Obama the Yankee
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With all the brouhaha over Dinesh D'Souza's Forbes article about President Obama's father, a reader comments on the most overlooked facet of the President's heritage. Consider his maternal grandfather:
... Stanley Armour Dunham, who was the son of Ralph Waldo Emerson Dunham, born in Sumner Country, Kansas. Sumner County is named after the Abolitionist senator from Massachusetts, Charles Sumner. Sumner county is so puritanical in origin that it was "dry" until 1986.

Of course, eventually, Stanley Dunham moved his family to Hawaii, which was civilized by missionaries described by Mark Twain as "pious; hard-working; hard-praying; self-sacrificing; hospitable; devoted to the well-being of this people and the interests of Protestantism; bigoted; puritanical; slow; ignorant of all white human nature and natural ways of men, except the remnant of these things that are left in their own class or profession; old fogy - fifty years behind the age..."

Up from Hawaii, Obama managed acceptance to Harvard Law School (college transcripts?), named after the puritan minister, John Harvard.

There seems to be a pattern developing. It's obvious that Obama's big secret, even though it's right there for everyone to see, is that Obama's a Yankee, through and through (though he does play basketball and listen to Jay-Z!).

His silence on his Yankee heritage and, instead, his complete focus on his African heritage is puzzling. Or maybe not, considering how George W Bush became a born again Texas good ol' boy. Were those just cynical moves by each man to appeal to his base or indicative of something deeper?

Obama reminds me of Charles Bon the mulatto, illegimate son of a Mississippi plantation owner in Faulkner's "Absalom, Absalom." Obama actually quoted Faulkner during his big race speech following Pastor-gate, "The past isn't dead and buried. In fact, it isn't even past." Hopefully the future will be better for Obama than it was for Charles Bon.

Meanwhile, I hope Steve will write more about Obama's family and the CIA. another organization that Obama shares in common with the Bush's, other Yankee elite, and Mormons (Yankees once removed.) I'm not going to hold my breathe in anticipation of D'Souza's follow up article on the story of Obama's Yankee inheritance.

That the Obama family engaged in favor-banking with the CIA is pure speculation on my part, but the more I've thought about it over the last 14 months, the less crazy it sounds.

Obama's mother and father, while on the left ideologically, may have been minor players on the American side in the Cold War. The CIA, among other American government and quasi-governmental agencies, liked to recruit non-Communist leftists of cosmopolitan / academic orientation. I'm not sure what the implications would be, but it makes Obama more interesting, and his life story makes a little more sense.

What about his mother's second husband, Lolo Soetoro? Obama writes: "With the help of his brother-in-law [a millionaire muckety-muck in the national oil company], he landed a new job in the government relations office of an American oil company." In other words, he got a great job because he knew people.

These people seem connected.

Think about the President's mother: a girl from Kansas (of solid Yankee family on her mother's side) who keeps marrying politically well-connected men from decolonized countries on the very frontlines of the Cold War in the Third World, Kenya and Indonesia. She keeps showing up at places like the East-West center in Honolulu, the U.S. Embassy in Jakarta, and in Pakistan. How incompetent would the CIA have to be not to notice her? (Granted, I may have just answered my own question: as bad as they gotta be.) For example, consider this excerpt from the Wikipedia account of the President's mother's life (I've added descriptions of the various organizations in brackets):

Dunham studied at the University of Hawaii [where she met Obama Sr. in Russian class] and the East-West Center [proposed by Senator Lyndon Baines Johnson in 1959 and signed into law by President Eisenhower as part of the Mutual Security Act] and attained a bachelor's, master's, and Ph.D. in anthropology. ... To address the problem of poverty in rural villages, she created microcredit programs while working as a consultant for the United States Agency for International Development [U.S. government agency, often linked to CIA]. Dunham was also employed by the Ford Foundation [flagship of WASP elite, worked closely with the U.S. government in Indonesia after the 1965 coup] in Jakarta and she consulted with the Asian Development Bank [15% owned by the U.S. government] in Pakistan. Towards the latter part of her life, she worked with Bank Rakyat Indonesia [owned by the Indonesian government, which was run by General Suharto, victor in the 1965 coup], where she helped apply her research to the largest microfinance program in the world.[4]
That's a pretty cozy career. At every stop along the way, she likely knew people who knew people who were CIA. Obama describes in general terms some of his mother's CIA contacts in Dreams from My Father in the chapter on his years in Indonesia [1967-1971]:
She found herself a job right away teaching English to Indonesian businessmen at the American embassy, part of the U.S. foreign aid package to developing countries. ... The Americans were mostly older men, careerists in the State Department, the occasional economist or journalist who would mysteriously disappear for months at a time, their affiliation or function in the embassy never quite clear [i.e., Obama is implying that they were CIA]. ...

In Obama's account, his mother, a future Ph.D., hadn't paid attention to the world-historical events happening in her fiance's/husband's homeland in 1965-1966 until she heard about them from American diplomats and CIA guys at the American embassy in Jakarta:

These men knew the country, though, or parts of it anyway, the closets where the skeletons were buried. Over lunch or casual conversation they would share with her things she couldn’t learn in the published news reports. They explained how Sukarno had frayed badly the nerves of a U.S. government already obsessed with the march of communism through Indochina, what with his nationalist rhetoric and his politics of nonalignment-he was as bad as Lumumba or Nasser, only worse, given Indonesia’s strategic importance. Word was that the CIA had played a part in the [1965] coup, although nobody knew for sure. More certain was the fact that after the coup the military had swept the countryside for supposed Communist sympathizers. The death toll was anybody’s guess: a few hundred thousand, maybe; half a million. Even the smart guys at the Agency had lost count.

Innuendo, half-whispered asides; that’s how she found out that we had arrived in Djakarta less than a year after one of the more brutal and swift campaigns of suppression in modern times. ... And with each new story, she would go to Lolo in private and ask him: ”Is it true?”

I dunno. It sounds very 1968 to me. More likely, Mrs. Soetoro, rather than being totally clueless about her husband's country, had an Agonizing Reappraisal during the Vietnam War.

As for Barack Obama Sr., almost certainly the CIA knew his name from that American Cold War ploy, the Tom Mboya Airlift of young African elites to America, Obama Jr. being on the first one to the U. of Hawaii.

Although he attacked from the left Tom Mboya's pro-American economic policy in his 1965 article Problems of Our Socialism, Mboya, a fellow Luo, didn't seem to hold it against him. David Horowitz's new left magazine Ramparts alleged that Mboya was on the CIA payroll. I don't know about that, but Mboya was well-funded by anti-Communist Americans such as the AFL-CIO. The Kennedy family contributed to the second Tom Mboya Airlift

In anticolonialist terms, Mboya represented the Kenyan center. President Jome Kenyatta was on the side of the British ex-masters, Mboya was in bed with the the Americans, and in the mid-1960s, the other Luo leader, Kenyan vice-president Oginga Odinga, made a deal with the Soviets for aid in return for Kenya joining the Soviet side, sending his son Raila Odinga (the current prime minister) to college in East Germany. At President Jomo Kenyatta's request, Mboya maneuvered Odinga into resigning. But with the Luo Left out of the way, Kenyatta was free to turn on the Luo Center.

Mboya mentored Obama Sr., until Mboya was assassinated by a Kikuyu gunman in front of Obama Sr.'s horrified eyes in 1969, the great crime / conspiracy in Kenyan history. Obama Jr. left this out of Dreams from My Father, but his father claimed to have been the chief witness at the trial of the hitman, who was probably hired by Kenyatta's Kikuyu associates to rub out the most obvious successor to Kenyatta. He claimed to have been persecuted until Kenyatta's death for having testified to the identify of the assassin.

In Dreams from My Father, it's apparent from certain understated details that the Obama family in Kenya hates the memory of Kenyatta. Overtly, though, Obama's retelling (through the mouth of his half-sister Auma) is bland and leaves out the more fascinating details:

”Then things began to change. When Ruth gave birth to Mark and David, her attention shifted to them. The Old Man, he left the American [oil] company to work in the government, for the Ministry of Tourism. He may have had political ambitions, and at first he was doing well in the government. But by 1966 or 1967, the divisions in Kenya had become more serious. President Kenyatta was from the largest tribe, the Kikuyus. The Luos, the second largest tribe, began to complain that Kikuyus were getting all the best jobs. The government was full of intrigue. The vice-president, Odinga, was a Luo, and he said the government was becoming corrupt. That, instead of serving those who had fought for independence, Kenyan politicians had taken the place of the white colonials, buying up businesses and land that should be redistributed to the people. Odinga tried to start his own party, but was placed under house arrest as a Communist. Another popular Luo minister, Tom M’boya, was killed by a Kikuyu gunman. Luos began to protest in the streets, and the government police cracked down. People were killed. All this created more suspicion between the tribes. ”Most of the Old Man’s friends just kept quiet and learned to live with the situation. But the Old Man began to speak up. He would tell people that tribalism was going to ruin the country and that unqualified men were taking the best jobs. His friends tried to warn him about saying such things in public, but he didn’t care. He always thought he knew what was best, you see. When he was passed up for a promotion, he complained loudly. ”How can you be my senior,’ he would say to one of the ministers, ”and yet I am teaching you how to do your job properly?’ Word got back to Kenyatta that the Old Man was a troublemaker, and he was called in to see the president. According to the stories, Kenyatta said to the Old Man that, because he could not keep his mouth shut, he would not work again until he had no shoes on his feet."
What's the real story? I don't know. Maybe his hard-drinking father was making up the part about being the chief witness to the Mboya slaying (which would be like being the chief witness to the JFK assassination in the U.S. in terms of undying interest in Kenya, although Mboya was more like RFK in 1968, the heir apparent).

Or maybe it really did happen, making Obama Jr. something of an heir to massacres in Indonesia and Kenya. The word "power" comes up over and over in Dreams from My Father, and Obama implies that, for him, the word has bloody connotations.

If so, that Obama then chose to devote his life to the pursuit of power frightens and impresses me.

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