Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Still Thinking About Supporting the Green Party? Meet the Party’s Nominee for Vice President

I know that some people on the left don’t like Hillary Clinton. I’d generally argue that these people are essentially rewarding the right wing for its efforts at character assassination over the last 20 or more years and accepting as truth the vast panoply of lies and outright conspiracies directed at Clinton. That isn’t to say that she is a perfect person or perfect candidate; she isn’t. But then who is? Sadly, some people don’t want to engage in actual conversation and dialogue about Clinton and have, instead, elected to simply reject her..

However, those on the left who reject Clinton now have a choice to make. If they can’t bring themselves to vote for her, then who can they vote for? My suspicion (hope?) is that few people on the left of the political spectrum who choose not to vote for Clinton would cast a vote for Donald Trump. And I doubt that many of those people would vote for a libertarian candidate either (at least not once they learn about more about the libertarian’s positions beyond legalization of marijuana). So that leaves Jill Stein and the Green Party.

I’m going to take a slightly different approach to discussing that last option. Today, I’m not going to discuss why Jill Stein or the Green Party aren’t really viable. I’m not going to discuss how a vote for a third party can, in essence, be viewed as a vote for Trump. And I’m not going to delve into the positions advocated by Stein or the Green Party (including fears about vaccines or WiFi). Instead, I’m going to focus on one decision made by Stein to demonstrate just how bad a vote for the Green Party would be.

Ajamu BarakaIt is often said that the first important decision that a Presidential candidate makes is the selection of a running mate. After all, if the President dies or is otherwise incapable of executing the duties of President, then the Vice President takes over. One would presume that the President would select a Vice President whose judgment and advice the President would seek and value. So, with those concepts in mind, let’s meet Jill Stein’s choice to be the Green Party’s candidate for Vice President: Ajamu Baraka.

So what does Baraka have to say about certain important issues? What sort of advice might be offer President Stein? What policies would he pursue were he to become President?

As a starting point, try this paragraph from an essay of Baraka’s that can only be described as being hostile (and I’m being charitable here) to the leftist foreign policy ideas expressed by Bernie Sanders (emphasis added):

It means that if today leftists in the U.S. can find a way to reconcile the suffering of the people of Yemen and Gaza and all of occupied Palestine for the greater good of electing Sanders, tomorrow my life and the movement that I am a part of that is committed to fighting this corrupt, degenerate, white supremacist monstrosity called the United States, can be labeled as enemies of the state and subjected to brutal repression with the same level of silence from these leftists.

It’s worth noting that the essay was published in Counterpunch, a far left, anti-Israel, conspiracy-focused website that has been known to publish essays from people who are not just anti-Zionist, but also outright anti-Semites (but that is a topic for another day).* Anyway, go back and read that paragraph again. Then ask yourself if someone who thinks that the United States is a “corrupt, degenerate, white supremacist monstrosity” should really be Vice President of the United States. Ask yourself whether someone who believes that, essentially, anyone to the right of his extremely far left position on the political spectrum (from Bernie Sanders and his supporters rightward) would label Baraka and his “movement” as “enemies of the state”? Does he really believe that those who harbor opposition views in America are subject to “brutal repression”? If so, how is that he is on the ticket to be Vice President and not in jail, Guantanamo, or dead in a ditch?

Or perhaps we should consider that Baraka has an essay in the book Another French False Flag?: Bloody Tracks from Paris to San Bernardino edited by Kevin J. Barrett, a noted anti-Semite, Holocaust denier, and 9/11 “truther” (who also blames Israel for the massacre at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando along with virtually every other evil in the world). As you can tell from the title, Barrett’s book takes the position that many of the terrorist attacks that we’ve witnessed in recent years were not actually perpetrated by the Islamic terrorists upon whom blame has been leveled. Besides the essay from Baraka, Barrett’s book also includes essays by authors such as noted anti-Semites Gilad Atzmon and Ken O’Keefe (who once made a video called “Hitler was Right” [to which I obviously will not link]). To be fair, Baraka claims that he didn’t know which other authors or views Barrett would include in the book:

When Kevin Barrett, someone who has interviewed me in the past, contacted me to ask if he could include my piece in a compilation on the Paris Attacks, I didn’t see any problem with it,” Baraka said in a statement to Gawker in which he stridently disavowed Holocaust denial. “I didn’t inquire as to the other authors and don’t know much about some of them or their positions on various issues. I stand by everything I wrote in that article and would be happy to discuss the details.”

But… really? You agree to allow your essay to be included in a book being edited by someone you know takes controversial positions, but don’t ask what other essays will be included alongside yours? Hmm. I wonder if Baraka even bothered to learn the title of Barrett’s book; it isn’t exactly subtle. I sure hope that as Vice President, Baraka would bring that attention to detail to the job. Oh, and the essay by Baraka that was included in Barrett’s book should also give you an idea of Baraka’s worldview: The Paris Attacks and the White Lives Matter Movement (originally published in Counterpunch).

Recall that Baraka claimed not to know about the positions of other authors, suggesting that Barrett was simply someone who had interviewed him in the past. Hmm. Well, given the tenor of Barrett’s radio program (on which Baraka has apparently appeared more than once) and the sorts of discussions that they’ve had, it seems unlikely that Baraka would be unaware of the point of view that Barrett and those included in his book might offer. Witness, for example, this exchange (about the downing of the Malaysian airliner over Ukraine a few years ago):

“What do you think of this plane — Malaysian plane shootdown?” Barrett asks. “The U.S. media is putting out the possibilities of this being done by the Russians or by the pro-Russian Ukrainians, but President Putin’s plane was flying through there shortly before this plane was shot down—it looks like Putin’s plane may have been targeted. If so, obviously that wouldn’t have been done by the Russians or pro-Russian separatists quote unquote, that would have been done by the Kiev Zio-Nazi government. Which is what it is—these Zionist Jewish oligarchs, billionaire criminal dons, are funding Nazi street thugs. These are the people who overthrew the legitimate democratically elected government of Ukraine and created a fascist junta, and they are the ones who would be the suspects, at least in my opinion — somebody shooting at Putin’s plane, and yet the media doesn’t even raise that as a possibility.”

Baraka immediately engages with the idea and agrees.

“And when it’s raised, it’s raised as a conspiracy,” Baraka responded. “I think that this is a — I was trying to find the citation, I remember reading, I can’t remember who it was, someone wrote about three weeks ago that we should expect false flag, a major false flag operation in eastern Ukraine that’s going to be blamed on the Russians. And that’s exactly what has happened.”

Note that not only does Baraka appear to agree with the notion of a “false flag” attack being behind the downing of the aircraft, but he doesn’t challenge Barrett’s claim that the Ukrainian government was a “Zio-Nazi” government comprised of “Zionist Jewish oligarchs … funding Nazi street thugs” who created a “fascist junta”. (For those who are blissfully unaware, the shorthand “Zio” is a epithet used mostly on the far left to describe Israelis, Zionists, and, often, Jews.) Note further that both Barrett and Baraka (like Donald Trump…) seem to be taking the side of Russia its dispute with Ukraine.

Baraka views President Obama as an “Uncle Tom President”. He described President Obama and Attorney General Loretta Lynch as “black petit-bourgeoisie who have become the living embodiments of the partial success of the state’s attempt to colonize the consciousness of Africans/black people”. Baraka even tears into Bernie Sanders and his supporters claiming that Sanders promises “continued war crimes from the sky with drone strikes and Saudi led terror in support of the Western imperial project” and that Sander’s program is a “tacit commitment to Eurocentrism and the assumptions of normalized white supremacy”. Baraka does, at least, attempt to soften these attacks by noting that his criticisms are “not to suggest that everyone who might find a way to support Sanders is a closet racist and supporter of imperialism”. No, not everyone

Baraka is also, apparently, a Boko Haram “truther”, claiming among other things that the number of schoolgirls kidnapped by the group had been inflated and that the US didn’t have real humanitarian concerns for the plight of those schoolgirls; instead, he apparently claimed that the US was interested in Nigeria only as a means to Nigerian oil. Of course given that his entire worldview seems to come from a lens of the evil, white American empire looking for ways to subjugate or at least tolerate the destruction of people of color, then we shouldn’t be too surprised, should we?

I was also not surprised to learn that Baraka opposes the Trans Pacific Partnership (the TPP). It faces strong criticism from both the far left and the far right (and pockets in between). Criticism of the TPP in the US has largely focused on whether it would be good for Americans generally and American jobs in particular. Baraka approaches the issue from a slightly different perspective (emphasis added):

The TPP is a weapon to maintain U.S. global hegemony by denying the fundamental economic, social and cultural rights of millions of people in order to benefit a parasitic white minority ruling class in the U.S. And for that fact alone, African Americans and all people of conscience should opposed [sic] it.

A “parasitic white minority ruling class in the U.S.”? Yep, this man should be Vice President, shouldn’t he?

Baraka described the “Je Suis Charlie” rallying cry that followed the terrorist attack on Charlie Hebdo magazine (and a Jewish market) as “an arrogant rallying cry for white supremacy”. Really.

I’m often critical of those on the right who claim that the “real racists” are African Americans (or Latinos) who raise the issue of race. I’m sympathetic to the notion of the need to recognize so-called “white privilege”. And, while I don’t think that racism is to blame for everything, I do think that racism is an important issue that needs to be addressed. However, the way Baraka seems to see everything through race-tinged lenses only serves to feed the view from that right that racism emanates from minority communities. His racism and racist rhetoric weakens efforts by those who desire to engage in real discussion and dialogue on the problems of racism and on the problems caused by racism. In other words, Baraka’s rhetoric will not lead to lessening of racism or improve the lives African Americans or other people of color at home or abroad; he is just pouring jet fuel on the fire.

Oh, and Baraka thinks that Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad has legitimacy as a democratically elected leader. He also argues that the story being told about the civil war in Syria is propaganda designed to conceal the truth about the surrender of Syria’s “national sovereignty to the geo-strategic interests of the U.S. and its colonial allies in Europe and Israel.”

Finally, one last issue on which Baraka has been quite vocal. I know that many readers who are thinking about voting for the Green Party may be critics of Israel (and I’m sure you view yourselves only as anti-Zionists and not as anti-Semites, but that is a discussion for another day). So calling out some of Baraka’s views on Israel and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict may not matter much to you. But for my readers who do support Israel and its right to exist as a democratic Jewish state within safe and secure borders, a quick summation of Baraka’s views on Israel are worthwhile. These views can be readily summarized by the findings of the African Heritage Delegation to Palestine/Israel (from April 2015; and note that the group renamed itself Zaynah Hindi African Heritage Delegation “in recognition of and in solidarity with our delegation’s co-leader, a Palestinian American”) on which Baraka participated.** Among that group’s findings (after meeting with early leaders of the Israeli Black Panther party, which I must admit, I didn’t know existed):

  • Israeli policy of settlement expansion amounts to ethnic cleansing and 21st century colonialism.
  • We condemn the campaign Israel’s government has waged to court black religious and political support and call on the Black community to give unconditional support and solidarity to Palestinian Liberation.
  • The global Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions Movement is an essential tool in the struggle for Palestinian liberation.
  • We call on activists and non-activists alike to join initiatives in their communities that support and work in solidarity with Palestinian resistance movements.

(Emphasis added.) There’s more, both from the Delegation and from Baraka in his other writings, but that should give you a good idea. Note that the phrase “resistance movements” is often used to describe … terrorists. You know, like Hamas, which is the acronym for “Islamic Resistance Movement”. In other words, Baraka signed a statement calling for support for and work in solidary with terrorist groups. And, if you’re curious, I did come across a statement by Baraka equating Israeli treatment of Palestinians in Gaza as a form of genocide.

Yep, he would make a great Vice President. Before casting a ballot for the Green Party, think about Baraka’s views on Israel and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and ask whether he would be good for those on either side of the issue who hope for a just and lasting peace.

In conclusion, let’s turn our attention back to Stein and the Green Party. I’m not well versed in many of the platform planks of the Green Party. I’ve heard some of the things that Stein has said, but frankly haven’t paid too much attention. But I couldn’t ignore her choice for running mate. After all, it is the first important decision made by a presidential candidate. So go back and review some of the positions that her chosen running mate has taken and then think about how well those positions reflect your own views on the issue. Ask yourself why, among all of the other possible voices on the left of the political spectrum, Jill Stein and the Green Party chose Baraka. What does that choice say about Stein? What does it say about her understanding of the positions of her supporters? Does she share Baraka’s views on these issues? In any event, it seems that by this one choice alone, Stein has demonstrated how poor her judgment is and has essentially disqualified herself as a viable candidate for President. John McCain hurt himself greatly with his choice of Sarah Palin but Stein’s choice of Baraka makes that prior blunder pale in comparison (or would if Stein was a viable candidate…).

Please recognize that Stein is not a viable candidate for President. I understand (kinda) opposition to Clinton, but please don’t cast your vote for the Stein-Baraka ticket and, perhaps, do as Ralph Nader did in 2000, and hand the Presidency to the Republicans and Donald Trump.

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*While I don’t really suggest that you waste your time looking (sadly, I did), just a quick review of the titles of the essays that Baraka has published on CounterPunch will certainly give the impression that the only issue of importance to him is the treatment of people of color and his expression of concern about that treatment is blatant racism directed against whites.

**It’s interesting to note that Baraka is identified as a signatory of the report as a member from Cali, Colombia, and not from the United States; all of the other members of the Delegation are identified as being from the United States. So, a man who wants to be Vice President serves on an international delegation but doesn’t identify himself as being from America. Good to know.

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