Try Red Pepper in print with our pay-as-you-feel subscription. You decide the price, from as low as £2 a month.More info ×
With the final presidential debate upon us, liberals and ill-informed leftists will no doubt be jumping on the Obama bandwagon once again. The astoundingly charismatic president already holds a well-deserved award for ‘best marketing campaign 2008,’ along with an almost laughable Nobel Peace Prize; but before one goes door to door for good ol’ Barack, a look at his lesser-known foreign policy is in order. I will try to steer clear of issues which were given any substantial coverage in the mainstream media, and any domestic policies, such as healthcare and tax-reform, where he has made crippling compromises. Instead, my goal is to display the continuity and, in many ways, escalation of hostile Bush policies, and to show the smiling democrat for what he really is.
In congressional testimony, Dennis Blair- Director of National Intelligence for the Obama administration- noted the existence of an ‘assassination program’ which targets dozens of people, many of them US citizens, living abroad. Following up unconfirmed accusations of terror made by the Executive Branch, Obama dispatches highly trained military personnel to murder any possible suspects, without the authorisation of the countries in which they reside. The thought of adhering to the 5th amendment, (which states- ‘No person shall be held to answer for a capital, or otherwise infamous crime, unless on a presentment or indictment of a Grand Jury’) or abiding by the presumption of innocence, or respecting national sovereignty, is beyond contemplation. Anwar al-Awlaki, a US citizen working as a cleric in Yemen, was killed on the 30th of September 2011 while, more notably, Osama bin Laden met his maker earlier this year. Several attempts made by a federal judge to inquire into these practices were blocked by Obama in 2010.
The killing of bin Laden, as noted by political analyst Noam Chomsky, was done in a way almost designed to infuriate the Pakistanis. Levels of anti-American sentiment are already at a boiling point among the military and civilian population, and refusal to make a lawful arrest will no doubt drive more Muslims toward the Jihadi movement (just as Osama would have wanted). David Petraeus was not incorrect when he said that the United States is bin Laden’s greatest ally, and we have seen Obama reinforce that notion through secretive drone strikes in Pakistan (just one of the six countries he has bombed without Security Council authorisation), killing up to 2,680 civilians and injuring far more. Amnesty International calls to ‘provide lawful justification’ for these bombings and ‘record civilian casualties’ have, of course, been ignored. Chomsky’s observation that ‘Bush kidnaps and tortures…while Obama just kills’ is, in fact, generous. While Obama shut down CIA torture facilities, other such US prisons still exist- many of which make Guantanamo seem like a slightly sub-par Disneyland.
The following is taken from a BBC report on the infamous ‘black prison’ in Afghanistan- documenting the experience of ‘less than sixteen year-old’ boy, Rashid:
At the beginning of his detention, he was forced to strip naked and undergo a medical check-up in front of about a half-dozen American soldiers. He said that his Muslim upbringing made such a display humiliating and that the soldiers made it worse.
‘They touched me all over my body. They took pictures, and they were laughing and laughing,’ he said. ‘They were doing everything.’
He said he lived in a small concrete cell that was slightly longer than the length of his body. Food was tossed in a plastic bag through a slot in the metal door. Both teenagers said that when they tried to sleep, on the floor, their captors shouted at them and hammered on their cells.
When summoned for daily interrogations, Rashid said he was made to wear a hood, handcuffs and ear coverings and was marched into the meeting room. He said he was punched by his interrogators while being prodded to admit ties to the Taliban; he denied such ties. During some sessions, he said, his interrogator forced him to look at pornographic movies and magazines while also showing him a photograph of his mother.
‘I was just crying and crying. I was too young,’ Rashid said. ‘I didn’t know what a prison looks like or what a prison is.’
As you can see, Obama shows no deviation from the inhuman Bush policies, and has refused to prosecute CIA officers who have taken part in the most egregious and illegal torture methods. In the case of Bradley Manning- a real American patriot accused of leaking embarrassing government documents- civil liberties attorney Glen Greenwald states: ‘[Manning is] subject to confinement – and the accompanying deprivation of social contact that solitary confinement necessitates, create[ing] long term psychological injuries. For 23 out of 24 hours every day — for seven straight months and counting — he [Manning] sits completely alone in his cell. Even inside his cell, his activities are heavily restricted; he’s barred even from exercising and is under constant surveillance to enforce those restrictions. For reasons that appear completely punitive, he’s being denied many of the most basic attributes of civilized imprisonment, including even a pillow or sheets for his bed (he is not and never has been on suicide watch). For the one hour per day when he is freed from this isolation, he is barred from accessing any news or current events programs.’
This consistent unilateralism and disregard for human rights attracted fierce protests when undertaken by Bush, yet activists remain largely silent in the face of the current administration.
Drawing our attention to Afghanistan and Libya, the subservient media did their job in leaving Obama’s atrocities pretty well unreported; with only an LA Times article mentioning the massacre of innocent Afghan civilians early on in his presidency: ‘Village elders, though, told provincial officials there were no Taliban in the area, which they described as a hamlet populated mainly by shepherds. Women and children were among the 22 dead, they said, according to Hamididan Abdul Rahmzai, the head of the provincial council.’
Figures state that a total of 4,239 Afghani civilians have died since Obama’s surge in 2010, a number far greater than the World Trade Centre death-toll, and the country remains just as unstable. Afghanistan’s puppet Karzai government is ranked number 2 on the Transparency International list of most corrupt nations; the top-spot being held by Somalia- a nation which, incidentally, Obama has just supplied with bucket-loads of arms. As for Libya, it is no coincidence that direct military intervention occurred in the most oil-rich Arab nation. Ignoring Brazilian-Indian peace talks, the prospect of Gaddafi accepting a negotiated withdrawal, and Turkish or Egyptian intervention, Obama proceeded to supply the air-force for the rebel army (who never asked for western help to begin with)- contributing substantially to the estimated forty-thousand death-toll, and paving the way for US hegemony over Libya.
As for the rest of the Arab-spring, do not be fooled by vague statements about ‘democracy’ and ‘freedom’; the Wilsonian trend of supporting corrupt middle-eastern dictators did not stop with Obama, and Egypt is a prime example. At the height of the Egyptian protests, Obama sent a mediator to talk with Mubarak (who is, not secretly, a long-time ally of the US and Britain). The mediator chosen was Frank Wisner, a lobbyist- I repeat- lobbyist, for Mubarak himself. Wisner, of course, reported back to Obama advising him to maintain support for the dictator, which he did up until the very end. The formula has been repeated time and time again, (Suharto, Ceausescu, Mussolini, Franco, Hitler etc.) where aid and assistance is provided to thuggish tyrants right up until their military turns against them or they turn against you- and Obama is in no way above it.
Other directly anti-democratic policies enacted by the Obama administration are at play in Palestine and Haiti. When Hamas came to power in one of the only fair elections in the region, Bush punished the Palestinian people with horrendous and shocking sanctions. Restrictions were placed on water and food, and Israeli atrocities were stepped up in the West Bank. Sadly, Obama has continued down this path, and fails to recognize Hamas as a legitimate government, stating: ‘Hamas must recognise Israel’s right to exist; renounce violence; and abide by past agreements.’ These claims sound fair enough, however Hamas have recognised Israel’s right to exist in calling for a two-state settlement, (calls which have been blocked by Israel and the United States) it has tried to renounce violence, calling to re-implement the 2005 ceasefire agreement (calls which, again, have been blocked by Israel and the United States) and it is the state of Israel that has failed to abide by Jimmy Carter’s ‘roadmap’ agreement, along with several UN resolutions. Obama vetoed the Palestinian bid for statehood earlier this year, voted against a resolution calling for ‘the right of the Palestinian people to self-determination,’ and supports the expansion of illegal Israeli settlements- doing away with even the most minor penalties for settlers as brought in by Bush.
As for Haiti; Obama sent Hillary Clinton over in 2009 to meet with president Rene Preval, in the hope of getting unfavourable candidates excluded from the electoral process. It was determined that Ariside, the candidate who won 90 per cent of the vote before he was deposed with the help of France and Canada, would not be allowed to run. US-Haitian foreign policy has been abysmal ever since Woodrow Wilson dismantled their parliamentary government to allow a US takeover, stating that ‘Haitians are negro for the most-part…therefore require as complete a rule as possible,’ but Obama’s crimes have been even worse. After the earthquake, Obama’s first act was to send US military personnel and Coast Guards to ensure that no Haitians were trying to flee to the US. Several refugees were subsequently captured and detained at Guantanamo. By the time Obama agreed to send aid, Cuba and Venezuela had already supplied over 100 doctors and food supplies, yet neither was recognised by the US as a ‘donor’ and therefore was not invited to the conference in Montreal. To this date, only 30 per cent of the US aid pledged has gone to Haiti, and Obama has failed to invest in any Haitian national institutions, as that would not benefit US investment.
Virtually unreported is Obama’s shameless support for Alassane Ouattara- now president of Cote De Ivor- who, according to Amnesty International, ‘gave the green light for war crimes and crimes against humanity’ when fighting the existing leader, Laurent Gbagbo. Deputy Director for Africa Véronique Aubert states: ‘We know that they have executed hundreds of men of all age on political and ethnic grounds. We know that women have been raped. There are quite a lot of testimonies in the report, including on sexual violence.’ Ouattara and his terrorist army were given direct support by France and the United States, who lost economic control over the country with the election of Gbagbo; and it is expected that Obama will give $25 million in aid to the new Ouattara government. I do not doubt that Gbagbo was corrupt, however a study by James Inhofe stated it was ‘statistically impossible for Gbagbo to have lost the election,’ and it is known that Ouattara is friends with Henry Kissinger and other US officials. Either way, he is not someone who I would endorse.
Finally, to dispel any illusion that Obama is ‘dedicated to peace,’ I would like to call attention to the president’s nuclear policies. With all the fear-mongering and propaganda surrounding Iran’s uranium enrichment program, US intelligence documents state that even if Iran had nuclear weapons, the threat would be miniscule. The development of Iranian nuclear weapons is in response to Israeli actions- namely, lowering US-funded nuclear submarines into the gulf- and would not be authorised for use by the ruling clerics. In fact, 80 per cent of the middle- eastern population have said that they believe Israel and the United States to be the main threat to nuclear security, and that the region would be safer if Iran did have a nuclear deterrent. Obama’s criticism of Iranian nuclear programs is even more hypocritical, as the US supports nuclear programs for the only three countries who have not signed the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (India, Israel, and Pakistan), and helps to block IAEA inspectors from gaining access to Israeli nuclear facilities. Obama has also gone against resolution 687, which calls for a nuclear-free zone in the middle-east, and has refused (along with Israel) to join the rest of the UN nations in building a nuclear-free African continent. With astounding arrogance, the president has also decided to build thirteen-tonne nuclear bombs- the largest weapon in the pentagon’s arsenal- just days after receiving the Nobel Peace Prize.
Therefore, while the alternative may be a whole lot worse, I urge you to think twice before waving your ‘Obama ’12’ flag in the coming election. Remember what you are standing for. Do not settle for the symbolic victory of having a black man in the white house, or succumb to supporting the left-leaning faction of a one-party state. It is his policies that matter, not his cool demeanour or glinting incisors. And if you can’t find anyone better, then why vote at all?
Oliver Eagleton is a fifteen year-old school student from Dublin, Ireland.
Hsiao-Hung Pai meets people affected by the fire, and finds sadness and suffering mixed with a continuing wariness of the official investigations
Chris Williamson MP, winner of the election's tightest marginal, Derby North, and recently reappointed shadow minister for fire services, talks to Ashish Ghadiali about Jeremy Corbyn, the housing crisis and winning from the left
The Corbyn-supporting group is preparing for another election at any moment, writes Adam Peggs – and now has the potential to create powerful training initiatives, union links and party reform efforts
’We believe in you. We are with you. We will never forget.’ Grenfell solidarity sweeps East London in mass banner drops from housing estates
Michael Calderbank profiles Jeremy Corbyn's new supporters in parliament
The Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) continues to witness devastating political violence, but the world refuses to act. Ishiaba Kasonga and Serge Egola Angbakodolo ask why?
When fire safety has become a privilege for the rich, it’s time to stop austerity and fund emergency mass works to raise standards immediately, writes Jane Shallice
The election result has irreversibly changed political discourse in the UK, writes James Fox
In commemoration of the 30th anniversary of Bernie Grant's election to parliament, Ayo Wallace explores the life and legacy of his radical representation of Tottenham's black communities.
Across Britain, hundreds of thousands of people have now taken part in mass rallies for Corbyn's Labour. Eli Regan soaks up the atmosphere in Warrington
Contribute to Conter – the new cross-party platform linking Scottish socialists
Jonathan Rimmer, editor of Conter, says it’s time for a new non-sectarian space for Scottish anti-capitalists and invites you to take part
Editorial: Empire will eat itself
Ashish Ghadiali introduces the June/July issue of Red Pepper
Eddie Chambers: Black artists and the DIY aesthetic
Eddie Chambers, artist and art historian, speaks to Ashish Ghadiali about the cultural strategies that he, as founder of the Black Art Group, helped to define in the 1980s
Despite Erdogan, Turkey is still alive
With this year's referendum consolidating President Erdogan’s autocracy in Turkey, Nazim A argues that the way forward for democrats lies in a more radical approach
Red Pepper Race Section: open editorial meeting – 11 August in Leeds
The next open editorial meeting of the Red Pepper Race Section will take place between 3.30-5.30pm, Friday 11th August in Leeds.
Mogg-mentum? Thatcherite die-hard Jacob Rees-Mogg is no man of the people
Adam Peggs says Rees-Mogg is no joke – he is a living embodiment of Britain's repulsive ruling elite
Power to the renters: Turning the tide on our broken housing system
Heather Kennedy, from the Renters Power Project, argues it’s time to reject Thatcher’s dream of a 'property-owning democracy' and build renters' power instead
Your vote can help Corbyn supporters win these vital Labour Party positions
Left candidate Seema Chandwani speaks to Red Pepper ahead of ballot papers going out to all members for a crucial Labour committee
Join the Rolling Resistance to the frackers
Al Wilson invites you to take part in a month of anti-fracking action in Lancashire with Reclaim the Power
The Grenfell public inquiry must listen to the residents who have been ignored for so long
Councils handed housing over to obscure, unaccountable organisations, writes Anna Minton – now we must hear the voices they silenced
India: Modi’s ‘development model’ is built on violence and theft from the poorest
Development in India is at the expense of minorities and the poor, writes Gargi Battacharya
North Korea is just the start of potentially deadly tensions between the US and China
US-China relations have taken on a disturbing new dimension under Donald Trump, writes Dorothy Guerrero
The feminist army leading the fight against ISIS
Dilar Dirik salutes militant women-organised democracy in action in Rojava
France: The colonial republic
The roots of France’s ascendant racism lie as deep as the origins of the French republic itself, argues Yasser Louati
This is why it’s an important time to support Caroline Lucas
A vital voice of dissent in Parliament: Caroline Lucas explains why she is asking for your help
PLP committee elections: it seems like most Labour backbenchers still haven’t learned their lesson
Corbyn is riding high in the polls - so he can face down the secret malcontents among Labour MPs, writes Michael Calderbank
Going from a top BBC job to Tory spin chief should be banned – it’s that simple
This revolving door between the 'impartial' broadcaster and the Conservatives stinks, writes Louis Mendee – we need a different media
I read Gavin Barwell’s ‘marginal seat’ book and it was incredibly awkward
Gavin Barwell was mocked for writing a book called How to Win a Marginal Seat, then losing his. But what does the book itself reveal about Theresa May’s new top adviser? Matt Thompson reads it so you don’t have to
We can defeat this weak Tory government on the pay cap
With the government in chaos, this is our chance to lift the pay cap for everyone, writes Mark Serwotka, general secretary of public service workers’ union PCS
Corbyn supporters surge in Labour’s internal elections
A big rise in left nominations from constituency Labour parties suggests Corbynites are getting better organised, reports Michael Calderbank
Undercover policing – the need for a public inquiry for Scotland
Tilly Gifford, who exposed police efforts to recruit her as a paid informer, calls for the inquiry into undercover policing to extend to Scotland
Becoming a better ally: how to understand intersectionality
Intersectionality can provide the basis of our solidarity in this new age of empire, writes Peninah Wangari-Jones
The myth of the ‘white working class’ stops us seeing the working class as it really is
The right imagines a socially conservative working class while the left pines for the days of mass workplaces. Neither represent today's reality, argues Gargi Bhattacharyya
The government played the public for fools, and lost
The High Court has ruled that the government cannot veto local council investment decisions. This is a victory for local democracy and the BDS movement, and shows what can happen when we stand together, writes War on Want’s Ross Hemingway.
An ‘obscure’ party? I’m amazed at how little people in Britain know about the DUP
After the Tories' deal with the Democratic Unionists, Denis Burke asks why people in Britain weren't a bit more curious about Northern Ireland before now
The Tories’ deal with the DUP is outright bribery – but this government won’t last
Theresa May’s £1.5 billion bung to the DUP is the last nail in the coffin of the austerity myth, writes Louis Mendee
Brexit, Corbyn and beyond
Clarity of analysis can help the left avoid practical traps, argues Paul O'Connell
Paul Mason vs Progress: ‘Decide whether you want to be part of this party’ – full report
Broadcaster and Corbyn supporter Paul Mason tells the Blairites' annual conference some home truths
Contagion: how the crisis spread
Following on from his essay, How Empire Struck Back, Walden Bello speaks to TNI's Nick Buxton about how the financial crisis spread from the USA to Europe
How empire struck back
Walden Bello dissects the failure of Barack Obama's 'technocratic Keynesianism' and explains why this led to Donald Trump winning the US presidency