22 Jan My suggestions for CODE PINK’s report card on Obama as Commander in Chief
I. GLOBAL WAR on TERROR (GWoT): D+ [Forget the rebranding; Obama has continued Bush’s strategically and morally bankrupt policy that fuels terrorism and global instability while cementing the worst of the Bush/Cheney legacy: the assault on civil liberties, press freedom, and human rights; the global, lawless, borderless and open-ended wars; and an imperial government that routinely kills civilians and deploys drones, private armies, and “special” operations in 75 nations – 15 more than when Obama took office1]
1. GWoT Strategy: F [“AF-PAK” has been a catastrophe. Elevating Gen. McChrystal (the shepherd of Rumsfeld’s lie to the Tillman family; infamous for the torture practiced at Camp Cropper in Iraq), was a predictable disaster; the violence in Afghanistan is at record levels, for both Afghan civilians and allied forces; our warlord, drug-lord, corrupt and extremist Afghan “partners” have provided one setback after another; the Taliban’s influence and territory in Afghanistan have only grown; in Pakistan, per the Brookings Institution, U.S. drones are killing TEN civilians to every ONE militant, destabilizing the government and alienating the population of a crucial ally (59% of Pakistanis see the U.S. as an “enemy” per a recent Pew poll); America continues to directly and indirectly finance the Taliban in Afghanistan and Pakistan (well into the hundreds of millions of dollars over the post-9/11 period); our support of dictatorial and brutal regimes and our failure to lead any credible peace initiative in the Middle East fuels extremism in the region; our counterproductive wars play into Osama bin Laden’s articulated strategy to lure America into quagmires that make us hated and drain our treasury (meanwhile our domestic problems grow), until we eventually collapse like the U.S.S.R.
As a side note, our activities in Somalia and Yemen are similarly counterproductive – antidemocratic and short-sighted; and our accounting of GWoT expenditures remains atrocious.]
2. GWoT Posture/Rhetoric: C- [Although Obama has been far more image than substance on this front, the improvement over his predecessor is appreciable. It meant something to the Muslim world when Obama (in his Cairo “New Beginning” speech) referred to the 1953 CIA-orchestrated coup in Iran. Various other olive branches have had some ameliorative effect on America’s relationships and standing in the world. Furthermore, despite all of Obama’s belligerent posturing (including his assertion of the “nuclear first strike” option, with regard to Iran and North Korea, and his justification for war while accepting the Nobel Peace Prize2), there is a real sense that the NeoConservatives have a reduced voice in this administration, and that America is less inclined to launch a major attack on another nation at a moment’s notice (faint praise, I realize). Nonetheless, much of the more positive rhetoric is undermined by America’s continued support for various Middle Eastern dictators and refusal to apply the same standard to state and non-state actors, especially with regard to its primary ally in the region, Israel – even in the wake of the Goldstone report, exposing war crimes (on both sides) in “Operation Cast Lead” or following the Israeli attack on civilian ships carrying aid to Gaza, killing several peace activists including an American citizen.]
3. GWoT vs. Civil Liberties and Rule of Law: F [Another Bush debacle embraced, continued, and worsened by Obama. Along with hyper-secrecy and blanket assertions of official immunity, the president has taken Bush’s evisceration of habeas corpus and the Bill of Rights to new depths, asserting that he has the right to: continue gathering and hoarding the electronic records of Americans; assassinate an American citizen without any due process; bar an American citizen, uncharged with any crime, from entry into the U.S.3; detain individuals indefinitely without ever charging them with a crime; and kidnap individuals and whisk them off to nations where they are likely to be detained and tortured by American proxies. He has kept the prison at Guantanamo open (and several detention centers in Afghanistan); he has jailed American soldier Bradley Manning in harsh conditions for more than half a year; he has persecuted government whistleblowers and threatened journalists like no president before him (Vice President Biden was not rebuked for calling Julian Assange a “terrorist”). Obama has done these things while winking at (and illegally protecting4) crimes committed by Bush officials who authorized torture and corporate criminals, from civilian-slaughtering Blackwater (Xe) to Goldman Sachs and the rest of the Wall Street gang. In keeping with Bush’s policy of deploying private contractors to police American citizens during the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, Obama has deployed the U.S. military to prevent journalists from reporting on the scope of the BP oil spill5 – both violations of at least the spirit of posse comitatus (the centuries-old tradition that prohibits the U.S. government from deploying the military against our civilian population). Furthermore, Obama has continued asserting that a nuclear strike against Iran or North Korea remains “on the table” (a violation of the U.N. Charter) and extended legitimacy to coups in Honduras, Palestine, and Haiti. Domestically, he has championed the reauthorization of the PATRIOT ACT, with no prescription for curbing the law’s abuses (particularly with regard to the FBI’s infiltration of peace groups6, abuse of national security letters, and entrapment approach to combating “terrorists” – talking disaffected young Muslims into going along with terrorist plots that originate entirely with the U.S. government).]
II. IRAQ: D [Obama has simply continued the Bush policy, a recipe for future unrest in that U.S.-demolished and fractured country. While he has continued to drawdown troops (per the SoFA that Bush negotiated with the IUG), Obama has lied about the true status of our remaining troops, declaring that all “combat troops” have left, when they’ve simply been reclassified as “non-combat” troops. Obama has continued to ignore the causes of Iraq’s ongoing sectarian violence while forwarding Bush’s plans for a permanent, largely military U.S. presence in Iraq, with huge bases in Baghdad, Basra, Mosul, Kirkuk, and Kurdistan, guarded by American military forces and some 8,000 mercenaries, including employees of Blackwater/Xe (despite the Iraqis’ repeated efforts to expel that company from their supposedly sovereign nation). Obama continues to champion the least representative Iraqis (the Supreme Council which is an Iranian creation, and the overrepresented Kurds, because they share America’s interest in a divided Iraq); while pushing the Iraqis to authorize an extension to our military presence and sign a “Hydrocarbons Law” that gives Western oil companies control of Iraq’s most valuable resource over the next 20-35 years. In short, thanks to Obama, the U.S. is still in denial about Iraq, still trying to “collect our winnings” while pretending we have not worn out our welcome – still backing barely-representative former exiles over genuinely popular leaders like Moqtada al-Sadr (a less than perfect leader who has been comically vilified in the American press and blamed for the worst crimes of some of our best Iraqi “partners,” the Supreme Council and their “reformed” Badr Brigades). The debacle continues, with no change in America’s privatization demands or its approach to ethno-sectarian divisions in the country.]
III. CODE PINK comment/instruction:
As a peacemaker, President Obama has been an enormous disappointment.
From our perspective, President Bush’s response to the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, was entirely wrongheaded, from the PATRIOT ACT and the illegal mass-wiretapping of American citizens to the criminal invasions and barbaric militarism that ensued, with its collateral damage, kidnappings, and institutionalized torture.
Americans voted overwhelmingly in 2006 and 2008 to reject the policies and values of George W. Bush, especially his failed wars and unrelenting assault on the rule of law.
Tragically, President Obama has wasted (with extreme prejudice) an ENORMOUS mandate for real CHANGE, starting with his opportunity to end the Global War on Terror. With the American public clamoring for de-escalation of Bush’s wars and a return to Constitutional norms (repudiating the torture-condoning legal arguments of Yoo, Addington, Cheney, and co.), Obama chose to continue those wars – escalating them in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen, and the Horn of Africa. He continued making claims of Executive authority consistent with President Bush’s Unitary Executive assertions (Bush’s position that Nixon was basically correct when he claimed that “when the president does it, that means that it is not illegal!”).
Worst of all, Obama has demonstrated himself to be a believer in Dick Cheney’s version of Executive Power. He has continued the practice of abusing Presidential Signing Statements, suggesting that the President is exempt from even the laws he signs into existence! Obama has continued to shroud the government’s illegal actions in official secrecy, waging a war on responsible journalism and legal systems everywhere in order to continue kidnapping, torturing, and violating the civil and human rights of citizens and non-citizens alike… all the while playing right into bin Laden’s hands, reading from the script our enemy has written for us.
1 David Swanson: “State of Our Union: War Rages On, Dissent is Repressed. We Need to Bring Our War Dollars Home and Invest in Rebuilding America”