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Obama, Bradley Manning, and the Politics of Gay Marriage

Some time ago, I had intended to write a piece examining Barack Obama’s switch on gay marriage, and the way in which that produced a huge surge in campaign contributions. I was interested in considering how that particular issue edged out many other contemporaneous matters in discussions of Obama, and how it affected the way people felt about him. Since I never did get around to it, I was intrigued to run across this essay on the same topic from the Australian journalist John Pilger.

Here it is, in full. Your comments are encouraged.

Never forget that Bradley Manning, not gay marriage, is the issue
By John Pilger
16 May 2012

In the week Barack Obama received the Nobel Peace Prize in 2009, he ordered bombing attacks on Yemen, killing a reported 63 people, 28 of them children. When Obama recently announced he supported same-sex marriage, American planes had not long blown 14 Afghan civilians to bits. In both cases, the mass murder was barely news. What mattered were the cynical vacuities of a political celebrity, the product of a zeitgeist driven by the forces of consumerism and the media with the aim of diverting the struggle for social and economic justice.

The award of the Nobel Prize to the first black president because he “offered hope” was both absurd and an authentic expression of the lifestyle liberalism that controls much of political debate in the west. Same-sex marriage is one such distraction. No “issue” diverts attention as successfully as this: not the free vote in Parliament on lowering the age of gay consent promoted by the noted libertarian and war criminal Tony Blair: not the cracks in “glass ceilings” that contribute nothing to women’s liberation and merely amplify the demands of bourgeois privilege.

Legal obstacles should not prevent people marrying each other, regardless of gender. But this is a civil and private matter; bourgeois acceptability is not yet a human right. The rights historically associated with marriage are those of property: capitalism itself. Elevating the “right” of marriage above the right to life and real justice is as profane as seeking allies among those who deny life and justice to so many, from Afghanistan to Palestine.

On 9 May, hours before his Damascene declaration on same-sex marriage, Obama sent out messages to campaign donors making his new position clear. He asked for money. In response, according to the Washington Post, his campaign received a “massive surge of contributions”. The following evening, with the news now dominated by his “conversion”, he attended a fundraising party at the Los Angeles home of the actor George Clooney. “Hollywood,” reported the Associated Press, “is home to some of the most high-profile backers of gay marriage, and the 150 donors who are paying $40,000 to attend Clooney’s dinner will no doubt feel invigorated by Obama’s watershed announcement the day before.” The Clooney party is expected to raise a record $15 million for Obama’s re-election and will be followed by “yet another fundraiser in New York sponsored by gay and Latino Obama supporters”.

The width of a cigarette paper separates the Democratic and Republican parties on economic and foreign policies. Both represent the super rich and the impoverishment of a nation from which trillions of tax dollars have been transferred to a permanent war industry and banks that are little more than criminal enterprises. Obama is as reactionary and violent as George W. Bush, and in some ways he is worse. His personal speciality is the use of Hellfire missile-armed drones against defenceless people. Under cover of a partial withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan, he has sent US special forces to 120 countries where death squads are trained. He has revived the old cold war on two fronts: against China in Asia and with a “shield” of missiles aimed at Russia. The first black president has presided over the incarceration and surveillance of greater numbers of black people than were enslaved in 1850. He has prosecuted more whistleblowers – truth-tellers – than any of his predecessors. His vice-president, Joe Biden, a zealous warmonger, has called WikiLeaks editor Julian Assange a “hi-tech terrorist”. Biden has also converted to the cause of gay marriage.

One of America’s true heroes is the gay soldier Bradley Manning, the whistleblower alleged to have provided WikiLeaks with the epic evidence of American carnage in Iraq and Afghanistan. It was the Obama administration that smeared his homosexuality as weird, and it was Obama himself who declared a man convicted of no crime to be guilty.

Who among the fawners and luvvies at Clooney’s Hollywood moneyfest shouted, “Remember Bradley Manning”? To my knowledge, no prominent spokesperson for gay rights has spoken against Obama’s and Biden’s hypocrisy in claiming to support same-sex marriage while terrorising a gay man whose courage should be an inspiration to all, regardless of sexual preference.

Obama’s historic achievement as president of the United States has been to silence the anti-war and social justice movement associated with the Democratic Party. Such deference to an extremism disguised by and embodied in a clever, amoral operator, betrays the rich tradition of popular protest in the US. Perhaps the Occupy movement is said to be in this tradition; perhaps not.

The truth is that what matters to those who aspire to control our lives is not skin pigment or gender, or whether or not we are gay, but the class we serve. The goals are to ensure that we look inward on ourselves, not outward to others and never comprehend the sheer scale of undemocratic power, and to that we collaborate in isolating those who resist. This attrition of criminalising, brutalising and banning protest can too easily turn western democracies into states of fear.
On 12 May, in Sydney, Australia, home of the Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras, a protest parade in support of gay marriage filled the city centre. The police looked on benignly. It was a showcase of liberalism. Three days later, there was to be a march to commemorate the Nakba (“The Catastrophe’), the day of mourning when Israel expelled Palestinians from their land. A police ban had to be overturned by the Supreme Court.

That is why the people of Greece ought to be our inspiration. By their own painful experience they know their freedom can only be regained by standing up to the German Central Bank, the International Monetary Fund and their own quislings in Athens. People across Latin America have achieved this: the indignados of Bolivia who saw off the water privateers and the Argentinians who told the IMF what to do with their debt. The courage of disobedience was their weapon. Remember Bradley Manning.

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GRAPHIC: http://i.huffpost.com/gen/604106/thumbs/o-NEWSWEEK-OBAMA-GAY-MARRIAGE-COVER-570.jpg?4


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  • Jacksteinbeck

    One hell of a fantastic article.   

  • rws450

    Excellent antidoe to drivel such as Tony Kushner on Democracy Now saying Joe Biden (the guy who chaired the Senate sham hearing for the Iraq Invasion):
    “He’s a wonderful guy and great politician.”

    http://www.democracynow.org/2012/5/10/playwright_tony_kushner_hails_obamas_support

  • leftheaded

    Having moved in the last year to New Zealand, I have grown to understand that this is the sentiment of most Kiwis. They , in general, wonder what on earth the Americans don’t understand about their own country and laugh at the idea of Palin or Gingrich or whomever. They also understand that Obama is just the new Bush and cite unending wars as their primary examples. I felt this way before I left, which is part of the reason I moved my family here. It’s nice to be around like-minded people for a change–ones that don’t look at me sideways when I speak ideas like these.

  • Brianmpa

    John Pilger’s insightful [and perhaps obvious] statement ” The truth is that what matters to those who aspire to control our lives
    is not skin pigment or gender, or whether or not we are gay, but the
    class we serve.” highlights the bare truth we face in the United States and elsewhere.  It’s the “divide and conquer’ strategy used by powerful elites everywhere, and especially in the U.S.  Wedge issues have been used from colonial days to the present whether black vs. white, settled immigrants vs. undocumented immigrants, or gay vs. straight, etc.  The wedge issues change but the powerful elite classes remain in power and thus control our so-called democracy.  The absolute corruption, criminal behavior, arrogance, and greed have always been the hallmark of the elite classes, but today, thanks to Russ Baker, and other fearless reporters, slowly we are appreciating the callous disregard the elite classes have for the welfare of all of us.   When will we Americans rise up as our counterparts have in S. America, Greece, and Canada and try to make our country a democracy again?  

  • jimmmmmy

    Top notch article . Sure to send some Obamacrats into a tizzy. You’re tarnishing a legend in progress . The difference between Bush and Obama is competence ,that is what makes Obamas’ killings looks so ruthless . 

  • gogetem1

    “Obama’s historic achievement as president of the United States has been to silence the anti-war and social justice movement associated with the Democratic Party.” 

    For me this is the most important quote in the essay.

    • Dan Garden

       Well, credit to those who earn it – Barry did not do this alone. He’s simply dancin’ with them what brung ‘im (as LBJ used to say) So let’s hear it for operations! Sieg Heil! Standing in line to pony up my taxes I might have heard somebody say…
      “Does anybody suspect that the non-stick skin of our intrepid leader is
      non-stick because decent whites are afraid of being seen as racist and
      everybody else is just so very proud that the fella’s got the job instead of “dim sun”. Does anybody smell crow? jim crow?
      If so, well, that’d be a fine example of divide and conquer through
      emotional wedge issues…in fact it might be the ideal “issue”, eh? But they say that the good ol’ Mitster’s gunna bring along that gal, whatis – Candy? No, Condi. Now there’s a con job!
      Professor McGargle’d be so proud of the way these fine folks play the
      old army game… Still, there’s always the mark inside, the one that you
      can’t beat…

      Peace

    • RW Spisak

      NOT ALL OF US… Many progressive activists have rejected the blandishments of this dubious BUSHIII. Whistleblowers beware, torturers and polluters, come on ahead.
      Not just abandonment of Habeas Corpus, but he claims the right to interpret Due Process as something that happens between his ear. Support Assauge, Support Manning!
      Oppose Perma-War

      solidarity & peace
      Rick@AveryVoice.com

  • LSJohn

    Almost exactly what I was going to say. “Almost” because I was going to suggest that changing “social justice” to “civil liberties” would make it even better.

  • Grumpusrex

    The reasoning of Mr. Pilger , along with his amusing ideological flourishes (using phrases like “bourgeois acceptability” instills such credibility, right), and the ease with which it is accepted by the majority of commentators here, is truly exemplary of the triumph of propaganda.

    To argue that there is no difference between the Democratic and Republican parties is completely a-historical. One party was involved with an attempted coup against Franklin D. Roosevelt. One party was intricately connected to the events around the assassination of John F. Kennedy, Robert Kennedy and Martin Luther King Jr.. One party was behind the Iranian hostage crisis. One party brought us Iran/Contra. One party in connected the players and movers that brought us 911.  That one party is the Republican party. 
     In the meantime, amongst unrelenting Republican opposition, it is the Democratic Party that has managed to deliver to us what little safety-net and equality we do enjoy.  

    To equate Obama’s lethal policies in confronting al-Qaeda and its allies across the globe with George W. Bush’s ruinous string of debacles (Iraq—the death trap, torture, etc.) betrays a terrible ignorance, one that if broadly accepted, forecasts harder times to come for this country. 

    Name a nation-state on Earth that doesn’t kill in defense of its interests? And yet you indulge in self-rightios condemnation of this President, as if he, by himself invented fourth generation warfare. 

    And as for Bradley Manning, he’s no martyr. There is a difference between being a whistle blower and randomly  dumping thousands of classified documents, which is what he did. 

  • Lisa Moscatiello

     I didn’t think I
    cared about gay marriage until I read this article with its dismissive
    references to “bourgeois acceptability” and property rights. Marriage can mean
    the difference between life and death, particularly when it comes to medical
    care and extending health insurance to one’s partner. It also plays a major
    role in immigration status. Nothing about a gay relationship can help you if
    your partner happens to be a citizen of a different country when his or her
    visa expires. If you have kids with your partner, should you break up ,you
    have absolutely no right to any contact with children that you may have helped
    to raise.

     

     Is it possible to
    give the president some credit for the things that he gets right and that make
    some of our lives better, while also exposing his administration’s roll back of
    civil liberties, and his war-making in Afghanistan, Pakistan and elsewhere (as
    promised, by the way, in his campaign, if anyone was paying attention). Is it
    possible to object to his foreign policy without declaring him “amoral”?

     

    If he is amoral, than so is every other Democratic
    president: so is Bill Clinton, who presided over a policy of starving the Iraqi
    people; so was JFK, who engaged in covert operations and assassination attempts
    against other heads of state and escalated our involvement in Vietnam; so was
    Jimmy Carter, who supported Mohammed Reza Pahlavi’s reign of terror in Iran; so
    was LBJ, who used a false flag operation as an excuse to drop napalm on Vietnam,
    and certainly so was Harry Truman for nuking two cities in Japan.

     

    When Kennedy was running for president, he made a phone call
    to Coretta Scott King after Martin Luther King, Jr. was jailed in Birmingham.
    It may seem surprising that the black community “bought” such a politically
    calculated move and helped vote Kennedy into office. But gestures mean a lot,
    especially when you are a member of a despised minority group. Unfortunately,
    if those black voters had hoped that JFK’s presidency would mark the end of
    segregation in the U.S., they were to be sorely disappointed. It would take the
    baby-killing Lyndon Johnson to sign those laws.

     

    It would have been so easy for Obama to wave off Biden’s
    remarks and let them pass. Gays and lesbians would still have voted for him,
    because we are one group for whom another Republican president in office will
    be a disaster. John Pilger won’t have to worry about the rise of the lavender
    bourgeoisie with a president whose church bankrolled the Prop 8 campaign in
    California. I fear that the piling-on-Obama may lead another decade of
    disrespect like the ones that Reagan and GW Bush brought us.

     
     

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