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Michael Brenner Headshot

The Nobel Obama

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Following in the rhetorical wake of Barack Obama is like being the clean-up crew after the Imperial cavalry have passed. A disagreeable but necessary duty in the interests of public health. Here goes.

  • B.O.: 'Just War' preconditions: "If it is waged as a last resort or in self-defense; if the force used is proportional; and if, whenever possible, civilians are spared from violence."

The Afghan state did not attack the United States, nor did the Afghan people. The remnants of the group that organized it are now in Pakistan. Our use of force is massive -- not proportional to any direct threat to the U.S. Civilians have borne the brunt of the casualties, as in Iraq (which went unmentioned in the speech). Obama is offering a veiled justification for preventive war wherein any damage done to the potential danger itself is a by-product of the violence initiated mainly against others.

  • B.O.: The great constructions of international comity built after WW II, "this old architecture is buckling." Errant nonsense. Nothing that is or could emanate from Afghanistan would be more than a pinprick. Western civilization and the world economic community are in far greater danger from Wall Street and their ilk elsewhere. They did buckle the architecture and to date B.O. has done nothing about it. B.O.: Quoting Martin Luther King, "Violence never brings permanent peace. It solves no social problem: it merely creates new and more complicated ones."

Obama rejects this counsel as inapplicable to Afghanistan, equating the Taliban and al-Qaeda with Hitler. What was that about 'proportionality?'

  • B.O. "America cannot insist that others follow the rules of the road if we refuse to follow them ourselves."

The unilateral, unlawful invasion and occupation of Iraq broke the rules. (By the way, in October 2004, Obama was quoted as saying that the only difference that he 'now' had with the Bush policy in Iraq was on how it was being executed). Our systematic use of torture broke the rules. This very day, Obama's Justice Department has filed a brief in support of John Yoo's motion to dismiss a civil suit on grounds that legal advise to an Executive Branch officer cannot be adjudicated in the courts as a matter of principle. At Nuremberg we explicitly rejected that line of defense in convicting and hanging two Nazis.

  • B.O.: "I believe that the United States of America must remain a standard bearer of the conduct of war."

100,00 dead in Iraq. Our unqualified support for the Israeli onslaught that killed 1,000 civilians; our outright rejection of the Goldstone Report.

  • B.O.: "I have reaffirmed America's commitment to abide by the Geneva Convention"

Obama's Executive Order reaffirmed the American right to do extraordinary rendition. Reports by the Red Cross and others state that conditions at Begram are still inhumane.

  • B.O.: "Where there is genocide in Darfur....there must be consequences."

The United States has done nothing of consequence about Darfur.

  • B.O.: "A just peace includes not only civil and political rights..."

Quite so. But as to those civil and political rights, the most basic is a say in choosing war or peace and in who rules you. Did the Iraqis or Afghans give us permission to invade and rule them according to our rights?