People of conscience object to the Iraq War because it is a crime committed in the service of U.S. imperialism. Barack Obama objects to it because he views it as an obstacle to U.S. imperialism. The difference between those two objections is night and day: If one believes that the principal problem with the Iraq War is that it undermines U.S. power in the Middle East, then it only follows logically that he or she will willingly unleash the most brutal of wars if it were perceived as advancing U.S. power. Hence Obama’s eagerness to “keep the military option on the table” with Iran.
Imagination versus Illusion
Some people react negatively to the argument that—while there are differences between Obama and McCain—an Obama presidency would nonetheless represent a continuation of the politics of empire, repression, and war. For instance, during a recent conversation about the elections, a middle-aged activist decried the “rhetoric of hopelessness” he felt was embodied in the position I was putting forth.
But the point of everything I have written here, and of similar sentiments voiced in World Can’t Wait writings and speeches, is not to dash people’s hopes. In fact, the intent is the exact opposite: to inspire people to place their hope, and more importantly their efforts and energies, into a vehicle that is actually working for change. This process requires some imagination, to be sure, but there is a crucial difference between imagination and illusion: Imagination means envisioning a different future in service of transforming the present. Illusion means distorting the future in service of accepting the present.
With that in mind, I ask the reader to imagine. Imagine the impact on society if the manifestations of resistance we have seen recently—too small and too rare but very important nonetheless—began to multiply exponentially in numbers and in spirit. Imagine thousands of students at UC Berkeley had worn orange jumpsuits and demanded the firing of John Yoo, rather than roughly 200. Imagine tens of thousands of students had marched in Washington, D.C. on the 5th anniversary of the war, instead of hundreds. Imagine hundreds of thousands had taken to the streets of New York City on May 7 to protest the Sean Bell verdict, instead of thousands. Imagine if 1 percent of the U.S. population—3 million people—were actually wearing orange to show their resistance to the Bush Regime and its agenda, as Dr. Dennis Loo has called for. And imagine these things were happening regularly, not periodically.
By “imagine,” I do not mean, “Gee, wouldn’t it be nice if these things happened?” I mean, “Consider what a different place our world could be if this actually did happen.” And weigh that vision honestly against your best interpretation of what Barack Obama is offering.
The World Can’t Wait is not seeking political office, so it would be not only immoral but futile for us to offer guarantees of “change.” In actuality, we cannot be sure— even if mass movements of resistance mushroom in the manner described above—that we will be able to reverse everything the Bush Regime has done in the past 8 years. But we could at least be sure of trying.
And that is more than can be said of any of the presidential candidates, including Barack Obama