Hereâ€™s a terrible exercise I want nobody to actually perform. Go up to the next person you see on the street and hit him over the head with a baseball bat. Knock him to the ground. You might even knock him out for a moment. Then stand over him and smack him some more. Put your foot on his back and push his face into the sidewalk.
Now, wait for someone to observe this assault and express their discomfort with it. The observer might ask or tell you to step away from the person you appear to be trying to kill. As the observer comments and perhaps tries to intervene, start telling your victim â€“ make sure the observer can hear you â€“ that you are only trying to help him. Inform him that youâ€™ve “just about run out of patience.”
Tell your victim that youâ€™ve done nearly everything you can to improve his pathetic life but that at a certain point he’s just going to have to “take responsibility” for his own existence. Tell him thereâ€™s no more free lunch and no more welfare. Tell your victim itâ€™s time for him to stand up on his own. Tell him youâ€™ll “stand down” when he “stands up.”
Tell the observer they are witnessing the application of “tough love” to a self-destructive drug addict and/or welfare-dependent you are trying to “help.”
â€œTHIS CULTURE OF DEPENDENCYâ€
Iâ€™ve got a name for this lovely little exercise. I call it a Tom Vilsack. But we could just as well call it a Steny Hoyer. Or a Carl Levin. Or an Evan Bayh. Or an Obama.
Tom Vilsack is the centrist (Democratic Leadership Council â€“ Republican Light) Governor of Iowa who recently became the first Democrat to announce his candidacy for the presidency. “We live in a great nation,” Vilsack told reporters, when â€œa boy raised in an orphanageâ€ (as Vilsack was) can â€œgrow up to run for president.â€
I saw the onetime orphan give the Commencement Address at
They hadnâ€™t come to hear Vilsack speak, as he did, about the need to â€œhunt downâ€
The speech received polite applause from the collegeâ€™s president (a Republican) and faculty and complete silence from the student body. Not one kid clapped.
â€œRecently Vilsack made it on to John Stewartâ€™s politically humorous â€œDaily Show.â€ There was some witty repartee and then some weighty discussion of crucial foreign policy matters. Hereâ€™s part of the official Associated Press report on Vilsackâ€™s appearance:
â€œToting a stuffed duck wearing a â€˜#1 Vilsack Fanâ€™ button,
â€œThe duck was a present for Stewart who, in the weeks since Vilsack formally announced he was running for president, has used an animated duck to poke fun at how Vilsack’s name sounds like â€˜Aflacâ€™ â€“ the insurance company that uses a loud-mouthed duck as a pitchman.â€
â€œPulling the stuffed duck out of a gift bag, Stewart looked at it and smirked before squeezing it.â€
â€œ â€˜ Aflac,â€™ it squawked.â€
â€œStewart seemed impressed.â€
” â€˜ So you’re not going to run away from duck-related humor?â€™ Stewart asked.â€
” â€˜ I’m not gonna duck the issues. That’s right,â€™ Vilsack deadpanned.â€
â€œVilsack and Stewart found common — and more serious — ground talking about
â€œVilsack said Iraqis needed to take responsibility for their own security. He called their reliance on the
” â€˜ We’ve created this culture of dependency,â€™ he said.â€
â€œIn a teleconference with reporters after the show’s taping Monday, Vilsack said he enjoyed his experience.â€ (Associated Press, â€œVilsack Shows Humorous Side, Discusses
As far as I can tell, John Stewart played along with the dependency and addiction line. He didnâ€™t find anything to poke fun at there â€“ no jokes about Vilsackâ€™s pathetic dependency on, and addiction to corporate campaign cash, for example.
Vilsack has an interesting take on the Iraqis nearly four years after world historyâ€™s most powerful military state illegally invaded their country, killed 700,000 civilians, sacked their civil society, and essentially disbanded their state. One lovely expression of our desire to help the Iraqis take personal and collective responsibility for their dysfunctional lives came during our vicious assault on the Iraqi town of
The ongoing U.S. attack on Iraq – gearing up perhaps for a new “Surge” that boldly defies majority public U.S. (and Iraqi)support for a rapid American withdrawal – is motivated by a desire to deepen U.S. control of the Middle Eastern oil and thus of the world imperial system. It bears the openly Orwellian label â€œOperation Iraqi Freedom.â€ It comes in the historical wake of an earlier â€œferocious assaultâ€ (â€œOperation Dessert Storm”)and more than a decade of mass-murderous, U.S.-led â€œeconomic sanctionsâ€ that killed in excess of a half million Iraqi children â€“ a â€œprice worth payingâ€ for the advancement of inherently noble U.S. foreign policy intentions in Democratic Secretary of State Madeline Albrightâ€™s nationally televised declaration. Dessert Storm’s tough-love highlights included the use of munitions containing Depleted Uranium and civilian-targeting cluster bombs and the notorious slaughter of untold thousands of surrendering Iraqi troops on the â€œHighway of Death.â€
After all that and more, the Iraqisâ€™ problem, the Vilsack line holds, is that theyâ€™re a bunch of dysfunctional drug and welfare addicts. Yes, weâ€™ve just got to drop our liberal-paternalist illusions and stop trying to impose our whiny Great Society on those damn Iraqis! No more AFDC and crack cocaine for those lazy, self-loathing “underclass” Mesopotamians!! “Now hear this, Iraqi people: weâ€™ve done all we can to help lift you up but now itâ€™s time for you to pull yourselves up by your own bootstraps!” Right: enough of this bleeding-heart New Deal coddling: the liberal orphanage is closed and weâ€™re just not going to keep being the Iraqis’ indulgent Daddy forever.
â€œOUR COMMITMENT, WHILE GREAT IS NOT UNENDINGâ€
Vilsack isnâ€™t the only leading Democrat trumpeting this viciously racist, neoconservative (and neoliberal) line on the Iraqi beneficiaries of our rugged loving kindness. Other examples include U.S. Senator Carl Levin (D-Michigan), who used recent Iraq war hearings at the Senate Armed Services Committee (which Levin will head starting next year) to claim that â€œwe cannot save the Iraqis from themselvesâ€ and to argue for â€œputting the responsibility for Iraqâ€™s future squarely where it belongs â€“ on the Iraqis.â€
Late last November, the newly elected House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Maryland) suggested that those benevolent American forces might have to (partially) leave
U.S. Senator Evan Bayh (D-Indiana) thinks that the Iraqis â€œseem unable or unwillingâ€ to â€œstabilize their country withâ€ â€“ get this â€“ â€œthe assistance weâ€™ve proffered them.â€
And then thereâ€™s presidential hopeful and national celebrity Barack Obama (D-IL). In a recent speech to the Chicago Council on Global Affairs (CCGA), Obama claimed that a â€œtimetableâ€ for â€œphased [and very partial, P.S.] withdrawalâ€ of U.S. troops would â€œsend a clear message to the Iraqi factions that the U.S. is not going to hold together the country indefinitely [emphasis added] â€“ that it will it be up to them to form a viable government that can effectively run and secure Iraqâ€ (Obama, â€œ A Way Forward in Iraq,â€ Speech to the Chicago Council on Global Affairs, November 20, 2006) This was a remarkable statement from an ostensibly â€œantiwarâ€ Senator from a military superpower that has spent nearly four years deliberately tearing apart the society and public capacities of an already desperately poor and devastated (thanks in preponderant measure to U.S. policy)nation.
The brutal, ongoing
AMERICAN â€œRESOLVEâ€ IN â€œTHE STREETS OF FALLUJAHâ€
But the most noxious and revealing moment in Obamaâ€™s CCGA oration came when Obama had the imperial audacity to say the following in support of his disturbing claim that U.S. citizens have strongly supported â€œvictoryâ€ in Iraq: â€œThe American people have been extraordinarily resolved [in support of O.I.L., P.S.]. They have seen their sons and daughters killed or wounded in the streets of Fallujah.â€
This was a spine-chilling selection of locales, for reasons suggested above (please note Mann’s emphasis on minimizing U.S casualties). Not surprisingly, Fallujah is a leading symbol of rapacious American imperialism in the Arab and Muslim worlds. It is a deeply provocative and insulting place for Obama to choose to highlight American sacrifice and â€œresolveâ€ in the imperialist occupation of
Perhaps Obama should have broadened his interpretation historically to reference the noble â€œsacrificeâ€ and â€œresolveâ€ Americans showed in massacres at places like Mystic River, Sand Creek, Wounded Knee, Luzon (in the U.S.-occupied Philippines), No Gun Ri (Korea), My Lai (Vietnam), Panama City (1989), and the southern Iraq â€œHighway of Deathâ€ (1991). How about mentioning German “resolve” in the Nazi assault on
Of course, none of the Democratic politicians quoted above are calling for rapid or full-scale withdrawal of the
CINDY SHEEHAN: â€œSHEâ€™S NOT FUNNYâ€
Cindy Sheehan spoke at the University of Iowa (UI) before the Congressional elections. She spoke about American citizensâ€™ need to take responsibility for â€“ and put their lives on the line to stop â€“ the criminal policies of the Bush administration in
The horrific statements of Vilsack, Levin, Hoyer, Obama and other blood- and oil-soaked Democrats are richly consistent with her sentiments.
Sheehan is a bona fide national personality and I was surprised to see just 200 or so people attending her talk. There couldnâ€™t have been more than three or four UI professors in the auditorium.
At one point in the question and answer session after her talk, somebody asked Sheehan why sheâ€™d never appeared on â€œThe Daily Show.â€ Stewart had rejected her so far, she reported, because, as he told her publicist, â€œsheâ€™s not funny.â€
No, sheâ€™s not like that murderous laugh riot Tom Vilsack, the ex-Governor whose name sounds like an insurance corporation. I wonder if his corporate-addicted campaign finance profile includes any donations from Aflac yet.
Veteran radical historian, journalist, and activist Paul Street (paulstreet 99@ yahoo. com) is an anti-centrist political commentator located in the Midwestern center of the U.S. Street is the author of Empire and Inequality: America and the World Since 9/11 (Boulder, CO: Paradigm, 2004), Segregated Schools: Educational Apartheid in the Post-Civil Rights Era (New York, NY: Routledge, 2005), and Still Separate, Unequal: Race, Place, and Policy in Chicago (Chicago, 2005) Streetâ€™s next book is Racial Oppression in the Global Metropolis: A Living Black Chicago History (New York, 2007).