“They have healed the brokenness of my people superficially, saying, ‘Peace, peace.’ But there is no peace.” Jeremiah 8:11

When the prophet Jeremiah wrote those words, he could have been describing the public-relations strategy of the current US government. Barack Obama won the presidency and the hearts of billions around the world by pledging to bring peace. His humanitarian rhetoric promised a new era in American foreign policy, away from armed confrontation and towards cooperation. But since taking office he has increased combat forces in Afghanistan, expanded our air strikes in Pakistan, shifted the fighting in Iraq onto hired mercenaries and local soldiers, and pledged his “full support” to the “heroic” CIA. Obama doesn’t want to end the war, he wants to fight it smarter, cutting our losses in some areas while stepping up attacks in others, aiming to salvage a partial victory. The new commander in chief has scaled down the grandiose goals that launched the war, replacing them with a fallback battle plan for maintaining some control over the Iraqi and Afghan governments,
oil supplies, and pipeline routes.

So the war continues, now with less press coverage because when mercenaries and local soldiers die, it barely makes the news. The war continues because millions of Iraqis and Afghans refuse to accept US hegemony and are willing to die to defeat it. The war continues with no end in sight because Obama refuses to abandon this drive for hegemony.

He refuses not because he’s evil but because too much is at stake. A defeat in this strategic area would be devastating. Many of the privileged leases that US petroleum companies own on Mideast oil would be canceled. These favorable leases help keep fuel and petro-chemical prices comparatively low in the USA. Without them, prices would soar, eliminating much of our economic advantage. The loss of this competitive edge would mark the decline of American dominance. It would be particularly disastrous for the US military, which is the world’s largest consumer of oil. We would become one player among several, no more powerful than the European Union, Russia, China, or India. Obama knows that any US president who moved in such an egalitarian direction would be out of office very soon.

The corporate elite backed him because he could calm the waters of discontent and create superficial changes that would allow them to maintain their power. His eloquence and charisma revived hope in America. We want so much to believe him that we overlook that he’s still killing thousands of our fellow human beings. Obama is proving to be the ultimate cosmetic change. His performance is another American triumph of image over actuality.

A similar swindle occurred in the 2006 election campaign. The Democrats won control of the Senate and House of Representatives by promising to end the war. Instead, a few months later they voted a huge increase in military spending and supported US troop surges.

These betrayals of democracy show that our government doesn’t really represent us but rather the business interests. If they need cheap oil, the president and congress will make war to get it for them, with time-out every few years for some campaign rhetoric about peace. It’s obvious now that their rhetoric is lies. Obama’s morphing into a war president makes it clear that expecting “change you can believe in” from the Democratic Party is a delusion.

“The Morphing of Obama” is the introduction to the book RADICAL PEACE: People Refusing War, which presents the first-person experiences of war resisters, deserters, and peace activists in the USA, Europe, Iraq, and Afghanistan. Recently released by Trine Day, it’s a journey along diverse paths of nonviolence, the true stories of people working for peace in unconventional ways. Other chapters are posted in The Socjournal and on a page of the publisher’s website at http://media.trineday.com/radicalpeace

 

William T. Hathaway is a Special Forces combat veteran turned peace activist. His other books include A WORLD OF HURT (Rinehart Foundation Award), CD-RING, and SUMMER SNOW. He is an adjunct professor of American studies at the University of Oldenburg in Germany. A selection of his writing is available at www.peacewriter.org.

 

William T. Hathaway

William T. Hathaway began his writing career as a newspaper reporter in San Francisco, then joined the Special Forces to write a book about war. A World of Hurt won a Rinehart Foundation Award for its portrayal of the psychological roots of war: the emotional blockage and need for patriarchal approval that draw men to the military. Summer Snow tells of an American warrior in Central Asia who falls in love with a Sufi Muslim and learns from her an alternative to the military mentality. CD-Ring is a young-adult novel about a boy learning the futility of violence and the need for peaceful communication. Radical Peace: People Refusing War presents the true stories of activists who have moved beyond protest into direct action, becoming criminals for peace by defying the government’s laws and impeding its capacity to kill. Wellsprings: A Fable of Consciousness is set in 2026 as an old woman and a young man battle the corporations that control the remaining water resources after the earth’s ecosystem has broken down under human abuse. Hathaway was a Fulbright professor of creative writing and American studies at universities in Germany, where he currently lives. A selection of his writing is available at www.peacewriter.org.

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