By Kenneth J. Theisen
The media this past week or so has created a big hoopla around Obama’s first hundred days in office. While this is largely an exercise in public relations hype, the first hundred days of this new administration does tell us what to expect in the next three and three-quarter years if Obama is allowed to continue on the course he has begun. While many people believe that the Obama administration has reversed course from the eight years of the Bush regime, I contend that Obama has done much to continue – in fact, accelerate and deepen – the fascist political trajectory of the Bush administration.
Let’s look at some to the things Obama has done, or not done, to determine what he may do during the rest of his reign.
Continued war and U.S. occupation in Iraq
Despite many people’s expectation that Obama would end the war in Iraq, he has actually guaranteed its continuance, while at the same time disarming much of the opposition to the war. His policies, if left unchallenged, will allow tens of thousands of U.S. troops to remain in Iraq for years. They will not be lonely, as tens of thousands of U.S. contractors will also remain there. The Iraqi puppet government will also have the guidance of the largest U.S. embassy in the world in the green zone. The embassy will literally employ thousands to “assist” the Iraqis in implementing the U.S. agenda there.
Escalation of the war in Afghanistan
In his short time in office, Obama has managed to announce and start a major escalation of the war in Afghanistan. This year the U.S. will deploy over 30,000 additional troops to Afghanistan. They will be joined by thousands of allied troops that Obama has gotten by pressuring these allies with his “diplomacy.” This should surprise no one, since Obama promised in his campaign that he would give “more attention” to achieving victory for U.S. imperialism in that war-torn nation.
Expansion of the war of terror into Pakistan
Shortly after taking office Obama ordered his first missile strikes into Pakistan. Since then he has ordered more strikes, resulting in more casualties. There is now open fighting between the Pakistani government (which is receiving major military aid and training from the U.S.) and Islamic fundamentalists. Obama has said he will increase aid to Pakistan in order to expand the U.S. war of terror there.
Expansion of the U.S. military and more funding for the wars
While on the campaign trail, Obama openly supported expanding the size of the U.S. military by 92,000 troops. He is keeping his promise. He asked and received from Congress additional money so that he could expedite the increase in U.S. forces. Obama also proposed a budget that increased military spending by 4% to fund the U.S. military. The U.S. now expends more money for the military than all the other countries of the world together. He also asked for and received supplemental funding for the U.S. war of terror, despite criticizing the Bush regime when it sought supplemental funds for the wars.
Keeping the war makers on the job
Obama selected the Bush regime’s Secretary of War, Robert Gates to continue on the job. He has also retained the top military commanders of the Bush regime, including General Petraeus and Admiral Mullin.
Defending the “national security state” in court
During the Bush regime various law suits were brought against it for its multiple criminal acts which have include massive spying, torture, secret prisons, rendition, violations of civil and human rights, the denial of due process, etc. Obama’s Department of Justice (DOJ) and his Solicitor General have defended these law suits repeatedly since taking office, using and sometimes expanding, the same legal arguments put forth by the Bush regime. The Solicitor General asked the Supreme Court to dismiss one law suit in order for Obama to retain the power to indefinitely detain prisoners of the war of terror without due process. Obama’s DOJ has used the excuses of “national security” and “state secrets” and other bogus defenses in attempts to get cases against the government and it allies in the private sector dismissed. Obama’s lawyers recently defended the denial of habeas corpus to prisoners held in Bagram, Afghanistan by the U.S. military. When the court rejected this, Obama’s administration appealed the case.
Keeping and expanding the American gulag
One of the first orders Obama gave was the one to shut down the hellhole prison known as Gitmo. This was popular with the public throughout the world. Many people believed that the use of prisons to torture detainees was a practice of the past. But things are not always as they seem. For one thing Obama gave his people a year to shutter Gitmo. During this year, people are still being abused at Guantanamo. Lawyers for those detained there are reporting that abuse has actually increased since the election of Obama. There are many innocent people among the currently held prisoners at Gitmo, but they are still held there. The Obama administration intends to hold many of these prisoners at other locations and is currently trying to work out the logistics. Recently in referring to some of the prisoners held at Gitmo, War Secretary Robert Gates said “"The question is: What do we do with the 50 to 100 — probably in that ballpark — who we cannot release and cannot try?" This is an admission that these prisoners will not be given due process rights and will be held indefinitely.
While Gitmo may ultimately be closed, Obama is actually expanding capacity to hold prisoners taken in the war of terror. In his supplemental request to fund the war of terror, he asked for millions of additional dollars to expand the U.S.-run prison at Bagram Air Force Base in Afghanistan. Like Gitmo, Bagram has prisoners from all over the world held there. Bagram is the same hellhole where his DOJ argued that prisoners held there should be denied habeas corpus rights. In Bagram and other hellholes run by the U.S. military, the Obama administration holds thousands of prisoners. They are still abused just like under the Bush regime.
Rendition is still used
Obama the candidate was critical of the practice of extraordinary rendition. In effect, rendition was a fancy word for the kidnapping of people and then sending them to another country for torture either by U.S. allies or the CIA in one of its secret prisons. But an anonymous administration official told the LA Times “Obviously you need to preserve some tools — you still have to go after the bad guys. The legal advisors working on this looked at rendition. It is controversial in some circles and kicked up a big storm in Europe. But if done within certain parameters, it is an acceptable practice.” Two days after taking office, Obama issued an executive order preserving the right to used rendition and also ordering a review of how to most effectively use it.)
“Just Doing my Job”, or Obama’s Defense of the Nazi Excuse
Obama is a lawyer who apparently accepts the Nazi defense used at Nuremberg. He and other top officials of his administration have repeatedly ruled out prosecuting torturers who "were only following orders.” By announcing that DOJ will not prosecute CIA torturers if they followed the orders or directive of their superiors, Obama is reversing international laws established in the wake of World War II era atrocities.
No Prosecution of Bush Regime Officials for War Crimes and Crimes against Humanity
What is even more outrageous than not prosecuting the CIA criminals; is the failure to go after the big fish who ordered the torture. The Obama administration is also not pursuing the top law breakers of the Bush regime for their war crimes, massive spying, other crimes against humanity etc. Obama keeps saying he wants to look forward, while he ignores past crimes. He is even unwilling to have any investigations into the crimes of the Bush regime that can not be carefully controlled. But from his perspective all this makes sense as he and his minions are now committing many of the same crimes as their predecessors. Obama does not want to create a precedent that top U.S. officials can be held criminally liable for their crimes on behalf of U.S. imperialism. Otherwise he may be in a future criminal docket.
The Grand Illusion – of Change for the Better
For millions the election of Obama created the illusion that change for the better was on the horizon once he became president. Many people still hold these illusions. But any careful analysis of his actual actions since becoming president should expose these illusions to reality. What I have written above are just a few of the actions taken by the new administration which continue the political direction of the Bush regime. In some ways, an Obama administration is even more dangerous than the Bush regime. Bush and his criminal cohorts were largely exposed to millions as the real criminals that they are. Their crimes were actually actively opposed by millions as well. Today the crimes of the Obama administration are largely under the radar, so to speak. Obama has effectively demobilized much opposition to U.S. imperialism that began under the Bush regime. As just one example, could Bush have escalated the war in Afghanistan, to the extent that Obama has, without engendering massive opposition throughout the world?
The real tragedy will be if the Obama administration continues to get a “free pass” while if the Bush regime had done similar things, it would have been opposed. It is past time to revoke that “pass.”