Obama in Oslo: War is Peace. Lies are Truth.

By Kenneth J. Theisen

Barack Obama, a man who less than one year into his presidency stands soaked in the blood of the people of Afghanistan, Iraq, and Pakistan - whose deaths at the hands of the U.S. war machine he is ultimately responsible for - last week stood before the world from a stage in Oslo Norway to receive a “peace award”.
 
Few events in world history have equaled the surreal sequence of Obama’s recent announcement of an escalation of the war in Afghanistan at the U.S. Military Academy, followed by his acceptance of the Nobel Peace Prize.
 
But Obama’s speech went well beyond its mere (and obvious) hypocrisy. It was a declaration of U.S. intentions to continue its attempts to dominate and exert control over Central Asia, and contained threats against other nations and parts of the world. Far from being a renunciation of violence in the name of peace, it was a justification of the use of the world’s most advanced military machine to enforce political domination. It was an attempt to convince the people of the “western world” especially that their interests lie in supporting this utterly unjust, and in fact, murderously criminal, enterprise.
 
Preserving and Defending Empire
 
When President Obama received the Nobel Peace Prize on December 10, 2009 he said this: “Our actions matter, and can bend history in the direction of justice.” But the speech and the actions of Barack Obama have nothing to do with bending “history in the direction of justice.” Instead, his speech and actions are meant to preserve and expand an American Empire that is fighting to achieve and maintain a savage domination over the world.
 
It is more than ironic that the President of the U.S. would receive a “peace” prize after tripling the size of U.S. military forces in Afghanistan since coming into office, while at the same time extending the war in Iraq for years to come. Obama has also managed to spread the U.S. war of terror even more widely into Pakistan. These are actions that matter. These are actions that kill and cause wide-spread suffering to millions. And these are actions that Obama justified in his acceptance speech in Norway.
 
What is even more alarming is that these actions all occurred in the first year of his presidency. Obama acknowledged this when he said, “…I am at the beginning, and not the end, of my labors on the world stage.” How much more suffering can he cause during the rest of his reign if we accept the illusion of his words, rather than the reality of his actions?
 
Obama is well aware of his massive power. He stated “…I am the Commander-in-Chief of the military of a nation in the midst of two wars. One of these wars is winding down. The other is a conflict that America did not seek…” This statement is largely untrue. But Obama’s power lies not only in the vast military machine that he commands, but also in his ability to lie and get people to believe the lies.
 
In Iraq, there is in general less open combat than previously, but the war and military occupation continue, people continue to die violent deaths, the torment of the Iraqi people drags on year after agonizing year - and if the U.S. gets its way, all this will continue into the indefinite future, with thousands of U.S. troops and puppet forces occupying that country.
 
The U.S. embassy in Iraq will employ thousands for years to come. (It is the largest U.S. embassy in the world, with the largest staff.) U.S. contractors, “security” and otherwise, will remain there. Puppet troops, paid and trained by the U.S., will enforce America’s will. And even if the U.S. left Iraq tomorrow, already hundreds of thousands of Iraqis have paid for the U.S. invasion of their country with their lives while millions of others have suffered the results of that invasion.
 
Obama wants us to believe that the Afghan war is one “that America did not seek” and that it is a defensive war. But even though the war there was sold to the American public as a defensive response to 9/11, it is not less a war for empire than the Iraq war. The Afghan invasion took place over eight years ago. Tens of thousand of Afghans have perished as “collateral damage” in the U.S. war of terror there. Millions have been displaced. While the vast majority of Afghans suffer under the U.S. occupation, women continue to be specially oppressed as the U.S. props up its feudal allies, including drug and war lords. By most measures, Afghanistan is one of the most oppressed and poverty stricken nations in the world. Many more Afghans have perished in that war than all those killed in the 9/11 attacks. But the likes of Obama view the deaths of Afghans as just necessary collateral damage in the waging of the U.S. war of empire.
 
Alliance for the Killing
 
Obama bragged that the U.S. is “joined by 42 other countries” in the Afghan war. One of the alleged reasons that Obama received the Nobel was that he is seen as more willing to use diplomacy and involve other nations in U.S. efforts than his predecessor, George W. Bush. This is true. Obama represents those within the U.S. ruling class that see too much unilateralism as detrimental to U.S. imperialist interests. But diplomacy in the interests of the U.S. Empire is just another weapon in the imperial arsenal. Getting 42 other countries to join in the U.S. war effort in Afghanistan is not something we should applaud. In the first Gulf War, Bush the First got many other nations to join that imperialist war. But having lots of allies does not make war less a war for empire. Using diplomacy, bribes, threats, etc. to obtain allies in imperialist war does not rate praise or benefit the people of the world.
 
The U.S. Empire has often used diplomacy, sanctions, propaganda, etc. as weapons to achieve imperialist goals. These weapons are also used in conjunction with war as can be seen in Afghanistan. The U.S. has been putting pressure on NATO and other allies to send more troops to Afghanistan, as well as to provide more of the funding for the U.S. endeavor there. Other allies such as Canada and the Netherlands have been under “diplomatic” pressure not to remove their troops already in Afghanistan. That is why tens of thousands of other foreign troops are part of the U.S. occupation. Should we praise the Obama administration for involving other nations in its imperialist war? How does this benefit the Afghan people? When Afghan civilians are massacred in an air strike called in by German troops (this happened a couple months ago), should we praise Obama for keeping the German troops in Afghanistan with his diplomacy and multilateralism?
 
Obama admitted responsibility “…for the deployment of thousands of young Americans to battle in a distant land. Some will kill, and some will be killed.” He then went on to discuss “difficult questions about the relationship between war and peace, and our effort to replace one with the other.”
 
He discussed some of these efforts – “America led the world in constructing an architecture to keep the peace: a Marshall Plan and a United Nations, mechanisms to govern the waging of war, treaties to protect human rights, prevent genocide, restrict the most dangerous weapons… In many ways, these efforts succeeded… We are the heirs of the fortitude and foresight of generations past, and it is a legacy for which my own country is rightfully proud.”
 
He fails to mention that this “architecture: was created to benefit and expand the U.S. Empire and that these treaties and other efforts were largely ignored whenever they impeded the spread or protection of the empire. We saw this clearly and repeatedly during the Bush regime, but numerous U.S. invasions and attacks on other countries such as Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia; and the overthrow of governments such as Iran in 1953, Guatemala in 1954, Chile in 1973, etc. prove U.S. hypocrisy.
 
Current Needs of the Empire
 
After praising past U.S. imperialist efforts to hold together its empire, Obama then addressed current needs of the Empire. He says, “And yet, a decade into a new century, this old architecture is buckling under the weight of new threats.” Meeting the challenges of empire, “will require us to think in new ways about the notions of just war and the imperatives of a just peace…There will be times when nations -- acting individually or in concert -- will find the use of force not only necessary but morally justified.” And remember, this threat was delivered in a speech to accept a “peace” award.

Obama claimed, “The United States of America has helped underwrite global security for more than six decades with the blood of our citizens and the strength of our arms…the instruments of war do have a role to play in preserving the peace…I -- like any head of state -- reserve the right to act unilaterally if necessary to defend my nation.”
 
He went on to say, “I believe that force can be justified on humanitarian grounds, as it was in the Balkans, or in other places that have been scarred by war…That's why all responsible nations must embrace the role that militaries with a clear mandate can play to keep the peace.”

“America's commitment to global security will never waver. But in a world in which threats are more diffuse, and missions more complex, America cannot act alone. America alone cannot secure the peace. This is true in Afghanistan. This is true in failed states like Somalia, where terrorism and piracy is joined by famine and human suffering. And sadly, it will continue to be true in unstable regions for years to come.”

“The leaders and soldiers of NATO countries, and other friends and allies, demonstrate this truth through the capacity and courage they've shown in Afghanistan. But in many countries, there is a disconnect between the efforts of those who serve and the ambivalence of the broader public. I understand why war is not popular, but I also know this: The belief that peace is desirable is rarely enough to achieve it. Peace requires responsibility. Peace entails sacrifice. That's why NATO continues to be indispensable.”

Despite his repeated use of the word “peace,” Obama is really talking about “security” which he uses a few times in the above paragraphs. He wants to secure the ability of the U.S. Empire to dominate the world. Any threats to that Empire must be destroyed – whether through the use of military means or other weapons such as diplomacy, sanctions, propaganda, or all of these weapons combined. He is stating his willingness to use multilateral means to achieve security for the Empire. He will also use excuses such “humanitarian grounds,” “terrorism,” “piracy,” and ensuring the peace to justify U.S. imperialist actions. 
 
But despite the excuse or how many allies he involves in U.S. actions, we need to understand that the peace and protection of Empire does not mean peace for the people of the world. If you read Obama’s words closely you can see that he is advancing excuses for the U.S. to intervene in almost any place in the world.
 
Obama’s hypocrisy stood naked in Oslo. He stated, “Where force is necessary, we have a moral and strategic interest in binding ourselves to certain rules of conduct…I believe the United States of America must remain a standard bearer in the conduct of war. That is what makes us different from those whom we fight. That is a source of our strength. That is why I prohibited torture. That is why I ordered the prison at Guantanamo Bay closed. And that is why I have reaffirmed America's commitment to abide by the Geneva Conventions.”
 
He failed to mention that he will not close Guantanamo as originally scheduled and that he is merely transferring prisoners to other U.S. run hellholes such as Bagram, Afghanistan where he requested more money from Congress to expand the prison there. He failed to mention that his administration will continue to use rendition in its war of terror. He fails to mention that thousands of prisoners of the U.S. war of terror remain in prisons in Afghanistan, Iraq, and other countries and that they still are tortured. He fails to acknowledge that his Department of Injustice has failed to prosecute any of the Bush regime war criminals that created a torture state.
 
He failed to mention that his administration has suppressed the release of torture photos and gone to court repeatedly to keep the dirty secrets of the Bush regime from being revealed to the world in various trials. He fails to reveal that his administration’s lawyers have argued in federal court that detainees in the war of terror should have no access to fundamental legal rights such as habeas corpus. He continues to keep the “secret” of the massive surveillance programs that the U.S government uses to spy on millions of people as part of its war of terror. What rules bind you Mr. Obama?
 
And when he stated that the U.S. must bind “ourselves to certain rules of conduct” in war, he does not mention his continuing missile strikes into Pakistan that violate international law. He did not mention the assassinations and other extrajudicial killings conducted by U.S. forces in the war of terror. He does not mention all the Afghans, Iraqi, Pakistanis and others who regularly become collateral damage in the wars he leads as commander-in-chief of the Empire. He does not mention that the invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan violated international law. But then, in Obama world, international law does not seem to apply to the U.S. Empire.
 
Obama did not deliver his speech to indict himself. He wanted to set the basis for future U.S. conduct. He spoke of “three ways that we can build a just and lasting peace.”  In doing so he revealed his intention to use other weapons in the U.S. arsenal. One of these is sanctions. He specifically targeted Iran and North Korea in his speech.

In this regard he said, “Those regimes that break the rules must be held accountable. Sanctions must exact a real price. Intransigence must be met with increased pressure -- and such pressure exists only when the world stands together as one.”

“…it is also incumbent upon all of us to insist that nations like Iran and North Korea do not game the system. Those who claim to respect international law cannot avert their eyes when those laws are flouted. Those who care for their own security cannot ignore the danger of an arms race in the Middle East or East Asia. Those who seek peace cannot stand idly by as nations arm themselves for nuclear war.”
 
This is a clear political pitch to further isolate these nations with the use of “sanctions” – i.e., economic blockades that strangle nations and kill human beings. The U.S. has been using its “diplomacy” to impose stricter sanctions on these countries, particularly Iran. It has been pressuring allies and non-allies alike to pressure Iran into giving up its civilian nuclear enrichment program. Along with sanctions the U.S. has been using the threat of military action and propaganda. And do not think that sanctions do not kill just as the use of military means kill. Between the first and second Iraq wars, the U.S. backed sanctions against Iran killed at least half-a-million Iraqis. Most of these were children. Is this humanitarianism?
 
Also keep in mind that sanctions occurred before actual war against Iraq. The use of sanctions against Iran and North Korea does not mean the U.S. night not use military means later.

Obama also laid the basis for U.S. intervention to protect “human rights.” He said, “Only a just peace based on the inherent rights and dignity of every individual can truly be lasting…America has never fought a war against a democracy, and our closest friends are governments that protect the rights of their citizens. No matter how callously defined, neither America's interests -- nor the world's -- are served by the denial of human aspirations.” 
 
What hypocrisy! From its very creation to the present, the U.S. has violated human rights. What do the decades of legalized slavery tell us about the respect for human rights by the U.S.? What about the genocide of Native Americans? What about the numerous imperialist wars and the millions of victims killed by the U.S. military machine? “
 
“America has never fought a war against a democracy” – Why didn’t Obama mention all the democratic-elected governments that the U.S. overthrew? Why didn’t he mention all the dictators that the U.S. installed after U.S. sponsored coups? What about the millions killed by these U.S. supported dictatorships in countries such as Indonesia, the Philippines, Chile, El Salvador, Iran, Guatemala, etc. What about the human rights of all the victims of U.S. imperialism? No mention of any of this.
 
Instead we hear B.S. from the president’s mouth. He says, “America will always be a voice for those aspirations that are universal…And it is the responsibility of all free people and free nations to make clear that these movements -- these movements of hope and history -- they have us on their side.” How will the U.S. be on “their side?”
 
Obama will use another weapon in the U.S. Empire’s arsenal – diplomacy.

Obama stated, “The promotion of human rights cannot be about exhortation alone. At times, it must be coupled with painstaking diplomacy. I know that engagement with repressive regimes lacks the satisfying purity of indignation. But I also know that sanctions without outreach -- condemnation without discussion -- can carry forward only a crippling status quo. No repressive regime can move down a new path unless it has the choice of an open door…But we must try as best we can to balance isolation and engagement, pressure and incentives, so that human rights and dignity are advanced over time.”
 
Keep in mind that in Iraq and Afghanistan, the U.S. has claimed that one of the reasons the U.S. must fight wars there is to protect the human rights of either the Iraqis or the Afghans. How often have we heard that Saddam was a dictator that suppressed his own people, or that the Taliban oppressed women? Do we really believe that the U.S. invaded those countries with the intention of protecting human rights? Do you believe that now that Obama is president that the nature of the Empire has changed and that after a long history of violating human rights that the U.S. now really cares about the human rights of the people of the world? If so, look at the actual conditions of the average Iraqi or Afghan after years of occupation. Ask the Shi’a women of Afghanistan that must get the permission of their husbands to look for a job or go to a doctor because a law was passed this year by the Afghan government what human rights they now have.
 
From both the Bush regime and the Obama administration we have heard repeatedly how the Iranian and North Korea regimes violate the rights of their own people. This is certainly true, but do you really think the U.S. government cares about this. The Israeli government violates the rights of the Palestinians every day. Has Obama condemned this? How many times has the U.S. cast a veto in the U.N. to protect Israel? Most recently the U.S. used diplomacy and economic power to try to derail an investigation into the war crimes committed by Israel against Gaza. Various governments, such as Saudi Arabia and Egypt, violate human rights of their citizens and non-citizens. Yet the U.S. provides billions in aid to Egypt and sells billions in weapons to Saudi Arabia. In Afghanistan the violation of human rights by the U.S. supported government there is so pervasive that even the U.S. State Department has had to issue criticisms. But the U.S. still supports the Karzai government and will continue to do so in the war of terror.
 
Human rights violations are only used as a weapon to attack the American Empire’s enemies and to provide justification for U.S. actions. That has been the history of the U.S. use of human rights and it has not changed under Obama.
 
Obama used his Oslo speech to both justify his wars and to obscure the true nature of U.S. imperialism and its role in the world. He tried to portray the U.S. Empire as the victim, only fighting wars in response to attacks. He tried to convince us that the U.S. cares about human rights, dignity, freedom, democracy, etc. for all people. The vast U.S. military machine does not exist to protect the U.S. Empire, but rather the people of the world. War is peace! Despite the rhetoric Obama had not changed the fascist political trajectory of the Bush regime. He has continued and expanded the war of terror. His use of the military, diplomacy, sanctions, propaganda, and other imperialist weapons has only increased since he took office. Yes he has received the “peace” prize, but he has not changed the nature of the U.S. imperialist system. He has merely tried to put a pretty mask on its gruesome face.
 

 

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World Can't Wait mobilizes people living in the United States to stand up and stop war on the world, repression and torture carried out by the US government. We take action, regardless of which political party holds power, to expose the crimes of our government, from war crimes to systematic mass incarceration, and to put humanity and the planet first.