By Peter Hodges
It’s two years into the Obama administration, and I am still hoping for some kind of change. Thus far, this administration has proven indistinguishable from its predecessor. From recycled “War on Terror” speeches, requisite and sundry illegal secret programs and signing statements, to mega-corporate giveaways and bailouts, this is looking an awful lot like George Bush’s third term.
Change I can believe in would have been firing everyone in the Pentagon full colonel and above. The civilian government is in charge of the military, right? Then throw in a few war crimes indictments for those guys in the basement who lied us into Iraq, and a few more for the guys behind the torture and assassination programs.
But alas, Mr. Obama is expanding the “War on Terror.” He couldn’t prosecute the crowd that lied us into Iraq, because he is doing the exact same thing with Iran. Sarah Palin might be so daft that she failed to substitute “Iran” for “Iraq” in the big propaganda replay, but Obama seems to have no problem with the recycled script.
Now throw some troops in Somalia and Yemen, and up the number of weddings and funerals bombed in Afghanistan and Pakistan, and Obama has Dick Cheney’s “long war” crowd smiling from ear to ear. And let me point out that the very next day after Obama trumpeted the withdrawal of the last combat troops in Iraq, an American soldier was killed.
Supplementing our remaining “non-combat” troops are hordes of private military contractors performing duties formerly performed by departing “combat troops.” And from the Bangor Daily News, a report of troops from the 3rd Armored Cavalry regiment at the Bangor Airport en route to Iraq, laughing about how they are on their way to Iraq amidst the “big hoopla about all the combat forces coming out.” So much for “I will bring an end to this war. You can take that to the bank.” I am glad the troops can laugh.
As for torture and assassination, rather than shutting down and prosecuting, Obama has been defending and expanding, still hiding behind a veil of state secrecy. The Obama administration has more than once gone to court defend the use of evidence manufactured, I mean “obtained,” by use of torture. Slit a man’s penis and he will tell you whatever you want him to.
Assassination? You bet. Rather than firing or prosecuting the men running Cheney’s assassination program, Obama promoted them. General Stanley McChrystal went from overseeing the shadowy secret program in the Af-Pak theater, to overseeing the whole Af-Pak theater. We may now be rid of McChrystal, but the assassination program has only expanded … to include Americans. Hell, Bush and Cheney probably targeted Americans, but at least they kept it secret. Obama brags about it in front of Congress and to the New York Times.
You might think that as long as you are not hiding out in Yemen or celebrating at an Afghan wedding you are safe. Indeed Obama’s “shortlist of U.S. Citizens specifically targeted for killing or capture” might well be entirely Islamic extremists abroad, but according to national security advisor John Brennan the administration has been focusing on “homegrown terrorists … captivated by extremist ideology or causes.” Obama himself has said, “We are now moving beyond traditional distinctions between homeland and national security … by fully coordinating the actions that we take abroad with the actions and precautions that we take at home.” Brennan was not exaggerating when he said of Cheney’s secret assassinations, “Under President Obama, we have built upon the work of the previous administration and have accelerated efforts in many areas.”
Along with the nicely expanded Bush-Cheney “secret assassination program,” the Obama administration has also extended Bush’s Patriot Act, repeatedly gone to court to defend and expand Bush’s illegal wiretap and domestic spying programs, and continued the Bush tradition of illegal presidential signing statements. Why can’t I just write, “Does not apply to me. Or anyone I say it does not apply to?”
Change I can believe in would be firing (and indicting) every George Bush flunky at Goldman-Sachs, Citicorp and JP Morgan, and in the SEC, Treasury, and the Federal Reserve. Instead, Obama plays along, with more debt, more bailouts and more legislation, written by mega-corporate lobbyists and think-tanks and passed to enrich said mega-corporations. In keeping with the modern tradition of everything passed by Congress doing the opposite of what it says in the title, the Frank-Dodd banking reform bill only opens a permanent bailout window to those rich and connected enough to get access. Frank and Dodd are permanent acquisitions of the financial sector after all. So is the entire political establishment. Judges and congressmen, senators and presidents: all are property sold and traded by those with money and influence.
Nothing’s changed. We’re stuck in perpetual war and have troops in more than 140 countries. Politicians lie and ignore the rule of law. The same crooks still write their own bailouts, all top contributors to George Bush … and Barack Obama. War and debt are the two pillars of the one party system.
Peter Hodges is a June Lake resident and a former candidate for Mono County’s District III Supervisor seat.