He started out, campaigning in 2008, as someone would would restore the rule of law in US international affairs and here at home after eight years of criminality during the Bush and Cheney administration, as saying he would end America’s wars and bring back an era of international cooperation and negotiation, and as saying that he would confront the dire threat of global climate change.
On the basis of that promise, he won a dramatic election victory, raising hopes across the country and across many voting blocks. On that basis, he was awarded a Nobel Peace Prize — the first time the award was given before anything had been done by the laureate being honored. And on the basis of that promise, people expected action on climate change.
Instead, the president began backpedaling almost instantly. Instead of restoring the rule of law, he almost immediately announced that he would not permit his Justice Department to engage in any prosecutions of CIA, FBI, military of Bush/Cheney administration personnel for violations of international law or of US law. He introduced new secrecy rules, launched a record number of prosecutions of government whistleblowers, including an international manhunt to arrest or kill NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden which included the forcing down of a presidential aircraft carrying the president of Bolivia, wrongly suspected of flying Snowden from Russia to that Latin American country, and a secret espionage indictment against Wikileaks founder Julien Assange, who has thus been trapped for years in the little UK embassy of Ecuador which has granted him asylum. And most egregiously, Barack Obama, sabotaged the first international meeting on climate change held in Denmark, and has ducked every opportunity to have the US lead on reaching an international agreement to seriously reduce global carbon emissions.
During the three Congressional electoral cycles and his re-election campaign in 2012, Obama studiously avoided pressing on any of these key issues, and especially on climate change. His position: “all of the above”, for energy development, has seen the US move, not towards carbon emission reductions, but towards expanded production of gas, oil and even coal extraction, making the US the largest oil producer in the world, and a major provider of dirty coal to both US electric companies and large coal using countries abroad, including China.
Now we have this flimflam artist up in Alaska, talking about the crisis he has helped worsen, calling it an existential issue. And yet even as he speaks, the Shell Oil Company is towing a giant oil drilling rig up to the Arctic Ocean, thanks to an Obama administration permit, to begin drilling for oil in the shallow waters north of Alaska — drilling for yet more oil, that is, even as the world is facing a glut of the stuff, in a delicate region that would be devastated by a well blow-out, because ice would make containment an impossibility.
Future generations of Americans will surely look back at President Obama as not just a con-man, but as someone who blew several trillion dollars on continued wars around the globe, as someone who terminally destroyed the Bill of Rights and the Constitution, instead of rescuing these documents as promised, and as the president who, when given the last real opportunity to reverse climate change, ducked the challenge and pandered to the corporations that selfishly wanted short-term gain over long-term survival for humanity and the biosphere.
There are plenty of other criminal acts by this president to consider. On his watch, this first African-American president allowed an increased national police to become a fully-armed occupying army across the country. No American today is safe from abusive police who make up crimes and ignore the law at will, but paying a uniquely terrible price are African-Americans and other people of color, who once gave this president 90% of their votes or more, but who now are being gunned down with a grim regularity by mostly white cops who fire at the slightest provocation, even at unarmed kids. On his watch too, young children, fleeing US-caused gang violence in Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras and elsewhere in Latin America, have been sent back to their home countries illegally, or held in prisons in this country in violation of direct court orders. He also ordered his Justice Department not to prosecute the criminal bankers who willfully destroyed the US and the global economy to profit themselves and their institutions.
This president, let’s be clear, has not just been incompetent and gutless. He has been a slick political fraud and both a common and a Constitutional criminal. In a just nation of engaged citizens, Obama would already have been impeached for any number of serious crimes, beginning with the failure to prosecute known war criminals of the Bush/Cheney administration, including the president and vice-president themselves.
That’s not going to happen, because this is not a just nation of engaged citizens.
But there will be a reckoning. History will judge this president harshly, as it has judged criminal leaders of the past, from Rome’s Nero to Italy’s Mussolini or Uganda’s Idi Amin. It may strike some as hyperbole to put President Obama in league with such universally acknowledged monsters as these, but when human beings begin dying by the millions because of climate-change caused famines, floods, droughts and international armed conflicts we will surely look back at the actions and inactions of this particular president, who had the opportunity to make a huge difference and chose not just to do nothing, but to make things worse, and will say his crimes perhaps exceeded theirs.