Obama's All-American Speeches

By Larry Jones
That President Barack Obama did just the opposite in his recent speech to Congress is what upset me most about his well-delivered and often charismatic words. He really is smooth as he speaks and in one moment gets very serious and in the next he smiles broadly.
But thinking about humanity was nowhere in his oration. He spoke of America as “the greatest force of progress and prosperity in human history.” It’s a wonder the politicians present didn’t start chanting USA, USA, USA.
He spoke about this century becoming “another American century.” This is a phrase borrowed from the lexicon of arch imperialists, including the “neo-cons” who dominated political theory and strategy during the years of the Bush Regime. The Project for a New American Century, or PNAC, is the organization of neocons who called for an attack on Iraq long before George W. Bush was elected Commander in Chief; people like Dick Cheney, Paul Wolfowitz, William Kristol, Charles Krauthammer, and a number of other of that genre. 

The whole idea of this being “another American century” is the very essence of this nation as the most powerful empire, both militarily and economically, in the world. The last century has been cast by super-patriots as the American century because it was the millennium in which the United States became the most dominant and dominating nation in the world. Such events as the massacres and torture (including Waterboarding) that ushered in this “American Century” in its conquest of the Philippines, the atomic bombs dropped on civilian populations of two Japanese cities, the introduction of “carpet bombing” and napalm aimed at terrorizing the people of Vietnam, U.S. sponsored coups and bloodbaths in countries like Iran, Chile, the Dominican Republic, and El Salvador are cited by the hyper patriots as actions that consolidated and expanded U.S. dominion in the past century.
Nowhere were there words of America being a peace-loving nation reaching out to the destitute of the world. Only the strong America which can continue to reap huge benefits from the countries it dominates, including the country in which sweatshop workers made the shirt you may be wearing.
It was not “The Audacity of Hope,” a la his latest book, but pure audacity when he said that workers in America are “the hardest working people on earth.” Tell that to underage women in China or Bangladesh working 14 or 16 hours a day in unsafe conditions to make your shirt or your kid’s toy and receiving pay so low they cannot feed their families. 
According to the AFL-CIOnearly 171 million children are engaged in hazardous work, of which 111 million are younger than 15. Some 8.4 million children are trapped in the worst forms of child labor, including slavery, trafficking, debt bondage, forced military recruitment, prostitution and pornography.” I’m for upholding the American working class, but how inspiring it would have been to hear Obama speak of the hardest working and oppressed men, women, and children of the world. But that wouldn’t fit his all-American theme.

Even the high school kids in the ghettos and barrios of America are given the Bill Cosby “you-are-responsible-for-your-own-life” treatment. Obama spoke to the thousands of teenagers who live without hope or help and who leave school because they see it as a road to nowhere. He told them that dropping out would be “quitting on your country.” Right. Everything is for America.


Obama told Congress that “we will invest fifteen billion dollars a year to develop technologies like wind power and solar power; advanced biofuels, clean coal, and more fuel-efficient cars and trucks built right here in America.” Cutting down on the pollution that is destroying our planet is a worthy goal, but I flinch when he talks about biofuels and clean coal.


NASA scientist James Hansen recently said "What has become clear from the science is we cannot burn all the fossil fuels without creating a very different planet. The only practical way to solve the problem is to phase out the biggest source of carbon and that is coal." Yet over twenty buildings in the DC capitol area, including the Capitol itself, burn coal for heating and cooling.

The McClatchy Newspapers reported last week that “Sen. Harry Reid, D-Nev., the Senate majority leader, and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., sent a letter to Stephen Ayers, the acting architect of the Capitol, who's in charge of maintaining the Capitol complex, telling him to reduce the amount of coal burned at the plant and to prepare for converting it to burn only natural gas by the end of the year.” It remains to be seen whether Obama will back such action.

In any case, Obama's “clean coal” notion is a myth.  Some technology has reportedly been developed to clean the harmful toxins from coal. Last year the American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity (ACCCE) spent $38m on commercial advertising to try to convince Americans that coal can be carbon free. But, according to environmental writer Fred Pearce, “clean coal is, of course, oxymoronic. Coal is about acid rain and peasouper smogs, asthma and mercury contamination, radioactive waste emissions and ripping apart mountains, killing trees, lung cancer and, of course, global warming.

“Coal emits more carbon dioxide for every unit of energy generated than any other fuel. Sure you can clean it up a bit – though the toxins you've taken out of the ground have to go somewhere. But clean coal? Just say no.”


The use of plants from which to make biofuels such as ethanol has been touted as a major way to reduce the use of fossil fuels.  Obama joined such advocates in his speech to Congress.  However, in early February, the New York Times published an article which contradicted such claims. Joseph Fargione, a scientist at the Nature Conservancy, said that “the dedication of so much cropland in the United States to growing corn for bioethanol had caused indirect land use changes far away. Previously, Midwestern farmers had alternated corn with soy in their fields, one year to the next. Now many grow only corn, meaning that soy has to be grown elsewhere. Increasingly, that elsewhere, Dr. Fargione said, is Brazil, on land that was previously forest or savanna. “Brazilian farmers are planting more of the world’s soybeans — and they’re deforesting the Amazon to do it.”  

Further, recent studies have shown that environmental advantages alleged to have come from biofuels are more than offset by the emissions created in the process of refining and transportation. It seems like Obama needs to update his administration's scientific claims.

The President also said enthusiastically that living our values doesn’t make us weaker, it makes us safer and it makes us stronger.” He was speaking about the alleged end of torture at Guantanamo and even used Bush’s line, “The United states does not torture.” Yet Obama’s Defense Department has released a report that claims that the operations at Gitmo, with all its horrendous torture and human rights abuses, comply with the Geneva Conventions.

Recently under the new Obama Department of Justice, we have seen a repeat of Bush’s “state secrets” claim, which blocks victims of torture from getting their day in court. And the DOJ has told a federal court that military detainees held at Bagram Air Force base in Afghanistan have no legal right to challenge their detention.

Unfortunately, this looks all too much like more of the same … like the Bush regime.


On February 27, Obama received loud cheers when he said the Iraq war will officially end on August 31, 2010. However, anti-war activists, including World Can’t Wait, are very disappointed that 50,000 troops will remain. They will be reclassified from combat troops to advisors and trainers.

On MSNBC last week Thomas E. Ricks, author of The Gamble: General David Petraeus and the American Military Adventure in Iraq, 2006-2008, said that he had asked a White House official if, after the 2010 “end” to the Iraq war, American troops will still be fighting and dying in Iraq. The answer was, “Yes, they will.”

It is important that we not drink too much of the Obama cool-aid lest we begin to believe that U.S. imperialism will begin to change its spots. A tiger can’t do it, and neither can capitalist/imperialist America,


World Can't Wait mobilizes people living in the United States to stand up and stop war on the world, repression and torture carried out by the US government. We take action, regardless of which political party holds power, to expose the crimes of our government, from war crimes to systematic mass incarceration, and to put humanity and the planet first.