Surprise, Surprise, Surprise - Dems Now Become Anti-War Advocates After Years of Ignoring Obama's Pro-War Policies
For much of Barack Obama's second term, Congress sought to pass a formal authorization for the war against the Islamic State — both to signal the country’s resolve and to provide a check on the president's unfettered war powers.
That failure to act now means Donald Trump will effectively have free rein to wage what he calls a global U.S. war on radical Islam, a prospect that terrifies many Democrats.
“You could easily see him wanting to ramp up the war on terror and take it to new parts of the globe,” said Rep. Adam Schiff of California, the top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee. “There are few limits on what he can do.”
Yes, in Trump we now face the prospect of a fire breathing, unpredictable megalomaniac in the White House instead of Nobel Peace Prize winner, Barack Obama. Which reminds me, what was President Obama's record on the use of military force around the world in the ever-expanding Global War on Terror? Let's review, shall we?
Drones and Air Strikes
Obama took the war out of the hands of boots on the ground (that's short for armed human soldiers) for the "kinder, gentler" method of killing one's enemies, which hardly ever
kill innocent civilians cause collateral damage unless they do.
Drone strikes conducted by the United States during a 5-month-long campaign in Afghanistan caused the deaths of unintended targets nearly nine out of ten times, leaked intelligence documents suggest.
The apparent 10 percent success rate with regards to a specific span in America’s drone war is among the most damning revelations to surface so far as the result of a series of articles published by The Intercept on Thursday this week which rely on classified and confidential intelligence documents supplied by an unknown source.
“These docs illustrate what a video game, drained of all humanity, these drone assassinations have become,” founding editor Glenn Greenwald tweeted on Thursday.
Even the warmongering neocons who publish the Washington Post find little to like about Obama's dramatic increase in the use of drone strikes around the world. The title to the opinion piece they published last May says it all: "Obama’s drone war is a shameful part of his legacy"
There have long been policy, constitutional and moral questions about the drone program — all made more difficult to answer by the Obama administration’s refusal to even acknowledge the program until 2013. As Obama’s presidency comes to an end, we have stunning new details about how the program works — first released in October on the Intercept website, now updated and collected in the book “The Assassination Complex” by Jeremy Scahill and Intercept staffers. “The Assassination Complex” is in large part built around the revelations of an anonymous whistleblower who leaked documents about U.S. use of drones in Somalia, Libya and Afghanistan from 2011 to 2013. What he or she reveals further confirms the practical, legal and moral failings of Obama’s expanded drone war. [...]
... The leaked documents show the disturbing ease with which an innocent civilian — American or not — can be added to the U.S. government’s main terrorist database, such as on the basis of a single “uncorroborated” Facebook or Twitter post. In a 2014 court filing, the government admitted that 469,000 people had been nominated in 2013 for inclusion in an additional government database of “known or suspected terrorists.” Only 4,900 were rejected. Presumption of innocence this is not. And although Osama bin Laden’s name was in a terrorist database long before he was killed, so too was the name Abdulrahman al-Awlaki — innocent, 16 years old, an American citizen and killed by a U.S. drone strike.
Drones and other airstrikes are very good at killing people with little to no risk to US armed forces. There's no question about that. But their use has expanded beyond all reasonable bounds. Furthermore, their effectiveness as a weapon that avoids mass slaughter is highly questionable, as Ryan Devereaux of The Intercept noted in his article "Manhunting in the Hindu Kush."
Operation Haymaker, has been described as a potential model for the future of American warfare: special operations units, partnered with embedded intelligence elements running a network of informants, pinpointing members of violent organizations, then drawing up plans to eliminate those targets from the battlefield, either by capturing or killing them.[...]
[T]he military’s own analysis demonstrates that the Haymaker campaign was in many respects a failure. The vast majority of those killed in airstrikes were not the direct targets. Nor did the campaign succeed in significantly degrading al Qaeda’s operations in the region. When contacted by The Intercept with a series of questions regarding the Haymaker missions, the United States Special Operations Command in Afghanistan declined to comment on the grounds that the campaign — though now finished — remains classified. [...]
[D]uring a five-month stretch of the campaign, nearly nine out of 10 people who died in airstrikes were not the Americans’ direct targets. By February 2013, Haymaker airstrikes had resulted in no more than 35 “jackpots,” a term used to signal the neutralization of a specific targeted individual, while more than 200 people were declared EKIA — “enemy killed in action.”
In the complex world of remote killing in remote locations, labeling the dead as “enemies” until proven otherwise is commonplace, said an intelligence community source with experience working on high-value targeting missions in Afghanistan ...
Confirming a chosen target was indeed killed can include days of monitoring signals intelligence and communication with sources on the ground, none of which is perfect 100 percent of the time. Firing a missile at a target in a group of people, the source said, requires “an even greater leap of faith” — a leap that he believes often treats physical proximity as evidence.
Nonetheless, under Obama, drones were considered the newest, best way to fight "terrorists" over there. This is how it worked: people were put on an assassination list, one often compiled arbitrarily with little if any indication that moral or legal considerations played any role in determining when and where to use them.
The source said he decided to provide these documents to The Intercept because he believes the public has a right to understand the process by which people are placed on kill lists and ultimately assassinated on orders from the highest echelons of the U.S. government. “This outrageous explosion of watchlisting — of monitoring people and racking and stacking them on lists, assigning them numbers, assigning them ‘baseball cards,’ assigning them death sentences without notice, on a worldwide battlefield — it was, from the very first instance, wrong,” the source said.
Of course no one dares call these drone attacks "assassinations." These are "targeted killings" of individuals who pose an "imminent threat" to our nation's security. That's the official line, in any event, and one that neither Republicans nor Democrats (with a few notable exceptions) found objectionable. I'm no fan of Rand Paul, but at least he pointed out the hypocrisy of President Obama's unfettered use of drone strikes to kill people whenever and wherever he or his advisors
wished determined their deaths, and those of anyone anywhere near them, constitutued a "military necessity."
[I]t was not until May 2013 that the White House released a set of standards and procedures for conducting such strikes. Those guidelines offered little specificity, asserting that the U.S. would only conduct a lethal strike outside of an “area of active hostilities” if a target represents a “continuing, imminent threat to U.S. persons,” without providing any sense of the internal process used to determine whether a suspect should be killed without being indicted or tried. The implicit message on drone strikes from the Obama administration has been one of trust, but don’t verify.
Despite the, at least internally, much lauded "death by drone" program adopted by the Obama administration, many military and intelligence experts see it as not only immoral, but also an operational failure that did little to advance the national security interests of the United States, and likely exacerbated the continuing threat of radical jihadist organizations, in the Middle East, Europe and at home.
Taken together, the secret documents lead to the conclusion that Washington’s 14-year high-value targeting campaign suffers from an overreliance on signals intelligence, an apparently incalculable civilian toll, and — due to a preference for assassination rather than capture — an inability to extract potentially valuable intelligence from terror suspects. They also highlight the futility of the war in Afghanistan by showing how the U.S. has poured vast resources into killing local insurgents, in the process exacerbating the very threat the U.S. is seeking to confront.
Drone attacks have been conducted all over the world, from Afghanistan and Pakistan in Southwest Asia,to Syria, Iraq and Yemen in the Middle East, and also in Libya, Somalia and perhaps other countries as yet not identified by journalists or disclosed by our government. What good they have done us is questionable at nest. But, sadly, most Democrats stood by silently and did not oppose this remarkable overreach of the President's unfettered use of military power because Obama was their guy.
Obama's Policy of Regime Change
The Obama administration's record in using special operations forces, drones and airstrikes has not been limited to its assassination program. Specifically, the United States actively used our armed forces to effect regime change in Libya, and continues to use special ops forces, drones, traditional airstrikes and the arming of jihadist militias to overthrow Bashar Al-Assad's government in Syria. The policy of using military resources to effect regime change in theses countries has been, to put it bluntly, an unmitigated disaster.
While it is true that Libya was not a democratic regime, it was relatively stable until we, with our French and British allies, decided to arms militant jihadist rebels and use our massive military resources to overturn the Gaddafi government. Now Libya is a failed state thanks to our intervention, one where terrorist groups such as ISIS can operate relatively freely, as this new study by the British Parliament’s Foreign Affairs Select Committee makes clear.
Was regime change really necessary? The report takes serious issue with the idea that Qaddafi was on the verge of committing a mass slaughter. The Select Committee notes: “Despite his rhetoric, the proposition that Muammar Gaddafi would have ordered the massacre of civilians in Benghazi was not supported by the available evidence.” Indeed, only days before the launch of military action by the West, Qaddafi addressed the rebels, telling them: “Throw away your weapons, exactly like your brothers in Ajdabiya did. They laid down their arms and they are safe. We never pursued them at all.” Which, as the report observes, is true.
Disturbingly, all of this was clear by the time President Obama addressed the situation in Libya on March 18, 2011, when he told the nation that if “left unchecked…Qaddafi would commit atrocities against his people. Many thousands could die. A humanitarian crisis would ensue. The entire region could be destabilized, endangering many of our allies and partners.” [...]
[T]he cost of the regime-change war in Libya in lives and treasure has been immense. Libyan GDP collapsed from $75 billion in 2010 to just over $41 billion on 2014, while its place on the UN’s index of human development slid from 53rd (in 2010) to 94th (in 2015). The report points out that by 2016, out of Libya’s 6.3 million people, “3 million have been impacted by the armed conflict and political instability and that 2.4 million require protection and some form of humanitarian assistance.”
Still worse, the intervention resulted in an estimated 400,000 internally displaced people, helped cause a migrant crisis in Europe, and made space for the rise of ISIS which, according to the report “emerged in Libya in 2014, seizing control of territory around Sirte and setting up terrorist training centers.”
Meanwhile, the US military has returned to Libya, conducting drone and special operations there, five years after the initial intervention. In an interview with The Atlantic earlier this year President Obama described the Libyan intervention as “a shit show.” As the UK report notes, “It is difficult to disagree with this pithy assessment.”
And then there is Syria. The continuing black hole that is the Syrian conflict, one that keeps sucking in ever increasing amounts of US military resources, and ever more jihadist paramilitary and terrorist combatants. The conflict that continues to bring ever greater and greater misery and death for the people of Syria. Obama's policy of regime change in Syria is another clusterfuck in which diplomacy has taken a back seat to the use of military force to achieve dubious objectives.
The US decision to support Turkey, Qatar and Saudi Arabia in their ill-conceived plan to overthrow the Assad regime was primarily a function of the primordial interest of the US permanent war state in its regional alliances. The three Sunni allies control US access to the key US military bases in the region, and the Pentagon, the CIA, the State Department and the Obama White House were all concerned, above all, with protecting the existing arrangements for the US military posture in the region.
After all, those military bases are what allow the United States to play at the role of hegemonic power in the Middle East, despite the disasters that have accompanied that role.
At present, the United States and it's European and Gulf allies, who want Assad out, are at odds with Russia, Iran and now Turkey, all who apparently now favor an end to the violence and a return to some revised version of the former status quo in which Assad remains in power, much as existed before the United States and the Saudis decided Syria was next on their Middle East hit list.
US is World's Biggest Arms Dealer/Supplier under Obama
What more can be said but that the United States under the Obama administration continues to authorize the sale of and/or supply tens billions of dollars worth of US military weapons to governments, armed forces and even
terrorist groups freedom fighters all over the world each year. Indeed, the Obama administration has authorized, sold or supplied more weapons than any other presidential administration since WWII. And each year the US tops the list of the world's largest arms supplier.
The United-States remains the largest exporter of conventional weapons in the world. The U.S accounts for 33 percent of global arms transfers, up from 29 percent in 2006-2010, according to SIPRI. TOP CLIENTS 2011-2015 – Saudi Arabia (9.7 percent), United Arab Emirates (9.1 percent), Turkey (6.6 percent) 2006-2010 – South Korea (15 percent), Israel (13 percent), United Arab Emirates (11 percent).
For the record, this is not a good thing in my opinion and the opinion of many, including, no doubt the millions of people suffering from the use of US military grade weapons in conflicts around the globe.
Yemen and the issue of war crimes
The US military has been supporting Saudi Arabia in its murderous and criminal bombing campaign against the Houthi Shi'ite population of Yemen. We became the Saudi's indispensable partner in their war of aggression against the Houthis in Yemen.
Since March 2015, the U.S. has been providing support to a Saudi-led military coalition fighting Houthi rebels. The Houthis ousted Yemen's government and forced the president, Abed Mansour Hadi, to flee to Saudi Arabia.
Initially the Saudis thought they could easily uproot the Houthis, but the conflict has ground on much longer than the Saudis expected.
As a result, Chris Murphy, a Democratic senator from Connecticut, says the U.S. is becoming an indispensable partner to Saudi Arabia and its bombing campaign there.
"The United States provides the bombs. We provide the refueling planes in mid-air. We provide the intel," Murphy tells NPR. "I think it's safe to say that this bombing campaign in Yemen could not happen without the United States."
Even Time magazine, not noted for opposing US miliatary misadventures in the Mideast, has called the Obama administration's support for Saudi's genocidal attacks on civilians "indefensible."
In the more than 3,000 strikes since the conflict began, civilian sites are routinely in the line of fire. Hospitals, schools, factories, homes, markets—there is no safe space in Yemen today. And with Saudi Arabia’s purchase of more than $115 billion in U.S.-manufactured military equipment approved since the war in Yemen began—including air-to-ground munitions as well as tanks—the jeopardy civilians are facing is marked with a deep American imprint.
Newly disclosed government documents reveal that State Department lawyers warned that the U.S. could be implicated in war crimes for supporting a Saudi-led air campaign in Yemen.
Yes, you read that right. President Obama has been complicit in war crimes committed against the Houthis in Yemen. War Crimes such as are described in this article in The New York Times published in August of this year:
The Abs Hospital was the fourth health facility supported by Doctors Without Border to be hit during the war. Teresa Sancristóval, the group’s emergency program coordinator, said that Doctors Without Borders had given the GPS coordinates of its facilities to the Saudi military, and that its representatives had traveled to the Saudi kingdom twice to protest. But the botched airstrikes continue. [...]
The Saudi-led bombing campaign resumed this month after a monthslong pause for the unsuccessful attempt to draft a peace agreement. On Aug. 7, more than a dozen civilians were killed in an airstrike that hit a small marketplace near the village of Al Madeed, approximately 35 miles northeast of Sana.
Sada al-Othari, a witness who owns a drugstore in the village, said that two of his customers were killed in the bombing and that there was no military target in the area.
He gave a graphic account of victims burned beyond recognition and panicked locals who were reluctant to provide help, fearing a second airstrike would hit the rescuers — a tactic that the [Saudi] coalition has used during the campaign.
Not such a great record, is it? Drone wars, government assassination lists, "collateral damage" with who knows how many innocents killed by US airstrikes, botched regime change leading to death, terrorist havens, a massive refugee crises, and complicity in war crimes.
"Well, but Obama was someone we could trust with those awesome responsibilities of whether to wage war," a long term Democratic Party member might say. "Not someone as unstable as Donald Trump." And yet, in the recent general election campaign, who ran as the candidate who most vigorously promoted an aggressive and militaristic foreign policy , whether in Syria, or when confronting our "enemies" such as Russia and Iran? Who boasted that she had the most endorsements from former members of the military? Who did former Bush neocons support for President? That's right, the Democratic nominee, Hillary Clinton.
But that was then and this is now. Expect to see more clarion calls by prominent Democrats for the anti-war left to rally to the side of the "angels," i.e., the Democratic Party, in the months and years ahead. You know, the party who loves to court the left whenever it is out of power. The party that promises it will never carry out illegal wars or unconstitutional military actions if we help them win elections. Because, if there is one thing we know, the Democrats will always oppose our nation's numerous wars and covert military actions whenever a Republican is on the White House. When a Democrat sits in the Oval Office? Not so much.