Undernews is the online report of the Progressive Review, edited by Sam Smith, who has covered Washington during all or part of one quarter of America's presidencies and edited alternative journals since 1964. The Review has been on the web since 1995. See main page for full contents

January 21, 2009


Sam Smith


Obama has called for more US troops in Afghanistan without any clear explanation of what they will do there, how or why. The mission has not only been not accomplished in Afghanistan, it hasn't even been defined. Obama's plan is to increase the force two and a half times; some military officials want twice that many. If Obama adds 30,000 troops, the US force will be approximately one third the size of the Soviet force that failed in its Afghan effort. And unknown to most Americans is that while the number of U.S. casualties there is far lower, the casualty rate in Afghanistan is actually higher than in Iraq. The whole operation has the unpleasant odor of the early stages of Vietnam.


Obama has given the public a misleading impression about how soon and how many soldiers he plans to remove from Iraq. By using the term "combat troops," he slides over the fact that 100,000 mercenaries and up to 60,000 troops who could be easily used for combat purposes will remain. At some point the rhetoric and the reality have to confront each other, but Obama seems in no hurry for that to happen.

The Bailout

Both the Republicans and the Democrats - with the approval of Bush and Obama - have badly botched the bailout approving unspecified amounts for unspecified purposes with unspecified oversight. In practice, the bailout has grossly favored the large Wall Street interests, has been insultingly indifferent to the needs of homeowners and auto workers, among others, and ranks as the most outrageous congressional earmark in American history. As just one example, the House bill provides $90 billion for infrastructure of various varieties, which sounds like a lot until you realize that in the last election voters cross the land approved $75 billion for mass transit alone. Meanwhile the really big bucks continue to flow to Wall Street and the fact that Obama has among his key advisors, Robert Rubin, one of those responsible for the disaster, doesn't help at all.

Social Security and Medicare

Obama has adopted rightwing misleading rhetoric to describe Social Security and Medicare that falsely predicts when the former's funding will give out and blames the latter for costs that are really the result of the health industry and not the government program. He has also hired a budget director who favors cutting Social Security for those under 60. If Obama proceeds on this course, the resulting damage to Social Security and Medicare could easily represent the biggest assault ever on historic Democratic social democracy policies, surpassing even Bill Clinton's dismantling of social welfare.

Civil liberties

Obama's attorney general has indicated the administration will support the continued immunity granted telecoms for illegal wiretapping. Eric Holder also favors a continuation of secret searches of library and bookstore data files. In the past Obama has made it clear that he supports the unconstitutional war on drugs, Real ID, the Patriot Act and the death penalty. It is likely we will continue to live in a post-constitutional America under Obama.


Obama has named a secretary of education who has been deeply involved in the corporate takeover of public school policy, which has left schools in poorer areas the target of urban developers, encouraged mindless emphasis on test taking designed to create obedient drones rather than critical thinkers, and which has even, in Secretary Duncan's case, resulted in several military academies antithetical to decent public education in a democracy.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Then we have to call him on all of this and browbeat him toward sanity.

- Strelnikov

January 22, 2009 8:51 PM  

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