What Exactly is Rev. Wright Saying?

04/30/2008 12:20 pm ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Let's look dispassionately, if we can, at exactly what this man is saying.

He says the U.S. military has killed millions of people in Southeast Asia, the Middle East and in this hemisphere since the end of World War II. Isn't that a verifiable fact? Were any of these peoples enemies of the United States who posed a genuine threat to American security? We can unequivocally say the Vietnamese, Iraqis, Panamanians and others were no direct threat. That is why doctored intelligence and misinformation were needed to justify these offensive wars, from the Gulf of Tonkin to Saddam's "involvement" with 9/11.

There have been less lethal forms of suffering imposed by U.S. foreign policy, such as Washington's support for autocratic regimes in Latin America, Asia, Africa and the Middle East. Is it surprising that a group, no matter how crazed, might want to seek revenge against the United States for their unjustified suffering? No right thinking person would have any difficulty understanding that.

Saying that former Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan is one of the most important voices of the 20th Century is patently absurd. Saying that African-Americans listen to what he says but don't always agree with him, sounds like fact. Wright clearly exaggerated his point here and did damage to his overall argument.

His comment that AIDS is a government biological weapon against the black community seems incredibly irresponsible without absolute proof. He cited two books at his press conference. I was unaware of these books and suspend judgment until reading them. Having learned the facts from Senator Frank Church's committee in the mid-seventies about CIA LSD experiments with American citizens and considering what we know about the Tuskegee Syphilis scandal, Wright is unfortunately right to say he wouldn't put it past the U.S. government to do anything.

Wright's knowledge of the history of the black church in America and his powerful defense of African-American culture, its music, its mode of preaching and worship is of the highest order and America needs to hear it.

So let's add up the scorecard.

He's right about revenge against American brutality over the last 60 years of foreign policy.

He exaggerated about Farrakhan, and his statement about AIDS is out there, but judgment is pending study of the books he cited.

The timing of Wright's remarks couldn't be worse for Obama and for all of us who want Obama elected. But for a man like Wright who has been speaking out for decades in relative obscurity to give up his first chance at the national stage -- because of Obama -- was obviously too much for him. He has his job to do, Obama has his, but he could not be blind to the damage he's done Obama.

Having said all this, the American people need to hear what Wright is saying about foreign policy. Instead too many Americans defend the myths their rulers fed them in school and that are constantly reinforced in the corporate media: myths that serve their rulers' interests, not theirs or those of countless innocent people around the globe. The specific myth in question is that American leaders are spreading democracy with their invasions and military interventions rather than merely extending their political and economic power.

One of the corporate media's jobs is to defend these myths that aid corporate interests by vilifying Wright or anyone else who dares doubt them. A careerist press has to join the chorus of condemnation.

Too many Americans seem to have such a personal stake in propping up the Big Lies about their country that they lash out at anyone who challenges them. They appear in denial about what their government has been doing to people. Is that denial to avoid feeling guilt? But the American people are not guilty of the crimes of government, only of identifying with government and of confusing their own interests with their leaders' interests by believing the lie that somehow they too benefit from militarism.

Until America grows up and faces the painful facts about what government has been up to it will never make the changes Obama is talking about. Without a frank, national self-examination, it won't give up militarism and cut defense spending to attend to the American people's critical domestic interests, such as alternative energy, health care, education and public transportation.

Rev. Wright may be wrong about some things, he may exaggerate, but he's spoken about some matters we can no longer ignore. There is a feeling of impending crisis in the air: energy and food shortages, a new war with Iran. Now is the time to speak out. More importantly, now is the time to question what we are being told.

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