Cross-posted from The-Protest.com
Both the Democratic and Republican parties have painted Obama as an anti-war president, albeit for obvious political reasons: the Democrats want to mobilize their progressive wing in Novemberâ€™s election, and Republicans stand to gain from portraying him as soft on terror. So why did NATO protesters have suchÂ harsh wordsÂ for ObamaÂ at the Art Institute Sunday night? One need look no further than the Obama administrationâ€™s horrendous foreign policy and human rights record.
For all Obamaâ€™s talk of â€œdrawing downâ€ in Afghanistan, the fact remains that there are nearlyÂ three times as manyÂ U.S. troops in the country as there were when he took office, and Obama plans to maintain a significant military presence through at least 2014. ApproximatelyÂ 88,000 U.S. troopsÂ currently occupy the country. They are supported byÂ 100,000 private contractorsÂ in their efforts to protect the hated Karzai government and crush the Afghan resistance movement. Tens of thousands of Afghans have been killed in the decade-long occupation, and the number of civilians killed by U.S. air strikes hasÂ increasedÂ under Obama.
Obama announced the withdrawal of approximately 40,000 troops from Iraq to great fanfare late last year. But, asÂ National Journalâ€™s Yochi DreazenÂ pointed outthen, â€œThe troops arenâ€™t being withdrawn because the U.S. wants them out. Theyâ€™re leaving because the Iraqi government refused to let them stay.â€Â In fact, the Obama administration fought tooth and nail to extend the U.S. military presence, giving up only when Iraqi lawmakers refused to grant U.S. forces legal immunity for the crimes they would inevitably commit if they stayed. Today, 5,500 security contractorsÂ remain in BaghdadÂ to guard a militarized U.S. â€œembassyâ€ the size of Vatican City, and CIA and Special Operations forces continue toÂ prop upÂ the IraqiÂ police state.
The Obama administration was a driving force behind NATOâ€™s seven-month bombing of Libya, which leftÂ at least 72 civilians dead, according to Human Rights Watch. The NATO intervention empowered the U.S.-backed interim government, the National Transitional Council (NTC), to consolidate control of the country and engage inÂ systematic violenceÂ against black Libyans, who they accused of being Qaddafi loyalists. The NTC has ties to the ousted Qaddafi regime and reportedlyÂ cut oil dealsÂ with Western governments and corporations in the midst of the civil war.
The Obama Administration has drastically expanded the drone-bombing campaign in Pakistan, launching 270 drone attacks since taking office, orÂ one every four days. While Obama claimed that his relentless bombing of Pakistan â€œhas not caused a huge number of civilian casualties,â€ theÂ Bureau of Investigative JournalismÂ has confirmed the deaths of hundreds of civilians in U.S. drone strikes, including at least 174 children. Obama has also expanded drone attacks in Yemen and Somalia, with similarly disastrous consequences for innocents in those countries.
Obamaâ€™s defenders often cite his executive order banning torture by American forces as proof that he repudiated Bush-era torture policies. But extraordinary rendition â€“ the practice of kidnapping people overseas and shipping them to U.S. client states to be tortured by foreign intelligence agencies â€“ remainsÂ alive and wellÂ under the Obama Administration. AsÂ The Nationâ€™s Jeremy Scahill reported last year, the CIA continues to operateÂ secret prisonsÂ in places like Somalia, where prisoners can be tortured without interference from the International Red Cross.
To date, not one victim of U.S. torture has had their day in court, due to the Obama Justice Departmentâ€™s invocation of the â€œstate secrets privilegeâ€ to dismiss lawsuits on national security grounds. As Salon.comâ€™s Glenn Greenwald hasÂ noted: â€œOne of the most amazing statistics of the last decade: not a single War on Terror victim â€” not one, whether foreign or American â€” has been permitted to proceed in an American court in an effort to obtain compensation for illegal treatment by the U.S. Government;Â instead, American courts have unanimously dismissed those cases at the outset, without reaching their substance.â€
With his signing of theÂ National Defense Authorization ActÂ (NDAA) last New Yearâ€™s Eve, Obama codified indefinite military detention of U.S. citizens as the law of the land. As the Bush administration demonstrated with its torture and three-year imprisonment of U.S. citizenÂ Jose Padilla, due-process-free military detention of citizens was already occurring before the Obama team arrived in Washington. But Obama has madeÂ de factoÂ military detentionÂ de jure. Indefinite detention remains the norm for non-citizens, as evidenced by the continued imprisonment of foreign nationals without trial in GuantÃ¡namo Bay andÂ Bagram prisonÂ in Afghanistan.
Obama is waging a war on whistleblowers that isÂ unprecedentedÂ in U.S. history. In the course of a single presidential term, the Obama administration has chargedÂ twice as many peopleÂ under the Espionage Act of 1917 as all previous presidential administrations combined. Perhaps the most notable of these is Pfc. Bradley Manning, who allegedly supplied WikiLeaks with classified documents detailing U.S. war crimes. The administration held Manning in solitary confinement 23 hours a day for 11 months, treatment that was condemned as â€œcruel, inhuman and degradingâ€ by the UN special rapporteur on torture. Manning, 24, now faces more than 50 years in prison.
As Atty. General Eric HolderÂ explainedÂ at the Northwestern University law school in March, the Obama administration claims the power to assassinate anyone in the world, including U.S. citizens, without so much as charging them with a crime. To date, three U.S. citizens in Yemen have been assassinated by drone strikes, including New Mexico-born cleric Anwar al-Awlaki and his 16-year-old son, Denver native Abdulrahman al-Awlaki.
This assertion of absolute, life-or-death power effectively one-ups the Bush Administration, which merely claimed the right to indefinitely imprison people without trial. As Noam ChomskyÂ observedÂ recently: â€œIf Bush, the Bush administration, didnâ€™t like somebody, theyâ€™d kidnap them and send them to torture chambers; if the Obama administration decides they donâ€™t like somebody, they murder them.â€