Monday, December 1, 2008



From an interview significantly dated over two months ago on September 5, 2008...Cornel is very prescient as usual about the fundamental interconnections between race, class, gender, and imperialism in this country and is especially right on the mark about the dangerous influence of the Clinton Machine within the Democratic Party and their intricate ties to globalization and how Obama appears to have been unfortunately sucked into the same incorrect strategy in terms of foreign and domestic policy......Let's fervently hope Obama will come to his senses very soon in this regard and seriously work to uphold the principles and promises he made during his campaign instead of caving into the Clintonites and his other political enemies. Othewise as West indicates we are all in for 'more of the same' as far as American politics and the economy goes. And needless to say that would be a tragedy...



5 september 2008 (MO)

- The American elections are this fall’s hottest news item. And in the centre of global attention is Barack Obama. Time for a conversation with one of the most respected African-American intellectuals: Cornel West. He supports Obama ‘because McCain is merely a continuation of the disastrous Bush policies’, but he does have some doubts concerning Obama’s social and economical points of view.

According to Robert Newman, vice president of the University of Utah, ‘for more than two decennia now, Cornel West is one of the most influential, diverse and challenging academics in American higher education institutions’. West earned this reputation by writing seventeen books, among which political-philosophical bestsellers as Race Matters (1993) and Democracy Matters (2004). He lectures in religion at the prestigious Princeton University, but at the same time made two rap-cd’s – the latest one, Never Forget: A Journey of Revelations, with the cooperation of celebrities like Prince, KRS-1 and Jill Scott. That is the reason why West was one of the black intellectuals Barack Obama consulted when his appeal to African-American voters seemed to be less strong than of his then rival Hillary Clinton.

It is hard to get hold of Cornel West as he is always on the road. Up to again another lecture, a congress in Brazil, or to some prize-giving event. But once on the line, conversation nor time are restrained. West makes his answers sound like a combination of the god-fearing gospel of his grandfather-preacher and the always aggrieved rappers whom his children and grandchildren adore. His criticism of hip-hop culture, fascinated as it is with bling and oversized cars, raps with ringing echoes of Martin Luther King: ‘We have to shift from bling-bling to Let Freedom Ring’.

Your most famous book is Race Matters. Obama has gone to great lengths to show that race does not matter. Who’s right?

Cornel West: I still hope that we are actually saying the same. When I say that race matters, I mean that people of colour are important, that their sufferings are important and that their problems still need to be addressed. And most importantly, that this challenge should not be hidden behind the success of just one black American who could be on his way to the White House. You can not talk about race or color without referring to class and social inequality.

Do you feel that Obama has a political program that addresses the expectations of Americans of colour?

Cornel West: Not really, I’m afraid. Look at who advises him on economic issues - Robin Rubin, Larry Summers, Paul Volcker– and you immediately recognize the same neoliberal personalities that dominated policy-making during the Clinton administration. Time after time they failed to take the opportunity to do something about this country’s poverty and racism. Clinton’s policy resulted in a war against the poor, with more and longer imprisonments for the poor and more inequality. This economical position could be an election strategy, a way to win the votes of the middle class. But the worst-case-scenario is also possible: that Obama is a true neoliberal who will continue these policies of inequality. In this second case, we will need a strong movement to exert pressure from the grassroots up.

Does a sufficiently strong social movement to mobilize such a pressure exist in the United States?

Cornel West: Barack Obama is very good at translating into words the hopes and imagination of many idealist Americans – millions of men and women - who devote themselves to all kinds of social justice organizations. Most of these people now side with Obama, if only because McCain is so massively conservative. But this also means they will not just let it happen when possible president Obama disappoints them by setting a neoliberal course.
A disappointment that by the way has already begun with his support for Jerusalem as the undivided capital of Israel – to gain the Jewish votes – and with his support for possession of arms, tapping phones and death penalty.

If so many Americans fight for social justice, why are they so invisible in the existing balance of power?

Cornel West: The United States have gone through about forty years of political Ice Age, in which it was very fashionable to be indifferent to the problems of vulnerable fellow-citizens. This right-wing hegemony makes the voices of opposition invisible. For example, there was a huge and powerful resistance against the Iraq war, although we lost that battle at the time. Meanwhile public opinion has switched and the majority of the Americans realize that we are fighting a very wrong war out there.

The two-party system in the US makes it extremely hard to bring real democratic feelings to the surface of the political system, especially in the aftermath of 9/11. The appearance of Obama on the political scene doesn’t bring an end to that ice age, but it does create a very real chance that America’s citizens will wake up from their years of sleepwalking. Obama will – if elected president – however not be judged by his symbolic value, but on whether he truly realizes changes for the poor. According to the polls, Obama now has the support of 91 percent of all black Americans. At the same time more than 80 percent of black Americans want a system of universal health care, 75 percent of them is in favor of massive investments of the government in education, day-care, employment… For years now, we have been talking about some sort of Marshall plan for poor America. It is time to make that happen now.

Are black organizations willing to criticize the person who can become the first black African president of the US?

Cornel West: Indeed, that will be very difficult. But people like Tavis Smiley, one of the most prominent Afro-American media celebrities, already warn for the hysteria and hype – although that hasn’t gained him much love from the audience. At the same time I don’t want to ignore the symbolic importance of the candidacy and a possible victory of Barack Obama. The fact that a black man could be president after centuries of the cruelest racism is the American Dream in the true meaning of the word. At the same this high point just might forever prove the emptiness of that same American Dream. Because the poverty of black Americans will not disappear. Schools will continue to be in bad condition. The deteriorisation of houses, inaccessible health care, wages too low to survive: all that will continue. And that will show that the success of one individual doesn’t make the difference. A black face in the White House is nice, but not if he lacks the courage to fight poverty. In other words, Barack Obama will have to break the ideological model that dominates the whole world ever since Margaret Tatcher.

In order to do so, he will not only need the support of progressives, but also from the religious side. And this religious America seems to have attached itself to the neoliberal or neoconservative political powers.

Cornel West: That is true. In fact, this is an area in which progressive America should really learn from black America. Throughout American history, black leaders and freedom fighters have linked the language of deep democracy to the language of prophetic Christianity. This is of utmost importance in a country in which 96 percent of the people believe in God, 72 percent in the fact that Jesus Christ is the son of God and half of them pray at least three times a week. If within this context you engage in a battler over ideas without the language of faith, you can never reach the masses. And that language needs to be real, true, credible. As with Martin Luther King. Or Tavis Smiley, whose book The Covenant with Black America – about the responsibility of the black community for each other – in a few months time sold about half a million copies. No New York Times review, no little chat with Oprah Winfrey. And still that massive success among the black community, while white Americans never heard of it. Segregation is still a very tangible reality in the United States.

How important is that fact to explain Obama’s popularity?

Cornel West: It mostly explains why it was so important to give Michelle Obama a bigger part in the campaign. You shouldn’t forget that Barack Obama, from the perspective of the US, doesn’t have any Negro in his ancestry. But his wife Michelle originates from families who have known centuries of slavery, apartheid, hatred and discrimination. That is a totally different emotive subject. You will never hear sister Michelle saying that race nor color matter. She knows what it means to be a Negro, to be black, having to fight against white supremacy. Just because she embodies that history so much, she is being attacked much more viciously than Barack.

This summer Barack Obama has already been celebrated in Europe and the Middle East. Does that strengthen his position in the US?

Cornel West: I think so, because the majority of Americans is worried by the worldwide negative image of their country, their government, their fellow citizens. The enthousiasm Obama created in Europe sounds promising to the Americans.

Why didn’t he travel to Latin-America?

Cornel West: Because he realizes very well that the Latin-Americans want more than hopeful promises of vague changes. Countries like Ecuador, Bolivia, Brazil and Venezuela are not waiting for a new face. They want content and tangible changes. Latin-America at this point is literally the vanguard of a worldwide resistance to neoliberal globalization. Just look at how in no time they have freed themselves from the restraint of the IMF. For example, I love the way Hugo Chavez invests the wealth of his country in real improvements of the life of the poor, although it frightens me when I see how he approaches the rights and freedoms of his citizens.

Does that shift to the left influence Latino voters in the US?

Cornel West: No, although I would like it to. But I fear that most Latin-American immigrants in the US are too happy to have made it to the Land of Opportunities. So they stay at a safe distance from the progressive politics that win the day in their home countries. And the Obama-campaign has done hardly anything concerning Latin-America. The team delivering the ideas for Obama’s foreign policy is full of people with a Clinton-background. Which doesn’t promise any good.

Is a return to the Clinton period not preferable to a continuation of the Bush administration?
Cornel West: It sure is. But I prefer policies that aren’t based on neoliberal globalization or on domination of the world. Because it is globalization that has forced people back into ethnic and fundamentalist defensive positions. What we need now is a new story, showing people the possibility of a democratic identity transcending all tribal, family and religious belongings.


Speaking of disturbingly strange (but inevitably clarifying) dialectical ironies this piece from one of the most reactionary and notorious rightwing neoconservative publications in the entire country--Bill Kristol's Weekly Standard--somehow manages to describe in great and even witty analytical detail all the major reasons why selecting Hillary Clinton as Secretary of State would be an absolute political disaster for the country, while simultaneously arming us all with a very compelling and highly necessary reason to politically attack and criticize Obama's foreign policy agenda and direction. If this selection of Clinton by Obama goes through as it appears it will within the next week or so this article below, among all the many other critical articles, statements, and public speculations coming from the antiwar progressives and the general political Left, will again ironically become one of the most insightful and erudite analysis of the already recognized but even more dangerously enhanced hawkish tendencies of Obama's foreign policy perspective (especially as it pertains to Afghanistan and Iran). So in a rather bizarre but useful way we have Ms. Emery to thank for bringing us all the 'bad news' of the looming Clinton-Obama foreign policy debacle in the State Department to our critical attention. After all even Henry 'Dr. Strangelove' Kissinger is giving Clinton's looming appointment an enthusiastic and elated thumbs up. And what could possibly be more dire and sickening than that...But as Malcolm X always eloquently said: "Chickens coming home to roost never did make me sad--it always made me glad." Which means of course that the radical alternative political work and struggle we always knew we would have to engage in even if Obama won the Presidency is right here waiting for us. This among many other areas of Barack's emerging neoliberal reform regime provides us with a crucial opening to critically impact and help steer American politics in another direction entirely--but only if we collectively take these and other opportunities seriously and not merely moan and groan or simply pout about "being betrayed"--as the American Left is so notorious for doing. Instead if we keep our heads and clearly focus on what OUR work could and should be whether Obama is with us or not at any given time we can begin the arduous and necessary process of building and sustaining viable national outlets of mass organization, education, and mobilization. It's crystal clear to me that the great majority of people in this country really do want and need real substantive change. That's why 68 million Americans elected Obama in the first place and soundly repudiated Bush/McCain/Palin. That in itself is very significant and nothing to sneeze at. But of course we all know in the short and long term that fundamental 'change' will not and has never been served to us on a plate. However we still--as always--must FIGHT for it. And that's always a very good thing--no matter who's in power or what cabinet appointments are being made--or not being made...


"Dare To Struggle, Dare To Win"

The Great Right Hope, Hillary Clinton?
Nov. 20, 2008

(Weekly Standard) This column was written by Noemie Emer

Campaign 2008, which went on for four years, if not for four centuries, was rich in dramatic personae with strange tales -- candidates from Alaska, the Canal Zone, and Hawaii; mavericks, moose-hunters, and multi-racial messiahs -- but none has been so bizarre as the story of Hillary Clinton, who began her career as the wife of a liberal president, who entered the race eons ago as the liberal hope to become the first woman president, and who may end it weeks after the fact as the third female secretary of state in our history, the first ex-First Lady to become a top diplomat, to the relief and delight of many conservatives. How did the feminist wife of Bill Clinton, demonized as a fiend during much of his tenure, end up as the Great Right Hope of the party they bested? The race changed her, and it, beyond all expectations. It was all the campaign.

Candidates of course plan their campaigns, but they are defined more than they anticipate by their opponents, to whom they are forced to react. In 1992, Bill Clinton, an interesting and effective middle-way reform governor, planned to run against liberal Mario Cuomo who would have the support of his party's establishment. To his surprise, Cuomo bowed out, and he became by default the establishment candidate. In 2000, George W. Bush, an interesting and effective reform governor, planned to run against fiscal or social conservatives as an inventive and maverick figure. He ran instead against John McCain, the maverick's maverick, and became in his turn the establishment figure, as the fiscal and social conservatives flocked to his side by default.

And so Hillary planned to run from the left against Evan Bayh or Mark Warner, with the support of the backers she and her husband had wooed over decades in politics: the civil rights groups, the gay and the feminist lobbies, the glitterati of New York and Hollywood, the intellectuals and/or academics, the mainstream and celebrity press. But Bayh and Warner dropped out early on, and she was assailed from the left and above by Barack Obama, whose appeal to her backers unraveled her base. She critiqued the Iraq war and David Petraeus, but he was opposed from the very beginning. She appealed to the young, but he was still younger. She ran as a star, but he was more new, and more glittering. She ran to make history, but the history he was making was much more compelling, as it spoke to undoing the country's most terrible wrong.

As he rose, all her old mainstays began to desert her. The trendies and glitzies peeled off, as did the students. The civil rights lobbies peeled off, as was expected. The feminists split. NARAL deserted, aborting her hopes at a critical moment. Hollywood and the fashion world broke for her rival, who looked like a film star, or a model for the Gap. The media swooned, and began to assail her, deriding her style, and clothes. As her previous base was collapsed by Obama, she responded by taking the only route open: She morphed by default into the champion of middle-aged, middle-class, small-town and middle America; of the more conservative, post-Reagan Democrats; and, by her party's standards, the hawks. In no time at all, Hillary Rodham of Wellesley and Yale became the new voice of the Democrats' social conservatives, defending rural voters and small town inhabitants against charges of "bitterness," saying elites had degraded the culture, knocking back shots of Crown Royal in bars. If Obama was Gary Hart, she was Henry (Scoop) Jackson; if he was the Priest, then she was the Warrior; if he was the Academician, pacific, detached and non-confrontational, she was the Jacksonian, ready to fight for her country and rights.

In this incarnation, she began to attack Obama for his lack of war-on-terror credentials, noting that she and John McCain had years of experience dealing with war-and-peace issues, while Obama had speeches. She ran ads implying Obama was not the right person to answer the phone when it rang in the White House at three in the morning with news of a terrorist outrage. She didn't just change, she seemed authentic in changing, as if a woman who had gone through multiple makeovers during decades in politics had finally found a persona that fit her. Martha's Vineyard flaked off, revealing the soul of a Midwestern scrapper. Conservatives watched, with surprise, with some awe, and with some bemusement. Perhaps this was her all along.

In the spring, conservatives found themselves pulling for Clinton, in the interests of keeping the Democratic feud going. But as time passed and she refused to dissolve in the face of adversity, a strategic alliance based on convenience became infused with a Strange New Respect. How tough she was. How relentlessly viable. How she resisted the pressure of Obama obsessives, who were trying to show her the door. And how right she was, at least from their viewpoint, and at least upon foreign affairs. "Hillary became the sane one in the race, at least from Republicans' perspectives," as Jennifer Rubin observed as the race ended, noting that she was the one who had ridiculed Obama's plans to meet unconditionally with the leaders of terrorist governments, who had defied her party to vote to classify the Iranian National Guard as a terrorist outfit, who had "looked at George Stephanopoulos with a look of incredulity" when he asked why, if Iran attacked Israel, she would bomb Iran into rubble, or at least smithereens.

Hillary had begun the campaign as the former First Feminist and the Empress-In-Waiting, ready to glide back into the White House on the strength of her husband's connections and donor base. She ended it as the Warrior Queen, more Margaret Thatcher than Gloria Steinem, alone in the last ditch as her false friends deserted, (and her husband proved useless), in her own private Alamo, fighting on to the end. The Alamo tends to loom large in conservative fantasies, which tend to feature John Waynes rather than Jane Fondas. Hillary, in the minds of some righties, had crossed over a crucial divide.

This shift in the Hillary Clinton persona did not go unobserved on the left, which commenced to tear her apart in the same terms of endearment it would later unleash upon Sarah Palin, and had used before on George W. Bush and Joe Lieberman., founded ten years ago by liberal Democrats to defend the Clintons against impeachment proceedings, now assailed her with the savage ferocity they had once reserved for Ken Starr. As a result, perhaps, Hillary later refused to attack Sarah Palin, and treated her, and McCain, with personal courtesy throughout the campaign.

As for the conservatives, many of those who began 2008 willing to do anything to defeat her tended to end it feeling sorry she lost. They began to tell themselves and each other they would sleep better at night if she were the nominee of her party, for reasons having to do with the now-famous three a.m. phone call. She would not, they said, have gone to Berlin and said that the city was saved by the world coming together; she would have known that the Air Force had something to do with it. As thoughts turned later on to possible cabinet picks, the thought of Hugo Chavez and Vladimir Putin staring into the clueless eyes of John Kerry and/or Bill Richardson roused still more anxiety. Better the steely gimlet-eyed stare of a Hillary Clinton. They feared Iran now, not the former First Lady. The days when they feared her now seemed far away.

This explains the elation (okay, the relief) that swept over some in conservative circles when it seemed likely that the steely-eyed stare of Hillary Clinton was what Iran, Venezuela, and Russia were likely to get. Differences remain still with Hillary Clinton, but most of these are on social and size-of-government issues, which in her projected new post would be immaterial, much as they would have been if John McCain had won and then named Joe Lieberman, the one Democrat even more hawkish than Hillary, as his man at State or Defense. As it is, foreign policy is the one area in which her ideas seem somewhat in line with those of conservatives; and at any rate, she is the best thing they are likely to get. For the moment, Hillary Clinton will be the conservatives' Woman in Washington, more attuned to their concerns on these issues than to those of the get-the-troops-home-now wing of her party, a strange turn of events for a woman whose husband was impeached by Republicans just ten years ago, and whose ascent that party had dreaded since she went to the Senate two years after that.

It's a long trek from vast right-wing conspiracy to Great Right Hope, but Hillary Clinton, with the help of the far left, has made it. Strange things, people tell you, can happen in politics. But not many much stranger than this.

Reprinted with permission from The Weekly Standard.

The International Dimensions of Hatred, Hubris, and Hypocrisy


Hatred, Hubris, and Hypocrisy is really rife all over the world as well as "the West", isn't it? Part of me really wants to laugh out loud (LOL?) but the truly grim reality of it all is far too serious for that...


Al-Qaeda Leader Uses Slur Against Obama in Web Video

Zawahiri Says Next President Has Proved to Be 'House Negro'
By Craig Whitlock
Washington Post Foreign Service
Thursday, November 20, 2008

BERLIN, Nov. 19 -- Al-Qaeda delivered a harsh, personal message to President-elect Barack Obama on Wednesday, tagging him with a racial slur in an attempt to undercut his political appeal in parts of the world where the network has recently tried to expand.

In a videotape posted on the Internet, al-Qaeda's deputy leader, Ayman al-Zawahiri, describes Obama as subservient to whites and suggests that the president-elect has forsaken his father's Muslim heritage to become a stooge for Israel.

"You have reached the position of president, and a heavy legacy of failure and crimes awaits you," says Zawahiri, an Egyptian physician who serves as al-Qaeda's second in command under Osama bin Laden. "You were born to a Muslim father, but you chose to stand in the ranks of the enemies of the Muslims and pray the prayer of the Jews, although you claim to be Christian, in order to climb the rungs of leadership in America."

In the 11-minute video, Zawahiri unfavorably compares the first black U.S. president-elect to Malcolm X, the Nation of Islam leader who was assassinated 43 years ago. Zawahiri says Obama, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and her predecessor, Colin L. Powell, all "confirmed" Malcolm X's definition of a "house Negro," a derogatory term used to describe black leaders who cater to white interests.

Analysts said Zawahiri's use of such racially charged language was risky and could backfire. They noted that while al-Qaeda has tried to appeal to Muslims of all races and nationalities, its leadership has always been dominated by Arabs and followers with darker skin have found themselves marginalized.

"Al-Qaeda is not a model of racial harmony, and it's never been one," said M.J. Gohel, chief executive of the Asia-Pacific Foundation, a London research group. "It's led by a small coterie of Arab Muslims, in particular Egyptians. The rest have been treated as second-class citizens, people to whom orders are given."

For instance, analysts said al-Qaeda's leadership has been conspicuously silent about racial problems in Sudan, including widely reported discrimination by Arabs against black Muslims. They said bin Laden in particular has overlooked such problems in part because he was based in Sudan in the 1990s and friendly with its Arab rulers at the time.

The video released Wednesday consists of an audio recording of Zawahiri's remarks in Arabic, with English subtitles scrolling underneath a still photo of the bespectacled doctor, dressed in white in front of a bookcase. In one segment, he is flanked by a photograph of Obama and one of Malcolm X; Obama is shown wearing a skullcap during a meeting with Jewish leaders, while Malcolm X is on his knees, praying in a mosque.

It is at least the second time Zawahiri has invoked Malcolm X in an attempt to appeal to black Americans. In a videotaped interview posted online in May 2007, Zawahiri repeatedly praised the Nation of Islam leader and quoted him as justifying the use of violence to resist oppression.

In that recording, Zawahiri included video clips of Malcolm X disparaging other black leaders as "house slaves." Foreshadowing his later attack on Obama, Zawahiri again used the term to refer to Powell and Rice.

"I am hurt when I find a black American fighting the Muslims under the American flag," Zawahiri said, according to a transcript of the 2007 interview made by the SITE Institute, a research firm that tracks al-Qaeda statements. "I hope no one replies to me by saying that blacks in America have been delivered from its tyranny because there are the likes of Colin Powell -- the liar of the Security Council -- and Condoleezza Rice in power."

Evan F. Kohlmann, a terrorism expert and senior investigator for the Nine/Eleven Finding Answers Foundation, said al-Qaeda was trying to put a dent in Obama's popularity in the developing world, particularly in African countries where al-Qaeda has tried to establish a beachhead, such as Somalia, Kenya, Ethiopia and Mauritania.

"There's a sentiment on the part of al-Qaeda that Obama is very popular, and they are trying to figure out how to attack him," Kohlmann said. "But I'm not sure calling Obama a 'house Negro' is a great way of winning the support of these people."

According to U.S. intelligence officials, Zawahiri, 57, is hiding in Pakistan. He has distributed dozens of video and audio recordings in recent years, despite a $25 million reward for his capture posted by the U.S. government.

U.S. counterterrorism officials did not dispute the authenticity of Zawahiri's recording but declined to respond publicly to his statements.

Zawahiri's video was the first official statement from al-Qaeda since Obama was elected. The recording bore the stamp of as-Sahab -- or, "the clouds" in Arabic -- the longtime propaganda arm of al-Qaeda.

Al-Qaeda has experienced severe difficulty in distributing its video and audio recordings on the Internet since September. Several password-protected Web forums that it relied upon to release the recordings were infiltrated and shut down. The latest major Web forum used by al-Qaeda and other Muslim extremists, al-Hesbah, was closed two days ago.

Kohlmann said Zawahiri's video was released on a lesser-known Web forum that had not been used by al-Qaeda until recently, demonstrating its ability to adapt to hackers and infiltrators.

In the video, Zawahiri also calls Obama's election "an admission of defeat in Iraq" and warns the president-elect against sending additional troops to Afghanistan. "If you still want to be stubborn about America's failure in Afghanistan, then remember the fate of Bush and Pervez Musharraf, and the fate of the Soviets and British before them," Zawahiri says, referring to the former president of Pakistan, who resigned under pressure this year. "And be aware that the dogs of Afghanistan have found the flesh of your soldiers to be delicious, so send thousands after thousands to them."

Staff writer Joby Warrick and staff researcher Julie Tate, both in Washington, contributed to this report.