Why do Social Democrats do what they do?

September 09, 2009

The Honduran Coup, Crisis for Obama , or, "Mr. President, Don’t piss down my back and tell me it’s raining”, by Andrew Taylor, Sep 09, 2009









In one of Clint Eastwood’s finest movies of the Western genre, 'The Outlaw Josey Wales' (1976) the character 'Fletcher’ has a memorable line: “Senator: Don’t piss down my back and tell me it’s raining.”

The events following the 28 June coup in Honduras exposed the weakness and limitations of the Obama presidency as a putative "progressive" force for "Hope" and "Change" in US foreign policy. Only the U.S. administration acting in support of the Honduran national resistance has the financial, political and military leverage to pressure the Honduran de facto government into retreating and allowing a return to democracy. Yet the Obama administration has not possessed the will or cohesion to create real consequences on the military coup leaders and their political puppets. In light of the uninterrupted anti-democratic role of the United States in the history of Central America perhaps rational people shouldn't be surprised.

However, the 'let-down' over the US role in the post-coup events has become very apparent in the more progressive section of the American electorate which offered the Obama candidacy its critical support. Perhaps it was one body-blow too many after Obama's Hi-Finance bailouts, the extension of the War in Afghanistan, and record unemployment.

A number of pro-Obama US progressives insisted that if Obama didn't impose full sanctions on the coup government and suspend all relations, as most other countries (but not Canada's) had done, the traditional US policy would remain in the hemisphere, the US conniving with coups that created results pleasing to the US ruling class.

Contradictory cues and gestures proceeded from the different organs of policy information in Washington: the president denounced the action as illegal and so on - yet could not seem to decide whether or not to call the 'act' an illegal coup. Meanwhile in the State Department Hillary Clinton chided the elected president Zelaya together with the coup plotters as equally guilty players. She was twice asked by the press whether restoring democracy in Honduras meant returning the elected president, and twice she refused to answer. Republican and ‘Blue Dog Democrat’ legislators who were not required by their Office to show restraint were in celebration. It began to seem to some progressives that the bad smell exuded by the Bush-Cheney government was seeping back into the Washington air.

For all the eloquence and elegance of the first African-American president of the USA, a leftist elected leader aligned with Venezuela had been disposed of in a manner continuous with US predatory complicity in Latin America coups under all other American presidents. Had not the Honduran Military brass that did the deed been trained in skullduggery and torture at the School of the Americas in Fort Benning, Georgia? In the weeks following June 28th it actually seemed as if the Obama balloon had been popped and all the rhetorical “Hope" and "Change" was being scrutinized.

And it also seemed just about then in mid-summer that the new Democrat president appeared to some friends as inestimable, dithering – possibly weak. As Obama gave ambiguous sound bytes in Washington without unambiguously acting against the coup government, he lost credibility not just in Latin America, not only in Europe, but also among many US activists. The U.S role had become transparently ludicrous, and a well-coordinated White House spin was in a shambles. Eventually the US Ambassador on the scene agreed it was a military coup - though the State Department refused to call it that. It appeared there was a US federal law requiring the cut off of all aid if a coup was formally recognized, and that was obviously just what Barack and Hillary were not about to do. As for President Manuel Zelaya, who was kidnapped in the middle of the night by the US trained chief general of Honduras, he was turning out to actually possess the support of the Honduran workers, the peasants, the poor, --" in other words the vast majority," according to the Cross-Border Network.

Is President Obama willing or able to confront the "permanent government" of America, that is the corporate domination of the republic? Is Obama tough as well as cool? Does he want to reduce American dominance in the world?

Meanwhile as summer played out and September arrived, Obama remained silent about the repression used by the coup against protesters. Demonstrators have been shot and killed, radio and TV stations shut down, and journalists jailed. This past week a trade union leader and a political activist were murdered. One thing is clear: the coup leaders will be emboldened in their repressive measures if Obama continues his silence about a coup government almost wholly dependent on the US for aid, commerce, political legitimacy, and survival.

“Mr. President: Don’t piss down my back and tell me it’s raining!”

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