Obama in Wonderland

The unacknowledged speechwriter for Obama’s State of the Union Address was Lewis Carroll.

During the George W. Bush regime, I recommended that those who wanted to understand what was transpiring should read “Alice in Wonderland,” that Bush/Cheney/Rumsfeld et alia had descended down the rabbit hole. As more and more people have now realized, Obama is continuing Bush’s pursuit of war and empire, of globalization and corporatocracy. Thus, the recommended reading now is Carroll’s “Alice,” along with its sequel, “Through the Looking Glass.”

Down, down, down the rabbit hole: our Sputnik moment. The fits of invoking the cold war. Both Obama and Bush have continued the adversarial focus on Russia, spreading the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) to the Eastern Bloc nations and stationing missiles there. This ongoing militarism has its domestic counterpart in Obama’s pitch, in his address, for more Reserve Officer Training Corp (ROTC) and military recruiters on college campuses.

Obama brought forward the START Treaty and his concern with Iran and North Korea. Back in the real world, however, over $180 billion has been promised for the development of new nuclear weapons. Back outside the rabbit hole, the US continues to be in violation of Article VI of the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty and its provision for the cessation of the nuclear arms race and for general and complete disarmament of nuclear weapons. Back in the world of realpolitik, the charade continues around the existence of Israel’s nuclear arsenal, and Iran and North Korea move to arm themselves with nuclear weapons to ward off a US invasion. If we were in their position, the US would be doing the same thing.

Tens of billions in military spending being cut by Secretary of War – I mean, Defense – Gates? Not quite. The military budget is still slated to increase 3 percent per year, and those cuts Gates announced are slated to take effect between now and 2016. This budget already comprises 59 percent of our nation’s spending and surpasses the total of those of all industrialized nations in the world. Our priorities are clearly focused on violence, aggression and military might. With Obama’s proposed freeze in domestic spending, the Pentagon’s proportion will in fact increase in this looking-glass world.

Obama waxed Carrollian and Orwellian in his declarations that he has brought 100,000 troops out of Iraq and that, in July, he will begin bringing troops home from Afghanistan, are mere persiflage. Obama can only speak of heads help high in the delusional topsy-turvy Wonderland of Alice, while, outside of the rabbit hole, 50,000 troops and mercenaries remain in Iraq, the fortress, known as the Green Zone in Baghdad, is surrounded by a country that has had its infrastructure devastated, and at least hundreds of thousands have been killed in a war for oil that has forced millions more into lives as refugees. When Obama went on to speak of the men and women who serve our country, saying they are the ones who have borne the greatest burden and that we are united in support of the troops and their families – these pronouncements fly in the face of the Pentagon’s systematic denial of treatment to veterans traumatized by the war, often characterized by claims that soldiers whose illnesses can be traced to their service had pre-existing personality disorders.

Who would not support the denial of safe havens to al-Qaeda? But it is not the Taliban that is providing the safe havens. Al-Qaeda is no longer in Afghanistan, and the Taliban have little to no desire to be the target of drone strikes, bombings or other assaults. Rather, they are fighting a foreign occupation. We know from WikiLeaks that the Saudis are among the leading funders of international terrorism. Recall that most of the September 11 hijackers were Saudis. Following Obama’s logic, why are we not bombing and occupying Saudi Arabia?

Humpty Dumpty: The structure of our empire in the Middle East is being exposed as a house of cards. Our support for dictatorial regimes throughout the region is in the process of disintegrating. The people’s revolution in Tunisia is inspiring upheavals in Jordan, Sudan and Yemen, as well as in Egypt, Bahrain and now Libya, much as the French Revolution inspired subsequent revolutions through Europe and beyond. When Obama spoke of the Tunisians and our support for the democratic aspirations of all peoples, he conveniently failed to mention how we for years supported Tunisia’s Ben Ali, Egypt’s Mubarak, Saudi Arabia’s kings, Jordan’s monarchs, Iran’s Shah (actually putting him in power after overthrowing the democratically elected Mossadegh) and Iraq’s Saddam Hussein. We can be assured that there is consternation behind the scenes, in the halls of the State Department, concerning the overthrow of Mubarak in Egypt, the increasing power of Hezbollah in Lebanon, the potential for overthrow of the illegitimate Fatah regime in the West Bank after the WikiLeaks revelations, the status of the Fifth Fleet in Bahrain – and who knows what country might be next.

One “benefit” of our preoccupation with Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan is that we have not been able to divert forces to invade and overthrow Chavez in Venezuela or Morales in Bolivia. And we are scrambling, via the CIA and otherwise, to see that a moderate (read: compliant to the US) leader is installed in Tunisia, and to try and salvage Egypt, even as the Egyptians see the Made In America label on the tear gas canisters used there. The current move to support generals who were trained in the US to replace Mubarak is typical: they are our CIA liaisons, having coordinated the kidnappings, or “extraordinary renditions,” to Egypt. The domino theory was held up as a justification for the Vietnam War. In an irony of history, we are now witnessing an actual domino effect in the Middle East.

Humpty Dumpty had a great fall. And they were unable to put Humpty together again.

Tweedledum and Tweedledee: Ralph Nader’s description of the lack of difference between the Democratic and Republican Parties also illuminates the phenomenon of some of the Democrats and Republicans sitting together for Obama’s address. Since there is no essential difference between the parties on issues of war, empire and Pentagon funding, when Obama claimed that “we had fought fiercely for our beliefs,” his claim was perversely accurate. Conspicuous by its absence from his speech was any reference to global warming and climate change. The irresponsibility of failing to address this issue is shared equally by both parties, and it puts the lie to his subsequent statement that they are working to provide “opportunities for a better life we can pass on to our children.” The ongoing and increasing pollution of the environment is undermining the future of children, grandchildren and future generations worldwide.

Obama’s “win the future” mantra is set against the backdrop of the Gulf oil disaster. One of many commentaries on Obama’s support for Wall Street is how the stock market dropped over fear of problems with oil passing through the Suez Canal – the democratic aspirations of the Egyptian people were dragging the market down.

The Mad Tea Party: The March Hare and the Mad Hatter have little on Sarah Palin and Michelle Bachmann or Rush Limbaugh and Glenn Beck (or, now, Scott Walker in Wisconsin). Tea Partiers had Boston in mind, but their name might just as easily have been derived from the world of Alice. As attractive as some of Obama’s proposed domestic initiatives may sound, given his proclivity for pre-compromising, it is not hard to imagine what will happen, under the heading of “bipartisanship,” to reinvent our energy policy, to “win the race” to educate our kids, to simplify the corporate tax code or to “strengthen” Social Security. His proposed review of government regulations is an open invitation to corporations and their K Street lobbyists to go after what little regulation is currently still in place after Bush’s depredations. In the words of Joan Claybrook, Obama’s address announced that no corporation will be left behind. Obama spoke truth when he proclaimed that, “America is the best place on earth to do business.” The Mad Hatter could not have said it better!

Obama can allude as fervently as he wants to “that better place beyond the horizon,” where, presumably, “the American Dream can be sustained,” but outside the rabbit hole, those words merely translates into Jabberwocky. And for those of you who know Carroll, the poem itself makes considerably more sense.

Obama began his address with a reference to Gabrielle Giffords’ empty chair in the chamber. Our conclusion will be to refer to the now nearly countless empty chairs in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan: empty of mothers, their children, the elderly and other innocents slain by Bush and Obama’s wars, and to call attention to the sacrifice of the American men and women who have given their lives for the bright, shining lie that they were defending our country’s security.