Black Agenda Radio Commentaries
News, analysis and commentary on the human condition from a black left perspective.
The Black Caucus “Left” Wing Crumbles Before Obama’s War Machine

The Black Caucus “Left” Wing Crumbles Before Obama’s War Machine

A Black Agenda Radio commentary by Glen Ford

“Obama was asking for a do-over to fix his previous policies in Syria.”

The ever-shrinking “left” wing of the Congressional Black Caucus crumbled last week, an early casualty of the new phase of President Obama’s three-year war for regime in change in Syria. The Congressional Progressive Caucus, to which 24 of the Black lawmakers belong, also failed to rally against a Democratic president’s war plans.

The lop-sided House vote was not on whether to authorize Obama to launch attacks against targets in Syria; the White House claims the president is acting within his powers as commander-in-chief, and needs no OK from the Congress. Instead, the administration sought a general demonstration of approval for Obama’s scheme to train and arm so-called “moderate” Syrian rebels. A vote on the $500 million price tag comes later, after the November elections.

In essence, Obama was asking for a do-over, to fix his previous policies in Syria. The United States and its Arab, Turkish, European and, reportedly, Israeli allies have, in fact, been arming and training rebels to bring down the government of President Bashar al-Assad since at least 2011. They have failed, despite having spent mountains of money to subsidize a kaleidoscope of armed groups, each vying for Islamic fundamentalist authenticity and the privilege to slaughter Shiites, Christians, secularists, apostate Sunni Muslims and backsliders of all kinds. It also turned out – to the administration’s apparent surprise – that these jihadists don’t see themselves as mere foot soldiers under an American chain of command. In fact, the best fighters think of the United States as the “Great Satan” – an opinion widely shared in that part of the world. With the rise of the head-chopping champions of ISIS, Obama had no choice but to ask Congress to give him another chance to scour the region in search of that most elusive of men, the “moderate” Syrian rebel, and turn him into a killing machine that can defeat both the Syrian government and ISIS.

Blank Check for Expanded War

Back in 2006, after three years of failure in Iraq, George W. Bush agreed to a timetable for withdrawal from that country. He had little choice, because the Congress was in no mood to continue his war. But last week President Obama, by a vote of 273 to 156, was allowed a second throw of the dice in what may turn out to be an even larger war in Syria and Iraq and who knows where else. The reason that Obama’s wars have such longer shelf-life, is that Democrats will not oppose him, including such luminaries of the Caucus left wing as John Conyers and Maxine Waters, who were among the 23 Black members who gave the president a blank check, last week.

Barbara Lee, the California congresswoman who joined 16 other Black lawmakers in opposing Obama’s new-and-improved war in the Middle East, said, on the House floor: “The consequences of this vote, whether it's written in the amendment or not, will be a further expansion of a war currently taking place and our further involvement in a sectarian war.” There is also another consequence: the total discrediting of a majority of the Congressional Black Caucus, who have abandoned the historical Black consensus on social justice and peace.

For Black Agenda Radio, I’m Glen Ford. On the web, go to and sign up for free email notifications of our new issues, each Wednesday.

BAR executive editor Glen Ford can be contacted at

Below is a breakdown of the CBC vote on September 17 on arming and training Syrian rebels.


  • Karen Bass (CA)
  • Joyce Beatty (OH)
  • Sanford Bishop (GA)
  • Corrine Brown (FL)
  • G. K. Butterfield (NC)
  • Andre Carson (IN)
  • William Lacy Clay (MO)
  • James Clyburn (SC)
  • John Conyers, Jr. (MI)
  • Keith Ellison (MN)
  • Chaka Fattah (PA)
  • Al Green (TX)
  • Steven Horsford (NV)
  • Sheila Jackson Lee (TX)
  • Hank Johnson (GA)
  • Gregory Meeks (NY)
  • Cedric Richmond (LA)
  • Robert Scott (VA)
  • David Scott (GA)
  • Terri Sewell (AL)
  • Marc Veasey (TX)
  • Maxine Waters (CA)
  • Frederica Wilson (FL)


  • Yvette Clarke (NY)
  • Emanuel Cleaver (MO)
  • Elijah Cummings (MD)
  • Danny Davis (IL)
  • Donna Edwards (MD)
  • Marcia Fudge (OH)
  • Alcee Hastings (FL)
  • Hakeem Jeffries (NY)
  • Eddie Bernice Johnson (TX)
  • Robin Kelly (IL)
  • Barbara Lee (CA)
  • John Lewis (GA)
  • Gwen Moore (WI)
  • Donald Payne Jr. (NJ)
  • Charles Rangel (NY)
  • Bobby Rush (IL)
  • Bennie Thompson (MS)
Direct download: 20140924_gf_CBCcrumbles.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 8:13am EDT

Who’s Your Daddy, ISIS?

Who’s Your Daddy, ISIS?

by BAR executive editor Glen Ford

“ISIS has many, many fathers, all of whom now deny patrimony.”

Let us be clear, if that is possible, about President Obama’s plan to deal with ISIS, the boogeyman of America’s own making. The president last week swore that he would “degrade and destroy” the Islamic State, after having spent three years providing weapons and money to jihadists fighters, including ISIS, in hopes that they would “degrade and ultimately destroy” the Syrian state of president Bashar Assad. So, the Americans set out to destroy one state, in Syria, whose government had never presented any danger to the U.S., and wind up creating another state, a caliphate astride the borders of Syria and Iraq, that openly declares its intention to do battle with the U.S.

Obama assures us that he is assembling a new coalition of the willing to join him in smashing ISIS. It turns out that every prospective member of the coalition was a co-conspirator with the United States in giving birth to ISIS – Britain and France and other Europeans, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Kuwait, the United Arab Emirates...ISIS has many, many fathers, all of whom now deny patrimony.

Obama appears to be leaving the natural gas-rich nation of Qatar out of his coalition, which doesn’t seem fair, since Qatar was a loyal ally of the United States and NATO just three years ago, when Obama was busy trying to degrade and destroy another state, Libya, which also posed no threat to the U.S. The emir of Qatar worked his gaseous little butt off for Obama, sending money and guns and mercenaries to help the Libyan jihadists that the U.S. wanted to install as the new government.

Once regime change had been accomplished in Libya, Qatar helped the Americans send hundreds of Libyan jihadists to Syria, to put that regime out of business. But, Libya never did get a new state, to replace the one that was destroyed in 2011. Instead, the country is wracked by civil war, that is also a proxy war between Saudi Arabia and its friends and Qatar.

Wars Within Wars Within Regime Changes

It seems that Qatar backed the wrong side – the Muslim Brotherhood – after the regime change in Egypt in 2011. The Saudi Arabian royal family hates the Muslim Brotherhood, because the Brotherhood advocate elections, and kings don’t do elections. So, the Saudis bankrolled another regime change in Egypt, putting the military back in charge, and are now fighting a proxy war with Qatar in Libya. Which is why the Saudis blackballed Qatar from participating in Obama’s coalition of the willing against ISIS. (You do understand all this, right?)

Turkey, which is part of NATO, has been a wonderful father to ISIS, allowing the caliphate’s fighters free use of its long border with Syria and Iraq. In return, Turkey gets to buy the cheap oil from the fields that ISIS seized from Syria and Iraq, which makes the Turks somewhat reluctant to try to kill little baby ISIS.

It’s starting to look like Obama might have to take out the caliphate on his own, which is why the president’s top military advisor is talking about putting serious U.S. boots on the ground in Iraq, and maybe in Syria. Meanwhile, Obama is putting together a new army of rebels to continue the job of degrading and destroying the Syrian state – unless, of course, these new fighters just take the money and guns and join ISIS, too.

For Black Agenda Radio, I’m Glen Ford. On the web, go to, and while you’re there, sign up to get email notifications of new issues of the magazine, each Wednesday.

BAR executive editor Glen Ford can be contacted at
Direct download: 20140917_gf_ISIS_Obama.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 10:36am EDT

Low Voter Turnout Didn't Kill Michael Brown

Low Voter Turnout Didn't Kill Michael Brown

A Black Agenda Radio Commentary by Bruce A. Dixon

It doesn't matter that low voter turnout did not kill Ferguson Missouri's Michael Brown, any more than it killed Trayvon Martin or Troy Davis or even James Byrd back in 1998 Jasper Texas.

What really matters to our black political class is not what we need but what they need. They need their perks, they need their careers, they need to constantly reaffirm and to re-legitimize their privileged status as the imaginary representatives of all the rest of us. Their answers to every question reflect what they need, and not what we need.

South Carolina representative James Clyburn was on CSPAN TV Labor Day sitting alongside establishment historian Peniel Joseph, sagely instructing audiences that while 56% of Ferguson residents turned out to vote in the 2012 presidential elections, less than 10% came out when the local mayor's job was up for grabs. This was Clyburn's and is our black political class's standard explanation for the killing and the circus of official misconduct that followed.

Congressman Clyburn is not stupid, just self-involved and self-interested like the rest of the black political class. He knows that that cities with lots of high ranking black cops and often black mayors, from New Orleans and Atlanta to Philly and Columbia SC, also savagely mistreat African Americans. Clyburn is a man with priorities, and his first priority is his status, not ours. So his answer to everything is simply “vote,” and today's glittering black political class, where he rides near the top, is the end of history, the inevitable fruit of our people's long struggle for justice.

The black establishment figures would all have us believe that low voter turnout killed Michael Brown, rather than the sharp end of a vicious police and prison state that black politicians, black Democrats have partnered with their white colleagues of both parties to build and operate.

Any problems in the lives of African Americans yet unsolved, in their opinion, are because black folks haven't voted long enough, wisely enough or in great enough numbers. For almost a generation, the only cards left in the short deck of our black political class have been appeals to racial solidarity in even numbered years, and the big vote.

Those old enough to recall the 1998 murder of James Byrd by white supremacists in Jasper Texas, who dragged him more than a mile behind a pickup truck will also recall the “nonpartisan” mailing that went out to millions of black households nationwide on the eve of the 1998 election. It was the last two years of the Clinton era, just the last two of the Obama epoch are upon us, and black disappointment had never been heavier. Clinton rode into office with a Democratic majority, promising a peace dividend, some rollback of the drug war and prison state, money for mass transit, housing, and reforms that would allow unions to organize again. Instead he delivered NAFTA, so-called welfare reform, a wave of privatizations, and vast expansions in the numbers of police, prison beds and death penalty offenses.

How did the black political class get out the vote that year? Not with new answers or even new discussions or new demands. Just with pictures. Their nationwide mailer was punctuated with the silhouette of pickup truck dragging a chain.

It's nothing new because our black political class doesn't need anything new. For them, the old stuff is working perfectly well, as long as their own careers keep rolling along.

For Black Agenda Radio, I'm Bruce Dixon. Find us on the web at, and be sure to subscribe to our free weekly emails at That's



Direct download: 20140919_bd_blackpolitical_class.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 12:02pm EDT

Obama and His Head-Chopping Friends

A Black Agenda Radio commentary by executive editor Glen Ford

The Saudi royals are feeling the nearness of cold steel to their own necks.”

President Obama has declared war on ISIS, the renegade jihadists that have turned on their former masters in NATO and the royal courts of Arabia. Nearly four decades ago, the U.S., Saudi Arabia and Pakistan spent billions to create, from scratch, an international jihadist network to torment a leftwing government in Afghanistan. The rag tag feudal Islamist raiders that once delighted in beheading young Afghan leftists who were sent to the countryside to carry out land reform and teach village girls to read, now yearn to detach the skulls of Saudi kings and princes from their obscenely rich bodies, and to methodically drive the western infidels from all Muslim territories. This is, indeed, some deep poetry.

Until the advent of ISIS, Saudi Arabia led the world in executions by beheading, often leaving the decapitated bodies on display in public squares. The Saudis have hired American public relations outfits to plant articles in the U.S. corporate press, disavowing any connection between the royal family and its wayward children in ISIS and other al Qaida off-shoots – while, at the same time, stepping up the pace of their own beheadings. In the New York Times, no less, two front men for the Saudi royal family wrote that the King’s regime is best suited to drive ISIS into oblivion – which is yet more proof that the Saudi royals are feeling the nearness of cold steel to their own necks. The logic of jihad inevitably calls for a caliphate and, for the believer, a caliphate trumps a fat king and his 5,000 corrupt little princes, any day. Emirs in the United Arab Emirates also shake in their well-crafted boots, fearing the wrath of the faithful.

Proxy Wars Within Proxy Wars

The royal Arabian fat cats who, along with the U.S., have funded the proxy war against Syria for the last three years, are now embroiled in a proxy war against each other in both Syria and Libya. The Saudis and Egypt’s military dictator Abdel al-Sisi are arrayed against the Emir of Qatar and aristocrats in Kuwait, who continue to fund the renegade jihadists. The United States has sided with their long term partners, the Saudis – who have more oil – and are pressuring Qatar and Kuwait to stop funding ISIS and its friends.

When the oil-rich monarchies are in disarray and at each other’s throats, Washington also panics. That’s why Obama has seemed so indecisive. His options become fewer and fewer. The U.S. wants to get on with regime change in Syria, but ISIS has even bigger plans for regime change in the Arab world, including lopping off the heads of America’s friends. But, Washington will not give up its dirty war against Syria. Instead, Obama is attempting to merge that war with the fight against ISIS, by somehow making stupid Americans believe that Syrian President Assad is secretly allied with the same jihadists that have been beheading Syrian soldiers and civilians since 2011. It’s a very, very big lie, but Americans are incredibly willing to believe anything, no matter how ridiculous, about Arabs and Black people. And, who best to tell such lies, than the First Black President? Just give Obama George Bush’s script and, somehow, it all sounds...different.

Which is so damn sick, it makes you want to – laugh your head off.

For Black Agenda Radio, I’m Glen Ford. On the web, go to, and sign up for email notifications of our new issues, each Wednesday.

BAR executive editor Glen Ford can be contacted at







Direct download: 20140910_gf_ISIS_WAR.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 6:37am EDT

Round Two: Fast Food Strike for $15 An Hour

Round Two: Fast Food Strike for $15 An Hour

A Black Agenda Radio commentary by executive editor Glen Ford

“The worst-paying job in America is fast food cook.”

Thousands of fast food workers say they’ll go on strike on Thursday, September 4, demanding a $15 an hour wage. The current national minimum wage is $7.25. Organizers say burger and chicken franchises in more than 100 cities will affected by Thursday’s action, which will include sit-downs and other non-violent civil disobedience tactics.

The fast food workers staged a one-day walkout back in May in 150 localities, with varying levels of success. A national conference brought 1,300 worker-activists to Chicago, in July, to gear up for a second round of walkouts. The organizing drive is paid for by the SEIU, the Service Employees International Union – the nation’s second largest and intensely loyal to President Obama.

The fast food workers must be doing something right. They got a kind-of, sort-of endorsement from Barack Obama on Labor Day, when the corporatist president mentioned the fast food workers movement at a speech in Milwaukee. Obama didn’t endorse $15 an hour – he’s called for a $10.10 minimum – but Obama said that if he worked in the food service industry and “wanted an honest day’s pay for an honest days work,” he’d join a union.

Obama ran for the White House the first time around promising he would endorse organized labor’s “card check” bill, which would have made it much easier for workers to join unions. But, once elected, Obama barely gave lip service to the legislation – which died of neglect – and packed his administration with corporate operatives for the next six years.

According to the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics, nine out of ten of the worst paying jobs are in the food services industry, which is disproportionately Black and brown. The worst-paying job in America is fast food cook, averaging $9.07 an hour.

In most states, women make up more than half the workers stuck at minimum wage. Studies show that federal taxpayers spend billions of dollars a year essentially subsidizing the profits of low wage industries through food stamps and other assistance to millions of workers who can’t maintain their families on poverty paychecks and uncertain working hours.

McD’s Can’t Hide Behind Franchisees

McDonald’s, the global granddaddy of low wage burger joints, goes into this second wave of walkouts in a very different legal situation than back in May. The National Labor Relations Board has ruled that McDonald’s can’t hide behind its franchise agreements to claim that the local franchise holders are responsible for wages at its 14,000 restaurants in the United States. The decision makes McDonald’s a much better target for nationwide unionization, presumably by the SEIU.

The fast food industry claims that $15 an hour is unreasonable, but a report by the National Employment Law Project shows that “most large, low-wage employers have already recovered” from the Great Recession.” Their employees, of course, have not.

The SEIU is asking workers in its affiliated home health care unions to protest alongside the fast food workers in six cities, including Seattle, where a grassroots movement led by the Socialist Alternative party won a gradual $15 an hour minimum wage, this year.

For Black Agenda Radio, I’m Glen Ford. On the web, go to, and sign up for email notifications of new issues, each Wednesday.
Direct download: 20140903_gf_FastFoodStrike.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 9:11am EDT