"We nonviolently oppose the reliance on unilateral military actions rather than cooperative diplomacy."


June 20, 2013

Confronted by this month's revelation that Barack Obama has not only continued, but has extended and now defends the secret, universal surveillance of American citizens in clear contradiction to the principles of "the supreme Law of the Land," the Constitution of the United States, which he swore to "preserve, protect and defend" when he became president, we decided to look back at what we said exactly fifty-five months ago, after he was elected in November 2008.

We pointed out that Barack Obama had "won the nomination of the Democratic Party in large part because of the support of antiwar voters."  We noted that he had been "against the Iraq war from the beginning," and that he had spoken out "against the war at antiwar rallies while Sen. Hillary Clinton was backing the drive to invade Iraq."  During the campaign for the nomination, Obama asserted over and over again that he possessed better judgment than his rivals.  We noted that "In July 2007 . . . he reportedly told a closed-door off-the-record meeting of media and corporate leaders at the Time Warner Center in New York:  'One thing I'm very confident about is my judgment in foreign policy [which] is, I believe, better than any other candidate in this race, Republican or Democrat.'"

But in the course of the presidential race, we became disillusioned.  "Since winning the nomination . . . this better judgment has been hard to detect," we lamented.  For one thing, we were unhappy about his choice of a vice presidential candidate who had voted in favor of the Iraq War Resolution.  And then there was the fact that Obama had embraced militarism during the campaign, saying he wanted to "increase the size of the Army by 65,000 troops and the Marines by 27,000 troops."  He was promising to "deploy at least an additional two brigades (7,000 personnel) of rested, trained American troops to Afghanistan to reinforce our counter-terrorism operations and support NATO's efforts to fight the Taliban," something we correctly predicted would fail, and to strike "high value terrorist targets" in Pakistan "if the United States has actionable intelligence" and the Pakistani government "will not act on it" (though we didn't know yet about his enthusiasm for drones) and to "ensure that our military becomes more stealthy, agile, and lethal in its ability to capture or kill terrorists" (language whose tone seems even more significant now than it was then).  On the campaign trail, Obama endorsed the War on Terror as "the war that has to be won," and he identified Afghanistan and Pakistan as "the right battlefield."

Once he had won the presidential election, Barack Obama continued his apparent drift from the antiwar orientation he used to get his presidential candidacy going with the support of people like us.  In filling key national security posts, he seemed to be guided more by the Clintons than by his self-proclaimed better judgment.  He named John Podesta, Bill Clinton's former chief of staff, as the co-chair of his transition team.  Of the fifteen members of this team, eleven had close connections with the Clintons, two with Joe Biden, and only two (Valerie Jarrett and Pete Rouse) with Obama.  He would go on to people his foreign policy and national security team with figures from the Clinton years, naming Hillary Clinton as secretary of state.  In effect, Obama essentially turned foreign policy over to a stable of Clintonites.  But it got worse:  he chose George W. Bush's secretary of defense as his own secretary of defense, a retired Marine Corps general as national security advisor, and an admiral with a dubious record (East Timor; conflict of interest) as director of national intelligence.

In fact, it was already clear before Obama took the oath of office, we said, that "our foreign policy is going to remain pretty much the same."

Not that we were surprised: "We lost any illusions about Barack Obama being an antiwar leader two years ago," we said, while reading Obama's two books.  Reading them made it clear that Obama had already "decided to proceed only part of the way down the road toward the 'radical revolution of values' that Martin Luther King Jr. called for in his 'Beyond Vietnam' speech." King, it will be recalled, said that the United States needed a revolution to make a "shift from a 'thing-oriented' society to a 'person-oriented' society.'"  "As president," we said back in November 2008, "Obama has an unparalleled opportunity to address this need.  We fear, though, that we'll never hear him say as president the words 'militarism' or 'military-industrial complex.'"

There again, we were right. We've searched the White House website, and can report that President Barack Obama has never referred to American militarism.  As for "military-industrial complex," the phrase has been uttered twice in the White House while Barack Obama has been president, on Jan. 26, 2010, and on Aug. 4, 2011. On both occasions, it was a reporter who used the expression. The second exchange is interesting:

"MR. JAY CARNEY, White House Press Secretary:  Let me move around the room a little.  Giles.

"Q   Thank you.  On defense cuts, does the President believe that big, long-term up to a trillion dollars’ worth of defense cuts are the right thing to do anyway?


"Q   All right, let me put it another way then.  Does he agree at all with his predecessor Eisenhower the military industrial complex can distort policy?

"MR. CARNEY:  I have not had that conversation with him.  I think that the President has been very clear, as he said when he laid out his framework at George Washington University and ever since, that he believes we can get additional savings from the Pentagon budget, which obviously has increased greatly in the last decade.  But we have to do it prudently.  We have to do it wisely to ensure that we maintain our national security.

"The cuts—it’s important to understand, and this is very complex, as you’re explaining it to your readers and viewers that there is the upfront discretionary savings in the agreement reached, that within which there is a firewall that ensures that $350 roughly billion of the savings come from defense spending. That is separate and distinct from—and we believe, as the President said, that that is within range that is acceptable for our—reducing our Pentagon spending, or defense spending.

"The trigger mechanism, that if the committee does not succeed or if Congress does not pass what the committee produces, the trigger that would go into effect and call for direct cuts—50 percent/50 percent between defense and non-defense spending—would result in reductions that this President believes would not be prudent.

"As Commander-in-Chief, he believes that they would be too deep, which is another reason why it is so important that—these triggers are created to be onerous, to be unthinkable so that they are not pulled, and to create great incentives and pressure on Congress to avoid pulling them and to instead make the hard choices that we hope this committee will make to, and that Congress will pass, to create further deficit reduction in a wiser way, in a balanced way that includes entitlement reform and tax reform."

On the issues UFPPC cares about most, President Obama's record has been altogether dismal.  He has failed to close Guantanamo, he has ramped up drone warfare while doing his best to keep it secret (even as he accepted the Nobel Peace Prize), he acted as judge, jury, and executioner for American citizens with no judicial oversight or due process of law, he is violating the constitutional rights of Americans in the name of "national security," and he pretends to welcome a debate on these policies at the same time that he prosecutes whistleblowers without whom we would know little about them.

Ironically, about the only thing we can applaud him for in this area we owe to Republican intransigence.  Thanks to "the sequester" and its cuts to the Pentagon's budget, variously reported this year as $42 billion or $46 billion, we can applaud things like the closing of the Airborne Special Operations Museum in Fayetteville, NC, on weekdays; the elimination of training for military units that are not scheduled to deploy; the suspension of most new construction at many bases; and a reduction in fighter and bomb squadrons.  There is more to come:  the Budget Control Act, which was the occasion for the exchange quoted above, requires $500 billion in cuts to "defense" over the next decade.  Count us among the people Texas Senator John Cornyn says are "ready to stand by and allow truly draconian across-the-board defense cuts."  Bring 'em on!

As for the president, in November 2008 we said that "we still have the audacity to hope that Barack Obama will fulfill antiwar voters' trust in his 'better judgment.'"  In June 2013, with the revelations of NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden, the last molecules of that hope evaporated.  We still agree with Barack Obama that hope is "that thing inside us that insists, despite all evidence to the contrary, that something better awaits us if we have the courage to reach for it, and to work for it, and to fight for it."  We still agree with him that hope is "the belief that destiny will not be written for us, but by us, by the men and women who are not content to settle for the world as it is, who have the courage to remake the world as it should be."  But we no longer think that he is one of them.


"We nonviolently oppose the reliance on unilateral military actions rather than cooperative diplomacy."