[hq2600] From Cynthia McKinney: Ruminations on President Obama's Tenure Thus Far and "Acceptable Punditry"
have played around with this idea for hours now, on whether or not to
write this piece. But the events of the last few hours, I believe,
mandate that I raise my voice once again.
I have read and re-read President Obama's Joint Congressional
Address. All of the "acceptable punditry" have spoken and given the
President glowing reviews. And so, to them and the population that
still believes in them, "All is right with the world." But for the
rest of us, who refuse to swallow the pill that puts us into the
Matrix, a good dose of reality is strongly called for.
But reality is not what we're getting, not even from one of the national columnists whom I've met, Maureen Dowd.
think Maureen Dowd characterized it as "Spock at the Bridge." Now,
being the Trekkie that I am, that headline grabbed my attention. I
nearly gagged, however, when I got to the line supposedly from
President Obama calling President Bush to proclaim, "'I’m ending your
stupid war.' Mission Relinquished."
Why write things like this now that it is clear that the Obama
Administration is continuing the Bush policies for missile strikes
inside Pakistan; torture; rendition for torture; public release of Bush
Administration e-mails; illegal wiretaps; status of prisoners at the
U.S. base in Bagram, Afghanistan; and workplace immigration raids?
For the record, President Obama is also pursuing Bush policies on
Iran and Israel. As recently as yesterday, President Obama's Chairman
of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, Admiral Mike Mullen, responded when
asked whether Iran was capable of building an atom bomb. Admiral
Mullen replied, "We think they do, quite frankly."
Dowd concludes her “Spock” piece by imbuing the President with "a
Vulcan-like logic and detachment." But I think the detachment of
“acceptable” political punditry from the real world is what is totally
lamentable. In the process, they render themselves irrelevant.
So, it's clear. I'm about to step into marshy soil here, by noting
that I found 19 questionable Obama policies or statements in his Joint
Congressional speech delivered three days before his announcement that
upon the end of the U.S. combat mission in Iraq, up to 50,000 U.S.
troops could remain through 2011, after the "pullout."
And while various "mint" operations are peddling Obama "Change"
coins for purchase, complete with a certificate of authenticity, I wade
further into the muck by noting that the President continues the
giveaway of our hard-earned coins to an economic team intent on keeping
mismanagement structures in place, serving economic ends that do not
constitute the common good. I would refer readers to the many
statements that I issued during the final days of our Power to the
People Green Party Presidential campaign about re-creating an economic
system truly and finally owned by the people, operating in our
interest. It is possible to do that. All it requires is enough
But what forces me out into the open marshland of "non-mainstream"
political punditry has to do with the latest Obama "pullout:" the
decision to withdraw from the April 2009 Geneva United Nations World
Conference Against Racism, dubbed Durban II.
We heard the same palaver in 2001 from the same forces inside our
country, basically that a discussion of Zionism, in the context of such
a Conference, would be anti-Semitic; therefore all the world's
dispossessed and marginalized people must continue to suffer and
sacrifice while muting their grievances so that no discussion of Israel
would take place on the world stage in this context.
Well, in 2001, upon hearing this line of reasoning, I went to
then-Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) Chairwoman, Eddie Bernice
Johnson, and asked if I could be appointed as the CBC Task Force Chair
on Durban. The non-participation argument was also a handy "peg on the
track" with the potential of derailing many conversations, including a
real discussion about the trans-Atlantic Slave Trade and the issue of
reparations. Respectful of the excellent preparatory work that had
been done, I wanted to avoid that outcome.
Congresswoman Eddie Bernice Johnson made the appointment and I led a delegation of 5 Members of Congress to Durban.
current Chairwoman of the Congressional Black Caucus, Barbara Lee, was
a member of my delegation to Durban. From my position on the
International Relations Committee, we successfully argued for U.S.
participation in that Conference at a Hearing designed to quash our
effort. We not only met with then-United Nations High Commissioner for
Human Rights, Mary Robinson, we also presented her with the untold
story of COINTELPRO and the remaining unsolved deaths of its Black
Panther Party member victims, commissioned by me and written by
Kathleen Cleaver and Paul Wolf.
Our CBC Chairwoman made a beautiful statement of why it was
imperative that the United States join with our Native American and
Latino brothers and sisters and with oppressed peoples all over the
planet and not only make our statement of solidarity, but also
institute policies at the Congress that recognized their needs. It is
incorrect to say that the United States was not present at Durban. We
were there and only when the duties of Congress pressed us to return to
Washington, DC did the Bush Administration make a big deal about
anti-Semitism and then staged its phony walk out. The United States
delegation of Congressional Black Caucus Members was there to support
the phenomenal work of U.S. activists and the African and Caribbean
delegations, in particular. I think everyone in Durban was moved by
the plight of the Dalits in India and understood better the surging
political power of Afro-Latinos.
Durban was a clear victory for the world's marginalized peoples,
including those of us who reside inside the United States. But, when
the Congressional Delegation returned to the U.S., there was no time
for celebration because the tragedy of September 11, 2001 unfolded.
What has happened in the interim has devastated the very people
that Durban was designed to address, unfortunately, much of it due to
U.S. policy. Now is not the time for the United States to shrink from
In order to prevail in Durban, I had to go toe to toe with the
Anti-Defamation League and Members of Congress Tom Lantos and Ileana
Ros-Lehtinen who, among many other Members of Congress, vociferously
denounced Durban. This was something that I did because I felt it was
the right thing to do. Given Israel's recent actions in Gaza that have
brought upon it the world's opprobrium, I can imagine that this is the
last point in time that Israel might want to revisit Durban. Israel
has said that it will not attend the Conference in Geneva.
Early last year, a government official announced Canada's decision
to not attend Durban II after deeming the Conference to be
anti-Israel. Shortly afterwards, France followed suit with French
President Nicolas Sarkozy stating that the "excesses of 2001"
transformed the Conference "into an intolerable platform against the
State of Israel." I would note also that France must be particularly
loath to discuss racism now with what is happening in Guadeloupe and
Martinique as I write this piece. And remembering that Paris, itself,
was literally on fire just a few years ago.
The UK, which has been under severe racial tests with Asians
rebelling openly in the streets since Durban 2001, and the Netherlands
have both threatened to withdraw their support for the Conference if a
"negative spiral" of events takes place. Interestingly, these remarks
came at the same time as the release of a European Commission Against
Racism and Intolerance report which found that the tone of Dutch
political and public debate on immigrant integration, racism, and other
issues relevant to ethnic minorities, had experienced a "dramatic
So, we shouldn't be surprised that the racism stress test is
revealing cracks and fissures in human relations. But the United
States and President Obama should not shield them or this country from
these stresses. This Conference gives us the opportunity to get the
issues out in the open and to deal with them. That's the way to put
them to an end. The world might have changed because of events
occurring in September 2001, but it wasn't because the United Nations
successfully convened the World Conference Against Racism.
And now that I am as completely in the middle of the marsh as I was
as completely in the international waters of the Mediterranean Sea when
my boat was rammed by the Israelis, let me make an observation about
one aspect of marshes. I have witnessed the most beautiful sunrises
and sunsets on the Savannah, Georgia marshland. And the most beautiful
rainbows. Being away from the glass and concrete can give one a better
I observed last year that I thought U.S. voters went to the polls
in large numbers to try and regain a bit of dignity lost during the
eight years of outright banditry played out in our names, with our
resources, against our interests. But I was reminded at the recently
adjourned Transpartisan Alliance convention in Colorado that dignity
will not come without first an acknowledgment of the truth: with truth
we can have justice; and with justice we can have peace; and it is only
with peace that we can truly have dignity. Something as easy as a
vote, alone, is not going to be enough to wrest us from this mess that
has been wrought.
This morning, I sent the following message to the White House:
President, it was with great disappointment that I read of your
decision to pull out of Durban II. Even the Bush Administration, under
pressure from the Congressional Black Caucus, provided some funding for
the United Nations effort and sent staff to support the Congressional
delegation that attended the Conference. I was there. I was head of
the Congressional Black Caucus Task Force that negotiated Congressional
and Administration engagement on this issue. There is still time for
the U.S. to participate. Your decision is not irrevocable. I would
encourage you to please reconsider this decision and not only attend
the Conference, but also provide funding to ensure its success.”
I implore the Members of the Congressional Black Caucus to
spearhead the participation of the United States in the United Nation's
World Conference Against Racism: to boldly go where we have gone
before. Dr. King reminded us that "the ultimate measure of a man is
not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he
stands at times of challenge and controversy." On this issue,
President Obama has shown us his measure. I hope that the
Congressional Black Caucus and the Progressive Caucus and the
Democratic Caucus can show us, oh, so much more.