middle east, muslims, obama, politics, war on terror

The Fall of Barack Obama?

Published on: “The Canadian Charger”, October 13th, 2010 (http://www.thecanadiancharger.com/page.php?id=5&a=628)

As the midterm elections near in the United States, President Obama and Vice-President Biden have announced in unison that democrats have to “stop whining”. In other words, their message rests on a confused statement of confused disappointment “we’ve done so much for you, how can you complain? Look at these Republicans, do you want them ruling over you?” The Obama administration, after two years, must now resort to the “at-least-we’re-not-them” strategy. Why? Because they don’t have much else to show for.

Both domestically and internationally, Obama has failed to deliver on crucial promises. Two fundamentally crucial mis-steps are especially troubling and destructive. When accompanied by the lack of jobs for middle and working America, at least the idea of Obama—whatever is left from those hopeful campaign speeches—has collapsed.

(1) The failure to restore civil liberties for U.S. citizens. Early on, Obama refused to prosecute Bush-era Department of Justice officials because he wanted to “Look forward, not back.” Those who worked with Alberto Gonzalez, John Yoo, etc. essentially got a free pass for formulating some of the most ridiculous torture laws during the heat of the “War on Terror”. But while looking forward, the Obama administration refused to discontinue the illegal wire-tapping carried out by the state’s intelligence community. In fact, perhaps looking a little too forward, the Obama administration has also tried to expand presidential power in order to assassinate U.S. citizens without due process (ie. vis a vis Anwar al-Awlaki), regardless of where they are on the planet. Finally, just to top it all off, Obama has requested that the internet also be wire-tapped (via “backdoor encryption”) in order to survey e-mail communication of U.S. citizens.

This all seems terribly surreal when considering the fact that Obama ran on somewhat of a “liberty-first” campaign, at least rhetorically shifting away from Bush’s morbid civil rights record. However, a sober examination of Obama’s record on civil liberties reveals that his policies are just as morbid. In fact, compared to Bush Jr, Obama is worse. George Bush never tried to assassinate American citizens with or without due process. Obama’s mini-crusade against the apparently terrorist Imam Anwar al-Awlaki is bizarre to say the least. Claiming at al-Awlaki is in collusion with Yemeni al-Qaeda, Obama has called for the New Mexico-born al-Awlaki to be killed—without a trial or any real evidence regarding the claims made. If Obama gets his way, his administration will usher in a new era of presidential power, one that allows for the murder of American citizens, away from a battlefield (al-Awlaki could be eating dinner for all we know), and without any semblance of due process. In fact, one is prompted to ask for so many of these jump-the-gun “War on Terror” scenarios, a rather obvious question: “If you’re so sure that they’re guilty, why not have them convicted properly in a court of law?”

(2) The failure to decrease the United States’ violent involvement in the Middle East. Since Obama’s presidency began, the U.S. has continually been involved violently in Afghanistan, Iraq, Somalia, Pakistan, and Yemen (the ones we know). Drone attacks in Pakistan and Yemen have killed upwards of a few hundred people. To be fair, Obama never campaigned on an explicitly anti-war platform—but he did run on an implicit one. Instead, the United States’ footprint in the Middle East is larger than ever.

While sticking to the Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) in Iraq and pulling out around 15,000 U.S. troops out of Iraq in August 2010, Obama reneged on his pledge to pull out all combatants by September 1st, 2010. In fact, around 50,000 troops are to remain in Iraq even after the withdrawal, despite these remaining troops being labeled “advisory and assistance brigades.” Obama has effectively rebranded the Iraq occupation. The U.S. embassy is a mammoth establishment the size of Vatican City (consisting of twenty-one buildings on 104 acres of land on the Tigris River). The American diplomats and officials in Iraq are protected by private contractors/mercenaries from corporations like DynCorp and Blackwater Worldwide (now Xe). This upsurge of mercenaries is to off-set the withdrawals mandated by SOFA, which asks for all foreign troops to leave Iraq by the end of 2011. As The Nation Magazine’s correspondent Timothy Scahill reported just prior to the August withdrawal:

“The State Department is asking Congress to approve funds to more than double the number of private security contractors in Iraq with a State Department official testifying in June at a hearing of the Wartime Contracting Commission that the Department wants ‘between 6,000 and 7,000 security contractors.’ The Department also has asked the Pentagon for twenty-four Blackhawk helicopters, fifty Mine-Resistant Ambush-Protected (MRAP) vehicles and other military equipment.”

This policy effectively shows that the Obama administration is not committed to letting Iraqis shape their own future.

Not far away, President Obama—very much sticking to his campaign message—increased troops in Afghanistan by at least 30,000 U.S. troops. Like the previous administration, the Obama establishment cannot break out of what Salon.com’s Glenn Greenwald calls the “War on Terror logic.” Greenwald writes that

“The very idea that we’re going to spend an entire decade dropping a constant stream of bombs and other munitions on and in multiple Muslim countries and otherwise interfere in their governments — and then expect that nobody will try to attack us back — evinces such a child-like sense of imperial entitlement that it’s hard to put into words.”

The campaign in Afghanistan has yielded a number of gruesome incidents involving innocent Afghan noncombatants. These were detailed in the massive leak released to the whistle-blowing organization Wikileaks, which subsequently released the 90,000 page trove to the New York Times (U.S.), The Guardian (U.K.), and Der Spiegel (Germany). One under-publicized incident involved the murder of five individuals in the Afghan province of Paktia that consisted of two pregnant women and a teenage girl. Having shot to death these innocent civilians, the soldiers tried to hide the crime by prying out the bullets and washing the wounds with alcohol. War, as it turns out, whether headed up by President Bush or President Obama, is always mind-blowingly bloody and dishonorable.

There have been no real signs of success in Obama’s military campaigns to eradicate al-Qaeda. The more blood American troops have on their hands, the more danger will face U.S. citizens in the form of terrorism. It’s a not justification for murder, but an understanding of the causation of such cycles of violence.

The continued perpetuation of occupation and violence abroad is not entirely the fault of Barack Obama, and neither is the proliferation of the so-called “security state” on the U.S. domestic scene. The American way of war is benefited by a large number of establishment-preserving institutions, not least of which are the private contractors, weapons-developers, and divisive politicians. And as Dana Priest and William Arkin showed in their report for the Washington Post, “Top Secret America,” the mammoth apparatus that is the “security state” is so large and uncontrollable, no single individual was responsible for its extensive proliferation, and certainly no individual can single-handedly destroy it.

However, it does go to show that those who put their absolute faith and hope in Barack Obama have only themselves to blame. When running for President, Obama lied—but not as much as one would think. Most of the time, he presented himself as exactly what he was—a slightly liberal centrist. He made almost no promises in terms of concrete policy, and what little he did say were mere slogans. Those who endowed him with institution-toppling powers are disappointed only in-so-far that they trusted in their own political judgment—which, frankly—isn’t very impressive.

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muslims, politics, war on terror

Israel the Insane (II)

With the MV Rachel Corrie intercepted at sea by Israeli forces (albeit this time without bloodshed), the facts and eye-witness accounts have emerged regarding the events that took place on the Mavi Marmara. Considering these new revelations after the release of the activists and journalists from Israeli custody, it is a good time to revisit some truly dumb Israeli propaganda.

1. The Gaza Freedom Flotilla and Movement is a Hamas-affiliated militia, and supporter of “global-jihad”…which makes it a conduit for Iran.

This is wild and desperate “guilt-by-association”. Not only is Hamas not intrinsically a terrorist group (it has engaged in acts of terror, but consistency and fairness would demand that someone like Ehud Barak be considered one of the top 5 terrorists in the world), the Free Gaza Movement and Flotilla have never engaged in anything with Hamas.

Supported by the Turkish Islamic NGO IHH, the flotilla would never have been allowed to set sail in Turkey. The Turkish security apparatus is particularly adept at tracking down operations by, say, the Turkish Hizbullah (another reason not to slap Erdogan with the same badge as Nasrallah, whose faction actually fought against Israel in wars).

2. The IDF soldiers, in their nobility, tried to reason and accommodate the Flotilla activists, but were met with a “lynch mob” with knives, metal bars, and live fire. Thus, the soldiers had no choice but to defend themselves and return fire, killing at least nine people.

There is no evidence that guns/live fire was packed or shot by the activists aboard the Marmara. Moreover, in an act of desperate propagandizing, Israel’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs put out pictures of seized weapons aboard the Maramara that have now been proven to be fake, with some photos over a year old. What’s even more hilarious is that these alleged weapons constituted saws, knives, sling shots, and metal bars. How do these weapons compare to pistols, tear gas, and rubber-coated steel bullets?

Moreover, after detailed autopsies, it has been confirmed that the dead activists were shot from close range about a combined 30 times. One IDF soldier, out of control, shot dead 6 activists. Some shots were right between the eyes. A journalist aboard the Flotilla details the “3-staged” events of the Maramara. It has also been confirmed by numerous eyewitnesses that the IDF fired grenades and live ammunition from the air before even boarding the ship itself.

Furthermore, keep in mind that Israel detained 60 journalists along with many more activists for the first 36 hours after the murders. This gave them a chance to stuff the media with a highly-edited video of what happened on the Marmara, played over and over again by the abject corporate television media of the United States. This useless video as well as the content of the Israeli propaganda machine is being vigorous contradicted by eyewitness. Here is a good compilation. Also, Salon.com’s Glenn Greenwald smacks MSNBC with some much-needed common sense as well.

3. Gaza is being blockaded to keep weapons away from Hamas; there is no humanitarian crisis in Gaza.

See this essay on why the blockade is a war crime, this chart for the numerous items disallowed by Israel into Gaza, and this report for how the blockade on Gaza is creating extraordinary humanitarian crises and problems for the 1.5 million of Gaza.

Finally, if you run into real trouble, see this list of general talking points put out by the always-reliable Canadians for Justice and Peace in the Middle East (CJPME) on the flotilla attack.

While you’re at it, attend this event to support those in Gaza. The event is also set up on Facebook.

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