Obama, the Prince of Bait-and-Switch

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On 12 July,
The Times of London devoted two pages to Afghanistan. It
was mostly a complaint about the heat. The reporter, Magnus Linklater,
described in detail his discomfort and how he had needed to be sprayed
with iced water. He also described the "high drama" and
"meticulously practiced routine" of evacuating another
overheated journalist. For his US Marine rescuers, wrote Linklater,
"saving a life took precedence over [their] security."
Alongside this was a report whose final paragraph offered the only
mention that "47 civilians, most of them women and children,
were killed when a US aircraft bombed a wedding party in eastern
Afghanistan on Sunday."

Slaughters
on this scale are common, and mostly unknown to the British public.
I interviewed a woman who had lost eight members of her family,
including six children. A 500lb US Mk82 bomb was dropped on her
mud, stone and straw house. There was no "enemy" nearby.
I interviewed a headmaster whose house disappeared in a fireball
caused by another "precision" bomb. Inside were nine people
— his wife, his four sons, his brother and his wife, and his
sister and her husband. Neither of these mass murders was news.
As Harold Pinter wrote of such crimes: "Nothing ever happened.
Even while it was happening it wasn’t happening. It didn’t
matter. It was of no interest."

A total of
64 civilians were bombed to death while The Times man was
discomforted. Most were guests at the wedding party. Wedding parties
are a "coalition" specialty. At least four of them have
been obliterated — at Mazar and in Khost, Uruzgan and Nangarhar
provinces. Many of the details, including the names of victims,
have been compiled by a New Hampshire professor, Marc Herold, whose
Afghan Victim Memorial Project is a meticulous work of journalism
that shames those who are paid to keep the record straight and report
almost everything about the Afghan War through the public relations
facilities of the British and American military.

The US and
its allies are dropping record numbers of bombs on Afghanistan.
This is not news. In the first half of this year, 1,853 bombs were
dropped: more than all the bombs of 2006 and most of 2007. "The
most frequently used bombs," the Air Force Times reports, "are
the 500lb and 2,000lb satellite-guided…" Without this one-sided
onslaught, the resurgence of the Taliban, it is clear, might not
have happened. Even Hamid Karzai, America’s and Britain’s
puppet, has said so. The presence and the aggression of foreigners
have all but united a resistance that now includes former warlords
once on the CIA’s payroll.

The scandal
of this would be headline news, were it not for what George W. Bush’s
former spokesman Scott McClellan has called "complicit enablers"
— journalists who serve as little more than official amplifiers.
Having declared Afghanistan a "good war," the complicit
enablers are now anointing Barack Obama as he tours the bloodfests
in Afghanistan and Iraq. What they never say is that Obama is a
bomber.

In
the New York Times on 14 July, in an article spun to appear
as if he is ending the war in Iraq, Obama demanded more war in Afghanistan
and, in effect, an invasion of Pakistan. He wants more combat troops,
more helicopters, more bombs. Bush may be on his way out, but the
Republicans have built an ideological machine that transcends the
loss of electoral power — because their collaborators are,
as the American writer Mike Whitney put it succinctly, "bait-and-switch"
Democrats, of whom Obama is the prince.

Those who write
of Obama that "when it comes to international affairs, he will
be a huge improvement on Bush" demonstrate the same willful
navety that backed the bait-and-switch of Bill Clinton — and
Tony Blair. Of Blair, wrote the late Hugo Young in 1997, "ideology
has surrendered entirely to ‘values’… there are no sacred
cows [and] no fossilized limits to the ground over which the mind
might range in search of a better Britain…"

Eleven years
and five wars later, at least a million people lie dead. Barack
Obama is the American Blair. That he is a smooth operator and a
black man is irrelevant. He is of an enduring, rampant system whose
drum majors and cheer squads never see, or want to see, the consequences
of 500lb bombs dropped unerringly on mud, stone and straw houses.

July
25, 2008

John
Pilger
was born and educated in Sydney, Australia. He has been
a war correspondent, filmmaker and playwright. Based in London,
he has written from many countries and has twice won British journalism’s
highest award, that of "Journalist of the Year," for his
work in Vietnam and Cambodia. His new book, Tell
Me No Lies: Investigative Journalism and Its Triumphs
, is
published by Jonathan Cape in June.

John
Pilger Archives

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