By Kevin Zeese
There is long-time saying about politicians: you cannot trust their words, but must judge them by their actions.
President Obama is very good with words, perhaps the best communicator we have seen in the White House in a generation. But now he has been in office long enough that he should be judged on his actions.
The direction of U.S. foreign policy is moving rapidly in the wrong direction on many fronts. It is time for the peace movement to step up its activities throughout the country and demand a change in course.
The U.S. passed the 5,000th death of a U.S. service member in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. This death seemed to be barely noticed by a peace movement that during the Bush years highlighted every major milestone. This sad body count is the tip of the iceberg of the dire effects of these wars – mass deaths and maiming of civilians, millions forced to flee their homes described as “an exodus that is beyond biblical.”
Wars are raging. Indeed, the deadline for U.S. troops to leave Iraqi cities is being met, not by U.S. troops actually leaving the cities but by Iraq redrawing city boundaries. General Casey, the Army chief of staff, said the Pentagon must plan for extended U.S. combat and stability operations in two wars – up to ten more years in Iraq. And, General McChrystal testified before the Congress this week that Afghanistan is likely to cost American taxpayers and NATO member nations billions of dollars for many years.
And, a new report from the Pentagon indicated that there were now 250,000 private contractors in Iraq and Afghanistan. It is fair to call these people mercenaries since they do the jobs that service members did in Vietnam and other wars. Some of these contractors carry weapons others provide support for combat troops; some are American, some are not. When the mercenaries are added to the active duty troops it totals nearly 450,000 military personnel in the Iraq and Af/Pak wars at a cost of $12 billion per month.
On June 1, President Obama appointed Rep. John McHugh, who has been in Congress since 1993, is the senior Republican on the House Armed Services Committee where he served for 14 years. McHugh is an advocate for more military spending and a supporter of both wars. His appointment comes on top of the appointment of General McChrystal to head the rapidly expanding Afghanistan-Pakistan War – a general whose commands have been tied to torture and abuse of prisoners as well as the cover-up of Pat Tillman’s death and even assassination squads. In Afghanistan Obama has put forward no exit strategy, in fact the U.S. seems to be putting down deep roots.
On torture General Petraeus, in a stunning admission, acknowledged that the U.S. has violated the Geneva Conventions and international law. General Sanchez, the former top coalition commander in Iraq, has called for a truth commission to investigate abusive interrogation practices. Former President Jimmy Carter disagreed with Obama’s decision not to release the photos and failure to fully investigate torture and abuse to determine whether prosecution is necessary. Unfortunately, President Obama is doing all he can to block release of the photos, supporting a bill co-sponsored by Senators Joe Lieberman and Lindsay Graham that will re-write the Freedom of Information Act so prevent release of the torture and abuse photos.
And, Obama is even going further than Bush when it comes to the Guantanamo Bay prisoners. Not only is he retaining the military tribunals, which he said he opposed, but perhaps the worst aspect of his policy is long term imprisonment without trial which he calls preventive detention. Why is Obama doing this? Because some prisoners have been abused and tortured and as a result if they are brought to trial the truth will come out and the evidence not be allowed in court. So, Obama’s solution – keep those who were tortured incarcerated without trial.
On Israel, Obama has created a small divide with “our unsinkable battleship in the Middle East” as Alexander Haig called Israel. He is urging Israel to stop expanding the settlements, something that is not a breakthrough in new policy. Israel is refusing, as they always have. But, Obama is saying nothing about the illegal security wall, the ongoing abuse of the people of Gaza, the continued demolition of homes in the West Bank and Jerusalem nor is he threatening to do anything if Israel continues on its land-stealing path. Indeed, he promises to continue to provide all the funding Israel has sought as well as provide all the weapons they need. Thus, Obama’s actions continue to make the U.S. a facilitator of Israel’s abuse of the Palestinian people.
When it comes to the military budget, the Obama administration is seeking more funds – not less. And, the budget submitted by the administration continues the practice of falsity with the understating military and homeland security costs. He is, so far, continuing the practice of seeking supplemental funding for wars. The Congress is about to approve nearly another $100 billion for the wars in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan. Obama has said nothing about reducing the massive network of nearly 1,000 U.S. military bases around the world that are the foundation of U.S. Empire.
Is the news bad enough yet?
Perhaps the worst news is the relative silence of the peace movement. Yes, some are criticizing, but some are still holding out hope that Obama is different. Others of us pointed out that buried beneath the peace-friendly rhetoric during the campaign were Obama’s promises of escalation. Now, more and more are seeing he meant what he said when it came to his support for a hawkish U.S. foreign policy.
Can you imagine the uproar if President Bush had taken these actions? It is time for the peace movement to wake up to the reality that President Obama is no ally. He has a militaristic national security team that Republicans have praised. His policies in some ways are more militaristic than George W. Bush’s were. It is time for the peace movement to re-awaken and challenge Obama on all of these wrongheaded war policies.
The peace movement needs to consistently let its representatives know that we oppose these actions and organize events to push them to end the ongoing wars and apply the rule of law to torture. It is time for a return to civil disobedience but now the focus of the peace movement must be Democrats who control the Presidency, House and Senate and are responsible.
If you don’t like the direction the country is going it will not change without action by you and others. It is time step up efforts to end the wars.
– Kevin Zeese is Executive Director of Voters for Peace. You can visit www.VotersForPeace.US and easily take action through the Internet. In addition, if you are planning local events, Voters for Peace will publicize them to our members. He contributed this article to PalestineChronicle.com. Contact him at: action@VotersForPeace.US.