By David Swanson
Remarks prepared for event with comedian Lee Camp, Charlottesville, Va., February 21, 2015, event postponed by snow storm. When it's rescheduled I'll say something completely unrelated.
This is the serious part of tonight's event, except that Lee often deals with very serious topics. So what I mean is: this is the unfunny part of tonight's event, except that I'm going to talk about the United States government. One of my favorite things that Mark Twain didn't really say but definitely should have said was "Sometimes I wonder whether the world is being run by smart people who are putting us on, or by imbeciles who really mean it." He left out the possibility of imbeciles who are putting us on.
On Thursday Comcast internet was not working at my house, just as Comcast's hired Congress members were introducing a bill to create a closed internet with fast lanes for the corporate crap we didn't need the internet for. And a good internet media outlet called TheRealNews.com wanted to do a video interview with me, which I didn't want to do in Java Java because I try not to be quite that rude. So I sat out on the Downtown Mall and did the interview. It was about 12 degrees out, and I think you can see me shaking. And what did they want to talk about? War? Peace? The climate?
They wanted to talk about Jeb Bush. Clearly he is an imbecile who is putting us on. He'd been talking on foreign policy, and of course he agreed with Obama on most everything but claimed not to. On NSA spying, for example, he disagreed basically with the fact that there has been public criticism of Obama's abuses. How he would eliminate criticism he didn't say. He didn't bring up Ukraine or Afghanistan or drone wars, because what would he disagree with? He did bring up the Korean War in order to claim it was a success and not the stupid pointless draw that everyone called it for decades, but of course the innovator in popularizing that ridiculous claim was ... President Obama.
Mostly Jeb focused on Iran, pushing the false claim that Iran wants to wipe Israel off the map and is threatening nuclear attack. Obama pushes all the same lines but then nonsensically and uniquely in this case arrives at the antiwar view that diplomacy is preferable to bombing. Jeb approves of Netanyahu stepping in on March 3rd to give Congress its war orders on the one war Obama doesn't want. I recommend going to SkipTheSpeech.org and urging Congress Members to skip it, as many have committed to doing -- even with Sheldon Adelson promising to pay for the unelection of each of them.
More broadly, Jeb pushed the idea that the Middle East is a disaster because it hasn't been bombed enough, and that the U.S. is disliked because it hasn't attacked enough countries. There are two problems with this. One, it's a disgusting and ridiculous lie that has been getting people killed for many years. A Gallup poll early last year of 65 countries found the U.S. to be considered far and away the biggest threat to peace in the world. The nations in the worst shape are the ones the U.S. has bombed. U.S. ambassador to the UN Samantha Powers has actually argued that we should stop paying attention to what bombing Libya did to Libya in order to be sufficiently willing to bomb Iraq and Syria. ISIS actually produced a 60-minute movie begging the United States to go to war against it because recruitment would soar. The U.S. obliged. Recruitment soared. This is how disliked the United States has made itself: organizations are willing to be bombed if it will show them to be the leading opponents of the United States -- a country that, by the way, puts over a trillion dollars a year into war when tens of billions could address world hunger, clean water, and other basic needs. For a fraction of war spending, the U.S. could address climate chaos, agriculture, education, etc., and become the most loved government on earth. But would that feel as good as screaming threats at ISIS?
ISIS, after all, kills people, cuts their throats like Saudi Arabia but on a smaller scale so it's more evil, and burns people to death, like U.S. drone strikes, but on a smaller scale so it must be stopped by using the larger scale killing to stop it.
It's amazing how Americans manage to think about violence. Why, we ask ourselves, don't cops need guns in London? Well, because the criminals don't have guns, but over here they do. So we have to fight guns with guns, and just to be safe spread some more guns around. But why, we ask ourselves, is the Middle East so violent? Well, that's easy: it's the result of millennia-old ethnic and religious hatreds that lie dormant for millennia and then burst into the open when we mistakenly provide freedom they're not ready for in the form of incendiary bombs and depleted uranium. And of course they have guns over there, it's part of their religion. Really? Because the U.S. State Department says that 79% of the weapons shipped to the Middle East are from the United States. That doesn't count the U.S. weapons, the weapons the CIA gives the moderate neck slitters, or the weapons the Iraqi Army abandons. In other words, the same geniuses who are selling drones to the world now have long been arming the global hotspots where they periodically seek to create peace by escalating war. I have a new theory: they are imbeciles who are putting themselves on.
The second problem with Jeb's prescription of more militarism is that President Obama has just proposed the biggest military budget ever and asked Congress for a free pass to launch new wars -- as he's doing anyway and says he'll do regardless -- and the American people are convinced that it's their duty to form opinions about Jeb and his brother and his father and Hillary Clinton and various other imbeciles or putter-oners or both. We're supposed to think that caring about such jack asses makes us good citizens. This is a disastrous distraction. It is actually our duty to engage in policy-driven activism, including activism aimed at fixing a broken election system, and to stop imagining that we're going to vote our way out of apocalypse by cheerleading the candidate for militarized corporate capitalism over the other candidate for militarized corporate capitalism.
Oh, but it's so much more fun to mock Jeb, isn't it? If we criticize Obama we have something in common with icky racists. Seriously? Which is more childish, the racism or the moronic notion that one must obey authority without question or become a racist? You don't have to "Approve" or "Disapprove" of Obama in some simplistic overall sense. There is no requirement in life or politics to be as stupid as a pollster's questions. You can encourage Obama's diplomacy on Iran and resist his warmaking in Iraq and Afghanistan. Promote the good, resist the bad. And avoid the desire to make it personal.
Jeb did try to find one other place to disagree with Obama, namely Cuba. As it happens, I just got back from Cuba last week and have a different perspective. The Republican line parroted by Jeb is that Obama did something for Cuba with nothing in return. Well, Obama is considering taking Cuba off the absurd terrorist list, since Cuba doesn't fund terrorism. But Cuba hasn't put the United States on a terrorist list to take it off of. There has been talk of ending the economic blockade, but Cuba has no blockade against the U.S. to lift. What is it Jeb wants of Cuba? Well, he wants it to stop supporting the popularly elected government of Venezuela and allow its overthrow. See, to get to Obama's right you have to go to overthrowing governments -- and then you'll discover that Obama pretty much agrees with you.
The U.S. is actually proposing to allow importing from Cuba limited items produced by private enterprise. This is an effort to privatize Cuba, to radically change or overthrow its government. By "opening" to Cuba, Obama has given himself new tools. The mission is unchanged. A few of us met with the staff of the soon-to-be U.S. embassy down there, and asked about the $20 million the U.S. spends propagandizing Cubans each year. I asked how they'd feel if Cuba funded activists in the United States. One of them told me there was no need, because the United States has freedom of speech and Cuba doesn't. OK, I said, but the United States has troops in 175 countries and more wars than it can keep track of, and Cuba doesn't. What if Cuba funded a movement against militarism in the United States? The U.S. diplomats said they'd have no problem with that at all. But of course the U.S. government would -- in fact working with Cuba on anything would constitute aiding "terrorists."
I suppose it's not very funny but it should be that if Cuba ever actually attacked the United States we would hear about it 24/7, but the United States and its terrorists living openly in Florida have for over 50 years blown up buildings and planes in Cuba, murdered in Cuba, and introduced human and animal diseases to Cuba, and the Cubans have museums full of the gear they've seized from the hapless CIA, but the Cuban people are delighted to meet Americans and don't blame us one bit for our government just as they'd no doubt like not to be blamed for their own.
Their government and many observers have a theory about why the U.S. government hates Cuba so much: it doesn't want us to see that even a poor country can provide universal healthcare, education, and a guaranteed income.
I'm thrilled with the victory of Jeff Fogel and others in the ruling this week that found a ban on panhandling unconstitutional here. But what if a nation with the resources of the U.S. were to start dreaming bigger? What if we were to do away with the need for panhandling? What if everyone had a full stomach, a good education, no debt, and some free time to pay attention to things?
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