LONDON, September 25 (RIA Novosti) — Barack Obama was elected President of the United States on the strength of one fact. As a US Senator in Illinois, he voted against George W. Bush’s war against Iraq. Had Obama not done that, he would never have attracted the attention necessary to become a serious candidate for the presidency.
Disgust with Bush’s wars and the financial crisis propelled Obama to the White House. A few months later the “anti-war candidate”, now President, was rewarded with the Nobel Peace Prize.
It would be difficult to imagine a Nobel Peace Prize laureate and “anti-war” candidate whose actions have been more warlike.
After proclaiming a “reset” in relations with Russia, Obama brought them to the worst point they have seen since the end of the Cold War. In January 2009 Obama said he would close Guantanamo. It remains open. He retained Bush’s Defence Secretary Robert Gates. He left many of the staff appointed by Bush’s Vice President Dick Cheney (including Victoria Nuland) in their posts. Not a single official from Bush’s team who justified or ordered torture has faced legal action. Whenever it has been suggested, Obama has blocked it. By contrast, his administration pursues whistleblowers like Snowden and Manning relentlessly.
Fleets of drones have been despatched around the world on a scale Bush had never dreamed. Assassinations of supposed opponents of the US have multiplied and become routine. Osama bin Laden was murdered when he could have been captured to stand trial. Obama has even given himself the right — unprecedented in US history – to order the execution of US citizens without trial. He has actually even exercised it against children. Apparently he approves of the lists of those doomed to die himself.
Meanwhile the wars not only go on, they have actually increased in number. In addition to the prolongation of America’s wars in Iraq and Afghanistan (still ongoing), Obama has engaged the US in conflicts in Libya, Syria, Ukraine, Pakistan and Yemen.
In Libya, UN Security Council resolutions intended to protect civilians were used to justify a bombing campaign to overthrow its government. In Syria a brutal insurgency was armed and incited to overthrow the government. In Ukraine, a US-sponsored coup overthrew the government. The new US-supported government that took over with Obama’s encouragement soon launched a civil war against its own people.
Although Obama reluctantly withdrew US troops from Iraq after the Iraqi government insisted, the Islamic State’s supposed threat, not to Iraq but to the US, is now being used to justify resuming bombing there and to set the scene for US troops to return. The same supposed threat from the Islamic State is now also being used to justify the bombing of Syria; an earlier attempt to bomb Syria on the pretext of a chemical weapons attack was blocked by Russia. The fact that there is no evidence of any threat to the US from the Islamic State makes no difference.
Further east, increasingly aggressive steps are being taken to confront China in the South China Sea and to set its neighbors against it.
The extraordinary contrast between Obama the Nobel Peace Prize winner and his pursuit of war just about everywhere on a scale even Bush never imagined has provoked various explanations. Apologists represent him as some sort of Hamlet-like figure: a weak and indecisive President supposedly at the mercy of events, who is unable to impose his peace-loving agenda on the US government. According to this premise, the US apparently goes to war independently of him like some sort of out- of-control machine. In this spirit, an article in the London Review of Books calls Obama “the World’s Most Important Spectator”.
Obama is indeed a remote and secretive figure with few close political friends who keeps his intentions hidden and who hides behind subordinates. For example, he launched the attack on Libya after having appeared to oppose it. He leaves the defense of US policy on Syria and Ukraine to Secretary of State John Kerry.
The facts however speak for themselves. No President goes to war “reluctantly” so often, and the idea that the US goes to war despite a President who rejects the idea is an absurd one.
The record shows that Obama is every bit as committed to the aggressive use of force to expand US influence as any other US President. His two key foreign policy advisers, UN Ambassador Samantha Power and National Security Adviser Susan Rice, are known to be strong supporters of the use of force to achieve US objectives. In a keynote speech Obama gave at West Point (written by Samantha Power), he again spoke of the US as an “exceptional country” which is entitled to use force unilaterally “when our core interests demand it”. It is of course left entirely to the US to decide what its “core interests” are and when those “core interests” “demand it”. International law, the opinions of other countries and UN Security Council mandates are not taken into account.
Obama’s opposition to the Iraq War was the exception, not the rule. Obama opposed the war not because he opposes war or US foreign policy generally but because he needed to win support for a career in the US Senate. His views on foreign policy in all other respects are identical to those of the US elite to which he belongs. He was never truly the “peace” candidate. Given the careful way the US political system vets candidates, he would not have become President if he was.
Perhaps someone should have explained all this to the Nobel Prize Committee before they awarded him the Peace Prize. Judging by their record (think of the similar awards to Kissinger and Menachem Begin), that might not have made much difference.
Alexander Mercouris is a London-based lawyer. The views expressed in this article are the author’s and may not necessarily represent those of RIA Novosti.