When Obama received the Nobel Prize in 2009, the committee acknowledged his commitment to peace. He has since bombed eight countries and turned the world into a more unpeaceful place.
Gigantic hopes were pinned on Barack Obama, when he moved into the White House in 2009. Not just in the US, but across the globe people were simply fed up with eight unspeakable years of George W. Bush – with his nepotism, his belligerence and, yes, his sheer stupidity. The world was sick and tired of the “Cowboy from Texas.”
And then there came this highly intelligent, charismatic, eloquent – black – civil rights attorney from Illinois and everything was set to change.
Yes We Can infected the whole world.
Hope and Change were almost physically tangible.
Yet, Barack Obama has bitterly disappointed the world.
Dialogue and negotiations
In 2009, Obama received the Nobel Peace Prize — not for any concrete action but rather for his effusive optimism and, eventually, for his Yes We Can. The Nobel committee acknowledged Obama’s peace-loving ambition and admired his diplomacy-focused aspiration: “Dialogue and negotiations are preferred as instruments for resolving even the most difficult international conflicts.” Furthermore, the committee appreciated Mr. Obama had given the world’s “people hope for a better future.” The president himself felt “deeply humbled” and considered the award a “call to action.”
Who could have imagined back then that Obama would not only not finish the war policies pursued by his predecessor, but even go as far as expanding on them? Who would have truly expected Obama would so infamously dash our “hope for a better future”?
The Nobel Peace laureate Obama has since bombed eight countries, trumping his predecessor George W. Bush by two.
Bush held his famously-pathetic Mission Accomplished speech on an aircraft carrier, only a few weeks after the U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003, Obama finally declared the end of the war in Iraq in October 2011 and withdrew the U.S. troops. While we should not shed any tears over the human butcher known as Saddam, yet the pre-war Iraq was a reasonably stable country back in 2003. In 2011 it was left behind by Obama as a failed state, a country in total chaos, deeply drowned in the bloodiest of violence. In Saddam’s Iraq, there were no terrorists. In contrast, today the country is the jihadi-melting pot par excellence. It is no longer possible to deny that the rise of the so-called Islamic State was a direct result of the illegal raid on Iraq in 2003.
And so Obama, in 2014, after an absence of 2.5 years in Iraq, set out to “ultimately destroy” the jihadist legacy of his predecessor Bush – firstly with air strikes, then with a few hundred special forces, and now with approximately 6,400 soldiers and private mercenaries back on the ground.
Obama has burned the „War on Terror“ into the heads even of most liberal folks and turned it into a necessary evil. This is his legacy.
Similarly, in Libya in 2011, the US and its NATO allies France and the UK misused UN resolution 1973, which aimed to establish a no-fly zone, and turned it into a pretext for an illegal war of aggression against Muammar Gaddafi. This led to the overthrow of the dictator who was sodomized and executed by a lynch mob in the streets of his hometown of Sirte.
With this new regime change Obama not “only” violated International Law, but US law as well, since the mandate for his war in Libya had already been withdrawn by the US Congress in June 2011. Again, Libya was a reasonably stable country – until then the most advanced country in Africa – that was thrown into turmoil and a bloody civil war. The so-called Islamic State used this chaos to their advantage as a way to build up its third biggest troop contingent in Libya after Iraq and Syria. Post-invasion Libya has degenerated into a melting-pot of terrorists from across Africa and the Middle East.
As in Iraq, Obama once again used the self-created terror threat generated after the orchestrated overthrow of an unpopular dictator to establish a permanent US “commitment”: renewed arms shipments, conventional air strikes, illegal drone killings, and, since May 2016, there are once again US troops on the ground.
In Yemen, Obama not only bombed the country on his own – both with conventional and with drone attacks – but since March 2015, Washington has first and foremost actively supported a Saudi-led coalition with intelligence, logistics and in particular massive arms shipments in its war of aggression against the Houthi rebels that is illegal under international law and characterized by extreme war crimes. Finally, more recently it was revealed that there are US troops on the ground in Yemen, and that for the first time the US not only attacked al-Qaeda members but bombed facilities of the Houthi rebels as well.
The perfidious and shameless manner, in which the Obama administration is telling lies to enter their military adventures, is exposed particularly when looking at Syria. Since the beginning of the Syrian civil war in 2011, Obama has supported different rebel groups in their fight against Bashar al-Assad. “Non-lethal aid” quickly gave way to the supply of heavy military equipment. Among these groups in favor of the US time and again there have elements that later defected to ISIS or to al-Qaeda, presenting Obama’s arms and money to their new masters.
Since September 2014, the US Air Force has been launching air strikes against IS troops in Syria. Obama, however, has repeatedly uttered his mantra that there would be “no boots on the ground in Syria.” Yet, when US ground forces were eventually deployed to Syria – initially a few dozen, then hundreds – the government was so bold as to simply deny Obama’s previous promises: “There was never this ‘no boots on the ground,’ I do not know where this keeps coming from,” as the spokesman of the State Department put it. (Obama has actually been publicly quoted saying precisely that on at least 16 occasions.)
A 3-minutes-lesson in war propaganda:
The rule of law is overruled
But that’s not all. Every Tuesday – known as “Terror Tuesday” – a list of terror suspects from around the world is submitted to President Obama by his intelligence advisors. As former CIA and NSA Director Michael Hayden ostentatiously admits, quite often the entries do not even have names, but are based solely on metadata: which SIM card calls who, when, and for how long?
Once a week Obama signs this so-called “kill list leading to the extrajudicial execution of foreign and even US citizens through the president’s dramatically expanded drone program. The bitter irony herein is self-evident: the studied constitutionalist Obama is acting as prosecutor, judge and executioner in one person, thus abandoning the separation of powers – the cornerstone of a constitutional democracy.
Obama firmly entrenched illegal drone strikes as an integral part of the never-ending “War on Terror”. This, too, is his legacy.
Even in Saudi Arabia, North Korea or indeed in the Islamic State defendants have at least formally the opportunity to defend themselves before their heads are chopped off – not so in Obama’s United States of America.
Since the beginning of the US drone program in 2004, up to 8,000 people have been killed by drone strikes. The vast majority of them were authorized by Obama, and a few by his predecessor Bush. Most victims were to be deplored in Pakistan (up to 4,000), Afghanistan (up to 2,300), and in Yemen (up to 1,300), around 400 more in Somalia.
In full knowledge of the consequences, Obama authorized the execution of people who often happen to be in their family circle or in public places when the drones struck. Time and again, the US has bombed wedding parties, or, most cynically, a funeral ceremony of drone victims. As an act of retaliation, the children of alleged terrorists are also killed by drones. As former White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs once so despicably declared, “I would suggest that you should have a far more responsible father.”
The proportion of civilians killed in drone strikes is naturally extremely high. In Pakistan, for example, only 4 percent of casualties were confirmed al-Qaeda members. Because of this blatant injustice, drone killings are widely regarded as the main recruiting tool for new terrorists and are as counterproductive as no other means of modern warfare.
This, too, is Obama’s legacy: he has made the illegal drone war the norm, and firmly entrenched it as an integral part of the never-ending “War on Terror” handing over this sophisticated lawless assassination program to a trigger-happy Trump administration as a Nobel Peace Prize-legitimized killing tool.
The Clash of Civilizations
Of course it didn’t slip the kind reader’s mind that so far “only” seven entries from Obama’s 8-country-list were elaborated on here. The eighth country is the Philippines. In 2012, a US drone killed 15 people in this country, thereby further escalating the conflict between rebel groups and the government in Manila.
If we include cyber warfare in our list, we could even add Iran as a ninth country. In fact, from the outset of his presidency, Mr. Obama waged an “increasingly sophisticated” cyberwar against the civil nuclear program of Iran, thus becoming the first president in US history using “cyberweapons to cripple another country’s infrastructure,” as The New York Times reported in 2012.
Seven of the eight countries physically bombed by Obama are predominantly Muslim (the Philippines is the exception, the 15 killed, however, were all Muslims). Paradoxically, Obama has the carefully crafted image as a reconciler of religions. Just in February he made his acclaimed speech at a mosque in Baltimore.
Obama certainly has not “invented” America’s ongoing war on Muslim countries. In fact, he is merely following a decades-old US tradition of destroying Muslim countries. But Obama is the one who has made the Clash of Civilizations – that is so impatiently longed for by the hawks in right-wing Washington think tanks – socially acceptable to liberals normalizing it to an extent that would have been unimaginable under a thug à la George W.
By eight years of bombing Muslim countries, Nobel Peace Prize laureate Obama has managed to burn the alleged conflict between the Judeo-Christian Occident vs. the Muslim-Arabic Orient into the heads even of most liberal folks and to turn it into a necessary evil. Under Obama pacifism has become (almost) impossible.
This is his legacy, too.
The vision of a nuclear-free world
In his history-making speeches in front of the Siegessäule in Berlin in 2008 and in Prague in 2009, Obama proclaimed his goal of a “world without nuclear weapons”, followed by frenetic applause: “Yes, we can!” In his policy plan, he excessively addressed the issue of nuclear disarmament. To the Nobel Peace Prize committee, this point was extremely important — the announcement of his award specifically invoked his “vision of a world without nuclear weapons.”
But while the number of global nuclear warheads was dramatically reduced from its peak of more than 70,000 in the 1980s to just over 15,000 today – with both Russia and the US in possession of about 7,000 nuclear bombs each, and seven other countries sharing 1,000 or so bombs –the lion’s share of this disarmament took place at the end of the Cold War.
Against all promises, Obama has only minimally reduced the U.S. nuclear stockpile. Even his unspeakable predecessor George W. kept his word and halved the U.S. nuke arsenal. Added together Bush Senior and Junior dismantled a total of 14,801 nuclear weapons, while Obama managed to dismantle no more than 507.
“It’s a funny thing,” Hans M. Kristensen, the luminary of nuclear disarmament research says, “the administrations that talk the most about reducing nuclear weapons tend to reduce the least.” President Obama has cut fewer warheads than “any administration ever.”
But it gets worse. Before taking office in 2008, Obama pledged, that he would “not authorize the development of new nuclear weapons.” Then in 2014, in stark contrast, he announced the largest single item in the U.S. budget for the coming decades: a jaw-dropping $1 trillion to be spent on a mammoth program to “modernize” the US nuclear arsenal.
To put this in perspective: the U.S. will spend $4 million on nukes every hour – for the next 30 years.
The particular danger with this “modernization” of America’s nuclear infrastructure is that “the upgrades could allow a future president to rapidly expand the nation’s atomic forces,” as the New York Times remarks. With the megalomaniacal, nuts-about-nukes Donald Trump soon in the Oval Office this pill tastes especially bitter.
This is Obama’s nuclear legacy: US generals earnestly thinking about using nuclear weapons again.
Article VI of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, signed by 191 countries, including the United States, obliges the signatory countries to pursue “effective measures relating to cessation of the nuclear arms race” and to “complete” nuclear disarmament. The milestone UN Resolution 1540 of 2004 reaffirms again that all UN member states are to “fulfil their obligations” to disarm all weapons of mass destruction. Obama’s trillion-dollar nuclear armament program illegally violates both of these international treaties.
During the last century – the armor orgies of reckless Cold Warriors – the trend went towards ever larger, more apocalyptic nuclear bombs. Under Obama’s administration that trend has been reversed: mini-nukes. Small atomic bombs capable of destroying strategic targets instead of entire cities. One of the heads of Obama’s modernization plan called mini-nukes the “more ethical approach”. The misanthropy underlying this statement is difficult to bear. Due to their small size, US generals have fantasized that the use of mini-nukes is “no longer unthinkable.”
This is Obama’s nuclear legacy: US generals earnestly thinking about using nuclear weapons again.
War has lost its indecency
I have no interest in denying that Obama has made some positive achievements in his foreign and security policies during his tenure. In some fields, he has actually advanced the US and the whole world. Here the nuclear deal with Iran comes to mind, which I have previously called “one of the most important global diplomatic agreements of the young century”. Obama also triggered the normalization of diplomatic relations with Cuba and after almost 90 years, he was the first US president to actually travel to the communist Caribbean country – a world-historic milestone. Commonly accepted, the killing of Osama bin Laden is credited to Obama as a success in terms of security policy (which I see much more nuanced).
To the points discussed in this text, add the non-closure of the concentration camp Guantanamo; the worsening military confrontation with China in the Pacific region; his shameful record on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict; his disastrous management of the Ukraine crisis, contributing – in connection with his intervention in Syria – to the emergence of a Cold War reloaded scenario, followed by the largest deployment of US troops in Eastern Europe since the end of the Cold War.
All of this clearly goes to show how Obama blatantly squandered the peacemaking potential of the United States, and instead has handed down the very opposite: a world of escalating conflicts and tensions.
Obama may have started with some good intentions to turn the world for the better, however, these intentions were readily fouled up beyond all recognition and devoured by the appeal of rule. As John Pilger so strikingly put it, “his most consistent theme was never change — it was power.”
In a classified CIA analysis published by WikiLeaks in 2010, the Agency bemoaned the waning support for war among the population of America’s European allies. After eight miserable Bush years, the fallacy of the “Global War on Terror” so desperately needed a repaint. Peace-committed Barack Obama arrived as a godsend. With the Nobel Peace Prize laureate as commander-in-chief, war lost its indecency. It was even raised up a notch under the illusion of progressiveness and wrapped in an aura of necessity.
This is Obama’s belligerent legacy.
This article first appeared on ROAR Magazine. JusticeNow! would like to thank ROAR for the great cooperation, and sends BEST WISHES to Istanbul, Turkey to its editor Joris Leverink, as well as to Perth, Australia to Cara Iani who proofread the manuscript.