Black Agenda Radio Commentaries
News, analysis and commentary on the human condition from a black left perspective.

Obama Reeks of Sulfur at the UN

A Black Agenda Radio commentary by BAR executive editor Glen Ford

Obama’s speech was one long threat against world order and the rule of law.”

President Obama went to the United Nations this week and declared war against the UN’s most fundamental founding principles, all the while claiming the U.S. is the world’s one indispensable, unique and exceptional nation.

The speech was a reminder of the reason rich people in America financed and sponsored Obama’s rise to the presidency in the first place, as the new, non-white face of U.S. imperial power. Obama’s foreign policy mission was to subvert United Nations prohibitions against the use of force except in self-defense, and to substitute a so-called “humanitarian” rationale justifying aggression by Washington and its allies. This constitutes a fundamental break with the UN Charter, signifying that the U.S. realizes it can no longer dominate the world by economic and other “soft power” and must, therefore, sweep away the accumulated structures of international law that inhibit America’s ability to smash its adversaries with raw military force.

Obama’s speech was one long threat against world order and the rule of law. He baldly stated that the U.S. is prepared to “use all elements of [its] power, including military force, to secure [its] core interests in the region” – a statement that is, on its face, a violation of the UN’s prohibition against the threat of the use of force against other nations. International law forbids the powerful from rattling their sabers over perceived challenges to their "interests" in other people’s countries. Obama, like the honey badger, doesn’t give a damn about international law.

He says that, “wherever possible” he will try to “respect the sovereignty of nations,” but will “take direct action” – meaning, military force – “when it is necessary to defend the United States against terrorist attacks.” That’s another way of saying the U.S. reserves the right to send drones anywhere in the world to kill whoever it wants, whenever it wants, for its own reasons that are nobody else’s business – which is the behavior of an outlaw, rogue state.

The U.S. reserves the right to send drones anywhere in the world.”

Among the “interests” that the U.S. sees as just cause for going to war, is the promotion of what Obama calls “democracy, human rights, and open markets” in the Middle East and North Africa. “These objectives,” says Obama, “are best achieved when we partner with the international community and with countries and people of the region.” Translation: The U.S. will continue to form “coalitions of the willing” to use military force for regime change or to preserve the status quo, circumventing the United Nations – a gross violation of international law.

Obama claims that “America is exceptional” precisely because it will go to war for so-called “humanitarian” reasons in order to prevent violence to civilians before it has occurred – that is, wars based on Washington's readings of its own crystal balls, such as NATO’s war against Libya. This is actually the doctrine of pre-emptive war, which is a blatant violation of the UN Charter whether the rationale is “humanitarian” or some other excuse.

In a final obscenity, Obama concludes with a shameless reference to Dr. Martin Luther King’s “dream.” Forty-six years ago, Dr. King declared that the U.S. was the "greatest purveyor of violence in the world." That is what is so exceptional about America: its relentless quest for military domination of the planet and utter disregard for the norms of law and civilization. Barack Obama is the planetary Warmonger-in-Chief. His breath smells of sulfur, just as George Bush’s did when he addressed the UN, seven years ago.

For Black Agenda Radio, I’m Glen Ford. On the web, go to BlackAgendaReport.com.

BAR executive editor Glen Ford can be contacted at Glen.Ford@BlackAgendaReport.com.

Direct download: 20130925_gf_ObamaExceptionalismUN.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 7:35pm EDT

The Living Legacy of Comrade George Jackson, September 23, 1941 – August 27, 1971

by BAR managing editor Bruce A. Dixon

September 23 should have been the 72nd birthday of George Jackson. George Lester Jackson was born of black working class parents in Chicago, and grew up mostly in California. In 1961 at the age of 18, he was accused of sticking up a gas station for about $70. Represented by a public defender, he pled guilty and began serving a sentence of one year to life.

While in prison George Jackson learned to study productively and to write eloquently He took upon himself the project of politically organizing those confined in America's prisons and jails, eventually founding a chapter of the Black Panther Party behind the walls of San Quentin. Jackson's tireless work, his personal example and two best selling compilations of his letters, Soledad Brother and Blood In My Eye, ensured that his influence was felt across racial lines throughout California's penal system and far beyond.

In January 1970 Jackson was accused of the murder of a prison guard. On August 7 of that same year his younger brother Jonathan Jackson staged a doomed rescue attempt at the Marin County courthouse in which four persons died and several were wounded, and in connection with which Angela Davis was prosecuted for murder and conspiracy. George Jackson's life ended on August 21, 1971 in a hail of gunfire under circumstances which strongly suggest a setup and assassination staged by California prison officials. More than twenty thousand people showed up for his Oakland California funeral.

Though Comrade George has been gone now a dozen years longer than he lived, his influence is more deeply and widely felt than ever, as the project of prisoners in the United States politically organizing other prisoners, their families and their communities to confront and dismantle the prison state remains very much alive and growing.

George Jackson lived and died before the rise of the current black political elite gave us dozens of black congressmen and women, and thousands of black mayors, state legislators, judges and sheriffs. Jackson lived and died before the massive expansion of the carceral state multiplied the US prison population five and sixfold through the seventies, eighties, nineties and into the new century. But these two facts of 21st century political life, the prevalence of black faces in high and low places combined with the use of prisons to sanction, stigmatize and cow a black working class our leaders have no intention of educating, empowering or providing useful work or stability for, make George Jackson's life and death, his example and his selfless dedication to the cause of organizing the prisoner class more relevant than ever.

Comrade George may be forty years dead, but his tireless spirit does not rest. In the last few years alone we have seen transracial prison organizing, in Ohio and Georgia, in New York and Virginia just to name a few, and most recently in the hunger strikes in the California prison system, in which thousands of prisoners took part at least for a time.

Our black misleadership class cannot even form its lips to say “mass incarceration” or “prison state” because it is deeply complicit in both. Democrats and Republicans have been and will be of little or no use in any movement that aims to roll back the prison state. The main body of leaders in that fight will arise from the same place George Jackson arose, from among the prisoners themselves, from former prisoners and their families. And as long as that struggle goes on, George Jackson lives.

Presente, comrade George Jackson.

For Black Agenda Radio, I'm Bruce Dixon. Find us on the web at www.blackagendareport.com.

Bruce A. Dixon is managing editor at Black Agenda Report. He lives and works near Marietta GA, and can be reached at bruce.dixon(at)blackagendareport.com, or via this site's contact page.

Direct download: 20130925_bd_george_jackson.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 7:25pm EDT

Detroit is the Nexus of New American Apartheid

A Black Agenda Radio commentary by executive editor Glen Ford

A great political and economic implosion is unfolding in urban America, with Detroit as ground zero.”

On October 5 and 6, the International People’s Assembly will hold a conference Against Banks and Against Austerity, in Detroit. By that time, many of the 10,000 party-goers expected at this week’s Congressional Black Caucus annual gala will just be getting over their hangovers, having spent thousands of dollars apiece strutting around DC hotel lobbies celebrating their personal upward mobility amidst Black America’s greatest economic and political crisis in modern times. The conference in Detroit is about the real world, where Wall Street is devouring the public sphere and driving actual living standards inexorably downward for the vast bulk of Americans, especially people of color.

Detroit is the epicenter of the African American economic and political crisis, an 85 percent Black metropolis whose citizens have been stripped of their fundamental democratic rights so that their public assets and private pensions can be confiscated by the finance capitalist class. Wall Street now runs the city outright, through an emergency financial manager. A similar regime prevails in all of Michigan’s largely Black cities, resulting in the disenfranchisement of more than half the state’s Black population. What is emerging in the second decade of the 21st century is a new version of American Apartheid, in which the inhabitants of largely Black urban centers are denied a meaningful vote or the legal capacity to safeguard their collective and individual property from the grasping hands of the rich. In the language of declining capitalism, this is called austerity, but in America it takes the form of a racialized order in which concentrated populations of Blacks have no rights that the bankers are bound to respect. While the party-goers clink their glasses at the Black Caucus gala in Washington, a great political and economic implosion is unfolding in urban America, with Detroit as ground zero.

The struggle also requires the rejection of what has passed for Black leadership in Detroit and the rest of America.”

The International Peoples Assembly conference demands that the so-called debt to the banks be canceled – not just for Detroit, which supposedly owes Wall Street $22 billion, but for cities, school systems, states and countries around the world that have been purposely made into debt slaves for the rich. Workers pensions and jobs, and the vital services they provide to the community, must be guaranteed. This is a critical demand, since the emergency management regime in Pontiac, Michigan, has stripped the municipal workforce down to only 20 people for a city of 60,000. The unemployed must be put back to work repairing the damage inflicted on Detroit by the bankers’ foreclosure and disinvestment policies. Public education, which is rapidly being privatized, must be restored to the public sphere and fully funded.

There are many more demands, but the solution begins with real popular democracy and the disempowerment of the banks. The struggle also requires the rejection of what has passed for Black leadership in Detroit and the rest of America: a chattering, swaggering, class of self-servers who have been selling the people down the river ever since they got a taste of power on the backs of the Black Freedom Movement of the Sixties. These are the folks who will be toasting President Obama this week, in Washington, a servant of the banks who cares no more for the people of Detroit than for the people of Damascus, or Baghdad, or Mogadishu.

For Black Agenda Radio, I’m Glen Ford. On the web, go to BlackAgendaReport.com.

BAR executive editor Glen Ford can be contacted at Glen.Ford@BlackAgendaReport.com.


Direct download: 20130918_gf_DetroitAssembly.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 11:29am EDT

What “Sanctions” Will Happen if the Rebels Are Shown To Have Used Sarin Gas?

A Black Agenda Radio Commentary by BAR managing editor Bruce A. Dixon

President Obama still wants his war in Syria. To get him what he wants, the language in the agreement signed by the US and Russia over chemical weapons in Syria is sown with vague terms having multiple and contradictory definitions and nearly un-meetable conditions, all presented in a framework of blatant lies.

The language in the framework agreement says the Syrians must hand over not just their chemical weapons, but all “delivery systems” for such weapons. Is this a reasonable condition in an era when virtually every artillery piece from mortars on up can be loaded with chemical weapons? Is the Syrian army supposed to strip itself down to rifles and small arms to somehow prove a negative – something they will no more be able to do than Saddam Hussein could?

Most glaringly of all, there are pockets of Syria under control of the so-called rebels, many of them mercenary jihadists, armed, supplied and financed by the US, the Saudis, the Turks and the Israelis. Syria's rebels are widely believed to possess their own stocks of chemical weapons, and since they are losing the war, they have an urgent need to provoke the US into heavier involvement to rescue them from defeat by the Syrian regime. The rebels have not signed this agreement, or even been asked to.

Who will inspect the rebel zones and what, if any, sanctions will be applied if they do not surrender any chemical weapons in their possession? While the US says its clients are only the victims of chemical weapons, not their users, its evidence remains classified, with even US intelligence officials admitting that it's “no slam dunk.”

The Russians on the other hand claim the Syrian rebels used sarin gas against civilians back in March 2013, apparently trying to provoke US intervention. Russia submitted a 100 page report, far more detailed than the sketchy American allegations, detailing their findings back in July, and asked the UN to follow up. By the time poison gas was used again in late August, UN inspection teams were already in Damascus awaiting the arrival of their supervisors so that inspections of the areas where gas was used months earlier, allegedly by the rebels, could begin. This is why much of the world believes the Assad regime is quite unlikely to have used chemical weapons, with UN inspections teams only a few miles away.

As for weaving a context of lies to justify an eventual war, vice president Joe Biden repeated just yesterday the ridiculous claim that Syria had the largest stock of chemical weapons in the world. Amazingly no major US media corrected him, and US media reports falsely claim that UN findings implicate the Syrian government. There's a global treaty for the abolition of chemical weapons, under which the US is obliged to destroy its own chemical weapons. But the Pentagon says this will take 10 years, despite the existence of mobile units which are supposed to the job in Syria in a mere six months. Maybe after the mobile units finish up in Syria, the UN can send them here. We should hold our breaths till that happens.

The danger of war is not yet averted, and the agreement as it exists may yet give President Obama the excuse he needs to drop his bombs.

For Black Agenda Report, I'm Bruce Dixon. Find us on the web at www.blackagendareport.com.

Bruce A. Dixon is managing editor at Black Agenda Report. He lives and works in Marietta GA, and is a member of the state committee of the Georgia Green party. Contact him via this site's contact page, or at bruce.dixon(at)blackagendareport.com.

Direct download: 20130918_bd_pretexts_4_war.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 7:37am EDT

The Unspeakable Truth Black No Democrat Can Utter: President Obama Is Lying On Syria

A Black Agenda Radio Commentary by Bruce A. Dixon

From the 1960 clear into the first decade of the new century black Americans were the most politically savvy, the most dependably and wisely skeptical US constituency when it came to our government's bloody lies nd misadventures overseas. Less than 10 percent of us endorsed the invasion of Iraq, but a full 40% of black America are willing to bomb Syria, a full 2% more than the 38% of white Americans who want this war.

The only thing that's changed since Iraq is the party and color of the president. Consumed by cowardice and ambition, most of our black misleadership class of politicians, preachers, TV talking heads and others are perfectly willing to endorse a war in Syria based upon lies even flimsier than those the Bush-Cheney gang used to justify the war in Iraq. After all, the black cruise missile liberals reason, the president is black, and a Democrat, and nobody's ever hurt their career by agreeing with a sitting president.

Even the “peace wing” among black liberals represented by figures like Congresswoman Barbara Lee, who affirms she will vote against Obama's war in Syria if given the chance, or Van Jones, who says he'd do the same if he had a vote pretend to believe every single lie the president and his advisors tell to justify that war.

They never mention the monstrous hypocrisy of US posturing on chemical weapons. They neglect to remind us that every one of the last eleven presidents has lied to get us and keep us into wars around the world which have killed millions. 2 or 3 million in Vietnam alone, another million perished in Iraq and countless more in invasions, bombings, deployments of special forces, mercenaries and drones on 4 continents from Central America to Africa to the Middle East. And they don't tell us that the US and its client states, Saudi Arabia, Israel, Turkey, Jordan the Gulf States are funding and supplying the international mercenaries who make up most of the Syrian “rebels.”

By leaving out this crucial context, our black “peace liberals” make themselves completely unhelpful to, even directly in the way of building any movement principled opposition to wars of empire among black Americans. Their pretense of standing on the shoulders of Dr. King and other fighters for peace and freedom is just as hollow as Obama's was on the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington..

They can't fix their mouths to say that like the last 11 presidents before him, President Obama is lying to justify an unjust war. Among many other falsehoods, there is little or no evidence connecting the use of chemical weapons with the Syrian government. There are even reports that the rebels are or were in possession of chemical weapons and carelessly mishandled them, causing the incident in late August.

If Republicans were in power black “peace liberals” like Van Jones or Barbara Lee, perhaps even black “drone war liberals” like Joy Ann Reed and Melissa Harris-Perry would have little or no trouble calling THEM liars, or reminding us of US hypocrisy on chemical weapons . A warmongering lie should be a warmongering lie, no matter the color or party of the president who tells it, but apparently not for black liberals.

Loyalty and craven deference to the black president on the part of all black liberals is really loyalty to the system that makes their own careers and ambitions possible. It far outweighs their loyalty to the truth, or to the legacy of real truth tellers and movement builders. It means that whatever movement is built to oppose wars of empire among black people and among all Americans will have to be built in spite of, and in opposition to black liberals.

For Black Agenda Report, I'm Bruce Dixon. Find us on the web at www.blackagendareport.com.

Bruce A. Dixon is managing editor at Black Agenda Report and a member of the state committee of the Georgia G)reen Party. He lives and works in Marietta GA and can be reached via this site's contact page, or at bruce.dixon(at)blackagendareport.com.

Direct download: 20130911_black_misleaders_on_syria.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 4:17pm EDT

US, the Biggest User of Chemical Weapons in History Asserts "Right To Protect" Syria

A Black Agenda Radio Commentary by Bruce A. Dixon

Outside the bubble of ignorance and unreality that corporate media and corporate rule impose on the US public, the world is horrified and aghast not at the alleged use of nerve gas against Syrian civilians, but at the notion that the United States claims the right to bomb Syria supposedly to “protect” its people.

From 1961 to 1972 the US military executed the biggest and deadliest chemical warfare operation in history. It was Operation Trail Dust, in which more than 20 million thousands of tons of blended dioxon and other poisons, the most famous known as Agent Orange, were sprayed across 10% of the land area of South Vietnam, along with big tracts of Laos and Cambodia.

The objective was to kill the lush triple canopy jungle in which Vietnamese fighters hid and through which they transported supplies, and to kill the animals & crops of Vietnamese peasants in areas the US and its puppets could not control, driving that population into its cities and so-called “strategic hamlets.” Many of the estimated 2 million wa r Vietnamese dead perished from the short term effects of US chemical warfare, while Vietnamese and other doctors verify that since then an estimated half million have been born with major impairments. To this day the US has never accepted any responsibility for this ghastly and ongoing atrocity.

Even if we stick only to western Asia, the US record on chemical weapons used against civilians is unprecedented.

During the 1980s Iran-Iraq war the Pentagon provided Saddam Hussein with satellite intelligence so he'd know where to fire his nerve gas at Iranian troop concentrations.

In its two Gulf Wars, the US littered Kuwait and Iraq with radioactive depleted uranium munitions which continue to poison countless civilians today. Hospitals in places like Fallujah report skyrocketing numbers of radiation-induced birth defects. And during the Obama administration the US winked at Israel's use of ghastly white phosphorus made in the USA against Palestinian civilians in Gaza.

There are treaties banning chemical weapons, but none of them authorize any nation to launch “preventive” or punitive strikes against those who do. Most Arabs, most of the world knows this history, and so do more than a few Americans, including much of the so-called left.

The foremost practicioner of chemical warfare in human history is about to bomb a country one-fifteenth its size, for its alleged use of chemical weapons. If the Bush-Cheney gang were still in power, we might see Melissa Harris-Perry and Rachel Maddow reminding us of this awful record. But there's a Democrat in the White House, so the hypocrisy detectors have been turned off and the history teachers silenced.

This is what US policy makers mean when they talk about their “right to protect” civilians in other countries.

For Black Agenda Radio I'm Bruce Dixon. Find us on the web at www.blackagendareport.com.

Bruce A. Dixon is managing editor at Black Agenda Report, and a member of the state committee of the GA Green Party. Contact him via this site's contact page, or at bruce.dixon(at)blackagendareport.com.

Direct download: 20130904_bd_chemical_warfare.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 2:07pm EDT

Does President Obama Want To Turn Syria Into Somalia? Maybe.

A Black Agenda Radio Commentary by BAR managing editor Bruce A. Dixon

Presidents say lots of stuff we simply cannot take seriously. Anything about peace, jobs, human rights, or protecting the “middle class,” to name just a few, is pretty much bound to be nonsense and lies. Examples abound. But when presidents tell us up front they intend to break the law they just about always do, so we really should believe them.

President Obama says that although he'll consult with Congress first this time, as president he can and will bomb Syria or anyplace else he likes without the congressional declaration of war that Article 1 Section 8 of the US Constitution requires. In other words, the president, a former constitutional law professor, reserves the “right” to violate the Constitution and wage illegal war at his discretion.

The president's war violates international standards as well. Under international law the only justifiable wars are in response to an attack, or with the authorization of the UN security council. Syria certainly has not attacked the US, and since the White House will not share its supposed “evidence” of Syrian government attacks on civilians with international inspectors hired by the UN, everybody is just supposed to take Uncle Sam's word for it, pretty much like they had to about Saddam's weapons of mass destruction. Look how nicely that turned out. Even the Brits, who've never been squeamish about shooting up and invading other countries, are not with the lawless Obama administration on this one.

Masters of saying one thing and doing another, the president and secretary of state are savvy enough to mumble that “only a political solution, not a military one” will stick in Syria. Although a rain of cruise missiles and drone bombs can kneecap the Syrian armed forces which seem to be holding their own now against US and Saudi-sponsored fighters, it can only make peace talks less likely. And the US really doesn't trust its own Saudi-sponsored thugs to actually run a Syrian government, in the unlikely event the Syrian people would allow it. So what many believe the US prefers, many believe, is a permanent state of low-grade civil war in Syria with neither side winning.

President Obama wants to turn Syria into Somalia where since the US can't install the regime it wants, it has prevented any central government from functioning since the landing of US Marines in a “humanitarian intervention” in the final minutes of the first Bush administration.

For the last 20 years, more than a million Somalis, one out of ten have died of hunger and violence, while US sponsored warlords and US sponsored invading armies from Ethiopia and Kenya have swept across the landscape. There's no Somali government to build schools or hospitals, to hire teachers or doctors, to repair or run electric grids, water works, agricultural or public health programs, so none of these things exist. Somalis civilians are barefoot, sick, hungry and afraid, cowering under a rain of drone bombs. Somalia's only products are refugees and misery, and the country's only industry is its permanent war, an excuse for the US and its client thugs to never leave. Ever. That's what President Obama means by “a political solution.”

For Black Agenda Radio I'm Bruce Dixon. Find us on the web at www.blackagendareport.com.

Bruce A. Dixon is managing editor at Black Agenda Report, and a member of the state committee of the GA Green Party. Contact him via this site's contact page, or at bruce.dixon(at)blackagendareport.com.

Direct download: 20130904_bd_syria-into-somila.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 2:01pm EDT

Obama’s Anti-Black Rant

A Black Agenda Radio commentary by executive editor Glen Ford

Obama puts the onus squarely on Blacks for destroying the promise of racial harmony.”

It was bad enough that a sitting president and key members of his administration occupied positions of prominence, and in fact stole the show, at the anniversary of the March on Washington. But what issued from Barack Obama’s mouth were premeditated insults to Black Americans and their history. To put it bluntly, the First Black President gave a very good standup impression of a racist white man.

Obama chose to expand his remarks beyond the early Sixties period, past the triumphs of the Civil Rights and Voting Rights Acts, to give a mini-lecture on what went wrong, in his estimation, with the Black Freedom Movement. The result was a brief but vicious slew of slurs against African Americans – the kind of slander you expect to hear on FOX News, or from a half-drunk white guy at a country-western bar. According to Obama, Black folks lost their way when “legitimate grievances against police brutality tipped into excuse-making for criminal behavior.” What the hell does that mean? Which particular incidents is he referring to in which Blacks used police brutality to somehow mask criminal activity. If he means the Black Panther Party, which I suspect, then the president should say so, and open up a discussion of who the real criminals and assassins were, in the late Sixties and early Seventies. But, like any cheap white politician, Obama spews a mouthful of bile and then moves on to the next rant.

Obama bemoans that, at some unspecified point in the Black struggle the “transformative message of unity and brotherhood was drowned out by the language of recrimination.” Who was recriminating against whom, Mr. President? Since Obama was lecturing Black people – and we know he never lectures white people – he must have been talking about Black militants of some sort. But he won’t say, preferring to leave his meaning to the audience’s imagination.

Obama blames Black people for messing up his America.”

Then Obama moved in for the big slap-down: “What had once been a call for equality of opportunity,” said Obama, “the chance for all Americans to work hard and get ahead, was too often framed as a mere desire for government support, as if we had no agency in our own liberation, as if poverty was an excuse for not raising your child and the bigotry of others was reason to give up on yourself.”

In that one, long sentence, Obama resurrects Ronald Reagan’s phantom armies of “Welfare Queens”; he appears to be taking a cheap swipe at calls for Black reparations; and he once again joins with his real soul mates on the white Right in blaming Black culture for the disparities in U.S. society. In fact, Obama puts the onus squarely on Blacks for destroying the promise of racial harmony. He says it quite plainly: “All of that history is how progress stalled. That's how hope was diverted. It's how our country remained divided.”

That’s right: Obama blames Black people for messing up his America, which very much resembles Ronald Reagan’s America, a place that was put on the wrong track, as candidate Obama said back in 2008, by “all the excesses of the 1960s and 1970s.“

Barack Obama went to the March on Washington anniversary and spoke like an angry white man. He governs like one, too. Doesn’t that tell you something? For Black Agenda Radio, I’m Glen Ford. On the web, go to BlackAgendaReport.com.

BAR executive editor Glen Ford can be contacted at Glen.Ford@BlackAgendaReport.com.

Direct download: 20130904_gf_ObamaMOW.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 1:47pm EDT