Tuesday, November 04, 2008


History is being made today.

Our good neighbors in the United States, and they are good neighbors, will finish voting today to elect their President and Vice President. The obvious historical element is that an African American is the Presidential nominee of one of the two major American political parties and a woman is the Vice Presidential nominee of the other party.

But history is also being made in a different sense. As a long time observer of American politics, living an hours drive from the American border and inundated by American media I watched with horror the events of 911. I was proud of my fellow Canadians who took in to their homes American travelers stranded when all flights across the US were ordered stopped that day. I was initially impressed with President Bush when he stood with the firefighters on the rubble of the World Trade Center towers and visibly displayed the courage that would help inspire everyone affected. I was equally impressed when he organized and spoke at an interdenominational gathering of religious leaders and helped restore calm, compassion and common sense which appeared to be disappearing in the United States.

Ultimately though I became dismayed by the militaristic take over of the American consciousness and way of life. Going after Al Qaeda in Afghanistan seemed like the right thing to do given the Al Qaeda perpetration of events on 911. Their Taliban hosts in Afghanistan also seemed like legitimate opponents and if Bin Laden took refuge in Pakistan then I believe it was, and still is, legitimate for the Americans to go after him and take him out. But the war in Iraq and the patently obvious falsehoods perpetrated by senior government officials, including President George W. Bush, to justify the invasion of Iraq, a country that had not attacked the US was extremely disturbing. So too has been the steady erosion of American civil liberties and the denial of legal rights to foreign visitors to the United States.

In 2002 Barack Obama, a young state Senator in Illinois spoke against the impending Iraq war at a time when few politicians had the courage to speak candidly about the dishonesty being perpetrated to justify the invasion of Iraq. His speech was, as described by many, stirring, and I have posted it here following my comments. The speech, as so many of his speeches, and debates and actions demonstrate a person of judgment and principle. Mr. Obama is a man of calm cool reflection who can rise to the occasion and stir people based on principle, on hope, not on the hatred and fear mongering tolerated and exploited by his opponents.

Obama impressed me when he defeated Senator Hillary Clinton, an outstanding figure in her own right, and sought to mend bridges broken during the primaries once he prevailed. He impressed me when he picked Sentor Biden as his running mate, not to gain electoral votes which the pick did not do, but to ensure that an experienced, knowledgeable voice, that would not hesitate to speak truth to power balanced the ticket and would be ready in the horrific event, that it was necessary, to assume the presidency.

Senator Obama impressed again with his calm, cool and collected response to the financial crisis that exploded onto the world's economic scene and dramatically altered the course of the US election. His response was in sharp contrast to the bizarre, quixotic response by Senator McCain, canceling media appointments, rushing to Washington, threatening a no show at the impending Presidential debate and pretending that he had any significant role to play in the hammering out of the bailout agreement reached in the US Congress. To paraphrase the US presidential campaign cliche I was very concerned that the erratic Senator McCain would be the one taking that 3 a.m. phone call in the White House with his finger hovering anxiously over the nuclear button.

My high regard for Senator Obama, hopefully President Elect Obama, has nothing to do with autism about which I usually write. My preference is based largely on the issues set out above. As a Canadian I do not vote in the US elections notwithstanding the huge impact such political decisions by our neighbors have upon Canadians. If I could vote though, beyond any doubt, I would be voting for Senator Barack Obama for President and Senator Biden for Vice President. I truly believe the world will be the better for it if they prevail as the incredible odyssey of this American Presidential election campaign draws to an end.

I believe the Obama-Biden team will win today. The election of the first African American president of the United States will make history. But history will also be made with the beginning of the end of the rampant, out of control, militarism that 911 allowed to occur, the takeover of the American economy, society and consciousness by unscrupulous corporate war profiteers and their allies in the US Congress and administration will have begun.

The 2002 speech by then Illinois state Senator Barack Obama opposing the Iraq invasion sought by President George Bush, Vice President Richard Cheney and Arizona Senator John McCain follows:

"I stand before you as someone who is not opposed to war in all circumstances. The Civil War was one of the bloodiest in history, and yet it was only through the crucible of the sword, the sacrifice of multitudes, that we could begin to perfect this union and drive the scourge of slavery from our soil.

I Don't Oppose All Wars

I don't oppose all wars. My grandfather signed up for a war the day after Pearl Harbor was bombed, fought in Patton's army. He fought in the name of a larger freedom, part of that arsenal of democracy that triumphed over evil.

I don't oppose all wars. After September 11, after witnessing the carnage and destruction, the dust and the tears, I supported this administration's pledge to hunt down and root out those who would slaughter innocents in the name of intolerance, and I would willingly take up arms myself to prevent such tragedy from happening again.

Opposed to Dumb, Rash Wars

I don't oppose all wars. What I am opposed to is a dumb war. What I am opposed to is a rash war. What I am opposed to is the cynical attempt by Richard Perle and Paul Wolfowitz and other armchair, weekend warriors in this administration to shove their own ideological agendas down our throats, irrespective of the costs in lives lost and in hardships borne.

What I am opposed to is the attempt by political hacks like Karl Rove to distract us from a rise in the uninsured, a rise in the poverty rate, a drop in the median income, to distract us from corporate scandals and a stock market that has just gone through the worst month since the Great Depression.

That's what I'm opposed to. A dumb war. A rash war. A war based not on reason but on passion, not on principle but on politics.

On Saddam Hussein

Now let me be clear: I suffer no illusions about Saddam Hussein. He is a brutal man. A ruthless man. A man who butchers his own people to secure his own power.... The world, and the Iraqi people, would be better off without him.

But I also know that Saddam poses no imminent and direct threat to the United States, or to his neighbors...and that in concert with the international community he can be contained until, in the way of all petty dictators, he falls away into the dustbin of history.

I know that even a successful war against Iraq will require a U.S. occupation of undetermined length, at undetermined cost, with undetermined consequences.

I know that an invasion of Iraq without a clear rationale and without strong international support will only fan the flames of the Middle East, and encourage the worst, rather than best, impulses of the Arab world, and strengthen the recruitment arm of al-Qaeda.

I am not opposed to all wars. I'm opposed to dumb wars. So for those of us who seek a more just and secure world for our children, let us send a clear message to the president.

You Want a Fight, President Bush?

You want a fight, President Bush? Let's finish the fight with Bin Laden and al-Qaeda, through effective, coordinated intelligence, and a shutting down of the financial networks that support terrorism, and a homeland security program that involves more than color-coded warnings.

You want a fight, President Bush? Let's fight to make sure that...we vigorously enforce a nonproliferation treaty, and that former enemies and current allies like Russia safeguard and ultimately eliminate their stores of nuclear material, and that nations like Pakistan and India never use the terrible weapons already in their possession, and that the arms merchants in our own country stop feeding the countless wars that rage across the globe.

You want a fight, President Bush? Let's fight to make sure our so-called allies in the Middle East, the Saudis and the Egyptians, stop oppressing their own people, and suppressing dissent, and tolerating corruption and inequality, and mismanaging their economies so that their youth grow up without education, without prospects, without hope, the ready recruits of terrorist cells.

You want a fight, President Bush? Let's fight to wean ourselves off Middle East oil through an energy policy that doesn't simply serve the interests of Exxon and Mobil.

Those are the battles that we need to fight. Those are the battles that we willingly join. The battles against ignorance and intolerance. Corruption and greed. Poverty and despair."

Bookmark and Share

No comments: