By Kenneth J. Theisen
Speech reminiscent of Bush
On Monday, August 17th, President Obama made a speech at the Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) convention in Phoenix, Arizona. In many ways it was reminiscent of similar speeches made by former president George W. Bush. At the beginning of his remarks Obama made it clear that he will do his best to preserve and expand the U.S. Empire when he stated, “I am honored and humbled to stand before you as Commander-in-Chief of the finest military the world has ever known.”
He then went on to praise the military veterans for their actions in past U.S. wars in Korea, Vietnam, Kosovo, and the Middle East. He linked their past to the actions of the U.S. war machine today in Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan and more than 100 other countries where the U.S. currently deploys military forces to defend its empire. He stated, “Today, the story of your service is carried on by a new generation — dedicated, courageous men and women who I have the privilege to lead and meet every day.”
But he did not praise the veterans and current members of the U.S. war machine simply to boost his support among these groups. Obama was at this convention to rally the military and the U.S. nation to support his current and expanding efforts to preserve and extend the imperialist empire which he heads.
He was explicit about his reasons for making this speech. Obama expounded, “To all those who have served America — our forces, your families, our veterans — you have done your duty. You have fulfilled your responsibilities. And now a grateful nation must fulfill ours. And that is what I want to talk about today.”
Rally ‘Round the Flag for “Security”
Obama wishes to rally the entire country around the American flag so that he can not only succeed in Iraq and Afghanistan, but also in other areas where the U.S. Empire’s hegemony may be challenged. He could not be much clearer when he stated, “But let us never forget we are a country of more than 300 million Americans. Less than 1 percent wears the uniform. And that 1 percent — our soldiers, sailors, airmen, Marines and Coast Guardsmen — have borne the overwhelming burden of our security. In fact, perhaps never in American history have so few protected so many.”
“So the responsibility for our security must not be theirs alone. That is why I have made it a priority to enlist all elements of our national power in defense of our national security…As President, my greatest responsibility is the security and safety of the American people. As I’ve said before, that is the first thing I think about when I wake up in the morning, it’s the last thing that I think about when I go to sleep at night. And I will not hesitate to use force to protect the American people or our vital interests.”
Obama wants us to believe that the interests of the great majority of people who live in this country and the American empire are one and the same. He wants us to support the imperialist wars that he took over on January 20th this year. Bush did the same during his tenure in office. After 9/11 we were told repeatedly that “our” security demanded that we rally behind “our” president. In the interest of “national security” we were told that war, torture, massive surveillance, and other war crimes and crimes against humanity were in “our” interest. These were lies under Bush. They are still lies under Obama. The vast majority of people in the U.S. have no interest in preserving or extending the U.S. imperialist empire at the expense of the people of the world.
A smarter war commander?
Obama pretends to be different than Bush when it comes to his role as Commander-in-Chief. He attempts to distinguish himself by pledging to be a smarter war commander than Bush. In the speech he claims, “And that’s why I have made this pledge to our armed forces: I will only send you into harm’s way when it is absolutely necessary. And when I do, it will be based on good intelligence and guided by a sound strategy. I will give you a clear mission, defined goals, and the equipment and support you need to get the job done.” But what is a necessity for the U.S. Empire is not in the best interests of the people.
Increasing the size of the war machine
Obama bragged in his speech about increasing the size of the U.S. war machine. “We need to keep our military the best-trained, the best-led, the best-equipped fighting force in the world. And that’s why, even with our current economic challenges, my budget increases defense spending….And that’s why we’ve increased the size of the Army and the Marine Corps two years ahead of schedule and have approved another temporary increase in the Army.”
But what interest do the masses of people have in seeing the U.S. military expanded? The U.S. already spends more on its military than the entire rest of the world combined. It has more than 700 bases all over the world in some 130 countries. It has thousands of nuclear warheads, enough to destroy the world many times. It controls all the world’s oceans with a fleet that can “project power” virtually anywhere. But the U.S. ruling class still argues it needs to expand the military capabilities of its war machine. It maintains that the military is “stretched.” It is currently involved in two major wars and from the ruling class point of view it needs more resources to continue to maintain and expand U.S. hegemony. But we need to ask what is in our interest? What does it say about the “legitimate interests” of a country whose leaders say they must project their armed forces around the entire planet?
Escalation in Afghanistan
Obama promised in his presidential campaign that he would escalate the war in Afghanistan, and he told the VFW audience how he is accomplishing this goal. “We will equip our forces with the assets and technologies they need to fight and win. So my budget funds more of the Army helicopters, crews, and pilots urgently needed in Afghanistan; the intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance that gives our troops the advantage; the special operations forces that can deploy on a moment’s notice…” According to Obama we are supposed to support the fact that the war in Afghanistan will now be expanded under his leadership.
Extending war of terror into Pakistan
Obama, in his speech, also defended his expansion of the U.S. war of terror into Pakistan. He stated “…that al Qaeda and its allies had moved their base from the remote, tribal areas of Afghanistan — to the remote, tribal areas of Pakistan.” Obama does not say so in his speech, but since taking office he has increased the number of missile strikes and drone aircraft attacks into Pakistan, killing many civilians. Pakistan has also erupted into open civil war in the tribal areas and even near the capital. During the Bush regime over $10 billion in U.S. military aid was provided to Pakistan. Obama supports increasing military aid to the Pakistani military so that it can further assist the U.S. war machine in the war of terror. In the VFW speech Obama explains, “And our new strategy has a clear mission and defined goals: to disrupt, dismantle, and defeat al Qaeda and its extremist allies.”
War of necessity?
Obama made clear that the Afghanistan war will be a long one. He explained, “This will not be quick, nor easy. But we must never forget: This is not a war of choice. This is a war of necessity. Those who attacked America on 9/11 are plotting to do so again. If left unchecked, the Taliban insurgency will mean an even larger safe haven from which al Qaeda would plot to kill more Americans. So this is not only a war worth fighting.
This is a — this is fundamental to the defense of our people.” By raising the “fear card “Obama is taking a cue from the Bush regime.
Bush used fear to justify his initial invasion of Afghanistan in October 2001 and then the 2003 invasion of Iraq. Obama now uses it to escalate the war in Afghanistan and to expand it into Pakistan. We are supposed to go along with this. To protect “Americans” we are supposed to allow our government to kill others. Over a million Iraqis, Afghans, and Pakistanis have already died since 9/11 as a direct result of that excuse. Millions more have become refugees and suffered unimagined abuses. Thousands have been tortured and tens of thousands incarcerated in hellholes run by the U.S. and it allies. How many more will die and be abused if we continue to be suckers that believe this “fear” excuse?
War for building the future or bringing death and destruction?
But Obama wants us to forget the suffering that has followed in the wake of the U.S. Empire’s wars. He expects us to believe that the war of terror actually is part of a brighter future for the people of the countries invaded by the U.S. He claims, “And at every step of the way, we will assess our efforts to defeat al Qaeda and its extremist allies, and to help the Afghan and Pakistani people build the future that they seek.” (Read what the U.S. State Department says about human rights abuses in Afghanistan under the U.S.)
But despite what the U.S. propaganda machine claims, U.S. wars only spread death and destruction in the countries invaded. Only a fool would believe otherwise. The invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq have proved this and slick claims by Obama will not change reality.
Maintaining America’s military dominance is not in our interest
While Obama asserts he is interested in the future of the Afghan and Pakistani people he is really concerned about the future of the U.S. military and it ability to protect the Empire. He states this in his speech. “We must prepare our forces for the missions of tomorrow…our defense review is taking a top-to-bottom look at our priorities and posture, questioning conventional wisdom, rethinking old dogmas and challenging the status quo. We’re asking hard questions about the forces we need and the weapons we buy. And when we’re finished, we’ll have a new blueprint for the 21st-century military that we need…No matter the mission, we must maintain America’s military dominance.” Obama admits this is his real role as commander-in-chief. He will serve and protect the empire.
But did most people that voted for Obama vote for maintaining America‘s military dominance? And why do we need to support military dominance? Whose interest is served? Does it make us safer to have the U.S. military dominate the world? I would argue that it only makes more enemies and people who may resort to terrorism out of frustration with the way the U.S. imperialism treats the people of the world. But even if it did make us safer as individuals, is it acceptable to kill and abuse millions to save ourselves? Are American lives more valuable that those of Iraqis, Afghans, Pakistanis, Iranians, and other non-Americans?
Also do you really believe that the imperialist ruling class really cares about American lives? While that may be the rationale that we are fed by the likes of Obama and the other leaders of the ruling class, it is not the real reason they want military dominance. They wish to preserve their system. That is why they maintain their military forces. The same system that kills and abuses people around the world, keeps one fifth of the U.S. population in poverty and tens of millions of Americans from getting decent medical care. It keeps millions of immigrants in fear of deportation and exploits their labor. It enforces a system of racism against tens of millions more. These are only a few of the daily abuse that this system of imperialism enforces and we are expected to believe that the America‘s military dominance is in our interests. I do not think so, what about you?