By Paul Craig Roberts
If the change President-elect Obama has promised includes a halt to America’s wars of aggression and an end to the rip-off of taxpayers by powerful financial interests, what explains Obama’s choice of foreign and economic policy advisors? Indeed, Obama’s selection of Rahm Emanuel as White House chief of staff is a signal that change ended with Obama’s election. The only thing different about the new administration will be the faces.
Rahm Emanuel is a supporter of Bush’s invasion of Iraq. Emanuel rose to prominence in the Democratic Party as a result of his fundraising connections to AIPAC. A strong supporter of the American Israeli Public Affairs Committee, he comes from a terrorist family. His father was a member of Irgun, a Jewish terrorist organization that used violence to drive the British and Palestinians out of Palestine in order to create the Jewish state. During the 1991 Gulf War, Rahm Emanuel volunteered to serve in the Israel Defense Forces. He was a member of the Freddie Mac board of directors and received $231,655 in directors fees in 2001. According to Wikipedia, “during the time Emanuel spent on the board, Freddie Mac was plagued with scandals involving campaign contributions and accounting irregularities.”
In “Hail to the Chief of Staff,” Alexander Cockburn describes Emanuel as “a super-Likudnik hawk,” who as chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee in 2006 “made great efforts to knock out antiwar Democratic candidates.”
My despondent friends in the Israeli peace movement ask, “What is this man doing in Obama’s administration?”
Obama’s election was necessary as the only means Americans had to hold the Republicans accountable for their crimes against the Constitution and human rights, for their violations of US and international laws, for their lies and deceptions, and for their financial chicanery. As an editorial in Pravda put it, “Only Satan would have been worse than the Bush regime. Therefore it could be argued that the new administration in the USA could never be worse than the one which divorced the hearts and minds of Americans from their brothers in the international community, which appalled the rest of the world with shock and awe tactics that included concentration camps, torture, mass murder and utter disrespect for international law.”
But Obama’s advisers are drawn from the same gang of Washington thugs and Wall Street banksters as Bush’s. Richard Holbrooke, was an assistant secretary of state and ambassador in the Clinton administration. He implemented the policy to enlarge NATO and to place the military alliance on Russia’s border in contravention of Reagan’s promise to Gorbachev. Holbrooke is also associated with the Clinton administration’s illegal bombing of Serbia, a war crime that killed civilians and Chinese diplomats. If not a neocon himself, Holbrooke is closely allied with them.
Madeline Albright is the Clinton era secretary of state who told Leslie Stahl (60 Minutes) that the US policy of Iraq sanctions, which resulted in the deaths of hundreds of thousands of Iraqi children, had goals important enough to justify the children’s deaths. Albright’s infamous words: “we think the price is worth it.” Wikipedia reports that this immoralist served on the board of directors of the New York Stock Exchange at the time of Dick Grasso’s $187.5 million compensation scandal.
Dennis Ross has long associations with the Israeli-Palestinian “peace negotiations.” A member of his Clinton era team, Aaron David Miller, wrote that during 1999-2000 the US negotiating team led by Ross acted as Israel’s lawyer: “we had to run everything by Israel first.” This “stripped our policy of the independence and flexibility required for serious peacemaking. If we couldn’t put proposals on the table without checking with the Israelis first, and refused to push back when they said no, how effective could our mediation be?” According to Wikipedia, Ross is “chairman of a new Jerusalem-based think tank, the Jewish People Policy Planning Institute, funded and founded by the Jewish Agency.”
Clearly, this is not a group of advisors that is going to halt America’s wars against Israel’s enemies or force the Israeli government to accept the necessary conditions for a real peace in the Middle East.
Ralph Nader predicted as much. In his “Open Letter to Barack Obama (November 3, 2008), Nader pointed out to Obama that his “transformation from an articulate defender of Palestinian rights…to a dittoman for the hard-line AIPAC lobby” puts Obama at odds with “a majority of Jewish-Americans” and “64 per cent of Israelis.” Nader quotes the Israeli writer and peace advocate Uri Avnery’s description of Obama’s appearance before AIPAC as an appearance that “broke all records for obsequiousness and fawning.” Nader damns Obama for his “utter lack of political courage [for] surrendering to demands of the hard-liners to prohibit former president Jimmy Carter from speaking at the Democratic National Convention.” Carter, who achieved the only meaningful peace agreement between Israel and the Arabs, has been demonized by the powerful AIPAC lobby for criticizing Israel’s policy of apartheid toward the Palestinians whose territory Israel forcibly occupies.
Obama’s economic team is just as bad. Its star is Robert Rubin, the bankster who was secretary of the treasury in the Clinton administration. Rubin has responsibility for the repeal of the Glass-Steagall Act and, thereby, responsibility for the current financial crisis. In his letter to Obama, Nader points out that Obama received unprecedented campaign contributions from corporate and Wall Street interests. “Never before has a Democratic nominee for President achieved this supremacy over his Republican counterpart.”
Obama’s victory speech was magnificent. The TV cameras scanning faces in the audience showed the hope and belief that propelled Obama into the presidency. But Obama cannot bring change to Washington. There is no one in the Washington crowd that he can appoint who is capable of bringing change. If Obama were to reach outside the usual crowd, anyone suspected of being a bringer of change could not get confirmed by the Senate. Powerful interest groups–AIPAC, the military-security complex, Wall Street–use their political influence to block unacceptable appointments.
As Alexander Cockburn said of Obama in a pre-eection column, “never has the dead hand of the past had a ‘reform’ candidate so firmly by the windpipe.” Obama confirmed Cockburn’s verdict in his first press conference as president-elect. Disregarding the unanimous US National Intelligence Estimate, which concluded that Iran stopped working on nuclear weapons five years ago, and ignoring the continued certification by the International Atomic Energy Agency that none of the nuclear material for Iran’s civilian nuclear reactor has been diverted to weapons use, Obama sallied forth with the Israel Lobby’s propaganda and accused Iran of “development of a nuclear weapon” and vowing “to prevent that from happening.”
The change that is coming to America has nothing to do with Obama. Change is coming from the financial crisis brought on by Wall Street greed and irresponsibility, from the eroding role of the US dollar as reserve currency, from countless mortgage foreclosures, from the offshoring of millions of America’s best jobs, from a deepening recession, from pillars of American manufacturing–Ford and GM–begging the government for taxpayers’ money to stay alive, and from budget and trade deficits that are too large to be closed by normal means.
Traditionally, the government relies on monetary and fiscal policy to lift the economy out of recession. But easy money is not working. Interest rates are already low and monetary growth is already high, yet unemployment is rising. The budget deficit is already huge–a world record–and the red ink is not stimulating the economy. Can even lower interest rates and even higher budget deficits help an economy that has moved offshore, leaving behind jobless consumers overburdened with debt?
How much more can the government borrow? America’s foreign creditors are asking this question. An official organ of the Chinese ruling party recently called for Asian and European countries to “banish the US dollar from their direct trade relations, relying only on their own currencies.”
“Why,” asks another Chinese publication, “should China help the US to issue debt without end in the belief that the national credit of the US can expand without limit?”
The world has tired of American hegemony and had its fill of American arrogance. America’s reputation is in tatters: the financial debacle, endless red ink, Abu Ghraib, Gitmo, rendition, torture, illegal wars based on lies and deception, disrespect for the sovereignty of other countries, war crimes, disregard for international law and the Geneva Conventions, the assault on habeas corpus and the separation of powers, a domestic police state, constant interference in the internal affairs of other countries, boundless hypocrisy.
The change that is coming is the end of American empire. The hegemon has run out of money and influence. Obama as “America’s First Black President” will lift hopes and, thus, allow the act to be carried on a little longer. But the New American Century is already over.
-Paul Craig Roberts was Assistant Secretary of the Treasury in the Reagan administration. He was Associate Editor of the Wall Street Journal editorial page and Contributing Editor of National Review. He is coauthor of The Tyranny of Good Intentions. He can be reached at: PaulCraigRoberts@yahoo.com. (Originally published in CounterPunch.org)