Come, let’s away to prison:
We two alone will sing like birds i’ the cage:
When thou dost ask me blessing, I’ll kneel down,
And ask of thee forgiveness: so we’ll live,
And pray, and sing, and tell old tales, and laugh
At gilded butterflies, and hear poor rogues
Talk of court news; and we’ll talk with them too,
Who loses and who wins; who’s in, who’s out;
And take upon’s the mystery of things,
As if we were God’s spies: and we’ll wear out,
In a wall’d prison, packs and sects of great ones,
That ebb and flow by the moon.
Democratic Party circles are in raptures over Colin Powell’s endorsement of Barack Obama. One can see the heavily-blinkered logic behind their elation; now that our national politics has been reduced to a petty squabble over spoils among shifting factions in the imperial court, a nod from a consummate courtier like Powell is indeed a glittering prize for an ambitious prince.
But out in the real world, where the operations of imperial power have left smoking trails of murder and ruin across the globe, the “endorsement” of a man who played an indispensable role in the slaughter of more than a million innocent people in a war of Hitlerian aggression should be regarded as a thing of shame, and vociferously rejected by anyone with a scintilla of honor or morality.
In fact, it is not too much of a stretch to say that Colin Powell is more responsible for the mass murder spree in Iraq than any other person except George W. Bush, who gave the actual order for the hit. For it was Powell who “made the sale” for the Bush Faction’s deceitful warmongering campaign, with his infamous February 2003 presentation to the UN, laying out the false evidence about Iraq’s non-existent weapons of mass destruction. After that farrago of artfully delivered lies, the American Establishment — urged on by the fawning, bloodthirsty commentariat — lined up solidly behind the war. After all, if Colin Powell — so “reasonable,” so “honorable,” so “honest” and “bipartisan” — stood foursquare behind the Bush case for war, then it must be ironclad.
This was, again, the logic of courtiers, with little connection to reality. Powell’s reputation as a wise, moderate, impartial statesman — the very thing that made him the most effective shill for the war crime in Iraq — was itself almost entirely a fiction. By the time he made his shameless UN appearance, Powell had already spent almost four decades as a bagman — and frontman — for some of the most vicious and ugly elements in American politics and government. From the My Lai massacre to Iran-Contra, from Washington’s long and murderous collusion with Saddam to its long and murderous campaigns to remove him, Powell has been instrumental in perpetrating or covering up atrocities and abominations on a gigantic scale. [For details, see Robert Parry’s investigation, “The Truth About Colin Powell.”]
Since his departure from the Administration — after staying on long enough to see Bush reconfirmed in power — Powell and his legion of apologists have peddled the myth that he was “stabbed in the back” in his UN presentation: given a false bill of goods with assurances they were true, misled and manipulated by incompetent intelligence analysts and Machiavellian White House insiders, etc., etc. Such stories may help Powell sleep better at night, and they have certainly helped rehabilitate his fictional reputation to the extent that his endorsement is once more considered a worthy prize. But they suffer from one small defect: they are blatantly false.
Powell knew — knew beyond a shadow of a doubt — that he was offering rank lies, cooked intelligence and dubious assertion to the world at his UN presentation before the war. Earlier this year, Jonathan Schwarz provided a devastating demolition of Powell’s UN testimony, showing how it was belied at almost every point by the actual intelligence reports — which Powell had read before the presentation. Powell knew the case for war against Iraq was riddled with holes — holes patched with outright fabrications and the knowing manipulation of data. He presented it anyway; he made the sale. And a million innocent human beings have died for it.
But Powell was selling aggression against Iraq long before his UN fan-dance in February 2003. In fact, he was the mouthpiece that the Administration used in May 2002 — even before the White House began to “roll out the product” of a concentrated warmongering campaign — to signal Washington’s firm intent to invade Iraq even if UN inspectors went into the country and found no weapons of mass destruction. The cat of war crime was out of the bag — and out in open — in the spring of 2002, and it was Powell who untied the strings.
Here’s what I wrote on May 17, 2002, in The Moscow Times:
Quietly, without fanfare, in a bland statement issued by its most “moderate” front man, the Bush Regime crossed another moral Rubicon last week, carrying the once-great republic they have usurped deeper into the blood-soaked mire of international criminality.
The move – committing the United States of America to a policy of Hitlerian military aggression – was little noted at the time. A quick soundbite, maybe, on a couple of the more wonky TV news shows; a brief quote buried somewhere in the thick gray sludge of the “serious” papers. The Regime guaranteed its poison pill would go down sugarcoated by picking Secretary of State Colin Powell as its mouthpiece.
It was a masterstroke of propaganda, really. The former general has long been regarded by the “serious” media on both sides of the Atlantic as a “moderate” maverick on Bush’s hard-right team. Liberal commentators praise Powell as a “restraining influence” on more bellicose insiders like Cheney and Rumsfeld, and a wise, guiding hand for a president unschooled in the subtleties of world diplomacy.
It’s all a sham, of course. Powell is nothing more than a lifelong bagman for powerful interests. His willingness to play ball, to look the other way, has made him a convenient tool for the some of the most violent and undemocratic forces ever to pollute American society.
His first job on the Inside was an attempted whitewash of the My Lai massacre in Vietnam; it didn’t quite work, but he won points for his obfuscatory efforts and went on to a plum job in the crime-ridden Nixon White House. Then came Iran-Contra, the criminal conspiracy of drug-running and terrorism operated directly out of the Reagan-Bush White House. Powell illicitly sent missiles to the terrorist regime of Ayatollah Khomeini, then helped with the ensuing cover-up. For this service, he was made head of the entire U.S. military.
He then directed the illegal American aggression against Panama, when President George H.W. Bush killed hundreds, perhaps thousands of innocent civilians in a hissy fit against his old CIA employee Manuel Noreiga. Powell, like Bush, had long known Noreiga was a murderous drug dealer, but they found him useful, and plied him with plaudits and cash – until Bush needed to prove his tough-guy cojones to Reaganite critics in the Republican Party….
So what better man to announce George W. Bush’s adoption of Adolf Hitler’s moral code? Powell sat down with the media sycophants on ABC’s “This Week” and calmly – moderately – laid out the new doctrine. The subject, of course, was Iraq. The UN was working on a deal that would allow international inspectors back into the country to verify that Saddam Hussein no longer possessed weapons of mass destruction.
These inspections were vital because, as George W. never ceases to remind us, Saddam Hussein is so evil that he “gassed his own people.” …But Junior always omits the inconvenient fact that one year after [the attack], Daddy Bush signed an executive order mandating closer U.S. ties to Saddam’s regime. Daddy Bush showered Saddam with endless financial credits and mountains of “dual-use technology” – which the dictator duly used to develop his WMDs – right up until the day before Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait. Needless to say, Powell, as head of Daddy’s military, was complicit in this lunatic operation and raised no demur, “moderate” or otherwise.
Flash forward to the present day. Junior Bush is now in the White House. For months, he has threatened military action against Iraq if Hussein fails to verify the destruction of his WMD capacity. (At the same time, of course, Junior undercuts international treaties that would require monitoring of his own biochemical warfare facilities. There’s a good reason for that: the Regime is now preparing to develop offensive biochemical weapons, in contravention of international and U.S. law, the Village Voice reports.)
The world braces for another conflagration in the Mesopotamian sands. But then Saddam blinks. He starts talking with the UN. He renounces aggression. He tries to make up with Kuwait. Sooner or later, the inspectors will go back in – no cause for war now, right?
Wrong, Powell told the sycophants last week. The “moderate” secretary said that even if UN inspectors go in and verify compliance, the Bush Regime still “reserves its options” to do anything necessary, including military invasion, to effect a “regime change.” Bush himself has already acknowledged that nuclear force is among those “options.”
So there it is. The United States now openly claims the right to launch an all-out attack on any nation in the world whose regime it doesn’t like – even if that nation is not engaged in active military aggression or terrorism – and even if the mere threat of aggression has been defused by UN monitoring.
No provocation necessary. No legality required. Just a thuggish elite raining death on the world, for profit and power, sowing hatred for the once-great nation they have hijacked – and ensuring more death and terror for its people.
This then is the bloodstained hand that Barack Obama has clasped so warmly, so triumphantly, on his march to power. As for Powell, he has proven himself once more the ultimate courtier. In the latest intramural tussle in the imperial court, his keen and practiced eye has picked out the coming man — and so he has jettisoned the faction he has served for so long, and latched on to the winning side yet again. (As he did previously for awhile with Bill Clinton.) And why not? Powell has always been a faithful servant of America’s militarist empire — no matter who its temporary manager might be.
aangirfan Photo: in 1989, the U.S. invaded Panama
“His first job on the Inside was an attempted whitewash of the My Lai massacre in Vietnam…
“Powell illicitly sent missiles to the terrorist regime of Ayatollah Khomeini, then helped with the ensuing cover-up…
“He then directed the illegal American aggression against Panama, when President George H.W. Bush killed hundreds of innocent civilians in a hissy fit against his old CIA employee Manuel Noreiga.” – Unmasking Colin Powell – General Principles
Colin Powell endorses Barack Obama for president
Growing ruling class consensus behind Democratic candidate
By Barry Grey
20 October 2008
Retired Gen. Colin Powell’s endorsement of Barack Obama on Sunday was the most politically significant of a series of recent statements by influential voices in the American ruling elite calling for the Democratic presidential candidate’s election on November 4.
Speaking on the NBC News program “Meet the Press,” Powell, chairman of the joint chiefs of staff during the 1991 Persian Gulf War and secretary of state during the first term of George W. Bush, said he would vote for Obama because the Illinois senator was better able than his Republican opponent, Senator John McCain, to “fix our economic problems” and restore “a sense of purpose, a sense of confidence in the American people and, in the international community, in America.”
Powell’s support for Obama over the candidate of his own party followed a series of endorsements by prominent newspapers, including the Washington Post, the Los Angeles Times, the New York Daily News and the Chicago Tribune. The Tribune’s endorsement was particularly significant. It marked the first time in its 161-year history that the conservative Republican newspaper endorsed a Democrat for president.
These endorsements coincided with the Obama campaign’s announcement on Friday that it had raised the staggering sum of $150 million in September, shattering the previous record it set when it collected $66 million in August. This brings Obama’s total in campaign funds to more than $600 million, far surpassing the amounts raised by Bush in 2000 and 2004.
The flood of corporate money to Obama, substantially larger than the sums raised by McCain, is another unmistakable indication of his support among the most influential sections of the American ruling class.
The endorsement of Obama by Powell, a key architect of the Iraq war, and by newspapers that have unswervingly supported the US occupation of the country, underscores the duplicity of the Obama campaign. These advocates of US imperialism and militarism have no problem endorsing a candidate who won his party’s nomination largely by appealing to popular antiwar sentiment and attacking his major rival, Senator Hillary Clinton, for voting to authorize the Iraq war in October of 2002.
Since securing the Democratic nomination in June, Obama has concentrated his efforts on reassuring the ruling elite that, his antiwar rhetoric and campaign slogan of “change” notwithstanding, an Obama presidency will be a reliable defender of their class interests. This has entailed a swing to the right on both foreign and domestic policy, including assurances that he will retain a substantial US military force in Iraq after a drawdown of “combat” forces, and will be prepared to extend his timeline for withdrawing combat troops if requested by military commanders.
At the same time, Obama has made a buildup of US forces in Afghanistan and the extension of military attacks into Pakistan a centerpiece of his campaign.
Under conditions of a financial crisis of historic proportions which has further undermined US influence and prestige internationally and intensified popular discontent within the US, Obama’s solicitousness for the concerns of the financial-corporate elite has paid off.
A common theme of Powell’s interview and the editorial statements endorsing Obama is the belief that Obama, in large part by virtue of his race and relative youthfulness, will improve the image of the United States around the world and as well as among the American people, while he can be relied on to pursue a conservative domestic agenda and continue the basic thrust of imperialist policy internationally.
The endorsements stressed the need, after the disastrous Bush years, for a president who could more intelligently and competently defend the basic interests of American imperialism.
In his interview, Powell gave a sober assessment of the crisis facing the United States. Like many of Obama’s establishment endorsers, he indicated that the eruption of the financial crisis over the past two months was a critical factor in swinging his support behind the Democrat.
Powell echoed a widespread consensus within the ruling elite that Obama, by unambiguously supporting the government bailout of the banks, had acquitted himself more favorably than his opponent. “I have especially watched over the last six or seven weeks as both of them have really taken a final exam with respect to this economic crisis,” he said.
The Chicago Tribune wrote in dire terms of the crisis facing American capitalism, speaking of “the greatest threat to the world economic system in 80 years” and the need for a president who could “lead us through a perilous time” and navigate “the grave domestic and foreign crises we face.”
Declaring that its “editorial page has been a proponent of conservative principles,” the newspaper said it could “provide some assurance” that Obama, who made his start in Chicago Democratic politics, would pursue a conservative course. It wrote: “We have known Obama since he entered politics a dozen years ago. We have watched him, worked with him, argued with him as he rose from an effective state senator to an inspiring US senator to the Democratic Party’s nominee for president.
“We have tremendous confidence in his intellectual rigor, his moral compass and his ability to make sound, thoughtful, careful decisions…”
The Tribune said it was confident that Obama would “govern as much more of a pragmatic centrist than many people expect,” and added for good measure that he has been called a “‘University of Chicago Democrat’—a reference to the famed free-market Chicago school of economics, which puts faith in markets.”
It is instructive to compare the measured judgments of these establishment spokesmen, who weigh their decision on the basis of a clear-eyed appreciation of their class interests, and the delusional claims of Obama’s supporters within the liberal intelligentsia and the liberal periphery of the Democratic Party.
The current issue of the New York Review of Books features a series of essays on Obama by a group of contributors under the heading “A Fateful Election.” With the exception of author Joan Didion, who debunks the notion that the Obama campaign represents a progressive departure from conventional American bourgeois politics and notes the way in which race is employed to obscure “the real issue in American life, which is class,” the contributors portray an Obama victory as a historic milestone and the harbinger of a new age of social progress.
Virtually all of the essays evince an obsession with race. Journalist Mark Danner declares, “The radicalism of Barack Obama lies not in his policies but in his face.” He refers to “the unspoken centrality of race, the ancient sinful fulcrum of American politics,” and concludes that the election of Obama would mark “a true revolution.”
Columbia University professor Andrew Delbanco acknowledges Obama to be “a chastened liberal whose domestic policy plans can seem vague,” but nonetheless declares, “The fact is that Obama, by virtue of being black, has already changed our culture, and changed it profoundly…”
Nobel laureate economist and New York Times columnist Paul Krugman asserts that Republicans were previously able to win elections “by exploiting white racial resentment,” but concludes that this time it will be different and “the prospects for a new New Deal are looking bright again…”
Historian Garry Wills argues that the ability of the next president to shape the Supreme Court makes the stakes in the election “staggering,” ignoring Obama’s own vote in support of Bush’s illegal domestic spying program and his support for police state measures as the Patriot Act, the Homeland Security Department, the Northern Command, etc.
For the most part, these intellectuals and academics, in their desire to believe that something better is coming, engage in a willing suspension of disbelief. That having been said, they write not as the tribunes of popular opposition, but rather as representatives of layers of the establishment itself.
In the case of the Nation magazine, one is dealing more with professional dispensers of political illusions in the Democratic Party than with people who are disoriented by wishful thinking. The editorial in the current issue suggests that the Wall Street bailout signals a shift to the left within the political establishment. Citing McCain’s proposal for the government to buy up bad mortgages and Obama’s call for a 90-day moratorium on home foreclosures, the Nation writes that the crisis “has pushed the center firmly in a progressive direction.”
William Greider, in a piece on the bailout, writes: “Fortunately, Bush and Paulson are lame ducks. They will be replaced soon (we fervently hope) by Barack Obama, who is addressing the side of the crisis that Republicans always ignore—what’s happening to the people. Obama has revised and expanded his agenda, and he does not intend to wait until January.”
He then cites the token measures advanced by Obama, in the face of a social catastrophe that is engulfing the working class, and concludes breathlessly, “Economic turmoil has instilled a dynamic process in politics, driving everyone, including voters, to a new ground. We are likely to see even larger changes in the coming months. The treasury secretary seems out of breath. Obama appears to be getting his second wind.”
The Nation specializes in peddling the notion that objective events and the pressure of popular opinion will push an Obama White House to the left. This is despite the indisputable fact that since securing the nomination, Obama has responded not to the antiwar and increasingly anti-corporate sentiment within the population, but rather to the demands of his corporate sponsors and donors. Why this will suddenly shift after the election, the Nation does not explain.
In the increasingly likely event that Obama wins the election, it will not take long to discover what Colin Powell and the major organs of the bourgeois press already know—that beyond certain cosmetic changes, the reactionary thrust of the Bush administration will, in all essentials, continue. How will the self-deluded intellectuals of the New York Review of Books respond to a much wider war in Afghanistan, or its extension into Pakistan, or Iran, or even Russia?
As for the Nation, there is no reason to believe that such developments will alter its determination to serve as the “left” flank of the political establishment by opposing the development of an independent political and socialist movement of the working class.
The Washington Post endorses Obama
[18 October 2008]
A political farce, not a debate
[17 October 2008]
Obama floats economic plan: tax breaks and austerity
[15 October 2008]