How Washington's Political Culture Turned a Community Organizer Into a Deadly Drone Killer President
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Dreaming Before It’s Too Late
Of course, I’ve never gotten nearer to the Oval Office than Pennsylvania Avenue, so what do I know about how it's like there? Still, I’m older than you and I do know how repetitive acts rigidify, how one possible way morphs into the only way, how one limited system of living comes to seem like the only option on Earth. It happens with age. It also happens in Washington.
The other day, I noted this little passage in a New York Times report on the discovery of huge quantities of ice on Mercury: “Sean C. Solomon, the principal investigator for [the spacecraft] Messenger, said there was enough ice there to encase Washington, D.C., in a frozen block two and a half miles deep.” I couldn’t help smiling. After all, the Washington I read about already seems enclosed in a block of ice, which is why, when it comes to the world, it so seldom thinks a new thought or acts in a new way.
If only you could reverse time and take a step back into the world of the community organizer. After all, what does such an organizer do, if not try to free people from the rigidities of their lives, the boxes they can’t think outside of, the blocks of ice they’re encased in, the acts that have come to dominate them and regularly wipe out any sense of alternative possibilities? What’s the point of community organizing if not to allow people to begin to imagine other ways of being and becoming?
Maybe you don’t even realize how you’ve been boxed into, and boxed yourself into, the codifications from hell, almost all based on our militarizing way of life. Outside that box where the bureaucratized killing takes place, where the “wars” are fought, and the battle plans are endlessly recalibrated in ways too familiar to matter, outside the airless world of the National Security Complex where one destructive set of ways has become the only way, there surely are other possibilities that could result in other kinds of worlds. After all, just because you’re trapped in a box doesn’t mean that the world is. Look at the Middle East. For better or worse, it visibly isn’t.
Back in 2009 when you first took office, I wrote a speech for you. In it, “you” told the American people that you were “ending, not expanding, two wars.” I knew that you would never give such a speech (no less read mine), but I did believe that, despite the “wisdom” of Washington, you could indeed have put both of Bush’s wars -- Iraq and Afghanistan -- behind you. We’ll never know, of course. You chose another path, a “surge” of 30,000 troops, CIA operatives, special forces operators, private contractors, and State Department types that led to yet more disastrous years in Afghanistan.
Unfortunately, the ghostly what-ifs of history count for nothing. Still, haven’t you ever wondered whether something else wasn't possible? Whether, for instance, sending bombs and missiles into poverty-stricken, essentially energy-less, essentially foodless Yemen was really and truly the way to world peace?
My apologies! I let sarcasm get the better of me. How about: really and truly the way to enhance U.S. national security? Honestly, Yemen? Most Americans couldn’t find it on the map to win the lottery, and according to reports, American drone and air strikes have actually increased membership in al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula. And yet you won’t stop. You probably can’t.
Similarly, don’t you ever wonder whether a “pivot” to Asia, mainly involving military power and guaranteed to exacerbate regional relations in the Pacific is the best way to deal with the rising power of China? After all, what would it mean to go to war with the country which now holds well more than $1 trillion in U.S. debt? Wouldn’t it be like shooting ourselves in the foot, if not the head?