World War 4 Report has been keeping a dispassionate record of Barack Obama’s moves in dismantling, continuing and escalating (he has done all three) the oppressive apparatus of the Global War on Terrorism (GWOT) established by the Bush White House. On the day of his second inauguration, we offer the following annotated assessment of which moves over the past year have been on balance positive, neutral and negative, and arrive at an overall score:
Extended troop presence for Afghanistan
Obama won an agreement from Afghanistan to maintain a large US military presence in the country after the supposed withdrawal date of the end of 2014. The Pentagon is considering 20,000 troops to remain in Afghanistan after 2014. Negative.
To grease NATO resupply for the Afghan mission through Pakistan, Obama is pledging fat increases in military aid. We acknowledge that the jihadists the Pakistani military is fighting are very bad lot, but there is still ample evidence—even now—that elements of Islamabad’s security apparatus are actually collaborating with the jihadists. Not to mention the regime’s own human rights violations, amply documented by Amnesty International. Negative.
Continuing drone terror
According to a tally by the New America Foundation, drone strikes have actually dropped the past two years from a high of 123 in 2010 to 73 in 2011 and 48 in 2012. But Obama is still far outdoing Bush in this department, and seems to have utterly gotten over initial anguish about the civilian casualties. The Bureau of Investigative Journalism finds that Obama’s count of drone strikes in Pakistan alone is now approaching 300—to a total of 52 throughout the Bush years. (And that’s not counting Yemen.) The total deaths from drone strikes under Obama is counted at over 3,000, a sizeable proportion non-combatants. The Bureau also accuses the drone strikes of “targeting rescuers and funerals.” It should be noted that these claims originate from Taliban leaders quoted in the Pakistani press, and the “rescuers” seems to mean the local jihadist militia. Still, whatever the facts may be, the strikes constitute illegal aggression, and the toll in non-combatant casaulites is ghastly. There is no way this can be anything other than a negative.
Threatening to nuke Iran
In his State of the Union address last January, Obama again made an oblique threat to use nuclear weapons against Iran, saying he would take “no options off the table” to prevent Tehran from developing its own nuclear weapon. We understand the political reasons Obama has to do this, and we assume it is just lip service to appease the right. But it is still wildly irresponsible. And, beyond (hopefully) empty talk, there are the actual naval maneuvers in the Strait of Hormuz, which constitute dangerous brinkmanship. Negative.
Blank check for Israel
The Democratic Party platform plank unveiled last summer stating that Jerusalem should “remain the capital of Israel” and “an undivided city” merely cystalizes Obama’s blank check for the Jewish state even as it brazenly expands West Bank settlements, rains aerial terror on Gaza, and lurches deeper into an apartheid-like system. The Republican and Likud squawking about how Obama is anti-Israel is pathetically transparent. Despite occasional empty hand-wringing over Israel’s abuses (and less of that all the time), the National Jewish Democratic Council notes approvingly that Obama has increased aid to Israel for 2013—requesting a record $3.1 billion in military assistance, a $25 million boost over last year. Negative.
Arming Arab dictatorships
Despite lip service to supporting the Arab Spring and actually moving towards intervention in Syria, the Obama administration continues to arm dictatorships across the Arab world—Bahrain being one example that won the opprobrium of human rights groups. Are these regimes as brutal as that of Bashar Assad in Syria? Not by a long shot—but talk about setting the bar low! Negative.
That’s what the right is calling it, and we aren’t sure that it rises to the level of Watergate or Contragate. But it is clear that the White House isn’t playing straight with us. The equivocation about what happened in Benghazi on Sept. 11 smells bad, and there is growing evidence that it was “blowback” from CIA covert action being organized out of the Libyan city, involving an arms pipeline to the Syrian rebels. Whatever the case may or may not be for arming the Syrian rebels, we are owed a full accounting on this. Until we get it: Negative.
Military tribunals at Gitmo
It has to be acknowledged that Obama’s efforts to have the 9-11 defendants tried in civilian courts on the mainland were blocked by Republican intransigence, but the revival of the farcical “military tribunals” at Guantánamo Bay is a dangerous capitulaiton. Last month, Obama signed the 2013 NDAA with provisions barring the transfer of Gitmo detainees. On Jan. 6, Witness Against Torture again protested in Washington to demand closure of the detention facility at Gitmo, as they did last year. It looks all too likely they will have to do so again next year, despite requisite demands from the ACLU that Obama shut the facility in his second term. We are more than ready to be surprised , but until then: Negative.
We aren’t sure about this one, but Obama’s fourth year saw the first claim (from the Bureau of Investigative Journalism) that the administration is continuing the Bush-era practice of “renditioning” terror suspects—although, in this case, a suspect was apparently “renditioned” from Djibouti to the US to face trial, not “renditioned” to a third country to face torture-interrogation (as the word was used under Bush). Still, it appears that the suspect, a young Somali man, may have been deported by extrajudicial means and his whereabouts were unknown until he appeared in federal court in New York. Negative.
No justice on Bush-era torture
The Justice Department in August closed its three-year investigation into the CIA’s torture and abuse of detainees, with no criminal charges brought. Negative.
Militarizing East Asia
From a new advanced missile-defense radar on Japanese territory to expanding South Korea’s missile capabilities, Obama is abetting the nuclear hardliners in the DPRK and escalating the New Cold War with China. Negative.
Colombia FTA approved
In a 2008 campaign speech, Obama said he would oppose the Colombia Free Trade Agreement “because violence against unions in Colombia would make a mockery of the very labor protections that we have insisted be included in these kinds of agreements.” Paramilitary terror against unionists continues virtually unabated in Colombia, but Obama approved the agreement anyway. Negative.
Hemispheric “drug war” militarization goes on
There has been no let-up in hemispheric militarization in the guise of the “war on drugs,” the administration’s intransigence even extending to opposing Bolivia’s (successful) initiative for the UN to recognize the legality of traditional coca use within its borders. On the domestic front, the Obama administration has actually been more aggressive than Bush in arresting and prosecuting medical marijuana users and providers, even in states that have legalized it. Negative.
Backing corporate impunity
The Supreme Court agreed to hear Kiobel v. Royal Dutch Petroleum, a case brought by Nigerian survivors of torture and other rights abuses, against oil companies including Shell that fund and collaborate with Nigeria’s military. The Obama administration urged the court to dismiss the case on immunity grounds. What the fuck? Negative.
Next: domestic drones
Obama signed legislation last year allowing use of surveillance drones by domestic law enforcement. We sure wish there was more outcry over this. Negative.
Shilling for drilling, backing fracking
Obama said in last year’s State of the Union: “We have a supply of natural gas that can last America nearly 100 years, and my administration will take every possible action to safely develop this energy.” Similar comments followed in ensuing days. While he did not explicitly invoke hydraulic fracturing, this amounts to an endorsement. The Bureau of Land Management estimates 90% of natural gas drilling on public lands involves “fracking.” We acknowledge modest regulatory restraints Obama has imposed on public-lands fracking, which have of course been portrayed as green totalitarianism by the right. But we also view it as the proverbial sugar coating on a betrayal of farmers and rural communities across the country. And even after the BP oil spill, Obama signed an agreement with Mexico to open transboundary waters in the Gulf to oil drilling. And after denying a permit for the northern leg of the Keystone XL pipeline pending further study of the impacts, Obama later signed off on the southern leg—increasing pressure for construction of the northern one, over the protests of heartland farmers. Negative.
Trust settlement with American Indians
The administration reached a $1 billion settlement with 41 Native American tribes over natural resources exploitation on tribal lands. Several other such cases are still outstanding, so this is only a partial victory, but still a positive.
Partial implementation of DREAM Act policies
We had to note last year that ICE raids were continuing despite Obama’s pledge to end them, and this hasn’t changed. (The work-place raids have ended, but not “anti-gang” sweeps.) The Washington Post noted Aug. 27 that despite Republican whining, Obama is actually deporting “illegal” immigrants at a greater rate than Bush did. The Chicago Tribune notes an Inauguration Day protest march to oppose the deportations in the Windy City. But, in what may well have been a calculated election-year play for the Latino vote, Obama in 2012 implemented by executive order a provision of the long-stalled DREAM Act—halting the deportation of anyone under the age of 30 who was brought to the US as a child. The Republicans of course howled, but even this included no “path to citizenship”—a key aim of the DREAM Act. Still, on balance we have to call it a positive. We also have to note that the administration is fighting the draconian Arizona immigration law in the courts—if on the basis of usurpation of federal powers, not civil rights.
Blocking investigation of “Fast and Furious”
We aren’t going to weigh in here on the complicated issue of gun control (enough other people are doing that, on both sides of the question). But we will note that Obama’s invocation of executive privilege to withhold information from Congress (and the public) on the “Fast and Furious” scandal has only fueled right-wing conspiracy theories that sending the guns to the Mexican cartels was a cynical strategy to grease anti-gun measures. The theories are wacky, but Obama’s stonewalling is unhelpful—and undemocratic. Negative.
Overall score: 89.5% Negative
Last year’s score was 93.3% Negative