Obama: From Anti-war Law Professor to Warmonger in 100 Days

Obama: From Anti-war Law Professor to Warmonger in 100 Days

It didn’t take long for President Barack Obama to swing behind targeted assassinations and bombing raids, says Alexander Cockburn

By Alexander Cockburn

May 21, 2009 “First Post” — How long does it take a mild-mannered, anti-war, black professor of constitutional law, trained as a community organiser on the South Side of Chicago, to become an enthusiastic sponsor of targeted assassinations, ‘decapitation’ strategies and remote-control bombing of mud houses at the far end of the globe?

There’s nothing surprising here. As far back as President Woodrow Wilson, in the early 20th century, American liberalism has been swift to flex its imperial muscle and whistle up the Marines. High-explosive has always been in the hormone shot.

The nearest parallel to Obama in eager deference to the bloodthirsty counsels of his counter-insurgency advisors is John F. Kennedy. It is not surprising that bright young presidents relish quick-fix, ‘outside the box’ scenarios for victory.

Obama’s course is set and his presidency is already stained the familiar blood-red

Whether in Vietnam or Afghanistan the counsel of regular Army generals tends to be drear and unappetising: vast, costly deployments of troops by the hundreds of thousands, mounting casualties, uncertain prospects for any long-term success ­ all adding up to dismaying political costs on the home front.

Amid Camelot’s dawn in 1961, Kennedy swiftly bent an ear to the advice of men like Ed Lansdale, a special ops man who wore rakishly the halo of victory over the Communist guerillas in the Philippines and who promised results in Vietnam.

By the time he himself had become the victim of Lee Harvey Oswald’s ‘decapitation’ strategy, brought to successful conclusion in Dealey Plaza, Dallas, on November 22, 1963, Kennedy had set in motion the secret counter-insurgency operations, complete with programs of assassination and torture, that turned South-East Asia and Latin America into charnel houses for the next 20 years.

Another Democrat who strode into the White House with the word ‘peace’ springing from his lips was Jimmy Carter. It was he who first decreed that ‘freedom’ and the war on terror required a $3.5bn investment in a secret CIA-led war in Afghanistan, plus the deployment of Argentinian torturers to advise US military teams in counter-insurgency ops in El Salvador and Nicaragua.

Obama campaigned on a pledge to ‘decapitate’ al-Qaeda, meaning the assassination of its leaders. It was his short-hand way of advertising that he had the right stuff. Now, like Kennedy, he’s summoned the exponents of unconventional, short-cut paths to success in that mission.

Lt. Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal now replaces General David McKiernan as Commander of US Forces in Afghanistan. McChrystal’s expertise is precisely in assassination and ‘decapitation’ . As commander of the military’s Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC) for nearly five years starting in 2003, McChrystal was in charge of death squad ops, his best advertised success being the killing of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, head of al-Qaeda in Iraq.

The phrase ‘sophisticated networks’ tends to crop up in assessments of McChrystal’s Iraq years. Actually there’s nothing fresh or sophisticated in what he did. Programmes of targeted assassination aren’t new in counter-insurgency. The most infamous and best known was the Phoenix Program in Vietnam, designed to identify and eliminate cadres of Vietnam’s National Liberation Front, informally known as the Viet Cong, of whom, on some estimates, at least 40,000 were duly assassinated.

In such enterprises two outcomes are inevitable. Identification of the human targets requires either voluntary informants or captives. In the latter instance torture is certain, whatever rhetorical pledges are proclaimed back home. There may be intelligence officers who rely on patient, non-violent interrogation, as the US officer who elicited the whereabouts of al-Zarqawi claims he did.

But there will be others who will reach for the garden hose and the face towel. (McChrystal, not uncoincidentally, was involved in the prisoner abuse scandal at Baghdad’s Camp Nama. He also played a sordid role in the cover-up of the friendly-fire death of ex-NFL star and Army Ranger Pat Tillman.)

Whatever the technique, a second certainty is the killing of large numbers of civilians in the final ‘targeted assassination’ . At one point in the first war on Saddam Hussein in the early 1990s, a huge component of US air sorties was devoted each day to bombing places where US intelligence had concluded Saddam might be hiding. Time after time, after the mangled bodies of men, women and children had been scrutinised, came the crestfallen tidings that Saddam was not among them.

Already in Afghanistan public opinion has been inflamed by the weekly bulletins of deadly bombardments either by drones or manned bombers. Still in the headlines is the US bombardment of Bala Boluk in Farah province, which yielded 140 dead villagers torn apart by high explosives, including 93 children. Only 22 were male and over 18.

Perhaps ‘sophisticated intelligence’ had identified one of these as an al-Qaeda man, or a Taliban captain, or maybe someone an Afghan informant to the US military just didn’t care for. Maybe electronic eavesdropping simply screwed up the coordinates. If we ever know, it won’t be for a very long time. Obama has managed a terse apology, even as he installs McChrystal, thus ensuring more of the same.

Obama is bidding to be as sure-footed as Bush in trampling on constitutional rights

The logic of targeted assassinations was on display in Gaza even as Obama worked on the uplifting phrases of his inaugural address in January. The Israelis claimed they were targeting only Hamas even as the body counts of women and children methodically refuted these claims and finally extorted from Obama a terse phrase of regret.

He may soon weary of uttering them. His course is set and his presidency already permanently stained the ever-familiar blood-red tint. There’s no short-cut in counter-insurgency. A targeted bombing yields up Bala Boluk, and the incandescent enmity of most Afghans. The war on al-Qaeda mutates into the war on the Taliban, and 850,000 refugees in the Swat Valley in Pakistan.

The mild-mannered professor is bidding to be as sure-footed as Bush and Cheney in trampling on constitutional rights. He’s planning to restore Bush’s kangaroo courts for prisoners at Guantanamo who’ve never even been formally charged with a crime! He’s threatening to hold some prisoners indefinitely in the US without trial.

He’s even been awarded a hearty editorial clap on the back from the Wall Street Journal: “Mr. Obama deserves credit for accepting that civilians courts are largely unsuited for the realities of the war on terror. He has now decided to preserve a tribunal process that will be identical in every material way to the one favoured by Dick Cheney.”

It didn’t take long. But it’s what we’ve got ­ for the rest of Obama-time.

source: thefirstpost.co.uk

Advertisements

Obama’s Middle East Imperialism

 By Shamus Cooke

Global Research, May 10, 2009

http://www.globalre search.ca/ index.php? context=va&aid=13556

The velvet gloves are off and the reality of Obama’s Middle East plans are being revealed: a bare-fisted pummeling of Afghanistan and Pakistan — with Iraq’s fate yet to be determined.
The media have been preparing this for months, with incessant talk about

  • the alleged “troop drawdown” in Iraq,
  • the “surge” in Afghanistan and
  • the “immediate threat” that supposedly is represented by Pakistan.

It’s now crystal clear that zero “change” will be forthcoming when it comes to U.S. foreign policy, minus a strategic shifting of troops.  This fact was highlighted recently when Obama asked for an additional $83.4 billion in “emergency spending” to fight the Iraq/Afghan/ Pakistan wars. It must be noted that so-called “emergency funds” were precisely the avenue Bush chose to fight his wars, enabling him to skirt the already-gigantic military budget.
The 2010 military budget is now set at $534 billion (!), not counting emergency spending; a 4 percent increase from the previous year.  At a time when jobs, education, health, and public services are being slashed all over the country, calling such a budget “highly immoral” would be an understatement.

Also morally questionable is the extension of the Afghanistan war into Pakistan, a bitter pill to swallow for those who once sincerely believed in Obama’s antiwar rhetoric.  The house appropriations committee recently approved $2.3 billion in “emergency spending” for “assistance” to Pakistan, most of it for the purpose of making war: training Pakistani “counterinsurgency” forces and police and building a fortified U.S. super embassy.
In an attempt to fool the American public about Pakistan, Obama has substituted the always-unpopular ground troops with unmanned drones, stepping up the use of this highly inaccurate form of combat since becoming President and consequently killing hundreds of civilians.  Obama has also laid down the law for his puppet presidents in Afghanistan and Pakistan: they will fight his war to the end or be replaced.  The recent scene in Washington of these two Presidents declaring “unity and cooperation” with Obama’s war plans was perhaps the most farcical imperialist media show in recent history.
The “historic” meeting took place after weeks of U.S. government and military officials denouncing the two Presidents, along with open suggestions that a “better” leader should lead either country, i.e., wage Obama’s wars.  In the Washington Post we read:

“On all fronts,” said a senior U.S. official, “Hamid Karzai has plateaued as a leader.”

 

And:

“Obama intends to maintain an arm’s-length relationship with Karzai in the hope that it will lead him to address issues of concern to the United States, according to senior U.S. government officials.”  (May 5, 2009)
What are these “issues of concern”?

The Post explains:

“Obama wanted a renewed commitment by Karzai to better coordinate operations with Pakistan and the U.S., which will expand its military presence in Afghanistan under the president’s revised war strategy against the Taliban.”
Karzai got the message, and so did Zardari in Pakistan, who received similar messages from both the media and politicians (the Post article states that Obama has only spoken to Karzai twice since becoming President!).  Above all, Obama wanted completely pliable puppets, as opposed to the anti-American rhetoric both Presidents had used on multiple occasions so as not to appear complicit in having their own people massacred. 
The meeting of the Presidents quelled this.  Both Presidents sounded as if they were reading scripts as they talked about their “unwavering” fight against the Taliban.  Ironically, a convenient test of loyalty occurred during the summit: it was discovered that American fighter jets had massacred at least 147 people in Afghanistan.  Both Obama and the Afghani President were utterly stoic about the news. Instead of addressing the immense human suffering of the slaughter, they renewed their commitment to the war, while blandly adding: “Every effort is made to reduce civilian casualties.”
Although the latest bombing resembles in every way the horrors depicted in Picasso’s painting Guernica, it is not especially unique.  Using fighter jets against the Afghani people has now become common place, with the number of bombing raids increasing month to month.  The Washington Post article explains:

“As Taliban activity has increased in recent years, overwhelmed soldiers have increasingly resorted to calling in air strikes, resulting in numerous civilian casualties.”
The tried and true colonial tactic of terrorizing a population into submission is now the route being employed in Afghanistan — shock and awe Vietnam style.
And although Obama has stated repeatedly that he is trying to “finish up” Bush’s wars, he is in fact escalating them.  The above-mentioned military spending prompted Democratic congresswoman Lynn Woolsey to point out the obvious:

“[The spending] will prolong our occupation of Iraq through at least the end of 2011, and it will deepen and expand our military presence in Afghanistan indefinitely.” (Obama promised recently that all troops would be out of Iraq by 2011, the date the Bush administration had previously negotiated.)
The question must be asked: Why is Obama pursuing this policy?

 

One easy explanation is Obama’s extremely close ties to Wall Street.  U.S. banks are but one type of corporation that benefit greatly from a U.S.- dominated Middle East.  Becoming the primary banker for the region would be a very profitable endeavor; this applies with equal weight to weapons producing companies, and those paid to “reconstruct” a country after it is destroyed, not to mention corporations — oil, mining, U.S. exporters, etc. — that benefit from having a monopoly over a fully “pacified” nation.
Straying from this policy would require that the government pursue policies that directly benefit ordinary people, instead of those that cater to corporations and the rich that own them. 
Breaking the corporate dominance over social life requires that the market economy (capitalism) itself be opposed, since nothing is produced unless it can be sold for profit on the world market, and where the struggle to dominate this market leads corporations based in different countries to advocate for a policy of never-ending war.

Shamus Cooke is a social service worker, trade unionist, and writer for Workers Action (www.workerscompass. org).

Beware The Obama Hype: What “Change” In America Really Means

Beware The Obama Hype

What “Change” In America Really Means

By John Pilger

November 12, 2008 “Information Clearinghouse – -My first visit to Texas was in 1968, on the fifth anniversary of the assassination of president John F Kennedy in Dallas. I drove south, following the line of telegraph poles to the small town of Midlothian, where I met Penn Jones Jr, editor of the Midlothian Mirror. Except for his drawl and fine boots, everything about Penn was the antithesis of the Texas stereotype. Having exposed the racists of the John Birch Society, his printing press had been repeatedly firebombed. Week after week, he painstakingly assembled evidence that all but demolished the official version of Kennedy’s murder.

This was journalism as it had been before corporate journalism was invented, before the first schools of journalism were set up and a mythology of liberal neutrality was spun around those whose “professionalism” and “objectivity” carried an unspoken obligation to ensure that news and opinion were in tune with an establishment consensus, regardless of the truth. Journalists such as Penn Jones, independent of vested power, indefatigable and principled, often reflect ordinary American attitudes, which have seldom conformed to the stereotypes promoted by the corporate media on both sides of the Atlantic. Read American Dreams: Lost and Found by the masterly Studs Terkel, who died the other day, or scan the surveys that unerringly attribute enlightened views to a majority who believe that “government should care for those who cannot care for themselves” and are prepared to pay higher taxes for universal health care, who support nuclear disarmament and want their troops out of other people’s countries.

Returning to Texas, I am struck again by those so unlike the redneck stereotype, in spite of the burden of a form of brainwashing placed on most Americans from a tender age: that theirs is the most superior society in the history of the world, and all means are justified, including the spilling of copious blood, in maintaining that superiority.

That is the subtext of Barack Obama’s “oratory”. He says he wants to build up US military power; and he threatens to ignite a new war in Pakistan, killing yet more brown-skinned people. That will bring tears, too. Unlike those on election night, these other tears will be unseen in Chicago and London. This is not to doubt the sincerity of much of the response to Obama’s election, which happened not because of the unction that has passed for news reporting from America since 4 November (e.g. “liberal Americans smiled and the world smiled with them”) but for the same reasons that millions of angry emails were sent to the White House and Congress when the “bailout” of Wall Street was revealed, and because most Americans are fed up with war.

Two years ago, this anti-war vote installed a Democratic majority in Congress, only to watch the Democrats hand over more money to George W Bush to continue his blood fest. For his part, the “anti-war” Obama never said the illegal invasion of Iraq was wrong, merely that it was a “mistake”. Thereafter, he voted in to give Bush what he wanted. Yes, Obama’s election is historic, a symbol of great change to many. But it is equally true that the American elite has grown adept at using the black middle and management class. The courageous Martin Luther King recognised this when he linked the human rights of black Americans with the human rights of the Vietnamese, then being slaughtered by a liberal Democratic administration. And he was shot. In striking contrast, a young black major serving in Vietnam, Colin Powell, was used to “investigate” and whitewash the infamous My Lai massacre. As Bush’s secretary of state, Powell was often described as a “liberal” and was considered ideal to lie to the United Nations about Iraq’s non-existent weapons of mass destruction. Condaleezza Rice, lauded as a successful black woman, has worked assiduously to deny the Palestinians justice.

Obama’s first two crucial appointments represent a denial of the wishes of his supporters on the principal issues on which they voted. The vice-president- elect, Joe Biden, is a proud warmaker and Zionist. Rahm Emanuel, who is to be the all-important White House chief of staff, is a fervent “neoliberal” devoted to the doctrine that led to the present economic collapse and impoverishment of millions. He is also an “Israel-first” Zionist who served in the Israeli army and opposes meaningful justice for the Palestinians – an injustice that is at the root of Muslim people’s loathing of the United States and the spawning of jihadism.

No serious scrutiny of this is permitted within the histrionics of Obamamania, just as no serious scrutiny of the betrayal of the majority of black South Africans was permitted within the “Mandela moment”. This is especially marked in Britain, where America’s divine right to “lead” is important to elite British interests. The once respected Observer newspaper, which supported Bush’s war in Iraq, echoing his fabricated evidence, now announces, without evidence, that “America has restored the world’s faith in its ideals”. These “ideals”, which Obama will swear to uphold, have overseen, since 1945, the destruction of 50 governments, including democracies, and 30 popular liberation movements, causing the deaths of countless men, women and children.

None of this was uttered during the election campaign. Had it been allowed, there might even have been recognition that liberalism as a narrow, supremely arrogant, war-making ideology is destroying liberalism as a reality. Prior to Blair’s criminal warmaking, ideology was denied by him and his media mystics. “Blair can be a beacon to the world,” declared the Guardian in 1997. “[He is] turning leadership into an art form.”

Today, merely insert “Obama”. As for historic moments, there is another that has gone unreported but is well under way – liberal democracy’s shift towards a corporate dictatorship, managed by people regardless of ethnicity, with the media as its clichéd façade. “True democracy,” wrote Penn Jones Jr, the Texas truth-teller, “is constant vigilance: not thinking the way you’re meant to think and keeping your eyes wide open at all times.”

Why Obama Is Wrong

September 18, 2008

Why Obama Is Wrong

by William S. Lind

A few weeks ago I wrote a column explaining why Senator John McCain is wrong on Iraq. In contrast, Senator Barack Obama is largely right on Iraq. Whether he would follow through on his plan for withdrawing U.S. troops is another question. The Democratic foreign policy establishment is no less Wilsonian than its Republican counterpart, and once it has used antiwar voters to gain power it will want to show them the door as soon as it dares.

But if Obama is right on Iraq, he is wrong on Afghanistan, Pakistan and Iran. His prescriptions for each are so close to the policies of the Bush administration that if McCain is McBush, Obama appears to be O’Bush. It seems many voters’ desire to climb up out of the Bush league altogether is doomed to frustration.

On Afghanistan, Obama wants to send in more troops and win the war. But more troops doing what U.S. troops now do – fighting the Pashtun and calling in airstrikes on anything that moves – guarantee we will lose the war. As was the case in Iraq, the first necessary step is to change what our troops are doing. From what I have seen, Obama has said nothing on that score, probably because his position on Afghanistan is mere posturing intended to show he will be “tough on terrorism.”

Obama’s position on Pakistan is even more dangerous. In August of 2007, Obama called for direct U.S. military action in Pakistan, with or without Pakistani approval. Speaking to the Woodrow Wilson Center, he said, “If we have actionable intelligence about high-value terrorist targets and President Musharraf won’t act, we will.” President Bush took Senator Obama’s recommendation this past July, authorizing such actions.

This is an example of the classic strategic error of sacrificing a more important goal to one of lesser importance. Not even outright defeat in Afghanistan would do America’s interests as much damage as would the disintegration of the Pakistani state and the transformation of Pakistan into another stateless region. The state of Pakistan is already dangerously fragile, and actions such as cross-border raids by American troops will diminish its legitimacy further. No government that cannot defend its sovereignty will last. Ironically, if Pakistan collapses, so does our position in Afghanistan, because our main logistics line will be cut. In effect, Obama wants to hand al-Qaeda and the Taliban a double victory.

In June of this year, Obama spoke to the annual AIPAC conference. What he said there about Iran put him once again firmly in the Bush camp:

 

“As President, I will use all elements of American power to pressure Iran. I will do everything in my power to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon….

“There should be no doubt: I will always keep the threat of military action to defend our security and our ally Israel. Do not be confused.

“Sometimes there are no alternatives to confrontation. If we must use military force, we are more likely to succeed and have more support at home and abroad if we have exhausted our diplomatic options. That is the change we need in our policy.”

In other words, the change we need in our policy is to offer a bit more diplomatic kabuki before we attack Iran.

As I have said repeatedly and will keep on saying, an attack on Iran could cost us the whole army we have in Iraq. It could set the region on fire, from Afghanistan to the Nile. It could create an oil crisis with severe economic consequences at a time when the world economy is tottering. It is, in short, madness. But it is also what Obama promised AIPAC.

Here we see the central reality of American politics shining through the smoke and mirrors. America has a one-party system. That party is the Establishment Party, and its internal disagreements are minor. Both McCain and Obama are Establishment Party candidates. They agree America must be a world-controlling empire. Both men are Wilsonians, believing we must re-make other countries and cultures in our own image. Neither man conceives any real limits, political, financial, military or moral, on American power. McCain and Obama vie only in determining which can drink more deeply from the poisoned well of hubris, around which, unremarked, lie the bones of every previous world power.

Such is the “choice” the American people get in November.