Tuesday, 5 October 2010

Dissent in the age of Obama

Following on from Sunday's post on Barack Obama's appalling civil liberties record, I have come across an interesting opinion piece by Cindy Sheehan. It seems that Obama's line of dissidents carries echoes of the Watergate Scandal and even the Red Scare.

Her thoughts can be found over on Al Jazeera;
Recently, the Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) raided the homes of at least eight anti-war/social justice activists here in the US.

I happen to be a prominent anti-war activist myself, and have joked that I am a “little hurt” that I was not raided and perhaps I should try harder. Even though, we have the urge to try and be light-hearted in this time of an increasing police state, with civil liberties on the retreat, it really isn't funny considering that the activists could face some serious charges stemming from these raids.

I have felt this harassment on a smaller scale myself and I know that defending oneself against a police state that has unlimited resources, time and cruelty, can be quite expensive, time consuming and annoying.

There is nothing noble about an agency that has reduced itself to being jackbooted enforcers of a neo-fascist police state, no matter how much the FBI has been romanticised in movies, television and books.

For example, in one instance, early in the morning of September 24, at the home of Mick Kelly of Minneapolis, the door was battered in and flung across the room when his partner audaciously asked to see the FBI’s warrant through the door’s peephole. At Jessica Sundin’s home, she walked downstairs to find seven agents ransacking her home while her partner and child looked on in shock.

These raids have terrifying implications for dissent here in the US.

First of all, these US citizens have been long-time and devoted anti-war activists who organised an anti-war rally that was violently suppressed by the US police state in Minneapolis-St. Paul, during the 2008 Republican National Convention. Because the Minneapolis activists have integrity, they had already announced that they would do the same if the Democrats hold their convention there in 2012.

I have observed that it was one thing to be anti-Bush, but to be anti-war in the age of Obama is not to be tolerated by many people. If you will also notice, the only people who seem to know about the raids are those of us already in the movement. There has been no huge outcry over this fresh outrage, either by the so-called movement or the corporate media.

I submit that if George Bush were still president, or if this happened under a McCain/Palin regime, there would be tens of thousands of people in the streets to protest. This is one of the reasons an escalation in police state oppression is so much more dangerous under Obama - even now, he gets a free pass from the very same people who should be adamantly opposed to such policies.

Secondly, I believe because the raids happened to basically ‘unsung’ and unknown, but very active workers in the movement, that the coordinated, early morning home invasions were designed to intimidate and frighten those of us who are still doing the work. The Obama regime would like nothing better than for us to shut up or go underground and to quit embarrassing it by pointing out its abject failures and highlighting its obvious crimes.

Just look at how the Democrats are demonising activists who are trying to point out the inconvenient truth that the country (under a near Democratic tyranny) is sliding further into economic collapse, environmental decay and perpetual war for enormous profit.

Barack and Joe, the commandantes of this police state, say that those who have the temerity to be critical are “asleep” and just need to “buck up". White House spokesperson, Robert Gibbs, recently stated that we on the “professional left” need to be “drug tested” if we are not addicted to the regimes’ own drug: the Hopium of the Obama propaganda response team.

It seems like, even though some of those that have been nailed to the cross of national security do activism around South America, most of the activism is anti-war and pro-Palestinian rights. Being supportive of any Arab or Muslim, no matter how benign or courageous is a very dangerous activity here in post-9/11 America.

The Supreme Court just decided (Wilner v. National Security Agency) that the National Security Agency (NSA) did not have to disclose if it was using warrantless wiretapping to spy on attorneys representing the extra-legal detention of prisoners in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. Obtaining warrants, with cause, and attorney-client privilege were important principles of the US justice system, but even the neo-fascist Supreme Court is undermining the law - talk about “activist” judges!

Not only have activists been targeted here in the States, but Obama has ominously declared himself judge, jury and executioner of anyone that he deems a national security “threat". These are the actions of a tyrant and another assault against our rights and against the rule of law from a person who promised “complete transparency” from his administration.

We have learned that Obama’s first victim under his presidential execution programme is Anwar al-Awlaki, a US-born Muslim who is now in Yemen. Without showing proof of al-Awlaki’s so-called executionable offenses and without a trial in a court of law, Obama has unloosed his hit squads on Awlaki. Is there anyone out there reading this who does not believe, or fear, that this programme could quickly descend into summary executions within the borders of the US?

Al-Awlaki’s father has filed a motion in federal court to stay the execution of his son until he gets his constitutionally guaranteed rights to due process, but Obama’s justice department has refused to cooperate stating that to do so would ‘undermine’ that fabled, exploited and ephemeral ‘national security'.

When Obama behaves like Bush, only on steroids, he amply demonstrates why other people hate our country so much. Persons in other countries are not nearly as blind as Americans. They know that even though Obama went to Cairo to blather about building understanding between the US and the Muslim world, actions speak louder than words and Obama’s actions drip with carnage and pain.

Obviously, the suppression of dissent here in the US, while outrageous and inexcusable, has not reached the level of the McCarthy witch hunts of the 1950’s - yet.

The longer we Americans remain silent in the face of these injustices, the more they will continue to occur and escalate.

Make your voice heard!
I have commented previously on this point. The unwillingness of the centre-left in America to speak out against Obama comes from the same instinct that sees the British left cling onto Labour.

It is the idea - naive or wilfully ignorant depending on your viewpoint - that there exists, or even can exist, a party within the mainstream which can represent "the left." And whilst some in that ill-defined collective might be uneasy about certain elements of this, they are just being "hardline" or "awkward."

I came across a smaller-scale example of this when I attended the PCS anti-cuts rally in Manchester on Saturday. The Labour councillor given a platform there urged against "sectarianism" and "factionalism," the presumption being that these were the only two possible reasons for anybody on the left refusing to work with elected officials of the Labour party.

In power, that translated to exactly the same disdain for the "professional left" that Obama now holds. Indeed, only last month Tony Blair bemoaned the "activist left" being "happy to help" their "right-wing opponents" destroy "left-leaning leaders."

The response to which is that Obama and Blair aren't particularly "left-leaning." For that matter, they are not our leaders. The authoritarian left may demand blind loyalty to a cult of personality, regardless of the effects in the real world - but those of us who act on the basis of solid and consistent principles have other ideas. And rallying behind the (red) flag for the sake of half-baked "unity" is not one of them.

After all, what point is there to unity that isn't reciprocal? Why should those of us who oppose war, imperialism, and capitalism rally around someone who enacts those very things?

The "left-wing" of the mainstream spectrum (that is, the centre-right) are not our friends. They represent the same system as the right do, albeit in a slightly more dovish manner. Their attacks on our right to dissent, as well as on us as a class, will be just as vicious. If not more so.

If pointing this out makes me part of the "professional left" or the "awkward squad," then so be it. I will not rally around the very things I oppose just because they put on a smiley face.