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Obama and the Hero's Journey

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The election of Barack Obama to the U.S. Presidency sparked global celebrations among political progressives. While critics at the extreme end of the progressive community were alarmed by his election, most political progressives are fervently hoping that Obama can turn the U.S. around after eight disastrous years under the Bush administration. While critics of President-Elect Obama suspect him and his supporters of creating a personality cult that will be used to promote big corporate interests they overlook the extent to which Obama reflects a powerful archetypal force in the U.S. collective consciousness. The archetype is "The Hero" as represented in Joseph Campbell's popular book, The Hero with a Thousand Faces (1949). Campbell described the Hero as an archetypal figure that goes through a journey of self-discovery by first separating from society, then being initiated into sacred mysteries, and finally returning to society. With the return, the Hero provides the fruits of his or her labor where many positive ethical changes are made to uplift society.

In 1999/2000, I wrote, The Hero's Journey to a Second American Century (published 2001) where Joseph Campbell's 'hero journey' was applied to nation-states. An extra ethical phase was identified that created a complete cycle - the Forgetting. So a nation-state could go through repeated cycles of a national hero's journey over centuries of history: Separation, Initiation, Return and Forgetting. The idea that the policies of nations could follow distinct cycles was first proposed by the historian Arthur Schlesinger, Snr., in a 1939 essay, "The Tides of History" (Yale Review). The idea was further developed by his son, Arthur Schlesinger, Jr., in The Cycles of American History (1986) where he identified moral cycles in America's foreign and domestic policies.

The different stages used in The Hero's Journey to a Second American Century were, first, the 'Call to Adventure' where a nation would separate itself from a corrupted international system. The second, the 'Great Remembering,' was where the nation returned to its founding ideals and integrated these into a new national mission. The third stage was the 'Return to International Society,' where the nation would embark again to support its ideals on the international stage. The final stage, the 'Deep Forgetting', represented a nation entering into a period of forgetting its national ideals in pursuit of imperialism and national greed. An article summarizing America's different hero journeys is available here.

At the beginning of the Bush administration, the U.S. was poised to enter a 'Deep Forgetting' wherein the ideals of the Founding fathers would be forgotten. This has been proved to be the case over the eight years of President Bush's tenure. The 2008 election of Barack Obama in turn promises to usher in a new cycle of the Hero's journey for the U.S., its eighth, where the U.S. enters into a deeper and more meaningful expression the ideals of the Founding Fathers. But before examining Obama's role in this new Hero's journey for the U.S., it's important to pause and reflect on what occurred during the Bush administration.

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911, Contrived Wars, Drugs and the Deep Forgetting
The attacks on September 11, 2001, galvanized American public support for a set of military interventions in Afghanistan and Iraq that were claimed by the Bush administration to be a necessary part of a global war on terror. The 911 Commission Report came up with many recommendations for the Bush Administration, some of which were never implemented. Of most concern to critics, were the omissions of The 911 Report when it came to foreknowledge of a possible terrorist attempt to hijack planes, civil and military exercises on 911, and the collapse of World Trade Center 7. This led to a growing number of critics suspecting the senior members of the Bush administration were complicit in the 911 attacks.

Authors such as David Ray Griffin, The New Pearl Harbor: Disturbing Questions about 911 and the Bush Administration, went as far as contending that the 911 attacks were part of a False Flag operation. Other authors such as Michael Rupert in Crossing the Rubicon provided persuasive evidence that the civil and military exercises occurring on the morning of 911, simulated hijacked aircraft hitting buildings including the World Trade center. Vice President Cheney was in charge of these exercises as mandated by a May 21, 2001 Presidential Statement and directly played a role in preventing NORAD intercepting hijacked planes. The exercises directly refuted Bush administration claims that it had no foreknowledge of terrorist attacks involving hijacked planes, and made senior officials a direct part of events on the morning of 911.

A growing number of Americans have concluded 911 was a False Flag operation to deceive the public to support a series of wars that are part of a contrived global "war on terror". The Democratic Party to date has not satisfactorily addressed omissions in The 911 Commission Report, or the contrived intelligence data that led to military interventions in Iraq and Afghanistan. The Articles of Impeachment submitted in April 2007 by Congressman Dennis Kucinich to the U.S. House of Representatives on the basis of a contrived intelligence data to support the Iraq War was not supported by the Democratic leadership. There has subsequently been much evidence emerging into the public realm to confirm that the Bush administration committed international war crimes in Iraq and elsewhere.

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Furthermore, there is growing suspicion that the war in Afghanistan provided a cover for the CIA's involvement in the drugs trade aimed at generating revenues for undisclosed purposes. Deceased journalist, Gary Webb, wrote The Dark Alliance, a persuasive series of articles in 1996 and a book in 1998 detailing the CIA's involvement in the drug trade. Revenue from drug trade and other illicit operations are directed towards a secret 'unofficial' CIA black budget that runs over a trillion dollars annually. In contrast to the CIA's more limited "official" black budget generated from appropriations from the Department of Defense, the "unofficial" black budget has been used to fund a highly classified set of projects called the Second Manhattan Project whose true purpose is yet to be disclosed to the American public.

Under the pretense of "national security" concerns, investigations have been stymied on all these fronts:

  • claims that9/11 was an inside job

  • intelligence data was manipulated to justify war against Iraq

  • CIA complicity in the drug trade in Afghanistan and elsewhere.

During the Bush administration there was little government transparency and accountability in key institutions of American power. White House employees have famously stonewalled Congressional inquiries, and have been unresponsive to Freedom of Information requests from the general public. The Bush administration eventually became the most secretive Presidential administration on record.

Obama, Podesta and Commitment to Open Government

The 2008 election of Barack Obama promises to change the secrecy on national security grounds that made possible the excesses of the Bush administration. Obama's first significant political appointment after his election was that of John Podesta to head his transition team. Podesta provides an important clue into the policy orientation of the incoming Obama administration - Commitment to Open Government.

Podesta was a major player in the passage of President Bill Clinton's Executive Order 12958 on April 17 1995. EO 12958 prescribed "a uniform system for classifying, safeguarding, and declassifying national security information" that would reflect a greater "commitment to open Government". EO 12958 was viewed as an essential tool in ensuring the release of many national security files that had been unnecessarily classified for decades. After the passage of EO 12958, Podesta served on the Commission on Protecting and Reducing Government Secrecy, chaired by Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan (D-NY). In its 1997 report the Commission observed: "The best way to ensure that secrecy is respected, and that the most important secrets remain secret, is for secrecy to be returned to its limited but necessary role. Secrets can be protected more effectively if secrecy is reduced overall." After passage of EO 12958 and the Secrecy Commission Report, Podesta become President Clinton's Chief of Staff from 1998 to 2001.

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Podesta's support for declassification of national security files even extended to UFOs. On October 22, 2002, Podesta made a statement at the National Press Club concerning the legality of UFO information that has not been released to the public on national security grounds. He said: "I think it's time to open the books on questions that have remained in the dark on the question of government investigations of UFOs. It's time to find out what the truth really is that's out there. We ought to do it because it's right, we ought to do it because the American people, quite frankly, can handle the truth and we ought to do it because it's the law."

In 2003, Podesta created the Center for American Progress, where he continued his advocacy of transparency and government openness. He became a critic of the passage of Executive Order 13292 by President Bush in March 2003 that facilitated greater government secrecy when it came to national security records. It significantly weakened key provisions from Clinton's EO 12958 or removed them altogether. An example was the removal of the following critical clause: "If there is significant doubt about the need to classify information, it shall not be classified". In September 2008, Podesta wrote a paper where he outlined his key recommendations to the next President:

The next president should rewrite Executive Order 13292 to reinstate the provisions of Executive Order 12958 that establish a presumption against classification in cases of significant doubt, permit senior agency officials to exercise discretion to declassify information in exceptional cases where the need to protect the information is outweighed by the public interest in disclosure, and prohibit reclassification of material that had been declassified and released to the public under proper authority.

Podesta's appointment to head Obama's transition team, signals an important focus for the new Obama administration - greater declassification of national security records and a commitment to Open Government.

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Dr. Michael Salla is an internationally recognized scholar in international politics, conflict resolution, US foreign policy and the new field of 'exopolitics'. He is author/editor of nine books; and held academic appointments in the School of (more...)

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