Daring to imagine a different world

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In this image released by The White House, US President Barack Obama talks with Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton about his decision to send her to the Middle East while attending the US-ASEAN Summit in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, November 20, 2012. From left are: Ben Rhodes, Deputy National Security Advisor for Strategic Communications; Jake Sullivan, Deputy Chief of Staff to the Secretary of State; and National Security Advisor Tom Donilon

It looks as though I am still in the grip of US election fever.

A reader and friend has kindly suggested that  I should look away, mind my own business and show gratitude for the First Amendment by shutting the f***k up, be grateful for US Universities and focus attention elsewhere, like India's myriad failings, several of which he was kind enough to enumerate.

Paul Blake's discomfiture and anger at my last comment, titled "Smell the coffee" is a classic "shoot the messenger and ignore the issues" approach. It is also a failure of the imagination. This failure prevents, as another friend Calvin Godfrey points out in his column this week, people from voting for people like Jill Stein, a presidential candidate who very clearly represented the interests of the people, unlike Obama and Romney, front men for K Street, Wall Street and every other dodgy alley except Main Street.

John Lennon showed us what the power of imagination can do. His 1971 song "Imagine" gave inspiration and strength to millions who were protesting one of the greatest crimes against humanity in modern history, the Vietnam War, which killed millions of people when it raged, and which continues to maim and kill people with unexploded ordnance and the continuing effects of Agent Orange. The song has since become an unofficial anthem of peace, sung all over the world to this day. A few weeks ago, it was sung by a young contestant at the Vietnamese version of a popular reality show, and I wondered if he knew that the song he was singing had a significant bearing on his country's history. Highly unlikely, judging by the political consciousness shown by Vietnamese youth these days, but that, as they say, is another story.

I came across two inspiring pieces of imagination recently. I know that reality is far different, but, I would rather imagine this than voluntarily pull the wool over my eyes, as my friend Paul and others of his ilk do.

In an article headlined "Obama threatens Israel," British writer and journalist Matt Carr wrote:

Clearly emboldened by his recent electoral victory, Barack Obama has embarked on a radical and historic change of direction regarding America's relationship with Israel.  During a state visit to Thailand this weekend, the president called on Israel to halt what he called a "˜gratuitous and murderous assault' on the Gaza Strip.

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Obama dismissed Israel's claims that it was acting in self-defense, and accused Israel of having deliberately provoked the latest confrontation,  and engaging in the "˜collective punishment' of a "˜defenseless' civilian population.

He rejected claims by the Israeli government that Palestinian civilian deaths were due to the use of "˜human shields' by Hamas fighters. Though Obama condemned Hamas and other Palestinian militant groups for firing missiles at Israeli civilian targets, he placed primary responsibility for the conflict on Israel itself. "˜Given Israel's continued domination of the Gaza Strip even after its 2005 disengagement, the idea it is acting out of self-defense is meaningless,' the president declared.

Obama insisted that the Palestinians of Gaza also had "˜a right to security, hope and human dignity' and demanded that Israel immediately halt all military activities, end its economic blockade of the Gaza Strip, and enter into direct negotiations with Hamas under international supervision in order to bring about a "˜a lasting cessation of hostilities' as a precursor to a more permanent peace.

For the first time in American history, Obama warned the Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu that the US would halt all military and economic aid to Israel if it did not stop what he called its "˜unconscionable and gratuitous assault' in Gaza. The president also announced that he would be convening an emergency meeting of the UN Security Council to consider a coordinated international response to the Gaza crisis.

Though Obama did not explicitly call for military action in Gaza, he warned that "˜all options were on the table' if Israel did not conform to the will of the international community. Asked what these options might be, Obama suggested that they could include the deployment of a UN peacekeeping force between Gaza and Israel, the establishment of a "˜humanitarian corridor'  at the Gaza-Egypt border and  the transformation of the Gaza Strip into a no fly zone under UN jurisdiction.

Clearly determined to continue the same moral foreign policy agenda that characterized his first term in office, Obama warned that "˜America cannot stand idly by' in the face of a "˜massacre' that "˜stains the world's conscience.'

Carr then switches on the light of darkness, quoting Obama's comments in real life, which mocks truth and justice. He concludes:

"So there you have it; Israel must keep bombing Gaza in order to bring the Palestinians back on a "˜peace track.'  Countries that criticize the bombing and call for it to stop are responsible for bringing about a "˜further escalation' of the "˜situation' in Gaza.

Which only goes to prove that the president is either a fool, a liar or a coward, or perhaps a combination of all three. And whichever it is, such statements are a grim reminder of why Israel continues to believe with good reason that it can do whatever it likes."

In the other piece that fires the imagination, Paul Craig Roberts, former assistant treasury secretary under the Reagan Administration, responded to readers who wrote him as their selection for President. I reproduce it in full with his permission, because it enables us to imagine alternatives and believe that another world is possible.

Unless I am being spoofed, several hundred readers wrote me in as their selection for President. I am honored. Some asked if I were elected by write-ins and not instantly assassinated, who would I appoint?

An easy question to answer.

Nomi Prins would be Secretary of the Treasury, and Pam Martens would be Deputy Secretary of the Treasury.

Lew Rockwell would be the chairman of the Federal Reserve.

Michael Hudson would be chairman of the Council of Economic Advisors.

Harvey Silverglate would be Attorney General.

Glenn Greenwald would be Deputy Attorney General.

Dean Booth and Larry Stratton would be White House legal counsels.

Willie Nelson would be Secretary of Agriculture.

Jeffrey St. Clair would be head of the Environmental Protection Agency.

Elizabeth Warren would have whatever post she wants.

Cynthia McKinney would be Secretary of State.

The CIA would be headed by Ray McGovern and Philip Giraldi.

The FBI would be headed by Sibel Edmonds.

Homeland Security would be abolished.

David Ray Griffin and Richard Gage would head the 9/11 investigation.

Bradley Manning would be in charge of closing down the torture prisons.

Julian Assange and John Pilger would be heads of the Public Broadcasting Corporation.

Gerald Celente would be White House Press Secretary.

John Williams (shadowstats.com) would be in charge of federal statistics.

Key members of the Bush and Obama regimes from the president down, and every neoconservative would be handed over to the war crimes tribunal for trial.

The Republicans on the Supreme Court would be impeached and removed from office.

Brooksley Born would be in charge of all federal financial regulatory agencies.

Major General Antonio Mario Taguba would be Secretary of Defense.

Andrew Bacevich would be National Security Advisor

Col. Lawrence Wilkerson would be Deputy Secretary of State.

Ron Unz would be chief of staff of the White House.

Norman Finkelstein would be US Ambassador to Israel.

Noam Chomsky would be US Ambassador to the UN.

David M. Walker would be Director of the Office of Management and Budget.

The Israel Lobby would have to register as a foreign agent.

I could go on. There are two or three hundred appointments to fill, but I think the picture is clear. It would be an administration that represented Americans, not special interests and foreigners, and an administration that put the country back in order.

But, of course, it is all a dream. No one who actually cares about our country is permitted to serve in public office.

So, can we at least dare to dream? Will it offend your First Amendment sensibilities, Paul Blake?

As Lennon sang:

You may say I'm a dreamer

But I'm not the only one

I hope someday you'll join us

And the world will be as one.

By Hari Chathrattil
Hari Chathrattil is an expat who lives and works in Ho Chi Minh City
(The story can be found in the November 23th issue of our print edition, Vietweek)

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