Posts Tagged ‘President Barack Obama’

On Foreign Affairs – Remaking the Middle East

November 17, 2010
By Jim Miles, Foreign Policy Journal, Nov 17, 2010

The title from this issue of Foreign Affairs struck me as rather odd, in particular the subtitle “New Challenges Call for New Policies. Are the U.S. and Israel Ready to Change Course?” (September/October 2010) The U.S. has been trying to remake the Middle East for quite a few decades now as it gradually took over the role of the British and French as the local imperial power.

The first article “Beyond Moderates and Militants – How Obama can Chart a New Course in the Middle East” struck me as a non-starter as Obama has done nothing to do away with Bush’s heritage and has extended it further east with another surge into Afghanistan and incursions and covert actions into Pakistan. The authors introduce Obama with what I perceive as an error in that “the Obama administration has rejected…the worldview of the Bush administration.” Perhaps rhetorically with vague talk about change and hope, neither of which offer any practical solutions, leaving Obama’s actions to speak for themselves: unconditional support for Israel; kowtowing to AIPAC; supporting military occupation as a theoretical means to bring peace into the region; and basically not challenging any of the previous actions of the Bush administration. His appointees in a variety of positions within the executive are mainly from the previous Bush and Clinton administrations.

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Obama: Tell Americans the Truth About Afghanistan

July 14, 2010

Eric Margolis, The Huffington Post, July 12, 2010

Goodbye, fire-breathing Gen. Stanley McChrystal, and your Special Forces “mafia,” who were supposed to crush Afghan resistance to western occupation.

McChrystal was fired after rude remarks he and his staff made about the White House were printed in the American magazine, Rolling Stone. President Barack Obama should have fired McChrystal when the loose-lipped general went public with demands that 40,000 more troops be sent to Afghanistan.

McChrystal was the second U.S. commander in a row in Afghanistan to be fired, an ominous sign that the war was going very badly. He will now likely enter the Republican ranks as a martyr and become a Fox TV critic of Barack Obama.

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Obama seeks to quieten outrage over Gaza Flotilla killings

June 2, 2010

Jim Lobe, IPS North America

WASHINGTON, 1 Jun (IPS) – Amid nearly universal condemnation of Monday’s pre-dawn Israeli assault in international waters on a flotilla carrying humanitarian and reconstruction aid bound for Gaza, the administration of President Barack Obama has steadfastly avoided assigning blame.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton told reporters that Washington supported a “prompt, impartial, credible, and transparent investigation” into the incident, in which at least nine civilian passengers aboard the flotilla’s largest vessel were reportedly killed, apparently by gunfire from Israeli commandos.

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Reuters: Civilian casualties rising in Afghanistan

May 13, 2010
Reuters,  May 12, 2010

* Ninety civilians killed in January to April period

* Deaths up from 2009 despite efforts to avoid killings

WASHINGTON, May 12 (Reuters) – The number of civilians killed by U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan has risen this year, despite efforts to limit fallout from the widening war against the Taliban, the Pentagon said on Wednesday.

Citing NATO statistics, the Pentagon said U.S. and NATO forces killed 90 civilians from January to April — a 76 percent rise from the 51 deaths in the same period of 2009.

The increase demonstrates the difficulty of shielding Afghans from violence as the United States pours thousands more troops into Afghanistan to challenge the Taliban, often in strongholds where insurgents hide among the population.

The U.S. military has made reducing civilian casualties an explicit goal of its revised Afghan strategy, given that popular support for NATO and Afghan forces is ultimately needed to isolate the Taliban and win the war.

President Barack Obama restated the goal on Wednesday, saying the United States was doing everything possible to avoid killing “somebody who’s not on the battlefield.” [ID:nN12185754]

“Our troops put themselves at risk, oftentimes, in order to reduce civilian casualties,” Obama told a joint news conference in Washington with visiting Afghan President Hamid Karzai.

“Oftentimes they’re holding fire, they’re hesitating, they’re being cautious about how they operate, even though it would be safer for them to go ahead and just take these locations out.”

Many of the deaths appeared to be related to several high-profile incidents, top among them an air strike in February that a NATO official said killed 23 civilians.

The NATO official, commenting on the numbers, stressed the increase in killings must be seen in the context of a larger U.S. fighting force that is directly engaging the Taliban in former strongholds.

The United Nations says foreign and Afghan troops killed 25 percent fewer civilians in 2009 than during the previous year. But civilian deaths rose overall because the number killed by insurgents climbed 40 percent. (Reporting by Phil Stewart; Editing by John O’Callaghan)

Obama’s Predator joke—no laughing matter

May 6, 2010

By Bill Van Auken, wsws.org, May 6, 2010

To the guffaws of assembled media celebrities, President Barack Obama used his monologue Saturday night before the Washington Correspondents Association dinner to joke about using Predator drones, a weapon that has killed hundreds of civilians on the Afghanistan-Pakistan border and enraged millions throughout the region.

Obama’s joke was ostensibly aimed at the pop group Jonas Brothers, who were among the large number of show business types invited to the annual affair. The President began by noting that his two pre-teen daughters were fans of the boy band and went on to warn: “…but boys, don’t get any ideas. Two words for you: predator drones. You will never see it coming. You think I’m joking?”

Like virtually all of the supposed humor employed at such affairs, Obama’s joke was directed to Washington “insiders,” government officials, politicians of both parties and members of the media elite itself, all of whom would know what he was talking about and could generally be expected to find nothing amiss in his remarks.

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USA: Thousands rally on anniversary of invasion of Iraq

March 21, 2010

By MATTHEW BARAKAT (Associated Press Writer)

The Washington Post,  March 21, 2010

WASHINGTON — Thousands of protesters – many directing their anger squarely at President Barack Obama – marched through the nation’s capital Saturday to urge immediate withdrawal of troops from Iraq and Afghanistan.

At least eight people, including activist Cindy Sheehan, were arrested by U.S. Park Police at the end of the march, after laying coffins at a fence outside the White House. Friday marked the seventh anniversary of the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq.

“Arrest that war criminal!” Sheehan shouted outside the White House before her arrest, referring to Obama.

At a rally before the march, Sheehan asked whether “the honeymoon was over with that war criminal in the White House” – an apparent reference to Obama – prompting moderate applause.

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Cynthia McKinney: Leaders’ lack of respect for rule of law makes us all victims of 9/11

March 15, 2010

Cynthia McKinney, The Independent/UK, March 15, 2010

The war on terror did not go away with George Bush. When President Barack Obama came to power there was so much hope, but as the US Green Party presidential candidate I did not share it.

I heard candidate Obama’s speeches and knew that he would be a War President. What I did not realise was the extent to which the policies of President Obama would mirror those of his predecessor, including the renewal of the Patriot Act and commission of war crimes. Sadly, President Obama’s Justice Department is now in US courts defending the criminal acts of the Bush administration.

In his State of the Union address to the nation, President Obama defended war, erosion of civil and human rights, creation of the police state, ignoring the US Constitution and the norms of international law, by invoking the tragedy of 11 September, 2001. Tony Blair also leaps to his own criminal defence by invoking 9/11.

All of us in the peace community, who stand for justice and human dignity, have become victims of 9/11. Those of us who expect our national leaders to promote respect for the environment are now victims of 9/11. Survivors of those who are now dead from the prosecution of these wars in Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Somalia, Yemen, and elsewhere around the world are now victims of 9/11. And the mothers and fathers, siblings and family of the too many dead soldiers are now counted among the victims of 9/11. And sadly, the entire global community that expects national leaders to respect the rule of law and tell them the truth are now victims of 9/11.

Everyone now knows that the Bush administration did not tell the truth about many things, including the Iraq war and 9/11. The leaders of the 9/11 Commission told us that. Why must the world continue to live inside a lie? I remain hopeful that we will learn the truth because more and more people around the world are demanding it.

Cynthia McKinney served in the US Congress for 12 years and was the 2008 Green Party nominee for President of the United States. She now serves as a juror on the Bertrand Russell Peace Foundation’s Russell Tribunal on Palestine

www.allthingscynthiamckinney.com; more information on 9/11 at www.reinvestigate911.org

Obama Stumbles on Human Rights

March 6, 2010
by Stephen Zunes, Foreign Policy in Focus, March 5, 2010

It was a relatively short response to a question in a town hall-style meeting in Florida, yet it said much about President Barack Obama’s lack of concern about human rights in his foreign policy. The question came not from a hostile Republican opponent, but from a young college student who had volunteered on Obama’s campaign. She spoke directly to an issue that has alienated much of Obama’s Democratic base since the president took office: ongoing U.S. support for Israeli and Egyptian human rights abuses. The Israeli and Egyptian governments, both of which have notoriously poor human rights records, are the two largest recipients of U.S. security assistance.

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Obama’s Nuclear Option

February 18, 2010

By Amy Goodman,  TruthDig.com, Feb 16, 2010

President Barack Obama is going nuclear. He announced the initial $8 billion in loan guarantees for construction of the first new nuclear power plants in the United States in close to three decades. Obama is making good on a campaign pledge, like his promises to escalate the war in Afghanistan and to unilaterally attack in Pakistan. And like his “Af-Pak” war strategy, Obama’s publicly financed resuscitation of the nuclear power industry in the U.S. is bound to fail, another taxpayer bailout waiting to happen.

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Roger Cohen: Hard Mideast Truths

February 16, 2010
By ROGER COHEN, New York Times, February 16, 2010

NEW YORK — For over a century now, Zionism and Arab nationalism have failed to find an accommodation in the Holy Land. Both movements attempted to fill the space left by collapsed empire, and it has been left to the quasi-empire, the United States, to try to coax them to peaceful coexistence. The attempt has failed.

Earl Wilson/The New York Times

Roger Cohen

President Barack Obama came to office more than a year ago promising new thinking, outreach to the Muslim world, and relentless focus on Israel-Palestine. But nice speeches have given way to sullen stalemate. I am told Obama and the Israeli prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, have a zero-chemistry relationship.

Domestic U.S. politics constrain innovative thought — even open debate — on the process without end that is the peace search. As Aaron David Miller, who long labored in the trenches of that process, once observed, the United States ends up as “Israel’s lawyer” rather than an honest broker. The upside for an American congressman in speaking out for Palestine is nonexistent.

I don’t see these constraints shifting much, but the need for Obama to honor his election promise grows. The conflict gnaws at U.S. security, eats away at whatever remote possibility of a two-state solution is left, clouds Israel’s future, scatters Palestinians and devours every attempt to bridge the West and Islam.

Here’s what I believe. Centuries of persecution culminating in the Holocaust created a moral imperative for a Jewish homeland, Israel, and demand of America that it safeguard that nation in the breach.

But past persecution of the Jews cannot be a license to subjugate another people, the Palestinians. Nor can the solemn U.S. promise to stand by Israel be a blank check to the Jewish state when its policies undermine stated American aims.

One such Israeli policy is the relentless settlement of the West Bank. Two decades ago, James Baker, then secretary of state, declared, “Forswear annexation; stop settlement activity.” Fast-forward 20 years to Barack Obama in Cairo: “The United States does not accept the legitimacy of continued Israeli settlements.” In the interim the number of settlers almost quadrupled from about 78,000 in 1990 to around 300,000 last year.

Since Obama spoke, Netanyahu, while promising an almost-freeze, has been planting saplings in settlements and declaring them part of Israel for “eternity.” In a normal relationship between allies — of the kind I think America and Israel should have — there would be consequences for such defiance. In the special relationship between the United States and Israel there are none.

The U.S. objective is a two-state peace. But day by day, square meter by square meter, the physical space for the second state, Palestine, is disappearing. Can the Gaza sardine can and fractured labyrinth of the West Bank now be seen as anything but a grotesque caricature of a putative state? America has allowed this self-defeating process to advance to near irreversibility.

In fact, it has helped fund it. The settlements are expensive, as is the security fence (hated “separation wall” to the Palestinians) that is itself an annexation mechanism. According to a recent report by the Congressional Research Service, U.S. aid to Israel totaled $28.9 billion over the past decade, a sum that dwarfs aid to any other nation and amounts to four times the total gross domestic product of Haiti.

It makes sense for America to assure Israel’s security. It does not make sense for America to bankroll Israeli policies that undermine U.S. strategic objectives.

This, too, I believe: Through violence, anti-Semitic incitation, and annihilationist threats, Palestinian factions have contributed mightily to the absence of peace and made it harder for America to adopt the balance required. But the impressive recent work of Prime Minister Salam Fayyad in the West Bank shows that Palestinian responsibility is no oxymoron and demands of Israel a response less abject than creeping annexation.

And this: the “existential threat” to Israel is overplayed. It is no feeble David facing an Arab (or Arab-Persian) Goliath. Armed with a formidable nuclear deterrent, Israel is by far the strongest state in the region. Room exists for America to step back and apply pressure without compromising Israeli security.

And this: Obama needs to work harder on overcoming Palestinian division, a prerequisite for peace, rather than playing the no-credible-interlocutor Israeli game. The Hamas charter is vile. But the breakthrough Oslo accords were negotiated in 1993, three years before the Palestine Liberation Organization revoked the annihilationist clauses in its charter. When Arafat and Rabin shook hands on the White House lawn, that destroy-Israel charter was intact. Things change through negotiation, not otherwise. If there are Taliban elements worth engaging, are there really no such elements in the broad movements that are Hamas and Hezbollah?

If there are not two states there will be one state between the river and the sea and very soon there will be more Palestinian Arabs in it than Jews. What then will become of the Zionist dream?

It’s time for Obama to ask such tough questions in public and demand of Israel that it work in practice to share the land rather than divide and rule it.


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