Scoop Election 08: edited by Gordon Campbell

Tim Groser’s battle with the Wall Street Journal, and the Obama Peace Prize

October 12th, 2009

Ouch. The main media byproduct of the recent Tim Groser march on Washington seems to have been this nasty editorial in the Wall Street Journal attacking New Zealand over its recent decisions on trade. A free trade fumble, the WSJ headline concluded, as it proceeded to slam our recent decision to retain import tariffs at their current five and ten per cent levels. Clearly, the WSJ didn’t buy Groser’s spin that by NOT taking off tariffs, we would eventually be helping the cause of the Doha Round.

Normally, getting slammed by the Wall Street Journal for not doing more to lay ourselves wide open to globalisation should be worn as a badge of honour. The Key government though, is usually keen to tout any favourable comment it receives in the American press as a sign of how splendidly it is doing. So the fact that one of Groser’s ’s main achievements in Washington seems to have been to generate an own goal in the Bible of Commerce is noteworthy and – you might have thought – newsworthy as well. After all, the NZ Herald’s Fran O’Sullivan had devoted much back-patting column space last month to the ‘news’ that something called the Washington Trade Daily regarded Groser as being an ‘honest broker’ capable of getting the Doha Round back on the rails.

This negative editorial in the WSJ is more significant. Arguably, the WSJ piece would have done more to affect New Zealand in its eternal quest for a free trade deal with the US than anything contained in the Washington Trade Daily – and it would certainly have cancelled out any imaginary upside from Prime Minister John Key’s goofy appearance on David Letterman.

OK, so what did the WSJ piece actually say ? For starters it found that the government’s tariff actions contradict its avowed stance on free trade.

“ Wellington’s recent move to forego further free trade for now—in the name of freer trade, no less—is puzzling… It’s a backstep for Mr. Key’s right-of-center National party, which had pledged the last time it controlled government in 1997 to eliminate tariffs by 2010. Mr. Key could have cut tariffs had he wanted to. Free trade is a surprisingly bipartisan issue in New Zealand, with both parties boasting tariff-cutting records. Despite the political pressures of a recession, there was no protectionist outcry against further tariff cuts.

So why did the government do it, the WSJ muses. It runs a skeptical eye over the government’s logic that keeping the tariffs in reserve as bargaining chips in bilateral agreements somehow advances the cause of free trade, globally.

Bilateral trade pacts have their uses. They can cement alliances, such as the U.S. deals with South Korea and Colombia that are languishing in Congress. And they can be a way to open trade when better options aren’t politically feasible. But economically they’re not as beneficial as unilateral opening and multilateral deals like the Doha round.

The WSJ isn’t exactly distraught about our sin against free trade dogma. “Mr. Key’s failure to cut tariffs isn’t the biggest challenge to free trade the world is facing right now…But it’s a disappointing fumble nonetheless.” Very disappointing for Groser too, one imagines, to open up that newspaper during his big week in Washington.

Footnote: can the Tim Groser who now champions the wisdom of holding onto tariffs as bargaining chips in New Zealand’s free trade negotiations really be the same tactical genius who – in his role as New Zealand’s chief trade negotiator in Geneva – gave away almost all of New Zealand’s bargaining chips during the Uruguay Round in the 1990s?

If it is the same person, when did Groser have his Damascus moment of enlightenment – and does he now concede that free trade only works to New Zealand’s benefit if and when our main trading partners disarm their protectionist measures at the same rate and manner that we are doing it ?


The Obama Peace Prize

Any peace prize handed out by the inventors of dynamite should be treated with some ambivalence… just to be sure we’re not talking about the peace of the grave. Personally, I don’t have too much of a problem with Barack Obama getting the Nobel Peace Prize. Several times in the past, the Nobel Committee has made it pretty obvious that it is taking a punt on peace, rather than rewarding the noble for a lifetime of effort and achievement.

The Nobel Peace Prize, in other words, can be aspirational. And not surprisingly, when it is taking a punt of this sort, the Nobel Committee sometimes gets it wrong – Ariel Sharon, Yasser Arafat and Henry Kissinger for instance, are not generally remembered as the leading peace-makers of our time, despite having Nobel Peace Prizes on their shelves.

Interestingly though, the Nobel Committee did go out of its way this time to emphasise that it WAS giving Obama the prize for his deeds, and not for his potential. Obviously, they don’t want to look like a pack of Obama fanboys. Over at Nate Silver’s 538 website, columnist Renard Sextion does a reasonable job of summarising Obama’s credentials – which, in the eyes of the Nobel Committee at least, seem to hinge on his track record on nuclear non-proliferation and climate change.

The justification for the prize, while certainly unexpected and a bit tenuous, is indeed rooted in fact. Obama has long been a booster for non-proliferation, and his speech and lobbying at the UN General Assembly and Security Council proved to be quite successful.

On climate change, the Obama administration has taken the toughest line against carbon emissions of any White House so far in terms of concrete regulations by Federal agencies. The September announcement by the EPA that the agency would begin to regulate CO2 as a pollutant, verified by the Supreme Court in 2007, was a major step towards US action on the climate change issue. Though cap-and-trade or other large scale programmes are clearly the purview of Congress, the executive branch’s efforts in the realm are likely to be a major portion of the US effort.

Regarding diplomacy, the committee was likely in part referring to the re-elevation of Susan Rice’s post, the US Ambassador to the UN, to a cabinet level post, as well as his public addresses and promised strategic changes toward diplomatic action over rapid military decisions – such as Iran. The G5 plus one meeting with Iran, where Undersecretary of State Burns officially met with the Iranian negotiator, and found a way forward on nuclear energy processing was the first concrete outcome of this strategy.

Even so, this is fairly thin stuff – and his moves on Iran in particular consist of a mixture of diplomatic carrot and military stick. The pivotal issue right now is Afghanistan. Again though, it is possible to make a case that Obama is being as constructive and as measured as he can be, in the circumstances. Quite correctly, Obama has restored Afghanistan to its prime position ahead of Iraq, in the US response to the external threats that it faces. To all outward appearances, Obama is also considering every rational option – ie, separating out the military and political responses, focusing the US military on al Qaeda ahead of the Taleban, exploring the feasibility of including moderate Taleban leaders within a political solution etc etc.

All this is occurring while Obama is going about boosting the US military presence – but even so, such moves are clearly in the service of ending the NATO/US occupation, and not into turning that commitment into a lasting imperial adventure, along the lines that George Bush planned for Iraq. True, the logic of a greater involvement in the name of a speedier withdrawal didn’t work in Vietnam, and it probably won’t work in Afghanistan either – but Obama has no choice but to try it. Ultimately, it will be on Afghanistan and Iran that Obama’s credentials as a peacemaker will be decided. In that respect, the Nobel Prize can only strengthen his international mandate to seek a political compromise in both situations – and on that basis, it has to be welcomed.


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    1. 29 Responses to “Tim Groser’s battle with the Wall Street Journal, and the Obama Peace Prize”

    2. By stuart munro on Oct 12, 2009 | Reply

      “True, the logic of a greater involvement in the name of a speedier withdrawal didn’t work in Vietnam, and it probably won’t work in Afghanistan either – but Obama has no choice but to try it.”

      This decision theory is called ‘dominance’, and it works well for any problem in which all the variables are known. It favours strategies like escalation (overwhelming force being a wonderful substitute for strategy)

      The other well-known option is Maximising Expected Utility. MEP works best when you don’t know all the variables. MEP might look at the ratio of commitment and local casualties to the recruitment levels of Taliban in both countries, or to support for the puppet president. MEP might tell Obama if he keeps doing things the way he has been, he can expect similar, unsuccessful, results. This may in part be because a lot of insurgency funding flows from supplying US forces in Afghanistan.

      Obama has a choice, probably more than one, and he needs to know it.

    3. By Danyl Mclauchlan on Oct 12, 2009 | Reply

      Sharon never got a nobel peace prize. I think you’re thinking of Begin.

    4. By MT on Oct 13, 2009 | Reply

      What has climate change policy got to do with peace?

    5. By Joe Blow on Oct 13, 2009 | Reply

      Hear, hear! Right on!

      I think that the award of the nobel peace prize is getting a bit over the top. When a friend told me about it I said, “For what?”. Maybe they’re trying to get in their early before someone assassinates him… It’s quite strange for a politican’s reputation to be hurt from being overly adored! However, Al Gore got it in 2007 for his work on Climate Change and the Climate Change Bill’s passage through the House of Representatives is the first time a cap on carbon emissions has ever passed either House.

      However, I wholeheartedly agree that there are clear indications of a clear policy shift in relation to Afghanistan under the Obama Administration in contrast to what went on under the Bush Administration, which largely underfunded and ignored it in their zeal for kicking Saddam out of Iraq. The main changes:
      (a) more resources and troop deployment
      (b) reconcilitation and compensation process for families of civilian casualties
      (c) reduction in airstrikes
      (d) focus on training up the Afghan army and police (4000 troops sent to train them).

      A lot may depend on how the Iraqi and Pakistani governments hold up. I liked the British Foreign Secretary David Miliband’s suggestion of moderate Taliban in government. I guess the question is that if this is all geared up for eventual withdrawal how long troops would be needed in Afghanistan. I’ve heard estimates as high as 20 years! I believe there are still peacekeepers in Bosnia and Kosovo which is around 20 years after those conflicts… Tough decisions. I hear Obama has ruled out half way measures or immediate withdrawal but I guess we won’t hear much about that until they get the election results sorted…

    6. By Greg on Oct 15, 2009 | Reply

      Gordon, brilliant start with the nod to the Nobel Peace Prize’s ugly background-story, but your piece I’m afraid goes down hill from there. I wouldn’t be so confident that Obama’s boosting of the US military presence is simply “in the service of ending the NATO/US occupation, and not into turning that commitment into a lasting imperial adventure….” Indeed, you go one step further with the shocking statement that, “Obama has no choice but to try it.” I can’t imagine you making such a careless claim concerning Kiwi politics where you are consistently insightful. I think this comment on your part belies a naive impression, held by many people around the world, that Obama is one of the ‘good guys’, someone more than just a politician. I’m sure he’s a decent fellow, but do you really think the key players in the US Imperial machine (the military-industrial complex and the US finance, insurance and real estate sectors) put him in power (yes, they bankrolled his campaign) to end their reign as imperialists? Obama is seriously considering General McChrystal’s demand for at least 40,000 more troops! The fact that Obama didn’t fire McChrystal for insubordination and take that opportunity to pull the US out of this growing inferno, is a sure sign that Obama doesn’t wear a laurel wreath around his head.

      In the meantime, consider this recent statement on Obama’s presidency by Paul Craig Roberts on the brilliant website:

      “No Bush policy has changed. Iraq is still occupied. The Guantanamo torture prison is still functioning. Rendition and assassinations are still occurring. Spying on Americans without warrants is still the order of the day. Civil liberties are continuing to be violated in the name of Oceania’s “war on terror.”

    7. By Clare Swinney on Oct 15, 2009 | Reply

      It looks as if those who go along with the New World Order agenda get the Nobel Peace Prize. George Orwell warned about what was in the cards in 1984 – hence war is peace, freedom is slavery and ignorance is strength.

    8. By Joe Blow on Oct 15, 2009 | Reply


      Paul Craig Roberts served as an Assistant Secretary of the Treasury in the Reagan Administration earning fame as the “Father of Reaganomics”. Knowing that it would seem obvious where his party allegiances are leaning. Good luck with that one!

      Yes it is the same Paul Craig Roberts:

    9. By Greg on Oct 15, 2009 | Reply

      Indeed, the very same person. You might be surprised to learn that Paul Craig Roberts was one of the most vociferous critics of one George W. Bush and has been, and continues to be, highly critical of both the Republican and Democratic parties. His words ring true, do they not? I highly encourage you to check out You will be quite surprised to discover Mr. Roberts has curiously found a place to hang his hat on one of the most progressive political websites on the internet. Strange bedfellows indeed.

    10. By Joe Blow on Oct 16, 2009 | Reply

      Yeah, yeah. You know there’s only two things that the right wing Republican libertarians hate more than Bush and the neo-cons and that is number one Obama and number two the Jews…

      You figure it out…

    11. By Joe Blow on Oct 17, 2009 | Reply

      Okay for a start Obama has only been in office just shy of 10 months so I think it’s a bit of a tall order to expect him to have sorted 8 years of abuse under Bush in such a short time.
      Obama was elected in on a promise to withdrawal US troops from Iraq within 16 months which he later changed to 21 months. So what? He’s still in the process of withdrawing troops from Iraq.
      During his first week in office he issued an executive order officially outlawing the use of harsh interrogation techniques by the CIA and forcing the agency to obey the standards in the US Army Field Manual. Obama has released torture memos exposing what went on under the Bush Administration but obviously politically he cannot get into prosecuting members of the opposition party.
      On January 22, 2009 the White House announced that Obama had signed an order to suspend the proceedings of the Guantanamo Military Commission for 120 days and that the detention facility would be shut down within the year. However, he’s having trouble doing this because Congress and the very people that voted him in on this promise don’t want the detainees in their own backyard. This is just political reality.
      As for assassinations and spying on Americans there is no suggestion that I can find of him promising to change this and I guess the only crack pots that think that these measures are unnecessary, like Roberts, also believe that 9/11 was really a conspiracy perpetrated by the Bush Administration.
      I guess if either Roberts or his buddy Ron Paul became President they’d just wave their magic wand and the mess that Bush has left behind would just vanish overnight…

    12. By Greg on Oct 18, 2009 | Reply

      Obama is “drawing down” troops in Iraq while BOOSTING them in Afghanistan, essentially making Afghanistan HIS war now. Tell me how this represents a humanitarian-minded President? Tell me how this begins to undo “the mess that Bush has left behind”? Tell me how this makes the world a better place? And please explain, without resorting to Orwelian logic, how that merits him winning a Nobel Peace Prize, except to say that he is following in the company of previous Prize winners who were state-sponsored murderers: Kissinger, Teddy Roosevelt, Wilson? Though admittedly Obama has a way to go in catching up to their level of atrocities.

      I put “drawing down” troops in quotes because the Obama administration is playing fast and loose with that term. And lets be clear, the troop withdrawal was NOT the brainchild of the Obama administration, but a provision of a November 2008 agreement between the Maliki government and the Bush administration. Obama’s administration is simply “honouring” the previous commitment. “Honouring” is placed in quotes as, you yourself pointed out, the Obama administration is already fudging that. One final note on the matter of supposed troop draw downs: Admiral Mike Mullen last February said, “Mr. Obama plans to leave behind a ‘residual force’ of tens of thousands of troops to continue training Iraqi security forces, hunt down terrorist cells and guard American institutions.” “American Institutions” I would presume to mean the permanent, American military bases and the fortress-like US embassy. I submit this is hardly a sign of a return to Iraq sovereignty under the Obama administration. It smells a lot like colonization to me.

      A brief comment on “political reality” and your statements on closing Guantanamo Bay and repatriating detainees… A President can sometimes MAKE political reality. If ever there was a time when a President had the majority of the American public behind him, that time was when Obama walked through the doors of the White House for the first time. Indeed, at that very moment, the Republican Party was a mere shadow of its former self. But he frittered it away–on far too many counts to highlight here. In this case, the Obama administration did next to nothing to correct the lies and distortions about who the detainees are; it did absolutely nothing to refute the absurd notion that they represent a security threat to the American people. Thus, its no wonder Obama finds himself trying to send some detainees abroad to 3rd party nations and paint the others as such a high security risk as to merit “preventive detention.” Preventive Detention? Yes, one of those Obama terms that sound innocuous but which means, in this case, that the US will hold inmates indefinitely and without charge—a policy that rightly drew outrage during the Bush administration!

      And Joe, your point about Assassinations and Spying on Americans: if I read you correctly, you are advocating for Renditions, Assassinations and Spying on Americans.

    13. By Joe Blow on Oct 18, 2009 | Reply

      If you look above you’ll see that I too don’t think that Obama should have got the Nobel Peace Prize. What I’m having a problem with is the unfounded accusations from your right wing libertarian buddy Roberts. Obama was elected in to office on a promise to turn around a ‘forgotten war’ which was neglected and under resourced by the Bush Administration in its zeal for Iraqi oil. He’s doing exactly what he always said he would do. As for leaving residual troops in Iraq, 20,000 odd troops left in Iraq to train Iraqi soldiers is a far cry from Bush’s 120,000 indefinitely based there in a protracted war. I’d like to see a quote from the horse’s mouth on that one before placing too many assumptions on Mullen’s statement. Mullen took his position under Bush anyway – he’s old school. Obama can’t fire all of Bush’s military staff at once you know.
      Obama was one of the earliest opponents of the Iraq war way before any agreement between the Bush Administration and the Maliki government. On Oct 2, 2002 he addressed the first high-profile Chicago anti-Iraq War rally in Federal Plaza and said: “I am not opposed to all wars. I’m opposed to dumb wars. […] You want a fight, President Bush? Let’s finish the fight with Bin Laden and al-Qaeda, through effective, coordinated intelligence, and a shutting down of the financial networks that support terrorism, and a homeland security program that involves more than color-coded warnings.”
      The agreement with the Maliki government was made in September 2008 during the 2008 election campaign and was likely just McCain trying to soften the political fallout from going up against Obama who was promising a withdrawal in 16 months. You got to put these statements in context!
      I can’t believe that I have to labour the point on how long messes like this take to get cleaned up but you seem to have completely missed that point. These things don’t get turned round in 10 months!!!! That’s just reality! What is great is that they have begun to be turned around. It seems amazing to me that Obama’s critics point out the fact that fact that he isn’t Jesus while at the same time they expect him to be just that – Jesus. He’s not Jesus he’s a politican.
      Now I have my own concerns about the loss of civil liberties but I can’t see how terrorist plots are going to be uncovered without some civil liberties being leant on. Similar liberties are bent out of shape in the war on drugs and you don’t see you Libertarians jumping up and down about that… That isn’t to say that I don’t think there should be checks and balances on such powers as I’m not a big fan of what happened in NZ with the Terror Suppression Act, but Obama was instrumental in putting some checks on the Patriot Act when he co-sponsored the SAFE Act in 2005 and in getting more amendments on the Bill before its reauthorisation in 2006.
      The difference between me and your buddy Roberts is that I recognise the reality of the dangers of the philosophies of Sayyid Qutb that have been unleashed on the world. I’ve already explained why he’s having trouble sorting out the Guantanamo detainees, which is because no one wants them in their own back yard. Maybe you should try and get signatures for your own Bill for all 200 to be sent to NZ and see how you go… Last I heard Obama was only considering preventative detention back in June and that was because he’s having trouble getting round Congress on the issue.
      My question to you is how would you deal with these problems? Would you just fly them into Kansas amidst widespread protest anyway? How would you try and uncover terrorist plots without surveillance or drug smugglers for that matter? Wave your magic wand I guess?
      Oh and one other thing I think you should take another look at Woodrow Wilson before throwing him into the state sponsored murderer box. He founded the League of Nations!
      Personally I think he’s a hero!

    14. By Joe Blow on Oct 18, 2009 | Reply

      Okay I’ve found the speech where Obama says he will leave 35-50,000 troops in Iraq after 31 August 2010 but they are only there for a transitional period and will be taken completely out by end of 2011:
      “Initially, this force will likely be made up of 35-50,000 U.S. troops.
      Through this period of transition, we will carry out further redeployments. And under the Status of Forces Agreement with the Iraqi government, I intend to remove all U.S. troops from Iraq by the end of 2011.”

    15. By Joe Blow on Oct 18, 2009 | Reply

      I’ve just realised that Woodrow Wilson was a white supremacist! I never knew that! I take back what I said about him being a hero. However, I admire his work on the League of Nations and democratic ideals.

    16. By Norman on Oct 18, 2009 | Reply

      Joe wherever do you hide the “race card” in such a tight revealing cheer-leading outfit?

    17. By Greg on Oct 20, 2009 | Reply

      Lots of ground to cover. Lets begin with the big picture. The difference between you and ‘my buddy Roberts’ is that Roberts recognizes that the “dangerous philosophies of Sayyid Quth” are born out of US imperial aggression, aggression that began long before George W. Bush took office AND continues unabated, though in a more sophisticated fashion, under the Obama administration. I whole-heartedly concur with this view. Here’s why Obama is only different by degree from George W. Bush:
      1. As US Senator, Obama voted repeatedly to support, in billions of dollars, Bush’s demands for funding of the illegal occupation of Iraq
      2. As Senator, Obama voted to confirm Condaleeza Rice as Secretary of State AFTER she played a key role, as National Security Advisor, in advancing the lies of Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD) used to invade Iraq.
      3. Senator Obama used his political and campaign finance muscle to back so-called centrist Democrats against antiwar progressives in congressional 2006 primaries (he even backed neocon Joe Lieberman–his hand-picked Senate mentor!–against a centrist antiwar opponent).
      4. President-elect Obama picked a center-right cabinet, including the sinister and Iraq War proponent Rahm Emanuel as his Chief of Staff! And kept on the war-criminal Robert Gates as Defense Secretary!
      5. “Not a single top member of Obama’s foreign policy/national security team opposed the Iraq war or the dubious claims leading up to it.” –Katrina vanden Heuvel, the Nation.
      6. President Obama’s military budget is LARGER, yes LARGER, than George W. Bush’s military budget! And “nearly as much as the military budgets of all the rest of the world’s countries combined; more (adjusting for inflation) than the United States has spent on the military in any single year since World War II.” (Slate)
      7. In the middle of a global economic crisis, brought on in significant part by the machinations of neo-liberals such as Alan Greenspan, Larry Summers, Henry Paulson, Ben Bernanke and Timothy Geithner, who does President-elect Obama select to be his financial team? Why Geithner and Summers of course.

      This is not an exhaustive list by any stretch of the imagination. But the point is, its not enough to look at the trees, Joe. You have to step back and get the panoramic view. Mullen as old school Bush appointee? Who cares. Obama kept the guy who really mattered: the war criminal Robert Gates. That should tell you more than splitting hairs over 20,000 or 50,000 troops. And the fact that not one member of Obama’s foreign policy/national security team opposed the Iraq War should speak volumes.

      If you want to split hairs I’m happy to oblige, but again it doesn’t change the big picture. For starters: Obama was elected to end the Iraqi Occupation. He was NOT elected “to office on a promise to turn around a ‘forgotten war’ [Afghanistan]”.

      You say, “Obama was one of the earliest opponents of the Iraq war.” I hardly think so. He called the war “dumb” and a “strategic blunder”, hardly words of moral outrage or conviction. In fact Senator Obama admitted to the New York Times (26/07/04) that he did not know how he would have voted on the 2002 Iraq war resolution had he been serving in the United States Senate at the time of the vote.

      I stand by what I said regarding Obama’s run-for-cover approach to detainees. The US ripped to shreds the lives of these innocent people. The least it could do is provide them a ‘home’ in the United States where they might be able to somehow cobble a life back together. Obama had a moral obligation to bring the case to the American people and failed miserably to do that. Some leader.

      The one thing we do agree on, Joe, is that Obama is indeed a politician, which is why he wasn’t an early and vociferous opponent of the Iraq War and continued to waffle on the issue until he realized he could defeat Hillary “I Won’t Apologize” Clinton on that very issue. And which is also why candidate Obama promised a withdrawal in 16 months, a promise he knew he wouldn’t keep.

      Final word to economist Michael Hudson: “Obama’s economic and foreign policy appointments make it clear that when he chose “change” as his campaign slogan, he was NOT referring to the financial, insurance and real estate (FIRE) sectors, nor to foreign policy. These are where the vested interests concentrate their wealth and power.”

      Change under Obama? I think not!

    18. By Joe Blow on Oct 20, 2009 | Reply

      Well I’m really pleased. You’re reading left wing writers now! However, I see that in the article “The Obama Letdown” Hudson said nothing more about foreign policy. I agree Obama is not a socialist as your buddies like Roberts would brand him and I myself would like to see greater economic reform in the US but once again these things do not happen overnight. I think the fact that the word ‘regulation’ gets used in a positive way now is a hell of a sidestep from what we’ve heard over the past 30 odd years. And Obama’s work on health care may not satisfy the extreme lefties like Hudson but it’s a step in the right direction! Still if your buddy Roberts got his people into office that’d be the end of healthcare. The end of it all!
      Yes there is a relationship between Sayyid Qutb’s ideologies and sinister things that happened during the Cold War but that doesn’t make his ideology any less abhorrent or dangerous! Not to mention Isreal being probably the central reason for those ideologies. How would you sort that one out? I can guess what Roberts would do –
      leave them to be erased off the face of the earth. That’s what he’d do. I’ll let you to figure out why…
      Look you are going to have to show me where you are getting your information from as I will not take unsupported statements of fact on just face value. I’ll deal with each in turn:
      1. I can find no information that supports your allegation that Obama has voted in support of funding for Iraq. You need to back this up. In any case, if he had this does not change the fact that he is instrumental in the withdrawal of US troops now. His actions speak for themselves.
      2. I have been unable to find any information backing up your statement that he voted for Condoleezza Rice as Secretary of State. You need to back this up. However, there is some speculation about whether she voted for him in the 2008 election. Even if he did vote for her why would that prove him a warmonger? Maybe he had other reasons from voting for her?
      3. If I was a politician who wanted to be President of the US I’d probably have to back centrists in my own party too. Wouldn’t you? Obama backed Lieberman after Lieberman had criticised him during the election campaign. Lieberman was hardly a mentor. Look they do not have an MMP system so different factions exist within the two major parties. The last thing Obama wants to do is encourage opposition within his own party. I guess you’d shoot Lieberman instead?
      4. I wouldn’t go as far as calling Obama’s government centre-right. Maybe in a NZ context it would be centrist but for the US it is center-left, more so than the Clinton Administration ever was. In any case, it is far better than the right-wing crazies we’ve had in there for the past 8 years and anything that that Roberts would put in office. Rahm Emanuel’s political views in relation to Iraq are likely influenced by the fact that he is Jewish. In any case the appointment of these people has not changed the fact that Obama is withdrawing troops from Iraq.
      5. So what if they supported the Iraq war? Obama never did and his election campaign was to end it.
      6. Well if Obama was voted in to pull around a ‘forgotten war’ then you would expect the military budget to increase compared with the Bush Administration who under funded it. In addition, the military budget as a percentage of GDP will increase as a result of the global downturn anyway.

      Obama WAS elected to turn around a forgotten war! In an Op-Ed contribution to the New York Times on 14 July 2008 (before the election) he wrote:
      “As president, I would pursue a new strategy, and begin by providing at least two additional combat brigades to support our effort in Afghanistan. We need more troops, more helicopters, better intelligence-gathering and more nonmilitary assistance to accomplish the mission there.”
      Yeah I agree the least that the US can do is provide the detainees with a ‘home’ and a fair trial but the reason that Obama can’t do that is because of Congress and Americans that don’t want them in their backyard not because Obama is really Satan.
      I admire your concern for the Guantanamo detainees and your hunger for the truth but you have to take a step back and get this into perspective instead of believing every statement you can find on the internet that demonises Obama. There is real positive change taking place here.
      You still haven’t told me how you would fix everything. It’s easy to sit back and tear down what someone else is trying to do, but not so easy when you are the one in the driver’s seat.

    19. By Joe Blow on Oct 20, 2009 | Reply

      Barack Obama on Iraq, Opposition from the Start

      Obama on the Iraq War and Afghanistan War – March 19 2008

    20. By Greg on Oct 22, 2009 | Reply

      I’ll make a deal with you Joe. If you actually go read some of Roberts’ work instead of consulting your Wikipedia, and if you can actually substantiate your outlandish, ad hominum claims that Roberts is a “right wing Republican libertarian”, “hates Jews”, brands “Obama a socialist”, would gladly like to see Israel “erased off the face of the earth” and will destroy American healthcare if he gets “his people into office”, I will spoon feed you the source references on Obama (Hint: There’s this nifty little search engine called Google. Type in “Obama voting record funding Iraq War” and “Obama votes to confirm Rice”).

      When you stop brandishing your ad hominem attacks, I will begin to take you seriously again.

    21. By Joe Blow on Oct 22, 2009 | Reply

      Oh I’m glad you checked out his voting record and I guess the reason you didn’t point out what his voting record actually is is because it doesn’t match up with what you said now does it?…
      Obama voted for one Bill called the Iraq and Afghanistan War Funding Bill in June last year. Now that would fit the fact that he supported the war in Afghanistan. By the way this was voted through 92 to 6 so it wasn’t like he was the only Democrat voting for it. However, he voted no to another Bill called Funding for Operations in Iraq and Afghanistan Bill in May last year so he hardly “voted repeatedly to support, in billions of dollars, Bush’s demands for funding of the illegal occupation of Iraq”.
      Also he first voted no to the Patriot Act but after they came up with some amendments and only then voted for its reauthorisation. However, he voted for the Iraq Troop Reduction Bill in July 2007, no to the Same Sex Marriage Resolution Bill which would legally define marriage as only between a man and a woman and most importantly he voted for the Habeas Corpus for Detainees of the United States. What a good guy he is! Thanks for making me point that out to everyone!
      Now don’t get me wrong I’ve read Cockburn and St Clair’s “The Politics of Anti-Semitism” and I’m not suggesting that they or Fisk for that matter are anti-Semites, but Roberts, his buddy Alex Jones and Ron Paul are at another end of the spectrum. By the way being called the “Father of Reganomics” is a pretty good indication that you are number one right wing and number two, if not a Republican anymore at least a Libertarian – na let’s call him a paleocon and be done with it. It all goes back to the civil war you see. There’s still this deep distrust of the North and this idea that the Jews are somehow pulling the strings behind everything. Here’s a nice quote from Roberts:
      “After all, Israel owns the US Congress and President Obama. Israel even has an Israeli citizen and former member of the Israeli Defense Forces as the Chief-of-Staff in Obama’s White House. Israel owns millions of American “Christian Zionists” and “rapture evangelicans.” When it comes to Israel, the American government is a puppet state. It does what it is told.”
      It’s the same old argument that comes from the same old tune in the South. By the way there is nothing wrong with wikipedia. You should read more. It might help you get things into perspective better.
      Does this sound familiar?
      “Antisemitism in America reached its peak during the interwar period [1918-1938]. The pioneer automobile manufacturer Henry Ford propagated antisemitic ideas in his newspaper The Dearborn Independent. The radio speeches of Father Coughlin in the late 1930s attacked Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal and promoted the notion of a Jewish financial conspiracy. Such views were also shared by some prominent politicians; Louis T. McFadden, Chairman of the United States House Committee on Banking and Currency, blamed Jews for president Roosevelt’s decision to abandon the gold standard, and claimed that “in the United States today, the Gentiles have the slips of paper while the Jews have the lawful money.””
      Except now Roosevelt is Obama with the Green New Deal, Father Coughlin is now called Alex Jones and Louis T McFadden, a Repulican Member of the House of Representatives is now called Ron Paul.
      Sounds like the same old tune with some 21st century spin and the help of youtube if you ask me…

    22. By Greg on Oct 24, 2009 | Reply

      Wow Joe, you just keep heaping on the character assassinations. How do you do it? Just when I thought you couldn’t stoop lower, you go for the RACE card. Now you’re comparing Paul Craig Roberts to the racist Alex Jones and (what?) something about an “old tune” in the American South? Not sure what that’s about.

      But still waiting on those sources Joe. You know, the ones where you claim Roberts is a Jew-hater; wants to see Israel wiped off the face of the earth; claims Obama is a socialist; and would destroy American healthcare (as if it hasn’t already been destroyed by the insurance industry). Oh, almost forgot the one about him being a right-wing Republican libertarian. That’s a good one.

      So lets see here, the best you can do is cite Roberts’ article where he claims Israel calls the shots on American Middle East foreign policy. First of all, not to get off on a tangent, I just have to say after reading the Roberts’ article you cited (thank you for that), it’s a pretty gut-wrenching tale of the continued, systematic and horrendous abuse of Palestinians at the hands of the Israeli government/military. Roberts cites several sources for this by the way (including mainstream Time Magazine). Hardly something a right-wing Republican would give two shits about, don’t you think?

      In the same article, Roberts’ points to a glaring act of hypocrisy on the part of the your buddy Obama, a supposed lefty (in your eyes anyway): “Meanwhile, California, which has become a failed state, has been denied bailout money from Washington. Israel, which has been a failed state for 60 years, can, unlike the American state of California, always count on Washington to deliver the money and the weapons to keep Israel going. The same week that “our” government in Washington told the Governor of California “not one red cent,” President Barak Obama handed over $2.775 billion to Israel.” Boy Joe, sure sounds like Roberts is one huge right-wing arsehole. Gee, the last time I checked, the American right-wing governors were REFUSING federal money, claiming it as “Socialism!”. I don’t know Joe, I would think any honest lefty would read such an article and wonder who is truly concerned with Progressive ideas: Obama or this “right-wing” Roberts?

      Now, to the point you were really trying to make with your citation of this article: ROBERTS IS CRITICAL OF THE ISRAELI GOVERNMENT, THEREFOR HE HATES JEWS. Did you used to work for AIPAC? Because this is the sort of hysterical stuff they’re known for in the States. Brand a certain senator or congressperson or professor a Jew-hater when they don’t tow the Israeli line. Never mind the logical summersaults one has to go through to achieve such pernicious, mind-numbing dreck.

      You of course are also trying to portray Roberts as some sort of conspiracy nut. Obviously you are not aware that a huge debate ensued in the States in 2006 with the publication of an article (re-ignited later with the publication of a book) by two academes from Harvard and the University of Chicago, John Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt. In their article, “The Israel Lobby”, they argue that US Middle East foreign policy is predicated on the power of the Israeli lobby in the US and cannot be said to be based on strategic grounds or US best interests. They also make it very clear that they are not equating Jews to the Israeli lobby:

      “One of the most prominent charges against us is that we see the lobby as a well-organised Jewish conspiracy. Jeffrey Herf and Andrei Markovits, for example, begin by noting that ‘accusations of powerful Jews behind the scenes are part of the most dangerous traditions of modern anti-semitism’ (Letters, 6 April ). It is a tradition we deplore and that we explicitly rejected in our article.”

      These are two distinguished professors from rather elitist and, might I say, conservative institutions. Paul Craig Roberts’ arguments are very much in sync with Mearsheimer and Walt’s. Check the record Joe. And, most importantly, show me where he equates Jews with the Israeli lobby. Uh huh. That’s what I thought; you can’t because he never has. Oh, and one more point: do you think that Mearsheimer and Walt would publish the cited article above on the very same website, yes the leftist, that publishes supposed anti-semitic rants by some right-wing nut named Paul Craig Roberts? Uh huh. I don’t think so. Hardly the stuff of conspiracy nuts and Jew-haters.

      Which all brings me to my final point. You jumped my case because I cited Paul Craig Roberts in an early post. You did a quick Wikipedia search to discover, horrors!, he’s the “Father of Reagonomics!” Fair enough. A red flag to be sure. Anyone with a shred of decency should be concerned. But after I direct you to Counterpunch, a publication that’s about as leftist as your going to get, you still persisted with the ad hominum attacks and character assassinations, not bothering to do your homework.
      Interesting that one Paul Craig Roberts has something to say about that…

      “Nevertheless, Brock makes a credible case that today’s conservatives are driven by ideology, not by fact. He argues that their stock in trade is denunciation, not debate. Conservatives don’t assess opponents’ arguments, they demonize opponents. Truth and falsity are out of the picture; the criteria are: who’s good, who’s evil, who’s patriotic, who’s unpatriotic.”

      Mmh. Well put. But might it also be true about some on the supposed left? Might it also be true that Roberts is more left than you!?

      People do and can change over time Joe. And the times change too. The American political scene today is more right-of-center than it was even during the Nixon administration. Sad, but true.

      And finally, intoxicated by the smell of red meat, you must have overlooked this tidbit of information during your Wikipedia search on Roberts: “Roberts is seriously dismayed by what he considers the Republican Party’s disregard for the US constitution. He has even voiced his regret that he ever worked for it, avowing that, had he known what it would become, he would never have contributed to the Reagan Revolution.”

      I’ll be back to respond to your Obama retorts shortly.

    23. By Joe Blow on Oct 25, 2009 | Reply

      I take it back! Don’t read Paul Craig Roberts’ terrible article about the US being Isreal’s puppet state again!!! Read a more objective account which does not make accusations of powerful Jews behind the scenes like his article does. It’s called “The Isreal Lobby” by John Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt. Have you read the original yet?

    24. By Joe Blow on Oct 25, 2009 | Reply

    25. By Joe Blow on Oct 25, 2009 | Reply

      My, my, you don’t like it when your man gets the same treatment as he lumps on the likes of Obama and Isreal now do you?

      I saw the stuff on him being a born again Protectionist but I thought seeing you and your buddy Roberts had neglected to tell the full story on Obama that it was only fair game that I make some omissions of my own. Yeah and what’s he replaced his neo-liberal ideology with? Fear of immigration, outsourcing and China – in other words the foreigners! You know it’s possible to stop being a free marketeer and still be right-wing you know. Muldoon and Winston Peters are good examples…

      And so you’ve found some Harvard fellas whose only relationship to Roberts is that they published in the same on-line magazine. I told you I’ve read (the editors of Counterpunch) Alexander Cockburn and Jeffery St Clair’s book “The Politics of Anti-Sematism” and I challenge you to find any statement by them that comes close to actually calling the US Isreal’s puppet state. In fact I think Roberts is doing exactly just what Mearsheimer and Walt say. He is making “accusations of powerful Jews behind the scenes’ which ‘are part of the most dangerous traditions of modern anti-semitism”. What about his insinuations about Rahm Emanuel Chief of Staff? If you can’t see that in the quote and article I’ve already provided you with you’re truly deluding yourself. So what if Mearsheimer and Walt wrote for Counterpunch too. The magazine has contributors from both the left and right. Talk about a Jewish/Israel lobby and I’m fine. It’s when conspiracy theories from elements in the Southern States of America start permeating out of what I read that I get a bitter taste in my mouth… You don’t like race being mentioned well wake up because the reason there are suicide bombers and the like is because of this big racial/ethnic stalemate in the Middle East. Open your eyes!

      Look I appreciate the likes of Robert Fisk and John Pilger who really tell it like it is for the Arabs as their opposition to Israel’s policies appears to be born out of genuine concern for the Palestinians. Roberts’ concern didn’t seem genuine. Yeah he throws in a comment about oppression of the Palestinians but it’s lost in the wash of anger towards perceived Israel manipulation and just thrown in to keep those young leftie fooled into thinking that he’s really a lefty. He seems angrier about the money that has gone to Israel to keep it from being erased from the face of the earth than about the Palestinian children which fits his non-interventionist libertarian leanings.

      I challenge you to find any comment by Mearsheimer and Walt, Cockburn, Fisk or Pilger that goes as far as suggesting that there is a Jewish conspiracy whereby the US government and Obama are “owned” by Isreal or that the US is Israel’s puppet state etc.

      Look Roberts is a conspiracy theorist (good to finally find out you are not one. I was wondering…). Look what he wrote for the cover of David Griffin’s book “Debunking 9/11 Debunking”:

      “Professor Griffin is the nemesis of the 9/11 cover-up. This new book destroys the credibility of the NIST and Popular Mechanics reports and annihilates his critics.”

      Not to mention his article that claims that 9/11 is a conspiracy believed by “gullible Americans” called “What We Know and Don’t Know About 9/11”

      Look basically the likes of Roberts and Alex Jones (did you know he was a Republican Party candidate in 2000?) are being indirectly funded by the Republican Party through Ron Paul to spread their theories to unsuspecting young left wingers on the internet. Thereby one day achieving their plan to once again bring the Paleocons back to power in the Republican Party. How are they going to do this? Bend young people so far out of shape that they don’t know their left from their right anymore by pretending to be leftish and on the Palestinians side when really they’re just deceptively pulling the xenophobic race card and libertarian non-interventionism… It’s the Ron Paul Deception that’s what it is THE RON PAUL DECEPTION!

      Look Ron Paul LOVES Paul Craig Roberts:

      Don’t think you’ve somehow made me not notice that you haven’t owned up to being wrong about Obama’s voting record…

    26. By Joe Blow on Oct 25, 2009 | Reply

      Another more objective article by Marwan Al Kabalan on the American Task Force on Palestine website points out the attempts Obama has made to change the direction of Israeli policy. However, like any President, he has run up against opposition from the pro-Israel lobby…

    27. By Greg on Oct 28, 2009 | Reply

      Its fascinating to watch you flail around throwing one innuendo after another, even after my repeated attempts to get you to put some facts on the ground. I’ve also noticed you’re quite eager to throw corporatist/right-wing catch-phrases around. So really, who doesn’t know “their left from their right” Joe? The person confused seems to be you. You keep looking to your Right for Paul Craig Roberts when he’s been over on your Left. How ironic. Indeed, since you persistently refuse to put facts on the ground, let me do it for you.

      You: “Still if your buddy Roberts got his people into office that’d be the end of healthcare.”
      Roberts: “What the US needs is a single-payer not-for-profit health system that pays doctors and nurses sufficiently that they will undertake the arduous training and accept the stress and risks of dealing with illness and diseases.”

      Maybe I’m not giving you the credit you deserve Joe. Perhaps in your eyes a single-payer not-for-profit health system WOULD destroy America’s healthcare system.

      You: “…what’s he [Roberts] replaced his neo-liberal ideology with? Fear of immigration, outsourcing and China – in other words the foreigners!
      Roberts: “If I could rid America of neoconservatives, I would accept the entire population of Mexico.”

      Roberts: “Corporate America’s short-term mentality, stemming from bonuses tied to quarterly results, is causing US companies to lose not only their best employees-their human capital-but also the consumers who buy their products…They provide fewer retirement savings for new investment…. Nothink economists assume that new, better jobs are on the way for displaced Americans, but no economists can identify these jobs.”

      “’Many former manufacturing workers who were displaced a decade ago because of manufacturing that went offshore took training courses and found jobs in the information technology sector. They are now facing the unenviable situation of having their second career disappear overseas.’” [Roberts citing “Outsourcing America”, a study published by the American Management Association and authored by Ron and Anil Hira.]

      But according to you, Roberts is just one big xenophobe. Once again Joe, if you would actually read his work and engage in the issues instead of practice your corporatist/right-wing trade of character assassination and ad hominum attacks, you might actually learn something.

      I’ve already responded to your anti-Semitic attacks. I stand by what I said. If anyone is still reading this, they have source references and can figure it out for themselves.

    28. By Greg on Oct 28, 2009 | Reply

      Now, on to Obama…

      You: “I can find no information that supports your allegation that Obama has voted in support of funding for Iraq. You need to back this up.”
      “Obama voted for all war-funding bills that had come before the Senate since 2005, when he was sworn in.”

      “On May 4, 2006, Obama voted YES for HR 4939, the Emergency Supplemental Appropriations Act, 2006, which included $67.55 billion for U.S. Department of Defense operations in Iraq and Afghanistan.

      * $31.6 billion for operations and maintenance
      * $15.46 billion for procurement of aircraft, missiles, weapons, combat vehicles, and ammunition
      * $10.2 billion for military personnel
      * $3.7 billion for the Iraq Security Forces Fund
      * $1.96 billion for the Joint Improvised Explosive Device Defeat Fund
      * $1.91 billion for the Afghanistan Security Forces Fund”

      You: “I have been unable to find any information backing up your statement that he voted for Condoleezza Rice as Secretary of State. You need to back this up.”
      “His [Obama’s] progressive stance on the war, however, has been undermined by his votes for continual funding of the war in 2005 and 2006; his re-election support for war hawk Sen. Joseph Lieberman (I-CT); and his vote to confirm one of the chief architects of the war, Condoleezza Rice, as Secretary of State in 2004.”

    29. By Greg on Oct 28, 2009 | Reply

      You: “And Obama’s work on health care may not satisfy the extreme lefties like Hudson but it’s a step in the right direction!”
      “President Barack Obama is actively discouraging Senate Democrats in their effort to include a public insurance option with a state opt-out clause as part of health care reform. In its place, say multiple Democratic sources, Obama has indicated a preference for an alternative policy, favored by the insurance industry, which would see a public plan “triggered” into effect in the future by a failure of the industry to meet certain benchmarks.”Read more at:

      Yeah, some step. Looks more like a faulter. This doesnt take into account the fact that the public option was a joke in the first place. A public option was never true reform to begin with, and now Obama is even scared of that!

      Those are the facts Joe. Not innuendo. Not character assassination.

      There’s much more to analyse. I didn’t even get to how Obama’s Justice Department filed a brief DEFENDING the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act.—-gingerly-this-time—-files-brief-against-same-sex-marriage.html

      I’m sure you’ll come up with some lame excuse for it. I must say, you’ve become quite the apologist for the Obama administration.

      I wish I had more time to tackle all the issues, for example, Obama’s voting for the Patriot Act. But that will have to wait. In the meantime, here’s a little light reading on Obama’s not-so anti-war, not-so-Progressive voting record as Senator (there’s a lot there but it incredibly only covers 2005-06).×10842

    30. By Joe Blow on Oct 28, 2009 | Reply

      My, my you have been busy!

      1. Roberts and Healthcare
      Okay so Roberts appears to not be anti-healthcare. However, note I use the word “appears”. The day that the left becomes a home for people like Paul Craig Roberts I’ll shoot myself!

      2. Roberts and immigration etc
      I’d read between the lines on this one. He makes such a big case about loving the Mexicans (like a white plantation owner surveying his slaves) and how hard they work for the very reason that he is in support of curtailing immigration. Why is his focus on things that point the finger at the foreigners and not things like better regulation for banking or really nationalising the banks etc… I stand by what I said.

      3. Obama’s voting record
      Let me see you’ve scoured for hours and have only come up with one sentence from a non-partisan source that can be trusted. How do you explain Project Vote Smart a non-partisan and non-profit organisation which documents everything passed in the Senate being at odds with your one little sentence?
      That is the Bill I have already mentioned which is for the funding of Iraq and AFGHANISTAN which is a war that he has always supported. What are you trying to prove here?

      4. Obama confirming Rice
      That article is by Clarence Lusane who has a Phd and is an afro-American human rights activist although it is interesting that there is no media source that actually backs that up. I couldn’t find anything. I’ll concede this one but I don’t think it really shows anything. He’s still pulling troops out of Iraq!
      By the way Lusane is actually pretty positive about Obama in that article. Maybe you should actually read all of who you quote. And I thought that this was interesting:
      “He also called for an even handed approach to the Israeli-Palestine conflict, which is generally interpreted as an anti-Israel position by many Israelis.”

      5. Obama and healthcare
      Now you got to put that discouragement in context. On the other side of that he had Insurance company sponsored national protests against instituting universal healthcare with Americans concerned that Obama is a socialist and that he was finally bringing the red scourge to America! This is the kind of country that he is President of and why in this context he is centre-left. I suppose you would have preferred McCain because he’s really left-wing?

      6. Obama and same sex marriage act
      Yeah well that is disturbing. It doesn’t change the fact that he voted no to the Bill when it was in the senate. It must have still got through… Still he just renewed his vow to allow gays and lesbians to work openly in the military.

      Look I’m busy too and I think we’re just going round in circles here. You don’t like me saying that Roberts is just like Ron Paul just like I don’t like you saying that Obama is just like Bush. The truth is probably somewhere in between…

      Look I have read a lot of Roberts’ articles as a result of this banter and I think I might actually shoot myself if I have to read another word of his drivel so I’m out at this point.

      Thank you very much for putting me on to that magnificent article by Mearsheimer and Walt. That is truly a great piece of writing…

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