11.07.2008

chris hedges: only nader is right on the issues

After the fact, but great reading nonetheless. Thank you to Chris Hedges, quickly becoming one of my writing heroes.
Only Nader Is Right on the Issues
Posted on Nov 3, 2008

By Chris Hedges

Tomorrow I will go to a polling station in Princeton, N.J., and vote for Ralph Nader. I know the tired arguments against a Nader vote. He can't win. A vote for Nader is a vote for McCain. He threw the election to George W. Bush in 2000. He is an egomaniac.

There is little disagreement among liberals and progressives about the Nader and Obama campaign issues. Nader would win among us in a landslide if this was based on issues. Sen. Barack Obama's vote to renew the Patriot Act, his votes to continue to fund the Iraq war, his backing of the FISA Reform Act, his craven courting of the Israeli lobby, his support of the death penalty, his refusal to champion universal, single-payer not-for-profit health care for all Americans, his call to increase troop levels and expand the war in Afghanistan, his failure to call for a reduction in the bloated and wasteful defense spending and his lobbying for the huge taxpayer swindle known as the bailout are repugnant to most of us on the left. Nader stands on the other side of all those issues.

So if the argument is not about issues what is it about?

Those on the left who back Obama, although they disagree with much of what he promotes, believe they are choosing the practical over the moral. They see themselves as political realists. They fear John McCain and the Republicans. They believe Obama is better for the country. They are right. Obama is better. He is not John McCain. There will be under Obama marginal improvements for some Americans although the corporate state, as Obama knows, will remain our shadow government and the working class will continue to descend into poverty. Democratic administrations have, at least until Bill Clinton, been more receptive to social programs that provide benefits, better working conditions and higher wages. An Obama presidency, however, will make no difference to those in the Middle East.

I can't join the practical. I spent two decades of my life witnessing the suffering of those on the receiving end of American power. I have stood over the rows of bodies, including women and children, butchered by Ronald Reagan's Contra forces in Nicaragua. I have inspected the mutilated corpses dumped in pits outside San Salvador by the death squads. I have crouched in a concrete hovel as American-made F-16 fighter jets, piloted by Israelis, dropped 500- and 1,000-pound iron-fragmentation bombs on Gaza City.

I can't join the practical because I do not see myself exclusively as an American. The narrow, provincial and national lines that divide cultures and races blurred and evaporated during the years I spent in Latin America, Africa, the Middle East, Europe and the Balkans. I built friendships around a shared morality, not a common language, religion, history or tradition. I cannot support any candidate who does not call for immediate withdrawal from Iraq and Afghanistan and an end to Israeli abuse of Palestinians. We have no moral or legal right to debate the terms of the occupation. And we will recover our sanity as a nation only when our troops have left Iraq and our president flies to Baghdad, kneels before a monument to the hundreds of thousands of Iraqi war dead and asks for forgiveness.

We dismiss the suffering of others because it is not our suffering. There are between 600,000 and perhaps a million dead in Iraq. They died because we invaded and occupied their country. At least three Afghan civilians have died at the hands of the occupation forces for every foreign soldier killed this year. The dead Afghans include the 95 people, 60 of them children, killed by an air assault in Azizabad in August and the 47 wedding guests butchered in July during a bombardment in Nangarhar. The Palestinians are forgotten. Obama and McCain, courting the Israeli lobby, do not mention them. The 1.5 million Palestinians in Gaza live in a vast open-air prison. Supplies and food dribble through the Israeli blockade. Ninety-five percent of local industries have shut down. Unemployment is rampant. Childhood malnutrition has skyrocketed. A staggering 80 percent of families in Gaza are dependent on international food aid to survive.

It is bad enough that I pay taxes, although I will stop paying taxes if we go to war with Iran. It is bad enough that I have retreated into a safe, privileged corner of the globe, a product of industrialized wealth and militarism. These are enough moral concessions, indeed moral failings. I will not accept that the unlawful use of American military power be politely debated among us like the subtle pros and cons of tort law.

George Bush has shredded, violated or absented America from its obligations under international law. He has refused to sign the Kyoto Protocol, backed out of the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty, tried to kill the International Criminal Court, walked out on negotiations on chemical and biological weapons and defied the Geneva Conventions and human rights law in the treatment of detainees in our offshore penal colonies. Most egregiously, he launched an illegal war in Iraq based on fabricated evidence we now know had been discredited even before it was made public. The president is guilty, in short, of what in legal circles is known as the "crime of aggression."

The legacy of the Bush administration may be the codification of a world without treaties, statutes and laws. Bush may have bequeathed to us a world where any nation, from a rogue nuclear state to a great imperial power, will be able to invoke its domestic laws to annul its obligations to others. This new order will undo five decades of international cooperation—largely put in place by the United States — and thrust us into a Hobbesian nightmare. The exercise of power without law is tyranny.

If we demolish the fragile and delicate international order, if we do not restore a world where diplomacy, broad cooperation and the law are respected, we will see our moral and political authority disintegrate. We will erode the possibility of cooperation between nation-states, including our closest allies, and see visited upon us the evils we visit on others. Obama, like McCain, may tinker with this new world, but neither says they will dismantle it. Nader would.

Practical men and women do not stand up against injustice. The practical remain silent. A voice, even one voice, which speaks the truth and denounces injustice is never useless. It is not impractical. It reminds us of what we should strive to become. It defies moral concession after moral concession that leaves us chanting empty slogans.

When I sat on the summit of Mount Igman in my armored jeep, the engine idling, before nervously running the gantlet of Serb gunfire that raked the dirt road into the besieged city of Sarajevo, I never asked myself if what I was doing was practical. Forty-five foreign correspondents died in the city along with some 12,000 Bosnians, including 2,000 children. Some 50,000 people were wounded. Of the dead and wounded 85 percent were civilians. I drove down the slope into Sarajevo, which was being hit by 2,000 shells a day and under constant sniper fire, because what was happening there was a crime. I drove down because I had friends in the city. I did not want them to be alone. Their stories had become mine.

War, with all its euphemisms about surges and the escalation of troops and collateral damage, is not an abstraction to me. I am haunted by hundreds of memories of violence and trauma. I have abandoned, because I no longer cover these conflicts, many I care about. They live in Gaza, Baghdad, Jerusalem, Beirut, Kabul and Tehran. They cannot vote in our election. They will, however, bear the consequences of our decision. Some, if the wars continue, may be injured or killed. The quest for justice is not about being practical. It is required by the bonds we share. They would do no less for me.

Chris Hedges is a Pulitzer prize-winning journalist who has covered many wars around the world. His column appears Mondays on Truthdig.

41 comments:

La Sentinelle said...

Wow, this is deep. Thanks for sharing this.

ch said...

I can't understand why Nader tossed out a racial slur with his view of Obama's position on corporations, and then stood by that slur. What does race have to do with anyone's position on corporations? Nader may have decent policies, but he doesn't seem to have a decent character.

redsock said...

I found this info at the same place I saw the Hedges piece.

Obama's just-named chief of staff Rahm Emmanuel "is the same man who, as the head of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, fought tooth and nail to exclude, marginalize, and demonize anti-war Democrats in the 2006 primary".

Truthout: "According to Democratic candidates who ran for House of Representative seats in 2006, Rahm Emanuel, then head of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, took sides during the Democratic primary elections, favoring conservative candidates, including former Republicans, and sidelining candidates who were running in favor of withdrawal from Iraq."

Not good.

redsock said...

The term Nader used was "Uncle Tom".

It's a poor choice of words and he was wrong to not apologize. So Nader is human.

L-girl said...

I can't understand why Nader tossed out a racial slur with his view of Obama's position on corporations, and then stood by that slur. What does race have to do with anyone's position on corporations? Nader may have decent policies, but he doesn't seem to have a decent character.

Calling someone an "Uncle Tom" is not a racial slur. I use the expression frequently about women. It's an insult, but it's not racial.

I think it's a little weird that people don't get that. But anything to bash Ralph Nader.

L-girl said...

I'll go with poor choice of words. Not a racial slur, tho.

L-girl said...

Not good.

But to be expected.

redsock said...

Further:

Nader told Fox's Shepard Smith he was concerned that Obama would be an "Uncle Tom" for the corporations rather than an "Uncle Sam" for the people.

Nader explained:
"It's very simple -- he has gone along with corporate power from the moment he entered politics in the state senate, voted for the Wall Street bailout, supports an expanded military budget that is desired by the military-industrial complex."

M@ said...

quickly becoming one of my writing heroes.

Mine too. This is great stuff. I didn't know he had a column -- I'll be watching for it.

L-girl said...

"It's very simple -- he has gone along with corporate power from the moment he entered politics in the state senate, voted for the Wall Street bailout, supports an expanded military budget that is desired by the military-industrial complex."

Can't say fairer than that.

Jere said...

Great post by Hedges, thanks.

Uncle Tom is not a racial slur--but either Shepard Smith is stupid or was playing stupid and fooling every Fox News-viewing idiot into thinking that Nader had just blatantly committed an act of racism and was okay with it. The "fake incredulous" routine. Then they come back and say Nader's career is over, continuing to brainwash the already brainwashed. I love how Ralph calls him a bully because that was exactly what he was being. (Or, again, he's just stupid.) Video of the incident here for those who wish to view it.

L-girl said...

I'd go with playing stupid on that one. Thanks for the clip.

Nancy said...

Cynthia McKinney was a better candidate than Nader. She'd actually served in Congress, she was a capable Representative (I was one of her constituents) and she had a solid platform. Naturally since she ran on the Green ticket she got no coverage at all.
Nader is all talk and no action and I will never forgive him for the 2000 election...so many people then told me there was 'no difference' between Gore and Bush. How do they feel now? I wonder.

L-girl said...

I had a hard time deciding whether or not to put this comment through. There are few things I hate more than the ignorant lie that Nader was the cause of the 2000 "election" going to Bush. I decided to put the comment through so the lie could be demolished, then hopefully that will be the last time we will see this crap on wmtc.

L-girl said...

I have a great deal of respect for Cynthia McKinney, but there is no reason to set up a false McKinney vs Nader argument, as if it's an either-or proposition. Ralph Nader has spent his entire career in the public service, and has done more good than most of the people in Congress - put together.

Nancy said...

Fine, if you think my comments are crap,I'll be happy to stop making them. Enjoy your life.

L-girl said...

The 2000 election was stolen. That has been proven beyond any doubt. For starters, see the movie "Unprecedented".

If you want to blame someone for 2000, blame AL Gore for running a godawful campaign, blame everyone who voted for Bush, blame Kathleen Harris, blame James Baker, blame Sandra Day O'Connor. Blame "Jews for Buchanan," and if you don't know what that means, go find out.

Blame all those factors twice before you blame the handful of people who voted for Ralph Nader.

L-girl said...

Katherine Harris, not Kathleen. Sorry.

L-girl said...

Fine, if you think my comments are crap,I'll be happy to stop making them. Enjoy your life.

I think that idea is crap. If you want to stomp off in a huff, that's your business.

redsock said...

Blaming Nader for 2000 is total unmitigated horseshit.

The official story says: Bush beat Gore in Florida by 543 votes.

As we should all know, 543 is a 100% made-up fictional number -- it has no basis in reality. We will never know how Florida voters truly voted. Jews for Buchanan, anyone?

The true horror in Florida was the fact that Harris and her stooges managed to deny the right to vote to well over 100,000 people. Greg Palast has shown this is an unassailable fact.

Bonus: Some of these people were kicked off the rolls for felonies they committed in 2007 -- and this was back in 2000, remember?

P.S. Let's remember that Gore was an idiot for not demanding a state-wide recount right away. Why he and his lawyers decided to ask for only four counties, I'll never know. If he had done the smart thing, it would have been clear that he won the state -- as it was later shown, though that fact was buried by the "liberal" media.

Blaming Nader shows an appalling lack of knowledge about what actually happened. (I missed the news that Nader had been named to the Supreme Court. Cool!)

ch said...

Definitions like

"(ethnic slur) offensive and derogatory name for a Black man who is abjectly servile and deferential to Whites"

are all over the web.

Can you find a source which defines "uncle tom" as something not associated with the colour of one's skin? A quick search brought up about a dozen definitions like the one above, and none that didn't refer to blacks.

Nader is a seasoned politician and knew what term he was using. He even insisted on sticking to it when specifically asked. Obama has been called an uncle tom a lot, as has King, Powell, Thomas,.. Bringing up skin colour was completely irrelevant to the topic Nader was discussing. I don't see how this can be interpreted as anything but racist.

redsock said...

And for anyone who says that if Nader was not around, then Gore would have got even more votes and it would have been harder to steal ...

I'll say the Republicans simply would have cheated more -- and/or other states which had the same issues as Florida would have become better known when the right stepped up its attacks in those states (New Mexico was also seriously crooked).

When Bush Co saw the recounting in Florida was going Gore's way, they stepped up their attacks and went to the right-leaning courts to stop the counting of votes. And finally they got the result they needed.

The Supreme Court, in its famously unsigned decision (even the Felonious Five knew deep down they did not want their names on it), said that a continued recount would "threaten irreparable harm to petitioner (Bush)" and so they stopped the counting.

Election over.

L-girl said...

Can you find a source which defines "uncle tom" as something not associated with the colour of one's skin?

I'm not here to do your research. You want to hunt for definitions, be my guest. For the last 20-25 years, I've heard women refer to other women as Uncle Toms, and it had nothing to do with race or "skin colour," as you put it.

Perhaps you've never heard the expression used that way, anything is possible.

Obama has been called an uncle tom a lot, as has King, Powell, Thomas

Sure. My African-American friends have called all those people Uncle Toms. Were they making racial slurs?

My female friends (of all backgrounds) call women who are abjectly servile and deferential to men, to serve their own ends, rather than stick up for themselves as women: Uncle Toms.

Here's an example of Sarah Palin being called a "female Uncle Tom".

Here's an example of Michelle Malkin being called an "Asian Female Uncle Tom".

L-girl said...

Nader is a seasoned politician and knew what term he was using. He even insisted on sticking to it when specifically asked.

Yes. Neither of those statements are being challenged or debated.

I'm simply saying that Uncle Tom is not a racial slur.

redsock said...

The Uncle Tom character was actually a "noble hero" in Stowe's novel. Wiki: "Throughout the book, far from allowing himself to be exploited, Tom stands up for his beliefs and is grudgingly admired even by his enemies."

It was only in future theatrical productions (which she did not authortize and which often strayed far from the book's actual text) that he became known as the stereotype we think of today.

L-girl said...

It was only in future theatrical productions (which she did not authortize and which often strayed far from the book's actual text) that he became known as the stereotype we think of today.

It's a great example of an expression coming to mean exactly the opposite of its original meaning, first through misuse, then when it's misused enough, it's re-defined.

deang said...

Reading the Nader-made-Bush-president line for the millionth time, after everyone knows that election was stolen, made me so angry that I held off saying anything to make sure I didn't insult anybody.

All I could think of was that film clip of Al Gore denying an investigation into the stolen election and of stupid Democratic coworkers saying they hoped Gore would concede without contesting lest he seem "militant" and "extremist".

"Linda and Alan'll set 'em straight. They'll explain and provide sources," I thought. And you did.

L-girl said...

Reading the Nader-made-Bush-president line for the millionth time, after everyone knows that election was stolen, made me so angry that I held off saying anything to make sure I didn't insult anybody.

I admire your restraint! I lost mine - purposely. Enough's enough.

"Linda and Alan'll set 'em straight. They'll explain and provide sources," I thought. And you did.

Thanks. :)

I want to point something out here, but I don't want to embarrass you, but I think I already did...

David Heap said...

As someone who voted my conscience and now have a Conservative (instead of a Liberal) MP, I would like to agree that doesn't make any sense to blame left candidates or parties for the electoral success of the far right over the near right. This is true even when the election is not stolen by the far right, others (here and elsewhere) have shown, more than convincingly, happened in 2000.

As for the choice between Nader and McKinney, this also seems like a bit of a red-herring: voting your conscience means knowing your own priorities and sticking to them -- so either candidate is good if that is what you believe in. It is hard to judge how solid the platform of the U.S. Greens at this distance, but it is worth noting that Greens in other countries have used their modest electoral success to govern with the far right (Mexico) and support the war in Afghanistan (Germany). Nader on the other hand has a clear anti-war commitment going back decades.

Thanks for the Hedges post: both insightful and moving. And Obama's Chief of Staff choice looks pretty depressing, if perhaps predictable.

L-girl said...

David, thank you for this excellent comment.

redsock said...

As someone who voted my conscience and now have a Conservative (instead of a Liberal) MP

As I've said before:

Why should I cast my vote for a candidate I do not agree with?

It's as simple as that.

My unwillingness to vote for someone whose policies were too right-wing was not the problem in 2000 -- Gore's refusal to be a liberal was the problem.

David Heap said...

Why should I cast my vote for a candidate I do not agree with?

Indeed.

The one circumstance where I might consider something like this would be if there was a credible electoral coalition between centre-left and centre-right parties, such that NDP support (or non-opposition) for a Liberal candidate in one place actually meant real, verifiable Liberal support / non-opposition for an NDP candidate elsewhere (and not just some vague if well-intentioned "strategic voting" or unverifiable vote-swapping scheme -- these look too much like simply voting out of fear for my taste).

Such a coalition scenario is plagued with many daunting obstacles but may not be entirely impossible, and I suspect we may have to consider all possibilities to challenge Harper next time around. Unfortunately, the leaderless Libs are going to be too obsessed with their own internal squabbles for the foreseeable future to give any quality attention to either parliamentary or electoral coalitions -- even though these would probably be more in the interests of most Canadians than their internal leadership race. (sorry if this is too far off-topic for a Nader thread!).

L-girl said...

Unfortunately, the leaderless Libs are going to be too obsessed with their own internal squabbles for the foreseeable future to give any quality attention to either parliamentary or electoral coalitions -- even though these would probably be more in the interests of most Canadians than their internal leadership race.

I agree, and it's a damn shame.

(sorry if this is too far off-topic for a Nader thread!).

No problem - it's a natural progression.

I was a bit ticked off at the "racial slur" comment, but I guess that was inevitable.

Jere said...

deang trying to turn Laura to Linda via the "years of misuse and later redefined" method?

On the racial slur thing--how can you accuse Nader of being racist when what he's clearly trying to do is stand up for people of other races? In fact, he's trying to argue his point while Shepard was the only one concerned about the actual term--it's only after several minutes does Ralph finally start to ask "do you even know what the term means"--and conveniently gets cut off.

Nancy, you act like Nader wanted Bush to win in 2000 and purposely made it happen. If you're a progressive and you can "never forgive" a guy who was trying to make things the complete opposite of what we got with 8 years of Bush? Shouldn't he be one of the people you commend? And to call him "all talk and no action"--he's done more for consumers' safety than possibly anyone in history. No action?

L-girl said...

deang trying to turn Laura to Linda via the "years of misuse and later redefined" method?

Walk-off!!! :)

In fact, he's trying to argue his point while Shepard was the only one concerned about the actual term

Good point. US pundits and politicans are concerned with the appearance of racism - not using certain buzzwords - but not with the racism that actually exists.

(Which now they can say is gone, because an African American man is president...)

Nancy, you act like Nader wanted Bush to win in 2000 and purposely made it happen. If you're a progressive and you can "never forgive" a guy who was trying to make things the complete opposite of what we got with 8 years of Bush? Shouldn't he be one of the people you commend?

This is the crucial point that so many people always miss. When the Conservatives win in Canada, don't blame the NDP, blame the people who voted Conservative!

deang said...

Linda and Alan

Things like this are why I don't start my own blog.

Sigh ... Sorry.

L-girl said...

Linda and Alan

Things like this are why I don't start my own blog.

Sigh ... Sorry.


Well, I got a chuckle out of it anyway.

If you ever did start a blog, Dean, I'd read it religiously.

Jere said...

Coincidence alert: Just two weeks ago, I checked my hometown paper's obits, and saw one of my middle school teachers had died. I sent out an e-mail to the people I keep in touch with from those days, and we started giving our memories of the late Miss Hodge. One of mine was how she referred to the new girl in class, Laura, as "Linda." I didn't even think of that while reading deang's post or writing my "walk-off" (thanks) post, it just came back to me after reading those last two comments.

L-girl said...

Things in Jere's comments that would never happen to me:

1. Remembering the name of a middle school teacher.

2. Being in touch with anyone from middle school ("junior high" to me).

3. Remembering any teacher in middle school calling anyone anything.

Granted, my junior high school years are quite a bit farther behind me than Jere's, but still.

David Heap said...

A friend just sent me more on Emmanuel Rahm, Obama's depressing choice as Chief of Staff, from Alexander Coburn (Hail to the Chief of Staff): "He is a super-Likudnik hawk, whose father was in the fascist Irgun in the late Forties, responsible for cold-blooded massacres of Palestinians. Dad’s unreconstructed ethnic outlook has been memorably embodied in his recent remark to the Ma’ariv newspaper that 'Obviously he [Rahm] will influence the president to be pro-Israel… Why wouldn't he be [influential]? What is he, an Arab? He's not going to clean the floors of the White House.'"

Charming. While I would be the last person to attribute all of a father's views to his offspring, it seems telling that an African American president can choose to associate with folks who consider Arabs sub-human (and therefore expendable in war or under occupation, not deserving of human rights, etc. etc.) but has to distance himself from "radicals" with critical views of race in the U.S. I am guessing that a search for Rahm Jr.'s statement distancing himself from Rahm Sr.'s racism would be in vain.

L-girl said...

While I would be the last person to attribute all of a father's views to his offspring,

This sounds an awful lot like, "I'm not a racist, but..." Rahm is not his father. It's irrelevant.

Obama is not going to change US policy on Israel and Palestine, but there's no reason to think the father of his chief of staff is an influence on his thinking.

I always want to like Alexander Cockburn, but I so rarely do.