The Audacity of Despair

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(Picture: Daytona Beach News-Journal, reproduced at

“Change will not come if we wait for some other person or some other time” – Barack Obama.

‘U.S. policy is not about one individual, and no matter how much faith people place in President-elect Barack Obama, the policies he enacts will be fruit of a tree with many roots…the best immediate indicator of what an Obama administration might look like can be found in the people he surrounds himself with and who he appoints to his Cabinet. And, frankly, when it comes to foreign policy, it is not looking good. Obama has a momentous opportunity to do what he repeatedly promised over the course of his campaign: bring actual change. But the more we learn about who Obama is considering for top positions in his administration…’ – Jeremy Scahill.

Rahm Emanuel

‘Barack Obama’s first appointment, that of Chicago Congressman Rahm Emanuel as his chief of staff, is quite frankly unsettling and suggests that voters who had hoped for real change in Washington will be disappointed… Though born in Chicago, he was an Israeli citizen through his father until he, according to his own account, renounced his dual citizenship when he turned 18. When the United States went to war with Iraq in 1991 the 31-year-old Emanuel rushed off to join… the Israeli army… Emanuel’s father, an Israeli physician, was a member of the terrorist group Irgun in the 1940s. Irgun was responsible for blowing up the King David Hotel and ethnically cleansing much of Palestine through selective massacres of Arab civilians. In an interview in the Jerusalem Post, Dr. Benjamin Emanuel said he was convinced that his son’s appointment as White House chief of staff would be good for Israel.

“Obviously he will influence the president to be pro-Israel,” he was quoted as saying. “Why wouldn’t he be? What is he, an Arab? He’s not going to clean the floors of the White House.”…Emanuel has always been in favor of the Iraq war, and he supports an aggressive policy toward Iran. In his 2006 book with the pretentious title The Plan: Big Ideas for America he advocates increasing the size of the U.S. Army by 100,000 soldiers and creating a domestic spying organization like Britain’s MI5. More recently, he has supported mandatory paramilitary national service for all Americans between the ages of 18 and 25. Emanuel has always expressed intense hostility toward antiwar Democrats… In late 2005 and early 2006, Emanuel played a key role as chair of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) in lining up candidates to run against the Republicans for congressional seats in November 2006. Out of 22 candidates vetted and supported financially by Emanuel, 20 were pro-war, despite the fact that the Democratic Party base was not. Antiwar candidates were routinely denied funding and support from his DCCC. Only eight of Emanuel’s candidates won, a percentage considerably lower than the success rate for other Democrats, possibly because voters had a hard time embracing their pro-war positions… During the summer of 2008, Emanuel was a key player in the marginalization and humiliation of former president Jimmy Carter, whose book Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid had outraged Israel’s supporters. Carter was not allowed to speak at the Democratic National Convention, an unprecedented snub toward a former president and a further indication, if one was needed, that in American politics it is possible to do or say nearly anything as long as one does not criticize Israel’ – former CIA officer Philip Giraldi, posting on, 18 November 2008.

‘Let me be clear. Israel’s security is sacrosanct. It is non-negotiable…any agreement with the Palestinian people must preserve Israel’s identity as a Jewish state, with secure, recognized and defensible borders. Jerusalem will remain the capital of Israel, and it must remain undivided’ – Barack Obama, speech to the most powerful Israeli lobby group, AIPAC, 4 June 2008.

Robert Gates

‘Press reports say Barack Obama may retain George W. Bush’s Defense Secretary Robert Gates as a gesture to war-time continuity, bipartisanship and respect for the Washington insider community, which has embraced Gates as something of a new Wise Man. However, if Obama does keep Gates on, the new President will be employing someone who embodies many of the worst elements of U.S. national security policy over the past three decades, including responsibility for what Obama himself has fingered as a chief concern, “politicized intelligence”‘ – Journalist/author Robert Parry, Consortium News, 13 November 2008.

‘I have been troubled by…the politicization of intelligence in this administration’ – Barack Obama, Washington Post, 2 March 2008.

‘…the CIA’s “analytical” division maintained a relatively good… reputation for supplying straightforward intelligence to policymakers… that tradition changed in the early 1980s, with Ronald Reagan’s determination to enforce his “Evil Empire” vision of the Soviet Union… To make Reagan’s apocalyptic world view stick, CIA director William J. Casey set out to purge the CIA’s analytical division of those who wouldn’t toe the party line. There was little tolerance for those who saw the Soviet Union as a declining power eager for detente with the West… Casey elevated Robert Gates, one of the hardest of anti-Soviet hardliners, to head the Directorate of Intelligence, the analytical side… With the Gates regime in place, career analysts in sensitive positions soon found themselves the victims of bureaucratic pummelings… The new CIA leadership asserted itself with special verve on sensitive ideological issues… the Reagan administration pressed the CIA to adopt an analysis… pinning European terrorism on the Soviets. The CIA analysts knew that these charges were false, in part because they were based on “black” or false propaganda that the CIA itself had been planting in the European media. But the “politicization” tide was strong. In 1985, Gates closeted a special team to push through another administration-desired paper arguing that the KGB was behind the 1981 wounding of Pope John Paul II. CIA analysts again knew that the charge was bogus – because of penetration of East Bloc intelligence services – but could not stop the paper from leaving CIA and being circulated around Washington’ – Robert Parry, Lost History (1999), pp272-274.

‘The Bush administration has rejected a Russian proposal that both governments agree to drop plans for a missile deployment in eastern Europe…Russia said it would agree to not deploy missiles in Kaliningrad if the US agreed to scrap its plan to place missiles in Poland and a radar site in the Czech Republic. Defense Secretary Robert Gates rejected the move, calling it unacceptable’ – Democracy Now headlines, 14 November 2008.

John Brennan and Jami Miscik

‘John Brennan and Jami Miscik, both former intelligence officials under George Tenet, are leading Barack Obama’s review of intelligence agencies and helping make recommendations to the new administration’ – as reported on Democracy Now, 17 November 2008.

‘John Brennan was deputy executive secretary to George Tenet during the worst violations during the CIA period in the run-up to the Iraq war, so he sat there at Tenet’s knee when they passed judgment on torture and abuse, on extraordinary renditions, on black sites, on secret prisons. He was part of all of that decision making. Jami Miscik was the Deputy Director for Intelligence during the run-up to the Iraq war. So she went along with the phony intelligence estimate of October 2002, the phony white paper that was prepared by Paul Pillar in October 2002. She helped with the drafting of the speech that Colin Powell gave to the United Nations 2003, which made the phony case for war to the international community. So, when George Tenet said, “slam dunk, we can provide all the intelligence you need,” to the President in December of 2002, it was people like Jami Miscik and John Brennan who were part of the team who provided that phony intelligence. So what I think people at the CIA are worried about–and I’ve talked to many of them over the weekend–is that there will never be any accountability for these violations and some of the unconscionable acts committed at the CIA, which essentially amount to war crimes, when you’re talking about torture and abuse and secret prisons. So, where are we, in terms of change? This sounds like more continuity… for Obama to… put Jami Miscik back in the CIA in transition and Brennan in the transition process, and then you look at people such as the former deputy to Tenet, John McLaughlin, who is also an intelligence adviser, and Rob Richer, who was a key operations adviser, who was the deputy to Jose Rodriguez, who is now being investigated by the Justice Department for the illegal destruction of the torture tapes, you know, you have to wonder, who is Obama relying on for advice on the Washington community? He’s only been in Washington, we know, for two years, and obviously there are things he needs to know about national security, the CIA and the intelligence community. And obviously, he’s listening to the wrong people’ – former CIA and State Department analyst Melvin Goodman, speaking on Democracy Now, 17 November 2008.

The War Party

‘”Twenty-three senators and 133 House members who voted against the war — and countless other notable individuals who spoke out against it and the dubious claims leading to war — are apparently not even being considered for these crucial positions,” observes Sam Husseini of the Institute for Public Accuracy. This includes dozens of former military and intelligence officials who spoke out forcefully against the war and continue to oppose militaristic policy, as well as credible national security experts who have articulated their visions for a foreign policy based on justice’ – Journalist/author Jeremy Scahill, posting on AlterNet, 20 November 2008.

‘…you have over 120 members of the House of Representatives who had the foresight to actually vote against the war, and you had twenty-three US senators who voted against the war. And you have Russ Feingold, who voted against the USA PATRIOT Act. And you have former CIA analysts, like Mel Goodman and Ray McGovern, who should be consulted and asked who they think should be running Central Intelligence and be the director of National Intelligence’ – Jeremy Scahill debating on Democracy Now, 20 November 2008.

‘We could all make lists of people that we might have chosen for secretary of state, defense, attorney general, homeland security, intelligence, and national security adviser. (True, not all of Obama’s appointments are certain, yet, but the writing is on the wall.) It’s now likely that not one of those posts will be filled with someone who either voted against the war in Iraq as a member of Congress or who, from outside Congress, vocally opposed the war. Not one. What about Russ Feingold, Barbara Boxer, Chris Dodd, Sherrod Brown, and Jim Webb from the Senate? Where is John Kerry? What about Gary Hart and Al Gore? What about any one of a dozen or more prominent members of the antiwar and progressive caucuses in the House of Representatives, such as Lynn Woolsey, Jim McDermott, or Jim McGovern? What about the generals who, unlike General James E. Jones, didn’t campaign with McCain and who spoke out against the war? What about the many prominent experts on disarmament and nonproliferation, like Lt. General Robert Gard, Gen. Joseph P. Hoar, and Peter Galbraith, all of whom serve on the board of directors of the Center for Arms Control? Or Joseph Cirincione of the Ploughshares Fund, a leading arms control expert? Well, you get the idea.Here’s the likely lineup so far: Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, and National Security Adviser James E. Jones. For director of national intelligence, Dennis C. Blair, a retired admiral tangled up in the military-industrial complex?’ – Author Robert Dreyfuss, The Nation, 23 November 2008.

The Audacity of Despair

‘Do we participate in a politics of cynicism or a politics of hope?’ – Barack Obama.

‘Associate with men of good quality if you esteem your own reputation; for it is better to be alone than in bad company’ – George Washington.

Barry Kavanagh writes fiction, and has made music, formerly with Dacianos and presently with the forthcoming "voodoo project".

Contact him here.


  1. You laid it our very clearly. I never thought that reading David Duke would ever make sense to me, but after Barack has been such a coward in his decision making process – you have to wonder.
    Maybe he has no control over foreign policy selection.

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