Ali’s blog

Mostly quant stuff with occasional digressions

John Pilger on the US presidential elections

Posted by alifinmath on February 10, 2008

I stumbled across John Pilger’s book, “Heroes,” over twenty years ago, and I’ve read one or two of his other books since then, and also occasionally his pieces in periodicals. A forthright man. An honest man. Not some spineless and sycophantic Jim Lehrer. Anyway, here’s a recent piece of his in the New Statesman:


Of the presidential candidates I have interviewed, only George C Wallace, governor of Alabama, spoke the truth. “There’s not a dime’s worth of difference between the Democrats and Republicans,” he said. And he was shot.

What struck me, living and working in the United States, was that presidential campaigns were a parody, entertaining and often grotesque. They are a ritual danse macabre of flags, balloons and bullshit, designed to camouflage a venal system based on money, power, human division and a culture of permanent war.

Travelling with Robert Kennedy in 1968 was eye-opening for me. To audiences of the poor, Kennedy would present himself as a saviour. The words “change” and “hope” were used relentlessly and cynically. For audiences of fearful whites, he would use racist codes, such as “law and order”. With those opposed to the invasion of Vietnam, he would attack “putting American boys in the line of fire”, but never say when he would withdraw them. That year (after Kennedy was assassinated), Richard Nixon used a version of the same, malleable speech to win the presidency. Thereafter, it was used successfully by Jimmy Carter, Ronald Reagan, Bill Clinton and the two Bushes. Carter promised a foreign policy based on “human rights” – and practised the very opposite. Reagan’s “freedom agenda” was a bloodbath in central America. Clinton “solemnly pledged” universal health care and tore down the last safety net of the Depression.

Nothing has changed. Barack Obama is a glossy Uncle Tom who would bomb Pakistan. Hillary Clinton, another bomber, is anti-feminist. John McCain’s one distinction is that he has personally bombed a country. They all believe the US is not subject to the rules of human behaviour, because it is “a city upon a hill”, regardless that most of humanity sees it as a monumental bully which, since 1945, has overthrown 50 governments, many of them democracies, and bombed 30 nations, destroying millions of lives.


How little things change. Every four years the same senseless charade. Each time, the message is that this is the most important election ever, that everything hangs in the balance. And then, after the votes are counted — regardless of who wins — it’s back to the usual status quo.


4 Responses to “John Pilger on the US presidential elections”

  1. Chris Prouty said

    Amen, brother. One of my favorite manifestations of the “charade” we inflict on ourselves was the trial of Saddam Hussein. I actually laughed when I heard they were putting him on trial. What were the odds that Saddam would be found innocent of all charges and be set free? In fact, there was even one point where the judge presiding over the case began to agree with some of the arguments Saddam’s council was making; the judge was quickly replaced. I’m not defending Saddam – he was a ruthless bastard – but to cheapen what tattered justice system Iraq had with such a sham trial set the tone nicely for the style of “justice” and “fairness” that would exist in Iraq under American control. It was an affront to the American people, the Iraqi people, and the laughable propaganda of the U.S. government.

  2. alifinmath said

    Sure. But it has a lineage. Look at the Nuremburg Trials: only the Germans were put on trial. Yet were the fire bombings of Dresden and Hamburg not war crimes? Were the bombings of Nagasaki and Hiroshima not war crimes?

    The US invasion of Iraq has resulted in at least 600,000 civilian deaths (as reported by leading British medical journal, Lancet (which is refereed of course). Is this not a crime? The rest of the world sees blatant double standards and recoils in revulsion at the horror and hypocrisy — and then one has the spectacle of a GWB coming out and asking rhetorically, “Why do they hate us? We’re so good.”

    I am truly saddened to see Ron Paul bowing out, even though I’m not a Libertarian. Under the present dispensation, it seems that people like Paul, Buchanan, and Nader simply have no chance.

  3. Ariel said

    I agree that US foreign policy is a mess under Bush but I can’t agree with the comments about US conduct in World War II. If it took the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki to put a final end to the war, it was justified. The beavior of the US toward its enemies after the war was more than admirable, so let’s not forget the enormous good the US did to rebuild Europe and Japan.

    I agree that the differences between the two parties are minimal. In some ways, though, they have switched traditional roles: Bush has taken a surplus and left us with a huge deficit while increasing the size and involvement of government. By contrast, Clinton made left the country with a surplus and made major reforms to welfare.

    Obama? How foolish people are to think that his vague talk of “change” actually means anything! I can only assume that it is white liberal guilt that feeds his campaign. An ironic twist for Hillary.

  4. alifinmath said

    Yesterday Nader threw his hat into the ring — to the consternation of the Democrats and the delight of the Republicans. It’s always entertaining, and usually instructive, to hear Nader speak. His badmouthing of the Democrats is always bang on target. Wolves in sheep’s clothing truly. I hope he takes lots of votes away from whoever ultimately is nominated by the Democrats. Obama was saying of Nader, “He seems to have a pretty high opinion of what he’s accomplished.” Well, what’s wrong with that? Nader has quite a bit to his credit. Obama nothing except empty fast-talk. I can’t quite make up my mind whom I loathe and detest the more: the smarmy and sanctimonious Clinton or the glib and superficial Obama.

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