Editor's note: This contribution by the late journalist I.F. Stone first appeared in our January 1975 magazine.
If you closed your eyes during much of the President’s speech on Afghanistan Tuesday night and just listened to the words, you easily could have concluded that George W. Bush was still in the Oval Office.
Or, at the very least, that Obama had stolen his speechwriters.
Because, like Bush, Obama had barely cleared his throat when out came the first mention of September 11, along with the Bushian line: “We did not ask for this fight.”
Like Bush, Obama lied about the lead up to the Afghanistan war, saying that the United States invaded “only after the Taliban refused to turn over Osama bin Laden. “
“President George Bush rejected as ‘non-negotiable’ an offer by the Taliban to discuss turning over Osama bin Laden if the United States ended the bombing in Afghanistan,” the Guardian reported on October 14, 2001.
Like Bush, Obama looked straight ahead into the camera to address the people of a country he’s about to inflict more hell upon, and said: “I want the Afghan people to understand—America seeks an end to this war and suffering.” And like Bush, he added: “We have no interest in occupying your country.” He even went further out on a flimsy rhetorical limb by saying the United States wants to “forge a lasting friendship in which America is your partner, and never your patron.”
Well, it’s sure acting like a patron today.
Like Bush, Obama exaggerated the “contributions from our allies” in this war effort, which is overwhelmingly American.
Like Bush, Obama cited Al Qaeda’s “attacks against London and Amman and Bali.”
Like Bush, Obama promised a long war against terrorism. “The struggle against violent extremism will not be finished quickly, and it extends well beyond Afghanistan and Pakistan,” he said. “It will be an enduring test of our free society, and our leadership in the world.”
And like Bush, Obama went to great lengths to distort the record of that “leadership.”
“More than any other nation, the United States of America has underwritten global security for over six decades,” he said.
Well, let’s see: The United States led the world to the cliffs of nuclear annihilation during the Cold War. The United States invaded one Latin American country after another, and subverted other governments there covertly. The United States helped overthrow governments in Ghana and the Congo, and supported racist forces in southern Africa. The United States plunged into the Korean War, and then supported one dictator after another in South Korea. The United States killed between two and three million people in Indochina. And the United States supported Suharto in Indonesia, who killed nearly a million people, some at the behest of the CIA, after taking power in 1965. The U.S. also supported Suharto’s invasion of East Timor ten years later, which took another 200,000 lives.
Obama can call that “global security,” if he wants to, but it’s dripping red.
And here’s another whopper: “Unlike the great powers of old, we have not sought world domination,” he said.
Well, what does having almost 1,000 military bases in more than 100 countries mean, then?
Obama went on: “We do not seek to occupy other nations.”
Well, the United States has invaded or overthrown dozens of countries in the last six decades, and it doesn’t need to occupy them if it can install a puppet regime instead.
And he went further: “We will not claim another nation’s resources or target peoples because their faith or ethnicity is different from ours.”
Well, maybe not for those reasons, but certainly to make profits for our private corporations and for perceived U.S. security. See Guatemala. See Chile. See the Carter Doctrine.
Obama ended this riff by saying, “We are still heirs to a moral struggle for freedom. And now we must summon all of our might and moral suasion to meet the challenges of a new age.”
Compare Obama’s airbrushed historical account with the following passage from Bush’s 2004 State of the Union Address:
“America is a Nation with a mission, and that mission comes from our most basic beliefs,” he said. “We have no desire to dominate, no ambitions of empire. Our aim is a democratic peace -- a peace founded upon the dignity and rights of every man and woman. America acts in this cause with friends and allies at our side, yet we understand our special calling: This great Republic will lead the cause of freedom.”
Finally, like Bush, Obama ended his speech by alluding to 9/1l again, citing the “memory of a horrific attack.”
The White House speechwriters must have carpal tunnel by now from all their cutting and pasting of Bush’s rhetoric into Obama’s mouth.
And that he didn’t choke on these words tells you all you need to know about Obama.