6.15.2008

john pilger: "in the grand tradition, obama is a hawk"

While debating the significance - or, in my opinion, lack thereof - of the death of Tim Russert, I was amazed to hear Russert referred to as a great journalist. I can barely apply the word "journalism" to what Russert did and what the rest of the TV talking-head crowd do.

Great journalists of our time? Seymour Hersh. Naomi Klein. Robert Fisk. Amy Goodman. Barbara Ehrenreich. Christopher Hedges.

Those are just a few off the top of my head.

What's that you say? They're all on the left end of the political spectrum? That's no coincidence: it's where real journalism leads.

The right doesn't want journalism. Journalism is the relentless press for truth, wherever it leads. It involves nuance, contradiction, and often painful revelations. The right deals in simple images, duality, blind loyalty, bigotry, fear.

Another truly extraordinary journalist is John Pilger. If you don't know Pilger, check out the website; it speaks for itself.

Here's his latest column, with thanks to Allan.
In the great tradition, Obama is a hawk
by John Pilger

In 1941, the editor Edward Dowling wrote: "The two greatest obstacles to democracy in the United States are, first, the widespread delusion among the poor that we have a democracy, and second, the chronic terror among the rich, lest we get it." What has changed? The terror of the rich is greater than ever, and the poor have passed on their delusion to those who believe that when George W Bush finally steps down next January, his numerous threats to the rest of humanity will diminish.

The foregone nomination of Barack Obama, which, according to one breathless commentator, "marks a truly exciting and historic moment in US history", is a product of the new delusion. Actually, it just seems new. Truly exciting and historic moments have been fabricated around US presidential campaigns for as long as I can recall, generating what can only be described as bullshit on a grand scale. Race, gender, appearance, body language, rictal spouses and offspring, even bursts of tragic grandeur, are all subsumed by marketing and "image-making", now magnified by "virtual" technology. Thanks to an undemocratic electoral college system (or, in Bush's case, tampered voting machines) only those who both control and obey the system can win.

For example, since I compared Obama with Robert Kennedy in these pages, he has made two important statements, the implications of which have not been allowed to intrude on the celebrations. The first was at the conference of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (Aipac), the Zionist lobby, which, as Ian Williams has pointed out, "will get you accused of anti-Semitism if you quote its own website about its power". Obama had already offered his genuflection, but on 4 June went further. He promised to support an "undivided Jerusalem" as Israel's capital. Not a single government on earth supports the Israeli annexation of all of Jerusalem, including the Bush regime, which recognises the UN resolution designating Jerusalem an international city.

His second statement, largely ignored, was made in Miami on 23 May. Speaking to the expatriate Cuban community – which over the years has faithfully produced terrorists, assassins and drug runners for US administrations – Obama promised to continue a 47-year crippling embargo on Cuba that has been declared illegal by the UN year after year.

Again, Obama went further than Bush. He said the United States had "lost Latin America". He described the democratically elected governments in Venezuela, Bolivia and Nicaragua as a "vacuum" to be filled. He raised the nonsense of Iranian influence in Latin America, and he endorsed Colombia's "right to strike terrorists who seek safe-havens across its borders". Translated, this means the "right" of a regime, whose president and leading politicians are linked to death squads, to invade its neighbours on behalf of Washington. He also endorsed the so-called Merida Initiative, which Amnesty International and others have condemned as the US bringing the "Colombian solution" to Mexico. He did not stop there. "We must press further south as well," he said. Not even Bush has said that.

It is time the wishful-thinkers grew up politically and debated the world of great power as it is, not as they hope it will be. Like all serious presidential candidates, past and present, Obama is a hawk and an expansionist. He comes from an unbroken Democratic tradition, as the war-making of presidents Truman, Kennedy, Johnson, Carter and Clinton demonstrates. Obama's difference may be that he feels an even greater need to show how tough he is. However much the colour of his skin draws out both racists and supporters, it is otherwise irrelevant to the great power game. The "truly exciting and historic moment in US history" will only occur when the game itself is challenged.

I do think a US president who is not a white male would be historic. And I'd be damn glad to see it, both for its own sake, and because it would mean (I think) the election was not cancelled or fixed.

But let's be reasonable about how much change one can expect, especially on foreign policy. The constantly repeated statement that Obama was always against the invasion of Iraq is certainly questionable. (That source, Joseph Cannon, despises Obama in a way I definitely do not, and his writing style is shrill, but his work is solid, and everything is sourced.) And has Obama changed his position on Iran?

14 comments:

redsock said...

Those actual journalists are also not employed by daily newspapers in the US -- which years ago slashed their budgets for investigative journalism to almost nothing.

And even the heavy hitters at papers like the Times seem allergic to putting anything in context. Every story exists in a separate universe, unconnected to anything that came before it.

Any actual reporting is being done for magazines, non-US press or on the internet.

L-girl said...

Naomi Klein on Obama and free trade.

M@ said...

I've never read Pilger before. That was a great article -- thank you for posting it.

Couldn't agree more on Russet, by the way. Being the head of the steno pool doesn't make you a great journalist. It doesn't even make you a great stenographer.

L-girl said...

I've never read Pilger before. That was a great article -- thank you for posting it.

Thank you! I'm kind of in awe of him. The way I feel about Seymour Hersh.

Being the head of the steno pool doesn't make you a great journalist. It doesn't even make you a great stenographer.

Well said. We had a big dust-up about this on our gamethread the other night. (So much so that we barely watched the game.)

A gamethreader, a recent University graduate, went to school with Russert's son, and is a big fan. I hate to pull the age card, but chalking it up to inexperience would be the kindest thing.

Kim_in_TO said...

Great journalists of our time?

I'd nominate Barbara Frum. That's a comparison that should make sense to some of your older readers. She was something of a CBC legend, truly talented in the way she handled some of her more difficult interviewees. She was a fixture on tv every night for years. When she passed away - which caught most of the public by surprise - the Canadian journalism community was quite devastated, as were many members of the public.

They don't make 'em like that any more.

L-girl said...

I've read a lot about her and her death.

L-girl said...

I've also heard she was an early supporter of allowing Vietnam war resisters to stay in Canada - along with Pierre Berton and June Callwood.

M@ said...

A shame that Barbara Frum left that idiot son of hers as her legacy. Not that it's her fault, but there's an apple that fell miles and miles from the tree.

I've been paying attention to Hersh for a while -- I may have first read him from a link on here. I agree he's a freakin' superhero among mortal journalists. A nice, economy in the way he writes, too, which I appreciate.

Funny thing about journalists. Probably the most famous journalists a generation ago were Woodward and Bernstein, who were famous for refusing to believe the mainstream line, for actually undermining the power of a criminal. Nowadays, the most famous journalists are those who sing the party line the loudest -- and I'm not even including carnival acts like Limbaugh, Coulter, and O'Reilly as "journalists".

L-girl said...

A shame that Barbara Frum left that idiot son of hers as her legacy. Not that it's her fault, but there's an apple that fell miles and miles from the tree.

OMG.

OMFG.

I never thought about the last names. Never knew that was her son.

WOW.

L-girl said...

I've been paying attention to Hersh for a while -- I may have first read him from a link on here. I agree he's a freakin' superhero among mortal journalists. A nice, economy in the way he writes, too, which I appreciate.

I'd be proud if I turned you on to Sy Hersh. I assume you know his history: he uncovered the My Lai massacre, and followed the dirty laundry all the way to the top. He's done the same thing with Iraq (Abu Ghraib, etc.).

Good observation about journalists and fame. And very sad.

Before W&B, the most famous journalists of each generation were generally muckrackers - truth-tellers. Not so now.

I seldom indulge in nostalgia, but in this case it seems appropriate.

L-girl said...

Matthew Rothschild on Tim Russert.

Tim Russert, by all accounts I’ve heard, including from people on the progressive side who knew him well, was a decent guy.

The news of his death came as a shock to me, as it did to everyone: He was a fixture for those of us who are obsessed with politics. And to be stricken of a heart attack at 58 is a fate that no one should have to suffer.

I feel bad for his family, and for his colleagues.

For many years, I looked forward to watching him on Meet the Press.

But I stopped after September 11.

As the praise for Russert has overflowed, I just want to register, even at the risk of showing bad manners, a discordant note.

I stopped watching him regularly after September 11 because he became a cheerleader for war.


Think I'll post this on the other Russert thread, too.

redsock said...

Bernstein? Yes. This Rolling Stone cover story from 1977 may open some eyes. Woodward's background has struck many as being a bit spooky.

L-girl said...

Ok, before I even click, I'll guess: CIA?

L-girl said...

Well, RigInt is a bit spooky, too.

Remember, I have another perspective on the Grahams and Ben Bradlee, through someone who knew them very well. It's hard for me to buy a lot of this.

I don't rule it out (ever), but I wouldn't swallow it whole either.