FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Compromised Domestic Policy, Militarized Foreign Policy

by DEEPAK TRIPATHI

With the passing of a disastrous decade and President Obama about to complete his first year in office, it is perhaps appropriate to look at the recent past and what may lie ahead. For the Obama presidency, it has been more of a downhill journey than a steep climb that many of his supporters and admirers in America and around the world had expected. President Obama will miss the January 22 deadline he set himself a year ago to close Guantanamo Bay prison camp. As the New York Times recently pointed out, difficulties in finding places abroad to resettle prisoners deemed innocent and Congressional resistance to approving money to transfer high-security terrorism suspects to a special prison in Illinois have made it impossible to meet the deadline. The Guantanamo prison might not be closed before 2011 at the earliest.

Obama’s health-care reform bill has had an arduous passage in the US Congress. After a long battle, the House of Representatives finally approved its version including a government-run health-care option the president wanted. It was a different matter in the Senate, where a filibuster-proof 60-vote majority could only be secured when Senate Democratic majority leader Harry Reid dropped the government insurance option to ensure support from conservative Democrats. Not one Republican senator backed the bill. And Reid and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi were forced to concede on other major issues, including restrictions on abortion coverage.

These concessions have infuriated liberals. One of the disappointed is Obama’s personal physician of 22 years, Dr David Scheiner, who does not believe the planned overhaul goes far enough to help the poor and uninsured, and will cost too much. Dr Scheiner, bitterly disappointed, said he was excluded from the list of invitees to the White House under pressure from the health lobby. Even so, President Obama congratulated the Senate, and by implication himself, on its historic vote, proclaiming “we are now finally poised to deliver on the promise of real, meaningful health insurance reform.”

Compare the content and tone of President Obama’s remarks at his inauguration, his Cairo address to the Muslim world in June and his Oslo speech accepting the Nobel Peace Prize in December 2009. Couched in the familiar rhetoric is increasing aggression and militarization of American foreign policy under the Obama presidency. The inauguration speech included remarks about the United State being a nation of Christians and Muslims, Jews and Hindus, and nonbelievers; a message to the Muslim world that America sought a new way forward, based on mutual interests and mutual respect; and a warning to those who cling to power through corruption and deceit.

In Cairo, Obama acknowledged tensions between the United States and Muslims around the world, not only rooted in historical forces, but also fed by colonialism that denied rights and opportunities to many Muslims; and a cold war in which Muslim-majority countries were treated as proxies without regard for their aspirations. Reaction from the Muslim world and outside was generally positive. The speech was seen as a possible new beginning after the three-week Israeli war on Gaza that took the lives of 1400 Palestinians in comparison to 13 deaths on the Israeli side during the last days of the George W Bush’s presidency in December 2008/January 2009.

In a surprise but divisive move, the Nobel Committee announced the award of the 2009 Peace Prize to President Obama for his ‘extraordinary efforts to strengthen international diplomacy and cooperation between peoples’. But soon the Nobel Committee’s announcement began to look like a triumph of hope over reality. In early December, after weeks of deliberations, he announced before a uniformed audience at the West Point military academy: “As commander-in-chief, I have determined that it is in our vital national interest to send an additional 30,000 U.S. troops to Afghanistan.” It reminded of speeches made by George W Bush throughout his eight years of war on terror.

Within days, Obama administration officials overturned the president’s July 2011 deadline for starting a withdrawal stipulated in his speech. Sitting with Secretary of State Clinton and Joint Chiefs Chairman Admiral Mullen, Defense Secretary Gates said 3,000 more troops could be needed on top of that. Britain and other allies announced smaller increases – all taking the Afghan surge to 40,000 troops or over. The war vision of America’s military complex, projected in General McChrystal’s report, was being implemented.

For all his expressions of gratitude and humility, Obama’s acceptance speech at the Nobel award ceremony was an awkward one for the occasion. Once the almost obligatory references to figures like Martin Luther King and Nelson Mandela were out of the way, Obama quickly reminded the world that he was the commander-in-chief of the United States. He invoked the concept of a ‘just war’ which is waged as a last resort, and in which force is used in proportion and civilian lives are spared whenever possible. All of these are unbelievable, fanciful assertions.

In a convincingly argued, if provocative, article titled Obama’s Af-Pak War is Illegal, law professor Marjorie Cohn tackles Obama’s claims about America’s war in Afghanistan being a ‘just war’ and finds those claims wanting. Cohn points out that many Congressional Democrats are uncomfortable with Obama’s decision and calls on them to hold firm, even refusing to fund the war. A deep sense of disappointment and anger has spread among liberal and progressive supporters who had staked a lot in an Obama victory bringing a real change. But change is not the word much in use in the current Obama rhetoric.

The increase in US Predator drone attacks inside Pakistan’s territory and the resulting casualties including old people, women and children fuel anger and resentment among local tribal communities and the country’s intelligentsia. As CNN’s Peter Bergen said in his analysis at the end of October, a Gallup poll showed only 9 percent of Pakistanis supported the strikes against two-thirds who opposed. And, according to UN human rights investigator Philip Alston, drone strikes causing civilian deaths may well violate international law. Newsweek’s Mark Hosenball recently wrote that while some counterterrorism officials in the Obama administration wanted to expand drone operations to Pakistani cities, one person standing in the way of expanded strikes was President Obama.

Obama’s first year in office reveals limitations of his original thinking behind the formation of, in effect, a coalition administration; it includes President George W Bush’s defense secretary Robert Gates and Obama’s onetime rival for the Democratic nomination, secretary of state Hilary Clinton, who had threatened to obliterate Iran if it attacked Israel with nuclear weapons, which Iran did not have; and candidate Obama had accused her of echoing the ‘bluster’ of then president, George W Bush. On the military command side, two counterinsurgency hawks of the Bush presidency, General Petraeus and General McChrystal, remain in command of America’s war. The immediate future does not look bright.

DEEPAK TRIPATHI is the author of two forthcoming books – Overcoming the Bush Legacy in Iraq and Afghanistan and Afghanistan: The Real Story Behind Terrorism, both to be published by Potomac Books, Inc. His works can be found on http://deepaktripathi.wordpress.com and he can be reached at: DandATripathi@gmail.com.

Deepak Tripathi is a Fellow of the Royal Historical Society and the Royal Asiatic Society of Great Britain and Ireland. His works can be found at: http://deepaktripathi.wordpress.com and he can be reached at deepak.tripathi.writer@gmail.com.

More articles by:

CounterPunch Magazine

minimag-edit

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550

zen economics

Weekend Edition
April 28, 2017
Friday - Sunday
Paul Street
Slandering Populism: a Chilling Media Habit
Andrew Levine
Why I Fear and Loathe Trump Even More Now Than On Election Day
Jeffrey St. Clair
Mountain of Tears: the Vanishing Glaciers of the Pacific Northwest
Philippe Marlière
The Neoliberal or the Fascist? What Should French Progressives Do?
Conn Hallinan
America’s New Nuclear Missile Endangers the World
Peter Linebaugh
Omnia Sunt Communia: May Day 2017
Vijay Prashad
Reckless in the White House
Brian Cloughley
Who Benefits From Prolonged Warfare?
Kathy Kelly
The Shame of Killing Innocent People
Ron Jacobs
Hate Speech as Free Speech: How Does That Work, Exactly?
Andre Vltchek
Middle Eastern Surgeon Speaks About “Ecology of War”
Matt Rubenstein
Which Witch Hunt? Liberal Disanalogies
Sami Awad - Yoav Litvin - Rabbi Lynn Gottlieb
Never Give Up: Nonviolent Civilian Resistance, Healing and Active Hope in the Holyland
Pete Dolack
Tribunal Finds Monsanto an Abuser of Human Rights and Environment
Christopher Ketcham
The Coyote Hunt
Mike Whitney
Putin’s New World Order
Ramzy Baroud
Palestinian, Jewish Voices Must Jointly Challenge Israel’s Past
Ralph Nader
Trump’s 100 Days of Rage and Rapacity
Harvey Wasserman
Marine Le Pen Is a Fascist—Not a ‘Right-Wing Populist,’ Which Is a Contradiction in Terms
William Hawes
World War Whatever
John Stanton
War With North Korea: No Joke
Jim Goodman
NAFTA Needs to be Replaced, Not Renegotiated
Murray Dobbin
What is the Antidote to Trumpism?
Louis Proyect
Left Power in an Age of Capitalist Decay
Medea Benjamin
Women Beware: Saudi Arabia Charged with Shaping Global Standards for Women’s Equality
Rev. William Alberts
Selling Spiritual Care
Peter Lee
Invasion of the Pretty People, Kamala Harris Edition
Cal Winslow
A Special Obscenity: “Guernica” Today
Binoy Kampmark
Turkey’s Kurdish Agenda
Guillermo R. Gil
The Senator Visits Río Piedras
Jeff Mackler
Mumia Abu-Jamal Fights for a New Trial and Freedom 
Cesar Chelala
The Responsibility of Rich Countries in Yemen’s Crisis
Leslie Watson Malachi
Women’s Health is on the Chopping Block, Again
Basav Sen
The Coal Industry is a Job Killer
Judith Bello
Rojava, a Popular Imperial Project
Robert Koehler
A Public Plan for Peace
Sam Pizzigati
The Insider Who Blew the Whistle on Corporate Greed
Jesse Jackson
Jeff Sessions is Rolling Back Basic Rights
Nyla Ali Khan
There Has to be a Way Out of the Labyrinth
Rivera Sun
Blind Slogans and Shallow Greatness
Michael J. Sainato
Trump Scales Back Antiquities Act, Which Helped to Create National Parks
Stu Harrison
Under Duterte, Filipino Youth Struggle for Real Change
Martin Billheimer
Balm for Goat’s Milk
Stephen Martin
Spooky Cookies and Algorithmic Steps Dystopian
Michael Doliner
Thank You Note
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail