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Commentary Last Updated: Dec 4th, 2008 - 01:46:58

Cassandra complex
By Michael Hasty
Online Journal Contributing Writer

Dec 4, 2008, 00:12

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One of the most common complaints among progressives is that we seem to never get credit for having been right about important issues. This complaint has had a breath of new life in the wake of Barack Obama�s appointments of Iraq War hawks to his national security team. People like columnist Glenn Greenwald are asking, where are the cabinet positions for those who opposed the invasion of Iraq in the first place?

I�ve had the personal experience of this phenomenon myself, as I�ve written earlier. Before the war started, I was writing about the lack of evidence for Iraqi WMD, and how intelligence was being manipulated. With few exceptions, this was not a story getting much play in the corporate media, which had been beating the war drums from the beginning. I watched in horror as the inevitable unfolded. The only surprise for me, when it turned out there were no WMD, was that none had been planted after the fact.

The phenomenon of having your predictions disregarded has sometimes been referred to as the �Cassandra complex.� The name is derived from a character in the Iliad. Cassandra was the sister of the Trojan hero, Hector, and was so beautiful that she attracted the favor of the god, Apollo, who granted her the gift of prophecy. When Cassandra demurred from his attentions, Apollo turned the gift into a curse. Cassandra was still able to see the future, but no one would believe her warnings, and she could do nothing to change the unfolding of events. A curse, indeed.

What prompts this post is a rare example of progressives getting credit for being right. I�m reading the new book by Andrew Bacevich, �The Limits of Power: The End of American Exceptionalism.� Bacevich is a retired Army colonel, and professor of history and international relations at Boston University. He�s also a longtime opponent of the Iraq War who�s had the tragic experience of losing his own son as a casualty in that conflict, and a clear-eyed realist about American imperialism.

Monday night I read this passage: �Many Americans remember the 1960s as the Freedom Decade -- and with good cause. Although the modern civil rights movement predates that decade, it was then that the campaign for racial equality achieved its greatest breakthroughs, beginning in 1963 with the March on Washington and Martin Luther King�s �I Have a Dream� speech. Women and gays followed suit. The founding of the National Organization for Women in 1966 signaled the reinvigoration of the fight for women�s rights. In 1969, the Stonewall Uprising in New York City launched the gay rights movement.

�Political credit for this achievement lies squarely with the Left . . . Pick the group: blacks, Jews, women, Asians, Hispanics, working stiffs, gays, the handicapped -- in every case, the impetus for providing equal access to the rights guaranteed by the Constitution originated among pinks, lefties, liberals, and bleeding-heart fellow travelers. When it came to ensuring that every American should get a fair shake, the contribution of modern conservatism has been essentially nil.�

It would be nice to think that some of Obama�s new national security team would be taking Bacevich�s views about the rot at the heart of American foreign policy into account. Too bad he�s a fellow Cassandra.

Michael Hasty lives on a farm in West Virginia, where he wrote a column for seven years for the Hampshire Review, the state�s oldest newspaper. In 2000, it was named best column by the West Virginia Press Association. His writing has appeared in the Charleston Gazette, Online Journal, Common Dreams, Buzzflash, Tikkun and many other websites. He publishes the blog, Radical Pantheist. He plays guitar and harmonica with the folk/gospel trio, the Time Travelers. Email:. radicalpantheist(at)gmail (dot) com.

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