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12:40 PM on 11/09/12 
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Love As Arson
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Quote:
To all those now hailing the re-election of Barack Obama as a triumph of decent, humane, liberal values over the oozing-postule perfidy of the Republicans, a simple question:

Is this child dead enough for you?


Quote:
This little boy was named Naeemullah. He was in his house -- maybe playing, maybe sleeping, maybe having a meal -- when an American drone missile was fired into the residential area where he lived and blew up the house next door.

As we all know, these drone missiles are, like the president who wields them, super-smart, a triumph of technology and technocratic expertise. We know, for the president and his aides have repeatedly told us, that these weapons -- launched only after careful consultation of the just-war strictures of St. Augustine and St. Thomas Aquinas -- strike nothing but their intended targets and kill no one but "bad guys." Indeed, the president's top aides have testified under oath that not a single innocent person has been among the thousands of Pakistani civilians -- that is, civilians of a sovereign nation that is not at war with the United States -- who have been killed by the drone missile campaign of the Nobel Peace Prize Laureate.

Yet somehow, by some miracle, the missile that roared into the residential area where Naeemullah lived did not confine itself neatly to the house it struck. Somehow, inexplicably, the hunk of metal and wire and computer processors failed -- in this one instance -- to look into the souls of all the people in the village and ascertain, by magic, which ones were "bad guys" and then kill only them. Somehow -- perhaps the missile had been infected with Romney cooties? -- this supercharged hunk of high explosives simply, well, exploded with tremendous destructive power when it struck the residential area, blowing the neighborhood to smithereens.

As Wired reports, shrapnel and debris went flying through the walls of Naeemullah's house and ripped through his small body. When the attack was over -- when the buzzing drone sent with Augustinian wisdom by the Peace Laureate was no longer lurking over the village, shadowing the lives of every defenseless inhabitant with the terrorist threat of imminent death, Naeemullah was taken to the hospital in a nearby town.

This is where the picture of above was taken by Noor Behram, a resident of North Waziristan who has been chronicling the effects of the Peace Laureate's drone war. When the picture was taken, Naeemullah was dying. He died an hour later.

He died.

Is he dead enough for you?

Dead enough not to disturb your victory dance in any way? Dead enough not to trouble the inauguration parties yet to come? Dead enough not to diminish, even a little bit, your exultant glee at the fact that this great man, a figure of integrity, decency, honor and compassion, will be able to continue his noble leadership of the best nation in the history of the world?......Before the election, we heard a lot of talk about this notion of the "lesser evil." From prominent dissidents and opponents of empire like Daniel Ellsberg and Noam Chomsky and Robert Parry to innumerable progressive blogs to personal conversations, one heard this basic argument: "Yes, the drone wars, the gutting of civil liberties, the White House death squads and all the rest are bad; but Romney would be worse. Therefore, with great reluctance, holding our noses and shaking our heads sadly, we must choose the lesser evil of Obama and vote accordingly."

I understand that argument, I really do. I don't agree with it, as I made plain here many times before the election. I think the argument is wrong, I think our system is so far gone that even a "lesser evil" is too evil to support in any way, that such support only perpetuates the system's unconscionable evils. But I'm not a purist, not a puritan, not a commissar or dogmatist. I understand that people of good will can come to a different conclusion, and feel that they must reluctantly choose one imperial-militarist-corporate faction over the other, in the belief that this will mean some slight mitigation of the potential evil that the other side commit if it took power. I used to think that way myself, years ago. Again, I now disagree with this, and I think that the good people who believe this have not, for whatever reason or reasons, looked with sufficient clarity at the reality of our situation, of what is actually being done, in their name, by the political faction they support.

But of course, I am not the sole arbiter of reality, nor a judge of others; people see what they see, and they act (or refrain from acting) accordingly. I understand that. But here is what I don't understand: the sense of triumph and exultation and glee on the part of so many progressives and liberals and 'dissidents' at the victory of this "lesser evil." Where did the reluctance, the nose-holding, the sad head-shaking go? Should they not be mourning the fact that evil has triumphed in America, even if, by their lights, it is a "lesser" evil?

If you really believed that Obama was a lesser evil -- 2 percent less evil, as I believe Digby once described the Democrats in 2008 -- if you really did find the drone wars and the White House death squads and Wall Street bailouts and absolution for torturers and all the rest to be shameful and criminal, how can you be happy that all of this will continue? Happy -- and continuing to scorn anyone who opposed the perpetuation of this system?

The triumph of a lesser evil is still a victory for evil. If your neighborhood is tyrannized by warring mafia factions, you might prefer that the faction which occasionally doles out a few free hams wins out over their more skinflint rivals; but would you be joyful about the fact that your neighborhood is still being tyrannized by murderous criminals? Would you not be sad, cast down, discouraged and disheartened to see the violence and murder and corruption go on? Would you not mourn the fact that your children will have to grow up in the midst of all this?

So where is the mourning for the fact that we, as a nation, have come to this: a choice between murderers, a choice between plunderers? Even if you believe that you had to participate and make the horrific choice that was being offered to us -- "Do you want the Democrat to kill these children, or do you want the Republican to kill these children?" -- shouldn't this post-election period be a time of sorrow, not vaulting triumph and giddy glee and snarky put-downs of the "losers"?

If you really are a "lesser evilist" -- if this was a genuine moral choice you reluctantly made, and not a rationalization for indulging in unexamined, primitive partisanship -- then you will know that we are ALL the losers of this election. Even if you believe it could have been worse, it is still very bad. You yourself proclaimed that Obama was evil -- just a bit "lesser" so than his opponent. (2 percent maybe.) And so the evil that you yourself saw and named and denounced will go on. Again I ask: where is the joy and glory and triumph in this? Even if you believe it was unavoidable, why celebrate it? And ask yourself, bethink yourself: what are you celebrating? This dead child, and a hundred like him? A thousand like him? Five hundred thousand like him? How far will you go? What won't you celebrate?
http://www.chris-floyd.com/component...ser-evilq.html


Finally got this posted the right way. Damn smart phones.
08:26 AM on 11/10/12 
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Love As Arson
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Nevertheless, if a person is in a position to potentially reduce the amount of evil in the world, even by 2% for the span of four years, then I believe they have a moral obligation to do so
I suppose that is where one gets into the details of actual policy, no? Given that, in the context of foreign policy, he has continued the policies of the Bush administration, I think one might legitimately argue that he has cumulatively increased the negative effects of American policy globally.

(Also, for the record, I think calling Obama "evil" is a gross stretch which, ironically enough, creates a normative evaluation in which radical leftists and the Tea Party apparently reach a perfect consensus.)
It isn't calling Obama "evil", rather, it is a term to refer to a debate that occurs within the left when it comes to electoral politics.
12:37 AM on 11/11/12 
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Love As Arson
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But we're making a comparison between the potential net negative effect of an Obama presidency versus a Romney one, both foreign and domestic. If we agree for the sake of argument that Obama increased the "negative effects of American policy globally," then surely Romney would either do the same or worse. And if we confine ourselves to discussions of foreign policy, disregarding domestic affairs, then surely improvements in that policy, however unlikely or modest, are at least mildly more likely under an Obama than a Romney.
Well, I actually think that the foreign policy would remain about the same. The debate on foreign policy was demonstrative of that. If it is the feasibility of change that we are to be concerned with, then one could make the argument that we, as the left, need to show democrats that they must actually be anti-war by voting for anti-war candidates. It isn't as though the left has been quiet on the issues of Afghanistan and the intervention in Libya, it is that they were summarily ignored. Now the critique could be made that they need social movements with more power, however, therein lies the problem which is that electoral politics functions on the basis of de-mobilization those movements, i.e., yes, we hear you, but be realistic and vote for this guy.
09:56 AM on 11/11/12 
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Love As Arson
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In every state that is not a swing state, I agree. The left should vote for anti-war candidates, which is exactly what I did. But I do not see how the goal of electing a truly anti-war candidate is compromised by making sure, for the time being, that the Democrats stay in power until, at the very least, a more desirable third party becomes viable.
In my mind, there is a sort of cognitive dissonance when one espouses anti-war beliefs, then proceeds to vote for democrats who are engaging in the policies of the previous administration. Further, by ensuring that they stay in power, one undercuts the building of a genuinely anti-war/progressive party. It functions in two ways: There is the tacit agreement that says, whatever the content of the policies actually are, we will vote for democrats, however, since they know this, there is no real reason for them to adjust their policies; all they have to do is let republicans espouse their policies and position themselves as the better alternative. This creates a political environment in which third-party candidates are vilified or portrayed as a waste of time because "we need to vote for someone who can actually win". I'm sure you remember the 2000 election and the subsequent treatment of Nader by the left in 2004.

And I feel the same about more powerful social movements--that is, however one wants to evaluate the extent of their de-mobilization, surely that de-mobilization would presumably be exacerbated, as well as specific social programs being stifled, to a greater extent under Romney.
I actually think that the left fought more bitterly when Bush was president than what we have now. Under Bush, there was an understanding that his loyalties did not lie with us. With Obama, there is the misconception that he is "one of us" and just needs the right senate, the right house of representatives, the right argument or whatever other excuse one hears when he does things that are to the right of Nixon.

Moreover, one can't assume that de-mobilization mainly or solely occurs as a function of a single variable, namely electoral politics, for the simple fact that nothing social occurs mainly as the result of one variable, much less anything as abstract and poorly understood as "de-mobilization."
I think one can point out a general trend with regard to the activities of the left when elections come around. For example: During the 2004 election season, I recall receiving reports about how organizations were abstaining from actions because the demands conflicted with Kerry's platform, or some were redirecting energy to getting out the message of "anybody but Bush" or having voting drives and things of that nature. One might just write that off as the intense nature of that particular election, but it happened again during the 2006 mid-term elections, then again in 2008.

Nor do I see how not voting at all somehow provides abatement for this de-mobilization. Abstaining from voting is largely not seen as any principled declaration for radical change, but is instead usually seen to indicate political apathy.
Well, I think that view is largely ideological, insofar as elections are situated as the paramount of democratic activity. If one takes the time to explain your position with regard to supporting third-parties or not voting at all, they can understand that it stems from a frustration with both parties - even if they themselves pull the lever for those parties. Further, I am not saying that one shouldn't vote at all; rather, I critiquing how voting for democrats becomes "movement work", how it becomes an end unto itself and how it ends up reproducing the very policies that one was previously against.
I am by no means dogmatically against electoral politics and I can see situations in which it can be an effective means of change, but in those situations, such as in Greece for example, those electoral parties are also activist parties that are doing the groundwork in working-class communities. This creates a genuine interactivity between the needs of those communities and the actual policies of those parties. That simply does not exist in the US.
07:10 PM on 11/12/12 
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Love As Arson
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Well the treatment of Nader was precisely the result of a Bush victory, which only goes to show that the left needs to be strategic about, on the one hand, supporting a proper third-party candidate and, on the other hand, about when and where to vote for that candidate.
Let it be said that studies have been done to demonstrate that Nader did not cost Al Gore the election. Rather, it was the Supreme Court and the lack of enthusiasm on the part of democrats to speak for the disenfranchised voters in the state of Florida. They did need a scapegoat and Nader served that purpose. The other purpose it serves is, as you say, a warning of what can happen when we do not vote for democrats. There is something to be said about strategy, but the question then arises: if this is the strategy, and the focus is on that strategy, then what room is there for debate of the DNC's policies, about third parties and at what point it is time to walk away from the DNC. There is a point at which the strategy becomes an end unto itself rather than a means to achieve anything broader.

But nevermind that, because the changing of Democratic policies can result (slowly) as they see support for third parties rising and/or various social movements gaining traction, which can occur simultaneously with a Democratic victory over Republicans.
Or, alternatively, there can be change with republicans in power over democrats. To use Nixon as an example again, he was to the left of Obama in domestic policy. This was not because he had a fundamentally different view of the world than Obama, rather, it was because the social upheaval had produced a political context favorable to left-of-center policies.


As an aside, I also think you underestimate just how little support the far left has in the United States.
I don't expect most Americans to have a familiarity with The Communist Manifesto. However, if we were to take a poll with regard to, say, the strength of unions, the availability of health care, their opinions about war, whether civilian deaths are acceptable, or whether social programs should be on the table, and so on, I think one would be surprised with the overlap between the views of someone like myself and the general public.


There was a period under Bush when the pro-war sentiment, among both the right and the left, probably had not been as strong as since WWII.
I would argue that this is a product of the dichotomous political system. Bush advocated war, the democrats acquiesced and the boundaries of acceptable discourse were therefore set.


I don't mean to deny that electoral politics can undermine social movements or mobilization at times, but your initial post suggested that its very function necessarily results in the de-mobilization of all such movements, which is simply not true--otherwise no social movements would ever occur, as they would all be de-mobilized every two years.
Those which thrived are those who saw the movement as outside of the electoral politics. There is a reason that the anti-war movement failed, while the immigrants rights movement fundamentally changed the debate: one was wedded to the electoral system, the other was outside of that realm and forced both to concede.

I don't have a genuine disagreement here, but I would add that, while it may be helpful to take the time to explain to someone why you're, for instance, not voting, it's unlikely to change the general view people have that to not vote stems from political apathy. That is, they will place you, the principled non-voter, into a special mental category, while the vast majority of other non-voters will be kept in their original category in which they are ascribed the trait of political apathy.
And I think we need to examine why people do not vote. I would say it is because the system has become ossified and like myself and others, they do not see a genuine pathway to make their lives better.
02:50 PM on 11/14/12 
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Just to respond to a couple of points, I think you are correct with regard to some of the strategies employed by the left and I think that is precisely my point: we need to not be fractured by electoral politics and unite in order to achieve political hegemony, both ideologically and materially. The success of gay marriage occured in spite of the efforts of the democratic party, not because of their support. If we look back just few short years ago, there were few in support of it, including Obama. As for your stats, I do not question them, but I think the question then becomes, if this is so important in terms of our political futures, then what is happening that people feel other things are more important. Obviously, there are economic, familial and other reasons, all of which are valid, to not go to the voting booth and I think that is demonstrative of its inadequacy.



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