“Obama could turn out to be the second coming of Christ, but if he doesn’t hold Bush and Cheney accountable for their crimes and violations, then it won’t matter.”
“The water line is rising and all we do is stand there.
The water line is rising and all we do is stand there.
The water line is rising and all we do is stand there.”
— Sage Francis, The Water Line
When one considers Bush and Cheney’s presidency, the question almost invariably comes up: “Who is to blame for this colossal debacle?” How could Bush and Cheney have been permitted to take office in the first place and remain in office, escaping prosecution and removal through impeachment, when they were repeatedly caught red-handed engaging in acts far in excess of abuse of office: openly flouting the law, pervasive and persistent lies, torture, committing the supreme war crime by invading a country that had not attacked us, treason, feloniously spying on all Americans, uber malfeasance, criminal negligence in the face of Katrina and global warming, and corruption on a staggering scale, with this list only a part of their long, sordid tale?
Most people’s answer to this is: “It’s the American people’s fault.” Americans (apologies to the other Americans of South and Central America) are apathetic or secretly wanted what Bush and Cheney carried out or are just plain ignorant, selfish, materialistic and lazy.
While material comforts do clearly dampen political activity and some Americans are certainly willfully ignorant – I would estimate their numbers at perhaps 15-20% of the population (some of these not merely ignorant but politically reactionary) – and a sizable percentage politically disinterested (disinterest and willful ignorance are not the same thing), the majority are neither willfully ignorant nor reactionary. They are, instead, misled, naïve, poorly informed, and misinformed.
Were it the case that most Americans were simply stupid, selfish and lazy, then it would not be necessary for the mass media and political parties to systematically censor, distort and deceive. They would not need to spend the gigantic sums that they devote to propaganda that they do. Fox News would not have to exist and it wouldn’t have to maintain the laughable pretence that they are “fair and balanced.” Their slogan could be: “We’re biased and so are you.” Bush and Cheney wouldn’t have had to lie about a connection between 9/11 and Iraq. They could have said: “We’re going to invade Iraq and Afghanistan for oil and empire. Yahoo! Let’s go!”
Society as a Caravan
Suppose that you are sitting in your car driving along a long and winding road on the side of a mountain. You are following behind a big SUV caravan that is traveling at 15 miles per hour below the speed limit. There are hundreds of cars behind you as impatient as you to move faster, but you can’t get around the slow-moving SUV caravan in front of you because the center lane divider is a solid-line and there is only one lane going each way. Even if you tried to illegally pass the SUV immediately ahead of you, too many of these black SUVs in the lead are all traveling in close formation for you to squeeze in between them before contra flow traffic would crash headlong into you, killing you instantly.
Is it your fault or the fault of those behind you that you’re all going too slowly?
If part of the leading SUV caravan were to decide that the whole train of cars were traveling at the wrong speed and that it was going to speed up and leave the other SUVs behind, then an opening would be created into which you and the other trailing cars could accelerate into and eventually leave the slowest SUVs behind.
But if the leading SUVs all decide that they are going to hang together in close formation, then they have effectively created a moving roadblock and doomed the rest of the cars to follow along at a snail’s pace.
The cars trailing impatiently behind this moving SUV caravan roadblock in this metaphor are the American public.
The SUV caravan blocking the way is the equivalent of the Democratic and Republican Parties and the mass media. It doesn’t matter that the last lead SUV driver – George W. Bush – breached nearly every single fundamental principle of national and international law openly. Now there is a different SUV driver – Obama – in front, but he has decided that his differences with Bush are less important than what they have in common.
What Bush and Cheney did while in office was institutionalize, with Congress’ and mass media’s cooperation, a rupture in the nature of governance. While there are different facets to this, the most important was their explicit challenge to the rule of law: they acted on and got away with the principle that all power rests in the President and no law and no body can override that power.
Bush and Cheney did not invent this strategy; they are merely its culmination. No actions, no matter how horrible, unjust, or illegal, were unimaginable for their unfettered White House to engage in, untethered from the law, as long as it was concealed by the fig leaf of “safeguarding” the nation’s security. Their actions and rationales for their actions represent a return to governance pre-Magna Carta: the rule of the king whose word is the law.
Obama could turn out to be the second coming of Christ, but if he doesn’t hold Bush and Cheney accountable for their crimes and violations, then it won’t matter. Obama’s administration would be a respite at best before some future president wipes out all that stands in his/her path because the rule of law will no longer be a barrier to a tyrant who can scare the people into obedience. Bush and Cheney, after all, if they proved nothing else, demonstrated that fear mongering could get them anything and everything they wanted.
What has Obama done, besides introducing complete sentences with dependent clauses into presidential press conferences? He has declared that some of the more obviously egregious and illegal practices under Bush and Cheney will end. Guantanamo will close – eventually. Extraordinary rendition will revert to rendition, the latter a practice engaged in by Bill Clinton. American personnel will no longer personally carry out torture (although Obama has given himself loopholes to permit him to use “enhanced interrogation techniques”). Torture will be carried out in less visible ways principally by non-American personnel, reverting to the standard American practices of dozens of American presidents. The “bad” war of Iraq – still immoral, still unjust, and still illegal – will be scaled back, but not ended for at least years to come, the “good” war of Afghanistan (also immoral, unjust and illegal) stepped up, and unilateral and illegal US missile strikes and ground assaults on and in Pakistan intensified (ditto, ditto, ditto).
Obama’s Justice Department on February 8, 2009 told a federal appeals court that protecting “state secrets” (i.e., their use of torture, rendition and domestic spying) should lead to the dismissal of a lawsuit (Mohamed et al. v. Jeppesen) against a Boeing subsidiary by five detainees who were subjected to rendition and torture.  By doing so, the “new” Justice Department under Obama and Holder has adopted the old Bush White House’s exact arguments protecting their violations of international law. They have, in other words, adopted the very stance that Obama and other Democrats criticized in Bush when Obama was running for the presidency. 
And on Wednesday February 4, as described by David Swanson:
Britain’s High Court of Justice ruled evidence in the U.K. civil case of Binyam Mohamed, one of the plaintiffs in the Jeppesen case, must remain secret because of U.S. threats to cut off intelligence sharing. On Saturday Britain’s Telegraph reported that ‘Mohamed’s genitals were sliced with a scalpel and other torture methods so extreme that waterboarding, the controversial technique of simulated drowning “is very far down the list of things they did.”‘ On Sunday Britain’s Daily Mail reported that Mohamed ‘was identified as a terrorist after confessing he had visited a “joke” website on how to build a nuclear weapon. … [He] admitted to having read the “instructions” after allegedly being beaten, hung up by his wrists for a week and having a gun held to his head in a Pakistani jail.’ 
Eric Holder, Leon Panetta and Obama himself have all stated that those who carried out torture under Bush and Cheney will not be investigated or prosecuted because they were “following legal orders.”
Nuremberg, where Nazi and Japanese war criminals were tried, held that “following orders” is no excuse when those orders are to commit crimes against humanity. Holder, Panetta and Obama know this well, but they are engaged in a high-stakes and risky game: attempting to reassure Americans that they are different and better than Bush and Cheney by repeatedly stating that “no one is above the law” and that waterboarding “is torture,” while at the same time assuring the Bush White House’s torturers and thieves that they are safe from prosecution.
This is what Obama means by bipartisanship: maintaining common ground with torturers while diverting the public from demanding and getting real change. Couched as “looking forwards” and “national healing,” this is the same bipartisanship that gave us the Bush regime.
Exactly how “transformative” this Obama White House is does not remain to be seen: it is here for those who allow themselves to see it.
What is at stake now cannot be overstated: it is no less than the survival of the rule of law, civil rights and civil liberties, those very things, in other words, most precious and central to what so many people believe distinguish the U.S. If Obama is serious about “looking forwards” then let him look forwards to what will without any doubt happen if these precedents by Bush and Company aren’t overturned and the perpetrators prosecuted and made an example of.
If the rule of law is replaced by the rule of men, then we as a people will truly be without shelter, stripped of the protections of law, abjectly naked and alone in the face of icy floods, whirlwinds and devastating earthquakes, to be ripped apart or drowned in disasters, natural and man-made, brought on by the predations of tyrants and plunderers.
Most of Washington and the news offices of elites (outside a mere handful of dissenters) refused to say no to what Bush and Cheney were doing when they were doing it, irrespective of the patent illegality of it all. (Note: grumbling and carping don’t count.) These same leaders still think it is unthinkable now to hold Bush and Cheney to account.
They are like the three iconic monkeys who see no evil, speak no evil and hear no evil. This unsavory state of affairs only underscores how bankrupt institutional logic is when confronted with dangers from within.
As Sinclair Lewis said in 1935: “When fascism comes to America, it will be wrapped in the flag and carrying a bible.”
What must be done in the face of this momentous betrayal?
How can the interests of humanity be protected and advanced?
Doing What Must be Done
Those who grasp what I am talking about here need to step up and step forward as the representatives of a different path and as heralds of the people. Nothing less will avail.
No mass sentiment, no matter how widespread and strongly felt, can find concrete and effective expression unless it is organized, focused and led. People who blame the American people for their apathy and conclude that the public is principally (or wholly) at fault for Bush and Cheney’s reign and our current crises fail to recognize that all societies (and any group of any kind) need leadership. While riots might break out more or less spontaneously, even riots need sparks and evidence some degree of ground level leadership. What we are talking about here that needs to happen – the prosecution of war criminals and tyrants who have overridden laws like a hurricane uproots trees and tears up homes – is much more sustained than a riot, requiring all the more leadership to accomplish.
The adage, “If the people lead, the leaders will follow” misses a critical fact. For the people to lead, that is, for the unusual circumstance to occur of the public by-passing the existing leaders and forcing the existing leaders to abide by the public’s wishes, leaders from among the public’s ranks must step forward as new and substitute leaders leading the rest of the people. To expect otherwise would be like asking an arrow whose point has been broken off to stick to a target.
If mass sentiment remains unfocused and unorganized, and the existing government leaders refuse to abide by the popular will, the government can effectively prevent the popular will from being done. In 2006 the American electorate swept the GOP majority out of Congress because the people wanted the Iraq war to end and the Bush White House held to account. The Democratic controlled Congress not only didn’t do these things, they actually gave Bush more money for the illegitimate wars than Bush asked for and legalized after the fact the felonious crimes Bush had been caught committing!
What can stop political leaders from refusing to abide by public sentiment when the mass media refuses to reveal the full and true nature of popular sentiment and act as flacks for the political leadership class?
If the people as a whole don’t know what’s really going on because they rely for most or all of their news on the same institutions that are acting in fundamental opposition to the majority’s interests, then how can an insurgent movement possibly come into being? How can the people in sufficient numbers come to know that they are being betrayed at the highest levels of their economy and government if the media colludes overall with those carrying out these dirty deeds?
Even if everyone in a society wanted to do something that the existing leadership refused to do, they cannot see these sentiments translated into a material reality unless those sentiments are focused and concretely led by political leaders. Had any recognized major political leader such as John Kerry, Nancy Pelosi, Barack Obama, or Hillary Clinton, or major news organization such as the New York Times and CBS, called for impeachment and condemned the lying, spying and torture being carried out by the Bush White House, there would have been a massive outpouring of public support for this. No one would be any longer wondering why the American people had been so passive in the face of grave injustices because the evidence of their sentiment would be manifest. The virtually universal class solidarity demonstrated by this country’s ruling circles against the very idea of impeachment meant that these mass sentiments could not find an outlet for full expression and had to remain on the level of pervasive grumbling throughout the country over lunch counters, dinner tables, around the water cooler, in letters to the editor, in answers to pollsters, and the occasional demonstration of insufficiently large numbers of the most informed, determined, and courageous people.
Even among those who were appalled by the Bush White House and even among those who feel great misgivings about what Obama did as a Senator and has done and not done as President, have trouble thinking outside of the box of Democratic Party politics and, more generally, electoral politics. An exceedingly strong pull keeps people in line to gauge what is possible and imaginable by what the existing parties offer. Anything outside the chilling parameters of what the existing parties and mass media are willing to present as “realistic” and “possible” is commonly not even conceptualized seriously by most of the even politically aware segments of the populace.
Yet this is precisely what must be done. Anything else is illusion.
Elections that the people are permitted to vote in are quite similar to the way a parent gives choices to their small children: you can have the peas or the spinach. If the child chooses the peas, does that mean that that child is in “charge” of what it eats? If we decide as voters which mainstream candidate – who has been backed by mainstream media and by the two parties’ leadership and therefore permitted to participate in the major debates and given the stamp of approval as “legitimate” candidates – does that make this a democracy? Does this mean that the people’s will is done?
As I wrote in my June 16, 2008 article ‘Of Whales and Worms’:
How can the same Democratic Party, and the same specific individuals, who have co-operated in, permitted and/or legalized the Bush regime’s atrocities – including torture and war crimes – now tell us that the candidate that they endorse is the solution to the horrid things that this system and these individuals have themselves facilitated and colluded in?
This is like the offspring of the Alien mother in the movie Alien coming out not hellishly grotesque looking and drenched in saliva but instead a fuzzy Beagle puppy.
This is like George W. Bush delivering a poetic and surpassingly beautiful two-hour speech extemporaneously.
This is like a worm giving birth to a full-grown whale. 
Unless and until a new leadership is constituted from among the public that becomes a new, competing, legitimate authority that a large portion of the people eventually follow and support outside of the electoral arena, then the existing bankrupt leadership will continue to get their way and will at most have to make some cosmetic changes in order to claim that things are really changing for the better.
How can a competing alternative leadership emerge when the existing institutions militate against just such a possibility? How can enough people be exposed to and take seriously the offer of an alternative leadership and an alternative path when the organs of opinion making are in the hands of gatekeepers who are the adversary?
If millions of Americans took to the streets to demonstrate and displayed a willingness to persist in their popular upheaval through various forms (tent cities, street blockades, ongoing pickets, etc.), then the political situation would be dramatically different and popular action would have produced a new situation in which substantial changes could potentially occur.
To adequately address why this hasn’t happened we need to get to the bottom of what’s holding people back from acting in this way.
A Competing, Legitimate Authority
Constituting a new legitimate authority from outside of the ranks of the existing leadership class and the major organs of opinion making represents an extremely difficult feat. For that reason it hardly ever happens. Yet this is exactly what must happen; it offers the only hope for real change.
Is there a basis for this to happen? Yes. Does actualizing this possibility present tremendous difficulties and obstacles? Yes. Is it impossible? No.
There are really two dimensions to this question. The first is the moral dimension and the second is a practical question.
Often times when one discusses these matters with people, those who object that such a strategy will never succeed and say that if they could be convinced that it would succeed then they would participate in such an endeavor, are really saying in essence that they don’t think it needs to happen. Their objection on the surface is about strategy and about practicalities, but their real objection is that they don’t see a real necessity for a fight to be waged against the status quo. Perhaps some reforms need to be made, but that is all.
The most important question isn’t one of strategy. The most important question is one of morality and worldview. Are the express violation of the rule of law, the carrying out of torture as policy, and the repeated commission of the gravest war crimes of all grounds for urgent, passionate, determined, and unyielding popular action? Can outrageous crimes against humanity be turned over to others to handle for the rest of us? And if those others, our existing government leaders, don’t handle these crimes but let the perpetrators go, are our consciences salved by the fact that we voted for them and if they don’t do what must be done, then we are satisfied merely to grumble and complain about them and the apathy of the rest of America? Does knowing that disaster is in the works yet not doing everything possible to change the course of horrendous events satisfy enough of us that this will be allowed to happen?
“The water line is rising and all we do is stand there. The water line is rising and all we do is stand there. The water line is rising and all we do is stand there.”
Guardians of Society and of the Future
The guardians at our gates are asleep. The water line is rising and they are sleeping off their partying.
To move a society, to bring about radical or revolutionary changes, does not require that a majority of people act in concert. It requires only that a relatively small minority of people come forward to lead much larger numbers of people. It requires 1-3% of the population to play that leading role. Any society must lean heavily on its leading citizens to safeguard its most precious values such as civil liberties, science, culture, music, and art since the majority of people in any society are not positioned to be the curators of these things. Critical legal matters most people are not conversant in: the preservation of crucial matters of great subtlety such as habeas corpus rights and due process are like sealing the cracks in the dike lest the dam burst and flood the countryside. If the cracks aren’t detected and allowed to languish by society’s guardians, then the disaster will come inevitably and wreck havoc, perhaps irrevocably.
Groups and societies rely on their leaders to act as the defenders of the treasures of a society – its highest and most important values are precious and vulnerable. A society’s best thinkers, writers, musicians, artists, performers, professionals, and engineers push the whole society forward. They reflect the collective wisdom, experiences, activities and imagination of the masses of people, but they reflect those things in a concentrated and advanced way and are its leading edge.
The people now in charge of things in the government and in the mass media are not good guardians. They are the very opposite of this. The Democrats among them are cooperating with and colluding with people who see the law as an obstacle to their aims and who think that lying, spying, war crimes, and torture are perfectly fine.
A disaster of massive dimensions is gathering like black clouds massing on the horizon. We are in crisis and at a crossroads. In the face of this grand abdication of responsibility and profoundly immoral stance by the existing leaders and opinion-makers a substitute political leadership and political movement must emerge.
As I have said previously:
Our Hope: the Popular Forces
Who are these popular forces? There are two groups here, the lower strata and the middle class. The lower strata includes the working class and it includes people like those left to fend for themselves, to drown and die in New Orleans by the Bush administration, who had no way out of the city and who couldn’t afford even bus fare, who were called ‘looters’ by the media and government when they broke into stores and restaurants in order to feed and give water to everyone who hadn’t had any in days. These people recognize from their everyday experiences in this society that those who rule, those who run this country, aren’t compassionate and aren’t legitimate. The lower strata only go along with the status quo because they know that if they don’t they will get cracked on the head by a policeman’s club or worse.
Belief in the system’s legitimacy plays an absolutely crucial role among the middle classes in the U.S., but not among the disenfranchised lower strata. While illusions and hopeless dreams—such as hoping you’ll win the lottery—definitely help to hold the more oppressed in line, intimidation and the ubiquitous use of force are the main way they are kept down. Police in communities of color and among the poor are the most obvious symbols and first line practitioners of this. Social workers and other ‘professionals of the poor’ also play an important role ‘managing’ the lower strata. One need only note what happens when a citywide blackout occurs, for example, to see what the oppressed will do when the normal forces of order are unable to perform their usual functions.
The cynicism the oppressed feel about the legitimacy of those who rule over them and over the whole of society comes from the lessons of their everyday existence. The dispossessed do not rise up in ordinary times not mainly because they are under illusions about the system’s nature but mainly because they know that if they rose up they would be immediately crushed by the forces of the state. Only during times of general upheaval in the society where those who rule over them everyday are preoccupied with internecine battles or handicapped or wounded because of some other crisis or crises do rebellions and insurrections stand a chance.
The middle classes, by contrast, go along because they have a strong belief in this system’s legitimacy and the electoral process in particular. They believe that the candidate with the most votes takes office. They believe that their vote matters and that public opinion overall guides public policy. They believe that America is a democracy. Should enough of the middle classes conclude that the process is rigged, illegitimate, and corrupt, that those who lead us are dangerously incompetent, and that they are endangering our lives and this planet, elements of the middle class will, together with the lower strata, begin to act outside the normal channels of electoral politics and shake this system to its core.
Any serious attempts to change a society must involve the lower strata together with the middle strata. The Democrats find the prospect of the genie being released from the bottle in the form of the masses springing into political life just as threatening as the GOP does because they agree with the GOP that this system of globalized capitalism, this new American Empire, is the proper order of things. 
On What Foundation?
Obama has ridden a great wave of hope and expectation into office fueled by a desire by millions to see a radical departure from what Bush and Cheney have been, done and represent. What Bush and Cheney did and personify has been so extreme that most people can see with their own eyes, despite the mass media’s misrepresentations and distortions, that their reign was a disaster. The joy accompanying Obama’s victory has, therefore, perhaps no U.S. electoral precedent. But one finds when one examines more closely what he has said and what he has done, a very different tale than what most people have seen and understood up till now.
Before becoming president, Obama as a Senator co-operated with the Bush regime’s policies. In some instances he voted against Republican/White House sponsored bills, but in no instance did he filibuster them – which would have been meaningful opposition. Speeches by public officials are cheap. Actions are precious. When the Military Commissions Act of 2006 – a bill that legalized torture and indefinite detention, something more brazen than the Nazis ever attempted – Obama should have, but refused to filibuster it. Even the New York Times said, “If you’re going to filibuster anything, filibuster this.”
Before the telecom amnesty bill came up to a vote Obama promised to support a filibuster. He instead ended up voting for the bill. While he made much of his opposition to the Iraq war, at no time in the Senate did Obama fail to vote in favor of appropriations to continue the illegal, unjust and immoral war that has resulted in the deaths of more than 1.3 million Iraqis and tens of thousands of Americans (eighteen a day by suicide plus official war theatre casualties). The Democrats, even when they held the majority, refused to do what was readily within their power to do and what the large majority of Americans wanted, the end to the war, by simply holding up appropriations bills in committee, a practice that the GOP was never shy about doing when they had the power. Instead, Pelosi and Reid shed crocodile tears over the continued war, torture and NSA domestic spying, blaming the GOP for them and saying that they would have loved to stop them but didn’t have enough votes. They didn’t need the votes. They had the chairmanships and refused to use that power to bottle up these bills and thus kill them in committee.
Some might object: if Obama had filibustered these bills then he would have destroyed his chances of becoming president; his own party would have treated him as an outlaw. Probably so. It would have made him immensely popular among the people, but he would have been pilloried by the press and by his party leaders and the more than $250,000 per day that he needed to run for office would have shrunken by orders of magnitude because Wall Street and the other big money sources would have dried up immediately. What does this tell you about the system we live in when a candidate for president must refuse to do the right, legal and moral thing in order to have a chance to remain a “viable” candidate for president and in order to remain president?
The Democrats and Republicans play the good cop, bad cop game. The Democrats didn’t really want to stop most Congressional bills and while some Democratic leaders personally voted against those bills, they still allowed them to pass, knowing that their individual vote was meaningless except as political cover to their constituents. When they do want to stop a bill they know exactly what to do – Pelosi prevented McKinney’s and Kucinich’s impeachment articles of Bush and Cheney from being voted out of committee for a floor vote.
In a November 2008 Department of Defense Strategic Studies Institute document authored by Nathan Frier entitled ‘Known Unknowns: Unconventional ‘Strategic Shocks’ in Defense Strategy Development’, Frier points out:
The likeliest and most dangerous future shocks will be unconventional. They will not emerge from thunderbolt advances in an opponent’s military capabilities. Rather, they will manifest themselves in ways far outside established defense convention. Most will be nonmilitary in origin and character, and not, by definition, defense-specific events conducive to the conventional employment of the DoD enterprise.
They will rise from an analytical no man’s land separating well-considered, stock and trade defense contingencies and pure defense speculation. Their origin is most likely to be in irregular, catastrophic, and hybrid threats of ‘purpose’ (emerging from hostile design) or threats of ‘context’ (emerging in the absence of hostile purpose or design). Of the two, the latter is both the least understood and the most dangerous. 
9/11 was a strategic shock. Frier warns of future such “hostile design” shocks. But what is even more dangerous, as he puts it, is the prospect of “threats of ‘context’” that arise from the very workings of the existing systems. In other words, disasters await without anyone even trying to bring them about.
Threats of context arise, according to Frier, out of “the unguided forces of globalization, toxic populism, identity politics, underdevelopment, human/natural disaster, and disease. In the end, shocks emerging from contextual threats might challenge core U.S. interests more fundamentally than any number of prospective purposeful shocks.” He goes on to say that these forces “are in- or undervulnerable to traditional instruments of U.S. power applied in predictable combinations.” 
What does it tell us about the nature of the contemporary and near term future world that disasters that arise out of the very context of our collective lives are a) certain, b) unlikely to be properly foreseen, c) extremely unlikely to be adequately prepared for, and d) more dangerous than any planned hostile actions?
It tells us at least two things.
First, the system we live in – global capitalism – is inherently unstable and dangerous whether you look at it from a local, national or international perspective. The spheres of the local, national and international are so intertwined that they cannot sensibly be separated as though events in one sphere do not impact the others.
Second, stability and security are more things of the past than of the present and, especially, the future. Massive dislocations and dramatic, startling changes to the status quo are not the stuff of science fiction but that which the DOD itself now finds it must take seriously. Granted, Frier’s document is not a policy document but a think tank document. But his evaluation of the situation compels serious reflection.
Several factors stand in the way of properly grasping the reality that we face. These factors include – not necessarily in order of importance:
• Bureaucratic practice and thinking, which by definition involves the routinization of ways of doing and seeing things based on what has previously happened and not what hasn’t yet happened, thus, narrowing down and aggressively anti-imaginative approaches trump their opposite. Bureaucracies, we should note, run things in the modern world. They are, in core respects, the modern world;
• Neoliberal policies – politics in service to globalization – dominate (both the GOP and the Democrats are Friedmanites) and therefore aggressive globalization which continues creating and deepening the bases for disasters and hamstringing human responses to disasters are not going to be modified or stemmed;
• Preparing for the future and hedging against unanticipated disasters are diametrically opposed to neoliberal policies of allocating resources most sparingly and cheaply for profit-making – e.g., allowing more hospital bedspace for a disaster is considered inefficient and unprofitable, devoting resources to developing flu vaccines is less profitable than drugs that require daily doses and are therefore neglected leaving us extraordinarily vulnerable to a flu epidemic.
To paraphrase (and modify) FDR, what we have to fear is the system itself proceeding along as it is. The economic crisis and the implacable wars are the most obvious conditions we confront today. But the matters which are being ruled off the table by public officials are the most perilous of all: a) re-establishing the rule of law through prosecution of its violators and b) the very logic and operations of globalization and its exacerbating of the existing economic and political inequalities and manifest threats to the planet.
Rise to the Occasion
Obama will make it more and more explicit as time goes on how steadfast his class solidarity is with the rest of the ruling class. This precludes him doing what is necessary, legal, just and moral.
The Obama administration’s sleight of hand trick – pretending to undo the Bush regime’s atrocities while letting the criminals go free – must not be allowed by the people to go down for the consequences are dire.
If you are one of those who can see both the terrible things that have been done over the last eight years and foresee the perils that lie ahead, then you must act upon this knowledge and step forward as a herald of the people and on behalf of the planet and its people. Every individual who steps up this way does so on behalf of and representative of millions. Every single one of you is precious. When the existing leaders have betrayed the people, those among the people who can see this must step up and take the reins of responsibility to expose and delegitimate the existing leaders and system, pointing the way forward for the people. For a discussion of the dynamics of this necessary and promising path see: ‘Our Kitty Genovese Moment’. 
Some people who try to effect social change base their actions and appeals on what is already in motion: what is possible, they think, is what is already happening. Their error arises from two sources: 1) narrowness of outlook and 2) a failure to see what is latent in any given situation and the basis, through political struggle, for making what is latent manifest. You don’t defeat an adversary by adopting that adversary’s rules and outlook. Let them play by their rules: electoral contests and their strangling politics of “what is possible” = that which they are willing to allow and which keeps the fundamental character of power relations intact. We should play by our own rules. The untapped power of the people acting as an independent political force on the scene is enormous.
The moral high ground is ours. We dare not abandon that high ground in the name of expedience, moral fatigue, national chauvinism, or misinterpreted public apathy. Rise to the occasion. It’s time. It’s not about all those other people who aren’t doing what must be done. It’s about you who are reading this. What will you do?
Get down with World Can’t Wait. The world truly cannot wait.
1. Kenneth J. Thiesen, ‘Obama’s Justice Department: Covering up Outsourcing of Torture and Death’, The World Can’t Wait, 11 February, 2009.
2. See Glenn Greenwald, ‘The 180-degree reversal of Obama’s state secrets position’.
5. Dennis Loo, ed., Impeach the President: The Case Against Bush and Cheney (Seven Stories Press, 2006), 41-42.
6. Nathan Frier, ‘Known Unknowns: Unconventional “Strategic Shocks” in Defense Strategy Development’, Nov. 2008.
7. Frier, ‘Known Unknowns’, 24-25.
Dennis Loo is the recipient of national awards for scholarship, journalism, and activism. He is Professor of Sociology at Cal Poly Pomona and the author of Globalization and the Demolition of Society and co-author/editor of Impeach the President: the Case Against Bush and Cheney. He serves on the National Steering Committee of the World Can't Wait and writes regularly for online sites including DennisLoo.com.