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.
Grassroots posters giving an alternative take on the general election
Hundreds of people surrounded the fences this weekend. Hera Lorandos spoke to women who have suffered inside.
Laying out the case for Labour's leadership of a Progressive Alliance, Jeremy Gilbert argues that far from posing a threat to the Left, the Progressive Alliance offers a golden opportunity to end Tory rule and build a 21st century government committed to social justice
The Greens have stood down in Brighton Kemptown to clear the way for Labour, and the Lib Dems won’t stand in Brighton’s other seat, Green-held Pavilion. Davy Jones, who would have been the Green candidate in Kemptown, says this shows the way forward
The snap general election represents a unique opportunity to defeat this terrible government. We believe that visual artists have a crucial role to play!
Drax is the UK's biggest source of CO2 emissions – and we're paying for it, writes Almuth Ernsting
For the past 3 years, Barby Asante and members of London-based artists' collective, sorryyoufeeluncomfortable, have been responding directly to the vision of James Baldwin. Ahead of the nationwide release of a new film about the American activist and author, they reflect on the enduring relevance of Baldwin in Britain today.
Housing campaigners' gains in Bristol are spurring on a national movement to build a renters' union, writes Stuart Melvin
A new Espionage Act threatens whistleblowers and journalists, writes Sarah Kavanagh
We need an anti-austerity alliance, not a vaguely progressive alliance, argues Michael Calderbank
Civic strike paralyses Colombia’s principle pacific port
An alliance of community organisations are fighting ’to live with dignity’ in the face of military repression. Patrick Kane and Seb Ordoñez report.
Greece’s heavy load
While the UK left is divided over how to respond to Brexit, the people of Greece continue to groan under the burden of EU-backed austerity. Jane Shallice reports
On the narcissism of small differences
In an interview with the TNI's Nick Buxton, social scientist and activist Susan George reflects on the French Presidential Elections.
Why Corbyn’s ‘unpopularity’ is exaggerated: Polls show he’s more popular than most other parties’ leaders – and on the up
Headlines about Jeremy Corbyn’s poor approval ratings in polls don’t tell the whole story, writes Alex Nunns
The media wants to demoralise Corbyn’s supporters – don’t let them succeed
Michael Calderbank looks at the results of yesterday's local elections
In light of Dunkirk: What have we learned from the (lack of) response in Calais?
Amy Corcoran and Sam Walton ask who helps refugees when it matters – and who stands on the sidelines
Osborne’s first day at work – activists to pulp Evening Standards for renewable energy
This isn’t just a stunt. A new worker’s cooperative is set to employ people on a real living wage in a recycling scheme that is heavily trolling George Osborne. Jenny Nelson writes
Red Pepper’s race section: open editorial meeting 24 May
On May 24th, we’ll be holding the third of Red Pepper’s Race Section Open Editorial Meetings.
Our activism will be intersectional, or it will be bullshit…
Reflecting on a year in the environmental and anti-racist movements, Plane Stupid activist, Ali Tamlit, calls for a renewed focus on the dangers of power and privilege and the means to overcome them.
West Yorkshire calls for devolution of politics
When communities feel that power is exercised by a remote elite, anger and alienation will grow. But genuine regional democracy offers a positive alternative, argue the Same Skies Collective
How to resist the exploitation of digital gig workers
For the first time in history, we have a mass migration of labour without an actual migration of workers. Mark Graham and Alex Wood explore the consequences
The Digital Liberties cross-party campaign
Access to the internet should be considered as vital as access to power and water writes Sophia Drakopoulou
#AndABlackWomanAtThat – part III: a discussion of power and privilege
In the final article of a three-part series, Sheri Carr gives a few pointers on how to be a good ally
Event: Take Back Control Croydon
Ken Loach, Dawn Foster & Soweto Kinch to speak in Croydon at the first event of a UK-wide series organised by The World Transformed and local activists
Red Pepper’s race section: open editorial meeting 19 April
On April 19th, we’ll be holding the second of Red Pepper’s Race Section Open Editorial Meetings.
Changing our attitude to Climate Change
Paul Allen of the Centre for Alternative Technology spells out what we need to do to break through the inaction over climate change
Introducing Trump’s Inner Circle
Donald Trump’s key allies are as alarming as the man himself
#AndABlackWomanAtThat – part II: a discussion of power and privilege
In the second article of a three-part series, Sheri Carr reflects on the silencing of black women and the flaws in safe spaces
Joint statement on George Osborne’s appointment to the Evening Standard
'We have come together to denounce this brazen conflict of interest and to champion the growing need for independent, truthful and representative media'
Paul O’Connell and Michael Calderbank consider the conditions that led to the Brexit vote, and how the left in Britain should respond
On the right side of history: an interview with Mijente
Marienna Pope-Weidemann speaks to Reyna Wences, co-founder of Mijente, a radical Latinx and Chincanx organising network
Disrupting the City of London Corporation elections
The City of London Corporation is one of the most secretive and least understood institutions in the world, writes Luke Walter
#AndABlackWomanAtThat: a discussion of power and privilege
In the first article of a three-part series, Sheri Carr reflects on the oppression of her early life and how we must fight it, even in our own movement
Corbyn understands the needs of our communities
Ian Hodson reflects on the Copeland by-election and explains why Corbyn has the full support of The Bakers Food and Allied Workers Union
Red Pepper’s race section: open editorial meeting 15 March
On 15 March, we’ll be holding the first of Red Pepper’s Race Section open editorial meetings.
Social Workers Without Borders
Jenny Nelson speaks to Lauren Wroe about a group combining activism and social work with refugees
Growing up married
Laura Nicholson interviews Dr Eylem Atakav about her new film, Growing Up Married, which tells the stories of Turkey’s child brides
The Migrant Connections Festival: solidarity needs meaningful relationships
On March 4 & 5 Bethnal Green will host a migrant-led festival fostering community and solidarity for people of all backgrounds, writes Sohail Jannesari
Reclaiming Holloway Homes
The government is closing old, inner-city jails. Rebecca Roberts looks at what happens next
Intensification of state violence in the Kurdish provinces of Turkey
Oppression increases in the run up to Turkey’s constitutional referendum, writes Mehmet Ugur from Academics for Peace