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Better Than What?

Posted 11/12/2008

Brian Morton states "how wrong" it was when Ralph Nader stated eight years ago that "there's not a dime's worth of difference" between the two major political parties ("A Better Country," Political Animal, Oct. 29). Unfortunately, as he so often does, Morton fails to describe why the Democrats have done nothing to stop what the Republicans have done while in power, other than to say that they have been "cowed, chastened, and cornered."

And, of course, he supported a vote for Barack Obama in the hopes of "hav[ing] a better country." An examination of the record of Barack Obama, and more generally the Democrats, however, shows that qualitative change will not come from the Democrats.

Obama wants to expand the war in Afghanistan, a war that has been going on for seven years and pushed that country to the brink of collapse. For all practical purposes, there are no jobs in Afghanistan. Oxfam has said that the situation is so grave that in some northern provinces 80 percent of the population may die of hunger this winter.

While McCain supports the Iraq war, Obama campaigned saying he would reduce that war--reduce, not end it--but he also says he wants to increase the war in Afghanistan more rapidly than Bush. And even before Bush sent troops into Pakistan, Obama proposed expanding the Afghan war there. That is, he doesn't propose to end the wars--only to shift their center.

And, not coincidentally, military contractors gave 34 percent more in campaign contributions to Obama than to McCain. This shift has coincided with Obama's downplaying of his opposition to the war in Iraq and his calls for stepped-up military action in Afghanistan and Pakistan, and more generally for increased military spending.

In reality, once you get beyond the warm and fuzzy "change" message from Obama, it is difficult to discern which of the two candidates can be properly characterized as more aggressive and militarist in foreign policy.

We have never yet seen a war in this country that was stopped by an election. But we've seen quite a few times when illusions in a candidate's promises have diverted people from organizing opposition to a war. Democrat Woodrow Wilson campaigned in 1916, claiming that he kept the country out of war, only to plunge the country into the carnage of World War I immediately after the election. Decades later, Democrat Lyndon Johnson in 1964 opposed himself to the supposed warmonger, Barry Goldwater--only to throw the country headfirst into the war in Vietnam immediately thereafter.

Tens of millions of people voted for Obama on Nov. 4 in the hope that the replacement of a Republican with a Democrat would better their conditions of life and bring an end to the war in Iraq. But the result of an Obama victory will be to simply replace one corporate-controlled government with another, with no end in sight to U.S. imperialism. Nader wasn't so wrong after all.

Michael Melick

Somebody Actually Read Mr. Wrong

Dear Larnell Custis Butler,

What the heck are you talking about? ("Barack Hussein Obama," The Mail, Nov. 5.) I read Joe MacLeod's column (Mr. Wrong, Oct. 22) and thought it was a completely pro-Obama piece signifying support for the then-presidential candidate. In fact, if you actually read the column, the only word besides "Barack Hussein Obama" is "president." Where you got the idea that it was meant to be disrespectful or to mentally persuade the readers that he had a foreign- or terrorist-sounding name is beyond me. Perhaps you were projecting your own fears on to a perfectly neutral piece of text, while I was reading my hopes into it? In any case, Obama won, so we should just all rejoice together (including Mr. MacLeod, who I bet voted for Barack Hussein Obama)!

Mike Rippe

Settling the Score

City Paper's recent story on the resettlement of Iraqi refugees in the Baltimore area contains a number of problematic assertions, inferences, and conclusions ("Insane Asylum," Mobtown Beat, Nov. 5).

However, for the sake of brevity, we ask only that the following explicit corrections be published in your next print edition and immediately online:

  • The ophthalmologist cited throughout the piece is not an IRC client, and no case manager by the name of "Mr. Jacob" has ever worked for the IRC's Baltimore office. Therefore no one from the IRC could have--or indeed ever would have--told the ophthalmologist to rely on himself to take his ailing son to the hospital.
  • There is nothing in the story that backs up the assertion in the headline that the refugees say the IRC did not meet its promises. The story says the promises were made "by U.S. officials" in Turkey, Jordan, and Syria, not IRC staff members. IRC resettlement staff members do not begin working with refugees chosen for resettlement until after they arrive in the United States.

Thanks in advance for setting the record straight.

Philip Wood
Media Relations Director, International Rescue Committee
New York City

Correction: Dr. Nasir Al Khalidi's name was misspelled in a photo caption for last week's story about Iraqi refugees in Baltimore ("Insane Asylum," Mobtown Beat, Nov. 5). City Paper regrets the error.

In a story last week, we misstated the retirement terms of the city's police and fire contracts (Councilmania, Nov. 5). Retirement pay after 20 years' service is 50 percent of base pay, not including overtime.

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