Revolution #279, September 2, 2012
Obama Has No Future for the People.
THE REVOLUTION DOES.
It is time for anyone who wants a better world to shake off the deadly illusion that supporting Obama is somehow “the best we can do.”
Barack Obama came into office promising “hope.” Millions of people in this country were eager for a change from the nightmare of the Bush years—its brutal wars; its torture and rendition; the spying; the vicious assaults upon the right to abortion; the mass criminalization and incarceration of Black and Latino youth; the worship of obscene wealth while millions lived on the brink of homelessness and joblessness or were plunged into complete destitution. The reality is that Obama has continued, developed, and intensified the policies begun by George W. Bush.
Do you want to continue living in a world where children are destroyed by remote control bombs and called “collateral damage”…where the president and his henchmen have weekly meetings to decide who to kill this week…where tens of thousands of people suffer the torture of solitary confinement, sometimes for years?
If you do, Obama could be your guy. But if you think this isn’t the best of all possible worlds… you need to check out the movement for revolution the Revolutionary Communist Party is building.
Below is a list of some of Obama’s “achievements” in the first 3½ years of his presidency.
Mass Criminalization and Incarceration of Black and Latino Youth
The United States’ first Black president has presided over unprecedented mass incarceration, an epidemic of police brutality and murder, and relentless criminalization of Black and Latino people, especially the youth.
- The “New Jim Crow” in the Obama years means more people imprisoned in the United States than any other country in the world (more than 2.4 million), the highest incarceration rate in the world, and in fact the highest incarceration rate in world history.
- More than six million people in the U.S. are under “correctional supervision”—in prison, on probation, or on parole.
- Black people make up about 13 percent of the U.S. population—but Black men are imprisoned at over six times the rate of white men.
- Every day in this country, 50,000 male prisoners live in solitary confinement. Prolonged solitary confinement is recognized internationally as a form of torture.
- Stop-and-frisk policies begun in New York and spreading throughout the country have overwhelmingly and overtly targeted Black and Latino youth—Obama has never spoken against these policies. In the first six months of 2012, New Yorkers were stopped by police under stop-and-frisk 337,434 times; 53 percent of those people were Black, 32 percent Latino—89 percent were released, with the cops not able to come up with any reason to hold them.
- National statistics on people killed by police are not compiled by the federal government. But indications are that more people have been shot down and otherwise murdered by police in the Obama years than preceding years—again without a word of protest from Obama. In Los Angeles, the number of people shot by police jumped 60 percent in 2011; in Chicago, through the first half of 2011, 43 people were shot and 16 killed by Chicago police.
Massive Unemployment and Evictions
Under Obama, a bitter reality of massive unemployment, large-scale evictions and foreclosures, and homelessness has continued to plague urban, suburban, and rural areas of the country, with inner cities populated largely by Black and Latino people especially hard-hit.
- The official unemployment rate for Black youth is 49 percent. As is well known, the U.S. government calculates unemployment in a way that conceals the actual number of people out of work; the true number is higher. A recent study by Northeastern University’s Center for Labor Market Studies concluded that the actual unemployment rate for Black and Latino youth is over 80 percent. The study stated that “low income Black and Hispanic teens face the equivalent of a Great Depression.”
- Washington, D.C. has the highest youth unemployment rate in the country—86 percent. New York City, Detroit, and Chicago all have youth unemployment rates over 80 percent. In Gary, Indiana, whose population is 84 percent Black, jobs have decreased by 54 percent since February 2009. And this huge loss of jobs came after the large steel mills that shaped Gary had largely shut down.
- The gap between rich and poor has widened, with wealth more and more concentrated among a select few who are mostly white. The median wealth of white households is now 20 times that of Black households and 18 times that of Latino households, according to the Pew Research Center.
- The average total wealth of single Black women is less than $100. Around half of single Black women have zero or negative net wealth.
- The number of public housing units in the U.S. has been in serious decline for decades, and the lack of housing became especially acute during the Obama presidency. Millions of people lost their homes through foreclosure or repossession—almost three million homes were foreclosed in 2010 alone. In Chicago alone, 82 public housing high-rises have been torn down since the 1990s; when the city opened its public housing waiting list in 2010, more than 215,000 families applied under the city plan that aims to have 15,000 family units within several years.
Predatory Wars Around the World
In a world marked by profound class divisions and social inequality, to talk about “democracy”—without talking about the class nature of that democracy and which class it serves—is meaningless, and worse. So long as society is divided into classes, there can be no “democracy for all”: one class or another will rule, and it will uphold and promote that kind of democracy which serves its interests and goals. The question is: which class will rule and whether its rule, and its system of democracy, will serve the continuation, or the eventual abolition, of class divisions and the corresponding relations of exploitation, oppression and inequality.
Obama has sustained and developed wars and military occupations in Iraq and Afghanistan, has initiated drone bombings in Pakistan, Yemen, and Somalia, is currently threatening war against Iran, and is developing or reestablishing a military presence in many other parts of the world.
- In 2009, the first year of Obama’s administration, there were 51 reported drone bombings in Pakistan—there were 45 during the entire George W. Bush administration. Obama’s use of drones has increased since. Obama has unleashed 284 drone attacks on Pakistan alone. Between 2,532 and 3,251 people have been killed by drone bombings in Pakistan since 2004, most of them in the Obama years. At least 175 of them have been children.
- The U.S. maintains a massive military occupation in Iraq, despite claims of a “withdrawal.” The U.S. has left about 16,000 “embassy personnel”—mercenary contractors, spies, and military personnel—in Iraq. The U.S. is also carrying out $12 billion worth of arms and training contracts in Iraq, with the first batch of 36 F-16 fighter jets set to be delivered in September 2014.
- In May 2012, the Obama administration announced a highly publicized agreement with Afghanistan’s President Karzai to have U.S. military forces “leave” Afghanistan. In his speech announcing this agreement, Obama pledged to “finish the job” in Afghanistan. The agreement states the U.S. can maintain a military presence in Afghanistan until 2024.
- In June 2011, Obama ordered the U.S. to extend its drone bomb attacks to include Somalia.
- In the name of the “war on drugs,” the U.S. military under Obama has established three bases in Honduras, in regions largely populated by Miskito Indians. On May 11, 2012, helicopters carrying U.S. personnel launched an air assault on a boat that killed two pregnant women and two youths, and severely wounded four other people.
- U.S.-led sanctions on Iran have resulted in severe shortages of medicine needed to treat people with life-threatening illnesses such as hemophilia, kidney disease, multiple sclerosis (MS), cancer, and thalassemia—putting in jeopardy the lives of an estimated six million Iranians who suffer from these diseases.
Crimes Against the Environment
Obama promised in 2008 that his administration would mark the “moment when the rise of the oceans began to slow and our planet began to heal.” In reality, the devastation of our planet’s ecosystems by the U.S. and this whole imperialist system has continued and even heightened under Obama.
- Under Obama the U.S. has continued to sabotage and undermine any international agreements that would enforce actual cuts in carbon and other greenhouse gases that are driving the warming of the earth and climate change. This is nothing short of criminal given that the future of our planet hangs in the balance, as the polar ice caps melt, seas rise, and more devastating droughts, storms, wildfires, and heat waves are becoming the new “normal.”
- In the face of anti-scientific denial of the reality of climate change by right-wing lunatics, Obama has refused to make a fight of it, has downplayed the danger of climate change, and has counseled people to be patient while doing nothing of real substance to stop it.
- Like previous administrations, including Bush’s, Obama continued the lack of drilling safety and environmental standards that led to the massive BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico in 2010 that dumped tens of millions of gallons of oil. The devastation to the ecosystem was then increased in ways yet untold with the spraying of unprecedented quantities of toxic chemical dispersants into the water. The government orchestrated the criminal act of covering up the extent of the spill and the damage it was doing to people and the gulf, and then attempted to sweep this under the rug, declaring the crisis over and past.
- After a short moratorium on offshore drilling, and with meaningless new “safety measures” put through, Obama opened up vast new areas of the eastern Gulf of Mexico, the Atlantic coastline, and the fragile north coast of Alaska to oil and natural gas drilling for the first time.
- Obama has bragged that under his watch the number of operating oil rigs has reached a record high and that the U.S. has added enough new oil and gas pipelines to “circle the earth and then some.”
- After briefly withholding approval for the Keystone XL pipeline that is aimed to vastly increase the amount of dirty tar-sands oil pumped from the increasingly devastated forests of Alberta, Canada, into the U.S., Obama approved the southern leg of the pipeline. Now his State Department is studying a new pipeline route—with a decision put off until after the U.S. elections.
- The Obama administration has opened up huge new areas of the Powder River basin in Wyoming to allow the extraction of 2.35 billion tons of coal. Coal is the most carbon-polluting fuel there is. The coal now available to be mined and burned is the equivalent of the annual carbon emissions from 300 coal-fired power plants. This coal from Powder River alone represents 30 times more “dirty energy” development than Obama’s development of “clean energy.”
- On Obama’s watch, there has been an expansion of hydraulic fracturing for natural gas (fracking). Fracking is wrecking groundwater and people’s health and lives in increasingly large areas of the rural “heartland” of the U.S., spreading environmental destruction into previously untouched areas.
Attacks on Fundamental Rights
Obama has taken for himself and future presidents unprecedented and sweeping power to arrest, detain indefinitely, and even assassinate people without judicial review or oversight. He has undermined and repudiated longstanding Constitutional rights such as habeas corpus and the right to a trial. He has presided over a pervasive government spy apparatus that monitors all forms of communication.
If you try to make the Democrats be what they are not and never will be, you will end up being more like what the Democrats actually are.
- Bradley Manning, a 24-year-old U.S. Army private, has been the victim of unjust and outrageous persecution by the military and the Obama administration for allegedly leaking hundreds of thousands of classified documents later published by WikiLeaks. The leaks include the Collateral Damage video, which shows a 2007 U.S. Apache helicopter attack in Iraq that gunned down civilians on a street, including journalists and a man who came onto the scene to help the victims. Manning has been imprisoned for over two years, often in extreme isolation that amounts to torture. He is now facing trial on heavy charges with a possible life sentence.
- At the end of 2011, Obama signed the National Defense Authorization Act. This ominous and highly repressive piece of legislation includes, among other things, a measure that allows the U.S. military to detain “terror suspects” indefinitely without charging them—including American citizens arrested in the United States.
- Obama has begun a program of “targeted killings,” including of U.S. citizens, supposedly based upon a Department of Justice memo that his administration has refused to release. As journalist Glenn Greenwald wrote, with this law “not only does the President have the right to sentence Americans to death with no due process or charges of any kind, but his decisions as to who will be killed and why he wants them dead are ‘state secrets’ and thus no court may adjudicate their legality. The due-process-free assassination of U.S. citizens is now reality.” In other words, the president can order people killed without the targeted persons ever having a “day in court,” or even being aware that they are under a death sentence. Every Tuesday morning, Obama and his “national security team” go over material described as being like “baseball cards” of alleged “terrorists” and decide who will be targeted for assassination by the U.S.
- Obama has upheld and taken further the program of torture and rendition begun by George W. Bush, and overturned the centuries-old legal principal of habeas corpus. Obama’s administration submitted a two-sentence argument saying that people the U.S. takes into custody in Afghanistan have no legal standing to challenge their imprisonment there, embracing a key argument of former President Bush’s legal team. Greenwald pointed out, “these are not prisoners captured in Afghanistan on a battlefield. Many of them have nothing to do with Afghanistan and were captured far, far away from that country—abducted from their homes and workplaces—and then flown to Bagram [a U.S. base] to be imprisoned.”
- Massive electronic spying on U.S. citizens and people from and in other countries began under Bush but has accelerated under Obama. National Security Administration (NSA) whistleblower William Binney estimated in April of this year that since September 11, 2001, the NSA has intercepted “between 15 and 20 trillion” electronic messages. The NSA under the Obama presidency is building a $2 billion center in Utah that will store “near-bottomless databases … [of] all forms of communication, including the complete contents of private emails, cell phone calls, and Google searches, as well as all sorts of personal data trails—parking receipts, travel itineraries, bookstore purchases, and other digital ‘pocket litter.’ It is, in some measure, the realization of the ‘total information awareness’ program created during the first term of the Bush administration—an effort that was killed by Congress in 2003 after it caused an outcry over its potential for invading Americans’ privacy.”
Assault on the Right to Abortion
The right to abortion has been under relentless assault by Christian fundamentalists and other right-wing fanatics who seek to ban all abortions (and even birth control) and reassert the most horrific patriarchal control of women. During the Obama years, an avalanche of laws restricting abortion has occurred in state after state. Obama speaks of finding “common ground” with these murderous fascists. In a May 2009 speech at Notre Dame University, Obama said people must “open our hearts and our minds to those who may not think like we do or believe what we do [because] that’s when we discover at least the possibility of common ground.” Three weeks later, courageous abortion provider Dr. George Tiller was murdered in a church in Wichita, Kansas by an anti-abortion fanatic. Below are some further examples of where the scramble for “common ground” has led in the Obama years.
It is a striking fact—which is starkly evident in the U.S. now—that, in comparison to what is done to women, there is no other group in society that is so systematically reviled and defiled in a way that has become acceptable (or widely accepted in any case) as a significant part of “mainstream” life and culture, as happens in a concentrated way through pornography and the extremely demeaning and degrading images and messages about women it massively and pervasively purveys (with the Internet a major focus and vehicle for this), including pornography’s extensive portrayal of sadistic and violent sexual domination of women...
I began the “Revolution” talk with “They’re Selling Postcards of the Hanging,” reviewing the ugly history of the lynching of Black people in America and the way in which celebration of this became a cultural phenomenon in the U.S., with the selling of picture postcards of these lynchings a major expression of this—often including smiling and leering crowds of white people surrounding the murdered and mutilated body of a Black man. In a recent exchange, a comrade emphasized this profoundly important and compelling point: Today, the way in which pornography depicts women—the displaying of women in a degraded state for the titillation of viewers—including the grotesque brutality and violence against women which is involved in much of this, is the equivalent of those “Postcards of the Hanging.” It is a means through which all women are demeaned and degraded.
Driving Forces for Revolution
- 92 state laws restricting abortion were passed in 2011. In 2012, new restrictions on abortion are sweeping through legislatures from Virginia to Arizona, and voters in some states could see proposed constitutional amendments on November ballots that would define life as beginning at conception.
- Texas, with a legislature and executive dominated by Christian fascists, passed one of the most horrifically anti-woman, anti-abortion laws this year. Among other things, it requires highly intrusive transvaginal ultrasounds and lectures from doctors and medical personnel, and cuts off funding for agencies such as Planned Parenthood that provide services to hundreds of thousands of women. 146 clinics for women’s health issues have closed in Texas since this law passed, mainly in rural areas and along the border with Mexico. The number of organizations that help poor women plan pregnancy has shrunk by almost half.
- On International Women’s Day this year, Congress passed a law called the “Child Interstate Abortion Notification Act,” mandating parental notification and a 24-hour waiting period on any woman under 18 who travels outside her home state to receive an abortion. Anyone, including older siblings, clergy, and grandparents, who helps the young woman without parental notification is subject to criminal charges carrying up to one year in federal prison and a $100,000 fine. Many women have to travel hundreds of miles to receive this most basic medical procedure—and 87 percent of U.S. counties have no abortion providers; in rural areas, 97 percent don’t.
- In December of last year, Kathleen Sebelius, Obama’s Health and Human Services Secretary, overruled a Food and Drug Administration (FDA) ruling that an emergency contraceptive called “Plan B One-Step” be made available over the counter. This was the first time that an FDA recommendation had been overruled by the health secretary. Sebelius claimed that the data about Plan B One-Step is “insufficient,” a view strenuously contradicted by many medical professionals and the head of the FDA itself. Dr Kathleen Hill-Besinque from the University of Southern California said “very few medications are this simple, convenient and safe.”
War on Immigrants
Making the U.S./Mexico border a completely militarized war zone and waging vicious, massive assaults upon immigrants within the U.S. began prior to Obama’s presidency. But both have reached levels of pervasive mass terror beyond everything that preceded him.
There is nothing more unrealistic than the idea of reforming this system into something that would come anywhere near being in the interests of the great majority of people and ultimately of humanity as a whole.
- Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) deported almost 400,000 people in fiscal year 2011—the highest number of deportations in a single year since ICE was formed ten years ago.
- More than a million people—mostly immigrants from Mexico and other Latin American countries seeking work in this country—have been forcibly deported since Obama became president.
- Obama’s “Secure Communities” program involves close cooperation between about 1,600 local police departments and the federal Department of Homeland Security. Participating police departments send “biometric information” on every person arrested to the federal government to “check criminal history.” Those suspected of being undocumented are sent to detention centers run by ICE. Janet Napolitano, Obama’s Director of Homeland Security, told Congress in February this year that “We anticipate that nationwide deployment of Secure Communities across all remaining jurisdictions will be finished” by 2013. Secure Communities is supposedly designed to target people who have committed serious felonies. But in reality, it has led to mass deportations of people whose only “crime” is to cross the border without official papers in search of work so they and their families can survive.
- ICE maintains a network of 250 detention centers around the country—dungeons where widespread brutality, sexual abuse, and racist treatment abound against vulnerable detainees who have no access to lawyers or other help.
- In the summer of 2010, Obama ordered 1,200 National Guard troops to patrol the border in Arizona. In August of that year, he signed the “Southwest Border Security Bill,” which included sending to the already hyper-militarized border an additional 1,000 Border Patrol officers, 250 Immigration ICE agents, 250 Customs and Border Protection (CBP) agents, and two additional drones.
- The bodies of 574 dead immigrants were found along the Arizona border alone in the first 2½ years of Obama’s presidency.
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