Editor’s Page

Why Americans Should Vote for Barack Obama

Having lived most of my adult life outside the United States, I may be more sensitive to the issues facing my native country than citizens who reside in the “homeland” – to use a Bush-speak expression. I feel more intensely the admiration which has morphed into contempt for the United States in the rest of the world. After World War II and the subsequent Marshall Plan, which put a decimated Europe on its feet again, when admiration was at its zenith, came the Korean War, the motives for which were at best dubious: to contain Communism. But it was at least a United Nations sanctioned affair…and ended in a stalemate. Europe still felt threatened by the Soviet Union and America was the shield. I was in the U.S. Army in Germany then and never felt a whiff of anti-Americanism. That came later – a deluge.

Vietnam changed everything. It was a senseless bloodbath, saving the world from Communism again and – now hear this and let it sink in – the United States lost that war and the Vietnamese won it and the world is not communist! One must emphasize that, because many Americans don’t realize it or don’t want to hear it. We had Richard Nixon then, a liar whose only skill was being able to comfortably wrap himself in the flag, which seemed to excuse every crime. The Vietnam War was a horror (Oh, the horror!), but it was also the prelude to Iraq. But Nixon was a patriot. And John McCain is a patriot. As a senator he voted for the war. And why not? It’s every patriot’s duty to put country first – right or wrong. And after thousands of American deaths and maiming, and tens of thousands of Iraqi deaths and maimings, he still votes for war. His objective is to win – yes, to win the unwinnable. You see, he also knows how to wrap himself in the flag.

 “Patriotism is the last refuge of a scoundrel”, Samuel  Johnson wrote. He goes on:
"A man sometimes starts up a patriot, only by disseminating discontent, and propagating reports of secret influence, of dangerous counsels, of violated rights, and encroaching usurpation. This practice is no certain note of patriotism. To instigate the populace with rage beyond the provocation, is to suspend publick happiness, if not to destroy it. He is no lover of his country, that unnecessarily disturbs its peace. Few errours and few faults of government, can justify an appeal to the rabble; who ought not to judge of what they cannot understand, and whose opinions are not propagated by reason, but caught by contagion."

That was the eighteenth century, but little has changed. The “rabble” is still convinced that the United Sates is the greatest country in the world where every citizen has the right to “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness”. Why do they think this? They apparently believe that the U.S. is more democratic than Switzerland or Sweden. They are mistaken. Or that their living standard is higher than Japan’s or Germany’s. They are mistaken. Perhaps they think their educational system is superior to Zimbabwe’s. They are right.

They believe that the United States is the greatest country in the world because John McCain and Carl Rove and the Republican patriots tell them so. And if we are the greatest, we must tell the rest, scream it to the winds like Muhammad Ali, and the rest must do as we say. If they ain’t with us, they’re against us.

The U.S. economy is close to shambles. How can it be otherwise if the government squanders a billion dollars a month (or is it a week?) in Iraq? And now they want to give a billion to Georgia (not Georgia, USA, who could well use it) but to the U.S. puppet country bordering on Russia which happens to have an oil pipeline running through it, money which will probably be used to build up its military and further antagonize Russia. The only beneficiaries are the armament industry and the military.

McCain’s principal claim to his capacity to be president is that he was a prisoner of war in Vietnam for five years. Before being shot down he was a pilot bombing the country mercilessly from an aircraft carrier. Son of an admiral who was the son of an admiral, he is very close to the military. The first person he would go to for advice as president is, in his own words, General Petraeus. I have nothing against Petraeus who after all is only doing his job. But I cringe at the idea of a president who defers to an army general. Hasn’t the military of all nations caused enough mischief in the world?

Until now I have only expounded on why not to vote for John McCain and haven’t said anything about Barack Obama, why to vote for him instead. It’s almost enough to vote for him in order to avoid McCain. But not quite. First of all, he is not a patriot in the McCainian sense. He wants to talk, a.k.a diplomacy, instead of blindly bombing everything in sight. He recognized the war in Iraq as a catastrophic folly from the beginning. He knows that 9/11 was a guerrilla-like undertaking carried out by a few well organized fanatic individuals and that intelligent tactics should have been used as remedy instead of inventing a villain (Saddam Hussein) with a view to taking over Iraq’s oil riches at a bargain price: merely blood and lives.

He realizes that global warming is a real threat to the world as well as the U.S. and wants to combat it by restrictions on polluting industry and the development of alternative energy sources. McCain wants to drill for more oil in the U.S. (offshore) and has even taken the cynical step of inviting the pretty governor of Alaska as window dressing, a charismatic evangelist who wants to drill in the protected Arctic National wildlife Refuge - and wants to get rid of the protected polar bears to do it.

Obama will reverse the Bush tax cuts for the rich and transfer them to the middle class and the poor and the retired. McCain lies about this when he claims that “Obama will raise your taxes”. The worst kind of liar is the one who lies when he knows that you know he’s lying. Yes, I know: “..but McCain is an honorable man.” Why? Because he was a prisoner of war and he will continue the Bush patriotic parade to disaster thereby instilling hate for America in countless more potential terrorists. Need I point out that Senator McCain is 72 years old and a recovered cancer patient? I don't mean that he shouldn't run for president because of that. But his back-up should be more qualified for the job than a lipsticked pistol packin' mama.

The stickiest contention is abortion rights. Obama was asked in an interview when a human fetus has the right to legal protection. He answered that it’s beyond his pay grade – a clumsy but honest answer. McCain, when asked the same question, said “at conception”. In other words, McCain would make abortion a crime. The sticky part of the question, however, is the extent of the woman’s right to determine what happens in her own body. No one is in favor of abortion, but laws won’t prevent them. If they are illegal they will be performed anyway. If the woman has the resources she will go to another country for the operation. If she is poor she will go to a quack or to unscrupulous doctors – who may not even be doctors – thereby putting herself at serious risk, as is now the case in Catholic dogma dominated countries. Obama’s suggestion of trying to prevent the need for abortions is at least the more sustainable.   

Back to the world at large. If the world could vote for the U.S. president, Obama would win by a landslide. He is seen as the promoter of change, of changing America from wildwest bully warmonger to peacemaker. But the world can’t vote. So wake up, America, and vote with your intelligence, your heart and your independent will. Only you can.   

Frank Thomas Smith