FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Obama Speech Ignored His Death Toll at Home and Abroad

by

shutterstock_218485873 (1)

The White House kept one seat vacant in the gallery during Obama’s State of the Union Address on Tuesday “for the victims of gun violence who no longer have a voice.” This was part of Obama’s campaign for new federal restrictions on firearms ownership.

But shouldn’t there have also been chairs left empty to memorialize other casualties – including those “who no longer have a voice” thanks to Obama administration policies?

While trumpeting the private death toll from guns, Obama ignored the 986 people killed by police in the United States last year according to The Washington Post‘s database. Many police departments are aggressive — if not reckless — in part because the Justice Department always provides cover for them at the Supreme Court. Obama’s “Justice Department has supported police officers every time an excessive-force case has made its way” to a Supreme Court hearing, The New York Times noted last year. Attorney General Loretta Lynch recently said that federally-funded police agencies should not even be required to report the number of civilians they kill.

To add a Euro flair to the evening, Obama could drape tri-color flags on a few empty seats to commemorate the 42 medical staff, patients, and others   slain at a  last Oct. 3 when an American   AC-130 gunship   blasted a French Médecins Sans Frontières‎ hospital in Kunduz, Afghanistan. The U.S. military revised its story several times but admitted in November that the carnage was the result of “avoidable … human error.” Regrettably, that bureaucratic phrase lacks the power to resurrect victims.

No plans were announced to designate a seat for Brian Terry, the U.S. Border Patrol agent killed in 2010. Guns found at the scene of Terry’s killing were linked to the Fast and Furious gunwalking operation masterminded by the Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) agency. At least 150 Mexicans were also killed by guns illegally sent south of the border with ATF approval. The House of Representatives voted to hold then-attorney general Eric Holder in contempt for refusing to disclose Fast and Furious details, but Obama did not dwell on this topic in his State of the Union address.

On a more festive note, Obama could have saved seats for a wedding party. Twelve Yemenis who were celebrating nuptials on Dec. 12, 2013, would not have been able to attend Obama’s speech because they were blown to bits by a U.S. drone strike. The Yemeni government — which is heavily bankrolled by the U.S. government — paid more than a million dollars compensation to the survivors of innocent civilians killed and wounded in the attack.

Four seats could have been left vacant for the Americans killed in the 2012 attack in Benghazi, Libya — U.S. Ambassador Christopher Stevens, Foreign Service Officer Sean Smith, and CIA contractors Tyrone Woods and Glen Doherty. But any such recognition would rankle the presidential campaign of Hillary Clinton, who has worked tirelessly to sweep those corpses under the rug. It would also be appropriate to include a hat tip to the hundreds, likely thousands, of Libyans who have been killed in the civil war unleashed after the Obama administration bombed Libya to topple its ruler, Moammar Gadhafi.

Obama loves to salute promising young Americans but 16-year-old Abdulrahman Anwar al-Awlaki did not get a chance to attend. That Denver-born boy was killed in a U.S. drone strike on Oct. 14, 2011, while he was in Yemen looking for his father (who was killed in a CIA drone strike two weeks earlier). If that kid’s name had been Bob, he might still be around to cheer Obama’s anti-gun crusade.

An indeterminate number of chairs could have been left vacant for the Syrian and Iraqi women, children and men who have been beheaded, maimed or otherwise slaughtered as a result of the massive arms shipments the Obama administration provided to Syrian “moderate” rebel groups who defected to al-Qaeda affiliate Jabhat al-Nusra or other terrorist groups, including the Islamic State. As Rep. Tom McClintock, R-Calif., lamented in late 2014, “ISIS is armed to the teeth — with American equipment.” But Obama meant well, so we should just move along.

If the first lady sat alone among the other 28 seats the White House receives in the first lady’s box, it wouldn’t make room to represent the casualties of Obama administration policies at home and abroad. Presidents have the prerogative to morally grandstand in State of the Union addresses. But Obama’s righteous indignation would have more credibility if his litany had fewer glaring omissions.

An earlier version of this piece appeared yesterday at USA Today. Their headline was “First Lady’s box should be empty at State of the Union speech.” I have been catching grief from enraged feminists – but that was one double entendre that I had nothing to do with.

James Bovard is the author of Attention Deficit Democracy, The Bush Betrayal, Terrorism and Tyranny, and other books. Bovard is on the USA Today Board of Contributors. He is on Twitter at @jimbovard. His website is at www.jimbovard.com

More articles by:
June 28, 2016
Jonathan Cook
The Neoliberal Prison: Brexit Hysteria and the Liberal Mind
Paul Street
Bernie, Bakken, and Electoral Delusion: Letting Rich Guys Ruin Iowa and the World
Anthony DiMaggio
Fatally Flawed: the Bi-Partisan Travesty of American Health Care Reform
Mike King
The “Free State of Jones” in Trump’s America: Freedom Beyond White Imagination
Antonis Vradis
Stop Shedding Tears for the EU Monster: Brexit, the View From the Peloponnese
Omar Kassem
The End of the Atlantic Project: Slamming the Brakes on the Neoliberal Order
Binoy Kampmark
Brexit and the Neoliberal Revolt Against Jeremy Corbyn
Ruth Hopkins
Save Bear Butte: Mecca of the Lakota
Celestino Gusmao
Time to End Impunity for Suharto’’s Crimes in Indonesia and Timor-Leste
Thomas Knapp
SCOTUS: Amply Serving Law Enforcement’s Interests versus Society’s
Manuel E. Yepe
Capitalism is the Opposite of Democracy
Winslow Myers
Up Against the Wall
Chris Ernesto
Bernie’s “Political Revolution” = Vote for Clinton and the Neocons
Stephanie Van Hook
The Time for Silence is Over
Ajamu Nangwaya
Toronto’s Bathhouse Raids: Racialized, Queer Solidarity and Police Violence
June 27, 2016
Robin Hahnel
Brexit: Establishment Freak Out
James Bradley
Omar’s Motive
Gregory Wilpert – Michael Hudson
How Western Military Interventions Shaped the Brexit Vote
Leonard Peltier
41 Years Since Jumping Bull (But 500 Years of Trauma)
Rev. William Alberts
Orlando: the Latest Victim of Radicalizing American Imperialism
Patrick Cockburn
Brexiteers Have Much in Common With Arab Spring Protesters
Franklin Lamb
How 100 Syrians, 200 Russians and 11 Dogs Out-Witted ISIS and Saved Palmyra
John Grant
Omar Mateen: The Answers are All Around Us
Dean Baker
In the Wake of Brexit Will the EU Finally Turn Away From Austerity?
Ralph Nader
The IRS and the Self-Minimization of Congressman Jason Chaffetz
Johan Galtung
Goodbye UK, Goodbye Great Britain: What Next?
Martha Pskowski
Detained in Dilley: Deportation and Asylum in Texas
Binoy Kampmark
Headaches of Empire: Brexit’s Effect on the United States
Dave Lindorff
Honest Election System Needed to Defeat Ruling Elite
Louisa Willcox
Delisting Grizzly Bears to Save the Endangered Species Act?
Jason Holland
The Tragedy of Nothing
Jeffrey St. Clair
Revolution Reconsidered: a Fragment (Guest Starring Bernard Sanders in the Role of Robespierre)
Weekend Edition
June 24, 2016
Friday - Sunday
John Pilger
A Blow for Peace and Democracy: Why the British Said No to Europe
Pepe Escobar
Goodbye to All That: Why the UK Left the EU
Michael Hudson
Revolts of the Debtors: From Socrates to Ibn Khaldun
Andrew Levine
Summer Spectaculars: Prelude to a Tea Party?
Kshama Sawant
Beyond Bernie: Still Not With Her
Mike Whitney
¡Basta Ya, Brussels! British Voters Reject EU Corporate Slavestate
Tariq Ali
Panic in the House: Brexit as Revolt Against the Political Establishment
Paul Street
Miranda, Obama, and Hamilton: an Orwellian Ménage à Trois for the Neoliberal Age
Ellen Brown
The War on Weed is Winding Down, But Will Monsanto Emerge the Winner?
Gary Leupp
Why God Created the Two-Party System
Conn Hallinan
Brexit Vote: a Very British Affair (But Spain May Rock the Continent)
Ruth Fowler
England, My England
Jeffrey St. Clair
Lines Written on the Occasion of Bernie Sanders’ Announcement of His Intention to Vote for Hillary Clinton
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail