First the Good News:
Obama and the Wave of Optimism
As Barack Obama was inaugurated as the 44th president of the United-States, several million American people mobilized to witness the event, while millions more shed tears in front of television screens accross the country. The touching moment evoked similar reactions in countries all accross the world. The prevailing sentiments were hope, joy, a sense of brotherhood and solidarity, and relief that perhaps a better time is coming.
By looking at him, and by listening to him speak, beyond the fact that he is a remarkable speaker, one gets the impression that Barack Obama is in fact honest, and that his intentions really are authentic. But it was clear during his inauguration speech that maybe, he was already beggining to make concessions; it was obvious he said certain things he didn't want to say, but felt he had to say them. It is easy to recognize in him intelligence, resolve, good judgement, and maybe even a reasonable and acceptable sense of justice, but will he, compelled by the establishment, be pressured into making questionable social, ethical, and moral decisions? It is certainly appealing and uplifting to believe in the sincerity of his intentions to make the world a better place, but will capitalism, and the armies of private finance, the lobbyist-infested, corporatist bureaucracy of the United-States, and the billion-dollar greed canons aimed at his head make it impossible for him to do so? Plainly, is the system of injustice just far too entrenched to even allow him to make a difference? I believe in Barack Obama the man, but it is a little bit more difficult to believe in Barack Obama the President of the United-States of America. Lets all hope that he will be courageous enough to bite the bullet, for the sake of the planet, and for the sake of humanity.
Now The Bad News:
The Economic Collapse
It took the conservative right politicians and the dishonest, self-serving media several months to admit to a recession, and even though they have now allowed the fact into mainstream conciousness, they will never admit the true depth and severity of the predicament; that it is a catastrophe and not simply a recession. Capitalism is a social arrangement based not on people, but on finance, which is fuelled by highs and lows, by hypothetical investments, computer transactions, idle wealth, and superficial substance, a castle of cards in a world of cement, flesh, and oxygen, and recession is only a polite term for the disaster state of an already perilous and instable system.
The economic collapse of 2008-2009 was caused by too much greed, too much spending in the wrong places, too much credit. So much time, money, and energy were spent on tax cuts, free trade, and countless measures, creations, and funding to assist open markets, and to privatize security, warfare, and reconstruction. So much credit was granted to those who could not afford it, while governments and corporations cut corners and skimmed off the top on social spending, health insurance and pension plans. Imperialism and corporations were siphoning so many resources, so much wealth and profit, that the world could no longer afford to keep the system afloat. Trillion dollar war-spending exacerbated the situation. Unplanned excesses eventually lead to inevitable imbalances.
When the millionaires realized the machine had gone into overload, their instinctual reaction was to spend money to remedy the situation. The U.S. government handed out hundreds of billions of dollars on rescue packages to save banks, lenders, creditors, and corporations of all sorts, in essence all the same players who were responsible for the economic crash in the first place. Now that Obama is in office, an additional $ 800 billion stimulus package is expected to be pushed through.
Here are the facts on the United-States' current finacial situation:
President Obama's economic stimulus package will be at a cost of $ 800 billion, approximately. Fortunately, much of that money is slated to address much needed social-spending; divided between green initiatives, namely alternative energy and energy efficiency projects, school funding, state money for healthcare and education, and an infrastructure-renewal package. Unfortunately, some of these funds will be wasted on tax cuts of $ 1,000 for most households, at a time when the government can ill-afford to spend money on useless and unnecessary measures. Mercantilist logic dictates that tax cuts must be handed out in order to boost the economy, even in the contemporary United-States where basic needs such health care and education are unaffordable to the poor majority. A secure, stable, and healthy society, with fair and reliable employment, and low-cost quality education and health care, is much more productive and effective than a cluster of individuals who simply have $ 1,000 more to spend.
Despite the stimulus package the reality is that the damage is already done. The upcoming deficit is projected to reach an absurd $ 1.2 trillion, which would represent and unprecedented 8.3 % of GDP. Unemployment will reach 9 % by 2010, a ridiculously high number for an industrial "advanced" country. All this from the world's economic and political leader.
Globe and Mail columnist Jeffrey Simpson writes that "getting into deficit is easy, even alluring: climbing out of them is difficult."1 The means to escape deficit; "tax increases and spending cuts that almost no American is willing to even contemplate today."2 In other words, wisdom to fiscal responsibility at a time when fiscal irresponsibility is the root cause of the existing problem. He continues by refering to the U.S. as "the debtor, against those from whom it must borrow. After all, Americans cannot possibly finance these new debts themselves, since they could not even finance the old ones."3 So it is again a case of the United-States spending money they don't have.
The Continuing and Deepening Disaster in Afghanistan
On the imperialist front, the media continues to paint the Afghanistan and Iraq wars as rebuilding efforts, when really they are closer to destruction efforts, and they continue to refer to the United-States' strategic world markets and resources control missions as the Middle-East Peace Process, when really it is the Middle-East War Process. So the first deception, the first set of lies, is that the invasion of Afghanistan is actually a mission for progress. For quite some time now major discrepencies in the integrity of the rebuilding efforts have been reported in countless news articles and reports by independent agencies*. An article in The Globe and Mail newspaper, dated Jan 9, 09, stated, "The Chief Review Services report - dated December, 2007, but released only recently after a scrub by government censors - suggests the Kandahar PRT had trouble finding a role for itself alongside the Canadian military, which was busy fighting a counter-insurgency war.....The evaluation says the military pulled the PRT's protective detail at one point in 2006 because soldiers were needed to prepare for a Canadian-led offensive against the Taliban. That left the PRT's efforts hamstrung for a time."4 Reconstruction mission, or rebuilding effort, are simply eloquent and progressive-sounding titles for a purely military, interventionist, and imperialist occupation. Also from the Chief Review Services Report; ""The force protection company was taken away from the KPRT by the (commanding officer) of the battle group to be used as a line infantry company during Operation Medusa. This severly reduced the KPRT's freedom of movement and led to the curtailment of most... activities external to Kanadhar City for the duration of this (rotation)" - until about July or August of 2006, the report says."5 Again, this further demonstrates how the title of reconstruction mission doubles as a cover to legitimize the interventionist occupation of a sovereign country. Worse, the occupation is mandated by a token body of capitalism, the military organization and imperialist facilitator known as NATO.
The second deception and set of lies is that the mission is making progress. In terms of establishing security and a proper "democracy" in the country, well, another article states that "Afghanistan has delayed its presidential election by three months, saying the country needs time to improve security before going to the polls....The Independent Election Commision of Afghanistan announced the move yesterday, saying it hopes the arrival of additional foreign forces, expected later this year, will help stabilize the country...."Without security, there can be no election," said election commision chief Azizullah Lodin."6 A report by the International Institute for Strategic Studies, stated ""Against this background, there is a risk that it will not be possible to hold elections, or voter turnout may be below the minimum necessary for the ballot to be valid," wrote John Chipman, the institute's director-general."7 Perhaps the December 2004 election of president Hamid Karzai was pushed through by a Washignton hasty to legitimize the justification of the intervention process even under unsuitable conditions, but since the current situation in the country cannot support one, clearly the mission is suffering setbacks, and not making progress.
Despite being experts in interventionist wars, NATO forces at this point are proving incapable of even gaining the upper hand militarily. In terms of fighting, in terms of deaths, in terms of bombings, in terms of overall violence, NATO and U.S. forces have proved incapable of establishing security in most of Afghanistan. The same article states that "Afghanistan has seen an increase in insurgent-led violence, particularly in the southern part of the country....nearly a third of Afghanistan's 364 electoral districts aren't safe."8 and that "Seven years after the U.S.-led invasion to oust the Taliban, Afghanistan is plagued by insurgent attacks and suicide bombs. A newly emboldened Taliban is asserting itself in southern Afghanistan, making last year the deadliest for foreign forces since the invasion."9
Certainly the imperialists are not experts in establishing stability, and free and fair elections, (even when they do manage to run some sort of electoral process they are always elections under occupation, and therefore undemocratic) but the fact that they fail to advance even militarily definitely outlines the catastrophic failure of the mission, at least from a humanitarian point of view. Or, the United-States and its lackeys have decided that the most effective way to profit from Afghanistan is to keep the War at an inconclusive standstill for as long as reasonably possible, and to continue to reap benefits for transnationals through private security and reconstruction contracts, and the necessity of constant supply from arms manufacturers. Perhaps the
military-industrial complex is no joke.
Into the eighth year of the invasion of Afghanistan, the situation is worse than the previous year and continues to worsen. it is impossible to candidly speak of any type of real progress, in a country torn by violence and desolation.
U.S. President Barack Obama has pledged to send up to an additional 30,000 troops to Afghanistan over the next 18 months.
In Canada the war at home is being felt as well; while public funding is being drastically cut in many key areas, the cost for the "rebuilding" project in Afghanistan is projected to cost as much as $ 18-billion by 2011.
The Conservative government of Canada since re-election has now managed to pass a budget laden in tax cuts which favours business, and spurns the Canadian working class in their most desperate time of need. They also intended to roll back democratic processes by attempting to outlaw the right to strike for public employees. And they attempted to remove public funding for political parties, which would expose a relatively clean Canadian political system to further corporatism, corruption, and lobbying.
Newly released statistics have revealed a harsh reality for Canadian soldiers, that 1 of 7 Afghanistan veterans go on to suffer from post-traumatic stress syndrome. Although they are relatively few, lest we forget our kindhearted Canadian brothers and sisters victim to imperialist wars.
In January of 2009, among soldiers in the U.S. army, there were only 16 deaths to 24 suicides, which means that more American soldiers are taking their own lives than being killed by enemy forces. A very unfortunate and telling statistic for the U.S. military.
There were a registered 129,000 job losses in Canada for the month of January. That same number is 600,000 in the United-States.
(I have not even touched on the continued and intensified Israeli apartheid assault on the starving and besieged people of Palestine, or on the Ontario Liberal Government's suspension of the right to strike against public union CUPE (Canadian Union of Public Employees) 3903 through a back-to-work legislation. There is much more that could be written about.)
The People of the World must ambitiously embrace the realities of 2009 with vulnerable open arms, and a very heavy heart. But they must do so consciously with the knowledge that progress is imminent, with positive energy, and with a little bit of fury and fire in their hearts.
1,2,3. Jeffrey Simpson, "Their Deficit, Our Prespective", The Globe And Mail, January 9, 2009.
*Namely a report by the Senlis Council, "Stumbling Into Chaos: Afghanistan on the Brink", November, 2007. But, also many others.
4,5. Steven Chase, "Afghan Rebuilding Efforts Slowed by Poor Planning", The Globe And Mail, January 9, 2009.
6,7,8,9. Jane Armstrong, "Afghanistan Delays Presidential Vote by Three Months", AFP reprinted in The Globe And Mail, Jan 30, 2009.