by Waseem Shehzad (Special Reports, Crescent International Vol. 41, No. 4, Rajab, 1433)
During his 2008 presidential campaign, candidate Barack Obama repeatedly said the war in Iraq was ill-advised and should be ended.
“We’ve had enough of a misguided war in Iraq that never should have been fought — a war that needs to end,” he said often to prolonged applause of his admirers. He promised to bring the troops home. Although he “fulfilled” that promise it was not because he wanted to; the Iraqis refused to sign the Strategic Partnership Agreement forcing the US to pull its troops out of Iraq in December 2011. They are now being deployed into the Pacific region for another ill-conceived military adventure, this time aimed against China.
Obama’s soaring rhetoric during the presidential campaign led many people to believe, especially those on the left of the political spectrum, that he would end the wars and bring badly-needed peace both to the ravaged lands under US military attacks and to the American people. They had enough of George W. Bush’s warmongering. When desperate, people usually tend to block warning signals that were all too evident in Obama’s speeches. He had said he would speak softly but carry a big stick. And he has wielded a very big stick indeed, and used it wildly just about everywhere. Just ask the people of Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia. Add to that list Libya, Uganda, Sudan, Iran, and now Syria and one can begin to get a true picture of Obama’s policies.
If Abu Ghraib, Bagram and Guantanamo Bay were Bush’s creations, Obama has failed to close the last two despite being able to do so. On his second day as president, Obama promised to shut down Guantanamo within a year. He characterized it as a blot on America’s name saying its enemies exploited it to recruit people in their anti-American drive. Nearly four years later, the torture chamber is not only still fully operational, military tribunals are busy putting people on trial without any regard to legal norms. Even American legal experts have denounced the tribunals’ proceedings as kangaroo trials. Bagram in Afghanistan may be out of sight and, therefore, out of mind but it continues to hold hundreds of people without charge (much less trial), most of whom are routinely subjected to torture. While US officials may claim they do not have legal jurisdiction over Bagram, this excuse is as plausible as the claim that Guantanamo Bay belongs to Cuba.
When confronted with torture and rape photos from Abu Ghraib, then US Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld nonchalantly said, “Stuff happens,” but he insisted this was not torture. He came up with such exotic expressions as “enhanced interrogation techniques” (for torture) and “extraordinary rendition” (for kidnapping). Bush’s CIA Director, George Tenet was equally disingenuous in his dismissal of torture of detainees like Khalid Sheikh Muhammad through water-boarding. He stubbornly refused to admit it was torture and kept repeating on camera, “we do not do torture.” The former US Vice President Dick Cheney was a little more honest even if no less criminal. He did not deny water-boarding was torture but insisted it “worked” because the US was able to extract information that “prevented” other terrorist attacks.
These denials have assumed even more bizarre forms under Obama. After each atrocity by American troops, the new official mantra is: “this is not who we are.” Dan DeWalt, an activist and journalist based in Newfane, Vermont, listed some of the atrocities and official US reaction to them. In his article first published in ThisCantBeHappening! and reproduced on the web, Information Clearing House (5-7-2012), he cited the following. After Sergeant Robert Bales massacred 17 Afghan civilians on March 11, 2012, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said: “This is not who we are.” General John Allen, commander of US forces in Afghanistan parroted the same line when American troops burned copies of the Qur’an at Bagram air base. Both Clinton and Defence Secretary Leon Panetta also said the same thing when US troops were seen posing with body parts of dead Taliban or urinating on three dead Taliban fighters. Exacerbated, DeWalt titled his article: “American Atrocities: Not Who We Are? Really? So Then Who in the Hell Are We?”
DeWalt is unrelenting in his criticism. He writes: “...if all these abominations are not ‘who we are,’ then why do our business, police and military and government institutions generate so many examples of obscene, horrific or criminal behaviour?” He blames the culture that incessantly needs an “enemy” — whoever that happens to be for a particular war or campaign — and then dehumanizes it so that it becomes easy to justify war. Citing the example of the military, DeWalt describes how an enlistee’s individuality is first broken and then he is taught to despise “the other.” Using incessant propaganda to dehumanize both the recruit and “the other”, the soldier is then let loose to do the empire’s dirty work: kill. This is precisely what US troops have been doing in Afghanistan that US officials at the highest level routinely dismiss with the flourish: “This is not who we are.” But this mentality has now infected the homeland as well where federal and law enforcement agencies have donned the mantle of maintaining “order” and as defenders of property — of the rich and powerful, of course — treat every dissenter as the “enemy,” whether they are protesters from the Occupy Wall Street Movement or those critical of government’s war policy.
War, in fact has become the norm in US imperial designs. It is the systemic need of both the US and its surrogate, Zionist Israel. Without war, neither feels fulfilled. Both must demonstrate their macho image frequently to show potential rivals that the consequences of challenging US or Zionist hegemony would be catastrophic. Such policy leads to the militarization of society and ultimately everyone is viewed as an enemy. For the Zionist State, war is an even greater necessity; without an external enemy, the Zionists will begin to fight among themselves, and the state, created on a massive historical forgery, will lose its raison d’etre to exist.
It is, however, the US that poses the greatest threat to world peace because of its addiction to war. According to University of Chicago Professor John Mearsheimer, since 1991, the US has been at war in two out of every three years. Every president is, therefore, a wartime president. Not surprisingly, Cindy Sheehan, whose 24-year-old son Casey was killed in the first week of deployment to Iraq in April 2004, has dubbed the two political parties — Republican and Democratic — as the War Party. This view is now shared by many mainstream commentators as well. Steve Chapman of the Chicago Tribune has joined the ranks of those that consider the two parties to be one: the War Party. Leaders of each party accuse the others of being “wimps” if they do not indulge in chest thumping and willing to send troops to foreign lands to teach the “enemy of the month” a lesson. Dispatching of troops is preceded by cruise missiles and B-1 bombers to soften up the targeted society.
Within the first year of his presidency, Obama was given the Nobel Prize for Peace. On what basis did the Nobel committee give him the award is difficult to fathom but Obama is anything but a peacemaker. He escalated troop deployment in Afghanistan, intensified the drone war on Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia killing thousands of innocent civilians, and has threatened to attack Iran and Syria. Libya got a large dose of Obama’s peaceful methods when it was subjected to relentless bombardment killing many civilians in the process of “saving” them. “If this is an anti-war candidate, what would a pro-war candidate do?” Steve Chapman asked in his Chicago Tribune article (May 7).
War also serves a purpose in the domestic agenda of every American administration. The populace has to be kept in constant fear of an unknown enemy. In the past it was communism; now it is Islam — or to put it more precisely, “Political Islam,” which aims to challenge US hegemony in Muslim societies — that is projected as a threat. “Political Islam” takes numerous forms and covers a broad sweep of the Muslim world. Hatred of Islam is not confined to the rightwing racist radio talk show hosts or to Fox News. It is even taught in US military colleges.
“They [Muslims] hate everything you stand for and will never coexist with you, unless you submit,” an army instructor, Army Lt. Col. Matthew Dooley, said in a presentation in July 2011 for the course at Joint Forces Staff College in Norfolk, Virginia. The college, for professional military members, teaches midlevel officers and government civilians, subjects related to planning and executing war. Dooley also presumed, for the purposes of his theoretical war plan, that the Geneva Conventions that set standards of armed conflict are “no longer relevant.” He floated options like using nuclear weapons against Muslim civilians as was done against Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Destroying Makkah and Madinah were other options he discussed. Imagine the uproar if a Muslim fanatic somewhere had talked in such terms.
In recent months, China’s emergence as a rising power has also been projected as a “threat” to American interests. How are American interests defined? This can be anything the ruling elites consider to be not sufficiently supportive of their policies of domination and plunder. Thus, if the people of Afghanistan want to defend themselves against attacks, then that is a threat to US interests. If Iran wants to build its nuclear facilities deep underground to prevent America or Israel from destroying them, then these are a threat to the US and Israel. People are not even permitted to defend themselves against American/Israeli aggression.
People in victim societies are sufficiently enlightened not to confuse American policy with individual Americans even though a credible case can be made for Americans to take ownership of the policies of their government. Ordinary Americans in other countries that are under US attack have seldom been harmed. One cannot say this for the US or even further afield in places such as Canada or Europe. If a Nigerian or Yemeni is accused of involvement in some terrorist act anywhere in the world, every Muslim in North America and Europe is immediately presumed guilty unless he/she openly and repeatedly denounces such acts. The number of attacks on masjids and Muslim businesses in the US and Europe is so large that these cannot be dismissed as the work of a lunatic fringe.
The corporate-owned media led by the likes of Fox News make outrageous allegations against all Muslims (Moozlems in their parlance) and constantly project them as a threat to the US. Even senior government officials indulge in such allegations. The just-ousted Nicolas Sarkozy, the petulant former French president, is one example. Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper branded “Islamicism” — whatever that may mean — on Canada’s main television channel, the CBC, as a threat to Canadian security. If officials at the highest level make such allegations, then it is not difficult for ordinary citizens to feel emboldened to take the law into their own hands because they see every Muslim as either a terrorist or a potential terrorist.
Despite being completely peaceful and law-abiding, why are Muslims targeted? This fits into the war policy of the US establishment. How can an average American be convinced that a particular Muslim country is a threat to US interests and must be attacked if he/she interacts with Muslims in the US and finds them to be reasonable and considerate human beings? All Muslims have to be demonized in order to advance the war agenda. Thus, Muslims in the US, Canada and Europe must be projected as “the other” and unable to fit into the American, Canadian or European way of life and, therefore, worthy of hate and ridicule. Demonization of Muslims at home is a necessary condition for waging wars against Muslim countries.
There is nothing new here: during the Second World War, Germans, Italians and Japanese residing in the US and Canada suffered this fate. Their travails, however, were short-lived because the war lasted merely five years. The so-called war on terror in which Muslims are the principal target is never-ending. Thus, the demonization of Muslims must continue endlessly.
There can be only two outcomes to this conflict. Either every Muslim country in the world must submit to US diktat, or the US and its allies will go bankrupt in the process. The chances of the latter becoming reality are far greater than the former. We are already seeing signs of this in the financial turmoil gripping North America and Europe. It would be far better for the warmongers to give up their aggressive ways and live in peace with others but this is highly unlikely. War is like a drug; those addicted to it cannot wean themselves from it until they are completely destroyed.