Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Ralph Nader, 2008?

You know it is Presidential campaign season. Ralph Nader is considering another run for the White House. At this point, it is an exploratory committee, but this is merely a formality for him. It is not as though Mr. Nader is going to be raising tens of millions of dollars or raising a campaign army of market researchers to justify running. He would not have gone this far if he was anything but certain that he will run again. I am not yet positive if this is the kind of candidacy I want to support.

Admittedly, I am one of those evil commie-pinkos who voted for Ralph back in 2000. This was in large because of my hatred for the Clinton Administration's right-wing policies, like the Welfare Reform Act, NAFTA and GATT (sensitive issues for me because of my family's union background and the fact most all of them have lost their jobs in traditional industries in the last decade on account of trade liberalization and globalization), the Defense of Marriage Act, his crime and terrorism acts (which vastly expanded the reach of local and federal law enforcement, not to mention helped construct jails for the mass imprisonment of future generations of targeted minorities), the carpet bombings of Iraq, Bosnia, Kosovo, the Sudan, Pakistan, etc.

Gore's pro-NAFTA debate with Ross Perot was really the last straw for me. This is one of the reasons why I cringe at the sight of him winning an Academy Award about global warming. One of the leading causes of increased CO2 emissions has been free trade, and yet there is no mention during An Inconvenient Truth of how the WTO can force countries to eliminate their environmental laws if another member state (at the behest of corporate interests) claims such acts are discriminatory. This is also the same man who when he was in Congress was an anti-abortion, anti-gun control, anti-obscene rock lyrics, pro-war (voting in favor of the first Gulf War), anti-Sandinista conservative Democrat. In fact, when Gore was in Congress his environmental record was virtually non-existent. It was not until he ran for President that he decided to care about things like women's choice and climate change. It was this insincerity, along with his defense of Clinton's policies, which instilled in me a deep seated dislike for the DLC and just about everyone in the Democratic Party that defended these policies. In that context, voting for Ralph Nader was easy. I even reveled at the thought of Al Gore losing the election because of it.

The Bush Administration has been a hard pill to swallow, however. As much as I disliked Gore, even I have to admit that he probably would not have committed many of the missteps and crimes that the current officeholder has inflicted upon our body politic. That circumspection basically caused me to hold my nose and vote for John Kerry in 2004, a candidate I found almost as odious as Gore/Clinton (and a man who spent his entire political career rationalizing his previous liberal views). It is a vote I do not regret--such was my desire to see George Bush thrown out of office. In hindsight, I had underestimated the second Bush as being more of a moderate (i.e., "compassionate") Republican (not entirely unlike his father).

This time around, it is likely to be Hillary Clinton vs. John McCain. As candidates, they share many similarities. Both oppose tax cuts,
oppose a Constitutional Amendment banning gay marriage, support the President's path towards citizenship for immigrants (flawed though it is), favor the death penalty, free trade, and a foreign policy based on turning non-nuclear Third World countries into ash pits (although it is hard to top McCain for overall chauvinism). About the only differences between them that I can detect are on abortion and maybe healthcare. Those are important differences, to be sure, but when I think of all of the steel workers and automobile assembly workers in my family who have lost their jobs in the last decade, in part because of policies passed during the Clinton Administration (and the fact the current candidate Clinton waits until she's running for President to critique these trade laws [she sure did not seem to think much about labor concessions and rights during the NAFTA debate]), I cannot be enthusiastic about her candidacy.

It amazes me even more than labor unions are campaigning for Clinton, knowing her history and the history of her husband (a man who campaigned as a pro-labor supporter of a striker replacement bill in 1992, only to quickly desert it to spend over a hundred hours personally lobbying Democratic members of Congress to pass NAFTA in the first year of his Presidency). I suppose they are hoping against hope that she will one day recognize that they still exist. I would not be waiting, if I were them.
On the other hand, at least they are not delusional enough to think Ron Paul or Mike Huckabee will repeal the Taft-Hartley Act.

I would like to vote for Barack Obama. He opposed the Iraq War, still opposes it, and supports a timetable for brining the troops home. This is a marked improvement over the Arizona Senator, who wants to keep a military presence in Iraq for the next hundred years. It also makes more sense to me than someone who claimed the only reason they ever voted for and supported the invasion and occupation of Iraq to begin with was because the likes of George Bush tricked them into it. That is experience for you.

The problem with Barack Obama is his campaign offers very little in terms of substance. The change cliche has been around for decades (I remember when a certain Governor of Arkansas made it his campaign theme back in 1992). As far as I can ascertain, and it is not easy looking up his views, Barack Obama is non-committal on attacking Iran, has rhetorically asserted the right, even necessity, for the US to unilaterally attack and invade Pakistan, and has unknown views on issues important to labor unions (like trade concessions or even that old striker replacement bill that has been kicking around since the Truman Administration). This is hardly inspirational, and is only more tolerable than Clinton because he at least opposes the Iraq war (and has since the beginning).

So, should Nader run? I have previously looked at other campaigns (including the Greens and even the Socialist Equity Party), so it would be wrong for me to judge Ralph negatively. At this point, I am still undecided, but there is no one left in the Democratic field I want to vote for in my upcoming primary--unless Mike Gravel is still on the ballot (or alive for that matter). Kucinich's dropout was a terrible disappointment.

Sometimes I wonder why I even bother with this party. It is ironic that the Constitution was written almost as if it was a premonition of the two-party state, even though the framers were so vocal in their opposition to the formation of parties. Maybe at some level I feel since I am a political scientist and make my living in the field, and preach the virtue and necessity for political activism in my classes, I obligate myself to support the system and give it my vote (even when I know it will have no influence on those in office).

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

The Resurrection of John McCain

I am hardly a fan of anyone in the Republican field for the Presidency, but you have to marvel at the turnaround of John McCain. Only several months ago, it seemed McCain's Presidential ambitions were over. By July, his campaign was fluttering, money dried up, staff mostly laid off, and the Senator relegated to campaigning almost on his own. It is quite an evolution, as he was the assumed front runner when he announced his candidacy in February 2007. With his victory in Florida, and the presumed dropout and coming endorsement of Rudy Giuliani, the Senator has completed an improbable comeback.

The Senator still has his problems. He remains a hated figure among many conservatives, who remember his 2000 campaign (when he sought Democratic and independent voters in open primary states, as well as giving a speech attacking the religious right as "purveyors of hate"). Moreover, many are still upset at McCain now, seeing him as ideologically impure on issues like tax cuts and immigration. In the most ultimate of ironies, many of these conservatives, like Rush Limbaugh, have reduced themselves to supporting a candidate who spent the first 57 years of his life as a pro-choice moderate (Mitt Romney). This is their "true conservative." It is an act that no one buys, not the least those Evangelicals who think the ex-Governor of Massachusetts is a brother of the devil.

To put this another way, eleven weeks ago McCain was fourth in the polls among Republican Presidential hopefuls, more than fifteen points behind Giuliani and even behind John Edwards in the Democratic Party. Today, Giuliani and Edwards are exiting, with Rudy endorsing McCain, who is now the front runner--and this in spite of the fact his campaign lost money this year. In my lifetime, I have never seen this in a Presidential campaign.

Most ominously for Democrats, McCain remains, in spite of his ideological impurity to conservatives, the most electable Republican candidate. In a head-to-head match up, he is ahead of Hillary Clinton (46.8% to 45%) and even slightly ahead of Barack Obama (44.7% to 43.2%). Of course, anything could change, as do the polls, but no other Republican is even close to defeating Senators Clinton and Obama.

None of this changes what John McCain is. To be sure, he is not a fan of President Bush's tax cuts, does not believe Mexicans should be thrown off helicopters into the Pacific Ocean, and even sees Muslim prisoners of war as members of the human race. He is also an unreconstructed imperialist that wanted to expand the "surge" offensive in Iraq and once declared on the Senate floor that we should have "hard hearts" at the sight of Serb civilians being bombed to death during the Kosovo War. If you live in the developing world and your government is not an "ally" of the US or retain a deterrence like nuclear weapons, you should be worried. You could be next on the liberation train. Still, as long as he avoids keeling over or diddles one his interns, he will be the Republican nominee.

Moron Report #9: Murder-for-Hire on Craigslist

Sometimes I cannot help but to wonder if the human species is descending into a state of perpetual stupidity. Meet Ann Marie Linscott. She is a Michigan gal with a heart of gold. While having an affair with a married man, and wanting his wife out of the way, so she could have this lucky fellow all to herself, Ann thought it swell to put up an ad on Craigslist.

Authorities Break Up Suspected Online Murder Plot
FBI: Woman Posted Murder-For-Hire Classified Ad On Craigslist

January 26, 2008

OROVILLE — The job posting said "freelance," and the employer was looking for a killer applicant.

A Michigan woman is behind bars and facing extradition to Northern California, where FBI agents say she advertised on Craigslist for someone willing to kill the unsuspecting wife of a man she'd begun an affair with online.

Ann Marie Linscott, 49, offered $5,000 for the hit, had the name and work address of the woman she wanted dead and in e-mails with stunned job seekers described successful candidates as "silent assassins," according to agents and court documents.

"I've seen some screwy things, but I've personally never heard of anything like this," said Drew Parenti, special agent in charge of the Sacramento FBI office. 

"For a person to advertise openly for a hit man on Craigslist."

It's not the first crime ever solicited over the popular online bulletin board. Craigslist has gained some level of notoriety for ads posted by prostitutes and the killing of a Minnesota woman last year who responded to an ad for a baby sitter. However, authorities and company officials say the murder-for-hire scheme appears to be the first of its kind.

Agents arrested Linscott, whom they say went by Ann Marie and used the simple alias "Marie," on Thursday at her home in Grand Rapids, Mich. Federal prosecutors will ask a judge on Tuesday to make her stand trial in California.

A call to Linscott's court-appointed public defender was not immediately returned on Saturday.

Linscott's generic "freelance" ad gave no further details about the job, authorities said.

Craigslist CEO Jim Buckmaster said he understood her intention was only communicated to those who e-mailed her seeking additional information about the job.

"Out of 550 million classified ads posted over 12 years, this is the first such incident that we're aware of," Buckmaster wrote in an e-mail to The Associated Press. "But again, the ad itself was generic, and we're not a party to subsequent private e-mail communications."

Linscott allegedly asked respondents to "eradicate a female living in Oroville, California," and she provided additional information on the intended victim, including her physical description, age and employment address. On two separate occasions following the November ad posting, she offered payment of $5,000 upon completion of "the eradication task," according to court documents.

Working with local Butte County authorities, the FBI identified the intended victim and her husband, Parenti said.

The husband and the intended victim have not been identified, but Parenti said the man acknowledged meeting Linscott through an online college course over two years ago, forging an intimate relationship with her online and rendezvousing at a hotel room for two days in Reno, Nev., in 2005. Linscott also had met him near the couple's home, about 70 miles north of the state capital, last spring. They'd continued to communicate by phone and e-mail.

"This just goes to show what the Internet can be used for," Parenti said. "It's a great tool, but we also see that it can be used to advertise for child prostitutes. We've seen that and identity theft. And now, apparently, you can advertise for a hit man on Craigslist."

Buckmaster saw it differently, saying the arrest demonstrated the vigilance of Craigslist users, who are repeatedly urged to report fraud and scams on the site to keep it clean. The job seekers who responded to Linscott's ad were the first to report her to police.

"Misuse of Craigslist for illegal purposes is absolutely unacceptable, and we continue to work together with our users and law enforcement to further minimize it," Buckmaster said.
  Copyright © 2008, KTXL,0,6736240.story

Putting aside how anyone could be dumb enough to think that posting a murder-for-hire ad on Craigslist would somehow not make it to law enforcement (particularly after informing inquirers about the details of the "freelance" job), I am certain the wife was not amused to discover of her husband's amorous ways like this. I can even envision the picture his wife has erected over their bed.

Well, it could be worse. The picture could look like this.

Have your penis severed or clean the floors. Surely, the worst of all worlds.

Monday, January 28, 2008

What Next?

With Dennis Kucinich out of the race, and Mike Gravel barely alive to throw some errant rock into a lake, it is becoming increasingly difficult to be a progressive these days. This happens every four years in the Democratic Party. The establishment runs a few DLC "moderate" candidates, who spend most of their time apologizing for even being members of a party that once stood for people who did not make a million dollars a year. Then they are crushed by the Republicans in the general elections (since 1968 [the true death of the Democratic Party as the party of the New Deal], Republicans have won 7 out of 10 Presidential elections).

Most of my establishment liberal friends in academia are hot over Hillary or Barack, but I am someone who takes my beliefs more seriously than worrying myself about which candidate had more contemptible business jobs in the 1980s (ironic that no one seems to ask about their views in the here and now).
And speaking of the past, the idea of voting for the people who brought us NAFTA, GATT, and the Defense of Marriage Act is anathema, as it should be for anyone who cares to think that we are more than expendable cost overruns in the new global panacea, which we must all bow down to without risk of being accused of membership of the Flat Earth Society.

Obviously, voting for someone who thinks the Confederacy was right is not an option. I still cannot get over those few progressives who live this dream. Nevertheless, it is indicative to how far we have degenerated.

Then there are those who think John Edwards is a viable option, but this is a man who voted to go to war in Iraq, spent virtually his entire political career as a DLC Democrat (until he decided to copy Robert F. Kennedy's 1968 Presidential campaign), and is as fake as his haircut and face lift. It is a harsh judgment to make, but it is the truth.

Hillary Clinton's appeal to liberals is even more mystifying. Other than her support for the war in Iraq (a war she still refuses to call for the end of), this is the same person who supported the elimination of what little of a safety net that existed for poor people in the 1990s with the Welfare Reform Act (severing the Democratic Party's ties to the New Deal), supports the death penalty (in the past, even against minors), and even criticizes abortion as a moral practice (while clinging to her pro-choice stance on the issue), ideologically, she is really not much removed from Rudy Giuliani. This is also the same person who, as First Lady, gave rhetorical comfort to her husband's bombing deaths of over 5,000 Serbs (mostly civilians) during the Kosovo War, defended the harsh sanctions against Iraq after 1991 (which killed hundreds of thousands--again, mostly civilians), and has spent almost her entire political career living down the label of a '60s liberal. I am certain that if the right-wing promised to stop calling her a feminist she-devil, on the condition of dropping a few nuclear bombs on Madagascar, as proof of her loyalty to the American way of life, the people of Madagascar would have to start making funeral plans.

Barack Obama is certainly preferable to liberals over Hillary Clinton. He opposed the Iraq War from the beginning (to me, this is easily his greatest asset and the primary reason to consider voting for him). He has been the loudest critic of the war of all three of the Presidential front runners in the Democratic Party. He has a liberal voting record in the Senate, but like the rest of the Democratic front runners he is pro-death penalty. Senator Obama also supports the maintenance of a trade embargo on Cuba (since it has been such a raving success in altering the political behavior of Cuba over the past five decades). And his anti-war stance on Iraq is tempered by views on Iran and Pakistan that sound remarkably aggressive for a supposedly anti-war candidate. So, even though Senator Obama is a progressive on most issues, he has his weaknesses and limitations.

All of this leaves open the option of third parties. For progressives, I am not sure there are any worth supporting. Possibly the Green Party, which is floating up ex-Congresswoman Cynthia McKinney as a possible candidate (when I last checked, she is seeking the party's nomination). Congresswoman McKinney has had her own issues in the past with Capitol Hill police officers and her expressed appreciation for the House of Saud, but then she is certainly more liberal than any of the remaining Democratic candidates. Outside of the Greens, the Socialist Equity Party or Socialist Party usually runs a sacrificial lamb. I know there is an American Labor Party, which is supposed to be the product of labor unions, although few of them have formal ties, which considered running candidates, but nothing has really come of it. At this point, I am not even sure if there are any third parties worth looking at. They will never get any votes. Maybe I am better off holding my nose and voting for the non-progressive Democratic candidate (knowing they will govern like Republicans without the chastity belts). At least I am not making any excuses for them in the primaries. That is what have reduced ourselves to. What a sad lot we are.

Friday, January 25, 2008

Kucinich for President, RIP

It goes without saying that Dennis Kucinich never had a chance of receiving the Democratic nomination for the Presidency. Still, in spite of his weirdness (the encounter with UFOs and a spouse young enough to be his daughter), Dennis was one of the few, very few progressive voices running for the White House this year. He deserved more support than he received from the left, many of whom seem obsessed with some right-wing libertarian.

Ironically, in 2008, Dennis received almost a thousand more votes in the New Hampshire primary than he tallied in 2004 (3,901 to 3,104 in 2004). His campaign is actually polling higher in 2008 than 2004, as well (about 3-4% this time around compared to 1-2% back in 2004). Of course, 4% is 4%, and after facing a tough battle for reelection, the Congressman thought it prudent to run for the one office he has a shot at being elected to. It is an understandable reasoning, to which I wish the Congressman the best.

What I find less acceptable is why there were so few progressives, outside of some actors and entertainers, to support the Kucinich candidacy? We are hardly a majority in this commercial polity, but we are more than 4% in the Democratic Party. And I am not mentioning those liberals who are foolish enough to think that Hillary Clinton will serve their interests. I am expressly referring to those progressives who complain constantly about the centrist and rightward shift of the Democratic Party under the Democratic Leadership Council and President Bill Clinton. The people who likely voted for Ralph Nader, at least once. The kind of people that still believe in principle. Where were they? Supporting John Edwards or Barack Obama? It is really hard to be motivated about what remains of the Democratic field, unless one wants to cast a protest vote for Mike Gravel (who has an even less of a chance of getting the nomination than Dennis Kucinich).

I am certain of this much, however. The lack of a candidate to center our support around is only going to make us even less significant, particularly to a Democratic Party where its lead candidates get into tussles over trivialities like how someone made a living twenty five years ago. This is what is supposed to get us excited, apparently. When was the last time any of the three main Democratic candidates made the Iraq War a main theme of their campaign? It is almost as if we are not even at war at all. No, someone was a corporate attorney or a flack artist for a slum lord. That is the new politics, or as the good people at Onion "news" call it:

The saddest part is this is supposed to be satire.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

NATO for First Strike Nuclear Attack

This has barely been reported in the American media, but it is remarkable in its depths of evil. Basically, some American and European commanders, including an ex-Chairman of the JCS, are signing a public letter claiming the best way to prevent the spread of nuclear weapons is to, you guessed it, use your own on whoever you think has them.

Welcome to NATO's nuclearized Bush Doctrine of pre-emption.


Pre-emptive nuclear strike a key option, Nato told
Ian Traynor in Brussels
Tuesday January 22, 2008
The Guardian

The west must be ready to resort to a pre-emptive nuclear attack to try to halt the "imminent" spread of nuclear and other weapons of mass destruction, according to a radical manifesto for a new Nato by five of the west's most senior military officers and strategists.

Calling for root-and-branch reform of Nato and a new pact drawing the US, Nato and the European Union together in a "grand strategy" to tackle the challenges of an increasingly brutal world, the former armed forces chiefs from the US, Britain, Germany, France and the Netherlands insist that a "first strike" nuclear option remains an "indispensable instrument" since there is "simply no realistic prospect of a nuclear-free world".

The manifesto has been written following discussions with active commanders and policymakers, many of whom are unable or unwilling to publicly air their views. It has been presented to the Pentagon in Washington and to Nato's secretary general, Jaap de Hoop Scheffer, over the past 10 days. The proposals are likely to be discussed at a Nato summit in Bucharest in April.

"The risk of further [nuclear] proliferation is imminent and, with it, the danger that nuclear war fighting, albeit limited in scope, might become possible," the authors argued in the 150-page blueprint for urgent reform of western military strategy and structures. "The first use of nuclear weapons must remain in the quiver of escalation as the ultimate instrument to prevent the use of weapons of mass destruction."

The authors - General John Shalikashvili, the former chairman of the US joint chiefs of staff and Nato's ex-supreme commander in Europe, General Klaus Naumann, Germany's former top soldier and ex-chairman of Nato's military committee, General Henk van den Breemen, a former Dutch chief of staff, Admiral Jacques Lanxade, a former French chief of staff, and Lord Inge, field marshal and ex-chief of the general staff and the defence staff in the UK - paint an alarming picture of the threats and challenges confronting the west in the post-9/11 world and deliver a withering verdict on the ability to cope.

The five commanders argue that the west's values and way of life are under threat, but the west is struggling to summon the will to defend them. The key threats are:

· Political fanaticism and religious fundamentalism.

· The "dark side" of globalisation, meaning international terrorism, organised crime and the spread of weapons of mass destruction.

· Climate change and energy security, entailing a contest for resources and potential "environmental" migration on a mass scale.

· The weakening of the nation state as well as of organisations such as the UN, Nato and the EU.

To prevail, the generals call for an overhaul of Nato decision-taking methods, a new "directorate" of US, European and Nato leaders to respond rapidly to crises, and an end to EU "obstruction" of and rivalry with Nato. Among the most radical changes demanded are:

· A shift from consensus decision-taking in Nato bodies to majority voting, meaning faster action through an end to national vetoes.

· The abolition of national caveats in Nato operations of the kind that plague the Afghan campaign.

· No role in decision-taking on Nato operations for alliance members who are not taking part in the operations.

· The use of force without UN security council authorisation when "immediate action is needed to protect large numbers of human beings".

In the wake of the latest row over military performance in Afghanistan, touched off when the US defence secretary, Robert Gates, said some allies could not conduct counter-insurgency, the five senior figures at the heart of the western military establishment also declare that Nato's future is on the line in Helmand province.

"Nato's credibility is at stake in Afghanistan," said Van den Breemen.

"Nato is at a juncture and runs the risk of failure," according to the blueprint.

Naumann delivered a blistering attack on his own country's performance in Afghanistan. "The time has come for Germany to decide if it wants to be a reliable partner." By insisting on "special rules" for its forces in Afghanistan, the Merkel government in Berlin was contributing to "the dissolution of Nato".

Ron Asmus, head of the German Marshall Fund thinktank in Brussels and a former senior US state department official, described the manifesto as "a wake-up call". "This report means that the core of the Nato establishment is saying we're in trouble, that the west is adrift and not facing up to the challenges."

Naumann conceded that the plan's retention of the nuclear first strike option was "controversial" even among the five authors. Inge argued that "to tie our hands on first use or no first use removes a huge plank of deterrence".

Reserving the right to initiate nuclear attack was a central element of the west's cold war strategy in defeating the Soviet Union. Critics argue that what was a productive instrument to face down a nuclear superpower is no longer appropriate.

Robert Cooper, an influential shaper of European foreign and security policy in Brussels, said he was "puzzled".

"Maybe we are going to use nuclear weapons before anyone else, but I'd be wary of saying it out loud."

Another senior EU official said Nato needed to "rethink its nuclear posture because the nuclear non-proliferation regime is under enormous pressure".

Naumann suggested the threat of nuclear attack was a counsel of desperation. "Proliferation is spreading and we have not too many options to stop it. We don't know how to deal with this."

Nato needed to show "there is a big stick that we might have to use if there is no other option", he said.

The Authors:

John Shalikashvili

The US's top soldier under Bill Clinton and former Nato commander in Europe, Shalikashvili was born in Warsaw of Georgian parents and emigrated to the US at the height of Stalinism in 1952. He became the first immigrant to the US to rise to become a four-star general. He commanded Operation Provide Comfort in northern Iraq at the end of the first Gulf war, then became Saceur, Nato's supreme allied commander in Europe, before Clinton appointed him chairman of the joint chiefs in 1993, a position he held until his retirement in 1997.

Klaus Naumann

Viewed as one of Germany's and Nato's top military strategists in the 90s, Naumann served as his country's armed forces commander from 1991 to 1996 when he became chairman of Nato's military committee. On his watch, Germany overcame its post-WWII taboo about combat operations, with the Luftwaffe taking to the skies for the first time since 1945 in the Nato air campaign against Serbia.

Lord Inge

Field Marshal Peter Inge is one of Britain's top officers, serving as chief of the general staff in 1992-94, then chief of the defence staff in 1994-97. He also served on the Butler inquiry into Saddam Hussein's weapons of mass destruction and British intelligence.

Henk van den Breemen

An accomplished organist who has played at Westminster Abbey, Van den Breemen is the former Dutch chief of staff.

Jacques Lanxade

A French admiral and former navy chief who was also chief of the French defence staff.,,2244782,00.html

You will observe that there is one reform not on the agenda--changing the structure of the commanding general. This is because the commanding general of NATO at all times, by rule, is an American. Notice also that under this plan, NATO (i.e., the US with a few "new" European Quislings) would reserve the authority to openly defy and/or ignore the UN Security Council when the organization felt "immediate action is needed to protect large numbers of human beings." It should be mentioned that five years ago, these were the same people who felt the US should ignore the UN Security Council to invade Iraq because "immediate action [was] needed to protect large numbers of [Americans]," such as a protection from a phantom biological or nuclear weapons attack (which under this plan would necessitate a pre-emptive nuclear attack from NATO on Iraq).

But, hey, give them credit. They concede it might, just might be "controversial" to employ pre-emptive nuclear attacks on other countries as a means of preventing "large numbers of human beings" from getting in the way of things like non-ionization or that most prickly thing called life. Ungrateful cretins. No doubt this will advance the cause of global democracy, now that the oppressed masses of the world know they too can be melted if their government is perceived to have weapons we already possess and threaten to use on them.

How is this any different than the Roman practice of decimation or, if one prefers fictional comparisons, the Death Star destroying entire recalcitrant planets? How is this any different than the most totalitarian governments eliminating populations in world wars, which we are supposedly opposed to?

Monday, January 21, 2008

Martin Luther King: Peace And Justice

This Martin Luther King Jr. Day is filled with remembrances from the official media and the so-called respectables. Unquestionably, King's greatness as a civil rights leader is replayed. What is often overlooked is that Martin Luther King was more than just a leader of the civil rights movement, important though his role was. King was an advocate of non-violence and peace, as a means and end, and ultimately as the solution to the problems of inequality--racial, social, and economic inequality.

We remember the struggle King led fondly, now, but during his lifetime he was hated--by the US government that wiretapped, harassed, and even attempted to get the reverend to commit suicide (thanks to a man the FBI Headquarters is named after). By the burgeoning black nationalist movement of that epoch, who wanted to take a more militant, even violent stand against racism. Lastly, by the "mainstream" of the civil rights movement itself, who issued invectives against Dr. King for daring to expand the civil rights movement to a broader cause of peace.

In 1967, Dr. King delivered this message of peace and justice, linking the problems of racism with war. It is relevant today because we are fighting our own Vietnam here and now, in Iraq, and the issue of exploitation abroad and at home is as true then as it is now.

Beyond Vietnam: A Time to Break Silence

By Rev. Martin Luther King
4 April 1967

Speech delivered by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., on April 4, 1967, at a meeting of Clergy and Laity Concerned at Riverside Church in New York City

[Please put links to this speech on your respective web sites and if possible, place the text itself there. This is the least well known of Dr. King's speeches among the masses, and it needs to be read by all]

I come to this magnificent house of worship tonight because my conscience leaves me no other choice. I join with you in this meeting because I am in deepest agreement with the aims and work of the organization which has brought us together: Clergy and Laymen Concerned about Vietnam. The recent statement of your executive committee are the sentiments of my own heart and I found myself in full accord when I read its opening lines: "A time comes when silence is betrayal." That time has come for us in relation to Vietnam.

The truth of these words is beyond doubt but the mission to which they call us is a most difficult one. Even when pressed by the demands of inner truth, men do not easily assume the task of opposing their government's policy, especially in time of war. Nor does the human spirit move without great difficulty against all the apathy of conformist thought within one's own bosom and in the surrounding world. Moreover when the issues at hand seem as perplexed as they often do in the case of this dreadful conflict we are always on the verge of being mesmerized by uncertainty; but we must move on.

Some of us who have already begun to break the silence of the night have found that the calling to speak is often a vocation of agony, but we must speak. We must speak with all the humility that is appropriate to our limited vision, but we must speak. And we must rejoice as well, for surely this is the first time in our nation's history that a significant number of its religious leaders have chosen to move beyond the prophesying of smooth patriotism to the high grounds of a firm dissent based upon the mandates of conscience and the reading of history. Perhaps a new spirit is rising among us. If it is, let us trace its movement well and pray that our own inner being may be sensitive to its guidance, for we are deeply in need of a new way beyond the darkness that seems so close around us.

Over the past two years, as I have moved to break the betrayal of my own silences and to speak from the burnings of my own heart, as I have called for radical departures from the destruction of Vietnam, many persons have questioned me about the wisdom of my path. At the heart of their concerns this query has often loomed large and loud: Why are you speaking about war, Dr. King? Why are you joining the voices of dissent? Peace and civil rights don't mix, they say. Aren't you hurting the cause of your people, they ask? And when I hear them, though I often understand the source of their concern, I am nevertheless greatly saddened, for such questions mean that the inquirers have not really known me, my commitment or my calling. Indeed, their questions suggest that they do not know the world in which they live.

In the light of such tragic misunderstandings, I deem it of signal importance to try to state clearly, and I trust concisely, why I believe that the path from Dexter Avenue Baptist Church -- the church in Montgomery, Alabama, where I began my pastorate -- leads clearly to this sanctuary tonight.

I come to this platform tonight to make a passionate plea to my beloved nation. This speech is not addressed to Hanoi or to the National Liberation Front. It is not addressed to China or to Russia.

Nor is it an attempt to overlook the ambiguity of the total situation and the need for a collective solution to the tragedy of Vietnam. Neither is it an attempt to make North Vietnam or the National Liberation Front paragons of virtue, nor to overlook the role they can play in a successful resolution of the problem. While they both may have justifiable reason to be suspicious of the good faith of the United States, life and history give eloquent testimony to the fact that conflicts are never resolved without trustful give and take on both sides.

Tonight, however, I wish not to speak with Hanoi and the NLF, but rather to my fellow Americans, who, with me, bear the greatest responsibility in ending a conflict that has exacted a heavy price on both continents.

The Importance of Vietnam

Since I am a preacher by trade, I suppose it is not surprising that I have seven major reasons for bringing Vietnam into the field of my moral vision. There is at the outset a very obvious and almost facile connection between the war in Vietnam and the struggle I, and others, have been waging in America. A few years ago there was a shining moment in that struggle. It seemed as if there was a real promise of hope for the poor -- both black and white -- through the poverty program. There were experiments, hopes, new beginnings. Then came the buildup in Vietnam and I watched the program broken and eviscerated as if it were some idle political plaything of a society gone mad on war, and I knew that America would never invest the necessary funds or energies in rehabilitation of its poor so long as adventures like Vietnam continued to draw men and skills and money like some demonic destructive suction tube. So I was increasingly compelled to see the war as an enemy of the poor and to attack it as such.

Perhaps the more tragic recognition of reality took place when it became clear to me that the war was doing far more than devastating the hopes of the poor at home. It was sending their sons and their brothers and their husbands to fight and to die in extraordinarily high proportions relative to the rest of the population. We were taking the black young men who had been crippled by our society and sending them eight thousand miles away to guarantee liberties in Southeast Asia which they had not found in southwest Georgia and East Harlem. So we have been repeatedly faced with the cruel irony of watching Negro and white boys on TV screens as they kill and die together for a nation that has been unable to seat them together in the same schools. So we watch them in brutal solidarity burning the huts of a poor village, but we realize that they would never live on the same block in Detroit. I could not be silent in the face of such cruel manipulation of the poor.

My third reason moves to an even deeper level of awareness, for it grows out of my experience in the ghettoes of the North over the last three years -- especially the last three summers. As I have walked among the desperate, rejected and angry young men I have told them that Molotov cocktails and rifles would not solve their problems. I have tried to offer them my deepest compassion while maintaining my conviction that social change comes most meaningfully through nonviolent action. But they asked -- and rightly so -- what about Vietnam? They asked if our own nation wasn't using massive doses of violence to solve its problems, to bring about the changes it wanted. Their questions hit home, and I knew that I could never again raise my voice against the violence of the oppressed in the ghettos without having first spoken clearly to the greatest purveyor of violence in the world today -- my own government. For the sake of those boys, for the sake of this government, for the sake of hundreds of thousands trembling under our violence, I cannot be silent.

For those who ask the question, "Aren't you a civil rights leader?" and thereby mean to exclude me from the movement for peace, I have this further answer. In 1957 when a group of us formed the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, we chose as our motto: "To save the soul of America." We were convinced that we could not limit our vision to certain rights for black people, but instead affirmed the conviction that America would never be free or saved from itself unless the descendants of its slaves were loosed completely from the shackles they still wear. In a way we were agreeing with Langston Hughes, that black bard of Harlem, who had written earlier:

O, yes,
I say it plain,
America never was America to me,
And yet I swear this oath--
America will be!

Now, it should be incandescently clear that no one who has any concern for the integrity and life of America today can ignore the present war. If America's soul becomes totally poisoned, part of the autopsy must read Vietnam. It can never be saved so long as it destroys the deepest hopes of men the world over. So it is that those of us who are yet determined that America will be are led down the path of protest and dissent, working for the health of our land.

As if the weight of such a commitment to the life and health of America were not enough, another burden of responsibility was placed upon me in 1964; and I cannot forget that the Nobel Prize for Peace was also a commission -- a commission to work harder than I had ever worked before for "the brotherhood of man." This is a calling that takes me beyond national allegiances, but even if it were not present I would yet have to live with the meaning of my commitment to the ministry of Jesus Christ. To me the relationship of this ministry to the making of peace is so obvious that I sometimes marvel at those who ask me why I am speaking against the war. Could it be that they do not know that the good news was meant for all men -- for Communist and capitalist, for their children and ours, for black and for white, for revolutionary and conservative? Have they forgotten that my ministry is in obedience to the one who loved his enemies so fully that he died for them? What then can I say to the "Vietcong" or to Castro or to Mao as a faithful minister of this one? Can I threaten them with death or must I not share with them my life?

Finally, as I try to delineate for you and for myself the road that leads from Montgomery to this place I would have offered all that was most valid if I simply said that I must be true to my conviction that I share with all men the calling to be a son of the living God. Beyond the calling of race or nation or creed is this vocation of sonship and brotherhood, and because I believe that the Father is deeply concerned especially for his suffering and helpless and outcast children, I come tonight to speak for them.

This I believe to be the privilege and the burden of all of us who deem ourselves bound by allegiances and loyalties which are broader and deeper than nationalism and which go beyond our nation's self-defined goals and positions. We are called to speak for the weak, for the voiceless, for victims of our nation and for those it calls enemy, for no document from human hands can make these humans any less our brothers.

Strange Liberators

And as I ponder the madness of Vietnam and search within myself for ways to understand and respond to compassion my mind goes constantly to the people of that peninsula. I speak now not of the soldiers of each side, not of the junta in Saigon, but simply of the people who have been living under the curse of war for almost three continuous decades now. I think of them too because it is clear to me that there will be no meaningful solution there until some attempt is made to know them and hear their broken cries.

They must see Americans as strange liberators. The Vietnamese people proclaimed their own independence in 1945 after a combined French and Japanese occupation, and before the Communist revolution in China. They were led by Ho Chi Minh. Even though they quoted the American Declaration of Independence in their own document of freedom, we refused to recognize them. Instead, we decided to support France in its reconquest of her former colony.

Our government felt then that the Vietnamese people were not "ready" for independence, and we again fell victim to the deadly Western arrogance that has poisoned the international atmosphere for so long. With that tragic decision we rejected a revolutionary government seeking self-determination, and a government that had been established not by China (for whom the Vietnamese have no great love) but by clearly indigenous forces that included some Communists. For the peasants this new government meant real land reform, one of the most important needs in their lives.

For nine years following 1945 we denied the people of Vietnam the right of independence. For nine years we vigorously supported the French in their abortive effort to recolonize Vietnam.

Before the end of the war we were meeting eighty percent of the French war costs. Even before the French were defeated at Dien Bien Phu, they began to despair of the reckless action, but we did not. We encouraged them with our huge financial and military supplies to continue the war even after they had lost the will. Soon we would be paying almost the full costs of this tragic attempt at recolonization.

After the French were defeated it looked as if independence and land reform would come again through the Geneva agreements. But instead there came the United States, determined that Ho should not unify the temporarily divided nation, and the peasants watched again as we supported one of the most vicious modern dictators -- our chosen man, Premier Diem. The peasants watched and cringed as Diem ruthlessly routed out all opposition, supported their extortionist landlords and refused even to discuss reunification with the north. The peasants watched as all this was presided over by U.S. influence and then by increasing numbers of U.S. troops who came to help quell the insurgency that Diem's methods had aroused. When Diem was overthrown they may have been happy, but the long line of military dictatorships seemed to offer no real change -- especially in terms of their need for land and peace.

The only change came from America as we increased our troop commitments in support of governments which were singularly corrupt, inept and without popular support. All the while the people read our leaflets and received regular promises of peace and democracy -- and land reform. Now they languish under our bombs and consider us -- not their fellow Vietnamese --the real enemy. They move sadly and apathetically as we herd them off the land of their fathers into concentration camps where minimal social needs are rarely met. They know they must move or be destroyed by our bombs. So they go -- primarily women and children and the aged.

They watch as we poison their water, as we kill a million acres of their crops. They must weep as the bulldozers roar through their areas preparing to destroy the precious trees. They wander into the hospitals, with at least twenty casualties from American firepower for one "Vietcong"-inflicted injury. So far we may have killed a million of them -- mostly children. They wander into the towns and see thousands of the children, homeless, without clothes, running in packs on the streets like animals. They see the children, degraded by our soldiers as they beg for food. They see the children selling their sisters to our soldiers, soliciting for their mothers.

What do the peasants think as we ally ourselves with the landlords and as we refuse to put any action into our many words concerning land reform? What do they think as we test our latest weapons on them, just as the Germans tested out new medicine and new tortures in the concentration camps of Europe? Where are the roots of the independent Vietnam we claim to be building? Is it among these voiceless ones?

We have destroyed their two most cherished institutions: the family and the village. We have destroyed their land and their crops. We have cooperated in the crushing of the nation's only non-Communist revolutionary political force -- the unified Buddhist church. We have supported the enemies of the peasants of Saigon. We have corrupted their women and children and killed their men. What liberators?

Now there is little left to build on -- save bitterness. Soon the only solid physical foundations remaining will be found at our military bases and in the concrete of the concentration camps we call fortified hamlets. The peasants may well wonder if we plan to build our new Vietnam on such grounds as these? Could we blame them for such thoughts? We must speak for them and raise the questions they cannot raise. These too are our brothers.

Perhaps the more difficult but no less necessary task is to speak for those who have been designated as our enemies. What of the National Liberation Front -- that strangely anonymous group we call VC or Communists? What must they think of us in America when they realize that we permitted the repression and cruelty of Diem which helped to bring them into being as a resistance group in the south? What do they think of our condoning the violence which led to their own taking up of arms? How can they believe in our integrity when now we speak of "aggression from the north" as if there were nothing more essential to the war? How can they trust us when now we charge them with violence after the murderous reign of Diem and charge them with violence while we pour every new weapon of death into their land? Surely we must understand their feelings even if we do not condone their actions. Surely we must see that the men we supported pressed them to their violence. Surely we must see that our own computerized plans of destruction simply dwarf their greatest acts.

How do they judge us when our officials know that their membership is less than twenty-five percent Communist and yet insist on giving them the blanket name? What must they be thinking when they know that we are aware of their control of major sections of Vietnam and yet we appear ready to allow national elections in which this highly organized political parallel government will have no part? They ask how we can speak of free elections when the Saigon press is censored and controlled by the military junta. And they are surely right to wonder what kind of new government we plan to help form without them -- the only party in real touch with the peasants. They question our political goals and they deny the reality of a peace settlement from which they will be excluded. Their questions are frighteningly relevant. Is our nation planning to build on political myth again and then shore it up with the power of new violence?

Here is the true meaning and value of compassion and nonviolence when it helps us to see the enemy's point of view, to hear his questions, to know his assessment of ourselves. For from his view we may indeed see the basic weaknesses of our own condition, and if we are mature, we may learn and grow and profit from the wisdom of the brothers who are called the opposition.

So, too, with Hanoi. In the north, where our bombs now pummel the land, and our mines endanger the waterways, we are met by a deep but understandable mistrust. To speak for them is to explain this lack of confidence in Western words, and especially their distrust of American intentions now. In Hanoi are the men who led the nation to independence against the Japanese and the French, the men who sought membership in the French commonwealth and were betrayed by the weakness of Paris and the willfulness of the colonial armies. It was they who led a second struggle against French domination at tremendous costs, and then were persuaded to give up the land they controlled between the thirteenth and seventeenth parallel as a temporary measure at Geneva. After 1954 they watched us conspire with Diem to prevent elections which would have surely brought Ho Chi Minh to power over a united Vietnam, and they realized they had been betrayed again.

When we ask why they do not leap to negotiate, these things must be remembered. Also it must be clear that the leaders of Hanoi considered the presence of American troops in support of the Diem regime to have been the initial military breach of the Geneva agreements concerning foreign troops, and they remind us that they did not begin to send in any large number of supplies or men until American forces had moved into the tens of thousands.

Hanoi remembers how our leaders refused to tell us the truth about the earlier North Vietnamese overtures for peace, how the president claimed that none existed when they had clearly been made. Ho Chi Minh has watched as America has spoken of peace and built up its forces, and now he has surely heard of the increasing international rumors of American plans for an invasion of the north. He knows the bombing and shelling and mining we are doing are part of traditional pre-invasion strategy. Perhaps only his sense of humor and of irony can save him when he hears the most powerful nation of the world speaking of aggression as it drops thousands of bombs on a poor weak nation more than eight thousand miles away from its shores.

At this point I should make it clear that while I have tried in these last few minutes to give a voice to the voiceless on Vietnam and to understand the arguments of those who are called enemy, I am as deeply concerned about our troops there as anything else. For it occurs to me that what we are submitting them to in Vietnam is not simply the brutalizing process that goes on in any war where armies face each other and seek to destroy. We are adding cynicism to the process of death, for they must know after a short period there that none of the things we claim to be fighting for are really involved. Before long they must know that their government has sent them into a struggle among Vietnamese, and the more sophisticated surely realize that we are on the side of the wealthy and the secure while we create hell for the poor.

This Madness Must Cease

Somehow this madness must cease. We must stop now. I speak as a child of God and brother to the suffering poor of Vietnam. I speak for those whose land is being laid waste, whose homes are being destroyed, whose culture is being subverted. I speak for the poor of America who are paying the double price of smashed hopes at home and death and corruption in Vietnam. I speak as a citizen of the world, for the world as it stands aghast at the path we have taken. I speak as an American to the leaders of my own nation. The great initiative in this war is ours. The initiative to stop it must be ours.

This is the message of the great Buddhist leaders of Vietnam. Recently one of them wrote these words:

"Each day the war goes on the hatred increases in the heart of the Vietnamese and in the hearts of those of humanitarian instinct. The Americans are forcing even their friends into becoming their enemies. It is curious that the Americans, who calculate so carefully on the possibilities of military victory, do not realize that in the process they are incurring deep psychological and political defeat. The image of America will never again be the image of revolution, freedom and democracy, but the image of violence and militarism."

If we continue, there will be no doubt in my mind and in the mind of the world that we have no honorable intentions in Vietnam. It will become clear that our minimal expectation is to occupy it as an American colony and men will not refrain from thinking that our maximum hope is to goad China into a war so that we may bomb her nuclear installations. If we do not stop our war against the people of Vietnam immediately the world will be left with no other alternative than to see this as some horribly clumsy and deadly game we have decided to play.

The world now demands a maturity of America that we may not be able to achieve. It demands that we admit that we have been wrong from the beginning of our adventure in Vietnam, that we have been detrimental to the life of the Vietnamese people. The situation is one in which we must be ready to turn sharply from our present ways.

In order to atone for our sins and errors in Vietnam, we should take the initiative in bringing a halt to this tragic war. I would like to suggest five concrete things that our government should do immediately to begin the long and difficult process of extricating ourselves from this nightmarish conflict:

  1. End all bombing in North and South Vietnam.
  2. Declare a unilateral cease-fire in the hope that such action will create the atmosphere for negotiation.
  3. Take immediate steps to prevent other battlegrounds in Southeast Asia by curtailing our military buildup in Thailand and our interference in Laos.
  4. Realistically accept the fact that the National Liberation Front has substantial support in South Vietnam and must thereby play a role in any meaningful negotiations and in any future Vietnam government.
  5. Set a date that we will remove all foreign troops from Vietnam in accordance with the 1954 Geneva agreement.

Part of our ongoing commitment might well express itself in an offer to grant asylum to any Vietnamese who fears for his life under a new regime which included the Liberation Front. Then we must make what reparations we can for the damage we have done. We most provide the medical aid that is badly needed, making it available in this country if necessary.

Protesting The War

Meanwhile we in the churches and synagogues have a continuing task while we urge our government to disengage itself from a disgraceful commitment. We must continue to raise our voices if our nation persists in its perverse ways in Vietnam. We must be prepared to match actions with words by seeking out every creative means of protest possible.

As we counsel young men concerning military service we must clarify for them our nation's role in Vietnam and challenge them with the alternative of conscientious objection. I am pleased to say that this is the path now being chosen by more than seventy students at my own alma mater, Morehouse College, and I recommend it to all who find the American course in Vietnam a dishonorable and unjust one. Moreover I would encourage all ministers of draft age to give up their ministerial exemptions and seek status as conscientious objectors. These are the times for real choices and not false ones. We are at the moment when our lives must be placed on the line if our nation is to survive its own folly. Every man of humane convictions must decide on the protest that best suits his convictions, but we must all protest.

There is something seductively tempting about stopping there and sending us all off on what in some circles has become a popular crusade against the war in Vietnam. I say we must enter the struggle, but I wish to go on now to say something even more disturbing. The war in Vietnam is but a symptom of a far deeper malady within the American spirit, and if we ignore this sobering reality we will find ourselves organizing clergy- and laymen-concerned committees for the next generation. They will be concerned about Guatemala and Peru. They will be concerned about Thailand and Cambodia. They will be concerned about Mozambique and South Africa. We will be marching for these and a dozen other names and attending rallies without end unless there is a significant and profound change in American life and policy. Such thoughts take us beyond Vietnam, but not beyond our calling as sons of the living God.

In 1957 a sensitive American official overseas said that it seemed to him that our nation was on the wrong side of a world revolution. During the past ten years we have seen emerge a pattern of suppression which now has justified the presence of U.S. military "advisors" in Venezuela. This need to maintain social stability for our investments accounts for the counter-revolutionary action of American forces in Guatemala. It tells why American helicopters are being used against guerrillas in Colombia and why American napalm and green beret forces have already been active against rebels in Peru. It is with such activity in mind that the words of the late John F. Kennedy come back to haunt us. Five years ago he said, "Those who make peaceful revolution impossible will make violent revolution inevitable."

Increasingly, by choice or by accident, this is the role our nation has taken -- the role of those who make peaceful revolution impossible by refusing to give up the privileges and the pleasures that come from the immense profits of overseas investment.

I am convinced that if we are to get on the right side of the world revolution, we as a nation must undergo a radical revolution of values. We must rapidly begin the shift from a "thing-oriented" society to a "person-oriented" society. When machines and computers, profit motives and property rights are considered more important than people, the giant triplets of racism, materialism, and militarism are incapable of being conquered.

A true revolution of values will soon cause us to question the fairness and justice of many of our past and present policies. n the one hand we are called to play the good Samaritan on life's roadside; but that will be only an initial act. One day we must come to see that the whole Jericho road must be transformed so that men and women will not be constantly beaten and robbed as they make their journey on life's highway. True compassion is more than flinging a coin to a beggar; it is not haphazard and superficial. It comes to see that an edifice which produces beggars needs restructuring. A true revolution of values will soon look uneasily on the glaring contrast of poverty and wealth. With righteous indignation, it will look across the seas and see individual capitalists of the West investing huge sums of money in Asia, Africa and South America, only to take the profits out with no concern for the social betterment of the countries, and say: "This is not just." It will look at our alliance with the landed gentry of Latin America and say: "This is not just." The Western arrogance of feeling that it has everything to teach others and nothing to learn from them is not just. A true revolution of values will lay hands on the world order and say of war: "This way of settling differences is not just." This business of burning human beings with napalm, of filling our nation's homes with orphans and widows, of injecting poisonous drugs of hate into veins of people normally humane, of sending men home from dark and bloody battlefields physically handicapped and psychologically deranged, cannot be reconciled with wisdom, justice and love. A nation that continues year after year to spend more money on military defense than on programs of social uplift is approaching spiritual death.

America, the richest and most powerful nation in the world, can well lead the way in this revolution of values. There is nothing, except a tragic death wish, to prevent us from reordering our priorities, so that the pursuit of peace will take precedence over the pursuit of war. There is nothing to keep us from molding a recalcitrant status quo with bruised hands until we have fashioned it into a brotherhood.

This kind of positive revolution of values is our best defense against communism. War is not the answer. Communism will never be defeated by the use of atomic bombs or nuclear weapons. Let us not join those who shout war and through their misguided passions urge the United States to relinquish its participation in the United Nations. These are days which demand wise restraint and calm reasonableness. We must not call everyone a Communist or an appeaser who advocates the seating of Red China in the United Nations and who recognizes that hate and hysteria are not the final answers to the problem of these turbulent days. We must not engage in a negative anti-communism, but rather in a positive thrust for democracy, realizing that our greatest defense against communism is to take offensive action in behalf of justice. We must with positive action seek to remove thosse conditions of poverty, insecurity and injustice which are the fertile soil in which the seed of communism grows and develops.

The People Are Important

These are revolutionary times. All over the globe men are revolting against old systems of exploitation and oppression and out of the wombs of a frail world new systems of justice and equality are being born. The shirtless and barefoot people of the land are rising up as never before. "The people who sat in darkness have seen a great light." We in the West must support these revolutions. It is a sad fact that, because of comfort, complacency, a morbid fear of communism, and our proneness to adjust to injustice, the Western nations that initiated so much of the revolutionary spirit of the modern world have now become the arch anti-revolutionaries. This has driven many to feel that only Marxism has the revolutionary spirit. Therefore, communism is a judgement against our failure to make democracy real and follow through on the revolutions we initiated. Our only hope today lies in our ability to recapture the revolutionary spirit and go out into a sometimes hostile world declaring eternal hostility to poverty, racism, and militarism. With this powerful commitment we shall boldly challenge the status quo and unjust mores and thereby speed the day when "every valley shall be exalted, and every moutain and hill shall be made low, and the crooked shall be made straight and the rough places plain."

A genuine revolution of values means in the final analysis that our loyalties must become ecumenical rather than sectional. Every nation must now develop an overriding loyalty to mankind as a whole in order to preserve the best in their individual societies.

This call for a world-wide fellowship that lifts neighborly concern beyond one's tribe, race, class and nation is in reality a call for an all-embracing and unconditional love for all men. This oft misunderstood and misinterpreted concept -- so readily dismissed by the Nietzsches of the world as a weak and cowardly force -- has now become an absolute necessity for the survival of man. When I speak of love I am not speaking of some sentimental and weak response. I am speaking of that force which all of the great religions have seen as the supreme unifying principle of life. Love is somehow the key that unlocks the door which leads to ultimate reality. This Hindu-Moslem-Christian-Jewish-Buddhist belief about ultimate reality is beautifully summed up in the first epistle of Saint John:

Let us love one another; for love is God and everyone that loveth is born of God and knoweth God. He that loveth not knoweth not God; for God is love. If we love one another God dwelleth in us, and his love is perfected in us.

Let us hope that this spirit will become the order of the day. We can no longer afford to worship the god of hate or bow before the altar of retaliation. The oceans of history are made turbulent by the ever-rising tides of hate. History is cluttered with the wreckage of nations and individuals that pursued this self-defeating path of hate. As Arnold Toynbee says : "Love is the ultimate force that makes for the saving choice of life and good against the damning choice of death and evil. Therefore the first hope in our inventory must be the hope that love is going to have the last word."

We are now faced with the fact that tomorrow is today. We are confronted with the fierce urgency of now. In this unfolding conundrum of life and history there is such a thing as being too late. Procrastination is still the thief of time. Life often leaves us standing bare, naked and dejected with a lost opportunity. The "tide in the affairs of men" does not remain at the flood; it ebbs. We may cry out deperately for time to pause in her passage, but time is deaf to every plea and rushes on. Over the bleached bones and jumbled residue of numerous civilizations are written the pathetic words: "Too late." There is an invisible book of life that faithfully records our vigilance or our neglect. "The moving finger writes, and having writ moves on..." We still have a choice today; nonviolent coexistence or violent co-annihilation.

We must move past indecision to action. We must find new ways to speak for peace in Vietnam and justice throughout the developing world -- a world that borders on our doors. If we do not act we shall surely be dragged down the long dark and shameful corridors of time reserved for those who possess power without compassion, might without morality, and strength without sight.

Now let us begin. Now let us rededicate ourselves to the long and bitter -- but beautiful -- struggle for a new world. This is the callling of the sons of God, and our brothers wait eagerly for our response. Shall we say the odds are too great? Shall we tell them the struggle is too hard? Will our message be that the forces of American life militate against their arrival as full men, and we send our deepest regrets? Or will there be another message, of longing, of hope, of solidarity with their yearnings, of commitment to their cause, whatever the cost? The choice is ours, and though we might prefer it otherwise we must choose in this crucial moment of human history.

As that noble bard of yesterday, James Russell Lowell, eloquently stated:

Once to every man and nation
Comes the moment to decide,
In the strife of truth and falsehood,
For the good or evil side;
Some great cause, God's new Messiah,
Off'ring each the bloom or blight,
And the choice goes by forever
Twixt that darkness and that light.

Though the cause of evil prosper,
Yet 'tis truth alone is strong;
Though her portion be the scaffold,
And upon the throne be wrong:
Yet that scaffold sways the future,
And behind the dim unknown,
Standeth God within the shadow
Keeping watch above his own.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Can Obama Win?

If someone had walked up to me a few months ago and told me that Barack Obama was going to receive the Democratic nomination, I would have laughed. Not at Senator Obama. I assumed that with her name, money, and IOUs within the party, Hillary Clinton was almost assured the party's nomination for the November general election. I still feel that way now, but I cannot deny the appeal or even the possibility that Obama could eek out a victory, something I would not have considered possible until now. Why?

First, Obama is ahead in this short race, thus far, in total delegate count. He won in Iowa, came close to winning in New Hampshire, and is ahead in South Carolina. Second, and this dovetails as one of the reasons why he has surged ahead in South Carolina, Senator Obama is finally beginning to receive mass support from the African American community, which was until recently seemingly tied unshakably to the Clinton campaign. Remember those news stories about Hillary was winning greater support from the black community, and even claims from the likes of Jesse Jackson that Barack was not "black enough"? As of now, Obama is the choice candidate of 60% of African American voters. Granted, this is not the general election, but if you are running for the White House in the Democratic Party, in states where African Americans are over 40% of the voting electorate, support from the black community is a must.

Third, the issue of electability. It is still an open issue if this country is more prepared to vote for a female over an African American, but both candidates are more than their gender and ethnic identities. Are people willing to vote for Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama over the Republican nominee?
If one looks at the numbers, Barack Obama fares quite well.

Obama v. Giuliani

Obama v. McCain

Obama v. Huckabee

Obama v. Romney

Avg. Margin


52.3% - 38%

44.5% - 45.8%

52.3% - 38.8%

54.7 - 33.3%


Clinton v. Giuliani

Clinton v. McCain

Clinton v. Huckabee

Clinton v. Romney

Avg. Margin


50% - 41.3%

44.5% - 48.5%

49.3% - 42.8%

51.3% 39.3%


Source: Real Clear Politics (head-to-head averaged 1/09-1/13 polls from USA Today/Gallup, Hotline/FD, CNN, Rasmussen).

If one just looks at the head-to-head competition, Barack Obama is a much better candidate. This is not just on account of Obama's increasing support from voters in his own party. It is because Obama has an appeal that goes outside of his party, particularly with younger and even independent voters. The only candidate that Obama is losing to in the head-to-head is McCain, and even that is within the margin of error (at 1.3%).

So, based on these numbers, it is becoming clear that Barack Obama is the more electable candidate, at least more electable than Hillary Clinton. For those who always wanted to find out if this country was ready to vote for an African American nominee for one of the major parties in a Presidential election, we may get our wish, especially if Barack remains ahead in the delegate count following Super Tuesday.