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Continuity Error: Guts, Goo and Obama's Imperial Dream

Disappointment is taking hold around the world.

by Chris Floyd
Wednesday, 3 December 2008
This is the philosophy that has guided American foreign policy for decades; it is the philosophy that has guided it during the Bush Administration; it is the philosophy that will guide it in the Obama Administration.
Barack Obama's new "national security team" is a grim conglomeration of war criminals, warmongers and apologists for torture and empire who have been praised justly by some rightwingers as a continuation and validation of the Bush Regime's foreign policy. But despite the growing unease these choices have induced in some "progressive" quarters, they in no way constitute a "betrayal" on Obama's part. He has always made it abudantly clear that he stands squarely on the side of a militarist empire – expansive, dominating, brooking no challenge or hindrance to its actions or its preeminence. An empire conceived in bloodshed and dedicated to the proposition that no nation is created equal to the divine American state, whose "interests" – as self-servingly defined by whatever faction of the ruling elite holds temporary sway in Washington – must be pursued at any and every cost. A cost to be paid, of course, by the lesser breeds beyond the Homeland's borders, and, increasingly, by the American people themselves.

Obama's forthright stand on the issue of empire was evident throughout the campaign, in speeches, on his website, in his Senate votes and in his publicly announced positions – such as his always conditional, circumscribed promise to "end" the war in Iraq, on essentially the same terms by which George W. Bush claims to be ending it now. At no point in his much-ballyhooed "opposition" to the nation-gutting in Iraq did Obama ever once call it what it is: a crime. An abomination. An act of mass murder that has left more than a million innocent people dead.

Who then can be surprised that he has chosen as his own war chief a man who has presided over this pointless slaughter for two of the five years that it has been going on? And who can be surprised that he has chosen as his secretary of state a woman whose chief contributions to foreign policy have been: urging her husband to bomb civilians in an illegal, undeclared war against Serbia; promising to "obliterate" an entire nation of 65 million people from the face of the earth; and voting for one of the worst war crimes in the last half-century – then damning the victims as lousy ingrates for not appreciating America's benevolent destruction of their country and murder of their children?

Really now, what did anyone expect from a man who walks into a room where a dozen children have had their head bashed in by a thug in a silk suit still holding the blood-dripping bat in his hand, and says, "My word! I think a mistake has been made here. By gum, I think beating these children into a steaming pulp of guts and goo might have been a 'stupid policy.' If you give me that bat, I promise to stop beating these children into a steaming pulp of guts and goo within the next 16 months – depending, of course, on the conditions in the room at the time, and the advice of my new top adviser, an experienced, pragmatic, safe pair of hands who has just spent the last two years helping this thug – who should not be prosecuted, by the way, because that would just criminalize political differences – beat these children into a steaming pulp of guts and goo." This, in a nutshell, is Obama's Iraq policy, and always has been. Where then is the betrayal?


Here we must turn, once again, to Arthur Silber, who has long understood the true nature of the Obama candidacy and what its triumph will mean for the future. No talk of "betrayal" from Silber, who knows that Obama's recent appointments are only the inevitable fruit of the imperial, exceptionalist philosophy that has always guided his votes and positions on foreign policy. Silber's new post, "Clinging to the Wreckage I: Murder Inc. -- The Continuing Obscenity of U.S. Foreign Policy," is a masterpiece of bitter clarity about the reality of the American empire -- even in the rosy glow of the false dawn of the era of "hope and change." You should read the whole, devastating piece -- and follow the links in the original -- but below are a few excerpts:

"Our troops did the job they were asked to do. They got rid of Saddam Hussein. They conducted the search for weapons of mass destruction. They gave the Iraqi people a chance for elections and to have a government. It is the Iraqis who have failed to take advantage of that opportunity." – Hillary Clinton

"It's not change when [McCain] promises to continue a policy in Iraq that asks everything of our brave men and women in uniform and nothing of Iraqi politicians..." -- Barack Obama

If you have ever wondered how a serial murderer -- a murderer who is sane and fully aware of the acts he has committed -- can remain steadfastly convinced of his own moral superiority and show not even the slightest glimmer of remorse, you should not wonder any longer.

The United States government is such a murderer. It conducts its murders in full view of the entire world. It even boasts of them. Our government, and all our leading commentators, still maintain that the end justifies the means -- and that even the slaughter of hundreds of thousands of innocents is of no moral consequence, provided a sufficient number of people can delude themselves into believing the final result is a "success."

We are a nation that has voluntarily renounced all its most crucial values, and all its founding principles. We can appeal all we want to "American exceptionalism," but any "exceptionalism" that remains ours is that of a mass murderer without a soul, and without a conscience....

As a nation, we are resolute in our refusal to identify the true nature of our actions, and in our refusal to acknowledge the consequences of what we do. This may well be true of most nations throughout history. Yet there is a direct correlation between a nation's power and influence, and its reliance on myth and other public relations ploys. As the world's sole superpower, the United States via its ruling class saturates its subjects at home and abroad with propaganda on a scale and with an intensity that have rarely been surpassed. As is true of all propaganda, permissible viewpoints are confined within suffocatingly constricted boundaries of thought; variation of any moment from the prescribed guidelines is prohibited.

Consider how far into fantasy we have traveled, consider the scope of our determination to banish facts from our awareness. It should not be controversial or noteworthy in the least to observe that conquest of foreign peoples by force of arms necessarily involves bloodletting, dismemberment and mutilation, that subjugation shatters the mind and the body, not just of the subjugated, but of those who would rule in this manner. History tells this tale repeatedly. Indeed, when our leaders wish to condemn other nations which utilize identical practices, they will examine these evils in endless detail. Our leaders will explain to us with enthusiastic commitment that such practices are deeply immoral and can only lead to disaster. But suddenly, when the United States sets out to conquer entire regions of the world, all these evils are not only transformed into a force for good: the evils miraculously cease to exist. The United States is good -- it is "the culmination of human development" -- and all its works are good. In "respectable" conversation in "respectable" places, you may not say otherwise....

In the context of what the United States has done and continues to do, the statements from Clinton and Obama about the "failure" of the Iraqis to act in a manner they find "acceptable" are loathsome in the extreme. Their views, which I emphasize again are shared by every national politician who actually wields power (by which formulation, I exclude the very few exceptions such as Dennis Kucinich and Ron Paul), represent the murderous triumph of "American exceptionalism" -- the doctrine that lauds the United States as uniquely "good" and Americans as "the good guys" in a manner that no other peoples can ever hope to equal, and that, with its always implicit and frequently explicit racism, condemns all other peoples on Earth to sub- or even inhuman status. That final element, of course, makes it considerably easier to slaughter them in large numbers, even when they could never possibly threaten us.

This is the philosophy that has guided American foreign policy for decades; it is the philosophy that has guided it during the Bush Administration; it is the philosophy that will guide it in the Obama Administration. Obama has made this clear, once more, with his "national security" appointments. But he has not betrayed us. He has indeed brought the promised change – a change in the faces that will mouth the required pieties when the next small child is beaten into a steaming pulp of guts and goo.

Chris Floyd at his deskChris Floyd has been a writer and editor for more than 25 years, working in the United States, Great Britain and Russia for various newspapers, magazines, the U.S. government and Oxford University. Floyd co-founded the blog Empire Burlesque, and is also chief editor of Atlantic Free Press. He can be reached at

This column is republished here with the permission of the author.

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This story was published on December 5, 2008.