Tag Archives: Iraq

Changing Obama’s Military Mindset

As criticism of Obama’s recent decisions about releasing photographs and documents that pertain to torture or human rights abuses committed by US troops, there is an excellent essay by Howard Zinn in the latest issue of the Progressive (here) that puts Obama in context is a more constructive way.

First and foremost, Zinn reminds people that Obama is a politician – rather than a regular citizen – and that as such his decisions are guided far too often by politics, rather than ideal.  The caveat, however, is that as a politician, the public can pressure him in ways that others, such as corporate power brokers or unelected officials, are not.

As Zinn says “Our job is not to give him a blank check or simply be cheerleaders. It was good that we were cheerleaders while he was running for office, but it’s not good to be cheerleaders now. Because we want the country to go beyond where it has been in the past. We want to make a clean break from what it has been in the past.”  Zinn’s reference to the past goes well beyond the last 8 years under Bush II.

As Zinn states, “we have to get out of the mindset that got us into Iraq, but we’ve got to identify that mindset. And Obama has to be pulled by the people who elected him, by the people who are enthusiastic about him, to renounce that mindset. We’re the ones who have to tell him, “No, you’re on the wrong course with this militaristic idea of using force to accomplish things in the world. We won’t accomplish anything that way, and we’ll remain a hated country in the world.”

Obama has talked about a vision for this country. You have to have a vision, and now I want to tell Obama what his vision should be.

The vision should be of a nation that becomes liked all over the world. I won’t even say loved—it’ll take a while to build up to that. A nation that is not feared, not disliked, not hated, as too often we are, but a nation that is looked upon as peaceful, because we’ve withdrawn our military bases from all these countries.”

Whether progressives want to accept it or not, Obama at this point represents power, pure and simple, and as Frederick Douglass famously said  – power concedes nothing without a demand.  It doesn’t mean that we can’t still have hopes and aspirations for what the Obama administration might accomplish in the areas of health care, financial reform, etc, etc… but it does mean that if the left wants to see more radical change its going to have to fight for it, just as it against any other presidential administration in US history.

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Why an Intervention is Necessary in Zimbabwe

Following the news of Mugabe’s planned festivities for his 85th birthday, Christopher Hitchen has a new article in Slate outlining all the reasons why Zimbabwe should be considered a rogue state at this point and that other countries would be justified in using force to get rid of him sooner rather than later.   His arguments are convincing, though ironic in at least one way.

Hitchen’s argument for a humanitarian intervention is timely.  He is right in pointing out that given the rapid deterioration of conditions in the country and given Mugabe’s actions in stealing the election from Morgan Tsvangirai, the time has come.

However what I found most interesting was Hitchen’s argument that though “Mugabe’s crimes were frightful enough before… [his] were the crimes of an elected government, and it wasn’t absolutely clear that they exceeded the threshold at which intervention can be justified or, rather, mandated.”  Where was such logic in 2003, when Hitchen became one of the most strident defenders of the need to invade Iraq in 2003.  Saddam Hussein may have been guilty of any number of crimes against humanity, but he was elected by the people of Iraq.

Hitchen’s willingness to stump for Bush’s invasion of Iraq makes him the wrong person to be calling for a military invention now in Zimbabwe.  Violating any country’s sovereignty should only be an act of last resort and must be done under the strictest of standards.  The fact that Hitchen’s has not held himself to such a standard in the past, undermines his current argument for doing so in Zimbabwe, no matter how correct he may be this time.