Obama and the American Imperium
Things stay exactly the same in the capital of the US Empire and ramp up everywhere else.
“[D]espite the flowery rhetoric and promises of "change", in many ways, President Obama has instituted a more hawkish and more expensive war policy than President Bush,” says Ryan Jaroncyk of the California Independent Voter Network. Looked at objectively, Jaroncyk is right: military spending has exploded since Obama took office, while the US is no closer to winning the wars in Iraq or Afghanistan than it was a year ago. Across the globe, from Gitmo to Somalia, US militarism is at an all time high. To anyone who listened to Obama campaign for President two years ago this will come as a shock. Obama, the “peace” candidate, repeatedly stated his opposition to the war in Iraq and the other militaristic practices of the Bush Administration, such as the illegal detention center in the Guantanamo Bay Naval Base. He talked about the bloated defense budget and the wasteful and unnecessary wars, and one of his first speeches to the world as President was more or less a long apology to the rest of the globe for eight years of belligerence. What happened?
First, it should be noted, Obama was never really the anti-war candidate his supporters made him out to be. During his famous speech against the Iraq War in 2002, he states, in almost every paragraph “I don’t oppose all wars.” So, what wars do you oppose? “What I am opposed to is a dumb war. What I am opposed to is a rash war. …That’s what I’m opposed to. A dumb war. A rash war. A war based not on reason but on passion, not on principle but on politics.” It should be noted that “dumb” is a subjective adjective, a clear hint that any wars he does support are, therefore, not dumb wars, by dint of his supporting them. He never outlined, either in 2002, as a state senator, or in 2004, during his US Senate campaign, or in 2008, during his campaign for President, any clear principles or criteria on which he would decide whether a war was just, legal, or “dumb.” During his presidential campaign, he repeatedly promised to escalate the war in Afghanistan, and even threatened to invade Pakistan, saying “…If President Musharaff will not act, we will.”
As President, Obama has been more aggressive and belligerent than anyone would have thought possible. He failed to close the detention center at Guantanamo Bay, as he promised. He has not ended the Bush era program of extraordinary rendition. He claims to have put an end to torture by the military and CIA, but he broke his promise to release the photos of prisoner abuse. Despite much fanfare about closing the CIA’s secret prisons, their legal equivalents are still in operation. Notwithstanding his promise to end the war in Iraq, he has done no better than following President Bush’s drawn-out timeline for withdrawal, while still promising to leave 50,000 “non-combat” troops there indefinitely, on permanent “megabases”. He’s never even mentioned the United States’ hugely expensive embassy in Bagdad- the largest in the world, bigger than the Vatican, part embassy, part military base. Even while American soldiers are returning from Iraq, an unprecedented number of private military contractors are taking their place. This private army is considerably more expensive and less controlled than Pentagon’s. The troop drawdown is a hoax. Meanwhile, sectarian violence is once again rising. In short, Iraq is a still a mess, and there’s no sign that we’re coming home any time soon.
In Afghanistan, the President is not even making a pretense of withdrawal. In February, just after taking office, the President announced that more troops were needed to stem the rising tide of violence in the country and subsequently “surged” 17,000 more troops. In March, he announced that he needed 4,000 more troops to support the mission in Afghanistan. In December, he announced his plan to win the war in Afghanistan: “surging” another 30,000 troops into Afghanistan. There are now more than 100,000 regular US troops in Afghanistan, in addition to the 32,000 troops from European NATO member nations, not counting the more than 74,000 civilian contractors and private security forces operating in the country. The net result of this huge troop escalation is growing US casualties, a death toll that has set new records every year since the invasion. In 2009, 317 US soldiers were killed, doubling the previous record, set in 2008. The Pentagon expects 2010 to be an even bloodier year, thanks to the extra 51,000 American targets the Peace President has “surged” into harm’s way.
Across the border, in Pakistan, the moderate elements of Pakistan’s government have succeeded in deposing the military dictator Pervez Musharaff, who, for years, acted as a US puppet in the region, thanks to $10 billion in US aid to his regime. Recent polls indicate that Pakistanis believe America to be a bigger threat to their country than the Taliban, or even their historic enemy, India- this probably due to the fact that the United States has been bombing Pakistan for several years now. President Bush began the program by authorizing the CIA to conducted unmanned aerial drone bombings on supposed “terrorist” targets in Pakistan’s Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA). Over the protests of the Pakistani government, these attacks by Predator drones have been dramatically increased since Obama took office, killing an estimated 700 Pakistani civilians since the beginning of Obama’s term. Hardly any of these bombings have killed their intended targets, but they have succeeded in radically increasing anti-American sentiment in the region. It is believed that the suicide bomber that killed seven CIA agents in Afghanistan in December was motivated by the missile strikes, because he believed the base was used to launch the Agency’s UAVs.
Elsewhere in the world, the Obama Administration’s credibility as a diplomatic and moderate sequel to the era of Bush unilateralism is quickly disintegrating. Between Iraq and Afghanistan, in Iran, the US has continued its efforts to shut down their legitimate nuclear power program, has aggressively pursued harsh economic sanctions, directly supported anti-government revolutionaries, and claimed, against all evidence, that Iran is developing weapons of mass destruction. Stop me if you think you’ve seen this play before; you have- in Iraq. Meanwhile, in Yemen, the US Intelligence Community is trying to assassinate a US citizen, who has not been accused of any specific crimes by our government. The military has admitted to admitting to conducting missile strikes against local rebels in that country, while recently, the President has sent Special Forces to Yemen, getting us embroiled in yet another Middle Eastern civil war. Just south of Yemen, in the Gulf of Aden, the United States Navy is getting itself involved with anti-piracy shenanigans, despite the fact that pirate hostages are almost always ransomed by their companies, with no bloodshed. Even if one believed that using the Navy to rescue private citizens who do risky things halfway around the world was a legitimate and Constitutional use of the military, we could have cut them a check for less than the cost of the operation and saved killing three teenagers in the process. To the south, across the Gulf of Aden, lies Somalia, the scene of numerous failed US interventions, such as Clinton’s failed monster-hunting expedition in 1993 that led to the infamous “Black Hawk Down” incident during the Battle of Mogadishu, and the US-sponsored Ethiopian invasion in 2006. The US periodically bombs Somalia, but in September 2009 the US inexplicably invaded the southern region of the country, allegedly to destroy al-Qaeda bases. The self-proclaimed, unrecognized “government” of Somalia is also apparently receiving “tons of arms” from the United States. In the Philippines, there are now more than 600 US troop “advisors” (does this ring any bells: rising numbers of US troop “advisors” in Southeast Asia?) assisting anti-terror operations, while the CIA conducts its own “special” brand of foreign policy in that nation.
Despite ceasing to use the term, the Obama Administration is really putting the “global” back in the Global War on Terror. The US has waged (or is waging) war, directly or by proxy, in no less than 13 different theaters of operation, worldwide, since 2001. The new President has shown no desire to slow down. From Afghanistan, to Iran, to Iraq, to Yemen, to Somalia, the US Empire is going into overdrive. The US continues to maintain 700 military bases, worldwide, with US troops in 130 countries, and hundreds of thousands of US forces afloat, aboard a globe-straddling armada, ready to launch invasions wherever the President desires. If we were really pursuing diplomatic solutions to conflicts or winding down the war machine, one might suppose that the Department of Defense would be tightening its belt, but the supposed “defense cuts” that conservatives like to rant about are pure fictions. The defense budget is larger under Obama than at any point in US history, coming in at over $700 billion, annually, not including an extra $100 billion in “emergency supplemental” bills for Afghanistan and Iraq. Meanwhile, the United States continues its absurd policy of sending billions of dollars to Israel and even more to its enemies in the Arab League states, generating resentment from Palestine to Saudi Arabia. It seems that our masters in Washington have already forgotten that it was this kind of overbearing, belligerent, irrational foreign policy that led to 9/11 in the first place. That we might be creating terrorists by killing so many people overseas is a theory never even considered by policy makers. Blowback? Never heard of it.
All things considered, the US Defense budget is the single biggest expenditure of any organization anywhere on anything. It’s like a TARP bailout every year. The military-industrial complex will not suffer any setbacks during this recession. And what, in the last analysis, has the US bought with all that money? The only tangible results of the US Empire have been an ocean of debt and a vast graveyard, as far as the eye can see. Don’t expect changes any time soon.
*The classified intelligence budget allocates $47.5 billion to collecting intelligence, and zero dollars to the hiring of intelligent people to interpret it.