Revolution#123, March 16, 2008


Defining the Issue as
“National Security” and Patriotism

While many people may want the terms of the presidential election to be about getting the U.S. out of the war on Iraq, the whole election setup is setting very different terms for all who enter into the electoral pathway. In the last few weeks the election has focused on who will be the best commander-in-chief for the “War on Terror,” and who will be the best person to protect, represent for, and advance the interests of the U.S. empire in the world today.

Throughout the campaign so far there has been a continual “undercurrent” of attacks on Obama—including widely distributed internet slanders that he is a Muslim fundamentalist. But after Obama swept 11 straight primaries and emerged as the front runner, the attacks went mainstream. Fox News and others made a big issue out of the fact that Obama doesn’t wear an American flag lapel pin all the time—generally a required symbol for any credible candidate. A photo got circulated from an old issue of Time magazine showing Obama not holding his hand over his heart while the national anthem played—while Hillary Clinton stood next to him with her hand patriotically over her heart. Obama’s wife, Michelle, was attacked for telling a crowd that she’s really proud of her country for the first time in her adult life.

This took a further leap when Hillary Clinton began charging that Obama was being soft on the so-called “war on terror.” She declared that only she is enough of a hawk to go nose to nose with McCain since the election “will be about national security.” She ran ominous ads warning that unlike Obama, she is “ready to lead in a dangerous world” at “3 AM.” Speaking in Waco, Texas, with more than two dozen military veterans and flag officers lined up behind her (get the message?), Clinton invoked McCain’s rhetoric attacking Obama for being “missing in action” during security deliberations in the Senate.

And how did Obama “counter” all this? By insisting that he had as much “love for this country” as anyone.

Who Needs Patriotism? And Who Doesn’t?

Here’s the truth about American patriotism: There is nothing good aboutAmerican patriotism. Whether patriotism is interpreted as “my country right or wrong,” or “my country, love it and change it,” patriotism only means something in the context of aligning with the interests of the rulers of the United States against those of the people of the world. Otherwise, what’s the point? Just say you are for justice. Or just say you are against oppression. But when you frame your position, whatever it is, in the American flag you’re aligning yourself on the wrong side of the biggest problems the world faces.

From “the halls of Montezuma” (when the U.S. Marines invaded Mexico to defend the interests of U.S. oil companies) to the “shores of Tripoli” (when the U.S. Navy enforced the right of U.S. commerce—including slave trade—off the shores of North Africa), this country has been and is a capitalist (now imperialist) nation that exploits and oppresses the people of the world. The “American way of life” was built in large part on the near-genocide of Native Americans and slavery. The vast gap between the wealth of countries like the United States, and the killing poverty and oppression in most of the world, cannot be resolved in a good way starting from “what’s good for America” or trying to make the USA “a force for good in the world.” And if your starting point is “American patriotism” in any form, including “America’s national security interests,” you’re setting yourself up to be maneuvered into supporting whatever wars of aggression the rulers of this country wage to enforce the position of the U.S. over the rest of the world.

The overwhelming majority of people in this country have fundamentally different interests than those of the rulers of this country. Internationalism is a much more lofty and inspiring framework from which to measure what we are aiming for. And shouldn’t this be the standard by which we judge those we look to as leaders?

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