The worst possible same-old-same-old

Barack Obama is asking us to accept even wider and more costly wars than those that preceded them, wars that did not work. It’s not too late to stop the rush to another war in the Middle East.

PUTNEY — After Barack Obama was elected president in 2008, the late Juanita Nelson - a Black resident of Greenfield and a long-time tax resister, civil rights and anti-war activist who passed away on March 9 - told a reporter that she had not voted for Obama because he would be “presiding over something that's the same old, same old.”

As a civil rights worker in the early 1960s, I had tears in my eyes when the Obama family walked on the stage after his first victory to the applause of the huge crowd in Chicago.

But my tears were from the happiness that we had at last broken down another racial barrier. I also did not vote for Obama; like Juanita Nelson, I also saw him as more of the “same old.”

The worst possible “same old” was presented on Feb. 11 by the president as a request to Congress for a declaration of war.

If passed, this would be the first such War Act since the United States declared war against the Axis powers in 1941. Over the last 117 years, only the two World Wars had congressional declarations.

So why is Obama, “the peace president,” sending this proposal to Congress - a request that would authorize vague and seemingly open-ended ground, air, and naval actions?

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The purpose, of course, would be to destroy ISIS. I believe almost all of us see this extremist movement as one that has caused great loss of life, one that has subjugated women to the lowest possible existence, and one that has attempted to destroy all culture it finds abhorrent.

But where did ISIS come from?

At first, U.S. officials stated that the group had not even been on their radar. But, in truth, the organization was only too obvious in its many forms, developing as the United States practiced endless warfare against Middle Eastern, North African, and Afghan peoples.

And, as we now know, that warfare was unsuccessful.

Unsuccessful, because the wars only created, Medusa-like, more and more fighters were willing to challenge what they saw as an imperialist and anti-Islamic New Crusade.

Unsuccessful, because otherwise there would not be yet another proposal for a This-Time-We'll-Really-Get-Them Bigger One.

These wars have not worked, unless the plan is to kill lots of people, destroy whole environments, and make lots and lots of money for those who supply the obscenely huge appetites of the war machine.

Yet Barack Obama is asking us to accept even wider and more costly wars than those that preceded them.

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We cannot sit back and hope that somehow this plan will work out for the best, that this president knows best because he's a liberal and a nice guy with a nice family, that he has more information than we do so the experts should handle it, or not doing so would somehow sully the feel-good atmosphere that race doesn't matter anymore when it comes to electing our officials.

Having protested and marched against war for 50 years, I have noticed that most anti-war protesters are liberal Democrats. But there has been a discomforting development in the past few decades as to how these Democrats react to American wars: lay low if a Democrat orders a war, but get out on the street and chant as loud as you can if it's a Republican.

As an example, Clinton's war on Yugoslavia drew fewer than 10 people per protest when I lived in New Orleans, but Bush's war put thousands on the streets.

This is a two-faced reaction that we have to ditch in confronting the reality of the almost-apocalyptic onslaught that the new wider war will be.

We must realize a fuller moral humanness.

We would do well to follow some other words of wisdom from Juanita Nelson: “Your life is your action.”

So, in the spirit of Juanita, at this crucial moment in our nation's history, it's time once again to have the courage to step forward and attempt to stop this madness with grassroots political actions, protests, discussions, education and with a reexamination of our nation's direction.

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