By Dennis Loo
Two items in the news offer us rare glimpses into how public policy is actually arrived at and what differences there really are between Democrats, even progressive Democrats - let alone centrists such as Obama - and Republicans.
The first item concerns the Minneapolis City Council's role in the police state tactics used at the St. Paul RNC and the other item concerns foreign policy and Pakistan in particular.
Both are related directly to the so-called war on terror: what both major parties call the central issue of our time.
It is clear that the fulcrum for today's politics involves the "war on terror" and whether the dominant paradigm about it that both major parties subscribe to will carry the day, or a different paradigm wins out that originates from among the people.
At OpEd News on September 11, 2008 Michael Calvan reported the inside dirty dealing in the all progressives Minneapolis City Council in which the council gave the green light to the police to use the storm trooper tactics before and during the RNC. I quote from the piece at some length as follows:
"In the months before the Republicans came to town, there had been a flurry of activity. Local activists were keeping a close eye on their local elected officials. Initially, there had been a so called Free Speech Committee set up, supposedly to look at how authorities could allow free speech during the RNC and keep order.
We found out that the Free Speech Committee did not allow any members of the public to add our input. Only City Council members on the committee and lawyers were allowed to speak. There was no free speech allowed at the misnamed Free Speech Committee.
Nonetheless, activists followed the Committee's actions closely and were present during each meeting. The City Council of Minneapolis is almost 100% Democratic. In fact the only real opposition in Minneapolis is the Green Party which currently has one Green on the City Council, Cam Gordon, who was a small light in a very dark room. But, we were to discover, even that light was to be extinguished.
The so called Free Speech Committee would change the time and locations of its meetings"
There was also discussion on protest groups being required to register themselves and even their members, to be 'allowed' to protest. At these times, Cam Gordon spoke eloquently on behalf of the community and in opposition to these repressive measures"
Then suddenly [after months] we found out that the Free Speech Committee had their last meeting, July 16th. The meeting itself was unannounced, unlike the other meetings which at least had a pretense of openness and public inclusion. At the next Minneapolis City Council meeting July 25th, the recommendation of the misnamed Free Speech Committee was announced. The Free Speech Committee Resolution passed unanimously, even by our one small light, Councilman Cam Gordon.
The Minneapolis Police were given 'legal' authority to shut down any protest or group of 25 people or greater. They were also authorized to use rubber bullets, mace and the other array of non-lethal weapons on innocent, peaceful demonstrators, practicing our First Amendment Rights. Also violated repeatedly was the Fourth Amendment Right protecting us citizens against illegal search and seizure. Police violated the laws of assault and battery and destruction of evidence of their crimes, as evidenced by their targeting journalists."
Calvan notes, probably correctly so, that even if the city council had not approved these fascistic tactics that they would have been by-passed and the police and various state and federal officials would have done it anyway.
Despite months of efforts by grassroots activists and even a Green on the City Council - making grand speeches about protecting free speech - despite the people doing the very best that they could to monitor, participate and speak out, the fix was in and democratic participation was merely a charade for the real power being exercised, even on the nearest thing to local control as you can find in the government - at the City Council level - and even in one of the most left-influenced places in the country.
As reported by the New York Times on September 11, 2008, in July 2008 Bush secretly approved Spec Ops forces to launch ground military attacks inside Pakistan without prior approval from the Pakistani government. The NYT essay notes: "It is unclear precisely what legal authorities the United States has invoked to conduct even limited ground raids in a friendly country." It's unclear because such actions are blatantly against international law. (During the Vietnam War when President Nixon announced on April 30, 1970 that he had begun bombing Cambodia and thereby expanding the war, a fury broke out in America. During the widespread protests that followed, four students were famously shot and killed by National Guardsmen at Kent State University in Ohio on May 4.)
The Times" article continues: "Pakistan's government has asserted that last week's raid achieved little except killing civilians and stoking anti-Americanism in the tribal areas.
""Unilateral action by the American forces does not help the war against terror because it only enrages public opinion," said Husain Haqqani, Pakistan's ambassador to Washington, during a speech on Friday. "In this particular incident, nothing was gained by the action of the troops.""
What gives this story even more resonance is the fact that the Bush regime is now finally embracing the tactics that Obama had called for back in August 2007. At the time, Bush, John McCain and the other Democratic presidential hopefuls including Joe Biden and Hillary Clinton derided Obama for offering such a bellicose proposal. Bush said: "he's going to attack Pakistan" in disbelief.
As Reuters reported on August 1, 2007: "Obama said if elected in November 2008 he would be willing to attack inside Pakistan with or without approval from the Pakistani government, a move that would likely cause anxiety in the already troubled region.
"If we have actionable intelligence about high-value terrorist targets and President Musharraf won't act, we will," Obama said."
So there you have it: the reactionary Bush White House has now adopted a plan that it previously publicly described as overly aggressive - can you imagine this White House thinking anything is too aggressive? - a plan offered up by the Democratic Party's standard bearer, Obama, the man that many progressives pin their hopes on.
This reminds me of the line from a comic who wondered what the world is coming to when the world's best golfer is black and the best rapper is white.
What is the world coming to? The labels certainly don't tell you the story. You have to look carefully and critically at what people are actually saying and what they are doing. And you have to examine carefully how political policy is actually made, not how you might have learned about it in civics class and not how it is presented everyday in the news.
Obama himself has said - correctly so - that people should pay attention to what he's saying. He does not oppose all wars, just "dumb wars." He approves of the war on terror. His differences are over tactics and whether the goals of the "war on terror" are being best pursued. In other words, is the US imperialist empire doing what is in its best interests? This is like campaigning for Godfather and saying that the existing Godfather isn't being efficient enough in his extortion, racketeering, drug running, torture, brutality and death dealing.
If the city that may be second only to Berkeley in the degree to which progressives hold political office colludes, conspires and cooperates with the police state, even while some of the progressives make fine sounding speeches but vote with the gendarmes when push comes to shove, and if the one "realistic" choice on the national level that the people are being given to oppose the Bush regime's reign of terror is a man whose foreign policy is now being adopted by the very same hated Bush regime that Obama says he is a "change" from, then what's realistic now? What good does your vote do? Just what kind of democracy is this?
The only ones we can trust are the people themselves acting independently of the political parties and the normal, acceptable political channels. You must speak out, protest, show how you feel and call on others to do the same. A movement of the people that becomes a mass movement that must be reckoned with by public officials and the media and that does not subordinate itself to either public officials or corporate media must come into being. What is more democratic than that?
It is the ONLY realistic path. It is also the only moral stance possible. Participating in the existing structures and channels is a fool's errand and worse: it amounts to collusion in crimes against humanity.
Stand up for those who have stood up such as the RNC 8. Wear orange daily and spread the resistance. Don't kick yourself after the November 2008 election and say, why the hell didn't I recognize the signs? Why did I allow myself to be sucked in once again? Why didn't I fight the burgeoning police state when we still had a chance?