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The Stockholm syndrome is a psychological response sometimes seen in abducted hostages, in which the hostage shows signs of loyalty to the hostage-taker, regardless of the danger or risk in which they have been placed. [1] The original characterizing-incident took place on August 23, 1973, where bank robbers held bank employees hostage. The victims became emotionally attached to their captors, and even defended them after they were freed from their six-day ordeal.

President Barack Obama turned this syndrome around 180° and took it to another level on December 10, 2009, in Oslo, Norway, when he gave his acceptance speech for his Nobel Peace Prize. He was unable, linguistically and psychologically, to break away from the deep, historical U.S. identification with the efficacy of militarism and war. We should call that social psychological aberration the Oslo syndrome. How else to explain the contradictory logic and incoherence of his acceptance speech which gave justification for war at a celebration meant for the recognition of great peacemakers!

His failures of thought, of self-knowledge, of creativity, and to stay within the realms of a fully inclusive reality cannot be explained away. Obama is a lawyer, trained in the arts of conceptual analysis, interpretation, and linguistic manipulation. The absence of human compassion, the illogic, and the confusion in his presentation must arise from a fundamental blindness – not unlike the blindness of an abused wife who is unable to imagine freedom from her abuser. The dark U.S. history of militant cultural supremacy and exceptionalism has captured President Obama in a strangling bubble and it is not just his body that has become passive and compliant. As armies of minions choreograph his physical movements, his mind is choreographed by seemingly inescapable supremacist’s myths. He, obviously, identifies with the powerful “bankers” who make so much money from violence, war, environmental pollution, unrepentant colonialism, slavery and continued oppression.

One theory to explain the Stockholm syndrome utilizes the concept of cognitive dissonance. Specifically, people don’t like being unhappy for long periods of time. To resolve the cognitive dissonance, the victim may begin to identify with the captors in an attempt to find surcease and happiness. According to another psychoanalytic view of the syndrome, this tendency might be the result of employing the strategy evolved by newborn babies to form an emotional attachment to the nearest powerful adult in order to maximize the probability that this adult will enable - at the very least - the survival of the child, if not also prove to be a good parental figure. This syndrome is considered a prime example for the defense mechanism of identification. Obama and too many other residents of this world have fallen into the identification trap defined by Margaret Thatcher for the global tyranny of our financial system: TINA (there is no alternative).

The truth of their passive submission to humiliating oppression is more than embarrassing; it can feel shameful - and there is nothing more painful than shame. When one already feels beaten down and demoralized, the likely response to the pain of shame is not constructive action, but more attempts to shut down or divert oneself from this pain. It is not likely that the truth of one’s humiliating oppression is going to energize one to constructive actions.

In Oslo President Obama exposed his self-identification with the oppressor aspects of the United States. He spewed out the morally corrupt analysis that is the Just War Theory, despite the powerful examples of denouncement of this analysis by many preceding Peace Prize winners and its rejection by many patriotic U.S. citizens.

There is a long honored tradition in the U.S. – to which Obama gave “lip service” – that eschews war and imperialism. Some of the Founders were inspired by the Great Peace Maker of the Haudenosaunee who established the Iroquois Confederacy: where Mohawk, Oneida, Onondaga, Cayuga, and Seneca nations set down together to talk together to end war, rather than to fail again to achieve peace through another war. The first President of the United States, George Washington, a military general, spoke out forcefully against his new nation entering foreign wars. Chief Joseph, a Nez Perce spiritual genius, spoke profoundly of the time when the White Men would treat the “Indian” as the “Indians” treat each other. The American Friends Service Committee received the Peace Prize in 1947; the prize recognized 300 years of Quaker efforts to heal rifts and oppose war. Admiral Gene R. La Rocque (Ret.), who fought in World War II and thus was active contemporaneously with Dresden, Hiroshima, and Nagasaki, has stated clearly that there is no such thing as a “good” war. Malcolm X’s justification for the use of violence in self-defense was based on his exposure of the hypocrisy of the Just War Theory that called for the use of violence in Korea to defend a democracy that was not available to Blacks on Dr. Martin Luther King Boulevard in towns in the U.S. If violence and fighting for democracy in Korea was justified, why would it not be justified to violently fight for it in Cairo, Illinois? Who determines what is just? Did Barack not hear the words of Phyllis and Orlando Rodriguez who lost their son on 9-11 yet who speak out powerfully against violent revenge; “it is not the way…it will not avenge our son’s death…not in our son’s name.”

Obama’s easy dismissal of the path of Mahatma Gandhi and Martin Luther King Jr. was the “crowning” indication of a captured mind. Martin Luther King Jr. said, “Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that” and war cannot drive out war; only peace and justice can do that. Barack Obama and the purveyors of the Just War Theory have no viable response.

Most honest historians could have told our President that Hitler was the product of the injustice visited on the German people after World War I. Suffering from the economic straitjacket imposed on the country by other Western European nations and the U.S., the German people allowed themselves to be seduced and blinded by a powerful appearing demagogue. This is the syndrome that can explain the acquiescence of followers of Osama Bin Laden and the Taliban to their brutality. Osama’s and the Taliban’s authoritarian misinterpretation of the Koran and desire to bring prosperity and freedom from the immorality of global capitalism is classic demagoguery seducing another people drowning in injustice. We are all fruit of the same tree. I thought that President Obama had the intellect and the compassion to understand this. Nonviolent resistance coupled with the delivery of justice can stop the rise of “Hitlers.”

Let us learn our proper lessons from U.S. and world history. Obama’s speech at West Point is similar to the “surge” speech of Mikhail Gorbachev, called the “bloody wound” speech, that led to a similar-sized, temporary Soviet troop surge in Afghanistan in 1986. Afghanistan, in too many ways, is Vietnam all over again. Pakistan’s reaction to Obama’s speech was to order its top military intelligence service, the ISI, to immediately begin rebuilding and strengthening covert ties to the Afghan Taliban in anticipation of their eventual return to power, according to a highly placed Pakistani official. It is now Obama’s war; there is no way to make that a morally acceptable thing.

You said, Mr. President, “For make no mistake: evil does exist in the world.” Yes, it does; but on whose side does evil exist? President Lincoln, when told that God was on the side of the North, said, “I hope we are on God’s side.” Evil is on all sides. Let us not identify with a Niebuhr who thought that we must acknowledge that the world will not eradicate violent conflict in our lifetimes. Or with a Niebuhr who said, “Nothing that is worth doing can be achieved in our lifetime.” Is that like “the poor will be with us always?” This is a misapplied interpretation of Biblical verse. True “american” values and true Christian values call on all of us to make maximal efforts to eliminate violence, war, and injustice. There are alternatives to war, rapacious capitalism, and oppression, Mr. President.

Mr. Obama, you said that “holy wars are not justified.” Like the Christian colonization of the world which was accompanied with genocide, murder, theft, enslavement, and subjugation; are we now to engage in wars of cultural supremacy? What about economic and cultural wars? What about the enabling-of-democracy wars that are accompanied by the same three forces that Dr. Martin Luther King warned us against in his Beyond Vietnam speech given at Riverside Church in New York in 1967: Materialism, Racism, and Militarism. It is these that we must fight, Mr. President, nonviolently. Guest Commentator, Wilson Riles, has been serving the people of Oakland and the Bay Area for many years. He was the Regional Director of the American Friends Service Committee for over nine years and administered a $1.4 million budget supporting programs which addressed issues of economic justice in the African American community, non-proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, the plight of farm workers, homelessness, progressive reform of the criminal justice system, Native American and Asian Pacific Islander community concerns, and youth empowerment. Additionally, he is a former Oakland, CA City Council Member. Click here to contact Mr. Riles.

[1] Wikipedia, January 4, 2010


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Issue 357
January 7, 2010

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Executive Editor:
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