By Dr. Abdul Wahid
The primary role of any American President is not national security – but to get himself re-elected. It is what drives his thoughts from the day he assumes office.
But this President is sacrificing more to win that election than most before him. That election will be won or lost on the bodies of more than 1200 people – innocent, for they were never proved guilty to anyone – and on the long dead and decomposed corpse of Western liberal values.
This liberal Chicago former law professor has taken a calculated decision to discard the rulebook in order to achieve his political survival, and in order to try to salvage the United States from further humiliation in an unwinnable war.
Obama is a man who no closer to his stated aim of withdrawing from Afghanistan. He has learned, just as the Soviet Union did that the Durrant line is utterly irrelevant when facing a Pashtoon resistance. He has learned that Pakistani government and military high command has found it hard to endure political fall out from aiding the US by launching a war on its own people. He is all too aware that the US economy is in dire straits, meaning he cannot afford to put thousands of more troops on the ground, with no sign of an exit strategy. He knows that war is an unpopular domestic issue, so he cannot afford the political damage of troop casualties.
Barack Obama is aware of all the above, but also knows that for a Democrat to out flank his Republican rival on security matters, he cannot afford to be a liberal lawyer and must be an uber-hawk. Given the right-wing conspiracies surrounding Obama, his origins and his loyalties, he also knows he has to “prove” himself more American than others.
For all these reasons Barack Obama has adopted his policy of murdering ‘terrorist-suspects’ [aka key figures in the resistance against the NATO-led occupation] by missiles launched from robot-drone aircraft, controlled remotely from the United States.
It does not seem to matter to him that the casualty figures from his policy has put him well beyond the realm of mass murder – with the varying estimates of numbers killed well over 1200 [with similar numbers injured]. It does not seem to matter to him that the casualties include innocent women and children, as exemplified by the fact that he has given the green light for attacks on targets while knowing their wife and children would be killed with them.
A typical report is like the one covering a drone attack in May 2012, when villager Mohammad Roshan Dawar later told The News: Some of the people had offered the prayers and were leaving the mosque. Others were still praying and some were reciting the Holy Quran, when the drone fired two missiles and struck the mosque. The small structure of the mosque was demolished in the attack and those present inside were buried under the debris of the building.
Other attacks have killed people during funerals and weddings.
These are the attacks for which the US commander-in-chief , according to the New York Times “has placed himself at the helm of a top secret ‘nominations’ process to designate terrorists for kill or capture, of which the capture part has become largely theoretical”. All are based upon so-called ‘intelligence’ – which actually means information provided by paid informants, with no way of discerning whether it is real or fabricated. It is neither in the interests of the informants nor of the Americans to scrutinize this particularly closely.
What is, perhaps, most disgusting is the silence surrounding all of this – indicating near total complicity of the American establishment.
There are a few concerned voices, almost exclusively in alternative press, shouting loud about this monumental abuse of power, as they are about Obama’s broken promise over Guantanamo Bay and his continuation of the CIA rendition program – but their voices are drowned out by the silence of the rest, or the approval of mainstream press. Others, like Foreign Policy, go even further and run articles encouraging the Murderer-in-Chief to go even further and expand the program.
They are fully aware that this has nothing to do with keeping America safe, and everything to do with the President not wanting to go down in history as the man who had to concede defeat in an unwinnable war.
In the commentary surrounding last month’s NATO summit in Chicago, US Defence Secretary Leon Panetta admitted as much, when he said, “I think we understand that the biggest challenge is a Taliban that is resilient, that is going to continue to fight even though they’ve been weakened… and that they’re going to continue to conduct attacks.”
He went on to say: “We are still dealing with a resilient enemy that in many ways still has a safe haven in Pakistan…and that, I think, represents the greatest threat that we’re facing.” A threat to their dignity and military prowess, perhaps; but in no way a threat to America itself.
The agreed US policy is to bomb Pakistan. And the policy agreed by the government of Pakistan, and its military leaders, is to submit to this violation of its sovereignty, with General Kiyani less a military commander and more a battered wife. The regime has grown so servile that it would not know how to walk away from this relationship even if it wanted to.
Within Pakistan tensions are at breaking point over this. Voices within the military have been silenced, with some facing court martial for criticizing the leadership. Whenever, the military reigns back its support to America, for fear of growing internal dissent, Pakistan experiences an escalation of sectarian killings and bombings. Unsurprisingly, the people of Pakistan, painfully aware of the presence of thousands of US-security personnel within the country, put two and two together, and assume the killings are the work of external agencies. An unspoken threat of the ‘extremism’ that will further engulf the country if the government of Pakistan and the army do not cooperate fully with America’s war.
Yet America continues to preach human rights, freedom and democracy to the world; whilst at the same time violating the standards it professes to uphold and protect, a tired story of hypocrisy witnessed since its founding days.
Clearly, those who agree with this policy, as well as those who remain silent over these crimes, are no longer trying to make much effort pretend to believe in the sanctity of these values and ideals. Why then should they expect anyone else to?
One of the few voices who has criticized the government is Judge Andrew P. Napolitano – a former superior court judge and a judicial commentator for Fox News. Given their former cheerleading for the Bush administration, Fox’s stance cannot be but to damage Obama. But whatever their motive, Napolitano gave a graphic illustration for Obama’s contempt for the rule of law.
Whist he did not ask, the obvious question, ‘what gives the right for anyone, President or not, to act as investigator, judge, jury and executioner?’ he did start his article by asking “Did you know that the United States government is using drones to kill innocent people in Pakistan?”
He went on to explain that if Obama had asked the Pentagon, rather than the civilian CIA, to undertake these operations, he would be forced to tell Congress about it under the War Powers Act 1973. Under this law, bypassed by the current US administration, the president is only allowed to use the military for 90 days before telling Congress and for 180 days before he needs formal congressional authorisation.
The US Congress, it seems, is remarkably silent about this. Napolitano says: “What monstrous nonsense all this is. These killings 10,000 miles from here hardly constitute self-defense and are not in pursuit of a declaration of war. So, what has Congress done about this? Nothing. And what have the courts done about this? Nothing. Prior to the president’s ordering the killing of the New Mexico-born and unindicted and uncharged Anwar al-Awlaki, al-Awlaki’s American father sued the president in federal district court and asked a judge to prevent the president from murdering his son in Yemen. After the judge dismissed the case, a CIA-fired drone killed al-Awlaki and his American companion and his 16-year-old American son.”
He concludes saying “The president is waging a private war against private persons — even Americans — whose deaths he obviously believes will keep America safe. But he is doing so without congressional authorization, in violation of the Constitution, and in a manner that jeopardizes our freedom. Who will keep us safe from a president who wants to use drones here? How long will it be before local American governments — 313 of which already possess drones — use them to kill here because they are surgical and a substitute for due process? Can you imagine the outcry if Cuba or China launched drones at their dissidents in Florida or California and used Obama’s behavior in Pakistan as a justification? How long will it be before even the semblance of our Constitution is gone?”
He should have asked, who seems to care when any semblance of constitutional process is gone.
Administration officials may argue that by passing the Authorization for Use of Military Force (AUMF) in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks, the US President has an unrestricted license to kill whosoever he wishes.
But this just means that this law has made the US government above the law.
They can literally play-God, just like any dictator in the mould of Bashar al Assad or Muammar Gaddafi to take out whomever they deem a threat to their interests; and in ways that are most advantageous to their chances of re-election.
Once upon a time Obama – much like the United States itself – appeared to the world as a wolf in sheep’s clothing. Now he – much like the United States and its allies – is seen a just a plain wolf: ruthless, self-serving, unprincipled lethal. Even the Nobel Peace can no longer serve as clothing to this naked emperor.
Dr. Abdul Wahid is a regular contributor to New Civilisation. He is currently the Chairman of the UK-Executive Committee of Hizb ut-Tahrir in Britain. He has been published in The Times Higher Educational Supplement and on the websites of Foreign Affairs, Open Democracy and Prospect magazine. He can be followed on Twitter @abdulwahidht or emailed at [email protected]