squeeze every last drop of the “Black Gold” coursing the veins of our life-giving Big Blue Stone.
Growth is over: the 2005 peak in global oil extraction (World energy consumption per capita has been more less stagnant since 1980) was the end of that game. Though any four-year-old could know that perpetual-motion machines are as grounded in reality as is obeisance to the Santa Claus or the fucking Jehova, some few ostensibly-all-growed-up politicians one could name are yet to have taken the memo.
But, hey wait: what if we could find an as-yet-untapped energy source abundant and concentrated enough to enable us to keep living the DreamTM even after we’d killed off all other forms of life? That doesn’t work, either: the 1972 Limits To Growth study demonstrated that if energy constraints didn’t bring down Industrial Civilisation, then uncontrollable waste streams would do. Ecosystems are mutual dependencies: without biodiversity, nobody gets out alive.
So growth is over; and fuck’s sake, thank the stars it is over. We didn’t arrive here, this Wile E. Coyote moment, not having perpetrated a coupla thousand years of habitat destruction upon a (presumably) not-exactly-appreciative ecosphere. We arrived here by having done:
When Europeans first arrived on the land that would eventually become the United States they found a land truly blessed by the divine. Their accounts speak of an abundance few would recognize today.
On the East Coast, birds, including now-extinct species such as the great auk, could be found in “number so great as to be uncountable”, as one contemporary wrote. Passenger pigeons flew in flocks of billions, darkening the sky for days at a time as they passed overhead. Eskimo curlews, puffins, teals, plovers, and more could be found in numbers genuinely unthinkable today.
And that’s just to speak of the East Coast, and just to speak of birds. Writing from the Pacific Northwest in the 17th century, Nicolas Denys noted that “so large a quantity of salmon enter[ed] the river [that] at night one [was] unable to sleep.” Elsewhere cod were “so thick by the shore that [one] could hardly have been able to row a boat through them.”
In 1620, the crew of the Mayflower noted, “Every day saw whales plying hard by us; of which, in that place, if we had instruments and means to take them we might have made a very rich return.” Tens of millions of buffalo dwelt on all corners of the continent, as did wolves and great cats.
When you think of the plains and hillsides of Iraq, is the first thing that you think of normally cedar forests so thick that sunlight never touches the ground? That’s how they were.
The first written myth of this culture is Gilgamesh going in and deforesting those hills to make cities. When you think of the Arabian peninsula, is the first thing that you think of oak forest? That’s what it used to be. Let’s move a little bit west, and you get the cedars of Lebanon. They still have one on their flag.
Plato was commenting on how deforestation was destroying the springs and rivers in Greece. [...] Greece was heavily forested, Italy was heavily forested, North Africa was heavily forested.
Is this a difficult concept? For some, apparently, it is. Has, for example, Barack Obama ever once addressed the public without promising to return to the country its fucking birthright — its “Golden Age” chicken-in-every-pot/car-in-every-garage “Dream”? Ever once?
Obama’s Industry-friendly responses to the Deepwater Horizon (don’t read that Rolling Stone piece on a full stomach) and Fukushima Daiichi disasters demonstrated precisely with whom his priorities lie.
But it’s probably not, in the end, even ecological blowback that’ll bring us down; but rather the atom. The possibility of Resource Wars escalating to a full-blown nuclear exchange seems…if not necessarily likely, certainly very far from out-of-the-realm (as is the possibility of an accidental nuclear war). The Obama Administration, rather than scurrying to get the god damned things off-line, is (natch) “overseeing the gargantuan task of modernizing the nuclear arsenal”. Uh, thanks for that.
Should one prefer to lie awake nights, though, Fukushima is the spectre to haunt those sleepless moments. If you thought that Fukushima itself was under control – or even close – have a listen to Helen Caldicott’s recent interview with Arnie Gundersen. It’s decidedly not under control, and the likelihood of its going completely apeshit is not small. Moreover,
[…] the disaster was no surprise given the type of reactors at Fukushima. In fact, nuclear power experts, computer models, and other analyses have consistently shown for decades that a problem in the older boiling-water reactors employed at Fukushima Daiichi would become disastrous because of a flawed safety system that houses the nuclear fuel, known as the Mark I containment. It is “the worst one of all the containments we have” — and in a complete blackout, “you’re going to lose containment”, noted U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) Deputy Regional Administrator Charles Casto on March 16, 2011; who was in Japan to assist, according to transcripts of internal meetings released by the NRC. “There’s no doubt about it.”
The U.S. has 23 reactors with the same kind of safety systems — and the same risky placement of pools for spent nuclear fuel; namely, alongside the main reactor in the top of the reactor building. Would U.S. reactors perform any better than Japan’s in a crisis?
That’s David Biello, writing in the Scientific American, from March of this year. In one of the pieces linked to, also from the Scientific American, John Matson continued:
“There’s been a lot of debate on this issue,” physicist Edwin Lyman of the Union of Concerned Scientists said last week at a meeting of the American Physical Society in Boston. “In our view, complacency is as prevalent here as it is in Japan.” (Lyman and a colleague recently released a report [pdf] on the U.S. response to the accident.) One major threat to a nuclear plant is a prolonged power outage, or station blackout, like the one at Fukushima, which deprived the reactors of their cooling systems.
U.S. nuclear plants, Lyman said, are not well prepared to handle severe, “beyond design basis” events, such as major natural disasters, multiple system failures, or terrorist attacks. A report last year by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC), which itself has been criticized for being too lenient with the industry it is supposed to oversee, revealed that many U.S. nuclear plants were vulnerable to extreme emergencies. “Regulators don’t usually impose stringent requirements to deal with these accidents, because they assume that they’re so improbable,” Lyman said. Indeed, the NRC has called the Fukushima crisis “the result of a combination of highly unlikely natural disasters.” That specific combination of mega-earthquake and tsunami, the agency maintains, would be very improbable in the U.S..
“Improbable” as the Obama Administration’s “watchdogs” may think some or other series of man-made or natural events (NASA has also warned of a “Solar Superstorm”, much like the one that occurred in 1859, frying the grid) may be, they are, clearly, not only possible, but precedented. But though the consequences resulting from such an event couldn’t possibly be more fraught with calamity; any thought of taking pains to assure its avoidance elicits from the Feds only bored ennui.
November 18, 2012 Updates:
- Don’t look now, but the NRC was in October exposed in hiding from the public its own pessimistic analyses.
- Arnie Gunderson, in an October 30 podcast, revealed that New Jersey’s Oyster Creek plant suffered an incident during Hurricane Sandy. It was saved from fucking up entirely only by the good fortune of the hurricane’s having arrived while the plant was offline for maintenance.
Worse, they’re only considering so-called “Black Swan” events here: those which are imaginable — perhaps even predictable – but not likely to occur during any given period of time. When, however, we consider not just the possibility of a catastrophic failure of the grid; but the certainty of a systematic failure — owing to infrastructure disrepair, financial breakdowns, and the onrushing scarcity of global energy and water resources — “Too Cheap To Meter” begins looking a lot more like “Too Frightening To Even Contemplate”. And so we don’t.
Nobody, of course, can predict exactly when the grid will finally become too unreliable for us to be able to keep our nuclear waste from going Postal. Dmitry Orlov, in a brilliant blog posting from last Spring, in fact explicitly refused to predict the timing; instead giving readers enough clues to begin to draw our own conclusions.
With regard to the electric grid, the incidence of major power outages has recently been seen doubling every year. Yes, we are committing the inductive fallacy by simply extrapolating this trend into the future, but, given what is at stake, dare we not extrapolate? At the very least, we would need to hear a very good reason why we shouldn’t. The incidence of major power outages can only double so many times before it’s time to start handing out potassium iodide tablets and before wig prices shoot through the roof.
Nicole Foss, meantime — one-half of the team behind The Automatic Earth, a blog whose predictions have for years been coming true almost like clockwork – in late-August took a long, hard look at the recent Indian blackout which affected something like 700 million people. Surveying the electric-generation milieu, and the probable implications, she painted a grim picture of the future of the grid in India — as well as in the Developing and Developed nations at large.
John Michael Greer, in a despatch from March of 2010, took a more sanguine approach, arguing that we’ll in future do what we must to keep truly necessary services running for as long as possible.
The managers of a power grid facing collapse due to a shortage of generation capacity have one obvious alternative to hand: cutting non-essential sectors out of the grid for as long as necessary, so the load on the grid decreases to a level that the available generation capacity can handle. In an emergency, for example, many American suburbs and a large part of the country’s nonagricultural rural land could have electrical service shut off completely, and an even larger portion of both could be put on the kind of intermittent electrical service common in the Third World, without catastrophic results.
Possibly a valid point. If Greer’s right, we’ve probably got more than the decade or so it would take to realise the decommissioning of currently operating nuclear plants and the entombing of the mountains of toxic waste seventy years’ accumulation have wrought. We could try it, and just hope to Hell that disaster doesn’t strike at some time during the process…and that our climate goose hasn’t already been irretrievably cooked to a crisp.
If Barack Obama were a real-live living being rather than a golem – if there were any reason to believe that there could be a snowball’s chance of his sitting down in the Oval Office wearing a sweater (or, more appropriately, a fucking breathing apparatus) and revealing his administration’s “plan” (it’s all about the Plans these days) to divert all resources currently being spent on making war on the planet and its inhabitants into powering down the Homo Colossus (to borrow William Catton’s term) and cleaning up our almost inconceivably problematic messes…
At current consumption levels, humanity has overshot the Earth’s carrying capacity by 50%. This doesn’t account, however, for soil degradation, habitat destruction, resource depletion, waste accumulation, and time-sensitive urgencies. So our situation is much more dire than simply concluding that we could reduce global consumption by 50% (a pipe-dream in its own right) and everything would be hunky-dory.
In other words, if we’re going to stand a chance at pulling our irons out of the fire, it means no more fucking around: no more warships, no more prisons, no more teevee show, no more motor-car, no more advertising, no more meat-eating, no more Hollywood, no more football league, no more Made In Maquiladora plastic gewgaws, no more Mudd Club nor CBGB. We just ain’t got time for that now. It’s all hands on deck, or we’re all going down with the ship.
…If there were any reason to believe the President would draw up such a plan of action, then, sure, go ahead and vote for the miserable son of a bitch.
To repeat: no. Barack Obama didn’t invent Growth!, nor Imperialism, nor Military Keynesianism, nor the Revolving Door, nor Bretton Woods, nor Institutional Racism, nor State Repression. Nor even Property “Rights”. But he’s held their banner high. Not only higher than any Democrat before him has done, in point of fact; but also higher than McCain would have done, or Romney would do.
This last is of course speculation. But it’s based on established reality: the “Best And Brightest” of the Democratic party have in the end been a more effective force for crushing liberty and justice and for destroying ecological communities than have their “Mayberry Machiavellian” counterparts. This is simply the historical record, whatever one wants to make of the party’s feel-your-pain “Hope and Change” promises.
The Republicans love to bluster and fulminate; to fire their six-guns in the air. But talk, however intimidating, is cheap. To really get down to the nitty-gritty of grinding the world underfoot, the Democrats are the tops.
Think, for examples, of Clinton’s Welfare Reform, of NAFTA and GATT, of the Clinton-era explosion in the prison population, and of an environmental record so shameful that the Sierra Club’s David Brower adjudged Clinton’s first four years to have been more damaging than the Reagan and Bush Sr. years combined. Republicans were peeing their pants with envy.
Obama’s landmark achievement in this regard has, of course, been his astonishingly venal health care initiative. But he oughtn’t either be sold short for his truly breathtaking Civil Liberties ravages, nor his expansion of the TARP bailouts. The former head of Israeli Intelligence, additionally, considers Obama “the greatest defender of the Jewish state to ever sit in the Oval Office”; Ehud Barak agrees.
The likelihood is that a McCain/Palin administration would have bumbled and bungled its way through four years in much the same manner as Shrub II’s had done. (And the latter was, after all, the lamest-duck Presidential term since…you tell me?) Romney is already a laughing-stock. If he wins (he won’t), he’ll continue to be a laughing-stock. If we must have a biocidal maniac running the show, may as well at least have the one who’s the bigger dumbfuck, less likely to successfully bring to fruition his nefarious desires.
Look, it just doesn’t matter for whom you vote. They’re completely indistinguishable. From the Gunboat Diplomacy, to the Executive-Branch power-grabbing, to the Prison-Industrial imperatives, to the mega-bailouts and Corporate Welfare, to the Planetary Russian Roulette.
Chomsky has been fond of opining that Presidential campaigns are all style and no substance:
Elections in the United States are expensive extravaganzas run by the public relations industry. The PR people looked at the polls and picked slogans accordingly.
Did you know Obama won the best campaign of the advertising industry in 2008? It was politicians being marketed as a product, like toothpaste. What does that have to do with democracy?
But it’s literally true as well: one’s Presidential selection is about as important a choice as one’s toothpaste selection. It won’t make one god damned ounce of difference.
Well, voting can, at the local level, make differences in people’s lives. And so long as one is going to be voting anyway, sure, take a few seconds and vote for Rocky. Dude’s got principles. Or, vote for another third-party candidate of your liking. Or, Hell, vote for Bullwinkle — that’s about the level of seriousness with which issues are dealt in the American polity. Whichever name one marks their X alongside, just remember: that’s the easy part. That’s the part to which should be given about as much consideration as will be the next toothpaste purchase.
After that, well, it’s put up or face up — to the quite real possibility, if we don’t get our collective act together, of extinction. For Barack Obama is a golem.
But here’s where the Occupy movement is misguided: it’s not the 1% of “greedy” motherfuckers whom we ought to find culpable of soiling the nest; but rather the men and women in the mirror. The problem isn’t the bureaucrats — no matter how wealthy or powerful they may be – piloting the Machine. The problem is the Machine itself.
The Machine (or as Fredy Perlman dubbed it, the Leviathan) feeds insatiably on life; and defecates Bhopal disasters, Interstate Highways, Flavr Savr “Tomatoes”, and Prozac. The machine is all of us – all 100% of us who, by our daily participation in the system, contribute to its march of destruction.
It’s great sport to scapegoat the Plutocracy; but the overwhelming bulk of planet-killing activities are undertaken by us proles going about our daily lives, as good little consumers will. Here as well the Occupiers have it wrong. Austerity isn’t to be protested against; it’s in fact our only hope. We cannot continue to consume beyond our basic survival needs. It was profligacy, after all, sent us tumbling headlong over the cliff – it damned sure won’t see us safely back to the ground far, far below.
Nor shall a Great Savior, after the plebiscitical dust has cleared, ride in and solve for us all of our problems, thereby allowing the hedonistic “Dream” to resume. Contrary to popular opinion, even Saviors must obey the laws of physics. Besides: politicians exist only to serve the State; which, in turn, exists only to serve the Machine.