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 third anniversary of his inauguration, we offer the following annotated assessment of which moves have been on balance positive, neutral and negative, and arrive at an overall score:
Pakistan: thousands march against US drone strikes:
Obama seems to be opting for an aggressive program of drone strikes as an alternative to sending in ground troops—not just in Pakistan, but in Yemen and elsewhere around the Greater Middle East. The alternative could be worse, but that means little to the civilian “collateral damage”—not to mention that it makes great propaganda for al-Qaeda and their ilk, making the whole strategy counter-productive. Negative.
Obama pays lip service to Tunisians —betrays Egyptians, Algerians, Yemenis:
Obama’s reaction to the Arab Spring from the beginning has been to try to co-opt it and control its political trajectory by posing as its defender. It was evident immediately, when he hailed the Tunisian revolution—after the dictator had fled!—while continuing to support the despots in Egypt, Yemen and other Arab client states with tear gas, weaponry and political recognition. This situation continues even now. (Never mind the noise from conspiranoid idiots who think the whole Arab Spring was instrumented by Washington, reading the situation precisely backwards.) Negative.
Obama exploits South Sudanese independence struggle:
There is a very good case for South Sudanese independence, and we certainly wish to loan no comfort to Omar al-Bashir’s genocide state. But there’s also no doubt that South Sudanese independence has been exploited for Western oil intrigues and corporate land-grabs. Negative.
Mexico: federal police fire on Oaxaca protesters:
Nobody is paying any attention, but the US is continuing to boost funding to Mexico’s corrupt and brutal security forces—as human rights abuses escalate. And as (not surprisingly) evidence mounts that both Mexican security forces and the DEA are playing ball with the cartels. Negative.
Fatah calls for “day of rage” against US:
Fatah may have had its own cynical reasons for doing so (deflecting popular rage onto an external target lest the Arab Spring come to Ramallah), but there was plenty of legitimate reason for Palestinians to be pist at Washington. The Obama administration used its veto power to block a UN Security Council resolution condemning Israeli settlements on the West Bank. Later, it would use a veto threat, diplomatic pressure and (courtesy of congressional Republicans, actually) economic sanctions to sabotage Palestine’s statehood bid. There are arguments for and against Palestinian statehood, but this is a question for the Palestinians—not bullying tactics by the global superpower. Negative. (The fact that the Zionist right views Obama as anti-Israel just demonstrates how far out of wack things are.)
Obama: no retreat from “clean nuclear power” plans:
The Fukushima disaster did not cause the Obama administration to rethink its commitment to the oxymoron of “clean nuclear power.” Obama’s 2012 budget called for an additional $36 billion in loan guarantees for new nuclear power plants. Negative.
US signs nuclear development deal with Chile —amid Fukushima disaster:
The world media hardly made note that even as the Fukushima nightmare unfolded—and even as the US prepared new sanctions against Iran over its nuclear ambitions—the Obama administration was encouraging the spread of nuclear power in the developing world. Negative.
Colombia agrees to FTA labor conditions; opponents don’t buy it:
Obama talked tough on this issue on the campaign trail, but Colombia’s unions—rightly—protested his deal on human rights and labor conditions as a sell-out. Congress went ahead and passed the FTA. Negative.
Supreme Court hears arguments in global warming case:
American Electric Power Co. v. Connecticut concerned whether states can sue electric utilities over global warming. The Supreme Court ruled the wrong way. The Obama administration took the side of the power companies. Negative.
Did Osama bin Laden hit violate international law?:
While shedding no tears for Osama, we support Amnesty International’s call for a full accounting of what smells like a targeted assassination. No matter how odious the “target,” this sets a dangerous precedent. It would have been better for all concerned if he had stood trial. Sorry, but: Negative.
Obama to open Alaska’s National Petroleum Reserve:
No, this is not the more critical Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR), which lies just to the east, and which Republicans have been trying to open to oil exploitation for over 20 years. But it is still a bad move. Negative.
Patriot Act extended through 2015:
Need we say more? Negative.
Congress and the Libya war: Orwellian logic:
We aren’t going to pass judgement on the Libya intervention per se. Yes, we understand about the horrific costs in “collateral damage,” and that any extension of US military power is a profound negative in the long run. However, it strikes us as arrogant to dismiss the concerns of the many Libyans who were avidly rooting for military intervention against Qaddafi—especially as his troops were advancing on Benghazi, with a general massacre explicitly promised. That said, Obama’s bombing-does-not-equal-war argument to weasel out of the limits established by the War Powers Act was abhorrent, and set a very dangerous precedent. If he thought there was a case for war, he should have made it instead of playing word games. We note the complicated reality that many Libyans were likely happy for his subterfuge, because they needed all the help they could get against Qaddafi. We also note the bizarre historical irony that the War Powers Act was passed in 1973 by a Democratic-controlled Congress to rein in the war-mongering Republican Nixon, whereas this time it was being invoked by isolationist Republicans (mostly) to rein in a Democratic president. But that makes no difference to our judgement. We have to say: Negative.
Afghanistan draw-down modeled on “Sons of Iraq” program:
Again, this is being undertaken to facilitate an eventual withdrawal of US troops from Afghanistan. But turning local power over to reactionary sheikhs and patriarchs who weeks earlier were collaborating with the Taliban is a betrayal of Afghanistan’s women, religious minorities and secularists. Negative.
Brutal ICE raids continue —despite Obama’s new policy:
Yes, the factory raids have stopped, so it is an improvement over the Bush policy. But that’s setting the bar pretty damn low. Raids of homes and communities continue under the “anti-gang” loophole. Negative.
Federal appeals court blocks (parts of) Alabama immigration law:
We have to give Obama’s Justice Department creds for challenging the wave of draconian state anti-immigrant laws—and for reining in Sheriff Joe Arpaio’s smelly little police state in Phoenix. Positive.
United Nations investigator: US violating torture probe rules in Bradley Manning case:
We’d be more convinced of Pfc. Bradley Manning’s sound judgement if he hadn’t turned over to WikiLeaks a voluminous hoard of diplomatic cables—the release of which placed dissidents at risk in Belarus. Nonetheless, even if he went too far, his motivation seems to have been exposing the “Collateral Murder” episode in Iraq, which still qualifies him as a whistle-blower, and a courageous one. The outrageous treatment he has received at the Quantico brig rightly draws UN condemnation. Negative.
Obama caves in on smog regulations:
We applauded when he announced the new standards, so now we have to jeer as he rescinds them—going over the EPA’s head to do so. Obama cited the economic downturn, despite all his prattle about how economic growth and environmental protection are compatible. Whatever happened to the “Green New Deal,” Obama? Negative.
White House expands drug watch list to include all Central America:
Yes, drug trafficking and related violence are expanding horrifically in the isthmus—largely due to US-imposed “free trade” policies that have gutted the campesino sector and created an economic vacuum. But this is just a recipe for more counter-productive militarization. Negative.
Obama announces final Iraq pull-out (except special forces):
This sounds like good news at first, but read the small print. Hundreds of US military advisors and thousands of private contractors will be staying behind. And (campaign promises notwithstanding) Obama only agreed to the withdrawal because the Iraqi government wouldn’t go along with his plan to extend the US troop presence—in other words, he made a virtue of necessity. Negative.
Will Iraq pull-out spark war with Iran?:
We are far from convinced that Obama (or even Netanyahu) really wants to go to war with Iran. But growing Iranian sway over what was supposed to have been a US proxy regime in Iraq may lead to war. In any event, the Iraq “withdrawal” has seen the US boosting its troop presence in the Persian Gulf, and striking new arms deals with Saudi Arabia. Negative.
Obama resumes military aid to Uzbekistan dictatorship:
This is an example of how one bad policy leads to another. Pakistan closed the Khyber Pass to US forces because of the drone war, so Washington had to use the northern route to Afghanistan. This meant cozying up to the brutal Islam Karimov regime—after George Bush had cut off aid because of human rights concerns! Negative!
Obama signs NDAA with indefinite detention provisions —despite “reservations”:
Yes, the Republicans had him over a barrel, with Pentagon funding about to run out. But this is a no-compromise issue, and his “reservations” have no legal meaning. Big, big Negative.
Pentagon prepares for new cold war with China:
Not to exonerate Beijing’s unhelpful brinkmanship in the South China Sea. But Obama’s shifting of troops to the Pacific theater makes us queasy. How if Beijing sent military forces to the Caribbean to check US aggression against Venezuela? Also not helpful. Negative.
Protests mark tenth anniversary of Guantánamo Bay prison camp:
We recognize that the Republicans have made every effort to check Obama’s efforts to follow through on his campaign pledge to close the Gitmo camp. But he has also capitulated under pressure. Last year, he signed a Defense Authorization Act that included a provision barring the transfer of Gitmo detainees to the US. And now he just signed the new NDAA which (in addition to its notorious provisions for indefinite detention) tightens this stricture. Negative.
Obama denies permit for Keystone XL pipeline:
Albeit while making abundantly clear that he doesn’t oppose the project itself, just the deadline for its approval imposed by the Republicans. And TransCanada immediately announced it will re-apply. Still, we’ll take what we can get. Positive.
Overall score: 93.3% Negative
Last year’s score was 77.1% Negative