President Obama, the Anti-War President? Not Quite


This comes from a Facebook comment I made regarding this status I shared from Republican Representative Tom McClintock:

“The problem with Barack Obama is not that he changed Bush’s policies, but rather that he did not change them. He took the worst of them and doubled down.”

First, to clarify, that status is about the realm of Obama’s foreign policy in comparison to Bush’s. Secondly, I faced some challenges to that notion. Even before this status, I had long meant to do a comprehensive overview of how Obama is not the anti-war president Democrats have made him out to be.

Check it out (it’s been edited for clarity’s sake):

First and foremost worth addressing is this notion that President Obama ended two wars. Just today [I’ve added this now, as I did see it literally today], I saw a report in the Washington Post — not an opinion piece, a report — that repeated the line that Obama ended two wars. It’s just not factual.

He campaigned on surging in Afghanistan, not ending it. The surge peaked with about 101,000 soldiers in Afghanistan. Under President Obama, more U.S. troops have died in Afghanistan than under Bush, in less time by the way.

From the Washington Post, “During seven years under President George W. Bush, 630 Americans were killed in Afghanistan. Under Obama, 1,671 troops have been killed, and the 127 killed this year [2013] — even as the war was supposedly winding down — are more than any other year but one under President Bush.”

Also from that article, the Obama administration wanted to keep 7,000-8,000 troops in Afghanistan through to 2024 and “beyond,” whatever that means. Just a mere ten more years of an already 13-year war. The pact hasn’t been decided yet because the Afghan side actually wants MORE U.S. troops than that, but still. There’s no way to discount 7,000 to 8,000 troops in Afghanistan as anything other than “war.” And when you consider 2013 was one of the worst years for American troops in Afghanistan, then it’s absolutely “war.”

So, yeah, it’s pretty inaccurate to say the war in Afghanistan has ended.

Now let’s get into the Iraq War. The “status of forces agreement” was handled under…George W. Bush in 2008, not President Obama. That agreement ended the war in 2011 under Obama, but the credit goes to Bush, not Obama. And in fact, interestingly enough, Obama wanted troops in Iraq beyond that 2011 timetable.

So, yeah, again, it’s pretty inaccurate to say the war in Iraq was ended by President Obama. And even then, it took two more years of bloodshed. But at least that one has actually “ended” in a more clear way than the Afghanistan war. Although, it’s worth pointing out that Iraq has been bloody as all hell for the last year or so with thousands dying every month. I don’t put that squarely on Obama – just pointing it out.

To continue, he went into Libya in 2011 without Congressional authorization. And moreover, even bypassed the (unconstitutional, but still) War Powers Act of 1973. Given what he said in the run-up to almost-bombing Syria, it makes sense:

“I have the authority to carry out this military action without specific congressional authorization,” Obama asserted on Saturday. “The president of the United States has the right to take this action,” Kerry told ABC News the next day. “[He] doesn’t have to go to Congress.”

We’re not just talking about actions here, but what the President believes his power to be. That quote above and backed up by his Secretary of State says all that needs to be said.

In 2002, Obama didn’t think toppling Saddam, an admittedly grotesque and abhorrent dictator who gassed thousands of his own people, was reason enough to invade Iraq, but suddenly it was reason enough to invade Syria? Well, good thing it didn’t come to pass. But because it didn’t come to pass doesn’t suddenly make Obama “anti-war.”

Of course, no harm, no foul in Libya, right? Wrong. Our intervention had predictable blowback in Mali and in Libya itself. According to Human Rights Watch:

“Two and a half years since NATO’s UN-authorized intervention, Libya is teetering on the brink of failure. The still-transitional government has at best nominal control in much of the country, including the capital, but has been unable to disarm dozens of armed groups. Some provide essential security at the government’s behest, while others terrorize, kidnap and murder civilians and government officials with total impunity.”

Obviously, again, the blame doesn’t fall squarely on Obama’s shoulders since other countries in the West were involved, but still these are things worth pointing out. And again, it’s about the power expressed to undertake such actions.

Funny thing: I still haven’t even addressed the drones yet.

Before I get to that, let’s also address my claim (it’s actually not my claim, a lot of people have suggested it) that the anti-war movement has died down since Obama took office. Many would likely say that’s because Obama is “anti-war.” Not quite.

Some sociologists did research on that exact question (why did the anti-war movement demobilize after Obama’s election?) and found this:

“Drawing upon 5,398 surveys of demonstrators at antiwar protests, interviews with movement leaders, and ethnographic observation, this article argues that the antiwar movement demobilized as Democrats, who had been motivated to participate by anti-Republican sentiments, withdrew from antiwar protests when the Democratic Party achieved electoral success, if not policy success in ending the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.”

Continuing, the researchers’ state:

“As president, Obama maintained the occupation of Iraq and escalated the war in Afghanistan. The antiwar movement should have been furious at Obama’s ‘betrayal’ and reinvigorated its protest activity. Instead, attendance at antiwar rallies declined precipitously and financial resources available to the movement dissipated.”

While, sure, they do say the movement was dwindling anyway starting in 2007, but that was largely because Democrats stopped participating, perhaps in anticipation for a Democratic president after Bush? Perhaps from war fatigue? Obviously, the shitty economy factors in as well when looking at financial resources for antiwar activism, but alas.

Now, drones. Obama escalated their usage compared to President Bush. By 2012, he had already authorized 283 drone strikes in Pakistan – six times more than under Bush. And that’s just Pakistan – there is still Yemen, Somalia, and Afghanistan and so on. Before the Obama administration started getting some heat for his drone policy, his administration was claiming “zero” civilian casualties. Which is a fucking joke.

That’s because the Obama administration considers anyone of military age and male to be an “enemy combatant,” which helped lower the rate to “zero.”

President Obama has killed four American citizens, one a damn 16-year-old kid, completely innocent. And of course, there’s no accounting for any of that. We rarely acknowledge our fuck-ups. Moreover, again, it’s not just the action, but the power. Even Bush never claimed the power to kill an American citizen with a drone.

Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch has even said war crimes may have been committed in the use of some drone operations, like the one that killed a 65-year-old woman. The New York Times made note of how she was “blasted to pieces,” as if the drone was specifically aimed her. That’s fucked up.

Then there is U.S. Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC), which conducts nightly raids. Such covert operations occur in over 75 countries and numbers approximately 25,000. Much of JSOC’s actions are not subject to congressional review.

Did I mention 200 children have been killed in drone strikes in Pakistan since 2004?

Then there’s the NSA shit, the war on journalists, the torture, the indefinite detention and so on. Oh and that pesky “kill list” he has and the disposition matrix. The latter of which is something meant to be in place for at least another decade, but yeah, that seems optimistic, too. From the Post again:

“Among senior Obama administration officials, there is a broad consensus that such operations are likely to be extended at least another decade. Given the way al-Qaeda continues to metastasize, some officials said no clear end is in sight.”

To summarize: Extrajudicial killings, wanted to stay in Afghanistan and Iraq longer, surged in Afghanistan, bombed Libya with no congressional authorization, escalated the drone war and has kept most of the “War on Terror” policies Bush started intact.

Yeah, I’d say he’s pretty much Bush’s fourth and fifth terms. And whoever comes after Obama will be Bush’s fifth and possibly sixth terms until someone has the balls to change the “War on Terror” paradigm.

None of this course covers the issues that tie into the “War on Terror” apparatus, like not investigating the torture of the Bush administration, not making transparent the rendition program, not closing Guantanamo Bay, utilizing the Espionage Act on journalists, the war on whistleblowers, the NSA spying, and on and on and on.

President Obama is not an anti-war president, far from it.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s