May 15, 2009

Barack Obama, Murderer and War Criminal-in-Chief

[Updated at the conclusion.]

I will be blunt, for certain conclusions are now inescapable, even this early in the miraculous, transcendent Age of Obama. Insofar as those who regularly follow political matters are concerned, and especially with regard to those people who write about politics and foreign policy -- which is to say, insofar as commentators and reporters in the mainstream media and on blogs are concerned -- to continue to believe that Barack Obama represents any kind of "improvement" over the abomination of George W. Bush is not an innocent error. To persist in delusions of this kind requires that one intentionally and deliberately blind oneself to evidence that assaults us every day.

I will soon be offering many more particulars in support of these judgments. For the moment, I will offer just one example. Given the nature of the example, no further evidence is required.

Chris Floyd:
They Had it Coming

And how many children -- children -- did the now-progressive-led humanitarian intervention kill at a single stroke in Afghanistan last week? Ninety-five. Ninety-five. Ninety-five. And what does the now-progressive Pentagon say about this atrocity? Why, the Obama Pentagon (the Obamagon?) says that the grieving families are just making shit up in order to get a couple thousand dollars in guilt money -- despite the overwhelming evidence of mass slaughter found by the International Red Cross and myriad other eyewitnesses on the scene. Truly, a great change has come to America, has it not?
The story that Floyd references:
The fallout from last week’s US air strikes in the Farah Province, which an Afghan commission concluded had killed 140 civilians, continued today as an Afghan MP involved in the investigation said that 95 of the dead were actually children (which he defined as under the age of 18). The attack was the single largest instance of US-killed civilians in Afghanistan since the 2001 invasion.

US Military spokesman Col. Greg Julian was dismissive of the claims, mocking the locals and saying they were unable to tell if 19 or 69 bodies were buried in a mass grave. He also rejected the list of the names of the dead presented earlier this week, saying “I can sit down and give you a list of names too … but the physical evidence doesn’t compare.” Col. Julian went on to suggest that the $2,000 given to the families in compensation for a slain family member was driving civilians to exaggerate the toll.

The military has yet to present its final report on how many civilians it killed, but calls the reports from Afghan officials, which are all in the realm of 130-150 civilians killed, “extremely over-exaggerated.” It took several days before the military was willing to admit that it had killed anyone at all, previously suggesting the whole incident was manufactured by the Taliban.
This is evil so blatant that it does not trouble to disguise itself in even the smallest degree. These perpetrators of evil are confident that they can behave in this way, for they know they will be challenged by no serious opposition.

If you have doubts on that point, consider this from Laura Flanders:
What I wish was a joke was some of the rest of what's been coming [into my inbox]...

Like all the mail from supposedly anti-war groups who worked hard to elect Barack Obama on an anti-Iraq war platform, but now, when it comes to escalation in Afghanistan, are lining up in support.

After the president announced the deployment of 4,000 more troops (on top of the extra 17,000 he's already sent) Jon Soltz, an anti-Iraq war organizer with VoteVets wrote in the Huffington Post: "With today's announcement President Obama has shown that he 'gets it.' That's why we at are supporting the plan." They even have a rah-rah petition going.

Americans United for Change ran hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of anti-Iraq war ads in 2007. But they refused to answer a Washington Post blogger's question about Afghanistan. Anti-war organizers - and plenty of generals agreed -- there was no military solution possible in Iraq. But many of those who got their head round that idea then, seem to believe the opposite is true in Afghanistan, even though Obama's own advisers say the struggle there can't be won on the battlefield.

On the website of the liberal Center for America Progress there are no fewer than five articles supporting the president's policy, including one headlined "Seven Reasons Why We need to Engage in Afghanistan."

On the Afghanistan deployment, as the Center for Media and Democracy's John Stauber has pointed out, MoveOn has thus far been silent on Afghanistan.

When MoveOn's members were recently polled on their priorities for 2009, the subject didn't apparently make the cut.
We can now see unequivocally and in full, bloody daylight the nature of the "change" that Obama has brought to the operations of Empire. Obama will alter nothing in those operations, except to expand them and make them still more murderous. But because Obama has been heralded as the exponent of "hope" and "change," and because the majority of Americans exhibit an endless capacity for crediting the most meaningless of slogans, many people will continue to struggle to convince themselves that somehow things might have been worse had he not been elected. How could they have been "worse" for the 140 dead Afghanis, 95 of whom were children? Are murders ordered by a Democratic president not as final as those ordered by a Republican president? And this does not even consider the murder campaign now underway in Pakistan at the instigation of the Obama administration. Obama has repeatedly made clear that he's just getting started. Throughout the interminable campaign, Obama never hid what he stood for. To the contrary, he stated his plans for more and more war repeatedly, and in detail. If you failed to grasp this fact, it can only be because you did not want to grasp it.

If you are a person who reaches moral judgments by means of the crudest of mechanical calculations, you might be sufficiently barbaric to believe the kind of "reasoning" suited only to the most vicious of criminals. One unjustified murder is evil and unforgivable; the nature of the evil is not altered when you commit fifty -- or 95, or 140 -- unjustified murders, although the scope is increased. As I wrote in 2006 about the criminal invasion and occupation of Iraq:
If you have ever wondered how a serial murderer -- a murderer who is sane and fully aware of the acts he has committed -- can remain steadfastly convinced of his own moral superiority and show not even the slightest glimmer of remorse, you should not wonder any longer.

The United States government is such a murderer. It conducts its murders in full view of the entire world. It even boasts of them. Our government, and all our leading commentators, still maintain that the end justifies the means -- and that even the slaughter of hundreds of thousands of innocents is of no moral consequence, provided a sufficient number of people can delude themselves into believing the final result is a "success."


No moral principle legitimizes our invasion and occupation of Iraq ... Therefore, when the first person was killed in Iraq as the result of our actions, the immorality was complete. The crime had been committed, and no amends could ever suffice or would even be possible. That many additional tens or hundreds of thousands of people have subsequently been killed or injured does not add to the original immorality with regard to first principles. It increases its scope, which is an additional and terrible horror -- but the principle is not altered in the smallest degree.

So think of the five-year-old Iraqi girl who is no more, or think of any one of the countless other victims of this criminal war and occupation. Think of their families and friends. Think of the lives that have been altered forever, and of the wounds that will never heal. Think about all of that.

Contemplate the devastation and the horror. Make it real to yourself. And ask yourself if forgiveness is possible.
Barack Obama is the perfect front man for the continuation of Empire -- for more murder, more slaughter, more brutality and, yes, more torture.

But now, there are very few people to oppose him. Thus, the Empire will continue on its bloody, murderous course, knowing full well that most of the opposition it might have encountered has voluntarily, and very often enthusiastically, joined the ranks of collaborators.

When you make excuses for evil of this kind, and when you attempt to "justify" or "explain" it, you make yourself evil. You are a knowing accomplice to slaughter and brutality. Those who decline to pass the necessary judgments about Obama will expend great effort to avoid this conclusion. But some of us see the truth, and we will be sure to remind such people of their own evil and complicity.

We do not (yet) live under a dictatorship. Americans have a choice. You do not have to support a regime of this kind. (And the choice always remains as long as you draw breath, even under a dictatorship, an issue I will soon be discussing.) Yet many Americans, notably including many of those who claimed to oppose this program of murder and destruction when it was implemented by a member of the "other" party, do support it. We are therefore entitled to conclude that this is what they want. At the conclusion of an essay about the U.S. occupation of the Philippines over a century ago, a horrifying episode that announced the arrival of the burgeoning American Empire on the international stage, I wrote:
Tragically, the truth for many Americans is still worse. In an essay about the alleged policy justifications for the Philippine occupation, "The Old Theme -- A 'Redeemer Nation,' with Some Explaining to Do," I offered some excerpts from Matthew Frye Jacobson's Barbarian Virtues: The United States Encounters Foreign Peoples At Home and Abroad, 1876-1917. The final passage from Jacobson that I included was this one:
When we recall and squarely face U.S. conduct in the Philippines at the dawn of Pacific empire in 1899, we [cannot] pass off the U.S. rise to global predominance as blind, unintentional, or accidental. Despite some opposition, the United States consciously chose imperial power along with the antidemocratic baggage and even the bloodshed that entailed; and many Americans--none more than Teddy Roosevelt--liked it.
To which I added:
And too many Americans like it still.
And that, dear reader, is the simple, infinitely awful truth.

Related Essays:

A Choice of War Criminals

Killing Truth and Hope: The Fatal Illusion of Opposition

Obama and the Triumph of the American Myth

The Honor of Being Human: Why Do You Support?

The Mythology of the "Good Guy" American

UPDATE: A follow-up with more on these themes, here.